fiction, humor

Weird Works Wanted in 2020

While the image for this post may be funny or offensive (or both), it also hints at possibilities for responding to a call for submissions of weird stories for Volume 3 of an annual anthology.  (Previously published work is OK if the author retained the rights.)  The deadline is 2020-03-31.
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Volumes 1 and 2 of The Rabbit Hole have many good stories and some gems.  Links to those volumes are in the call for submissions for Volume 3, which I will just call “RH-3” below.  Here is an excerpt:

This year marks a new departure, in which we explore how ‘weird’ fits into a genre.  And we’re kicking off with ‘romance’.  Do your aliens fall in love?  Is your young hero consumed, swallowed and digested by desire?  Does your ageing husband bring his passion back to life only to find it’s not what he thought it would be?  The possibilities are endless.

Perhaps you never read romance.  Perhaps you’ve never written it.  So much the better!  Who knows what lies outside the box?  • • •

I’ll stop there.  You’ve got the idea.  In fact I’m sure you’ve got plenty, and you don’t need me to give you more.  Simply bear in mind that ‘weird’ doesn’t always mean outlandish – it can be subtle, discreet, even furtive.  Witty too, or burlesque – we’re always open to humour.  Or even, at a stretch, humor.  We look forward to discovering whatever means you choose to warp, subvert, disfigure, disguise or otherwise befuddle the concept of romance.

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Image cropped from meme as posted 2015-10-07 by TheAnswerWasAlwaysMoreLube

I know.  A red light district is a weird place to look for romance.  Maybe U can make it work for RH-3.  Maybe a closer look at the image will suggest something else to try.

The line formed by Alice’s straight spine meets the line formed by her legs somewhere under that flouncy skirt.  Nobody on Earth has such long thighs.  Hmmm.  Maybe Alice is a Martian spy, practicing her skills before trying to seduce Earthian leaders into betraying our planet.  (They already do that, but not in ways that would benefit Martian colonists.)  Maybe interplanetary espionage will be kerbolixed by interplanetary romance when Alice moves on to the corridors of power.

I can’t think of a good way to use the idea of Alice as a Martian spy with a conflict between love and duty.  (It would not suffice to write a hackneyed conflict story and tack on some extraneous weirdness about how an Earthian and a Martian get it on.)  It is unlikely that RH-3 will include anything by me.  That’s no great loss, but it gets worse.  The medium with a laptop turned out to be a fraud, so RH-3 is also unlikely to include Lewis Carroll’s posthumously written Alice in Amsterdam.  Unless U can step up.

 

humor, photography

Gourd-geous Nativity Scene

The gourds in the foreground are kneeling shepherds.  No, I did not take this photo last fall and save it for the Xmas season.  The backstory is more interesting than that.  It’s a minor miracle.
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nativity_30_840x737
I took the original photo on 2019-02-25 after noticing that my display of 5 gourds and a few rocks looked a little like a Nativity display.  (I edited the photo to have more of the chiaroscuro in some old Nativity paintings.)  The gourds were the survivors from the 10 gourds I had bought on 2018-09-24, still looking good after 154 days.  Those gourds were like the temple’s oil supply in the Hanukkah story.

Sure, it’s unlikely that gourds will last 154 days.  But unlikely things do sometimes happen.  Don’t bet on when or where.

Have a Merry Xmas

and take it in stride if the New Year brings U yet another illustration of the statistical truism

unlikely-life

Unlikely Life | Word Porn Quote

(reblog), humor, music, photography

Cathedral & Lighthouse & Xmas Carol

Claude Monet’s paintings of the cathedral at Rouen illustrate the principle that what U see depends on when U look.  Patrick Jennings’ photos of the lighthouse at Amphitrite Point illustrate the same principle.  The prose poem posted with one of them has also inspired new lyrics for a classic Xmas carol.
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RouenCathedral_Monet_1894_559x874

Claude Monet’s paintings of Rouen Cathedral are well-known.  Tho built for utilitarian rather than devotional purposes, the lighthouse at Amphitrite Point (on the coast of British Columbia) has much in common with the Rouen Cathedral.  Each tries to guide the viewer to some form of safety.  Each looks different at various times (and from various vantage points).  Each has had its beautiful variety captured by a great artist.

amphitrite-point-lighthouse

© Patrick Jennings | Pix to Words | Amphitrite Lighthouse

Click on the image credit for access to Patrick Jennings’ other photos of the Amphitrite Lighthouse.  Each image is accompanied by poetry.  The prose poem posted with this image is an evocative dialog between the “Great Light” of the setting sun and the “little light at Amphitrite” (who gets the last word).  Hmmm.  “Little light at Amphitrite” could have a nice rhythm and an internal rhyme.

