Didn’t see this one coming. Apparently Dumbledore was gay.

JK Rowling says wizard Dumbledore is gay – washingtonpost.com

Speaking at Carnegie Hall on Friday night in her first U.S. tour in seven years, Rowling confirmed what some fans had always suspected—that she “always thought Dumbledore was gay,” reported entertainment Web site E! Online.

Rowling said Dumbledore fell in love with the charming wizard Gellert Grindelwald but when Grindelwald turned out to be more interested in the dark arts than good, Dumbledore was “terribly let down” and went on to destroy his rival.

That love, she said, was Dumbledore’s “great tragedy.”

“Falling in love can blind us to an extent,” she said.

The audience reportedly fell silent after the admission—then erupted into applause.

Rowling said she had read through a script for the movie adaptation of the sixth book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and corrected a passage in which Dumbledore was reminiscing about past loves by crossing it out and scrawling “Dumbledore is gay” over it.

I never would’ve suspected that Dumbledore was supposed to be a gay character, but then I suppose that was probably the point. It should make re-reading the novels in the future a little more interesting as now I’ll be looking to see if there’s any subtle hints as to Dumbledore’s sexuality in them.

Update: Had to include the LOLCat once I saw it.

I AM PREPARED TO BEAR YOUR COMPANY AND DO IT WITH A THANKFUL HEART

An excerpt from…

A Story of Christmas Eve in Frankfort

By K. Patrick Glover

     It was Christmas Eve in Frankfort, Michigan and The Mariner was empty but for me and an off duty cop named Dan Avery. Dan represented one third of the city’s police department and I,  Nick Kellerman, its sole private detective. We were drinking Jim Beam and discussing the presents we had purchased for our respective girl friends.
     My girl, Sasha, was only 19, and since I’m pushing 45, Dan’s end of the conversation included a lot of jokes about cradles and playpens. I took it in good humor, only occasionally threatening to spank him with my cane. In truth, the situation made me feel awkward, but Sasha felt it was perfectly acceptable so what did I know?
     We were starting to come to the conclusion that neither one of us was very good at gift buying when Susie Vandrick, who worked in the flower shop below my office, burst in and started babbling about a body down on the beach. Dan calmed her down and the bartender brought her a cup of hot coffee. It took awhile, but we got what details we could from her. She said the body was on the beach, just off the turnaround at the end of the road. Dan and I threw on our coats and went for a walk.
     The Mariner sat almost at the end of the main road and the only thing between it and the beach at Lake Michigan was a few condos and the turnaround. It had been snowing off and on for two weeks by then and the beach was covered in several inches of bright clean snow. A field of white broken only by the body lying in the middle of it. A single set of footprints, presumably his own, led from the turnaround to the body.
     It was a male, probably in his mid-thirties, with broad shoulders and sandy hair.
     “Any idea who it is?” Dan asked.
     “No,” I lied.
     The next hour was a flurry of activity. I walked out to the body and verified that he was really dead while Dan went back to his car and called it in. There was no blood, no visible injuries. I checked his fingernails and lips, smelled his breath. No obvious signs of foul play, could have been a heart attack or stroke. The ambulance showed up first, then the rest of Frankfort’s police department and least they were actually sober and on duty unlike Dan.
     We backed off and let them take over. Dan went back to The Mariner to finish his drink. I went home to think things over.

OK kids, it’s story time…

… and DOF is spinning the tale.

Good stuff. Go check it out if you haven’t already.

If Big Media gets its way the future might look like this.

An excellent bit of fiction on what might come to pass if DRM wins the day: Burnoff: Part 1 – The Bad Guys Win:

Going to the movies is not what it used to be. Security at the studio-owned theatres is heavy, it’s not a trip to be taken lightly. But if you want to see the film everyone is talking about without waiting a year for the home release, you have little choice. When you enter the lobby the first thing you see are long ranks of tiny, thumbprint activated lockers. This is where you must leave all of your electronics, your personal server and peripherals, even your watch, and you had better not be wearing smart spectacles or contacts. As you enter the security zone you’re scanned for anything you may have forgotten. Cochlea and optical implants must be capable of responding with a coded RF identification signal to indicate their systems are secure and cannot record. People with older models, or models implanted abroad where such interrogation is illegal, are turned away. Perhaps they would like to see one of the older releases? Once through the scanner you must submit to a biometric ID test – this is where the known bloggers, hackers and spoilers are ejected. Finally there is the non-disclosure agreement to be signed – these days most moviegoers choose to sign via the MPAAs annual subscription, just trying to take some of the hassle out of visiting the cinema. Finally you get to see the film. In the auditorium the audience is constantly scanned by an AI looking for suspicious activity, so don’t rummage in your pockets for too long. It’s strange that all this effort to protect the movie industry has done so little to improve the movies.

Tarmle’s vision of the future is certainly a worst-case scenario, but it’s still worth thinking about.

