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|Saturday, May 16th, 2015|
|Tuesday, February 5th, 2019|
Just a reminder to go vote for me in the Livejournal Idol poll
After posting it I went and stood-by at the fire station since we were on high alert that day. Nothing happened here but a brushfire caused the evacuation of the town of Hepburn Springs
two hours north of here and I haven't been able to find a map of the burned area but I have some hives up there so I'm a bit concerned.wildfires in this state the day the "firebreak" story was due.
In totally unrelated news I've finally started reading Jack Kerouac's famous "On the Road," am about a third in and... I dunno so far it doesn't seem nearly as deep as I'd been led to expect, its like the diary of a young guy who is irresponsible with money and always chasing girls, and not even in a terribly exciting way. He definitely writes in a way that flows nicely though. And there's certainly room for hte character to grow a lot from his current mindset so who knows maybe he does?
UPDATE: Currently tied for the third elimination position. Please god no don't put me in one of the stupid 24 hour "runoffs!" Vote for meeee
|Saturday, February 2nd, 2019|
The pager's distinctive tone and buzz jolted Murray as if he'd touched an electric fence. He plunged his hand into his shorts' pocket and fished it out.
"Grass fire, spreading. Yurrangamete." He instinctively jerked his head up from the message to stare at the azul sky in the direction indicated. Beyond the golden grass and knotted eucalypts the sky was blue and clear. No smoke yet. Yurrangamete was twenty kilometers away, and he had a lot of work he meant to do today, but the hot wind was blowing straight in his face when he faced Yurrangamete. He wiped the sweat from under his battered felt brimmed hat. On a day like this any fire could be disastrous. He glanced at the sheep around him, their coats the same golden yellow of the surrounding grass. The gates were closed, nothing he needed to do before leaving. He jumped on the ATV, calling out "Come on Scomo!" to his dog, and gunned it for the house.
"There's the smoke" said Graeme from the driver's seat as the firetruck hurtled down the country roads under its wailing siren. Sitting behind him, Murray leaned forward to see out the front window. In the distance beyond the dry trees a plume of white billowing smoke was rising like a mushroom cloud.
"It's a goer!" commented Baz in the passenger seat.
"Hell of a day for it" commented Muzz, behind Baz, as they all braced themselves for the momentary washboard jolting of the truck going partially off the road to pass a car which had pulled off on the other side of the narrow road.
Most of the ride there wasn't much talking in the truck cab, the men alone with their thoughts, aware that the ride was the calm before the storm. The radio traffic constantly announced trucks arriving on scene and getting dispatched.
"Yurrangamete control this is Warree Tanker Two we're one minute out where do you want us?" Baz queried the radio as the truck entered the shadow of the wall of smoke that loomed in front of them like a tidal wave.
"Warree Tanker Two go to the west flank on Rickett's Outlet road," the radio instructed them.
"Warree Two roger that" Baz said into the radio as he panned around the map on the GPS screen mounted on the dashboard. Muzz was simultaneously paging through the map book. Muzz and Baz then had some sharp disagreements about the correct route to take, but Graeme, with his young honest farmer's face under straw blonde hair, unflappably sparsed a route. Murray fitted his goggles on, pulled the bandanna up over his mouth and nose, and pulled the gloves on. Soon, around a corner, the leaping orange flames could be seen dancing behind half a dozen busy firetrucks in a field. Graeme brought the truck to a lurching stop just inside the gap that had been cut in the fence, calling out "alright boys mount up!!"
Murray pulled the helmet onto his head as he swung open the door. The oven heat of the day took him by surprise after the air conditioning of the truck cab, and the acrid smell of brushfire filled his nostrils as he quickly descended backwards down the steps from the cab, followed closely by Reece, the young firefighter who had been in the middle of the back. Then both leapt up the steps to the platform on the back.
"Go go go" Muzz said into the intercom handset mounted to the back of the cab, and all three on the back fell against the tank as the truck lurched back into motion. On the back they picked up the hoses from where they were stowed in readiness, pushed the valve levers into the "on" position, and as the pump rumbled into life they all gave test shots over the side to ensure everything was in order.
On the back Murray couldn't hear the directions being given by the strike team leader for this flank, but he was glad to just concentrate on the job at hand. A large fire like this, one doesn't get in front of, so the trucks were working on the flanks, in this case the west side of a fire moving south with the wind, or "on the black" in the burned area behind the fire head. The truck came in behind another firetruck on the flank and the three on the back let loose with their hoses. As the pump throttle --controlled from inside-- ramped up, Murray was almost pushed over backwards by the force of the hose and had to brace himself and put all his weight against the push of the hose. As they got close to the raging flames the heat was so intense all three kneeled down as far behind the sidewall of the truck as they could while still keeping their hose on the fire.
Later, in the surreal orange light of the smoke the crew rested their tired arms while the truck sucked water from a cattle-pond to refill its tank.
"It doesn't feel like we're making any headway on the fire" said Reece, who looked a bit like a rockstar or pirate with his gold earrings.
"It would be a lot worse if we weren't here I'll tell you that" put in Muzz, eating a fruit-bar.
"It's okay as long as we keep it channeled south it'll hit the firebreak along the Canterbury highway" remarked Graeme.
"Good thing too, you live right in the path otherwise doncha Murray" commented Baz, between drags on his cigarette.
"Hope to god it holds!" remarked Murray looking south.
"You were there when we burned it in, of course it will" chided Muzz. Murray recalled the day earlier in the season they had carefully burned a thirty meter swath along the north side of the highway. He couldn't help but feel a bit anxious though. At the time the grass had been barely flammable and it hadn't felt like a serious precaution, more a community service they went through the motions of because they had to. "Did we ever come back and burn off the grass in the gulley under the wombat creek bridge?"
"Yeah of course we did" retorted Muzz, with a dont-be-an-idiot look on his grizzled face. YOUR house isn't just on the other side Murray thought to himself.
Back on the fireground, the fire steadily moved south, what should have been a sunny afternoon was spent bathed in surreal hellish twilight. They fought the flank, and then they spent some time "blacking out" hotspots on the edge of the burned swath to prevent new fire outbreaks. This was a nice break from the intimidating fury of the main head of the fire, the hotspots giving a satisfying hiss when hit with the hose, and then they were were rushed to a "spot fire" where some embers had started a new fire in a neighboring field but were quickly able to get it out before returning to the main fire. Hours went by, almost too busy to think, but Murray couldn't get the thought of the gap in the firebreak out of his mind. It had been too difficult to get the trucks into the gully under the bridge, and he hadn't thought about it too hard at the time, but now it haunted him, he imagined it like a fuse through the firebreak. Somewhere outside the smoke, real twilight came and the fireground was quickly enveloped in true darkness canopied by the red glow overhead against the low smoke ceiling, and glowing brightly in the direction of the fire.
Draughting water again through a thick hose from a cattle pond in "the black" behind the fire wall, Murray found it an unnerving moonscape, the ground all smoking ash, with the red glare of fire in almost every direction, as trees and sheds in the fire's path continued to burn after the main fire had passed by.
"What do you reckon caused it?" asked Murray, leaning tiredly against the truck.
"Probably a cigarette" remarked Reece, his face lit up by the greenish blue glow of his cell phone.
"Cigarettes rarely start fires" commented Baz, the orange glow of his cigarette hovering in front of his face. "Probably arson"
"Firebugs will tie a bunch of matches to a cigarette and toss it in the grass" explained Muzz, his face starkly lit from the side with the orange glow of fire, "then, when the cigarette burns down it ignites the matches and THEN it starts a fire and the bastard is long gone"
"There's a special place in hell for people who start fires I reckon" commented Graeme in the darkness.
"Still though," remarked Murray, "I smoke from time to time but I wouldn't light up on a total fire ban day like today was."
"It's perfectly legal," responded Baz, "hardly any fires are started by cigarettes."
Water began spilling from the underside of the truck. Murray threw the lever to shut down the pump, followed a second later by Baz decoupling the intake hose. Reece's phone glow blinked out and Baz's orange cigarette glow fell to the ground and disappeared underfoot.
The clock said 2:07 by the time they pulled the truck into the Blerang firestation and descended the steps. They were all dog tired, Murray still felt like he was constantly being pushed backwards by the hose. The fire was an orange glowing line in the dark on the horizon. The truck seemed undomesticated and out of place here far from the fire, smelling strongly of fire and dripping water. The exhausted soot-covered crew shook hands with the oncoming crew who would takeover the truck. No rest of the truck. They all got into the Warree command vehicle to go back to their home station, and didn't talk much during the ride. Beside Murray, Reece fell asleep during the ten minute journey. Muzz drove to give Graeme a break. Murray couldn't sleep, he was worried about his home and family, they were right in the path of the fire.
2:37am -- Murray stood in the high brush under the Wombat Creek bridge. Framed beyond it the wall of orange was alarmingly close. He could even faintly make out the alternating red and blue of emergency lights by the edges. He had laid down a alarmingly thin barrier with a foam fire extinguisher he'd grabbed from his shed. He wrapped the matches around a cigarette, twisting a rubber band around them. Graeme with his honest innocent face, saying "there's a special place in hell for people start fires" played back in Murray's mind over and over again. Would this work or would he lose control of it? Even if it worked would people understand? He reached into his pocket and fished out the cold plastic cigarette lighter...
