The OTHER.

I was randomly goofing off last night after dinner with a whiskey tumbler full of rum and my Final Fantasy Record Keeper game grinding through an orb dungeon when a friend who some of you know shared this piece with me. I feel compelled to point it out here and then run off down the street on my own little tangent because I don’t want to comment too heavily on it or attempt to summarize out of respect for the piece as is.

As it happens, Kathryn’s blog is the one I mention on my About page as having been instrumental in bringing about this blog’s existence. Maybe one day I’ll get around to adding a blog roll to my rather Spartan (yup, went there) little site someday to give a more proper and permanent link to it and the works of other friends and random Internet-folk I find amusing or interesting. For now, though, just enjoy it, god damn you!

Anyway, while I enjoyed the piece and the focus of it, I’m always looking at the underlying themes in the stuff I read and what drives a story or article and what I can reach my hand into and rip out, turn inside-out, and scatter around like a lunatic painting on the wall with his own feces, a serial killer furnishing his home with lovely human skin lampshades, or an Elder Thing ripping your sanity to shreds by simply intersecting with your reality at a non-Euclidean angle for a moment.

I’m almost certain this means I am irrevocably insane, and entirely certain that doesn’t bother me.

I’m a horror fan. Stephen King’s It was my initiatory rite into the world of adult literature, and reading it at a time when I was crossing that threshold from childhood to young-adulthood – just like the book’s main cast – pretty much shaped the entire course of my literary wanderings from that point on. There was no point in anything else for me. I had no desire to read about knights and princesses, no room for tales of valor and war, and no use for the teen-angst standards of the day.

I needed the fantastic. I craved the weird and the scary. I lived for Halloween when for just one night I could get away with unleashing the horrors King had wrought upon my psyche onto the rest of the world. It was glorious.

Mind you, I wasn’t one of the creepy goth kids. I didn’t wander around in black t-shirts with black metal bands emblazoned on them crying for attention or inflicting my inner demons on everyone else. I didn’t need to. I got all the horror I needed in my life right there on the pages of It, The Shining, Tommyknockers, and Cujo.

Horror fiction was the release valve on all the daily horrors of being a teenage boy in a tiny mid-west town. It was horror, experienced almost exclusively through King and Lovecraft, that taught me man’s most valuable and detrimental qualities are one and the same.

Fear.

Fear drives us in all things, and I hardly need to go into that particular truth at great length. Fear is an evolutionary advantage that drives not only mankind but every living creature with a brain big enough to process the chemicals necessary to generate fear. Fear tells us, “Hey, moron, run from that thing with blood dripping from its teeth,” and drives us to build shelter against the roaming predators that could snatch our babies in the night and feast on the gloriously soft and un-furred flesh of our awkward bodies.

Even the most innocuous of activities can be tied back to fear in the healthy-for-us sense. We fear starving to death because once upon a time our ancestors’ ancestors’ ancestor starved to death and the surviving members of the species saw how fucking awful, painful, and scary that was and ever since we’ve done whatever we had to to make sure that doesn’t happen to us. It’s lead to some interesting inventions and contrivances along the way.

We fear what others will say about the stretch marks on our asses, or the smell of our various fluids and gases, so we wear pants and bathe – and in doing so prevent frostbite and a wide array of infectious and fungal diseases. Some fear is quite good for you, indeed!

But then there’s the OTHER fear, and I mean that quite literally: Fear of the Other. It’s that fear we have of people and things not like ourselves. Sometimes, if that Other is a slavering monster with bloody fangs and a penchant for human flesh, or a semi-terrestrial entity from the void with tentacles that spread madness with their touch, that fear of The Other is perfectly acceptable and absolutely should be listened to.

More and more in the modern world, though, where flesh-eating monsters are less of a worry than they used to be, fear of The Other is turned on less deserving targets. Constructs of “race” and what that word actually means come to mind as we see most frequently even today, but I wander alone through long nights of weirdness and see other Others moving into the forefront as well.

Take for instance the current trend in cable television programming. Where once channels like History and Discovery were actually about… history, and discoveries, and devoted hours upon hours to documentaries about anything they deemed we might find interesting, now we see an endless string of Shark Weeks capitalizing on our fear of fish with teeth and geologists pretending they know historical truths; preying on our fear of education and common sense.

Capitalizing on an undereducated public, these networks and others have been steadily shifting away from droning documentaries by actual experts in favor of the sensational bullshit of conspiracy theorists and woo-peddlers of all shapes and sizes. We can even expand this into the countless ghost and bigfoot hunting shows which often portray crackpots who spend too much time in the woods as experts in things of entirely unsubstantiated reality.

