Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christian Poetry - a poet army

About three years ago, I wrote a series of fifty-two psalms (Christian-themed poetry). This past Sunday, I heard one of them, read outloud. It was a lot like traveling through time, to an earlier self. It gave me chills and I had to leave the room. And it made me want to write more of them.

Now, go ahead and Google Christian poetry. I dare ya. I double dare ya.

This is the first thing Google comes up with, if you're feeling lucky:

No joke, that there's probably the very last angelfire website still in existence. You can smell the perfume and potpourri.

Seeing that, right there at the forefront of the search, made me want to write more and more. I wanted an army. Read about it:

53 – 12/03/13

Poet Army

I see a poet army,
breaking hearts and armor
for God's glory.
They're the mad ones,
the crazy ones,
the little bit of wild we're all
as a nation of God
and a people of the Passion.
It's their voice we need,
their mindless rabble
striving for the wordless
that God has,
that God throws at us.
Their foes don't know us,
or God,
and it is their tongues
we need to send in
shattering a numb sad bland world
of the poisoned prosperous with the overwhelming
that God gives us.
I see a poet army,
breaking hearts and armor
for God's glory.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Gardener (Part Three and the friggin end)

So, I'm lazy. I've got an apartment now, and in a few weeks I'll be actually living in it. Hopefully that'll introduce a modicum of stability to my life, and hopefully that will massage my writing habits, which will therefore hopefully mean that I update this blog often enough to, you know, justify its existence.


But anyway, I'm getting sick of my Gardener story, so let's make this be the end of it! This is gonna be the quick and messy mostly-summary version of storytelling, so you'll have to use your imagination a lot to fill in the gaps because, again, I'm a lazy, lazy man. Maybe, though, I'll make a quick-and-dirty novella out of it for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)...

So, if you don't know what happened in the last two installments, go read them. They should be right below and appropriately labeled. However, in summary, a dude finds a seed, plants it and it's a tree and everybody's all OoooOOoo about it.

Good summary.

So they live in this nightmarish wasteland, but all of a sudden, their world is shaken with the introduction of simply the color green. We last left the story with all the townspeople standing in awe of it, swaying gently in the breeze.

So what should happen next?

These people aren't responsible. They aren't good. If you give them something, they'll find a way to harm one another with it, or they'll find a way to sell it. But this tree is something else to them. Not one man or woman who sees it can bear to doubt its importance, no one can look away or harm it.

This generation of people cherish it because to them it was such a rare and foreign thing. They move their city to be within view of the tree, and soon the city prospers under the shade of the tree. They appoint one man, our gardener, to watch over it, and see to its safety. He sleeps under the tree at night, and stands by it, tending it in daylight. When he wakes up one morning to find that it can spread and grow more green, it becomes his responsibility to prosper that growth for all society.

The Gardener starts a family under the tree's shade, and when he passes, he is buried under it. His children inherit his responsibility of protecting the growth of the greenness and the trees. Under the care of the Gardeners, the greenness spreads as grass, bushes, and trees of all kinds. It spreads across the landscape, encompassing the world as a whole.

And society spreads and grows with it, under its shade. Life, so hard, so dry, so pleasureless, becomes easy, becomes a joy. Generations pass and people spread across the landscape, eating fruit and grains. The Gardeners tell stories of past generations, of the first Gardener for there ever to be and of the ages that followed.

Generations pass and people grow.

Generations pass and people forget in unbelief the story of the Gardener. They doubt the wasteland that once was, the world of trials and turmoil, of burnt and burning trees, and the place in which it never rained. Even the Gardeners, with time, forget. They took their name, their inherited legacy, and used it to build cities to rule, to shape the skyline as they saw fit.

The world was theirs, and all in it.

But when one Gardener disagreed with another, there was war. They fought over the green earth, scorching, tearing, and shedding red. The red spreads faster than green ever could, as the landscape is drowned out in violence and turmoil of the forgetting peoples. There comes a generation of people, Gardeners and others, who know nothing but violence, strive, hatred and redness. In that generation, greenness is forgotten entirely. There are few of this last generation, and they do not last long.

