Sunday, April 29, 2007

Where doth thou go when entering into slumber?

There are times when I cannot find the blight in Man.

There are times I fear I am that blight.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Peltier Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

On April 3rd, 2007, the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee has received confirmation of Leonard Peltier's official nomination for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. This year 181 candidates have been registered. The name of the Prize recipient for 2007 will be announced in mid-October.

Leonard Peltier

Friday, April 27, 2007

"Slaughter Me Gently"

Here's the third week's installment of an essay or short story. Titled "Slaugther Me Gently", this short story first appeared within the webpages of If - E - Zine(tm)'s 4th issue in June, 2004. Enjoy.


"Slaughter Me Gently"

by Charles Shaver
(c) 2004 by Charles Shaver. All Rights Reserved.


The air conditioning hummed softly. It hummed and filled the ears of Joseph Anatole until it was dead and unnoticed. The hum made him nervous without being sure as to what was making him nervous. His arm twitched. He grabbed a hold of it with his opposite hand, hoping to settle it. A gentle puff of life silently coughed from the A/C’s vent, lifting the flimsy gown that he was wearing.

“God, I hate these,” Joseph quietly cursed. He straightened his gown, bedecked with the hospital’s insignia, and added, “At least it’ll be the last time I’ll have to wear one.”

He sighed, pushing the edges of the gown down onto his knees with both hands, and looked about the room. It looked like a million other rooms in a million other hospitals in a million other parts of the world. He sighed again with boredom and nerves. Another random quiet blast of cooled vapor trailed up his gown and reminded him of his nakedness. He became more nervous. He fondled his thick mustache and matted black hair.

He sat. And sat. And sat. His butt cheek tingled. He rocked his hefty body from side to side and thought about getting up off the table and walking around a bit.

The door opened.

“Mr. Anatole?” A male nurse walked in. His outfit was made of the same flimsy material as Joseph’s gown, but it covered his whole body like a jumpsuit. Joseph wondered why. Both served the same purpose, more or less, but the nurse’s was like a modern suit of armor whereas his gown was like a limp rag.

“That’s me,” Joseph answered.

“Follow me.”

The nurse wasn’t very personable. Joseph was used to nurses being personable, being nice. But then, Joseph hadn’t really ever seen a lot of nurses. He hadn’t ever had the time for such things. And this wasn’t a normal hospital. It was a corporate hospital.

Joseph Anatole was lead into a slightly larger room where another man in a similar sterile jumpsuit and a lab coat awaited. A plethora of testing equipment, and some odd things whose purpose Joseph wasn’t sure of, dotted the room’s walls and corners.

“Mr. Anatole?” said the new man in the lab coat.

“Yes,” Joseph nodded.

“I’m Dr. Stargen.”

Joseph took his hand.

“This will be simple enough,” Dr. Stargen said. “Let’s start by stepping up on the scales.” The doctor lead Joseph over to a device to weigh him. Joseph stepped up onto it.

“Let’s see,” the doctor fiddled with machine. “That’ll be 137 kilos and... just about a quarter kilo over.” The doctor looked beyond Joseph.

Joseph turned and saw the nurse had procured a datapad from somewhere and was recording the number.

“Well, Mr. Anatole,” Joseph turned his head back to the doctor as he spoke, “At $402.46 a kilo, that should bring in quite a bit of money.”

“Wait, doctor,” the nurse said. “We still have to get his fat content ratio.”

“Oh that’s right. I’m sorry.”

The nurse stepped up beside Joseph. The datapad was now under his arm and a new instrument had appeared in his hands. He lifted Joseph arm, poking and prodding at the folds of his flesh.

“That’s fifteen percent,” the nurse finally said, trading the new instrument for the datapad. He recorded the new number.

“Oh,” Dr. Stargen said. “I’m afraid that’ll only bring you $363.34 per kilo, Mr. Anatole. I’m sorry”

“What?” Joseph gasped.


The human race has dominated the Earth for over two hundred millennia. Their biology has remained the same all that time. It has never adapted. A creature need not adapt unless it is necessary and humanity has caused nature to adapt to them, so no need ever arose to evolve.

Mistakes were made. Catastrophes struck. Some things aid the price. Others died. But all things became virtually inedible as they grew and evolved outside the human range of needs.

Most food was now processed, synthesized. Meat nurtured in vats in sterile environments. Prices for foodstuffs raised. Real foods, food rose naturally and traditionally, were all done in sterile labs. Cows and chickens and lambs and such were grown in sterile labs. These garnered the highest prices.

Surviving off the land, eating food naturally grown outside the lab, was still possible. People survived this way. Mostly and for a short time. The lifespan of a Dirt Eater, for that is what they were called, was something along the lines of a mere forty years. The environment had changed too much, and what grew naturally simply no longer met the needs of human biology for humans, as I have said, never really evolved along with the rest of nature.

The rich, however, those who could afford the best pure, unspoiled, genetically created food that met all their nutritional needs and then some, grew ever older. They lived to be 120 to 150 years old, and in fact the eldest record to date was just over 200 years old.

Grain and vegetables remained a common stock while meat became a prized thing. And the most prized meat of all, the most expensive, most exotic was youltan: human meat.

As old religions died away and old taboos faded, cannibalism became an accepted thing. Not entirely accepted. There were many who did not, would not, eat the meat of a fellow human. There were even those who banded together, forming factions or orders that defied the new palette of humanity. The largest and noisiest of all the groups was the Human Rights Movement.

While no country or corporation claimed to participate in hunting human game, the HRM said they did. Studies were done and showed that all humans who were put to the slaughter had openly, willing given themselves over to be made into youltan. Not everyone believed this, but this was the world that humanity had reigned over for 200 millennia.


“I’m sorry, Mr. Anatole. While some fat is desirable in youltan, too much fat isn’t. Fatty youltan sells cheaper.” Dr. Stargen went about analyzing Joseph, who sighed with regret. For the last few months he had been eating as much as he could in an attempt to plump up. He had no clue that a higher fat content would mean lower prices. but he was here, ready to do what he had to do for the sake of his family.

“Drugs analysis?” Dr. Stargen asked the nurse.


“Good, we won’t have to lower the price any more.”

Joseph nodded in relief. “How much will I get?”

The doctor reached for the nurse’s datapad. He looked at the thing. “It comes to $49,777.58. And it looks like everything’s in order for your family to receive the money.”

“Good,” said Joseph. “That’ll feed my family for a few more months.”

“All set. Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” Joseph answered. He followed Dr. Stargen into another rather sterile room. Unlike the last room, however, this room was bare with the exception of a single chair with a ton of metallic gadgets attached underneath it in the center of the room.

“Please have a seat,” Dr. Stargen steered Joseph towards the chair. Joseph sat. The chair reclined automatically. Joseph knew what was to come. Some sort of gas. It would be a painless death.

Dr. Stargen appeared standing over Joseph with a gas-mask in his hand. “Anything more before we get started?” he asked.

Joseph nodded. “Yeah. Please be gentle with me,” he said, then added, “It’s my first time.”

Dr. Stargen smiled.

The mask was wrapped about Joseph’s head. A cool air flowed into his lungs, feeling like liquid pleasure. Joseph smiled, knowing that his family would be okay.

Monday, April 23, 2007

New Cover Art for Issue 9 of If - E - Zine(tm)

It's still tentative, some things are sure to change, but here is the proposed cover for glorious Issue #9 of my If - E - Zine(tm): The Free Online Magazine of Thrilling Speculative Fiction!

Friday, April 20, 2007

"The Last Stand of King Zalam"

It's Friday again and that means it's time for a new short story, flash fic or essay. I think I'll be doing this for about 13 weeks, if I can. This is the second week.

Today I present to you, dear blog readers, a story that first appeared in the 3rd issue of If - E - Zine(tm) in May of 2004. It's called "The Last Stand of King Zalam" and features one of my favorite mind-children, Zalam, in a Sword & Sorcery world where magic is most often bent to the will of evil men, as is technology, and only the strong, brutal force of a warrior can help justice prevail. I'm definitely a fan of R.E. Howard.

Be sure to add If - E - Zine as a friend on MySpace

"The Last Stand of King Zalam"
© Copyright 2004 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the author and/or artist.


King Zalam drew his three bladed sword. With the flip of a switch built into the hilt the blades began to hum and sing, vibrating ferociously.

