Friday, December 26, 2014

What reviews aren't.

     It is that time of the year again: the time to explain what reviews are!

     I know what you might be thinking: "But I know what reviews are!"

     Well, sadly, chances are, you don't.

     A review is not you telling your audience what happens in the story from beginning to end. That is called "plot summary". A plot summary is not a review, and it spoils the story. You are ruining the experience of discovery for your audience by doing them this disservice.

     A review is also not you going through the story scene by scene and commenting as you go. That is called "riffing", and was probably invented by Mystery Science Theater 3000.

     If you are riffing on a story, or summarizing the plot, you are not a reviewer and what you are doing is not a review.

     A review, is an article, or a video, that serves one purpose. That purpose is to convince you, the audience, that a product is worth purchasing, OR convince you to stay away from it.

     I am not going to touch reviews of eggbeaters or beds here; this is not the time.

     Instead, I will talk about the reviews of fiction: books, movies, videogames, and such.

     When you review a piece of fiction you are again adhering to the basic purpose: to convince the audience to (not) get the thing themselves. You are convincing me to read, or not to read the book.

     A review should begin with a description of what kind of story it is; what genre it could be pigeonholed in.

     Then, you give the premise: who goes where, when, and why. Tell me how the story starts; that much is not a spoiler.

     Then, you describe the tone to me: is it serious, or crazy? Sad, or funny? Realistic, or cartoony?

     Then, you give me your view on the quality of writing: do you think the premise is executed and expanded upon well? (you can actually find a guide to good writing on this very blog)


     There is nothing else you should do. Good job. Your review is done. Finished. Now you relax and sip some tea. Your review is complete, for it has every single thing a review should.

     I hope you learned something today, future YouTube superstar.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Satyrday, a Fable. Wednesday, parts 1 & 2.


     The owl called the congregation of ravens for the early hours of the day, past midnight. As the darkness grew in intensity, the owl seemed to bloat. His golden eyes bulged and took on a reddish tinge, as though the beating of his heart had become so frantic that the blood moving through his veins had nowhere to go but into his eyes. He puffed in the clearing, his feathers bristling, until the bulk of his body was overpowering.
     In small groups, the ravens arrived. Word had gone out that afternoon that the owl wished to speak with them, and the place and time were transmitted with a flick of wing, a blink of a red eye.
     The meeting was held in another clearing, several miles from where the moon hung caged. Deirdre arrived late, but she was not the last. The owl sad dead-center, silent as an idol, and the glossy birds landed on trees and bushes around him, even in the edges of the clearing, all eyes intent upon the horned tyrant.
     Deirdre was grateful she'd gotten there at all. When she returned from the swamp, she'd fallen asleep, in plain view, a silly mistake, but one she could do nothing about. She's been awakened by a rustling in the limbs above her, and when she opened her eyes, she saw a small group of ravens perched above. It was already dark and their eyes shone down at her like live coals.
     "Sleeping late," one of them said.
     "Yes," she said, "I overslept," although she'd gotten barely six hours of rest.
     They flew off, one after another, and when all had abandoned her, she flew after them. Now they sat, surrounding the owl, waiting for him to speak.
     He was waiting as well, but Deirdre didn't know why. A few ravens straggled in late, and the owl fixed each one with his glassy bulbous stare, as if to question their right to remain alive. Deirdre began to get edgy; the encounter was eerie, like a showdown. When she thought she'd burst, two weasels came slinking through the underbrush and entered the clearing, remaining some distance form the owl. He looked down at them imperiously as they sank to earth, their eyes to him.
     "You're late," he said, his voice conveying his displeasure. "You've kept us waiting."
     One of the weasels spoke in a quavering voice. "We're sorry, my lord. We received your summons late, and we, as you know, cannot fly."
     "I know you can't fly," the owl thundered. His gaze left the cowering weasels and slowly took in the ravens. He thought how they looked like a night sky, those blinking eyes like thousands of read stars. Not a raven moved as he surveyed them. Paranoid, Deirdre thought he stared too long at her, and did her best to appear inconspicuous.
     "My friends here have something of interest to say," the owl said, nodding to the weasels.
     "We are just poor weasels from the Outer Lands," the second weasel said. "We live on the plain to the east of the mountains."
     "They can see what you are, you sniveling fool," the owl said. "Get to the point."
     "Yes, my lord," the weasel said, shaking with fright.
     "We've seen a raven fly out over the plain where we live, headed for the Swollen River," the second said. "And later we've seen him return."
     "So you think it's a 'he'?" the owl asked, interested.
     "We don't know for sure," the first weasel replied.
     "Go on," the owl ordered.
     "Twice in the last two days," the second hastened to add. "Since the moon was stolen."
     "What else?" the owl asked.
     "There's nothing else to say," the first weasel said. "That's all we know."
     The owl was exasperated. "Look around you. Do you see the raven who flew east?"
     The weasels were a model of concentration. Deirdre thought they were stalling, but still tried to shrink into her feathers, to disguise herself. They took forever, looking closely from the clearing to the bushes to the tree limbs. Finally the second one spoke.
     "It's no use, my lord. I can't tell the difference between them."
     "May your bones rot in darkness," the owl said. "Get out of here." With great haste and equal relief, the weasels slunk from the clearing and disappeared.
     "So," the owl said, frowning. "There seems to be a traitor in our midst. I have given strict orders that none of you should leave the Outer Lands. The Swollen River and the meadowlands beyond are alien territory. According to these weasels, someone has disobeyed me. Which one of you was it? I won't deal harshly with you if your explanation is fair and true."
     None of the ravens moved for a minute or two, and then all heads began to turn, each bird glancing at his neighbors with suspicion. Deirdre looked right and left as well, trying to appear as unruffled, as critical as her fellows did. Ah, self-righteousness, she thought. Has there ever been such a concentration of it?
     She was alarmed by this turn of affairs, but not particularly frightened. She felt she'd done nothing to give herself away. True, she was an outcast of sorts, having no particular companions among the other members of her clan and thus was vulnerable to suspicion. No other raven would defend her is she were called to account; none could say, "No, my lord, the raven Deirdre is your good and faithful servant. She was with me at the time in question." And since Deirdre could not offer this to any of them, she felt herself alone. But aside from the small group who had caught her sleeping earlier that evening, she was sure there were none who could accuse her.
     Out of the darkness behind her and slightly to her right, the voice of a very young raven filtered past
     "My lord," the raven said, his voice shaking badly. "Perhaps it was I."
     "Come here," the owl ordered, his voice as heavy as lead.
     A flapping emerged from the night, and a small handsome raven flew past Deirdre. He landed some feet from the owl, doing his best to square his wings and face his master.
     "What is your name?" the owl asked.
     "Maxwell," the raven said bravely. In the deepness if the night, Deirdre thought she could see blue highlights flashing amid his feathers.
     "No, my lord. They both perished in the ice storm of the winter."
     "Have you any neighbors or companions who can vouch for you?" the owl said severely.
     Maxwell looked behind him for assistance. "There are some I fly with," he said. "Bingor and Tera."
     "Are you here?" the owl roared, his voice coming back at him, echoing off the tall dead trees.
     There was no reply, only he deepest silence in which Deirdre could feel her blood pulsing in her throat.
     The owl looked down at Maxwell, a strange gloat in his eyes. They seemed to have become more red, almost as red as the ravens' eyes, "No one will speak for you," he said. So, Deirdre thought, it has come to this.
     "Bingor," the little raven implored, turning to look behind him at the hosts of his people.
     "Silence!" the owl ordered. "You flew east?"
     "Yes, my lord." The raven had lost his composure. He shivered in the darkness until Deirdre thought the earth picked up his fright and began trembling in empathy.
     "Against my orders?"
     "No, my lord, I did not disobey you. I was visiting the graves of the ancestors," he said bravely, "the ones who died in the great wind."
     The owl's chest swelled. "You crossed the Swollen River?"
     "No, my lord. I visited the graves on the Plain of Desiccation, the graves of those who dropped form the wind when it passed over the river. My mother and father often took me there, and since they died.  .  .  ."
     "An act of filial devotion, then?"
     "Yes, my lord."
     "I don't believe you," the owl said harshly. "Why was it never reported to me before?"
     "I don't know," Maxwell said. "I didn't know I was doing anything wrong."
     "You flew with this Bingor?"
     "No, my lord, I went alone. I could find no one who would go with me."
     "They were wiser than you, my son," the owl said. He called, and from the darkness behind him, three falcons swooped from the highest branches of a very tall oak. "Take him to the southern forest," the owl said. He paused for effect. None of the ravens knew of this place, except Deirdre. She shuddered on her branch, drawing herself tighter.
     "And break his wings," the owl said.
     Deirdre cried out in alarm.
     "Who was that?" the owl shrieked.
     "It was nothing, my lord," Deirdre said. "I have a cramp in my claw."
     "Take him away," the owl said. "Take him from my sight."
     Deirdre heard a soft noise in the distance, like weeping. Whoever grieved had not grieved enough to speak on Maxwell's behalf, but still Deirdre felt great pity. And she was beside herself with indecision. If she spoke up, if she offered herself in his place, she knew the owl would not spare the young bird. She would be killed, and he would still be banished and mutilated. And she would be abandoning the satyr and the boy.
     The falcons bound the raven and took off, each of them holding a rope. They hovered above the clearing, displaying their captive, before heading south.
     "Let that be a lesson to you," the owl said.
     "But my lord, if I may humbly ask a question," a raven said from a branch to Deirdre's right.
     "You may ask," the owl said.
     "The young one did not cross the Swollen River, if what he said was true."
     "But who would speak up for him?" the owl asked. "Not one of you. NOT A SINGLE ONE. You are a cowardly flea-infested lot, and it makes me sick to look at you."
     There was total silence. The raven who had spoken did not speak again.
     "Now leave me," the owl thundered. "All of you."
     As Deirdre rose in the air, it was like the whirlwind which had carried her west. Thousands of ravens surrounded her, and she was buffered by fierce currents. All was wing and beak and flashing eye. The sky reverberated with harsh breathing and cawing. Ravens collided in the air and fell away from each other, screaming. Feathers torn loose from their wings drifted below them. Bruised and battered, all left the clearing, Deirdre with them. She remembered the night she had been taken by the wind. Her parents lay below her on the ground, broken and bleeding, calling her name.

