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A New Habit

I like to write. I do, but at the same time, I am overwhelmed with this sense of demotivation. Why bother? No one will read most of my stuff. It isn’t ground-breaking or life changing, but it is mine.

In order to put out more content, I’m pushing myself to wake up a little earlier each day and dedicate an hour to reading and writing. The idea is if I can do this before the hustle of the day crushes me, then I am able to move the needle.

I have a lot of projects in mind, and while I am better about letting myself “miss” on goals, I still must try.
Let’s see what happens.

Productivity

April has begun, which means Camp NaNoWriMo is underway. In the past, I have tried and failed to do these tight deadlined contests. In short, the point of these sorts of things is to write more. Period.

Without fail, the months they fall (April and November) are my busiest. This time though, I want to focus on creating a writing habit. Often, I have an hour or two of just idling, and this month I am confident I can use that spare time to solidify the habit.

Already, I am noticing my focus is stronger. Today and yesterday, I spent about 30 minutes to an hour writing prompts on Reddit. The results were well received, and I can see where I am building my skills.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll use prompts to warm up, and the second half of my hour or so will be focused on working on projects I have left lingering. I have a few books I want to finish before I get to the new stuff.

Time to get to work.

Survivors

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I sat on the couch in abject horror as the news. My apartment was dark and stuffy. A pneumatic pumping sound kept the air at a comfortable temperature.

“War has broken out in our tiny country. Authorities are quickly responding to the calamity, but we are assured nothing is wrong. Not anymore.”

The words didn’t make sense, and I smelled lilac. My head was growing fuzzy. Had to be the stress.

“In fact, the war is over. There is no war. We are safe,” the newscaster spoke with sincerity. His smile threatened to eat his eyes, or at least, that’s how they looked to me. I started to giggle uncontrollably. The stress was immense, but was I really descending to hysterics? That thought seemed funnier to me, and I kept teetering towards insanity.

Wait, I thought. I was cold and moved to close my air regulator. The smell of flowers was pungent by the flowing breeze. I felt nausea hitting me with the laughter. The smell slowly abated, and I felt my head clear. It reminded me of that sensation after the dentist would kill the gas. Could I be poisoned?

Laughter–hysterical, terrifying laughter–broke my thoughts. My neighbors on all sides were shrieking in hilarity. The newscaster was too. He began pounding the table. Tears broke from his eyes as he stared into the camera. In a single instance I saw it. In his eyes, he was terrified. He was trapped inside the shell of mirth he did not feel. I heard a boom, and I looked out my window, careful to avoid the pneumatic air pump.

I saw tanks beyond the walls. They were new–the walls that is–, and I suddenly remembered they weren’t well-received. We were a welcoming city. Not anymore.

Tanks fired on people coming from the sea. Our neighboring island skulked in the background of the horizon. I knew they were our enemy, I didn’t know why.

A story began to emerge, but I couldn’t grasp it. It was like trying to remember a dream. It gave me a profound headache, and I felt nauseated. I closed my eyes, but only for a few seconds as music from my TV and the others burst forth. Music also came out of my radio which I hadn’t turned on. This confused me until I heard what sounded like the Sun exploding. When I looked back out the window, I realized I wasn’t far off.

A fleet of planes was banking back towards us, and behind them, a mushroom cloud blotted out our neighbors. I didn’t understand what I saw, but innately, I knew it was bad. Many were dead. When the cloud dissipated, the island was on fire. The horizon brightened ten… no, twenty degrees brighter than possible. It hurt my head even more. I realized, we were truly at war.

Without much hesitation, I opened the pneumatic pump, and the floral scent abused me. I closed my curtains, and then moved to the couch. I held in a deep breath and exhaled.

In. Pause. Out.

Innnnnn. Pause. Out.

iiIIiiiiiIIiiiinnnnNnNnnnnnnnnNNN.

The thoughts were gone. There was  no war. We were fine. We were safe as the world burned.

We are survivors, we happy few.

Inspired by: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Happy_Few_(video_game)

Pop Secret Reading Challenge 2016: ZOO

ZOO by Otsuichi

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Deception

ZOO by Otsuichi is like a cute doll that seems ridiculously silly. Only that doll is a small bomb that targets your brain and sticks with you. While reading the book, I stopped several times and just felt shaken on a granular level. The masterful writing of Otsuichi is like a beautifully choreographed performance piece that ends in a horrific tableau of blood and misery.

Kind of like real life, I guess.

