Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Countess Arugula and the Case of the Blood Oranges

Some horror-satire to get you through the living season.

Dusk had arrived at long last. The waning Hunter Moon had yet to rise leaving the overcast sky uniformly bleak. The evening's trick-or-treaters had already disappeared into their houses, barred their doors and doused their porch lights. Throughout downtown Shadowville the neighborhood is draped in anticipatory silence.

Countess Arugula emerges from her house and reaches up to unlatch her gate. It opens with an extended creak as she steps beyond the white picket fence of her yard. Closing the gate behind her, thrilling at the rending sound, she stumbles. An unexpected object lies before her. In the dim light she can just discern World's Best Blood Oranges spelled out on a crate with the Euphrates Organics trademark underscored.

"Oh my," Countess Arugula exhales, "who would leave fruit at my doorstep. Surely everyone knows by now I'm a carnivore of the night. Why do they spite me so."

What's On, Countess Arugula's pet bat, deftly flutter loops to a landing on her shoulder and mutters his singular taunt, "What's on?"

"Good question, What's on, let's investigate to discover who it is that dares ridicule me."

With lightning swiftness, Countess Arugula kicks the crate shattering the wood utterly and scattering hefty oranges across Main Street like frightened rodents. With a determined gait she crosses the street, pausing to enjoy the sweet scent of offal and manure that drifts over town from the slaughterhouse district.

With childlike aplomb Count Arugula struts up the stairs of her neighbor's house and rings the bell. The door cracks open and the double-barrel of a shotgun eases into view. Then the door flips opens fully and a tall, bearded man dressed in a camouflage pajama onesie pounces into the open threshold.

"Oh it's only you Countess. I thought it might be more of those damn kids. You'd think they'd heed the No Trespassing sign after last year's incident."

"What's on." squawks What's On.

"Oh, Hunter Jackfruit, do come out and see. Someone left a crate of oranges at my house as some sort of sick joke."

Shotgun angled down but still at the ready, Hunter Jackfruit closes the door and sits on his porch bench happy to talk eye-to-eye with his diminutive neighbor.

"Countess Arugula, dear, do share with me your concern?"

Then in a blur, Hunter Jackfruit swings his shotgun up and pulls the trigger with a deafening blam, obliterating a mourning dove that had perched in the porch rafters. Avian carnage rains down on the Countess, splatter on her face which she licks away in long circles that would make Gene Simmons blush.

"I mean how many times must I clarify that I am a carnivore. Why must people be so judgy and poke fun at me for possessing a last name I have no control over."

Abrubtly Hunter Jackfruit pivots, flicks on a laser sight, adjusts his aim and blam, decapitates a gray squirrel that had been bounding between the shadows of trees on his lawn.

"I hear you, Countess. I mean, I run into that very issue myself all the time. People judge us so because our ideas embody who we are. They forget that killing is part of our evolutionary nature."

Hunter Jackfruit shifts his body left and drills a garden toad into non-existence that had peeped three feet away.

"What's on?" chirps What's On.

With trained precision Hunter Jackfruit centers the red bead of the laser on the little brown bat's belly, his finger jittery at the trigger. Only after the Countess tilts her head and gives him an ominous stare above a yeah-really smirk, does he relent and lower the firearm.

Countess Arugula continues, "Maybe we should compromise like Cowboy Holocaust. I mean he was ridiculed for years for having the last name Asparagus. Once he changed his name to reflect the true nature of his dairy farmer ethics, people seem to leave him alone."

Hunter Jackfruit rolls to the corner of the porch, double pumps his shotgun and nails an old groundhog that had been nosing at the lamb-kabob smoker on his patio. He fires a second time into the lifeless flesh just for effect.

"Now don't you let others sway your true self, sweet Countess. Cowboy H may have rebranded himself.  But just because his milk jugs now picture cow's being force impregnated, their calves being locked in veal crates, and useless cows being lowered into the sausage grinder doesn't make it right. He lost a lot of respect by changing his name. Tradition is sacred, and don't you forget it! To be honest, if I were you I wouldn't trouble yourself investigating who left you the crate of oranges. The world is yours to own and you need not answer to the haters out there."

