Edge of Oblivion

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Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in Doug Liman’s “Edge of Tomorrow”

I have to admit, I’m pretty impressed with Tom Cruise’s performance in two blockbuster action/sci-fi films recently: Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow. I’ve been a fan of the former for a while now, and my father got me to sit down and watch Edge with him tonight. (I was interested, it just takes an act of Congress for me to actually relax and enjoy a movie.) This article is going to have some spoilers; consider yourself warned.

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Weather Delays

Last night I was so exhausted I got home from work and ended up falling asleep for 16 hours, more or less. I intended to make up for the missed post today, but awful weather has struck and, unable to get home, I am taking refuge in a hotel. I am fine, the roads are just shitty. However I only have my tablet and typing on this is not the most expedient or enjoyable endeavor.

I will see you all tomorrow. For now, good night. I hope you are safe, and I hope you are warm. Please check out my friend Dennis’s web fiction, The Solstice War. (http://www.spiritsofeden.com)

March 3rd: The Anniversary of My Grandfather’s Death

It’s a bit past midnight on the 4th at this point now, but you’ll understand what I mean when I say that today, the 3rd, was the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death. I worked all day, so I didn’t exactly have time to set aside for remembrance.

On the morning of March 3rd, 2014, my grandfather was outside his home in West Virginia during a winter much like the one we have now, shoveling snow from his driveway so that if his wife’s mother needed an ambulance it would be able to get to them. The effort proved too much, and he had a heart attack. He wasn’t found for a while, until his wife came out to check on him. By the time the ambulance arrived, it was too late. My grandfather always had too strong of a work ethic. Barring his age of 80 years, he had been in relatively good health. Then he was gone. Continue reading

An Unhappy Reunion

The spring thaw had finally begun to work its way north to Otreta. Rivulets of melting snow rained down from branches spotted with the first budding green leaves of the season. Marzena pulled her black cloak around her. The sun was not so pleasantly warm just yet.

The scent of freshly baked bread reached Marzena’s nose. She wandered over to the window of the opening bakery, and purchased a few small buns filled with meat. The flaky crust cracked open as she bit into it, and she savored the warm contents. When she had finished, she licked her fingers, pulled a cigar from her pouch, and conjured a small mote of flame in her palm to light it. The smoke and her breath mixed in the cold air and drifted away.

Up ahead she heard a commotion. She wasn’t the only one—several townsfolk began making their way toward the center of town. There was a gathering of some sort, and judging by the sound, it was growing. Continue reading

Groundhog Nuggets

I am done with the winter. Today we had a winter weather advisory for freezing rain and ice. The roads themselves were not terrible, but every parking lot and sidewalk was a death trap waiting to happen. I had an appointment at 5:30 this afternoon, so I went. I got home around 7:30. I get out of the car, walk behind it, and one of my legs begins to slide out from under me. So I grab on the rear of the car and lower myself to a kneeling position.

From that I attempt to crawl up my driveway, but continue to slip back down. My driveway, mind you, is not slanted at a particularly steep angle. Yet it was enough of one, apparently, that I may as well have been climbing Everest. Alas, I had forgotten my pitons and rope.

Our yard, however, was covered in a thick blanket of snow from the previous two weeks of bad weather. Snow has much better traction than ice, so I developed a plan. I flailed my way over across the driveway to the snowbank, and was able to stand. A layer of ice had frozen over the snow, but I was able to crack it easily enough and press in to the white powder beneath. In this fashion I made my way–feeling like a Jack London character–twenty feet across the yard and to my front steps. Those we had coated with sand earlier in the day, and proved easier to scale than the driveway.

I hate this season. It’s never so bad in December, but as February and March roll around the weather has been abysmal these last few years. I nearly died once in a driving accident during the “Snowpocalypse” we had four years ago, and it forever tainted my feeling of winter as a season of beautiful snowscapes and snuggling. I despise it, in many ways worse than the insufferable heat of summer.

So fuck it. Next year we’re all going to get together, drive to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and cook that fucking spineless hedgehog into nuggets. WHO IS WITH ME? Can’t have six more weeks of winter when we’re dipping that little bastard in barbecue sauce!

Other acceptable strategies include: filling his den with cement, sewing his eyes shut, and the ever-reliable orbital strike.

The last two weeks have really been dragging a lot of people down, and for good reason. The sky is oppressive, getting around is difficult to impossible, and a general sense of wintry malaise hangs in the air. I’m also quite open to the idea of a cuddle pile.

I hope to have some more fiction for you tomorrow. Not sure what I’ll be doing, but probably a brief character sketch or something similar. Still not sure what I want to do with all these imaginary people floating around in my head. Until then, hang in there, and don’t let the weather get you down. The sun’ll come out… someday.

See you tomorrow for another 500 words.

