Friday, January 26, 2018

Welcome to the party, scientists!

Well what do you know?

I was driving to work this evening when to my amazement and amusement the Funny 820 Radio Guy unloaded this snippet from the World o’ News:

That people may be doing harm to their mental health by being distracted too much, and rarely taking time for quiet reflection, and that cell phones are largely to blame!

Well fuck a duck, folks! Congratulations to whoever out there finally figured out that little nugget of Profoundly Obvious Wisdom! Ka-POW!

So nice to know I’m not alone with regards to this “theory” which is a lot more that a theory to me. It’s as fundamental a reality as gravity in my living experience. Somewhere some scientist’s phone must have broke down and he found himself staring at the scenery when suddenly he learned something all by his little lonesome self!

Hey… I love science and scientists. Don’t get me wrong. And I also love how they always eventually find themselves on the right track when it comes to the human mind - a track that invariably lies in the fossilized footprints of poets.

Welcome aboard, you fine scientist! But don’t get too excited. Few others are listening.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Long day huh?

No; it’s a great day, was my response. At that moment I was writing in a notebook while keeping half an eye on the small handful of well-mannered folks at the reception counter of the social assistance office. From my desk near the public entrance I convey the image of kind authority, give directions to the occasional lost-looking soul who I know right away is actually looking for either the Service Canada office next door or the Service Ontario office around the corner, and respond to a daily well-meaning buffoon who is concerned that I must be bored, all while getting lots of valuable observation, contemplation and creative work accomplished.

“Boring job, eh!” said yesterday’s Joe Blow.

When I worked at the community corrections centre, visitors would take one look at my Zombie Partner du Jour and make that same comment: “Boring job, eh?”. Sometimes said partner would crack an eye and assure them of the brilliance of their observation. But if left to me I would boldly reply: “I’m not personally aware of any boring jobs; only boring people!”

I was well aware that I was insulting the person-like shape reclined beside me but there are times when honesty is going to happen; like it or not. Sorry about your luck, Loafy McLoafenheimer.

I use the laptop sparingly at the social assistance office as It might provoke an assumption that I am zoned out, lost in some game or movie perhaps. In the five days (of seven per month) I have attended so far, I have scribbled In my notebooks ideas and material for such projects as this blog, the novel Crazy Legs (character outlines - there are many many characters…), my board games Prestige, Quantify and currently untitled movie script game, stand-up comedy material, resume and cover letter, Dungeons & Dragons “Minerva” setup and of much current importance: the mapping and orienting of ideas/understandings around a deep “poetic” mentoring commitment.

I can’t remember what it was like prior to this daily habit of observation, reflection, contemplation and creativity. I find it difficult now to relate to the people who make these comments to me, who I must assume live their lives dedicated to the bidding of their human masters and to their stone-age instincts, with occasional distraction/escape and nothing more, with no realization that all of their reality lies behind a veneer of falsehoods which are threatening to go undetected.

When they say, “Boring job, hey?” what I hear is: “Hi! I’ve never figured anything out!”

I am very grateful for my circumstance. Of course I must be thankful for the privilege. I would have a very hard time raising a family within the financial confines of this lifestyle. Luckily for me I live in a time when the world is lethally overpopulated and no such expectation is made of me. Had I lived during mankind’s most dire of ages, when we were barely a thousand people away from extinction, this all might have been difficult!

But as always throughout history, there is room in everyone’s life for some greater degree of mindfulness; more discovery; more growth of the mind; more wisdom, especially in this most unnatural Age of Misinformation, if one can make do with a little less screen time perhaps?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Planets Minerva: Episode 2: The Encampment

The ranger Catherine has introduced herself to the two half-orcs and found out that they are all from the city of Renown though they do not recall her face nor she theirs. They stand on a well-travelled track overlooking the great drop to the sea as the red sun inches higher, revealing itself to be a larger sun than they are accustomed to (or one they are closer to?) That it is rising instead of falling reveals that what they thought was dusk is instead dawn and the direction they had just pegged as East has become West, and North has become South. Are they in another part of the world? Or a different world altogether?

They stand barefoot, adorned in nothing but robes, each holding a compact sword in a heat they would normally associate with an unusually hot summer afternoon.

Eyeing the raised stronghold in the distance they realize there is perhaps some festival taking place as a gathering of bright green tents partly surround the base of the rocky hill.

They all agree they are in much need of help and the orcish pair outvote the ranger and so they head for the festival and not the walled town. En route they realize suddenly that a large tusked and trunked beast is standing still off beside the road, staring at them. Its wrinkled hide is a brownish grey much like their robes. One mentions the word elephant and the others agree that this is the name for the animal although none of them can recall ever seeing one before nor where they would have learned the word from. The beast blasts a trumpeting noise at them which the party cautiously ignores and they move on.

