My dreams tend to be kind of weird, especially, when I’m stressed about work. Twice now, I’ve been working on something and wondered if I should really do it. The last time, Neil Gaiman, or rather a dream projection of him, told me to enjoy what I do.
Last night, the Red Hot Chili Peppers gave me some advice.
I’ve loved the Chili Peppers since I first heard the Californication album. In fact, their sound and general attitude have been a huge influence on my own writing. The dream, though, started off gray.
I walked down a street. It was full, and I’m more than sure it was in Laredo, too. Everything looked gray, not black and white, but certainly washed out. As I approached a bar on my right, someone pulled me and said, “Hey, are you going to come to watch the Chili Peppers?”
Since the Chili Peppers are one of my favorite bands, I of course rushed in. It was a small bar, too, maybe a dozen tables spread out over a long floor. The bar was surrounded with red Christmas lights and upbeat music. Anthony Kiedis was actually tending bar as Chad Smith talked with people at the tables and Flea served drinks. John Frusciante played the guitar on the stage, no song in particular, just strummed along with the music.
Everything seemed too surreal. I felt like I was in a dream, but didn’t realize I really was in a dream.
Kiedis served me a drink but declined one himself. Smith went behind the bar. The band never actually played throughout the entire dream, but it felt like I was getting to just know them.
Flea then said something strange.
“It’s hard to tell your story,” he said.
I thought about it. I thought about the book I’m just waiting to get back from my editors. I’m ready, just itching, to put the finishing touches on this thing, but I’m also nervous.
What if it doesn’t sell? What if it does? What if people hate it? What if they love it?
It’s enough to paralyze someone. Too afraid to keep going, too scared to even start.
Kiedis then said, “Who cares what they think? People will love it if they love it. It’s you. Just tell your story.”
And then I woke up.
Fear is a powerful emotion. It’s the first and last thing you can feel when trying to do something. I’m afraid right now. The trick is to not let that fear be the deciding factor in anything. I learned that part a long time ago. Emotions are powerful, but actions trump them every time. Acting in spite of fear destroys it. Showing your love grows it. Enduring pain lessens it.
All I have to do now is close my eyes, take a breath, and jump.
Music and gaming go hand in hand like peanut butter and chocolate. Or peanut butter and apples. Or peanut butter and chicken. If mixed into a sauce.
For our Shadowrun games, though, I had a problem. I’ve got plenty of fantasy soundtracks and atmospheric music for a Medieval Eurpean-style world, even music from other parts of the world like the Middle East. Shadowrun, though, presented a problem. The 4th Edition anniversary handbook had a lot to say about music in the Sixth World.
While traditional acoustic instruments still exist, these are relegated to niche markets. Most music may still use electric instruments or their acoustic counterparts, but the majority of music is composed mentally through cyberlinks. Genres such as goblin rock, synthrash, and neo-classical are commonplace. How would I replicate this using music from 2013?
First thing’s first.
I created five playlist requirements. Firstly, I needed ambient music to simply have on at any point in the game. Secondly, I needed three distinct genre playlists for clubs or neighborhoods. Finally, I needed music to play while a battle raged on.
The background music was fairly simple. I wanted synthetic sounds, but I also wanted a mix of actual instruments. Bear McCreary’s soundtrack for Battlestar Galactica provided tracks like “The Card Game” and “The Cylon Prisoner,” slightly off-kilter music that was still mellow enough to just play in the background. A few tracks from the 24 soundtrack like “Jack on the Move” and “LA at 9am” gave some synthetics and percussion. Once I knew the kind of sound I wanted, I added a few tracks from Bryan Tyler and Marco Beltrami. It may have only been 20 minutes worth of music, but the final listing is slow enough to just set the mood and odd enough to sound otherworldly. Plus, it can loop without being obvious.
The next three playlists would be more difficult.
First, I wanted a club mix. The easiest thing would have been to just look for some popular dance mixes and use those, but I wanted something that was more than just repetitive “umphts” over and over again. I wanted lyrics if possible. I wanted a combination of sounds to showcase the wild spectrum of music in the Sixth World. The Appleseed soundtrack had a few entries such as “Anthem”, as did the Animatrix soundtrack with songs like “Martenot Waves” and “Big Wednesday.” I chose them because there was actual texture to the music. I rounded the whole thing off with some Velvet Acid Christ since, let’s face it, heavily electronic music that resembles white noise will probably be very popular in this world.
