Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Poems Nothing But Poems


there is an almost sadistic
glee in your eyes as you watch me
eat the ass out of three, four
five crawfish before you tell me
about the mudvein,
and it is a favor i return
later in the evening
as i cross the waters
of the river styx into Elysium
in your brown raft

Our Floral Arrangement

In the sultry valley
Of your velvety folds
I am a dutiful tailor
Tasting satiny belts
Of honied stars
And collecting your
Leitmotif of murmurs
Like candied silk
on the tip of my tongue.

There, now that everyone is gone, I lied, I have more to say than poems.

There's a cruel period when a relationship ends, especially one you're not ready to abandon, where the Venn Diagram of your lover's potential next lovers includes literally everyone in the Universe except you, and it's like being driven from your village knowing you can never return. 

The past is re-written. Time that was spent in the most fulfilling and spirit affirming ways is made to feel wasted. 

Friends and territories are divided. 

The only other analagous experience I've had is when my mother died. You can travel anywhere in the world you want after that, but you'll still be an orphan there. You can't travel into that future any other way. 

They say time goes so quickly when you get older because there are no new experiences to have. You've seen everything. And for the first time in a long time time is going so slow for me right now, which should be a blessing because of my health situation, but it doesn't feel like a gift. I used to look forward to days when no one missed me, no one was thinking about me, and nothing was needed from me. Now those days seem like the folly of an old man who has contributed nothing. And they go on forever.

All of your life prepares you for one part, one role, one particular task, and the vast majority of people probably never even get to that moment, or even encounter the thing they were looking for. That seems lucky from my current perspective, because nothing seems more traumatic than to find it, then lose it. I've had entire decades of my life go on aimlsessly, accomplishing nothing, and never felt hollow or regret not having done more.

There is no backup plan for certain things. 

Sometimes you know you're leaving a place for the last time, or seeing someone for the last time, or doing something for the last time. Like when tv shows know they're being canceled and get to do a final episode, and they wrap everything up and bring everything to some sort of satisfactory conclusion, but in most of life it doesn't work that way. It all happens while everything else is happening, and you have to have conversations about everyday things while you're dead inside. But you have to respond or they'll pave over you. Someone will love your lover, someone else will live in your home, and eventually someone else will even wear your clothes. If you sit still long enough. 

It's perhaps not as surprising as one might think how quickly you can get yourself forgotten. On social media it can happen in a week. In real life maybe two weeks. Things are so fast now there's no time. No time to hurt. No time to grieve. No time to mourn. 

When a tragedy presents people are quick to jump in and say the common things people say, but it's not that instant, or that short period of numbness after a tragedy when you really need that, it's after everything settles down and you're the only one left still grieving, still missing the person or thing that is gone and will never return. Now it's just another hole inside you. One no one else can really see, or fill.

You get far enough into this life and you're all holes. All missing pieces. 

People who are just suited, just evenly matched with a partner, in relationships because they have foound someone who is acceptable to them can never know what it feels like to see the person that unlocks your most secret desire walk into a room. When those people fall out of relationships they fall from a short distance, and they dust themselves off and move on to find someone equally unextraordinary. Where does one fall from one's destiny? 

I guess I did have a final scene moment once upon a time. A bar I had put my heart and soul into, sort of like the final scene in Cheers where Sam locks the door for the last time. I did that. Then you give someone else the key, and they change the sign, and it's not the place you poured your heart into anymore. It belongs to someone else. You have the memories, but they have the place. 

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Monday, May 20, 2019

When You Race With The Devil You Better Be Fast As Hell, Or Why I'm Curtailing Facebook

In order to model healthy behavior to my children, I need to have them see me engaging in healthy behavior first. 

After over a decade of social media, I find it to not be healthy behavior.

Yes, it has several positive aspects. Sharing of information, keeping in contact with other human beings, and creating a social network you engage with in real life, also, but I'm finding those positives are outweighed by the negatives.

I see those people in real life if I engage in real life, anyway. I hear the news eventually, even if I'm trying not to, and whatever information I gain from social media seems to be drowned out by so much noise that it can hardly be called worthwhile.

Mostly, though, it creates a cocoon than envelopes me. And with my solitary nature, that's the last thing I need.

I want to work, and engage in a variety of activities, and discover new things. I don't seem to do any of that on social media. 

And that's what my kids see. Me, hunched over a screen, squinting with a furrowed brow, usually agitated by something more than enjoying myself. Giving my attention to fools and strangers rather than them and my own work. 

After my heart surgery, and finding out I now am experiencing the early stages of heart failure, time has become of the essence to me. Social media is a time killer. No matter how much time you have, it can consume it. And return nothing but the empty husks of your hours, days, and months. 

