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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Light is the Shadow of God

I don't talk religion on here or anywhere else, so bear with me. Not going to really talk religion, but I'm going to get super close as I discuss a few words from an old philosopher. 

Consider the following: 
"Light is the Shadow of God." 

Plato, Greek philosopher from Athens said that. About 2,400 years ago, along with a bunch of other cool things.

That God is so bright his shadow is what illuminates our world. Shooting stars, sparks from flint, lightning, the flame of a lowly match, sunlight, moonlight, bio-luminescence, any source of light is a glimpse of the shadow of God? 

That which what we see by is His shadow. That is pretty deep. Perhaps Plato believed people could not withstand the direct sight of God. I wonder what he would have thought about Marie Curie's discovery? Further emanations from God?

Light is the Shadow of God.
As writers, what can get from this? 
Two things. 
One, I think it talks to the process of showing not telling. Writers don't need to describe everything in detail, leave something to the imagination. Light is the Shadow of God. 
Two, as writers we need to stretch our imaginations, use words and meanings for purposes and definitions they weren't meant for but that lead the reader to where you want them to go. Light is the Shadow of God.

~*~

Picture for today is from Anthony Chapel, just outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas. I love this photograph. It is a delicate, abstract interplay of lines, light and shadow, and as a place where people come to be bonded together in the eyes of the Lord, I assume His direct emanations are in there too somewhere. 
We just can't see them.
But they are there, nonetheless. 
Look for them. Not with your eyes, for your eyes are unable to see, but with your soul. 
Contemplate. 
Light is the Shadow of God...




See, told you I wasn't going to talk about religion, but I did get really close.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Songs in Stories - Stories in Song: Long Lankin

Howdy all you cool cats and kittens! Yes, I watched it, my wife made me, lol.

Songs in Stories, Stories in Songs

Something a little different today. 

I stumbled across this old gem whilst wandering around the internets late one night. It's a ballad called Long Lankin. The most common versions are about a stonemason who takes revenge on a Lord for not paying the mason for his work. The mason enters the dwelling he built, sometimes through a secret catch or entry he designed, and lures the Lady downstairs by poking her infant over and over again with a needle, causing him to scream in pain of course. The wet nurse caring for the child calls for the madam to come down because she can't get the baby to stop crying. The mason then kills both the baby and the mother. He is punished for his deeds, usually through hanging, along with the wet nurse. Nothing more is said of the Lord whose refusal to pay caused all of this mess in the first place.

That this was a popular ballad, sung by women no less, is something of a head-scratcher for me. Why would women want to sing a song about a treacherous nurse, the killing of a Lady, and hangings?

There are other notable versions and histories of the ballad out there, such as the roots of this ballad may have something to do with old rituals of 'blooding the foundations' of new buildings with a sacrifice, and the mason may have been a leper and was using a silver basin (mentioned in some versions) to catch the blood of the baby to use as a cure for his disease. But I get ahead of myself... 

Here is the ballad, sung by the band Steeleye Span, for your ears to feast on. Lyrics below the lace picture, which I promise will make sense down the road.




Long Lankin
Said my lord to my lady, as he mounted his horse:
"Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the moss."

Said my lord to my lady, as he rode away:
"Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the hay."

"Let the doors be all bolted and the windows all pinned,
And leave not a hole for a mouse to creep in."

So he kissed his fair lady and he rode away,
And he was in fair London before the break of day.

The doors were all bolted and the windows all pinned,
Except one little window where Long Lankin crept in.

"Where's the lord of this house?" Said Long Lankin,
"He's away in fair London." said the false [wet] nurse to him.
"Where's the little heir of this house ?" said Long Lankin.
"He's asleep in his cradle," said the false nurse to him.

"We'll prick him, we'll prick him all over with a pin,
And that'll make my lady to come down to him.'

So he pricked him, he pricked him all over with a pin,
And the nurse held the basin for the blood to flow in.

"O nurse, how you slumber. O nurse, how you sleep.
You leave my little son Johnson to cry and to weep."

"O nurse, how you slumber, O nurse how you snore.
You leave my little son Johnson to cry and to roar."

"I've tried him with an apple, I've tried him with a pear.
Come down, my fair lady, and rock him in your chair."

