Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Deadwood story -- is that any way to raise a child? part 1

~~~
Carrie Anne getting shooting lessons.

Dio had never planned on being a parent--after the whole situation with her having lost the baby when he was only a few months old, and then...well, she’d had these strange fevers not long afterwards, and following that, no matter how much she and Jack tried, Dio couldn’t seem to get pregnant again. So she had pretty much given up on that whole notion of having a family.

Yet now here she was with this girl, Carrie Anne, to look after and to live with...and to talk to. Dio enjoyed talking to people most of the time, as long as it didn’t get too personal. But now she found herself and Carrie Anne talking quite a bit. It was funny, Dio had no idea of how most people would expect a child to behave, or how an adult was expected interact with a young’un. She certainly had nothing from her own childhood to guide her except how Papaw Marcus had treated her...which was pretty much just like he treated anyone else--with respect, consideration and humor, unless of course they gave him reason to act otherwise.

Dio really didn’t even know how you were supposed to talk to a child. So she talked to Carrie Anne the way her grandfather had talked to her. Which was pretty much just like the way normal grown-up folks talk to each other, providing they ain’t feckless idiots. And Carrie Anne seemed to appreciate that--years later she told a friend that Dio never talked to her like she was a kid.

“She always treated me like I was another of her friends. If I didn’t understand something she said, I would just ask and she would go ahead and explain it to me in a matter-of-fact way, even if it was a kinda touchy subject....and to be honest, more often than not, the topics of her conversation were in fact something touchy.”

It was perhaps emblematic of the nature of their relationship that Carrie Anne invariably addressed her new surrogate parent as “Dio.” In their first years together, Carrie Anne never, ever referred to Dio as “Ma,” because after all, she wasn’t. Nor did Carrie Anne call her “Ma’am,” unless it was just by sort of accident or habit, like a hasty “Yes’m” when asked to do something.

And Carrie Anne did quite a bit. She happily threw herself into chores at the No. 10 with a will. She even learned the proper method to draw a beer for a customer from the tap that was mounted on the back wall of the bar room. I should explain here that Dio had installed a pipe that went from the tap through the wall into the back room that served as combined storage, office and living quarters for her and Carrie Anne. There, the piping connected to the beer kegs which were kept in a large ice-cooled cabinet that was made of thick oak and lined with zinc-coated sheet iron.

Dio was very proud of this set-up. She had arranged for a reliable supply of excellent local lager that was brewed by some German boys in Gayville, a town not far from Deadwood City. That fact, combined with her use of the ice-cooled cabinet and tap system, ensured that Dio’s customers never got beer that was gone all skunky from age or heat, or being too long in the back of a freight wagon. So of course, it was a point of honor to make sure that Carrie Anne could effectively help with the operation of this key piece of equipment.

Being a bright and dexterous girl, she quickly learned the correct way to hold the clean mug under the tap at a certain angle, and to adjust that angle as the mug filled, thereby producing just the perfect amount of foam--not too much, and not too little. They quickly realized that with the addition of an old ammo box for her to stand on, Carrie Anne was at the ideal height to execute this vital operation in a consistent and comfortable way.

Once the art of drawing a beer had been mastered, the girl undertook to practice the next and most theatrical element of serving the drinks, which was to slide the foaming beer mug down the bar to a customer. After a few weeks of practicing with chipped mugs filled with water, Carrie Anne was capable of slinging lager like a professional, sending each mug down the boards straight as an arrow from a Cheyenne bow, without them stopping short...or even worse, going on too far, too fast and plummeting into nothingness.

People liked the No. 10 for a lot of reasons. First of all, it was reasonable: two bits got a customer two glasses of lager. But another big part of its appeal was just the way it felt in there--and of course having a polite, smiling little blond-haired girl helping to serve the drinks with efficiency and aplomb just added to the sort of atmosphere that Dio hoped to foster in her place.

Not to mention it tended to encourage some mighty generous tipping.

Anyhow, you could not have imagined a better arrangement for a middle-aged, cranky confederate widow and an intelligent child who exhibited a persona that was astonishingly good natured, considering that her father had not treated her too well and in the end, had abandoned her. They simply enjoyed each other's company. But you should not think for minute that Dio only looked on Carrie Anne as just another friend who happened to be shorter than most of her other acquaintances.

Dio took the idea of being a surrogate parent very seriously, and made a sustained effort to follow the parenting patterns that she had witnessed at the hands of Papaw Marcus: she began teaching Carrie Anne how to ride and to shoot, and passed on knowledge of healing herbs and poultices such as Indians and country folk understand. She had Carrie Anne attend school when a teacher was around, and also encouraged her to read on her own. Among the books Dio made available to the girl were the volumes of Shakespeare and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius that had belonged to her grandfather.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Carrie Anne also started to acquire an introduction to the theory and practice of artistic cussing, although that may not have been something that Dio intentionally set as a goal for the child’s education.

All in all, Dio was just as goddamn fond of this little girl as any one human being can be of another. And, oh, my word, she was inordinately proud of her...

Well...

Except there was this one time....

I might as well tell you about the occasion when Carrie Anne and her friend Elizabeth damn near drowned this lil’ peckerhead named Alonzo...
~~~

Friday, November 27, 2009

On being thankful for things both inside and outside of Second Life

~~~
The Macy's flagship store at Herald Square in Manhattan.

Hamlet Au has put up an open-forum post asking his readers what SL people they are thankful for on this weekend that follows upon the heels of the American "Thanksgiving" holiday (also known in some circles as the "Feast of the Inordinate Consumption").

I felt compelled to put in my two-cents, which was as follows:

I'm thankful for:

- friends like Aldo Stern and Betty Doyle, because it IS a social medium after all, although not in the way that the marketing nabobs seem to think it is...

- all the folks in the rp communities I am part of, like Deadwood and Hogwarts United--just like rl families, it ain't always tidy, it ain't always pretty, but by God, it's good to have some place you feel like you belong...

- the contrarians and non-conformist voices like Prokofy Neva and Crap Mariner--yeah, they can be infuriating, annoying and oftentimes downright wrong, but sometimes someone has to look at things differently for the dialogue to have real meaning: if they didn't exist, we'd probably have to invent them...

- the Lindens who see the need to try to understand who their customers really are and what they want and need. I know there are those of us who argue that lack of such perspicacity is one of the things that frustrates us the most about the company, but you do periodically see evidence that there are some LL folks who actually freakin' get it...

- my good friends and fellow writers of rp-based serials (our odd-little sub-genre of metaverse fiction)--people like Rhianon Jameson and Headburro Antfarm, whom I can always count on to not only read my blog, but also actually comment on the silly thing...

- All the wacky and brilliant virtual library folks like JJ Drinkwater and Riven Homewood, who have have spent the last several years bringing to fruition their wonderful ideas about what the platform can do in terms of enabling widely dispersed people to share information, ideas, and stories...

- And finally, the funny folks at SecondLie...because, well...because damn it, they ARE awfully funny more often than not. Plus, if we can't still laugh about all this nonsense we're involved in, it's probably time to turn off the machine and go do something else for a while.

________________________________________

I also wanted to add that with the growing significance of Black Friday, I am hugely grateful I no longer work in retail as I did in the days of my largely misspent youth. This time of year I always think of the occasion about 8 years ago when I made the rash and pointless decision to visit the Macy's flagship store in NYC on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

As I was slowly shuffling along as part of a massive, unbroken swarm of grim shoppers trying to enter the store, all sandwiched together like CD's on a cheap shelving unit from Ikea, I observed a young-ish African American junior management-type dressed in a rather nice suit, standing by a door that was permanently jammed open and repetitively greeting the slowly moving line of customers with a droning refrain:

"Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's..."

I guessed he had been there a while. His voice was a weary monotone, repeating that same phrase, like a scratched and skipping LP.

As I finally got to the point where I was passing the young man, I listened to him continue his mantra, but with one slight adjustment in the middle:

"Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Hell. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's. Welcome to Macy's..."

I hope that poor guy is having a better weekend, wherever he is now. And I sincerely hope that all of you have a lovely weekend as well, wherever you are.

