Friday, October 30, 2015

OverAnalyzed: A Short History of Horror Fiction and the Gothic

Tomorrow is Halloween and I have an old essay on horror writing and its Gothic roots floating around on my hard drive. I am also lazy. This combines to bring you this not-so-short history of horror and its roots. I make no claims of accuracy. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Short Story: Hallowed Ground

Seamus Rafferty, oldest fisher in Ballyvaughan, lay alone before the altar. No family knelt near his flimsy pine coffin. In fact, the church of Mary Stella Maris sat empty save for Seamus in his coffin and young Father Brendan in his vestments.

As he stumbled through the Requiem Mass, Father Brendan was almost glad for the absence of mourners. A botched funeral could damage his standing in the isolated village even further. Already he felt the parishioners barely tolerated him. His youth, his unfamiliarity with their customs and dialect, his books of canon law. Ballyvaughan wanted Father Duncan back, but Father Duncan had been recalled for his near-heretical writings. So Father Brendan arrived and sent Father Duncan away.

But even the village’s polite dislike of Father Brendan did not explain why no mourners were present at Seamus Rafferty’s funeral. The old fisher had a large and loving family, and a reputation for generosity and kindness towards all. Why, just last night at the man’s wake—Father Brendan was present to pronounce a few edifying words—hadn’t three separate friends lamented the world was worse off without Seamus Rafferty in it?

Father Brendan puzzled over this mystery until he intoned the last “Requiescat in Pace, Amen” over Seamus’ body, whereupon Michael the sacristan peeked in to announce that six strong men were here to carry the coffin.

Michael was older than Seamus by far, but lacked the honorary of “Old Michael.” Instead, locals called him Sacristan Michael to distinguish him from various other Michaels roundabouts. Though a bit crook-legged, Michael remained spry and spent his free time, when not tending the church, documenting local ruins and history. Father Brendan found Michael an invaluable guide to area customs: The second Angelus at evening, the strange fishers’ prayers in neither Latin nor Gaelic nor English, the taboo against naming the drowned dead, the red doors to “ward the Gentry away.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wandery Wednesday: "Is Settling Really Settling?"

I wonder a lot if I'm "settling." You know, taking the the safe path, the guaranteed salary, all that jazz. You know, the opposite of "follow your dreams!" Settling.

I'm settling, I think. I could have gone straight from college into a graduate writing program. Instead, I'm taking a year off, working, living in the city, writing when I'm not too tired. I like it. All the same, it's getting close to the time when I need to start applying to grad programs if I want to get into one next year. And the question nagging me is--do I? I love writing. I don't ever want to quit writing. It's one of my outlets, one of the few things I'm marginally good at. (I SAID MARGINALLY.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Poem: Halloween Horror Haiku

Late night, home alone.
Blocked number moans your name,
Then a fuse blows out.

If doubt should arise,
Remember to double-tap
And aim for the head.

In a creepy house,
The leatherbound book of spells
Will want to kill you.

Chainsaw revving up
In sweltering Texas heat.
Squeal, lil’ piggy, squeal.

Haunted puzzle box
Unleashes Pinhead and co.
Hell will soon be raised.

Where we are going,
We won’t need eyes. Libera
Nos ex infernus.

Most clowns are quite nice.
Unless they’re in a storm drain.
Those rip your arm off.

He drowned in a lake.
Now he wears a hockey mask
And kills horny teens.

Do not fall asleep.
Dreams are his dark hunting grounds.
His claws are quite sharp.

It starts with a hug.
Afterwards the fear begins.
No-one heard you scream.

Poor girl never learned:
They’re all going to laugh at you!
Pig blood leaves a stain.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
So, how many of these movies do you recognize? Hopefully all of them! 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cool Stuff Sunday: "MAMMA MIA, I Love to eat PIZZA with PEPPERONI!"