The green tents, they now find, are each adorned with a dog’s head icon in a slightly darker green shade. And the environment here is not busy or festive. The only sign of life are horses who wander in and out of the shelter of tent coverings devoid of side panels. From one of the more complete tents a man emerges in multi-green robe with white trim.

He is Brother Kurgan and he introduces himself and then his associates Brother Cornelius, Sister Rhianna and Brother Leotho. These are the leaders of a pilgrimage to their holy land which is still three thousand “wheels” away. They come to figure out that a wheel is roughly the same as a mile. Brother Leotho seems to be the high priest and is very impressed with the threesome of visitors commitment to their own pilgrimage as they bear nothing but a robe and sword.

He invites the party to breakfast with them where they explain that their trek began in Doxtoria and Flaurus before meeting up with Saripho and Zofo delegates respectively. They then moved on to Bakavat, then Gandolin where the Ivernese, Isylls and Islandians joined in and where Brother Leotho began his turn at the helm.

They are camped at this monastic temple of Osiris for several days garnering support (and numbers) from their hosts: food, supplies and support in terms of maintenance and health. Afterward they will proceed east through (or around, as per scouting and acquired advice) the villages of Libja, Cricketsong and Foxtangle, then a night or two in the city of Two Lions, then onward to White CIty and then through the remote reaches of the Verge and on to their destination in Osiriland.
The party reveals the truth about their strange appearance here; a kidnapping it seems to them, in this land referred to as The Verge; a borderland which separates Demonland from the Azure Sea.

They learn that they are in a world that is sometimes called Itaania which is separated by The Great Sea from the West World (sometimes called Maalia) and that both worlds reside on the “great orb” called Minerva.

Leotho reveals that claims of visitors coming from another world altogether; another great orb, are not unheard of and that he considers these claims possible and does not disbelieve their tale. He has never heard of a place called Renown nor any of the other places or landmarks the party relates to them.

The brothers and sisters of Osiris give them gifts of clothing, belts and footwear and a special magic cup studded with many ornamental (non-precious) stones, each coloured clear, blue or green. They’re told it can be used to purify water and warned that pure water is rare here and there are many dangers: fecal or saline contamination, some common diseases including a “desert” disease revealed by a green tint in the eyes, and something called “radio mutation.”

With regards to the inscription on their swords Leotho explains that Saint Montreal was a mortal from more than 50,000 years ago.

“In the Age of Chi, the monster Chi ruled Minerva, stole fire from the sun and set the sky aflame. He then sent great floods to kill all the most noble and heroic peoples (men and women – and elves and half-elves). These martyrs, not all of them mogi” (human), were sainted by the gods and are the only mortal Minervans which people are welcomed by the gods to pray to. The saints are said to provide aid within their prescribed circles of influence.

He tells them that Montreal is the saint of “the abandoned.” He recommends the party may wish to pray to St. Montreal. He shows them a drawing of him. He is depicted as a man with a kindly bearded face. He also recommends prayers to Manhattan (Saint of Wanderers) and/or to RioJeinero (Saint of Travelers) for help in their circumstances.

The party is invited to join the pilgrimage either as followers or just as co-travellers and told they would be given appropriate chores in order to pay their way and that they had several days to decide before the journey resumed.

They party also learned about the nearby market town called Sealedge and what times of day the gates open to allow entry and the nature of entry requirements as administered by a robust contingent of town guards.

The party decides to explore Sealedge before committing to any travel arrangements with the priests.

Wheels instead of miles is a translation taken from the Dark Tower series. Osiris is a god from Egyptian mythology. Everything else here is my own creation.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Snotty Movie Criticism: volume two

The Dark Tower ****
(2017) Idris Alba, Tom Taylor, Matthew McConaughey
Surprisingly competent enjoyable action flick inspired by, and having very little to do with, the Stephen King series of novels.

The Sea of Trees ***
(2015) Matthew McConaughey
Watchable exploration of life and death despite undisguised budget constraints. But given the tight concentration on the subject I frankly would have hoped for more depth.