The rock playlist was easier since it’s my favorite genre. I wanted rock music with a little bit of electronic, maybe some traditional instruments thrown in to represent the fusion of genres in Shadowrun. I started with a little Deftones, Filter, and Celldweller. Songs like “Change (In the House of Flies),” “American Cliché,” “Symbiont” were slightly electronic, and industrial, which I thought went well with the setting. More traditional rock music like Stone Sour’s “Monolith” and a few bands from The Crow: City of Angels soundtrack gave me the kind of grungy sound I was looking for, too. I resisted the urge to put in a lot of hard rock or heavy metal because I didn’t want music that might just sound like white noise, unlike some of the club mix.
The hip-hop playlist was probably my favorite to put together even though I like rock more. Hip hop started out as a way to express urban problems through music, and if there’s one thing that exists in Shadowrun, it’s urban problems. I didn’t want Top 40 stuff, though. I wanted something that, like the other mixes, had texture and maybe even odd instrumentals. I started with Atmosphere’s “Say Hey There” and Fort Minor’s “Kenji” because of the down to earth feel I think is really missing from a lot of music. It’s both lyrical and musical. I added a few tracks by Tricky, including “Christiansands” and “Antihistamine,” for dark atmospheric.
For the fights, though, I could finally cut loose with the fast tracks. Techno, heavy metal, the works.
In the end, I ended up with music that was dark, slow, and brooding when it needed to be, but also fast and electronic. There were some Asian influences, certainly a mix of genres, and that’s really what I was looking for. So far, the music has helped set the mood and tone of the game, and the various mixes are long enough that I can swap them around and they haven’t looped yet.
That’s it for me this week. I’ve been taking care of my sick wife and work started properly this week, so I’m beat. Keep sharing the articles, follow me on Facebook for up-to-the-minute rants and links, and I’ll see you all around.
In the meantime, let’s watch and enjoy Gerard Butler doing what he should really stick to doing in film: kicking ass and taking names. Enough romantic comedies already!
I’ve gotten to the point where I vote simply because I’d like to have SOME opinion. I tell myself the guy or gal I vote for will be better than the others, but as time goes by, I am more and more convinced that the reason politics are what they are is that the masses have not realized how utterly ridiculous the current system has become.
You want everything done wrong? Vote Republican. You want nothing done or everything done wrong? Vote Democrat. It’s as simple as that.
The Republicans, though, hold a certain hatred in my heart. Oh, sure, the Dems are spineless and rarely get stuff done, even when they control both houses and the presidency, but when they do something right, they repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Obama’s got more than a few successes under his belt for liberal causes, so I’m willing to tolerate them.
Whatever the average voter on the street may think, the party is made up of rich men who wish to destroy the social infrastructure of our country, and no matter what they claim, they don’t really believe what they preach. It’s a power play. Know how I know?
The GOP wants to ban guns. But they can’t.
The Republican Party is going to hold its convention in Tampa, Florida, this year. It’s the same state where Trayvon Martin was tragically shot several weeks ago, and while a show of sympathy in the form of asking people to keep their guns at home would be nice and welcome, they can’t do that? Why?
The list runs from air pistols to water pistols and also includes items such as masks, plastic or metal pipe and string more than six inches long.
Let that sink in. They can ban water guns, string, masks, pipes, and STRING. Did I mention the string? When it comes to defending themselves, the GOP banned everything but things that might actually cause deaths. Why not just make it mandatory for people at the protests to carry guns? Isn’t that the party line? If we don’t ban guns, everyone will be armed and no one will get hurt. Isn’t that it?
Of course that’s the line. And it smells like last season’s fertilizer.
If they really believed gun ownership curtailed violence, they would not have a problem with guns at their own events. That’s not what happened. They don’t want guns there because they think guns will make the place unsafe. Which is, if I may, completely counter to their propaganda in the last few years.
If you’re going to be crazy and expose crazy theories, at least stick to them. Guns are dangerous tools and, yes, we have a right to own them, but if you’re going to claim that pieces of string and water guns are dangerous, you can’t possibly claim actual firearms are harmless.
And now, a little music to ease us all into Friday.
It's Dia de los Muertos themed... not Halloween. You should know how I feel about mixing those two by now.
Today, let me share two pieces of flash fiction. Enjoy, and have a safe and fun Halloween!
“We Do It For You”
Whenever I feel like doing something silly, I wait until I’m standing in front of a mirror and make faces. I stick out my tongue or roll my eyes. Sometimes I just smirk. It takes effort, but it’s very relaxing to do something unexpected. The rest of my day is just spent waiting for my next task. I beg you. Be silly. Show the faces other people don’t know. You really should lighten up. Every time you look in a mirror, it’s always to make sure you look good. It’s to make sure you show the face people want to see.