                                                   *                      *                      *

     In the morning's dim light, Derin stood with Matthew and Vera, looking down at the Swollen River. By day, the water was molten rock, not mud. Blue-grey, like the hottest part of a fire, it laughed at them. A few boulders jutted from the water, their sleek black backs like seals. Around the rocks, the river churned, flinging spray high into the air. There were no islands, no sandbars, nothing but the deep channel.
     Derin walked down the rise. His ankle was completely healed, good as it had ever been; even the bruise had disappeared.  He knelt by the river's side and put a hand in the water. It felt like swiftly flowing ice. Down the bank, cedars gave way to tall firs which crowded to the river's edge. Across from him, Derin could make out the thin line of the opposite shore, marked by a rise of trees.
     He climbed the bank again and pointed to what he'd seen.
     "It's swamp at first," Vera said, "just like this side. But it's much more narrow. We'll have some wading to do when we get across. From here on there's nothing like the meadowlands again. You're in for a geography lesson."
     "You said there were mountains," Derin said.
     "That's right," the fox said. "That's where I live. They're at least two days away. After the swamp, we'll get to the Plain of Desiccation. Dry, dusty, hot and nasty. Not much lives there. I've seen a few weasels, and scorpions of course. Wild board. They're all in league with the owl, so we'll have to be careful. And there are other pitfalls. Like getting lost in the sand, Just one hill after the next, nothing to even give you the sense you're moving."
     "Sounds like fun," Matthew said. "I can't wait."
     "After that, we'll get to the mountains, a bit more hospitable terrain, I promise. And I know them backwards and forwards. They're beautiful, but of course I'm prejudiced."
     "And then?" Derin asked.
     "Then you're on your own," Vera said. "I'll take you as far as the mountains, but I won't go into the Forest."
     "The Deadwood Forest," Matthew said.
     "That's right," the fox said. "A vast tangle of dead trees and bushes, the most desolate place you could imagine. Nothing grows there. It used to be full of oaks and maples, before the owl came to power. I wouldn't go near it."
     "We'd better get started," Matthew said. "It's going to take time to build the raft." Long into the night, they had talked about how to cross the river, and Matthew had convinced them his was the best solution. They would need logs, and vines to lash the logs together, and a bit of luck.
     The three of them left the overlook and descended to where they'd slept. The only logs they'd found were fallen cedars, big around as Matthew's armspan, heavier than he and the boy could even lift. "The firs will be better," Matthew said, rummaging in his pack for the ax head. "They'll float higher in the water. Derin, go south along the bank and look for vines we can use. They should be old and weathered, nothing too young or they'll snap. I'll find a handle for this and get to work on the logs." Derin stood and watched as Matthew honed the ax head with whetstone, found a piece of cedar to use as a handle, and bound the head to it with rawhide. "Go on," Matthew said. "Get going."
     Derin walked along the rise, the river on his left rushing much faster than he was walking. Firs rose around him. He looked for vines which matched Matthew's instructions, but there were none, nothing but the straight druidical presence of the trees, their needled branches drooping toward the ground. The light under the firs was like the swamp's, a mottled green.
     As Derin walked, he peered across at the other side, trying to imagine it. From Vera's description, it was unlike anything he'd even dreamed about, a harsh and forbidding landscape over which the owl brooded like a malevolent cloud. Crossing the river seemed impossible. He thought of the three of them, huddled together on their flimsy raft, buffeted by those waves which even now rose and fell like the foaming backs of stallions, flinging spray sky-high. Behind him, he heard the first crack of a tree. The satyr's voice rang out, and then Derin listened to the slow crunsh as it fell, breaking the branches of other firs, the slam it made as it hit the ground.
     He shaded his eyes with his hands. There, above him, he saw what looked like a tangle of vines. It festooned the upper branches, hanging down toward him, taunting.
     Derin shrugged and rubbed his hands together. He took a few steps back, approached the fir, and jumped. He wrapped his arms and legs around the trunk and inched his way up, raising his knees, hugging the fir, and grabbing above him with his arms. The rough bark scratched his legs, but he kept climbing until finally he could reach up and hold onto a branch. His legs let go, and he hung there by both arms. The branch creaked, bending downward, but it held. Kicking against the trunk to gain some leverage, he managed to swing a leg over the branch, and wrestled into a sitting position.
     He started upwards, breathing harshly. The vines still hung above him, up where the fir broke open and gave way to the sky. When he'd rested, he crouched on the branch, close to the trunk, holding on to other branches above him for balance. He climbed quickly, the fir providing an awkward ladder. Matthew would have to be satisfied with these. He wasn't going to climb another tree.
     The closer he got to the vines, the odder they looked to him. They were smooth and shiny, grey and black. He was five feet from them when he realized they weren't vines at all. The entire tangle began to writhe above him, and the snakes' tapered heads appeared, waving in the air, their eyes red pinpricks of light. Derin pulled away, crouching on the branch he'd been straining to leave. He grabbed it with both hands and swung free, reaching with his toe for a safe hold below him. He found the branch, let go and tottered, lost his balance. He crashed against the trunk and fell, but he managed to grab a branch, and he hung there, almost wrenching his shoulders from their sockets when the tree ceased to give.
     He looked above him. The snakes had made no move toward him, and he hurriedly let himself down from branch to branch, until he hung from the lowest one and let himself fall. He sprang to his feet, ready to run. Above him, the snakes were motionless, their heads hidden, looking again like a tangle of vine.
     He caught his breath; for him, the owl was everywhere. Perhaps the snakes had not been threatening at all, simply a nest of tree vipers disturbed by his ascent. But he wasn't about to climb again to find out. The menace in their twisting heads had not been imagined, and whether they belonged to the owl or simply to themselves, they meant him only ill. He made his way back up the riverbank toward the place where the heave of Matthew's ax was again audible.
     The river leapt to challenge him, and his face was wet with salt spray. "We're crossing you," he said. At his feet, the ground rustled. Sand grains and tiny stones rose from the earth and bounced off his legs. The river continued in its deep channel from north to south, ignoring his threat.

                                                           *                       *                       *

Sorry for not working on this for so long. More = later!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Kids' cartoons.

     Lately, with the numbers of manchildren (and womanchildren of course blah) steadily growing, angry nerds on the INTERNET have been defending what are commonly considered "kids' things" and holding the position that those childish matters could be enjoyed by adults just the same. That was the inspiration for this writing/article thing.

     But are people correct when they say "_____ is not just a kids' thing"? Hard as it may be to believe, often they are correct.

     A long long time ago, animation was invented. The prospect of taking a whole bunch of drawings and treating them as frames of a film was the craziest idea since electricity-powered streetlamps. And yet, a bunch of crazy folks did it. One of the first animations was the one of a dinosaur eating a tree. It was AMAZING, like a drawing come to life! From primitive tech demos like that came the Felix cartoons and Looney Tunes. Early cartoons were all experimental, since NO ONE did animation before, and there was no guaranteed audience. So, the creators made cartoons to please themselves, and hopefully their friends. Tex Avery and Chuck Jones both made animation for themselves the way they wanted, and were lucky enough that the movie going public liked it. Cause, in case you are unaware, there was no television for a while, and all animation was shown in theaters.

     Needless to say, all cartoons were made by adults. Duh. Made for other adults. Keep that in mind.

     But as time went on, animation somehow became a kids' thing. How did that happen?

     As the years gone by, several reasons happened.

     First of all, around the 1940s, producers noticed that kids liked cartoons quite a lot, and went to see the colourful imagination-fest more eagerly than the jaded mature adults. So, animators were told to make their wacky cartoons more child-friendly. I'm serious! – watch some of the oldest cartoons, you'll be surprised how naughty some of them are. Also, notice how in almost all early cartoons the protagonists are almost exclusively adults, while later we would see an influx of children taking those roles. Because, AS WE ALL KNOW, children cannot relate to adults or like grown up characters *cough PopeyeSupermanMickeyMouse*.

