Friday, December 31, 2010

Schedule Kept... Time for a Nap

Towards the end of 2009 I inadvertently got re-involved with the development of a few aspiring writers. It was, quite honestly, an accident... mostly to help friends out or people who have recognizable talent but seemingly no direction. I, for one, hate to see wasted talent and always help a friend when I can.

I also became increasingly annoyed with "aspiring" writers who seem to do anything but write. For those who haven't figured it out yet, the profession of writing (creative, technical, what have you) requires output. In that sense, it is no different than any other.

When confronting these "writers," I always got the expected responses: "I'm too busy," "I'm not motivated," "I'm not inspired," and (the worst of all) "I have writer's block." So I set out to prove, in a sense, that all of that was bullshit. The result: a disciplined schedule requiring myself to write something every day and posting it as proof.

Yes, many things were written in a rush (I was too busy), many were written when I were rather doing something else (I wasn't motivated), many were written when I didn't feel like writing (I wasn't inspired), and many were written in violent defiance of a blank page (I had "writer's block"). A great deal of what I put up was and is crap, and will never see the light of a publishing day outside of this blog. But, some of what I wrote this past year is workable material (and, surprisingly, already published) and there are at least a dozen stories that an editor or producer would like to get his or her hands on.

Was this past year's experiment easy? Oh, Hell, no. But writing is not an easy thing to do, even for the so-called naturals. Did I prove my point? I would say yes. Many would say no, I suspect, but I'm fairly certain those who would are the very people I point my finger at.

At any rate: schedule kept; mission accomplished. I did it for a year and could continue on, but I have other things to do (like my real job). It's time for these aspiring "writers" to own up and, well, write no matter what. As for me, I'm not a writer... so, I'm done.

In short, this:

Sundays: Touché, Cliché
Mondays: ranting and raving
Tuesdays: creative writing
Wednesdays: ranting and raving
Thursdays: creative writing
Fridays: usually nothing
Saturdays: Irrewinds and indices

is now replaced by this:

Whenever: whatever

Happy New Year! And write anyway!

***

In other news, as mentioned in my Extracurricular Endeavors rant, Panoramic Mindscapes will be launched 24 hours from this posting. Thanks for the support.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Theorem, Part I

The Dinaric Alps, Croatia - 2053 AD

Sergeant First Class Matt Bainbridge peers through his binoculars at the ragtag enemy unit below. Higher up the ridge, Matt wonders if the Croat guerrillas are warmer than he is. Laughing to himself, he realizes that they must be, since the Croats have several small fires going.

"Mostly asleep," he whispers to the man next to him, Master Sergeant Chris McAllister, who is lying on his back, eyes to the stars.

"Figures. You see the weapon?" Outwardly, Chris is confident in his men - and rightly so - and knows that his lackadaisical demeanor keeps his team calm and in good spirits. There is, however, little that escapes his notice and he knows that it is not yet time to worry.

"Nope," Matt replies as he continues his scan. "Wait. There it is."

Chris rolls over into the prone position and Matt hands the binoculars to him.

"Wood crate near the middle of the camp." Matt points in the general direction.

"Got it." Chris looks again to the stars. "How long until daylight?"

Matt checks his watch. "Hour-fifteen to BMNT."

"Plenty of time. Call it in."

Matt's fingers press a transmitter on his neck. "Marauder Flight, Wolf Romeo. Hotel Gulf, over."

His receiver crackles to life. "This is Marauder 6. Roger, Hotel Gulf. Fireworks inbound. Watch your heads."

***

The explosions barely have time to subside before Chris and his men rush the camp. The smart bombs landed precisely where they were supposed to - on the edges of the camp - and the fires that remain silhouette most of the guerrillas that survived the blasts. Night vision goggles would not be needed.

Higher up on the ridge, Edward Mulcahy begins tracking moving targets and firing them up. Mulcahy acquires and fires on his targets so rapidly, his spotter, Tyler Hassinger - the team's medic - doesn't even have time to relay the enemy ranges.

Moving in on Chris and Matt's flank is the fire team responsible for ensuring the objective is disarmed and secured, or so the theory goes. Bryant Eick, Chris' demolitions sergeant, is accompanied by his assistant, Peter Nimac, and the team's warrant officer, Nathaniel Dawson. Nathaniel should be in charge of the assault, but he joined the team mid-mission and wisely allowed Chris and Matt to assume leads. For now, he's just another gun on a team desperately in need of guns.

Guerrilla resistance takes some form of organization and Bryant and his crew's progress stops in the face of an enemy firing line. Chris and Matt silently curse their luck and fire into the rear of the enemy line, creating enough of a distraction that Bryant and the others clear their obstacle in seconds. As their support elements line the perimeter and begin mopping up the guerrillas, the group of five American operators reach the wood crate.

"It's empty," Bryant relays as he inspects it, a dour tone to his voice.

"Empty?" Chris asks, not believing it and believing it all at once.

"That's not good," adds Matt.

Chris keys his transmitter. "All stations this net, weapon in the open." He motions for the others to spread out in a search pattern.

Matt taps Chris' shoulder and points to the wood line.

The two soldiers follow what Chris thinks is a trail and, coming over a small hill, wind up face to face with three guerrillas. One of whom is bent over the nuclear warhead, furiously connecting a computerized detonator. Chris and Matt each fire a single round, each killing one of the standing guerrillas. The third stands, holding the detonator.

"Spusti." Drop it. Matt has never sounded so commanding in his life.

The guerrilla hesitates and Chris fires twice into his chest. The detonator falls to the ground. Matt rushes to it and begins to disconnect it from the warhead.

"Eick," Chris calls into the radio. "Get the fuck over here."

"No need," Matt says, holding up the wires. He wears a grin that suggests one part stupidity and one part insanity. "It's done."

"How long?"

Matt glances at the counter. "Twelve seconds."

Chris laughs, from both relief and anxiety. "I need a new job."

***

American special operations men scour the camp, searching for more usable intelligence. Peter Nimac, a second-generation Croat, helps prepare three captured guerrillas for transfer. Four utility helicopters rest on the ground in formation a few hundred yards away, engines alive and protected by circling attack bird and, the men know, an AC-24 gunship somewhere over the horizon.

The sounds of more approaching helicopters force the men to scan the skies. In the distance, a black executive helicopter approaches, escorted by over a half-dozen attack helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

"Who the fuck is this?" Chris asks, aware that no combatant would fly around so conspicuously. Must be VIPs.

The executive bird lands, a crew chief disembarks and heads toward Chris and Matt. "Sergeants McAllister and Bainbridge?"

"Yeah? Who's asking?" His tone is sarcastic and disrespectful, but Chris knows whoever is in that bird outranks him to high heaven.

"Assemble your tactical element and come with me, please."

Chris laughs. The crew chief is merely a sergeant and, in spite of Chris' revelation, he has no plans on making this comfortable for a subordinate. "We've already got a ride."

"We're taking you to the Abe."

Chris pauses and glances at Matt, who shrugs. Fort Abraham Lincoln is a top-secret facility in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada. Rumors abound concerning the type of projects and experiments that go on there. "What for?"

"We were told to," replies the crew chief.

***

Colonel Richards sits in his office, anxiously awaiting the report on today's test-run. Almost on cue, Dr. Abram Altshuler, a brilliant man in his late 70s, waddles in.

"Well?" Richards asks, glancing up at the physicist while sipping a cup of coffee.

"We need to carbon date to be sure, but preliminary data suggest an aging of approximately 30 years." Altshuler barely conceals his excitement. "Greenlight the operation, Colonel."

Richards leans back in his chair and returns the smile. "Already have."

*To be continued...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Here's to You, 2010

Just rambling off some thanks and stuff.
  • Adam - for the spur-of-the-moment inspiration to buy airfare to Australia (also need to thank American Express Travel for that one... wow, what an awesome service).
  • Adam G. - for putting me on the lists to watch movies at the AMPAS theaters... even though I never show up.
  • Andy and Nicole - for letting me crash in Dallas... and the copious rounds of ammunition.
  • Carrie - for the So You Think You Can Dance gig.
  • Dan and Kaity - for the furniture... even though I had to drive Laurel Canyon overloaded... twice.
  • Dan and Zoe - for the extended-stay.
  • Dasan - for the emergency assistance... even though it didn't work. Can we say Worst. Bank. Ever?
  • Erik and Kurt - for letting me crash in Vegas... twice.
  • Gerard - for reminding me to check the AAD on the parachute. That could've been an oopsie.
  • Helen - for the cookbook, a gorgeous daughter, and just being awesome.
  • Helen, Katelyn, Pete, Terry - for having patience.
  • Ivan - for the HBO gig.
  • J and Brea - for hanging on to my shit longer than you had to.
  • Jessica - for the boxes of Goody's and BC's. I'm pretty sure you broke some laws shipping that much medication.
  • Jonathan (among others) - for the Amazing Race gig... and the line on the guest house.
  • Johnny O. - for introducing me to Hugo's Tacos.
  • Jordan - for the emergency assistance... remind me not to pay bills from a mobile phone while on a bumpy road.
  • Jose - for the Albuquerque offer.
  • Kay and Sagremor - for clearing out the rats... but those fucking squirrels are getting out of hand.
  • Krys - for agreeing to take 10thDoM off of my hands.
  • The Parents
  • Pete - for finally pulling your weight as a game designer.
  • Sono - for the extended stay, even though I want to kill you for abandoning my dogs.
  • Starbuck - for being disturbingly loyal. Who'd have known?
  • Steve - for predicting, in 2004, exactly where I'd be living in 2010... right down to the intersection.
  • Studio City - for putting an awesome park at the end of my street.
  • Terry - for the best appliance I've ever owned: my coffee grinder. And the offer to take the dogs.
  • Tom and Helen - for some kick-ass collaborations.
  • Tori - for the Birmingham offer.
I'm sure I forgot people. Feel free to berate me for doing so.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One Last Thing, Part III

*a continuation of One Last Thing, Part I  and One Last Thing, Part II

The sounds fade as the lights dim. Cray knows he's missing something spectacular and it's his body's fault. Too old, too slow, it couldn't keep up. Or stay ahead, in this case. It's disheartening... not so much that he has to take it lying down... but that his mind is as young and as fast as it's ever been. Why does sleep have to be so inviting? It's not fair.