~~~

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Well, everyone else has, so I might as well too...Xstreet

~~~

My good buddy Headburro has added his concise two cents worth regarding LL's fumbled handling of the Xstreet changes. He concludes that he doesn't like greed, and I responded, at some length (as I am wont to do). I've been think some more, and I decided that I wanted to expand on what I wrote, in part to try prune out some of the profanity (I'm trying, Rhia, I'm really trying). But I also want to be as fair as I could to the Lab, because after all, they are a necessary partner with us in making the platform what it is. The staff at LL obviously includes individuals of good intent, who work very hard trying to keep something running that is by now probably the coders' equivalent of Rube Goldberg's steampowered back-scratcher and catbox-cleaning device, Mk II. The bottom line is they need to make this turkey as profitable as it possibly can be.

So as far as greed, well....you know, in a lot of ways, I’m ok with greed. It’s a wonderful basic human motivator. To a great extent I am much more conformable with LL displaying signs of good old fashioned, cold, hard avarice than I ever was with their whole laissez-faire, hippy-dippy love machine philosophy where they seemed to ignore or even buddy up with griefers, and evidently let key staff focus on their own priorities rather than focusing on what the customer base wanted or needed. Improvements, as often as not, were not something the general population really wanted or needed. Sometimes, yes they were great...but just as frequently, they broke something else when they were put into play.

This Xstreet thing is a bit different from those artistic and structural improvments that may or may not have enhanced the product itself. These changes may in fact actually serve to reduce clutter on the Xstreet catalog of content, and make looking for something more efficient. But is it really something the population was asking for? Or was it simply a move calculated to increase the profitability of the operation? Clearly the Lab folks did not handle this well from a customer relations point of view.

Look, I really have no big issue with them trying to maximize profits--HOWEVER, if they are going to embrace the Dark Side and try to squeeze the population for all the turnip blood they can drink, they really need to make sure that platform also runs reliably and smoothly, and issues with inventory etc. are resolved as well as possible. Otherwise all the turnips will eventually give up and go do something else in some other turnip patch.

Quite simply, an increase in the cost of utilizing the platform must be accompanied by at least some incremental improvement in how it functions, or eventually even the most hardy, dedicated customers will get frustrated and discouraged, and they shall migrate to bright, shiny new lands.

Go ahead and embrace your greed, but by golly, give me something in return.

Mind you, I say that with the qualification that this Xstreet fiasco is something that affects me in a largely symbolic way, rather than the very real way that it affects my friends and acquaintances who are content creators and who actually try to sell their products there. In fact, I personally always found Xstreet of little use as anything other than a convenient product catalog to search for objects that I couldn’t locate using SL’s wretched search function.

My usual pattern was this: I’d think something like, "Hmm I sure could use an anvil and forge," (just because a girl needs to treat herself to something pretty now and then). So I'd go to the in-world SL "search" function, looking for something like “Blacksmith” or "forge" in the classified and places sections. After I would end up sufficiently irritated and annoyed, I would then proceed to Xstreet, put "blacksmith forge" into the search box, get a long list of stuff, and sort through it. Once I had found some actual blacksmith equipment, I'd get the info about who made the examples worth considering, and then go look at them in-world. Finally, I would buy one directly from the maker’s store or vending gizmo.

But, If something I wanted was only sold on Xstreet, then I’d say the heck with it, I don’t need it badly enough to fiddle around with actually using the meshugga thing to buy something.

Well, with one recent exception.

The only thing I ever bought off Xstreet was, ironically enough, a freebie: Gigs Taggert's target overlay, a handy gizmo which allows you to make anything into an handy adjunct to shooting practice. I understood from various people you could possibly locate these in-world somewhere, but by golly, I never could find them. It was the only case where I actually really needed something that I could only find on Xstreet–and it just happened to be a freebie. If it had cost something, you know, I probably would have still gone ahead and coughed up the lindens for it. I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with giving folks who spend their time building and scripting something in return for efforts. But I really don't like buying things on Xstreet. I prefer seeing what I am purchasing in-world and thinking it over. This target gizmo really was an exception.

And as for the Lindens--just like I want to see success and profits for all the content creators, even people who make stuff I don't particularly like or care about--I want to see LL succeed. I want to see them attract and retain oodles of happy, shiny recreational users, like me and all my literary and rp buds. I hope LL finds huge stinking piles of lovely corporate clients who will buy their "corporate silo in a box" packages, so they can hold lots and lots of lovely meetings where the participants are able to go take a dump and get coffee in rl, while their avatars sit there and help create the illusion that someone actually gives a rat's tookus about what Lois from marketing is droning on about.

But if the Lindens are going to succeed, they need to be more thoughtful and less arrogant about how they deal with us, and how they look at their product and their customers. I have said it before and I will say it again up until my avatar's de-rezzing day: they need to genuinely and sincerely try to get in touch with who their customers are, and seek to understand what we want and need, and to grasp how we are seeking to make the most of their product.

~~~

Monday, November 23, 2009

Life at virtual Hogwarts -- an update

~~~
On the grounds of Hogwarts castle.

My friend Headburro Antfarm recently asked for an update on how things are going in my other rp venue, Hogwarts United. And of course, I am always glad to accommodate HB’s requests, just as I heed his suggestions. So here’s a quick summary of how things are going:

* I got through my entire first term of being there without injuring any students or destroying the library.

* At the end of that first term, they made me Head Librarian. (not because I was wonderful or anything, but because Sio Timeless, the previous Head Librarian has some real-life issues to deal with and they had to plug somebody into the gap).

* I found that most people I encountered, especially the students seemed to like the character I had created, and especially enjoyed her occasional correspondence.

* Once I became head librarian I undertook the task of reorganizing the actual note-card-based books that the library has, trying to get them consistently filed alphabetically by author. That made me feel very useful and accomplished.

* I made some nice friends on the staff especially Professors Nyx Carnell (Phoenyx Firehawk) and Avaya Wirefly. They’re fun, delightful people, dedicated teachers, and damn fine rp’ers.

* I have recruited a couple of library assistants who show great promise. I have already discovered that one of them, Quinn Porthos, shares my enthusiasm for blowing shit up.

* I have had a great deal of fun. And I still am, even with the whole “being given responsibility” thing, which was something I was trying desperately to avoid. (oh well).

Working in the restricted collections o the library.

I have enjoyed getting to experience a type of rp that is very different from what I am used to in places like Deadwood. First off, there is a whole lot less random violence, and I can’t cuss like I am used to. I do say “bloody hell” alot, however, especially when something happens like the castle being swarmed by charmed pumpkins hopping through its halls, or cursed books exploding into flames when you try to to get them to reveal what sort of spell has been cast over them.

I have been very impressed by the faculty, who put a great deal of significant effort into preparing the lessons--doing research, writing their syllabi and handouts for the students, and setting up demonstrations of various sorts to make the classes interesting. The one thing that I find to be a drawback to the system is that such a commitment is required of the teachers in developing and presenting their classes, these folks frequently don’t seem to have a lot of time or energy for actually doing much roleplaying. The faculty in general take their responsibilities extremely seriously.

Which was probably why I found myself directing Dio in a direction that is, like her role in Deadwood, sort of a one-woman Greek Chorus commenting upon the action or filling out the big scenes, but which also includes a bit more comic relief than I offer in other rp settings.

You may recall that her backstory revolves around being a former auror who was retired early with PTSD--so Dio has her quirks and will periodically do or say things to surprise or befuddle people who expect librarians to act in a certain way. One odd tendency that sort of evolved on its own without me really planning it, is that I will be extremely formal in speech and manners with people I do not know well, or in most normal professional circumstances. However, with friends, or when I get excited or angry, I become much more casual and rather coarse (at least as much as one can be in a PG sim). When no one in authority is looking, I also am inclined to draw on my background in magical combat and no-holds-barred spell casting to deal with various situations.

For example, there currently is a movement afoot among the students protesting the requirement to wear robes to class, and they have been marking the castle up with graffiti. I found some of this graffiti on one of the library tables, and becoming frustrated after trying to clean it off with the usual “tergeo “ charm, I just used a combat spell to blast the marking off permanently. Miss Porthos was in attendance to put out any resulting fires (which she did, quite nicely) and she agreed with me that the pyrotechnics that ensued were worth the resulting char marks on the table top. We’re going to leave the damage in place for awhile to stand as our own “message” to would-be graffiti artists.

The table with the graffiti "cleaned off." Don't worry...I am sure I can remove the burn marks...eventually.

The real place for me to exercise my proclivity for comic relief, however, has been in making up ridiculous titles for nonexistent books when a student asks for something that isn’t actually in the current limited collection. Another source of some yuks are the letters I have sent by way of my owl “Rasputin” to different people on various occasions. The following was a letter I sent to one of the professors who also works for the Ministry of Magic, and who was supposed to be cracking down on the use of unauthorized portkeys (magical teleportation devices).

A rather seedy looking owl of indeterminate age and type wheels crazily through the twilight, pauses to look around in apparent confusion or possibly the owl equivalent of Alzheimer's disease.

It then crashes onto your windowsill, and lies there looking fairly ill. As you open the window to retrieve the message it is clutching in its badly trimmed claws, it vomits up some partially digested mouse remains, and then blinks its eyes at you in a expression that can only be described as one of mild irritation.

As you go to close your window again, it suddenly ruffles itself, shedding a few mangy looking feathers and one or two of some kind of insectoid parasite. It also seems to have dandruff.

The message reads:

To:
Mr. Wendall Kristan,
Official Ministry type Minister of something or other
Ministry of Magic

From:
Miss Diogenes Penthesileia Kuhr
Auror (retired)
Assistant Librarian, Dangerous Books Collection
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

cc: Headmaster Lysis Nikolaidis

My Dear Mr. Kristan:

I understand that you are seeking information about the misuse of unapproved Port Cheese at the school and let me tell you bucko, tis about HIGH TIME someone did something about this disgraceful situation. The practice of mixing Port wine in with cheese is an absolute travesty, not to mention a dreadful waste of perfectly good Port, though I will admit that on whole wheat crackers at a little get-together with friends, it does taste pretty good. But for a formal occasion such as an official inquisition or Wizardgamot hanging party, it simply WILL NOT DO!

No No No, for those kinds of situations, you should always go with something like a nice Stilton, or if you have people coming whom you really don't like all that much, I suppose you could fob off some kind of cheap gooey Brie on them, and hey, they most likely won't know the difference, will they?

Oh.

Wait.

One of my colleagues just informed me that the issue was about the misuse of "Portkeys"....not "Port Cheese."

Never mind.

Oh dear. Well, that's pretty bloody embarrassing, isn't it? Dreadful sorry about that. Portkeys? Hmmmm. haven't used one o' them silly buggers in years. Always worry that if you use one and it goes wonky, you're going to end up with your head stuck up your own tookus, eh? Though I do suppose Ministry people have to use them a lot, don't they? Oh..not that I'm implying...um...yes, well...best quit while I'm ahead , eh?

yours
D.P. Kuhr


Silly stuff, I know. But fun. And certainly not inconsistent with the Harry Potter-esque reality that Hogwarts United represents.

Again, I will reiterate that this kind of highly structured immersion environment is not for everyone. Major rp scenarios must be presented in a proposal to a review committee and approved. Some folks find the process slow, and that it perhaps “cramps their style.” But it does serve to keep the roleplay under control and within the set of parameters that the sim leadership has established. As with any rp community, there are a few drama whores and idiots, but their ability to affect everyone else’s experience is severely limited by the sim policies. It is very seldom that you find yourself watching someone go off in some ridiculous self-indulgent direction, while everyone else present is muttering, “Well that was fucking moronic.”

This also suggests that the recruiting/application/orientation process really does work in maintaining a level of quality among the sim population, and reducing or eliminating the peckerhead factor. I have yet to encounter a grieftard in the castle, at all. That has been really nice.

So what’s next? Well, I am going to try to spend more time in Hogwarts if I can, and hopefully encourage more of the sim residents to write up essays or booklets--covering anything from magical techniques to their backstory family histories--that can be added to the library collections. I mean hell, I can’t keep making up silly titles for non-existent books forever.
~~~

