Billy chokes on a peanut- A Short Story

It was sometime in the early 1990’s. The Phrogs were on their family vacation. Billy was the oldest of the cousins. He was one of those scrawny kids who was always getting into trouble.

Billy Phrog was walking around the campsite chasing lightning bugs when he tripped on a stick on the road.

“Damn it!” he shouted.

He scrapped his knee on the way down. He picked up the stick and noticed there was something strange about it. It was in the shape of a cane. He figured it was a wizard staff so he began pretending it as such. His imagination used to run wild.

He quickly lost interest in the lightning bugs as he ran around waving his ‘wizard staff’ and everything and everybody.

“Would you stop that, Billy, you look like a jack-ass.” his dad hollered.

“I zap the evil from within you! Magic Spell do your…”thud.

It was momma. She smacked Billy in the back of the head.

“You mind your dad you hear me.” she said.

Billy was shaken but not deterred. He tossed the stick down onto the ground. He sat down in the grass, leaned up against a tree and began humming to himself.

Later that night it was getting cold. Dad had let the fire burn. Billy was wrapped up in his sleeping bag trying his darnedest to stay warm. He wasn’t having any luck.

Billy Phrogg got out of his tent and began pacing the campsite. He was trying real hard not to make any noise for fear of waking one of the adults.

He walked over to the lake. There he sat down at the very edge of the dock. He dipped his toes into the water, looked up at the moon and began day-dreaming once again.

“Some day, I’m going to live in a big mansion at the top of a tall mountain and everybody is going to take me seriously then.” he muttered to himself.

There was a splash in the water. It was a fish leaping to get one of the lightning bugs. Billy remembered back to earlier in the weekend when his sister Brandy was trying to fill a jar with those magical little critters.

A few minutes go by. Billy quickly realizes he wasn’t exactly getting away from the cold by dipping is feet into the cold water. He had forgotten how he had gotten out of bed because of the cold in the first place.

“I wish I had my wizard cane. Then I could summon some warmer weather.” he said.

Billy began walking back towards the campsite. He heard a dog howling off in the distance. He decided he wasn’t ready to go back to bed just yet. He slowly began circling the campsite looking for his cane he dropped earlier. He heard a crackling. He looked up. It was his dad. Standing there with a flashlight in one hand and a belt in the other. Billy new what was about to happen next.

“What in blazes are you doing out of bed, boy!” his dad exclaimed.

“It was too cold.” he said with a quiver of fear in his voice.

“How’s about I warm up your back side with this here belt. That might take care of the cold now won’t it.” he said. Billy took the swatting on the bottom and crawled back into his tent.

The next day Billy was sitting on a tree stump eating breakfast. It was cold eggs and toast. Mom always cooked the eggs and toast before she woke the kids up. Dad had to have his hot, the rest could eat cold food.

Brandy walked up to Billy and asked if he wanted to go play by the beach. He nodded in excitement.

He knew the grown ups were going fishing. He always hated going fishing so he would rather explore the beach with his little sister anyways.

“What you so sad for? she asked.

“Nothing.” he whispered, with his head looking down at the ground as he walked, kicking the dust along the way.

“Are you sure? I’m your best friend you can tell me.” she said.

“I said it’s nothing can you forget it?” he snapped.

“Geesh, don’t bite my head off will ya, I was just trying to be nice.” she said

“Hey, I, um I am sorry Brandy. Dad woke up last night and whooped me for being out of bed. I was kinda dwelling on it that’s all. I didn’t mean to snap at ya.” he said.

Later that day the kids were digging in the sand when Billy came across a bag of peanuts buried on the sand.

“Hey lookie here, still a few fresh nuts in this bag you want to share, Brandy, Sally?” he asked?

“Ew, gross put that thing in the trash you sicko.” Sally snapped.

Brandy’s only response was to shake her head with a look of disgust on her face.

Billy sniffed the bag.

“Smells okay to me. Suit yourself more for me.” he said as he swallowed a mouthful whole.

Suddenly Billy began chocking on one of the nuts. Brandy started crying, rubbing her brothers back while Sally darted back to the camp site looking for a grown up.

She ran into aunt Tammy.

“Aunty, come quick Billy’s chocking!” she exclaimed.

The woman ran to the spot where her nephew lay gasping for air.

Billy was holding onto his throat when he saw his aunt leaning over him. Then he blacked out.

Billy woke up in a hospital bed. He noticed his dad was sitting on the little chair next to the bed. He looked sad. Billy smiled seeing his dad there crying for his sake.

“Hey dad, look I’m okay. How you doing” he asked.

His dad didn’t even look up. He laid his head in his hands sobbing. Billy looked over and saw his sister was also crying on the floor. His gaze kept turning towards his right hand. There by his bedside was his mother holding his hand. He couldn’t feel her hand upon his. Nobody was responding to to his pleas. Fear was beginning to sink in.

Then he noticed something. The doctor came in and tapped mother on the shoulder. He could hear the doctor telling his parents Billy wasn’t in a coma anymore. He was completely brain dead and they were going to have to take him off life support. He was in shock. How could they not see him laying there, alive, awake in the hospital bed.

He followed his parents out of the hospital as the doctors covered his body up. He walked beside his mom to his own funeral where he watched his family members all sobbing over his being gone.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing out here.” a voice called.

Billy turned around and it was his dad. He looked up from the water. Fear in his eyes.

“Dad, it was cold so I walked down to the lake. Please don’t be mad at me.” he pleaded.

“It’s okay son. I was just worried about you. It’s late you know. This lake is dangerous for a young boy at night.” his dad said.

Billy sat there with his dad thinking back to the day dream he just had of dying.

