Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Irregular Temporal Probability

Don't forget to visit the new site at dvspress.com

Kenneth had never seen an irregular temporal sphere before. Bernard leaned on his knees and held the object between his hands, staring at the golden center, swirling like the center of the galaxy and throbbing like a dying heart. It glowed subtly. Temporal singularities were uncommon playthings, even for the wealthy.

“So what did you decide to study?” Kenneth asked, putting down his tablet. He was starting to get fatigued from his class readings. Temporal vibrating membranes was a hugely interesting academic area, but required more of Kenneth’s brain power than he could spare with Bernard sitting in his dorm room.

“My parents want me to study irregular temporal probability,” Bernard said, rolling the time-sphere around in his hands. “That’s why they bought me this.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New site! Announcing DVS Press

The time has come, at long last, to move beyond the confines of this site, beloved though it may be. If you are a regular reader, I thank you for visiting once again, but I would ask you to please visit my new site, DVS Press, at dvspress.com.

The need for something a bit more expansive has been one of slow building, but the moment has arrived. The new wordpress backbone gives me a lot more options for design and control, and will ultimately make the production of a quality site suited to my purposes an easier, more efficient endeavor. Wordpress has more expansive CSS support and control, which will allow me to go from writing of my content to publication without any extra effort. On this site, in order to get proper looking text and indents, I had to code all of my posts in html, an annoying if not laborious process. This was especially true in the publication of Muramasa, in which I elected to utilize many footnotes for vocabulary explanations. Every post with footnotes had to be coded in html with internal href tags and then saved. If I ever returned to edit the post, blogger would overwrite these references and code with, essentially, nonsense.

The short of it was that making functional documents was a labor of love. Now it will hardly be a labor at all. In fact, I can finally do all my writing in word, with my own formatting which makes ebook transitions easier, and copy-paste to my site and have the correct formatting there too.

I also think that you will enjoy the look and feel of the new site. I have left behind the dark theme of Prometheus for several reasons. The original justification for using light text on a dark background was for the reader's comfort, as staring into a computer screen displaying white pages can be tiring to the eyes. It's quite a bit like looking into light bulb for me, and so I often work with darkened backgrounds. However, analytic tools have shown me that better than 50% of my readership are accessing the site on mobile devices. Dark backgrounds become much less legible and comfortable in bright spaces, such as out-doors, a typical place to be looking at one's phone or a tablet. This compounds with my recent format change to 1,000 word updates, which for many means that the amount of time spent "looking into the lightbulb" is rather minimal. Additionally, dark-themes sites just seem denser and less appealing. The aesthetics of the new design I find more inviting. I hope you will too.

For a short while, I will be duplicating the content on Tears of Prometheus and dvspress.com. All previous content has already been migrated to the new host, but the extensive cataloging present on Prometheus hasn't been done there yet, so if you are looking for a particular article, this site will still be your best bet. I encourage you to stop over to the new site and take a look.

Happy reading!

-David V Stewart

Monday, October 20, 2014

Muramasa: Blood Drinker, an Author's Reflection

Yoshitoshi, c. 1866
At long last, the writing and subsequent digital publishing of my “little” samurai novel is complete. The first words were typed while I was on a break from teaching a special education class in El Segundo, California, and the final words were written in an uncomfortable high chair in a Starbucks that was attached to Marriot in Sacremento, California. That is somewhat symbolic for me, as there were as many words written away from home as at home; my life has been in a state of upheaval for some time, but I still got the work done.
 Muramasa was definitely the most challenging work I have completed thus far, and not just because I was away from home so much. Unlike my earlier true fantasy novels, Muramasa was historical fiction of sorts, and that required hours of research. I made a lot of decisions and took a lot of new paths with this book, with some panning out and some being less successful. Overall, I count it a success. This is because I:
1. Finished a book. This is always a big deal.
2. Devised a means of achieving my vision of monetized content that is free to end users. I even made a small amount of money from the serialization.
3. Expanded my writing, research, and web coding skills because of necessity.
4. Got myself motivated to build a new, better website that will deliver my vision with more efficiency and with better aesthetics.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fiction in the digital age: What do we do as writers?

Muramasa and the Mass Media Market

The online run of Muramasa: Blood Drinker is soon coming to an end. It won't be a swift end, and it probably will not have the end that was expected by my tortured readers, but it will be a good end. The right end. Rather than taking time and energy at the end of that project’s publication to wonder about the future, I thought it might be better to look ahead a little (ahem) ahead of time.

