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Not for the faint of art.
Complex Numbers

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.

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September 30, 2019 at 12:55am
September 30, 2019 at 12:55am
PROMPT September 30th

On this final day on the competition, reflect on the month. What was your favorite prompt, and which challenged you the most? Any highlights from your offline life? What are you looking forward to in October?

I'm used to the months flying by, these days, but this month sped even faster than usual. I must be older than I thought.

I'd have to say the "special place" prompt was my favorite, because I got to talk about my favorite thing: drinking. Reading others' responses was fun, too, but I especially enjoyed being able to relate a recent experience of my own, there. "Pappy? Happy!

Challenging? Probably the one about sports ("Athletic Non-Supporter), for the polar opposite reason: having to talk about one of my least favorite things. But hey, that's what I'm here for - stretching my topics. Honestly, I've enjoyed the prompts this month, maybe because it wasn't the standard weekly format. There weren't any that really felt like a chore.

Offline life? What's that? I haven't had one of those in decades. The closest I came was going to the conference in DC, but that was sponsored by a website I've been frequenting for even longer than I've been on Writing.Com - so no, the only part of it that was "offline" was the drinking, and even there, I have a social-media-for-drunks app that I use to record my alcoholic experiences.

And you know what? This is a good thing. The internet is the greatest advancement in human communication since movable type. Sure, it has its problems - doesn't everything? - but we have access to a body of literature and entertainment far more comprehensive than that of the famed, lost Library at Alexandria.

I'm always hearing people saying stuff like "I'm going out into the wilderness. No internet for a week! Hooray!" I don't know which is worse - the idea of being in the wilderness, or the idea of being without internet for a week. Like we should be feeling, I dunno, guilty or something about being connected to the entire fucking world.

Leave it to humans to create a vast, interconnected civilization to live, work and play in, and then get tired of it and go sleep on a damned rock.

Now, I understand that some people enjoy camping and whatnot. I even understand why. And I'm not being judgmental - hope they enjoy the experience. I'm just saying: uh-uh, not me.

...that said, I did spend a week on a mountaintop in Colorado last June, and didn't open my laptop even once, but again - not something I'd ever have had the opportunity to do if it weren't for meeting people on the internet. (To be clear, though, I was in a heated cabin with electricity, and I dined on fine food and drank wonderful beer. I have my limits.)

So. October. This is where I plug my friend's activity:

October NaNoWriMo Prep Challenge  (13+)
A month-long challenge designed to help you plan a novel prior to writing it.
#1474311 by Brandiwyn🎶

Because I'm a terrible person, I may not participate, myself. I'm out of novel ideas, and I have like four of them written and in desperate need of editing. Every time I start, though, I get frustrated and I go play video games or binge-watch Supernatural.

Still, I'm involved in running the activity, so come play along.

Another reason I'm being lame about it is that I'm way behind on my contest entry goal for the year, and I need to play catch-up. So that's a goal for October: play catch-up on the writing I've fallen behind on.

I've been at the French lessons for a month, and plan to continue that through October, also - even though I've already learned how to order "une bière." Deux bières, even. I mean, if that's the only French I ever remember, that's okay.

Not to mention the weight loss / exercise thing - over nine months, now, and while progress is slowing down, it's still... you know... progressing. Though the craving for a pepperoni pizza is starting to overwhelm me. One of these days, I will fail at the regimen. Today, however, is not that day.

If you're here from 30DBC, I hope you'll stick around - because I'm not planning to stop writing in here. Might not be every day, but I still have plenty to say. Either way, thanks for reading!
September 29, 2019 at 12:02am
September 29, 2019 at 12:02am
PROMPT September 29th

One more prompt from TaH2o !

Name an inside and an outside activity that you enjoy and share in detail what these activities look like.

An... outside activity... that I enjoy?

Does not compute...