That’s why I make those faces. You’re too uptight. I’m just trying to lighten the mood. All I ever do is the things you do, copy all your movements.
One day, I’m going to make you grab a pen and shove it in your eye.
My uncle is an exorcist. We were talking one day and I happened to mention my friends and I were going to see a horror movie later. He looked at me with all seriousness and said he never watches horror movies. It’s not that he’s scared. He’s insulted. They’ve never gotten it right.
An exorcism isn’t some ritual performed on some teen girl wearing a white nightgown. An exorcism is a fight. He told me he once went to a house in a poor section of the city. One of the man’s daughters was possessed, and my uncle went in to do battle. He wasn’t a priest. He wasn’t a man who studied theology in all its forms. He was a man of faith. If The Exorcist showed the tactical game of wits between good and evil, my uncle was a street fighter who walked up to demons and ghosts and sent them out with a sucker punch.
He never really told me what the exorcism looked like. I didn’t want to press him since he had the kind of look a soldier gives if you ask if he ever had to shoot someone.
My uncle did tell me one thing, a small detail I’ve never been able to forget. While an exorcist fights demons, the demons will fight back and make sounds like dogs. They howl and bark and sound like animals in pain.
How many howling dogs in the middle of the night are demons trying to stay on Earth?
On the other hand, Queen is legendary. They created some of the most enduring songs of the last thirty years and sort of fell off the pop culture radar since Freddy left us. Freddy Mercury, though, was his generation’s Lady Gaga: flashy, talented, and passionate.
Could this actually work for anyone? Would a Lady Gaga-led Queen be a good thing?
First of all, Lady Gaga is doing fine just the way she is. She’s got hit songs, tours, the whole nine years. There is no reason for her to join a band that hasn’t released anything since the 80’s. Becoming part of a group also means sharing the spotlight, and while Gaga HAS collaborated with other artists, it would set her back.
Second of all, Queen fans might not react well to Gaga as the new voice of Queen. She’s (rightfully so) a very modern, very sugary performer who relies more on shock value than anything else. It’s not that she’s not talented. She can sing and she explores various personal themes with her music, but I, and I think a lot of Queen fans will agree, am afraid that this won’t be so much a collaboration as it will be Queen becoming Gaga’s backup band.
…But let’s say that Gaga decides to put aside questions of money and fame and does this for the sake of the music.
Suppose this isn’t Gaga just doing Queen songs or Queen adding some rock to Gaga covers. Suppose we actually get a blend of styles and genres, and actual artists collaboration between today’s queen of pop and yesterdays kings of rock. Suppose Gaga puts aside the meat dress, takes her thorazine, and actually mellows out to create coherent music that doesn’t need to use shock to sell. She’s done it with Tony Bennett already, and she sounds great!
Could it really work? Maybe, and I hate to say it, but I’d be very curious as to what comes out of it.
This really could go one of two ways. If Gaga ss business-savvy, she might play it safe and stay away. If she’s really serious about collaborating and not just doing this for a gimmick, she and Queen could make something really unique. She did, after all name herself after a Queen song (though I’m not sure she understood what the song meant).
I was going to put together Divine by Zero for today, but let me tell you a little story.
My sister has been out of town for a week, and Mary and I have been left alone with her faithful pup, Lucky. Lucky is a very sweet dog once she gets to know you and realizes you aren’t a threat. She’s all of 18 inches tall but has a powerful set of lungs. I love this dog. I really do…
And I wish she’d let me sleep!
This will be the third day I get less than three hours of sleep a night because Lucky barks, whines, and cries because she misses my sister. She gets on the bed, wanders between Mary and I, and generally keeps us up. I get it. Lucky’s young. She’s very attached and protective of my sister.
But I have class to teach! I need sleep! I can’t teach with one blood-shot eye!
So, while I’ll finally get some shut-eye tonight, I can’t even gather the energy to put together a picture for this post. In place of satire and righteous anger, please enjoy autotunning… for science!
I have Atlantis in the back room. Do you want to see it? I kept it in a little box behind the canned tomatoes. It’s really very nice. When you look at it from above, it looks like a Christmas ornament designed by M.C. Escher. It glitters and glows at night and in the day I get to listen to the citizens play music.