Because this livejournal was subject to subpoena last big brushfire I feel I should state explicitly this is entirely a work of fiction and all people, places, and events are entirely made up.
|Tuesday, January 29th, 2019|
Protesters and security forces continue to clash in Caracas. A broad coalition of other governments have recognized the opposition leader as the rightful leader of the government (because his legitimately elected position is the highest one that appears to have been lawfully filled so the Venezuelan constitution does support this interpretation), and the EU has called for new elections within eight days (As of Saturday, so six days remain), to which president Maduro said “No one can give us an ultimatum … Venezuela is not tied to Europe. This is complete insolence.” So I quite rather feel it may pan out like the LJ Idol entry I wrote the other day, it will take a large scale mutiny of troops deciding they'd rather support the protesters than suppress them.
You may recall my girlfriend is in Venezuela. She, fortunately, has been posted to the remote island of Gran Roques, which is remaining relatively peaceful. I still worry about her family and friends back in Caracas though.
I tried to resist making my lj entry explicitly specific if for no other reason than I'd drive myself insane trying to get all the details right if I had set to make it explicitly that situation -- for example, my earlier idea for the topic was to write about the episode of Jason and the Argonauts where the harpies keep stealing food from an old man every time he tries to eat it and spent several hours researching exactly where that most probably would have taken place, where there were iron age settlements around the Bosporus, what the specific place I was thinking of using was called at the time (Galata, across the Golden Horn from old town Istanbul (where there was an iron age settlement), was in the earliest recorded reference "the other side with fig trees"), what direction the current flows through the Bosporus...
I realized after I wrote it that I did accidentally give the protagonist's general boss the exact name of who his boss plausibly would have been, the defense minister General Vladimir Lopez. And I did read somewhere that Venezuelan security forces were running out of tear gas. And there have been small troop mutinies but not enough to accomplish more than the arrest of the mutineers. For descriptions of the troops and the water cannon trucks I used what I saw myself in Taksim Square in Istanbul when I was there while protests were ongoing. And of course I had to borrow the iconic red woman of Taksim.
While I certainly believe President Maduro should step down, I didn't want to portray the security forces as the monolithic "bad guys" its so often tempting to do in stories of repressive regimes, but rather as boys in uniform with little choice until it comes to actually pulling the trigger, and the almost-sympathetic protagonist as sandwiched between preserving his family's very good quality of life under the current regime or backing the opposition.
Anyway, I'm currently in last place in the LJ Idol poll! Soo I would really appreciate anyone going over there and voting for me!
Also you should read and vote for furzicle, who used her "bye" to get me off the hook the previous week when I miscalculated the deadline and missed it :-
|Saturday, January 26th, 2019|
Colonel Mendez took a big bite of the hefty ham and cheese sandwich. It was maybe not quite the normal thing to have sandwiches for breakfast but he really enjoyed sandwiches. On the TV in the corner of his office the news was replaying footage of clashes between protesters and security forces that occurred overnight. It made him feel very annoyed but he tried to concentrate on the delicious sandwich his personal chef had made him from his personal stores. His phone rang, and he was prepared to ignore it but glancing at where it was laying on the desk he saw it was General Lopez, so he hurriedly swallowed his mouthful and put the sandwich down while picking up the phone and answering it, hastily muting the TV.
Good morning colonel. We're expecting a lot more protests today so your brigade needs to be on it. You still have the south-east section of the city."
"You can count on us sir"
"I hope so. There have been some small-scale mutinies in other brigades, are you sure we can count on your troops?"
"Make sure of it. There's some isolated protests you need to put down this morning and a possibility of a march in your area in the afternoon, make sure you're ready for it"
"Okay. Be ready for anything else that comes up during the day. I'll let you know. Also make sure to work with the secret police, they may need you to move fast on something and we can't let this get out of hand."
The colonel scowled for a moment, and then lifted the sandwich back to his mouth. Just then there was a sharp knock on his door.
"Yes??" he demanded with great annoyance. The door creaked open and the sentry, a skinny private, took a quick step in and stood at attention
"Sir Major Sandrino is here to see you"
"Yes, yes, send him in" Colonel Mendez growled. Was the private eyeing his sandwich hungrily? Under his withering glare the private quickly saluted and stepped back out. The major then quickly came in, his green uniform well pressed and gleaming. He made a perfunctory salute an then reported anxiously
"Sir, we are almost out of teargas"
"How 'almost out'?" Mendez demanded
"We only have about a dozen canisters left"
"We're going to need all we can get today Juan. Call central command, tell them we need it"
"I did, it's stretched thin throughout the department, they say there simply is no more"
Mendez groaned inwardly, and his eyes darted to the television, in which in the dark of night a street was illuminated by the flashes of fireworks being thrown by protesters. It made the scene look like a war-zone, though the fireworks fortunately didn't cause terribly much harm.
"Any other bad news?" he demanded"
"Sir, um" the major fidgeted, "two of the five water cannon trucks are inoperable and in need of repairs."
The colonel suppressed the urge to shout. Sweat beaded on his forehead.
"Why aren't they repaired?? I'll have the maintenance crew jailed for treason!" he threatened, raising his voice and curling his hand into a fist
"Sir, there's no spare parts, I went over there last night to inspect the situation myself."
The major did look a bit tired.
"I trust you put the fear of god in them nonetheless?" Mendez demanded. Everyone needed to be fully motivated in his opinion.
"Yes sir I actually ordered their arrest and let them beg until I was convinced they really were doing everything they could."
The colonel puffed his cheeks out. Well, the major could be counted on.
"Okay, Juan. Assemble the company commanders, I'll brief them on the day's operations in" he looked at his watch "twenty minutes."
Colonel Mendez was feeling a little better after a few hours. A raid on student protests at one of the universities had gone very smoothly, the students fleeing as his troops clad in tactical riot gear came charging in wielding batons and clear plastic shields. The ring-leaders were handed over kicking and screaming to the secret police. As the unmarked van pulled away and his soldiers filed out of the university gate a report crackled through his radio that protesters had taken over a small government office in the sector
"Captain Hernandez, take your company to the government office on 17th street asap," he ordered into the radio, "use lethal force if you have to, they must be made an example of." So far things were well under control but it was still morning and unrest would heat up as the day progressed. He carefully looked over the troops around him to discern if any seemed disgruntled. None would meet his eye but that was normal. Did those two just coming of the gate have something a bit depressed about their gait?
As he rode down the broad streets of the capitol in his staff car he noted how little traffic there was. Very few people were out and about today. The FM radio was reporting that the arrest had been ordered of the leader of the national assembly, for treason and sedition. Colonel Mendez was glad that was not his sector, that would be a sticky situation. He tuned the radio to one of the pirate radio stations run by the opposition. A strident voice was declaring the recent election to have been a complete farce and citing the constitution that head of the national assembly should now be the head of state. Mendez turned off the radio and glanced at his driver, who was looking blankly ahead.
"I can't believe anyone would believe that." Mendez said to the driver, just in case he thought he believed it.
"No sir" the driver said.
Mendez thought of his family and their nice house in the north-west of the city. If the opposition were to win, he'd lose it all. If the higher-ups doubted his loyalty, they had his family and house in the sector commanded by Colonel Douro, and he could be a right bastard.
They stopped to inspect the troops stationed near a major intersection. The sky was blue overhead and the sun was warm but not too hot. A faint smell of teargas blew in on the wind. Well someone's using it Mendez thought to himself.
The troops, mostly just 18 and 19, stood around in their black armor, chatting with eachother, their shields piled nearby. Several of them across the street joked with a group of girls who were hurrying by. Spirits seemed alright. Mendez consulted with the unit's captain about placement of the barricades and water cannon truck that had been assigned to this post. The water cannon truck looked like maybe a small black weaponized trash truck, square and blocky, beetley, with metal skirts around the base to prevent anything being rolled under it, metal grates over the driver's windows, concertina wire around the upper edge to prevent anyone climbing on it, and and a seeemingly small stubby firehouse nozzle on top protruding from a remote controlled turret. There was the sound of a series of small explosions in the distance. Probably firecrackers or fireworks.
A call came in from the secret police, they wanted assistance raiding an apartment for someone they wanted. Mendez detailed a squad to help them. A call came in from the general's adjutant, a large mob was forming to march down one of the major streets. Mendez looked at the city map on the table in the command van, yes this march would lead to one of the intersections they were already preparing. He ordered one of the water cannon trucks to the intersection, the barricades to be realigned to completely block the approach of the march, and ordered troops to several of the side streets along the route so they could close in on the marchers from all sides once they were stopped. It was only two blocks from where he was so he had the driver take him there.
They heard the racket of drums first, before the mob came around the corner. It would not do for a high ranking officer to suffer the indignity of having rocks thrown at him so he got in the command van which was parked behind the lines, to watch through the reinforced window. He had to admire the courage of the protesters, as they kept coming on to the line of black clad armored troops pointing guns at them. A sergeant bellowed at them through a loudspeaker to disperse, but of course they didn't. Mendez could see the protesters in the front clearly now. They had bandannas over their mouths and noses and sunglasses or goggles on their eyes. Mendez cast his eye over the troops at the barricade, they were looking steadfastly ahead, pointing their guns at the oncoming mob. The several that had the tear gas canister launchers had them ready in the firing position.
"Hit them with the water cannon, we need to break up their momentum," he ordered into the radio coolly.