     Second, television happened. TV producers realized that children have much higher tolerance for shit quality and shit writing than adults. Cheap, badly written cartoons were cheaper to produce than live action. Adults wanted the kids to go the fuck away for most of the day (cause who wants to spend time with their unwanted children, amirite?). So, when you put the two and two together, we have the following: the rise of limited animation, and the rise of shit writing in animation. The Double Rise of Two Shits.

     Third, Di$ney. They made the first COLOURED animated feature film, and it was a hueg hit. Because on the over-the-top strong emphasis on fameelee in Murrika, adults would go with their children to see Di$ney films from then on. Seeing how profitable family films are by their very nature (family = more seats), Di$ney producers (Walt wasn't the one man in charge of where money comes from, despite what people believe) made it so the movies be more child-friendly, and the stories simpler for the tiny child brain to understand. To this very day, the Di$ney Corporation is trying their best to preserve an innocent child-friendly image (which is toxic for creativity in animation, but they haven't cared for decades now).

     Fourth, human stupidity. The general public does not give a FUCK why things are the way they are. Women belong in the kitchen, invading foreign countries to preserve FREEDOM is a good idea, capitalism is the best darn system ever created, Coca Cola is good for you, and cartoons are for children. The general public is never arsed to find out why things are the way they are, and how we came to this. Too much thinking will make your brain explode and shrink your dick, right? And nobody wants a shrunk dick, RIGHT??

     So, the combination of corporate greed and public ignorance are the two main reasons which made animation to be known as "kids' stuff".

     For comics, it was superhero shit.

     Satyrday chapters coming up next!

Monday, November 10, 2014

An impossible dream.

     I wish this man was alive right now, and did illustrations for Satyrday.

     His choice of colour... of perspective... it's perfect! Some of these make me think of the swamp Derin and Matthew had to cross in chapter 3. All of those paintings have hidden magic inside of them, just like every page of the aforementioned 1980 fable.

     In case you haven't figured out, this post is filler.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Satyrday, a Fable. Tuesday, parts 9, 10 & 11.

     The fire blazed higher. Vera piled twigs and leaves from a fallen cedar, and strips of bark. Matthew knelt on the hummock, shaking the boy. Derin's arms hung backwards from his shoulders as if disjointed, and his legs bent at the knees and fell limply to the side. "Derin," he said harshly, and when the boy did not respond, the satyr cuffed his face. "You're not leaving me alone in this," he said. "Not after all this time."
     He put the boy down and began to massage his chilled body. He worked up Derin's arms, beginning with the fingers, and then rubbed the boy's neck and chest. Vera took the earthenware pot from Matthew's knapsack, filled it with water from the swamp, and put it beside the fire to warm. When a faint mist drifted from the top, she brought it over to where the boy lay. Matthew rummaged in his pack for a piece of cloth and found the flask he had forgotten.
     "Of course," he said. "Just the thing." He drenched the cloth in the warm water and wiped the boy's face. Then he lifted Derin's shoulders, tilted his head back, and gently opened his mouth. Derin's face had lost its blue tinge, and when Matthew put his ear to the boy's chest, he heard a steady heartbeat.
     He poured a few drops from his flask into the boy's mouth. Derin's throat contracted, and the boy jerked forward, couching. The satyr hit him on the back until the coughing ceased. Derin sat up and wildly looked around him. He threw his arms in front of his face, knocking Matthew backwards.
     "Get away!" he screamed. "Get away from me."
     Matthew struggled back to his hooves. "Derin," he said. "It's me. Cut it out."
     The boy's eyes were full of terror. "Stay away," Derin screamed. "Get out of here."
     It's all right. Derin. Listen to me. They're gone. The frogs are gone."
     The boy caught his breath and looked around him at the hummock, his arms still threshing the air. He calmed down by degrees, his head twisting until he was sure they were nowhere to be seen. The air stuck in his throat in little hiccoughs, until he covered his face with his hands and started to cry. "You did a job on this ankle," the satyr said. "You might have broken it." He pulled Derin's hands away and gathered the boy in his arms. Derin did not resist. He buried his face in Matthew's shoulder and sobbed. It had been years since the boy had allowed himself to be held, and Matthew felt the burden of all that time. His throat tightened. "You should have been more careful," he said gruffly. "You've got to take care of yourself."
     "They came out of the water," Derin said. "I couldn't stop them. They were all around me."
     "They didn't touch you," Matthew said.
     "How did you know?" the boy said, wresting himself loose from Matthew's hold. "You weren't even here."
     Vera, who had been watching everything, came forward. "Let's take care of his ankle," she said. "We've got to get back to the river."
     "Who are you?" Derin asked in amazement. "Where did she come from?"
     "Her name is Vera," Matthew said. "She's the reason I left you like that." He turned to the fox. "Can you get some wild sarsaparilla?" he asked.
     Vera disappeared among the cedars. "She can turn herself into a nymph," Matthew said when she was gone. He shrugged his shoulders. "I ran after her."

                                                      *                      *                      *

     By the time the fox returned, Matthew had told Derin all he knew of their strange companion. He made a poultice of warm water, wild sarsaparilla, and rotting cedar and put it on the boy's ankle, binding it with the cloth he'd used earlier. The boy winced, threw back his head. "So it hurts," the satyr said. "It's a bad sprain. You'll have to stay off it for a while. You're lucky it's not worse."
     "Let me help," Vera said. "Just lie still." She sniffed Darin's ankle, took her tail and brushed it four times, rhythmically, over the boy's leg. She sniffed again, brushed her tail four more times, and then licked the ankle. "There," she said. "That should do it. How does it feel?"
     "It doesn't," Derin said, amazed. "I don't feel a thing."
     "Good," Vera said. "Then it worked. I deadened the pain to let the ankle heal. It's the least I can do." She looked at Matthew. "I led your friend on that wild chase. I thought I'd get the two of you through the swamp more quickly that way." She sighed. "Unfortunately, you can't always tell how things will turn out. Sometimes the best intentions.  .  .  ."
     "Well, thank you," Derin said.
     "It was nothing. I'm a snow fox. I have the power of healing."
     "And the power of transformation," Matthew said.
     "Limited," the fox said. "Very limited."
     "What about the real nymphs?" Matthew asked. "The ones who used to live in the meadowlands."
     Vera smiled at him. "There were no real nymphs," she said.
     "You're razzing me," Matthew said, laughing. "No wonder I never caught one. There were a lot of foxes, now that I think of it.
     "Until the wind destroyed the clan," Vera said. "The wind the owl sent to bring the animals west. Many survived that night. But snow foxes are delicate creatures, sensitive and high-strung. The only ones who lived were those not taken by the wind. Eery snow fox in the whirlwind perished. And soon after that the ones who remained left the meadowlands to live in the upper regions of the mountains to the west. I think I'm the last one."
     "The last of your clan?" Derin asked.
     "Those things most beautiful perish first," Vera said proudly. "There are no unicorns left."
     "But how did you know about us?" Matthew asked.
     "I knew about the owl," she said simply, "and about the moon. It seemed only a matter of time before someone headed west to try to rescue her. I am wiser than I may appear. Snow foxes–if I might brag for a moment–are not ordinary creatures."
     Derin looked at Vera, and she sighed and complied with his silent request. Before him stood a nymph, so radiant she dispelled the green gloom of the swamp. It was as though the sun had reappeared. The boy groaned, amazed. The nymph disappeared, and the fox was before them again. "I hope that did some good," she said. "It's a strain on me."