"I've tried him with milk and I've tried him with pap.
Come down, my fair lady, and rock him in your lap."

"How durst I go down in the dead of the night
Where there's no fire a-kindled and no candle alight?"

"You have three silver mantles as bright as the sun.
Come down, my fair lady, all by the light of one."

My lady came down, she was thinking no harm
Long Lankin stood ready to catch her in his arm.

Here's blood in the kitchen. Here's blood in the hall
Here's blood in the parlour where my lady did fall.

Her maiden looked out from the turret so high
And she saw her master from London riding by.

"O master, O master, don't lay the blame on me
'Twas the false nurse and Lankin that killed your lady."

Long Lankin was hung on a gibbet so high
And the false nurse was burnt in a fire close by.

There are many versions of this song, once used by European lace workers in the 18th century as a 'lace tell', a tune to keep their fingers fiddling in correct cadence. This version is from The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, by Williams and Lloyd. The list of songs inside can be found here. 

Upon further diving, I discovered a few other possible meanings for the words of the song and came up with an interesting story idea. What if the song were a hidden lace pattern? See if you can follow the crumbs as I weave together true facts and fiction and create a story from a song, but not the one you hear...

The name Lankin (in some versions the name changes to lambkin and other names which further muddle possible meanings) can be tied to Lanking pins, which are pins that have a conspicuous head, placed along the foot and the head of the lace in order to keep a firm edge. There are also Long Toms, which is a name for general purpose pins. Could the name Long Lankin be a combination of these two terms, and meant to tell a lace worker what pins to use? All without a non-lace worker's knowledge? 





The whole ballad then becomes a hidden lace pattern. Start working on the 'building', maybe some fundamental lace pattern that all lace workers would know, stop at a certain point and ask for payment (the main base pattern is stopped and the lace worker switches to something else, maybe a frill pattern or simple pattern known as the Cheapskate). No payment is forthcoming, so we sneak in (start a new lace that interlaces with the main base pattern at a certain point) and 'poke the baby' over and over (not sure what this would correspond with, maybe some very delicate or intricate work at the heart of the pattern). The wet nurse on the main floor (a specific lower portion of the main pattern) calls the Lady down (maybe this means attaching a portion of the upper part of the lace pattern with the invasive stitching)? Can you see it coming together? Other key words in the ballad can call on the lace worker to add certain flourishes or details. I am not sure what this lace pattern creates, but I could see it being used in a story somewhere.

When writing tunes for your own manuscripts, keep in mind that they should do something more than entertain musically. Does the song move the plot along? Does it provide background, world-building, or another way to dump information? As long as it serves some function, then go ahead!

And now I got to get on this hidden lace story! 

Happy writing to all!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Tuberculosis versus COVID-19

04 AUG 2020
[for those who care about this sort of thing, this was also put out on my FB page as well. I decided to include it here for wider coverage]. Sorry in advance for yelling...

Tuberculosis (TB) vs Covid-19

I've seen too many shared posts about this. So let me see if this former science teacher can spread some truth...

There are posts going around saying "why are we shutting down the world for COVID-19 and not for TB?"

SHORT VERSION: You should worry about COVID-19 way more than TB. How much you worry about COVID-19 is up to you. A little over five hundred TB deaths in the US for 2017. COVID-19 US deaths in the last seven months: 159,000 and counting...You do the math...

*******************************************************

Some TB data: About 1.5 million people died from TB in 2018. That's a lot! This works out to more than 4,000 deaths a day due to TB in 2018. So how come we're all up in arms about COVID-19? Why not shut down the world for TB?

TB, if untreated, has a mortality rate of 45%! OH NO!

What's the mortality rate of COVID-19 you ask? Well, the easy answer is COVID-19 is too new to nail down the mortality rate. We don't know exactly how many cases there are, for several reasons. For example, not everyone is getting tested before/after passing away. Some reports estimate mortality rates for COVID-19 anywhere from 1.5% to 20%, with 20% being the super high range of the estimates for Wuhan, China, where the virus first showed up. Until we get more accurate numbers for who does and doesn't die from COVID-19, we won't be able to nail down the mortality rate for COVID-19 for a while yet.