I am of the considered opinion that if we humans were meant to be outside, we wouldn't need to slather ourselves with sunscreen and/or cover ourselves with bug spray. Nor would we have to wear special clothes for anything outside the 70-80 degree Fahrenheit range. Our ancestors developed big brains and opposable thumbs for a reason, and that reason is so we could build houses and keep them relatively bug-free and temperature-controlled.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've done outdoor activities, and some of them were actually pretty cool. I've been snorkeling (sunburn on my back), hiking (ticks and shin splints), stargazing (nights that are clear enough to see stars are bloody cold), and even camping (lousy sleep, stiff muscles, headaches). The negative effects of all of these activities far outweigh the positive ones. And don't even get me started on all the stinging, biting, or otherwise annoying critters that lurk in wait for the unsuspecting Waltz.

Okay, I guess "driving," which I do enjoy, is kind of an outdoor activity? No, not really; the car has a heater and an air conditioner. Mine even has seat warmers for when it's below 65.

And as much as the heat annoys me with its sweat and the accursed radiation of the damned daystar, there's one thing worse for me than heat: cold. If I hear "I like being cold because you can always put on more clothes, but when it's hot you can only take off so much," I swear I'm going to punch something. Wearing less clothing in the heat is contraindicated. You want to wear loose clothing to promote air flow.

But I can name one - just one - outdoor activity that I actually enjoy: walking into a building.

What does that look like? It's pretty simple: starting from the dreaded position outside the building, I quicken my steps and smile in the anticipation of the relief that awaits me in the interior.

As for indoor activities, I'm going to stringently avoid the obvious answer to that (not that I've done any of it recently) and go with drinking. Okay, that can be an outdoor activity too, but as with everything else, it's much better inside. I could also say video games. Yeah, given that I play video games a lot more than I drink, I'll say video games. I hope I don't need to tell you what that looks like: me cursing at the computer while my character goes around slaying monsters. Yes, "computer." Consoles suck.

Oddly, I don't like to mix these two activities, for the same reason that drunk driving is a Bad Idea: reaction times are impaired, and I don't have as much fun. If I'm drunk, I'll just watch crappy shows on Netflix.

That said, I have to admit that I do spend most of my waking hours outdoors if the weather's nice - but by "outdoors" I mean on my deck, laptop in front of me, three feet from my back door so I can go inside if I'm swarmed by hornets or some shit. That's because I enjoy a good cigar, but hate stinking up the house with it. After all, that's where I'm most comfortable.
September 28, 2019 at 12:45am
September 28, 2019 at 12:45am
PROMPT September 28th

Today’s prompt is from Cass--Thanksgiving Spirit !

Write about what fascinates you about space and/or the universe.

Are you kidding me?

Regular readers will know that the answer to this question is "everything."

There's a lot of everything. I mean, sure, space is mostly empty... well, not really, because of vacuum energy.

It's way above my pay grade, but from what I understand, it turns out that everywhere, all the time, the universe is creating particle-antiparticle pairs that then proceed to annihilate each other within a time period so tiny that it's hard to imagine. Well, most of the time, that is. Sometimes, based on what Stephen Hawking hypothesized, such a pair pops into existence right at the event horizon of a black hole. The black hole sucks one of the pair into its... whatever happens in there, while the other now exists in our universe. It's more complicated than that, of course, but that's the gist of it.

Point is, even "empty" space is interesting - though I probably wouldn't feel the same way if I were stuck on a spaceship plowing through it; that would become very boring very quickly, once the whole "holy fuck I'm on a spaceship" excitement faded.

Want to know something cool? We've seen a black hole tearing a star apart. No shit. Here's Phil to explain it.  

Well, a black hole ate a star. (!!!) From the data, it looks like it was a supermassive black hole, about six million times the Sun’s mass, sitting in the center of that distant galaxy. A star got too close, and the gravity from the black hole ripped it apart.

This part cracks me up: These are called tidal disruption events, or TDEs, perhaps the most prosaic and mundane name for one of the Universe’s most violent and catastrophic events.

