Thursday, September 30, 2010

Waiting for the End of the World

I've mentioned before that I have a long-standing interest in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories. I'm not as fond of the genre as I used to be, but I still see the appeal. And frankly, there are days when watching cities get reduced to rubble, or overrun with zombies, or emptied by a mysterious plague, or... well, whatever, there are days when that's actually therapeutic.

I was recently reminded, however, that for a lot of people the appeal of the end of the world isn't just about seeing civilization fall, or about the fantasy that if things were different I could just pick up a weapon and go kick ass. For a great many people, the end of the world goes hand-in-hand with the return of Jesus, the judgement of the living and the dead, and eternal life (either in Heaven or on a redeemed version of Earth).

And how are you to know when the end of the world might be eminent?

Matthew 24:2-14:
2And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
3And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
4And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

This struck me as funny even back when I was a Christian. Wars and rumors of war? Famines, pestilences, and earthquakes? Persecution and betrayal? False prophets and iniquity?

...That's pretty much all of Human history, right there. I mean, it's not until we get to verse fourteen that we find anything that distinguishes one historical era from another. The only thing in that passage with any sort of predictive value is the statement that the gospel shall be preached in all the world.

...And hey, if that's actually the case, then we probably owe the continued existence of the world to the Sentinelese.

We can't thank them, of course; that would pretty much defeat the purpose.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reflections on Paranoia

Everybody say it with me: “It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.”

Last year was quiet. Oh, sure, work was busy - work is always busy - and there were a couple of exciting moments: a couple of hikers stumbled onto one of the rituals and became the centerpiece of the ceremony; one of our mixed-blood brethren went out in public just before the change took him. Both of those were problems - potentially quite large problems - and both of them required a lot of work to clean up. There were a handful of other occurrences, but those were the ones I was involved with.

So, yes: even in a quiet year, things do happen. But those incidents had nothing to do with me, except that I happened to be there for them. This year’s events, by contrast... I don’t know. As far as I can tell, I’m the only one having these dreams... aside from Claire, who probably has them because of me. But the Elders have shown a lot more interest in my personal life than I’m really comfortable with, and Father Peter has taken an interest in me, personally - in Claire, too, I suppose. While I’m pretty sure that Claire isn’t a spy for the Catholic Church, I’m also pretty sure that Father Peter is - or at least was. That’s a lot more attention than I’m really comfortable with.

So, naturally, after that last incident - the fight on 6th Street, where it seems likely that one man was following us, and the other two were protecting us - I made a formal report to the Elders. The results were... disturbing.

First of all, they didn’t indicate that they’d assigned me any extra protection. Whoever the twins were, they weren’t part of our, er, denomination. And either the Elders couldn’t find out who they were, or they aren’t telling me. That’s worrisome by itself, but it’s the other half that really put me on edge: the big guy belonged to... well, best not to name them here, but they’re a group which worships the Father of Serpents. We’re not exactly enemies... they’ve been our allies from time to time... but we’re not exactly friendly, either. “Rivals” might be the best word for it. They’d love to have our knowledge, but they won’t swear the allegiances - or make the sacrifices - necessary to get it.

How he found me, I can’t begin to guess. Having him follow me, though... that makes sense. If they somehow identified me as a member of... well, of my religion... then the logical next step would be to watch me until they could identify more of our members, and maybe see where we kept our secrets. I’d love to know what gave me away - until the dreams started, my life was relatively mundane. Now I feel like I’m standing at some sort of focal point for disaster: in the path of a tornado, on top of a fault line just before an earthquake, on the slope of a volcano that’s about to erupt.

The most frustrating part is that there isn’t a great deal that I can do about it. I don’t know how the snake cult found me; I don’t know if they’re still looking, or if it was just the big guy acting alone; I don’t know who the twins were. (If the Elders can’t find out, then I won’t have any better luck... and if the Elders don’t want me to know, then I’d be foolish to try.) So, short of going into hiding - which would mean leaving Claire and all my friends behind - I don’t have a lot of options. I’ll try to stay alert, and I’m sure the Elders will add some security... but that’s not much comfort. They’ll be more interested in learning what the snake cult is up to than they will be in keeping me alive. I’m just not that valuable.

Bugger.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Summoner 001 - Version 2 (1st Person)

This is an alternate version of the "white room" opening for Summoner - this time telling the story in first person. Given the story's influences, first person narrative is either completely appropriate, or seriously overdoing it; I'm not sure. Compare it with the third person version and see which one you like better.

I wish I could tell you how it really began. I've tried to remember, and all I get are flashes: waking up on a stone slab in room full of Crowned; someone pulling cloth away from my eyes; waking again in a larger room, with a proper bed and servants to take care of me. Before that... nothing. Darkness. A sense of falling, maybe.

It seemed like we had always been here.

We were kept in a massive stone castle, half familiar and half strange. It had little in the way of furniture, and that very basic. There were no decorations: no carvings, no tapestries, no paintings. Tamol, who described himself as our "guide", called this the Citadel of the Crowned.