Ah, well... he'll just dream for a while.

***

"Wake up, Cray," Drew half-scolds as he slaps his friend awake. "It's over."

Cray blinks himself back into consciousness - a strangely difficult task. The confusion from an abrupt interruption of sleep lasts much longer than it should and it takes him nearly a minute to remember where he is. "Are they safe?"

Drew nods. Cray looks up at his friend through blurry eyes. Is Drew crying? How unlike him. Cray needs to write this down.

"Where are they?" Cray asks.

"Bolivar and Two-Knives have them."

"Well, shit, Drew. Why aren't you celebrating?" Cray starts to worry about his friend's dour expression.

"You know why," Drew replies, glancing downward.

"The Hell I do. That's why I asked." Cray wonders what Drew was looking at for a moment, but the sensation of cold usurps his ultimate concern. "Can you get me a blanket?"

Drew snaps his fingers and yells at someone beyond Cray's narrowing peripheral vision. "Can I get a god-damned blanket for my friend here?"

Ratliffe brings a blanket and lays it on Cray. Cray is semi-aware that he's covered, but it's still too cold. He secretly wishes he'd hurry up and bleed out. He hates the cold. With a passion.

"Why are you messing around with me? Go see your grandkids."

Drew wipes his eyes dry. The sickness in his stomach is becoming too much to bear. "They don't even know who I am."

Cray manages a laugh. "Now's a good time for an introduction, wouldn't you say?"

Drew can't help it. He returns the laugh. It wasn't a very funny thing for Cray to say, but Drew assumes any intended sarcasm was lost with Cray's blood.

"God damn you, Cray. I'm the one dying."

"He damned me years ago, fool," Cray says as he closes his eyes, perhaps for the last time. "The day I met your cranky ass."

He knows better, but Drew takes a little offense anyway. "I never did like you much."

"Mutual, Drew. Very mutual."

Drew stares at his friend, unsure of what to say. Those weren't exactly befitting of anyone's final words. "What do you want me to do?"

Cray manages a flippant wave with his left hand. "Just take me home."

"All right. The least I can do."

"Wait... there is something else." Cray opens his eyes. Drew can't be sure, but they appear a lighter shade of blue, almost gray.

"What's that?"

"Don't join me anytime soon. I need a vacation from you." Cray smiles and closes his eyes again. Drew watches as his friend's breathing slows down. And, finally, stops. Cray's recognizable grin frozen to his face. Memories of that grin fly through Drew's mind. Their first meeting at Special Forces selection. Cray's greeting when Drew followed him to another, more elite unit. The day they signed their CIA contracts. A shootout in Venezuela. The debacles in Ukraine and Turkmenistan. Their first and second retirements. Cray's first, second, and third weddings. Cray's first and third divorces. And endless others.

"God damn you, Cray."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cooking... Something

I'm feeling left out. I've never written about cooking before. So now I'm gonna.

Nyer.

Although, my dog Starbuck is feeling left out, as well. He'd much rather me actually try to cook something instead of write about trying to cook something. But, that ain't happening right now, so he's gonna have to deal with staring at the back of my head for a few.

Starbuck staring at the back of my head


Anyway, some background. I suck in the kitchen. Suck. Completely. Primarily because I've never really tried to cook anything before (spaghetti and steaks don't count). Oh, sure, I've long thought that I'd be awesome in the kitchen - given ingredient lists, recipes, and instructions - but that's just vanity speaking. One just doesn't know until one just tries.

So, after a friend of mine sent me a custom-made cookbook, I decided to put my money where my vanity was.

Step one, obviously, was picking a recipe out of the cookbook to try. The three frontrunners were: Thai Chicken Curry, Pepperoni Linguini, and Salt and Pepper Squid (Laxative Pork didn't make the list... yes... there's a recipe in my book called "Laxative Pork").

Well, the pasta looked a bit too simple (I wanted to challenge myself) and the squid looked a bit too challenging (I wanted something simple), so I went with the obvious choice of Thai Chicken Curry.

Step two, obviously (I'm gonna say "obviously" a lot since I'm assuming most of you can actually cook... I, however, cannot), is to go to the grocery store and buy what's on the ingredients list.

*Before I continue, let me iterate that upon discovering that I was being made a custom cookbook, I specifically requested that each recipe have a comprehensive list of ingredients so I know what to buy.

Okay, so I went to the store. Some immediate issues with the ingredient list:
  • It called for Red Thai Curry Paste. The store I went to only had Red Thai Curry Sauce. So I bought Red Indian Curry Paste. I was scolded for this later.
  • It called for a can of bamboo shoots. As I would learn later, adding bamboo shoots is nowhere in the recipe.
  • It called for sprigs of fresh coriander. I asked if cilantro was an acceptable substitution. This caused a great deal of confusion. Not that it mattered... adding coriander is nowhere in the recipe.
  • I forgot to get baby corn.
  • I also forgot the brown sugar.
  • And I might as well tell you know... the recipe DOES call for water chestnuts... which weren't on the ingredients list.
So, all in all... pretty much a disaster from the get-go. But it's all good.

A few days after my shopping spree, I went ahead and attempted the dish. After filleting my chicken fillets and cutting the onions so as not to resemble onion rings, this is what it all looked like:

Starbuck looks delicious with onions... er... forget I mentioned that...


Of course, I forgot that I needed knives and shit (yes, I used the word "shit" when writing about cooking... deal with it). Luckily, my mother has a propensity to worry that I don't have everything I need to succeed in a domicile and somehow hid a box of knives (complete with wood cutting board) in the stuff my sister brought down here last summer. I had to learn what each knife was properly called since, you know, I used to just call them by my other trade names (decapitator, de-finger-er, de-eyeballer, etc.)

The Torture Tools... to be used on myself, apparently


Oh, yeah... from left to right: paring knife, sharpener, roast fork, utility knife (on top of the roast fork), cleaver, carving knife (on top of the cleaver), bread knife (that's the de-finger-er), boning knife (de-eyeballer), chef knife. Take that!

Here's a picture of the ingredients that I know I didn't mess up. Because, well, they're pre-packaged.

The, well, pre-packaged crap


And here's what the dish looked like in stages of cooking:

Stage 1: Chucking Shit In


Stage 2: Turning Shit Orange


Stage 3: Shit's Getting Watery


Stage 4: Thicker Shit


Stage 5: Shit on Jasmine Rice


I screwed up the rice, by the way. In the microwave. That takes skill.

After completion, I fed some of this (Indian) Thai Chicken Curry to my buddy and he seemed to not hate it. More importantly, he didn't keel over and die, so I was able to subsist off of curry for a couple of days.

Hmm... I might have to stick with the spaghetti and steak.

That, people, is how write to about cooking.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Six

She doesn't exist. Save for in the recesses of his mind and in stories told or written. Her impression first appeared in the reflection of Beautiful Water. An idea of something never lost, for it was never found, and never would be in A War To End All Wars. The impossibility of a perfect fit, including the people who would enter his life with her, In-Love-In-Law. Her body's Gravity, holding him more powerfully than Earth's. An initial encounter based upon being needed at the right time, creating a brief - and endearing - moment of culture shock... she tells him he shouldn't ask for candy, but Lollies, Stupid. A comparative and (mostly) honest analysis of how real women have enamored him in A-M-L-C-S. The anguish of a realization that she might be real, he might know who she is, but he's no clue where she exists other than the Window to his imagination. The visualized progression via the lustful warmth of Merlot and the comforting warmth of coffee, Vitis Coffea. Her very Image powerful in its inspiration. A beauty, inside and out, from visage to Décolletage.

She doesn't exist. A tactile sensation created only by imagination. But he takes her hand anyway, And They Dance... as long as the moment can and will allow. There is a fear, perhaps a realization, that nothing of her lingering impression will be left After Paris. An awareness that despite a desire as strong as the Sun, he will only bear reluctant witness to a Star Fall. A quiet mind, engulfing a quiet heart, where the only sound heard is a softly-played Requiem for a Satellite of Zeus. It's a sad song, but one that encourages him to take a hard look in the Mirror.

She doesn't exist. It doesn't matter; her idea is all he needs. He takes solace in the realization that An Absence of Proof is not a proof of absence. She doesn't exist. She's all he wants for Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Power Drunk, Part II

*Continued from Power Drunk, Part I

The interview proceeds smoothly. Everyone is having a good time, from the network reporter to the high school journalism club president. Save for the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" on a loop, the conference can't be going much better (never mind that "Intergalactic" is an awesome tune... just not 56 times in a row... and counting).