Ithaca **
(2015) Alex Neustaedter, Sam Shepard
Fairly gentle look at wartime America through the eyes of bad-news-bearing telegraph messengers. It’s a coming-of-age flick at more than one level. If you really digged American Graffiti and Stand By Me, you might appreciate this but don’t go expecting the Tom Hanks brand. He’s too insignificant here to save this one from mediocrity. (Netflix)

Tig ****
(2015) Tig Notaro (documentary)
Extremely personal and intimate look at comedian Tig Nataro, her startling series of suffrage and a privileged look at a singular comedy event of tremendous impact. This is a rare, significant and thought-provoking story you won’t find anywhere else. (Netflix)  

Hits ***
(2014) Meredith Hagner, Matt Walsh
Just the kind of dorky and biting dark comedy you might expect from dorky actor/biting social commentator David Cross. Perfectly entertaining to me and probably not to everyone. (Netflix)  

Thank You For Smoking *
(2005) Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright
If you have trouble finding this movie, check under alternate title: Thank You For Watching This Shit Movie, or just find something better to do. Which won’t be hard.

Captain Fantastic ****
(2016) Viggo Mortensen
This was almost a noble look at a rare way of life vastly superior to the good ol’ ‘murican dream until they wimped out with compromises designed to water everything down to a bland stew quaffable by the dull general public and their many wallets.

Freeheld ***1/2
(2015) Julianne Moore, Ellen Page
Another truth-based Ron Nyswaner gem which might have approached 1993 gem Philadelphia in terms of resonance if not for the regrettable casting of Steve Carrel as an over-the-top homosexual public figure who too often drags the film a hair’s breadth from satire.

Swiss Army Man **
(2016) Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe
Altogether upsetting to the digestion. No thanks.

Manchester By The Sea*****
(2017) Casey Affleck
Dynamite subtle character film hit me hard.

Gold ****
(2016) Matthew McConaughey
Classic McConaughey effort pulls a decent drama flick up a notch.

Hidden Figures ****
(2016)  Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
It seems pretty silly at first; takes eye-rolling liberties with poetic license, but despite its Disneyesqe crimes, packs a worthwhile punch by the third act. Thumbs up.

The Lincoln Lawyer ****
(2011) Matthew McConaughey
Another classic McConaughey effort pulls another half-decent drama flick up a notch...

Logan ****
(2017) Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen
I’m glad I was semi-tricked into seeing this. Thought I’d seen sufficient Wolverine-based X-Men stuff but this one was superior! Surprising depth in terms of emotional and moral dynamics. Some genuine tender moments at times and notable absence of them at others. Some good laughs thrown in and plenty of gratuitous violence which definitely pushed my buttons at times. Specifically: there is an unusual dynamic here which legitimises scenes I would have trouble tolerating out of context. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Today I attempted to meditate and I intend to do so daily as an integral routine. This not the first time I’ve taken a shot at it but it’s the first time I made a serious go if it.

That it is lauded in excellent Hindu literature and by distinguished associates Neo and World Citizen (not to be confused with the dubious organization Global Citizen), reflects poorly on me. I have been intending to make this commitment for years and simply procrastinated, putting it off another day for some hundreds of consecutive days.

I definitely have improvements to make. I found my mind wandering frequently and reigned it in quickly each time. I found myself slowly slouching and picked myself up straight several times. I slightly adjusted position otherwise a couple times due to growing minor discomforts.

I found myself breathing very gently after awhile and I’m not sure if that is precisely the goal with regards to breathing. I also found myself making other observations regarding my own bodily functioning which provoked thought which I then tried to let go of.

It has become clear I need to go back and brush up on the objective and approach to meditation and clear up my perceptions as they have become weak on the subject. I have garnered much testimony on the subject from many sources over the years which may have broken down in my memory - or else may have come from different schools of discipline and thus may be self-conflicting.

I also found myself drifting into thoughtless states which invited waking (half-waking?) dreams - or dreamettes I tend to call them - which tells me I may have been in the process of falling asleep. It so happens I got the best night’s sleep of the year so far, this past night, so if I can’t achieve wakeful meditation after that performance then I don’t much like my chances at succeeding on a “normal” day where I’m somewhat sleep deprived.

Of course this is all a reminder that I must create a new normal where good sleep is the rule, thus I should be devoting all my useful productivity each day, first to my roster of sleep-helpful to-do’s ahead of everything else. As I pleaded to Aqualad just yesterday: No matter what you wish to achieve in this world, the effort begins with a proper night’s sleep.  

On a good note: When I quit the meditation session (or attempt thereof) I expected to find that I had been at it for about five minutes. In fact it had been sixteen minutes. So it must have gone a little better than I thought.

I must elicit advice from Neo on this. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dispatches from the stupidest society ever: Global Citizen

My suspicions that modern North American society is breeding the stupidest humans in history migrated to near certainty quite a long time ago and for many solid reasons.

But still new frontiers in brainlessness continue to blow me away and make be beg louder and louder for Ford Prefect to please come along and whisk me away from this lunatic bin to some other galaxy.