I can't lead my children out of this labyrinth if I can't escape it myself. 

May is a good time for this undertaking because there's so much to see and do here in Northern Illinois. It's been cold this year, but these few months are becoming so precious with each passing year. The winter seems to get longer and more fierce every year, and the real summer shorter. 

My intention is to be more cold turley than ween myself off it. Facebook has to go first. And twitter has to be used only to promote whatever I'm working on. And the computer itself as a stereo, word processor, or email service. 

I just need to pile up some work. Even if I'm just relaxing, doing nothing, it seems healthier than being fixated on a monitor where I'm just waiting for the next fight to break out. 

I have friends who have gone first, and I see them, and I assume I'll continue to still see them, and maybe even have more to say when I do now.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Dungeons and Dragons: The End of Our Tal Dorei Campaign, and My Thoughts About It

I started our year-long Tal Dorei campaign last May as Large Silent Friend, a Firbolg Druid who had been banished from his village as an adolescent for unwittingly smothering a miraculous creature he was bringing back to his village to show everyone. He followed the Blood Hunters Banlys and Trogg into the city of Tal Dorei having no idea what would happen next. My reasoning with this character was that he could be a fish out of water, sort of like a Crocodile Dundee, and present a counterpoint to everyone else's reaction to the city. This never manifested in our campaign at all. 

My Tal Dorei character Large Silent Friend, as drawn by Lucian Kuranz, a fellow member of the 317 Art Collective

Our campaign ended this Tuesday after I took the Dungeon Master seat three months ago and drove it home with a fairly cliched storyline where Asmodeus used the vacuum of power inherent in the Tal Dorei system to reunite with his son Graz'zt, and manipulate the party into destroying anyone who could have stopped him, culminating in a final battle where the party decimated Vox Machina.

They made it fairly easy by snagging the Hand and Eye of Vecna, then all separately agreeing to deals that would have them killing off Asmodeus' only real competitor, the Mother of Ravens. The player who portrayed Pliz'skin, who was the one who took the Hand of Vecna at a black mass, then bargained with Iggwilv for the Eye, was a real joy to watch play, because he just bulled forward at every opportunity, and never asked or cared if anyone was going to follow. It was a damn lot of fun to watch someone play it that way, and really fit in perfectly to how I wanted to finish this campaign.

Which dovetails into my review of Tal Dorei. I start by saying I didn't read the sourcebook. It just wasn't very interesting, but I did assimilate the part about how the gods of Exandria had been banished. This story point led to what seems like the obvious end to any Tal Dorei campaign. Once any godlike entity anywhere in the Multiverse gets wind that there are no gods in Exandria, they are naturally going to want to fill that vacuum and seize power. When our original DM, the magnificent Travis Legge, allowed the campaign to veer into Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, then The Dungeon of the Mad Mage, the die was really cast. The gate to the Forgotten Realms was opened, and the party actually moved Trollskull Alley into The Cloudtop District of Tal Dorei, and opened Trollskull Manor, renaming it Trogskull Sporksbar, after two characters who had died in battle. For the second half of our campaign it could be said we were always in the Forgotten Realms. 

And if you're in the Forgotten Realms, the gods, devils, and demons are NOT banished. Halaster Blackcloak found a way to open a portal and invite Graz'zt and Iggwilv through, and from that point on it was a ll a matter of corrupting the players for three months into doing their dirty work until they brought through the Lords of Hell, a convoy of Hellfire Engines, and legions of lower devils to take over the entirety of Exandria.

It is natural the final battle would be with Vox Machina, the previous heroes of Tal Dorei, who remained Chaotic Good for the most part, and played a prominent role early in the campaign, even lending the party their vestments. I haven't watched the Critical Role podcasts, but the Vox Machina had several tactical weaknesses in the composition of their party, not the least of which was some confusing multi-classing, and they after four rounds of combat really presented no resistance to our Planescape Tuesday's party. 

I think they may have been more composed for entertainment than actual D and D playing. 

One of my interesting takeaways is that even after having killed Vox Machina, a group of celestials playing a Stryper song in their bar at a battle of the bands, and having plunged the city into the iron fist of Asmodeus, the party didn't consider themselves evil at all.

I'll admit after one character foisted the Hand and Eye of Vecna there really wasn't any going back, and all they could have really done was confront and overwhelm him. Otherwise, they just had to go along and get along, which they did. It presented some real difficulties for me as a DM because I had four characters who were either leaning Neutral Good, or at most Neutral, and one character who was now literally the Hands of the Devil. 

I also broke one of the cardinal rules of being a Game Manager and asked if I could play my own character, Large Silent Friend, as I really just wanted to join in the fun. They agreed. It wasn't as much of a burden as I would have thought. Mostly he just hung out and wild shaped so he could absorb tons of damage. 