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Linden Lab economic model

~~~

The ebullient Hotspur O'Toole, on his blog Hibernia on the Skids, recently asked the question as to "what economic school the Lindens emulate."

His query lead me to post the following response, which I am re-posting here, being as I think it is worth consideration. I replied to his question in the following manner:

Personally I think LL's economic theory is based on the historic Rapa Nui model--picture a meeting, about 800 years ago on the island we now call Easter Island...

"Thanks for coming to this special strategic planning team meeting, everyone. Bob from the Divination and Ancestor Worship department has developed a concept that the elders in senior management thought you should all hear about. OK, Bob, you're up. Give it to 'em in a nutshell."

"Thanks, Chief. Basically I am proposing that we replace the sticks and piles of rocks that we currently use around the island for predicting and tracking celestial events with something that has much more presence--that's more impactful. And I wanted something that could multi-purpose and really hit one out of the park in honoring the Ancestors, as well as building the Rapa Nui brand."

*the other team members look intrigued. Lois from marketing/storytelling and mythology pipes up*

"What specifically do you have in mind?"

"I'm glad you asked that, Lois."

*Bob unveils a drawing of a giant Moai*

"Wow, Bob, how big is that thing?"

"I'm thinking for an average one, about 4 meters. But just to really make a statement, we could do some of them in the 10 meter range."

"Darn impressive concept, Bob. How many are you thinking we should do?"

"Oh maybe eight or nine hundred. As they say, Make no small plans, and all that"

*there is a pause*

"Umm...so Bob, have you done a preliminary cost analysis on this yet?"

"Oh you bet. I figure that it's going to completely exhaust all the island's resources by the time we're done."

"Ah....ok...and when do you know that the project is done?"

"Easy...when all the island's resources are exhausted."

*the strategic planning team is in deep thought for a moment. Finally Wally from the Rock Carving department speaks up*

"Well, I gotta tell you, I see some real positives in the short term, especially for my department--we'll need to expand the whole rock-carving operation, and there are some pretty darn good stone-whackers I'd love to hire away from the islands back in Polynesia. A project like this has the kind of sex appeal that I think would get 'em to jump ship and make that long voyage to join us. But the long-term makes me a little nervous. When's the big payout?"

*Bob smiles*

"Oh, I estimate that in about 500 years after project completion we're gonna be going gangbusters in the archaeologist/anthropologist market, and the basic tourist segment won't be anything to sneeze at either."

*the Chief stands up and pats Bob on the back*

"Well, I think you've really thought this one through, Bob. I like what it's going to do for our Rapa Nui brand, and I know that just eight centuries from now, we're going to have more archaeology and anthropology guys runnin' around than our descendants will be able to deal with. I do have a concern about the basic tourist audience, but hey, if the island offers them a positive initial experience, say like in the first six hours, it'll work. And we can just let our descendants puzzle that one out, anyway. So, all in favor of including Bob's big stone thing concept in the Island Strategic Plan, raise your hands."
~~~