“You’ll never take me alive!” cried the king defiantly. Norikahn’s invading forces stormed into Zalam’s elaborate domed throne room decorated from ceiling to floor in pure white marble and affixed here and there with ivory embellishments. Norikahn’s army of two-tone purplish robotic humanoids, known as mechano-men, swarmed around the immense king.

Zalam’s gray skin rippled with nervous muscles bulging and flexing underneath. He stood at the ready before his massive white marble throne, cushioned with violet stuffed velvet, ready with his weapon. More of Norikahn’s men filled the ranks of the enemy. Most were mechano-men, but a scant few were derderoids, kalamans and creedelsians, and a few were humans. All were mercenaries. That’s how Norikahn worked: the disposable machines filled the ranks of his front lines and were treated as not much more than the cannon fodder they were designed to be. Meanwhile, real folk, all hired mercenaries, filled the ranks of his leadership. It all made for an awful looking rag-tag band of an army. One thing could not be denied: its numbers were immense, more immense than Zalam had guessed, and he knew they must have overrun the castle with sheer numbers.

Zalam himself was a derderoid. Few of his kind were spread across the galaxy, but not many were needed. When derderoids mated, which was usually only once in a lifetime, the mothers would birth litters numbering between fourteen and twenty-six. At full adulthood, a derderoid stood ten feet tall and four feet wide at the first and main pair of shoulders. Derderoids had four arms. Two elongated, main arms that stretched to the ground almost like a simian’s. The two smaller arms, located just under the first pair, were much smaller, thinner atavistic limbs left over from a more savage time. For the most part they appeared to be totally useless. They weren’t, of course. Not entirely. Especially to a warrior. Upon closer inspection one would find that the smaller hands were equipped with sharp claws that extended from the knuckle. They were perfect for tearing apart anything – or anyone – within close proximity. Their torso and legs were extremely gaunt and wiry. The legs, reminiscent of an insect’s legs, were thinly muscular and ended in something like hooves. They often acted like springs to achieve great leaps.

King Zalam was surrounded. A fight to the finish was imminent. Yet, the forces of Norikahn did not advance upon him. Instead, they seemed to content themselves with circling him and training their weapons upon him, but nothing more.

“If you are here for my throne, then come! Come! Bring all your strength! All your men! Come and fight for a warrior’s demise! I will build a mountain with your corpses before I die!” Zalam taunted.

Several of the robots charged forward. King Zalam was surprised to see that they had put away their laser rifles in exchange for metal clubs.

“So you intend to beat me to death?” Zalam managed as he began a swooping swing of his sword. He put all his force through his right arm, his strong arm, to provide an impact of power while pulling up on the bottom of the hilt with his left in an act of leverage that would allow him to cut through the mechano-men.

The three blades sliced through one robot, then through a second as he finished his swing. Two more robots came at him from either side, also brandishing metal clubs. King Zalam shifted his shoulders, his left hand leaving the sword, bringing the butt of the hilt to smash in the head of the attacker on his right who promptly fell in a heap a metallic trash. The robot attacker on his left was too quick for Zalam to react with his sword, so with his free hand he grabbed the machine in a grappling hold. Zalam’s left arm slipped up under one of the attacker’s arms. His hand came to grasp the back of the metallic head. Zalam’s tiny arms went to work. They tore away steel plate after steel plate and handful of wire after handful of wire. The robotic thing sputtered as if it were somehow managing real death throes.

Seeing new attackers approaching, he let go of the fading robot before him. Zalam once again grabbed the hilt of his sword with both hands and heaved a mighty swing that arced out towards his new attackers. Again Zalam’s amazing sword cut through one mechano-man and then another, carving them into several slices.

Norikahn’s army seemed to pause as the last two attackers fell to the floor with an echoing crash. His chest heaving a little, King Zalam shouted, “Have you nothing more for me?”

From one of the humans in the back of the ranks arose a cry of attack. The entire army responded by pressing in on Zalam in one huge surge. It was all Zalam could do just to keep his arms free and capable of swinging his beloved sword. He slashed right and downward through another robot, allowing the momentum of the sword to carry upward and back around in a graceful circular motion to cut down two more standing side-by-side. Several robots caught his arms and made great attempts to hold the King in place.

That’s when Zalam saw another derderoid, one slightly taller than he; make an incredible leap from the far end of the throne room in his direction. Despite this new attacker’s position behind all the rest of the army, he easily cleared their heads with his leaping attack. The derderoid gave the traditional war cry of his people “Grohtak-altohkaaa!” and his swinging ball-and-chain came crashing down on to King Zalam’s head.

* * * * *

A combination of hands and water slapping his face brought Zalam back to the waking world. He opened his deeply stygian eyes and found himself in what he immediately recognized as a cell in his own castle’s dungeon. Before him, in all his decorated glory, stood his enemy and one-time friend Norikahn. He was dressed in a purple military uniform, the double-breasted jacket lined with two rows of black buttons. Black knee-high boots, black gloves and a black cloak clasped at the neck with a multi-pointed star made of pure silver completed his look. Just outside the cell’s door stood the derderoid that had delivered the blow to Zalam. Just to Norikahn’s left stood a pudgy, squat human. The human was dressed in nothing but a strap of black leather that covered his crotch, black gloves and black boots similar to those Norikahn wore. From his waist hung a long leather whip. His left nostril had been split open and healed at some point in a gape much like a serpent’s tongue. His hair was thinning, spiked and was dyed a light orange color.

“A good display of force today on your part,” Norikahn complimented Zalam upon seeing his conscious state. “You destroyed nine of my robots before Nord he took you down with his articulated mace. If it were not for him, I think you would have taken twice, mayhaps thrice that before we would have detained you.”

At this, Zalam looked at the derderoid who had bested him, if only by circumstances. “Why would you attack a brother?” Zalam’s question shot at Nord like an arrow. No answer came beyond an unemotional stare.

“Because he desires to be on the side of a new era for Protuculus.” Norikahn answered. “This is, after all, the cradle of all derderoid-kind. He, of all people, has a vested interest in the matters of the state that occur here.” Norikahn paused and looked almost longingly at Zalam before he spoke again.

When he spoke again, it was to the ugly human standing at his side. “Krontus, have I told you of how our dear friend Zalam and I first met?” Norikahn did not wait for an answer, but instead continued without any sense of a pause and turned his attention to Zalam. “Krontus was not so fortunate as you and I were, my dear Zalam. He was not born here on Protuculus. He was birthed on Earth. Even dear Nord back there was birthed in space on a freighter.” Norikahn turned back to Krontus. “It was long ago. Thirty years, mayhaps?” His eyebrows rose to punctuate his question. Zalam refused to answer, so Norikahn continued once again as if he did not mean for an answer to come. “Under the reign of Zalam’s uncle humans were barely tolerable, and then only as slaves. We were forced to live as nomadic tribes on the outskirts of all major cities. I, however, was fortunate. I was borne to a serving maid to Queen Alidia, Zalam’s aunt. As soon as I was old enough I was taught to carry a serving platter for the then King Qik-tahr. Zalam and I grew up together. Our play was tolerated and our friendship blossomed. But that is the foolishness of childhood innocence… or ignorance.

“The king never had a male child and when Zalam came of age the king refused to abdicate the throne to him as customs required, hoping that one day he would still have a son. So Zalam raised an army and overthrew his own uncle. It was a bloody battle. After fifteen days holed up in this palace, King Qik-tahr rushed Zalam’s army, chasing them into the streets, killing everyone who got in the way. My mother died in that battle.”

Norikahn paused with thought, and then continued. “But luring the King out into the streets was Zalam’s plan. King Qik-tahr’s men became fractured as they chased down different targets while Zalam awaited the King with a strong and rested force. Zalam gained the victory he sought. He immediately freed all humans. A kind gesture, if not an act of public relations brilliancy to gain the peoples’ hearts. It worked, but Zalam refused to allow humans to have a voice with their new freedom. As such, they were still treated as second-class citizens of the kingdom. Hence we are here today.

“Protuculus needs a new rule. A new era. Humans need to have a voice.”

Zalam could hold his tongue no longer. “But it is OUR homeworld! You humans attempted an invasion and your failure at that has left you sore ever since. That is why my uncle treated you as slaves. It is no justified reason to enslave a race, but intruders should have no voice in the affairs of the native peoples.”

“Yes, yes. I have heard all your excuses before. The truth is, I was born here and I am a native Protuculian as much as you.”

