Monday, August 26, 2013

'Cause how you get there's the worthier part

I watched the Madrid Express pull out of port the other day. I've always found freighters exciting. Any kind of ship, really. Some might not see adventure in cargo-hauling, but I sure do. Besides the fact we badly need men and ships like this, there is a sheer awesomeness to powerful machines carrying stuff around.

I love semi-trucks, too. Maybe it was from watching too much Transformers as a kid (Optimus Prime was a favorite), but I suspect my love of big rigs is a parallel to my fascination with huge merchantmen. I especially love to see trucks blasting down a dark highway when they're streamlined with lights.

Part of it, I'm sure, is the romance of  nomads going hither and yon and all that. Or it could be because I'm named for the patron saint of travelers. I've traveled a bit myself of course: lived on Oahu, been to Europe, Alaska, both coasts of America but deep down I'm a sedentary kinda guy. And we sedentary folk look to the travelers with interest...and more than a little envy.

Authors even more than regular folks. I mean, writers know that the mere notion of travel is enough to make a story interesting. People don't need to save the world or defeat monsters, they just need to go places. Smokey and the Bandit and Firefly aren't about heroes, but they sure are fun to watch.

This puts me in mind of a documentary I was watching from the BBC. The host encountered some camel drovers as they made camp for the night. These men trekked up and down war-torn Sudan through searing deserts without air-conditioning, iced frappaccinos or even a roof over their heads at night. When the TV host asked them how they put up with it, they responded with something to the effect of "Put up with what? This is the best life there is."

I suspect they know something we don't.

I'll full-circle this post and end with a quote from Lao Tzu, courtesy of Loreena McKennitt: "A good traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving."

(Full-circle because the post heading is a quote from Firefly.) 

Monday, August 19, 2013


I used to know a Guy. Several decades ago, he sat next to me in a couple classes and wrote the occasional story. He noticed that I wrote, too. I never really saw it as a competition. My earliest stories were written purely as entertainment--for me.

I suspect he did, though. Eventually, the Guy stopped writing. Maybe it was just a phase, I don't know. But later, the same guy picked up the guitar. A mutual friend did as well. This mutual friend was pretty talented and after a little while of playing together, the Guy stopped playing guitar altogether.

Now, there's nothing wrong with trying new things and then giving them up. You gotta find what fits, y'know? But it's sad when a person gives up on something just because they aren't instantly the best at it. To quote Max Erhmann:

The competitive spirit can be a good thing, but not when it ruins things. This thought makes me think of sandcastles.

Now if you go to Seaworld (or just Google them, I suppose, since that's probably a little faster and easier for you), you can see professional-grade sandcastles, hardcore deals with discernible towers and windows and battlements, so real you expect to find little sand-soldiers manning the walls.

When I make a sandcastle, though, it looks less like a castle and more like what you'd get if a cement truck disgorged its contents while traveling at high speeds down the interstate.

And yet I still make them. These elephant-droppings don't last, either. Out of laziness, my castles are always built below the tide line, where the water has made the sand easier to mold. I guess if I were a medieval lord, I'd be the type to build my fortress right next to the quarry just to speed things up. Anyway, this proximity to the water means my work is swallowed by the sea that much sooner.

So I know that, no matter how much work I put in, how much sand I get on my elbows or how much sweat burns my eye, the product will always go the way of Atlantis.

It doesn't bother me, though. It's life in miniature. Time is the biggest sea of all, wiping the beach clean century after century. That might depress people, but not me. If all of our sandcastles are going to be swallowed up the same, why waste time comparing yours to others?

Just build and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

You'll Have to Google It

Had a family emergency this weekend, hence the late post.

I'm currently afflicted by a spectacular strangeness, a simultaneous twin ear worm that combines "When I'm Gone" (from Pitch Perfect) with "La Seine" (from A Monster in Paris). I've only seen one of these movies. I'll let you guess which one.