The Downfall of Traditional Media

"Prometheus Bound" - Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1618
The vision for this site came about through many years of experience in the arts, monitoring trends, and observing successful content creators. More than ever, I feel like our society is pushing harder toward content that requires no up-front cost to consume. This can be exhibited through the massive scale of online music “sharing,” which is, from a legal and indeed ethical perspective, rank theft. Other content, notably movies and cable TV shows, have had similar problems the last few years. When nobody is watching, the moral imperative to pay people for their work seems to be forgotten.
Rather than shake my fist at the wide swaths of people that use bittorrent and similar applications, I am going to use it as a message. When people had the option to not pay 18 dollars for a CD that contained a single song heard on the radio with the rest being totally unknown, they took up Napster on the offer. When people had the option to forego paying upwards of 100 dollars per month on cable to watch four installments of Game of Thrones, they took Pirate Bay up on the offer.
 In the media industry, such actions are lamented as they seem to represent a loss of revenue. The recording industry has lost a great portion of the profitability it enjoyed during the CD era of the 1990s. Nobody seems to think that people are buying less music because lots of it wasn’t worth paying for to begin with. The old music model relied on radio play of a single hit to sell a CD with 14 tracks on it, and the quality of those filler tracks was almost irrelevant to sales. When people could actually listen to the whole thing without the 18 dollar gatekeeping fee, or buy the one song they liked from iTunes, the highly-profitable model from the 90s was bound to fail. This hasn’t stopped the RIAA from trying, even going so far as to sue Limewire for an implied 72 trillion dollars, which is more than the combined wealth of Earth.     
The same is true of cable TV, which relied on selling large packages of channels to every single end user. With subscription services like Netflix, that model too should fail, though doubtless cable companies will try to keep it alive through manipulation of government entities like the FCC and might attempt to bully content makers. Even HBO, the long running “premium channel” has considered shifting away and offering HBO GO as a stand-alone service.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Chal'cha Napkin (flash fiction)

“It looks like a gigantic napkin,” Tommy said. “Like they put in your glass at nice restaurants.”
“You ain’t never been to a nice restaurant,” Julie said. She was always saying things like that jokingly, but Tommy never laughed, and she never quit.
They walked toward the strange building, seemingly dropped overnight in the middle of the countryside miles away from any convenient skyways. It stood about eighty feet tall at its highest point, and did look a bit like a crumpled cloth from where they stood, with long ripple-like folds spiraling up to a narrow top, which opened to the sky. Nobody knew why the many-tentacled Chal’cha built such structures, but given their fleet, nothing was ever done about them.
“The Chal’cha certainly know how to build a… whatever this is.” Tommy touched the outside. Sudden friction halted his palms. They would not move once planted.
“The secret is on the inside, stupid.”
Tommy smiled, and began pulling himself upward into one of the grooves on the outside. Soon he was twenty feet off the ground, then fifty, then he was at the top, looking down at a very perturbed Julie.
“Good luck getting down!” she cried.
Tommy swallowed.


200words. This was created for a writing prompt at Short Story and Flash Fiction Society.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Everyday Skeptic, Part 3: Credible Evidence

Note: The video portion of this article could not be completed due to time constraints. It will be added on a future date.

While it is very possible to dismiss many claims using the rules of logic covered in the last installment of the series, you are still likely to encounter claims that, while adhering to the rules in their format, still warrant a bit of skepticism from you, the reader. This is because not all claims have credible evidence. Just to review from last week:

A statement is true if it is a positive claim and there is credible evidence to affirm it, while there is no credible contrary evidence that makes the statement untrue.

The most critical piece of any argument, given that it is a logical, positive statement, is supporting evidence. What remains to be added to our skeptic’s toolkit is a way to tell if evidence is credible, flimsy, or false. Some of the most common bits of misinformation are believed because readers either could not tell how bad the evidence really was, or were unable or unwilling to evaluate the credibility of evidence on their own. In this week’s article, we will go through what sort of things make good, affirmative scientific evidence, leaving the fallacies for their own shrine of dishonor next week.

