Saturday, September 15, 2012

Introducing: Homer's Oddity!

I've started a new project.  It's called Homer's Oddity, and can be found here.  It's a steampunk/swords & sorcery retelling of The Odyssey, and it begins thusly:

This tiny dot I hold within a jar
Which fell into my hands that fateful day
Controls yet all that is both near and far
Which is, then, why I keep it hid away.

For while I struggle still its pow'rs to learn,
And as I wander lost amidst the rules,
I know that many others out there yearn
This speck of energy to hold, as jewels

Might well adorn the crown of kings but be
Mostly locked away, hidden mark of might,
Ill-gotten gains cementing the mighty
Into their reigns, though never earned that right.

An accident, this burden: yet, my dream
Is that it may help me regain my queen.
--Homer's Sonnet, 1


There once were rules.

Well, one set of rules, anyway.

Once, when Telemachus was just born, or so he was told by Penelope, when he was a baby, the world followed only one set of rules.

"Up used to always be up," she'd say to him, when he was a boy.  "When you were little and you dropped something, it fell to the ground."

"Always," she would add.

Telemachus looked out at the feast he did not want and sighed.

He picked up a goblet of wine, carefully, lest it begin to droop or suddenly burst into flames or become sentient, and eyed it warily.

Then he sipped it.

Out of curiousity, he held the goblet out at arm's length and then deliberately overturned it.

The wine stayed glued inside the cup, refusing to pour out onto the grounds and spill over the parapet onto the revelers below, the partygoers who would not leave and who he desperately wished would go.

He turned the golden cup back rightside, peered into it.  The wine sat there, slightly translucent.  He could see the bottom of the cup.

He sipped it.  It poured into his mouth as it should have.

He wondered where his father was, as he did twenty, thirty, one hundred times per day.  He wondered if he should go see his mother, see how she was doing on the funeral shroud she had promised to weave and which had not been completed, not in 19 years.

Down below, he saw two large, bearded men lean over and harass a servant girl, pawing at her legs as she walked by.  One of them tried to trip her, and she stumbled, almost spilling the tray of meat slices and fruits she carried.  The men laughed and pelted her with apricot pits, the seeds falling to the floor amidst the mess his few remaining hired helpers struggled to clean up each night, working around the drunken bodies of carousers, rapists, thieves, and other less-than-desirables that passed out in his banquet hall each day.

Enough, Telemachus decided.  Enough is enough.

"Once, there were rules," he heard his mother tell him, the words echoing from his memories of being a little boy and watching walls vanish only to reappear made of bricks instead of wood, memories of there being dragons one day and abominable snowmen the next.

Once there were rules, he thought now. That applies to more than just the laws of physics, of nature.  He saw the servant girl peering at him from behind a curtain where she had taken refuge.  He could tell, even at this distance, that she had tears in her eyes.  He motioned for her to leave.  There will be rules again, he decided.

"ENOUGH!" he tried to roar.  He was only 19 and so it was not as commanding as he had hoped, plus the acoustics of the banquet hall had shifted, but it was loud enough and it captured the attention of those down below, or at least those who were not so drunk or stoned that they could not focus on him standing there, on the pathway above the hall.

"I have decided!  You all must leave.  All of you.  Get up.  Take your pants, your shirts, get clothed.  Go home.  Take your weapons and your toys and your drugs, and leave my house, my mother's house, my father's house.  You are not welcome here.  You have never been welcome here and you will never be welcome here.  You are destroying our house, squandering our wealth, and killing my mother, who mourns every day the loss of her husband and my father.  You are forcing her into seclusion and not letting her properly work through her emotions.  You have caused our loyal friends, our longtime helpers and servants, to leave in terror and disgust.  You gorge and drink and smoke and rape and root through our house, destroying our things and our people.  Some of you have been here nearly as long as I have and I was born in this house!  You have no right to be here, and you are not wanted."

He took a deep breath.


A deep silence fell over the hall, and then the laughter started.  The two men below him started throwing apricot pits at him, and then others joined in, and soon Telemachus stood there, pelted with silverware and cups and a pipe and rinds of fruit and bones of chicken wings and a beer can (They found the beer! he noted with resignation.)

He stood there, refusing to be bowed by it.  For nineteen years, he had put up with this.  He was no longer going to kowtow to them.