"Roger" came quickly from the cannon truck operator, and then the stream of water blasted out, bowling over most of the center of the front of the mob. Like a startled school of fish the crowd pulled away in every direction, but the two sides flowed around the stream and ran at the barricade. Rocks and bricks pelted down on the shields of the troops. A protester on the left side received a teargas canister to the chest and almost somersaulted over. On the right side a canister hit the ground right amidst the oncoming protesters. Effective placement Mendez thought, as it obstructed the oncoming protesters on the right, but did the soldier intentionally not hit anyone?. Those that made it all the way to the obstacles were beaten with batons until they retreated. On the right side some troops began to push forward over the barricade to pursue their now retreating opponents.
"Hold the line!" Mendez hissed into the radio and watched as a sergeant got the troops back in order. The cannon truck had shut down the stream after its blast, to conserve water, and now the crowd was reforming, pelting rocks at the soldiers. Something bright came hurdling down from above and broke on a soldier's black helmet spewing liquid flame over several soldiers. A molotov cocktail. The soldier affected stumbled backward out of line and rolling on the ground, while the other troops around him also backed out of line and slapped at the fire desperately. The pitch of the water-cannon truck suddenly changed and then a weak spout of water gushed out and fell right in front of the truck. Mendez was struck for a moment with a fear the pump had failed, but the pitch ramped up a little and the spout strength increased until it was landing right on the burning soldiers and Mendez realized the operator had throttled down the pump to put out the fire. Smart thinking! he thought proudly. The lieutenant was beside one of the tear gas men and was pointing to the window the molotov cocktail had come from. The man fired and got it right into the window. A good shot but because they dozen canisters the entire brigade had were spread so thin, he couldn't afford to be expending them like this, Mendez thought to himself.
"Alright boys, let's break up this party, we're going to hit them with the water again, and then charge out there and break it up. We don't want a massacre but use lethal force if you have to. I don't care about the ones in the back but let's try to arrest everyone in the front. When I say go, go for it. Lieutenant Ortez take a squad in the building to the left and get up to the apartment they were bombarding us from. Water cannon NOW" he ordered. Some in the crowd realizing the cannon truck was occupied putting out fire had already started to come forward again, but the truck was able to quickly throttle up and fired again, a strong sustained stream that it worked from left to right repeatedly.
"Okay, GO!" he ordered and the troops rushed forward into the still falling mist, bowling over anyone who was still standing with the batons or shields. Mendez watched the crowd break and begin to run, with satisfaction, and prepared to close the trap behind them.
An hour later Mendez was at another intersection, similarly situated enjoying a roast beef sandwich in the command truck for lunch. It wouldn't quite help morale for the troops to watch him eat it, their rations weren't terribly great. But they should be grateful, at least they had food. Another larger protest march would be coming down this way soon. The general himself had called to say this was a major one. This time he'd taken the precaution to assign a sniper to watch the windows of the apartment buildings on either side. He'd wanted to have two of the water cannon trucks here but one was out of water and looking for a functioning fire-hyrdant to refill.
He chewed on the sandwich very deliberately as he watched the crowd coming down the street. How could he hold back thousands of people with four tear gas canisters? He had seen the questioning way even the major looked at him some times, all he'd have to do is give the order and his entire brigade might switch to the opposition with him. Or if he didn't they might switch to the opposition without him. He thought of his wife and children, of the good food they enjoyed and the nice house. In Colonel Douro's sector. He chewed the sandwich very deliberately.
This crowd had many signs with slogons which they held aloft, and a man with a loudspeaker, who called no the troops to join them and support "the rightful leader."
Once again the water cannon fired first, bowling over members of the crowd like bowling pins. The man with the loudspeaker was interrupted mid sentence with a squawk. After the stream shut off the crowd quickly reformed and the now-dripping man with the loudspeaker immediately put it to his mouth and began again.
"Hit them again!" Mendez ordered.
The stream shot out briefly but then spluttered out. Causing the crowd to pull back and then quickly reform and jeer.
"Shoot them!!" Mendez yelled into the radio.
"Sir the pump has broken!" came the panicked response of the cannon operator, as a wisp of smoke appeared above the truck. The troops at the barricade seemed to shift nervously, several looking back. The crowd began to come forward
"Tear gas!" ordered Mendez. First one canister was fired, and then another, they'd been told to use them sparingly. The protesters would stumble away from the choking smoke but there were always a few who would hold their ground (and presumably their breath) and continue coming on. As the crowd kept coming, a fourth one was fired. A woman in a red dress stood defiantly amid the swirling white tear gas smoke. She didn't even have a gas mask or goggles. How did she do it?? Mendez couldn't help but admire her courage.
"Sir, we're out of tear gas" reported the lieutenant nervously. As the smoke from the expended canisters dispersed the mob reformed into a solid line and began to march forward chanting.
"Shoot them. Live rounds" he ordered gravely. He didn't like to give the command but it had t be done. Hopefully the crowd would quickly see what was good for them.
"LIVE ROUNDS! NOW!" he nearly screamed. He could see the Lieutenant looking back at him, the radio next to his face. A number of the troops at the barricade were looking back at the command truck as well.
"Colonel orders live fire" he heard the Lieutenant call out. Some troops leveled their guns at the oncoming protesters but no one fired. The chanting crowd continued to approach, slowly, intractably. Mendez watched in horror as one of the soldiers lowered his gun. And then the one beside him did too.
|Friday, January 18th, 2019|
|Fast Food on a Silver Platter
I just wanted to post this here for when I'm going back through this journal in the future. This picture perfectly encapsulates the national dumpster fire we are currently facing. Government shutdown now in day 22 or 23, Trump, self proclaimed "master of the deal" totally unable to make a deal to open it again. I optimistically feel his days have got to be numbered at this point. I hope Pence doesn't pardon him -- if he does, which lets face it he probably will, we'll never hear the end of Trump blaming everything on everyone else.
|Saturday, January 12th, 2019|
|Thursday, January 10th, 2019|
There's a game I absolutely love, that every time I play it I end up laughing so hard it absolutely hurts. This game is called Telephone Pictionary, and since most people aren't familiar with it and it takes just a bit of explaining but then can be played any time you have pens/pencils & paper and a few friends about, I've been meaning to write a post explaining how to play. I will herein explain how to play, and then I've organized a demonstration round to, you know, demonstrate. For the demonstration round I'm doing it a bit unusually, having friends all over the world participate, so it will, you know, require some long distance dedication.
You will need:
5+ people (definitely better with more people!!)
Pencils for everyone
Plenty of paper
Writing surfaces (tables? hardcover books? clipboards?)
(1) We have found it helps to make booklets out of the paper to keep everyone organized. People will need at least as many pages as there are people in the game. We've found a folding paper in the following manner to make a little booklet works well, though there's sometimes problems with being able to see previous drawings through the paper which is problematic:
(1b) It also helps to number the pages
(2) Okay everyone has a booklet and a pencil and is ready. First round, write what you want drawn. Something like "Dragon trying to unplug a toilet" or "Aliens ordering at the drivethrough" or "an elephant dancing with a rhinoceros but really it wants to be eating pizza." generally animals doing anthropomorphic things are a good go-to. You can also throw in your friends though for an added challenge, for example this one of "A possum tricks Ben [who is very lactose intolerant] into drinking milk" is one of the ones that had us absolutely dying with laughter.
(3) Pass your booklet to the left, or the right. I have found once a round is completely finished its nice to do the next round in the opposite direction so people aren't always receiving the same person's crappy drawings.
(4) You should now have received a booklet with the instructions for a drawing on the first page. Turn the page and draw it. When everyone is done the booklets get passed again in the same direction, ie to a new person. As passed it should have the drawing on the open page so the person receiving doesn't see the original drawing instructions.
(5) You should now have received a drawing. Frequently at this point you will hear people exclaiming "what the hell is this??" as they behold the baffling drawing they have just received. This is all good and well as long as you don't blurt out anything that would give away what it might be, nor can you ask the person you received it from. You turn the page and write what you think the instructions probably were. Pass the booklet.
(6) You are now receiving someone's description of someone's drawing of someone's description. Draw it! Pass the booklet!
(7) Etc etc until everyone gets the booklet back that started with them. Usually enough people will recognize that their own has returned to call it. Then we usually go around sharing the transformation within our booklet.
Okay so this was going to present some unique challenges. Instead of having as many pictures going as people involved I decided just to send two through, starting one as the description as usual and one as a picture, so everyone receiving them would draw one picture and write one description. In keeping with the "Long Distance Dedication
" theme the two descriptions I came up with were (A)
"a dog, on the phone, holding a ball, about to board an airplane
" and (B)
"An astronaut christens a spaceship by tossing a bottle of champagne at it from a great distance
The participants would be my mom, furzicle
, in California, my friend Koriander in Washington State, my friend Mick here in Australia, my friend Sharon in Namibia, my friend Greg and his girlfriend here again, and as a grande finale legendary former LJ-Idolist teaberryblue
(1) My description: "a dog, on the phone, holding a ball, about to board an airplane
(2) Mom's drawing:She didn't like her first dog but was drawing in pen and couldn't erase so she replaced the dog using another piece of paper, lol!
(3) Kori's description: "Cell-phone toting, baseball playing dog about to travel on an airplane
(4) Mick's drawing:
(5) Sharon's description: "A baseball wielding doggo checks in at the airport
" (note we lost the baseball in the last picture but because Sharon didn't specify that she only saw a bat we might get it back??