The Average Joe Jack-off has replaced the serious academic as the leading voice in information dissemination across the dial, and disturbingly they often push an actual agenda of resisting the academic establishment or decrying educated people in specialist fields (like archaeologists, historians, physicists, astronomers, and even mathematicians!) as part of an ever-expanding web of conspiracy set in place to do nothing but lie to the common man about everything under the sun to keep them ignorant of the “truth” about the world around them.

What that truth is, however, depends entirely on the woo-peddler of the week. It could be that the universe is a Matrix-like hologram, it could be that aliens abduct everyone nightly and our dreams are hallucinations put there to keep us from knowing about the probes in our asses and the hybridization of humanity, or it could be that a single group of people (take your pick, it’s either the Illuminati – which was a Bavarian flash-in-the-pan for a decade in the 18th century, the Freemasons, or the Knights Templar these days) runs the entire world and all governments are really their puppets.

Regardless, these heroes-of-the-common-man know the truth, and the truth is that anyone who isn’t them is against them. My favorite right now is Scott Wolter. That guy is dumber than the rocks he’s supposed to be an expert on, but he’s now had two shows on History about his Knights Templar wet dreams that are almost entirely built around the premise that the history we’ve all been taught growing up is a lie. This is declared in the actual title sequence for the show. This geologist will save us from our false history, while conveniently ignoring the fact he’s so bad at geology he once misrepresented a rock he sold as a rare Lake Superior Agate (worth thousands) when it was in fact a Brazil Agate worth significantly less and was sued and found in the wrong and thus demonstrates his own lack of expertise in his own field of expertise; so why the fuck should we trust this guy?

Oh, because he’s on TV and he says academics are liars, that’s why.

This particular fear of The Other plays very specifically to The Other being “anyone who could afford to go to college and was successful in obtaining multiple stages of degrees in their field”. To the audience of under-educated and ill-informed individuals who did not go to college for any number of reasons or perhaps simply lack the resources and skills necessary to discern what is credible information and what is the mad raving of an idiot trying to feel important, the educated and well-informed are an Other of such exceeding strangeness that they must, in fact, be hideous monsters perverting the truth in layers of technical language and a vocabulary that expands beyond two-syllable words.

Witness, too, the case of one Michael Cremo. Cremo has made his living selling the notion that one does not have to go to college at all to be an expert in archeology. In fact, if you listen to a Cremo interview and aren’t entirely put off by the fact the man can’t even get through a sentence in an intelligible manner and has the delivery cadence of a four-year-old pushing a wagon full of rocks uphill you’ll soon learn that he actually claims dropping out of college and choosing instead to blindly accept “wisdom traditions” (in Cremo’s case, Hindu mythology) as an equal path to higher education was a GOOD thing!

Sure, we can argue all day about the accessibility of higher learning institutions to the common man, or we could argue about how woefully unprepared the average high school student really is for such higher learning, or we could go on at length about the rising cost of tuition, but those would be actual arguments about education and educational reform that might have some fucking substance. These bottom-feeders running rampant through the pool are arguing nothing more than “academics are wrong, and professors are protecting the party-line of history for the sake of maintaining their tenure in a world run by the NWO”.

Sometimes I wish the NWO really were in charge. Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash would book themselves more airtime than these morons, and at least the “it’s just entertainment” argument would hold water.

“But Clint,” you ask, “what the fuck does this have to do with the article in question?!”

Probably nothing. But I’m a writer. I see a good prompt and I run with it and fear happens to be on of my favorite subjects.

So! Happy Halloween!

I was going to strap a playing card under my sleeve in my usual stand-by “degenerate gambler” costume, but I think this year I’ll just terrify the masses with a stunning intellect and informed opinions. It seems so much more effective, and doesn’t take near as much preparation as the chainsaw-murderer-with-real-chainsaw costume I did in junior high.

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Rambling Bit of Nonsense: 2am Edition

I know, I’ve been slacking on the blog posts lately and there’s not even a really good reason for why. I just haven’t felt like it. I look at the Add New Post page and nothing comes to mind to write about and then I go do something else and revisit it a couple days later to do much the same. So, why not a little glimpse of what I’ve been up to in this hiatus?

Here’s a hint: NOTHING.

Seriously. I have done nothing of interest since the last post. I randomly probe the aether by night, and sometimes day, looking for and applying for jobs or trying to figure out the technical issues preventing my computer from accessing certain work-at-home programs, and when I get tired of that or feel I’ve done enough for a day I go and do something else.