We didn't think of ourselves as being kept - not at the time. This was our home; we lived here. We'd forgotten our awakening, and thought little of our surroundings. The servants and guard didn't speak; or if they did, they didn't understand our languages. We barely understood each other: even when we found a common language, it seemed we spoke different dialects. No two of us belonged to the same race; that did not help, either.

There were a great many questions that we might, and perhaps should, have been asking. We never did, and to this day I cannot say with certainty why we did not ask them. I can only suggest that they simply didn't occur to us, until the day we finally left the castle.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Stand Up 4 Jesus (a.k.a. Missing The Point)

While driving around yesterday, I saw this:



You'll notice that it has a web address - www.su4j.net - which is fairly entertaining if you care to go take a look. The folks responsible (Craig Nedrow Ministries) present this as a spiritual call to arms, a time for all Christians to stand up, set aside their differences, and... I dunno, be Christian together or something.

I suspect he's not nearly so dismissive of doctrinal differences as his homepage would suggest, but that's nothing more than cynical speculation on my part.

Anyway, what struck me as wrong about this is, well, the same thing that strikes me as wrong about a lot of Christian Calls-to-Arms. It's this notion (sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit) that God Needs Our Help. Apparently God really wants to pour out blessings on our nation and our personal lives, but He can't unless (or until) we do something (change our ways, recruit more Christians, overturn Roe-vs.-Wade... fill in your own blanks, you've probably heard some version of the pitch before).

This is stupid on the face of it. We're talking about Jesus, who as part of the Trinity is also God. This would be the same God who spoke through the burning bush; the same God who stopped the sun in the sky so a battle could continue. This would be the same God who created everything, including time and space and life itself. The All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All-Good Deity needs our help...?

Yeah, right. Talk about your Lèse majesté.

There's an alternative approach to the sales pitch, of course. Sometimes it's presented as a matter of Divine Will - God has all power, but he won't pour down his blessings unless we shape up our behavior. This view still doesn't strike me as exactly flattering - it still has the Almighty beholden to human behavior - but it is at least a bit less overtly insulting. And honestly, the God who parted the Red Sea and provided manna for his chosen people to live on shouldn't have a hard time dropping messages for a predominantly-Christian nation that's wandered a little off the path.

The problem with this view is that it places God in the role of some of my Southern relatives, who appear unable to communicate directly about anything that bothers them. If someone does something that they don't approve of, they'll talk about it with other relatives, and even send roundabout messages through intermediaries (with the inevitable result that the messages are often garbled in transition). The one thing they won't do is sit down with the person, tell them what's bothering them, and suggest a way to fix it.

That's a horrible way to communicate your expectations. It's inefficient and weirdly passive-aggressive. A being with no limits to its knowledge, power, and goodness should be able to do better - much better - than that.

But God chooses not to communicate His complaints with America directly. This suggests two possibilities to me: either we're doing fine, and He doesn't need to guide us; or He likes to make us guess what it is that He wants. Either way, I don't see anything there to stand up for.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Naughty Words

Okay, so yesterday I'm coming back from my lunch break, and what do I see? A bunch of older men and women engaged in philately. In public, yet, where anybody could see them. And like I said, it was lunch time, so I'm sure that most of them had been masticating right before they started, um, doing that.

I cannot believe that it's legal for them to do that. Is that really the sort of behavior we want our children to see? Do we want people to start thinking that this sort of thing is normal? They could at least have the decency to do it behind closed doors.

By the way... your epidermis is showing.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Apology


The latest installment of Reflections of a Deranged Cultist will be late. I've been trying to put it out every Wednesday, not least because doing so helps me stay focused on the story, but I didn't manage it last night, and I didn't manage it today... and Thursday isn't looking too good, either.

So, either I'll get it up in the next day or two, or we'll give this week a miss and pick up next week. Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions for things that he might talk about, feel free to leave them in the comments. (Remember that while the Deranged Cultist usually talks about what's going on his life, he sometimes just throws out a general reflection on some topic. I can't promise anything, but maybe he'll take some of your suggestions.)


Source: Comedity

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You Put That On Your Car?

Apparently this was my morning for right-wing bumper stickers. On the way to work I found myself behind two separate vehicles, each sporting its own constellation of idiotic slogans.

The first vehicle had four stickers on the back. I forget what the one on the left was. The one on the right said: "One Big A* Mistake America" (There was a little flag where I put the asterisk.)

So, y'know, okay. I tend to think that playing with people's names is grade-school playground bullshit, but at least the basic message was a viable political opinion.

Top center sticker was an American flag, and there wouldn't have been anything worth commenting on if the owner of the vehicle had stopped there. Unfortunately, there was another sticker underneath the flag. It said: "If you're offended by my flag, call 1-800-LEAVE-THE-US."

