Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Reality to Fantasy and Back

I want to explain some of the fantastic and mudune items that appear in my last post. This piece felt like a bit of Ready Player One. There are many references which may be unclear.

  • On Transit Road, in East Amherst is a former bar converted to a Church. I have no idea what kind of church, but there it is. My wife really did point it out to me. 
  • In Buffalo, it is common for people to tack on an "s" to words that should not have them. "Anywheres" is a horrible one, but we also say things like "Federal's" for "Federal Butch Shop". It's not entirely clear if we think that Mister and Missus Federal own the butcher shop or if we think we need to add an apostrophe because we dropped whole words. "Timmy runs", "Timmy ho's" and "Tim Hortons" are some of the more common language butcherings we perpetrate. 
  • The Peasant Dance and The Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel the Elder are the source of many of the references in this story. If you enlarge the picture on the right, look at the two men carrying pies on the unhinged door. There is an extra foot or two people have 5 feet. The foot is wearing a shoe which doesn't match the boots of either men. Mysterious, eh? 
  • Fact: The very high booths are a reference to a bar named McBee's. (Again, that damned Buffalo "s".)
  • The picture on the wall matches McBee's style and mirrors Bruegel's styling of the Wedding painting, but is actually an image from the classic D&D module, X2 Château d'Amberville.
  • Bruegel is referred to as "the Elder", but he wasn't a friar or anything. 
  • Many of Bruegel's paintings depict The Church in a questioning way.
  • "Diamonddraught from the Land" is a reference to the Thomas Covenant Chronicles. It heals people. 
  • "Black Taquynian coffee imported from the Country of Torre" is a reference to the game Gemstones IV. 
  • Gemstone IV is entirely textual. Actually consuming coffee from a text game would be weird. 
  • The coffee referenced can be found in the town of River's Rest or simply "the Rest", which is referenced in the blessing prayer potion of the text. It is the reason that one word is capitalized after the comma. 
  • Elanith is not in Canada, it is the fictional world Gemstone IV and DragonRealms takes place in. 
  • The menus and dice are a reference to the many tables in various RPGs. 
  • "Scout. The Son of the Miller" was meant to sound like the name of a Tarot card. 
  • One of the ways of gaining experience in Gemstone IV is run messages. Destinations are random, as is payment. 
  • The die rolling is kind of reference to The Deck of Many things and how it is presented is how a Deck of Many things might work for a married couple. 
  • The blessing is a reference to classic Cub Scout and Boy Scout meal time prayers. My son is a Scout and lifeguard at a local camp.  
  • I'm a teacher who has taken over a classroom from an excellent teacher and mentor named Ms. Miller. This has happened at two different schools, three times. Weird how that happened. 
  • There is only one magic item table with an entry for 67-68 in the Efreet DMG . It's the Armor and Shield table, Splint Mail, +3. 
  • Believe it or not, passing down tradition like D&D has been going on for 3 generations, with more to come. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tales from the High-backed Booth

My wife and I were driving for the sake of getting out of the house. We were rolling through East Amherst, NY. My wife is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, so walking was out of the question but she had been in the house for far too long. So, a drive it was.

"Ow," she said for the hundredth time, for the hundredth pot hole on Transit Road.

"Sorry. Again," I said, "Also, for the hundredth time."

Kitty laughed a bit. "I wish it wasn't so dreary. And I wish I hadn't taken that hydrocodone."

"Well, if you hadn't taken that, I would have never gotten you out of the house," I said.

"True. But still, I wish it wasn't raining." She sighed.

"There's a Tim Hortons ahead." I've never been certain if "Tim Hortons" is grammatically correct, or if it needs an apostrophe or if it was the Buffalo "S" running amok. Verbally, you can't tell the difference, but in writing it gets flagged by the spell checker, every time.

As I pulled in for our usual Timmy run, Kitty began musing.

"I should've put something in my stomach before that pill," she said.

"A muffin? Maybe a breakfast sandwich?" I offered.

"Hey, that's weird." Her voice was dreamy, distracted. "They turned that old tavern in to a temple."

SCREECH!

I didn't slam on the brakes, it was just the sound my brain made.

"What did you just say?" I demanded.

"That tavern, the one that looks like a barn. It's a temple, now." She pointed at a rough building across Transit Road.

The Peasant Dance by  Pieter Bruegel the Elder
It was an impressive structure, despite being so old. The roof was thatched and the second floor was made of reinforced wattle and daub, framed in dark thick timbers. The timbers were rough cut and stained, as was the central door. Around the door was more of that light colored wattle and daub and two matching holy symbols. A hex with an eye in the center and 7 lightning bolts radiating from the iris in every direction. 