“Dad, can you sit here with me for a bit before we go back to bed? he asked.

“Sure thing son.” he said.

The two watched the fish jumping up to snag them some lightning bugs. Looking back on his life Billy regarded that camping trip as one of his best memories in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What it’s been like transforming a weekly podcast into a daily internet radio show

Congratulations you are caller number nine stay on the line and we’ll hook you up with today’s grand prize don’t touch that dial we’ll be right back after these messages.

Ever since I was very young I always wanted to get into broadcasting one way or another. I studied broadcasting in college. I never knew if I would end up in radio or television all I knew was I wanted to be able to create a show I could share with an audience and keep them entertained and informed.

My career in the media and entertainment industry has been a little bumpy, to say the least. I have worked in live entertainment, weddings, a sports arena, two different local broadcast TV station and a weekly newspaper. On the digital front I have done a little bit of everything ranging from writing, producing, music, videos and everything else. At one time I even started up my own independent record label which I used to publish underground hip-hip and techno/trance albums. The only thing missing from my repertoire is radio.

Like most people in this business my primary goal is to stay busy. Whenever one job has run it’s course I quickly begin looking around for the very next opportunity. Sometimes, if you are lucky and keep your eyes open, you can end up juggling multiple projects at the same time. I launched my current blog, this website you are reading this article on, around 2013, while I was still in college. Since then I expanded to include a YouTube channel and a once a week, 2 hour long uncensored podcast. While I enjoy doing the podcast I felt like I was cutting myself short. When I was working for the newspaper I toyed with the idea of transforming the podcast into a daily internet radio show. The idea never went very far as I was always working. Now that’s changed I have a little more time to focus on doing the things I enjoy.

Recently I decide to give it a show. I finally settled on a format I think works for my personality while maintaining some sense of professional production values. I want to do the radio show as if it was a broadcast series. This means keeping it limited to a set time length, a specific format and staying within the guidelines of the FCC. Although it is an internet show and thus government censors do not apply, my goal is to do it as closely to a over-the-air radio show as I can get it.

One of the things that has been motivating me is my desire to stop waiting around for someone to give me a job doing the things I enjoy and instead just making things happen. Fortunately I can say without a doubt since I have launched the daily series I have gotten the attention of the right people as I have finally begun getting many of the job offers I had been waiting for.

The biggest challenge isn’t biting my tongue. I function quite well in polite American society so I can form intelligent sentences without the use of profanities or other “dirty” language. The real difficulty has been in being disciplined enough to keep the length and format the same each episode while being consistent in uploading at the same time each day. It’s important to reach my audience if they can rely on me to deliver a consistent product that matches their lives.

One of my worries was if I did this daily would I be able to come up with enough topics to hold it down? I decided if I settled on an hour long format with very specific segments it would emulate what I learned working in the TV business. This way I would know exactly what needs to be discussed during each segment. I decided I would do an opening segment where I just talk a little about my life, my day and the world around me. Then I would transition into a recommendation section where I discussed an old movie, music work and a video game. I decided on this segment because it gives me something to be consistent while also being flexible to keep the conversation loose.

Then I decided I would transition from there to reading of headlines and offering commentary on those headlines. I figured this format would be tailored to my tastes such as I would be able to keep it going for a while. The first road block is I have finally been offered a position at a TV station I can’t refuse. This is going to put me back to working a 40 hour work week. At first I thought that would interfere with my ability to produce a daily show. However I am not thinking it will only make me more disciplined and polished giving me a chance to produce a more professional show.

No matter what happens I want to keep doing both The Dark Web Podcast on weekends and the new Dark Web Daily Show on weekdays for the near future. Part of what I like about producing my own show is I am in complete control of the content. I am looking forward to getting back to working a steady job for a media production company. Still I enjoy having the freedom to produce something on the side that is entirely mine. More than anything I produce the show I want to do and I hope my audience will find it as enjoyable to listen to as I do producing it.

The Doll in the Kitchen: A short story

The rotting flesh dangled from her arm, bone exposed, blood squirting. There was a searing pain tearing through her as picked herself up off the ground. As her vision began to return the world around her to her senses she realized the terrible truth. She was not injured, she was dying.

As Natalie got to her feet it became clear. She had lost too much blood. She couldn’t quite stand. She was able to pull herself to the side of the road. She lay there against the curb squinting as the sunlight scorched her eyes. There wasn’t much time left, she knew that much was true. Instead of worrying about what was coming next she tried to focus on the positive things in her life. The pain was too much to allow her to even shed a tear for her last moments on this earth. She knew her time was up even though her life didn’t flash before her eyes.

It wasn’t long till the bleeding would cost her the remaining senses she hadn’t lost yet. She could see but her vision was blurry. She had no hearing at the moment though. Just a ringing in her ears. If these are going to be my final moments in life, I want to try to remember the things that brought me joy, she thought to herself. It wasn’t like she had much of a choice. After all she was looking right at the severed head of her mother while she lay on the side of the road. Despite being clearly dead, she still felt the warmth of her mothers gaze looking upon her. She knew she would be joining her mother in the afterlife quite soon so it was oddly comforting, her mothers detached head titled in a way that made it look like she was providing comfort for her daughter.

Another thought entered Natalie’s mind. This was certainly not how she planned spending her 10th birthday. Seeing her dead mother under the car, her arm torn in two, blood all over the place, no hearing, no sense of smell and blurred vision, Natalie knew she was about to face her creator. She wasn’t thinking about her dead mom or her short life being cut down. All she was thinking was how her best friend would have to attend her funeral instead of her slumber party. Now she could finally feel a tear slither down her cheek. It would be the last tear she would ever cry.