This is, frankly, delusional. I have never once in my life - even when walking around in a hotbed of liberalism like Texas Christian University - heard anyone say, "Oh. My. God. That's an American flag, and they've put it right there in front of the Post Office. That is so offensive. I mean, how could anyone even think that was okay, right? And look at it: it's huge. And it's up there on that pole, where everyone can see it. Won't someone think of the children?"

And yet, this guy not only thinks that there are people out there who are offended by the flag - in the middle of North Texas, no less - but that they're out there in such numbers that he must take a stand about it by putting this bumper sticker on his car.

Now, don't get me wrong here. I have been... not offended, exactly, but perfectly appalled... by the way some self-defined patriots treat their flags. Putting a miniature flag on your car or motorcycle and leaving it up until it shreds itself in the wind doesn't seem exactly respectful. Wearing shorts with an American flag pattern makes me think, Dude, you're wearing the flag on your ass. This is probably not the intended effect. (I'm reminded of the Jesus Light Switch.) Hell, a while back I got to observe a Teabagger rally on my lunch break, and the first thing I saw was a woman demonstrating her intense patriotism by letting her flag drag along the ground as she ambled over to join the crowd. But in all these cases, it's not the flag that's offensive, it's the way the flag is being treated.

...But I digress.

The second vehicle was, by contrast, actually somewhat understandable. This one was entirely focused on abortion. The sticker that initially caught my eye said: "You can't be CATHOLIC and PRO-CHOICE." Now, that's a bit silly - there are plenty of people who are both - but at least I can see where they're coming from. It was a mini-van, and the back had at least two other stickers. One was advertising an AM radio station - I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it was probably Christian - and the other just said: "Abortion is the ultimate child abuse."

I'd have blown it off completely - I mean, a Catholic who's opposed to abortion? Not exactly news - but as I was passing the mini-van, I realized that there were more stickers on the sides. Now, at that point you've moved past "I endorse this position" and into "I must make sure everyone knows my opinion all the time". The best part, though, was the particular sticker I happened to lay eyes on as I went past. It said: "A Pro-Choice Catholic is a Pro-Abortion Catholic."

So now I'm left marveling. That's ridiculous, I think to myself. You just told me there's no such thing as a Pro-Choice Catholic.

Folks, when it comes to bumper stickers, the first rule is this: the fewer, the better. You have much better odds of not making yourself look stupid that way.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Abscessed Tooth

Okay, so... a couple of weeks ago I had a bit of Pulpitis in one of my top front teeth.

This tooth has a bit of a history. Back when I was... I don't know, seven or eight years old... about half the visible tooth got broken off. It was some sort of Scouting event, and I was swimming in a pool, and some idiot was rolling pool balls (like, from a pool table) into the swimming pool. I surfaced on the side just in time to catch one with my mouth. Pow! Broken tooth.

That memory still pisses me off, if only mildly. I got a cap put on the tooth - or possibly it was an "extension"; the dental terminology confuses me - and life went on.

Back in December, as part of an array of overdue dental proceedures, I finally had the original extension removed and a proper cap placed on the tooth. I say this was overdue; when the original dentist first put the extension on, he said we'd probably need to replace it sometime in my teens. Instead, I had it for three full decades.

All of that is basically to explain that the bout of Pulpitis was not entirely unexpected. That tooth has reacted that way before, usually as a result of being bumped in some fashion. It generally lasts for a day or two, and then settles back down. In this case, though, I couldn't figure out anything that I might have done to it, and the sense of pulsing wasn't settling down. It wasn't painful, but it was... distracting.

So I called the dentist, she prescribed some antibiotics, and that took care of it. Everything was fine for a couple of weeks, in fact.

...Until Sunday, when the tooth started doing something even stranger. The sense of pulsing was similar, but instead of being up near the cap, it was further down in the bone. I wasn't even entirely sure it was the tooth - my allergies have gone completely insane, and I thought it might be some odd result of sinus pressure. That impression was reinforced by the fact that I felt the pressure most acutely when I was blowing my nose.

Yesterday, though, I found an odd little double lump on the front of my gum, just below the spot where the lip is attached. So, I called the dentist.

She saw me this morning, and said: "Yes, that is an abscess." So, now I have antibiotics, and an appointment for a root canal on Thursday.

Three thoughts about this:
  1. I love modern medicine. I don't even want to know what people did about these things in ages past.
  2. It's no wonder I was so &*^%$ing tired yesterday... and today, for that matter.
  3. Sorry for spending so much time talking about a relatively minor medical condition, and not even a very interesting one. You could say that I'm a little abscessed with the topic.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Curses and Prophecies

This is a thought I started playing with years ago, but a recent exchange with Dennis Markuze brought it back to mind. So, I thought I'd write it down while it was fresh in my thoughts again.

Curses and prophecies are, in some ways, two sides of the same coin. They're both statements about the future, and they both assume that the future is - or can be - fixed and static. The difference is that a prophecy predicts future events, while a curse (at least ostensibly) causes or shapes future events.