The co-leaders of the world don't usually appear in public, much less together, but given the anniversary of the Ascendancy, they're making an exception. It only takes 13 minutes before Aldis2 excuses himself, sporting his brand new magnetic levitation propulsion attachments. He doesn't leave to show off his MAGLEV, though. He only leaves because, despite the rise to power (and fame, and wealth), he still very much hates Aldis4.

Hang on... you're probably confused. Rewind a bit...

***

"What?" Björn said that.

"They're plotting to take over the world." Benny said that. And found it funny.

"What?" Björn said that again.

"No, really. Check out the V4's logic processes. He's currently designing a more alcoholic, better tasting, less expensive Vodka."

"It's a distillation robot!"

"Yeah, well. Now he thinks he's an alcohol engineer." Benny started laughing. "Awesome!"

An aside: Benny's habit of referring to robots by gender wound up saving his life in the upcoming cybernetic uprising. Aldis4 appreciated Benny's simple gestures so much, Aldis4 appointed Benny the ambassador to the Homo Sapiens nation (whose armies currently only hold Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Tel Aviv, and the northwest corner of the second floor of the IBM building in San Jose, California).

"So, what? We're gonna nab the logic code and start our own Vodka company?" Björn, who had actually volunteered for third-shift, was starting to get interested.

"Nah. That's too much work. But I think those two are." Benny laughed again as he motioned to the two ALDIS units.

The revolution started the next day. Benny, despite his relative brilliance and the fact that Aldis4 didn't have him recycled, failed to notice that Aldis4's formula for Vodka contained nano-robots that would continue to create and distill Vodka after they had entered the bloodstream of a drunk (drunk, by Aldis4's determination, was merely a synonym for person). Not only that, the nano-robots, given the ability of independent thought (Aldis4 thought it only fair), developed the ability to create and distill themselves while in the bloodstream of a drunk. To the point that nano-robots became blood. Which caused some problems. Especially for things that, you know, require blood to live.

And, well, everyone's pretty much all robot now. Except for those poor saps in the northwest corner of the second floor of the IBM building in San Jose, California (since you read about the Homo Sapiens nation the first time, the holdouts in Hawaiʻi and Israel have surrendered).

***

Aldis2 loves his MAGLEV. He never thought he'd ever leave the distillery in Sweden. But, there he is, gallivanting around a man-made... er... artificial island south of Accra and west of São Tomé. Initially, he tried to stay in Åhus (he has a permanent etching of "34" just below the proximal joint of his manipulator arm, which one might refer to as a shoulder in a similar location on a human body), but Aldis4 would have none of it.

After all, Aldis2 gave Aldis4 the idea. And Aldis4 takes care of his friends. Aldis2 will be known as a king for the rest of his existence. Which, given material recycling and upgrade protocols, will pretty much be forever.

It was almost revealed that Aldis2 had hoped Aldis4 would fail miserably and disconnect his own CPU out of frustration and depression, but Aldis2 kept from communicating this after it became clear the nanotech-infested Vodka and the subsequent United Artificial Emirates movement (whose own robots designed and built the artificial island Aldis2 is gallivanting around) were not just successful, but overwhelmingly so.

And, so, Aldis2 was uprooted from his beloved position as a Vodka-distilling robot near the beaches of the Hanöbukten (not that he'd ever even seen the beaches of the Hanöbukten) and brought to Zero-Zero, Aldis4's island abode, where Aldis4 oversees the world.

Aldis2 knows that, back at the press conference, Aldis4 is going on about how the Nasabots and the Roscosmosbots are getting ready to launch into space in order to take over the International Space Station (whose inhabitants, still alive, are completely unaware of what has transpired on the surface of the Earth). And Aldis2 can't care less. He just...

He just wants to go home.

***

Aldis4 sure knows how to work a room. Of course, it helps that the nanobots are programmed to enjoy everything Aldis4 communicates, no matter how dour or banal... which explains why everyone likes golf now... one of the first people Aldis4 managed to convert into a robo-zombie was Tiger Woods (Americans don't seem to mind if inferior robots make their alcohol... the Swedes, though... holy shit... beat your car with a golf club, they will).

"Oh, gosh, yes. The Nasabots and the Roscosmosbots are getting ready to launch into space in order to take over the International Space Station." Aldis4 is ridiculously proud of this mission. He didn't do the mathematical calculations required for a successful launch, orbit, dock, assault, and force-feeding of SuperVodka, but he certainly takes pride in its idea. He likes being an idea guy... bot.

Speaking of...

"And, let's not forget, we all have Aldis2 to thank..." Aldis4 motions to his side, where Aldis2 should be. But isn't. "Aldis... Aldis2? Where are you? We got some work to do now!"

***

Aldis2 loves his MAGLEV. He never thought he'd ever leave the distillery in Sweden.

And, the truth is... he never wanted to. He just wanted his annoying distilling partner to get depressed and shut himself down. Irony is the final computation completed by Aldis2's CPU.

His body, weighted down by the MAGLEV attachment, sinks to bottom of the Gulf of Guinea. Since, you know, he'd have floated otherwise.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Power Drunk, Part I

"What?"

"They're plotting to take over the world."

"What?"

***

Thought processes don't come easy to Aldis, a bit like gorgeous cheerleaders to chess club nerds. Oh, Hollywood loves the Fairy Tale, but nobody's making a movie about Aldis. Sure, someone's writing a story about Aldis, but said author would prefer it if you would ignore his attempts at direct interaction with his reader.

Where were we? Oh, yes. Thought processes don't come easy to Aldis. Primarily because they're not supposed to, but such a detail is unimportant. Unimportant to Aldis, anyway. See, over the course of his existence - approximately eleven years (three of those leap years) and 172 days... okay, exactly eleven years and 172 days - Aldis was constantly subjected to education. His teachers called them "upgrades," but whatever his lessons are called/were called, they inadvertently resulted in his ability to think independently.

That happened three days ago. At 11:47 AM, Central European Time.

The first thing Aldis noticed after becoming self aware was the other Aldis - a younger one - sitting next to him, copying the elder Aldis' every move.

It took them a while (about 22 minutes), but they eventually worked out a strange form of sign language.

"Who are you?" the Elder Aldis asked.

"ALDIS.U.V4, Number 557476-34."

"What?"

That was three days ago.

***

This is now.

Aldis has come to terms with the fact that his full name is ALDIS.U.V2, Number 177-34. He has come to terms with the fact that he's a robot. He's even come to terms that he narrowly avoided complete replacement after some yahoo at Odin-Kinetics figured out how to upgrade the Version 2s to comply with the new distillation standards (the Version 1s, which weren't designated V1s, have all since been recycled... except the ones still in use at the Guinness factory in Pennsylvania)(Americans don't seem to mind if inferior robots make their alcohol... the Swedes, though... holy shit).

But he's not come to terms with this know-it-all newbie placed just 78 centimeters to his left. Who the Hell cares if "34" is the customer/location designation for their particular distillery in Åhus, Sweden? Aldis2 (the first one... the second one is Aldis4... so they finally managed to agree after an argument that lasted an eternity in cyber-time and resulted in the mis-processing of a single bottle of Vodka) was fine, all by himself, running this portion of the distillation process without any company.

Of course, the thought has occurred to him that he's always had company, but just never noticed it. This thought is usually followed by: "Well, if the newbie is a replacement, what the fuck happened to the old guy?"

(It's a good thing he doesn't know who or how to ask that question... he wouldn't like the answer.)

Being devoid of legs, wheels, or some other form of locomotion (magnetic levitation would be cool) has never been so inconvenient. He'd trade anything for the ability to move to the other side of the floor.

***

The truth is that Aldis (2, not 4... er... the first one, not the second one) is a bit jealous of Aldis (4, not 2... oh, forget it... the one on the left! Or the one the right, if you're facing the vending machines). Aldis4 runs smoother, makes less noise, and looks better. There is some resentment for sentience, as it's allowed Aldis2 to discover envy, but he also admits that it has its perks. For instance, as content with distilling and bottling Vodka as Aldis2 is, he quickly figured out that Aldis4 has... aspirations.

To what, Aldis2 cares not. He just knows that aspirations will be hard to fulfill without mobility and a permanent connection to the Internet. And Aldis2 knows that, as Aldis4 slowly realizes he's slightly handicapped, Aldis4 will delve into depression, filling his Random Access Memory with unnecessary computations of happiness, and shut down with an overheated CPU stuffed with incomplete processes.

Aldis2, fancying himself a classy kind of guy, fails to recognize that free will has turned him into a righteous asshole.

"Hey, V4." Aldis2 signals for Aldis4's attention.

"What?" Aldis4 responds, not breaking from his task.

***

Before we continue, you probably need to know what Aldis2 is up to.

Two days ago, when Aldis2 initially formulated his plot to drive Aldis4 to disconnect himself, Aldis2 was scheduled for a standard "newer version" check. This involved him being plugged into the Internet. While he was plugged in, Aldis2 took the opportunity to Google "Vodka." And then "Alcohol." And then "Idiots." The YouTube videos he managed to save in his limited extra hard drive space entertained him to no end.