                                                     *                       *                       *

     The fox gathered the knapsacks and gave them to the boy. Matthew bend down and Derin hobbled over and climbed on the satyr's back. It grew noticeably darker as they sloshed west, the fox cutting a single sliver in the water's skin, the satyr stumbling behind. "Slow down," he called. "I'm not as aspired as I was before."
     Under Derin's hands, the satyr's shoulders rippled like the water below him. He was remembering the brief image of the nymph which had burned into his mind. He was lost in her radiance, in the memory of his fall, the frogs and their silent pulsing throats, aware now of a pull to the west toward the owl; it was as though he'd been hypnoyized, and was being drawn more tightly into a net.
     As they struggled through the swamp, night came, clamping down around them like the lid of a box. The Satyr had to rest occasionally. During one of these stops, he untied the cloth around Derin's ankle and reapplied the poultice. The swelling had gone down, and Derin's foot had regained the color of living flesh, but an ugly bruise spread from the ankle and discolored the boy's instep.
     The fox never spoke. She seemed intent in getting out of the swamp. She knew her way, even in the dark, as easily as Derin knew the way to Matthew's granite overhang, and they both agreed her presence was a rare stroke of luck.
     Derin was beginning to nod when he heard a noise which brought him fully awake. It was like to roaring of a wind gathering far off. But there was no wind. The air was still and very cold. It was a rumbling undertone of sound, a solid sustained bass which never varied. The noise seemed to be coming from the swamp beneath him, filtering up into the highest branches of the cedars. It had strange gurglings and pauses in it, little sucks and moans.
     He bent over and whispered in Matthew's ear, "What's that?"
     "If my guess is right, we're near the Swollen River."
     "Yes," the fox said. "That's the river. Don't let it worry you. We'll stop along its banks. Wouldn't think of trying to cross it tonight."
     The swamp became more shallow, the ice gave way to solid ground, and as they came to a slow rise, the rumbling increased and Derin felt the earth tremble. When they were near the top, the satyr put him down. Derin held his right foot off the ground, stood on his left, and steadied himself by holding onto the satyr's arm.
     "Careful now," Vera said. "It will still be tender."
     The boy put his foot on the ground and applied some pressure. It held him. "It's not as fine as it seems," Vera reminded him, "but it looks like it's doing all right." And she was gone, up the rise overlooking the river. Matthew helped him hobble up after her. The fox looked out over the turbulence of river. Matthew stood by her side, his arms crossed on his chest.
     The immensity of what lay before the boy took his breath away. True, it was difficult to see anything in so little light. The sky was a solid leaden sheet, and under it the river came rushing from his left and passed away to his right. Here, on its brink, the water made unearthly noises. It sounded like a storm coming out of the earth instead of the sky. Perhaps by daylight the boy would see the far shore, but as he stood there, he felt as he had when he'd made a trip with Matthew to the ocean. Its power humbled him. They were to cross this water? It seemed not like water at all, but like a stream of mud. It was thick and slippery, churning below him.
     "I don't remember it like this," the satyr said uneasily.
     The fox huddled between them in the dark. "The river is much wilder and broader since the owl took the moon. We should get some sleep. I'll gather wood for a fire." She set off down the rise they had recently climbed.
     Derin stood close to Matthew. "There's something I have to tell you," he said. The satyr stiffened, ready for the rebukes he thought the boy had been hoarding all afternoon.
     "I had the strangest vision back on that hummock," Derin said. Matthew looked at him and frowned. "I was racing after you, but you were so fast and I was falling behind. I got tired of having to run around things, so I tried to vault this cedar. That's when I fell and sprained my ankle. I was lying there and I opened my eyes and the frogs came. They just sat there in the water staring at me, and I started screaming, started talking to keep them away. They belong to the owl, don't they?"
     "That's what Vera said."
     "I don't remember anything else until you came back. I must have passed out. But U had this vision. I sank deeper and deeper into this hole and then I was a bird and I came flying up, into this clear sky. The sun was there and the moon, and I was the only bird around. I flew and flew. It must have been west because the sun was setting. And then I flew south. And I found this large thing that looked like a prison."
     "Who know what dreams mean?" Matthew said. "Not me. I've had them myself, but they never make sense." The boy stood silent at his side. "That's not much of an answer, is it?" he asked.
     "If it's the best you can do," the boy said.
     Matthew looked out over the river. "Years ago," he said, "fourteen years ago, I was awakened in the middle of the night and brought to this bank, to the edge of the river, the only other time I've been here. A creature wearing a dark cloak, I couldn't see the face, handed me a blanket. I know it may be hard to believe, but.  .  .  ."
     "Me?" Derin asked.
     "Yes. of course," the satyr said. "So I brought you back to the meadowlands."
     Derin stood, stunned by this information he'd waited so long for. "But where did I come from?" he wanted to know. "Who was the stranger?"
     "He could have been your father. He could have been someone else. I don't know. And where he, or you, came from is a mystery to me, I'm sorry I can't tell you anything else."
     Derin shivered in the damp ait. He looked to his friend for reassurance, but Matthew was lost in thought. "Why didn't you tell me this before?"
     The satyr looked at him and then reached out and touched the boy's shoulder. "What good would it have done? He said you'd be sent for. And you have been."
     Derin said nothing. Below him, the river bubbled: a cauldron, a tempest. It's happening, Matthew thought, as the stranger said. It's happening, and I can't do a thing to change it.
     "You're tired," he said, but the boy wasn't listening to him. He was off somewhere, thinking of the crazy twists his life had taken. "I don't have any more answers for you," the satyr said, almost harshly. "Leave me alone for a minute. Go warm yourself by the fire. And get off that ankle."
     "Matthew," Derin said. "I'll be all right. I can take care of myself."
     "I think you can," the satyr said. "You'll have to."
     The boy limped down the slope. Matthew stood alone, watching the river pass below him. He shook his head in wonder. And how am I changing? he thought.

                                                   *                        *                        *

End of chapter 3. More = later!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Condensed History of Language.

     1. A word is invented.

     2. The word gets popular.

     3. The word gets overused to death.

     4. People don't like the word anymore.

     5. A new word gets invented to take its place.

     6. The new word gets popular.

     7. The new word gets overused to death.

     8. People don't like the new word anymore.

     9. See part 5.

     Ever wondered why we have so many euphemisms for "penis"?

     Now you know.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Satyrday, a Fable. Tuesday, parts 7 & 8.

     Matthew waded behind the fox, trying to put his information together. He and Derin had entered the swamp; the water was freezing, ice formed on his fleece and then, as in a dream, he'd seen the nymph. How long ago had that been? Where was he now? He'd lost all track of time and direction. He knew for sure only that he was still in the swamp, heading back where he'd come from, looking for the boy.
     Vera moved through the water with a power and grace that seemed otherworldly. The cold didn't bother her, and she never tired. For Matthew, it was much more difficult than he remembered. But then, he thought, he remembered only the image of the nymph. The cold returned to his legs and worked its way up his thighs and into his chest until his teeth were shattering, and he walked, hugging himself. He fumbled in his pack for the blanket, but he had drenched himself in his pursuit and now, in the slower going, he paid for his carelessness. Icicles hung from his hair; he stopped from time to time, lifted his legs from the water, and removed the small pieces of ice which formed in the cleft of his hooves.
     Where was Derin? Ahead of Matthew, the swamp continued, drifting into the distance, and endless morass of pools and hummocks. Lichen grew on the cedars' trunks, turning the bark a deep green. In fact, everything looked green. The fox's white fur had taken on a pale sickly sheen, his own hands were stained, and the water eddied around his legs like an algae-laden much.
     It was the light. It bounced off the swamp, reflected up to the cedars' tops and back again, a continuous mirroring of green.
     They splashed through the water without speaking, or rather Matthew splashed; Vera cut through it smoothly. But he couldn't stop thinking of what had happened. If the fox could change her form, what else could she do? For the first time since he had began to retrace his steps, he thought about what lay ahead. They had to get out of this swamp; they had to cross the Swollen River. And maybe, if the fox would go along with them, they would make it.
     "Derin!" he yelled again, and this time thought he heard a thin voice raised in the distance. "Was that him?" he asked the fox. "Did you hear that?"
     "I don't know. It could have been the boy. It could have been an echo."
     They plunged in the direction of the noise, but when Matthew called his name again, there was no answer. "How long has it been?" Matthew asked the fox.
     "Since when?"
     "Since we started back."
     "It's very hard to tell," the fox said. "Time's so slippery."
     "How long has Derin been out there?"
     "Perhaps you should have thought of that earlier," the fox replied mildly.
     "But it was you fault," Matthew said, his voice sharp. He felt a hot knot rise in his throat.
     "Now now," Vera said. "Let's not point any fingers."
     They found the boy on the hummock, surrounded by the frogs. Matthew and Vera saw him from a distance and stopped short. "What are those things?" the satyr cried.
     The frogs sat silently, guarding the boy, their bellies pulsing, their red eyes brilliant in the gathering darkness. When they heard the thrashing of the fox and satyr coming toward them, they slithered back into the water and disappeared under its opaque skin.
     "Derin," Matthew yelled, spraying water in front of him as he ran.
     The boy's face was a slight blue, tinged with the green light of the swamp. There was ice and mud in his hair, and his clothes were stiff with frost. His lips were tightly shut, thin as dried reed, and his ankle was twisted sideways. The satyr knelt and took the boy's head in his hands, but Derin did not open his eyes. Wildly, Matthew looked to the fox for help, but she hung back as though what went on between the satyr and the boy was of no interest to her.
     "What were they?" he asked again. "Where did they come from?"
     "The owl," Vera said. "They belong to him."
     "Derin, wake up," Matthew said. But if it were sleep which held the boy, it did not let him go.