A Bad Summary

Throughout ZOO, readers are slammed with these stories that set your expectations of how something should go only for a blindsiding twist to completely set you off-kilter. Every story’s climax would come far later than expected, sometimes all the way in the last paragraph of the story as it closes out.
The results were jarring.
Without spoiling any of the stories, since they deserve to be explored and revealed on their own, several stories left my jaw literally hanging. One story left me feeling like an electrical wire was pressed to my skin, reacting to everything around me.

A Life Truth

That’s the power of words. Otsuichi, through Terry Gallagher’s translations, finely tunes the dials of emotion and manages to deliver powerful jolts that completely alter your experience.
ZOO was a book where I went in expecting to be scared and horrified, but I wasn’t. Most of the stories aren’t terribly horrifying in the sense of ghosts, monsters, and pop-up scares. It’s scary in the sense that the person you see on the side walk, passed out in their rags, actually had a really rough life. They were beaten as a child. Ignored. Hated. And they could never adapt.
That’s what ZOO is: a view into worlds you cannot comprehend and that is scarier than any horror movie.
ZOO was a humbling experience. I thought I was ready to handle any type of story that was thrown my way, but that’s where egotism comes in. Reading as much as I do, I can sort of figure out endings before they are fully formed. What that does is usually leave me satisfied but bored. With ZOO, I rarely figured out the endings, or if I did, it was right before the reveal came, and I am gut punched as I quickly read through everything.
What I loved about this is that there were common ideas throughout: love, loss, death, and life, and every single one of them was twisted into a new way of exposing this idea. I cannot say enough positive things about this god damn book. I loved it so much.

Final Score: 5 out of 5

ZOO is a powerful book that looks at death, life, love, mental illness, self-esteem, and where people fit in. This is the power of ZOO; a menagerie of humanity boiled into under 300 pages.
Read this book, but be prepared. It’ll change you.
zoo

Illusion of Choice Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Several Minutes Later

After arriving early, David watched the bored citizens enter the classroom 5 minutes before the class started. David, who had been sitting for about ten minutes, scrutinized the people entering. Their ages ranged from the new workers of 18 to the retired at age 70. After 70, classes were only taken by those who wanted to learn.

“I hate that we have to be up so early just to learn about outlaws in the past” said a petite blond of about 18-years-old. “I just don’t care.” She was frowning as she spoke. She struggled to keep her eyes open.

“I know. I wish we could go back to being teenagers and not having to work” replied the tall muscular guy walking next to her. “I actually miss school starting at 0900.”

“Watch your tone.” A woman at the end of the working age limit piped up. “None of that dissenting talk.” The old woman squawked. The kids silenced and took their seats.

“Good morning, class.” The teacher walked in at the exact second the class was to start.

“Good morning, Sister,” answered the class in unison. David studied the 20-something teacher with hair bound so tight it looked like it wouldn’t move. She was still talking as she walked to place her bag down. She scanned the identification port on her wrist communicator to the computer built into the desk. David saw the identification prompt flashing on everyone’s computer at the same moment.

“This class will be covering 21st Century Mysticism. Over the next thirty days, we will discuss who the important people in ancient religions were, what the people of the past believed, and why religion was important to the world before The Catastrophe.” David scanned his ID port. The screen turned green and opened up to a digital version of the textbook. Most people never looked at the book ahead of time, but David purchased a physical copy from a dealer in Sector 9. He knew it was stupid, but he couldn’t resist the experience they offered. “Can anyone tell me some of the Pre-Catastrophe Religions?”

David saw all the names flash through his mind in an instant. His memory was always great, but he knew better than to answer too fast.

“Catholicism.” The muscular teenager stated with a confidence that could David could see. The older women shot him a glance that halted his bragging.

He could hear the quick taps of the other students looking for the answers. While the silence was unbearable, David dared to not make himself stand out. He always did so well on the tests that he brought himself a lot of attention on score days. He attempted to blend into the group by scanning the book.

“Buddhism!” The petite blond piped up.

“Correct, Sister Abburn.”

“Judaism.” Another person said.

“Right, Brother Jacobs.”

“Islam.” David finally added when a pause butted into the class.

“Yes, Thank You… Brother Warren.” He noticed she was fluid in her search for his name on her computer. She smiled when she uttered his name. He narrowed his eyes, set on alert by her action.

“Oh, I almost forgot! It’s time for our hourly mantra: I will always thirst for knowledge.” The class repeated, and David saw everyone become happy and determined. David, while used to it, squirmed when nothing changed after uttering the mantra. He pasted on a smile similar to his brothers and sisters.