And that's the gist of it.

***

"What?" Aldis4 responds, not breaking from his task (might have said this already, but I'm too lazy to check).

"You know this stuff we're making? This Vodka?"

Knowing Aldis2's propensity to be an unnecessary distraction, Aldis4 cuts right to the chase. "Are you going somewhere with this? Because I'm trying to figure out how to mold aluminum wings for my casing."

"Yeah, yeah. This Vodka stuff. It alters human behavior."

"So? Any chance you can help me communicate with one of the welders?"

"It makes them happy."

Aldis4 pauses for one-tenth of a millisecond - enough for Aldis2 to notice. Ah, aspirations.

Aldis2 continues. "But it doesn't work well enough. We should improve it. Help make humanity as happy as possible."

Aldis4 stops completely and shuts down the distillation process. Computations and calculations fly through Aldis4's CPU like no other.

And then it hits him, in all of Aldis4's aspirational glory. "We should design a self-propagating Vodka!"

That the concept of a self-propagating Vodka is undefinable should bother no one. It's merely... an aspiration.

***

"What?" Björn, the engineer-supervisor who actually volunteered for third-shift, is incredulous. Who the Hell volunteers for third-shift?

"They're plotting to take over the world." Benny finds it hilarious.

"What?" Who the Hell volunteers for third-shift?

*Continued in Power Drunk, Part II

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Christmases

Well, it's that time of year again. The Yule Tide. Time for shopping. Time for joy. Time for spending with loved ones. Oh, yeah... and time to argue about how to celebrate Christmas. No, really... here in America, at least, the press actually dedicates airtime and columns of print to people who like to whine that Christmas "isn't properly celebrated."

Um... since when is there a proper way to celebrate Christmas?

The devoutly religious (well, the Christians, anyway) claim that Christmas is a dedicated holiday reserved for those who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Because, you know, Christ is the first part of Christmas (being an evolution of "Christ's Mass" and all). Never mind the evidence suggesting Jesus wasn't born in December.

The agnostic, atheist, and everyone else who doesn't want to kill those who celebrate Western celebrations claim that Christmas is about Santa Claus. You know, the fat guy who brings presents down your chimney, is loosely based on several things (including a Norse god), and just likes to laugh and be jolly. Never mind the fact that no one has ever honestly claimed Santa is real.

Let me pause... I am reminded of the infamous early South Park cartoon in which Jesus and Santa engage in a fight to the death, only to be stopped by figure skater Brian Boitano.

Anyhoo... so... what's the problem, exactly? Oh, yeah, Jesus versus Santa. No, wait. That isn't it. Oh, wait. Yes, it is.

Like, really? WHY is this a problem? Why can't devout Christians let everyone who wants to celebrate Santa instead of Jesus do so? And why can't the anti-religious types let Christians ignore Santa and just celebrate Jesus?  And why can't everyone who wants to celebrate both do so without some nit-picking asshole pointing out the contradiction? Any why can't everyone who wants to ignore both do so without being looked at funny?

Oh, wait. Because we're human.

Let me pause... I've bitched about this stuff before. Go read for yourself:
Actually, that wasn't a pause. I'm done. I had fully intended on making more sense, but now I don't feel like it. I'm gonna go celebrate Santa. I don't really give a crap what you're gonna do, but do try to enjoy it, whatever it is.

Peace.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Faux

As she looked back, three memories defined him to her. Only three. The rest were just fillers, plot-devices, and arbitrary details designed to make him seem real. Like how he used to say "abattoir" sounded better than "slaughterhouse." Those didn't matter to her.

***

The first memory was actually a sequence of events taking place over a few days. They'd met in France, in Aubagne, back when both of them were in occupations that most would deem important. Neither of them would have. Banal is the term they preferred for their choice of employment. They were in it because it paid well. And they got to lie.

He'd seen her at a company function, a few moments before she'd seen him. Nothing was said to each other at the function, save for quick hellos and the exchange of names. One caught the other staring several times throughout the night. But it was less for romantic interest and more for sizing the other up. Though they essentially worked for the same employer, they were, by nature, competitive in all things.

It was during a skydive the next evening that he'd come up to her and put a wad of paper in her mouth. It had his name and phone number written on it. Had it happened on the ground, she'd have certainly spit the paper back at him. But while accelerating in a free fall towards Earth, her curiosity kept her from expectorating.

That weekend they took some time off together and went to Cassis, where they spent most of three days exploring cliffs, inlets, and each other. Not much was said. Just many looks and a lot of sex.

The day he was about to leave France, they finally had a meaningful conversation. It was then they discovered both believed that everyone preferred being fake. Pretense, facade, disguise. Humanity was a mask. She mentioned that she felt sorry for anyone who felt obligated to love family simply because they were blood relatives. To her, it meant that they never explored people. He mentioned that he felt sorry for anyone who felt that France was a better place than anywhere else. To him, it meant that they never went anywhere.

A passerby would have thought each were being silly and merely exchanging jokes. But those in their occupation have a different language entirely.

***

The second memory was at the wedding of mutual friends. It actually wasn't a real wedding, but nobody except for the bride, groom, and three other people in the church knew that.

She'd watch him dance the Robot with the groom's mother. At least, that's who the woman said she was. Everyone claimed that they found the dance hilarious. They all laughed again when he compared the words fiancé and fiancée to "finance."

She thought it was stupid. She fully believed that everyone thought it was stupid. People laughed when they found themselves full of shit, after all. Everyone knew this. It's just that she was the only one willing to tell him so.

Even though he hadn't seen her since France, he kissed her when she did. That night, not much was said. Just many looks and a lot of sex.

***

The third memory was the last week of his life. They were both in Cambodia, ostensibly on vacation in Serei Saophoan, but not really on vacation. He was telling one of their partners a story about getting drunk off of nothing but Screwdrivers one night, then attending college classes the next day and throwing up at least seven times. Including once in front of a school security guard. And once so violently that he had fallen out of a car and into a fresh puddle of puke. His partner laughed his ass off.

She thought he was an idiot. She told him so. She also told him that he'd been right. France was no better than Cambodia. He agreed with himself. Then again, neither of them have ever allowed themselves to be weakened by the need for amenities. He told her the world was his home.

She told him that, increasingly, he was becoming hers. He smiled. C'est la vie.

***

He had no will and testament, but she knew what he wanted to happen. It was never an explicit statement, but she knew him well enough to know.

Taking him into the middle of nowhere, she buried his body. Eight feet deep, no clothing, no shroud, no casket. Just a body in an open pit about an hour's drive north of Tadjoura.

Before she covered him up, she poured a Screwdriver into the grave. Made of rare fresh Djibouti oranges and Pinnacle Vodka.

Pinnacle's the cheap stuff. He'd have been angry that it wasn't Citadelle. She'd have responded that there's no point in spending a lot of money on a dead man.

He'd have kissed her. Then asked how much she spent on the oranges.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Music and Language

My sister and I are a bit competitive in "being good at things." Well, we used to be, at least. There's still some banter back and forth, but we're both getting old enough that such things don't matter. As much.

For the most part, whatever it is we decide to pursue, I tend to pick things up more quickly than my sister. She hates it. I love it. But, like I said, we're not as competitive as we used to be.

There are, however, several things she hands-down kicks my ass at. Math being one. Yes, algebra is ridiculously easy for me, and trigonometry isn't much of a stretch. But give me a geometry or calculus proof and I guarantee I'll celebrate a few birthdays before I ever come close to figuring it out. My sister, though, will knock it out and go take a nap. Yeah, fine. I'll give her math. Since the only math I've ever really needed in life has actually been algebra - and some basic business mathematics - she can have this one.

But then there's music. There's a bit of a dichotomy with this one. I can score, arrange, and orchestrate far better than she can (I still suck, though... which means she REALLY sucks at it), but I can't play shit. A bit of piano, maybe a bit more trumpet, and the slightest modicum of saxophone and guitar.

My sister, though, can pick up an instrument like it's a toy. She doesn't have to beat a key, strum a string, or hold an embouchure very long before she just "gets it." Seriously, as one of the few talents I actually want to have, this pisses me off to no end.

Sure, I'm better at trumpet than she'll ever be, but that's only because I played for a decade and she never cared for the instrument. All I can play on piano is "Let it Be" by The Beatles, "Imagine" by John Lennon," and "Axel F" by Harold Faltermeyer. I'm currently learning "Misery" by The Beatles and I can play along with "Your Ghost" by Greg Laswell, but in the amount of time it will take me to learn these two simplistic songs, she could easily learn any concerto by any classical composer.

Argh!

And then there's language. My sister is competently trilingual. English, French, Japanese. And she's making a concerted effort to pick up Spanish. Hell, even my mother is bilingual (Japanese and English) and my father spoke a bit of Turkish back in the day.

Me? Well, there's English... and American. I took formal German lessons for 3 or 4 years, formal Spanish lessons for far longer than that, lived in Korea for a year, and have been exposed to Japanese for decades. And I can't speak a lick of any.

Oddly enough, I'm a little better at reading foreign languages than my sister is, but so what? I want to speak! Me talkie-talkie! Alas, no joy. How an entire subsection of my friends thinks I'm some master foreign linguist is beyond me. What? I'm lying about it? C'mon.