On a personal level, getting to sit in the Dungeon Master's seat right as I turned fifty was a bucket list item. The first week I was so overwhelmed and nervous all I could think to do was have have Halaster compel the party into an auditorium where they fought an identical party composed of simulacrums of  themselves created by the lich Trobriand. This was a fun battle and allowed me to play them against them, so I learned a good deal about their abilities and weaknesses. The next week they went to Trobriand's Graveyard and tracked down Trobriand, played by Doobie Brothers singer, Michael McDonald, and almost managed to kill him aboard his prime creation, The Shockerstomper. I say almost because Trobriand cast a Meteor Storm at the end of the battle and killed everyone but Pliz'skin and Zox Clammersham, who brought them back with a Wish spell. 

Shockerstomper, helmed by the Lich Michael McDonald, er, Trobriand, designed by Jack Mathews

I remember my first foray into Dungeons and Dragons took place at the height of the Satanic Panic, and we were banned from playing at school, then one by one, in the basements of our friend's houses. In the end all I had was the books, and no one to play with, until I came home one day and mother had burned the books. 

I'd have to say waiting over thirty years to play again, then getting to Dungeon Master a campaign, was damn sweet. 

Tal Dorei is fine. I'm not looking to bash it. The city is a totally solid place to base a campaign. But you'll probably end up somewhere else before it ends. Of course, that's almost always true in the Multiverse that is Dungeons and Dragons. Can't wait to sit in the DM seat again.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Few Notes For Myself On Turning Fifty

I turned fifty last month, and was surprised with a trip to Mardi Gras by my partner. 

Fifty was a surprise to me as I always expected to die from the same thing and at the same age that my mother did. I got open heart surgery instead, and survived. In a lot of ways that left me completely unprepared for everything that was to come after. I didn't expect any of it. 

I had a very vain and selfish goal for my fiftieth birthday. I wanted to train hard in the gym and end up doing a naked pictorial on the street outside my apartment documenting being in the best shape of my life and generally just not giving much of a shit what anyone thought.

So, I set out last March training for that photo shoot. And I blew out my shoulder immediately. Followed by both elbows. Then I sprained my foot so badly I could barely walk.

But I trained through it all. I wanted to be like one of those guys in the commercials for fitness products who says "I'm fifty, and I'm in the best shape of my life." Yest nothing went right. It was the most agonizing training cycle in my entire life. 

February came around, and every part of my body hurt, and the photo shoot never happened. Like almost everyone else who ever lived on planet Earth, I didn't get to stand in the middle of the street at fifty years old documenting how robust and powerful I was. Instead, I didn't achieve the results I dreamed of, and I took a selfie in my bathroom mirror.


Then I went to New Orleans and ate my way through the city with my partner and came home to the best friends a guy ever had.

I may not be in the best shape of my life, but I never had it so good. I have become the Dungeon Master for my Tuesday night Dungeons and Dragons group, and I am part of an art collective where I have two shows this month. 

So, please indulge me in the sharing of a clearly self-centered photograph. Maybe I'll be back at 100 and do another one. 

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Mermaid By Jenny Mathews

This is what's on my rolltop desk right now. 

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Zombie Logic Press Productions VHS Intro Animation

Growing up as a teen in the 80's the video store was a sacred place in my life. And the animations for a hundred different horror movie distribution companies still elicit a Pavlovian response from me. There's still a void in my life sometimes on Friday night when I feel this irresistable draw towards the video store, but there isn't one around.

Hearing of my longing for those days, and knowing I wanted nothing more in this life than an animation for my own production company, Zombie Logic Press, my workout partner and long-time friend Tim Stotz set out to work.

And today after our workout at the Y, instead of doing cardio, we decided to finish this...

Or rather, he decided to finish it while I sat there and drank a Candian Club on the rocks. 

Well, I did help a little, by providing the sound effects. And now forever after I have my own animation for my production company. Now we just have to finish my movie Dead Drunk. 
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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Buy The Blood Dark Sea By Dennis Gulling

What amazes me about the poems in this book is how elegantly they delve into some really dark subject matter, but are never once prurient, or mean-spirited. There's humanity to these observations of people in some pretty awful situations. But there's also a sense of humor and no judgement. These things happen. The Blood Dark Sea is the kind of book where you can be glad they are happening to someone else, and a poet with a keen eye and flair for the subject matter is there to report back, so to speak.

This illustration by Jenny Mathews is a pefect visual metaphor for the lives of the people described in the poems of The Blood Dark Sea, a book of noir poems.

The Blood Dark Sea By Dennis Gulling

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