Daniel was sitting on the porch clutching his baby girl’s favorite doll. He was blinking back the tears as he remember the moment he first held his little girl in his arms.

“It’s not right baby Natalie. It should have been me.” he cried to no one in particular.

Daniel wasn’t ready for this. The car accident decapitated his wife, threw his ten-year-old daughter from the car with a broken neck, arm and spine. He wasn’t so much sad for her passing, he felt sick thinking about her suffering.

“Dad, it’s time.” said Billy, his older child. He reached out his hand to grab his son. The two walked to the car. As they drove to the chapel, Daniel kept holding that doll even tighter.

“Mom can we stop and get something to drink?” Natalie asked. She had been sitting in the car all day. Her mother had been running her around town getting her hair and nails done, buying balloons and party favors. Veronica was doing everything she could to ensure her little girl had the best 10th birthday party ever.

“Sure sweetie, we can get something to drink at the station when I stop to get gas.” she assured her child.

Natalie was fiddling with her new earrings. She was so excited. Her only concern was if her dad would like them too. He threw a fit over her getting her ears pierced. She finally got her mom to win that fight for her, she just hoped he would like them. She picked out dolphins for her earrings. Her dad worked in the zoo and even though he never got to see the ocean, he loved dolphins.

Victoria heard one of her favorite songs come on the radio so she reached over to turn it up.

“Hey baby, this is one of my favorite songs, wanna sing alon…

…she didn’t get to finish her sentence. The trailer of the semi truck her car slammed into tore her head clean off. Natalie reached for her mother to try to save her when her arm was sliced in two and she was thrown from the vehicle.

There was a dog in the middle of the road running down the street. It had a leash behind it but no owner. The young woman walking the dog had been flattened by the truck. Natalie was tossed to the side of the road.

Her mother’s head rolled under neath the car while her body remained inside the car, now on fire. Natalie was instantly sad to see her dead mother, yet somehow she was relieved her mom wasn’t burning up inside the vehicle.

“She only took her eyes of the road for a split second,” the preacher was recalling the final moments of the two lives lost in the terrible tragedy.

“The mother was killed instantly. We thank God for that as her body was stuck in the car burning up for nearly 30 minutes as crews cleaned up the wreckage. The poor little Natalie, we know she suffered for quite a bit. Her suffering is over now as she enters the arms of her Lord Jesus.”

Daniel was trying to find comfort in the preachers words. Nothing was going to work. Not now. Not today.

Later that day Daniel was sitting in the kitchen holding that doll. He just finished doing the dishes. His mother always told him to keep busy following a family tragedy. She used to say “Idol hands are the devil’s playthings.”

“Daddy, why are you so sad?” he heard his daughter’s voice coming from the other room. He dropped the teddy bear and quickly turned to see his son standing there.

“Dad are you okay, you look like you could use a nap.” Daniel was looking around frantically for the source of that voice.

“Where is she? Where is Natalie/ I heard her voice just now she was right here talking to me, wha, WHERE IS SHE!” He was yelling into his son’s face, grabbing his collar.

“Dad, I, what are you talking about? We buried her this morning.” Billy said with a look of fright on his face.

“I heard her son. She was right here. Didn’t you hear her? Didn’t you see her? She was”, tears swelling in his eyes, “she was right here.” Daniel finally fell to his knees and let the tears out.

Laying on the side of the road Natalie noticed the dog. She couldn’t turn her head to see where the owner was. She just thought to herself, I hope they’re both okay.

Natalie was trying to look into her mind to find a happy memory. As she closed her eyes she formed an image in her mind, that of her father sitting at the kitchen table, looking so sad. He was holding her favorite doll.

She whispered to her father, “Daddy, why are you so sad?” Then she slipped into heaven.

Some reflections on how to improve as a writer

Do you ever get trapped inside your own mind? The worst part of trying to come up with something interesting or unique to write about is not trying to remember what topics I have already written about. No, for me it’s about moving past the same topics. In writing, as in life, once you get stuck in a rut it can be hard to escape. Then there is a part of me wanting to be consistent in my element.

Whether writing for someone else or for yourself, the trick is making sure your writing is compelling to the audience. One thing I have learned, however, is you can’t fall back on amount of experience when discussing your writing. For starters, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have if you’ve been doing it wrong. All you end up doing is forming bad habits you have to learn to break.

When I first left the newspaper I was working for I was cocky. I had nearly 3 years writing for community newspaper surely that alone would be sufficient to get me a job at another newspaper. After I started looking at the stories I was using as my portfolio I realized, my writing had improved, I still had a lot of work to improve.

The hardest thing for me is writing compelling ledes. In the newspaper business the lede has to be catchy and to the point, it has to pack a lot of information in a few words. I sometimes struggled with writing headlines too. Fortunately I had a guide who would often re-write my ledes for me. Headlines were kind of a group effort. I learned two conflicting approaches. The older reporter preferred longer, more detailed headlines. The editor, a man slightly younger than myself, was more fond of short headlines with large fonts. It was two conflicting approaches I had been thrust into the middle. I eventually discovered I preferred shorter headlines with easy to read sentences.

When I was writing for a print newspaper we didn’t have to worry about ‘clickbait’, our headlines had to be informative and eye catching. The newspaper where I worked also didn’t have a web product. The newspaper I started up is the opposite. I am operating it basically all digital with a print product being something I am looking into down the road.

I don’t suppose I am really offering up advice to other writers out there. I think as I started typing the first thing I wanted was to do a topic I hadn’t spent much time on before. Admitting my writing was in desperate need of improvement was one topic I can assure you I didn’t plan on tackling.Yet, here I am taking a good, hard look at my previous writing. There was a time when I believed all I had to do to improve my writing was to keep at it. I don’t think that now. I have realized my writing has improved more as I have sought advice from other writers. I am also figuring out the need to read other styles of writing.