While the name of the eponymous Greek goddess is pronounced like [am-fi-tright-ee], it is OK to pronounce the place name like [am-fi-tright].  (Amid wind and waves, saying the [-ee] would sound rather twee.)  Why do I care?  Consider the tune of the Xmas carol O little town of Bethlehem.  As with Greensleaves or Glorious things of thee are spoken, a great musical foundation can support many lyrical superstructures.

|O little light at Amphitrite,
|how bright we see thee glow.
|The sea can smash a boat on rocks,
|as all good sailors know.
|But sailors steer with confidence
|they will not drown just yet.
|Thy beacon guides them safely home
|no worse than cold and wet.

enlightenment, ethics, fiction, humor, photography

Satori from a Consulting Gig

The who and how of sudden enlightenment might transcend ordinary logic.  To illustrate my short story about a weird instance of satori, I edited a NASA image formed by combining data from five telescopes.  While the image is for real, the story is neither the literal truth nor a bogus claim to tell it.
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Management consultant Frank Dow showed no surprise at the new client’s evident desire for a genuine consultation rather than a canned endorsement of plans already made.  Though unusual, the client’s sincerity was still less surprising than the client’s identity.  The client was God.  Dow listened intently as God began to describe His problem:

“Forget any twaddle you may have heard about omnipotence and omniscience.  The universe is too immense and diverse to be micromanaged, even by Me.  Roughly speaking, I built a big machine and let it run.  But it’s not boringly deterministic.  The universe is all about probabilities.”

As God continued, the proud-parent joy in his voice was clear:

“The probability that a randomly chosen planet will be suitable for life to appear at all is tiny.  The probability that creatures with any ability to understand and appreciate the universe will evolve is tinier still, but not exactly zero.  On the other hand, there are a lot of planets in the universe.  There’s no need to crunch the numbers right now.  The bottom line is that a few planets luck out.  On your little blue planet, life thrived and your species evolved advanced abilities to observe and learn, to imagine and reason, to build bridges and write poems.”

With joy replaced by sadness and frustration now, God explained what He hoped Dow could provide:

“While I mostly let things run, I am not absolutely hands-off when a planet has intelligent life that blunders into being cruel or stupid.  I nudge them in good directions by inspiring a few of them.  In your planet’s case, I have had a little success and a lot of failure.  I keep it simple and age appropriate, but they oversimplify half of what I tell them and obfuscate the rest.  The Golden Rule gets through as something to proclaim but not as something to practice.  Absurdly, much of what they think has been revealed to them is just their own bigotry and bullshit.  The way they distort My message is so alien to the corporate culture here that nobody has a clue about how to handle it.  As someone who is closer to the problem without being part of it, you may be able to help us.”

Given a temporary office with read access to the case histories (and full access to a plentiful supply of coffee and nutritious snacks), Dow went to work.  A recurrent pattern emerged:

Inspirations that did not fizzle attracted disciples, often with authoritarian personalities.  Authoritarian disciples misinterpreted God’s nudges and stridently claimed they could speak for God on all kinds of topics, now and forever.  Many of those who were strident were also willing to coerce people they could not convince.  Many of those who were willing to coerce were also willing to kill people they could not coerce.

Poring over the case histories was depressing, but Dow kept at it (with the able assistance of good coffee and good snacks).  Eventually, he was ready to offer God a suggestion:

“I believe there is a personnel issue here.  You have been inspiring people who mean well but score high on credulity and low on humor.  Maybe it would help to go outside the box.  For example, You could inspire a nerdy atheist who digs sacred music and pushes the envelope of haiku poetry.”