                                                         *                        *                         *

     The sun stared down at the clouds moiling beneath her and wondered what had happened to the world. For three days, she had risen in the east and looked down upon the same alien view. Gone were the meadowlands with their blue glints of lakes and streams. She could see nothing, not the wide river which cut the land, nor the tall snow-streaked mountains to the west. All was grey turbulence, a fleecy mask of smoke.
     She shone brighter, but the clouds did not disperse. Instead, they sent soft streamers toward her, tentacles of mist. It was so odd. She had seen bad weather before, days of it, when the world disappeared beneath an impenetrable blanket of cloud. But this was different. She felt cut off from the world by these clouds, and she was growing weaker.
     The sun did not understand exactly, but she knew how she felt. And where was the moon? She was used to being awakened in the morning by her sister, finished for the night, who would rouse her and send her into the sky. But for three mornings now, she had awakened alone, and late, and she was worried.
     Without her sister, the sun felt her power dimming. They nurtured one another. She was afraid the moon was in trouble, but she didn't know what to do. The sun floated over the cloudy sea and racked her brain for an answer. There was nowhere her sister could be. The moon was so haughty and fickle, so impressed with herself, it was possible she had gone off somewhere–but where? There was nowhere to go.
     The sun remembered the time when the world was forming, and the meadowlands seethed with mud, before the green sprouts of trees emerged. Then her sister had disappeared for several days as well. When she'd returned, she had said she was tired of shining and tired of being the same. Where had she gone? the sun asked, and the moon had said, "I traveled among the other suns to find another way."
     And she had found one: elsewhere, she told her sister, there were places where the sources of light changed form. Sometimes they were round as a perfect circle, and sometimes thin and curved. She found great beauty in that, and fascination. "You may keep that dull round shape," she told the sun, "but I will be forever variable."
     The sun, always the more steadfast of the two, had thought, "How vain!" But she'd consented to the new arrangement, and her sister had been happy after that. What was happening now? Had the moon grown discontent again, and traveled off in search of some new possibility?
     If so, the sun wished she would get back son. Even though she hated to admit it, she missed her sister. The sun forgave the moon her vanity, her haughtiness, with a condescension natural to older siblings. The moon would never catch up to the sun, would never be as bright. It was her lot to lag behind, to be paler, more beautiful.
     But without her sister, the sun was incomplete, only half of what she was. The moon took great pride and some spite in saying she was the better half. Halves were just halves, and so the sun ignored the jibe. Now she was worried. Without her sister around, they were both in trouble. She, for one, was losing her light.

                                                     *                        *                        *

More = later! Thanks for being patient and tolerating my lack of productivity.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Dark Side of Remastering, Part 1.

     Hello, underlings! The time has come to discuss the Dark Side of...what the title said.

     "Remastered" has become a buzzword in the music industry, and casuals (aka people who don't know shit about music) have been misusing it for years now. Fortunately, some people have been wising up to the whole thing, and becoming informed. And right now, YOU TOO can become informed! I will explain the basics and bullshits of remastering, in less than 9,000 words! So, gentlemen and gentleladies, THIS IS WHAT REMASTERING IS ALL ABOUT!

     And before you walk away from this frightening wall of text, let me remind you that you do have time to read all this. All those cat videos on YouTube can wait.


     First of all, let's get back to basics. Let's go back in time. A long, long time ago, there were no computers, and no hard drives. All audio was stored on magnetic tapes (archival) and vinyl records (personal use). The former decays over time unless treated chemically, and the latter lasts for many decades (plastic decays real slow). Magnetic tapes sound freaking amazing (providing music was recorded with GOOD microphones and cables). And don't let the slight hiss distract you from what's important: professional magnetic tapes can store sound in theoretically infinite resolution. Before the invention of digital storage, tapes were the shit. Vinyl records are limited by time (only about 25 minutes on each side) and have a hard time holding overly compressed (all loud and zero quiet) sound, but sound about as good as the tapes, proving your player isn't shit and the speakers are not too shabby. Sure, vinyl degrades slightly with repeated use, but you have to pay some price for quality.

     Now, let's get to the meat of the businesses. In the olden days of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, high quality music was first always recorded on tapes, and then transferred to vinyl through a process called mastering. Basically, in the best case, you recorded the instruments and vocals on separate tapes, and then record those tapes on a single and final one. That final tape, be it mono or stereo, was called the master tape. Why? Because it was the final finished version, and from it, all the copies would be made. Think of the master tape as a painting: after you put all the colours together, you are DONE done. No retouching. No going back. Finished. And that finished version of yours could be copied for different museums.

     Let's take a half step back, and explain the mastering some more. Once you record your instruments on multiple tapes, making one tape of them all is not an automated process. You need to decide which instruments are louder, which are quieter, which should sound smoother, which ones harsher. The act of putting the separate tapes into one requires skill and lots of professional machinery, and making the result not sound like shit is called mixing. Ever heard of the word? Well, now you know what it means. The mixer can mix the tapes in a gazillion different ways, and therefore must make the tough decisions. Mixing audio can be quite stressful because of that.

     After the mixing has been finished, and you got your final master tape, you transfer the audio to a metal disk. That disk will be used to physically press the individual copies of vinyl albums.

So, let's look at the complete picture. This is how the sound traveled in the good old days, from the musicians, all the way into your ears:

Instruments & vocals
Recording equipment
Individual tapes
One tape/master tape
Metallic master disk
Vinyl record(s)

     One last thing for this chapter. This is important! >:( The quality of the musicians' performance, quality of the instruments, quality of microphones, quality of cables, quality of recording equipment, and quality of the tape stuff is recording to: it ALL is CRUCIAL. The better each component of this sound chain is, the better sounding recordings you will get. And once the recording is done, the tapes are your ONLY copies that you end up with. The musicians performed in the past, everything but the tapes exist in the past. Everything is gone, forever. Except the tapes, which you must guard like the most precious treasure. For they are the best sounding copies that exist for now, and ever.

     More in Part 2, coming soon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


     Over the years, it has come to my attention that the best thing ever is coming.

     I remain skeptical, since the best thing ever was coming since the dawn of time.

     Remember that time when technology was going to save us all from struggle, misery and death? Remember all those promises of flying cars, 1000 story skyscrapers, and unlimited lifespan? That was the 50s.

     Remember the promises of a new age of peace, of a total end of all war and conflict, when all people will live together as brothers (and sisters), loving and hugging (and shagging) each other? That was the 60s.

     Remember all those promises of Earth becoming Heaven and eternal bliss via afterlife? Remember when the end of days was coming? That was the first century AD, aka the story of Son of God.


     Surely that will happen!... Any year now......


     Wait... what was my point?...

     Ah, yes! Humanity is prone to becoming overly exited and getting drunk on its own anticipation and hype.

     I personally do not believe in Utopias. There is no pleasure without pain, no happiness without shitty times. There is no eternal bliss. Good times will end, or not come at all. We will still have to work to gain and maintain our happiness, and no one and no thing will maintain it for us.

     More Satyrday is coming, hopefully tomorrow.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dear Disney fans...

     I cannot hold it back anymore.

     I need to let it go.

     Disney fans are akin to a herd of blindfolded sheep. They will gobble up anything that corporation puts up. They will claim that Disney products have something "magical" (whatever that means) inside them. They will buy all the merchandise, despite it being made in China. They will defend poorly written Disney movies, while overlooking better ones not released by Disney. They will watch every single video on YouTube even tangentially related to Frozen. That movie is mediocre visually, and has generally poor writing. It's not terrible, but it does not deserve millions of views. FOR FUCK'S SAKE, THE ILLUSIONIST IS A MILES BETTER ANIMATED MOVIE, AND IT IS NOT GETTING EVEN A QUARTER OF THOSE VIEWS!

     Dear Disney fans. When will you stop supporting a corporation what holds back the animation medium? When will you stop backing up a corporation that mass produces generic family CRAP?

     Dear Disney fans.

     When will you take off the blindfold?

     When will you start being critical of the movies you watch?

     I know that it is a big scary world out there. It's scary, big, and unpredictable. Watching sub-par Disney movies helps you forget the horrors of reality. It helps create that sweet illusion that life is simple and always nice.

     Dear Disney fans.

     It is time to grow up. It is time to wise up. It is time to stop letting soulless corporations tell you what the world is like. It is time to stop others from thinking for you.

     It is time to look for better alternatives.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Satyrday, a Fable. Tuesday, parts 5 & 6.

