by Robert Waltz
Not for the faint of art.
A complex number is expressed in the standard form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers and i is defined by i^2 = -1 (that is, i is the square root of -1). For example, 3 + 2i is a complex number.
The bi term is often referred to as an imaginary number (though this may be misleading, as it is no more "imaginary" than the symbolic abstractions we know as the "real" numbers). Thus, every complex number has a real part, a, and an imaginary part, bi.
Complex numbers are often represented on a graph known as the "complex plane," where the horizontal axis represents the infinity of real numbers, and the vertical axis represents the infinity of imaginary numbers. Thus, each complex number has a unique representation on the complex plane: some closer to real; others, more imaginary. If a = b, the number is equal parts real and imaginary.
Very simple transformations applied to numbers in the complex plane can lead to fractal structures of enormous intricacy and astonishing beauty.
PROMPT September 21st
Today’s prompt is straight from Fivesixer ’s notebook!
It’s come to my attention that Leonard Cohen has a posthumous album coming out, and the first single dropped today. It's spare and beautiful and sad and lovely. Listen to the song below and write anything you want about how it makes you feel.
Some of these prompts are, admittedly, a struggle.
This one is not one of those.
Still - what can I say about Leonard Cohen that I haven't already said?
I'll tell you a story. It's a true story, though the details may be worn away by time and the elements.
Once, long ago, there was a boy and a girl. He'd spent the vast majority of his short life in Virginia; she, in Ontario. They were young, but not too young. Sixteen, maybe, or seventeen. They met at a camp in upstate New York. I'd like to say they fell in love, but he knew, even then, it wasn't love. Did she? Maybe. Maybe not. That wasn't the foremost thing on his mind. I think you can guess what was the foremost thing on his mind.
He leaned against her, and she opened up a book of poems, and she read some of them aloud.
The boy became entranced: not so much by her, though he would forever remember her fondly, but by the poems. He'd never heard of their author: a man named Leonard Cohen who, like the girl, was proudly Canadian.
Thus began a lifelong journey into beautiful darkness. I found out later that he was not just a poet, but also a singer/songwriter, one who hobnobbed with the likes of Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. He even wrote a song about Joplin. It remains one of my favorite songs.
You remember when I said (probably several times now) that sad songs make me happy? This was the beginning of that. Oh, yeah, in case it wasn't painfully obvious, the boy in the story was me.
I don't know much about his personal life, only that he struggled with deep depression, a struggle that was reflected in his work. Like I've said, I'm not one for celebrity-worship, and he barely qualifies as a celebrity. In fact, a lot of people still don't know about him. Chances are they've heard his music, though, and not realized it. Zack Snyder, the movie director, seems to be a fan - Cohen's music turns up in his soundtracks, which is one reason I will always appreciate Snyder's movies, even the ones that people like to rag on. And there was a period where just about every performer covered "Hallelujah." Yeah - that song was Cohen's. He wrote that dark-ass shit. You're probably more familiar with the Jeff Buckley version of it, but my all-time favorite rendition was by Brandi Carlile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1sFYdwlXtI
I could go into exactly why that song is the greatest piece of poetic music ever penned, but this is already dragging on.
By the way, Cohen is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yeah. I wouldn't call what he did rock and roll, but here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9IZfiHEgd8
I count myself lucky that I saw him on stage - not once, but twice; the first time was on one of my birthdays, a cold and dreary February in New York City. The second time was in a half-empty auditorium at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.
But I'm supposed to talk about how that video embedded above makes me feel. Honestly, I'm not sure I can. Cohen was one of the victims of the unholy year 2016, having died that November at a ripe old age. Others may mourn other victims of that year, but for me, the greatest loss was that of Leonard Cohen. Hearing the posthumous release - well, it brings back the whole flood of memory associated with his poetry and music.
So I'll do what I always do when I can't really express my feelings: I'll let Leonard say it for me, because he always has been, and always will be, able to describe my emotions better than I can.
Now in Vienna there are ten pretty women
There's a shoulder where Death comes to cry
There's a lobby with nine hundred windows
There's a tree where the doves go to die
There's a piece that was torn from the morning
And it hangs in the Gallery of Frost
Aey, aey, aey, aey
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws
Oh, I want you, I want you, I want you
On a chair with a dead magazine
In the cave at the tip of the lilly
In some hallway where love's never been
On a bed where the moon has been sweating
In a cry filled with footsteps and sand
Aey, aey, aey, aey
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take its broken waist in your hand
This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz
With its very own breath of brandy and Death
Dragging its tail in the sea
There's a concert hall in Vienna
Where your mouth had a thousand reviews
There's a bar where the boys have stopped talking
They've been sentenced to death by the blues
Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture
With a garland of freshly cut tears?
Aey, aey, aey, aey
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take this waltz, it's been dying for years
There's an attic where children are playing
Where I've got to lie down with you soon
In a dream of Hungarian lanterns
In the mist of some sweet afternoon
And I'll see what you've chained to your sorrow
All your sheep and your lillies of snow
Aey, aey, aey, aey
Take this waltz, take this waltz
With its "I'll never forget you, you know"
This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz
With its very own breath of brandy and Death
Dragging its tail in the sea
And I'll dance with you in Vienna
I'll be wearing a river's disguise
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder
My mouth on the dew of your thighs
And I'll bury my soul in a scrapbook
With the photographs there, and the moss
And I'll yield to the flood of your beauty
My cheap violin and my cross
And you'll carry me down on your dancing
To the pools that you lift on your wrist
Oh my love, oh my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz
It's yours now, it's all that there is
Songwriters: Garcia Lorca / Leonard Cohen
Take This Waltz lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
PROMPT September 20th
The prompt today is from WakeUpAndLive~2019 !
Have you ever experienced hateful comments on the Internet? How do you deal with shaming, blaming, and intolerance?
Sure, hasn't everybody?
Long ago, I developed a personal policy of utterly ignoring trolls.
This serves two important purposes: One, I don't get my balls all in a knot, because I pretend the hater doesn't exist. And two, the one thing that trolls want more than anything else is attention, and this deprives them of that. I like to imagine their heads exploding all over their mothers' basements.
You'd think such a thing would be easy. It's not, always, though as with other things, it gets easier with practice. When someone is wrong on the internet , the natural human response is to engage with that person, show them why they're wrong, and make choice comments about their parentage (or lack thereof), personal hygiene habits, sexual practices, and afterlife destination.
There's no point.