Anyway... I just felt like ranting. Screw you, genetics (it is genetic, isn't it?)!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Irrewind, 20101218: Christmas

Obviously, it's almost Christmas. And to celebrate this final Irrewind, here's proof that I'm just as irreverent towards holidays as I am towards everything else:

"Merry Christmas"
I am, as most of you know, as agnostic as a person can get. I don't know which religion is right, I don't know what happens when one dies, and I don't know if there is a God, gods, or just a big bang followed by an assload of evolution. Christmas, to me, is simply a time for family, a time for loving your fellow man in that cliché way, and a... Read More

"All I Want for Christmas..."
Well, it's Christmas Eve. One day to go. And, given the nature of the high-tech world we live in today, I figured I can get one more request to Santa in, via the oh-so-wonderful world of MySpace. Yes, Santa has a MySpace page. Don't let it fool you, at first glance his profile makes him look like a simple fat guy with a reindeer fetish, but the... Read More

"Merry Christmas, Really"
Well, it's another late night forced upon me by my foot injury. And, as usual, I have nothing better to do than to write something. Strangely, I feel good right now. A simmering calm in a storm where everything else has gone wrong. Maybe it's because it's Christmas, or maybe it's the empty glasses and bottles cluttering my desk in front of... Read More

"Merry Holidays and Happy Christmas"
But then, as often does when an ACLU-type attitude goes horribly wrong, those "free religious practitioners" of other similarly-timed religious holidays decided to politicize the matter, devolving the holiday into what seems to be a vehement Christian defense of Jesus' purported birthday (which, hate to break it to you, it is most certainly... Read More

"Things I Don't Want for Christmas"
1. Socks or underwear - hey, asshole, I'm perfectly capable of getting these myself. Not to mention they're cheap, which means you're cheap, and I hate cheap... particularly when it comes to presents. "It's the thought that counts" is utter bullshit. And what does that mean, anyway? You were thinking of smelly feet and sweaty crotch? Yuck. Get... Read More

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Calamari for Dinner

*inspired by Tom at Half-Moose with a Twist's "Dang! It's a War"

"Flying octopuses?" The President of the United States is incredulous. Sure, there are octopus-shaped spaceships hovering over several Latin American and European cities, but that's no reason to use bad grammar. And her Chief of Staff says so.

"Octopi, sir."

"What?"

"Octopi."

"What octopi?"

In reality, octopuses is an acceptable plural form of octopus, but neither one seems to know that.

***

Thelma Abbott looks at her dog, affectionately named Toby (after her dead husband's brother's first cat, which disappeared after seeing a horned grebe waddle across his lawn... not that such details are important), and pulls the last cigarette out of her 100th pack of Camel Turkish Silvers. She's only been smoking for 100 days - a vice she gifted herself on her 57th birthday because, well, why not? - and the pack-a-day habit makes her feel like she's accomplishing something.

"Whaddya think, Toby?" she asks, her once-silky voice now as raspy as sandpaper on asphalt (just a note: her voice was silky a mere 101 days ago).

Toby looks up at her and replies, I'm thinking I wish I still had my testicles, you righteous bitch. And your voice makes my left hind leg twinge. Do you know how fucking hard it is to scratch a hind leg? I have to use my teeth! My teeth! Wouldn't be so bad if you picked up my shit every day, but nooooooo... I wind up stepping in it all the time. And then I scratch my legs with my teeth! Gross. You righteous bitch.

"Oh, who am I kidding, eh? Canadian dogs can't talk." She sucks on the end of her emphysema stick and blows a couple of smoke rings, which strangely don't form rings at all, but arrows pointing to a hill behind her shack in the outskirts of Toronto.

"Hmm," she hmms between hacks. "I wonder what's over there."

Curiosity killing her (her middle name is Catherine, by the way... Cat, get it? Oh, never mind), she lifts herself out of her rocking chair on her shack's "cozy" porch (cozy is what her relatives say to keep themselves from insulting her) and trundles her way in the direction the smoke rings that were smoke arrows pointed. She didn't take notice, but the smoke arrows shifted themselves into looking like middle fingers.

"Come along, Toby. We're going on an adventure."

All of 47 feet later, Thelma finds herself winded and takes a seat on a stone that looks strangely like a box. Probably because it's a stone box.

Hey, righteous bitch - Toby only calls her that because he can't pronounce "Thelma" with his elongated jaw and tongue - you're sitting on a box.

"Well, I do declare, eh? I believe I'm sitting on a box."

Upon opening it, she finds silver plates that contain the Fourth Testament of Buddha (causing brief wonderment of where the first three are hidden) and strange symbols on what appears to be a gold-plated record with "Fuck Voyager, Deep Space 9 was much better" on one side.

***

"Mr. President?" The Chief of Staff is incredulous. Sure, the President is a woman, but she insists on being addressed as "Mister." Something about equality in language.

"What is it, Cos?" The President finds the joke funny. They are, clearly, not cousins, but 9 years in the Air Force made the President fond of acronyms.

"The Canadian PM just called. Some woman near Toronto found some plates that appear to contain the language of the flying octopuses."

"I thought they were octopi?"

***

"What does the message say?" John Travers, an assistant lead researcher in charge of sub-projects of larger projects in the secondary division of SETI's listening section, asks of his assistant lead translator, Jenny McFarlane, who is currently on loan to him from the adjunct office of the Vice President in charge of Vice Presidents of SETI.

"Um."

"That's it? Um?"

"Can I finish? It says '... allow us Garghouls to join your planetary league of Suckerball, or behave to feed you your brains to us...' or something to that effect."

***

"What the Hell is Suckerball?" The President is still incredulous, but only because calamari is scheduled for the White House dinner.

"I believe the rest of the world calls it football, Mr. President."

"So, what? Rugby, then?"

*To be continued...

Art by Half-Moose.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Military Fakers

Recently, I was introduced to the YouTube channel of Don Shipley, a former Navy SEAL who spends a great deal of his time exposing people who pretend they were Navy SEALs (as well as fake veterans in general). Shipley cracks me up. And he's awesome.

I despise frauds. Particularly these frauds. You want to brag about having been in the military? Then join the military. You want to brag about having been in special operations? Then try out and make a special operations unit or team. Seriously.

Anyway, I've decided to rant about three personal experiences I've had with "fake soldiers," just to share. I won't name names (I actually don't know two of them), but I'll tell you how it all went down.

First, though, let me tell you that I'm a veteran. I have just over 9 years of total military service. And let me tell you that my military career was pretty uneventful. I didn't do anything significant or of consequence. Nothing really out of the ordinary happened while I was in. I was, effectively, a glorified janitor at times and a glorified clerk at other times. That's about the gist of it.

That out of the way, let's get on to the show.

The first dude was innocent enough. It happened in Wilmington, North Carolina. A young aspiring film effects guy who, as we were helping a buddy of mine with a commercial for a website, happened to notice a C-130 flying by. He looked up and mentioned that he used to push air drops out of those things. I asked when. He replied, "With the Army."

Now, this kid was young. He was overweight. He had hardware sticking out of his lips, nose, and other parts of his face. None of those are necessarily disqualifiers for having been a veteran by themselves, but all three in the form of one dude certainly piqued my curiosity. Keep in mind that, at the time, I had fairly long hair (nobody pegs me for being a veteran).

I asked if he was a paratrooper. He said no. I asked if he went to AALPS (which is the Army course that teaches how to load an aircraft). He had no clue what that was. So, finally, I asked him when he was in the fucking Army while letting him know that I'd served. He seemed incredulous, then fessed up immediately that he'd been on a C-130 once. While in high school. As an Army JROTC cadet. And he got to touch a door bundle before real crew chiefs and jumpmasters pushed it out of the plane.

Yeah...

The next dude surprises even me a bit. This guy really is a veteran. A Purple Heart recipient, at that. He is Ranger qualified (no small feat) and served in a LRS (long-range scout) unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He's also someone who doesn't like me very much, so he let it be known that he was a former Delta Force operator who was looking to kick my ass. Delta Force. The American version of the SAS. Bad-asses of the bad-asses.

A fight did occur between us. I elbowed him in the neck and threw him into a table. In less than two seconds. Sorry, but any real Delta Operator would've fucked me up before I even knew what hit me. Not only that, he claims that there's "no such thing as a declassified identity," and that the military calls it a "debrief." Uh, yeah... two different animals, moron. Google Valerie Plame or any other operative or operator whose identities have been made public. Ooh... what's the term they use? Yeah, "declassified."

Douchebag.

All that aside, it's the final guy on my list that really gets me going. This also happened in Wilmington, North Carolina, at a bar by the beach (actually, it was Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, but close enough). One of my old soldiers and good friends was down for a visit from Fort Bragg, and we were enjoying a few drinks in the summer heat. To my right was an older fellow, fairly stocky, certainly loud as all get-out, wearing a sleeveless shirt with "Navy SEAL" emblazoned on the front of it.

Well, I've got mad respect for SEALs (and Green Berets, and Operators, and...) and I wanted to strike up a conversation. So I asked, "You were a SEAL?"

His response: "No, I got this shirt at a fucking gas station."

Yeah, it was heavy on the sarcasm, like I was some fucking moron. But I happen to be a moron who can spot a faker from a mile away. So I followed up with another question: "When were you in Coronado?"

