Saturday, April 30, 2011

One More!

Can't stop playing with my tablet - I'm getting a bit better I suppose. The skin isn't quite so blotchy. I even gave this guy some forehead decoration. Not real digital painting, but digital coloring at least. Right?
Click to embiggen - if you aren't scared
Soon, I will work on pics related to some of my stories, well, I say soon, as soon as I think I can do something that doesn't look too cheesy.


Sock 'em Rock 'em Wacom

I got my new Wacom Tablet the other day. I played and realized pretty quickly that it'll take some practice to get any good using the thing. I pasted the pic here on the right not because it's any good - that blotchy skinned, mutton chops wearing guy isn't going to make me famous - it was an exercise, nothing artistic about it. But, it's unique for me because it's the first piece of art I've ever produced entirely on a computer.

Yes, things I've done previously were drawn on paper, then scanned. Well, no longer. A new world has dawned.

I'll be drawing some more now I suppose. Can't wait.

Happy drawing.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

4 Things Every Blogger Should Know

I'm all about self-improvement - but only if it's easy. If I can improve without trying then I'm on board. Well, I happen to be a pretty observant person, I don't work at it, that's just how I am.

When I decided to turn my prodigious observational skills towards the world of blogging, what did I learn?

1) If you use blogger, you'll have 'page unavailable' errors a lot. I mean, a whole lot. Like, several times a day. They generally don't last long, but it can be infuriating if you're trying to check in on your fellow bloggers and can only visit those that are using other services.

2) Those stats tools are pretty neat, but it's only fun if your page views are going up. Right now mine look more like a water park slide. It can be disheartening.

3) If you notice you get 10 times your normal hits, and they are all coming from an eastern European country, then you're probably about to get hacked. I know that one from experience.

4) And finally, if you say something you kind of wish you didn't, even if you delete it, it was cached somewhere. Just keep that in mind.

And that's it, take that wisdom and bury it somewhere close to your heart.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When Things Don't Make Sense: Part II

I posted over the weekend about how I learned lessons regarding storytelling from watching bad TV. Well, I also learned some lessons from my previous post about blogging.
1) Don't make it too long. I'm sure there is a sweet spot that a post needs to be to keep folks from drifting as they read. If so, I zipped right on past it last time. I tend to go long in everything I write (except for novels, which I seem to write short), but I'll try to keep this to a more manageble length.
2) Related to point one above. I need to make my point and then support it. A meadering story first, then getting to the point later does no good. Since most of the folks seem to have quit reading by then, I should make points early, meander later.
3) Be better with follow up comments. I do enjoy seeing people comment, I really do. I read them, sometimes multiple times if they're witty. I always intend to acknowlege that. But then again, how many folks actually come back to read my follow up comments? Still, that doesn't absolve me of my poor ettiqute, etiquitte, etiquite.... behavior. 
So - in answer to the cliffhanger ending, which I'm sure left you all holding your breath, here is the huge lesson I've learned about watching shows that don't make sense...
It doesn't matter.
I was watching Stargate because so many people love it and I thought I would give it a shot. The Incredible Hulk I watched because I loved it when I was a kid. Both shows have some serious issues (again, only referring to season 1 of Stargate).
Both shows had a huge following, didn't get cancelled early on, and in Stargate's case, did lead to the cancellation of my favorite (and in my opinion, superior) show, Farscape. That they were actually producing bad television was incidental. It shows that that there is still a bit of a mystery to gathering a fanbase.
So, before anyone complains that it doesn't make sense that I can proclaim Farscape superior when I didn't see Stargate at it's best, I'll just say that is my point. Things don't make sense. Popularity can be entirely independent of quality, and vice-versa. Sometime opinions are formed first, and whether or not reality conforms to those opinions is irrelevant.
I'm feeling fickle, I've decided that my arguments don't have to make sense any more. We'll experiment on that in the real world for a few days and see how it goes. I'll post the results of my experiment soon so we can all learn how that goes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

When Things Don't Make Sense: Part I

As someone who creates entertainment, well, as someone who wants to create entertainment anyway. I want to do better. So when I'm reading, watching, listening to something. I'm always trying to take a mental note of how can I make myself better as a writer, artist, whatever.