You're not going to change someone's mind, and most of the people doing the hateful stuff don't want their minds changed. Hell, some of 'em don't even believe what they're saying. They're just doing it for the lulz. And the attention, but mostly for the lulz. If they can get a rise out of you - or any response, really - they've won. You've lost.
The only way to win is not to play.
If everyone adopted this policy, the trolls would wither away and die. Well, metaphorically. They might at least go somewhere else, mill amongst their own kind for a while.
It's even more difficult when it's not directed at me personally. Racist or sexist comments, for example; that sort of thing. But I've rarely seen that behavior and been in a position to do anything about it. I mean, sure, if it happens here on WDC there are actions I can take, but we don't get that a lot here, at least not for very long.
And I don't like blocking people. I want to hear what they have to say, even if it's hateful. Otherwise, they're speaking behind my back, and I don't much like that, either.
We've developed social practices around the idea that we're meeting face-to-face. Things are different online. The people on the other end of the internet are real people, sure, but we're under no obligation to engage with them if we don't want to. This is not to say that we should all just hang out with like-minded people exclusively, but there's no reason to tolerate intolerance.
PROMPT September 19th
Our very own Kittiara is getting married today! Congratulations Kit!
The prompt today comes straight from me:
Write a detailed description of how your significant other (or another loved one) has made you a better person.
First of all,
RUN, KIT! RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN!
With that out of the way...
Ever notice that it's always "other people" who claim that being a better person means acting less selfishly? In other words, the very people who stand to gain from convincing you that you're better if you consider other people, stand to benefit from you considering other people.
Bit selfish of them, don't you think?
Seriously, though, apart from that, I don't know what qualifies me to be a "better person." Also, I don't have a significant other, or immediate family. I do have friends, of course, and I think they help keep me from egregious errors. My housemate, for example - good friend, but platonic - I'm pretty sure I'd be less diligent about things around the house if I were living alone.
I think about that whenever I get the idea that I want to live alone. I mean, I do want to - never been able to, for one reason or another - but it's probably a bad idea.
Another friend, much younger, keeps me from descending into the quiet chaos of despair. Sometimes it's good for optimists and pessimists to be friends. The optimist (her) keeps the pessimist from giving up completely, and the pessimist (me) keeps the optimist's rose-colored glasses wiped clean of streaks and smudges.
To be specific about one thing we've discussed: I am of the considered opinion that the time to do anything about climate change was about 30 years ago. We didn't do anything, and now it's too late. We're utterly fucked. And I used to care that we're doomed, but I don't anymore. Let the world burn; I won't be around much longer to see the barbecue. Further, at this point, if we did somehow manage to turn things around, the denier brigade would just point at the world and go, "See? Nothing happened. It was all overblown." So yeah, I just want the world to come to a flaming halt so my last words to the deniers could be "WE TOLD YOU SO." And I get these moods where I just want to consume to excess just to help things along.
But having a younger friend makes me want to care, if only for her sake. Not that I do care, but at least I want to, and that's something, I suppose.
I don't consider myself a good person. I mean, I don't kick puppies or treat waitstaff like shit or shoplift or vomit in my Uber rides or anything like that, but that's basic courtesy, nothing to be proud of. So I'm not sure I'd be a worse person without my friends, but I wouldn't care to find out.
PROMPT September 18th
Today, we have another prompt from Robert Waltz !
If you had to switch places with one other person, who would it be and why? What in particular would you do?
Halle Berry's husband. Halle Berry.
Need I go on? Ah, well, I'm responsible for this prompt, so I'd probably better go on.
Just to be clear, the above is what's known in the comedy industry as a joke. Not meant to be taken seriously.
I wouldn't want to switch places with anyone. I don't know what kind of internal or hidden external crap they're dealing with, nor do I want to. Also, I kind of like being me. Yeah, I'm dealing with my own crap, but at least I'm familiar with its pungent odor.
But... if I had to... it would probably be some random billionaire, like Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffett. I presume I'd still be "me" inside, so I know for whom to set up an irrevocable trust. I like money, and they wouldn't even miss the paltry three or four million I'd give myself. Assuming we'd switch back at some point. But that money would make a big difference for me. Economics is all about marginal changes. Meanwhile, I'd take the opportunity to fly around on his private jet and maybe arrange to meet Halle Berry.
I guess that's a lame, materialistic answer, but it's still better than wanting to bang Halle Berry under false pretenses.
The worst thing, though, wouldn't be me waking up with a whole different skin suit and set of expectations. No, the worst thing would be the "switch places" part. They'd be stuck in my head, and that's not a fate I'd wish on anyone, not even Bezos. One look in the mirror and they'd probably have a heart attack, leaving me no one to switch back into.
Even assuming everything else goes well, I'd spend the rest of my life contemplating the nature of consciousness and the existence of supernatural forces, probably going insane in the process. No, thanks. But at least I'd have more money.
PROMPT September 17th
Today’s prompt is from Kittiara !
Did you have a comfort blanket/toy when you were little? What comforts you now?
The tears of my enemies.
Didn't everybody have a comfort thingie when they were a kid? I distinctly remember having a teddy bear. I don't know that I ever named it. No idea what happened to it. Probably "went off to live in the country." Oh, wait, my parents couldn't use that particular lie; we lived in the country already.
Recently, I was reading one of the science blogs I follow, and the guy posted a picture of the teddy bear he had when he was a kid. And this guy's quite a bit older than I am. I tend to keep things way beyond their usefulness, but not that. Very likely, my parents decided for me, like they did with my first comic book collection, for which I can never forgive them.
When I was 4, my parents obtained a collie. I suppose she would count, as well; she always slept near my bed. I named her "Lassie" because I was fucking four, okay? Oh, who am I kidding; I'm no more creative with names now than I was back then.
Only dog I ever had, that one. Lassie was a good dog. Had to be, to put up with kid-me.
I don't know if this counts as a comfort thing, but I can't sleep right unless there's a blanket. Even when it's really hot - which it hardly ever is, because I'm civilized and have climate-change-inducing central air conditioning - I have to have at least a light blanket. A sheet won't do. And yet, I kept sleeping with blanket-hogging chicks. My solution was to have an emergency blanket of my own. Bad enough to get into fights when you're awake; you don't want to do it when you're half asleep. Anyway, it doesn't matter much which blanket; any will do, even the shitty ones in hotel rooms.
I hear people talk about "comfort food" all the time. Honestly, I don't quite get it. Either I like a food or I don't. Since I've been restricting calorie intake, I haven't been eating my usual foods, and while I miss things like grilled cheese sandwiches, it's more about taste than comfort.