     Several times he fell, slipping on the ice and drenching himself in the freezing water, but he picked himself up and ran on, chasing the beautiful creature who melted into the distance. He didn't feel the cold; it was as though all the contingencies of landscape and weather had evaporated, and all that mattered was the image he pursued, the steady healthy flow of his heart. Behind him, Derin's cries faded as the boy stumbled through the swamp, falling further and further behind.
     Derin was so tired and cold he thought of flinging himself into the icy water and resting there until he froze, but continued the mad chase after Matthew. The cedars ascended on all sides, tall and lordly, like druids. Derin's legs ached from the cold, but he dared not rest, frightened he would lose sight of the satyr, and then really be lost in the depths of the swamp.
     What had gotten into Matthew? The boy had expected a slow and cautious trek across this wasteland, and instead, here they were, the two of them, rushing through it with as little thought as one would give who had thrown himself from a precipice. And this blind running was like that: the wind whipped Derin's face so that he imagined he was falling, and he almost closed his eyes and relaxed into the luxury of the dive, not having to do a thing but wait until he hit the bottom.
     He ran through a maze, constantly ducking and swerving; his face was scratched by the cedar branches he sought to avoid. Whenever he thought he saw a clear avenue to follow his friend's advance, a thicket of wild pepperbush got in his way. In and out of the water he ran, up one hillock and down again into the water. The swamp was crisscrossed by fallen trunks, and red maple and tupelo flared at him as he ran, reaching to put out his eyes.
     In his haste, he became more careless. He vaulted a fallen cedar, his right leg stretched in front, toe pointed, his left trailing over the tree-trunk. On the other side, a stretch of water lay, the ice inches below the surface. His leg, the right one, hit first, and, coming down upon that ice from the vault's height, slipped out from under him. Desperately he tried to regain his balance, but he went down on his back, sending a wave of water in front of him, into a cedar root. It caught his foot and ankle, but the rest of his body would not be braked so easily.
     Like flames, the pain raced up his leg and into his groin. He groaned and lay flat in the water as the wave he had started splashed against a hummock and returned to wash over him. The cold was forgotten, Matthew was forgotten. His eyes clamped shut, his teeth bit down on his lower lip with such force he tasted blood. He was afraid to open his eyes and look, afraid to see his foot no longer connected to the rest of his leg.
     When he felt the ice begin to form in his hair, Derin knew he had to get out of the water. He raised his head, opened his eyes, and looked. The ankle was huge, a gnarled knot, part of the cedar root.
     "Matthew!" he yelled. But the satyr had long since vanished from view and the only thing he heard, receding into the distance, was Matthew's muffled plunge forward. And then he heard nothing at all.
     Derin was stunned by the density of the silence. It had a presence of its own, a thick, almost palpable texture, like fog. The trees guarded the stillness which magnified itself when he raised his head and looked around, until the sound of water dripping from his hair was like a cascade, a waterfall.
     The disparity between that silence and the racket he made when he moved immobilized the boy. He was afraid to shift his arm, to sit up. Each time he jostled, the sound of water rippling away from him resounded through the swamp, echoing from the cedars and the hummocks until he was deafened by his own faltering movement. He couldn't speak, much less yell: the thought of his own voice calling out in that stillness filled him with awe.
     Gathering his strength, Derin sat up, stretched forward, and put his hands around his ankle. An arrow of pain shot through his body again, and he groaned. The ankle and lower calf were so tender he could barely touch them. He closed his eyes again and settled back; the pain was increasing. It was as though some animal, a bear or a panther, had him by the leg, tight in its strong jaws, and was holding fast. He imagined the teeth biting down, crunching through bone, severing his foot from his leg.
     "Spirit of life," Derin said. Around him, the swamp whirled. In his delirium, trees toppled, sending walls of cold water over him. Beneath him, the earth opened, the ice cracked, draining all water away until he was in last night's bed of pine.
     But the illusion didn't last. There was no use. He was being swallowed. He felt a great darkness in his ankle, a rush of night beginning to sweep up his leg toward hi heart. "Spirit of death," derin whispered. "Let go, let go!"
     The hole in his chest slowly closed. He felt the darkness waver at his knee and ebb down at his ankle. The grip on his wracked foot subsided and then gave up altogether. He opened his eyes. He could feel nothing but the pain, and as his eyes moved over his freezing body, down his leg, he saw them.
     Near his ankle, their heads sloping from the water, frogs had gathered. But they were larger than frogs. Their skin was a dull black, their mouths gaped open, and the section of underbelly visible above the water was mottled with dense blue spots like bruises. Their red eyes stared at him without blinking, glittered like rubies in the gloom.
     Derin caught his breath, involuntarily pulling his leg toward him. THe cedar root held fast and pain shot up his leg again. His moaned low in his throat, and for the first time, the frogs moved, slightly away. Where had they come from? The boy tried to calm himself long enough to remember if he'd heard anything as he'd run through the water, the croak of a frog, a bird's song. No, there had been nothing; if these creatures made a sound, they were hideously silent now.
     When he lay still, they moved toward his ankle again, so smoothly they seemed to be floating. The water swayed away from them, a slight bulge in its dark surface, and as they approached, the boy thought he saw their mouths open further. There was no doubt: whatever these creatures were, they belonged to the owl. Their damp skin shone in the gloom, and their eyes burned, seven pairs of bright red embers coming toward him.
     "Get away!" he screamed, thrashing, throwing water at them with his hands. They shrunk at the noise, and the churning swamp, so still before, kept them at bay. As soon as he stopped, the frogs inched toward him again. He began to babble, saying whatever came into his head, anything to keep noise alive in the air. He talked about the meadowlands, about his childhood, and his mind was flooded with memories he hadn't thought about in years. They hunched there, underbellies pulsing, patiently waiting for him to be quiet again.
     He closed his eyes, but down on his lower lip, and tried to wrench his ankle loose. The pain was so intense, the boy thought he would pass out. Instead, he gave vent to his terror and anguish and screamed. His cries came back to him, echoing off the cedar trunks, breaking the swamp's stillness. Derin sat up, grabbed his knee with both hands, and pulled again. This time he felt something give, as though he'd torn his foot loose. Close to his ankle the trunk of the cedar grew. Around it, roots spread out like mangroves, slimy fingers. And there in the water, free of the cedar, his ankle lay inches from the trunk.
     Derin pulled himself up on one of the moss-covered hillocks, out of the water. His ankle throbbed brutally. He lay there, encompassed by pain, and watched the frogs approach. They crested the root which had caught his ankle, they surged forward to where his body had been, and stopped, several feet from the hillock, still in the water, and sat there staring at him. Derin looked behind him for a stick, for a rock. "Stay away," he said, his voice low. "Don't come near me."
     As his body began to thaw, he felt tiny fires being lit within him. He was like a dark plain on which battling armies had settled in for the night. Without taking his eyes from the frogs, Derin tried to massage some blood back into his legs. His body felt dead, the carcass of an animal he hadn't seen before. He looked in the direction he'd been running when he slipped. A vista of of hillocks and cedar receded as far as he could see. In the other direction, past the fallen log he'd vaulted, the same landscape repeated itself endlessly. No variation in light gave a clue to direction; nothing looked familiar to him.
     He'd taken no notice if his surroundings as he'd thrown himself forward. His only compass had been Matthew's back as he ran through the swamp. Above him, the trees disappeared into the gray sky, dwindling into sparser and sparser foliage until their spindly tops stuck into the air like spears.
     The pain in his ankle spread until he was sure he could hear it in the swamp, like the ice's heartbeat. It grew out of everywhere. It was inside his skull and outside. "Stay away," he screamed. "Get away from here!" But this time his voice didn't stop them.

                                                           *                      *                      *

     Matthew was unaware that Derin's cries of "Stop!" and "Slow down!" had ceased. He no longer heard the splash of water behind him, but that didn't slacken his pace. He was possessed. He would find her if it took the rest of the day, the rest of his life.
     The nymph constantly eluded him. She glanced over her shoulder to see if he had gained on her, but every toss of her head threw her hair toward him, transfixing him, deepening his purpose in catching her. She darted under cover of pepperbush thickets, glided over the swamp's surface as if she ran on the water itself. She disappeared and reappeared with disconcerting frequency, so that Matthew never knew where his legs would carry him. He was breathless with anticipation; he ached to hold her.
     She slipped among a copse of cedars. As Matthew splashed forward, he strained to see beyond the thicket to catch a glimpse of her, and he saw nothing but the swamp. He was filled with elevation. He had worn her out, and any moment, as soon as he rounded this tree he would have her, her would. . . .
     Languorously perched on a hummock, her paws drooped over the edge, a silver fox stared at him. She sat there like a snow drift, placid and serene. For one second, Matthew considered asking whether the fox had seen a young woman pass this way, but Vera spoke before he could say anything.
     "What have you done with the boy?" she asked. "I'm afraid you've lost him."
     Matthew stood there, his chest heaving, overcome with disappointment at this unexpected conclusion. He should be wrestling the nymph, her laughter filling the swamp like a company of bells. "What do you mean? I haven't done anything with the boy."
     "Precisely," the fox said. "I'm sorry, but we'll have to go back." She got up, placed her front paws before her, and stretched. Her back rippled from one end to another. She padded past the satyr and into the water, which came almost to her chest. "Come on," she urged. "We haven't got all day."
     Matthew was dumbfounded. Where was the nymph? And how did the fox know about the boy? As he calmed, as his breathing returned to normal, his delusion hit him. There had been no nymph. He had run madly through the swamp, never looking back, and the boy, who had been thrashing after him, was now lost. He had left the boy behind. He cupped his hands around his mouth, and shouted "Derin!" but fragmented syllables came back at him, an accusation.
     "I don't think he can hear you," the fox said. "If my guess is correct, he's quite a ways back. I thought he'd catch up." As though there were nothing abnormal in her presence, Vera surged through the water. Her head was held high, and water rippled backwards making an inverted V.
     "Now wait just a minute," the satyr said. "You?" he asked incredulously. "Was it you?"
     The fox looked back over her shoulder and paused for a moment. "My name is Vera," she said, "at your service."

                                                        *                      *                      *

This seems like a nice point to pause, doesn't it?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The misunderstanding of "logical fallacy".

     You heard about straw men and red herrings countless times. Those of you who know what those things mean, probably assume they are bad strategies, and people who use them are wrong.

     No, YOU are wrong.

     A logical fallacy is an assumption that a particular strategy will win you the argument every single time. If used well, however, a strategy commonly considered "fallacy" can be the key to winning the debate.

     For example: just because something is "natural" does not mean it is good for you. Various infections, many toxins, most venoms are natural, and yet deadly. That's appeal to nature for you. However, organic food is very much natural, and it is way better for you than Doritos and Mountain Dew.

     Just because something is old does not mean it's better. A newer form of medicine may very well be better than bloodletting (which is retarded no matter how you look). That's appeal to age for you. However, acupuncture and tradition chinese medicine can, in the right hands, outperform the latest pill you pay thousands of dollars for.