I've also been watching some old sci fi TV shows. I watched the entire first season of Stargate SG1, the first few episodes of Farscape, even some old episodes of The Incredible Hulk. What did I learn?

Well, much like medical researchers that can learn a lot more about how the body works from studying a victim of a genetic disorder than from studying a thousand healthy people. I think I can learn a lot more from a bad hour of TV than I could from a dozen brilliant works of genius.

Stargate - the early episodes of this show were a real mess. I know it's early broadcast history was at least a bit unusual, but that show never should have made it past it's pilot episode. It did, and the latter half of the first season did improve, so much that I even enjoyed a few of the late season 1 installments. I am aware that this show has a huge fanbase, I haven't seen beyond the first season, so forgive me if I'm a bit critical.

What bugged me most? Really, and this might sound nitpicky, but it's probably because I was getting so bored watching the episodes that I let my mind wander.

Why does everyone speak English?

The movie the show was based on made a point that the linguist was there because he was an expert in ancient languages, the people of the world they visited spoke only a derivative of ancient Egyptian.

Switch to the pilot episode, the folks from that world still don't speak English, but everyone else they met in Season 1 did. People taken from other periods in Earth's history, Mongol, Greek, Roman, whatever it was, they spoke English. I'm willing to swallow a whopper or two for the sake of the story. I don't want to spend every episode watching while the characters spend 15 minutes trying to figure out that the inhabitants of the world they are visiting are saying 'hello'. It would get old, fast.

But give me something, especially if in some episodes, the lack of a common language is the cause of the problem. No one notices, questions this, or even comments on it. It's just assumed everyone will speak English. Although, at some point, maybe two thirds the way through season one, when a character on an alien world was posing in a threatening manner, Colonel O'Neal did ask for Daniel to find some term in any language the natives would understand... at which point the menancing character revealed that he could speak perfect English.

Again, one episode, the Aliens sit and listen for 15 minutes saying nothing, then they stand up and announce they've been learning English and can now speak it. They're super advanced. Of course, the team encounters a cave monster, an alien cave monster, trapped in a mountiain for centuries - it speaks English. Geez. Super advanced aliens, give them 15 minutes, stupid alien monster, it already knows.

Look at Farscape, a show whose early episodes shine when compared the first season of Stargate, (how ironic that Stargate's move to the Sci Fi channel led to the cancellation of Farscape) every inhabitant of any of the worlds encountered in the show are colonized by microbes in the brain stem that serve as universal translators. Again, whatever. I accept it and move on. It took five seconds of screen time in the first episode and doesn't have to ever be mentioned again. Problem solved.

What lesson did I learn? Well, if you don't know what the hell you're talking about, but you know it's a problem, make something up. Give me anything and if the story is good enough I'll buy it. Five seconds of screen time (or a line on the page) and we can all move on to enjoy the rest of the story.

If you can't do that, at least try to be consistent, maybe I won't notice.

Stargate and the Incredible Hulk - I only watched the classic two part episode of the Hulk, Prometheus. In that episode the Hulk enounters a meteorite that keeps him from turning entirely human when he calms down, he gets captured by the military and proceeds to smash everything. It wasn't until I saw this episode that I realized what had been bugging me about Stargate so much.

The SG1 team is military. But unlike any military I've ever seen. These guys are just about stupid. I've never served in the armed forces, but I'm pretty sure they don't work that way. My wife may not have originated this, but I heard it from her so I'll give her credit. She said, "If the story can only work if every character is an idiot, then it's probably not a very good story."