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Deadwood scene -- "...their hearts and minds soon follow"

~~~
One of the things many people in town liked about the Saloon Number 10 after Dio took it over was that she had turned it into a “lager beer saloon” which meant it was generally acceptable for just about anyone, including children and fairly respectable women to enter and socialize there. Only the most absolutely conventional and class-conscious ladies in town would hesitate to enter Dio’s place for fear of ruining their reputation or being accosted by some rough and vile individual.

Most of the saloons and booze parlors in town were not as accessible for everyone--and appropriately so. There were some mighty goddamn rough and ready places in town. But because all Dio served was lager beer (and other non-alcoholic libations), her patrons generally didn’t wind up being stupid drunk. Dio had got the idea from the German beer gardens she had seen in Cincinnati after the war, where families from the youngest to the oldest, as well as both ladies and gents could come in and sit downn to talk and sing, drink beer, have a meal, or dance and listen to the oom-pah music and folk songs of their homeland. Those Dutchmen back in the Queen City were always fond of telling anyone who cared to listen that “you can’t get drunk mit der lager bier.” Dio took that idea to heart, and put it to work to make her establishment different from all the others in town.

A customer at the No. 10 when Dio owned it. Note how sparsely it is furnished. Behind the gentleman is the only table and chairs in the place.

So Dio’s Saloon No. 10 was a place anyone could come in if they cared to, so long as they behaved and treated the other guests with courtesy, or at least didn’t harass ‘em any. The 10 offered no “ardent sprits,” and no gambling. Gamblers, con men, and notorious drunkards were of course welcome in her beer saloon--they simply weren’t permitted to engage in their usual pastimes. Likewise chippies, upstairs girls and dancers were never prohibited from entering to enjoy a beer and a bowl of venison stew in the dimly-lit, starkly simple confines of the 10--so long as they didn’t attempt to engage in any “frisky bizness” while there.

The simple rules of the house were enforced when necessary by Roku, as well as Dio herself. Dio offered a man a job at the 10 one time, but he declined, explaining, “I’m sorry M’am, but I just don’t feel quite right working with a woman who can out-shoot me, and another who can out-cuss me.”

After a few months, Dio also had taken on another security man--a fella from up north called Clay Kungler. Clay was there to act as back-up, especially when Roku was off working her other “job.” Clay was just about the toughest character Dio had met in a long time, but she found him damned likable. He had the kind of sense of humor that she appreciated. Dio had told Clay on one occasion that he was "an asshole of epic proportions," and being the sort of fellah he was, Clay looked on that as quite the compliment.

So anyhow, yeah, trouble happened now and then like it did in all the barrooms and saloons of Deadwood, but when it happened in the 10, it usually ended pretty quick.

Taking that into consideration, people got used to the idea that as long as they behaved well, anyone was welcome to go into Dio’s place. And they certainly did--like I said before, you’d find confidence men, card-sharps, booze-hounds and working gals in there for sure, but also miners, drifters, respectable ladies, young’uns, cowhands, soldiers, shopkeepers, outlaws and lawmen, all together and mostly being pretty civil. Most folks didn’t think much about it after a while, but every now and then, Miss Dio’s policies still had some surprising results.

Like the time that Hawk came in...

It was a pleasant Fall afternoon in the 10: Dio cleaning glasses behind the bar; Roku in her usual corner reading her paper; Clay was happily engaged in cleaning and oiling one of the big Colt Dragoons he habitually carried. The only customers were Kit, this real nice woman bullwhacker, and Maybelle, a pretty young lady who as a skilled swift, doin’ typesetting for the new printshop that Mr. Steeter had just started up.

Well sir, as they were all chit-chattin’, the door swung open and this immense shape loomed up, silhouetted by the light from the street. A certain...almost animal-like fragrance greeted the nostrils of those inside the bar. And in lumbered ol’ Hawk.

You remember Hawk, don’t you?

Big...very big.

Ugly...very, very ugly.

And with an ugly reputation. You will recall him shooting the Bella’s bartender in the leg with minimal provocation, harassing folks on the street--he had also been know to beat fellows up at the Gem just for fun, breaking arms like they were twigs. And he had been involved in some more shooting incidents with some men who he said had been trying to jump a claim he had up in the hills. He was pretty much an all-around disturbing presence.

So when he walked in, right away, Kit’s right hand instinctively went towards the the butt of her pistol. Maybelle--normally an irrepressibly loquacious lass--went dead silent for a change and shrunk into the shadows back by the beer tap. Both of the women looked expectantly at Dio and Roku, waiting to see how quickly the fireworks would start.

Dio glanced up from her work with the beer mugs...and smiled.

“Hawk!” she called out cheerfully.

“Hello Dio,” Hawk rumbled back in his grizzly-growl voice.

Roku peered over the top of her newspaper. “Howdy Hawk, nice to see ya again.”

Clay nodded pleasantly to Hawk and resumed oiling the cylinder on the Dragoon.

Dio took a glass and began filling it from the beer tap that protruded from the wall. “Hey, ye pestilence-ridden, stanky mess o' so-called human bein! How the hell are ye?”

Hawk caught the beer mug that Dio expertly slid down the bar to him. He pulled some coins out of his pocket and deftly pitched them into the open cigar box on the back counter. “

“I am doing good, thank ya Dio.”

Kit and maybelle were just plain flummoxed. They looked from Dio to Hawk and then from Hawk to Roku, who had risen from her chair--one of the few in the bar. After stretching like a tall, well-armed cat, Roku ambled over to the bar and was standing next to Hawk, signaling Dio to pour her a beer as well.

Roku never, ever would take a drink when trouble was about to start. In those situations, she always kept her hands free for duties other than holding a beer mug. But here she was holding a beer mug and casually sipping away, while standing next to the epitome of trouble, with a capital “T.”

To Kit and Maybelle, all these things simply made no sense.

Roku looked over at Hawk as she worked on her beer.

“Wheahs ya guns, Hawk?” She gestured at the middle section of the big man, which was noticeably lacking its usual compliment of hardware and leather.

Dio was frowning slightly. “Yeah, don' tell me ye turned Quaker on us, Hawk.”

Hawk grunted, in what presumably was a small laugh. “I dont need no guns, Roku--all I have to do is breath on them...”

Clay laughed, “Ha! I reckon so...I have smelt buffalo farts that were easier to take.”

But Roku frowned. She was appalled at Hawk’s lack of good sense in this matter. “Hawk, that ain’t good, a man like you goin’ about unarmed. There are evil thangs afoot in this town--did yah see the bloody hoss’s haid someone done left on the porch o’ the Red Bird saloon across the street?”

“No, didn't see it.” replied Hawk.

“Well, go on over there, take a good look, Hawk. somebody was sendin’ those boys who run that place a message, and it ain’t a friendly how-ya-doin’ kind o’ message neither.”

Hawk looked curious. Without a word he walked out of the No. 10, still carrying his beer and strolled over in the direction of the Red Bird.

Roku watched Hawk leave and commented, “Whew, Hawk’s gettin’ stankier than evah.”

Dio shrugged. “Well he has been spendin’ most o’ his time up at this claim he seems to be workin’ with some success. But he is convinced some some weasel-fuckers are tryin’ to jump his claim, so he has been purty much livin’ up there--workin’ hard, diggin’ an’ carryin’ gravel to wash it, lookin' fer color...never takin’ a chance to bathe nor even clean up a bit--yeah I ain’t ‘sprised he’s gone a bit more skunky than he had been.”

About then Hawk wandered back in, and set his now empty beer mug down on the bar.

“Damn, that is a mess over there,“ he commented drily. “Who in the hell would do something like that?”

Roku arched an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t be any of your handywork, would it, Hawk?”

Hawk shook his head, with an expression that indicated he took absolutely no offense at being asked such a question. “Not mine.” he grunted.

“Naw, that ain't Hawk's style,” added Dio. “He's the kind who if'n he wanted to intimidate those boys, he’d jus’ go in an’ shoot ‘em in the leg...like he did with Pel.”

Hawk did not seem inclined to argue with Dio about her opinion on the matter. Instead he reached over and patted Roku on her ample backside.

Kit drew in sharp breath. Surely this was not going to turn out well.

Instead Roku grinned an odd little grin and snorted, “Careful, now Hawk--that’s mah money makah.”

Dio grinned too. “Yep pard, you get too frisky there an’ I ain't responsible fer what might happen next.”

Hawk just laughed and then emitted a resounding burst of flatulence. “Damned beans,” he muttered.

Clay looked up from his gun cleaning. “Goddamit Hawk, don't stand so close to the stove when yah do that! Yah wanna blow this place up?”

A look of concern actually crossed Hawk’s face. “You think it might explode?”

Dio’s expression was one of deadly seriousness. “Look, if you catch yer ass on far fartin near m' stove...I ain't puttin’ it out.

Now at last Hawk looked hurt and offended. “You mean you would let it burn? Glad y’all like me so much.”

Everyone in the saloon, including Maybelle and Kit were now laughing.

Dio at the No. Ten

Dio went on, “Probbly not. Mostly jus cuz I'd be curious to see how long it would take before the sensation o’ yer buttocks bein’ aflame would take to mosey on up to yer tiny lil’ critter brain...”

“Might take a while,” interjected Clay.

“Oh not as long as ye might think,” stated Dio in a deadly earnest tone. “I'm bettin’ two, three days, tops.”

Roku was now doubled over with laughter.

Dio sighed and leaned on the counter behind the bar, gazing at Hawk with a strangely wistful look.

“Seriously pard..why ain't ye packin iron?”

“Someone stole it while I was passed out drunk the other night,” grumbled Hawk.

Dio tried not to sigh again...but she did anyway. “Look, you know theys more'n a few folks would kill to get that claim o’ your'n. An’ the critter they'd have to kill to get it, happens to be you.”

Hawk shrugged, but you could tell he was processing what Dio was saying. “Hmmm...guess I am going to have to invest in another shootin’ iron.

“Who knows?” added Clay. “Might it be that perhaps there’s some connection between yer pistol disappearin’ and someone is maybe fixin’ to jump yer claim?”

Hawk furowed his brow. “Hmmm...could be...I went down to Mort’s store to buy a knife, but twas locked up...”

“Hawk...pard...all joshin’ aside,” said Dio in a tired,voice, “I really wish ye'd get ye a new six-shooter, an’ sooner rather than later,”

Hawk suddenly grinned, “Hey, maybe if I catch the right person passed out I wont have to buy one!”

Dio picked up the empty mug that Hawk had left on the bar, weighed it in her hand for moment... and then threw it with all her might at the far wall by the stove, where it shattered into a dozen pieces. “Holy Moses on the fuckin’ mountain! Look here, you cheap, tightfisted baboon! A goddam gun don't cost that much! Just stop foolin’ around an’ get yerself armed like someone who has got more brains than a prairie dog who had his haid stepped on by a draft hoss!”

Hawk looked unsure how to react. Then he shrugged. “Well...if y’all insist, I guess I will go get myself one...since y’all care so much for me and ever’thing.”

Dio nodded and answered quietly, “Damn right I insist, ye overgrown, dirt-eatin feckless rapscallion...”

“And whilst ya at it, Hawk, get a damn haircut,” said Roku.

“And a bath,” added Dio. “And a clean shirt!”

Hawk looked shocked. “A bath??!!”

Dio wagged her finger at him. “Yes! A bath! With hot water, and with soap!"

Clay nodded. “Oh, and yah might get some kerosene too, to kill what ever might be living in that beard of yours.”

Dio had picked up a broom and was sweeping he broken mug out the door into the street. “I mean goddam, Hawk, I spent a couple years with buff’lo hunters, an’ we smelt better than you do right now!”

Hawk raised up an arm and took a sniff. “Damn. Is sorta ripe there. If I get me a bath, will you kiss me?”

Everyone laughed again at this, including Dio. “Naw. But I tell you what. You get ye a bath, a clean shirt, an’ new firearm, and then, if’n ye do ignite yerself fartin’ near a open flame, I promise I shall do m’ utmost to extinguish ye.”

Hawk thought about this a moment. “Fair enough.” he nodded, and stalked out purposefully.

The room was quiet for a spell after the big man had left. And then Kit finally spoke up.

"Dio...when did you all decide that Hawk isn’t such a bad fella after all...and how did you get to where you can be laughin’ n’ jokin’ around with him like that. Other times I seen him, if anyone had talked to him like you n’ Clay n’ Roku just done, he’d a ripped their arm outta its socket an beat ‘em o’er the head with it.”

“No kidding," agreed Maybelle, who finally seemed to have found her voice again.

Dio finished sweeping the last piece of broken mug out the door. “Well, Hon it’s like this...when I found out that someone was tryin’ to weasel Hawk outta his claim, I kinda started lookin’ at him a bit different. Simple fact o’ the matter is that they ain't that many o’ the small time claim holders left now...I’m guessin’ the fellers who are trying to get him off his claim are workin ‘fer one o’ the big mine operators. Hawk’s been here almost since the rush started...an’ I guess I'm a sentimental ol’ fool...but goddam, I would hate to see him get kilt or disappeared, an’ his claim get gobbled up by some big-ass minin’ company."

Maybelle and Kit both looked thoughtful. Finally Maybelle spoke up again. “Allright, so I understand why you are treatin’ him as you do, rather than trying to shoot him--which is what most folks seem to think he deserves. But how in the world did you get him to behave as he was just now? Is that how he has responded to you treating him with some decency and consideration?”

Dio looked at Maybelle and smiled. She always had a soft spot for optimists and naive Mary Sunshine-types who thought that human kindness could re-make the world--even if they were dead-ass, one-hundred percent wrong about that.

“Oh no, Hon, Nothin’ o the sort. Hawk’s been acting different since a encounter I had with him a couple weeks ago.”

“Oh? What happened?” asked Kit.

“Well, Hon, I was walkin’ up Lee street an’ I seen him across the bridge by town hall, talkin' with Miz Mahaila, acting all kinda blustery an’ such.”

”What did you say to him, Dio?”

“Oh, hell’s britches, Hon, I din’t say nothin. I simply went up to him an’ kicked him square in the testicles, just as hard as I fuckin’ could."

“Oh my Lord! What did he do then?”

“Well...I din’t see it, bein’ as I was runnin’ like Hell, about as fast as m' stubby lil' laigs could carry me...ye know, as a matter o’ principle an’ self preservation. But accordin’ to Mah, he sorta sunk to his knees, groaned a little bit, an’ then tipped over. An’ ever since, he has behaved hisself like a real gennleman in m’ presence.”
~~~

