2017: Day 2

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A belated Happy New Year to all my readers.

Two days into the New Year and, just like the Queen, I have a cold. Unlike the Queen I don’t have a small army of servants to pick up my tissues. On the other hand I did manage to write 800 or so words on a new short story, so… there’s that.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a tissue.

Hope your 2017 is going well so far.

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Christmas Party

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First Christmas party of the season is at the hotel my wife works at. It’s a nice hotel and we’re in a banquet area called the Sockeye Room.

My wife wears a beautiful dress and she looks stunning… too good to be working at their silly hotel. I wear a shirt and a pinkish gray tie and a pair of shoes I haven’t worn since my daughter’s wedding.

I drink a couple of Coronas and try to make small talk with the manager’s husband who has some classic cars he keeps in a heated garage. When dinner is served I eat Turkey and ham, mashed potatoes and carrots. There’s draw prizes which I do not win and a trivia contest which I do (well, only one wrong answer) and we listen to Christmas music.

Later that night… maybe because of the shoes or the tie or not generally being at my most comfortable at parties… my back killing me. I can’t sit in one position for any length of time. I lie on the floor and try to get my spine back into alignment.

Finally I take some pills and my wife urges me to go to bed. I sleep but my dreams are punctuated with Rolling Stones lyrics.

All night long I can’t get no… no, no no…

It was a good time.

Winter is Here…

First Snow

At least it is in my little corner of the world.

The snow made its first real appearance yesterday and it was pretty for about five minutes before it turned into a slushy, wet and miserable mess that just made me want to go home and wrap myself in a blanket. Which I promptly did.

So yesterday was spent just trying to keep warm. It’s a bit better today but I’m still limiting my travel. When the weather turns cold like this my ambitions become quite limited. That’s why the rest of my day will be spent in my living room armchair in front of the TV with a hot cup of tea.

Stay warm, my friends. Stay warm.

Winter is coming

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If you think you’ve read today’s post before you may very well have. It’s recycled.

I used to blog over at the AMAZING STORIES MAGAZINE website. I wrote posts for years for them in anticipation of the magazine being renewed. (I eventually got tired of waiting and stopped writing. I’m told that they are publishing fiction now, but I have long since stopped caring)

Either way, I have dusted off this old ditty about the coming of winter, a topic that is becoming more and more depressing to me as I shuffle off into old age.

Winter is coming.

If you’re a reader of fantasy, particularly of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (or you just watch the series on HBO), you’ve heard that phrase, usually said in long, Yorkshire tones by actors like Sean Bean and infused with much dread and despair. Winter is only one of four seasons but it can also be a feeling, a state of being.

There are a lot of fantasy and science fiction works set in winter environments. There are works where the winter is not just a climactic condition but an overall feeling or mood. Winter is much more than just the presence of snow and ice.

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Winter Landscape by 88grzes

It is December first today and, yes, winter is coming.

In some places, mostly in the south, winter is not a big deal. But in the north its different. And if you live in the Great White North (a.k.a. Canada) as I do, then winter is more than just a season, it is a state of mind. Canadians identify with winter. Indeed, in some parts of our country, winter defines who we are as a people. In the province of Quebec, for instance, there is a song called Mon Pays, which was composed by Gilles Vigneault in 1964. The song became kind of an anthem for Quebec and for Canadians as a whole to some extent. “Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver” the lyrics say. “My country is not a country, it is winter.”

 

In fantasy and science fiction, winter is never usually just a setting. If there is winter it is usually symbolic. In George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, winter, the season that always seems to be coming, represents a return of the fearsome supernatural creatures that once held sway in Westeros. They were defeated and held back by the wall, a huge barrier made of ice. The people of the north make a philosophy of being prepared, of guarding against their return. Indeed, in the land of Westeros, winter, when it comes, can last for hundreds of years. Winter in Martin’s books is not merely a characteristic of the north. It threatens to claim the entire world.

Again, Martin’s winter is not merely climatic. Winter in Westeros means a return to the dark age of superstition and terror and an end to a world built by reason and prosperity.

mdjackson_winter_the-left-hand-of-darknessAnother world where winter holds constant sway is Gethen, or Winter, as it is called by the citizens of the Ekumen in Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Left Hand of Darkness. Gethen is a planet where it is constantly winter, but that’s not merely a quirk of setting. The constant winter is symbolic of the state of the planet’s inhabitants. Neither male nor female, Gethenians live in a state of asexuality, only adopting sexual difference during brief periods called kemmer. The climate of Gethen mirrors the sterile nature of the planet’s inhabitants and society.