Hunter Jackfruit stands, swings the shotgun around, sights it carefully and fires. He successfully maims a street cat that had been noshing on the entrails of the headless squirrel. The high pitch screech of dying reaches high into the night.

"Maybe you're right," Countess Arugula announces, lifting her chin high. "I am Countess Arugula through and through. I choose to live how I want to and if a case of blood oranges showing up at my doorstep once a year is the price I have to pay, then so be it.  Thank you, Hunter Jackfruit."

"You're welcome. And help yourself to what's left of the kitty there while it's still fresh. The groundhog though, is all mine!"

Countess Arugula smiles, gives a nod and turns to collect her prize. What's On hops from one shoulder of the Countess to the other never losing eye contact with Hunter Jackfruit. As they disappear into the shadows of the front yard What's On squawks above the shriek of the unfortunate feline.

"What's on!"

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Flight of Fantasy

To celebrate the publication of Somewhere South of Cinco (pre-order available now) I've decided to wax wizardic on the genre of fantasy. Whether you prefer dragon-riding elves searching for elixirs or golems munching forbidden fruit beside a burning bush, arguably fantasy has become a most influential genre in the modern era.

At their foundation fantasy stories proclaim "screw true physics; the world 'really' works this way." In this fashion, broom transport, sabers of light, undead people that eat flesh (not to be confused with living people that eat flesh), etcera la majica break the rules of the real world.  Sometimes the plots are epic, sometimes cheese-ridden, but always extra-ordinary. Most importantly, fantasy realms permit their characters to investigate amazing mysteries and battle esoteric forces so as to stimulate readers' imagination.

Because of its uberfictional nature, many label fantasy simply as escapism. Indeed, a fantasy story, dark or light or somewhere in between, can help us forget the tedious, challenging life that is going on outside our sphere of imagination. So long as the escapist doesn't retreat madly into fictional realms these stories can refresh our minds to better face real-world challenges.

In fact, immersing ourselves in abstract realms can inspire us to cultivate a healthy imagination.  Simultaneously, fantasy stories provide contrast to recognize the difference between actual reality and misinformed world contrivances. Which is to say, it can help us build our critical thinking skills to better confront myths and false information that persist in the real world.

Finally, fantasy provides a unique platform to discuss topics that may be taboo in society. Using metaphor, analogy, and allegory, an author can highlight current issues in code, not only to sneak it past censors, but also secret it past the stereotypes and traditional ideas we our conditioned mind might otherwise reject outright.

To be sure, the fantasy genre has morphed substantially throughout recent decades. The fantasy behemoth has wandered far from its classical Middle Earth realms. Nowadays she might take the form of a dinosaur in a spacesuit, a time traveler in ancient Mars, or a climate refugee activist in False Key, Florida.

In every case, turn the page, and let magic happen!

Somewhere South of Cinco (more tales from False Key) is available now for pre-sale in flat scroll and magic slab forms at the AmazonatoriumThe book includes a couple of my poems and and my five part mini-serial story Goddess Cast. No spoilers here but if you're interested in fantasy stories that will whisk you away to and beyond tropical isles and sultry happenings, the of enchanted authors showcased here won't disappoint. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Fading of Friendship

Luna and Terra, A Friendship Ever More Distant (+4 cm/yr and counting)
Even the best of friendships can become distant...slowly, sadly, silently...and in many cases incompletely.

A topic doesn't get more melancholy than the slipping away of a once wonderful friendship. Alas, part of living life fully is taking a soulful look at the sorrowful transitions in life including the erosion of our most joyful of connections.

The gaining of a friend itself is a most mysterious thing that calls for a separate contemplation. Nevertheless, once you have a true friend in your life, it glows with a unique goodness. Imbued with a blend of mutual respect, conversation, and adventure, nothing is quite as life-affirming as two people who earnestly want to hang out with each other.