(6) Greg's drawing:
(7) Kristen's description: "Rowlf the dog threatens twin girls at twin podiums with a baton, while presenting his ticket for the WWII airshow in progress. One of the girls has a briefcase
(8) Tea's drawing:
(1) My picture of it (again normally you don't start by drawing something you described):
I tried to limit myself to twemty minutes and not put more detail in than I would during a normal game. I was trying to make a spaceship that was kind of reminiscent of an ocean-going ship but I think I totally overdid that aspect. Didn't help that I ran out of room for engines on the back
(2) Mom's description: Well, I should have anticipated that many of the people I chose to do this demonstration round with weren't actually already familiar with the game. First she literally wrote a story, which I believe is in fact her livejournal entry for this week (well the first draft thereof, I think she worked on it a bit more after that, but it was already of about the final length!). Then I explained more about what was expected in the game and she gave me: "Draw a behemoth submarine docking on Mars (the moon). It has a huge control bay, a periscope, and a big gift-wrap ribbon tied around its nose. A scuba diver is swimming up to greet it and remove the ribbon An astronaut is about to catch a bottle with a message inside. Alternatively, someone on the sub is casting out a bottle with the message, “Save me! I’m being held captive!”"
Which.. I can see where the message in the bottle came from but the message itself wasn't in the original, but the addition of details is definitely something that naturally happens in the game. Often people add details just for clarity (usually in their picture phase) and the next person thinks those were important elements of the description and after going through a dozen people a picture will have a lot more going on in it than it started with, so we were off to a quick start!
(3) Kori's drawing:
(4) Mick's description: "A gift-wrapped submarine with hostage on board that's about to dock at a docking station on the moon being greeted by a NASA astronaut and a scuba diver swimming beside it."
(5) Sharon's drawing:
(6) Greg's description: "Diving in a submarine. A christmas bow is wrapped around the periscope. Someone is trapped inside and wants to get out. They are headed towards the moon."
(7) Kristen's drawing:
(8) Tea's description: "A screaming man in a Christmas submarine headed for the MOON!
(9) Your drawing:
I just leafed through some funny previous rounds I've saved and had a good laugh but sadly its tedious to share them here as I'd have to photo or scan every single page and my camera hates to focus on drawings, making it especially tedious. But here's a round from last week where "A reindeer is in the bottom of a hole he is digging, an eagle is directly overhead" somehow becomes "a beaver cleaning a pool" (I have noo idea how that one drawing is supposed to be a reindeer at the bottom of the ocean, but your friends being fantastically terrible artists is all part of the game!)
And as a final note (other than presumed updates to the ongoing game above!!), here is "a dragon wrestling a pizza, with a referee in the middle," the dragon may look familiar to some of you ;)
|Thursday, January 3rd, 2019|
|The Lower Pools
Spotted Owl sat cross-legged on a large rock. Red Bobcat watched an eagle wheel about in the sky until it passed directly overhead right through the blinding brightness of the sun.
"we should go down from here" said Spotted Owl, climbing down from his pedestal.
"Down to there you mean?" Red Bobcat asked, indicating the forests below the large rock outcropping they had been living on.
"Yes, down below." said Spotted Owl.
"We should see things from another perspective. And meet people other than only those who seek us out."
Red Bobcat nodded, it sounded wise. They collected their few possessions and that very afternoon picked their way carefully down the steep sides of the rock. Once they were amongst the pine forests below, they continued in a generally downward direction meandering through the hilly terrain. Birds flitted about, butterflies danced in the light, the occasional startled marmot darted behind rocks at their approach. The wind made a gentle sibilant sound amongst the pines.
Finally they descended into a sheltered meadow with a stream running through it and forming several crystal clear pools, and Spotted Owl declared "This is as far down as we shall go, let us set up camp here."
Red Bobcat wondered if Spotted Owl had already had this spot in mind, but didn't like to bother him with such mundane questions. They immediately started building a hut by the edge of the meadow.
After a number of days, a traveler came upon them. He was a rather large fellow with somewhat unkempt hair. He introduced himself as Standing Bison, explaining he was traveling between two villages. As it was late in the day Spotted Owl invited him to stay the night with them. The man was friendly and talkative, but Red Bobcat presently began to notice he was prone to be argumentative and stubborn, tending to loudly criticize things he didn't agree with. The man contributed to dinner a rabbit he had caught earlier in the day and after loudly criticizing the way Red Bobcat was roasting it he proceeded to take the roasting and cutting of the meat in hand himself. Red Bobcat began to feel a bit resentful that Spotted Owl declined to argue with the man, instead when the man became brash and obstinate on a point Spotted Owl would smile serenely and let the man continue his exhortations until the subject changed.
As the evening darkened to night Red Bobcat became tired, but the visitor seemed happy to keep piling more wood on their fire. Spotted Owl lay down in his corner of the hut wrapped in his furs. And presently Red Bobcat did so as well in his own corner, but still Standing Bison talked to them and put more wood on the fire. Red Bobcat found it very hard to sleep with the fire burning so bright and hot so close, much less with the man blithely talking to him. Finally Red Bobcat managed to fall asleep, only to be awoken in the night by the man chastising him for snoring. And then much to Red Bobcat's surprise the man was up again at the very first light of day talking to them again and rousing them for breakfast.
Finally the man left to continue his journey.
"Why did you not chastise that man for his behavior??" Red Bobcat asked Spotted Owl as soon as the man was out of sight.
Spotted Owl smiled knowingly a little and said "It is well for you to master your patience against such tests."
"Surely it is not manful for us to let him behave so to us" insisted Red Bobcat
"Sure some times one must stand against those who would take unfair advantage of you," explained Spotted Owl, "but the true art of winning battles is to know when you don't need to fight them. This man wasn't trying to take advantage of us, he was just badly behaved. If we had quarreled with him we'd have had a worse evening and he would have gone away thinking we are disagreeable instead of impressed with our imperturbability."
"Hmmm" said Red Bobcat.
"Try to understand this man, consider his motivations and his troubles. Even looking into the lowest pool of water you will find reflections of yourself looking back at you."
Red Bobcat glanced over at the nearby stream. He felt inclined to argue, he stubbornly didn't want to find any merit in that loutish man.
This has been sort of a sequel to this earlier entry.
|Sunday, December 30th, 2018|
|2018 Year In Review
It's time for the yearly year-in-review!! I had to look back on my past entries and photos to remember way back to summer (January-March that is!) 2018, it seems so long ago!
Summer 2018 - In addition to at least one camping trip with my friend Billie, I had discovered the Field Naturalist Club of Victoria and went on a few overnight adventures that involved fauna surveys and things! That was a lot of fun. It was my first season as a trained up member of the local fire brigade and I turned out to several grassfires and spent one 12 hours shift on a really big wildfire near here, that was really quite an experience! In February my parents visited and we went to see where the penguins come out of the sea on the other side of the bay here and then traveled around the west coast of Tasmania.
23,695 miles this year, a fraction of any previous year since 2012
As Summer faded into Autumn it became alarmingly clear that there would be no development projects this year. I blame Trump, though ostensibly its just that all the USAID projects ended their five year mandate this year and had used their budgets up already. Seems weird I don't know. As the nights became longer and the days became colder I contemplated what I would do instead. I was kind of inclined to go to Nairobi since I hadn't been there since 2015, which I'm sure you'll agree is far too long not to be in Nairobi. My dear friend Claire was getting married and I quite wanted to attend (incidentally, I had met her on tinder originally, just goes to show despite what they say you CAN make friends there and later be invited to their weddings). I also had my uncle's wedding in California on that exact same date though. I felt like having been to California twice in 2017 I shouldn't return but somehow felt myself being called back to the Americas. Had an enjoyable roadtrip up to the wedding and back and the wedding itself, seeing all the family. I do quite love seeing all the relatives at weddings. Also had a generally very enjoyable "summer" in the middle of "winter," spending about a month in California helping my friend sell honey at the fairgrounds.
Aaaand of course the single most momentous thing to happen to me this year. I had actually bought my flights to the Dominican Republic to meet Cristina before I even arrived in California, thought I pretended to my parents (whom I was staying with) that I was still playing with the idea of going there (though I hasten to point out that I did this without actually uttering any untruths, since I do not believe in even "white lies"). At the time they seemed to think it would be a frivolous use of money, and I hoped they'd come around to approving the idea before I went but they didn't quite come around (dad is very Mr Financial Responsibility) but finally it was time to seemingly suddenly fly off to the DR, which caught most of my friends quite by surprise. I'm pretty sure my parents have since come around to seeing the value in it though ;)
And that trip of course went extremely well <3 <3 <3 <3 As I said to my friend Joe once when he asked how things were going with Cristina, "well, I must warn you, I can't really say anything about that without it becoming extremely extremely mushy." She has been a very fundamental part of my year and she and I are greatly looking forward to the future.
Spring 2018 - Spring? What Spring? I felt like its still been pretty cold up until recently and the bees haven't produced nearly as much honey as I'd have liked. We finally formed a beekeeping group in Birregurra town here and its been really fun getting to know some more people around town and getting more involved in things around here.
Also my friend Doug visited for some three weeks. I had originally met him in Nigeria, then we traveled around East Africa together in 2014, and I visited him at his place in Washington state last year. So it was fun seeing him again over here this time.
Also I got a lot more involved in local art stuff. I submitted a photograph to a local art show, got a story published in the local Geelong anthology, and started drawing again a lot more seriously than before, so that's all been fun!