The Scientific Method

The scientific method was developed and refined over the course of many centuries leading up to the modern day as a means to determine the objective reality of various physical processes. It accomplishes this using specific experimental processes, data gathering techniques, and rules of reasoning. When evidence fails to follow the guidelines of the scientific method in its acquisition and evaluation, it loses its objectivity, and therefore becomes less usable to others.
I. The experimental process
Not all scientific information requires experimentation. Most facts can be derived from observation of physical objects and phenomenon that are already occurring naturally. For instance, no experiment is needed to determine the average height of trees in the Sequoia National Forest; one only needs to go measure the trees and do the math. Scientific experiments are usually used to determine causal relationships.
1. Background.
Usually, when you are performing a scientific experiment, you are not doing it blind or striving for a totally random outcome. You start by reviewing literature of those who have come before you, or observing something in nature or the human world. You may see hints at a pattern, or may wonder about an area of science or a physical process that has yet to be tested. You use this background information to formulate the next part of the process:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Everyday Skeptic, Part 2: What is Truth?

Note: the video contains the same information as the article, but in a more conversational form.


Now that we have established why it is important to be skeptical, and what sort of situations should prompt you to be extra careful, we can dive into the methods used to be skeptical.
Being a skeptic doesn’t mean you disbelieve everything and everyone, it means that you demand proof of claims before you commit them to belief or take action. In future articles, we will delve into what constitutes good and bad sources of evidence, and how to tell if evidence is used properly. For now, let us discuss an important logical concept: truth.

I. What makes something true?

The concept of truth is as old as philosophy. For the purposes of this article, which deals with claims, true means that something really exists, and can be proven. This concept can be defined quite briefly:

A statement is true if it is a positive claim and there is credible evidence to affirm it, while there is no credible contrary evidence that makes the statement untrue.

Like all brief statements, this one can be somewhat complex, so let’s take a closer look at the three conditions contained in the statement:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Everyday Skeptic, Part 1: Why and When to be Skeptical

Please note: The video below contains the same information as the article, but in a more conversational form. Choose which format you prefer!


I. Series Introduction: Information and Expertise
Everyday life is filled with decisions. Many of these decisions are made without knowing what the outcome will be. We rely on many things to help us make these decisions, including our own experience, intuition, assumptions how other people will act, and, the subject of this article, information from other people.
Everybody is an expert in something, but nobody, not even the super intelligent, can be an expert in everything. Each person trades the knowledge and skills he has in his own area for the knowledge and skills of other people’s areas. This is the division of labor that makes economies work, but also represents an information exchange. We trust our doctor to give us information about our health, and the doctor in turn trusts us to give him the benefits of our expertise – plumbing, teaching, even food service is an expertise – to meet his needs. Sometimes, money is involved in the trade, but often the information exchange is free and part of our friendships and social interactions. Advice about which wine tastes good or which plumber does the best job, are examples of this.
The members of the media are sort of information specialists, telling us about events that we cannot witness for ourselves. Often, however, media outlets do more than report events. They can move into areas that are well beyond news description, discussing scientific findings, political motivations, or promoting various prescriptions for action. On the internet, many such claims are made and distributed through a variety of networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, but just because something is published or claims to speak from authority, does not make it the truth. There is no media police to enforce honesty and integrity.
The purpose of this article, and the ones that will follow, is to assist the everyday person in figuring out which claims are likely to be true or likely to be false, without having to become an expert in the field. This way, we can spend our time on what matters – our own passions, expertise, and personal lives – and not on determining if a news story is true or not.

II. Three reasons we should all be skeptical

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Judgment!

Judgment. It’s a pretty naughty word these days. Everywhere I look, I see a message that I should “stop judging people.” Usually the act of judging is made synonymous with puritanical motivations, fundamentalist religion, or bigotry. Here are just a few articles on the matter, all of which point the finger back at the judger for his or her own failings:


We’re told not to judge people for a host of things they wear, do or proclaim:

There are also acceptance movements, to help you get over judging particular books by their relative colors. Fat Acceptance is a good example:


There’s tumblrs dedicated to stopping judgment:

There’s even a wikihow to help you stop:

There seems to be a lot of social pressure out there to “stop judging,” but just what does that mean? Are such sentiments valid? Those of you who know me best know that I’m not going to just echo the sentiments of the writers above. It’s time to dig a bit deeper.
I actually consider judgment one of the fundamental ways we interact with the world and with others. Judgment is how we make pragmatic decisions, evaluate risk, and choose social relationships. Judgment isn’t always negative either. When we choose to do business or be friends with somebody, we have a made a positive judgment; we have not failed to judge.
Because it is so ingrained in the human experience, judgment is something that we are very unlikely to avoid. Doing exactly what we want and expecting nobody to have a negative reaction to it is not a realistic attitude. No matter what, people are judging you, and you are judging them. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Violence: The Kind of Work You Don't Want to Bring Home

Fighting, Porn, Abuse, and Assault in Las Vegas

Note: this article is opinion, reflection, and analysis, not authoritative accounts of factual events. Source material should be used for citation, not this article, except as it pertains to the opinions of the author.