Pretty sure Brussels sprouts isn't anyone's comfort food.
Oh well, off to cook some Brussels sprouts.
PROMPT September 16th
Another prompt from Elle !
Have you ever played a sport? Were you any good? What did you like about it? Why did you stop playing (if you did)?
Not really, no, nothing, because I hated it.
Okay, maybe not done. I'll just take this opportunity to rant.
I hate sports. I don't like watching them, and I especially don't like participating in them.
I'm not a competitive person. "But, Waltz, you're always entering contests here on Writing.Com! In fact, you're entering this into one right now!" Yeah, and winning is nice and all, but I don't enter them to be competitive with other people; I enter them to practice writing. Sure, I could do that without entering contests, but I tend to get more feedback by entering. And I can, to some extent, track my improvement. Most importantly, the only parts of my body that move are my fingers.
With sports, though, I hate everything about the things. I don't like physical activity. I don't like the risk of injury. I don't like how the other team, or individual players, try to psych you out. I don't like winning. I don't like losing. I'd rather simply not play.
Some things that may be considered sports aren't so bad. Bowling, for example. Not a lot of moving. Hard to injure yourself unless you overdo it or do something monumentally stupid like dropping the ball on your foot. You're mostly just trying to improve your own performance, unless you're in a league, which you don't have to be.
But I really, really hate being ranked. If you're near the bottom, people mock you. If you're in the middle, people taunt you. If you're at the top, people try to outdo you.
And yeah, maybe I have lingering resentment over always being the smallest person in the class, and thus was always picked last for the teams, because everyone expected I'd be crap. Consequently, I was crap. I was a year behind everyone else, physically. Hasn't mattered for decades, but that shit stays with you.
Most sports are zero-sum games. One winner, one loser. There's no in-between. Oh, people talk a good game about "playing with heart" or "doing your best," but the only thing most people care about is winning.
It leads to the philosophy that life is all about competing. It's not. The basic process of society isn't competition, but cooperation. This is true even in sports - you focus on Team A vs. Team B, but there's an implicit cooperation even between the competitors; that is, the people involved agree on the rules first, and rule violations are penalized. But no one gives a shit about that; they only see the competitive aspect.
And I think that's fundamentally unhealthy.
PROMPT September 15th
Today’s prompt is from reigning 30DBC Champion, Eric Wharton !
In 1969, Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. Afterward, people commonly complained, “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they ______?” How would you finish that statement today?
"...shut up about moon landing hoax 'theories.'"
The ultimate expression of false credulity to finish that sentence was, "...put them all there?" usually uttered by neurotic women at wine-tasting events.
You wanna know why moon landing hoaxers piss me off so much? I'm just drunk enough to tell you, even though it'll give people ammunition to troll me with. So sit back and prepare for typo-laden rambling.
As I've noted before, landing humans on the moon was, by my definition, not only the most significant achievement made by humankind, but the most significant achievement that could ever be made by humankind. While there will, hopefully, be other firsts - first human on Mars, first human to leave the solar system, first human to set foot on a habitable planet other than Earth, first human to freeze to death on Pluto, etc. - the moon thing is significant because it's another world, and you only get to claim that first once.
Damn, I'm still drunk. What I mean is, for as long as we've been conscious, we've wondered about those other lights in the sky, made up stories about them, tried to figure out what they actually were, but were inevitably tied to this hunk of rock with its tissue-thin biosphere. At some point, our curiosity drove us to develop tools, languages, math, science, technology, and, inevitably, being what we are, we had to go and see these things in the sky for ourselves. And our first faltering step in that direction was to put someone under the gravitational influence of a world other than Earth. Considering that we evolved specifically for and alongside this world that we're on now, making the leap to a different world is kind of a big deal. The biggest deal, I think.
So when idiot moron retards try to minimize the accomplishment by claiming it never happened, that it was all a hoax done on a sound stage, that it was a vast conspiracy to play out international mind games, they are denying the greatest achievement of humanity. They are, in effect, denying that humanity can achieve anything great. It's the same kind of anti-hominid mentality that leads people to believe that the pyramids could only have been built with the assistance of space aliens, or that Stonehenge was a flying saucer landing pad or whatever fucking fringe theory that minimizes humanity's accomplishments in favor of believing in some "higher" power.
Other people have thoroughly debunked the moon-landing "hoax," so I'm not going to go into all that (besides... still drunk here), but I will point out that if we'd faked it, a) the Russians would have had to be complicit, meaning they would have had to agree to back us up in a big lie during the height of the Cold War; b) the thousands and thousands of people involved would have had to all manage to shut up about it; and c) it would have taken more advanced technology to make a realistic moon "set" than it did to actually go to the moon.
I kind of get the "denying humanity's achievement" thing. I mean, look at us - we're a bunch of brutal apes more generally concerned with our relative position in whatever social hierarchy than in achieving anything for its own sake. Hell, the Space Race was one massive dick-measuring contest; I can freely admit that. The motivations behind it, though, are irrelevant considering the results. Hell, you might say we achieved this momentous feat because of our primate nature, rather than rising above it. (Incidentally, I'd still consider it humanity's greatest achievement if the Russians had managed to be first in that as they were first in many other space milestones. It's not a nationalist thing; it's a humanist thing.)
But here's the thing about humans: we may be, collectively, a bunch of damn dirty apes, but occasionally we can do impressive things. To deny the achievement of July 1969 is to deny the promise of humanity itself, and I won't stand for it.
Damn, I'm starting to sober up, so I guess I'll quit rambling now.
PROMPT September 14th
Today’s prompt was written by Prosperous Snow Globe !
It's said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Describe something that you think is beautiful or attractive that someone else might consider unattractive or ugly.
Okay, but really, yes, beauty is highly subjective, and it's not always about physical appearance.
I'll choose my favorite example: the turkey vulture .
Those birds are, I think the vast majority of people would agree, amazingly unattractive. Ugly, even. So it's not their appearance that is appealing, or even their feeding habits - the idea of eating carrion is repulsive by any human standards.
That's why they're bald, you know. So they can stick their heads deep into a corpse without fouling head feathers. Well, the mechanics of evolution are more complex than that, but that's the general outcome of natural selection in vultures.
And yet, we humans eat carrion, also. Not, to be sure, rotting corpses; but everything we eat (yes, even if you're vegan) is dead. Fresher than a vulture's meal, perhaps, but still... dead. I mean, it's not like lions or whatever eat prey while it's still alive, but there's a brief window there between "I killed it" and "leave it for the vultures," and that window is longer for us, because we have the technology to make it so.