Eventually, they stopped, and one of the men below him, one of the Apricot-Throwers, bellowed:  "You are always good for a laugh, young Telemachus!  But why would we leave?  Why would we go from outside of this house, where the changes are less frequent, where the wealth of generations of your family provides us food and sustenance, where we can spend the Shifting Times in relative safety, and where we know that eventually, your mother will have to choose one of us to marry, and that person then will take over whatever is left of your holdings?  Why would we leave?"

Telemachus thought of the holdings that remained.  Did they know of the Flashpoint?

"She will not marry you, or any of you," he told the man.

"Then I will marry her!" the man roared, and laughter ensued.

"YES!  We will all marry her!" another man said.  "Why wait? There are no rules, and haven't been for a long time!  They will never be restored, will they? The Shifting Times will never end and eventually this world, all worlds, all men, all women, all children, all things will crumble into chaos, the entropy dragging us apart and betwixt!  Let us all marry her, now!"

The cry rose up unbidden: The men began to chant: "Penelope! Penelope!  PEN EL O PE!"  and those who could stand did so, grabbing weapons where they could and food and drink where they could.  A swirling, heaving mob of men began to move towards the stairs that would lead them in a spiral up to where Telemachus stood with his goblet of wine, and past that to the broad staircase that led to the third floor, his mother's quarters.

"STOP!  I forbid it!" Telemachus hollered, but his voice was lost amidst the ongoing chants of PENELOPE! and the tumult of drunken, armed men climbing the stairs intent on raping his mother and taking her by force... and his remaining hopes of getting them to leave, of using the wealth he had to find his father, to restore order and rules would go with her.

The Flashpoint.  The Singularity.  The Coin.  They must be protected, as much as his mother, if not more.

He moved back, to the base of the stairs, standing on the third stair up.  Faux marble felt smooth and safe beneath his feet.  The stairs had been cobblestone most of the morning. He was glad of the shift.  This time.

He stood alone.  He would not call the help, would not ask them to face this danger, too. He pulled out his Fire, shaped almost like a pistol but rounder, sleeker, even cobbled-together as it was.

It was small comfort.  Even with the amount of power it could channel from Nether, it would not hold up to the fifty or so men that swarmed into the corridor, some of them nearly careening over the ledge in their drunkeness.  They moved towards him.

He held up the Fire, and said "STOP! Or I'll shoot."

They stopped, and one of them pointed, and said "What... is that?"

He pointed the Fire at the man.  "It's a Fire.  You've not seen anything like it before."

Behind him, a voice said:  "I stand with Telemachus."

The voice was a growling rumble, and he turned to see a large misshapen man behind him, holding what appeared at first to be a bagpipe -- but the bag was clenched in the man's arms, and all the larger pipes were not pointed skyward, ready to make music, but instead were leveled at the crowd.

He thought for a moment that he saw a beautiful woman, small and slender with short hair and small breasts, naked but for a tiny loincloth and a necklace, but it was gone.

"Where did you come from?" A man, one of the Apricot-Throwers, demanded.

"It's a trick!" Another yelled.  "An illusion!  Telemachus deceives us with his illusionry!"

"It's a Shift!" said another.  "He didn't know it was there!"

The ogreish thing said to the men: "Go. Go back down to the banquet.  You must leave and not come back."

The Chief Apricot-Thrower laughed and held up his knife.  "You don't scare me, Ugly Man," he said.

And he changed his grip on the knife, quickly, flipping it around and throwing it towards the man.  As it flung through the air, end over end, it began to glow brighter until as it reached Telemachus and the Ugly Man it hurt to look at, and it exploded as it reached them, all taking less time than the blink of th eye.  Shrapnel flung in the arc the knife had been thrown, and Telemachus knew he and the Ugly Man would be shredded, the tiny pieces would burrow into them and through them, propelled by the explosion, leaving pinpricks in their front and fist-sized holes in their backs.  Shrapnel Knives were horrifying weapons at this range.

The particles fell to the floor, not a single one touching him or the Ugly Man.  There were gasps from the assembled drunken mob.

"GO," the ogre said again.

The mob hesitated, and the Apricot Thrower began to fumble with his pockets.

The Ogre breathed into the small tube of the bagpipe thing, and flares of radiation shot out from the ends of the tubes, sparkling rays of diamond-flecked light lancing from six separate sources, and the men those rays struck screamed with the pain of burning.  Telemachus saw skin peeling off them, and guessed it was gamma rays being shot.  He could feel the heat over his shoulder.