Rarely do I step outside of my usual fiction-philosophy mode of content for this site and do current event topics, but an interesting story popped up on my radar from my former home of Las Vegas. It seems that a professional MMA fighter promoted through Bellator MMA who calls himself “War Machine” (allegedly) severely beat his girlfriend, porn star Christy Mack, sending her to the hospital. He is now a fugitive and wanted by the LVPD, which hasn’t stopped him from making a fool of himself over twitter. Before I dive into some analysis, some philosophical discussion, and some practical advice, let’s have a quick rundown of some of the facts.

John “War Machine” Koppenhaver (For more, try Wikipedia):
“War Machine” is the legal name of the fighter in question. His birth name was John Koppenhaver. He changed his name legally in 2008.
War Machine fought on the Ultimate Fighter series under his birth name. He was eliminated in the first round.
His father died when he was thirteen, while Koppenhaver attempted to revive him using CPR.
He has been convicted of numerous assaults. He has received probation and was also sentenced to a year in prison in 2011.
War Machine performed as a pornographic actor in more than 12 films and has worked at a gay nightclub. He was also accused of assaulting people at a birthday party for a pornographic actress.
After being trolled by users of 4chan in 2013, he punched himself numerous times in the face. (source-video below)
He began his relationship with Christy Mack by stalking her over twitter. She eventually responded to the advances. He is ten years her senior.
He has a tattoo of “Mack” on the front of his neck for his girlfriend.

Christy Mack (For more, try Wikipedia):
Christy Mack is a pornographic actress and has worked in the industry for about two years. She was not involved in porn while War Machine was active in the industry.
She is recognizable for her extensive tattoo work and her unique hairstyle, which looks like a Mohawk.
She has claimed that she wanted to retire from the industry but had a large house and had to take care of her mother (source in video below)
She has a tattoo reading “Property of War Machine” on her shoulder (source: twitter)



Saturday, August 9, 2014

Narcissus

Recently I wrote a short creative piece called "Echobox" that is part poetry, part realistic fiction and part fantasy, which explored through eyes of a young boy people's interactions with video media, specifically television. It reminded me of a poem I wrote nigh on ten years ago, called "Narcissus." The poem was intended to be read while listening to a selection of music played on a solo instrument. It was part of a cycle of similar pieces I performed called, "Solipsist." This particular part of the cycle was intended for string bass, an instrument I played in my younger days but have since given up. The studio recording for this poem/music piece was, alas, lost when the laptop I used for recording suddenly ceased to operate. As such, the Solipsist album remains incomplete, with the only live performance having been recorded by a third party at extremely low fidelity and volume. In the near future (once I replace some failed studio equipment) I may reconstruct and re-record the music. For now, here is the poem.


Narcissus

Echo
That weeping echo
Lost by the water’s edge
A pale thing never heard
Except in echo
Poor weeping echo
Left forgotten,
Never known.

To peer into the cool pond
To forget man, woman,
And god (Poor echo!)
At the beckoning of Nemesis

I crept over the mossy bank
And saw peering back at me
Like a vision of poor echo’s lament
Not the beauty she sought,
But a monster!
Vicious, ugly, tormenting.
Eyes turned inward
Scowling, raging, forgetting.
Nemesis of my Nemesis.

Poor echo!
How did she come to love
One such as this, or
Did she love another,
Who came before this horrid creature?

I reach out to kill it
To end its misery and the misery it inspires
And shall make it a monument
In remembrance of horror.
As we remember
Poor weeping echo
Left forgotten,
Never known.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Echobox


Echobox.
It’s a box… that echoes, obviously
Everybody’s second voice
Second talk, second mind,
Echoes back a righteous choice

Zion! Zion! To Zion we shall go! Infidels cannot hold Zion against its rightful heirs!