Reaching Out Past Myself

I thought about sharing a piece of my old writing here. It came up during a conversation with a friend. We were discussing the awkwardness of men trying to open up emotionally to other men, and I mentioned that I’d written a line about that in a short piece I wrote nearly a decade ago.

But I’m not going to share it here. It was a different time, and I’ve changed a lot since then. It was an angry bit of writing, filled with self-loathing, frustration, entitlement. I see that I had begun to touch on such things in that piece, but I was nowhere near where I am these days. I intended to preface the (coincidentally around 500-word) story with info like I am now. Then I began figuring out what tags I should give it for content, and that was when I realized, you know what, some things are better left in the past. So I’ll just share that particular line, summarize the important parts, and reflect. Continue reading

BURN THE WITCH(hazel)!

Alright, so I may have gone a little overkill. Today you could practically peel my face off like a mask. So I need to cut back on the witch hazel. A friend suggested I use it 2-3 times a week, and more importantly I need to pick up some moisturizer.

On the plus side: blackheads are disappearing! My (enormous) nose is looking better every day.

I’m also going to take a break on Thursdays from here on out. I’m happy I’ve managed eight days in a row, and I may occasionally post something on a Thursday night anyway, but like with the witch hazel I realize that not every routine may be good to mindlessly repeat! This is a good day for it, anyway. Thursday is a busy work day for me, and I have Fridays off so I can get some rest and sleep in. Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope the new schedule works out!

See you tomorrow for 500 words.

Cisgender People and Our Mistreatment of Transgender Individuals

This particular ramble includes examples of transphobia, violence against transgender individuals, and talk of suicide.


Recently I’ve seen a few videos made by a woman I know while she was still presenting as male. It’s interesting: there is an awkwardness to her mannerisms, an affectation that is so painfully obvious. Here is a woman–I think to myself as I watch her talk to others–pretending to be a man. Clearly.

Except it’s not so clear, is it? Hindsight is 20/20. I met her after she decided to be public about her real identity as a woman. So, viewing these past videos, I have a reasonable amount of background knowledge and expectations, and I see the exceptions to what I already know.

We–and by “we” I mean myself and other cisgender indivdiuals–are afflicted by blindness. And it is easy, and seems right, to go back and say “I would have known” or even “I did know” about a transgender friend or acquaintance’s identity. It sounds good, it makes us feel like better allies. We’re more aware than those other people.

We need to stop that. Because typically we don’t know. We see what we want to see, and thanks to the wonders of privilege what we want to see is often what society expects.

I have another friend whom I did know in person. He came out to me as transgender a while ago, and as I look back on my interactions with him throughout the years I think, well, it makes sense. But really, there was no point at which I actually stopped and thought, “Well, he’s a guy.”

The problem when cisgender individuals say we knew about a transgender person’s identity, we discount their efforts. Transgender folks put up a facade for their own personal benefit and safety. They might not even know they’re doing it. There’s a reason some come to it as more of a sudden revelation than a certainty they’ve known all their lives.

But that facade takes a toll. It kills. Transgender people have an alarmingly high suicide rate. They are dying by inches because the personal cost of them coming out to the public is phenomenally high. And while you might think that saying “Oh, I kind of knew” sounds comforting and affirming, consider it may actually sound like you realized the staggering amount of suffering they had and decided the status quo of your relationship was just fine.

And maybe that’s true. Maybe we, my cisgender readers and I, make just such a judgment on occasion. That’s a hard truth to consider. Consider it anyway.

Then there’s the issue of “pronouns”, or what it really is: basic human decency. I’ve seen plenty of well-meaning cisgender people–and in the past I myself have been guilty of–misgendering a transgender person. And there are a lot of mental and conversational gymnastics we will try to use to excuse it. “It’s difficult” or “I get confused” are two of the worst. Imagine, if you will, that I’m speaking to you and at random intervals in the conversation I reach up and backhand you across the face. And when you look shocked or get angry I just say, “I’m sorry, it’s hard for me too. I get confused sometimes. Sometimes I forget hitting you hurts.”

Our transgender friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers have already paid enough in mental well-being and personal effort to make us comfortable. If it takes us more personal effort to use the right pronouns and to pay attention to what they say, then we put in the effortFull stop. If we do screw up, stop, apologize, do not attempt to make excuses, move on, and never do it again.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

Rikki Tikki Tavi

A friend of mine is currently working on some illustrations for a Rikki Tikki Tavi book. I mentioned that, as a child, the 1975 Chuck Jones animated short film was one of my favorite things to watch. She is also a fan, and pointed me to an earlier version created in 1965 by the Soviet animation studio Soyuzmultfilm. I am a big fan of Soviet animation such as Hedgehog in the Fog, Nu Pogodi!, and Mystery of the Third Planet, so it was a perfect match.