What was especially odd was that the tavern's... er temple's other walls were made up of hay bales stacked up the rafters of the second floor. Someone had placed blue canvas under the bales to protect them from direct contact with the asphalt parking lot.

Kitty's eyes met mine and she sent one of those mental commands that only a spouse can do.

I swung the car around and crossed Transit Road. All six lanes, excitedly, but carefully. Equally carefully, I opened my wife's car door and helped her hobble to the entrance of the tav... temple. It was a trick getting her over the blue canvas, flapping in the wind and rain.

"Does it have a name?" Kitty asked.

"None, that I can see," I answered.

The door wasn't locked and we stumbled over the threshold; Kitty sucked air as her knee moved faster than the surgery would allow.

"Sorry," I said as I took her weight on my shoulder. Inside, by lantern light, I could see dark, rich colors and little else. There was a large rectangle, which I interpreted as a booth and table. We hobbled over and took a seat. We sat in the middle of seven high booths. For some reason, I moved to the seat across from Kitty, rather than next to her.

As I blinked in the relative darkness, I could see the booth backs were nearly six or seven feet high. We could only see a narrow slice of the room, like a hallway. Along the far wall was a high bar or a low wall. I couldn't tell which, but there was a lantern on that wooden bulk. The near wall was more interesting, it was made of hay. We both ran our hands across the prickly surface. A small tray of condiments was in the middle of the table, and inexplicably, there was a framed picture tacked to the hay bale wall. In the dark, I though perhaps the photo was of a couple or family standing around a table, but I couldn't be sure.

Kitty chuckled and said, "It's the Hydrocodone Tavern."

Unnerved by her chuckle I got up from my seat and moved next to her. A shadow loomed over us as a form blocked out the light of the lantern on the bar.

"Welcome to the Temple of the High-backed Booth." A zippo flared before my eyes. The friar lit a small candle next to the condiment tray. He was clean shaven, with ring of wild white hair around his head, but his scalp was bare, tonsured. He seemed to be wearing some sort of bearskin or perhaps a hair shirt. His boot steps were heavy thuds, even as he delicately shifted to the far side of the table to look at both of us. His look was full of judgement and appraisal.

He produced a pair of menus and two small black cups. Like the boots, they clunked solidly on the tabletop before us.

"I am Elder Bruegel, but you may know me as Peter." His voice was gravelly, like an old peasant's and his smile was slight like a wizened village elder.

"Diamonddraught from the Land, for the lady's knee. And Black Taquynian coffee imported from the Country of Torre, for the gentleman. Please consider your options carefully." He left the menus before us and faded back into the darkness.

"I'd say that was 'weird', but we're in an old bar turned Temple on Transit Road, ordering drinks," I said. "And there is a picture of the d'Amberville family standing around Stephen in a coffin."

"I don't want to know that. And I certainly don't want to drink this," Kitty indicated the cup before her.

"Yes, you do. Trust me."

She sniffed it. "It smells... powerful, clean."

I made a sound of assent.

"Trust me, it's better for you than what I have here. And this coffee is frickin' close to perfect." I fished around in the condiment tray for a half and half and raw sugar. A pair of percentile dice toppled out of the tray and there was a flare from my menu.

"What was that?" she asked.

"Something very good or very bad, I'm sure." I ignored the light from the menu and stirred up my coffee. I took a tiny sip. My whole face smiled as I remembered the last time I had this coffee.

"That good? You're face is going to stay like that if you keep smiling like that." Kitty tapped my nose and lips, smiling back at me.

"I haven't been to Elanith in forever," I said.

"Is that in Canada?" she asked.

"You need to drink, too," I said.

As I spoke she gently picked up the cup and sniffed it again.

"Trust me," I repeated.

She sipped the Diamonddraught and let out a deep, deep breath. Relief spread across her face. Although I had made her laugh and smile several times that morning, the creases of pain had let go of her forehead, dispelled by the giant's drink.

"Sir, the dice have been cast. Tell me your option." Elder Bruegel said. Funny, he had approached silently this time. It struck me as mysterious, the boots were gone, replaced by pointed shoes. A minor mystery I guess, because there was never any explanation.

I opened the menu and looked at it. It was blank but for one glowing line. I nodded at the option and it seemed fitting. Before I read it back to him, I asked a question.