But how about this to scare you a bit? The CDC is already pretty much guaranteeing COVID-19 is going to be one of the TOP TEN causes of death in the US for 2020. L.A. Country has already said this as well.

FYI: Here are the top 15 causes of death in the US for 2017 (lots on the list too watch out for -TB is not one of them):


1. Diseases of heart (HEART DISEASE) 647,457 deaths
2. Malignant neoplasms (CANCER)
3. Accidents (unintentional injuries, OOPSIES)
4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases 160,201 deaths
[current COVID-19 deaths in US is right here...]
5. Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) 146,383 deaths
6. Alzheimer disease
7. Diabetes mellitus (diabetes)
8. Influenza and pneumonia (FLU)
9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis
(kidney disease)
10. Intentional self-harm (SUICIDE)
11. Chronic liver disease & cirrhosis (some by over-drinking)
12. Septicemia (blood poisoning)
13. Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal
disease (hypertension, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE)
14. Parkinson disease
15. Pneumonitis due to solids and liquids (LUNG INFECTIONS)

TB, if untreated, has a mortality rate of 45%! Super deadly you say! BEWARE! But TB, unlike COVID-19, is not only PREVENTABLE, but it is also TREATABLE. WHO data says global success rate for people who started TB treatment in 2018 was 85%. The 45% mortality rate is for people who don't get treated for it.


So, TB, if untreated, is technically way way deadlier than COVID-19. Nearly half of the people with active, untreated TB disease may die, much more than even the highest mortality estimates for COVID-19.

So, how come we don't shut the world down for TB? Well, we have treatments that work for TB, even the drug-resistant varieties. Right now there are no proven treatments for COVID-19 except supportive treatment, however there are many trials underway right now that may lead to workable vaccines and care regimens.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

New Story

28 AUG 2020

[I started this post in May, but events, pandemic and otherwise, pushed it to the back burner until now...]

Starting off this post with a pair of quotations:

  • *Author Charles Godfrey Leland: "...witchcraft, like the truffle, grows best and has its raci[e]st flavour when most deeply hidden."
    • What a great way to conjure up an image through comparison.
  • Lactantius (an early Christian author who became an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I): “Devils so work that things which are not, appear to men as if they were real.
    • What a great way description from back in the early beginning of the Christian religion.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Through the Lens

Well, I just posted a short story in progress, and I was pretty happy with that side of my creativity, so let's do something else. I haven't posted pictures in a while, so here's a post of things I've seen and wish to share with others. 

First set are scenes from a chair. I believe this is slime mold. It was there after a long morning rain and vanished after a day of heat.























This next set are various creatures found in and around the house. One is my truck spider, an ordinary Yellow & Black Garden Spider that decided my truck bed would make a good home. He's logged some decent mileage and is still there. 

The next one is a young heron we think, that thought of using the swimming pool before changing his mind and flying off to greener pastures. In the picture he's standing on the diving board!





This guy is a baby Cattle Egret in the neighbor's yard. He started off in our window and then patrolled the neighborhood for a while. Someone said they thought his wing was injured and he was around until it healed enough to fly.


Last ones. Here is a lovely little thing that sang his heart out for a gal on another part of the fence. He didn't even mind when I came up to him with my camera.



Here she is...



And then finally the two of them together...

Sun and Moon, Part II

A few months ago, I posted the first steps I took toward a new story. You can find the original post here.

Today I want to share with you where the story is now. So, for your reading pleasure, here is the second step in the evolution of a short story. Rough story first, and then the background knowledge/World rules after that. It is important to set the ground rules before you write the story so you know what you can and cannot do for climaxes, roadblocks, and solutions. 

Story: 

Coronation and Ceremony

The hermit measured his steps on the long road, leaning on his gnarled cane when needed. His robe was a worn, yellow-ish crème color, though he could easily afford a newer one.

Apprentice Caden paced restlessly by his side. His robe was sparkling white. Even burdened by the pack on his back, Caden could have easily gone twice as fast, but he maintained a close distance to Father Barosh, who was also known by his official title, The Senior Emissary of the Sun.