The trick isn’t to be the best writer out there. My goal really is to be the best writer I can be without regard to how I compare to others. That does mean having a focus. The second news editor I worked under taught me the fork method. I didn’t quite understand what he was teaching me until after he left. I can honestly say my first news editor had a greater impact on my philosophy than anyone else. I still try to stay in touch with him even though I have moved half way across the country.

One thing I can say is clear. With a tagline of “To Organize Chaos” I left myself open ended enough I could technically write about anything I want. I fully understand a website needs its own focus the same as a story. I think the best way to reach my audience is to recognize who I want that audience to be. The more time I spend on this the clearer that picture becomes. I still believe my purpose in life is to try to make sense of the world around me.

Coming soon, the future of local news

The entire time I have worked in the news media business, be it television, newspapers or online, the number one question people ask is not is print dying, but how long before it dies. Unfortunately s newspapers die off communities are left with what are called news deserts, in other words they have no local news. Sure you can get gossip on Facebook but without journalists who are objective verifying facts and interviewing local sources, those posts run the risk of being flagged as fake news, and with the rampant fake news epidemic facing our culture right now that’s best to avoid

I have been struggling with a way to combing traditional news media practices, beat news reporting, local human interest stories, covering local topics, holding local government’s accountable and generally doing all the things a typical print newspaper would do. Nobody I have met considers the local news station (broadcast TV) as any less important or legit as the local newspaper for delivering local interest stories. The problem there is broadcast news has to cover such a wide area to make money, and is facing such stiff competition from digital outlets like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc., we’re seeing local news stations struggle, close or consolidate in the same manner as the local newspapers. A democracy cannot flourish without news organizations informing the public what their government officials are doing, what their schools are up to, where their tax money is going, not without professionally trained journalists doing the work to get that information out to them.

It’s been a catch 22 for about 20 or so years for newspapers and local news stations alike. How do you produce expensive content on decreasing advertising dollars without deteriorating the quality of your product? If you make it available for free online you run the risk of giving away your product and not being able to make any money, or do you? I propose a different business model that will target the Millennials and their younger counterparts who are increasingly looking to digital as an alternative. Local TV news needs to give way to a locally produced newscast, distributed entirely on YouTube. Advertising dollars can be had via sponsors contained within the program, not traditional pre roll or post roll ads you have to share with Google. Yes, of course for the free web hosting YouTube provides let them get the pre and post roll ads, but you can take charge of the content with sponsored videos. However this only works for replacing the local broadcast affiliate, which I strongly believe is the future. It doesn’t do much for the newspaper. This is where I am proposing a new model that will combine the best of both worlds. You will get professionally produced content, delivered digitally for free, but packaged to a confined, hyper local market that is easy to sell to advertisers. Target your audience to the local shoppers and you can get the local shops to advertise with you.

In order for this model to work you have to keep your rates in line with what they expect to pay. It has to be cheaper than print but more expensive than Google or Facebook. The flip side is you can promise them you are targeting a local market instead of throwing a wide net for pennies in hopes of catching that one or two fish who swim through. Think of it like this. If you have a local wedding dress shop that targets young ladies in a specific geographic area, you can demonstrate to that shop owner that your website, a community newspaper online or a community news blog if you will, that will entice local audiences to browse content tailored for their specific tastes, then you can convince that dress shop to run her ads on your site instead of the local print newspaper.

In order to make a weekly newspaper you need a staff of at least 1-2 people. One person creating content, the other selling ads. Sometimes you run into a situation where there is just one person doing the newspaper as a solo project, more or less as a labor of love. Every local community needs it’s own newspaper. But times have changed. You no longer need to go down to the local super market to pick up a physical copy of that newspaper in today’s world. What works best now is you use social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, to target the locals in the area, use those links to get them onto your site and then provide content they cannot get elsewhere. Your job is to get them to trust you enough to spend a few minutes of their day on your site, reading up on local happenings, before heading out into the vast ocean of repeat content all the national sources are fighting over. In this world getting it first is the name of the game in national media. But getting it right is still the focus of local media.

That is why instead of investing money in a local print publication. I am going to build a series of local community news sites, newspapers or blogs that exist entirely in a digital space but treat them no different than if I was running a local newspaper. The difference is like night and day. First, you have more time to craft stories without being limited to a hard deadline. A weekly newspaper that has to print once a week has to make sure all content is packaged and done before the paper can go to print. This can lead to rushing out stories that are not quite ready but are also too old to be considered news. I ran into this dilemma all the time with our Friday newspaper. In order to get a newspaper out by Friday morning I had to send it to the printers Wednesday evening. That meant my Friday paper couldn’t have anything in it newer than, at absolute most current, 5 p.m. Wednesday. Most often I was writing stories about government meetings that took place on Monday so readers wouldn’t even know how their local politicians voted to spend their money until nearly a full week after the fact. What if something newsy was happening on a Thursday? I either had to ignore it, write about it after the fact as an after thought or try to get someone in the community to contribute to the newspaper. Sure, we did this but it was gut wrenching to learn about an event on Tuesday night that was going to happen on Thursday morning but it would be impossible for your newspaper to tell people ahead of time to go to because the paper came out after the fact but was printed before. I joked with my editor it was like writing stories in the past tense about things that haven’t happened yet. It was a juggling act.