This one has been on my mind for about a year and still leaves me paralysed with disgust.

Global Citizen has been one of the many groups who provide excellent efficient useful avenues for positive change and justice via legitimate petitioning and similar actions.

Then to my stunned disbelief they introduced a points system where every petition or similar action you take earns you credits toward rewards; namely draws for concert tickets so far as I have observed. I no longer read Global Citizen’s emails now, except to check up on them once in a while to see how their insanity levels are holding up.

Someone please please tell me how any petition could possibly hold any weight before an even slightly intelligent audience when it can easily be interpreted that its signers have been bribed to sign it?

I have asked Global Citizen this question through two separate channels and they have declined to reply.

I have also pointed out to them that there are probably one or two cretins among the ruling conservative elite and their scared-into-submission army of sheeplings who, in this brave new terminally-polarized dysfunctional world of fake news, are possibly clever enough to grasp the above implications and start patting each other on the back and gleefully concluding: “Oh look at the Lefty Lib-tards and their scams! All of this online advocacy is complete bullshit; see!”     

I see online advocacy as the only active remaining vestige of anything which validly resembles the illusion we call democracy and I see Global Citizen as being a very dangerous reckless threat to it.

After about a year I am still utterly aghast. And I can find no online discussion about this anywhere.

With a recent check on their web site’s FAQ page, hoping to see some kind of explanation for this nuttery, I see 40 FAQ items: the first 6 entries relating to the actual work GC does, and the remaining 34 entries concerning points and rewards.

I thought that the reward for advocacy was a better world?

Am I missing something? Am I the only one sane around here or am I terribly confused about this somehow?

If it’s me who is the insane one, I would like to know, please. That would be far more comforting to me than the feeling of being the last sane one left on a terminally fucked planet.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Planets Minerva: Episode 1: The Beach

The burly warrior, Armigus, sits at the bar table waiting for his friend, a tenant of the inn, to join him. The ales have gone to his bladder and so he rises and heads for the back door which leads to the outhouse. He’s aware that folk are glancing his way, eyes drawn to his pronounced mandible and slightly exposed canines. Not all in the city of Renown are entirely accustomed to the presence of orcish half-breeds.

He shoves open the door, feels the cool breeze of late evening and steps over the threshold. His momentum carries him forward even as he loses consciousness.

Gu’ro’Baen has a similar toothy countenance with a slighter, but still sturdy, build. He gallops down the stairs of the inn and as he passes through the doorway to the common room he meets the same blackening fate.

Catherine de Montreard had stepped through a threshold of her own, she is now recalling, and though her mind is fuzzy, as if awakened from a long sleep, plagued by the strangest dreams, she is confident that her locale has significantly changed. The evening sky is still dim but everything else is wrong.

She is without clothing and standing barefoot in warm sand with the sound of lapping waves beside and behind her and before her a cliff face at least a hundred feet high. More immediately before her there is a sword partly buried vertically in the sand and pooled around it is an ample quantity of grey-brown fabric.

She turns to see a wide horizon of sea and sky beyond the threshold from which she no doubt emerged: a scintillating metallic rectangle of little or no substance; perhaps only the glimmer of a portal in the act of vanishing; a tool of some great sorcery no doubt. Through this portal no sign of her origin is visible; only this new sea and sky.
To her right another portal glimmers some fifty feet away and before it stands a naked man and before him an apparent welcome package alike her own; sword and cloth. For miles beyond that lies more vacant beach and cliff side, concluding at some far promontory, and beyond that the reddish glow of setting sun.

To her left lies a similar sight; a similar headland in the distance, well beyond another glimmering framework and another man. Further on she spies a fourth station; no living person but just a framework and another arrangement she presumes the same as that in front of her which she now moves swiftly to. She pulls free a hooded robe; only slightly smaller than her ideal, and dons it. There is no belt. She clutches it closed with one hand while examining the sword in her other hand. It is smaller than her own sword and engraved on the hilt are the words Saint Montreal.

The men have likewise equipped themselves and converge on her now and as they approach she recognizes their telltale orcish features. They recognize one another and call each other by name: Armigus and Gu’ro’Baen. They seem as slow and dazed as she feels but attempt an introduction with her which she ignores and instead marches away toward the unattended portal.

She pulls up short though, when a chittering sound alerts her to a presence emerging from the water at her side. The culprit is some unpleasant beast resembling a lobster in some ways and in other ways something insectile or even lizardish. She prepares to defend herself with the sword as the men come swiftly her way. But the creepy insectile chittering noises amplify and suddenly more and more of these creatures begin appearing from out of the sea.