Tides are what astronomers call the effect of gravity changing with distance. As you move away from a massive object the gravity you feel from it gets weaker. A black hole has ferocious gravity. A star is a big object, and so if it happens to have a particularly unfortunate trajectory that takes it close to a black hole, the side of the star closer to the black hole feels a far stronger force of gravity than the side of the star facing away from the black hole. The overall effect is a stretching, literally pulling the star apart like taffy.

So yeah, that happens. It doesn't happen a lot - the thing people miss about black holes is that past a certain distance from them, they act just like any other source of gravity, so you have to get really lucky (or from the point of view of the star, unlucky) - but given that we can see something like 200 billion galaxies, and these events give off so much energy that you can see it happen from far, far away, it's inevitable that we'd see one eventually.

Also, no, it's probably not going to happen in our own galaxy anytime soon. They've imaged a lot of the stars around our own galaxy's central black hole, and they're pretty sure it's not about to dine on one of them. If it did, though, I'm not sure if 23,000 light years is far enough away.

That's just today's news, by the way. Or, okay, technically yesterday's, and if you want to get relativistic about it, it's news from 375 million years ago, but the point is this is only the most recent thing I read about shit going on in the universe.

As fascinating as it is that we can collect data from such an event and still have a pretty good idea what's going on, there's something even more fascinating: all the stuff we don't know. And all the stuff that we're wrong about, which gives us the opportunity to improve our understanding.

Space is, as Douglas Adams once wrote, big. “Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.” It is, in fact, so big that there's no way to see it all. It's a little bit like my quest to visit all the breweries in the US: even if you manage to do it, by the time you think you're done, new stuff has popped up and old stuff is gone, so you just have to keep trying.

That's the truly amazing thing about space: never-ending discovery. Almost certainly, at some point, we'll find evidence for life (not necessarily sentient life, but life) beyond our biosphere. That will be cool, and it will teach us a lot about our own biology. Then we'll discover more, somewhere else, and that'll teach us something different. And so on. Things we can't imagine, even though we do our best.

Yes, there are things about our own planet we don't fully understand, depths we haven't plunged. Nor do we fully understand ourselves; it's possible that we cannot do so, but I don't think we've hit the philosophical limits yet. There are over seven billion of us, though, and I'm confident in our ability as a species to multitask - and what we discover "out there" could also shed light on what's going on "down here."

I'm going to end this now, or I'll be writing here all night, and no one wants that. I've said a lot more about space in other posts, and as long as I stay alive I'll certainly have more to say in future installments. I'll just note one more thing, something that's been said before by way smarter people than me: we are "space." Every atom in our bodies (save for hydrogen) was forged in the heart of a star somewhere, sometimes in its death throes. We are, in a literal sense, made of star material. To understand us, we have to understand our environment - and our environment, ultimately, is the entire universe.
September 27, 2019 at 12:25am
September 27, 2019 at 12:25am
PROMPT September 27th

Today, the prompt comes from Prosperous Snow Thankful !

Share a quote from either your favorite author or your favorite book and discuss why you like it.

Anything contemplated for too long, or repeated often enough, loses its impact. So it is with favorite authors, books, and quotes: I've had several over the years, and their meaning has shifted for me.

That's how we get clichés, you know. Every cliché is born as profound poetry. A knife starts life with a gleaming, razor edge; use and familiarity dulls it, inevitably. Knives can be honed, of course; a cliché, once blunted, can never regain their sharpness. But sometimes, if you try, you can remember the feeling it left you with the first time you heard it.

Ask me tomorrow, and I'd probably pick a different quote, a different author. If you'd asked me yesterday, I'd have probably picked a different quote by a different author.

But the night is deep, there's a portentous chill in the air, and October looms, so today's quote comes from Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October, a book I mentioned in here some time ago. Days? Weeks? Time morphs.

Such times are rare, such times are fleeting, but always bright when caught, measured, hung, and later regarded in times of adversity, there in the kinder halls of memory, against the flapping of the flames.