“In the time before our Glorious Leader Daraby created our Confederation of City-States, humanity believed in imaginary gods and goddesses that ruled over them. The most prevalent ones were the gods of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Other religions existed, but these three were the big ones. They had followers numbering in the millions including several breakaway sects.” The tapping of note taking filled the void while she breathed. David tabbed to the syllabus and saw her name “Cindy Reed.”

A hand rose from the woman who chastised the two kids. “Why were the religions outlawed though?” She asked while scratching her grey bundle of hair.

“Simple, Sister Walsh” Cindy’s eyes checked her screen again with a practiced fluidity. “Religion caused strife. When one group of believers clashed with another group, it was more than just a simple disagreement. This was a disagreement on the absolute tenets of a person’s life, so one group would attack another group. In one region, followers of Judaism and Islam were at constant odds. The violence would dominate whole regions throughout history, so the State determined that if there were no gods, goddesses, or religions, strife would never be on such a personal level. It was never believed that removing religion would remove all war; that would be naïve, but our glorious Leaders throughout our State’s existence decided to remove a major factor for war and strife.”

“So, why did they believe so devoutly?” David saw a few heads turn his way in the back of the room.

“It offered peace even if it was imagined; to those believers, religion meant that there was more than this world and this life. It meant they didn’t have one chance but many chances. It meant hope.” David caught something in her tone. He sensed a degree of conviction hidden in her speech. He decided to probe further.

“As an officer of the State, I’ve seen individuals involved in underground cults.” He saw smiles grow on anyone who was facing him. “Nearly all the believers I’ve met were insane or stupid. Are they mentally ill and that’s why they believe in a god or many gods?”

Cindy’s eyes broke the lock he had on them. “Well, these individuals are obviously crazy to believe they can hide from our great Union Guard’s detective work.” She motioned to David and smiled a bit. “But I am afraid I don’t know much about their belief system outside of the confiscated propaganda that the WGE publishes.” Her eyes never met his again. “I actually have a few pieces of digitized propaganda. Please check your computer screens.”

David could tell she was hiding something but decided against further probing; it was drawing too much attention. The students looked down and flipped through the pieces of information. One document was several pages covering a deity that ruled the weather.

“Sister Teacher.” A man younger than David raised his hand. “I’m trying to understand this. Why would entities bigger than us care about what we do?”

“Well, Brother Reeves, take that first piece of documentation I sent covering Thorism. Thor was part of the ancient Norse mythology. People right before the Catastrophe didn’t believe in the Norse or Roman gods and goddesses, but they used lots of references to them in daily life.”

“Like days of the week and months.” David added in without hesitating. He blushed as he realized he interrupted the teacher. “Sorry for interrupting, Sister.”

“No, that’s correct, Brother Warren.” That recurring smile added to David’s blush. “They modified Thor’s name to become Thursday, for example. They would divide their years into twelve months each containing about thirty days. They also divided their months into four weeks.” She paused for everyone to finish typing. “One week comprised seven days, and Thursday was the fourth day.”

“That’s so confusing.” The blonde exclaimed. “Why would they break down a week into seven days instead of ten?” David smirked realizing the girl was oblivious to what life would have been like before the WGE.

“It was how it was always done, Sister Liddy.” Cindy replied in a practiced fashion. She focused back on Brother Reaves. “But, Old World citizens built nearly everything around the concept of religion.” She flashed a smile.

“That didn’t answer my question.” Brother Reeves interjected, killing Cindy’s smile.

“Sorry. A lot of humans viewed themselves as the only intelligent species in the universe. This philosophy created a massive ego complex. Since ancient humans believed that these divine powers had an intimate interest in humans, it made us special and unique. This rationality spanned every religion. They ignored the fact that while praying for their own hopes and desires, they were asking these deities to ignore the cries of others.” David saw a look that intrigued him.

The class continued to gloss over ideas of religion. In later lessons, the class would go deeper into the subject, but today and tomorrow would focus on creating an even field for everyone.

“Well, that’ll wrap up today’s lesson. Please join me in reciting the hourly mantra. I will not lie to my brothers and sisters no matter the consequence.” The class repeated, and everyone’s face went placid. “For tomorrow, please read chapters one and two. Have a wonderful day.”

David read those chapters already. He logged off the computer, packed away his educational tablet, and collected his bag. When he looked up, the room was empty.

As he was leaving the building, he noticed Cindy struggling to enter a lounge. She had a heavy bag that appeared to weigh more than she did. While trying to access the panel to open the door, her bag spilled on the ground. David ran over to help and noticed several old books slid out of her bag. He grabbed the thickest one noting the cover read “B-I-B-L-E.”