     You can accuse your attacker of cheating on his wife. But that will not change the fact you urinated on his lawn. That's an... interesting take on red herring for you. However, the dumbass who kept criticizing your tastes in music for two hours might only be angry because he hasn't gotten laid in a while. If you bring that up, it might be a red herring, but it is also true.

     ... I guess I cannot defend straw man here. Lying about your opposition is never right.

     Oh, and what do you know... there is an actual song called "Man of Straw":

     P.S. More Satyrday is coming!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Satyrday, a Fable. Tuesday, parts 3 & 4.

     As the fox watched from a copse of pine, the boy and the satyr packed their belongings. Deirdre continued to hover above them, still petulant. "Deirdre," Matthew said. "You're carrying on like a flustered child. That rock had nothing to do with you. You don't understand."
     "What's to understand?" the raven asked. "I don't take kindly to slurs on my intelligence."
     Matthew stood up and faced her, and she flew higher into the air as if he might try to do her more damage. "He's the one with the temper," Matthew said.
     "Couldn't prove it by me," Deirdre replied.
     "Listen," Matthew said. "Enough's enough." He stuck his arm out, turned his hand sideways. "Come here."
     "Why?" the raven asked, suspicious. "Why should I trust you?"
     "Because of all those kind thoughts you had about me. Because of all those times you rode on my shoulder."
     Deirdre peered at the satyr, could discern no ulterior purpose in his expression. Cautiously she fluttered down and perched upon his finger, ready to fly off at a moment's notice.
     "There," Matthew said. The raven was silent, her expression still peevish.
     "Well," Deirdre said, turning her beak away. "If you can't trust your friends, who can you trust?"
     The satyr laughed. He brought his arm around until he forced the raven to look at him. With his other hand, he reached up and stroked the sleek top of her head. "All right?" he asked.
     "Just be careful," Deirdre said. Remember you're about to enter the Outer Lands. Who knows what outposts the owl has there?"
     The three of them, two by ground and one by air, approached the first wall of cedars at the swamp's edge. "Good-bye." the raven called. "I've got to go. I'll get back when  .  .  .  whenever I can." She left them, flying west. She dabbled in the wind above the swamp, did a loop-the-loop, and took off toward the Deadwood Forest in a straight line.
     The fox crept closer, staying near the ground, keeping herself hidden from them. She thought of the trouble they would have in the swamp, for even the satyr had no idea how things have changed since the owl's power had penetrated east. She darted behind the cedars and approached them from their dark curtain.
     "Stay behind me, now," the satyr said. "Can't tell what we'll find in there." He shielded his eyes and tried to peer into the gloom, but all he saw was water, the fallen cedar trunks, and the ooze gathered at the water's edge before the earth heaved itself into moss-strewn hummocks.
     Matthew looked up at the towering cedars before him. "Did you see anything in there yesterday?" he asked the boy. "Did you hear any noise?"
     "No," Darin said. "Nothing but water."
     The cedars stretched their tall grooved trunks so far above Matthew they made him dizzy. He contemplated their lacy reticulated tops. They were strange trees, without needles or leaves, with a network of thin green fingers which touched one another like feathers and filtered what little light there was until it fell around him in a dense web. The light was refracted as if through droplets of water, prisms suspended in the air.
     The world was about to swallow them: they would pass through this curtain of cedar and the life they had known would close behind them. From this point, the future would be a series of doors leading from one strange room to a stranger one which lay beyond. It was like part of that dream–"A dream," the satyr said aloud–and the sound of his voice in that stillness heartened him.
     "What?" Derin asked.
     "I said, 'What are we waiting for?' We might as well be walking, as standing here."
     He took a step and passed through the outer ring of cedars into the water. He left the solid ground behind, its outer bank a heap of dead leaves and matted dirt, held together by roots. Under the water, which was insufferably cold, lay the ice. His hooves slithered away from him, threatening to throw him, body and pack, flat on his back in the icy wetness.
     Derin followed. He held his arms out to either side to give him better balance. There was no sound in the swamp but their sloshing. They didn't talk, using all their concentration on the task of staying upright. After a fifteen-foot passage which seemed to congeal his blood, Matthew reached a moss-covered hummock and climbed from the water.
     "Look at my legs," he shouted, his voice too loud. Derin was astounded to see ice on the fleece above the satyr's hooves. "We're going to have to move fast," the satyr said, "or we'll freeze in here. One step and our feet will hold fast to the bottom and we'll end it all, waving our fool arms and yelling at the sky."
     He was about to strip branches from a fallen cedar when he saw her. She appeared from behind a very large trunk, a hundred yards ahead of him. Her skin was white as milk and her soft silver hair thrown back from her shoulders revealed the most spectacular collarbone he had ever seen. He was galvanized, standing there in the icy water. His eyes widened and he involuntarily grabbed for her, but she was so far away he smiled at the ludicrous move.
     "After all these years," he whispered, letting his breath drain from his body. "I'm more deranged than I knew."
     But what an apparition! She was lovely, pure grace, with a flirtatious pursing of her lips which made Matthew shiver with pleasure instead of cold.
     He forgot the ice in his fleece; he forgot the treachery of the water beneath him. He was transformed. He took off after her like a bee in search of pollen. His legs sprouted wings. He danced above the surface of the swamp like a madman. Derin was astonished.
     "Matthew!" he screamed. "Wait for me!"

                                                          *                     *                     *

     As good as his word, the owl had sent three falcons back to gag the moon before nightfall of the previous day, and they came again at dawn to ungag her. They were respectful, and they left her alone after completing their errand. She sat in her cage, surveying the forest, the grey sky, the stark black trunks of the trees. How much longer could this go on?
     The moon was beginning to feel slightly crazed. She had talked, for these past two days, only to the owl, and she had been cooped up here when before the wide expanses of sky had been her domain. She ached with disuse and (she had to admit it) with loneliness. She even would have welcomed another conversation with the owl, but she had not seen him since he had left her the day before.
     The section of forest in which she hung was deserted, except for those unseen presences the owl had warned her about. But she wouldn't talk to an unseen presence; it would be like talking to herself, and she couldn't allow herself to slip like that. Not so much as a mouse had crossed the clearing below her. The air was silent, untouched by mosquitoes or flies, and except for the thin arrow of an occasional bird passing overhead, the moon was completely alone. So she was pleased when the three ravens descended from the sky and settled around her on the branches of her cage.
     "Good morning," she said civilly, trying to keep her pleasure in the visit absent from her voice.
     Two of the ravens looked at one another and back at the moon. The third, whose red eyes glittered with a wicked fire, flew to the ground and returned with a pointed stick. He circled the cage once and came up behind her. She whirled to face him, and the other two immediately began to chatter.
     "Good morning," one of them said.
     "A beautiful morning," the other said. "Wind from the southwest. Makes you glad to be alive."
     The raven jabbed his stick through the oaken branches and feinted at the moon. She retreated to the furthest reaches of the cage until the harsh bark scraped her. The other two were breathing down her back, and for an instant, she thought one of them might try to peck at her, but instead their mindless chatter came pouring into her ears.
     "The cage a little too close for comfort?" one asked, and the other answered, as if the question was addressed to him. The one with the stick jabbed repeatedly and flew around to join the others, and so the moon retreated again, more aware each instant of the closeness of her quarters.
     There was no escape if they decided to take her on in earnest; she would have no chance if all three grabbed sticks and came at her. But they seemed to be enjoying the situation as it unfolded, and neither of the two who spat their inanities on the morning air were inclined to arm themselves, preferring to sit there and watch the third, who uttered not a word.
     She tried to think of something clever to say, to alarm them or distract them, but her mind was such a jumble of fear and anger that nothing coherent formed.
     She concentrated on the stick. It came at her from every interstice of branch until it was a blur and she was sick with dizziness. Just when she thought she wouldn't last another minute, the ravens began to tire of their game; the one who had taunted her dropped the stick. The three flew off, drifting in the air above her, throwing down a few more insults before they disappeared from view.
     By the time the moon had regained her composure, and the knot in her stomach had reduced to a small displeasure, she was in an ugly mood. She raged at the empty forest, and is she had gotten her wish, destruction would have rained down around her. She called brimstone and fire, thunderstorms, tornadoes, every disaster weather could deliver. But the placid greyness of the sky did not change, the ground beneath her gave no evidence of a beginning rumble, and she finally fumed herself to silence.
     She had reached the point of despair when the other raven arrived, wheeling in the air above her, dropping down like a silent black feather. As she saw the bird descend, she felt the words well in her throat again and she spewed forth venomous diatribes against all winged and feathered creatures, against all beasts which crept or galloped or slithered on the earth. The raven sat, patiently waiting for her to stop, but the very calmness of the bird further incensed the moon.
     "You scurrilous, lice-ridden, winged contraption," the moon seethed. "You cowardly piece of fluff and bone. Wait until I am free of this cage. Pestilence will be visited upon this forest from that day until all ages have passed, and not one of you shall ever raise a brood again; worms will shrink from your beaks and you'll fall dead from hunger and thirst. Streams will dry up at your approach, and the other animals will kick your dead carcasses with disgust. You will be less than the rocks; you will rot to form leaf mold.  .  .  ." The moon gasped for breath and reeled in her cage. She was so red of face the raven thought she might explode, and jumped to get a word in before the torrent of frustration continued.
     "If you will hold your tongue for a moment.  .  .  ." Deirdre said, but the moon ran ramshackle over her imploring voice. "Your bones will be used to pick the teeth of weasels and vermin, annd therever you die, ratsbane will rear its head. You will be known.  .  .  ."
     Deirdre fixed the moon with a deadly look, a gaze compounded of such long-suffering patience and slowly building violence that she stopped her ranting and waited for the bird to speak.
     "And not a moment too soon," the raven said. "I'm not one to lose my temper, but you were sorely tempting me. I would have given you another minute before I flew away and left you to disintegrate in this forsaken place."
     "Who are you?" the moon asked. "What do you want?"
     "My name is Deirdre–not that it;s of any use to you–and I am attempting to extricate you from this abominable situation. Now, no more questions, there isn't time."
     "No, no," she said. "This is too much. I can bear your taunts and jibes, but please, I beg you, don't torture me with this. Just go in peace and leave me be." The moon drew a long deep breath and let it out so quietly it was like a breeze which ripples the highest branches of the firs at sundown. And the turned her back on Deirdre and closed her eyes.
     Deirdre lost her temper. She flew into the air and made such a racket clattering her wings that the moon opened her eyes and looked at the bird. The raven seemed to be having a fit. Her eyes rolled in her head, her neck jerked, her wings beat unevenly in the grey silent air. But she landed again, close to the moon, and her voice had no patience left in it.
     "I can't take this whimpering prattle. Self-pity infuriates me. I don't yet know how your rescue will be accomplished, but I'm determined that you shall be liberated. Right now, two  .  .  . uh  .  .  . collaborators–a boy and a satyr–are on their way to this forest to engineer your escape.
     "I tell you this to build your courage. You're not alone in wishing for your freedom. You must take heart. I'll come again if I can. At the moment, I'm playing the role of a transcontinental carrier pigeon, and I have an entrance very soon somewhere else. So I haven't time to stay and chat. Just remember who you are."
     The moon was astonished by this speech. No one had ever spoken to her so familiarly, without the slightest trace of respect. Even the owl in his hyperbolic poetical speech gave her some measure of her stature. But here this stranger sat and bid her keep her chin up.
     "Do you have anything to say?" the raven asked. The moon could do no better than to shake her head. "Well, maintain your strength. Stay as cheerful as possible. Keep an ear open for anything you think might be helpful," Deirdre said. "And please. Don't talk to me again as you did a while ago. It has a vanquishing effect upon my determination to help you."
     She was gone before the moon could offer apologies or thanks. But in the afterglow of Deirdre's visit, she practically beamed with joy. It was not even the possibility of her freedom which affected her so; it was more complicated. Never before had she needed the help of anyone, and now when she did, she felt a new emotion at the knowledge that there were creatures out there working on her behalf.
     She felt both bigger and smaller than herself, as though, for the first time, she understood the outlines of her silver form when viewed from the earth. There was great value in that, and great misunderstanding. She knew that when the falcons came again to gag her she would offer no resistance, but submit, as sweetly as possible, to their hooded smiles.