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I have a new hero -- his name is "Boilerplate"

~~~
"Boilerplate" at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition--this and all other images I have employed to illustrate this post are from the BoilerplateRobot.com web site, and are used courtesy of Paul Guinan.

Today I happened into one of those big friendly bookstores (well, not friendly, exactly, but sufficiently indifferent that they don't yell at you if you actually spend some time looking at the books there, unlike the old traditional small family bookstores that people seem to lament the passing of). I wandered into the graphic novels section and saw something new: a large handsome book titled "Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel" by Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan.

I completely and utterly fell in love with this visually stunning triumph of photoshop wizardry. Boilerplate is my new hero: a mechanoid everyman and metallic witness to events from the 1890's to 1918. In his adventures and travels, he interacts with everyday people as well as some of the most famous figures of the era in which the U.S. first becomes a world power.

The robot hero with Pancho Villa, c. 1916.

The premise is an elegantly conceived and executed combination of very real history and actual historical images, into which a steampunk element is introduced that does not markedly alter the course of the real history. As it is explained on the authors' web site boilerplaterobot.com:

"Boilerplate was a mechanical man developed by Professor Archibald Campion during the 1880s and unveiled at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

Built in a small Chicago laboratory, Boilerplate was a prototype soldier for use in resolving the conflicts of nations. Although it was the only such prototype, Boilerplate was eventually able to exercise its proposed function by participating in several combat actions.

Boilerplate embarked on a series of expeditions to demonstrate its abilities, the most ambitious being a voyage to Antarctica. Boilerplate is one of history's great ironies, a technological milestone that remains largely unknown."

The real joy of this book is the variety of images that were selected, ranging from grainy black-and-white photos, to hand-tinted postcards, to drawings and political cartoons. There are even lithographed theatrical posters, which the author is careful to point out do not necessarily reflect historical events in a completely accurate way (laughed my ass off at that one).

With TR and the the Rough Riders in Cuba, 1898.

A review of the book on the Comic Book Resources web site offers an excellent re-cap of where Mr. Guinan was coming from in producing this work. The author was seeking a way to "express his love of history despite the difficulty of selling historical adventure stories." He then developed the Boilerplate robot as a device (both literally and in the literary sense of the term) to tell stories about key events in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that shaped the world we live in today.

According to the very thorough CBR piece, the author "compared the use of his robotic hero with author Gore Vidal's device of using fictitious protagonists in otherwise extraordinarily accurate historical settings." In the interview, Mr. Guinan also states, "A more recent pop culture example is the 'Young Indiana Jones' TV series, where the character meets famous people and is involved in famous events but doesn't change anything in history."

Boilerplate the robot is in many ways, just one of the crowd, both in the narrative and the illustrations, such as this familiar scene of the midway at the 1893 exposition.


It is a subtle and wonderful metaphor for the individual in modern industrialized society, where even the most remarkable of us may have a certain limited impact through our choices and actions (like saving Pancho Villa's life) but ultimately the course of history hardly notices us.
~~~

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sometimes the magic works -- museums in Second Life

~~~
Visiting a not-so-great museum build in second life: the amphitheater in the Exploratorium sim. And yes, it is big enough to hold five times as many avatars as can actually fit in a sim at once. Wtf?

Having worked for a number of rl museums in the course of my rl career, I enjoy thinking about the potential for museums to utilize the Second Life platform. Sadly, while the thinking about the possibilities is lots of fun, actually looking at the experiments that museums carry out in SL tends to be much less pleasant. In fact, with some notable exceptions, SL museum projects usually just irritate the fuck out out of me.

But hey, you know me, ever the eternal goddam optimist, I thought I would do a search on “museum” tonight and see what turned up. And what came through actually proved to be pretty interesting in a number of ways.

Before I go any further, I want to remind you that as a rule, I am not going to write about people I utterly loathe or projects that simply blow. So if you don’t see a build get covered on this blog, it is either because I think the work itself is a total mass of petrified dog turds on dry white toast, or I think the people responsible for the build are peckerheads of epic proportions. Or it could be that I just haven’t heard about the build and haven't gotten around to seeing it yet. With that in mind, I might as well ask you right now to let me know if you have any suggestions for something you think I should look at. I'll be happy to check them out and if they are in fact just oozing with awesome goodness, you'll get to see me extol the virtues of said virtual exhibit or museum on this here ridiculous blog.

Anyhow, the first thing I noticed was that when I did a search for “museum” the top thing on the list of results was “Virtual Bucharest" with over 30K in traffic. Okey-doke, so I made a mental note to go look at that sometime. Never been to Romania, who knows, it could be cool. Then I started moving down the list looking to see if there were any projects by real life museums represented in the search results. Finally, at number 40, I finally found something that rang a bell -- a build presented by the Exploratorium, a well-known, hands-on science museum in San Francisco.

Now mind you, I generally hate science museums unless they have really, mega-cool shit, like in Chicago at the Museum of Science and Industry. But the museums that offer nothing more than a glorified science fair exhibit of turn-the-crank and light-the-lightbulb bullshit that is supposed to foster a new generation of kiddies who are hopped up about someday being scientists--that crap pretty much bores me shitless and/or makes me insufferably grumpy.

Well, the Exploratorium is sort like the grandaddy of that kind of museum, and whoopity-doo they got a very large area in SL. Not really my cup of tea, but I figured, what the hell, I’ll go look--maybe they fired up their imaginations and did something really out-of-the-box.

Well...they didn't. But I gotta tell you, it was...not terrible.

Ok, I'll admit I didn’t like it. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t think it did a very good job of teaching anything of significance. But I didn’t hate it. And I wanted to talk about this build because I think its creators made a noble effort that mostly fails because they made the mistake that is most commonly made by rl museums in SL.

Instead of breaking new ground, the Exploratorium folks made what was essentially a virtual version of what they do in real life: a disjointed series of more or less unrelated push-the-button-and-something-happens kind of experience that might teach you something about...oh...stuff. The biggest difference between the SL Exploratorium and the real-life one was that unlike in the actual bricks and mortar museum, most of the virtual exhibits seemed to be working and did not have little "out of order” signs hung on them. That was kind of nice. And mind you, I really didn’t think the thing sucked. The main thing that was disappointing was that they really weren’t using the technology of the platform to do something genuinely innovative. It was their same old shtick, just made from pixels instead of laminate and rubber tubing and hose clamps. The other thing about it I should mention was that it was completely empty--I had the entire place to myself, which wasn’t surprising considering that its traffic was only 646.

An exhibit in the Exploratorium build--it teaches us that "gee it's a long way from the sun to Earth." Or something.

Even though my head was starting to hurt at that point, I decided to take a stab at one more build off that list of search results, and hoo-boy, am I glad I did.

The thing I decided to check out was a place slightly higher up on the list (1658 in traffic) called the “Primtings Museum.” I thought hey, that sounds different, so just for shits and giggles I popped over there. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is in fact an innovative and unique use of the technology to accomplish something that would not have been terribly practical in a bricks and mortar context. The organizers of the Primtings museum have invited SL artists such as AM Radio, to take real-life two-dimensional paintings by famous artists such as Dali, Van Gogh, David, and others, and translate them into three-dimensional presentations.

It was pretty much in the realm of fuckin’ awesome.

But sometimes, the magic works! Standing inside the 3-D interpretation of Van Gogh's "Vincent's Room," by SL artist Dekka Raymaker.

The build is the brainchild of Ina Centaur, an SL arts-entrepreneur, who describes the project on her blog thusly:

“Primtings Museum is a sim-sized “prim’ed paintings” gallery. Famous paintings in RL are interpreted by SL artists in a variety of ways via prims into 3d paintings. Built to “feel” like a RL museum, where visitors can take their time to explore and “stumble upon” an exhibit, visitors can also quickly “teleport” to a particular primting via Primtings.com’s search-able web directory of all primtings. Artists may also submit their primting for consideration as an exhibit in the museum. We will be exploring some notable Primtings in the interactive part of the tour.”

Ms. Centaur also explained that the project--like some others she is involved with--is "fiscally-sponsored by sLiterary, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering the arts in virtual worlds. sLiterary.org offers a variety (from historical to modern to cozy!) of high quality inworld facilities, open to the public for events and other activities...”

You can go look at her blog, though she posts only periodically. Still it’s interesting reading for a number of reasoms, some of which we might go into at another time.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed the Primtings build. Not only can you go and interact with these art works that you have known and loved since Art History 101--and getting a new and fresh perspective on them in the process--but in many cases you also get information about the virtual artist who executed the 3-D interpretation of the 2-D work, along with a discussion of why they think that particular work is so freakin' cool, and even what kind of modeling software they used to create their version.

Ha! This is what happens when you click on the 3-D rendition of Dali's "Persistence of Memory," created by Voodoo Shilton--I think Dali would have appreciated this, being as he had a pretty wacky sense of humor.

This is what museums should be doing in SL: looking at the platform and saying, "hey, how can we do something we really couldn't do in meatspace?" And one thing that the platform is extremely good for, is the creation of three-dimensional environments and offering an immersion experience for the visitor. How bloody remarkable is it to be able to interact with a surreal Dali landscape or to sit in Edward Hopper’s famous “Nighthawks” diner?

The other remarkable thing about this project is that it that was initiated by an individual, not a real-life museum organization. But maybe that shouldn’t be surprising...too many museum people are locked into thinking about doing things a certain way. And that’s probably why so many of them are in so much fucking trouble these days.

Sitting in Edward Hopper's diner from "Nighthawks," created by Tezcatlipoca Bisiani--gotta come back with friends all dressed up in 40's clothing and see what the place feels like with more folks in it.

You can visit the Primtings museum at:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Primtings/179/67/53
~~~