Now one might expect these songs to compete with each other, creating a horrific neuro-cacaphony but they actually go together quite nice, at least in my head. No, the problem is they won't stop. At all. My entire exhausting morning I've carried this insane soundtrack around with me.

I've generally heard that hearing your ear worm or even better, singing it, can get it out of your system.

But what to do when it's two songs? I guess I could fire up Netflix on the Wii while running YouTube on my phone...but timing might be an issue, since my mental composer can apparently speed things up or slow them down to fit the songs together.

The singing would be even more difficult. I have a single rather manly voice, while this bizarro medley requires two decidedly feminine ones. Don't even ask me about pitch-I have the octave range of an asthmatic on a broken harmonica.

I suppose as madness goes, this isn't so bad. Just keep me away from empty cups.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Things I Think About When I Can't Sleep

I've had fairies on the mind lately. I was thinking maybe I could stay up late at the next full moon and catch a few. Then I could take them home and put them in a terrarium (or, more appropriately, a feyrrarium).

I have to admit, there will be hurtles. What do pixies eat, anyway? Mushrooms probably. I already know what they drink: dewdrops and moon-wine. I hope they're teetotaling fairies, though. This is Florida. We have a lot of dew but not much lunar alcohol.

They'll probably bring clothes with them but I'll make sure to collect gossamers in case they want to make more. Will they make their own or will I be expected to tailor for them? Where can I buy a millimeter-long needle?

Exercise may be a problem. I doubt they'll use a hamster wheel. Maybe I could buy a leafblower and rig up some kind of wind-tunnel for them to fly in. Tiny earplugs will be necessary if I do that.

Frankly, I'm more of a free range guy anyway. I trained rabbits to use a litter box, so maybe I can figure something out for fairies. Will they use chamber pots or should I have to rig up plumbing for them?

The free range solution presents other problems. I was able to thwart rabbits (and small children) by putting troublesome objects up high, on shelves. Since fairies fly, where will I put items they can't have?

There's also my cats. Free range fairies would hypothetically share a house with two highly-evolved hunter-killer units. Now the Kitten (what I call her--even though she's grown up) is quick and tenacious, but she's small. They could probably give her a few shilelagh-whacks to let her know they mean business and everything will be fine. The ol' fat tom is another story. At first one might think he wouldn't be a problem, since he's blind. But if the fairies are the invisible kind, he may be the only one of us who can catch them. I mean, he's spent the last year developing his non-visual sense organs, becoming like one of those blind Kung Fu master-hermits you see in the movies, only smaller and fuzzier. He might go after the fairies just to show them that invisibility is a shit power when your pursuer is blind. He's like that, the jerk.

There are moral questions to consider as well. I'm not usually one to catch animals for domestication. I'm more of the visit-the-pound kinda guy. Plus, unlike a lot of pets, fairies look a lot like people. It'll be harder to convince myself they're undeserving of constitutional protection. I'd have to call them 'wards' instead of pets, like I was from San Francisco or something.

Finally, there's the fact I'd have six-inch hedonists in my house. Would they keep me up at night, dancing and playing little instruments? How loud are pixie instruments, anyway? I suppose I could soundproof a room for them. Or institute a curfew. And what about the delicate subject of fairy fornication? I mean, if the legends are any indicator, fairies like to copulate. A lot. They have to be, given the fact they're always trying to pawn their kids off on us. Anyway, when my offspring and I saw two grasshoppers at the park last week it was pretty easy to say "that one's getting a ride from his friend," which was technically true. But I don't think that explanation will work if the child walks in on a live-action diorama of a Roman orgy.

Well, the Con column is pretty robust so far, while the Pro column consists mainly of "They have pretty wings" and "I already have a cage" with a few slight variations.

Not every idea is a keeper, right? I'll get over it.

I do have a nice yard, though. Maybe I could lure in a troll....

*Besides the obvious influence of too much children's television, I was partially inspired by this book I read as a kid. It had advice on how to find, trap, and then domesticate supernatural critters like werewolves and vampires.