Read it slowly. Read it out loud, if you can. Feel the rhythms and the way the words trip over themselves. Contemplate the feelings it evokes.

I'm not even sure I can explain why I like it, which is a shitty position for a writer to be in. But it's not just a struggle to find the right words; it's also something related to what I said about clichés, above: regarding anything too closely, trying to explain it to oneself, well, that turns it into something lesser, and I don't want to do that with this quote.

One of the most absurd plagues ever inflicted upon the literary world is deconstructionism. No, some things should be left as they are, and I think this quote is one of them.

It's even better in the context of the scene it's in, but I don't think the particulars matter. I can apply it to any moment of joy or delight, make it something to help me get through the inevitable darkness.

That's one reason I'm so adamantly opposed to the "live in the moment" philosophy. Sure, sometimes it's nice to forget the bad things that happened in the past, but is that any reason to ignore the good ones? No. No, it is not.

In fact, Zelazny had a quote about that, too: "It is anticipation and recollection that fill the heart—never the sensation of the moment."

And now I've gone way beyond what I intended to say.
September 26, 2019 at 10:37am
September 26, 2019 at 10:37am
PROMPT September 26th

A prompt from 🖍 Jaelynn ...Nanoing !

Write about a special place where you might go to meditate, unwind, de-stress, relax, or just be.

It's generally known a bar.

Some people go to bars to meet other people. That's not for me - dealing with people is the opposite of relaxing. Which is not to say that I don't like to do it; I'm pretty social for an introvert. But I like bars that are mostly empty and I don't have to deal with the noise and crowds. That's why it's best to go at like 8 am.

No, I use bars for their gods-intended purpose: drinking.

Let me give you a recent example.

Just the other night, I was, as I mentioned here a few days ago, in Washington, DC. On the last night of the conference, Tuesday, the organizers had arranged for the opportunity to go see a Washington Nationals game. Turns out that's something called "baseball." Okay, no, I'll just do what I always do when I travel, which is find the local craft breweries and sample their wares.

So I did, with a little help from Uber.

First place I went was a nice little wood-decor pub, not too crowded. There's a mural on the wall featuring a fox with laser eyes, two pandas fighting, and a squirrel with a flamethrower, all kaiju-sized and rampaging around DC. Sat down at the bar, ordered samples of their various beers... and became disappointed. They weren't bad beers, exactly, just not to my taste. That's okay - plenty of styles for everyone, and the world doesn't exist to cater to me.

So I Ubered the hell over to the next place on my list, which turned out to be a) not a brewpub but a taphouse (fuck you, Google) and b) crowded as the Beltway on a weekday morning. Pass. (I should clarify here that I enjoy taphouses as well; I was just looking for local beer.)

The next place was only a short walk from the crowded taphouse. It looked promising. Just a few blocks from the Capitol, so I was afraid I'd run into gods-be-damned politicians, but the crowd looked more like politicians' flunkies trying to deal with the stress of having to work with politicians. That's fine. And I say "crowd," but it wasn't full enough to keep me from finding a nice comfortable barstool. But the place turned out to have only two of their own beers, and it was unclear where said beers were actually brewed because there's more than one location for this particular business. Not bad beer, mind you, but still not the experience I was looking for.

So I walked back to my conference hotel. Yes, walked, not staggered; the reason I took Uber in the first place was not because I planned on becoming too drunk to drive, but because it was motherhumping DC on a motherhumping Tuesday evening, and where does one park?. The good news is that I did a mile and a half at a brisk pace without getting in the least bit winded; I guess all the exercise is paying off.

I sat at the bar in the hotel, which also wasn't crowded because the bulk of the conference attendees were either at the sportsball game or had already left. Told the bartender, "I'm disappointed by the breweries around here. I want a positive drinking experience before I leave."

"What can I get you?"

I pointed out a fine 18-year-old scotch I saw standing lonely and dusty behind the bar. "That. Neat."