Sometimes I stare at a short story, find that I hate the last thing I wrote and delete it, and then rewrite a third of what I deleted before closing it and not saving because what I had was still better than the alterations. Sometimes I build a bit for PotP, but at this point I’m the only person actually doing any of that right now and I have three completed areas just sitting there waiting to be checked and copied in. With our illustrious admin typically absent and the fact the only other person with access to do copyovers is the “head coder” (for stupid reasons that presuppose that no one else can copy a file or work in a Unix environment, but are really all about said coders being jealous control freaks who believe they and they alone should hold the keys even when they don’t fucking log on for months at a time), though, there’s no real hurry to get them checked since no one can do it.

So there’s that, I guess.

Progress on novel revisions remains stagnate, as most actual writing is apparently beyond my capability at this time, but two more good friends (maybe three) are reading the first draft now and hopefully a bit of extra feedback will shake something loose in that department.

I’ve been doing a lot more reading lately. Usually in the hour or so it takes my brain to unwind when I finally do lay down to go to sleep. Most of that reading has been the complete Conan works of Robert E. Howard, and I admit I kind of put Ana Spoke’s book on the back burner once that undertaking began. I’m still working on it here and there, and find it an enjoyable read, but I’m pretty sure I’m the furthest thing there is from a target audience for the amusing misadventures of a perpetually oblivious twenty-something stumbling and bullshitting her way through life and her new job at what I’m pretty sure is a corporate cult.

I mean, her boss owns an Apache helicopter armed with Hellfire missiles, has at least one actual slave (the Gimp, which makes me think of the Gnu Image Manipulation Program because BDSM isn’t a thing I associate with at all), and arms all his employees as a matter of corporate policy. It’s absurd, and I can appreciate the absurdity, but in small doses of about a chapter a week.

Conan, on the other hand, speaks more to my usual mindset, writing style, and love of world building, so I’m devouring that and rather kicking myself for having taken so long to get around to it. One would think I’d have been a Conan reader an Age ago since Howard and Lovecraft were as close as Lovecraft could ever be said to have for close friends and Lovecraft’s been a particular favorite of mine since I was fifteen. I’d seen, of course, the Arnold movies, and I’d read at least four different Conan comic series, and Robert Jordan had even written some Conan stories before The Wheel of Time, but nope. Never touched the Howard source material.

Foolish, and being rectified.

Let’s see, what else can I babble about for no apparent reason?

I switched browsers today. I was tired of Firefox and it wasn’t working with one of the work-at-home sites I’m trying to get going, so I dumped it for my first love: Opera.

Before I switched to Linux I’d been an avid Opera user since Opera began. It’s a lovely browser that’s always been fast and loaded with innovations that everyone else ripped off. When Internet Explorer and Netscape were still dominating the market with their clunky interfaces and that ever-expanding list of individual windows for every page that’d creep along your Windows 95 taskbar like a trail of ants feasting on your system resources, Opera had already started toward the tabbed interface by opening all your pages in nested windows inside the main Opera window.

My old tower, though, ran a 32x chipset and Opera hadn’t been updating the 32x version of it’s browser by the time I switched to Linux, so I had to make due with Firefox. I like Firefox just fine, and on that machine it was the best option because Chrome is a bloated piece of shit that Google should be ashamed of. When I finally got this laptop running sans-hard drive with a USB drive instead, I just stuck with Firefox because Ubuntu installed it natively and it worked fine for what I needed it for.

But it’s been annoying me lately, and I’m tired of updating it and finding page load times going through the roof, unresponsive windows for minutes at a time, and generally causing a cascading effect across my other open programs whenever it decides to crash. So, since I actually have a proper 64-bit architecture on this thing, and was trying to find something that works with The Smart Crowd website (it still isn’t at this moment, but it’s my project for the night), I turned back to my beloved Opera for help.

The developers behind Opera made the somewhat controversial and unusual decision to shift the browser’s ethos over to the Chromium base that became Google Chrome and is otherwise maintained as an open-source web engine all its own, but whatever’s under the hood doesn’t interest me so much as the usability of the browser itself. It’s working beautifully, loading faster than Firefox ever has, I have a proper Opera speed dial again (Firefox doesn’t, and requires third-party extensions to pull it off), and my speed dial even has an animate star field background that goes well with my desktop theme of rotating Hubble images.

WordPress is working more smoothly than ever, too, so bonus.

I think I’m still going to wind up having to install hated Chrome to manage to do anything work-at-home, because small-minded people take shortcuts in coding to a specific environment instead of providing a wide range of compatibility, but I suppose I’ll live.

Anyway, I think I’m out of shit to ramble about, and sorry if anyone reading this thought they were actually going to get a quality post. It’s 2:30am, and at this point I just wanted to get something up here for the sake of the habit. Maybe next time I’ll have something worth saying.