Link via Boing Boing.

Introducing “THE SCENE”

I found something interesting last night and just wanted to share it. It’s a net-only available show called THE SCENE, a fictional story that concerns the lives of several bootleggers and members of one of the most powerful ripping groups in the business. The files they provide, used to create DVDs and CDs of movies and music, are made available quickly (to beat the competition, otherwise their efforts are next to useless) and though this is a scripted account of the peer to peer world and the often shady characters who build it, it feels like an expose. What they do is illegal yet someone has to provide you that cheap copy of Episode 3-Revenge of the Sith or The Incredibles. THE SCENE depicts how it happens.

Created by jun group entertainment, a fresh episode debuts about every 3 weeks and 11 episodes are now online so there’s plenty to catch up on. All episodes of THE SCENE have been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times in over 70 countries around the world, and this is only the first of several planned shows, all intended to be free for downloading. Each episode is approximately 20 minutes long and several links are made available to procure each one. All totally free!

If you’ve ever wondered how the underground world of piracy works, this is your chance to see it from the inside. Well, just like you’re seeing it from the real inside.

Debate

Dictatorship class let out early.

Lagos left the classroom and saw his friend Inumæn the Cruel strolling across the campus and ran to catch up with his friend.

“Hey, bud,” he greeted.

“Yo.”

Lagos spied a book clutched tightly in the crook of his friend’s arm and asked about it. Inumæn held up a worn copy of Despotism for Dummies.

Lagos shook his head, chucking mirthlessly, “The Idiot’s Guide is better, but neither is an effective treatise. Having trouble in class?”

“Yeah,” his friend sighed.

“You wanna talk about it? Everyone needs allies; and second doesn’t start for another fifteen minutes.”

“Um,” he glanced at his watch, “Sure. We can get something at the coffee place around the corner.”

“Sounds good to me.”

They walked together in silence until the edifice loomed before them, a drab building baring an ornate plaque emblazoned with “The Conqueror’s Café.”

They went in, the bell on the door singing happily as it was jangled. The place was empty as it almost always was before second period, and they were able to saunter up to the counter, place their orders and retire to one of the back tables in a few minutes.

Lagos looked around, “This is what I like about the early morning. There’s no one here. It’s so quiet. Anyway,” he talked between sips, “What seems to be the trouble?”

“I don’t know. Lately I’ve just felt inconsequential, inadequate. I mean, you remember that short guy with the red hair? The dude that was wider than he was tall?”

He grunted an acknowledgment through a mouthful of coffee.

“Well recall he dropped out at the beginning of this semester.”

Another grunt.

“I found out today from the Last Free Press that he’s already subjugated most of Southeast Asia, and the rumors are saying that he’s the unseen ruler of the remaining portion of the continent.”

Lagos licked foam off his lips, “Don’t feel bad. You’ll find your niche.”

“It’s just that, if someone else can do it, so can I.”

“Like I said, don’t use the accomplishments of others as a basis for your own worth or achievements. That’s unfair. I’m sure that when your time comes, you’ll make a superb
totalitarian. You’ve got the strongest will on campus. And let’s not forget that suffix of yours.”

“Yeah,” he said, a smile blooming across his face, “I could be great couldn’t I?”

“That’s what I’ve been saying. Just relax and let the world realize it.”

“I will,” he nodded sharply, “Thanks Lagos.”

“Not a problem. Anything else bothering you?”

“The idea of conquest without contribution, maybe, but I think I’ll delegate that to one of my trusted lieutenants.”

“Always an excellent idea.”

“Well,” Inumæn glanced at his watch, “It’s almost time for second; I need to get going or I’ll be late.”

“You have math next don’t you?”

“Yeah. I hate Mr. Esken. He’s a tyrant!”

“First to go upon your succession, eh?”

“You bet!”

They laughed as they pulled out their chairs.

Meeting God.

Tom was confused. He had expected to feel a massive impact along with the horrible screeching of twisted metal as the SUV plowed into the driver’s door of his smaller car. He had clenched his jaw and shut his eyes at the last second when he realized what was about to happen and it was as if he had squeezed the whole of reality out of existence in doing so. No lurching feeling as the car was shoved sideways by the truck. No pelting of his face and hands by small bits of safety glass from the side window. No blaring of horns.

Nothing.

Just an unnerving silence and darkness such as he had never known before. He tried to open his eyes, but the darkness remained. He strained to hear anything and the silence was absolute. He couldn’t smell anything like you might expect at an accident scene either. It was then that he realized he couldn’t determine his body’s orientation; whether he was sitting, standing, or laying down. So he tried to sit up and was unable to determine if he had or not. As though all of his senses had gone completely mute at once. Now he was starting to panic.

“What the hell is going on?” he wondered aloud to himself. Or at least he thought it was out loud because he couldn’t tell if he had actually heard his own voice or just his thoughts of speaking. That made the reply he received that much more alarming when a familiar voice right beside him said, “You’re dead, Tom.”