A lady came in and sat next to me, and I immediately felt myself tense up. What am I supposed to do? I don't go to bars to pick up women; I go to enjoy fine libations. I hear that in such situations, it's customary to buy the lady a drink, but I also hear that's a social signal that shows interest in such activity. So I basically just concentrated on my scotch, which, I will have to note, was indeed a very good scotch.

We ended up talking, anyway, and within two sentences she'd made it clear she was there with her husband, who had gone to the game. Whew. No pressure, then; I don't mess with married women. But there's no rule I'm aware of about not carrying on an ordinary conversation with one while in a public place. Maybe there is such a rule, and I just don't know it. Anyway, she said I looked like The Dude, and if you're going to compliment me like that, I'm happy to talk to you.

I had another scotch during the conversation, and then I noted to the bartender that I was surprised that a fancy place like this doesn't have Pappy van Winkle.

Allow me to digress for a brief time to explain that for non-whiskey folks. There are dozens of bourbon distilleries in Kentucky; it's kind of what they're known for, along with horses, bluegrass, and intolerant politicians. Many of them make fine bourbon. (The distilleries, that is, not the horses. Maybe some of the politicians; I don't know.) But the Holy Grail of bourbon in the last few years has been a label called Pappy van Winkle, after the old white guy who developed it.

Bourbon has particular requirements in order to be called "bourbon;" one of these is that it has to be made from at least 51% corn (that's maize for my British friends, not barleycorn). Now, to save money, most places use cheaper grains like barley or rye to make up the remainder of what's called the "grain bill." There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it does impart to bourbon its characteristic "bite," and I tend to prefer other whiskeys (or whiskys or whiskies, whatever).

Pappy, I'm told, makes up the rest of its grain bill with wheat. My understanding is that because wheat is in high demand due to its use in this thing called "bread," it tends to cost more per unit weight. And it's aged for various times in magic barrels that give the flavors time to mellow. Pappy - which I've only encountered once before, in California of all places - is, as a result, smooth as silk. No burn, no bite. It is also not cheap. As with all whiskey, as a general rule, the longer it's aged, the more mellow it becomes, and the more expensive it tends to be.

"Oh," says the bartender, "We have some in the safe."

"You have a safe?!"

"Indeed. But the only Pappy van Winkle we have are the 20 year and 23 year."

"Okay. Sounds great. But believe it or not, I'm going to need to know the price first."

So he told me, and I'm not going to relate it here; suffice it to say that it's not cheap, but it also wasn't going to send me into bankruptcy. I ordered the 20 year, and it was glorious.

After, he took me to the safe and opened it and holy mother of suck, there were some impressive distilled spirits in there. Also rare and expensive ones, even pricier than Pappy. I was not tempted - well, not too much - but it sure was pretty to look at.

So there it was, a positive drinking experience. Fully de-stressed, relaxed, and serene. A fine ending to a crowded conference.

I guess what I'm trying to say with all these words is: I like bars.
September 25, 2019 at 5:29am
September 25, 2019 at 5:29am
PROMPT September 25th

Another prompt from Bob's Turkeys !

What manner of creature is your Muse and how do you feed it? Where does it live and does it ever escape your control?

I don't personify what little creativity I have. Sometimes I'm inspired, sometimes I'm not, but usually once I start writing I can keep writing. There's nothing in my head but me.

I do enjoy drinking, from time to time. It gives me different ideas, different perspectives. Sometimes I can work with these perspectives after I sober up; sometimes it's not worth it.

Last night, whilst drunk, I found out that my favorite bar is closing forever. This plunged me into a deep despair. Nothing matters. It's all for nought in the end. I'm not even going to get a chance to visit it one more time to say goodbye; it's just gone. I'm still working through the classic stages of grief, here - which I don't even remember what they are. Denial, bargaining, anger... whatever.