Amen. The Hulk gets away with it because it's a show that's nearly thirty years old. No one seemed to worry too much about how realistic anything was at the time. The only thing that really bothered me about the episode was that they dropped a giant half bowl onto the Hulk to keep him from getting away... then they lifted it by helicopter and it suddenly had this giant metal floor underneath it. Where did that come from?

The lesson learned? If I don't know how something works, be it military decision making or basket weaving. Don't BS your way through it, especially if it's integral to the plot.

These are only two points, and the lessons learned contradict each other, but that's okay. I will only apply these lessons intermittently - and never at the same time. I was planning on posting a third point, but it's so explosive, so game changing, that I don't think I can do it in this post. It would be like the Ghostbusters crossing the streams. The universe could explode.

You'll have to tune in next time to learn what the biggest lesson of all is.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beginnings... Again

I had a fantastic idea for a post over the weekend and forced myself  to wait until today to write it.

I have no idea what it was.

So, in its stead, I'm announcing that I've begun another short story. I have no idea what it's about yet, but I'm around 1500 words in and it seems promising. I can't wait to see what happens.

I'll have more later I suppose.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Award Season is Here

Blogger awards. When I was first introduced to them I thought there was some secret panel of judges, similar to the Miss America pageant I suppose, or maybe the panel that chooses Nobel winners. The thought of winning an award was akin to fortune, fame, and of course, critical notoriety. Yes, once you’ve won a blogger award you can quit your day job and rest on your laurels.

I would like to think Deborah Walker - who awarded me the One Lovely Blog Award early in March. If she realized how lame I was then I doubt she would have bestowed it. But no take backs are allowed.

Her's was the award that led me down the rabbit hole of discovery and I slowly found out that it didn’t exactly work the way I thought. So what happened? The awards started rolling in. I’m glad there isn’t an inconsiderate blogger award, or I’d have already hit the max bandwidth allowed by blogger with the hordes rushing to give me that one. As it stands though, I’m reminded of the episode of Psych where Shaun says something along the lines of, “Any club that would allow me to become a member, I want no part of, for allowing a man of my caliber in shows their subpar standards. Any person that voted to accept me I would expel, for their lack of good taste.”

A lot of wisdom there. However, I won’t punish others for taking pity on me, so I’ll partake with good grace. And do my best to act like I belong before I’m exposed as a fraud.

I should also thank Zan Marie, who gave me the Stylish Blogger Award AND a Lovely Blogger Award

By the time I got these, I discovered that with the awards, there comes responsibility. I believe part of the rules of winning are to mention some things about myself that others may not know. Seven to be exact, so here goes.

·         At 200 pounds, I’m still wearing the same clothes I had when my weight was 155 a few years ago. I don’t wear sweat pants to work, I wear normal people clothes. It’s a mystery to me how they can stretch so far.
·         I was in a semi-famous band as a bass player. Only for a week, and it was before they got big. I pouted about not playing the guitar and was kindly showed the door. If I knew they would have gotten bigger I may have sucked it up and actually learned the songs.  Turns out no one wanted to hear a four minute bass solo in every song. But name even one 80’s era power ballad that wouldn’t have sounded better with a Seinfeld-esque bass line that changed with every rendition. Weird that no one seemed to enjoy that.
·          I was once arrested in a foreign country for some minor passport violation. I spent a few days restricted to my Hotel with a machine gun wielding military guy as a guard. A carry over from Soviet era paranoia I think.
·         My four year old (at the time) niece and I once had an incident on the White House lawn, involving her Teddy bear and several antsy, gun wielding uniformed persons. Post 9/11 paranoia I think.
·         The Van Damn type of Karate works much better in the movies than in real life… trust me on this, I know from experience.
·         A continuation from the previous point above – it’s surprising how well one can function with two broken arms.
·         The myth that you only use 10 – 20% of your brain is just that, a myth. But, I’m pretty sure I spend 80 – 90% of my brain power thinking how I would spend my time if I was forced to repeat the same day over and over again like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

Of course, an enterprising blogger, Rogue Mutt, awarded me with the inaugural Your Blog Doesn't Suck Award. I believe this one was awarded as part of a larger social experiment, and has a slightly different criteria. I must answer only these three questions. 

