Archive for April 2017

By the light of the stars alone

This is the perfect spot.

This park, though in the heart of suburbia, was designed to take in the sunset framed over a dogleg in the river.  Two majestic oaks, hundreds of years old have been pruned and prodded to create a natural proscenium arch. It sets the stage for an act that is unbeatable this time of year, a summer sunset.

The sunset paints the sky with a shades of red, orange, and yellow. The heat lingering on the earth as the great burning eye descends behind the horizon to abdicate the sky to those lesser lights.

The sunset is gorgeous and yet is not what draws me to this park each month. It is these lesser lights that will soon grace the dome of the heavens that draws me to this place at this time each month.

The light begins to fade first. The streetlights begin to buzz and slowly awaken. The lightening bugs, as if to protest the dying of the light, begin winking their lascivious lights into the night. The night blooming flowers strewn along the fences that line the edge of the park near the river’s edge begin to yawn and stretch their petals.

The colors begin to fade from the sky as the inky darkness rises to claim the night from the iron fist of sol invictus. The sounds of the insects and birds change their tenor. The sweet songbirds that graced the day time skies are snuggled down in their nests. The night birds take wings and their somber coos and hoots fill the void of the night. The crickets chirp as they begin their nightly rounds and the moths flutter to the points of light that create their own tiny globes out of the void.

I sit on my bench. The sounds and sights of the twilight wash over me. The heat of the day is the last to surrender to the night. It clings to every inch of the park like a lost lover that will never see their paramour again. This last caress must be savored and stored away against the despair of lonely nights to come.

Twilight.

A time of transition.

A time of change.

This is why I come to this place at this time each month.

I come to remember that I am not trapped. I am not a slave. Watching the fading of the light and the people wending their way through the park as the night embraces the earth. I hear all the noises that permeate the park. From the lap of the river at the parks edge to the giggle of the teenagers fumbling in the bushes. The scents of the are carried to my on summer’s zephyr breeze. The sweet scent of evening primrose, and Jasmine. The acrid smell of exhaust and rotting trash. All of these crowd my consciousness to let me know that the darkness draws nigh and that I should be afraid.

I shiver as full night takes hold. The lessons that have been beaten into cry out for me to run home and lock myself indoors. The night brings nothing but sorrow and pain. The darkness harbors malicious intent that it wields with frightful abandon.

Flee!

Run!

Hide!

I breathe.

Four beats in, four beats out.

Repeat.

Mother night wraps her arms about me as full dark claims the land.

The twinkling of stars and the street lamps the only illumination.

The baleful eye of sol’s sister does not grace the vault of the sky this evening.

With her absence, I am free!

The last red haze that tinged my consciousness slides away. The buzz of anger and rage fades away on the sounds of a night hunting bird. The tension in my body slowly drains into the bench and down to the earth’s waiting arms.

They say to cower away from the night, to shun the darkness. The darkness devours your intellect and humanity leaving nothing but a husk. They never change and never risk the darkness to see what life might be like if risks are taken. They call me freak and abomination because I risk the night.

I know the secret though.

Night is not the jailer nor the prison. It is but the vehicle by which this rage is driven. Selene, with her silver chains, enslaves us. Drives the beast to rage.

The secret is to witness this twilight, this time each month. Be washed in the inky blackness of a night with out the moon and drink in the light of the stars. Step out without fear of the night and embrace the silent songs of the stars as they lift up one’s mind out of the pain of the nights too come.

I have taken the risk and been richly reward. This night, this perfect night belongs to me.

I breathe.

Four beats in, four beats out.

I change and their is no pain.

I change and their is no rage.

There is only me and the beast as one.

Tonight I run by the light of the stars alone.

I run and nothing has to die for me to stop.

And for a little while, the stars alone set me free.

 

Comics Issues

If you’ve read some of my posts, you will know that I enjoy reading comic books. I look forward to new comic book day and seeing what has shown up in my pull list and what interesting titles may be lurking on the shelves at my local comic shop.