The men who had been hit fell to the ground.  The others began to fall back, some slowly stepping away and others turning and running.

"GO!" The ogre shouted, and the men ran as a group, leaving their fallen cohorts laying in agony, all of them pounding back down the stairs in a frightened rabble, all but the Apricot Thrower, who had gotten something out of his pocket, a small mirror, as it turned out.  He held it up, peered into it and looked in surprise at Telemachus and the Ogre.

"Athena," he said, quietly, as Telemachus held his Fire up and pulled the trigger.  A small dart shot from it, whistling as it found its mark in the man's arm.  The moment it did, a blue flame spread from the dart onto the arm of the man, who dropped the mirror and shook his arm, motion that caused the blue flame to grow hotter and spread to his shoulder.  The Apricot Thrower took one last look at them and ran, trying to dampen the napalm flames that were engulfing him.

In moments, the entire house fell silent, all the men having left.

Telemachus turned to talk to the Ogre, but the Ogre was gone.

His mother looked out from the top of the stairs.

"What is going on?" she asked him, quietly.


Look for more installments as time goes on!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Aaron Rodgers will finally get to wear that 49ers Jersey he's been pining for.

It's not clear to me whether Aaron Rodgers made a bet with Alex Smith, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has it, or with what was once a band, Boyz II Men, but regardless of who he shook hands with, The Anointed One will be forced (?) to wear the 49ers jersey that he was denied on draft day so long ago.

According to TMZ, which seems like the most reputable source on the subject, Rodgers bet the Boyz's lead singer that if the 49ers won, A-Rodg would wear an Alex Smith jersey all week -- while if the Packers had pulled it out, the lead singer (whose name doesn't matter because he's the lead singer of Boyz II Men) would wear a Rodgers jersey all week.

In other Aaron Rodgers News You Can Use, his hometown of Chico had previously put up a sign proclaiming it the "Home Of Aaron Rodgers #12," only to see the sign taken away, and replaced (temporarily) with a sign proclaiming the town the "Home of Brett Ratliff," only to see that taken down.

Fans of Ratliff, who hasn't appeared in an NFL game and who presently seems to be on the Titans' roster, started a fight that has resulted in Rodgers getting no honors:

“We ultimately took (the Ratliff sign) down, and right now, there is no more sign up there,” [a member of the sign committee] said. “I didn’t want my Chico sign to become a turf war. … But knowing Aaron, he’s probably just as happy with his sign not being there.”

Yes.  That is probably true.  If Aaron Rodgers is anything, he is a man who doesn't want public recognition of his achievements.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

52 lines about 26 teams (Wrapping up the NFL Preview I Thought I'd Wrap Up Earlier)

I got through 6 teams before the season started, more or less, in detail, but there's no time left to dilly-dally.  Here are two quick lines about each team I haven't previously discussed:

Chicago Bears:  This is The Boy's pick to go to the Super Bowl; he says it's Bears-Texans this year.  Me, I can't help but wonder why Jay Cutler named his kid "Camden."

Philadelphia Eagles:  This is the year, maybe, the "Dream Team" coalesces.  Or What's-His-Name," Andy The Coach, gets fired because nobody wants to admit they made a mistake putting millions of dollars behind an ex-con dog killer who's only in it for himself.

Detroit Lions:  When I said to The Boy "They sure played a heckuva game against the Saints last year in the playoffs," The Boy said they lost by a LOT and suggested that I misremembered how good the Lions might be.  I'm guessing they'll win the NFC North.

Miami Dolphins: Nobody cares about the Miami Dolphins, which has been the case since Dan Marino retired.  Here is the Butthole Surfers' song, Pepper,

because I didn't have a second line about the Dolphins.

Houston Texans: I once said that it was an immutable law of football that the Texans would not make the playoffs.  Then, the other day, I said that this year's Super Bowl would be Packers vs. Texans.

Atlanta Falcons: Atlanta remains the single most boring football team in the entire areop4ru3840932745auetghnewr  SORRY I DOZED OFF THINKING ABOUT THE FALCONS.  The guy Matt Ryan replaced in college, "Quinton Porter," played second string QB on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL the last two years.

Kansas City Chiefs: I picked them last year to go to the Super Bowl, then everyone died or something.  This year, I'm picking them to play in the AFC West.  *hope that comes true!*

Washington Redskins: Somehow, the Redskins manage to spend a billion dollars in free agency every year, including this one when they were penalized cap space for spending a billion dollars in free agency every year.  The teams guaranteed over $35,000,000 in pay to its three biggest-named (?) free agents this year, and if that doesn't argue for a hefty millionaire's tax, I don't know what does. 