A community blog acting as a digital newspaper wouldn’t face this problem. If news happens on Tuesday, you get your reporter there on Tuesday, snap photos, interview those involved and knock out an accurate, timely story by Wednesday morning. You then get the best of both worlds, timely and accurate news without the rush of getting that printer deadline. In today’s digital age it makes no sense not to run a local blog instead of a newspaper. The hang up old newspapers have are how to get digital advertisers. The trick is to have the same ads you always had, produced in house and tailored to their specific needs, not agency ads blanketing a mass market, not low CPM affiliate ads you make pennies on. The balance is to meet in the middle. I would set up something where an advertiser could purchase a display ad to run during a certain number of articles for a fair, fixed price. Then if they liked the results  it would be easy for them to renew.

I believe the future of newspapers is digital but not the old model of make a hard copy, then upload the PDF behind a paywall. That model hasn’t worked at reaching a new audience nor is it appealing to advertisers that have left. Local news is coming back in a big way and its going to take pioneers to blend the old model with the new model and utilize tools that social media provides. In doing so an editor can provide their local community with current events and stories that interest a local market yet still attracting advertisers that target that local market without the headache of having to provide a printed product that may or may not reach the eyeballs it was meant to.

It’s political season again, how do I maintain my sanity?

I try not to get political on my podcast. I made this decision partly because I was working at a newspaper when I started doing the podcast and so I felt it best to keep my political views away from my newspaper audience. My publisher advised I stick to that as it was technically against company policy to discuss politics on social media. Now, I am not currently working for a newspaper and this blog of mine is well known to contain my personal opinions. Still, as a journalist I often try to keep my politics to myself.

That being said, it’s now election season gearing up in the media so I am going to have to put on my adult pants and tackle this stuff head on. After all, if I want to be taken seriously as a journalist I am going to have to tackle serious issues. With that in mind I am going to start a series of more investigative editorial stories. I want to keep using this website for the intended purpose of making sense of the world. Often I use popular culture to make sense of the world, so I discuss popular culture.

As far as politics go, I feel I am at least as qualified as any average Joe. I mean, I am fairly informed, college educated and I have experience interviewing politicians during my 3 years working for the news media. Thus I am going to start modifying the blog in order to allow for more political discourse. I am not entirely sure if I will continue to adhere to my no politics on the podcast or if I will slowly lift those restrictions. I will, however, begin getting a lot more political on the blog. I am not going to turn this into a social commentary site or a vehicle for political change, rather I am hoping to hone my skills covering politics in an effort to advance my career as a journalist.

I will begin by publishing modified versions of political stories I wrote for the newspaper. I will include photos that I took along with stories I wrote. I am also going to begin digging into other political issues, ranging from elections, candidates and the hot-button issues. I am probably not going to give away my personal stance on issues but I will do my best to be as fair and objective a journalist as I can. I hope my readers will bear with me during this transition, and who knows maybe I can reach a wider audience.

Fanfiction coming to The Spiders Lair

I am still working on some original stuff behind the scenes. As I delve into writing things I get tons of ideas in my head. I used to write some pretty lousy fanfiction back in the early days of the world wide web. I am thinking of a few ideas that I have been kicking around. Below is a list of some of the fanfics I would like to do. The purpose is to jump start my imagination to, hopefully, inspire me to finish some of my other works of fiction.

The first day I took a job at the newspaper I was thrilled to be able to finally tell people I am a writer, and I actually get paid to do it. I have always been a writer. Ever since I was a kid. I just finally got around to finding a way to make a living doing what I love.

That being said, every writer has writers block. In terms of fiction stories, especially the suspense and horror stuff, I have hit a dead end for the time being. So I will start up some fanfics as a way to get the creative juices flowing again.

Here is a list of settings I would like to delve into. This is not an exhaustive list, just a few that I have ideas that I think would inspire me. Also, I am absolutely not making any commitment to finish any of these. The idea is to get excited and inspired to write something original.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

Specifically the original team of Jason, Trini, Kimberly, Zach, and Billy. The good thing about a fanfic here is you can cut out all of the cheesy acting and low budget special effects and focus on writing a fun and exciting story. There are a few science fiction stories I have swirling around in my head that a MMPR fanfic could be a good starting point.

Robocop vs. The Terminator

I have a lot of verses ideas. Actually who doesn’t to be honest. I don’t imagine any of mine will be award-winning stuff that makes fans geek out. Rather I expect it to be the types of stuff that only a certain type of fan might enjoy. I would set mine basically in the world the Sega Genesis game created.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

I have seen every film starring Freddy Krueger. I have seen all of the episodes of Freddy’s Nightmare’s a low budget TV series set in the same universe. I have even read all of the comic books and played all of the video games. It’s safe to say I know this character well enough I could write compelling fanfiction. In fact when I was younger much of the fanfics I wrote were based on this character.

Doctor Who

I have an idea for a Doctor Who fanfic where the Doctor travels into the Star Wars universe. I haven’t decided if it would be a parallel universe type story or something else. It revolves around him trying to prove the science of the Jedi and use that to dispel their “magic” as he often does. Thankfully Mr. Lucas created a way to science up the Force in a perfectly Doctor Who way.

Inspector Spacetime

Okay so ever since I fell in love with Community (and Alison Brie I won’t lie) I have been super excited to explore the Doctor Who rip off set in that shows universe. I have seen enough Doctor Who, Community, Futurama and The Orville I know I could get into this world and have tons of fun.