Favorite Condiment? Salsa

Favorite 80's Song? "Still of the Night" by Whitesnake

Which Simpson's Character Do I Most Identify With? Milhouse, because he once said, "Hey, I'm not a nerd!..." then he looked at the ground dejectedly, "Nerds are smart."

And finally, Andrew Leon handed to me The Versatile Blogger Award just this past week. I think it also asked for some facts about myself, which I shared above. I have just discovered his blog, and I think it goes hand in hand with the release of his new book. So please go and check out his site. 

Now, here comes the part where I break the rules. I'm not passing along this award to 5 folks, or 15... I'm going to pass all these along to one very lucky recipient. Not because I'm stingy, or mean, selfish, any of those things. 

I'm just lazy.

But I'm not going to inform the winner that they've won. They'll have to stumble upon this on their own. Then I will task them with passing along their winnings to others. I don't want to dishonor the hard work of others that were thoughtful enough to think of me. I just have a hard time following the rules.

The winner?

A Beer for the Shower. Why them? Look, I'm not one of those people who likes to say things like, "I was listening to that band way before they got popular" That sort of stuff annoys me. However, if you look very carefully, I think you will see that I was their very first follower. That's right, I was reading them all the way back before anyone  knew who they were. 

So, there you have it. I hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's Not Just Learning... It's Brain Learning

I still remember the day I got my first dedicated mp3 player. I was a bit late to the game, they’d been out for a few years already. It was a creative player, the Zen. It was a beautiful piece of hardware. It had video playback, and it was released at the same time as the new iPods that could do the same, and it offered more storage (32 gigs I think) than I ever thought I would be able to use. I was, of course, only thinking of how many songs it would hold (all of them maybe), and never quite figured out where I was going to get my video content from, or where I was going to watch it at.

So, I used it when I exercised, at the time that was quite a lot. I was soon to be married and was putting forth my best effort to be as lean and fit as I could be. I plugged away while listening to playlists of my favorite songs, mostly stuff from the 80’s, but quite a bit of newer rock too. Those were good times.

When the iPhone came out I got one, it was my first real chance to use iTunes and it was fine, no big deal, what I did discover there however that was a big deal, was the wonderful world of podcasting. I’m not sure if I’ve listened to music sense.

Of course, the beauty of podcasting is that the market is so segmented that almost any interest you have, no matter how obscure, is probably represented. How awesome it that? So, in honor of my 100th post (I think, it's hard to tell, if the hate filled diatribe that's been sitting in my draft folder counts, then this is my 100th, if it doesn't, then this is number 101. But, whatever) I figured I would lay out the five podcasts that I find it hardest to live without.