“Barely a comparison,” Zalam spat.

“But a comparison none-the-less.” Norikahn retorted.

“And what would you do as king? Enslave the derderoids under a thin veil of justice?” Zalam cried.

Norikahn allowed a moments’ pause. “Oh, I’m sorry. I have been so rude.” He continued without any further thought to Zalam’s remarks. “Zalam, you and my bodyguard, Nord, have already been introduced.” Norikahn waved a graceful hand toward the menacing derderoid, then swept the same hand to the nearly naked pudgy human standing nearby. “And this… this is Krontus. My personal…” Norikahn paused in thought before he continued with a rather menacing grin. “Krontus is my personal information gatherer.” The tips of Krontus’s mouth seemed to curl unnaturally. “You two will become most acquainted in a few days time.”

Again Norikahn paused, considering Zalam.

“Krontus, do your best. My dear old friend deserves nothing less.” Norikahn turned with a flare of his cloak and left the cell. Nord followed close behind.

Krontus pulled the leather whip from his waist, letting it unravel to the floor. His arm started working, moving surprisingly gracefully with the whip. He cracked it several times in the face of Zalam without touching him, making the former king flinch with each strike. Krontus moved in closer, arcing his shoulders wider, and the incredible sonic boom of the tiny tip bit into the rough skin of the derderoid.

To the surprise of Krontus, Zalam merely squinted and tensed but gave no cry of pain. The whip cracked again… and again and again. Each time it bit deeper into Zalam’s flesh and each time Zalam refused to utter any sound of pain. A dozen lashes later, Zalam could stand it no longer. Sweat poured from his head and chest. Blood streamed from a multitude of lashes from his chest and stomach. And with one intense crack of the whip across the base of his neck, Zalam finally groaned in pain. Before the darkness of unconsciousness enveloped him, Zalam uttered a solemn oath to his tormentor.

“Tell Norikahn… I will k-kill him before I allow… before I allow myself to die.” Zalam’s head drooped in a feint.

* * * * *

“Master. Master.” Fistfuls of water and a few gentle hand slaps finally brought Zalam to.

Zalam opened a feeble eyelid to look upon the face of Krontus. The man had spent the last several days, three or four Zalam had thought, simply beating and whipping and pulling and tearing at Zalam in every which direction. Through it all Zalam’s krohtahk, or warrior spirit, kept him defiant of his tormentor. Though by this point Zalam’s acts were just that, pre-conditioned acts taught to him during the rites of passage that derderoid traditionalists went through. His heart, however, left him a day or so ago in a bout of weariness and pain.

As Zalam once again looked upon the face of the ugly Krontus, his conditioning kicked in and commanded him like a line of code commanding one of Norikahn’s mechano-men. “Back for more, are we?”

Krontus looked at him confusedly. “Oh, my visage. I am sorry, my master.”

Zalam became confused, his eyes drooping heavily with the thought that Krontus was baiting him for more psychological torture on this day than the physical tortures he had been inflicting thus far. His body prepared itself automatically to a relaxed state, ready for any whips or beating that the day would bring. Zalam realized that he was dangling from the cell’s back wall from nothing more than four wrist shackles.

“How is that, master?” The voice, Zalam thought, sounded ever familiar. “Master, it is I. And I have come for you.”

Zalam struggled against his training to open an eye. Before him, in the exact spot where Krontus once stood, was now a friendlier face.

“Calibos!” A sense of sobriety overcame Zalam as his eyes widened to take into full view the friend that stood before him. “But, but how?”

Calibos immediately began unfastening the chains that held Zalam fast to the cool stonewall of his cell.

“News of the invasion reached the Temple but two days ago. It was two days ride from there to here.” Calibos explained. He was a younger man, a human man, of his mid-twenties. His face was pale but full and his head was covered with sleek black hair. He wore a simple but heavy brown hooded robe. “When I heard my liege had been overrun, I had to come and see for myself. Through some investigation, and minor trickery, I was able to find out you were alive and of your whereabouts.”

“So I see that Temple of yours has been teaching you new things,” Zalam said in response to Calibos’ earlier illusionary guise.

“A simple trick. But effective if done at the right time,” Calibos seemed to blush a bit in pride.

Zalam’s hands were now free and he was rubbing his swollen wrists. He ignored the lacerations upon his chest, back, stomach and legs. “So where is the real Krontus?”

“The warder of these cells?”

“Yes, that’s him.”

Calibos hesitated. “He is dead.” Zalam peered at his human friend, wondering. As if reading his mind, Calibos explained, “He is the first man I’ve ever killed.” Zalam suddenly understood. Being blooded for the first time was always a dramatic, even at times a traumatic, experience in ones’ life. This was especially so for humans who have no such warrior training to prepare them for the moment.

Zalam changed the subject somewhat, “Why did you come here?”

Calibos stared at Zalam. “Why, for you, of course. We’ve been friends since childhood… and don’t you remember? When you took the throne I was there to swear my oath of allegiance to you. As long as you live, I am your servant.”

Zalam was moved inside. “And apparently my friend.” Zalam extended his hand in thanks. Calibos took it and said, “Of course.”

“Let’s go get my sword.” Zalam broke the spell of friendship when he spoke.

“What? Why? Should we not fly from this castle as quickly as possible?”
“No. I intend to kill Norikahn for once and for all,” Zalam gave Calibos a hard look, and then moved out of the cell. Zalam made his way by the many cells of the dungeon and up a long stone stairway.

“The castle is full of his men. To take him… it would be impossible.” Calibos pleaded. “Let us just flee.”

“No,” Zalam said. “I have a score to settle with Norikahn. And a throne to regain. He intends mistreatment of my people.” Zalam stopped at the top of the stairs and opened the wooden door there just a crack to peer out. “He is most likely basking in the glow of my throne room.”

“Sire, I still think that we should-“

“Quiet!” Zalam whispered the command with force. Calibos heard the footsteps of someone passing just beyond the door.

“Come on!” Zalam said, again in a forced whisper. He bolted through the door, his legs propelling him ever quicker with every step. Calibos leaned out the door and looked into the massive round entrance hall to find it empty with the exception of the lone mechano-man guard Zalam was running up on from behind.

Zalam caught the guard from behind, wrapping one of his massive arms around the chest of the mechano-man. His other massive arm reached for and grabbed the laser blaster away from the guard. All the while his two tiny arms sunk their talons deep into the guard’s torso, ripping away plating and wires in a flurry.

Calibos rushed up behind the two struggling figures, keeping a watchful eye on the gloriously white marble room.

“Let’s hope these robots have no way of communicating with each other remotely, or else we’ll be overrun very soon,” Zalam told Calibos as he let the now torn-to-shreds guard fall to the floor. Without much thought, Calibos grabbed the metallic pile and pulled it toward the door from whence he and Zalam had just come from. “We must hide this body,” Calibos said. Zalam helped him, still clutching the laser rifle. They placed it behind the door and Calibos closed it, while Zalam took his turn to keep a watchful eye on the room. Zalam held the bulky laser rifle in his hands with quite a bit of ease and comfort.

“We head for the throne room now,” Zalam said as he walked across the hall towards a massive set of gold plated double-doors. “He’ll most likely have guards just inside the doors. And perhaps several more further inside the room.”

“Wait, Zalam,” Calibos tugged at the arm of his friend. “Some tact might be in order.”

“Some of your magiks? I had already thought of that. Why not make some explosion or something to take out the guards all at once?” Zalam suggested.

“Because I can’t.” Calibos answered. “Most of what I know is illusionary. A moment, please. Keep an eye out.” Zalam and Calibos backed up to the wall near the doors. Zalam eyed the whole room and its many doors with intensity while Calibos whispered a few words of a dead language from thousands of years ago. A strange transformation began on Calibos. Zalam could not help but stare as his friend changed into the guise of a robot guard like the one that Zalam had just torn to pieces.

“Give me the gun and the image is complete,” Calibos said in a mechanical voice. Zalam had to admit, if he had not witnessed the transformation himself, the visage was so good that he most likely would have ripped his friend to shreds as well.

“Now, for you,” Calibos set the gun against the marble wall. Again he spoke in archaic tongues, this time in his new mechanical voice and with a wave of his hands towards Zalam. Immediately, Zalam saw the change. He was becoming invisible!

“I can’t see myself!” Zalam half-cried.