My car has seemed on the verge of complete breakdown since early this spring which has resulted in less driving far-and-wide and as we go into summer will probably result in less adventures than last year. ):
Meanwhile in the news: For reference looking back from some future date, I should note that this year wouldn't be this year if it hadn't been President Trump's second year in office, with the constant fiascos that has entailed. It would take an entry longer than this one to recount all the shenanigans but as of the present moment he's losing the last two sane heads on his cabinet who could have kept him in relative check, General Kelly and General Mattis, the government is presently shut down while he basically holds the country hostage for his wall, and he contrived to commit such a huge diplomatic faux pas on his recent visit to Iraq that they are demanding we remove the several thousand troops most of us are surprised to learn we had there.
Plans for 2019!
Cristina just graduated medical school and will take a job either at the military hospital or (we're really crossing our fingers for this) the remote Roques Archipelago. If the latter I hope to spend as long a time as I can contrive visiting her there in my winter. If the military hospital, well, I suppose I'll still visit her in Caracas but it doesn't sound quite nearly as nice since crime is rampant in Caracas, I'd be a target as an American, and the Venezuelan government iteslf is extremely unfriendly to Americans. It would have been nice if I could take another project in the Caribbean / Central American area and she could join me but she's unlikely to have any vacation days herself by time time of my winter. I might take a project in the area though just because it would be conveniently near for me to see her before or after.
A lot hinges on an unclarified visa issue. The first lawyer I talked to seemed to be of the opinion that I couldn't take more vacation leave than the three weeks I'm allotted or else I seriously endanger my visa, though he was looking into clarifying this. The second lawyer seemed very confident that any time in excess of paid vacation merely delayed my ability to apply for permanent residency by the amount of time I am gone, which is not bad at all. If the former case turns out to be true I may not take any development project at all this year and use all my vacation time to spend with Cristina. If the latter case is true I'll probably take at least one development project and in addition spend several weeks with Cristina.
Additionally we're going to see if we can get her added to my current visa here which according to the most optimistic theories COULD be as early as this year but I hardly dare hope we could be so lucky.
Additionally it looks like I'll be involved with a project in Papua New Guinea which I can conveniently conduct by zipping up there on long weekends and use a minimum of days off.
And everyone seems to be sharing these things
|Monday, December 17th, 2018|
|LJ Idol: Sucker Punch
It wouldn't know what hit it. Don watched the rhinoceros through his binoculars, it was partially obscured amongst some bushes and at extreme rifle range, but it was there, and that's what counted. It had a beautiful horn on its nose. Don thought of the money he would get for it on the black market. He thought about his buyer, a smug bastard who had thought Don would never find a rhino in this area. In his confidence he had promised a really good price. who's the sucker now?? Don thought happily to himself. Don scanned the surrounding hills, golden yellow with dry grass, doted with scrubby thorn trees and the taller acacias. No sign of rangers or anyone else. He hadn't heard any ranger radio traffic on his scanner all day so he was pretty confident they weren't around. The rhino was disappearing behind a rise. The distance was long anyway. He looked around and came up with a plan. The rhinoceros was going that way, so he'd go this way, hide in the copse of trees over there, he should have a shot.
He walked as quickly as he could under the hot savannah sun. High overhead some vultures circled. Don't worry you'll have a meal soon he thought towards them. As he walked he reached back to his small backpack to make sure he had the axe he'd use to remove the horn. It would be a frustratingly long walk back to the landcruiser to get it if he didn't have it with him. He entered the copse of tall trees, startling several warthogs. The shade was refreshing, though it was still steamy hot, and mosquitos buzzed around in the dim protection of the trees. He hurried through the leafy grove to the edge where he hoped to see the rhino around the hill. He quietly lay down on his belly with the gun resting on a root. He took a swig of water from his flask, the water was quite warm from the heat of the day but it was better than nothing.
Don was beginning to worry the rhinoceros had changed directions behind the rise when he noticed an itchy sensation on his arm and realized a mosquito had been sucking his blood unnoticed already. He quickly punched down on it with an open-handed slap and was satisfied by the large smear of blood that resulted. Take that mothersucker! he thought to himself. He was just thinking about getting out his mosquito netting when he noticed some movement out by the rise. Sure enough the humped white back of the rhinoceros slowly emerged like a surfacing whale. Don switched from binoculars to the rifle scope and prepared for the shot. It wouldnt' do at all to merely wing it, and also it would be quite disasterous to accidentally hit the horn itself. He waited as slowly more of the great beast emerged from the tall grass obscuring it. He calculated the distance, centered the cross-hairs just high enough above the center of mass to account for the bullet-fall, braced himself for the terrific kick his high powered rifle would punch back into his arm.
He never knew what hit him. The lion had expertly stalked its prey, making the final attack from a branch directly above him, pouncing, plummeting silently downward, a quarter-ton of lion impacting upon the prone hunter claws-first. By the time rangers finally came to investigate the nearby abandoned landcruiser they found only a damaged rifle, an axe, some scraps of clothing, and a large smear of blood.
Dedicated to these heroic lions who recently ate some poachers
|Sunday, December 16th, 2018|
|Drawing Drawing Drawing!
More doodles from the D7D nights. I was afraid for a long time to even attempt to tackle drawing women because it seemed too easy to accidentally make them terribly ugly but I finally dove in. Top left is Mick's Girlfriend's character, a mace wielding cleric. I feel like it doesn't look terribly unlike her herself. I know a mace is traditionally less marshmellow-shaped but drawing everything the bog standard normal way is dull so I'm going with marshmellow-of-war. The girl holding the lute is Greg's character, a gnomish bard that was formerly an orc. No human model but it was kind of an update of this earlier attempt at her when she was more clearly an orc (but I had gotten the fang/tusks going the wrong direction due to lack of an orc model). Was told I made her "too attractive and her boobs aren't big enough." Lol. I think the top right was my subsequence attempt to draw a decidedly unattractive female face but I didn't like it.
This was player Gemma's elven druid, I also tried to use her herself as the initial model but it really came out looking nothing like her except for the fact she has a septum ring and this character has a barely visible one. I'm also going to go ahead and blame my problems a bit on the paper -- I had picked up a "watercolor" sketch pad thinking it would work fine but I tihnk the paper is too textured and it kind of messes up the finer details (lips and eyes) on such a small drawing. No she's not smoking a cigarette its just her favorite thing to shoot fireballs at stuff.
And then I saw someone post about a "life drawing session" right here in my little town of Birregurra on Tuesday. Sounded good! I signed up! I didn't quite realize there would be a nude model, which made me feel a bit bashful at first, but it turned out alright. I thought it would be like a class but it was really just the Birregurra Art Group organized a drawing session with a model and that was that ($25 a person to cover costs). The following are a selection of the resultant pictures I drew:
( LJ Cut for artistic not-very-scandalous nudityCollapse )
I wasn't quite sure if it was kosher, I don't know what the rules of etiquette for this kind of thing are, but I really enjoyed drawing the people drawing the model who were on the far side from me into my picture. Most other people seemed to get the outlines in and then spend most of their time aggressively shading in the model while ignoring the face entirely. I find my style is I'm more inclined to more like a line drawing with the minimum shading necessary to convey shape, and was particularly interested in face.
Anyway, and THEN there was a portrait drawing class yesterday (Saturday) at a studio about an hour from here (Ocean Grove, cost of $135 which sounds shocking if you're in America but in Australia you couldn't book a one legged hobo for less). This one was an actual class and the young woman leading it had some useful advice I think I definitely benefitted from. She provided black and white photos for us to draw, I used one for the initial practice round:
She had said we could bring our own photo references but they should be black and white. I really wanted to try drawing the following portrait even though its color and not really high-shadow contrast. And so I did!
Aaand I think it's not that great but hey. Then when I got home I tried drawing it again in the small sketchbook to see if I could do it better (below left) but I don't think I did. And then I wanted to seriously test the theory that I draw better while drunk and drew the second one below while drinking at my friend Greg's place later last night. In this case I think it's clearly not better. Doesn't look like her, though I think it does at least look like a latina? And third is the original of course, for reference.
The first time I tried to draw it I felt like I was making the eyes implausibly big, but they're actually bigger in the photo!
I think I'll probably keep attempting this one until I get it right but probably I need a lot more general practice maybe with easier pictures or other pictures of her before I can get it right. But in the mean time I really feel the lute-holding character at the top of this entry is rather the epitome of the style I want to go for, I don't feel compelled towards aggressively shading toward photorealism, I'd rather achieve a likeness and sense of personality with a few pencil lines. I also liked my earlier portraits of my friends Mick and Ben better than these portraits-from-photos. Even though as models they kept moving, that allowed me to not sit there tracing lines but to work with a 3d conception of their facial structure. But more practice in classical portraiture certainly can't hurt!
***UPDATE: My friend Grace asked me to draw a picture of her and provided a reference picture so I obliged,:
The whole picture didn't actually fit in my scanner since I did it big in my A4 sketch pad so what I've done here is badly superimpose it over a photograph version to give the general idea of whats cut off. Not gonna spend a lot of time fighting it, anyway, you get the idea.
|Monday, December 10th, 2018|
|LJ Idol - Wk 8 - Sprezzatura
James leaned against the railing beside the estate to finish his cigarette. Nearby an obvious papparazzi was awkwardly trying to look like he wasn't waiting around. He was a forgettable sort of ugly with his unkempt hair, untrimmed beard, clashy hawaiian shirt, and obviously overpriced camera with bazooka-like telephoto lens. As he finished the cigarette James couldn't resist remarking to him "the countess isn't even here you know?"