Speaking of…

Yes, I would love to write Community, Futurama and The Orville fanfics as well. I mean they are just each ripe with uncharted territory that needs to be explored further. I want to be free of the shackles of actors leaving the show so I can continue the adventures of Troy and Abhed in the Morning without worrying about one of them pretending to be a gangsta rapper or whatever it was. Futurama is also a goldmind for fanfiction material. I must confess it’s one of the few comic book series I truly enjoy so it’s quite possible I might already be able to get my fix that way, but still I think I could delve into that universe if I was properly motivated. As for The Orville. Okay it’s still new enough writing fanfiction might be premature. However, as it is loosely based on Star Trek, yet free from the convoluted retconning, it would be a cinch to jump in as there is little to go on and nothing can contradict anything else since it’s so new.

Super Mario Bros.

I loved the Super Mario Super Show. I know what you are thinking but I did. I would love to write stories set in that world using the characters and settings that have come since it’s end. The best part is, there really is no wrong way to do a Mario story since technically each game is disconnected from the rest. I might even have a way to write some Super Mario Bros: The Movie fanfiction that fixes some of that universe’s issues. Hey one can dream right?

I won’t dig into explanations for the remainder just list a bunch I can see myself having fun writing, even if nobody ever gets to read them but me.

Transformers meets Gobots

Boy Meets World

Saved by the Bell

Psych

The Goonies/The Monster Squad

Gremlins

Shinobi

Mechwarrior

Dungeons and Dragons

Loony Tunes/Disney/DuckTales

Indiana Jones

Legend of Zelda

Rainbow Brite

The Smurfs

Sonic the Hedgehog

Mortal Kombat

Friday the 13th

Pac-Man

The Matrix

G.I. Joe A Real American Hero

Super Smash Bros.

Final Fantasy 6 and 7

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

And that should do it for this wish list. Thanks for reading and if you have any fanfiction you would like to share feel free to send it in.

Why we should celebrate Columbus Day

Today is Columbus Day. While some are trying to erase history others want to celebrate it. Despite all the good, and bad, things that came from Christopher Columbus setting sail all those centuries ago, we today should at least remember what he did accomplish.

Columbus Day, like most holidays, is not steeped in historical fact, it’s about the myth. All those people running around dispelling the myth are missing the point. We know the TRUTH of the historical figure, history isn’t dead (as long as you leave it alone and stop trying to erase it) rather the truth is it’s just like Easter, Christmas, or even the 4th of July, we celebrate the myth, the legend, the story, not the man or the men who lived hundreds of years ago.

Every year on February 14th people who are in relationships buy cards, chocolates and flowers for their significant other. None of them are Roman citizens performing marriages ceremonies despite the law forbidding it. Most people don’t even know, or care, the historical truth behind Valentines Day, nor should they. We celebrate it as a day of LOVE, that is all. All of the symbols, the gifts, the rituals; these are just ways to show the people we love how important they are to us.

On Halloween kids dress up in costumes begging for candy. I am certain more than the VAST majority of them are not doing so to “ward off evil spirits” or to celebrate the dead in any way, shape or form. Most also don’t even believe in ghosts or spiritual forces yet they participate in the activities and celebrate the MYTH, or the idea of Halloween, not the actual “true meaning” or whatever that nonsense is. Same for Christmas, how many parents tell their kids to be good or else Santa Claus won’t bring them any presents? Now how many of them actually believe there is a magical elf king enslaving little elves forcing them to make toys for him. Oh, shoot, we celebrate the subjugation of elves if we celebrate Christmas. Darn it.

Looks like people just need to get over themselves and learn that Columbus Day celebrates the sense of DISCOVERY. It’s not about the actual truth or the consequences of those voyages, it’s just another way for us to wrap up an IDEA, in this case discovery, wonder, and exploration, around a semi-historical tale loosely based on real facts. Nobody cares that when we celebrate Christmas we don’t actually celebrate the Birth of Jesus at a historically accurate time of the year, or that we don’t remember the historical Saint Nicolas figure. Nor do we actually believe there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow with a little green leprechaun waiting to greet us on St. Patrick’s Day.

Why is it okay to ignore history on literally every single holiday, except Columbus Day? I for one think you should have your kids make little paper renditions of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Tell them them the story, not the history but the STORY of the man who “discovered America” in a way that lets them know, it’s just a story, we exaggerate it because it’s another day to put aside our worries and just forget try to remember what it was like to be a kid exploring the world around you. Don’t take that sense of discovery, wonder, and curiosity away from your children. Not if you want them to actually grow up to become educated adults who question the world around them. Teach your kids the MUTH of Columbus Day and let them learn the real history when they go off to college and have to leave childhood behind. For now, just let them be kids.

Exploring digital music stores

I have reached a point in my music collecting that I need to explore other options. I like buying CD’s because they offer me a physical thing I can put on a shelf while also giving me the ability to rip the tracks to my hard drive and then move them to my iPod. The problem is, CD’s are not getting any cheaper for some reason. I buy from Amazon and even though I have Prime, it still ends up costing 7-10 per CD. I was buying them for $2 to $3 each brand new unopened or $.99 used from Hastings. Sadly, Hastings is no longer in business. There doesn’t seem to be any other new or used CD retailers near by so I have turned to the internet. I was hoping I would find some cheap alternative to Amazon but it doesn’t appear to be the case. Now I am exploring digital options.

First, I am NOT anti or pro digital. I have always been for whichever options is cheapest while being the most consumer friendly. My primary reasons for sticking to CD’s has always been cost. When I can get a CD for under $5 even if I only like 2-3 songs, it’s worth it because I value the packaging and artwork, the physical item, at least $1 value so I tend to figure that’s a good price. It’s not like in the 90’s and early 2000’s when I was spending $12 to $15 for a CD just for 2-3 songs, if that. Cost value has always been a factor. I purchase music from iTunes a lot but based on cost alone. For instance, if I know for a fact I only want literally 1 songs from a certain CD and it’s not worth the space having a physical copy would add to the clutter, then I pick up the song from iTunes for the $.99 or $1.29 they tend to be. However, if I know I want all of or a majority of songs, for example Doggystyle by Snoop Dogg, I wanted the whole record, so I was not going to spend the $9.99 on a digital copy when I would prefer a physical copy with the fold out pamphlet. This is another reason why just having a single JPEG for the album art sucks, you just get the superficial cover, you don’t get the actual contents of the booklets.