Tom was sure he jumped, even though he had no means of knowing it for certain, because it’s exactly the sort of thing that would make you startle given the situation he was currently in. Between the total lack of sensory input and this one declaration, which Tom wasn’t even sure he hadn’t said himself, he was almost fully in the grip of panic now. He tried to do anything. Sit up. Run. Roll over. Grasp for hand holds. Anything that might give him some form of orientation and quell the fear racing through his mind.

“Just relax, Tom. Stop panicking and relax for a moment,” the voice next to him said, “And I’ll help you sort this out.” The voice was very reassuring and it did have a surprisingly calming effect on Tom despite his continued inability to sense anything else. So he tried to do as we was told and relax.

“Good. Now, let’s see if we can’t get you into an environment that is a little less upsetting for you. I want you to spend a couple moments thinking about light. Nothing too harsh, just a nice diffuse sort of light that is easy to see by.”

Tom’s mind was still racing, but he managed to get part of it to do as he was told and think about light. At first nothing much happened, but then he thought he could sense that the absolute darkness wasn’t quite so absolute anymore. More of a darkish brown color that was visibly lightening with each passing moment. Yes, everything was more of a muddy gray color now and as Tom continued to think of light his sense of vision continued to grow less dark until the absolute darkness was finally replaced by a nicely diffused white light.

Not that there was much to see because there wasn’t anything at all. The initial happiness Tom felt at no longer being in the dark was short lived when he realized that all he could see was endless light. No walls, ground, things, people, or objects of any kind. Not even himself. He tried to hold his hands up in front of his face and wasn’t able to determine whether he was unable to move or there weren’t any hands to see. His voice shaking Tom managed to say, “This is only a slight improvement.”

“Well you can’t expect to walk before you learn how to crawl, you know,” said the voice, this time from behind him. Tom tried to turn around and, to his surprise, a figure came into view. Tom was stunned to see himself within arms reach as though he were looking into a mirror. He worked his jaw to try and say something as he took in the details. The other Tom looked back at him with an expression of bemusement on his face. He was dressed just like Tom would dress; in blue jeans and a green teeshirt with black high top sneakers. His sandy brown hair was cut short above the ears and his face was cleanly shaved. There was a slight twinkle in the gray eyes that looked back at him. Tom had been trying to say something for several moments now, but had only managed to garble unintelligently at the man who looked just like him.

“Who am I?” said the other Tom repeating what Tom himself had been trying to say, unsuccessfully, himself. “I’m God. And I look just like you because I made you in my image, remember?”

Tom’s mind boggled at the thought of this even though it was exactly the sort of clichéd thing you’d expect a man who looks just like you who’s standing in an expanse of nothing but white light to say. Hundreds of heart-string manipulating Hollywood movies had used that same corny line. There was even more reason for Tom to have a hard time accepting the idea, though, and that was the fact that Tom was a lifelong atheist. He had never bought into the idea of a God of any kind.

“Yeah, you’re right,” said the God-Tom with an amused smile. “It is a corny line and I don’t actually look like you at all. Truth is I don’t look like anyone in particular, but it’s always a fun gag to pull on folks who’ve just made the transition. You’d be amazed how many people absolutely fail to realize I’m joking with them.” God-Tom paused for a moment with a thoughtful expression on his face and then added, “Joking about having made them in my image, that is. Not about me being God. That’s true. I am God.”

“But I don’t believe in gods!” Tom finally managed to blurt out. He was feeling more than a little overwhelmed. Quite understandable given the situation.

“That’s OK. Your belief is not a requirement for my existence anymore than my belief in you is a requirement for yours.”

Now that was something Tom wouldn’t have expected God to say. In fact, he thought, it runs counter to just about every major religion he had ever heard of. It was enough of a surprise to get Tom to forget about being scared out of his wits. “Wait a minute, did you just say…”

“That my belief in you is not a requirement for your existence, yes.”

“But I thought…”

“You were wrong. As are most people when it comes to what I am and how things work.”

“The Christians?”

“Wrong.”

“Muslims?”

“Them too.”

“Pagans?”

“Everybody. More or less. Though, at the same time, they did get some bits right. Come to think of it just about everyone who has ever pondered the idea of me got some aspects right and a whole lot of everything else about me wrong.”

“So who came the closest?”

“The Deists.” said God simply. It was then that Tom realized that his surroundings had changed.

They were now sitting on a very comfortable bench next to a burbling fountain in a garden of some sort. There were birds singing in the trees and the smells of flowers and trees in the air and a cool breeze meandering by as if it had no place in particular it had to be and was just out enjoying a stroll. Tom also realized that he could now see himself once more. He held up his hands in front of him and looked them over turning them this way and that.