The thing is, I am a reader of comics, not a collector. This presents me with several issues which I ponder at length. These issues all fall neatly into the larger consideration of digital versus hard copy.

Digital makes the most sense when viewed from the logical perspective.

First there is the storage issue. As I am not a collector, I do not have long boxes to keep my comics in. I do not bag and board my comics either. I pick them up from my local shop and read them. After being read, they sit in a pile in my home getting in the way. Digital comics would eliminate this problem completely. I would be able to store the comics I bought in the cloud and have nothing cluttering up my house.

Next there is the convenience factor. On new comic book day, I could get out of bed and tap on my iPad and have my comics that I get each week purchased in a matter of a few minutes. Even if I am unable to do it within the comixology App, the website is pretty intuitive and makes the purchase simple and easy. There isn’t the worry of getting to the shop before it closes.

Finally, there is the guided view that comes with most items purchased online. The digital version of a book allows you to follow the story in a different manner. As the name implies, it guides the the from image to image in a fashion much different than what I normally do when reading a comic. It provides a different perspective on the issue which is enjoyable.

Despite all this, I still buy the physical copies of the comics I read.

One of the biggest reasons I do this is to support local shops. It sounds altruistic but it isn’t. In my area, finding people that liked comics, games, and other nerdy things was not easy. The fastest way to find those that shared similar hobbies was going to my local comic book store. I would be able to get my comics, find the newest roleplaying game, and talk about all of these things with other people at the store. I want this type of environment to be around for future generations that are into comics. So, will support a local comic shop that I believe in with my money and my time.

As much as the digital versions of comics are more convenient, I enjoy both the physical artifact of a comic book as well as just browsing the shelves to see what else might be interesting. There are hardback collections of titles that I enjoy that are gorgeous. I may see a picture of them online, but picking them up in the store and appreciating their sheer beauty is something altogether different. I have also recently been to the comic book store with friends. Walking around with them as they pick up their books and having them make suggestions of books for me to try was moving for me. It took an experience that has normally been solitary and made it all the better.

I also like having someone to talk to about what I am buying at the time of purchase. I have found out about titles that I have enjoyed being cancelled from my local comic shop. I have also been given recommendations of titles that are similar to what I normally buy that have turned into some of my favorite books at the moment. The computer does this but I have yet to have any luck with the algorithm actually picking anything that I enjoy. It’s funny. I am a shy person but I enjoy the human interaction around the things that I enjoy. Talking to the people at my local comic shop makes my day even when I might not be up to full on interactions.

Finally, despite always having a pile of books that I have read, I don’t mind. Like i said, I am not a collector. I will take the pile to my game night or to a friend’s house and let them go through the books that I have and take what they like. I let them see if there is anything that I enjoy that they might like and give it a try. It makes it easier for them to get into this hobby I enjoy and I spread a bit of joy when I do this.

How do you buy your comics?

Why do you chose to buy them in that fashion?

Share your answers in the comments.

Welcome to Night Vale

In the past few months, I have been one of the ten thousand a lot.

One of the things of which I was ignorant was Welcome to Night Vale.

My tastes in science fiction and fantasy tend to run towards the more mainstream variety. Mythology being the dominant theme that occupies most of the media that I consume. I love things that are quirky but they have to brought to my attention if they fall outside of my sometimes limited vision.

Welcome to Night Vale is just such a quirky podcast that straddles many genres and does it with a style and grace that is just breathtaking. The show takes the cosmic horrors that populate the writings of H P Lovecraft and August Derleth and blends them with the existential horrors that populate the lives of those of us living the life suburban. A good example of this is when the radio show speaks of the local bowling alley. The audience will be informed of the ancient city that has been discovered in a hole by the pin setter. The discovery prompted by the loss of a bowling ball falling into the depths of the city and the noise it makes echoing across the vast halls. The narrative then quickly swings to the mundane as the owner asks that people getting their bowling shoes know their size so that this part of the process could go quicker.