But that brings us to the true beauty of vultures: they remove from the environment those things that, were they to be left to rot, could easily spread sickness. They're the sanitation engineers of the animal kingdom, thus inspiring the scientific name of the turkey vulture: cathartes aura, "golden purifier." They do the job no one else will - or even can - do, and are reviled for it.
It doesn't stop there, though. Turkey vultures in particular are remarkably efficient birds. They won't even flap their wings if they don't have to, preferring instead to locate convenient updrafts and glide to higher vantage points. Maximum reward for minimum effort: I respect, admire, and emulate that. And it seems they don't fly because they have to, but because they want to. I mean, wouldn't you?
There's a popular misconception that vultures circle around animals who are near death, waiting for that moment when they can get their meal. This is not the case. First of all, no self-respecting vulture is going to start munching on a dead beast while it's still fresh enough for apex predators to get their bites in, not unless they're really hungry. Second, the circling is actually the birds staying in an updraft. Hang glider pilots like to look for vultures so they can tell where the thermals are.
They're not cute. They're not cuddly. They're not threats. They're not pets. But they are, in their own way, beautiful.
PROMPT September 13th
Today, the prompt comes from Charlieeee 🌈 !
List some of your favorite books/movies and explain why you like them. After posting your entry, go comment on other bloggers' entries with suggestions based on their favorites.
This is harder than it sounds.
Life, you see, is change. Stories affect what you do and how you think; they also affect other stories, inspiring them. The new story then changes one's perception of the old story. Think of how many times you've heard something like "I like Star Wars." The inevitable response is "but the prequels sucked." But they didn't say anything about the prequels, or even the sequels - just the original movie, retroactively subtitled A New Hope. And that's not even getting into Lucas' retcons.
I ran into that myself fairly recently. For many years now, I've been saying that my favorite movie is the Director's Cut of Blade Runner. This is still true. Or at least I think it is. Is there a movie I like better? At this point, if there were, I'm so invested in "Blade Runner is the greatest movie of all time" that I would be lost if I suddenly switched. And then the sequel came out, and now it's impossible to have a dialogue with someone about Blade Runner without them bringing up the very different sequel. The sequel changed the original - without altering a single frame or line of dialogue. Or, at least, it informs our perceptions of it. Me, I prefer to pretend it never happened. Honestly, I'm not sure why I watched it in the first place. So I could have grounds for having an opinion about it, I suppose.
The reason I like that movie, incidentally, is a combination of factors: the atmospheric soundtrack, the impeccable acting, the ahead-of-their-time effects, and, most of all, the things it says about humanity. All great science fiction holds up a mirror and shows us as we are, warts and all, and Blade Runner is one of the greatest.
It's even harder for me to choose a favorite book. I read Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land at a very early age; it warped me, and shaped me, and for a long time I called it my "favorite." Now, I see more of its problematic nature in light of more recent social developments. Again, the book is the same as it's ever been (apart from the release of the unabridged version); it's only my perception that has changed. Don't get me wrong - considering the time it was published and what I know about the author, it's a remarkable book. But one has to read it in context, these days.
One book I read almost every year, exclusively in October, is by Roger Zelazny, who was a prolific science fiction and fantasy author of the 70s, 80s and 90s. The book is titled A Night in the Lonesome October, and the original editions (I don't know if others have been published) were punctuated by illustrations by the macabre artist Gahan Wilson. I hesitate to summarize it, because doing so can easily spoil it - I'll just say it's a horror story with a dash of humor, narrated by a very loyal dog. And in it, the author draws from various threads of supernatural literature, including Dracula, Frankenstein (the popularized version, not so much the novel), and Lovecraft.
I'm a fan of everything Zelazny wrote, but October turned out to be the last book he published before his death. Appropriate, once you know the theme. I don't know if I'd be quite so enraptured by it if he'd had the opportunity to publish more - because of the effects I've described above. Since the author died, the book remains untarnished in context.
I'm going to go ahead and list one more book. Well, a series, really. It's more contemporary than the others; the author is still working on the sequels. I speak of Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archives, which, look, let's face it, is way better than Game of Thrones in that most of the characters that you're rooting for don't die in painful, horrible ways. Sanderson's signature technique is to come up with fantasy magic systems that are internally consistent, as well as cultures that are alien but make sense, and these books are the pinnacle of his art... so far.
If life made sense, Stormlight would be made into a massive TV series and GoT would be relegated to the obscurity it deserves. (Yes, I read those books. Yes, Martin is an excellent writer; I just didn't like the books. No, I didn't see more than a few episodes of the series.) But life doesn't make sense, and I have to be content with the novels.
So there it is: one fantasy, one supernatural/horror, and one science fiction - just so anyone who chooses to comment as per the prompt above knows what my preferred genres are.
PROMPT September 12th
Today’s prompt is from WakeUpAndLive~2019 !
Have you ever taken writing classes or writing workshops? Here or anywhere else? What are your thoughts on taking them?
Some years ago, through UVA Continuing Education, I attended a writing workshop.
Big mistake. See, UVA, at least at the time, was considered to possess one of the top English departments in the country. I figured, okay, let's check this out and see what it's about. I mean, I'd taken a fiction writing class when I was an undergrad there, and I think I learned stuff. Didn't remember much, though, because my focus was engineering; this was an outside elective. So a refresher was in order, I thought. But the problem with being the best (or even one of the best in a crowded field) English department is that you succumb to the arrant pretentiousness of the "literary" genre.
It was hell. I only made it about halfway. I want to write for readers, not for professors of literature. In a small town with at least two best-selling authors, you'd think they'd know better, but nope.
At least I did learn something: stay the fuck away from lit-snobs.
I did hang out with a local writers' group once. I lasted until the organizer insisted that Moby Dick was worth reading, and then I left because I know better. From Hell's heart I stab at thee!
I've also attended workshops at SF/Fantasy conventions, and those were much more in line with my own goals. But they were one-time things, not courses. There were also workshops at the WDC convention that I went to.
So, my thoughts? Well, just make sure that whatever the course, or workshop, is, is relevant to your interests - or at least have some idea that you can get something out of it. It wouldn't hurt for a science fiction writer to learn more about the mystery genre, for example, or vice versa. As I've said numerous times, there's no such thing as useless knowledge - but we only have a finite amount of time, here, and it's not a bad idea to avoid situations where you know you're not going to fit in, or to focus on the stuff that's more in line with what you want to do.