Le Guin doesn’t just use winter as an interesting backdrop against which her novel’s narrative can play out. The nature of Gethen’s climate serves an important metaphorical purpose to the story.

Sometimes, though, an icy background is merely that—background. In the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, the ice planet of Hoth serves as a background for the rebels’ battle against the Imperial armada. I suppose one could stretch the setting of Hoth to represent the frozen hopes of the rebellion against the might of the evil empire, but, as I said, it’s a bit of a stretch. This is only Star Wars. One can’t expect sophisticated metaphors. The winter setting is visually stunning, however, particularly in regards to the planet’s creatures. The tauntaun on which the rebels ride while patrolling, for instance, is an interesting creature. They are sort of a cross between a mountain goat and a kangaroo and seem relatively easy to domesticate for the rebels’ purposes. Then, of course, there is the wampa, a huge, shaggy, deadly creature who captures Luke Skywalker and puts him on ice (pardon the pun) in preparation for eating him (we can only assume).

The wampa is kind of like another creature from the frozen north—the yeti.

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The yeti are ape-like creatures that live in the frozen mountains. I have used the yeti in my own artwork. This image was featured on the cover of Issue 1 of The Dreamquest magazine.

Or perhaps it is just a typical day in the Great White North? Naked yeti fighting is a popular Canadian activity. I am confident that it will soon be an official event at the Winter Olympics.

Winter as a setting for science fiction and fantasy is usually more than just backdrop. It usually serves a greater thematic purpose. Winter can represent sterility, bleakness, death, or worse. In real life there is some danger in the wintertime, but when you live in the northern part of the world, you adapt. You bundle up. You buy snow tires. You light a fire and sit back with a cup of hot cocoa and wait for it to be spring again.

Winter is coming. But it won’t last forever.

*No yeti were harmed in the writing of this post.

Moggy the Cat

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This is Moggy the Cat. As you can clearly see in this picture I caught him red handed with the contents of the pockets of my jeans.

Now, most rational people would see this picture and come to the erroneous conclusion that my wife, Frances, had dumped the contents of my jeans’ pockets before putting them into the wash and then Moggy here came by later and laid down on the floor where the loot was dumped.

But those people would be wrong. You see, I know what goes on in this cat’s dark and larcenous heart. He wouldn’t think twice about rifling through my pockets for loose change or jacking my wallet.

The little fingersmith!

“It’s a madhouse! A MADHOUSE!” Black Friday

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Today is Black Friday which has nothing to do with black history month (as a friend of mine once thought).

No, Black Friday is the first official shopping day of the Christmas season, the day that traditionally, since 1961, retail stores have gone from being in the red to being in the black. This is when your consumer goods retailers start to show a profit.

The retailers themselves are complicit in driving consumers into a frenzy, a mindless rage of acquisition at any cost. No quarter is given, but lots of dollars flow and chaos and mayhem erupt on the showroom floors.

It’s a madhouse out there. If you are sensible you will stay home. One day of bargains on stock that the outlets need to get rid of before littering their display floors with shiny new Christmas goods is not worth the risk of being a victim of a crowd of bargain frenzied, soulless consumers.

It’s like the zombie apocalypse but without weapons.

And if you do have to venture forth or, worse, are employed in a retail outlet (shudder) then take care.

Don’t die out there.

Bananas

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Yes. We have no bananas.

We have no bananas today.

This was the banana display at my local No Frills store last night. As you can see, there are no bananas. Well, there’s one, yeas, but honestly it was very unattractive. The last inch of it had turned a gangrenous black. Trust me, no one’s eating that banana.

So where have all the bananas gone? Well, at 66 cents a pound they very likely have just been shopped out. I don’t know if this is a disturbing sign of the end times or anything and, no, I did not check any other stores to see if their supply of bananas was up to snuff. Perhaps this is the beginning of the great banana apocalypse of 2016?

Or maybe it was just a good deal.

I’m not complaining for myself, though. I like bananas but I can’t eat them. They give me an upset stomach. My wife doesn’t like them. So, again, this is not a personal tragedy or anything. Nevertheless I think it behooves me to check out the banana situation at the other grocery stores in town today. I need to do the legwork and discover for myself if this is a real thing or merely a one-time anomaly.

I will investigate and, believe me, I will be reporting back.