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A letter to a horse soldier -- nothin' much new to report...really!

~~~
My dearest Sepp,

I hope this letter finds you well, & I trust that the feckless youngsters coming in to the Cavalry Depot have not ben driving you to distraction. If any one may be able to take those boys who have just come off the boat, or fresh from the farm somewheres, & make of them somthing that may someday properly be called soldiers, I have evry confidence that person is You. I enjoy hearing your tales of the recruits and their glorious mixing of eagerness & ineptitude an I do most sincerely look forward to your next correspondence to arrive.

I have not much new to tell to you. Things have been more or less about what one wuld expect in this time of year in this sort of place. The snow has of course already begun to fall, and with the coming of the damp and cold, there is a goodly bit of desease runnin its course through the town and nearby camps. The scarlett fever in particlar seems to be upon us, and I have found my self engaged in lookin after some of my friends & aquaintances such as Miss Addison Leigh, of whom I have spoke to you before. She was in quite dire strates but now seems to be well upon her way to recovery. Other folk have not been as favored and I fear Eugene the Undertaker has more bizness than he can handle at the moment. This situation makes him somwhat more cheerful than I supose a Undertaker is customarily expected to be. That is, how ever, Eugene’s nature I imagine. Pestilence is to him cause for optomism, and He is never so glum as when everyone in town appears to be enjoying a fit of good health.

Oh yes..and in other news I have been in some ups & downs with Miss Lillian at the Gem, who you recall I did count among my especial frends, but with whom I am now not speaking. This is a sad complication to life, being as you know, when I did discover from her that her husband back in Georgia was keeping her aged grandmother a virtual prizoner in hopes of extracting from Miss Lil some financial advntage & gain control of a portion of her interests, I did determine upon finding a course to assist her.

Well Sepp, I must inform you I did elect to invest some of the funs left unto me by Al Husar in securing the services of some Pinkertons I know, & they did end up kidnapping ...or perhaps is better to say, resqueing Miss Lil’s grandmother. They needed to take her somwhere that wuld be a safe haven for her, so I suppose now is a good time to tell you, that needing to move quickly in this purpose, I took the libberty of contacting your relations in Cincinnati, and she is now quite comfortable--if somewhat befuddled at this tern of events--to be ther guest for some indefinit period. I am sure we shall figger out some alternative in short order, but in the mean-time, yor famly does seem to enjoy the lady’s company, especially your Uncle Fredrick the retired Steamboat Cap’n.

Ah but that is not the complication--as I mentioned previous, I am not speaking to Lillian at presnt, being as she did insult my frend Miss Adina, the manager of the orfan asylum. The issue being that she is a mulatto, and Lil did not treat her with such respect as I did believe was due to her. Tho now, I must confess, that I may have been wrong in my estimation of The Woman, bein as she --Miss Adina , that is -- appeers to have absconded with the funs from the orfan asylum, leaving it to an uncertain future, so that it is closed for now.

So yes...you are no doubt thinkin, aha well that all counts as news...the Pinkertons having absconded with Lil’s grandma, an me bein at odds with LIL, whose Granmother now does reside with yor famly in th Queen City & yes, I guess that Adina having seemingly took off with the orfan funs an their home bein closed, would probbly qualify as news too...yes, you are correct in that. But other-wise not much is new.

Altho I should also like to relate to you a story, that while having my back & forth with Miss Lil, I did note that of late there was a young gal of perhaps about 11 years, usually to be found settin outside on the porch o the Gem Saloon by the big wood pile, sheltering from the wind.

After one row with Lil, I stormed out from the saloon to get myself away from Lil’s presense which then I did find so distasteful jus then, and I sat upon the porch next to this young gal, a thin-looking chile with flaxen hair & a intelligent exporession..

“Hello” says she.

“Hello yerself” says I in a not too neighborly fashion.

“Mam,” she says after a pause of not too long, “Why are you fightin with the Saloon lady in there? I thot she was yer fren.”

Says I to this chile, “how do you know o this of us fightin, an who is who’s fren and who is not?”

She says, “I set here outside the Gem a lot becuz it is a good place to lissen to the grown folk an see & whatch what is goin on. I am here very offen so I guess I kno quite a bit.”

This conserned me some. “What does yer Ma & Pa think o you passin yer time on the porch outside of a disrepitable enterprise like the Gem?”

My Ma, she is dead & in heaven,” the litle gal replies. “My Pa is not around, bein as he left me here some time a go--almost two weeks now--as he was goin away lookin to make a Big Score he said. And he said where he was goin I could not come. He had been drinkin terrible at the time & losin’ at cards, an when he is like tha he becomes terrible mean, so I do not argu with him but do what he says. He sed to stay here in the town, an that is what I am doin.”

“What is yor name chile?”

“I am Carrie Anne Durbovna...I alreddy know you are Miss Dio, I have herd yor hame often an all the folk talk of you...”

“Yer pa jus up an lef you?” I asks.

“She nods an says “I ben sleepin’ in back dorways & the stable, an the stableman he neer even known I was there. An I know how to find vittles when need be, an can make it last a long time what I find.”

“This ain’t ter first time a-bein left, is it?” I enquired even tho I alreddy knew the anser.

The chile jus nodded, and for a moment, tho she was endevorin to show me how brave & resoursefull she was, I could see somthin in her eyes, that Sepp, I mus confess did speak to me in a most intens manner. I kno you kno why it did so, as you are aware o my history with my own Pa. In my case I was fortunate to have my Papaw to stand in.

But this chile has nought.

An o course, with Miss Adina takin off an all, ther is no orfan asylum for her to go to.

So yes, my beloved, that is the last news I hav to relate--as I sed her name is Carrie Anne, an she is livin with me in the back room of the Number 10. She is a mos agreeable an willin chile & helps with things I need to have done. You an Me, we now have us a daughter after a fashion.

Other than that, like I said, ain’t much new to tell you about.

As always I send to you my faythful Love & Respect, an look forward with grate enthusiasm for the time when Next I might set eyes upon you once more.

with all my heart I am yors,
Dio
~~~

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Armistice Day -- never forget

~~~
Ernst Osterham, myself, Callipygian Christensen and Kyle Beltran, assembled around 11:00 AM (continental Europe time) in No-Man's land--Riven Homewod arrived a bit later

A small group gathered in the No-Man's land area of the new WWI poet's sim to commemorate the end of the Great War and to remember those who gave their lives.

[2:06] Diogenes Kuhr: Thank you all for coming
[2:06] Diogenes Kuhr: In the 11th hour
[2:06] Diogenes Kuhr: on the 11th day
[2:06] Diogenes Kuhr: of the 11th month
[2:07] Diogenes Kuhr: in 1918
[2:07] Diogenes Kuhr: the armistice went into effect
[2:07] Diogenes Kuhr: and the guns fell silent on the western front.
[2:07] Diogenes Kuhr: When the war ended,
[2:08] Diogenes Kuhr: empires had been destroyed and created
[2:08] Diogenes Kuhr: the modern world had come into being
[2:08] Diogenes Kuhr: and almost 10 million men had lost their lives in military service for all the combatant nations.
[2:08] Diogenes Kuhr: 21 million more were wounded...
[2:09] Diogenes Kuhr: when you go to small villages in England
[2:09] Diogenes Kuhr: you will see the memorials with dozens of names
[2:09] Diogenes Kuhr: those small communities must have been devastated by the losses
[2:09] Diogenes Kuhr: a generation was affected...
[2:10] Diogenes Kuhr: let us begin with a moment of silence for those who gave their lives in doing their duty for their respective nations
[2:11] Ernst Osterham nods
[2:14] Diogenes Kuhr: in the commonwealth nations, it is customary to read a part of a poem called "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

German trench in a wood (from my own collection)

[2:15] Diogenes Kuhr: in the German army, they have a song they sing
[2:16] Diogenes Kuhr: Ich hatt einen Kameraden
[2:16] Diogenes Kuhr: the song for a fallen comrade

Ich hatt' einen Kameraden,
Einen bessern findst du nit.
Die Trommel schlug zum Streite,
Er ging an meiner Seite
In gleichem Schritt und Tritt.
In gleichem Schritt und Tritt.

Will mir die Hand noch reichen,
Derweil ich eben lad.
Kann dir die Hand nicht geben,
Bleib' du im ew'gen Leben
Mein guter Kamerad!
Mein guter Kamerad!

[2:17] Diogenes Kuhr: none of these men and women who did their duty in service for what they belived in should be forgotten
[2:18] Diogenes Kuhr: thank you
[2:18] Ernst Osterham: Thank you, Dio, that was very well said
[2:18] Callipygian Christensen: thank you Diogenes
[2:19] Diogenes Kuhr: oh my thank you for joining us
[2:19] Ernst Osterham: Would anyone mind if I read another poem?
[2:19] Diogenes Kuhr: please do Ernst
[2:20] Callipygian Christensen: http://www.sluniverse.com/pics/pic.aspx?id=416574
[2:20] Callipygian Christensen: I sent this to snapzilla
[2:20] Ernst Osterham: This is "The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke

IF I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

[2:22] Callipygian Christensen: thank you Ernst
[2:22] Diogenes Kuhr: thank you Ernst