I realized there had to be a better option. I shot down Amazon digital because the selection sucks. Sometimes they have a “CD” I want and sometimes they just have selections from the artists library. I have come across HUNDREDS of songs or albums they do not have. iTunes has a similar shortcoming so in those instances I tend to look for the actual CD. I tried Pandora but I hate Pandora. I even tried the paid option for a period and it wasn’t any better. I learned Pandora is designed to help you “discover” music. I am 35, I discovered all the music I like when I was a teenager now I just want to build up my collection so I can have music to listen to when I am in the right mood.

Then I tried Spotify. At first it seemed like the perfect option. I could add ENTIRE albums to my playlist, if I paid a monthly fee I could turn off ads, and the player wasn’t terrible to navigate. The first shortcoming I noticed, however, was like Amazon and iTunes they are limited to licenses. This means sometimes they have the ORIGINAL recordings by the original artists, and other times they have those disgusting “Remastered” copies. It’s never clear if a remastered edition refers to them cleaning up the original audio recording tapes from before digital like they did in the 90’s, or this new, very disgusting trend where old men attempt to re-record songs in their twilight years hoping they will sound the same as when they were young men. Trust me I have compared plenty of original recordings to the remastered versions and I can ALWAYS tell the difference. Something  is always off. Maybe the drummer gets tired and starts to slow down, maybe they are using a different drum kit than before, sometimes the guitarists tunes his guitar different or the singer just can’t hit the high notes like he could when he was young. Sometimes it’s noticeable but not too terrible and other times it literally sounds like a damn cover band. I hate that.

Also, they always add new tracks, usually “studio sessions” or demo crap I am not interested in. I want the ORIGINAL album just like it was when it was originally released. The whole point in buying CD’s or records even if you go that far, is to have a tangible item from your actual past. Not some replica. I don’t want reproduction NES carts and I don’t want artists re-recording their songs and selling replicas of their real works.

I have also run into the issue of rights. Sometimes Spotify only has the rights to a selection of songs from an artists not their entire works. This isn’t a problem for mainstream artists but when looking for tracks by techno DJ’s from the 80’s or those quirky low-selling alternative bands from the 90’s suddenly it becomes an issue. To make matters even worse, sometimes they don’t even have full soundtrack albums just a user created playlist containing the closest example of the songs from that soundtrack. I couldn’t even find a single recording of Techno Syndrome by the Immortals, the THEME song to Mortal Kombat. It wasn’t available on any of the digital stores, not even Pandora or Amazon. Nothing. Now I already have the complete line of CD’s, including More Kombat which is just a few bonus songs, but still if someone wasn’t aware of that shortcoming they wouldn’t be able to “discover” that song because it doesn’t exist as far as the digital stores are concerned.

All things considered I realized that buying digital is not the best way to go even still in late 2017. By now you would think they would have everything digital but its like streaming movies services, somehow less is more is their philosophy and its just frustrating as a consumer. I guess I will just stick to buying CD’s for the most part resorting to digital only when it’s necessary to acquire the one or two obscure songs from a particular artists, assuming iTunes or Amazon even has the song I want. I couldn’t find a single store that had Beautiful by Joydrop. I don’t want to spend the outrageous price they want for a copy of the CD for just 1 song so I either have to do without or settle for streaming from YouTube. That is, until YouTube decides to take the video down, again.

The Science Fiction Paradox: Why Physics is not for everyone…

Niayesh Afshordi. Who is he? Well based on preliminary research he is a scientist who recently, well in 2014 that is, published a new theory of the origins of the Universe. I won’t get into the math, science, or physics of what he is proposing because frankly, I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to. What I want to do, rather, is use it as a way to contemplate some of the other mysteries of the Universe based on my current understanding. At least from a simple, lesser educated stand point.

When I first sat out to be a writer my goal was to write fiction stories. Originally I desperately wanted to write science fiction. I spent my early childhood reading books by Isaac Asimov, Isaac Newton, even Stephen Hawking. I was obsessed with astronomy for a good portion of my childhood. So much so that it fueled my other interests. I became interested in Star Wars primarily because of the space travel aspect. In fact all of my favorite episodes of the Transformers cartoon were not the ones on Earth but all of the ones that took place either on Cybertron or elsewhere in the universe in “outerspace.” I didn’t develop a purely academic interest in astronomy, physics or astrophysics, mostly because of all the damn complicated math. I make it no secret I hate math. So my interest remained mostly casual. Thanks, in part, to TV shows like Doctor Who, The Big Bang Theory and Star Trek, I have continued to explore my interest in these subjects.

That is where this particular scientist comes into play. The purpose of this blog is “To Organize Chaos” and that includes trying to unravel the mysteries that I come across. In other words, its my way of making sense of the world around me. That includes the world of physics, something I have a basic understanding of and a strong passion for but nowhere near the level of understanding I would prefer.