And yet lives change, priorities shift, and occasionally mortality steps in. On the surface the friendship may end abruptly, but minds can be much more subtle in getting to closure. Few things are as subtly painful as remembered joy that is no longer there. It is in these moments of loneliness that resilience of self can pay off, whether we find joy in doing things by ourselves or reaching out to others in our friendship circle.

The fading of a friendship can feel terrible, but it can also be the sign of new beginnings. A short melancholy period can allow the soil of the mind to refresh itself and become receptive to new seedling friendships. It can also serve as reminder that there are other, perhaps neglected, blooms in ones garden of friendships, among family members, colleagues, and even old friends who may have incompletely faded.

In the end it pays to delight in the friends that orbit your sphere today! Open your heart and mind to the variety of connections out there, for a crescent moon setting tonight is so very often followed by a rising sun.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Observation Thine

Sitting at my window I watch the background of trees, their leaves glistening. The maple tree to the northwest catches my attention. Each leaf is a dark green paw reaching out for sunlight to convert solar energy into food. In a mysterious sequence a dozen leaves among hundreds signal me. In rapid succession one by one each star-shaped form droops a couple inches, turns a darker shade of green, and then quickly returns to its starting position.

For a minute I imagine what message Gaia, spirit of the Earth, is sending me. Perhaps, a story of ancient natural forces forging the landscape over eons or a warning of environmental disaster coming my way that will permit me to save hundreds of lives. Ah, 'tis a magical moment to be sure.

Then I take a step back from my speculative fantasy and chuckle. The drops of rain that give all the greenery a glisten are of course being pulled by gravity earthward. Along its path the water's weight presses the leaves down momentarily. Gradually, the translucent liquid finds its way to the ground pooling on the grass and adjacent concrete patio. And then a fresh flourish of rain begins the pattern anew.

Our interaction with the world begins with our senses. How naturally we build stories to explain those observations. Tales of childhood magic compete with more practical science lessons. Fiction and fact, pure and simple? Arguably, both views bring insight yet both are incomplete.

Perhaps there is no need to discard either interpretation entirely, so long as we recognize where fantasy transitions to a more factual beginning. Indeed, the fiction might inspire the writing of a nature poem, or the misguided outcry that the world is ending. The factual might encourage one to plan a wild meadow or to grimly recall doldrums in an uninspiringly taught Biology 101.

Of course there are many reactions one might take after most any observation. Sadly, the observation act itself is an active experience we too often shrug off before moving on to something else more pressing or previously scheduled.

For a change, pause and consider closely your next glimpse, sniff, sensation x, y and z both together and separate. Meditate and contemplate, muse and synthesize, and without reservation, enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Defying the Certainty Principle

We are living in an era of global instability. Humanity is causing tremendous detrimental change to the planet we live on and yet as individuals and tribes we continue to pursue lives that feel positive to us in surprisingly isolated human communities, mostly in disregard to their greater effects to others.

Taking a step back to examine outcomes can be hard. Each of us as a nascent, global activist is involved in a constant onslaught of local experiences that can have impressive personal impact. To insulate ourselves from the complexity of these experiences we often turn to black and white principles aligned with faith and tradition rather than compassionate and critical examination of the moment.

Uncertainty is the zombie-mammoth bumbling about the room. And she's been around since humans developed knowledge sharing technology, or more simply described: language.

Uncertainty can scare our subconsciouses back into a cave where we seek guidance from outdated tales that seek to allay our fears with primitive conclusions of misplaced certainty. Often these tales are comprised of mythical magic and holy how-we-used-to-do's. Their intent is psychological, to help us forget the fears of uncertainty, or to confront them with wild abandon.

Alas, in modern times more than ever, we have a choice to deny gut responses and reactions from traditions. By taking the time to contemplate any impasse that allows it we, as individuals and communities, can leverage compassion and reason to change the world for the better.