New Orleans Saints: My Packers-Texans Super Bowl prediction was made before I knew a federal judge would find a constitutional right to deliberately injure the other players and reinstate all the suspended Saints.  Wouldn't Suspended Saints make a good name for a band, or a detective novel?

Buffalo Bills: The Buffalo Bills celebrate the start of every year by releasing the most talented player on their roster, this year kicking Vince Young out to trade for Tavares Jackson, reportedly because he's valuable in the "Wildcat Offense."  When a head coach says "We're going to use the Wildcat," what he means is "We're not going to win many games," and anyway, why do you need TWO wildcat quarterbacks backing up your $25,000,000 Trebuchet? Are you going to run the wishbone?

New York Jets.  I know that was three sentences on the Bills, so I'll make it up by using just one here to say that I've got $10 riding on a bet that Tebow will be starting by Game 5.

New England Patriots: I don't want to talk about them, so let me use a sentence here to say that I'm incredibly disappointed that the best game of the week for me, Bills-Jets, isn't being shown on TV in Wisconsin.  Also, the Patriots* are cheaters, and if their fans are sick of hearing that, well, Fire Belicheat.

Tennessee Titans: What's the over-under on how many times a "Hurt Locker" reference is made about the Titans' QB?  That's particularly inappropriate given that the phrase is actually a Vietnam War-era term that means severely injured by the enemy.

Seattle Seahawks:  QB Russell Wilson is my new hero, and I use his name as an adjective now.  Wilson, according to a Bleacher Report headline on an interview I didn't bother to read, said he "refuses to be average," so all week long I, too, have been refusing to be average and telling people who did a good job that they "really RussellWilsoned that". 

Arizona Cardinals: Honest to God, I almost typed "Wildcats" there instead of Cardinals.  What's wrong with me?

San Francisco 49ers: I could've sworn I heard they traded Alex Smith.  The Boy says I am wrong, and this story says that after hurting his feelings by trying to get Saint Peyton, the Niners guaranteed Smith millions of dollars to continue being an average quarterback.

Green Bay Packers: I have the Packers' defense in my fantasy football league.  I suppose it could be worse, but only if the NFL admitted a brand new team to the league and required that this new team play me at nose tackle.

Carolina Panthers:  Will Cam Newton continue his high-flying, not-winning ways? It doesn't matter.

Pittsburgh Steelers: They don't really matter anymore, do they? In the last two playoff games the Steelers have been in, they've looked like they just couldn't really get excited about the game.

Denver Broncos: The kids can't wear number 18 in Denver because it's a "gang number," and because Denver parents are stupid.  But Saint Peyton's number won't be all that exciting when he's injured by week 9 and the Broncos go 6-10; if I were a Broncos fan, I'd still chant "TEBOW". 

Cincinnati Bengals: Did you know that there's some sort of huge rivalry between Cincinnati and Cleveland?  With nobody in the world caring enough about either of those cities to worry, it's nice that they have each other. 

Baltimore Ravens: For some reason, I really really really hate Joe Flacco.  Like, viscerally hate him.

San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers is still the absolute worst quarterback in the NFL.  Good luck, Chargers' fans.

Oakland Raiders: I would buy a Raiders jersey and wear it for a year if their front office announced that they were holding a seance in the owners' box so that Al Davis' ghost could see the games.  BONUS FOOTBALL ANALYSIS: Carson Palmer didn't do so bad last year even though he joined the team mid-season, so I'll expect the Raiders to be the AFC West Champs this year.

Play me out, George Baker Selection!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

This is rapidly looking like it's going to be an NFL POSTview. (The "I Guess It's Time To Try To Do An NFL Preview" NFL Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars)

This is a true story.  Yesterday, while I was waiting in the car for Sweetie to get out of Walgreens, I was forced to listen to the radio because I'd forgotten to bring my phone, and my Kindle, and the iPad.

Left without access to the Internet, I had a choice of listening to the "Pops" XM station, with its feel-good, readily recognizable classical music, or ESPN Radio, with its... well, sports drivel.  (The other option, CNN, wasn't an option because it had Dominick Dunne on it.)

On ESPN, they announced breathily:

"Maurice Jones-Drew has ended his holdout.  We go to [somebody or other] for the reasons why."