"Elder Bruegel. Peter, sir. What is this place?"

"This is the Temple of The High-backed Booth. It is the place where one goes when one does not know what campaign they are on. It is the starting place of many adventures. But for people such as you, it is a resting place between adventures. As you know, at the level you two have attained, there is no magic and no miracles, but the ones you make. It is time for you to read me your selection," Elder Bruegel said.

Reassured, I read to him from the table in the menu.

"Number 67-68. Scout. The Son of the Miller," I read. I was pretty sure that if I had counted, there would be have been forty-nine blank spaces around it.

"So your adventure begins. Do you know what it means and what you must do?" Elder Bruegel asked.

I nodded.

"Do I get to roll?" Kitty asked.

"No. Any number of casts may be made in The Temple of the High-back Booth, but you are bound together in life and in this adventure," he said.

Kitty did not look happy at all. She was very disappointed not to be allow to play.

"My lady, it is very well, it more than suffices. Have faith. Take a chance today, like you did when he asked your leave, years ago," he said.

We only had a moment to hold hands and exchange nervous glances before Elder Bruegel returned with our food. He placed a covered platter before each of us and handed me a small bundle. It was made of parchment and wrapped with a wax sealed ribbon. Inside, I could feel cool metal.

"Do you know what to do?" Bruegel asked.

"Yes. I do." I answered. Before he could leave, I asked him for a blessing.

"Tireless guardian on our way,
"Thou has kept us well this day,
"While we thank thee, we request,
"Care continued, pardon, Rest."

"Thank you, Elder," I said. "That was beautiful."

Kitty smiled at him and he excused himself. That was the last we saw of him.

"Oh! It's perfect!" she exclaimed. It was a plate of strawberries, chocolate, tiny muffins and jams. "What did you get?"

"Bread. Want some?" I asked, but I already knew the answer.

She nodded and I broke it into pieces to share. She slather them with jam and we ate together, sipping our drinks. Just like we did on our honeymoon at Disney. The little jars of jam even had little Winnie the Poohs and Piglets, just like the jars in Disney did in 2001. I glanced around, half expecting a castle view out the window, but there wasn't even a window. A Disney Honeymoon is fantasy and this was real life.

"Is that the bill?" Kitty asked as she tapped the small package.

"Its... a form of payment. We paid in advance, I guess you could say." I answered as best I could. "We have to run the message to receive the reward."

As we drove home, the rain abated. Everything seems so much lighter and not just the sky. We felt lighter inside.

I gave the package to my son Paul, the scout.

Kitty asked, "What is it?"

"I don't know. Will see when it is done," answered Paul. He ran off to his bedroom with Elder Bruegel message.


Later that night, long after bedtime, Paul was done.

"I never would have gotten into models and games, if it wasn't for you dad."

I smiled. "I said the same thing to my dad. Probably more than once."

"It's a windmill," he said.

"What does it mean?" my wife asked.

"I think it is a sign. Millers used to be a place where people went to negotiate, with the actual miller-man acting as the moderator. It's a good thing to be, kind of the linchpin of society." I said.

"I don't care about that. I would like any thing you brought for me," Paul said.

"He's my boy, through and through," said Kitty as she gave him a hug.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Rejected Stories - Unwanted Snark

To keep the ball rolling, sometimes
you need to cut parts out. 
I have a file where I keep text that I find particularly interesting but useful to the task at hand. I use it as a prompt for other writing. This didn't fit because the narrator isn't the important person at this point in the story. You can file this under: "I wish this was fiction".

     The professor glared at us. The upside of being 44 years old and in college for the first time is, I am doing this on my own dime. I purchased a book, a seat and a professor. I don’t mind saying that if I have a need. The professors hate it, but word is out that I have the college’s customer service number. I’ve asked for the supervisor of two different deans. They frigging hate me. I can’t say I like me, either.
     My adviser is a double doctor. He has a Ph.D in Electrical Engineering and another in Adult Education. He is insufferable. We hit it off well. He told the 150 or so freshmen that if we wanted a different adviser, we would not be able to find a better one than he. 
     I snorted.
     “Did you have a better adviser in mind?” he asked.
     “Yes,” I said.
     “Who?”
     “Your mom sounds pretty good,” I replied.
     At the time, thought I was sharp.
     It turns out his mom also has a Ph.D. And she is on the college’s board. I wish I had done some more research before opening my mouth.
     In retrospect, it was all fairly predictable. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Writing is Art

This section is for rough works, slightly better than drafts, but still incomplete experiments. As experimental works, they should not be taken as true, or factual, even though each item does contain a bit of fact. In many cases, these experiments have been abandoned because I couldn't figure out where they were going or in some cases, what the rules or boundaries were.