There's no one I can talk to who can relate to this. It's a supremely personal thing, something that has hammered home to me the knowledge that, no matter who reads my stuff, no matter who I can find to talk to on occasion, in the long run, I am completely alone. As I said, nothing in my head but me. That's liberating and terrifying all at the same time. No gods, no monsters, no muse, no whispering agents, no angels, no devils. And then there's the school of "thought" that insists that there is no Self, that even consciousness is an illusion.

With this loss, I'm inclined to accept that. Nothing is everything. Everything is nothing. A swirling accretion disk around a naked singularity, temporary and eternal.

The place where we humans can live is a tiny sliver of atmosphere, proportionally thinner than an eggshell. Anywhere outside that veil, anywhere at all, and you're dead in three minutes or less - usually less. I've been told by well-meaning spiritual folk that the universe loves us and wants us to live and thrive, but this is demonstrably untrue. Pick a random spot, anywhere in the observable universe. Pick another. And another. Pick hundreds of spots. Millions. Billions. Trillions. Pick a googol of spots: 10 raised to the power of 100. Hell, pick a googolplex number of random spots: that's an enormous number, one with a googol number of zeroes after it.

The chance of any one of those spots wanting to keep you alive is nonexistent.


There are other bars, I know.

But this? This hurts. On the one hand, at least I feel an emotion. On the other hand, why does it have to be this emotion?

As always, Leonard can say it better than I ever can.

And I lift my glass to the awful truth
Which you can't reveal to the ears of youth
Except to say it isn't worth a dime
September 24, 2019 at 7:41am
September 24, 2019 at 7:41am
PROMPT September 24th

Today, the prompt is from Kittiara !

When was the last time you were dishonest, and why?

Dishonest? ME??! I'm never dishonest!

Okay, I only wrote that so that I could honestly answer the prompt question: The last time I was dishonest was about 30 seconds ago, when I typed the previous paragraph, and "why?" For (hopefully) humorous effect and to make a point.

There's a well-known language paradox, and it goes something like this:

Everything I say is a lie.

If that statement is true, then it is false; but if it is false, then it is true. In fact (heh), it demonstrates that a) language can be manipulated in arbitrary and illogical ways and b) while we think that there is always a binary (Boolean, even) choice between "true" and "false," but some premises, such as the above, are neither.

And I'm dishonest quite often. If you've read my fiction, you know this. Because that's what fiction is. Yeah, everyone involved knows that it's fiction (okay, well, I've had a few readers think I was being autobiographical, but most readers are in on the ploy; the spaceships and/or unicorns should have given it away).

I also outright lie to beggars on the street. "Spare some change?" "No." "I hear it jingling in your pocket!" "Um, those are, um my keys bye good luck!"

And I use hyperbole, which is a type of dishonesty, approximately 150% of the time in my comedy.

But right now I gotta go - I have a movie to act in and a trip to outer space planned, because I'm a movie star and an astronaut.
September 23, 2019 at 6:43am
September 23, 2019 at 6:43am
PROMPT September 23rd

Today’s prompt is from Eric Wharton !

If you won a free trip to any foreign country, all expenses paid in your own private jet, and had the time, where would you go?

Ooooh, this one's easy! Mars.

Wait, country, not planet. Damn.

Still easy. Belgium.

Go here and take a look at the Belgian flag: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Flag_of_Belgium.svg/20...

Ever wonder what the colors represented? I finally figured it out: Chocolate, Beer, and Waffles. You know, the three things Belgium is most known for. And they're all delicious.

Essentials aside, it just looks like a great place to visit. The only downside is the country can't figure out what language it wants to speak. There's no such thing as "Belgian," so half the country speaks French and the other half speaks Dutch. Pretty sure "beer" is pronounced "beer" in both languages, though, so I'll be okay.

Well, free trip or not, I'm planning to go there sometime in the next couple of years. I'm just not sure I'll want to come back afterwards.
September 22, 2019 at 12:23am
September 22, 2019 at 12:23am
PROMPT September 22nd

Today, your prompt is from Bob's Turkeys !