Just two week ago, Caden had been apprentice to the third assistant Chandler. His duties had included delivering candles to other temples and merchants, not people. But circumstances changed after the Coronation of the New Sun, and here he was, shepherding the oldest Emissary he had ever seen. It was something of an honor, as this same man had presided over the Coronation. They were now on their way to another. As witness only, this time.

“Hurry up, Father. We don’t want to be late!” Other travelers, presumably headed to the same destination, passed them by. Some flew overhead, even though the sun was still above the horizon. It always puzzled the young apprentice how moonpower worked, even though the Sacred Sun was still in the sky. The Chandler had explained to him that it was because the moon was up in the heavens as well. As long as the moon was up there, moonpower worked. Caden looked, but saw no moon in the sky. Only the Sacred Sun.

“They won’t start without us, son,” Father Barosh said, interrupting his search. “No need to worry or hurry.”

“Where is the moon, Father?”

Without looking up from the road, Father Barosh responded. “It is hidden from us. The Ceremony of Moons is always performed during what they call the New Moon, when the moon is hidden in the sky.”

“Why?”

“Their ways are different from ours, son. While we have a Sun until he loses the Challenge, their rulers can serve again and again, just not continuously. They change as the moon changes, and that includes returning to things as they once were, much like the moon changes yet looks the same.”

“But why during the New Moon? Why are they doing it near the same time as the Challenge and Coronation? Why couldn’t they wait?”

“Perhaps you will find the answer to your question during the ceremony, young one.”

They continued walking. They had ridden much of the distance from the capitol, but the hermit insisted on walking the last stretch of the road. The ceremony would take place in the larger temple south of Trew, the nearest town.

The sun was setting as the temple’s outer walls appeared ahead. Caden looked at the Emissary in confusion, unsure, thinking it blasphemous to perform the sacred rights so close to a moon temple, but Father Barosh impelled him to his task with a wave of his hand. A few of the other travelers paused and watched respectfully as the apprentice performed the Farewell to the Sun for both himself and the Emissary. No one joined in. The hermit rested behind him on a boulder. 



Hefting the pack back onto his shoulders, the apprentice and the Emissary continued on in the twilight. People were rushing passed them now, eager to get a good seat for the ceremony soon to commence.

As the night grew stronger, it could be seen that the hermit was glowing slightly.



“Welcome honored guests. We are gathered here under the Hidden Luna, to change leadership from one to another. Just as Luna changes, so must we.”

Father Barosh, in his official capacity as Senior Emissary of the Sun, bestows the gift to the New Moon Mother as part of the ceremony. Earlier in the month, he had presided over the Coronation of the New Sun. It was a special duty of the Senior Emissary to bear a gift and to witness the ceremonies when they both occur in the same month.

Father Barosh and Apprentice Caden witness the peaceful turnover from old moon to new (coronation of the Moon mother). He had been present for the last four change overs occurring at the same time as the Challenge (24 years). [Dialogue here should foreshadow radiation discovery, and deterioration of the relationship between Sun and Moon]

***Five years pass***

He ran toward the sunset, toward Death.

Witches had flown out of the sky an hour after sunset, when even the last light of the Holy Sun was gone.

With no warning they overthrew the defenses and ransacked the temple. They flew among the columns and the rooms open to the air. Amber was depleted defending the temple, but losses among the witches were few. No one expected the witches to attack this temple! There was no cause! It was a quiet place, away from the mainstream, just full of hermits.

The Invisible Sun

He had dangerous knowledge, knowledge that would tip the balance in the Sun’s favor even more. His life was forfeit every night. In order to survive, he must find safe places, and workarounds for not being able to call on the sun in shade or shadow, and later on during the darkest nights. Stolen pieces of amber and sunflower seeds help. Sun magic can only be done while in sunlight.

He saw them. Witches in the sky. He ran. As he ran, his mind flashed back to his fever dream. He had been out in the sun too long, become delirious, but in his delirium, he realized that the sun must give out invisible rays that make it through the clouds and other barriers. These invisible rays could be used by those who knew of them. They gave even greater power to the sun mages. This is the knowledge that would cost him his life if the witches and warlocks found him.

He comes across a small village, where a mother is ready to give birth. He hides nearby and listens as he recovers and hydrates.

“Hurry! It’s almost noon!”