·         Adventures in Sci fi Publishing – there is a link to their webpage on my sidebar. If you are an aspiring author, specifically, one who is aspiring to be professionally published, then you are doing yourself a real disservice by not listening to this.  The creator and host, Shaun Farrell, who aspires to be just such an author, has now put out well over a hundred episodes of himself, and in the last year, his co-hosts, interviewing established authors and discussing the nuts and bolts about the industry. This is required listening. Even if you don’t write genre stuff it’s still absolutely necessary.
·         Writing Excuses – If you aspire to be an author, and actually want to, you know, write good. Excuse me, more good, then you must listen to this one too. It’s more about craft than business and the hosts here are well established authors who still make time to do this. I love them forever for this. Again, absolutely required for any author. Regardless of genre. I have no idea how often I have listened to an episode and enjoyed it, then found myself writing later and realize I’m getting the best advice ever. Listening to these folks is the next best thing to having a professional editor. Must listen.
·         Are We Alone – I think I mentioned this one in the comments I made after my previous post, and it’s what got me thinking that I might want to write something like this. It’s a podcast run by the fine team at SETI and is about the most engaging 50 minutes of listening you can get in a given week. They cover everything you might want to know about everything. You might go several episodes without realizing that they haven’t mentioned Aliens even once. They cover almost every branch of science you can think of and if you think real hard, you can see how science works. Recommended, especially if you write Sci Fi and you want a flavor of how scientists work and think
·         Astronomy Cast – pure fanboy stuff from me, Astronomer Pamela Gay and host Brandon Frasier cover it all. From the color of dust on the moon to the ultimate fate of the universe.  I like it because it isn’t just the facts, but the history of Astronomy, how we know what we know is explained in as good a detail as you could want. Again, this is my love of the stars. I only recommend this is you look up at the night sky in wonder.
·         The Skeptics Guide to the Universe – Not for the sensitive, if you believe in anything these guys (and gal) will probably point out how irrational it is. This is also a science based podcast, and not really intended to do much more than separate bad science from good. Stephen Novella does a great job of showing how very reasonable sounding arguments are often based on erroneous assumptions or outright fabricated data, after listening to a hundred episodes or so I’d say the focus is generally on medical hokum but does touch on just about everything. I recommend this to anyone (with thick skin) who wants to know how easy it is to be hoodwinked if we aren’t always vigilant. And for a lay person, lays out a bit about how the scientific method works in practice.

There are a lot more that I listen to, Planet Money, about economics – better than you would ever expect at explaining commonly misunderstood financial concepts and a great example of how to uncover a mystery by working backwards from an end result and putting the pieces together to see how it happened. I Should Be Writing, Mur Lafferty’s podcast about getting motivated to write. Michael Stackpole has series of podcasts on how to write a novel that everyone should find and listen to. Dammit. I meant to stop at five. I have left out a couple that I could have gone on about but I’ll wait for another day for those. Start here and you’ll soon blossom into… um, someone who listens to the same stuff I do. Hmmm. That doesn’t sound so great when I put it like that.

Still, most of these are great for non-writers too, at least if they are readers. But regardless, I didn’t start out trying to recommend anything, it was supposed to be a glimpse of how I spend my time. But I guess when it comes down to it, I think everyone should be just a little like me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Where The Hell is Everyone?

I read this great paper today on the Fermi Paradox. Everyone please do yourselves a favor and go read it. It may help your nerd cred out some telling folks you've read stuff from arXiv.

I've posted about the Fermi Paradox before. Several times actually (click for my take or click for a better explanation). I've read several books on the subject, I've read sci fi novels about the topic. I'm something of a Fermi Paradox junkie. My unpublished novel is sort of a take on the subject as well. Or, in other words, I've heard every possible explanation and considered it, gaged its truthiness, and moved on.

What the paper postulated for our consideration, was that a cosmic natural selection process was at work. Those that went about exploring the galaxy, broadcasting their whereabouts (Like us, in other words) were getting systematically wiped out. By what? Predator species that prey on the naive civilizations that let everyone know where their at.

The paper continues to point out that if earth analogues can be used - and assuming natural selection is the only possible means for any species to evolve - then any intelligent species probably was a predator anyway. That isn't new, but further makes his point that what we meet out there would probably be more like Alien than E.T.

Stephen Hawking is on board with the idea, as he mentioned in his mini series that aired last year on the science channel. At the time I disagreed, I still think I do, but it got me thinking. The whole idea of some sort of cosmic natural selection is at work, culling outgoing species and fostering intensely secretive ones I think is flawed, it's like social Darwinism writ large.

Still. it's interesting.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Decision 2011

Since I finished the latest draft of my would be novel and submitted to a lottery publisher for consideration and a recent novelette I wrote was also submitted for a contest I took some time to relax a bit. I read several books, watched a ton of TV, a few movies... and now I'm getting antsy. I'm gonna have to write something.