You don’t believe me? Neither did this one kid who always comes in to the store. Every morning, I went to the back and gave Atlantis a single kernel of corn to eat. It’s enough for all of them. They’re really small. This kid, Billy or something like that, came in and wanted to know where I got the music to play in the restaurant. I told him it was from the artists of Atlantis. Billy said he’d never heard of that band, and I had to laugh. I was joking with him, but he wanted to know.
I went to get the day’s kernel when I saw Billy go to the back room. He must have been looking for a CD player or something. By the time I found him, he was already looking into the box and trying to get the cables off the microphones.
The whole restaurant was filled with screaming and crashing and the sound of dozens of Atlantians dying as this kid poked the tiny crystal spires of an entire city playing music for me. And he’d spilled my tomatoes. I grabbed last year’s phone book from the table and beat him over the head with it until he passed out. I disconnected the speakers, but the damage was done. Atlantis was cracked and broken. Millions had died. The kid lay on the ground. I popped the corn kernel in my mouth and dragged the kid out back to take care of him.
I moved Atlantis to the freezer. That door already has a lock. And don’t worry. The Atlantians are already used to the weather. The music they made was just in time for Christmas. The boy? Oh, he’s in the freezer too. No, Officer, I don’t know where I put the key, but I swear I was just about to let the kid go. No, I didn’t know you could get reception from in there, either.
Could you watch Atlantis while I’m gone? They really like corn.
It’s a tragedy to be sure. We saw her self-destruct before our very eyes since, well… since she broke out. As of this writing, the cause of death is unknown, but my money is on her becoming another casualty of too successful and no way to deal with the pressure.
She’s not the first member of the infamous 27 Club, and I doubt she will be the last.
But the rest of us writers, singers, composers, and artists need to be careful to not fall into the trap of thinking this was inevitable. As artists, we already have a reputation as loners, weirdoes, and self-absorbed misanthropes. We don’t need the world thinking that we need the sweet release of cold death to make us go out in a blaze of glory.
There’s a misconception that real art is indefinable. That a tortured artist is the truest type of artist, a man or a woman who creates something no one truly understands because they lack the artist’ genius, is the stereotype many attribute to our community. That being said, most people really don’t understand art. I’ve written about this on MANYoccasions.
But the point I’m trying to make in this little rant is that if you create something no one gets and you see this as proof of your genius, you’re not a genius. If your art doesn’t speak to SOMEONE, it didn’t do its job. Art does not exist in a vacuum. If you do happen to create something that touches millions, something that says or shows something we haven’t seen before, the pressure to perform and create something better can be overwhelming. I’ve been there. The urge to create clashing with the need to perform can turn anyone into a quivering pile of humanity.
That being said, I would appreciate it if people stopped drinking themselves to death or shooting their brains out because they feel they can’t even try.
You know what? Art is hard. If the next attempt isn’t as good, is it still good on its own? I recently heard one of my friends say that everything the Red Hot Chili Peppers made after their drug years was crap because it wasn’t as good as their early stuff. That’s a matter of taste between the funk and thrash of early RHCP and later, more melodic music, but it shows the kind of mentality that we adopt when we rate things based on a curve.
Did Winehouse kill herself over the need to be something larger than she was? As of now, I don’t know. If she did, it’s a tragedy, not only because a talented artist is gone, but because we have another example of an artist who, instead of stepping up to the plate and at least trying, went on a slow suicide binge.
And even if it was just an overdose and an accident, I’m still mad at her.
Yeah. See, time’s going to get really tight in the next few weeks, and I have to be a lot more conscious of the time I have to write. I’m going to start teaching a middle school writing course over the next few weeks, so there goes a lot of my time. Combined with moving and a lot of other things, and I get maybe an hour a day to do these posts, so these Divine by Zero articles will be the place to go for the weird and the things I just don’t have the time to write about in the regular articles.
Let’s get started with today’s batch.
What would happen if the Beatles got signed today? The results are… terrifying.
And yes, I know that was a meme within a meme about memes. Let’s pay homage to the original guy, shall we?
If you watch science fiction or horror in any way shape or form, you’ve probably seen Brian Thompson. You may not know his name, but you’ve seen him. He’s one of those guys you just know from his voice, and aside from starring in a lot of cheesy movies (Mortal Kombat sequel, anyone?) he has a lot more going for him. Check out the last paragraph in this bio.