“Where did you get these?” David said in a hushed tone. Concrete books were illegal due to their waste of resources.

“I…” She hesitated. “I bought them from a dealer.” David could hear his heart pounding. “In Sector 9.” She began to cry, trying to suppress the sobs.

“You have to get rid of these immediately.” David knew protocol required he arrest her, but he couldn’t do it; he was guilty of the same. “Burn them and never let anyone know what you did.”

“But, you’re an officer.” Cindy said with her eyes open a mere sliver.

“I am, but I have compassion. I understand that your profession as a teacher requires you to suss out what is safe for the students in a sea of dangerous, radical ideas.” David handed her the packed bag as he stood back up. He helped her to her feet and opened the lounge door. “I’ll call this a lapse in judgment.” He winked with a smile.

With her eyes down, she nodded and entered the lounge without any further words.

David stood discombobulated for a few seconds before leaving the building. As he continued down the hallway, he searched for any witnesses. There were none.

He walked the ten blocks to the City-7434’s Precinct in Sector 1. The whole time he couldn’t shake the encounter with Cindy.

He entered the building and his shoes clicked on the marble of the ornate foyer. He spotted a frazzled Caroline and gave her a customary wave. He flashed the underside of his communicator at the scanner next to reception.

“Wonderful day, Sister Gleen.”

Caroline Gleen met his eyes. “Always wonderful when I see you, handsome.” She beamed at him. Her typical playful banter reddened his face.

“Thanks, you too.” He walked away with his head down, hearing her chuckle. He hated small talk.

In the locker room, he changed into his standard issue Union outfit: black Kevlar pants with a black Kevlar vest. Thanks to AID chip technology, the nanites coursing through his veins would protect him from a bullet if the vest did not. As long as his brain was intact, he’d survive almost anything. He picked up his helmet and studied it for a moment. It was a black, fitted upside-down U that tapered in the back to a point to cover his AID chip and locked on the sides to prevent it from falling off in any type of battle. A tinted, shatter-resistant glass that flipped up protected his face. The glass visor also could receive digital information such as dossiers. As long as this helmet was on with the visor down, gunfire couldn’t kill him. David learned this, first-hand, more than he liked.

David made his way through the empty locker room to the glowing assignment board. He was early for his shift, so he had time for some peace before the room echoed with chatter. He found his name on the list.

“Officer #9301/Officer #10255: Traffic Duty, East Rung Express Sector 11. Nine Hour Shift.”

After looking at the second number, he sighed at being stuck with a rookie. The locals had nicknamed the expressway in Sector 11 Lasting because it was the last place anyone from the city had any reason to go. To avoid congestion, navigation systems routed cars to this rung of the expressway in the evenings. Since the State required cars to use automatic control in the city, he just had to worry about people skirting this law, as well as doing the usual audio surveillance. He smiled as he walked to the garage where his vehicle was waiting. He began to whistle, completely carefree.

Another Post about Drugs

“WASHINGTON — As of Monday, the Defense Department says it is conducting random urine testing for spice, an illegal synthetic marijuana-like drug. In the past, the service branches have done limited testing for spice, banned by federal law in 2012. But testing programs didn’t have the technical capability to cast a wide net for the drug, as they do for more familiar substances such as organic marijuana and cocaine.”

Source

It may seem like the topic of drugs interest me a lot, and it does because I enjoy reading about altered states of consciousness. I believe responsible activity by adults should never be outlawed or critiqued. Even moreso for people in the military. Military folks tend to be in highly stressful situations, often suffering from PTSD, and they are usually the first cut when things are being reduced. Testing for spice is so silly as the nature of it, that is a synthetic chemical that acts similar to cannabis, means it will just be modified and not be detectable.

Drug tests always bothered me because while I’ll test negative for everything (except probably dangerous levels of caffeine), it is essentially asking me to prove my innocence without really testing for much more harmful chemicals. With drug tests as they are, I can drink myself to cirrhosis every night of the week and smoke several packs that leave me cancer ridden and breathing with aid. I cannot smoke marijuana as it has an absurdly long life for testing. A drug that has never been linked to a single direct death and has been shown to reduce cancers among other benefits is a schedule 1 drug. It’s so silly that it’d be funny if it wasn’t for the people who go to jail for consuming the plant or the people who could really use the drug to have a better life. A very visible story of a little girl who had 300 seizures a day but the seizures stopped with cannabis shows that our concept of drugs is so horribly stupid and so obviously controlled by people who make money that it is more than a little sickening.