My choices?

  1. Finish draft of a novel that I've written and loved, then realized three quarters of the way through that I'm not good enough to actually do justice to my story. It's been sitting on the backburner for several years and is a stand alone sequel (is that possible) to the book I just submitted to the publishing house.
  2. Write another original short story - again, probably longish. 10 - 20 thousand words.
  3. Try to develop novella out of a disastrously bad novel I wrote a few years ago. Had some moments of greatness that I really want to return to. That novel is a real mess though.
  4. Blog more.
  5. Finish last years Nano novel. I have fond memories of that thing. Is it a masterpiece? In my head it is. I think I only need another few thousand words to wrap up the draft. I'm nervous about this one though, I can't really gauge how good it is based on my memories. I'm afraid I'l reread it and realize it's also a disaster.
  6. Do some more artsy things. I think I'm about to order a wireless Wacom tablet and I might be spending the next month or two exploring it by trying some digital artwork. It could be time consuming
Something to consider. My laptop is not working properly. It's under warranty and the fine folks at Dell are all set to fix it. But to do so means I'll be laptopless for a week or so. It would disrupt my calm to be in the middle of something when I have to send it back. I've been putting it off for nearly a year now. I'm almost out of time.

It's where the magic happens - and by magic I mean dump my trash
If that were to come to pass - behold what I would have to work from:

Sigh. I can't work under those conditions. I won't work under those conditions. It started as a cute little place to keep unwanted items. It ended up becoming piles of marked up manuscripts, junk mail and discarded electronics.

And chapstick.

So when the time comes to send the laptop off I won't be doing any work that requires typing. I'm the kind of obsessive personality that will spend 30 hours straight doing something and ignore everything else in the world until I've completed my task. So writing can bring out a part of me that annoys everyone I know. When I write longer pieces it can be weeks, or even months, of me using up all my vacation days at work, skipping family time, yelling at loved ones for disturbing my delicate genius, and more or less making everyone hate me.

I don't know what would happen if I just stopped in the middle of something and shipped off my computer. I might freak out.

Much to consider. Thoughts?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Time Machine

I'm watching some old stuff this weekend. Not really old stuff, but nastaligic. I watched the pilot for DS9. I always thought the pilot for that show as exceptionally good, as most of the Treks took a while to find their footing, DS9 was no exception, but at least it had a great start.

But I noticed that it reminded me at least a bit of 2001. I never got that vibe before, maybe it was that I watched it this weekend too. 2001 is a movie that has to be watched in context of its time to be appreciated, by today's standards it's a bit... well... boring. If that film was made today it would only be 20 minutes long. But my opinion that most great works of literature, and movies, are not all that good when held up to today's standards is another post altogether.

So, when Ben Sisko meets the wormhole aliens and had a prolonged conversation I get the feeling that is the same sort of vibe Kubrick was going for in 2001. The bizarre, creepy way the wormhole aliens burrowed into Sisko's thoughts in order to have a frame of reference to converse with him was cool. That they were so alien was very cool, and a bit unusual for Star Trek. Good for them. Kubrick was a bit too abstract when he tried to convey the interaction with humanity and the monolith.

I also watched the pilot for SG1. Now, I never saw an episode of that show, but my brother in-law gave me the box set and told me to give it a try. Um, that pilot was a bit of a mess. I don't know what they were going for. All I know is that when the three little kids from the neighborhood were sitting on my couch and the full frontal nudity started... things got a bit awkward around here.

Anyway. Another weekend in the books, I learned a lot about how to tell a story by watching some less than engaging television.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Essex: So That's What Karma Is...