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Rikki Tikki faces off against Nag while Nagaina sneaks up from behind.
(Soyuzmultfilm, 1965)

Being much more of an artist than I, she did tell me that both films used a lot of yellow ochre, especially for the sky. This was the only bit she found particularly frustrating, and mentioned it was amusing that terrible sky colors managed to cross ideological lines during the cold war.

The two films are both about 30 minutes each, and follow the same general story: the mongoose Rikki Tikki gets taken in by a family after nearly drowning, and has to confront the cobra pair Nag and Nagaina, who seek to drive the family from their home and be rid of the mongoose.

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Rikki Tikki stares down Nag.
(Chuck Jones Productions, 1975)

The approach is rather different. The Jones film is much closer to the Kipling story. The family is white and British, settled in India, and many parts of the film largely focus on the relationship between Rikki Tikki and the family.

Soyuzmultfilm’s version, however, makes the family Indian, and spends a lot more time dealing with the animals in the garden. As my friend and I discussed, the choice to have a native Indian family appears to be a direct blow against British imperialism, which naturally the USSR had a vested interest in not promoting. I think it was a great choice, personally.

Jones’s version is narrated by Orson Welles, while the SMF film has no narration. Welles delivers several lines from the short story itself, including one about how “every good mongoose wishes to be a house mongoose”. There is apparently a reasonable amount of scholarship on the subject of the story being a piece of imperialist propaganda, which makes a lot of sense coming from Kipling. To Chuck Jones’s credit I don’t feel that is a focus of the film, but it certainly comes across more clearly than the subversive Soviet adaptation.

The film from my childhood holds up well in terms of animation. Obviously I am more aware and critical of the subtext, but as I said I feel the film doesn’t linger on it as much as the actual short story. I was delighted with my friend for sharing the Soviet film with me; it has been added to my bookmarks and watched several times already. I was able to introduce my sister to the Chuck Jones short, which made me happy, and even managed to involve her in a brief discussion about the politics behind it.

Anyway, check out some of the films above. I highly recommend them. Until next time, I’ll see you in 500 words.

Meeting in the Orchard

The breeze carried the scent of apples from the roadside inn’s orchard, and Hyun-jung decided to take a walk.

She had never taken this road through Durthen before. The area was pleasant rolling green hills and cultivated stands of trees. This inn, the one she stayed at last night, had been warm and welcoming. Perhaps she would stay tonight as well.

Hyun-jung strolled through the orchard and found a nice patch of shade. She sat down, brushing long strands of black hair from her eyes, which the wind saw fit to blow right back. Sighing, she crawled around until the apple tree’s trunk shielded her from the brunt of the wind, then removed her flute from her pack.

Taking a deep breath, she placed the flute to her lips and began to play a melody from home, though she let the notes and the tempo drift with the wind. Her eyes drooped shut.

Home was a long way from Durthen. Just over two years ago Hyun-Jung had crossed the sea, hoping to see more of the world. She’d have some tales to tell when she returned, but she wasn’t ready for that yet. There was too much to do.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a crunching noise. She opened her eyes, and only a few feet from where she sat stood a very tall woman with red hair and pale, milky skin. The woman wore light brown trousers and an intricately embroidered purple shirt. A black cape with shoulder guards completed the ensemble, denoting her as a wizard of one of the Academies. Hyun-jung wasn’t familiar enough with them to know which.

The woman smiled, chewing, and held out an apple. “Habbul?” she mumbled through a full mouth.

“I’m sorry?” She tugged nervously at the collar of her blue tunic.

A blush came to the other woman’s cheeks. She chewed quickly and swallowed. “No, I’m sorry. Apple?” She gestured again, offering it.

“I mean, can I help you?”

“Ah, no,” she said. “I came out for a walk and heard you playing. Sorry to interrupt.” She took a bite of the apple in her other hand. “That was a lovely song.”

“Thank you,” Hyun-jung offered. She still wasn’t sure about this woman, but she didn’t appear actively dangerous. “Would you like to sit?” She motioned to the grass near where the woman stood. She dwarfed many of the men Hyun-jung had met on the road. Her standing there was more than a little imposing.

Her unexpected visitor laughed. It sounded a little self conscious. Unceremoniously, she plopped to the ground. “Sorry again. Sometimes I forget about the whole… well, you know. I’m Marzena, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, Marzena. I’m Hyun-jung. I think I’ll take that apple now, if you don’t mind.”

[That’s it for now! I’m trying to suss out Hyun-jung’s character, and get a better feel for writing Marzena who is already a bit more developed in my mind. Plus, trying to write fiction again. I will likely rewrite this entire thing down the road as I get more certain of what I want to do, but for now I’m just trying to get a sense of characters and a setting for a fantasy story. See you in 500 words!]