The midwife was an island of calm. “Nature must take its course, good sir. We cannot deliver the baby early or late, but only on time.” The hermit nodded, unseen. Countless stories are told of what happens if babies are forcibly born early or late. No power. The Sun does not like being played with.

Another male tried to cheer up the expectant father. “Maybe the witch was wrong? We can hope, right?”

The father-to-be stared at the stick. The stick’s shadow slowly disappeared. He yelled through the doorway to the midwife, “I don’t care what you have to do but get that baby out now!”

“Push!”

“Ahhh!”

The high-pitched cry of a newborn babe came through the doorway. “Waa! Waa!”

“It’s a girl.” He let out the breath he had been holding longer than he realized.

His friend sighed. “Ah geez. All that effort for nothing! A girl! During the day even! What a waste.”

“Uh-uh.” The father said nothing more as he paced back and forth, waiting to see his new child.

“Damn. An Untouched. Maybe you can marry her off?”

The father’s face told a different story. “I will love her, of course.”

The infant is brought out. He holds the precious bundle in his arms. “She is perfect. Not a boy, but she is already my heart and soul.” He smiled while his best friend scowled. “We will call her Anna.”

The hermit wasted some of his power and gave a blessing of invigoration and growth to the new child. She would be powerless, because women were not blessed with power from the Sun, and the moon was not in the sky, but she would be strong and healthy.

The Hermit continued running. He hoped to make it to neutral ground. A stone marker caught his eye. It was half-buried in the dirt by the roadside. He rubbed his hand over the carving depicting a bundle of reeds.

He was headed in the right direction.

He limped along, digging deep into his reserves to find the strength to continue.

Shadows appeared in the trees on either side of him. Unnatural shadows. They paced him, angling to intercept him before he reached his goal.

He limped faster.



The Place of the Reeds

He collapsed on the cold stones.

The shadows howled, but they dared not touch him now. Defeated, they slinked toward the large temple to the west.



He rested there on the stones, enjoying the chill they brought to his bones.

He knew where he was. He was on the Avenue of the Skies. It was a broad pathway of large stones that ran east to west, with a Temple of the Sun at the East end of the pathway and a Temple of the Moon at the west end. Smaller pyramids for the other powers in the sky were on either side of him, lining the pathway between the two large temples at the ends. The Sun temple ruins to his left was larger than all the other temples combined. This was the Place of Reeds, an ancient set of ruins built long ago.

The ruins are neutral ground, where meetings used to be held between followers of the Sun and followers of the Moon. The hermit remembered his training. The original builders are unknown but assumed to be Sun worshippers because of the pyramids, which followers of the moon do not build. Many believe that Followers of the Sun built the entire place as a peace offering.

The ruins were originally signified by carved images of a bundle of reeds tied together with a cord. The original name has been long lost. It has long been referred to as the Place of Reeds. It is thought that the carvings signified it was a good place for growing food and that many people were welcome.



Eclipse

The Day mages were charged with anger. “Chase the witches all the way to the ocean if you have to!”

First rule of war: Choose the battlefield. They ‘retreated’ toward the shore, toward the ocean.

The witches knew. They were in touch with the phases of the moon. They knew what was coming. The Heliomancers only cared that the sun would rise each day.

The Old Moon, the Moon Aunts and the soon-to-be Moon Mother led the fight.

The water crashed further inland, wiping out part of the solar forces. The moon mother’s knowledge of the tides had helped even the fight.

Three more Day mages charged the lines with fire in their eyes. They yelled louder and louder and blew themselves up, taking out a dozen witches on the southern flank.

All eyes were drawn toward the heavens. The skies grew dark as the Almighty Sun, the sun that always shines, was blocked and overpowered by the ever-changing Moon. Day turned into Night. The fireballs stopped. Men wept openly and were without power.

Did the witches and warlocks manage the inconceivable, stopping Luna in her tracks to overpower the sun? 



End

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Myths and Constellations

So at least one of my daughters loves the imaginary patterns of stars in the skies. Enough so that she can spend an evening gazing through her telescope, purring away like a cream-fat kitten. 

My favorite constellation is Orion, so one evening as we talked, she asked me to make up a new story about the constellations and the following is the result. Sit back and enjoy, all you stargazers, as I tell you an untold tale of Orion.