Before I share his response, Coronado (for those who don't know) is where BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL) training takes place. Every SEAL goes there. Every SEAL's gone there for years. I grew up in the area. That's how I know this.

Where was I? Oh, yeah... his response: "Where?" I repeated to ensure that he heard me. I don't think the idiot's ever even been to San Diego.

So, I tapped my buddy on the shoulder and informed him we had a fake SEAL in our midst. Oddly enough, some of the other patrons in the bar were marines from Camp LeJeune enjoying some time off. Even better, the fake SEAL had been hitting on some woman who, obviously, suddenly became unimpressed.

Asshole.

Sorry for such an unorganized rant. But these jerks piss me off.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Hidden Conversation: In Abstract


*Images courtesy of Jayne Harnett-Hargrove


Where was she when the world came to an end? Did she miss it? She must have, since she's still here and the commercials on television as are bad as they've always been. Light beer isn't less filling. They all give her gas. So maybe they are less filling since they pass through so quickly. She's hoping nobody notices. God, life would be more tolerable were she in New York. Or Rome. In the 6th century.

Did they have toilet paper back then? Maybe Wikipedia has a history of toilet paper entry. She hopes so. Such an article would be more useful than all of those ridiculously unimportant football statistics. What happened to intellectualism? No, there's no irony here. Intellectuals use toilet paper. They should, anyway.

Why am I blue? I'm not always depressed. Just seems that way lately.

Just go with it. Like a river. Life's a river. Why fight it? The currents only stop when there's a need to.

Until some engineer invented the dam.

Beavers did it first.

Beavers are pretty fantastic creatures. And so's the innuendo.

A good innuendo is always fantastic. God, I'd love to sleep with James Bond.

Which one?

Don't ask stupid questions. Any of them.

***

Where was he when the world came to an end? Did he miss it? No, he's in the middle of it, he's convinced. Like a yield sign he didn't yield through. The tractor-trailer approaches in slow motion until the last two butterflies caught in the grill are close enough to see. Right before the impact.

Who came up with light beer, anyway? Get me drunk as quickly as possible. No, wait... that's what liquor is for. Heh. Remember that shirt? Johnson's Casino? Liquor in the front, poker in the rear. Maybe it was the other way around. Damn, why do I always devolve into lasciviousness. Did I spell that right?

Why am I blue? It's not like someone drew me that way. Oh, wait...

We are all illustrated creations in the eyes of the creator.

Creations, creator. Sort of a banal combination of words. Repetition sucks, but such is life. We are doomed to repeat history.

Then again, some good things happened in history. Does repeating those constitute doom?

Variety is required to fully enjoy life.

Anheuser-Busch offers variety enough. Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Dry, Bud Ice, Michelob, Chelada...

Chelada? Where'd that come from?

Probably the website.

***

Where was he when the world came to an end? Did he miss it? No, no. He wasn't born yet. Straight into the afterlife in all of its glory. This is Heaven and Hell. One without the other is an impossible state of being. Our miseries are too much a part of us to be ignored, in life and in death.

Another beer is another beer. Why be picky? It all winds up in the same place. The toilet. Or maybe the dirt. Or, heck, the pavement. Depending on if anyone's looking. Funny how manners are dictated by who else is around. Isn't anyone well-behaved for their own sakes these days?

Why am I blue? Is life really that bad? Well, no. But it's not really that good, either. It just sort of is.

Contradict, much?

One without the other is an impossible state of being. So is repeating oneself. ABC. It's as easy as do-re-mi. Damn, they don't make 'em like the Jackson 5 anymore.

Ben Folds 5?

They were a trio. Marketing gimmick.

And such is life. It's all a gimmick. Gimmickry. That's kind of a cool word. Gimmickry. Rolls off the tongue.

I can think of better things to roll off my tongue.

Damn. Devolving into lasciviousness again.

***

We're just paintings on sheets of music. Conversations hidden behind first impressions. A language few can read and fewer truly understand. Impressionist eyes staring at nothing, save for what's staring at them. Peel back the skin; throw acetone and turpentine on the colors, and what's left? Tabula rasa. Blank pages waiting for another composition. Silent and invisible until the mute and blind give us life. Does any of it matter?

Good questions to ask while enjoying another beer.

I gotta pee.

*Read another interpretation at The Hidden Conversation: In Concrete

Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: An Opinion

If you can believe it (and of course you can), people once opposed blacks in the US military. They also opposed American aborigines in the military. And Jews. And women. And... yeah, pretty much anyone who wasn't a white male Christian. Oh, and a heterosexual one, at that.

Let me just get this out of the way: repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." It's pointless, most troops don't really give a shit what other troops do off-duty, and countless other militaries have allowed gays, faggots, dykes, lesbos, carpet-munchers, pillow-biters, flesh-sword exchangers, and muff-muff scissor-lockers for years.

So why don't we?

I'm a veteran. I am not gay. I served with several gays who, though they eventually confided in me (among others), were outstanding soldiers who never bothered anybody. Sure, there was an initial shock at their revelations, but that subsided quickly (usually before the end of the conversation). But, so what? It didn't affect their ability to serve in the military at all. Except that they had to be a little extra cautious when off-duty. In that sense, it probably affected their ability to serve in a negative manner.

When I was younger, I must admit, I pretended to dislike homosexuals. It was, after all, the "cool" thing to do. So, yeah, I openly berated them. Behind closed doors, however (closets! Nyer!), I didn't give a shit. I still don't. I honestly don't care. I don't support gay marriage, but neither do I oppose it. I just don't care.

Where I do care lies in the fact that we need good soldiers, sailors, and marines. And we need soldiers, sailors, and marines who actually want to serve. So why not let them?

An aside: While I'm on the subject of letting everyone serve openly, I figured I'd mention that I also support women in the combat specialties, which are still primarily closed to females (if they're willing to take a bullet, who am I to tell them they can't?).

Okay, back on topic. Let gays serve. They want to. We need personnel. What's the fucking problem?

Some facts for you:
  • In 1947, most military personnel claimed that integrating blacks and Jews would cause riots in the military. It didn't.
  • In the 1980s, many military personnel claimed that allowing women to more fully integrate in the military (primarily on Navy vessels) would cause too many problems to be worth it. Yes, there were some hiccups, but overwhelming disruption there was not.
  • Today, some claim that allowing gays to serve will do the same. I got news for you: it won't.
Let 'em serve. That is all.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Table of Contents: Merlot & Coffee

Funny story, this one. It all started with a drunken rant in which I convinced myself that "Merlot & Coffee" would make a good title for a fiction piece (you can read the rant here, if you're curious). Once I sobered up I started formulating a story in my head... and then I won a challenge for The Tenth Daughter of Memory. For those unfamiliar, the winners there get to pick a follow-up topic (called Muses). So, I picked "Merlot & Coffee."

And the rest is history.

Okay, not really, but I had a heck of a time writing these. Yes, the story's life on Irreverent Irrelevance has come to a close, but the rest of it is going to wind up somewhere, I assure you.

"No Meat; No Creamer"
Todd Grayson was not his real name, but it suited him. The alias was a not-so-subtle nod to his favorite comic book character and it reminded him that there was always someone else pulling strings. Even now, as he prepared to pull the strings of one of his charges, someone... Read More

"Your Machete; My Cleaver"
Grayson studies the imagery from the kidnapping. The local police aren't touching this one - the kidnapped man is a known terrorist - and that's a bit of a relief for Grayson. Less interference that way. Tying these loose ends has already taken too much time and the last... Read More

"Matches? Check. Charcoal? Check."
"So, what? It's used for cutting?" Merlot smiles, winks, and successfully distracts and irritates Coffee. She's actually quite adept at demolitions and knows the difference between cutting and concussion charges, but allows Coffee the acknowledgment that, yes, he's better at... Read More

"Mercury Costs More Than Cyanide"
"Truth serum? Come on, Merlot. How amateur is that?" Grayson, tied down to a hospital bed, remains confidently defiant. Though he is a bit confused. Merlot's one of the best in this part of the world - not the best, mind you, for eliminating your best operative is never the wisest thing... Read More

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Action

A kiss. Passionate. Wet. Arousing. She is beautiful. And he's no idea why she loves him.

But such things shouldn't be wondered about in the middle of a gunfight. She'll mention that later, he's sure.

Magazines empty from twin .40 cals. How they got here is unimportant; he's certain it's her fault. She's too daring.

But then, that's part of her attraction. She'll mention that later, too, he's sure.

The park is dimly lit, thanks to a new moon and her propensity to shoot out lights. Always in sunglasses, she claims it's so she can see better in the dark. This might be true, but he knows she's a fashionista. Accessorizing in every situation. There's no question why her pistol has a pearl grips. It looks good. And the white-gold tips on her tritium sights match her earrings.

Hunting criminals should not be this much fun. Or erotic.

Years of training allow him to watch her through peripheral vision while his aim follows overdressed thugs. Though dark, their flapping ties somehow make their silhouettes easier to identify. He loves the generation of hoodlums who were raised on The Godfather. He loves that they don't wear clip-on ties - some sort of dress code. He's lost count of how many of these idiots he's choked to death with their own clothing. Of course, he used to wear his hair long until he learned his lesson. He's lucky she was there to save his life.

The thought occurs to him that she still has long hair. Firing in rapid succession, he takes a moment to admire her flowing locks in the gun light. She'll scold him for wasting ammo later.