What was the first thing you remember writing that made you want to be a writer (casually or professionally)?

I have a vague memory of writing some sort of story in fifth grade, and getting praise from the teacher for it. I have no idea what I actually wrote. Really, I have no idea if it was actually any good, or if she was just one of those teachers who knew how to encourage her students.

In any event, I think that's what led me to believe that I may actually be able to string words together in a way that people might appreciate. Thanks, Miss Chester!

Fortunately, whatever I wrote back then (likely in cuneiform on clay tablets) did not survive the ravages of time. I'm certain it would embarrass the living fuck out of me if someone discovered it.

I'd read somewhere that it's a good idea for a writer to keep a journal, so I did that, too. Several handwritten notebooks' worth of 'em. I even called them "diaries." I had some idea that it wasn't a terribly masculine thing to do, but my parents were ahead of the curve in not trying to shame me by enforcing strict gender roles.

Thank everything in the universe those writings are lost, as well. I don't envy today's kids and the permanent record of their juvenile maundering.

The earliest thing that I wrote that survives - at least that I know of - is a poem I ventured when I was, I suppose, seventeen. Hell, I even put it up here: "Bench Fry [13+]. Even the appearance of that poem on this site is fifteen years old, now. The Author's Note is way outdated; for starters, this was before the introduction of dropnotes to this site, so I'd collected a bunch of notes in a book item and linked individual entries.. I keep thinking I should update those older items with some of those newfangled dropnotes, but I have issues when it comes to changing stuff that's been a part of my persona for so long.

Before you scoff, yes, I'm aware that the poem sucks. But I wanted to keep something from back then.

Anyway, despite a couple of attempts, I still haven't been published. Partly that's because I haven't tried very hard. Also partly, that's because I'm still sure my stuff isn't good enough. Maybe it never will be. But I gotta write anyway.

On a personal note, if you've been following along, you might have gotten used to me posting shortly after midnight every day. I'm going to a conference for the next few days, and while I'm pretty sure I'll have opportunity to write in this blog to these prompts, the timing might be different on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Likely you don't care, but the answer to "Hey, where's Waltz?" will be "Washington, DC. Drinking."
September 21, 2019 at 12:27am
September 21, 2019 at 12:27am
PROMPT September 21st

Today’s prompt is straight from Fivesixer ’s notebook! *Wink*

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

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Garcia Lorca / Leonard Cohen
Take This Waltz lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
September 20, 2019 at 12:08am
September 20, 2019 at 12:08am
PROMPT September 20th

The prompt today is from WakeUpAndLive‍‍~skeletons !

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.
September 19, 2019 at 12:23am
September 19, 2019 at 12:23am
PROMPT September 19th

Our very own Kittiara is getting married today! *Cat* Congratulations Kit! *HeartV*

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,


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.

September 18, 2019 at 12:09am
September 18, 2019 at 12:09am
PROMPT September 18th

Today, we have another prompt from Chill November 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.
September 17, 2019 at 12:11am
September 17, 2019 at 12:11am
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.
September 16, 2019 at 12:02am
September 16, 2019 at 12:02am
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.

There, done.

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.

Goddamn primates.

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.
September 15, 2019 at 3:07am
September 15, 2019 at 3:07am
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.
September 14, 2019 at 12:10am
September 14, 2019 at 12:10am
PROMPT September 14th

Today’s prompt was written by Prosperous Snow Thankful !

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.

Your mom.

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.
September 13, 2019 at 12:30am
September 13, 2019 at 12:30am
PROMPT September 13th

Today, the prompt comes from Charlieee 🌈 !

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.
September 12, 2019 at 12:01am
September 12, 2019 at 12:01am
PROMPT September 12th

Today’s prompt is from WakeUpAndLive‍‍~skeletons !

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.
September 11, 2019 at 12:04am
September 11, 2019 at 12:04am
PROMPT September 11th

Today’s prompt comes from TaH2o ! (With additions by me *Wink* )

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.

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