“And you won’t for some time. But you won’t need to.” Calibos grabbed the gun again. “I’ll run in and cause a distraction. You sneak in behind me through the open doors and attack Norikahn when you have the chance.”

“My friend,” came Zalam’s disembodied voice. “You are a genius.”

Cailbos busted into the massive throne room where once Zalam stood fighting the invading horde of mechano-men and mercenaries. Now there were only five guards. Two were at the door as Zalam had guessed, another stood sentry to the left of the long royal velvet rug that led to the throne, and one on either side of the throne where Norikahn sat. All were mechano-men, but the guard on the right of Norikahn was the intimidating Nord. Leaning against the throne between Norikahn and Nord, Calibos recognized Zalam’s traditional derderoid triple bladed sword.

Before Norikahn stood a human dressed in elegant robes. Calibos decided that he must be some sort of ambassador meeting with Norikahn for the first time. He also noticed that behind and above the throne a massive hole had been cut and chipped away from the domed ceiling. He wondered what this hole could serve as for Norikahn. All of them turned in shock as Calibos entered the room in a rush.

“To arms!” Screeched Calibos’ voice. “Intruders! Intruders are about in the courtyard!’

Norikahn stood, alerted. “Nord, check it out. You two by the door, join them.” Nord leapt into action and the guards at the door followed. Not knowing what else to do, Calibos stepped aside thinking that Zalam might need his assistance.

“Come,” he heard Nord command. Fearing he might jeopardize the task at hand, Calibos reluctantly followed the derderoid guard.

“Master Onkiot,” Norikahn addressed his visitor, “There is a chamber here to our left. Perhaps we should retreat there until all is settled.”

Zalam snuck deep into the throne room. He found that Norikahn, the guard, nor the new man called Onkiot standing before the throne took any notice of him. Zalam was pleased.

He quickly found his way to the side of the throne, picking up his beloved sword. Onkiot jumped with fright. Norikahn turned and saw the sword rising from its resting place unnaturally.

“Sorcery!” cried Onkiot. Zalam switched on the vibrating blades with an audible “snap!” and took a swing. The agile Norikahn made an incredible leap from where he stood before the throne, drawing the gun at his waist and avoiding the three swinging blades all at once. The guard moved forward almost hesitantly, as if unsure of what was happening.

“Attack! Attack the sword, you damned fool machines!” Norikahn commanded. As the mechano-men guards raised the barrel of their blasters, Zalam swung his sword wide and in an upward direction. The blades bit into the steel of the blaster of the guard standing near the throne and through it’s left hand. Both hand and gun were completely sliced in half, falling to the ground.

As the mechano-man tried to take aim at him once again, Zalam leapt down the length of the velvet carpet to land almost atop the remaining guard. His triplet of blades sliced the things into four pieces from head to crotch.

Norikahn took his own shot. A loud crack resounded throughout the chamber, echoing from the archaic weapon that fired bullets and to which Norikahn had always had a preference. Zalam, who was already jumping back down the carpet to stand on his former throne and finish off the guard standing there in an almost stunned manner, avoided the shot easily. Zalam brought the three blades down onto the robot, slicing through his head and out through his right shoulder. The upper third of the robot then slid away from the rest of the body and fell to the clean white marble floor.

Zalam took quick notice that Onkiot had receded into the background, mumbling incoherently much in the same manner as Calibos had to make him invisible. “Dammit, another sorcerer!” Zalam cursed quietly as his hand, wrapped around the hilt of his sword, came into full view of his eyes.

“Zalam!” Norikahn cried.

“Norikahn! I’ll have your head!” Zalam yelled back. He crouched deep into the throne, releasing his legs like springs and flying forward toward Norikahn. He screamed the traditional war cry of his people as he flew through the air. “Grohtak-altohkaaa!”

Norikahn’s archaic gun cracked loudly again. Zalam’s body teetered a bit in mid-air. Norikahn had to jump out of the way of Zalam’s flying body to avoid being hit. Zalam’s body hit the floor with a thud and slid to the wall, hitting his head.

Norikahn stood a moment, panting with excitement. “Onkiot,” Norikahn finally said. “Come, to my jet platform!” The two humans ran behind the throne where a large, flat platform was hidden. On the fore of the platform was a sort of pedestal. Upon it was a panel of controls. The two men jumped onto the jet platform. With a few flips of some switches and a couple turns of knobs, the platform lifted off the floor with the two men atop and flew out the massive hole in the dome.

Zalam was just picking himself off the floor when Nord returned, carrying a mechano-man like a piece of luggage in one hand and his weapon in the other. Zalam tightened his grip on his sword while Nord looked around and saw the receding image of his liege flying away on the platform with Onkiot. He then turned his eyes toward Zalam.

“Zalam! It’s me!” The mechano-man struggled with his voice, kicking his legs with no effect. Zalam at once realized that somehow Nord had discovered the ruse and had taken Calibos prisoner.

“You and your friend will die,” Nord said. His one free large hand started whirling the ball-and-chain. Nord turned the ball in awkwardly, almost toward himself, and with a wide arc brought it careening in a downward motion. Zalam pushed forward with his legs and shoulders, thrusting out his sword and catching the chain between two of the blades. The ball stopped just above Calibos’ head.

“Not yet,” Zalam said. “I have an oath to deliver unto your lord.” He brought his sword up, cutting into the chest of Nord. It wasn’t a deep cut, but it was good enough to cause him to lose sight of what he was doing. Nord dropped Calibos to the floor and reeled backward. The chain that was between Zalam’s blades slipped free. Immediately the two derderoids took offensive positions facing each other.

Each derderoid took one immense stride towards each other, locking their dark eyes on each other. Nord brought his ball-and-chain down at Zalam’s head. Zalam, shifting his weight and twisting his shoulders, released the sword with his left hand and thrusted it forward with his right. Nord’s weapon missed Zalam’s head, but slammed down hard onto the left side of his pelvis. An audible crack filled the chamber and Zalam cried in pain as his own weapon sunk deep into Nord’s gut, the tips of the blades extending out of back. Nord accompanied Zalam with his own cry of pain.

Zalam shifted again, trying to keep his weight on his right foot. He saw Nord recovering from the pain and bringing his arm and weapon back up into a heavy swing. Zalam grabbed the hilt of his sword, which was still sticking out of Nord, and twisted it with all his might. The blades almost squealed with the tension. Seeing the heavy ball coming back down toward him, Zalam repositioned his hands on the hilt and yanked hard, pulling the three blades out of the side of Nord’s gut.

Blood sprayed across the clean velvet carpet and white marble floor of the throne room. Nord’s weapon fell short of hitting Zalam. His intestines plugged the hole in his side that Zalam had made, fighting with itself to push its’ way to freedom. Nord fell to his knees.

Zalam straightened, panting and eyeing his enemy. Remembering Nord’s earlier war cry when they first met in the throne room, he knew that he had been given the derderoid warrior rite of passage. So, in respect and in response to that, he quoted the Rite of Death to Nord. “May you die in glory."

Nord looked up and gave a quick nod, which seemed to only bring him more pain as his face grimaced.

“I know not who you are, but-”

“I am Nord,” Nord interrupted. “Bastard son of Qik-tahr.”

Zalam stammered. He did not know what to say.

“Rule well,” Nord whispered. His body slumped forward with one final heaving breath. Nord was dead. For a long while Zalam just stood, his body’s weight resting on his right leg, staring at the body of the cousin he never knew and the rightful heir to the throne.

“Sire,” Calibos’ voice brought Zalam back to reality. He turned to look at his faithful friend who had dropped his robotic visage and now stood at his side. “This castle is still overrun with Norikahn’s men.”

“We will fight our way out,” Zalam said.

“We can’t. At least, not if we intend to survive. Norikahn’s men, both artificial and real, will not give up their new power so easily. Norikahn is sure to return. Perhaps he is already elsewhere in the castle plotting out demise.”

“Then we will die a warrior’s death,” Zalam grunted.

Calibos sighed. “If that is what you wish, master, then I will die with you here on this day. But we humans have a saying, a certain aspect from our own philosophy of war. ‘Sometimes it is better to run and live to fight another day than to fight and die today.’”

Zalam was almost amazed by his friend’s wisdom. His time at the temple had surely had an affect on him. “What do you suggest?”

“I have strength, I think, for one last spell. Either I can heal your wound so we may fight, or I can cast a spell that will cause one of us to levitate. While levitating, we can simply walk out of the very hole in the dome that Norikahn used himself as an escape route. All you do is walk on air.”