[Is war too obvious here? I mean, it's the first thing I thought of, so other people probably thought of it to. And it's been done to death. But then again, this story is kinda supposed to go the way you expect; it's about situational irony in which we know the fallacies of the characters, but they themselves are unaware... oh well, back to the story!]

However, one pair of footsteps wanders through the apocalyptic remains. They scramble over rubble, trudge through blackened oil pits, and meander down broken streets, cluttered with war machines. The steps belong to the last man, a Traveler whose home he holds on his back.

The lonely Traveler carries a brown sack, torn, and it's filled with scraps of food. In the Traveler's hands, though, there's always a book. It's singed at the corners and worn and faded along its edges. But at the first glimpse of each day's light, he awakens to read with the hope that a new day brings with it. And as the days near their ends, he reads, to face the coming darkness with the hope that it is once more temporary.

On these pages is a simple image in green: a tree and a man.

The Traveler wanders, and reads, and wanders and reads and wanders and reads until he is old, tired, and at last his body is in its final moments. He crawls into his home for that night, a cave beneath a building, and, as he has done for his years of wandering, the Traveler opens the book and reads himself to sleep in what remains of the daylight, prepared to die, as the last man on earth.

And although this man will die, it will not be on that night. He awakens that morning, with a little shade above his head, green, and growing.

The End.


So what'd ya think? I went for a weird kinda storytelling flavor with this one, and it was at least fun to write. So there's that. Oh well, share, follow, and become a minion of greenness!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Gardener (part two)

A lot's happened in my life since my last post -- I got a job, I moved, I started that job... okay, three things have happened if I really push it. So that's why The Gardener is so far a massive cliffhanger. But hey, let's try writing a continuation!

So, in summary: a dead world, dry, hot in daylight and cold at night, with little or no life except the depraved people living in it. A man finds a seed, cherishes and buries it. It rains for the first time in his life, he freaks out and finds the seed to have grown. Good summary? Good. 

So what happens next?

The Gardener has never seen a tree wasn't burnt, wasn't hacked to rough chunks. He sits there, in the rain and the thunder, watching the tree sway, fearlessly. He can't believe it exists. He sits, and waits out the storm underneath the tree. Slowly, the thunder fades, the rain slows, and a dawn comes, softly. When the sun rises, the man sits in the tree's shade, still in disbelief. 

So, he has to share it, this vision, with someone to prove that it's real, this fantastic new thing, this GREEN. So we have to introduce a new character. But who? Is this guy married? No, this is a place without happiness, hope, or lifelong relationships (insert marriage joke here). What about a friend? Nope, same reason.

So who does this guy have to talk to? What's sad? What's depressing?

He reaches up, plucks one spot of GREEN, one leaf, and he takes it to the marketplace. He wasn't planning on selling it, don't worry! He had no idea how he would describe something so soft, so strong, so aggressive and loving as the color GREEN. So he had to bring it with.

As with the seed and the tree itself, the man protects and cherishes his leaf. He holds it gingerly in his hands until he finally arrives, muddy, dirty, and soggy at the marketplace. Everybody's selling brown, burnt and broken junk. That's all they've got because, remember, this place sucks. Seriously, the Gardener walks right up to his regular salesman -- as close as he gets to a friend -- and the guy tries to sell him a bucket with a hole in it. The hole is on the side -- it kinda works.

The Gardener shakes him off, and while the guy goes on to try and bark down people to buy the bucket from him, the Gardener tries telling him about the stone -- the seed -- and the storm and the tree! The salesman nods and pretends to listen, all while hawking broken plates like they're the best thing known to mankind.

The Gardener, frustrated, holds up the leaf of GREEN in his hand. The world stops. The salesman reaches out, briefly touches the leaf. "Everything," he says. "I'll give you everything I have for that." People swarm, and bid, but the gardener leads them away. He brings them to the tree, swaying gently in the sunlight and taller than it was before. Much taller, it towers over the crowd.

In that moment, each person stands and sees that the world does not have to be like it is for them, brown, burnt and broken.