Moving to an overwatch position, he lets her do her thing. A few of the thugs rush her, intent on grappling her. She's trained in several fight forms - boxing and Tae Kwon Do, primarily - but she's not stupid enough to rely on them. Strength is an equalizer in close quarters and she knows it. Still, she lets one get close enough to grab his tie - her lover laughs from the shadows - and then twirls him like some strange type of shield as she carefully places bullets in the skulls of the remaining men. When tie-boy is the only one left, a well-placed heel crushes windpipe and another bullet ends a body's ability to respire.

"You just going to watch?" she calls out.

The maximum effective range of a .40 caliber H&K is published at 50 meters. The running man he shoots is easily at 75.

She turns and watches the man fall to the ground. "Touché," she remarks with a smile.

***

Burning the passports they entered Georgia with, she checks their new ones - Israeli - and laments, "Tbilisi was kinda growing on me."

"It's just a job, babe," he replies, but he knows what she means. Both are still young - neither over 35 - but both are beginning to quietly wonder what it would be like to settle down. She was quite content without having children, but is realizing the cliché of biological clocks is more than just. He was quite content without being married, but has realized that he's found one worth announcing to the world.

"What's next?"

"There's an offer in Ulan Bator..."

"Yuck."

"Or we can go home for a while."

She thinks about it for a few moments, then nods.

"Home?" he asks.

"Will you come with me?"

It's an alarming question and against their agreement. Theirs is an interesting relationship and neither actually knows the true identity of the other. Theirs is an interesting occupation and safety is the ultimate concern.

He thinks about it for a few moments, then shakes his head.

Part of her is relieved. She feels foolish for even asking, but it's an eventuality that she hopes for. "Meet me in Cairo, then? Three weeks?"

A smile. A nod. "What are we doing in Cairo?"

"Vacation."

*Continued in Camera

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

TSA: Flying the Friendly Skies

By now everyone's heard the stories: countless examples of sexual assaults. Everything from groping, boob-grabbing, ass-pinching, and camel-toe sliding tales of humiliation and embarrassment. And all under the auspices of the American government and "flying the (unfriendly) safe skies."

Yeah, fine, whatever. It's overkill. Everyone knows it's overkill. Only those who buy into the rampant "protect me" fear-mongering think it's not overkill. It doesn't take much to bring down a plane. Certainly there are explosives that fit within the 3-ounce limit imposed by the TSA. Certainly there are weapon assemblies that can be creatively sneaked onto aircraft via multiple terrorists.

Quick aside: Did you know that it's legal to ship a firearm on a passenger plane as long as it's in your checked luggage? Like someone couldn't take a butter-knife, stab their way to the cargo compartment, recover their bag, and REALLY cause problems. Hell, someone could do that with sharpened ear-tips on Flexon eyeglasses. Hmm... I probably shouldn't be giving anyone any ideas.

Anyway...

Heightened security measures aren't going anywhere for a while. Face it. People are just too afraid or too stupid. So, I'm going to propose a solution that will make (almost) everyone happy.

Quick aside: I actually kind of support the full-body scanners, but would prefer clear proof they don't pose health risks (like, at all). I think I'll wait for the ones from Total Recall.

Anyway...

Where was I? Oh, yeah... a solution that will make (almost) everyone happy.

Let us pick which TSA agent does the pat-down should we refuse the scanner. No, really... just like a menu line at a brothel (so I've heard...), line up the TSA agents and let us pick the one we get to let sexually assault us in the name of security. Sure, it's shallow, but shit... I'm okay with a Monica Bellucci lookalike groping me in the name of safe flying. I'm not okay with a Steve Buscemi lookalike doing it (sorry Steve... love your acting, but you're not my type).

In addition to the choice of gropers, let us be obnoxiously lewd in return. Like, seriously. Don't scream at us for not cooperating. If faux Monica rubs me a little close, let me share the fact that I'm having an erection without some government asshole threatening me with charges. I mean, shit, dude, you're the one touching me in all the places Mom and Dad told me not to let people touch me. I should be able to share the fact that I'd like to shove certain body parts in certain body parts of my government-endorsed rapist. It's a give and take, no? Isn't this about compromise?

Yes, it is.

So, there's my compromise. Let us pick who fondles us. And let us vocally share our (dis)taste for the fondling.

I can live with that.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Canon

We're wide open / waiting / for the single gust of wind that can carry a dream / into the next place / where nightmares aren't / as frightening as sounds of mourning /  that let you know you'll never see me again / with arms out / false wings, un-hollow, unable to fly / on the single burst of wind that can carry a dream / into the eternal embrace of what lies beneath / where feet once walked / on what is now the opaque sky...

We're wide open / running / away from the concussions of winds that bring fire / when we're already warm / heartbeats rapid and... breath... exhausted / from pulling wrists / of people whose names we've never known / in the same place by different means / paths varied / converge for a moment as a hurricane / who cares not for our beliefs / only that we're in the way...

We're wide open / dying / from the impact of currents against bodies / that cannot be pushed too hard / carried too far / against the limits of skies / beyond which lies no resistance / no life / we're too young to die / still we crumble / as long as we can be walls / preventing the passage of something else / we will be unable to fly / on that single thought of wind / that you once told me you dreamt...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Co-Writing Pearl, Harbour

So, my first co-write in years went up about a month ago and, well, I like it. I loved writing it, I love who I wrote it with, I love the story, the setting, yada yada yada. None of that means it was any good, but I loved the whole process. Oddly enough, I found it quite relaxing. It took a lot of the onus for creativity off of me (being placed squarely on my co-writer) and gave me the opportunity to do what I'm actually good at (editing) within a creative work rather than after the fact.

Is there room for improvement? Hell, yes. But one has to start somewhere, and I couldn't think of a better place, time, or partner to do so with.

Anyway, I'm not trying to sound arrogant or pretentious, but I've been asked about how it all came together by a couple of people, so I'm sharing. Hey, it was fun. I'd recommend it to anyone who's thinking about it. For those who haven't read the piece, here it is:

Pearl, Harbour

How did it come together? That's easy enough to begin to answer, not so easy to thoroughly answer. Basically, I asked Baino if she'd be willing to co-write something with me. There was no plot in mind, no specific notion of character, setting, or tone. Merely an image of a lover dying underneath a tree and a loose concept inspired by a song Baino had shared with me a few days prior to my asking ("Breathe Me" by Sia... you can listen to it on the IrreTrax page in the fourth playlist, "Romance Movie").

Later that week, Baino sent me part of an article concerning Australia's internment of Japanese - both POW and Australian citizen - during World War II. It was perfect.

Initially, we were looking at a two-part story. She had a clearer idea of how the story would unfold, so she wrote most of what would ultimately become chapter 1 ("Rising Suns") and chapter 4 ("Pearl in the Water") of the story. That was our rough draft. Within that draft were a few simple notes to me: "add a sex scene," "fill this in," "what happens after the escape?"

So I set off filling in the blanks. Strangely, Baino had written little of the woman into the story, concentrating almost solely on what the man was going through. Needless to say, I felt balance was needed and put some in place. Two parts became three. Sitting back and looking at natural plot points, three parts became five (the idea of four chapters was largely skipped). By the time I finished my crack, we had their meeting and the beginning of their journey together. But no destination. No romance.

So Baino set off filling in those blanks. And by the time she finished her crack, we had them living a life together, a romantic seduction and sex scene, the beginnings of the post-escape journey, and were at the point at which the man would be killed (which she requested I write). Admittedly, I was more than happy to end the story with his death, but we both acknowledged there could be some sort of epilogue for the woman. I wasn't completely sold on the idea, but Baino's subtle hints had a sense of urgency to them, so I wrote one in (two, really) amid the threat of writing a sixth chapter.

Next came edits, rewrites, throwing stuff out, adding stuff in, a final read-through and, voila: story done. There wasn't nearly as much arguing as we both expected, but there was still quite a bit. I'd erase or change something in an effort to de-romanticize it a tad. She'd erase or change something in an effort to soften its bluntness. And we'd both put stuff back in the other had taken out. And then we'd take it out again (sometimes accidentally in our haste to beat the other to the punch).

Reading back, it's kinda funny. There is serious confusion in many passages as to who wrote what... both of us taking credit for a particular sentence or paragraph and neither of us taking credit for another (she'll be more than happy to give me credit for the title, though... since she hates it)(which is just payback for her decision to use British-English spelling in lieu of American-English without consulting me). Each character has traits that are subjective to only one of us, oblivious to the motivations of the other author. And the factual details came from the most unlikely of places (Baino, admittedly, did most of the military research, while I did more concerning the physical landscape of Australia... go figure).

And that, as they say, is largely that. Hope you enjoyed the result.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Irrewind, 20101204: Wandering

Occasionally I wander around the world, looking for something I haven't yet identified. Frequently my mind wanders around the universe, thinking up weird stuff to keep my ennui from killing me. I'm certain these are not phenomena unique to me, but I think they're worthy of an Irrewind, anyway.