“Well, yes. As I said I barely have the strength to cast the spell. I doubt I’ll stay conscious after casting it. You’ll have to carry me. If you can with your wound.”

“Pain is nothing to me. What will happen when the spell wears off? Will we fall to our deaths?” Zalam questioned.

“No, it wears off slowly and we’ll slowly be placed back onto the ground.”

“I see,” Zalam was new to magic in his presence, and a bit suspicious. But, he decided, he could trust his friend. He thought a moment, and then said, “Let us fight another day.”

Again Calibos uttered a few long-forgotten words and with a wave of the hand he passed out into Zalam’s arms. Zalam immediately began to float off the bloodstained white marble floor. Zalam struggled to pick up his friend and limped though the hole in the dome. He continued to scan the castle, hoping he would not be seen walking slowly and with great effort in the air. There were no guards along the walls. Zalam guessed that Norikahn had returned and was gathering them for an assault on the throne room. Or at least, that’s what he was hoping. With his friend in his arms, his sword switched off and in his hand, Zalam turned his back on his throne and walked away through the air.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Read the Dam Letter

This is an actual letter sent to a man named Ryan DeVries by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Quality, State of Pennsylvania . This guy's response is hilarious, but read the State's letter before you get to the response letter
SUBJECT: DEQ File No.97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Lycoming County

Dear Mr. DeVries:

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:

Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity.

A review of the Department's files shows that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2007.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff.

Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action..

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

David L. Price
District Representative and Water Management Division.

Here is the actual response sent back by Mr. DeVries:

Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Lycoming County

Dear Mr. Price,

Your certified letter dated 12/17/06 has been handed to me to respond to. I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget Lane , Trout Run, Pennsylvania .

A couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood "debris" dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of natures building materials "debris." I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

My first dam question to you is:
(1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers, or
(2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request?

If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued. Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sect ions 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.

I have several concerns. My first concern is, aren't the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation -- so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer. The Department's dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event, causing flooding, is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect. In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling their dam names.

If you want the stream "restored" to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers -- but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter, they being unable to read English.

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers' Dams).

So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now. Why wait until 1/31/2007? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then: and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then.

In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality, health, problem in the area . It is the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone.

If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step! The bears are not careful where they dump!

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Freedom and Education

I picked up two texts yesterday: Freedom and Culture by John Dewey and Language and Myth by Ernst Cassirer.

I really enjoy such works. I enjoy operating on this level of thought. And reading through these two items makes me miss college. I remember, after a day in my freshman year in high school, riding home in the back of the car stating that I wanted to go to college. My mother seemed somewhat surprised by this. Maybe because I had never mentioned it though I had thought of it quite a bit previous. What else could I do? It's difficult for me to work in many environments. Being on disability has really hurt my ego (not necessarily pride, but that, too). While it has freed me from some things so I can concentrate on writing every single day, it's a terrible blow to me mentally. Money has always been a concern for me to a fault. I constantly stress over it. I lose sleep all the time over it. I hate it. I want it. Money, that is.

But money is somewhat of a temporary solution to my problems of living. If I really get to the heart of the matter, really get down to my own desires, I've always wanted my degree. I worked 5-1/2 years fruitlessly to obtain a two-year degree.

I miss school. I had thought I would try to apply for UM-Flint this year. I only have about 1-1/2 years to finish my degree... in art. Painting is horribly expensive though. For the $10 that I would spend on a single tube of paint I could feed my family for a week with groceries (I really could, too... rice can be your friend). If I go for another degree, I'm looking at probably about 2 years, maybe more. It's difficult for me to justify that.

I've ALWAYS wanted my degree. I've always wanted my education. I love colleges and libraries. I have always been able to see myself spending my life in Academia, but I can't. I don't have the money.

This is why people join the military. They see it as their only option. When your broke-ass poor with little or no future other than possibly college through loans and such, you just cannot see yourself justifying the exorbitant buy-in without a guarantee occupation making enough money at the end to pay off those debts. If you're poor, why go to school just to become more poor?

I know, the price of an education shouldn't be measured in dollars and cents. Well, the colleges sure seem to do a good job measuring it that way.

I really miss school. I wish I could study metaphysics, epistemology and classical literature.

But I'm just a crumb-bum. I'll see next time 'round.

I now leave you with the opening paragraphs to Freedom and Culture and a small scene from Soar (sci-fi novel I'm working on):

FROM "The Problem of Freedom", CH. 1 OF Freedom and Culture
"What is freedom and why is it prized? Is desire for freedom inherent in human nature or is it a product of special circumstances? Is it wanted as an end or as a means of getting other things? Does its possession entail responsibilities, and are these responsibilities so onerous that the mass of men will readily surrender liberty for the sake of greater ease? Is the struggle for liberty so arduous that most men are easily distracted from the endeavor to achieve and maintain it? Does freedom in itself and in the things it brings with it seem as important as security of livelihood; as food, shelter, clothing, or even as having a good time? Did man ever care as much for it as we in this country have been taught to believe? Is there any truth in the old notion that the driving force in political history has been the effort of the common man to achieve freedom? Was our own struggle for political independence in any genuine sense animated by desire for freedom, or were there a number of discomforts that our ancestors wanted to get rid of, things having nothing in common save that they were felt to be troublesome?

"Is love of liberty ever anything more than a desire to be liberated from some special restriction? And when it is got rid of does the desire for liberty die down until something else feels intolerable? Again, how does the desire for freedom compare in intensity with the desire to feel equal to others, especially with those who have previously been called superiors? How do the fruits of liberty compare with the enjoyments that soring from a feeling of union, of solidarity, with others? Will men surrender their liberties if they believe that by doing so they will obtain the satisfaction that comes from a sense of fusion with others and that respect by others which is the product of the strength furbished by solidarity?"

FROM "Soar"
"What's this? Does our Brutus have a brain? Can he do more than wield the knife?" Standish smiled emphatically.

Led hesitated with answer.

"Come, come, my boy. We are free to speak here. No Guard will swoop down from the mountain to purge the world of our ilk. Here I am king and master and shall forever be. The false arms of the Lord High Mayor cannot reach here unless I first grant permission. Tell me, dear boy, and tell me true: Can you read?"

Led nodded only.

Standish stood, laughing. "What a find you are! A brute, a beauty and a thing of intellect. How could I ever hope to be so lucky?" He came to stand next to Led and peered at him with something akin to greed. "Now tell me: What have you read?"

Led lowered his head and shrugged.

"Don't make me work for this. Tell me and tell me out-right. You cannot be afraid. Here we are in a time of regressive technology and I've made you into a man with wings, how could your simple confession of reading be any worse?"

Led looked up, "The last thing I read was The Prince."

"Machiavelli? By the gods, you do have a brain!" Standish smiled once more. "It should be no surprise it's one of my favorite texts. What think you?"

Led wasn't surprised a man of Standish's position and wealth knew how to read. "It was an old thing. I got it from-" Led quickly looked at Standish, then continued, "Well, I got it from someone. It's pages were falling out and the edges were torn. It smelled of dust and wet paper that had dried. I kinda liked the smell."

Standish shared Led's smile.

"But the text itself I didn't like."

"Why would that be?"

"It was good until the end. The last part revealed it all to be a shallow ploy. A pitchman's call. A scam. Another sale tailored for a mark."

Standish leaned back and looked curiously at Led.

"It was just another advertisement."

Standish smiled. "Maybe so, but that should not abolish it's worth, should it? There are some very good things elsewhere in the text."

Led shrugged and stretched his wings. "Maybe."

"Not all the pursuits of money are unholy, my dear boy. And not all the advertisements are pursuits of money. Machiavelli, while unhappy in his new life, had nothing but luxurious time to pursue anything he wanted. All his cares were tended to. He may not have been rich nor in a position of power as he had once been when he wrote The Prince, but he was no street urchin either. He was a gentleman of the country."

Led nodded. "I know."

"Then why your disapproval?"

"I'm no mark."

Standish thought on Led's wounded pride the book must have brought to him, then thought of what he had said about money. "Again, it's not always about money. Some pursue pride and immortality. Some strive for better things for themselves or their society. What make you of them?"

Led shrugged. "It's all the same to me: the pursuit of money or the pursuit of fame. Even lashing out in violence. Whatever. Everyone does everything for the same reason."

"Please enlighten me."