God had changed as well, or at least his appearance had. He now looked like someone that Tom was sure he had never seen before, but somehow felt he had known for a long time. Tom found that he couldn’t determine with any certainty any of God’s details. What color his hair was, for instance. At first he thought it was red or maybe blond, definitely a lighter shade except that, no, it was brunette or perhaps brown. Definitely blue eyes, though, except they were green. No, brown. Definitely gray except… Tom decided to give up before even beginning to contemplate God’s gender. “I hope you don’t mind,” said God, “but I thought this would be a better environment for us to continue our conversation in.”

“I never even felt things change.” Tom said. “Did we move and I not notice? Or did everything just appear around us.”

“Which explanation is easier for you to deal with? Pick one and that’ll be the correct answer.” That didn’t help Tom understand what had happened at all. His mind was a cluttered mess of competing thoughts falling over each other and he was finding it hard to focus enough to ask all the questions pounding in his temples.

“Take your time. It’s not like we don’t have plenty of it now.” said God with a smile as he placed his hands behind his head and leaned back against the bench.

Tom took a deep breath, or what felt like a deep breath, and decided to give it another go starting with the basics. “So, you’re God.”

“Yes.” said God.

“And you created everything.”

“Pretty much. Though a lot of it is indirect in the sense that I started the whole shebang so I’m pretty much responsible for it. I created electrons and neutrons and the elemental forces and the rules on how they interact, for example, but I didn’t directly create things like houses and polyester and Buicks. I just came up with the stuff that made those things possible. The basic building blocks and tool sets if you like.”

Tom continued to the next logical question, “You know everything?”

“Kind of.” said God. “I know everything that has ever happened since the universe began and there isn’t a thing that happens that I’m not aware of anywhere within it. Contrary to popular belief, however, I don’t know the future. I couldn’t have told you, for example, that today is the day you would be killed in a car accident because it hadn’t happened yet.”

Tom scratched his head. “All that I’ve ever heard about God says you know absolutely everything including what has yet to happen.” Tom said, sounding more disappointed than he thought he should considering that until a short while ago he didn’t even believe such a being could possibly exist.

“Like I said, they were wrong. The problem is that people think of time as this thing you travel through going from a place called “the past” toward a place called “the future” when the truth is there’s just the here and now. I can’t know the future because it doesn’t literally exist to have knowledge of. Sometimes I can see patterns forming in reality and can make a pretty good guess as to what is about to transpire, but that’s all they are: guesses and predictions based on my knowledge of the nature of the reality I set in motion.” God leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees and stared off at nothing in particular for a moment as though he were gathering his thoughts. “Mind you,” he continued, “my guesses tend to be really good most of the time. But that has more to do with the amount of data I have to base them on than any innate power.”

Tom couldn’t help but voice the obvious implications of God’s statement, “But that means you can be wrong?”

God smiled happily at Tom, “You catch on quick. That’s quite true. More often than a lot of folks would be comfortable knowing, I’m sure. I’ve been wrong about a lot of things throughout the eons. I didn’t think you humans would have lasted as long as you have, for example. You guys got off to a rough start and despite all the progress you’ve made as a species there are still times that I think you’re going to bring about your own doom before the end of the day. You wouldn’t be the first beings to do so.”

“Wait, there have been others?”

“Of course. With a universe this big I would’ve thought that’d be obvious. There are countless planets teeming with life in all manner of forms and sentience is commonplace. The universe has been around a long time—even by my standards—and the number of worlds that have formed, supported life, and then died out either naturally or at the hands of its own occupants is huge. You guys aren’t the first and I’m guessing you won’t be the last either, though I could be wrong.” God smiled at Tom again. Tom laughed a little for the first time since this all started.

“I’ll probably want to talk more about that later,” said Tom, “but right now I’m going to continue with the basic questions. So what about being all-powerful then?”

God scratched his chin for a moment before replying, “Well if by all-powerful you mean could I end it all today if I wanted to then the answer is yes. I brought this universe into existence and I can take it back out again if I really wanted to. I also have the ability to reach down and interfere with the day to day happenings of the universe should I feel the need, but I generally don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I can’t change the past and I don’t know what the future will bring…” God paused for a moment and Tom thought he could sense a certain sadness in his voice. “And because I’ve been wrong before. There is only the here and now so I need to be careful about intervening lest I cause unintended consequences.”

“I always thought that was a human problem. I mean, you’re perfect, right?”

God shrugged. “Compared to what? Humans? Sure, I’m more or less perfect compared to most humans. To other gods? I don’t know of any other gods to compare myself to. Do you?”

“That was going to be my next question: are there any other gods?”

God smiled again. “I don’t know. There could be. I’ve never met any, but simply because I haven’t doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I’m only all-knowing in regards to the universe I created. Outside of that realm it gets pretty surreal even for me so I suppose there could be other gods I’m not aware of, but not as far as this universe is concerned.”

“Fair enough,” said Tom. “Now for the big question: Why?”