The theory Niayesh Afshordi and his colleagues proposed was mind boggling at first. It basically suggests that our universe originated with the ball of mass that exploded began expanding outward to create all the matter we see around us, this we all know the gist of it’s the Big Bang Theory (the scientific theory not the TV show). The interesting thing this guy and his team proposed was that OUR universe began when a 4 Dimensional star collapsed into a black hole creating a 3 Dimensional Event Horizon. The theory is interesting because in our universe the world we see around us is considered to exist in 3 dimensions and space-time is considered to be  continuum. Some of us have a very, very, basic understanding of this thanks to Doc Brown from the Back to the Future movies. However it gets more complicated than that. Fortunately I did take at least one physics class in college, the absolutely most fun and interesting course I took my entire college career. So to some extent I can kind of understand the basics of the 3 dimensional space-time, special relativity, and I know a little about what an event horizon is more than just the very basics you get from watching the film of the same name, or the movie Sphere if you want a little better scientific explanation.

Here is the tricky part. It doesn’t really explain anything. I mean not to the layman. Actually not to anyone other than a scientist really. You see, the basic question the theory proposes to explain is how our space-time could work within the framework of our own laws of physics. IN other words, how could a singularity that contained all the mass of our universe be bound up into a single point so densely it could explode and create the universe we see. The simple answer is this, it doesn’t tell where the universe came from. In fact all it really does is makes it even more complicated. The simple explanation they propose is that our universe is just the left over crap from the dying star of a separate LARGER universe. Again this begs the question, if the laws of physics that govern our universe can only be explained if you place it within the scope of being a particle within a larger universe, then doesn’t that basically mean that 4 dimensional universe follows the same rules? SO does that mean THAT universe is the event horizon of a 5D collapsed star turning into a black hole? IF our universe began with the death of an older universe, where did that universe begin? IF the only way the math checks out is to keep staking older universes on top of each other then doesn’t that mean there is some fundamental flaw in the entire system to being with?

Sure, as a Christian I could just take the easy way out and say duh, it basically all points to God being the starting point and his words spoke it all into existence. That doesn’t really satisfy the scientist though, and it still leaves unanswered the question of where did God come from and all the crap he made the universe out of as well? That’s not a question I personally need answered. What I want to know is if every new theory requires the discarding of the old, while simultaneously keeping it all in tact due to a mathematical formula that was BASED on the Earth being the center of the universe, which has been disproved by using the very math it was used to prove, it gets complicated from here. I won’t get into Ptolemy or Newton, Google exists look it up, what I will say is if the math that is used to prove the Earth is NOT the center of the universe is predicated on it BEING the center of the universe and it also disproves the space-time conundrum that also exists because we still rely on that same math, which has been disproved by another proof using the same math it was used to prove, it goes in circles.

Now I must admit my understanding of the math is limited, but I do know if you have to keep adding new layers in order for the model to work, even though its using a proven false formula to begin with, that itself is used to disprove itself, GRR!

Maybe it would be best if I just did quote the Bible “In the Beginning God…” and walk away, it would be best. I won’t being to question the experts that know the math better than I do, just like for them to reconsider all the work they have to put into trying to ask a question that was answered thousands of years before they were born.

None of that is where I wanted to go with this. You see, getting back to my original paragraph, I set out to become a science fiction writer years ago. What deterred me over the years was my limited understanding of physics. I could go the lazy route and use the basic, preliminary approach so many writers use falling back on just letting a bunch of techno babble explain away any plot holes I created as a write. What I set out to do was to learn more than I currently understood. Sure I kind of remember what it means to be a main sequence star, the basics of what a pulsar, quasar, nova, black hole, galaxy, galaxy cluster, etc., is, and I kind of know the very basics of space travel, Newton’s laws, Ptolemy’s laws, the simplified version of relativity, and all the nonsense I learned from movies and comic books. To me, that’s not enough. I don’t believe I need to be an expert lawyer to write a crime drama, but if I want to do it well I would at least need to study the topic. Since I have no interest in writing crime dramas I have no need to study criminal law or criminal justice.

What I set out to do was to learn more than the basics. I picked up a bunch of books on physics, astronomy, the universe, stars, the Sun, etc., in the hopes I could at least fill in some of the knowledge gaps I have in the event I decide to actually set out to write the science fiction novel that has been swirling around in my brain since my youth. Then I realized I can’t get more than a few pages in before I become overwhelmed by the math. I always had a problem with how physicists always have to use complicated equations and formulas I can’t make sense of using symbols I have no clue what are the meanings so I bail early. I decided I needed to tackle this head on. So I set out to first fill in the gaps I have in the math department.

I picked up textbooks in basic Algebra, College Algebra, and fundamentals of mathematics, to supplement the math books I already had from college. I started with the most basic book and found that as I went through it I was actually starting to make some sense of some of it all. Not enough to consider it real progress but enough to keep going. I don’t have the time or money to take a bunch of math classes at college right now, so my plan is to settle for just going through these text books and trying to see if I can make some sense out of enough of it all to get to the next level. My ultimate goal is to tackle the Calculus head on so I can then dive into those physics books at least with enough of an understanding that the math doesn’t give me a headache and I give up, again.

Who knows, maybe as I go on this journey I will learn enough math to be able to get back into writing computer code. I also gave up on that because the math was too much for me. I had one college professor tell me my brain was just not wired for math. She said I was an artist, a dreamer, I was wired to be a writer, or a story-teller of some sorts. I had another professor, one in the psychology department tell me that was a bunch of crap and anyone could learn anything if they put the time into it. I think I fall into the latter category. I didn’t retain much due to not using it, but I studied the hell out of Japanese and learned enough to make small talk with a Japanese girl at a Mochi party planning event I attended while in college. Okay learning Japanese should be easier for someone who loves languages anyways, and video games, but still I am determined to push through this to the end. Then I will be able to re-watch episodes of the Big Bang Theory and laugh at the science jokes and not make fun of the nerds just struggling to live their lives as best they can.