Led thought a moment before he spoke. "Validation."

Standish thought on this, began to speak and stopped short because he knew. Because he knew.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Altamont Concert

Check it out: I actually have this documentary (Gimme Shelter) on VHS somewhere. I need to get it on DVD. Anyways, this is the Rolling Stones infamous Altamont concert in SF in 1969. There were four births and four deaths (one murder) at this free concert. The whole thing is worth a watch (why is there a dog on stage at one point?), but the end shows them helping a man to the ground.

It was only upon review of the footage that anyone realized they caught the stabbing murder on film.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Robots Around the World

Here's some news stories concerning robots, their kith and kin:

"Raytheon Co. has proposed a robotic lunar lander to NASA that would be based on technology already developed for a missile defense program.

A Raytheon official said the lander leverages propulsion system technology developed for the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), which was developed and manufactured by Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The propulsion system is combined with autonomous navigation technology developed for cruise missiles, she said.

“The proposal is based on these two technologies in which there has been an enormous amount of investment over the last 15 years or so, especially for the missile defense interceptors,” Karleen Seybold, senior systems engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems, said in an April 4 interview. “We’re pulling this technology together in a very low-cost, autonomous lunar lander.”"


DOMO Robot
"MIT researchers recently demonstrated the capabilities of such a robot, named Domo, which, like the robot in a recent General Motors ad, can transcend mass-production's repetition. It is designed to interact with humans and adapt to its environment in ways previously only imagined in science fiction.

Presently, Domo can identify objects, reach for them and place them on shelves. Unlike an assembly-line robot, Domo can sense its surroundings using a pair of video cameras for eyes; they are connected to 12 computers. The cameras are built into remarkably human-looking 'eyeballs,'...

Unlike its predecessors, Domo also has the ability to sense touch, necessary for safe interaction with humans. Springs in its arms, hands and neck can sense force, allowing it to respond appropriately. Pushing its hand will make it move in the direction of the push."



"Controlling a robot arm by brain power alone sounds like science fiction, but experiments involving rats' brains have brought it closer to reality.

Dr John Chapin, of the MCP Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, has shown for the first time that brain cell activity can be used to control a robotic device.

The research is a big step towards artificial limbs for paralyzed patients that could be controlled by thought alone, just like normal limbs.

The scientists trained rats to obtain water from a robotic arm by pressing a small lever. Each rat had electrodes implanted in its brain to record the activity of certain cells.

As the rats performed this task, the scientists analyzed the patterns of activity in the regions of the brain that control movement.

They identified specific brain cell activity associated with the rat's paw movements.

The researchers had to develop a new mathematical method to analyze the signals from the brain cells.

The next step was to connect the robot arm directly to the rat's brain. The brain now controlled the robot arm directly through the electrodes and the computer.

The rats appeared to have little difficulty in controlling the robot arm. Initially, they continued to press the lever, even though this was no longer necessary to cause the robot arm movements.

But eventually many rats learned that they could obtain water through brain activity alone and stopped pressing the lever."



"Repliee Q1 (at left in both pictures) appeared yesterday at the 2005 World Expo in Japan, where she gestured, blinked, spoke, and even appeared to breathe. Shown with co-creator Hiroshi Ishiguru of Osaka University, the android is partially covered in skinlike silicone. Q1 is powered by a nearby air compressor, and has 31 points of articulation in its upper body.

Internal sensors allow the android to react "naturally." It can block an attempted slap, for example."

Watch her here





World Transhumanist Association
"The World Transhumanist Association is an international nonprofit membership organization which advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. We support the development of and access to new technologies that enable everyone to enjoy better minds, better bodies and better lives. In other words, we want people to be better than well."

Robo-eels, critters on chips lead cyborg pack

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Starting today I will every so often post here on my blog new essays, old essays, short stories and flash fiction for a brief period of time. I'll be posting every week, most likely on Fridays and if not then on Saturdays. Keep checking back for stuff. Here's an old essay from my site to kick things off.

© 2005 - 2006 Charles Shaver. All Rights Reserved.
Written December 30, 2005

Phlebotomist. It sounds dirty. Like someone that jacks off too much.


"What do you do for a living?"

"Me? Oh, I'm a phlebotomist!"

"They actually pay you for that?"

I went to a phlebotomist today. That sounds dirty. She was cute in an ugly sorta way, like a pug pup. Ugly, sad, cute, pathetic. I always look away when they stick me. I didn't turn from the needle today. I turned away from her approaching mustache. Ugly. Hairy. Sad. Cute. Like a cat whose tail has been run over by a car or rocked back on by a rocking chair leaving just a stubby nubbin. Ugly. Sad. Funny. Cute.


Even playful.

As she pulled whatever vital life juice outta me, drained me of my marrow, harvested dark crimson gold, I pushed my thoughts back to what I'd been mulling over in my mind as I awaited my phlebotomist. Was she phlebotomizing me at this moment? Whatever. Anyways, I had been sitting in the plain waiting room thinking to myself about all the writing I've done lately. I like this new stuff I'm doing. It's fun, playful, sad, ugly, hairy, cute, pathetic. It's a pug on the page.

That's when I decided I'm finally a writer. What's the difference between me now and me yesterday? Well, when I stopped thinking of ideas and started writing, I became a writer.

And I'll be damned if phlebotomist doesn't sound dirty.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Odd Epitaphs

Here's a collection of odd epitaphs from around the globe. Enjoy... ?

"She Was More to Me Than I Expected" -- to Jennie Wilson; College Hill Cemetary; Lebanon, Ill., USA

"Final Decree" -- California Supreme Court Justice Silas Sanderson; Laurel Hill Cemetary; S.F., CA, USA

"Asad Experience Wilson
His Mother Gave Him This Name" -- Idlewild Cemetery; Hood River, OR, USA

"Papa Did You Wind your Watch?" -- Charles B. Gunn; Evergreen Cemetery; Colorado Springs, CO, USA

"Those Who Cared for Him While Living Will Know Whose Body Lies Resting Here, To Others it Does Not Matter" -- unnamed; Old North Cemetery; Hartford, Conn., USA

On a sign posted on a tree on Normandy Road in France translates thusly: "Attention Drivers: Make Your Will Before You Hit This Tree"

"Dearest Tom,
Thou Art Gone
Thy Kind Heart
I Miss
You Did Not Say
Goodbye, Tom
Nor Give Me the
Parting Kiss" -- in Laurel Hill Cemetery; S.F., CA, USA

"Here Lies Mary Brooks Who Died in 1736, Aged 11, She was Very Excellent for Reading and Soberness" -- Hill Burying Ground; Concord, Mass., USA

"I Don't Know How to Die" -- Forest Hill Cemetery; East Derry, N.H., USA

"Here Lies the Body of Jonathan Tilton Whose Friends Reduced Him to a Skeleton, They Wronged Him Out of All He Had and Now Rejoice That He is Dead" -- Chilmark, Mass., USA

"As you pass by
and cast an eye
as you are now
so once was I" -- Bridge Street Cemetery; Eastham, MA, USA

"My Dear Friends as You Pass By
As You are Now, So Once Was I.
As I am Now, You Soon Must Be.
Prepare Yourselves to Follow Me" -- Irwin Cemetery; Crested Butte, CO., USA

"Here lies Lester Moore
four shots from a .44
No Les--no more" -- NV, USA

Stay high
Bye" -- Hookstown, PA, USA (included an etched picture of a marijuana leaf)

"I Told You I Was Sick
Nothing like getting one last 'I told you so'!" -- Round Rock, TX

"I knew this was going to happen to me" link

"Ma Loved Pa,
Pa Loved Women,
Ma caught Pa with one in swimmin..
Here Lies Pa" -- Florida, USA

"I Am Woman
Hear Me Roar
And Boy Did She" -- Douglas County, NE, USA


Ripley's Believe It or Not 15th Edition


Senior Citizens sharing epitaphs they've witnessed

Thursday, April 12, 2007

By the Gods!!!

I think I did it. I finally did it. I think I finally found something wrong with the Spiderman movies... O_O

Is it me, or is there no catchy theme song?!

Every so often, generally on happier or carefree days, I find myself humming some tune. Usually it's a jazz or blues standard, or an xmas carol if it's Yule time. But from time to time I'll just be going along and I'll start humming and then I realize, "Hey! That's the Superman theme!" or I'll say to myself "Hey! That's from Batman:The Animated Series!"