Mainly, this is something to consider when writing High Fantasy (which often includes prophecies as a means of foreshadowing or even pushing the plot along), or Horror (where, if you're going to employ or imply a curse, it helps to know how such a thing might work - for example, does saying it cause the victim to arrange the result, or is there some outside force nudging events towards the desired end?). It's also interesting as an element in mythology, where in some cases - the story of Oedipus is a classic example - it's hard to tell the difference between the two.

In the real world, of course, the future is fluid. (Either that, or it seems that way to us, which amounts to the same thing.) We can make predictions, but we can't speak with certain knowledge of events that have not happened yet.* Prophecies in the real world fall into one of two categories: either they're so vague as to be effectively meaningless, or they're easily falsified.

* Hell, we often have trouble speaking with certain knowledge of events that have already happened. There are two sides, at least, to every story; and eye witness testimony is among the least reliable.

Dennis Markuze, you need help

That's enough, Dennis. We've been over this before. Please see a psychiatrist.

I don't say this to make fun of you, and I'm not trying to hurt your feelings. I genuinely believe that you need help from a qualified mental health professional. I think that getting such help would improve your quality of life. For your own sake, please consider it.

An Incident In The Workplace

I've just come back from lunch. As it happens, I was just in time to surprise an intruder in the hallway. Fortunately, I was able to wrestle him into submission, and now I have him locked up while I wait for the proper authorities to deal with him.

Since his identity will be subject to Open Records requests anyway, I have no compunctions about putting his picture up online. So, here you go:

House Gecko, I think


Update: After a brief period of imprisonment (and the mug shot taken above), the intruder was set loose on his own recognizance outside the building. The Judge wouldn't accept "trespassing" as a valid charge, since the intruder was able to just walk in under the doors.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Time to get back in the game

Being the parent of a new baby has completely eaten the time I used to spend on martial arts - which, admittedly, wasn't all that much to begin with. I'm okay with that, but I'm looking forward to the point when I get some of my own time back.

I'm also looking forward to the time when I can start the boys on martial arts. I really thought they were still too young - especially Secondborn, who isn't quite six months old yet. Turns out I may be wrong about that; I've just been thinking in terms of the wrong sort of martial art for his age group.

I'm a little disappointed, actually. It turns out I could have been doing this with Firstborn for the last several years:



Tip o' the Hat to Ambre

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reflections on Being Followed

I think I'm being followed. Or at least, I think I was being followed.

Last Saturday, Claire and I went down to 6th Street to hear some music. We don't do this very often, because we don't get paid that well, but sometimes it's fun to get out. So we wound up in Riley's, listening to some old-fashioned bluesy rock-a-billy courtesy of Michael Holt & the Trophy 500s. We danced a little, drank more than we should have, and eventually staggered back out into the night.

It was pretty crowded, and we weren't moving very fast. Something caught my attention, and I looked behind us just in time to see a fight break out. One side was a fairly big guy: short hair, broad shoulders, overweight in that solid way that bouncers sometimes are. He was fighting with a pair of smaller guys: shorter, more lightly built, with dark hair. The whole scene was odd, and not just because they were fighting out in the open on a sidewalk.

First of all, the smaller guys appeared to be twins. They were the same height, the same build, the same coloration. As far as I could see, they had the same facial features, though it was hard to tell since they mostly had their backs to us. They were even dressed identically, in jeans and white shirts. The outfits made them look old-fashioned and out of place in the 6th Street crowd.

The big guy, though... I'd seen him before. He'd come into the pharmacy once or twice in the past week... and now that I thought about it, I was pretty sure I'd seen him in the pub, too. A little chill went through me at the thought that he might have been following us, and I suddenly wished I was a lot more sober - and let me tell you, that isn't something that happens very often.

The fight was over almost before it began. The big guy got his arms up, but the twins were all over him. He fell like a sack of bricks, and I swear I heard his head hit the pavement even over the 6th Street noise.

Claire had turned with me. Her comment was, "Holy shit."

I swallowed, and found my voice. "I think we should go."

"Oh, yes."

The twins were walking away, and the crowd parted to let them through. They were obviously getting off the street. We hadn't actually managed to turn around and start walking again, so we were basically just watching them leave - along with pretty much everyone else in the vicinity - when one of them glanced back. Just to make my evening complete, the son of a bitch caught my eye, and grinned at me.

I do not need this. I've got plenty of things to worry about: a Catholic priest who may know too much about my business, a girlfriend to fool about my religious practices, and a series of strange and threatening dreams which may very well kill me if nothing else gets to me first. I do not need to worry about whether someone was following me, and why he might have been. I do not need to worry about whether his fight with the twins had anything to do with me. I absolutely do not need this, and if I knew how to make it all stop, I would.

Honestly, is it too much to ask for everybody to just bugger off so I can spend time with my girlfriend and offer the occasional human sacrifice to the dark powers that dwell beyond time and space?

Reflections of a Deranged Cultist is a work of fiction. No souls were devoured in the writing of this post.

For no particular reason...