PROMPT September 11th
Today’s prompt comes from TaH2o ! (With additions by me )
Write about someone who truly moves/touches/inspires you. Do you know them personally, or admire them from afar? What do they do that makes them special?
Moves? Touches? Inspires? A Jedi craves not these things.
In considering this prompt, I racked my brains to come up with someone I knew. Each of my friends inspires me in his or her own way, but no single one really fits what I feel to be the spirit of the prompt. The closest fit is one I've mentioned before, the one I usually write for, who reads my stuff and is still my friend anyway. That's true friendship, right there - it would drive most people away.
So we're left with celebrities and the like: authors, directors, musicians, etc. - people I don't personally know but have had a great impact on my life.
I'm assuming, further, that I'm limited to living people here. Plenty of people who have died have shaped what I am and what I do. Leonard Cohen comes to mind, there; I first got into writing in a pathetic attempt to emulate his poetry. He was an established poet before he became a singer/songwriter/performer, and his songs reflect this background. He was one of the casualties of the dark year 2016.
That's the trouble with getting old. All your heroes start to die off and you're left holding the void. At least they've left a legacy.
I'm going to have to go with another singer/songwriter/performer, Bruce Springsteen. If you only know his work from the "hits," you're only seeing one facet of his talent, and you probably won't understand this. That's okay; it's a very personal thing with me, something I even hesitate to share here, in this context. But there's no escaping the history; from the moment I first heard Born to Run crackling from a shitty AM radio in a shitty Buick back in the 70s, I've been a fan.
It's not something I can readily explain, either. It's not like I fit into the categories of people he writes about. I tried to, long ago, but it's just not my life. There's a combination of things: the poetic lyrics, the music (which can as easily be droning and lost as it can be energetic and uplifting), the story - and there is a story, about someone who knew what he wanted and then reached out and took it, mostly on his own terms. I've never done that, myself, but I can admire it.
And wouldn't you know, I pick two people, one dead, one still with us, who are known to have achieved greatness in spite of - or, perhaps, because of? - crippling depression. That probably says something about me that I'd rather leave unexamined, for now.
This sort of thing is almost a one-way street, though. I can show my support by consuming their product, along with thousands or millions of other people, but I know I can never impact their lives, by myself, in the way they impacted mine. I'm not one for celebrity gossip, or hero-worship; they're just people, with the only difference between them and us being that they're well-known. And maybe a certain drive that I lack.
All this is not meant to diminish the impact on me of hundreds of other people - including my parents, who raised a stranger's child as their own. That takes a dedication that I certainly don't have. Yesterday was an anniversary of my father's birth, so I thought about what he was like at my age, when I was very young. I'm more like him than I care to admit, most of the time.
But he never did like Springsteen.
PROMPT September 10th
Today’s prompt was submitted by LdyPhoenix !
What are some of the weirdest facts you've ever learned? Wow us with your bizarre knowledge!
Today's vocabulary word, boys and girls, is epistemology.
Essentially, that's the study of how we know what we know.
I bring this up because possibly the weirdest fact I ever learned is that we don't know how we know what we know. If that makes any sense. If it does, then congratulations; you're eligible to become a philosopher.
"Fact" is a slippery concept, and I don't just mean for politicians. Most concepts are slippery, I think, if you examine them too closely. It's like... you can see a cat and identify it as a cat, but when you zoom in really close, all you see is the fur. And fur could belong to any number of animals. And what's an animal, anyway? At the smallest scales, the lines get blurred.
This is especially true if you keep zooming in. Eventually, you get to molecules and atoms, and then protons, neutrons, electrons - what we commonly call the building blocks of matter. Zoom in further on a proton or a neutron, and you get to quarks, which are more like electrons. What I mean by that is, not only do we not know where a particular electron or quark is at a given moment, we can't know where it is at that moment. It's all smeared out in a probability distribution.
At that scale, even the distinction between matter and energy is fuzzy. And also the distinction between "is" and "isn't."
How, then, can we know anything?
As I've mentioned before, I only claim to know anything to some degree of probability. I live in Virginia, so I'm close to 100% certain that Virginia exists. But then, what is this concept of "Virginia?" An area enclosed by a surveyed boundary, probably, or perhaps the political system, or its checkered history.
I've been to New York City, so I'm pretty sure it exists, too, though less certain than I am of Virginia. And I've never been to Afghanistan, so I have to take other peoples' word that it exists. I don't have a problem doing this. But if you came up to me and told me you've been to the lost continent of Atlantis, I'm going to need more in the way of confirmation.
So it is with anything we take as "fact."
At some point, to avoid falling down the rabbit-hole, you have to put things in different boxes: "reality," "not-reality," "save for further investigation." But we all tend to put different things into those boxes. Flat-earthers come to mind; the idea of a somewhat spherical Earth goes into the "not-reality" box for them (unless they're just fucking with us, which is a possibility we have to consider). Meanwhile, sane people put the round Earth into the "reality" box. Other people might accept as absolute truth the literal existence (as opposed to the literary existence, which is largely undisputed) of fairies.
Science helps with that sort of thing, but one has to be open to its findings, as well - though science, and science reporting, are not without their problems.
So I don't know if that qualifies as "bizarre." I think it does, if you give it real thought - the idea that there might always be limits to our knowledge, and that facts are actually probabilities.
PROMPT September 9th
Prompt today is straight outta the War Chest courtesy of Robert Waltz !
What is your favorite storytelling medium, and why? Face-to-face? Movies? Novels? Audiobooks, audioplays? Stage productions? Comics? TV shows? Tweetstorms? Concept albums? Something else?
Well. I guess I have no excuse to skip this one, do I?
Full disclosure: I remember posting that prompt in an "add to the War Chest" round of a previous 30DBC. You'd think after 12 years or so of being a judge at "The Writer's Cramp" [13+], I'd be better at creating prompts, but I'm not. When I come up with a really good one, I keep it to myself, because then I want to use it. I only post the ones I wouldn't care to respond to, myself. So that came back and bit me on the ass. Fortunately, this one was the result of a promptstorming session I had with PuppyTales , so it's not... entirely mine. Okay, it's mostly hers. Okay, it's like 98% hers. I think I added "tweetstorms" to be funny, because that's what I do.
My answer is different depending on whether I'm writing or reading. Obviously, I'm a big fan of books; I mean, why else would I be here? I started reading at an early age, and never stopped. Books, or at least printed-word stories, are what I write. Both writing and reading them exercise the imagination.
But when it comes to consuming media, probably my favorite story type is the TV show.