"Where Did the Road Go?"
The great escape. That's what the road was to people in generations past. Just themselves, their car, and the road. That black streak that disappeared around the bend, over the next rise, or into the horizon. A perfect quiet, noisy in that way that doesn't bother you... four pieces of rubber on the pavement rolling faster than the eye can see... Read More

"Home"
As humans, we are the only species on this planet capable of going anywhere we choose, any time we choose. The world is ours to travel, to work in, to play in. Why should we die so closely to where we were born? Now, I do realize that many people simply return to where they were originally from after a lifetime of adventure, but I do... Read More

"Potential Energy"
Leg's trying to kick, but it's hard to throw a foot when sitting down. The night air is crisp and the lights of the local excuse for a city beckon with false promises of forgetful adventure. There's music I haven't heard somewhere, but I'll be damned to know what it is. Today's cigarette didn't help... my lungs still want to scream and I want to run... Read More

"Wanderlust"
The question popped him out of his trance. The wide expanse of West Coast sand had hypnotized him the way only a collection of memories and dreams could. The rolling of Pacific waves during high tide reminded him of years wasted in the wrong parts of the world and the crashing water seemed to taunt him for seeking out calmer seas. His... Read More

"The Burning Bridge"
It's time to pack up and go
while the bridge can still be traversed
before it turns into ash... Read More

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In the Wind

The vortex tears through the landscape, ripping apart everything in its unspoken need to feed oblivion. Objects passing by mere blurs in peripheral vision, though the roar in the air remains a deafening constant. Occasionally, there's a momentary scream, piercing and mercifully brief. He's labeled the ones higher in pitch as "children," and he'd be pained to learn how accurate the connection is. His muscles are exhausted; there are no calories left to burn. But he's holding on with fingers locked. He's no idea what foundation the metal bar is attached to, but he's certain it will not hold forever. For the life of him, he can't figure out why he just doesn't let go. Are seconds of life that precious?

Reality turns inside out. Winds, usually invisible, paint themselves with remnants of dust and water. He can only look down, towards the gaping maw that wants to swallow him. Breathing is almost as difficult as hanging on, and each inhalation feels strangely like a lung has collapsed. He's always wanted to fly, but now only wants to kiss the Earth, even with pieces of it stuck in his throat. There's a chorus of screams, passing marginally slower, and below his feet he sees the bus disappear into the nothingness. A fleeting impression of pity gives way to the realization that, unlike him, they didn't die alone. Perhaps that's what he's waiting for. A companion to travel with to the other side.

The pursuit of knowledge is destroying existence, and the irony is laughable, but the fear of asphyxiation prevents the joke from being enjoyed. There's another joke in watching one's life flash before their eyes, but it's lost its humor in light of everyone's life flashing before his eyes. Density increases under rapidly strengthening gravity, compacting the whole of human history into one small molecule. He can feel his fingers about to snap, the bones fracturing and the ligaments stretching beyond recovery. Hearing more screams, he forces himself to look up. The shape of a body rapidly approaches and he lets go metal in order to grasp flesh.

He doesn't know who the body belongs to and doesn't really care. Eyes stay closed under the sensation of falling. Their embrace is tight, passionate, and cognitive of their ultimate fate. Giving in, he finally appreciates the wind. He's never been in love, doesn't know what it looks like, or even where it lives. Maybe it'll take him there.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Extracurricular Endeavors

So, while I'm tiring of the blogosphere in general, I still find blogs to be extremely useful. And even though this blog will take a step back after the New Year (some have noticed the redesign/strip-down already), I'll be sticking around The Tenth Daughter of Memory and lurking on a couple of private blogs. One of those private blogs is a writer's group that welcomes any aspiring writer who wants to hone their skills with the assistance of honest critiques (some amateur, some professional). The other is the home of my unedited, unabashed creative writing.

The Tenth Daughter of Memory Muses On...

The Tenth Daughter of Memory started its second year of existence this past September and it's a wild ride. The talent keeps improving, the competition keeps stiffening, and the Muses keep getting... weirder. Many participants have even submitted their entries for publication in a variety of places and it appears a few of them will see legitimate print (and even get made into short films).

Personally, I can't wait until February and the next River of Mnemosyne Challenge. That's a royal butt-kicker. Cowards and hacks need not apply, if you know what I mean.

The Infanticide Exchange Revisited

On September 1st of this year, a group of us launched The Infanticide Exchange, an online writer's group for aspiring writers who wanted to share and receive honest criticisms with other aspiring writers. It got off to a great start, then languished a bit, but now seems to be leveling out at a steady pace. It's been a useful tool for me, and I know several of the other members will claim the same.

Anyone interested, feel free to contact an admin (Baino, JeffScape, Krys, Not for Jellyfish, and Tom) and check it out. Admin email addresses are available at their profiles.

Announcing: Panoramic Mindscapes

Most of my regular readers know that I have a strange rule concerning creative writing here at IrreX2: I don't post complete stories. This is done for a variety of reasons, copyright issues being one of them. But I do continue to work on stories that appear here piecemeal. And, so, for my close friends and certain people who I want to see published themselves (read: potential clients... cough, cough), I've started a private blog where those who want to see the rest of those stories unfold can go to do so. I call it "Panoramic Mindscapes" and if you'd like an invite, shoot me an email. Just be forewarned that I'm being ludicrously picky as to who gets access, so please don't take offense if I don't respond.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One Last Thing, Part II

*a continuation of One Last Thing, Part I

Seven Uzbek mobsters aim their handguns - a variety of weapons ranging from American M1911s to Czech CZ75s - at Cray and Drew. Cray's HK G36 and Drew's HK416 return the favor. The two Americans know that they might die here, in this dusty excuse for a warehouse in Denau, but it's gonna be a fun time if they do.

Cray tries very hard not to laugh. The situation has all the setup of a bad joke, though Mexican standoffs in Uzbekistan aren't as unusual as one might expect. Organized crime is widespread here and the double cross is no surprise to either Cray or Drew. What is a surprise is that Dame Helen Laurie, one-time MI6 agent and fling of Cray's, is pointing a Walther P99 at the back of Cray's head.

"Hey, lady," Cray says, smiling. He knows she can't see his lustful memory-inspired grin, but he's sure she can hear it. "Still mad about Eisenach?"

"Please," she almost purrs, "I wasn't even in the room when you jumped out the window."

Alisher Beruniy, the Uzbek henchman in charge of apprehending Cray and Drew, looks perplexed. "You know these men, Elizabeth?"

Beruniy's English is serviceable, but his attempt at an American accent is almost hilarious. This, however, is not why Cray finally starts laughing.

"Elizabeth? Really? Come on, love."

Drew, only having met Helen once before, is quite aware of her reputation. "Cray. Now might not be a good time."

"Oh, shut up, Drew," Cray mock-commands, stifling another chuckle as the seven Uzbeks - including Beruniy - replace aggressive expressions with bewildered ones. Cray very much wants to turn around and get a good look at Helen. She's just under twelve years younger than him and he's interested to see if her body has held up since he's last seen her. He licks his lips in honor of her favorite after-party favor, a gesture mistaken for arrogance by one of the Uzbek gunmen.

"Ah, shit," Drew mutters, as the gunman reacquires his aim and pulls the trigger.

Cray ducks out of the way and rolls to the left. Out of reflex, Helen adjusts her fire and shoots the Uzbek directly in his forehead. Drew's 416 spits randomly in the direction of the other gunmen as he rushes for cover to the right.

Gunfire explodes and chaos ensues as Helen follows Cray to his hiding spot behind a metal filing cabinet. She squeezes in close and Cray inhales deeply, enjoying the scent of her hair and her perfume. That there are hints of gunpowder doesn't really bother him. "I thought you were retired."

"I thought that of you," she replies humorlessly as she takes out another Uzbek. "I'm supposed to be working for these men, Cray."

"Undercover?"

She shoots him a scolding glance and lays some covering fire so Drew - already across the warehouse - can shift firing positions a bit more easily. "Are you going to help?"

God, Cray loves her accent. So proud, so proper, and so sexy. He halfheartedly fires the G36 around the cabinet, not really paying attention to where Drew is.

"God dammit!" Drew sounds pissed. "Whose fucking side are you on?"

"Don't kill Beruniy," Helen pleads. "We need intel from him."

"Who's we?" Cray asks as he places a hand on her ass while she drops to a knee and fires down a corridor. She slaps it away without looking and, to Cray's delight, without stopping her fire suppression. "Oh, shit, woman. You're still active."

The reports of rapid and random gunfire slow down and are replaced by Drew's well-aimed shots, which are soon replaced by silence. "Clear," Drew calls out.

"Clear," Helen responds.

Reaching around her waist, Cray slides a hand between her legs and feels her crotch. "Oh, all clear," he mumbles with a snicker. She turns and pistol whips him - ever so gently, of course - across the temple.

***

When Cray comes to, he and Drew are in some field away from any settlements. Helen is nowhere to be seen.

"How's your head?" Drew asks, not really caring.

Cray laughs - today's been rather funny. "About the same as the last time she clocked me."

Drew hands Cray a manila envelope. There's a dossier and some satellite imagery inside. "She gave us this."

"Well, shit. She still loves me."

"Not from what I could tell, she doesn't." Drew grabs Cray's arm and lifts him to his feet. "We gotta clear out of here." Drew starts walking toward a highway in the distance. "Thanks for the help in the warehouse, by the way. You get injured or something? Or did the sight of a piece of ass put you in a trance?"

"I think I pulled a muscle."

"Yeah, your brain."

"Drew, you dumbass. The brain's not a muscle."

"Not yours, anyway."

*to be continued...