So how do they respond?
That'll be next time.
For tonight, follow me -- don't bother clicking ads; I wanna build an army and take over the world!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Gardener (Part One)

I think I'd like to turn this into an illustrated short story. I dunno, maybe childrens or tween fiction. Eh, it's more of an illustration than a legit story, but whatever; it's been on my mind for about a year, so I'll shoot it out!
The Gardener

We live in a world with life everywhere and light to see it. There are trees of thousands of kinds, animals to live off them, and animals to live off those animals. There doesn't have to be green fields or deep, cool woods. There doesn't have to be life everywhere. The sun could just pour down on the earth without care or compassion, bleaching colors pale and scorching everything to ash.

Imagine there were people in that world.

People who had a thousand words for "brown" and "burnt" but not one for "green," because they never knew anything green. These people are tired and dry, but don't know they can be anything but tired and dry. The sun beats on them during the days, and the night steals their warmth and their breath.

Now, among those people, in that place, there's a gardener.

This gardener wouldn't know that he was a gardener, though. All his world would be the same as everybody else: all brown and thirsty. But, this person is a gardener, so he would be living his life while it feels like it belongs to someone else. He wouldn't fit, specifically because he belongs to a different world.

What happens when he finds a seed? Maybe he wouldn't recognize it. Maybe he would hold it in his hand like a little brown iota of magic. Maybe he would hold it every night, squeeze it, covet it. He would be afraid he would lose it, or it would be stolen. So of course he finds a field in the middle of nowhere, and he buries the seed. Day after day he would walk up to the charred stick that marked the seed's secret spot. He would be checking to be sure of its safety, to be sure that it was not taken, harmed, or lost, whatever it was to him.

What if it rained? What if this dry world was holding back a thunderstorm for centuries? And what if one day the gardener woke up in the middle of the night to the horrifying sound of lightning cracking a pitch sky?

Well, he wouldn't know what it was, but he would freak out. He would hide under his bed and wait for the rain and thunder and wind to stop. But it wouldn't. That night would stretch on for an eternity, and he would only recognize the dawn as a slight lightening of the sky. It would have gone from black to slate, still punctuated by sudden, aggressive bolts of light. His roof would leak, water would pour in through the cracks in his walls, and his door would rattle with the wind.

And finally, he would panic, grab his coat and his few valuables, and run into the storm. He would run through the wind, rain, and mud, falling over in terror with every crack of thunder, and cowering in flooding trenches. He would push, though, until he found his way to the secret spot in the middle of the field, marked with a burnt stick.

And he would freeze, in terror and elation.

Right there, in the middle of the most horrific storm of his life, in the middle of what he was so sure was going to be his last day alive, he would (for the first time in the history of his people) see green.

And that's the end of part one.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Zombie finale!

So, a few weeks ago, we learned that zombies are a curiously popular part of contemporary american culture. After that, we learned one reason why: we're elitists at heart. This week, y'all will get my second argument for why we like zombies: we're germophobes.


Swine Flu, SARS, HIV/AIDS, Mad Cow Disease, and Avian Bird Flu are all modern (ish) illnesses. Remember them all? I bet you do. The media probably loves these stories, as they affect every one of their viewers and readers. Who cares if SARS largely broke out in Asia? IT COULD GET HERE! Who cares if the Swine Flu is essentially the flu, but stronger? IT COULD GET YOU!

As a society, we seem to be driven by a fear of illness, and I don't blame news and healthcare industries for capitalizing on that fear. I'm not going to bother with research here; we all know just how massive the healthcare industry is. Watch TV, look at the covers of magazines and you'll see how important our health is to us. I'd say it's linked with our elitism (we're such badasses that we can kill everything but heart disease and obesity), but that's another rant.

In the history of mankind, we have never been cleaner. We have never known as much about diseases and the human body as we do right now. We have never had the kind of technology and capability to fight diseases as we have right now. We have never had such a high level for our common understanding of sickness as we have right now. But still, we're afraid. I won't explore why we have hypochondriacs (woo! spelled that right the first try! woo!), germophobes, and such a focus on cleanliness in our modern world. I won't explore that here, because right now we're all about zombies.

So, we all agree we're a bunch of germophobes, walking around with our own little personal bottles of hand sanitizer?


taken straight from the CDC's website!