And I'm not making this up at all, Somebody Or Other comes on and says:

"The reasons why Jones-Drew ended his holdout aren't clear, but he has ended his holdout."

When you have 24 hours of talk to fill, I guess you have to repeat things endlessly, but even by the amazingly lax standards of sports talk, that exchange fell short of entertainment or information.

And speaking of falling short, it seems like this is another year where I'm not gonna finish this preview, so let's jump into the Jacksonville Jaguars:

What I Know About Them Without Researching: Does it count as research if I'm stuck listening to the radio?  No? So I know that Maurice Jones-Drew was the NFL's leading rusher last year, and that he's ended his holdout.

I also know that the Jaguars are QBed by Blaine Gabbert.  I know that because last year Deadspin made fun of Blaine Gabbert incessantly, I think mostly because of his name.

What Someone Else Said About Them: Let's see what Wikipedia says about this man:

Blaine Gabbert.

It says:

Coming out of high school in 2008, Gabbert was considered a major college recruitment prospect. Rated as a five-star recruit by, Gabbert was listed as the number 1 pro-style quarterback in the nation.  He initially gave a verbal commitment to the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, but rethought his decision after head coach Bill Callahan was fired. He eventually committed to the University of Missouri. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel decided not to redshirt Gabbert his freshman year, but instead play him as the third-string quarterback behind Chase Daniel and Chase Patton.

Gabbert had a strong debut in 2009, throwing for 313 yards with three touchdowns in the air and another one on the ground against the Illinois Fighting Illini in the annual Arch Rivalry.[citation needed] In January 2011, Gabbert announced that he would forgo his senior year to enter the 2011 NFL Draft.

 A guy named Blaine played on the same team at QB with two guys named Chase.  That's the NCAA version of The Whitest Kids You Know.

Pro-wise, Wikipedia says:

On April 28, 2011 Gabbert was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft with the 10th overall pick. Jacksonville traded up six spots with the Washington Redskins to select Gabbert. On July 28, 2011, Gabbert officially signed his contract to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The deal is worth $12 million over 4 years. Gabbert played in his first NFL regular season game on September 18, 2011 against the New York Jets. He was then named starter against the Carolina Panthers on September 25, 2011 beginning the Gabbert era of Jacksonville football.

Gabbert struggled in his rookie season. He was sacked 40 times, third most of any quarterback in the league. He fumbled 14 times, most in the league by a quarterback. His 50.8% completion percentage was second-worst in the league for passers with more than 200 attempts (ahead of only Tim Tebow's 46.5%). His 5.4 yards per attempt was last in the league among qualifying passers, as was his 65.4 passer rating. Football Outsiders calculated that Gabbert's 2011 season was "with the fifth worst season we've ever measured" in aggregate value.

Because I know it will bug him, I want to point out that Gabbert was more in demand than The Anointed One, Aaron Rodgers; teams traded up to get Gabbert, A-Rodg.  Smirk at that for a while.

That Outsiders stat would mean more if we knew how far back their rankings went.  What if they only started last year?  And how do we know whether they're including Sonny Jurgenson in that list?

Was Sonny a quarterback?

What 1980s one-hit wonder accurately describes Jacksonville's upcoming season?  

 "If I hate him because he's got money that's the exact same thing as them hating us because we don't."

That's Molly Ringwald defending her decision to go out with Blaine:

And is that quote true? I'm not sure how I feel about that, in this post #Occupy, pre-Ryan/Romney presidency era.  I am not sure that my hatred of Mitt Romney for his car-elevator, horse-dancing, billionaire-tax-evading ways is the same as his hatred of the poor for wanting health care.

Anyway, you see where I'm going with this.  I'm going to pick out the best moment from that movie, and possibly one of the best lip-synch's ever, and I'm not even going to wonder if it's a one-hit wonder:

That's Try A Little Tenderness, by Otis Redding via Jon Cryer.  Who among us has not dreamed of doing something equally big and impressive and daring and cool to try to get the girl of our dreams to realize how great we are?

And who among us has not known deep down inside that it would turn out to be even more humiliating than Duckie's attempt?

Anyway, Deadspin: Try a little tenderness.  If you hate Blaine Gabbert for his name, that's the exact same thing as him hating you because you're not named Blaine.

Or something.  I don't know.


Tampa Bay

Cleveland Browns

Minnesota Vikings.

St. Louis Rams

Indianapolis Colts


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