The papparazzi looked flustered and stammered "wha, wha, what? how do you know?"
"Oh, I know," responded James with a wink as he turned to walk toward the entrance. He straightened his bow tie as he approached. A burly security guard in a suit with a black tie looked up as he approached the gate.
"I'm on the list," said James smoothly, and with a motion that appeared to be pointing at a name on the clipboard he actually deftly deposited a hundred dollar bill. He barely broke his stride as he slid smoothly past the guard, who professionally affirmed he was on the list as he pocketed the money.
Later on, in the ballroom, everything was going according to plan. James had been making eyes with the countess' beautiful daughter, who was key to getting into the plot. He would ask her to dance and slip the tracking device onto her. Their eyes met across the hall and they began to walk towards eachother, people parting between them like the sea. Suddenly a man stumbled backwards right into James.
"Hey!" exclaimed James, and as the man began to stammer his apologies, James recognized him as the papparazzi, now clad in an ill-fitting tuxedo.
"How'd YOU get in here?" growled James between clenched teeth.
"I was on the list" replied the other man with a sheepish grin.
"Oh lord," breathed James as he rolled his eyes. Did this chump also bribe the security guard? Does the guard have no shame at all?
"And let me guess you're not a papparazzi?" asked James as he looked up to try to find the countess' daughter but she was no longer where he'd last seen her.
"I'm a family friend!" said the papparazi in a badly acted attempt at sincerity.
"No you're not" rejoined James as he deftly fished a small camera out of the papparazis jacket pocket.
"Hey! That's mi--" the man began to object
"Look just stay out of trouble and I won't have security throw you out" said James pocketing the camera and moving away back into the crowd to try to find the countess' daughter again.
Later that night James crept deftly out of the daughter's room well inside the secured part of the chateau and made his way down to the room in the dungeons where the McGuffin device was kept. He expertly disabled the alarm and picked up the small device. As he was hurrying down toward the helipad in an upper hall bathed in moonlight from the row of windows, an alarm began to wail. "oops" he mumbled to himself as he began to run. Suddenly a guard appeared from a doorway ahead, and almost immediately fired a shot at him. The shot missed and shattered a nearby wnidow. James fired back with the small gun he had pulled from inside his jacket, and dove out the window, expertly landing in a hedge below.
Climbing out of the hedge and dusting the leaves off himself James was gratified to see that across the ornate flowerbeds, fountains and hedge topiaries in the cold moonlight a small catering truck was still on the property and near it stood a janitor who had been pushing a trash bin towards it, still cleaning up after the fancy ball so the property would be pristine in the morning. But in the mean time James had to deal with security. To his left he saw a tall hedge maze and ran into it as uniformed security guards began to run into the garden. In the hedge maze it was a simple matter to hide in the hedge itself in a nook until a security guard came by. Then James clonked him over the head and put his large jacket on over his tuxedo jacket and his distinctive hat on his head. He then exited the hedge maze while shining his newly acquired flashlight around as if he was looking for someone, as he made his way to the catering truck. Despite the ruckus the janitor was still unloading trashcans from the cart onto the truck.
"Excuse me sir," said James in a tone of brusque authority, "we have a situation here please allow me to search your truck"
"Yes, of course," said the employee in a tired sounding voice and beckoned James around to the back. James planned to expertly knock the man out as he came around the corner but much to his surprise as he came around to the back of the truck he found himself staring down the long barel of a gun with a silencer and behind it the ugly face of the paparazzi.
"You??" James couldn't help showing his surprise.
"Quite." said the man with neither a stammer nor a smirk. James carefully manouvered his gun hand in preparation to shoot this new adversary. Just then the small camera in his pocket exploded with electrical currents, effectively tasering James. As he involuntarily doubled over the other man relieved him of the McGuffin Device and disappeared into the night.
I've had this idea for awhile now, I know the incompetent spy is a well worn cliche but I've had this idea for a novel or movie about a spy who is actually thoroughly competent but instead of being ultra suave like James Bond his cover is to look so un-suave as to not be taken seriously.
|Monday, December 3rd, 2018|
Firstly of all, while vaguely aware of this writing contest for at least a month, I've naturally put off thinking about it until the deadline is six hours away. Overland Writing Contest, theme: TRAVEL. Travel! $4000 prize! You'd think I'd have something good for that but I'm not sure I do. Most of my short stories about travel are of course non-fiction, and even so, of the two that are presently polished enough in my opinion for submission for publication, one aleady is published and the other is twice the length requirement.
I suppose I could submit my story where some people go to Congo and get the zombie disease as well as one of the one's with bees and protagonists. Nah I just read their top three from last year and it looks like they're solidly into realistic human based fiction. (the number one one is about a partner being deported from Australia, how close to home!) :-/ Anyway if any of you get this in time feel free to submit something yourself. Deadline is six hours from this moment though :-| (midnight East Australia time Monday night)
*** UPDATE: I was making valiant effort at reducing the 6000 word story about wandering Turkey after Asli and I broke up down to the necessary 3000 words, well I knocked off a thousand words in an hour so I might not have made it with the remaining hour. But then my computer crashed! And auto-save was only able to pull up the original document! I think I'm well and truly torpedoed now! ::bangs head against desk:: I absolutely loathe writing (or unwriting in this case, which is as much work) the same exact thing twice.
*** UPDATE 2: okay the deadline just passed. I went ahead and recreated my edits while they were fresh in my memory. I think this contest has the same theme every year ("travel") so I guess I'll just have a year to try to polish this more (I stopped trying to delete more than what seemed obvious so its still sitting around 5,000 words) for next year. d:
In other news this anthology by the local regional writing club was just released, and I had two submissions accepted! Village in the Forest is about being in Guinea in the heart of the ebola outbreak. With slight adjustments from the version that originally was posted here I also submitted my little ghost story Reruns just because it seemed like the anthology's style and it was accepted too!
I'm rather pleased with my bio. Everyone else is like "I'm a writer!" and I'm like "I am Grendel" ;)
Also, a few weeks ago I had this photo up at a local art show (coincidentally from the same adventure as the Guinea story). Later this month I'm taking a drawing class. Getting all artsy over here lol! (:
|Saturday, December 1st, 2018|
|A Tasteful Sex Scene and Giant Cave Spider Haikus
Meanwhile in the Dungeons and Dragons inspired creative writing odyssey...
I won't reproduce in full here but I was quite pleased with a tastefully inserted sex scene. In my character's background it had been written that he had "insatiable desires" but that hadn't really come up yet in any log entries or storyline. It was known that my character never slept in the inn with them but hadn't been said where. So I inserted a scene where he wakes up beside a Swedish girl who had just accidentally pulled the blanket off him (the guys had been talking about Swedish girls at the previous session), then begins to feel his insatiable hungers, and then I tastefully change the scene to a steam hammer a gnome had just invented as it rhythmically hammered some metal (a steam hammer had featured on some program on the tv that was running silently in the background at last session) ... and then when we rejoin my protagonist he is just finishing a delicious Swedish dammsugare. Now isn't that tasteful?? I got a lot of push-back from the guys though alleging that "Swedish girl" isn't a valid D & D race, hrmph.
Also I really miss dammsugare.
What you need to know is we wandered into a cave and came across four giant spiders. We had in our company a "giant goat" named Tandoori which we sent ahead of us to trigger the spiders because we're jerks like that. I think this giant goat was unrealistically well behaved, in reality I find they never want to do what you want.
Also the previous week our friend Greg had tried to enter a single haiku as his log entry, which made many of us groan, and particularly incensed Ben, who went off on a tirade about how he hated haikus. Now if anything is a worthy goal its annoying Ben, so this week, I present you, our encounter with the spiders, as told from the spiders point of view, who, it turns out, only think in haiku form!!
( Giant Cave Spider HaikusCollapse )
|Friday, November 30th, 2018|
|Jason and the Episode II
Jason sat on a rock on the beach, looking out over the dark sea waves gently lapping at the shore. The day before he had brazenly accepted what was essentially a suicide mission from the king, and things had really come together to make it happen but it was still very daunting. Behind him up on the shore he could hear the revelry of the many young men who had volunteered to go with him, and the black bulk of a new ship that had been volunteered for their use rested half in the water nearby like a great sleeping bull.
"Heyyyyy, what are you doing down here??" Jason's reverie was interrupted by one of his new friends, Idas, stumbling down to him holding a small amphorae of wine.
"Just, thinking," said Jason, looking out at the many stars over the sea
"Oh yeah, what about?" asked Idas
"We're going to have to travel well beyond the limits of civilization, through the narrow sea into the black inhospitable sea beyond and to the far shore. Who knows what monsters we might encounter along the way, how long we'll be gone, if we'll ever make it back"
"Hey you're not getting cold feet are you??" inquired Idas bruskly
"Hey, no, but it's a serious undertaking, I just wanted to enjoy the serenity here because I don't know how long it will be till we're back,"
"Look if you're having second thoughts you can stay here and Heracles can lead us"
"Hey, you're drunk Idas" another voice broke in, and Jason looked up to see one of the older volunteers to the expedition, Idmon, coming up to them.
"Hey I'm just saying" said Idas defensively.