“Why what?” said God quizzically.

“Why are we here? Why did you create the universe and all the life forms in it?”

“Oh, well, you’re not going to like the answer. Almost no one ever does. Are you sure you want to know?”

“Absolutely.” said Tom.

“I was bored.”

Tom just stared at God for a moment before asking, “You were bored?

“Well, yeah. Before I created the universe there was only me. Can you imagine that? Nothing else for all of infinity. Just me. Nothing to do. No job, no hobbies, no purpose to speak of. No fellow gods to hang out and shoot the shit with…” Tom’s jaw dropped at God’s use of profanity. God looked momentarily confused. “What?”

“You swore! You used the word ‘shit’ just now!”

God shrugged again. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“Well, isn’t it?” Tom asked.

“It’s a word. A colloquialism. One that I know you’re more than familiar with. I’m just trying to talk to you in a fashion that you’ll understand.”

“So it’s not a bad word?”

“Do you want it to be?”

“Well, no. Not particularly.” It was, in fact, one of Tom’s favorite swear words. “Anyway, you were saying.”

“Right. So, like I said, I was bored and looking for something to do that would be interesting and I’d never created a whole universe before so I thought I’d see what would happen if I did.”

“I take it that means there isn’t some sort of divine plan then.”

“And you’d be right,” said God. “No divine plan to speak of. Just a desire for something interesting to do for awhile. I didn’t create the universe and all the life found within it just so I could have someone around to tell me how wonderfully, amazingly, great I am nor did I have a list of rules I expected everyone to follow in order to get on my good side. The truth is, I just wanted to see what would happen.”

“Does that mean you don’t care? I mean, are we nothing more than an entertaining diversion for you?”

“I do care, just not in the fashion you’re thinking of. I want nothing more than for everyone to have the opportunity to live a fulfilling life, but that’s not something I can provide for you through direct intervention or long lists of rules and expectations. That’s something you have to do on your own.” Tom shifted in his seat as he tried to digest what he was being told.

“What about right and wrong? Where do those come from?”

“From yourselves. Look at your history. As time has passed things like slavery went from being OK to being intolerable, but even today there are places on Earth where slavery is still practiced because the people don’t see anything wrong with it. Killing is generally agreed as being wrong, but with a long list of exceptions to the rule.”

“The thing you people don’t seem to understand is that you have to deal with something that I never have: living with your equals. There are no other gods around for me to have to try and get along with. I can’t steal from them or murder them or sleep with their wives because there’s aren’t any other gods. Or at least, as I said, none that I’ve met so far. The idea that some actions are ‘right’ while others are ‘wrong’ is a result of having to try and get along with other people. Why would you expect me to have rules on how to get along with each other when I’ve never had to worry about getting along with anyone? Fairness, justice, right and wrong are all human concepts resulting from the reality of your situation and not something handed down from me. I just gave you the opportunity to exist and thrive, what you do with that opportunity is up to you folks.”

Tom thought about that for a moment. It certainly seemed like a reasonable explanation so he set it aside and looked around at the garden. “So is this Heaven then?”

“Not by traditional definitions of the word, no. Neither, before you ask, is it Hell. Technically there are no such places. Though there could be if you wanted them to exist and, oddly enough, some folks do.”

“I don’t get it,” Tom said with a puzzled look on his face, “how does what I want make a difference in whether there’s a Heaven or a Hell? Or, for that matter, whether or not ‘shit’ is a bad word?”

“It’s all a matter of perception. If you perceive that ‘shit’ is a bad word then, for you, it is a bad word. Some folks would perceive this garden as being Heaven because it’s everything they expect Heaven to be based on the belief system they adhere to. Others might see it as an ironic form of Hell because, as you’ve probably noticed, being in my presence doesn’t fill you with awe and a warm fuzzy feeling of overwhelming peace and love and for some people Hell is nothing more than being absent those feelings which they believe some folks will get to experience.”

That made sense, but it left Tom wondering just where the actually were if not in Heaven or Hell. “So,” he began, “where exactly are we then?”

God smiled again and said, “Nowhere in particular. I know that doesn’t help, but it’s the best answer I can give you. You no longer have a corporal form so you don’t necessarily have to ‘be’ anywhere at all.”

“So is any of this real?” Tom asked as he waved his hands around at the garden they were sitting in.

“In the sense of it being an actual, physical, place it is not part of reality, no. When you died you left behind the vehicle that provided your consciousness with information about the physical world. Your sense of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. A mind without those sensory inputs would experience exactly what you did. Absolute nothingness. This garden and the sensations it’s providing to you, including your perception of having a body, is artificial in the sense that it’s not the result of stimulus generated by the universe you are familiar with. How real it is, however, is again a matter of perception.”

“The wonderful thing about perceptions is that you can change yours whenever you want to. Here, in this state of existence, that means that what you perceive to be real is largely a matter of what you decide it to be. Because you expected nothing what you got was nothing. For other people it’s an entirely different experience.”