That wasn't always the case. For a long time, I didn't watch TV at all. I mean that as in, I didn't even own a TV. It wasn't until streaming became a thing that I got back into that particular medium. Sturgeon's Law applies, as always: 90% of it is utter crap. But now, being able to watch shows without being interrupted by commercials (which I hate with the nuclear fire of a thousand suns), I see the artistry in it.
There was a massive shift in TV writing that occurred about the time I stopped watching. One of the last things I saw on TV before I gave it up was Babylon 5 (and I didn't finish it at the time). It introduced what would become a mainstay of 21st century TV writing: the story arc. I think Straczynski stole the idea from comic books - that while each episode can be self-contained, there would be an overarching plot that stretched through an entire season (that's series for you Brits), ideally resolved at the end. This was done with varying levels of success, of course.
That simply wasn't the case when I was younger. A single show might refer to an older one, sure; or there might be a "To Be Continued" multi-episode story; and shows like Doctor Who (back then) were serialized in 4-6 episode chunks, but the idea of a season-long story arc was pretty much unheard of before the early 90s. I should note that a single season of Doctor Who, back in the seventies, experimented with this, but it didn't catch on until much later. And the "arc" elements in that one stayed mostly in the background. (If you're wondering I'm referring to The Key To Time, Fourth Doctor, Season 16.)
What you end up with is a televised novel with a series of chapters, or something very like it. Opinions may vary, of course, but that method of storytelling holds my interest better than a bunch of disconnected episodes, even those with a common theme.
Meanwhile, you have time for character development, time that's lacking in such things as movies or short stories. You can do it in comics, too, of course, and I used to be a big-time comics fan also. As I said, the story arc concept was basically invented for comics and only later migrated to TV.
So, in short - writing: traditional short stories and novels, because I lack the skills to do more than just write. Consuming: episodic television, because of the opportunity to tell much longer stories and present intriguing character development.
PROMPT September 8th
Prompt today is submitted by Elle !
What do you think makes a good leader? Share an example of a good leader from your life (or alternatively, a poor leader who taught you what not to do).
It helps to have rolled a high Charisma score.
Aside from that, well, I think a good leader motivates, encourages, kicks butt when necessary, knows when kicking butt is necessary, reads people, understands a person's strengths and weaknesses, and, probably above all, leads by example.
I worked with a guy for 15 years who mentored me in engineering. He'd answer questions, show me efficient ways to do things, and help keep me focused. We had somewhat different skill sets, at least starting out - I was always the computer nerd, while he was more old-fashioned with a pocket calculator - but gradually we picked up each other's skills.
After those 15 years, he left to start his own company and poached me from our old one; we were both dissatisfied with the way the boss was running things. A bunch of people left all at once. So I started working for him directly, and that's when things started going to shit. He'd emulate our former boss by coming in late, taking long lunches, leaving early, and generally fobbing off most of the work on me. Not a great example. This was especially disappointing to me because, while we were never friends outside of work, I thought we had an understanding. When you know someone for 15 years, you think you actually know them, but things change, I guess.
After a couple of years of this, I left with another of his employees to start our own firm. Karma can be a bitch. At that point, I was still doing all the engineering work (my partner was in another discipline), but at least I was reaping the rewards as well.
My business partner and I never had more than three employees, but I like to think we were better to them than my bosses had been to me. I don't know; I don't have much to compare to. At least I tried to lead by example.
These days, I'm happy being responsible for no one but me and my cats. Not that I don't have other responsibilities, but they're hardly onerous.
I don't know what happened to my former co-worker turned boss, by the way. I hope he ended up successful. I don't hold a grudge; I just couldn't be in that situation any more.
PROMPT September 7th
Reflect on WDC’s 19th Birthday week! I don’t know any other online community that celebrates like we do What was your favorite activity to participate in? What is the favorite thing you wrote? What is the favorite thing you read? Did you win anything? (or hope to? ) Tell us!
Yeah... honestly, I didn't do as much as I'd hoped. I've been trying to write at least one contest entry a week all year, but none of the prompts I saw really did it for me, this time. Most of them were about birthdays, and at my age, that's not something I care to think about. Except, of course, when it's my birthday, at which point I want ALL the presents.
So now I'm behind on that. I'm sure I'll be able to catch up, though.
Hey, that's odd. Usually, that sort of thing makes me give something up as hopeless. Maybe I have changed.
Anyway, I was glad to see all the participation. This is a unique venue, as the prompt above alludes, and I like to see it thriving.
Next year is the 20th. Because we're programmed by society to give greater emphasis to numbers that end in 0, I expect that'll be an even bigger deal.
A slightly pedantic aside:
I've seen references to something's nth year. Usually, in context, it goes something like this:
"Jack is 50 years old."
"Amazing! He made it to his fiftieth year!"
While technically correct, if Jack is 50 years old, that means that he also made it to his 51st year.
That sounds odd sometimes, but just think about it: When was your first year? Chances are you don't remember it, but your parents did. They measured your age, then, in months. When you're born, you're 0 years old. A year later, you're 1 year old. In the meantime, you're in your... first year. Consequently, your second year stretches from your first birthday to your second birthday, and so on. When you're 10, you're in your 11th year of life. It's like with centuries: we're in the 21st century, and all the years start with 20.
Put another way, right after you're born, you're not in your 0th year.
You're 29? Then you're either lying, or you're in your 30th year. You can tell someone "I'm 29" or "I'm in my 30th year." The latter will make people think you're 30, because they haven't read this blog entry, so don't do that if you have a youth vanity thing going on.
Point being, as of right now, WDC is in its 20th year, and that's an amazing feat for a relatively small online community.
PROMPT September 6th
I have long adored the practice on WDC of memorializing the portfolios of members who have passed away so all their writings remain visible without needing a membership. See: "White Case Memorial" and "Request a Deceased Member Be Memorialized"
Do you hope to be remembered for your writing? What do you think your writings will say about you when you’re gone? Is your WDC portfolio in suitable shape to be memorialized tomorrow if you were no longer around to tend it?
A while back, I changed my handle to something unutterably silly for a time. I don't even remember what it was - let's say it was Fluffy Bunnykins. So there I was, Fluffy Bunnykins, when it hit me: what if I die tonight? And then my portfolio gets memorialized forever as Fluffy Bunnykins. Not that I ever expect to be taken seriously, but that would just add insult to the injury of my croaking. I made sure to tell my friends to have someone change my handle back to Robert Waltz if that happened. Knowing my friends, though, they'd probably change it to Dead Bunny.