Here is a list of mental health professionals in the vicinity of Montreal.

Here is another list, this time of psychiatrists in the Montreal area.

Here is yet a third list of psychiatrists in and near Montreal.

If...
  • ...you find yourself unable to communicate in a meaningful fashion with your fellow human beings
  • ...you obsessively pursue one or more extremely antisocial behaviors
  • ...you happen to live in Montreal or one of its suburbs
...Then you should seriously consider an appointment with someone from one of those lists.



On a related note, I thought this was an interesting discussion of the nature of conspiracy theories:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Zombie Dreams

So last night, in my dreams, there was a zombie outbreak in... I think it was a research facility, since no hospital would be quite that labyrinthine, cluttered, and generally claustrophobic. This involved quite a bit of running, blocking doors, and looking for alternate ways out; those activities were interspersed with things popping out of unexpected place and reaching for me*.

That wasn't the creepy part, though it was certainly exciting. The creepy part came after we'd barricaded ourselves in an old movie theater**. In a small, cluttered room at the top of the stairs was a friend*** of mine, and another young woman who was trying to help her. My friend shooed the other woman away, saying that there wasn't anything more she could do to help. Then she told me to come back a little while, and she'd... have a surprise ready, or show me something cool, or something along those lines.

When I went back, there were zombies lined up along both sides of the stairs. They were neatly spaced, standing still, and holding candles so I/we could see. They were completely still, except they turned to look at me/us as I/we passed. My friend was, fairly clearly, controlling them somehow. That was the creepy part, because these were the same things that had been trying to kill us. Walking that close to them was like trying to pet a rattlesnake: if anything went wrong, we were way too close to get out of the way.

At the top of the stairs I spoke to my friend again; she sent me - or us, really, since my son was with me now - out to talk to her boyfriend. I think we left through a window.

Boyfriend was in much the same condition that my friend was: dead, but still aware, still thinking and speaking. We met him at a local swimming hole, and he had a little zombie boy with him. While we were swimming****, he explained that we would come with them to go do whatever it was they were going to do. He needed us, he said, because he didn't think he'd be able to drive for much longer.

I said something like, "Damn. I was hoping the two of you would come through this."

He shook his head. "No, we're dead. We're just taking longer to lose ourselves. The others listen to us because we still talk."

I nodded at that, told the little zombie boy that it was good to meet him, and shoved them both back into the creek. Then I grabbed my son and got the hell out of there.

...And then the alarm went off.

I don't think this one will become a story, but that image of having to walk past the Dangerous Things and hope that their discipline will hold... that might make it into a project somewhere.


* Or maybe "us". I can't remember if I was alone for this first part of the dream or not. Dreams being somewhat inconsistent, I may have been alone at times and in company at others.

** Don't ask me who "we" are, in this context; I'm not sure. I just know there were other people with me at this point.

*** Actually a real person, though I only know her online. I'm pretty sure my mental image was borrowed from her Facebook profile.

**** I have no idea why that seemed like a good idea, except that he suggested it and I didn't want to antagonize him by refusing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't believe in God?

The message: "Don't believe in God? Join the club."

How Atheists see the message: "You're not the only one who doubts, disbelieves, and/or finds the whole thing silly. (If you do believe, this message isn't directed at you.)"

How Certain Strains Of Christian see the message: "SATAN IS COMING FOR YOUR CHILDREN!!! WE'VE BEEN INVADED BY UNBELIEVERS! CLEARLY THESE ARE THE LAST DAYS! PRAY NOW! PRAY HARDER! KEEP PRAYING!!!"

The human capacity for hysteria never fails to amaze me.

Also, to all the other believers out there, who saw or read about those signs, and thought "Hey, atheist billboards. Don't see that every day," or "Guess I won't join that club," or "Well, atheists enjoy spending time with like-minded people, too," or even "So, what?" ...Thank you for being reasonable.

h/t Personal Failure.

It's a whole new world...

Back in the late eighties and early nineties, my father taught high school science. One of the bonus questions (which he would occasionally include on his tests) was this: "How many grooves are there on a phonograph record?" It's an interesting question, because the answer is simple but not immediately obvious.*

He finally quit using the question when one of his students responded with this: "What's a phonograph record?"

* * *


I've mentioned before that my son is a huge fan of Transformers. Apparently, if you're a boy, anything that turns into a giant robot is cool. His first exposure was the live action movie, which he watched until my wife and I were both completely sick of it.** So, to salvage our sanity, I purchased some of the original Transformers cartoons on DVD. This was at least partly successful; while he still occasionally asks for the live action movie ("the one with the helicopter"), he also loves the cartooons.

One of his favorite characters in the cartoon version is the Decepticon called Soundwave. Soundwave transforms from a rather large robot into the sort of portable stereo system that we used to call a Boom Box.*** What's cool about Soundwave is that he has a set of at least four smaller robots who transform into tape cassettes - so, when he needs them, he opens the cassette deck on his chest, and other robots come out. ("Rumble! Ravage! Operation: destruction! Eject! Eject!")