Tom’s brow furrowed as he tried to take this in. “If reality here is largely a matter of what we believe it to be then how come I could perceive you despite my lack of belief in your existence?”

“Because I’m God.” said God simply. Hard to argue with that one, thought Tom. Still, he had one more question left to ask.

“How is this even possible? How is it that consciousness survives death or that something as incredibly complex as you would have to be in order to fashion an entire universe out of nothingness is within the realm of possibility?”

“Honestly?” God said with a smile. “I haven’t the faintest idea.”

INTRUSIVE BELIEFS

I DON’T WANT TO INTRUDE MY BELIEFS

By Peter Fredson

(A Political-Religious Satire)

President Jet Fratboy was speechifying to an executive session of Christian Conservatives the other day and we were lucky enough to record some of his speech before we were handcuffed, flogged and thrown out bleeding on the street.

“Friends, it’s an honor to speak informally to this group of honest Christian reconstructionists, dominionists, Moral Majoritarians, and Christian Coalitionists.  I told you in 1998 that if you got me elected, I would pay you back many fold. We all followed the strategy of misdirection, stealth, deceit, denial, and downright imposition and it worked.  It worked real good! I told everybody that I wouldn’t intrude my religion on anybody, and they bought the story. Whatta bunch of losers!

 

“Friends, you know that I’m President now by the grace of God, Jesus Christ and probably the Virgin Mary too. They selected me for this job and I’m gonna repay them.  I thank Jerry, Billy, Jimmy, Rushdooty, Franklin, Gary, Paul, Dick and all the other 48,000 televangelists.  Without their data bases, computer lists, Sunday sermons on voting choices, selecting me as the Christian choice, I couldn’t have beaten those stinking liberals. I gotta good relationship with Jesus, which everybody otta have. Nobody otta be allowed to be President that ain’t a True Christian.

“First of all, I’m tired of all the Christian Bashing going on.  I’m gonna stop it. I’m passing a law prohibiting blasphemy and derogatory talk about religious leaders. Anybody attacking my friends Jerry, Billy, Jimmy, Johnny, Ronnie or others are gonna find themselves in jail for disturbing the peace. I’m gonna shut down all those liberal media and all those lyin’ reporters. They’ll never work again.

“Second, I’m sick and tired of all that ruckus about prayer in school.  We always had it and we’re always gonna have it. I’ve made up an executive order for it.  Me and my good Christian friends have made up a non-denominational Christian prayer that everybody in school is gonna say every morning, just before they say the Pledge of Allegiance…the one where God rules this nation, you better betcha. By the time those damned activist judges know what hit them it’ll be too late.

“And speaking of activist liberal judges…well, they ain’t gonna be around long.  I’m getting rid of all of them, one by one. And I’m putting in good solid Christian True Believers in the Supreme Court so no atheist sonsabitches can murder babies, commit sodomy, blaspheme, or worship any other Gods but our own really True God. And that’s a fact!

“And starting tomorrow I’m issuing a proclamation declaring this is the Century of the Bible, the world’s greatest book, and that every school is gonna teach those precious words that the Creator hisself said to Moses and other old Jews. And I’m making the laws conform to that dear sacred book to save all our souls. I don’t mean to intrude my beliefs on anybody, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

“And next month I’m issuing an executive order to print a picture of Our Lord himself on our Fifty Dollar bills, with a picture of Moses carrying the Ten Commandments on the dollar bill.  That’ll show those sonsabitchin atheists.

“And them I’m gonna change the antiquated Constitution to reflect our Holy Bible. I kin do it.  I got the entire Republican Party behind me on that. Orin says he can figger out how to do it without having a recorded vote.

“And then I’m issuing an order to print a million copies of parchment with the original words of the Ten Commandments and post them in every Court Room, School Room, Congressional Office and washroom. I’m gonna print the 10 Commandments on every driver’s license and nobody will be allowed to vote until they swear they have accepted Jesus as Lord.  My daddy was right when he said that atheists couldn’t be citizens.  Now we’re gonna shut them up for good.

“And we’re gonna open every session of court, congress and federal office with a nice little prayer made up by my wife, which nobody could possibly object to, except some sonsabitchin atheist. I’m putting up a nice little altar in the Oval Office, with a baptismal font, and anybody that wants a contract with me gotta be sprinkled first.

“Ya remember I said I would take care of your needs.  Well, I’m starting a new Federal Bureau BELIEF AND FAITH IN GOD because I know I kin trust you guys with money. I’m giving you lots of money to go out and spread the good news about Jesus and God and all that other good stuff.  I’m putting General Boycan in charge of that. We got too many heathen here in this country and it’s gotta stop. I want you to figger out how to evangelize this entire nation, lock-stock-and barrel. I want everybody down on their knees, praying day and night.  I want them feminist women to shut their traps and get back to cookin and cleanin, where God meant them to be. And they gotta give us nooky whenever we want it, like God said. But you gotta be careful at first.  Some people are gonna make trouble, so you gotta do it with stealth, and deceit and misdirection… like I did. Always tell them that you won’t intrude your sacred beliefs on them. That’s the story, so let’s stick to it.