But I cannot recall, for the life of me, a good, solid, memorable theme for Sam Raimi's recent trilogy. Am I wrong? WTH?!

Does Spidey even have a theme at all?! I mean, I can't even remember the theme to Spidey and Friends (oh, wait... yes I can!). I can also remember the theme to the 1994 animated series. Of course there's also always the "Spider-man, Spider-man... doin' the things a spider can..." theme. But I can't remember a damn thing from the recent movies!!!

PLEASE... let me know if I'm wrong, if my memory has faded, or if there's some inside scoop as to whether or not Raimi wanted to stay away from such things that could be construed as 'hokey' in this day-and-age.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Blues and Politics

The Blues are a big part of my life. I listento the Blues most every day and have since I was a kid. It's been a few years no since I've decided to dedicate myself to the Blues... not that I had much choice in the matter. it bleeds through my writings. It's in the air when the TV's off (which is more times that not). It's in my clothes and on my mind 24/7. It's in my short stories, such as "Just Outside of Shining Happiness" and "In the Frontier of Loss". It's in the story "Soar", with its classism. It's playing on the computer now as I write this. Here are a few tidbits you may need to know about the Blues.

*** It is often considered the terms "Blues" may be able to trace its heritage to Celtic tradition where 'down' feelings were often attributed to being bewitched or bedeviled by 'Blue Devils'.

Son House

Robert Johnson

W.C. Handy

In the story "In the Frontier of Loss" the last three lines are lyrics from Blues songs.

Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads to become a legendary Blues musician.

Just some stuff

Sunday, April 8, 2007

12-Year-Old Dies Because His Family Is Poor

"... A 12 year-old boy had passed away in Prince George's County, Maryland, as a result of not having adequate dental care.

Deamonte Driver was like many urban youths in the DC Metropolitan area. Struggling against many economic factors, the young boy did not have sufficient insurance coverage to provide quality health care, and the Medicaid coverage provided by the State of Maryland fell far short of providing even a basic level of coverage.

Of the 5,500 licensed dentists in Maryland, less than 20 percent will accept Medicaid. There are various reasons for why dental offices report that they will not accept the coverage. The top of the list is financial, with most dentists stating that reimbursements from the government are just too low to make it worthwhile."


From LordShen: This one really hits home with me because in 2004 I had to pay over $1,100 out of my own pocket (a significant portion of my yearly income) spread over three months PRIOR to getting a routine but required cleaning. Being poor blows.

In case you're wondering how exactly this young boy died, since his parents couldn't get him in to see a dentist because they couldn't afford it, the tooth abscessed, spread to the boy's brain and caused a tumor that eventually killed him.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Florida Police Arrest Man for Feeding the Homeless

MIAMI (Reuters) - Police in Florida have arrested an activist for feeding the homeless in downtown Orlando.

Eric Montanez, 21, of the charity group Food Not Bombs, was charged with violating a controversial law against feeding large groups of destitute people in the city center, police said on Thursday.

Montanez was filmed by undercover officers on Wednesday as he served "30 unidentified persons food from a large pot utilizing a ladle," according to an arrest affidavit. The Orlando area is home to Disney World and Universal Studios Florida.

The Orlando law, which is supported by local business owners who say the homeless drive away customers but has been challenged in court by civil rights groups, allows charities to feed more than 25 people at a time within two miles of Orlando city hall only if they have a special permit. They can get two permits a year.

Police collected a vial of the stew Montanez was serving as evidence.

Police spokeswoman Barbara Jones said in an e-mail it was the first time anyone had been arrested under the feeding ban.

Montanez was charged with a misdemeanor.


Friday, April 6, 2007

Odd Animals

Here's a list of odd animals and animal-related tales. I think that's enough explanation. Please note not all items have pictures.

The Lyre Bird can replicate the calls and songs of other birds.

The cuttlefish has three hearts. Pictured here are cuttlefish 'interacting'.

King Henry III loved his dogs so much that when they had a litter he would personally carry them around in a basket for days after their birth.

While making a public appearance, Emperor Theophilus once encountered a widow who alleged his army had stolen her only prized possession: a horse! As a result and to escape any future embarrassments, Theophilus then began ride with four spare horses to give away to anyone with similar claims.

*** Dr, Patrick Gorham, while hunting for grouse, shot and killed the grouse, a rabbit that was leaping into the air behind it and an 11-lbs. salmon that had jumped out of the water. He killed all three with the same bullet!

*** Langwater, Mass. has a cemetery for prized cattle.

The Egyptian Goose is deadly. It hides a pair of spurs (one under each wing) that it uses to stab predators.

Leonbergers are all honorary citizens of Leonberg, Germany -- the birthplace of this breed of dog.

The toucan has a tongue that is fringed.

A stuffed parrot resides at Westminster Abbey. And on the subject of parrots, they are the only birds that yawn. (Let me know if you yawn after reading this... I did).

The dragonfly has 15,000 lenses per eye.

Male cuckoos outnumber females six-to-one. And YOU thought you had a tough time picking up the ladies!

*** King Mahaculi Maha Tissa, in an attempt to fulfill the Buddhist mandate of working for those less fortunate, for fourteen years snuck out of his home disguised as a commoner and plowed rice fields with oxen.

Aztec warriors would don the guise of various animals to strike fear into their enemies.

The masked crab has what looks like a mask in the form of a human face on it's back. Can you see it?

A giraffe can lick its own ears.

The opossum has the shortest gestation period on record: a mere eleven days.

The Praying Mantis is the only insect to have the articulation to move it's head like a human being. The mantis pictured here is not Zorak.

The Japanese holiday Boys' Day is celebrated in part by flying kites and such in the shape of carp, which is a symbol ruggedness.

*** Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, the first Duke d'Epernon, would inexplicably faint at the sight of a young rabbit, but never at a rabbit fully grown.

The silkie chicken has fluffy white feathers and black skin.

*** Rhodesian copper smiths would smelt their copper in large anthills.

The rhino is the only mammal that doesn't blink for eye lubrication. Instead, it has muscles that allow it to pull the eyes back into the socket and swirl them around.

A freight wagon once operated in Zululand, South Africa and was pulled by a team of zebras.

and lastly:

The Doberman Pinscher was named for Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, the town tax collector and dogcatcher of Apolda, Germany.

Got more?! Post them in the comments!


Ripley's Believe It or Not! 15th Series; Oct, 1969


Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Upon My Shelf

Here's some Sci-Fi books on my shelf:

These are just the ones on my top shelf and that I could find pictures for. Anyone got any suggestions for further reading material?

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Road to My Second Wrestlemania

For those of you not in the fancy with me, I'm a bit of a wrestling fan. As such, I was at my second Wrestlemania event Sunday night which was held at Detroit's Ford Field. Having woken up early this morning thanks to allergies clogging my nose and still high from the experience, I have an itch to write things out about my day yesterday.

I left home early to check out the Fan Axxess Tour held at the Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills. I'm sorry to say there was absolutely no superstars there whatsoever at the time I was there, which was about 3-ish to 4-ish. The event was also a bit smaller then I'd expected, though I'd not expect overly much, either. We watched some dude give away free gear to fans that did their best wrestler impressions and answered trivia. That was fun. We also got to place our hands against silhouettes of Andre the Giant's hands to see how massive he was, and saw some of the actual gear he wore (his boots were HUGE!). Johannah got a temporary airbrushed Batista tattoo on her arm (she was represtin' for the Filipinos... Batista's real name is Bautista, which is a very Filipino name... he's part Greek and Filipino). No pics of the tat, sorry. She washed it off before we got a chance to take a picture. =(

All three of us also got to pose for a free photo. May I introduce you to the newest Tag Team Champs and their valet:

Ok, so Demolition we ain't, but I think we could be entertaining. I'd make Joel take all the big bumps, though. ;)

We then headed off for Ford Field and Wrestlemania 23.

Having never been to Ford Field, we were relying entirely on MapQuest and road signs. That was a complete mistake. Once we got to our final junction/off ramp, we were slammed by serious and very dead-still traffic. We moved less than a quarter of a mile in 20 minutes. With the clock ticking down (it was now just after 6 PM and the show started at 6:30), I busted out my cell phone, called information, got the phone number for Ford Field and amazingly got a live person on the phone to help me! She asked where I was and I told her. She then said, "Oh, it's completely backed up, isn't it?" I said "Yeah." She asked "Can you see Mack Street? I think it's the next off-ramp if I know where you're at." I said "Yeah, it's right up ahead." She told me to take that and added a few more simple directions. I'll be damned if she didn't just plop us right in the lap of the stadium! Thanks anonymous Ford Field employee!