Billy sat and played with his toys. Mother’s echobox was on again, firing its angry nonsense words down the hall. It seemed like it was always on, even when she slept. He wanted to close the door, but he knew if he did, he would get in trouble. She would take away the toys.
Billy… What a stupid, average, nothing name, he thought as he piled brick upon brick. Slowly the castle he held in his small mind would take its recognizable shape in the physical world. He had run out grey bricks of the correct size, and so had to fill in some gaps in the castle wall with blue and red, but he didn’t mind. He imagined that they were decorations put there by the powerful king who built the castle. He saw two of the blue bricks next to each other, and an image popped into his mind.
A wolf.
He tore down the wall and started building again. This time, the blue bricks formed an image in the wall, of a blue wolf with red eyes (formed by a few small red bricks).
No king was ever called Billy. He pulled one of the little men from his chest. He put a crown on him. William. King William Wolsfbane. He put the little king on top of the wall. He imagined the dull, brown carpet of his bedroom was an expanse of wilderness before the fortress.
The dark army of Abaz will have to get through all these wastes to assail these walls. These wastes… they are our home! William the boy put more men on the walls. These he armed with spears and axes and shields. They were smiling. Men at war do not smile, unless they are certain of victory. Abaz will destroy himself upon these walls! He cannot wrest this sacred land from us! We are the rightful heirs of the soulforge. Our blood is in everything –even the rocks are our kin.
“Billy!”
He looked up. His mother was standing at the edge of the room. How long had she been there?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Your Friends Are Not Your Audience

Why you shouldn't expect friends and family to support your art.




We’re playing a show this Saturday at Club Fred. It’s only five bucks to get in and we’re playing all night.

I used to throw out this line nigh on every week back when I was 19-21 and gigging in rock bands regularly. After that it was different venues, more friendly to my classical and flamenco stuff, but the pitch was always the same, as were the responses, which something like this:

Awesome! I’ll totally try to be there. My girlfriend/boyfriend loves that kind of music! It’s so cool that you’re out playing.

When the gig rolled around, the audience would be filled with strangers. Occasionally a friend would show up (I’m thinking in my head of the few who actually would), but mostly the room would be filled venue patrons and random genre fans, virtually never anyone with whom I had a personal relationship. Most of my friends were, like me, musicians and were (I thought) just as dedicated to the art and the business as me. They feigned interest in my projects when I talked about them, but that’s where the support ended. Ultimately, my market always became strangers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blood Drinker: Chapter 10-1

At last we reach the third act of my mystical Japanese drama. Amaya and Yoshio have reached Osaka and seen the killer Ryunosuke at work there, though his whereabouts and motives still remain shrouded in mystery. Note: I realized that I used the name "Shiro" twice in the total narrative. I have changed the name of the second Shiro (the nephew of Daiki) to Shigeo. This edit has not been done on previous installments as of yet.

Previous installments can be found on the fiction page above or by clicking here. Thanks, as always, for reading. Don't forget to share if you liked it, and return on Thursday for the second half of chapter 10.

<<Previous: Chapter 9-2

Act III

Chapter 10


“How do you like your new clothes, Yoshi?” Amaya smiled at her retainer, who fussed with the knot on his obi by the window.
“A little oversized,” Yoshio said. He straightened the light mantle on his shoulders, which gave his lean body a long taper. “Which is in many ways good. It allows freedom of movement, and these leggings will obscure my foot movements for an opponent.” Yoshio tugged at the loose blue umanori[1] pants, which hung in stiff pleats to the tops of his feet. “However, this outfit will give an enemy more ways to grab and throw me, and I risk getting it caught on some piece of the d├ęcor should I be forced to draw my sword indoors.”
Amaya laughed as she walked over to the window and ran her hands over the cloth on Yoshio’s shoulders. “Ever thinking of utility. That is my Yoshi.”
“What else should I think of?”
“Do you like the way it looks?” Amaya said, opening her arms and displaying the long, hanging sleeves of her two-cloth kimono. The pure white silk shimmered in the sunlight from the window, and the pink pattern of the obi and the inner folds of the kimono stood out brightly. Her wide obi was snug, making her already small waist seem tiny.
“I like the way yours looks,” Yoshio said.
Amaya laughed again. “What about yours?”
Yoshio looked down. “I suppose it will do.”
“What about comfort?” Amaya said.
“I said it was loose.” Yoshio tugged on a sleeve. “See?”
“Yes, but does that mean comfortable?” Amaya walked back to the futon and tucked her katana away behind pillows and blankets.
“What else would it mean?”
“My dear Yoshi,” Amaya said, looking back to Yoshio as she tucked her tanto away in the folds of her white and pink kimono. “I will never tire of you.”
Yoshio frowned. “What does that mean?”
Amaya gave him a subtle smile, then sighed. “Let’s go. I do not want to make this worse than it already will be by being late.”
Yoshio nodded. He walked to Amaya’s low table and picked up the scroll he had found at their door upon returning in the early morning. He un-rolled it and looked at it again. It was written in beautiful black script, with flowing lines and perfect brush strokes.
“What is it?” Amaya said, standing by the door.
“I just didn’t get a good look at Masaki’s note when we arrived.”
“What do you see now, in the daylight?”
“It is professionally scripted,” Yoshio said.
“Many nobles are taught well in the arts,” Amaya said, moving to look at the scroll herself. She traced her finger along the well- painted and perfectly black strokes. “But you are right.”
“He means to impress you,” Yoshio said, frowning.
“He does,” Amaya said, “but he has already impressed upon me his cruelty and stubbornness. Tea and entertainment will do no more to lighten my opinion of him than inviting us to such with pretty letters. You worry about me often, Yoshi. You do not need to worry about me being wooed by the likes of Shiba Masaki.”
“I just wanted to make sure you were aware of his intentions.”
“I am. And yours.”