“Don’t worry about the constitution because my lawyers figgerd out that I kin do anything I please.  After all, I’m a War President!  It don’t matter that I started the war, once I got it going good nobody kin stop it. As you know, God told me that he’s on our side. And, when I say God, it’s not the fake one of the Muslims, no sir. And if anybody brings up that old junk about Separtition of Church and State just tell ‘em they have misunderestimated and underjudged …… ”

At this point 50 men in heavy armor, gas masks, night vision goggles, black boots, black masks, rifles, pistols, grenades, tear gas and clubs stormed in to stop the dastardly recording of their beloved president. I knew I shouldn’t have worn that T-Shirt that said: “JET LIED, PEOPLE DIED.”

Maybe someone will find this cassette recording, even if I never am released again. Whatta shame. It used to be a pretty nice country!

 

Light: Bright Like A Soul Burning!

The ocean moved toward the shore as I moved toward the ocean – the Atlantic, and a city older than it’s country, yet still too country in many ways. I found a residence in Charleston, South Carolina and began to seek a job. I was lucky in more ways than I had hoped to be as I soon met an investor who wanted to open a dance club in an old behemoth of a building he owned, that mostly owned him instead. He imagined he would turn it into a popular spot for the fickle and frenetic Friday night revelers, and he needed someone to design and build a fantastic interior space. After being promised a budget I could feel comfortable with, I began to plan what Abraxas would become. I was ecstatic!

In order to know how to be original, I needed to see what other clubs and bars in the city had to offer, so I began to visit them one by one. A certain night I checked out a bar called enTRANCE, situated in a three story building that once must have been a factory or hotel, as large as it was. It housed a restaurant on the ground floor, a typical bar layout on the second, and a cavernous dance floor on the third. Not one to dismiss the perks allowed me while sizing up the competition, I had a marvelous free meal then proceeded to the bar for complementary drinks. I wasn’t wanting to get drunk though, as I needed to be observant and able to remember what I was seeing. The owner was there and he offered to answer whatever questions I might have, since he knew full well that a popular location would bring the tourists in and once there, they often hopped from bar to club to bar to restaurant to club and back again. He would see a sizable increase in traffic for his business if we were half the draw we hoped to be.

So I had a couple of drinks, talked about the patrons and their preferences and eventually excused myself to check out the dance area. I made my way up the stairs and entered a different space altogether than the bar area I had left behind. Here it was darker and more abandoned than I expected it to be. I was looking for lighting placements and the potential effects lights can have, working in succession, and if they complimented and enhanced the trance and ambient music playing there.

There were fewer patrons there than I had expected to see, perhaps twenty, and each of them seemed to be alone and self-satisfied, dancing drunkenly or hypnotically to the atmospheric sounds and surprisingly sparse lighting schemes. I walked to a back wall, leaned against it and watched, lost in the thoughts I was forming of my club-to-be and how it would make this place seem boring by comparison. I scanned the room and suddenly, as I was looking up for mirror balls, strobes and blinkers, a gradually-building-to-intense flash of light caught my attention. It wasn’t a large effect, being about the size of the moon when fully effected, but it was incredibly white, brilliant and complex. As I stared, this light seemed to pulsate and spin while moving in and out. It seemed as though it reached toward me and retreated, only to pulse and writhe again and again. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, it was gone. I looked for the apparatus that housed it yet could see nothing but the dark wall it should have been affixed to. I thought then that perhaps I had miscalculated it’s location and I made a mental note to ask the owner about it later. It was possible, too, that it was a retracting assembly that wouldn’t be visible until the DJ or light board operator flipped a switch. Dismissing an uneasy feeling, I finished my drink, gave my attention back to the music and returned to my mental musings of bars and clubs and exotic things that flash agreeably in the dark. I wanted music, lights and visible space to amplify each effect’s separate appeal at Abraxas. I wanted our patrons to have both an orgasm and a religious experience when they came there.

When I eventually returned to the bar level I remembered that I wanted to ask about the unique lighting effect I had seen and I sought out the owner to do so. I explained to him what I had observed and where, and waited for him to tell me how to locate his supplier. To my surprise he gave a shocked look and asked me to show him where I had seen it. I walked with him up the stairs and pointed to the space a little more than halfway up the wall and to the left of the DJ’s windowed booth where I had witnessed the effect. He assured me that no retractable effects were housed there and asked me to again explain what it had looked like. When I had finished attempting to completely describe it, he smiled ruefully and said:

“You aren’t the only one to have seen this light you describe. It has been observed a few other times that I know of and I can assure you it is nothing I had installed. I always hope to see it for myself but have not been so fortunate. I’ve been told it’s beautiful and somewhat unnerving at the same time.”

