Jul 212011
 

July 21, 2011

The voting is coming along nicely both here and on Facebook! keep going, guys. And when you’re done, please help yourself to a link or two. They’re on me.

I know, I know. I spoil you guys.

  • And speaking of things that are fun and bring us joy, every time a new harry Potter movie or book comes out, without fail, we get the psychos. Pat Robertson is already out in full force, but this gentleman takes the cake. Yeah, he’s a comedian, but the scary thing is that I’ve heard people who talk like him.
  • Rick Perry, possible GOP presidential candidate, started out as a Democrat. Hey, it IS Texas. He probably switched because they use liberals for target practice down here.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man is coming out next year, and we’ve already been treated to a blurry teaser filmed in a movie studio. That doesn’t mean we can’t look back on the old cartoon and guess at the kinds of things we can expect from a darker take on our favorite web-slinger.
  • Speaking of airheads, here’s Palin TRYING to look sexy. The result is akin to a mildly retarded beagle thinking it’s a ballerina.
  • And on the heels of the last article, Jon Stewart addresses Fox’s handling of the hacking scandal. See you Friday, folks, and keep voting!
Jun 152011
 

It's real because I say so.

June 15, 2011

Careful readers may have noted how I tend to knock on people who hold outrageous beliefs for the sake of tradition or comfort. Think gays are committing a sin by loving and existing because the Bible says so? Do you think that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles despite the Bible being entirely opposite to what the Bill of Rights guarantees?

Guess what? You’re a moron for ignoring reality.

On the other hand, it’s comforting to believe in something that has no basis in reality. It’s yours. It’s personal. Conspiracy theorists work this way. They see themselves at the center of some unimaginable tangle of powerful beings and organizations that can somehow control everything from the political landscape, to the progress of technology, and yet cannot catch these desktop detectives as they unravel the web of deceit.

And yet you and I are much too smart for that, right?

Well, I got to thinking…


Tempting fate by ~jsings on deviantART

How different is superstitious thinking from fanatical religious thinking? Not that far off. We had people who believed, who genuinely believed, the world was going to end last month. Some people, even if not religious themselves, will cross themselves before entering a Catholic church, just in case. My sister refuses to shuffle cards a certain way when we play poker because it will disrupt her card-ma.

Yes, “card-ma.” Her word, I swear to Bob.

I have a Dungeons and Dragons player who insists her dice rolls don’t count if the die touches an object before it comes to a standstill. While I don’t think she really believes it, she insists that touching another object throws her off. In fact, gamers are finicky when it comes to their dice. Some dice are just “lucky.” Of course, gaming dice aren’t tested for balance like casino dice, so there very well might be lucky and unlucky dice.

Everyone’s done these sorts of things, and I tend to laugh when I see them or hear about them.

I believe in chance and choice. I believe there are things I can and cannot control. The things I cannot control are the events that are beyond my grasp, the choices others make, and the totality of existence. I can’t tell lightning where to strike. I can’t make others think what I want them to think. I can’t luck out and hope a publisher sees my work online and offers me a contract.


love is chaos by ~parasite3 on deviantART

I can, however, choose to not stand out during a lightning storm while wearing a tin foil hat. I can learn how to put together a coherent argument and make my point as persuasively as possible. I can make my work the best possible and look for ways to advertise and get the word out.

There is nothing that says charms, spells, or even good luck rituals work for us, and yet so many of us really do cling to these beliefs. I know someone’s going to fire back with, “But that’s the die I used when I slew the vampire king! It’s lucky!” or “I was wearing this shirt when I met the love of my life. It’s my lucky shirt.”

Well, show me the study where we discovered luck. Show me equations. Prove to me that our lives and random events around said lives are controlled by invisible force fields and I’ll eat my words!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do laundry and make sure I have my gaming shirt for this Saturday. When I wear my Star Wars shirt, I KILL!


Old school gaming by ~Kiaaaa on deviantART

And now, for your viweing pleasure, links.

  • And finally, I have to say that while I’ve never heard of or tried this beer, this commercial alone makes me want to do it. it’s over the top, obviously conscious of its own absurdity, but it owns it like a boss. Enjoy, and I’ll see you Friday.

Jan 142011
 

I am a metaphor...

January 14, 2010

It’s preview time! One of the greatest things to experience is reading old books. I don’t mean words that were written a hundred or two hundred years ago. I’m talking about actually holding old paper, wrinkled, bark-like leather, and smelling the decay of paper itself. Ink turns different colors with age.