"Jason is right to take it seriously, and it is the right attitude in a leader. I myself feel like I won't make it back, but I still willingly go in support of Jason." said Idmon, placing a hand on Jason's shoulder.
Idas looked at Jason sitting thoughtfully on his rock with a goblet in hand, and said "well he better be steadfast as a leader, second thoughts and quibbling are NOT what we need"
"Will YOU be steadfast or are you going to be second guessing my leadership the whole time?" asked Jason angrily.
Just then some beautiful music began wafting down to the shore from the rest of the party, where Orpheus had begun to play his lyre, and the three stopped their argument to listen. After a moment Idas mumbled a half hearted rejoinder and began to stumble back up the beach.
|Saturday, November 17th, 2018|
|The Unmarked Path
This is written to work as a stand-alone piece but is the latest installment in my dungeon's and dragons adventure (though there's three sessions since the last one posted here, the only event in the missing time that's particularly worth noting is when Krusk wrapped his flail in his cup-bearer's boxers to protect it while fighting an acid blob).
The trail seemed to abruptly end amid some shrubbery. On either side a white skull gleamed atop a stake driven into the ground. A small song bird twittered atop the one on the right but flew up into a tree as they approached. They stopped briefly between the skulls and Percival, looking left and right could see more stakes with skulls spaced out to form a border between the darker forest ahead of them and the cheery forest they had been traveling through.
"There is no path to the temple," Krusk, his large companion, explained. "It's symbolic, it's all symbolic. We have to find our own way there"
"And we must tread carefully so as not to make a trail?" ventured Percival.
"Ah, yes." answered Krusk, "very good."
They carefully picked their way in the general direction the trail had been headed, careful not to disturb the grass overly much or walk where it appeared maybe someone else had. Percival reflected how this necessity made one more considerate of the natural environment and felt pleased with it. The forest past the skulls was thicker and darker but not really in a depressing way. There were if anything more birds about and generally the environment seemed more undisturbed. Percival noticed Krusk had taken his kite-shaped shield off his back, and was holding his flail at the ready.
"There's some dangerous creatures in here," Krusk explained, "that can surprise the unready."
Percival put his hand on the hilt of his sword. Technically Krusk's sword, but Krusk almost never used it, probably only owned it for symbolic reasons. Designed for an orc like Krusk, it was a bit big for Percival, a teenage human. Percival wondered what kind of "creatures" lurked in this forest. Sometimes the difference between a monster and an animal seemed very subjective, and Percival disliked killing things he didn't have to.
He thought back to some of the creatures they had recently encountered. The undead creatures he didn't doubt were worth scourging away, but what about that giant vulture thing, the "vrock?" [illustration of the event] It had attacked them sure, but maybe it felt they were threatening its territory or was hungry? Percival looked forward to visiting the Geographic Society in town where he could converse on this subject with people interested in natural history.
"That group of thieves we encountered," began the usually untalkative Krusk, "do you think we should have fought them?"
"Oh, um, uh, I don't know?" ventured Percival, mildly surprised how closely Krusk's question matched the theme he was already thinking about.
"Why not?" prompted Krusk, not looking at him.
"They hadn't attacked us, there were more of them than us?"
"Yes but they were clearly thieves, it was our duty to oppose them. We probably could have taken them"
"Maybe?" offered Percival meekly. He thought back to the time the previous day when they had hidden in the bushes as nine humans who looked very thievish had come down the road. Krusk had wanted to confront them, but Malek, the lizard-man had held Krusk back urgently hissing to just stay hidden. Percival had to smile recalling how Krusk's cup-bearer Davidge had skillfully defused the situation by thrusting a horn of strong mead into Krusk's hand at just the right moment to console him.
"But the rest of our group didn't want to fight them" offered Percival
"Yes but they would have gone with it if it came to that." speculated Krusk. "I think we should have. One must have courage to fight one's enemies but also the courage to go against what others think is best for you" mused Krusk. He wasn't usually this philosophical, thought Percival, but since they were on their way to Krusk's initiation into the Third Degree of the Order of Azetlotlex, Percival supposed he was thinking a lot about his duty. Percival briefly questioned whether he really wanted to follow in Krusk's footsteps and become a paladin, the path his parents had proudly put him on. His chest swelled with pride as he thought of the honor of the righteous path and he squashed his feelings of doubt.
"What if they weren't thieves at all?" asked Percival
"Well I would have confronted them and probably if they were criminals they'd fight or run. If they had nothing to hide we could have discussed it." Percival nodded, remembering how Krusk had tried to talk to the goblins they had encountered, before others had taken the initiative and attacked.
Presently they came to the temble complex, delineated by another row of skull stakes. There were a few stone and wood buildings around a square with a grove of trees in it, and the imposing blocky edifice of the temple building beside it. Many members of the order of various races, human, dwarven, elven, orcish, and more, stood around or sat at tables, wearing black robes. Several cheerfully greeted Krusk, who soon disappeared into one of the buildings to change into a black robe himself. Percival noticed an attractive human female not much older than himself and found himself wondering if she was wearing anything under the robe, which caused him to be particularly flustered when a dwarf with a fiery red beard introduced himself ("Tyler") just then with a friendly but overpowering handshake. The dwarf then introduced Percival to the "dread master" of the lodge, a grey haired centaur whose face was lined with age. As Percival was introduced around everyone was very friendly, though he felt meek and intimidated. He was grateful that despite his feeling of awkwardness no one seemed to talk down to him. Some meat was roasting on a spit, which smelled delicious. Percival recalled being told their the Dread God Sithrak, whom the Order is dedicated to, was said to particularly love a good barbecue ("even now Sithrak oils the spit!" being one of their common sayings), and had even forbade them to eat an entirely vegetarian meal. On a table near the middle several gold coins lay apparently unattended, which Percival suspected was another symbolic test of the order. As the evening darkened, tallow candles were set out for additional light.
"These are tallow candles, laddie, but inside the temple I can tell you we use only beeswax candles," offered Tyler.
"Oh," answered Percival, watching how the twenty-sided gold coins glinted in the candle light.
"The beeswax burns bright and doesn't splutter or smoke" continued Tyler, "but Sithrak is pleased by tallow candles as well. So tallow candles without and pure beeswax candles within"
Sithrak does like burning animal fat Percival thought to himself.
Just before midnight the members of the Order entered the temple (The Dread Master seemed to determine the time from the stars). Tyler took a position beside the great door with his sword grounded. "Your role doesn't begin just yet" he explained to Percival, "so yea may as well sit." Percival gazed at the large carving of an upside-down skull above the door, lit dramatically by the flickering candle-light.
After about half an hour several members of the order, including the young woman, exited the temble. "They are the one's who aren't yet of the Third Degree themselves laddie" explained Tyler, "but now the ceremony begins, so you come up here and take position on the far side of the door. Percival took a posiiton in mirror of Tyler on the other side of the door, grounding the sword between his feet. He had hoped the young woman would stick around but the members who had exited departed didn't hang around. Over the next several hours he sometimes heard chanting from within the temple and at one point he thought he heard a muffled scream abruptly cut short. Tyler didn't seem opposed to talking but after awhile seemed to settle into an abstracted thoughtful state. Percival himself was soon lost in thought. Did he have what it takes to join this order himself in time? Would he join a different order? Aspects of it terrified him but he urgently wanted the respect of Krusk and the friendly members he had met tonight. And that woman..
Finally just as the sun rose, the members of the order started to leave the temple. Krusk looked tired but pleased. He appeared to have a steak of blood smeared across his forehead.
|Thursday, November 8th, 2018|
|Misc Rants and Rambles
Firstly of all you may have noticed there was a recent election in the United States. (Presumably?) unrelated, Attorney General Jeff Sessions then resigned / was pushed out the window. While he wasn't much beloved by most people I know, he had at least refused to fire Mueller and I'm assuming Trump is replacing him with someone rip roaring to do so. I posted a facebook post outlining my fears that this will happen, and well, it said this: "This of course paves the way for Trump to appoint someone who will fire Mueller and terminate the investigation, which will mean the president can literally get away with criminal activities. I feel like US democracy is on a collision course here. People say "oh he couldn't do THAT there'd be huge protests," but it's already plausible he could disperse those crowds with tanks and his supporters would cheer him."
I bring this up here and now because I just want to thank myself for not unfriending my Trump supporter friends like so many of my other totally reasonable friends have done. If I had flushed them all away I would be sitting here thinking really seriously how can anyone really support him and is that nightmare scenario I outlined really plausible? Buuut out of the woodwork to bolster my fears no less than three of my Trump supporting friends commented in earnest seriousness that the investigation hadn't found anything criminal (really? how many guilty pleas is it up to now?) and really should be disbanded, as well as talking about what an uncivilized beast CNN's Acosta is, despite this having nothing to do with the argument at hand (since I think all their minds work in a sort of connect-these-very-disparate-dots-to-justify-my-worldview kind of way). Note to future self or anyone who lives deeper under a rock than I do, the Acosta thing is because Trump kept interrupting Acosta and a female staffer tried to physically remove his mic today.