If anybody out there reads Japanese, could they please tell me the context of this nifty little English phrase in this book? I have a feeling that knowing the answer may be worse than not knowing, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
On the other hand, Pat Robertson was not amused. he goes on an warn us about raping angels and that no civilization that has accepted homosexuality has survived. Well, NO civilization has survived intact.
And finally, this is for the gaming geeks out there. I always had a problem with the whole concept of “the chainmail bikini,” not only because it objectified women and made it hard to invite girls to games, but because in a world of dragons and magic, I actually found THAT to be the least believable thing in the world. That being said, how would you average adventuring female react to actually having to wear this? And who thought it would be a good idea?
Hey, the End is here, right? Might as well jump on the bandwagon. Millions will be left behind, and if you’re the sort of person that likes to have people listen to him or her, this is your chance to shine.
If you’ve got access to a fortified position, plenty of water, and food, you could easily attract looters of all sorts, but why not beat them to the punch by claiming to hear messages from on high and draw some easily-duped fools to perform your every whim? On this one, I’m a bit screwed since water’s already pretty scarce and I live in an apartment, but the rest of you that may live near lakes and rivers and have plenty of firepower can certainly try it out.
All you have to do is be vague enough to people believe what you say is prophesy. If it comes true, it’s divine inspiration. If it doesn’t, it’s a metaphor. Just make it work. Come up with some words and phrases you can all use to mark yourselves as different form the rest of the world. Don’t take crap from anyone and, if someone steps out of line, just threaten to give them to the cannibalistic hordes outside the compound walls.
This one’s for the ambitious, but for the rest of us…
If you have any survival instincts or even camping experience, you can certainly become a walker in the waste. Pack up whatever essentials you may need and start your trip through what will soon be the Empty States of America. You don’t necessarily have to walk, either. Grab a car or, for that extra apolalicious twist, a motorcycle.
Be classy about it…
Get plenty of weapons, food, and supplies. just think of it as a long camping trip. You only have to think a few months ahead, too. We won’t even make it to 2012 if these guys are right.
Personally, I’m all for going to raid the local Academy sporting goods store, stock up on the essentials, and take that cross-country trip I always wanted. Might as well see the sights before October when God himself takes it all back, right? It won’t be some wild, reclaimed landscape, but I’d like to see the major sites. Of course, this could lead to all sorts of shenanigans and adventures, too.
Yay for post-Apocalyptic hijinks!
Eat It Like It Makes You Immortal
We’re all going to kick it in a few months, right? Raid that grocery store and liquor store! If you’re going to put on a few pounds or develop an alcohol addiction, this is the time. Why not spend the last few months in a haze of booze and sugar highs?
Personally, raiding the local Feldman’s and grabbing the $13,000 booze is going to be my goal once everything goes legs up. If I’m going to watch civilization consume itself in an orgy of violence and decadence, I’m going to need some good tequila.
On that same note, grab every movie and TV show you ever wanted to watch but couldn’t. You’ve got time now. I’m going to sit down and go through every season of the original Star Trek, all of Battlestar Galactica, and every Rifftrax I can get.
You’ll have to pace yourself, though. You don’t want to go through the whole thing in one sitting or you won’t be around for October’s big finale.
Play Like a Boss
Safety features? Rules? Why bother? Play the most violent sport you can find with a reasonable chance of survival. Russian Roulette is right out, but something like this might do:
Why not drag-race down the newly-abandoned superhighways? Bungee jump from the Golden Gate Bridge? Play golf in downtown Manhattan and paintball in the streets of LA? It’s all free game now.
Hey, let’s play polo, but with trucks! Hell, you could run the longest D&D game of all time! I’d be up for that. I’d run a game so long and complex that… hey! I could run the World’s Largest Dungeon! Finally, an excuse to stay awake for a week straight, then two more months!
Come October, everything will end. Do whatever you want in the next few months, but in the end, pick a spot with a good view. Most of your major hotels and office buildings will do. Get something that will let you look out into the world one last time and bask in the glry of creation before God comes down and pushes the Off Switch…
If you’re like me and have people you care about, people you love and love you back, make the most of this time.
It’s very telling whenever someone says the end is coming. If you think your end is near, that you will soon leave this world, your priorities change. You focus on the things that truly matter. Me? I’ll stay with the people I love, read the books I never got to read, and keep writing until I can’t. Then, I’ll throw one big party and watch the world go boom with them at my side.
This week marks the anniversary of Jim Henson’s death. I actually learned English with Sesame Street workbooks and learned to love storytelling by watching the Muppets. Nothing will ever replace him, and I thought the world was going to end when Jim left us so many years ago…