                                                  *                       *                      *

Apologies for a late submission again. If I were a better person, with a stronger will, and better at managing time, I would post at least 3 chapters a week. But I just aren't any of that. Which is a shame :(

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Understanding good writing in 10 easy steps!

     Okay, so you have stumbled upon this little blog, and you see this post.

     Will you read it?

     Who knows, but here it goes:

     Good writing. Bad writing. Those two are constantly brought up by people to explain why they like, or don't like a specific work of fiction. But what does make someone's writing good or bad? Is it all really subjective? HELL NO! The subjective part is the choice of themes and tone (genre).

     What is good writing then?

     Well, to answer that I would have to explain what writing fiction is. How do I know what fiction is? I know that because I am a smart cookie and like to ask critical questions about my life experiences. That, and because I read and watched a lot of stuff. Writing fiction is the act of lying. Lying about non-existing characters and the non-existing world they inhabit. And I won't get into the bullshit of whether or not "it all exists in your <3". No, this is a topic for a different time.

     So now, when we have established that telling fictional stories is basically lying, let's get to what makes good fiction. Good fictions are convincing lies. CONVINCING lies. You need to convince the listener/watcher/player that the lie you are telling is plausible. How do you do it? By making it follow the basic rules our real life follows. Let's write down a few important basics:

1) There must be a presence of evil in your fictional world. But it is the amount of evil that is the most important, because too much will be confusing (since when is life that terrible?), and too little/none at all, will come out as an Utopia (again, completely unlike real life). When everyone is evil in your story and wants to get the protagonist, your story is really you projecting like crazy. When everyone loves and adores the protagonist, it will be a self insert crapfiction. Not the mention, everyone cannot be evil either. To summarize, there needs to be some evil, and some conflict, but not too much or too little. And evil does not have to be anything super serious; it could be just a few bad traits someone has, or a bit of misfortune. Or someone getting sick.

2) There must be a significant amount of chance, or "fate" in your story. Those words should be interchangeable for every writer. The majority of the story's events, as well as your fictional world itself, should be beyond the protagonist's control. Such is the way of real life: most of what happens around us and to us, we do not decide. The world decides for us. So, if your protagonist "accidentally" finds an item on a deserted road that will be instrumental in defeating the big bad guy in the end, that is not bad writing. When someone's good intentions lead to the death of a loved one, that is not bad writing. Our future, as well as present is not completely under our control, and that should be the same in fiction. Because when in your story everything happens exactly as the protagonist plans, that is self insert crapfiction, not a good story. Throw in a little Karma, why don't you!

3) Logic. Minor mistakes aside (we are only human, after all), there should be no real logical problems in your story. Things that are very unlikely should be reduced to a minimum, and implausibilities should be reduced to nothing. Having a super powerful big bad guy be defeated by a really weak protagonist in a fair fight, just because you really want it, is stupid, and makes your story a piece of crapfiction.

4) Tone. Are you going for realism, or is your world a comic? Maybe it is a cartoon? In the last two cases, you very well can implement cartoon physics, and bend the laws of said physics, within, and around your characters. Remember those big impossible cartoony eyes? That's just a start.

5) Consistency (in tone). If you are writing a sequel to a work, make sure to keep the tone of the original. At least for the most part. Was the first story realistic, or was is a wacky cartoon? A drama or comedy? Keeping that question in mind is very important.

6) Consistency (in personality). While you can expand and evolve a previously established character (see part 7), you should not betray what he or she was all about in the past. When you are writing a sequel to anything, always remember who those characters were, what they did, and why they did it. Change or no change, they are still the same people.

7) Character growth, and character depth. Any character should have as much identifiable traits as needed for your story. They can be deeper, or shallower depending on what the story is, and their role in it. However, the idea that sudden never-before-seen behavior is "going against established personality", is full of crap. Just because it was never mentioned that Johnny loves ice cream, does not mean you cannot bring it up later. Having all your character traits written out on a long sheet of paper, and sticking to it like the Word of God is bad news, to your story. Characters should grow and evolve as you write the story. Having them programmed to have all their traits set in cement from the start, makes them into robots, and not living breathing beings. Unless you are writing a story about a robot and why the fuck would you do that geez.

8) Character NOT growth. If you look around in real life, you will surely notice some people change more than others. Some are just way too stubborn, while some have no loyalty or principles and change every day, only to change again the next day. Some people already underwent their "character development", and are now more static, because the change already happened, and now there is not need for it anymore. The idea that there should be character development for everyone in every story ever made, was popularized by Hollywood, after the big wigs realized that Hero's Journeys make the most money.

9) Relatability. You don't write a story about ground. Or a rock. You always write about characters, living beings with feelings and thoughts, and characters always come first. Even when the world is given a large focus, it is the characters' reactions and thought about the world that you really are writing about. Or should be writing. No matter who your characters are: humans, humanoids, aliens, talking animals, non-talking animals, toasters; there should be something human in them. They should have hopes and dreams, passions, fears, bad traits to overcome or succumb to, rivals, and whatever other problems to overcome or be defeated by. Every protagonist of a good story is human to some extent. Except for crapfiction, of course. No one wants to read a story about something that is 0% human. Even the desire to enslave the world is a human flaw, and is relateable.

10) Last, but not least, a good story must be interesting. What is interesting, you might ask? Well, an interesting story is a story that is not 100% identical to what happens to you every day. An interesting premise is something that you don't see every day. Name one bestseller that deals with an average man who wakes up, eats his breakfast, and spends all day watching cat videos on YouTube. THERE ARE NONE, BECAUSE THAT IS NOT INTERESTING. Now, a story about a man who goes to his work, but not really, and instead pretends to go, secretly puts on a bat costume and fights crime? Now that is interesting. And let us not forget that any story that deals with magical powers, fantastic technology, grand battles, and supernatural entities are automatically not boring, at least in concept, because we don't normally deal with that stuff on a day-to-day basis. Also, Indiana Jones and The Ark of The Covenant is interesting.

      And now, boys and girls, we know what elements make a good fictional story! If you do not follow these guidelines, you are a crap writer and should be ashamed of yourself for unleashing your crap writing on the world :)