~~~

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Call me a virtual Ishmael" -- the power of stories, part two

~~~
"Call me Ishmael"-- storytelling around the fire.


Let’s continue talking about this idea that the internet is “killing storytelling.”

As I mentioned in my last post, reflection upon this topic has been inspired by a TimesOnline (UK) opinion piece by columnist Ben McIntyre. This gentleman, is “Writer at Large” for The Times, contributing a weekly column, and has been editor of the Times’ Weekend Review, parliamentary sketchwriter and bureau chief in Washington and Paris. He also has authored what his bio blurb refers to as “some historical non-fiction books” that seem to be some sort of novelized adaptions of actual biographies or historical events. One review of his book “If I should Die: A Foreign Field” (a story about British soldiers in WWI) commented that his work is “made the comment that it is “more narrative non-fiction than history per se.“

Anyhow, Mr. McIntyre did this piece about the death of storytelling at the hands of the dreaded interwebs. He argues that:

"The narrative, whether oral or written, is a staple of every culture the world over. But stories demand time and concentration; the narrative does not simply transmit information, but invites the reader or listener to witness the unfolding of events.

Stories introduce us to situations, people and dilemmas beyond our experience, in a way that is contemplative and gradual: it is the oldest and best form of virtual reality.

The internet, while it communicates so much information so very effectively, does not really “do” narrative. The blog is a soap box, not a story. Facebook is a place for tell-tales perhaps, but not for telling tales....Very few stories of more than 1,000 words achieve viral status on the internet."

I’m not sure exactly what Mr. McIntrye means by “viral status,” but he may have a point that the online stories people like us generate do not acquire the following and have as many views as , oh, say, an image of an overweight kitty cat asking “Can I plz haz cheezburger?” But then hell, I am told there are actually more cat pictures on the internet than porn images.

At any rate, other than a few weak points like that, in general, his entire argument is of course, complete and utter idiocy: nothing more than pretentious, elitist, old-media lark’s vomit.
Many people commented on the piece, mostly agreeing that Mr. McIntryie obviously is only marginally aware of what is happening online.

And of course, I had to add my own two cents worth, offering the comment:

“I would respectfully disagree--if anything the internet has provided some astonishing new opportunities for storytellers to work with each other and share their tales with broader audiences than they ever could reach before. For example, within the Second Life platform, there are a growing number of venues (generally associated with virtual libraries or museums) that host events featuring both traditional and original storytelling. The storytellers themselves--which include many individuals who perform as storytellers in meatspace venues as well--use either typed chat or voice to present their tales to audiences that are generally very engaged and appreciative.

And as Jermey D. (another person who commented on the piece) points out there is this intriguing development in virtual worlds, where role-playing has fostered new shared narratives that have in turn generated an expanding body of stories in written form on related blogs and forums. Yes, in many ways this work is a second cousin to fanfic, and much of it is of wildly-varying quality, but the important thing is that people are in fact taking the time to do creative writing and are telling stories that are important to them. And in sharing them on the net, they are having a splendid time entertaining themselves and others.

I know that for me as a writer and storyteller, thanks to the outlets available to us on the internet, I have been motivated to do a lot more work in recent years, and have been able to reach a larger audience than I had in the past.”

I would also like to direct you all to the blog of Edward Champion, an extremely bright and funny literary blogger/journalist/playwright, who has thoughtfully and thoroughly demolished McIntryre’s entire article in much more complete and articulate way than I ever possibly could. His response to McIntryre can be found here at his blog -- I enjoyed reading it even with my shriveled attention span.

While I cannot do as well as Mr. Champion in this regard, I would like to add some more thoughts from my admittedly narrow perspective. Did you know that the first international conference of Virtual Storytelling was held in 2001? You can find a book that records the proceedings here.

And If you google “virtual storytellers” you get about three-and-a-half million results.

The evidence lies even closer to home as well. If you look at groups in Second Life, you will find about forty-four separate groups associated with “storytellers” or “storytelling.” You also find that the Second Life Storytellers Guild has over four hundred members. There are eight venues in “search” that host storytelling, as do almost all of the community libraries in SL. Storytelling is clearly a going concern in SL. And it is storytelling in the very literal and traditional sense: intimate groups of people, usually seated in a circle, often around a fire, listening to a narrative unfold.

Sometimes these are traditional stories, handed down within a particular culture or people. Just as often they are completely original, sometimes even delightfully experimental.

But either way, storytelling is very very much alive in the regions of the internet that I tread. Perhaps partly, the issue for Mr. McIntrye is that his article was actually mixing up terminology. He claimed to be talking about “storytelling” but he on closer examination he actually seemed to be whining about a growing lack of patience for traditional means of delivering longer narrative stories. As he is a traditional journalist and the creator of pseudo-history novels in dead-tree form, this concern on his part is understandable. The fact that so many people can now actively create and share their own narratives, rather than simply being malleable, passive consumers of mass-produced narrative crap (whether in the form of printed works or the oozing mass of glop on both big and small screens)...well, that has got to be scaring the holy living shit out of puffed-up professional purveyors of story stuff like McIntyre. Who’s going to buy their crap out of the remainder bins if committed readers are making their own stuff?

And yes, I will be first to admit that a great deal of what we are creating for ourselves to share online is crap as well. Some of it certainly qualifies as completely hideous, unreadable crap. But then when was the last time you saw really good writing on TV or in the movies? Yeah, you probably saw something that was good at some point recently, but I’ll wager you had to wade through--or ignore--a whole shitload of foul, odoriferous dreck, the kind of stuff that makes say:

“Jeezusfuckingchristonafuckingpogostuck, they actually PAID someone to write this shit?”

But the internet has given us all chance to put something into written form and to show it to others. I was really struck by Headburro’s recent comment in talking about the Steelhead story session we just did, that he had not written or told stories until now. Or in my case, a decade a go I spent a lot of time working on two different novels of my own, doing some extensive writing over the course of a couple years. Only one or two people ever saw it. And now after many moves, divorces, and other various adventures, the discs are gone, the hard copies, recycled....but now, I am writing again, and people actually get to see my shit and comment on it.

And furthermore, without even leaving the house I am currently sharing with family, I’m periodically sitting around the fire in the Steelhead library garden, or under the arbor outside the Falling Anvil pub in Tam, telling stories like I used to talking to my pards around the campfire at a reenactment, or in the neighborhood library with a bunch of eager, squirming little kids--except now I’m telling stories and sharing narrative and traditions with people from all over the fucking world.

The Falling Anvil in Tam, still a popular venue for storytelling, though not as often as it used to be as there are so many other venues now. It is not uncommon to have story sessions at different locations overlapping and competing.

And those other people from all over the world also get to be a part of the story-creating process. JJ Drinkwater and I have been talking a good deal lately about how roleplaying in SL and other virtual worlds gives us an opportunity to generate shared narratives and to create characters and develop them, interacting with other real people in delightful and unexpected and natural ways. And that out of that is coming the inspiration--and the necessary building blocks of narrative and characters and plots and rich detail--that makes for some pretty darn good stories. In playing out these stories with each other, we foster situations, ideas, people dialogue and plots that are more complex and engaging than what we might weave ourselves.

This is why I included the story about Addison being sick into part one of this discussion. It was based on a transcript of rp that just happened--no script of course. And in the course of sitting there with this woman--who I believe was roleplaying that she had scarlet fever, if I recall correctly--I was reacting as Dio. Yeah, it was one of those "what would Dio do" moments, although I really wasn't thinking about it. I was enough into the character and who she is in order to just realize that, hell, she'd try to tell Addi a story that might distract her some from her discomfort, and might get her to laugh--and laughin' is always good fer sick folks, right?

So I pulled out what is actually an old Flip Wilson story--the tale of Roman Herman and his magnificent berry--and presented it as a story from Dio's Papaw Marcus. I figured what the hell, like many 19th century country folk he was sort of a renaissance man, who in addition to having been a trapper and fur trader, he also did things like read Shakespeare, play the fiddle, and tell stories.

And I have always loved that story of Roman Herman and the berry, and maybe now some more people will have seen it...and it will live on, even if they never heard Flip Wilson tell it. And isn't that what storytelling is about? Passing things on, maybe improving them a bit or giving them your own twist, but more than anything, keeping the tale from dying?

Well, bugger me senseless. Maybe the internet is giving life to storytelling, not killing it.
~~~