It's the unavoidable reality of life that any of us could die at any time, with or without warning. Rogue seagull invasion. Falling piano. Too much sex. Quantum fluctuation. Whatever. We all know this, at some level, though most of us would rather die at 99, drunk and surrounded by hot sexy scantily-clad women wailing at the terrible loss. Or, I don't know, is that just me? Point being, while we know this, it's probably unhealthy to obsess about it. That's why comedy exists - to take our minds off that sort of thing. Because this might be the last sentence I ever write. Or this one. Or maybe this one. No? Okay, cool.
That said, there's not a whole lot in my life that's in good shape for my inevitable demise. Whenever I think about that sort of thing, though, I become aware not only of my own mortality, but of the sheer amount of work involved in preparing for it: finding a godparent for my cats; cleaning my room; making sure the stove's off; securing my porn from accidental discovery; keeping my vast fortune out of the hands of my ex-wife; making my WDC portfolio easier to navigate; arranging for a good home for my liquor collection... the list seems endless. And then I break out in hives, because I'm allergic to work.
On one hand, I won't care, because "I" won't be around to care. On the other hand, I'm creating work for other people, and that seems wrong.
Some years ago, as I recall, someone on this site died suddenly. Morbidly curious, I checked out their blog. Their final entry ended with "Life seems good." To my shame, I can't remember their name - I don't think they were ever whitecased - but I don't think I can ever forget those particular "last words."
With my luck, mine will be something like "See you tomorrow!" Only with a typo. Because I hate when I make typos, so that's precisely what I don't want to be remembered for.
See you tommorrow!
PROMPT September 5th
I spent some time today reading "Writing.Com 101" (a normal Wednesday activity), and found a few entries describing some of the lesser-known features on WDC including the "Sliders Tab" , "Macros" , the "Ideanary" , and "Portfolio Highlighting" . In addition to these tools and features, there are 22 item types available for members to create, but only a handful make up the majority of content on the site. Take a look at the full list here: "Item Types and Their Uses"
Is there any item type available to you that you've never created? Any that you've never read? Any tool or feature on WDC that you haven't tried? Why not? What are the benefits of having these extra features available on a site dedicated to writing? (I have a feeling our restless muses are to blame, but I'd love to hear your thoughts! )
The main pieces of software I used when I had a desk job were MS Excel and Word, and AutoCAD. I mention this here because, in a sense, Writing.Com can be considered software as well, and these four programs have something in common: they contain features that are used often, features that are used sometimes, and other features that are used only rarely.
When I first started using Excel, back when it was written for clay tablets and a cuneiform keyboard, I made it a point to learn everything I could about it - all the menu items, all the operators, all the built-in functions. There are many that I still use; plus, I've learned the programming language built into it, VBA. I'm not saying I'm any good at VBA but, if you don't mind a bit of braggadocio (where can I do that if not in my own blog), I'm damn good with Excel. Just ask Brandiwyn♪ .
And yet, when I need some feature that I've hardly ever used, I need to consult the documentation. I have a vague memory of a programming rule covering this sort of thing, something like: 10% of the features are used 90% of the time, and vice-versa. Can't be arsed to look it up, but I think that captures the idea of it.
Point is, though, that long ago, I got the urge out of my system to exhaust a program's capabilities. My personal algorithm goes something like:
1) Identify the problem that needs solving
2) Assume that the program I'm using has a built-in solution to that problem
3) Find said solution.
3a) IF assumption turns out to be correct, THEN implement solution.
3b) ELSE defenestrate computing device.
Now here, I consider it part of my job description as Moderator to know what site features are available so I can help other members do step 3 above (can't help 'em with 3b, though). So I was aware of all the stuff in the prompt. But that doesn't mean I use all of it, just as I haven't written in every listed genre.
Still, someone else might make regular use of features I don't. The "Interactive" item type comes to mind. I find myself slogging through them occasionally as a moderator (you don't want to know, trust me), but if memory serves, I've never actually created an item of that type. Just never had good reason to. For some people, that's the only reason they come here, and that's fine, too (though I do know some good shrinks, if one of you is reading this).
I guess what I'm getting at is that while it's good to know what's available, I don't feel like I have to use every feature SM provides. So I don't.
PROMPT September 4th
Did you know that WDC keeps track of everyone who views your items? To have a look at your blog’s statistics, open your blog, click the gear icon in the top right, and then click “Statistics.” You can do this for your blog or any other item in your portfolio!
In your blog entry today, share anything interesting you found while exploring your blog’s statistics. What is the profile of your average reader? Do you consider your readership when composing a blog entry? Everyone has an “ideal reader,” as Stephen King says. Who is your ideal reader?
Admittedly, I used to obsess about item stats. I quit doing that a while ago. So I went ahead and checked the current info.
Turns out my "average" reader is a rich married woman. Well, what good does that do? I want to meet rich single women. Or poor single women. Or, well, any woman who is single, really. I'm so alone.
Do I consider my readership? I suppose, in a way, though not by the demographics. Mostly I post stuff that interests me. If it interests someone else, too, great - I mean, that's the point, right? Read if you're interested; skim or ignore if you're not. I do take previous comments into account when writing blog entries, sometimes. Trying to be everything to everyone would be exhausting, and it'd never work. I'm well aware that most people (in general, as well as on this site) aren't as into math and science as I am. That's okay. Everyone has their own interests; these days, I blog mostly to practice writing. "Write every day" doesn't mean it always has to be fiction.
When I do write fiction, though, 90% of the time it's not a particular demographic I'm aiming for. No, I think that some of the greatest works of literature were not written for random people, or a particular group of people, but for one specific person. Somehow, they still end up with mass appeal. So I write for one specific person. Who that is shall remain a mystery, but you know who you are.
The other 10% of the time, I write primarily for myself.
Trying to consider reader demographics is, for me, difficult. I don't know what people want; I just know what I want to say, or at least have a general idea about it. This often doesn't mesh with what people want. I don't have the slightest idea what makes something the perenially popular "young adult" targeted story, or for that matter anything else. Nor do I know how to make my writing interesting, but I'm hoping that with continued practice and self-education, I can gain some insight into that.
I don't know if I'd still write blog entries if no one read them. I like to think that I would, but I do appreciate the conversational aspect of blogging. And for the record, I don't get angry if someone disagrees with me; I'm a grown-ass adult and I can take it. I do get angry if I'm misunderstood - not at the person who did the misunderstanding, but at myself for not being more clear. Writers should always strive for clarity, I think; when I read something that seems deliberately obtuse or convoluted, I don't read it for long.