Occasionally, poetry will appear. I'm sorry, I'm not good at it but sometimes it pops into my head.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

31 Notes for Writing History

I have written 100+ History papers in the past 6 semesters. I have collected some advice from my professors and personal experience, which I though should be shared:
  1. Learn to love double spaces papers, hate single spaced papers. 
  2. 12 point fonts are fine.
  3. New Times Roman is the default choice for a reason.
  4. The professor's style guide is best. Do not argue. 
  5. Oxford commas are impactful, important, and helpful.
  6. Staples are not be a good idea, they should be the law. 
  7. Number multiple page documents even when stapled. 
  8. Use the school directory to look up the professor's name. Spell it correctly. 
  9. Add your own name to spell check. 
  10. Do not merely spell check. 
  11. Do not use contractions. 
  12. "Extremely" and "huge" both mean "I need a thesaurus". 
  13. Dates do not have apostrophes. 
  14. "Very" is unnecessary.
  15. "Interesting" is not. 
  16. "Toward" is United States usage, "Towards" is British and Buffalo, NY usage. 
  17. History does not repeat, but sometimes it rhymes. 
  18. "Etc." is not worth using. There are better ways. 
  19. Foreign words are in italics. Foreign means it is not in an English dictionary. (Important if you are any kind of bilingual.)
  20. No first OR second person, unless the professor requires it. Thank them when they do.  
  21. The past is always in the the past tense.
  22. Do not confuse British for English. The same goes for others. If in doubt, look it up.  
  23. Do not confuse name places for countries.
  24. "Would" is a crutch or a mistake. Be careful. 
  25. "Led" is clearer than "Would lead". 
  26. Passive voice is painful, but not avoidable. 
  27. When comparing situations implicitly link subjects to periods. 
  28. Do not hide verbs.  
  29. Learn how write citation from memory.  
  30. Do not use clichés.
  31. Learn how to type special characters and accent marks manually.  
Bonus: "Thank you" means "thank you". "You're welcome" means "you're welcome". They are not interchangeable. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Drawing from the Past

This week, artwork has been on my mind. In July, I am going to challenge myself to learn to draw hands and feet. Those are tough subjects, especially if you have little skill. If only I drew more, I would be a better artist.

For inspiration in this self-challenge, I found a book Drawing for Printers by Ernest Knaufft. It was published in 1899 and is available at Gutenberg. It is a treatise printers, not a how to book. Since I also like writing, it may be beneficial for a couple of purposes.


At the very least for publishers of Old School Gaming products, this sort of book captures the style of early game publishers. If you would like a more modern look at publish games, check out A Brief Study of TSR Book Design by Kevin Crawford. I did a review of it about a year ago. I wish I had found it before I started developing my BD&D/AD&D supplement, Zero to Hero


Friday, November 24, 2017

Fractal Logic

This image was rendered for a class on Writing. The red text reads: 

Language holds the logic of 
Why a raven is like a writing desk
Like a piano with 81 keys
Recursion saves the signal
From the lapse of memories


To read the smaller text, I suggest looking at the Google Drawing.

Within each box, is the same text with errors injected. Sometimes on purpose, other times by accident. The first error was that the whole thing was broken down by syllables. However, this is not an accurate rendition of the syllables as the software used was designed for singing, which is wildly different than the more technical definition of a syllable.

Lan-guage holds the log-ic of
Why a ra-ven is like a writ-ing desk
Like a pi-a-no with 81 keys
Re-cur-sion saves the sig-nal
From the lapse of mem-o-ries

I also put in typos and misspellings by going as fast as I could when typing. It was painful not to go back and correct it. I did allow myself to go back and delete incorrect letters, but not actually change them. I mean for this to look frustrating. 

The grid-like fractal pattern was generated on graph paper by the following method: 

Draw a line along one edge of a box on the graph paper.
Toss a coin, heads turn left, tails turn right. 
Repeat.
A lot.

To speed this process, I alternated between cupping a dime in my drawing hand and allowing it move as I drew lines and grabbing a bunch of pennies out of a cup and lining them up dozens at at time. When I reached the boundary of the paper, I would move over into the next blank space with little care as to how it was positioned. 

It was a slow process. Additionally, when I took the pattern to digital, I made more errors. That was something the graph paper was mean to prevent. Oops.