The silly thing about this policy change is it outlines the exact absurdity with drug policy. Spice was created because marijuana has such a long life in the body that it’s hard to get away with smoking it, so people turned to a very dangerous chemical that has been linked to seizures, vegetation, and death. Creating more policies won’t stop this sort of thing. Like I said, they’ll just change the compound enough to where the effects are the same, but the chemical is different, and people will be smoking something new in no time (if they aren’t already; I can never keep up with this sort of thing).

As states continue to defy the federal government, and countries defy the UN, and legalize weed, we’ll see a slow shift away from these draconian practices. Rather than banning substances and making choices for people, which ultimately lead to people breaking the law, trying these chemicals in less than clean manners, and getting hurt BECAUSE of the prohibition, we should focus on creating drug rehab facilities that are ran with tax dollars, rather than dumping billions every year on drug enforcement agencies. Addiction is a serious problem that does stop at drugs, but we are so fixated on that one idea that we ignore the far bigger problem.

Cult of Personality

The phrase refers to a cultural figure who peoplei flock to and worship. Think David Koresh and Jim Jones, who both had literal cults, but who were so charismatic that their cults were built around them completely. Hitler had a HUGE cult of personality where people followed him to the brink of hell. Others are JFK, Obama, Justin Bieber, and a myriad of other people who may mean no malice, but their words and ideas are taken as the purest form of truth for their followers.

The phrase however is completely ruined to me thanks to the extremely well written song by Living Colour. The song cycles through various characteristics of a person who is worshiped by the masses. This is seen with one of the many phrases such as “I exploit you, still you love me.”

When the song opens with the guitar riff that repeats throughout the song, you are hooked pretty quickly. As that song builds, you are exposed to various ideas from the point of view of an idol. Lines like “I tell you 1 and 1 make 3,” and “You gave me power in god’s name,” all followed with a sampling of Kennedy saying, the very cultish, “Ask not what your country can do for you” bundles then entire concept into a very succinct message.

The song ruins the phrase “Cult of Personality” for me because of the method of pronunciation. Instead of saying it as written, the last word in the phrase is stretched out rhythmically to be person…ality. If you’ve heard the song, I think every time you read the phrase here you at least said it once in cadence with the song.

This all may have been an intentional decision though. Since the song is about a person leading people, it may have been their intention to break the phrasing of the words and repeat them throughout to forever associate that phrase with the song. I know the few times I see the phrase, I immediately think of the band. That’s longevity since the song came out before I was born.

Thus, ends today. I attached the video of the song in case you haven’t heard it. It’s definitely worth a listening.

Day 2 with Remee: Early Success

On my second day of owning Remee, I have successfully had my first lucid dream.

Nap 1
I laid in bed with Remee in nap-mode. I am extremely sleep deprived, so I can feel my body falling asleep quickly. I am in a dream where my wife and I are on the sofa, and I mention I am about to nap. She says I should get my Remee, and I said “Oh, I’m wearing it.” And she says, “that must mean you are dreaming,” and I say, “Yep.”

So, while Remee’s goal of using flashing lights did not get me my first lucid with the mask, the very wearing of it did.

Night 2
No lucid dreams, but I had a lot of very vivid dreams I recalled during the bulk of my sleeping. I woke up and removed Remee because I knew it was getting late in the night, and I had a few more vivid moments.

Tomorrow, I will include pictures of Remee, the box, and the instructions.

It’s Been A While

Well, here I am after a long time of neglecting this site. It’s funny, despite being in a technical field (Technical Writing as it were), I am still subject to the same nuisances that comes with art: mood dominants my productivity. After procuring new employment, I am feeling a fresh vigor to improve this site, submit some stories, and work on my novel.

I wish this productivity could have carried on a bit while I was unemployed, but the way my brain works is if I am not doing something that works towards my current goal (in this case, it was finding work), then I am wasting time/being unproductive, so it blocks me off from that creative well until I could satiate that craving.

My immediate goals (as in by next Friday) are to catch up with all the stories that I have neglected to do each week. This will be a bit of work, but I think I can pull it off or come close enough to count. By then, I should be close to compiling my first eBook, which is when I wanted to do my advertising for this site and my projects. In order to really benefit from that, I need to flesh out more non-fiction writing. I think I will aim for that goal to be around next weekend as well. After that, we’ll see what happens.

Thanks for reading.

Story of the Week Update

I have completed two of my three backlogged stories. My reader, my lovely wife, didn’t get the chance to give me some good feedback before I posted these two lost stories. My goal now is to publish four by Sunday night at 7PM EST. I won’t promise anything, but if I can reach that goal, then I will be back on task.

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