God was skeptical: “Does anybody like that exist?”

Frank Dow smiled the enigmatic Mona Lisa smile that sometimes appeared when he was moonlighting as a Zen master.  He leaned forward and spoke softly: “Does anybody like You exist?”

At that moment, God attained enlightenment.

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Sources

How to illustrate the concept of satori?  For this post, I cropped a NASA image of the Crab Nebula and told the Retouching tab in my photo editor that each star was a blemish to be removed.  If there is intelligent life on any planets orbiting those stars, I hope that nobody will be mad at me for dissing their sun.  Oh well, it’s a big universe.  I will be long gone before they have a chance to find out.

In its present form, this post’s story first appeared in Volume 1 of The Rabbit Hole, an annual anthology of weird stories.  None of the stories there are illustrated, and I had no good ideas for an illustration anyway.  How I came to write a story about God hiring a consultant whose recommendations are outside the box is yet another story, somewhat weird but entirely true.

haiku, humor, photography

Fall Frolic

October is Chores Can Wait Month.  I took a short walk that inspired a haiku, but the chore gremlins got their revenge when the haiku generated yet another chore.  That’s OK.  Writing about the nuts and bolts of haiku beats raking leaves.
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Fall Frolic #1
|Dancing on the breeze,
|ignorant of gravity:
|red leaf in blue sky.

Nuts and Bolts

My haiku has “#1” in its title to distinguish it from a similar haiku Fall Frolic #2.  I prefer #1.  Why bother with #2 at all?  The answer to that question helps answer some others.

Fall Frolic #1 implicitly poses a riddle, then provides the answer.  Who is the ignorant dancer?  More subtly, why is (s)he said to be dancing “on” (not “in” or “with”) the breeze?  The basic structure is the same as in Jane Reichold’s classic

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Haiku © Jane Reichold superimposed on
Photo © Vladlena Azima | ShutterStock

Now consider swapping the initial and final lines of my riddle haiku:

Fall Frolic #2
|Red leaf in blue sky,
|ignorant of gravity:
|dancing on the breeze.

While #2 describes the same scene #1, it lacks the suspense and resolution of the riddle structure.  While both versions work, #1 works better.  I still owe U an explanation: why bother with #2 at all?

The first draft for what eventually became #1 had initial and final lines that were very close to the corresponding lines in #2.  The middle line had an entirely different way of hinting that the leaf’s freedom is a temporary illusion, between being stuck on the tree and stuck on the ground.  The first draft’s hint would have been too obscure w/o either an appropriate picture or the explicit scene setting done by the initial line in #2.

Already unhappy with the first draft’s middle line, I swapped initial and final lines on a whim.  The resulting riddle structure was motivation to get serious about clarifying the middle line.

Some haiku poets strive to have the initial and final lines be interchangeable.  Unless I am responding to a challenge calling for haiku that work just as well when the initial and final lines are swapped, I usually do not consider swapping.  Too gimmicky and arcane.  But a swap while revising might help answer the eternal writers’ questions

Am I saying what I want to say?

Am I saying it clearly?

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haiku, humor, photography

Gray Squirrel

North American gray squirrels are famously good at raiding “squirrel-proof” bird feeders.  At best, the obstacles persuade most squirrels to look elsewhere (most of the time).  Dunno about Japanese squirrels, but they do have a tradition to uphold.
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Carpe Diem #1765 Squirrel …

squirrel_840x636

Gurērisu
|Jump! Grab! Swing hips up!
|Nimble ninja hogs the seeds.
|Birds have a long wait.

haiku, humor

And So It Goes

When I posted an ant haiku in 2016, I had no appropriate image and did not know the Japanese word [ensō].  My response to a CDHK prompt for an ant haiku embellishes the haiku from 2016 with a new image based on a freehand circle.  Ensō it goes.
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Carpe Diem #1764 Ants …

smirking-ant_840x811

Kiss Overlay © OlyaTropinina | 123RF Stock Photo

Mission Accomplished?
|Ant with wings staggers,
|then dies. Did I see him smirk?
|Had he banged a queen?