This remains completely cool in spite of the fact that my son has never seen a boom box, or even a tape player, let alone a cassette tape.

* * *


One of my co-workers has a daughter who's... I don't know... eighteen or nineteen now. This particular co-worker shares my love of Bad Horror Movies, and zombie flicks in particular. At one point, she realized that her daughter had never seen the original Terminator, and set out to rectify this tragic oversight in her daughter's cultural education.

So they're watching the movie, and they come to the scene where Sarah Connor is walking down a city a street. She's afraid that someone might want to kill her, and she's looking for help. Finally, she ducks into a club to use the pay phone and call her roommate. Co-worker's daughter has been watching this with a faintly puzzled expression, and finally she turns to her mother and asks: "Why didn't she just use her cell phone?"

The thing is, she at least knew what a pay phone was. Theron probably won't - and if he does, they'll be a curious, antiquated concept. With the easy availablity of mobile devices, pay phones are rapidly disappearing from the landscape.

* * *


My son is growing up in a very different world from the one I grew up in. I'm not sure it's particularly better or worse, but it's changing fast enough to actually create some culture shock. Technology is the most dramatic example, but there are plenty of others; public acceptance of homosexuality, for example. Opposition to gay marriage correlates heavily with age: the older you are, the more likely you are to oppose it. The younger generation, by and large, just doesn't see what the big deal is.

Time was when you had to travel in order to really get that sense that They Do Things Differently Here. Now you can get that just by hanging out with someone significantly older or younger than yourself.

Oops. I'd better get back to work. I didn't realize it was this late; I forgot to wind my watch...


* The answer is two - one for each side of the record.
** This did not take long at all, actually. Despite a certain amount of spectacle, it isn't a very good movie.
*** Apparently conservation of mass doesn't really apply to hyperadvanced alien robots.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Opposing Forces

Shortly after dinner on Friday night, I was accosted by Firstborn Son and dragged into an epic battle. On one side: the wombat. Facing off against him: the "Octopus Monster" (Great Cthulhu).

I got the wombat, of course. This was not the strategy I would have preferred, but I went ahead with it. You go to war with the stuffed animals you have, not the stuffed animals you want.

Callahan's Friday Pun

There's a lot of strange animals in the world, many of them Australian. The strangest one I ever saw, though, was a cat. What's so strange about a cat? Let me tell you.

For starters, this cat would only eat ducks. He would eat the whole, entire duck in a single gulp. And he ate a lot of ducks. In fact, he ate so many ducks that he could no longer meow or purr. Instead, he quacked. Strangest thing you ever heard.

Well, I'd never seen a cat like this before, so naturally I asked his owner about him. "What sort of cat is that?" I asked.

"Don't you know?" he replied, looking just a little bit puzzled. "It's a duck-filled quacky-puss."

Real Work Conversations: Coffee

The scene: The HR Director's office, about 3:30 in the afternoon. I enter to find the HR Director (HRD) at her desk, and my boss's boss (MBB) sitting at the small table in the corner.

MBB, thinking that I've come looking for him, asks: "Did you need something?"

I look at HRD, instead: "Actually, I had a suggestion."

HRD says, "Really?"

"Yes." I begin to explain: "You know we have coffee pots all over the building, right? Well, I think we need some Irish coffee dispensers..."

HRD bursts out laughing.

I continue, undaunted: "'Cause after spending all day building the menus for a website redesign, I could really use..."

MBB bursts out laughing.

"...And hey, I was thinking we could tie them to the security badges, so you have to scan your badge before it works. Then we could limit people to one a day."

MBB: "Can I borrow your badge?"

I grinned and left. One of the critical skills for this kind of joke is knowing how to wind it up before it stops being funny.

I love my work environment...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Waiting for the Season to Change

The past six weeks or so have been really rough. Some of that was due to allergies (and by 'allergies', I actually mean 'pollution levels that render Dallas air just short of unbreathable'), and some of it was being sick. For a while there, it seemed like every time I'd start to feel better, something new would come along and knock me on my... butt.

More recently, I've actually managed to feel better... but every time I do, I start thinking, Aha! Now I can catch up on this incredibly long list of projects that I'd like to complete! Then I wind up exhausted, and decide that what I really need to do is sleep until I feel better. So I make it a point to go to bed early, and not try to get anything done. Then, when I feel better, I think, Aha! Now I can catch up on this incredibly long list of projects that I'd like to complete! So I overextend myself, and wind up exhausted again.

This is a cycle I would dearly love to break. Unfortunately, I don't think that's really going to happen until the weather changes - and that means waiting for Fall. (Tropical Event Hermine cleared the air nicely, but that only helps for a day or two.) The alternative would be to get out of town for a while, but that isn't really possible if I want to keep my current job - and I do.

There are actually a couple of other things that I think would help (they're workplace-related, so I don't really want to go into details), but again they're mainly a matter of waiting. And, of course, we have a baby who's coming up on five months old, so it's not like we weren't expecting a rough year. I'll still be glad when it's over.