Well, it's Sunday at 10am, and I'm awake, which is startling in its own right. It's been an interesting week at work--lots and lots of stuff happening--so I've been slacking off a bit on the writing front. Instead I've been playing Chivalry: Medieval Warfare until my hand-eye coordination starts to suffer. So what's cool this week?

The IMAX poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This Samus Aran cosplay is awesome

Jackie Chan learning from a little kid is adorable

I love to eat BRUSKETTA but I don't pronounce it like that jerk who over-pronounces foreign words. 

Ever wanted your computer to make typewriter sounds? This program can help. 

Check out famous authors' notebooks!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Backlog Blitz: SNES, Week Eight, "These Ones Are Out of Order"

Long story short, I got my hands on some other ROMs that looked interesting, so I'm talking about them today, despite them not following alphabetically from the previous week. Deal with it, suckaaaaas!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wandery Wednesday: "I Went to My Work Job Today. I Did a Network Configure."

So over the weekend the phone system was upgraded at work. This involved me working Friday night and a chunk of Saturday to get all the phones hooked up. There were some issues, but nothing too major. 10 failures out of 175ish is pretty solid. I got to learn how to configure the phone network ports using command-line interface, which has been...a thing. I'm starting to see green lines of code running vertically down my vision... Think I should see a doctor. Anyway. It was fun. And most of the issues have settled down by this afternoon. Which is a huge relief. That said, could things have been better? Yes. We definitely need to clear out some ports on our server/switch racks. One floor has no ports for new phones. None. No places to plug new phones into. Nada. Which is worrying and will have to be dealt with. 

I spent the early evening trying to get my budget sorted. 401K withholding, grocery budget, allowance for buying video games and cool stuff, tithe to the crushing financial burden that accompanies being an English major, rent payment, lots of fun stuff. So I'm rewarding myself with pizza, rum, and video games.

Speaking of games, I've been playing Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, which is a fun bit of the old FPS genre. First-Person Stabbing, that is. It's a first-person online swordfighting battle simulating sort of jobber. It's actually quite enjoyable. There are bits I dislike (either have weapon/armor skins be purchasable, like in League of Legends, and make the game free OR make the game cost money and have everything be unlockable. I'm not a big fan of developers who go "let's make them pay for the game AND pay for cosmetic stuff!" CS:GO can get away with that. You can't. Also this was a long parenthetical...) but overall I'd say it's well worth the $6 I paid. Heck, I've put 15 hours in already, which is not something I usually do with multiplayer games. As soon as my pizza is finished, I'm going right back to playing. Woo!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Poem: "N'Orleans Villanelle"

A voodoo moon rides over the sugarcane;
Gators glide through the mangrove trees;
Dead men dance in Lake Ponchartrain.

She loved him. He left her like a hurricane:
Broken down and riddled with disease.
A waning moon rode over the sugarcane.

She got a gris-gris filled with wolfsbane,
Dropped in a picture of that lousy sleaze.
Dead men dance in Lake Ponchartrain.

Padlocked him up in a rusty chain,
Turned a stone ear to his whining pleas.
A red moon rode over the sugarcane.

She drove him out there in hammering rain,
Parked in a clump of zombie trees,
Watched dead men dancing in Lake Ponchartrain.

He’d never hurt another girl again.
As his face sunk down she laughed with the breeze.
A voodoo moon rides over the sugarcane,
And a dead man dances in Lake Ponchartrain. 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
It's almost Halloween, so it's time to break out the semi-spooky stuff. Wooooeeeeeooooo... 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Music Roundup Monday: "

Well, the phone changeover at work this weekend went surprisingly well. Only had 8 failures out of ~180 users, which seems like a pretty good percentage. I mean, 100% success rate would be ideal, but also pretty much impossible. Anyway, music!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Cool Stuff Sunday: The Three D's (Dungeons, Dragons, and...Devourers?)

It is Sunday. I have eaten delicious pizza from a local pizza place, followed by delicious pie from a local Target SuperStore. Let's talk about what stuff this week was super cool.