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Teachers make a DIFFERENCE! What about YOU? Huh?

A Reflection on the Ego of the Teaching Profession

I had a different article in mind for today, but a conversation I had during work yesterday with my screenwriting partner Matt (find his website here) inspired me to create a different piece. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share!

Credit/Source: Zen Pencils, zenpencils.com 


            I am a teacher.
            I have been a teacher for more than ten years, in various faculties. I’ve taught at private and public school. I’ve taught individuals and I’ve taught classrooms full of kids. I’ve taught at the college level and the elementary school level. Given my experience, it seems that the label of teacher is inescapable. Indeed, it seems I am the only one in my life actively contesting the title.
            I am a writer.
            I am a musician.
            I am a craftsman.
I am many other things to myself, my family, and my friends, but to people who have just met me, it all gets boiled down to “teacher.” Why then, do I rebel?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Moonsong - Prelude: Power


Because I am forced to be away from my home (and my computer, and all of my free time), I thought instead of giving another bit of Muramasa: Blood Drinker, I would give everyone a taste of what I wrote last year. This is the prologue to Moonsong, an epic fantasy story I began writing last year in pieces sent one at a time to the woman who would become my wife. Eventually the story grew so large (some 325,000 words) that breaking into volumes became necessary to pursue publication. The third I'm hoping to get to this fall, after I wrap up Muramasa.


The following bit I'm rather fond of. Since reading Eye of the World  I've always liked the idea of starting off a book with a villain. This one is effective as because, just like in Jordan's classic, we don't get to meet the big bag evil guy right away in the main narrative. I hope it stimulates your hunger for more!

Prelude: Power


“Tell me, Vindrel, what is power?”
Sarthius Catannel turned his head away from the window for a moment to regard Claire as she stepped across the threshold to the small room overlooking the courtyard. Below his shock of blonde hair, his green eyes stared at her with the same vacant stillness as when she had met the man years before. Never a word to acknowledge her, his lingering look held all the wisdom she needed to understand. She felt a chill and drew her robes around her body tightly. She saw that the window was open. Just a breeze then, she thought.
“Power, sir?” Vindrel, the captain of the guard for as long as Claire could remember, stood beside Sarthius, his uniform of blue and green and as crisp as always. He was one of the few higher-ups of the military staff that had been kept on after the old count passed away, probably because he had no family to speak of, and therefore nothing at stake in the politics of court. She envied him.
“Yes, power.” Sarthius stared out the window as Claire crept up to stand slightly beside him. “What does it mean to have power? To be powerful?” She could smell the fire in the courtyard below, and understood what was taking place. She didn’t want to look, but knew somehow she would. In the end, she could not avoid it. Then the smell would get worse.
“Power…” Vindrel looked down for a moment. “Power is the ability to exact your will. To do what you wish.”
Claire noticed the flintlock pistol that Vindrel openly carried, in defiance of divine law. There were rumors that Vindrel was a Promethean, or as they called themselves, Somniatel. Watching him stare out the window with his familiar stone-cutting gaze, she believed he could, in truth, be a member of one of the strange highland clans that as much as worshipped the technological apostasies of the Dark One, even though they lived like savages in wilds of the world. If it was true, it explained much of his retention with the young count; Prometheans were valuable sell-swords, just as much for their uncanny skills as for their lack of ethics.
“A good answer,” Sarthius said, “but not quite right, I think. A woodcutter chops down a tree because he wishes it. Is he powerful?”
“He is to the tree,” Vindrel said.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Shores of Null - Quiescence (Album Review)

I haven't tried to review anything in years, but this rather unknown doom band I came across recently compelled me to write one. Looking back at my Amazon reviews from 2005, I think I've improved quite a bit! I've included some videos and links at the bottom so you can preview their material or possibly support them by buying the album.