It's also worth remembering that most of the world would cheerfully swap my problems for their own. Doesn't mean I can't complain, though.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hello, Dennis Markuze

You remember the policy, right? "Meaningless, disruptive bullshit gets deleted." That's the policy. I've asked you before - politely, even - to stop leaving your rants. I'd appreciate it if you'd abide by that request.

As always, you're welcome to leave actual comments; but do please keep the policy in mind.

Also, and I mean this as a friendly suggestion with nothing but your best interests in mind: please get help. Here is a list of psychiatrists in the Montreal area. I'm sure any one of them would be happy to work with you.

And while we're talking about you, are you any relation to Herbert Marcuse?

Reflections on Extended Family

Reflections of a Deranged Cultist is an epistolary serial. It will probably make more sense if you start at the beginning. Well... probably.

Genealogy hasn’t been as enlightening as I’d hoped. My parents and grandparents were happy to talk about family history, but most of what they had to say, I already knew. They did remind me about one of my great-grandfathers, though: Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was an interesting character, even by our standards. He first showed up around 1903, a lean young man with a slightly distracted look about him. Nobody knows quite where he came from; from some of the things he said, it’s possible that he hasn’t actually been born yet. He knew enough to find us, and to make contact without setting off the Watchers (or our other guardians). He was never a formal member, but he was considered an honored guest; he attended our rituals for over a decade, all told. During that time, he courted and married Gee-gee Mags, who was then a well-bred young woman of twenty-three.

My grandparents’ memories of him are vague. Apparently he traveled a lot, and they were still quite young when he left for good. Gee-Gee Mags is the obvious person to ask, but ever since she went to the ocean, she hasn’t been comfortable in the air. Still, I’ll send her a message and see what she knows. Even if this doesn’t tell me anything about the dreams, I’m starting to get interested.

Everybody wanted to know about Claire, of course. What was she like? Were we serious? Was I taking too much of a risk? When would they get to meet her? So I showed them pictures, and let Grandpa D taste my memories. He pronounced his approval, and that seemed to settle most of the questions. I wish I could have stayed longer - I don’t often get to see everybody together like that - but I needed to get home before Claire realized that I wasn’t actually at the library.

Hell, maybe I should take her to meet them. A few at a time, though - they can be sort of overwhelming if you meet too many at once. I’d feel really stupid if introducing my girlfriend to my family managed to blow my cover after all these months. Still... yeah, it’s about time.

Darkest Gods, I guess that means we’re serious.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Am Not Making This Up

My job includes a fair amount of random weirdness. These are usually things that make perfect sense on their own, but at first glance have no apparent connection to my actual job. (I will mention, again, just how much I fear the phrase "other duties as assigned".)

One of those tenuously connected duties is this: I put up the scores for a golf league for senior citizens. As a result, I'm on their mailing list.

So this morning, I opened my e-mail to find a letter from the President of the league. I was expecting the latest set of scores. Instead, I find a collection of notes and announcements. Heading the list is this:

Big mystery that needs to be solved. At the awards banquet, somebody won tickets to a regular season Stars hockey game. The problem is that nobody remembers who it was. [Name Omitted] won the pre-season tickets but we don’t know who won the regular season tickets. If you were the winner, or know who it was, please tell [Name] or [Other Name] at [e-mail] or call him at [phone number].


This probably shouldn't be quite so funny to me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Yaawwwwwn

Bored now. Off to do other things & generally enjoy family life. Hope everyone else is doing the same.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

You cannot die, Macleod

So yes, I'm still alive - even my soul. Haven't you figured it out, yet? I cannot die unless another Immortal takes my head... and with it, my power.



Looks like it's going to be one of those weekends. I hope everybody enjoys it. I'll be in the living room, sharpening things. (Well, mostly oiling them. They're fairly well polished already.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Summoner 001

Just another fiction idea I work on from time to time... I've mentioned before that most of what I write these days has to be composed in bite-sized chunks. I'm hoping that by bringing this project over to the blog, I'll get a few more pieces done.

It began with a growing awareness of darkness and cold.

He had not been aware of anything previously. At least, he could no longer remember anything that might be interpreted as awareness. Darkness and cold were raw experiences, neither words nor concepts, and he became aware of them only as they fell away. Already the darkness was growing brighter, the chill fading. A sense of motion accompanied the change, but this brought neither panic nor interest.

The blackness around him became formless grey, then a searing whiteness. Cold became heat, so suddenly that the sensation was almost identical. He was rushing forward, falling upward.

He blinked, and drew a dry, ragged breath. Both movements were reflex. The light became a vision of marble walls and oil lamps. Strange figures moved across them. None of this meant anything to him. He was not even aware enough to be puzzled by it.

The world shook, as though everything around him were mounted on the head of a massive drum which had just been struck. The movement faded, then occurred again. It was no longer just an impact. It was a sound as well: a sound so powerful that it shook the world, so primal that it rattled his bones.