A 3D-printed portable railgun

The Gorillaz are releasing new music in 2016. 

Characters in Mad Max: Fury Road have really cool names.

Folklore inspirations for monsters in Witcher 3.

A dungeon generator for you role-playing game types. 

3D-printable dungeon terrain, also for you role-playing game types. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Backlog Blitz: SNES, Week Seven, "Beauty is in the Eye..."

So last night and this morning were spent at work switching to a different IP phone system. That was fun. I can't feel my fingers. Let's eat trail mix and talk about old games while I try to forget that on Monday, everyone will hate the new system as much as the old one. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Very Short Story: Vitae Homunculae

Buying the garden gnomes was my first mistake. I don't even have a garden--just a balcony with some planters of ferns, overlooking midtown. But I saw the little guys--gals--whatever--in a pet shop window. Their teensy gnome houses carved out of tennis-ball halves, their grey peaked caps... You watched The Smurfs as a kid, right? Who wouldn't want some Smurfs?

Anyhow, I took a dozen. That's how many the pet shop lady said was enough to start a colony. I brought them home, set them up on the balcony. They liked it out there, I guess. Kind of hard to tell, since I couldn't really hear them. But they would stand and stare up at me when I came out to water my ferns, then run shrieking into their tennis-ball huts when the watering can rained down. 

That went on for a few months and we started to get along. By now I could recognize each gnome on sight--Poopsie was the fat one, Dum-Dum was the muscle, and so on. But fall was getting cold, and these gnomes couldn't survive a North Dakota winter. 

So I made mistake number two. I brought the gnomes inside. Oh man. They loved it indoors. The carpet was practically a savannah to them, and there were all sorts of resources to plunder. Like the wiring in my headphones, or my rice, or... Look, suffice to say they got into things. At first it was cute, but after the third set of headphones, not so much. 

Which leads us directly to mistake number three: Teaching them English. Now I'm staring at a "Declaration of Gnomish Rights" and--no, please, you're the fifth attorney I've visited!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wandery Wednesday: "I Went to the Archery Park. I Did an Archery."

So a long time ago (before college), I shot archery. I was...moderately good. I placed in a couple state youth tournaments, and my archery group placed as a team multiple times. So...moderately good. It helped that I would spend an hour or two a day over the summer just shooting archery. I actually wore out a Yellow Jacket target, which are designed to reconstruct themselves. And then I started college and started working full-time during the summer and, well, my free time dropped considerably.

It's probably been a year and a half since I shot archery last. Until last weekend. I discovered a dinky little archery park about a quarter-mile from my apartment. It's nothing fancy, just an open area with some distance markers and some moldy haybales to shoot into. But all the same it was fun to see that my overall ability hasn't degraded much with time. Back when I was shooting ~two full tournament rounds a day, it was a good day if I averaged 85% of shots into a tennis-ball sized zone of the target at twenty yards. I managed that this weekend, which is pleasantly surprising.

Anyway, it seems that very few people actually use the archery park for, you know, archery. This became apparent to me after the first pedestrians to pass spent several minutes watching me, examining my car, and generally rubbernecking. I felt a bit violated. Then the old ladies walked by and actually wrote down my license plate number. After that I decided to leave...

I don't really know where I was going with this, other than "don't be a menace to South Central while shooting your bow in the hood." Or something.

Oh, and also. I realized that Saturday Evening Warfare (Wednesdays) was taking up a disproportionate amount of my writing time. (You know how hard it is to edit down 50+ pages of Skype textlog into a five-page blog post? HARD.) That means that, for the time being, SEWW is on hiatus. Sorry. Instead you get About random junk I've done. Sorry.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Poem: "Backcountry Prophecy"

I see my life
In the broken-down, sway-back farmhouses
Of the Minnesota backcountry,
Out on snake-weaving dirt roads no one travels,
Where only ghosts reside,
Murmuring might-have-beens.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
I don't think anywhere in Minnesota truly qualifies as "backcountry," at least not compared to, say, Montana or Australia. But still, you get out on a winding country road in early fall, just before harvest season, when the light's almost gone, and you'll feel as alone as alone can be. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cool Stuff Sunday: "Watashi Wa Taitoru o Motte Imasen"

It's Sunday, I'm hungry for Chinese food, and I'm too lazy to actually go get Chinese food. Let's talk about stuff on the internet instead.