PROMPT September 3rd
WDC is huge - there's no question about that. No matter how long we've been on the site, there is always more to learn. Today, I'm sending you on a mission with three easy steps:
1.) Go to the Community Newsfeed and comment on the post of a member you do not know.
2.) Go to the Blog Board and comment on a blog you haven't read before.
3.) Return to your own blog and share what you learned. In addition, answer this question:
How would a life where you regularly stepped outside your comfort zone be different than a life where you never did?
1) I found a post by someone I've never met: "Note: HURRY....... HURRY...... HURR...". It featured:
Which struck me as a pretty awesome way to celebrate WDC's birthday week, and I said so. I've repeated the bitem link here to try to give it more attention.
2) This was harder, because I not only had to find someone I didn't "know," but also find an entry I felt qualified to comment on. (Hey, I just ended a sentence with a preposition again. Suck it, haterz.) I also wanted to avoid anything religiously or politically charged, because I'd end up getting sucked into drama, and I don't do drama.
What happened is I ended up at someone I *almost* commented on in Step 1 above; I thought this particular entry was thoughtful and, more importantly for me, focused on writing - not politics or religion. (I can't speak for the other entries in the blog.)
Dang if Charlieeee 🌈 didn't beat me to it, though - but I didn't see anything about avoiding stuff other participants have used, so nyah.
"Exploring the Epiphany"
3) Some of what I learned is noted above. I also learned:
a) I need to get out more. I guess this is related to the "comfort zone" thing, but I've mostly only been checking out the work done by people who have reached out to me. I could do more reaching out, myself. Still, "comfort zone" issues or not, I'm not going to argue with someone's political or religious views. Not here.
b) Some peoples' minds are full of spiders. I'm not going to name names.
c) Man, there's a lot going on for Birthday Week. Enough to paralyze me with indecision if I let it.
As for the comfort zone question in the prompt, well... I do try to step out on a regular basis. That's what I try to do on road trips: combine the familiar (beer) with the unfamiliar (pretty much everything else). But there's more I want to do.
I might as well go ahead and admit it here: I'm trying to learn French. Part of the reason I don't go to other countries more often is that the potential language barrier makes me uncomfortable. Also, I can't say that I'm any good with languages - the only one I ever formally studied was Latin, and that was so long ago I took lessons from Cicero himself, and have forgotten almost everything about it except a few jokes. I also picked up some Hebrew at a young age, but, again... forgot. It's not like I could go to Israel and carry on a conversation.
All this... might as well call it what it is: fear. All this fear is mitigated if I'm traveling with someone else. At least then there's someone to talk to. But I can never find anyone to travel with me, so I'm stuck here. I don't mind traveling alone; in many ways, I prefer it. But if I'm sitting at a bar somewhere in Japan or wherever, I'd like to at least be able to have a conversation with the bartender, and since I'd rather be at places where tourists aren't, I can't rely on everyone knowing my own fucked-up language, however widespread it may be.
So, anyway, French. Yeah, I got it in my head some years ago that there are several places I want to visit. Two of them are Belgium and France itself. Another is Quebec (yes, I'm aware that French there isn't really the same, but at least I can count on more people being bilingual). Everyone in Belgium, I'm told, speaks about 40 different languages, but the big ones are French and Dutch. I could probably get by with English, but how cool would it be to know when someone's trying to say shit behind my back?
But what I want to do in France is tour the Loire Valley, because my favorite wine is a chenin blanc called Vouvray, which is only found in that region. It'll be bad enough once they find out I'm from the US, and I want to show an effort at learning the language.
So, we'll see if I stick with it. Supposedly, just the process of learning another language helps to keep one's mind flexible, and at my age, that's a real consideration.
In short, I don't want to stay in my comfort zone.
PROMPT September 2nd
As you may or may not be aware, in the early days of Writing.Com, SM and SMs hosted in-person Conventions for members! From everything I’ve heard from the site’s veteran members, these get-togethers were beyond memorable and so inspirational. Take a trip to the past by reading this item advertising the 2006 WDC Convention: "Writing.Com Convention 2006" . Then, share your thoughts on what a Convention hosted today might look like. Where would it be hosted? How many members could attend? What activities would take place? Who would you want to meet in person? Have fun!
Oh, man... that's a blast from the past.
I just went over the 30DBC participants list this month, and realized that, if memory serves (and, increasingly, it doesn't) I'm the only one of us who was there.
That's right - I attended the 2006 Writing.Com Convention. In some ways, it seems so long ago; in others, it feels like just last month.
I was, if you can believe it, the newest member at the Convention. I even got an actual plaque confirming that. I still have it, displayed in my home office. At the time, I was a Preferred Author; I can't remember exactly when I got my blue suitcase, but it was shortly thereafter.
But you'll forgive me, I hope, if I don't visit the given link. I am, as you know if you've been following along, prone to depression - less so, these days, but still, a trip down memory lane involves tiptoeing through a minefield.
If you're interested, however, I still have my convention recap. The story is loaded with links to other author portfolios, some of which, sadly, are broken now, as some of the members are no longer with us. The title, by the way (which I blatantly stole from my younger self for the title of this entry), is a reference to the Convention's location in Bethlehem, PA, near WDC World Headquarters (aka The StoryMaster's basement).
I solemnly swear that every word in this is true.
There was a recap contest, and that item took second place. But since the first-place winning entry is no longer available, what you have there is, objectively, the best recap of the 2006 Writing.Com Convention that you will ever lay eyes on. If that doesn't fill you with existential dread, nothing will.
As for a Convention today... well, one can only dream. PA is a nice place, and Bethlehem is certainly convenient for Staff, but I feel like it could be better-attended if it were near a major hub. For selfish reasons, I'd pick DC or the New York area. At one point, Staff tried to host a mini-convention in Newark, but sadly, that turned out to be a bust - except that I got to spend the day with two of my good friends: one who got me to sign up here in the first place, and another whom I met at the 2006 Convention. We went to a comedy club, and we drank quite a bit.
In terms of what activities I'd like to see, well, drinking of course. Okay, maybe the prompt meant official activities. All I can say there is what worked in 2006 could still work today: writing workshops, naturally; Open Mic Night; a disco (hey, maybe we could combine the two and have some karaoke - wait, where are you all going? Come back!); auction; etc.
There have been so many new people joining us since 2006. I've met a few, but would love to meet everyone else.
Just... no zombies this time, okay? Deal? Deal.