Maybe.

Bing Fucky, Yo.

What do you do when it’s 4am, you have 1260+ Bing Rewards points unspent because you quit spending them on free X-Box Live months a year ago, and everyone you know has been harassing you to read some crap by a guy who you’ve already professed profound dislike for?

Duh. Spend ’em on Amazon gift cards and get free books that don’t suck.

That’s what I did last night, and I’m not even done. I just got tired.

At 475 Bing points for a $5 card, one wouldn’t expect to be exactly rolling in literary goodness, but hey, I was bored and awake and the free promo copy Ana Spoke’s book (which I haven’t finished, but I’m making my way through steadily) was looking awfully lonely as the only thing in my Kindle app. Half an hour later my list was looking a little more me.

Obviously the first thing I did was look for Lovecraft. Why the hell wouldn’t I? I’d have aimed for some Stephen King, but then I’d only get one book, and it’d probably be a short story collection from the dark ages. Lovecraft, however, is a public domain author; his stuff is FREE if you know where to look, so folks putting together collections for e-books can’t really get away with charging all that much. And that’s how I wound up with the Complete Collection of H.P. Lovecraft for $.99 that really only cost me 95 Bing points, or about one week worth of randomly searching shit on Bing.

From there, shit just kinda started happening on its own. Download everything Lovecraft ever wrote, and the next thing you know Amazon just starts throwing pillars of the pulp years at you left and right. So, I wound up with the complete Robert E. Howard Conan collection (only Howard’s originals, none of those spin-off authors, though one day I do need to read Robert Jordan’s Conan work…) and the complete Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter series for another $.99 each.

Of course, once you have everything “of Mars” Amazon decides to suggest you also get a 12-novel collection of H.G. Wells, apparently knowing full well you’ve only actually read War of the Worlds. $.99 more cents go away, thirty more hours of classic sci-fi genius appears.

Now, at this point in my wandering I was getting tired and my brain didn’t really care to think what else I might pick up on the free. The already-mind-boggling amount of classic pulp sitting there was just enough to fry my brain. I’ve read most of the Lovecraft stuff before, but it was necessary. One should always have a little Lovecraft on hand for emergencies.

The Conan and John Carter series, though, I’d never read in their original form. I’ve had years worth of comic book adaptations of both, both direct adaptations and new-material expansions, but obviously Lord Amazon decided it was time for me to stop bemoaning my lack of a public library (back home I’d been shut out of the Burlington one because they raised the yearly fee and Danville stopped paying it) and get my pulp on. Wells is just kind of an extra bonus. War of the Worlds is a terrific book that has about jack-all to do with any of the movie adaptations, and I’m looking forward to the rest.

My curiosity, however, would not be sated. By now it was nearly 5am and my brain went to where it always goes when all else fails: mythology.

In one fell swoop I picked up The Illiad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Sir E.A. Wallis Budge’s translation collections “The Babylonian Legends of the Creation” and “Legends of the Gods, The Egyptian Texts” in about five minutes of inspired searching. All of these, and so many more that I need to seriously spend a lot of time later to go frolicking through the Classics, were free. It turns out there are actually a metric fuckton of free classics on the Kindle store. Since I’m both a cheap motherfucker and entirely absorbed by any and all ancient history and mythology, it’s gonna be a long time before I’ve successfully hunted down copies of everything I could possibly want.

I didn’t even burn an entire gift card yet, either. That’s going to be fun.

I should note that until Ana launched a free promotion for her book I hadn’t even signed up for Amazon. All these years it’s been around, there was just no reason for me to go shopping online for anything, and I’ve always been a hard-copy book person unless I’m looking for quick reference materials. Once I had the app, though, it seemed necessary to at least try to fill it up with stuff a little more up my usual literary alley.

I’m enjoying “Shizzle, Inc” so far, though I’m well aware at this point (five chapters in) that I am certainly not the target audience for this book. I like how absurd it is, and despite the comments of certain individuals it doesn’t really feel like what I imagine when I hear the term “chick-fic” so much as it is just an intentionally absurd comedy about a pleasantly-oblivious twenty-something, an eccentric billionaire, and what I’m pretty sure is going to prove to be a homebrew terrorist plot.

It is, however, not the sort of thing I usually read. That’s good sometimes, and I’m happy to read it and give it a bit of time as one writer supporting another, but after Isa’s hijinks I’m going to need to spend some time taking manly adventures in the deserts and jungles of the pulp gods for. Maybe I’ll wander down some cyclopean ruins while I’m at it.

(By the way, this was NOT a sponsored post, but if Amazon or Microsoft would like to throw some money at a brotha…)