I don't know why this mashup amuses me.

Apparently Far Cry Primal is going to be a thing. This makes me happy.

This dude is an awesome skater.

Kender suck. Seriously. If someone you know likes kender, stop associating with them. And no, I don't mean Kinder Surprise.

Don't trust used armor salesmen.

This site lets you build and print dungeon maps. All you PnP gamers, you're welcome.

Dungeon Robber is essentially a one-person dungeon crawl, in Flash. It's pretty fun.

Marceline the Vampire Queen is finally getting her whole story told on Adventure Time. Woo! Sadness incoming!

I keep watching this Star Wars: Battlefront video, and it gets funnier every time. The only good thing to come out of the Star Wars: Battlefront beta.

This video contains the most important Japanese phrases you will ever need to know, minus one: "Watashi wa baka gaikoku hitodesu. Sore wa kawaīde wanaidesu ka?"

Bird Boy is a really cool webcomic now becoming a physical comic.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Backlog Blitz: SNES, Week Six, "The Death of a Good Series"

I just fried up some delicious potatoes, and earlier I set up a Raspberry Pi to emulate old games, so I'm in a good mood to talk about retro gaming. Let's get to it!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Poem: "Rum, Obscurity, and the Lash"

Drink cheap rum;
Contemplate self-improvement;
More cheap rum;
You've chased dreams all your life--
Everyone says keep chasing--
You're tired of running:
Maybe it's time to settle
For cheap rum
And a few good friends
And obscurity.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
Thankfully this poem is only partially biographical. I do sometimes wonder if I should give up on my dreams. Someday maybe I will. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cool Stuff Sunday: "A Bunch of Medieval Stuff and Things"

It's SUNDAY! I'm hyped up on caffeine and sugar and french toast, so let's talk about cool stuff while my fingers fly across the keyboard like an over-excited lemur! METAPHORS.

It's a guitar. And a working Game Boy. Check it

Dr. Who is ditching the sonic screwdriver in favor of...sunglasses? BLASPHEMEEEEEE!

These dudes are good at saber sparring. Like, really good. 

It's the little things in video games. Like color-coded towns in Gen 1 Pokemon

A Knight's Tale wasn't an amazing movie, but the Geoffrey Chaucer character is pretty excellent

The Wake uses historical 11th-Century English. It's...a thing

Got dice? Need to make a city for a D&D game? Here you go.

How to make wall art out of video games.  

Making an HD remake of a great game? Don't screw it up. Here's how

Turn on your 3DS with a Rube Goldberg contraption

These bookstores are amazing. 

The Book of Kells is beautiful. I've seen it in person, and also handled a reproduction. But if you aren't planning to visit Ireland anytime soon, check it out online

Want to know how Shakespeare would have pronounced his plays? Watch this

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Backlog Blitz: SNES, Week Five, "Chrono Triggered"

Ohhhh yeaaaaaah. It's time to talk about old games again. It's a good day for that. I just finished some delicious leftover pizza from a local pizza place called Pizza Luce. It was good. Very good. You should envy me. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Media of the Month: September '15, "The Exact Same Show, Only One is Good, and the Other is 'Rick and Morty'"

HEY. HEY LISTEN. It's the end of another month, and that means I get to talk about some of the cool stuff I've been poking around in for the past 30-ish days. Which is actually something I enjoy. I like doing things and then telling all of you (between eight and ten of you, going by the math of views/posts) about it. I consider myself a one-man review site. Very belated reviews, but all the same. So let's get on with it, y'all!