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Deadwood conversation -- the power of stories, part one

~~~
There was a commentator on the Times Online who posted something the other day about how the internet is killing storytelling. That encouraged to me to work up this piece which is derived from some rp in the Deadwood 1876 sim. Next post we'll talk about this and put it into some kind of context.

Things settled down into their normal routine after I got back from the hunt for Al’s killer. Well...normal for Deadwood, anyhow.

There was that whole thing about the jail gettin’ burned down...an’ this gang o’ desperate characters who took a whole mess o’ townfolk hostage....I had to patch up quite a few people after that, being as Doc Alcott warn’t around when all that transpired. Oh lord, and then there was the trial after that--holy Christ, that was like a goddam three-ring circus.

But not everythin’ goin’ on was quite that excitin’...Miss Adiniah was doin’ quite well with keepin’ the orphanage goin. Hey, ye know, her ‘n Ol’ Bill got hitched. That was nice.

An’ the mine war didn’t happen after all...that was real good.

Oh...but Daz got bushwhacked an’ died from his wounds...that was real rough on Mahaila, bein' as they were kin.

Another thing that was kinda rough on folks was that there was this fever goin’ round when the wet weather came...

Doc Alcott was makin’ the rounds out amongst the miners’ famlies, an' I was tryin to look after some o’ m’ friends in town what took sick.

One among ‘em was Miss Addison...she was workin’ fer Neil Streeter at the paper back then, before she had the boardin’ house an’ the store she runs now.

Anyhow, when the boys tol’ me she was down with the fever, I went up to her place to find her just a-mumblin’ an burnin’ up. But ye see, more often than not, when a body is in the grip of a disease like that, one o' the best things ye kin do--besides tryin to cool em off, an' take the fever down with willow bark tea an such--is to get em to smile a little. Mebbe even laugh a tad .

Now like with Addi, she was a layin there, an I askt her how she’s doin’. She could only shake her head a bit an’ mumble some more, an’ I said, “Oh I see, purty much like sunday dinner, long about Monday night, eh?”

Yeah, I know. Not exactly no brilliant flash o’wit, but damn if’n she didn’t open her eyes a bit an’ actually made a slight sort o chuckle. Not much, but I took it as a good sign.

I felt her forehead, an tol’ her “Yep...dandy fever ye got goin on Hon.”

She started to rub her eyes, said, “This room ...the light is awful bright.” Ye see, that sort o’ fever makes yer eyes real sensitive to the light.

So I dipped a washrag in some cool water an put it over her eyes, an started givin her a bath with vinegar--that helps a feverish body to cool down, ye know. Sepp tells me that some Docs also think it kills the disease, so as to keep it from spreadin’--so ye warsh down all the sick person’s things as well. Addi was all worried cuz Lola had tol’ her she oughtta have all her stuff burned, but I tol’ her, “Yep, some folks say ye gotta burn it, but I come from the school what says jus warsh it all with vinegar an let it dry in the sun....”

I mean hell, it ain’t like it’s easy to get stuff out in the middle o goddam nowhere...why waste all that gear ye worked so hard to get?

That made Addi feel a bit better. She said she’d hate to have to “start from scratch.” Now that was good. I was actually gettin’ her to talk--real words, too. Not just mumblin’ an babblin’.

So I said, “lemme see yer tongue,” an she stuck it out. An’ ye see, when ye got that kind o’ fever, yer tongue swells and looks like a huge berry o some kind.

An sure enough, that’s what it looked like.

I tol’ her, “Yep, ye got the tongue what looks like a big ol’ berry.”

“How long will this last?” she asked.

An’ I said, “Oh, I reckon ‘bout another three, four days by the looks o’ yer various parts...but after that yer outta the woods. Then ye jus’ gotta take it easy.”

She kinda tensed up an was sayin, “Oh no, I cain’t be layin around, I got too much stuff I must look after, an I have lost so much time already with this...”

Well, I’m givin’ her a bath with this white vinegar, an I could see her wrinklin’ her notstrils at it, an I decide to give her somethin’ else to busy her mind with, other than worry about her stuff, an the odor o’ bein scrubbed down with vinegar.”

So whilst I’m a warshin’ her down, I start a-chatterin’ away, “Hey Addi...the look o’ yer tongue right now--like a giant berry--makes me think of a story m' papaw used to tell.”

And she went, “Oh yea?”

Hehe, I had her hooked.

I started out in this very serious kind o’ voice, “Back in the days o’ ancient Rome, this ol’ Roman feller by the name o Herman was roamin’ the outskirts o’ Rome. An’ he was out wanderin' along that ol’ Tiber river when he found this giant berry.”

I could see her smile at that.

I went on, “Now mind ye, when I say giant, I gotta tell ye, this fucker was huge. Twas just the biggest goddam berry that Roman Herman had ever seen.”

Addi actually laughed out loud. Twas a small laugh, but a good one, an then she took to coughin’ some.

About that time, I found the rash on her, an I tried to warsh very careful and gentle around it so as to not irritate it none.

“What happened next?” she asked.

“Ah, I am glad you asked that Hon. For ye see, in them days the ancient Romans held berries in high regard as very wonderful things, so ye kin imagine how a giant berry like this was quite a treasure. Roman Herman took the berry home...an’ set it on a lil’ pillow, restin atop this short lil’ column...an’ he charged folks a silver piece each to come see it.”

She had this funny grin on her face at this point, an I could tell she was followin’ along.

I continued, “So Romans would come from miles around to view the berry and to praise it!”

Addi seemed impressed. “Really?”

“Yes, Hon, really!” I replied, still warshing her an lookin’ fer signs o’ worse complications as I yammered on. “Yep them Roman folks was mightily impressed and would give Herman a silver piece each, just to stand there lavishin’ praise on the berry an’ goin...damn! What a berry! Hey Cassius! Ain’t that the god-damdest berry you ever seen!”

By this time Addi was laughin’ an coughin’ purty serious, so I giver her a sip o' willow bark tea. I put some honey in it, cuz otherwise folks seem to be o’ the opinion it has a taste that greatly resembles boiled buff’lo turds.

Once she stopped coughin’ I went on. “Well Hon, Roman Herman did so well with this--showin’ folks his berry so they could praise it--he made a pile o’ silver an’ could afford to buy him a villa an’ git hitched. An’ he give his wife the berry fer a weddin’ present. They was very happy, settin aroun’ their villa by the Tiber, with the berry settin next to ‘em on it’s lil satiny pillow. ‘Til one night...these fellers knock on their door. So Roman Herman goes to the door and says howdy y'all, have ye come to see m' wife's berry an’ to praise it? Sadly, it turned out these boys was ancient Roman outlaws...an’ they whipped out their lil’ Roman swords an started whackin’ on poor ol’ Herman whilst shoutin'..."

I paused fer dramatic effect and then asked her, "You ready fer it?”

Addi done giggled and nodded. She could tell the big finish was a comin’.

Then I hollered out in m’ best ancient Roman stentorian voice, “NO! we come to seize her berry, not to praise it!”

Addi, was laughin’ an’ tellin me how I was turrible, an' I was gonna be the end o' her. I grinned an tol’ her I was all done with the vinegar bath and that I saw no signs o’ anythin’ worse settin’ in. This made her quite happy an’ she commented, “Well, I may smell to high heavens but I feel a bit better...I just keep getting so dizzy, and my joints ache so, feels like I’m being pulled apart, but I think the vinegar seems to help. I feel cooler....thank you Dio.”

I suggested she might want to drink some vinegar too...apple cider vinegar tho, as it don’t taste as bad as regular white vinegar. An’ lots o’ willow bark tea.”

She was makin’ faces at that, an’ when I laughed at her about it, she tol’ me, “Oh, I'm a lousy patient, I’ve never been sick like this.”

I countered, “Hon, the good thing is once yer thru this...yer gonna be less likely to get this kind o' fever again...ain't no guarantees, but usually it works that way.”

She thought that was very good news.

I inquired her if she liked m' papaw's berry story. I had figured she would get it, bein’ as she was educated an’ all. I had tol’ the same story to Roku one time, an’ she had jus’ looked at me like I had two fuckin’ heads. But Addi giggled an’ said, “oh yea, very nice...I always was fond of...of...oh that playwriter...”

“You mean Shakespeare?” I asked, an’ she nodded, sayin she was sorry she couldn’t think straight with that fever goin’. I said that was no great never mind, an’ then I tol’ her about how the only two complete books papaw had, the one was a big volume o' Shakespeare, an’ t’other was a lil’ book by his namesake, Marcus Aurelius

She was startin’ to look really befuddled then. “Marcus Aurelius??”

“Yep, he was a Roman emperor an’ philosopher...one o’ what they called the stoics...a very honorable sort o’ gent fer one o’ them Roman rascals. Mostly the book was jus’ lil sayin's he wrote about how to live a good life an not be a miserable cocksucker,” I explained.

Addison nodded an said, “That is important information, you should write a book with that as a title, How to Not be a Miserable Cocksucker...it would sell thousands o’ copies....”,

She tried to set up a little an just sorta fell back on her pillow. She stated sayin’ somethin about what a mess she was, an I said “hell, tain’t so bad..I seen much worse.

She was siad that greatly reassured her. And was startin’ to go on again about how she hated to cause a fuss...an’ I jus’ gently tol her she was bein’ a big ol’ silly, an’ that she was gonna be fine...an’ bout that time she drifted off to sleep.”

An’ sure ‘nuff, in less’n a week she was clearly gonna make it,. After a while, she was her ol’ self again. Mebbe it was the willow bark tea. Mebbe twas the vinegar baths. But I like to think a big part of it was Papaw’s story.
~~~