Welcome to Night Vale embraces the idea of the uncaring universe and shows the perseverance of human nature as it’s citizens try to continue on with their lives despite knowledge of their small place in the vast cosmos.

There is so much to love about Welcome to Night Vale. There are certain things that provide anchors for me to the show that I wanted to point out in particular.

First, There is Cecil, The Voice of Night Vale. He is our window onto Night Vale and the host of the radio show to which we are listening. He tells us of the community radio station for which he works as well as about the people that live in the town. He is the human connection to this strange place that is nestled somewhere in the deserts of America. As the show progress he provides us personal asides both in context to the stories that he presents as a journalist and out of context as a member of the community of Night Vale. A perfect example of this is Steve Carlsberg. There are points where things are going wrong and Cecil will become distracted by something small going wrong in the community and will blame Steve. He will go on, at length, how Steve is the one to blame for not doing things the way they are supposed to be done.

Cecil is also an unreliable narrator. He is our human connection to all this weirdness. As we listen, he paints us a picture of a place that is in turns, weird, wondrous, and prosaic. He tells us stories of the people, the culture, and the government of Night Vale. All these things bring us, the listeners, into his circle of trust. As we listen, it quickly becomes obvious that Cecil is not giving us the whole story. Not out of maliciousness, but due to the very nature of Night Vale itself. There are points where he points out that writing utensils are illegal as are books and yet he has attended school and has taken notes on stories that he reports on. Combine this with frailty of the human mind when confronted with the immense powers of things like the Glow Cloud. It comes to town and we are given ongoing reporting on the crisis. At the peak of the crisis, Cecil reports that the denizens of Night Vale have begun worshipping the Glow Cloud and then begins worshipping as well. When we return to Cecil in a non-worship mode, we learn that he has no memory of the past time period and that all recordings of what has happened are blank. Did what we just here about the community really happen or were the stories that we listened to during the episode just fabrications of the Glow Cloud?

I also love that despite the horror and absurdity that are part and parcel of Night Vale, the core of humanity is never lost. It embraces the dichotomy of humanity and shows the listener the heights to which humans can reach and the lows to which they can descend. It does this by illustrating that Night Vale is a small insular town and yet embraces diversity. Cecil provides the best example of this. From the first episode, we get to watch as Cecil falls in love. A scientist, Carlos comes to town to investigate the oddities inherent in Night Vale. We get to listen as Cecil waxes poetic in his descriptions of Carlos whenever he enters the narrative. Welcome to Night Vale is a community radio program and we get to listen as Cecil goes from a crush on a handsome scientist to dating him and this is perfectly acceptable by community standards. For me, this was a standout and something that drew me in quickly as this was a place that was weird but accepting. But the show also doesn’t allow you view the citizens as fine upstanding people though. It takes the time to show them as insular and fearful of change as are most humans as well. There is an episode about a traveling carnival. As the story progresses, we are set up to see this thing as some traveling evil that has come to prey on the city. The build up is similar to the movie, Something Wicked This Way Comes. At the climax, we watch as the people of Night Vale unite to drive out the interlopers. As they flee, we get to see that it was just a regular carnival and that Cecil and the people of Night Vale have given into to fear of Strangers and done something horrible as the carnies flee for their lives from the hatred of these people whom have become as monstrous as some of the threats that they have faced.

I am so glad that I was introduced to Welcome to Night Vale. It brings me into a weird, funny, and scary world that is welcoming and terrifying in turns. The storytelling is so engrossing that I look forward to each new episode to see what little piece from prior stories will crop up and become the next big bad. This show also has a penchant for punching you in the feels with no warning and this something that elevates this from entertainment to art in my mind. If you have not listened to Welcome to Night Vale, you should remedy this egregious error quickly.

Four Bear Paws out of four.

I bearly recommend Welcome to Night Vale!