Maybe I’m just a bibliophile, but it’s a much richer experience. I’ve been lucky enough to work in archives and look through records and letters stretching back centuries. I even got to restore an old Civil War letter by digitally scanning it and bringing out the ink.

And yet… it’s easy to think of the past as something that’s gone. We may realize people existed, but to hold a book so old, or better yet, something hand-written decades ago, is to touch someone else’s thoughts…

This is a true story. In a way. It’s real in that it exists. I’ll let you decide if it really happened.

Kill Hannah - Statues Without Eyes
Lyrics


The Notebook by ~the-bumble-bee-one on deviantART

I found the old journal while cleaning out my grandmother’s things. It was an old elementary school notebook with a blue grid for practicing letters, but when I opened the yellowed pages expecting to find a child’s scribblings, I instead found tiny handwriting that had turned almond-brown with years. Each word looked like a single line with the occasional spike indicating a letter, and it took me an afternoon staring at them to finally figure out what peaks were vowels and what peaks were consonants. I forgot about dinner and read as much as I could, but it hurt my eyes. The notebook was a journal, something my grandmother kept secret. In just a few entries, I knew the names of her friends, the little restaurants by the river she liked to go to, and her excitement with her new husband. I went to sleep just after I got to an entry talking about a man my grandmother met.

I woke up around three in the morning to get a drink of water. I felt my way to the door. As I walked into the hallway, I saw the shape of a man at the end near the bathroom. He was looking at me and the hallway smelled like fresh-cut plants, dirt, and sweat. Intense, wide eyes looked at me from a tanned, wrinkled face marked by the sun. Even though his mouth moved, I couldn’t hear anything. I wanted to run, but a combination of fear and curiosity kept me in place. As soon as I moved towards him, he disappeared.

My house smelled like cut grass and dirt until the sun came back up. I didn’t go back to sleep.


Subconscious by ~NoRainInApril on deviantART

The next morning, I asked around to see if anyone at work had any idea what to do. My friends all thought I was insane, of course. They went back to scanning books into the library system. I helped people at the reference desk, but I kept smelling cut grass and wet dirt every few hours. At any moment, I expected to turn the corner and find the man staring at me like some horror movie cheap shot. I wasn’t even sure what he looked like, but my nerves were so frayed that I skipped lunch and just walked around the block three times.

I didn’t open the notebook again for two days, but every time I wanted to, the smell came back.

Every day, walking the stacks in the library, all I could smell was the paper, the scent of the new arrivals contrasting against the dull aroma of old paper from the older volumes. I remembered the journal and instantly thought I saw the ghost in front of me. It was just another patron. That happened at least three times before lunch.

I wasn’t going to start checking books out on what to do, either. All my friends would see them and think I was crazy. I spent my next few lunch hours looking through old newspapers. Nothing in the front page, of course, but I thought somewhere in Via Rosa there had to be a human interest story. There were plenty of psychics and mystics in the yellow pages, but they were there for profit. I was looking for someone who didn’t advertise. It took a week, but I found a story about a story about a young woman that suffered some sort of gang attack. The neighbors all said she was a witch working with a demon. She sounded like a brat, and there wasn’t much beyond a picture of the home where it looked like someone had taken a pound of dynamite to the front door, but I recognized the place.

Every city has it. It’s the house or the neighborhood where the witch lives. In this case, it was an old Spanish mansion downtown near Herradura Street. The place was vibrant once. The iron gate squeaked and shed bits of rust as I opened it and walked the overgrown path to the front door. I was about to knock when the door swung open and I was face-to-face with a young Hispanic woman, no older than twenty-five. She was thin and dressed like she was in high-school.

I swallowed hard and said, “You were waiting for me?”


the witch. by *m0thyyku on deviantART

She smiled and said, “Actually, I was going to check the mail. Can I help you?”

I showed her the newspaper clipping and she frowned. “I hate that picture,” she said. “They made the house look like was condemned. Look, I don’t do love potions or voodoo dolls or anything like that, so if you have a problem with your vieja, go to counseling.”

“It’s a ghost.”

Her eyes lit up and she opened the door wide for me. I walked in, clutching my briefcase, and was instantly hit by the smell of a dozen spices. The walls were painted a dull orange that screamed faux-Spanish, but almost every wall was covered in mismatched shelves stuffed with books, notebooks, and jars, spice racks, and plants in various stages of bloom. I wondered if any of them were illegal. She motioned for me to turn into the living room. None of the couches matched either, and the coffee table had more stacks of old, fifty-pound books sitting on top. She sat cross-legged in the loveseat and looked to me while she took out a notebook and pen.

“So what’s the problem?”

