Monday, December 22, 2008

The First Day of Winter

Yesterday was officially the first day of Winter. Living where I have most of my life that season’s meaning is somewhat lost on me. It gets in the 40’s (Fahrenheit) and we throw on our coats to ward off the unbearable cold. Then disaster strikes and we get a little bit of rain. Oh no, it might rain for an entire day.

According to some weather reports from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [weather dudes]), wind chill in the Midwest puts temperatures at -30°F or lower today. Now that is winter, not this wimpy, “oh let me grab a light jacket stuff” we have here.

I know that water freezes at 32°F, but I wonder what temperature below zero is has to be to hit the ground as ice. Jack London wrote about it in his short story To Build a Fire, and said -50°F; as the character has his spit freeze on his face and beard. You will not find me in a situation to test that out any time soon. The thought of a human snowman does not sound too appealing.

Mowing the lawn can be a pain, but this sure does not look like a lot of fun.

These photos above are courtesy of some severely frozen people. I took a quick look at my photos and found one where people look like they are absolutely freezing. A little different, but if you look you will notice some actually have sweatshirts on.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Cremation of Sam McGee

Every year my sister reads The Cremation of Sam McGee to her class at school. I am not sure when she will read it this year, but in honor of the cold of winter I bring you the poem written by Robert Service. The poem originally published in 1907 was a hit, published again by Ted Harrison in 1986 and read in Canadian elementary schools.

Another person I knew would sing it, and quite well at that. Though I have not my sister’s voice to play for you, I found a copy read by the author Robert Service. Unfortunately, the reading was cut short and the end is not there. Instead, I found another video read well. The YouTube video is not embedded so I do not freak out anybody's browsers, but the link is below:

Although it is quite long, if you want to read along here is the full text of the poem.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that he'd "sooner live in hell".

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead — it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows — O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May".
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here", said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared — such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked";. . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm —
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New Story on FictionPress

I have a page on a website called FictionPress. FictionPress is somewhat like a writer’s forum where users can upload works of fiction they have written and where anyone can read those written by others. The link to my FictionPress profile is on the sidebar to the right as well as here. The page includes everything from short stories, poems, vignettes, and a few others. Many entries are very old so some are kinda silly. But I uploaded a new short story titled The Day I Die and I encourage you to take a look if you like. It’s pretty short and I hope you enjoy it. You can also make comments and reviews on FictionPress. If you are a fan of fiction, take a look around and you may enjoy some of the other things offered on the site. Let me know what you think and enjoy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

From The Coffee Shop to Your Screen

Inspired by an idea from an employee at a local coffee shop I worked up a new 55 Fiction. A 35-word story was shown to me and I rewrote it with a different storyline, which is surprisingly hard to do with a 55-word max.

With this one, as with the previous Passage and The Duel stories let your imagination fill in the blanks. Reread the previous two with your imagination if not your eyes if you want. Forget the sparse words and let your mind live it, nightmares optional.


Shadows crawled the carts.
His fearless face framed by silver moonlight.
High noon in a Tibetan market drenched in black,
Mockery of merchants that chanted their goods above the crowd.
Faceless dark lunged for fearless light.
Shiv carved from the other fears split darkness,
Headless it crawled back to the shadows.

© 2008, all rights reserved

Friday, December 5, 2008

55 Fiction

You have heard of short stories no doubt, but I was introduced to a type that goes a little more to the extreme. The local newspaper ran an annual contest for submissions to what they called 55 Fiction. Turns out it is quite popular and surprisingly it was the same paper that started the writing contest in 1987. The main idea is to create an entire story in 55 words or less.

That may sound rather simple until you see the criteria. The story must be 55 words or less, have a setting, one or more characters, a conflict, and then a resolution. The paper receives thousands of entries every year and publishes the ones they think are the best in their weekly paper a week or two after the submission deadline.

I submitted two, and unfortunately, neither was chosen to be published in the paper, but it was truly a blast to create something so short. Every word has to be considered, can one word be used in place of two? I admit I am in no means a master of this style, but I encourage you to try it out. Try writing a story in 55 words or less and see how it goes.

Here are the first two I wrote. I have some others that I learned to be more word conservative with, but as first tries they were fun. I think the first two originally were a little too vague and left a reader with a possibility of not understanding the plot, but I will let you decide that for yourself. Passage is 53 words and The Duel is 49. Enjoy.


They go in. They don’t come out.
Watching from the hall two went in. None came out.
Menacing doors swallowed them all.
An emptying hall, all go through the gaping hole.
I couldn’t help myself. I had to see, slipping through the closing doors.
Fellow prey stood to my side, “Level two please.”

The Duel

Stoic statues faced each other in a dusty street.
Windows boarded up for a storm under blue skies.
A thundering roar heralds a pinnacle’s crumble to dry earth.
It was over, and the other moved away.
A glint of light from a forsaken sheriff’s badge discarded in the dirt.

© 2008, all rights reserved

Monday, December 1, 2008

As Heard from the Roommates IV

I recently moved out of my old apartment with my more than crazy roommates. I still had plenty of items to place on my As Heard from the Roommates series, so I figured I would include some of the best ones left and move on. The two people and dog I am living with now can be plenty strange, so we shall see if the craziness continues.

Not sure when I will be moving into a new apartment, but I sure hope it is soon. The living arrangement now is not the best. I will continue the Crazy Signs series with plenty of pictures that frankly make no sense at all. Now without further adieu, the madness of apartment 502.

"I’m too lazy to inhale, been holding my breath for three months now."
Upon being asked why he did not do his laundry, which was now rather ripe.

"It’s a special seeing eye rat."
If only I knew why this was one of his pets of choice.

"Blast, I need more plutonium."
"If only we had a cow."
Which is of course the natural reactions to any problem that may arise.

"All hail spoon."
He was rather excited to find one not in the dishwasher.

"That better not land on my pizza."
Pizza was one roommate's food of choice with ice cream a close second for dinner. Objects being thrown around the living room bothered him for some reason.