“This way!” cries one of the men. “There appears to be a break in the cliff wall.” And so they flee the chitterers, jogging toward the sun. At the break in the cliff face they find a wide alcove with steps hewn into the rock and earth, arcing upward to the top. They climb these while the sea creatures gather on the sand, clicking and waving their claws. But they do not ascend.

At the top they find themselves on a savannah-like plain. To the west there stands a rocky solitary hill topped by some sort of stronghold and to the north a larger walled community. As they stand taking this in, they grow more unsettled at this unexpected journey and bizarre destination. The air is so much warmer than it should be and It seems like the sky is slowly growing brighter, not darker, and less blue, and more red.

The adventure is inspired by Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and this introduction to the campaign comes from the book The Drawing of the Three wherein portals on a beach draw Roland Deschain’s companions from another time and place. The “lobstrosities” come from this same source, modified little. As per D&D convention I assigned these Chitternids all the necessary statistics to conform to the D&D Monster Manual: hit dice, armor class, attack and damage details, alignment, morale etc. As it happened, no battle or further interaction occurred but that doesn’t rule anything out for the future. The players are about nine episodes ahead of us already (by thoroughly arbitrary measurement) and have already encountered beaches several more times.   

Other features from King’s epic series will be borrowed, but the plot is very different.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Planets Minerva: Introduction

So I’m engaged in a very dynamic and thus far successful Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I am the Dungeon Master - or D.M. (campaign referee), being the one with by far the most experience. The four character players are all somewhere in the 19 to 21 age range; all in university and are blessed with keen intensity, curiosity and imagination.

It is my hope that they will all take a turn being D.M. and creating their own stories of a scope that is appropriate to their more limited role-playing experiences. It would be a delight to see them grow in this capacity.

This campaign of mine, meanwhile, is rather epic. And of course it is only mine in terms of the world it takes place in, the background details and the choices that all of the non-player creatures make. The starring characters belong to the players and as such they are co-authors of this story as well.

The characters, like the players who created them (unimpinged by me), are all young. They are:
  • Gu’ro’Baen; a blacksmith and nascent mage/fighter of half-human, half-orcish blood,
  • his friend Armigus; a hugely strong fighter, fresh out of the military and also of half-orcish descent,
  • Catherine de Montreard; a human ranger,
  • and Zontar the priest, in service of Hastseltsi, god of racing.   

I intend to tell their story in this space, likely in more brief, summary form than regular prose, and perhaps also to add optional appendices to demonstrate the geneses and tools behind the results which make up our collaborative story.

The usefulness of this episodic blog pursuit is that it creates a record of shared DM/player perspective for our own use (we each maintain our own records of course). Perhaps it will also be of use to other D&D enthusiasts who may wish to witness the results of a particular brand of D&D: one with an old-school, highly-adaptable approach, loosely based on the original AD&D version, where many of the “rules” are a matter of interpretation by a D.M. who embraces a wide range of tools and possibilities from multiple D&D versions, and who firmly believes that there are no limits other than those of the imagination; and to witness the possibilities in terms of large-scale world-building that is possible when a referee has a lot of time to devote, a lot of experience, a lot of imagination, and a knack for combining original ideas with ideas borrowed from film and literature.

I suppose it may also be interesting to anyone who enjoys telling or reading fantasy stories or who has pondered getting into D&D as a hobby.

Others may learn to skip these episodes!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The man I should be

I don’t wish to carry on at length with regards to the bond between Neo and myself but there is a matter of housecleaning on the subject, which must be briefly addressed out of principle. In the pursuit of honesty I must look back at my comments about broken-heartedness and alienation and try to update those observations as the interpretations of my feelings have clarified.

One: I realized shortly after reporting that “the crux of my broken-heartedness” was in losing (or so it seemed at the time) the one companion who fully “allowed me to be myself,” that that is not generally accurate but rather reflected slanted feelings at that moment. I realized quickly that what was actually hurting the most was of a parental nature: it was the thought of Neo suffering in the future and me being handcuffed from trying to help him. It was those thoughts which actually hurt most.

Two: On the subject of my feeling alien; of people not allowing me to be “myself”: I think what I have realized is that no one is stopping me from being myself more so than I am.

It is not really “myself” that is being inhibited. It is my potential that is being inhibited. What I have called "myself" is more the man I think I should be than the man I really am.

And the far majority of blame for that lack of evolution is in me and not in my associates. I can’t possibly "blame" anyone for holding me back when I myself am holding myself back.

It’s important for me to remember that. And also for me to take action in terms of that re-evolution, rather than waiting around for it to happen.