I do believe I mentioned the fate of the crew of the Nantucket whale ship Essex in my previous post. I have continued to read the glorious book on the subject and have decided that I will indeed make mention of a few of the interesting historical tidbits, along with some moral lessons I picked up along the way. Ah, this post may get a bit long, I'll try to keep it a managable length, but if you just can't hang in there for the whole post, I understand. I can be impatient too sometimes. And a short note, I'm not a historian. If I get the facts wrong then I get them wrong. All I did was read a book about the damn thing.
The theme? Karma - with an Old Testament wrath of God flavor.
A short digression about Karma, I use the term loosely here. It's really that 'reap what you sow' or 'what comes around goes around' sense of the term I mean. No reincarnation is implied.
But, for those of us who don't know. In the early years of the 19th century Nantucket was the whaling capital of the western hemisphere. When much of the Pacific was still shrouded in mystery, whaling vessels from Nantucket were sailing around the southern tip of South America to get access to the Pacific ocean and the wondrous Sperm whales that still lived unencumbered there.
I think back to my previous post about feeling vaguely guilty about knowing that the gloriously yummy steak I eat from time to time comes at the death of a cow (or a moo cow). The oil that was in high demand from most every corner of the globe came straight from the innards of the Sperm whale (so named because the oil looks very... sperm-like).
In what strikes me as ridiculously horrid, these 65 - 80 ton beasts, by all accounts much smarter than most mammals, would be harpooned, stabbed, and eventually sliced open for access to the oil producing region of the brain, which I believe could produce a few hundred gallons of the precious oil, without any thought to the possiblility that the beastie might still be alive when the butchering started.
After the oil was retrieved, the carcass was then discarded, nothing else about it having any value.
This crew of the Essex, visiting the Galapagos islands not long after making one such slaughter, as part of a prank gone wrong, burned the island down.
The whole damn island. Geez, these guys were hell on wheels, er, hell on a rudder.
So, one evening, the crew come upon a whale, the largest any of the crew have ever seen (so large in fact, that later observers would doubt Sperm whales ever grew that large, but other evidence seems to point to the conclusion that it most likely was truly enormous, even among giant whales). This whale eyes the 250 ton whaling ship and decides to teach it a lesson.
I pulled this from the internet. I don't think it's an actual picture of the attack
In an act that later inspired Moby Dick, the great white beast rammed the ship repeatedly until it sank. The crew abandoned the vessel and salvaged what supplies they could and filled their whaling boats (used to chase down the Whales since they were too swift to be easily followed by the large ship) and found themselves stranded in the largest ocean on earth, about as far from any known land as is possible to be on the this planet, literally thousands of miles from... well, from anywhere.
At this point it would be tempting to call it bad luck. In the history of whaling, it was unprecedented to have a whale attack a vessel, the whale boats were sunk or damaged frequently, but those by accident by a desperate and frightened whale. An actual ship was never, ever, attacked. Ever. The crew must have figured that it was just a maladjusted animal, with the seagoing equivalent of rabies.
Imagine the horror they all felt, a few days later, after cowering as powerful storms nearly sank their small craft in the dead of night, when the weather finally starts to clear they get attacked again. This time not by a Sperm whale, but instead by a Killer whale.
Seriously? They end up having to beat the thing with their oars, and I believe they had a lance or two that they poked it with several times, after the boat was nearly splintered, they finally succeeded in forcing it to leave.
Whew. What's up with the whales? Looks like they took that whole harvesting them for their brain oil thing personal.
Poor guys, ravaged, dehydrated, starving after a month on the open ocean, they finally stumble onto an island, uncharted, and it looks like they finally have caught a break. The six square miles of land was stocked full of docile birds, crabs, fish that are easily caught and a spring of fresh water (granted, a very hard to access spring, but still). Although still thousands of miles from the nearest port, they at least could fill their casks with water and restock all their provisions.
In less than a week, every living thing on the island was eaten and the crew were again looking at starvation. Oops.
A few brave souls (or cowardly, depending on how you look at it) stayed behind, but the rest carried on towards South America and at least had more water for their journey.
Shortly thereafter they were attacked in the open water... by a GREAT WHITE SHARK.
If anyone made this up, no one on earth would be able to take this story seriously. How is it possible to get attacked by everything in the ocean? At this point the men huddled into the bottom of the boat and waited to die. I thought of a passage I had read earlier when the men were caught by surprise when a flock of flying fish started flying into their faces. They thought it was good fortune that meals were jumping into their boat. I think the flying fish where hurtling themselves at the men in hopes of pummeling them to death with their tiny little fish bodies.
The point I got from all this? If you piss off the universe, it will make your life a living hell. In order to appease the cow gods, I had a chicken sandwich today instead of a hamburger, I hope that evens things out for me.
To make what has become a pretty long story short, as their food ran out, folks started dying, the thinnest men first. At first they began to cannibalize the dead to avoid starvation, but once they started eating and death was no longer imminent for the men, they started drawing lots to see who would be killed and eaten next. Sigh. Things only got worse from there.
Ugh. The moral of this part of the story - be fat, if you have to go months without food, you have a better chance at survival.