My overall score: 9 out of 10

Shores of Null is a band from Rome that combines a diverse set of influences and styles, including doom, death, and black metal. Sounds reminiscent of November’s Doom, Woods of Ypres, ICS Vortex’s solo debut “Stormbringer,” and American band Nevermore, in addition to classic black metal influences cleverly mixed in, can be heard throughout the ten track endeavor. The result is not something eclectic, but rather a coherent, unified sound that penetrates the album from start to finish despite great variety within and between tracks.

The sound of Shores of Null consists primarily of vertically large repeated chords in the guitar and bass that are shaped into melodic phrases and punctuated by memorable riffs. Throughout, dissonance is highly controlled, giving the listener a need for release that is never quite matriculated. Beneath the churning soundscape of the strings, creative drum work serves as its own point of interest while driving the tempo of the songs, which varies from black metal fast to sludgy slow. On top of these harsher elements sits the highly melodic voice, which is at times frantic and at times soothing, creating a tonal contrast that compels the listener to further explore the darkness the band presents in varying shades of grey. Growls used on several tracks heighten this contrast between harsh and beautiful.

The production on the album is fairly maximized and typical of a modern sound, however in the case of Shores of Null the production serves the music and doesn’t detract from it. All the instruments are clearly audible, including the bass which is often buried in metal recordings, and the tone employed on the rhythm guitars, bass, and vocals was excellent. The drums sound slightly compressed, but this is typical of metal and doesn’t distract too much. The voice is clear and sits at the right level in the mix, and nothing sounds over-processed.

As a criticism, while there is a great amount of tempo, texture, and tonal variety within and between the pieces on the album, the experience was overall lacking in dynamic variation, sounding consistently “loud.” Also somewhat distracting was the sound of the lead or melodic guitars, which sounded dead and shapeless. This is partly a performance issue, as the parts were played with little vibrato and failed to sustain or “sing.” It stands out mostly because of the great phrasing and tone employed by the vocals near or concurrent to the sections of single note lead guitar. The shortcomings of the album should not be viewed as negatives by themselves, but rather represent lost opportunities to make an already great album perfect.

If you are a fan of any of the bands mentioned, or enjoy doom metal in general, Shores of Null will likely please and earn a place in the rotation among the classics.

http://shoresofnull.com/



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nostalgia Chronicles, part 3: Moving?

Another year, another room
Where you hang a few things on the walls
It’s just where you call home for now,
Until it’s time to take them down and move on.

-David Gold, from “To long life in the Limbo Union” Woods 4: The Green Album

The act of moving, and by that I mean changing your home from one location to another, is usually not looked back upon fondly. This is for good reason, as moving can involve hours of physical labor, tedious organizing, and frantic cleaning in an attempt to recover one’s security deposit. Having moved some five times in the last three years or so, I can say that I am thoroughly through with the experience. I’m ready to have a home and I hope this time I get to stick around it in it for a good long while.
However nostalgia, as I’ve made a point to clarify in the past, is not always a memory of something positive, it is just a powerful memory. The moving experience is always memorable for me. You take your things off the walls. You pack your knick knacks into boxes. Soon the clothes and the pots and the pans go, then your furniture and your toothbrush. You are left with empty rooms, no longer your home at all. For me it is a powerful experience. You enter limbo, where you get to contemplate all the places that were once home.
At the same time, there are numerous positive nostalgic feelings that I get when I move. I remember the past places I lived. I remember the joy I had there, and the promises that location made when I moved in. I also remember how I felt when I moved out. Here are a few of those places. I get take back there a lot.
Frank Court, Bakersfield, California
My parents rented a house in Bakersfield when I was young while my mother stayed home with myself and my sister. When I was five, they bought a house, and so the first real memory I have of a house being mine was on Frank Court. I remember the house being empty, and shouting to it, “goodbye!” as I walked out the door for the last time. I remember seeing the row of four bushy trees for the last time, as well as a thicket at the end of the street that I used to play in with my friends that lived down the street. I fell asleep at some point in the move and woke up in my new room.
North Park Apartments, Fresno California
My first apartment was across the street from Fresno State, where I was a graduate student at the time. They were really crappy, but I had a great time initially being independent. I moved in sort of one item at a time, and slowly the apartment became more like home. I’m nostalgic of lots of experiences from that little cave of a place, a few of which I address in my Berserk entry.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blood Drinker: Chapter 6-1

Here is chapter 6, where we find Yoshio and Amaya moving toward Osaka. As always, previous installments are linked before the beginning of the text proper.