Modern, popular, successful zombie stories source their zombies from viral outbreaks pretty much across the board. Look at 28 Days Later (they don't SAY zombie, but they're friggin zombies), the Resident Evil video game series, World War Z (the mediocre film for sure), and The Walking Dead series (both TV and graphic novels): they all depict a zombie virus. Those are off the top of my head, but come on, that's a pretty big theme here.

Now, zombism doesn't have to be viral; it doesn't have to be a disease. But it is.

The history of the concept of zombism is pretty cool, but I'll just give you a summary: voodoo. Zombism was an affliction from, you guessed it, a witch doctor. You could enslave a person after death through the use of some handy verses and herbs (verses and herbs... just say that out loud... sounds cool, don't it? Sounds like a good title to a book about a pot-smoking pastor or a contemporary washout hippie band... I digress...).

Clearly, the origin had little association with diseases, conceptually. But that kind of zombie doesn't look much like what we recognize as zombies, so what about modern works of fiction? In both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, they never really nail down the source of zombism. There are talks and allusions to Venus probes, but really people are too busy surviving and freaking out to find any answers. But, in Dawn of the Dead, one theory is proposed: Hell is full, overflowing, and invading the living earth.

That doesn't sound like any disease I know of.

I don't know exactly when zombism picked up a viral origin (it annoys me that I don't know that), but I do know that it's a more modern concept. And I do propose that the introduction of a "zombie virus" into the lore served it well, and has become a part of its modern canon. Curiously, it's an instance of art being shaped by society; our fear of viruses and disease is expressed in modern zombie fiction. This fear is linked with our own elitism, and we see that zombie movies do two utterly important things: they sympathize with our terror and encourage our ego. They mimic our weaknesses and our strengths, and this is why they're so suddenly popular.

Click the ads, and hopefully I'll write more than once a week. Life's been happening. However, I'll leave you with this (you may have to squint to see it clearly, but it's hilariously awesome):

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Why Zombies (Part Two)

So, everybody agree that zombism plays a suspiciously important role in contemporary American culture? Anybody disagree? Crickets?


Yeah, the crickets can disagree all they want; they're still wrong. Zombies matter to us, dammit.

But why? What is it about zombie lore that so appeals to contemporary Americans?

I have three reasons for the sudden popularity of zombism in contemporary America. First, we are attached to fundamental zombie story structure because it is linked with American exceptionalism. Secondly, modern zombie fiction encourages paranoia of disease, which is itself a growing concern of contemporary America. Thirdly, we can actually make zombies look more realistic in film than we used to, so, you know, the movies don't suck so much.

Russian President Putin would agree with my first argument: Americans think they're special. We do. I mean, he's a dick for saying it like it's a bad thing, but we do think we're special, exceptional, different, and (dare we say) better. We made famous the term "manifest destiny" with our westward expansion, we are perhaps the only country who has its own "dream." From our foundation, we have been heavily populated by A-type personalities who act, seize, and stake their future in the land they plot (and steal form American Indians, but that's another story). As a nation, since we rose to the status of a world power, we've been growing into the role of international peacekeeper. Well I wouldn't say peacekeeper, but how many times have we gone to war with someone over something that had pretty much nothing (on the surface) to do with us? Many times. We have frequent discussions on world rankings for just about anything, and we for some reason assume we should be ranked highest in every single field, from education to happiness, to GDP and cheese production. We don't have to. We could be a nation striving for mediocrity, but we aren't. We are a nation of people striving for elitism. And we have been the world's sole superpower for the past several decades (China is gonna collapse soon, don't worry), and if that doesn't scream elite, I don't know what does.

So, anybody on the side of the crickets, who claim that we aren't all about being elite?
Nope? Okay.

So, we're all about being the few capable and superior hands striving against a swarm of stupid.  We have the intelligence, the equipment, the foresight, the planning and the tactics, but our opponents have numbers. We are the 1% fighting a horde of unequipped, stupid, drooling, multiplying masses. Come on, that's a friggin zombie movie! Modern zombie lore has never been about one bad guy, one zombie raising hell, murdering people and burning down towns. It has always been about the survival of one or few against many. Straight-up elitism. The entire concept of contemporary zombism, what with how its spreads from person to person, fights against the possibility of it being anything but the elite few against the sub-par many. One zombie isn't a problem. One is stupid, slow, and already half-dead. It can be outran or killed with an improvised weapon relatively easily (by a main character), but let your guard down and one zombie becomes many. Let your guard down some more, and those many zombies won't be so easily overcome, and it's just a matter of time until you're eaten -- or worse, bitten and turn stupid yourself!