We had to stand in line and get searched and all that, which was more frustratingly slowness. But we got in and I went off to find my seats thanks to the help of yet another employee of the stadium (they scored some BIG points with me that day). As it turned out we were seated exactly opposite of where we had entered the stadium. To give you an idea of how big the place is, we had to take an elevator down to our level and then walk all the way around to our seats, navigating through 80,000+ people (as was announced later by Lillian Garcia). When we first walked into the stadium the dark match, which was a Lumberjack match with Carlito and Ric Flair vs Gregory Helms and Chavo, was just starting. By the time we got to our seats the final bell had already been rung and Carlito and Flair were celebrating in the middle of the ring. I was a little sad to miss this match, even if it was a mere warm-up to the actual broadcast.

Our seats were pretty good. We got a good view of the Titantron (the massive TV screen above the entrance where the wrestlers walk out). We were a bit further from the ring than I had anticipated. Ford Field is HUGE. I went to Wrestlemania 2000 at The Pond and though our seats were crappy there (right behind the Titantron) I felt we were closer to all the action than I was at Ford Field. This is not a strike against Ford Field or even my experience. It's more of an additional note as to the size of the place. Here's one strike against Ford Field: It WAS SO FREAKIN' HOT! It wasn't completely unbearable, only slightly uncomfortable. About every 20 minutes we could feel A/C being pumped in and it felt like heaven. Ford Field isn't a horrible venue, however. Just remember to dress lightly (no matter what the weather is like outside) and here's a hint (especially if you have a tendency to dehydrate like I do): water was $4 a bottle and beer was $8. I heard a few people saying they wished they'd purchased water instead of beer.

Then the evening's events officially started with Aretha Franklin singing and yadda yadda blahblahblah. Enjoyable and I love Aretha, but let's get back to the rasslin'.

They kicked things off fairly strong with the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Participants were: Randy Orton, Mr. Kennedy, Finlay, Edge, Matt and Jeff Hardy, King Booker (accompanied by Queen Sharmell) and CM Punk. This match had a lot of potential in the jaw-dropping category of entertainment, and there was a moment when they had spread Edge out across a ladder suspended between the ring and the guardrail of the first row. Jeff Hardy was in the ring on a 14-or-so foot ladder, turned to see Edge on the ladder suspended across that small expanse outside the ring, and turned his back on the briefcase for a shot at Edge. Jeff went flying, the ladder under Edge damned near snapped in half (I'm assuming it was aluminum as it folded under like a jackknife aka folding knife).

There were several other moments, however, that made the match decent if not strong. Those moments include Edge whacking people with a little 2-foot step ladder and Hornswoggle running out from under the ring for his shot at glory by mounting a ladder and reaching desperately, but fruitlessly, for the briefcase (it was just out of his reach). Mr. Kennedy climbed another ladder next to the one Hornswoggle was on and brought himself face-to-face with the little guy. Hornswoggle punched Mr. Kennedy a couple times, and to Kennedy's credit he sold them decently. It all ended though when Mr. Kennedy grabbed Hornswoggle and lifted him up onto his shoulders, diving head-first into the mat with Hornswoggle under him and rolling through it. Serious props to Hornswoggle for taking a rather massive bump. Mr. Kennedy would later grab the briefcase and his chance at the title belt within the next year.

Next up was the first bathroom break match... meaning that it's a match so lame/uninteresting that it's thrown is as filler and is a good time to go to the bathroom because you know you won't miss anything. It was Kane and The Great Khali. I missed the whole damn thing and I don't feel gypped. I even got back to my seat and asked the guy next to me if I'd missed anything and with a rather bored look on his face he said "Just Khali winning."

The Benoit vs MVP match started out strong with some good technical mat wrestling akin to amateur Greco-Roman style stuff, but eventually descended into the typical 3-Suplexes into a Crossface schtick. While the start was strong, it ended like a typical Smackdown match. Boring. Been there, seen it. Good for Benoit for making another Wresltemania appearance, but the ending made it a cookie-cutter match. Maybe they threw it in for those folks that needed a little more time in the bathroom.

Then the Fink annouced/introduced the 2007 Hall of Fame inductees. It was nice to see Mr. Fuji again and The Wild Samoans. Good Ole J.R. and The King both deserve it, though the honor seems a bit premature.

One of the matches I was looking forward to was Taker vs Batista. Taker's intro was amazing. He had the druids with the torches and the fire from the pyro was so hot you could feel it in the rafters. The match itself was largely cookie-cutter as well, but the intensity of the pace was better than I expected and somewhat made up for that. It's also always memorable to see Taker do his suicide dive (a running dive out of the ring onto an opponent standing outside the ring in which the 'diver' leaps over the top rope) and the Old School (The move involves Undertaker grabbing an opponent's arm, walking along the top rope, and jumping off to deliver a clubbing forearm to the victim's back. It is called Old School because it is one of the first moves Taker performed in his early days with the company). There was also a decent exchange of finishers and escapes. Batista didn't really shine in this match, but only because he was being completely out-shined by Taker. Or maybe my fan status for Taker is making me biased. Either way, Batista helped keep up the pace and did his part but this match was all about Taker and his reign at Wrestlemania. Taker (if I remember) even delivered a powerbomb to Batista before finishing with a Tombstone. Count with me: 1... 2... 3... and Taker is the new World Heavyweight Champ.

I decided to go to the bathroom one last time, seeing as how by now we were just over 2 hours into the event and I knew there was a mere hour or so to go. While I was interested in the ECW Originals vs the New Breed match (I thought it had potential), since ECW is pretty much a dead horse that's just being beaten on I knew it wouldn't be the show-stealer. I decided to take my bathroom break at the beginning of this match. I did so quickly, got back to my seat, saw RVD do his schtick of Rolling Thunder and the Frog Splash, blinked and the match was over. Seriously, with a match including eight guys total and only lasting six-and-a-half minutes... I'm sure you can guess at the lameness of it all. It reeked of lame-iousity. Dripping with lame goo. I'll quit. So many guys, all decent to good wrestlers and it felt like the match was treated as nothing more than filler. Another bathroom break. I guess I got my money's worth, then, since a bathroom break is what I did.

Lashley (representing Donald Trump) vs Umaga (representing Vince McMahon) was a memorable and entertaining match. The wrestling was largely forgettable... actually, sitting here and unable to remember any actual wrestling I guess I need to correct myself and say that the wrestling was COMPLETELY forgettable. But it had many, many other freakshow-ish highlights:

Shane-o-Mac's Coast-2-Coast missile dropkick delivered to a trash can and Bobby Lashley.

Trump actually getting involved when he did a running tackle on Vince, sat on him and punched away at the top of his head.

Vince getting his head shaved (pretty funny stuff... he tried to sneak away but Lashley ran after him, threw him up onto his shoulders and carried him back, the whole while waving to the fans).

Trump actually taking a bump from Austin's Stunner.

Not spectacular, but funny as hell.

I have a lot of respect for women wrestlers and feel they don't have a real forum provided where they can shine. Women wrestling comes and goes without really ever going away. Sadly it's like a legitimized gimmick instead of an actual athletic event. The Women's Champ matches of the last many pay-per-views proves this. They trotted out all the 'Divas' dressed in their skimpy outfits (no complaints there) to have what they called a "LumberJILL" match (please note the rolling of my eyes). Ashley vs Melina was the third or fourth bathroom break match of the evening (not very good, in my humble opinion, when there's eight matches total on the card). Completely forgettable.

The final match between Cena and HBK was more entertaining than I thought it would be. I enjoyed seeing HBK make the dive from the ring's edge to the announce table where Cena was sprawled out. There was A LOT of back-and-forth move exchanges, finisher attempts and escapes. The crowd really got worked up all the way around the stadium. Wrestling-wise, it was an okay match (just okay) but the exchange they did in the ring was often times so fluid and pretty that they worked the crowd for a huge pop. I was a bit surprised to see HBK tap to Cena. That means he's effectively made DX tap at two consecutive Wrestlemanias. Crazy.

All-in-all a good time was had. It certainly wasn't the best Wrestlemania, but it was a ways off from the worst. In the end, I felt I got my $75 worth (that's what my ticket cost).