Chapter 6



The sun beat down on the still-damp fields to either side of the raised road that split them. Peasants busied themselves with the harvest of the first round of rice, their bare feet collecting mud so that they looked like swallow nests below their calves as they stepped up and down. Their hats, large and conical much like the basket hat that Yoshio wore as he walked, bobbed up and down as they picked new stalks and threshed them. Amaya walked beside him, letting the horse follow by his lead a short distance behind them. A grove of trees interrupted their steady march as much by the sound of cicadas that nestled in them as the relief of shade they offered.
Amaya pulled the horse over to a shallow but clear pool in a rocky basin beside the grove, a left-over from the draining of the rice fields, and let the beast drink. He obliged contentedly, though the tense swishing of his tail at the pestering insects continued. Yoshio knelt down and dipped his hands into the water, then splashed his face.
“You’ve been quiet today, Yoshi,” Amaya said.
Yoshio turned to see Amaya sitting on a low-hanging branch of  a maple. Her head was slightly tilted. “I apologize,” he said. “I’ve had a great deal to think about.”
“Like what?”
“Osaka.”
“It’s a city, Yoshi. You’ve been in those before, haven’t you?”
“Yes, but it makes it so much harder to predict him. I missed what might be my only chance to catch Ryunosuke because of short-sightedness. More may be killed.”
Amaya nodded. “So you have given me the first answer.”
Yoshio sighed and stood up, letting the cool water drip off of his face. “Some of the things you said to me last night. They were not like you.”
“That is where you are wrong,” Amaya said. “They are precisely like me.”
“Then you have many sides, Amaya,” Yoshio said.
“And you will know them all, my dear…” she smiled sweetly and looked away for a moment. “Friend.”
“I’m not sure if I liked it,” Yoshio said. “In fact, it disturbed me.”
“Thank you for your honesty. I would not usually show that side off, but if you wish to know someone, you must offer up a piece of yourself in exchange.”
“Know who?” Yoshio said.
“You, silly.” Amaya hopped off the tree limp and walked to the horse. “People get to know each other by self-revelation. First you reveal something about yourself, then your companion feels obligated to offer up the same. You told me a great deal about yourself last night.”

Monday, June 9, 2014

"I'll Never be Good Enough" and Other Lies you Tell Yourself

I’ve done many different things in my life. I’ve played concerts, written books, recorded albums, and written sonatas and symphonies, along with plenty of other things people mind find more than a wee bit daunting. Sometimes, people disparage themselves and say that such things are impossible for them; that they lack the skill, talent, time, or intelligence to do what they really wish they could do.
I am here to tell you that such impossibilities exist only in your mind. You can write a book if you choose. You can play a concert, solo or otherwise, if you choose. You can record an album, or paint a great picture, or make a movie, or put on a play, or do any of the big creative projects you dream about.
The only difference between you and the person who does these things is time. Time spent with your craft, developing talents and skills. Time spent getting experience on stage or on the page. Time spent staring at the word processor or the finale document. The mountain seems insurmountable only because you stand at the bottom, but those who stand at the pinnacle got there the same way you will: one step at a time.
Hard work, dedication, and time is all it takes to accomplish your goals in life. If you want to write a book, write every day. Write something. Write. Sooner than you realize, you will have a manuscript. If you want to build an incredible body, lift weights. Every day. Sooner than you realize, you will be strong. It is the same process with this as with everything else.
Often people lose sight of the simple truth of progressing a step at a time to achieve goals. We live in an on-demand world with boring, repetitive jobs that train people to not only ignore the march of progress with themselves, but declare that it doesn’t even exist. It does exist. Make it real, one note, one page, one word at a time. More than that:

Don’t Give Yourself an Excuse to Not Try

Telling yourself that you “Just don’t have what it takes,” also gives you one of the most convenient excuses to avoid failure: avoiding the effort. If you predetermine that you will fail, it is easy to avoid doing the work and taking the risk that is necessary to achieve your dreams. It is a cruel psychological trick we play on ourselves to deprive ourselves of happiness, even if we don’t realize it.
Work hard. Work every day. Achieve your dreams. You can  do it. What are you willing to do to complete your work?

The video below has the same message in a more casual style, for those who care for it.