I explained the ghost, the smell, and the journal. She asked for the notebook and I carefully pulled it from my briefcase.

She took it in both hands and inhaled deeply.

Closing her eyes, she said, “He’s here…”

I looked around, but she giggled and said, “Well, mostly here. It looks like we have some work to do.”

“What kind of work?”

Once again, she giggled and said, “You don’t bring up the past without the past coming back for you. You need to set things right.”

“But I didn’t do anything!”

“Yes you did… You peeked.”

To be continued…

Want to read more? Just visit the main Charcoal Streets page and take a look at the complete stories, samples, and other fun features, and stay tuned in 2011 for the release of the first volume of collected stories!


My Paper Heart by ~zbo7800 on deviantART

Sep 222010
 

Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?

September 22, 2010

Christine O’Donnell may be the true spawn of Sarah Palin.

Seriously. This is a woman who’s made some very creative statements in the past several years, and now has become the Fox darling for a senate seat. It’s frightening that so many right-wingers are singing her praises and ignoring her, well, interesting opinions.

Did I mention she believes scientists are creating mice with human brains? Check out the link above.

One comment that’s brought her a lot of criticism, however, is her claim that, in high school, she dabbled in the occult and even had a date on a satanic altar. Check out this clip:

Okay, I’m not a pagan. I’m not a Wiccan. I’ve never participated in any religious ceremony that required me to be skyclad, and even I know what’s wrong with this picture.

Conservative Christians have a picture of witchcraft that differs greatly from the truth. In fact, what O’Donnell is describing above is so far from what a real witch would do that it’s laughable. It’s like claiming you’re really Mexican by saying you love Taco Bell.

Yeah, it’s like that.


Wicca by ~master-of-distortion on deviantART

Ten Thousand Flavors

It’s hard to really explain witchcraft since there isn’t anything like a unified set of beliefs or rules. Modern witchcraft is called many things by its practitioners. Some call it Wicca, others paganism, neo-paganism, or any number of things. Some take offense to certain names. Others claim theirs is the real faith.

Whatever. This isn’t a thesis on the subject. It’s an explanation of why O’Donnell has not and will never know witchcraft when she sees it. Let’s just get that out of the way. This is the five-minute primer.

Witchcraft ≠ Satanism

I already went into detail on everything that people usually get wrong when they talk about Satanism, but let’s recap. Overall, Satanists believe that the Devil, Satan, is a figure to emulate because he fought against the greatest power in the universe, God, and showed the power of individual thought. Most Satanists favor the kind of life where your own personal choices matter more than what some religion, any religion, says. That’s Satanism.

A Plot Hole the Size of a Buick

Here’s the point, though: nearly every Wiccan, witch, or pagan, whatever you want to call it, will agree on one part of this story. No witch would ever, EVER, have a picnic on his or her altar. That’d be like a Catholic making a sandwich with the Eucharist. Or a comic book fan using Action Comics #1 for scratch paper.

Yes, I know who first appeared in that issue. Do you?

Even if what she really should have said was “Satanist” instead of “witchcraft,” no Satanist, no person of any actual faith, would use an altar for a picnic.

Unless, of course, said person was as thick as O’Donnell here.


wicca by ~kawaiiKitteh on deviantART

One thing is clear: O’Donnell has never been a witch, at least a witch by any stretch of the modern definition. What she describes sounds like the kind of hyped-up things some kids do when they want to piss their parents off. They find some website and think they’re invoking the Great Adversary when all they’re really doing is lessening the local cat population.

She can call it whatever she wants. It wasn’t witchcraft.

And if you’re a pagan, or a witch, or… whatever you want to be called, you should be livid at this smear. Any chance anyone out there can just turn her into a toad for real? No?

Okay. Well, look at that… Randomology.org has a new target.

And I play rough with my toys.


Wiccan Rede by ~Beautifullycursed on deviantART

Okay, let’s see some links!

  • Bristol Palin on Dancing with the Stars? And she strips and does what appears to be a satire of conservatism? Go on…
  • Ever wonder why college girls kiss other girls at parties? Someone actually went out and funded a scientific study to find out. The results are actually very interesting from a purely scientific point of view.
  • Why can’t people making a quarter of a million dollars afford tax rates like those we had under Clinton, as this one-man brain trust tells it, the rich have a particular lifestyle and they can’t afford to live anyway else. All I kept thinking while reading this was, “Oh, so you’re a snob and can’t be bothered to make sacrifices because you’re living at the very limit of your means? Got it.”
  • And finally, here’s a few more gems from O’Donnell. And yes, she really does believe scientists are creating mice/ human hybrids.