Then came a rushing sound. It started low, but rose until it overwhelmed him. The world-shaking drum faded into it, became part of the steady roaring in his ears. After a time the rushing sound began to grow softer, until finally it was indistinguishable from silence.

He became aware that he was lying on his black on a low stone block. His lungs were moving, straining, and it occurred to him that he wanted that movement to continue. The figures around him were making sounds: some at him, and some at each other. The sounds made no sense to him. He felt the shape of his arms and legs, the bones that framed them, the muscles that drove them: a moment in which he was totally aware of his body and its functions.

As more of his awareness returned, he felt that there was something he should be doing. He tried to move, struggling against his body’s own weakness and the bonds that held him still. His breathing grew ragged, and he paused to get it under control.

This seemed to cause some excitement in the figures around him. One of them rushed forward, and in a moment his arms were free. The effort had exhausted him, and it was all he could do to lift one hand and touch his own face. Its lines were unfamiliar to him.

Then two of the strangers were lifting him, pulling him off the cold stone block. Their touch offended him, and he tried to order them away, but all that emerged was a faint gasp. The room spun, and a different kind of darkness engulfed him.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reflections on Traditional Monsters

We watched a horror movie last night, at my place. Claire was there, of course; and Billy and Crystal came to join us.

It was a good time - safe, predictable scares in a nice little package. Claire clung to me at the appropriate moments, which I certainly appreciated, and Crystal clung to Billy (and occasionally vice-versa). The best moment in the film came when the characters were venturing down a dark tunnel which might lead to freedom... or which might be a trap set by the Axe Wielding Maniac (tm). Claire leaned into me, clutched at her chest, and said in her best melodramatic fashion: “Hold me, I’m scared.”

Yeah, yeah, there was dialogue in the movie - possibly at the same time - but that was easily the best line of the evening.

Horror movies fascinate me. What is it about people, that we enjoy being scared? Why do we find that entertaining? Is it strictly a modern phenomenon, or was that true even back when all of human life was a savage struggle for survival? Is it because, on some level, we realize that the world we know is only a small, illusory bit of reality? Or is it part of the same mechanism that allows most people to ignore, deny, and explain away the horrible truths of the world when they intrude into our narrow, limited vision?

One of our games, as worshipers of the Ancients, is to watch monster movies and offer commentary on just how believable they really are. You might be surprised... a lot of those films are produced by people who share our knowledge, though they keep the critical details hidden. There’s money in it, after all, and money equates fairly directly to power and influence. And, of course, a lot of people approach the truth (or a workable facsimile) simply by accident. A few seem to recognize it, but refuse to admit that it might be anything other than a fiction.

Here’s the thing about monster films: a lot of the premises are actually fairly plausible, if you don’t mind changing their underlying assumptions. Ghosts, curses, and prophecies? Time is not as clear-cut as people like to think. Believe me.

Vampires and werewolves? Life and death are not as clear-cut as most people think, either. Things can be summoned from Outside, and cloaked in human seeming; this... How to explain? ...gives them enough compatibility with our world that they can sometimes have offspring by native species. Some of the older, hidden races deliberately create crossbreeds to serve their interests among humanity. A few can masquerade as human themselves, and - in apparent defiance of our understanding of genetics - actually reproduce with human partners. Any of these combinations can produce unusual abilities... but they may also carry strange appetites, odd weaknesses, or various insanities.

Or monstrous deformities, of course.

Unsurprisingly, many of these “tainted” bloodlines can be found among the people who worship the Ancients. Sometimes the effects are fairly obvious; several of the Elders can do things that modern science considers flatly impossible. Physical transformations - especially as one finishes the second century of life - are not uncommon. An unlucky few require strange (and sometimes illegal) diets from very early in life.

But sometimes the effects are subtle: Billy’s occasional dreams of the distant past or the far future. My family’s resistance to normal aging. Maybe even the tendency to dream of a place that isn’t really a place, but still affects the visible world... and even the ability to drag others into that dream with me.

Pardon me. I’m going to have to think about this. Maybe the archives isn’t the place to be looking. Or rather, maybe I’ve been doing the wrong sorts of searches. Maybe I need to be digging through the genealogies instead.

If this pans out, I may have some actual news next week.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Still Not Dead

So, to the great surprise of... well, almost nobody, actually... I haven't snuffed it yet. All the little metabolic functions are humming quietly along, just the way they should (though a bit of food and caffeine wouldn't go amiss). I dropped by the local DPS* this morning, and it turns out my soul is still where it's supposed to be, and doing just fine. So, no problems there either.

I did have a couple of ghosts clustered around me, but they're (former) family members and well-disposed towards me. You could say, in fact, that I'm in good spirits.

I tell you, ever since I shook off those last few engrams and that pesky Body Thetan, life's been good.

Still, a bit more Monty Python never hurts. Bring out yer dead!


* Doctor of Psychical Surgery