In other news, a sort of mini rant myself here. I got to talking to the wife of a beekeeper friend in the area today, I hadn't previously met her. She said she'd been meaning to talk to me because she is also interested in helping people in Guinea. When we got on the subject of how France has been intentionally holding Guinea back through exploitive corporate agreements she suddenly launched into me with "and this is YOUR fault too! You yanks are exploiting it as bad as anyone [insert anti American tirade]," and when it came out that my volunteer projects there are funded by the United States Agency for International Development she clearly curled her upper lip in a distasteful sneer. And then after all this she suggests when I go there again I could take her along as a "cultural attache" because she's "good at collaborating with people" or something. I just smiled politely because I am actually diplomatic but I was thinking "you know I actually have a degree in this, in international relations, and you have completely unnecessarily made me feel blamed and attacked in this very short conversation."
In other news I've received many very positive comments to the short short little story I hammered out for last LJ Idol prompt. Thank you, I'll try to get back and reply to all the comments (I still have the houseguest about so am not sitting in front of hte computer alot). Many people have said they want to read more and indeed I'd like to make it longer (and I didn't intend to end it abruptly right there until I wrote it to that point and realized it was a natural stopping point), but the question is how?? Some ideas I've had are to introduce a young lady in the local town who is romantically interested in him but obviously terrified of the house. Also it occurred to me that I should have him have some happy rememberances of his dead friends earlier, at a point where we don't realize they died horribly in front of him, like he walks past the pub and thinks of some of their unique mannerisms and misses them but we do not then learn they're dead.
In behind the scenes news, I left it kind of ambiguous but it's the Crimean War (1853-1856) (famous for the the Charge of the Light Brigade) and other conflicts around that time period that in my head he had fought in, and it's vaguely set in Scotland (all the names I took from the more normal sounding names on a list of common Scottish names). I welcome any ideas on what else to add to the expanded story!
And finally, Cristina and I have an appointment (via whatsapp) to talk to a visa agent tomorrow (Friday) morning to discuss if she has any chance of getting here on a tourist visa and if not then a student visa and if not.. what hare brained scheme we can cook up. :-
Also I have as yet no idea what to write for the next LJ Idol prompt of "Kayfabe" :-\
|Thursday, November 1st, 2018|
|LJ Idol Wk 4: Ghosting
The neighborhood was atwitter to learn someone was actually moving in to the haunted Malvyrn House. It was so infamously haunted it had sat vacant on the market for years. Prior to that it had been inhabited for very short periods of time by various families, after all it was a very nice looking victorian house, but usually the occupants would abruptly move out. Sometimes they'd make various excuses, sometimes, such as the case with the most recent previous occupant, they made no secret that they were terrified and convinced the place was haunted. Previous to these short term inhabitants it's shrouded in local legend. There was a suicide? Or a murder?
When the new owner finally showed up, neighborhood children watched him arrive and unpack. The stared across the overgrown paddock, through the hedge down the lane, more terrified of being seen by the house than the man. Like wildfire they spread their observations to their parents and the local community. It was just one man, by himself, in that great big house? Soon after, he began to be seen about the small country community, a grizzled-looking middle-aged man with perhaps a slight limp. A veteran from the wars they said. Mary at the post office got up the courage to ask him if it was really just him alone in the house.
"Well, me and my dog" he said, patting the hound. Does he even know? wondered Mary.
"Isn't it.... a bit big?" she asked, not quite sure how to broach the subject.
"Got it for a great price, fully furnished!" he said with a wink and turned to exit the post office. Mary was left very unsure.
Later on, Ethan got to talking to him in the general store and asked him point blank, albeit wrapped in the guise of possibly a joke, "so you're in the old Malvyrn House... you know they say it's haunted haha."
"Yeah, they say that" the man, whose name was learned to be Gordon, said in a slow sort of inscrutable way.
"...you're not afraid?" asked Ethan, who may have already had a beer or two that day and was going to get to the bottom of this.
"Are you?" asked Gordon, prompting Ethan into a retreat of nervous laughing and explanations that of course HE didn't believe it.
About a week after moving in, Gordon was sitting in the armchair by the fire idly smoking his clay pipe while lost in thought when the dog started whining again and looking frantically at the doorway behind Gordon. But Gordon was a very rational sort and couldn't think of anything that could be in that direction -- he would definitely hear an actual intruder in this creaky house, so he just commanded the dog to calm down and continued to thoughtfully puff the pipe. The dog had frequently been spooked in this house but hopefully he would soon get used to it. As he looked up from the dog his eye caught upon the blank spot on the wall where he had taken a painting down. He had been happy to keep most of the house's furnishings just as he'd found them but he had taken this painting, a supposedly heroic depiction of red coated soldiers in battle, off the wall and put it away out of sight. The blank spot on the wall still triggered unpleasant memories though: his friend Craig screaming as he died from a gunshot wound to the head, trying in vein to cover the rip in his skull with his hands, his blood all over Gordon, and the sergeant yelling at him to keep moving forward; Johnnie looking stupified with his arm blown off; the innocent surprise on the face of a young enemy soldier Gordon had killed himself... He shook himself back to reality, the sober Victorian study, the cozy fire, the dog still whining nervously. He scratched it behind the ears. I should put a picture of a sailboat in that spot he thought to himself.
Later when Gordon got up to go to the bathroom down the hall he thought he saw a figure out of the corner of his eye, but this kind of thing had often happened to him since the war and he had put a lot of effort into not flinching at these things, so he didn't react.
It was when he was walking down the long dark upstairs hallway to his bedroom around midnight that he clearly saw, pale and translucent, the figure of a girl in the hallway in front of him. He stopped walking. The dog bristled and growled. The figure came towards him with a wild look in its eyes. After a moment's hesitation Gordon continued walking toward the ghost. The ghost came at him with a crazed expression, and as it got closer Gordon noted it looked like maybe she had been strangled. He kept walking towards it and when they were about to meet it kind of reared up and seemed almost confused.
"Hi," said Gordon, putting out his hand. The girl looked at his hand and then at him. Her lip quivered. He thought of all the ghosts in his head, whom he couldn't actually meet again. "would you like to talk about something?" he said in a conversational tone.
This is kind of the kernal of a story idea I had (hey I worked 12 hours today and have a house guest), of "what if someone wasn't afraid of a ghost." Yeah this has been done in comedy/childrens stories but what about in a serious manner? What if the protagonist is busy battling their own more figurative ghosts?
|Wednesday, October 17th, 2018|
|A Festive Swarm
I'm trying to get out of the habit of only posting when I have something that's really too long to post. This is one of several stories I recently posted as an overly long facebook post, I'll try to get around to posting the others here too.
So this past weekend was the annual big festival of my little village, "Birregurra Festival." The weather was great and it was fun. While I was walking the 100 meters or so from my house to the festival with my friends Mick and his girlfriend, our route took us past the flow hive in my neighbor's empty lot and I was like "Oh Hey Mick have you seen a flow hive lets go look at it"
While there we encountered said neighbor himself, Trevor, mentioned here before, a very jolly fellow. He was sitting on his back veranda with his wife and a friend. "Hey, when are you bringing me more bees?" he jokingly pressed me, "I've got the second stand built and ready!" Really its the ethical dilemma mentioned before that had prevented me from already providing him with bees, since enough bees to start a hive cost $120-$150 and I dunno about providing a SECOND lot of bees even to my favorite neighbor for free. (see previous post for full ethical examination)
But just then Mick says "Hey, what about those bees?" and we look and he's pointing to a swarm of bees just BESIDE the new stand.
"Oh, how about right now I say?" and we all have a good laugh about the quick turnaround on this request. So I trot quickly home, all I can find is an empty box (no frames) someone else had given me a swarm in that I was going to return to them, but it'll have to do. So there I am in my nice clothes, trying not to get grass stains on my pants, moving bees by hand into this box.
We did a pretty halfassed job, since unlike most swarms I would be easily able to return to this one, so we ignored the many bees on the base of the pole saying they would clump up again and then I'd move them too. When I came back later they actually had also moved into the hive!Today after I checked the now five hives I have in my own yard, I enjoyed being able to bbq right where I'd just been working, and then I put some ice cream in my leftover coffee in this cute little cup and it was delicious.
I actually took my laptop outside and am writing this in location pictured as it rains all around me (:Part II
Day 2: I came back with a proper hive box with frames the following day and transferred them. I actually had the queen in my hand twice but didn't have a queen cage at hand (I'd had it an hour earlier, I don't know where it got to!). Bees will to a certain extent do what they want, and at a certain point they all started flooding out of the hive and collecting under the box an at that point it was carrying water up a hill with a seive. So I left htem hoping they'd get cold overnight and move up.
Day 3: I came back, they hadn't moved up, so I put the box under the stand, ie under the swarm, and shook them all into it. Kept an eye out for the queen but never saw her. Then placed the hive back on top and they appeared to be content to stay inside. Just in case I put a queen excluder under the box (ie between the bulk of them and the entrance), though having seen this queen I reckon she's small enough to slip through (and when they slim up to fly with the swarm they're more able to do so, and this one had been very flighty the day before).
Then I walked to the health center to book their meeting room for a planned community beekeeping meeting. While talking to the receptionist she said "you have a wasp on you!"
To which I said "oh" and cupped my hand gently around the bee and walked briskly outside to release it, as she called after me "careful it could sting you!"
I hadn't even glanced at it, but when I released it and it flew away like an overlaiden B-24, in a roughly straight line away from me right to the ground I was like waitaminute waitaminute. Thats how QUEENS fly. Went to examine her and... yep it was the queen! She had hitched a ride on ME!!
So I picked her up, finished talking to the receptionist whilst pretending not to be holding a bee in my hand, popped her into the queen cage I now had at hand when I got back to the car, and placed her in the hive!