I told him it was a indeed a gorgeous effect but that I had been made somewhat uncomfortable by it, too. I thanked him for his time and conversation and left to check out a smaller bar, down a few doors, on the same street. 

That was four years ago and sadly, Abraxas never made it past the planning stage. Situated in one of the most crime-ridden areas of the city, the site would have cost more in security and outdoor lighting than it would have been worth. We couldn’t be sure patrons would be willing to allay their fears and venture into such a dangerous zone. Sad as it was for me; I had developed numerous technical drawings and ideas for effects and sets that, once they were realized, would have amazed anyone who saw them, I continue to work for the investor I met then.

Recently a college friend and her husband came to visit and I endeavored to think of things we could do and sites we could see to make their visit memorable. It was decided one thing we should do would be to take a ghost tour. After all, being in America’s most haunted city, it just seemed right.

Charleston reportedly has numerous ghosts and so no less than six Ghost Walks exist to facilitate touring the city’s many haunted sites. We chose one and met the host and other walkers at about 11:00 pm one cloudy, dark night at the starting place. We then set out to visit a dozen sites around the Historic Old Charleston area and listened as our guide explained each site’s claim to haunted fame.

We had been walking for about an hour when we stopped in an older section of town and our host directed our attention to a three story brick building approximately thirty yards away.

“The building you see there was, in the mid 1800’s, a mirror factory. It’s third floor, now enclosed by the large windows you see, was mostly open and giant fans situated in front of the openings helped to pull excess heat from the room. Large vats, which held either molten glass or molten silver nitrate bubbled hotly, eventually reaching temperatures of 3000 plus degrees. Silver nitrate was used to coat formed panes of glass, thus giving the glass a reflective property.”

“It was during such a period of vat preparation that a nineteen-year-old employee had been instructed to adjust certain vents in the ceiling of the structure so that excessively gathered heat could escape the structure. Sliding along a platformed track assembly bolted to the ceiling, he approached levered vent panels and began to adjust their positions to allow larger openings for heat to dissipate. Somehow, at some point, the young man lost his safe position on the platform and fell, managing as he toppled to grab onto the edge of the platform. He hung there screaming while workers below scrambled to rescue him.”

“It just so happened that he had toppled off directly over the churning, roiling vat of liquid silver nitrate. While he hung, those witnessing the event excitedly labored to position a rolling ladder into place to retrieve him. He hung for as long as he could manage, but fatigue and gravity eventually overcame him and he plunged screaming into the dreaded vat before he could be rescued.”

“Some recalled that once he hit the surface of the liquid, the moisture in his body caused an explosion of steam and the liquid silver in the vat boiled over the sides and splattered,  causing those standing nearby to be burned by airborne molten silver and rolling steam. A brief intense flash of light was observed as his flesh quickly boiled away and those who witnessed it said it was an all-consuming light: bright like a soul burning. The heat, they believed, had been intense enough to catch his very soul on fire!”

As our host spoke these last words of the legend, my eyes traveled to the structure and to the mammoth and dark windows of the third floor. Suddenly a bright, cascading light erupted from behind the black surface and reached toward me. One drawn out acute flash, then nothing, then, just as suddenly, another more intense build of eldritch light and then nothing again. The window was now dark. This sighting was familiar!

“Did anyone else see that?” I asked the entire group.

My friend’s husband admitted that he had. “What was it?” he wondered aloud.

No one else attested to seeing anything out of the ordinary so Mike and I began to describe to our host, and to those assembled, what we had seen.

“Well, I don’t know what it was” our host admitted,  “I do know, though, that the building is empty. A few years ago a club called enTRANCE was situated there but it closed down about three years ago and the building has remained empty since.”

I suddenly didn’t know what to think. I hadn’t recognized the building as the club I had visited several years before, never having seen the building from this distance. When I saw it before, it was from much closer up and from the front.

I still understand little of what I saw on those two occasions, but I know now that I’m not the only one to have seen this strange light: bright like a soul burning.

I’d like to try an experiment…

…and I need your help. I’ve mentioned before that I wanted to get back into writing more short stories as practice for eventually getting around to writing something approximating a novel—I even started a category on the blog to hold my attempts at fiction—but so far I’ve been hard pressed to come up with story ideas to write about. So here’s what I’d like you guys to do as a bit of fun: Challenge me with a story idea.

Pick a situation, topic, concept, scene, or what have you that you think might make for an interesting short story and either leave it in the comments or email it to me and I’ll try to write a short story about it. Maybe it’ll be a couple of pages or maybe it’ll be a couple of sentences. Either way it’ll help me to flex my creative muscles and give us some content for a poorly under-used category here on SEB. What do you think? Sound like fun?