That drama itself would be short-lived (see Dawn of the Dead, both the original and the remake for evidence of what happens when that's pushed to its limits), so zombie lore has to introduce a new dilemma: who are these elite people with whom we are surviving; can they be trusted? We, as the elite, fear those elite surviving with us. Now THAT is the essential drama of all modern zombie lore, without which the stories tend to just fizzle out (World War Z, the film).

Now, is that an essential drama for Americans?

Yes (duh): we are a nation of constant strife, and it's usual with one-another. We are torn between Republican and Democrat, Pepsi and Coke, Walmart and Target (we seem to seek a duality, but that's for another post). A president is elected by a bare majority, usually, and he is almost always in conflict when in office. He, our leader, is in conflict with his own American people, without end.

We Americans like to think we're the best. Whether that's true or not, we like to think so. Zombie fiction is built around the best vs the worst. Or the common becoming the best through conflict with the worst. The reason Daryl Dixon has survived so far into The Walking Dead series on AMC is not because he's the best (although he certainly is [note the blue meth at 2:32]), but because he's so well-loved (SPOILIER: that's why Andrea died). It just so happens that we love him because he's the elite member of the group, who would survive without the group if he needed or wanted to. He is that rare kind of elite that rises above the rest, that kind of elite with which we Americans identify and to which we aspire.


So I was planning on making this just a two-part series, but with the epic length of this part I'm thinking I'll need to make this at least a three-part post. Make a noise if y'all are cool with that.


Finally, the crickets are on my side. I'll be back later to discuss disease-inspired-paranoia across American ideology and zombie lore. In the mean time, click some ads!


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why Zombies? (part One)

This week, I have a new, fun plan. Instead of barraging y'alls with my thoughts right off the get-go (you'll get 'em, just not in one salvo), I'll give you the very question that inspires me to write. I'll give that first, and a brief argument on its viability as a discussion topic, and then some time to think about it. After some time (you know I like to be all sporadic-like with these), I will put up my own thoughts on the answer. The idea is to inspire and encourage thought/discussion, even if it's only within one's mind, before throwing my ideas out there.

Sound cool?
Too bad, i'm doing it anyway

So, zombie-based fiction has been gaining all sorts of popularity in the past few years. I could list all the movies and TV shows, games and books from, I dunno, the past ten years for evidence to this claim. But I'm a lazy man. Instead I will propose to you two facts of evidence to the permeation/popularity of zombism in contemporary American culture:

ONE: everyone and their grandmother knows what a zombie is! Seriously, why is this word in the American lexicon? It shouldn't be at all; our language-history has at most a microscopic relationship to that of "zombie," and that itself is only in the most modern contexts. But no, everybody knows what a zombie is, and even agreed to the fundamental rules of them: dead people are alive again, without their reasoning or communicating abilities; they're trying to eat you; when they eat you, you become one and then try to eat other people; only brain damage disables them to a permanent death. Those rules are rarely changed, so we shall consider them the crux of zombism. I won't consider the ancillary rules, the flexible ones, because therein lies my answer to the question this post will raise.

Evidence item number TWO: zombie knives. Yeah, check out what Ka-Bar is doing too. You know what? Screw it, I'll put up a (violent) video:

Yeah, told ya it was violent.
But anyway, have you noticed that REAL-ASSED COMPANIES are making REAL-ASSED WEAPONS for the ENTIRELY IMPOSSIBLE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE? I mean seriously, people, these things are being made -- and bought! There's a market for legitimate anti-zombie weapons, completely regardless for the fact that zombism is entirely impossible.

Zombism, we see, is so pervasive in our contemporary culture, that everybody has adopted the word into accepted dialog, and it has been capitalized on by non-entertainment entities (knife companies, used as example).

So, I must ask: why are zombies so popular these days?