A few of the crew survived, including the poor souls that stayed on the island. The whaleboats got separated at sea and one of the small boats, when eventually discovered, had the captain of the Essex and another crew member busily sucking the marrow out of the bones of a crewmate, oblivious to their rescuers. Bizarre.

And what about the Sperm whale that attacked? No one really knows what happened to it, but something of interest did happen. Over the course of the next few decades Sperm whale attacks on whaling vessels began to happen more and more often. Crippling some, and even sinking others altogether. I like to think that the enterprising whale that discovered the joy of violence spread the news to his comrades and they fought back.

As for the Captain of the Essex, as soon as he was well enough to return home, he was given another vessel to command right away. That vessel also sank whilst deep in the Pacific. He retired after than and became a night watchman.

The moral here - history is bizarre.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I've Got Nothing People

It's true, I'm running on empty. No ideas. None. Ironically, I don't have writer's block. I've got more ideas than I can shake a stick at. I've got blogger's block. That dreaded disease that has me staring blankly at my screen and wondering what in the world I'm supposed to write about. I briefly considered a post about how I bravely knocked down all these walls in my house over the weekend. But I'm no Bob Vila, I'll be lucky if the roof doesn't cave in in the next few days. So here is a short list of things I considered writing about during the past week.

  1. As mentioned before, knocking down the walls in my house. I considered writing about all the nails that I found. And the penny that was buried between the layers of Sheetrock. It was like the house was paying me to give it a facelift. In the end I may still post a picture or two, but a picture of missing walls seems kind of lame.
  2. I considered writing about the harrowing tale of the whaleship Essex, sunk in the middle of Pacific ocean by a pissed off Sperm Whale nearly 200 years ago. It turned into Gilligan's Island - if they all resorted to cannibalism. But I've already tweeted about everything I know on the subject already. Still may cover this in the future though. You never know.
  3. Also thought long and hard about my ongoing battle with my foot pain. I'm currently taking drugs for it, wearing a sleeping boot, a foot strap, icing it, and my latest gadget... a Tens 7000 device which runs electricity through the injured region. Of course, I immediately hooked said machine up to my biceps and figured I would sit tight and watch the muscles grow. Instead it just made me twitch. Between all that and my physical therapy I barely have time to work during the week. 
  4. Almost wrote about how much I love eating again. I mean, a whole post about food. I eat out way more than I should, more than anyone should. But this weekend I splurged a bit and had a seriously expensive steak. It was like eating butter. Yum. 
  5. I also thought deeply about whether or not manufactured meat will ever be as awesome as that steak. Almost wrote about that too. I feel sorry for cows. They are going along through life thinking about how awesome it is to be alive when they get kaplowed out of nowhere so some lameo like me can eat it. I make me sick.
Those are five of the lamest things in the world. I knew that they were lame when I was thinking about them, I just couldn't come up with anything better. I still can't. The best I could do was roll them all up into one crappy post and put that out there.

There it is people. Enjoy.