Monthly Archives: April 2013

Boston Bombing Logistics

Yesterday, resulting from a savage and soulless act, two bombs went off during the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring hundreds. The implication of this attack, along with many others, is that this is simply the kind of world we live in now, one in which random acts of hateful violence take the lives of people the perpetrators never even knew. Before too many are stirred into ruthlessness and desperation, I would like to call that idea into question, not by proposing an alternative but by bringing the totality of the event into scope.

Let’s look at the murder rate for Massachusetts. It was, as of 2011 (I don’t imagine it has changed much since), 2.8 murders per year per 100,000 people. The state population, as of last July, was about 6,600,000. So, this implies that per year, there are 180 murders in Massachusetts. Three people—just three—died in the blast, people I respect and honor the loss of. However, you will note that adding three to 190 does not even break the significant figures. It was an acute act of hatred that injured a lot of people, but, in the grand scheme of things, this is scarcely a blip on the map. Life in Boston will go on, life in Massachusetts will go on as ever, and in the greater scheme of things, the world will not change.

Except of course for the perpetrators, who will be imminently captured and subjected to undeniable horrors in prison. Hey, they made a lot of people angry. Additionally, I wonder what is going on with the security for the marathon; while I recognize that it’s a particularly backwards choice for a target, and they may only scarcely be at fault (believe me, I appreciate them), they might consider going over their event schemes.

Thus, while I am mad as hell at a few specific individuals, and extremely mournful over the loss of innocent people—one of which was an eight year old child—I fully expect the world to move on, and hope the rest of you will as well. Do not allow hype journalists, opportunist marketers, and God-only-knows-how-many-photoshopped-internet-posters stir you from a sound mind.


Addendum: The words of Patton Oswalt

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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Meta-Media


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The Nightmares That Look After Us

tarantula hawk

New Mexican Tarantula Hawk (not actually a flying tarantula, but just as scary)

I’m in the completion stages (what I like to call the “sand, buff, and polish phase”) of a speculative horror story, and it has led me to a number of introspections on the nature of fear.

Not just any fear; proper fear. The kind that leaves you checking your hair and looking over your shoulders for hours, or even days. The kind that is unsettling on a deep level. I have no interest in panicking people (although doing that in literature is a feat in itself), I want to make an imprint on them. It isn’t an interest in their detriment as sentient beings, not an insult or a mock. It’s the same interest that brought us beyond the small children we once were, frightened of bees or spiders or shadows, and into the adulthood we know today.

The great catch is that we’re only fundamentally afraid of the things that we admire. As a youth, I for one was afraid of spiders, terrified of them. I would freeze, too chilled to respond, to move, to dust them out of the way.

Why was I frightened of something so small and squirrelly as a spider? I live in North America, the only deadly spider out here is the black widow, and last I checked, the antivenom was even more deadly than the venom itself. You get bit, you have a ninety nine percent chance of surviving after mild to severe flu symptoms, and I’m not even rounding. Spiders are beautiful out here.

Was it the eight legs? Irrelevant. How about the sheen of the exoskeleton, or the soft fur? That ranged from cute to gorgeous. Maybe it was the multiple eyes, or the pincers? Not particularly. Looking back, it was the way they were so cool about everything. They were trappers. Everything they caught had a singular intention that was bent back against it, stuck in an invisible web, bitten, envenomed, and wrapped into a helpless ball. The spiders are the lords of their universe, they do not panic.

They have no need to panic.

As a small child, I could think of dozens of reasons and many incidents in which it was an excellent time to panic. I was a pro at it back then. Small, kind of scrawny and frail, short-winded (no one ever did figure out why); maybe I was at the top of the food chain but I wasn’t feeling it. And yet, today, I am no longer concerned with spiders, in fact I welcome their company. They’re intelligent, they’re pretty, they keep the place tidy, and unless I do something stupid like roll on top of one in the middle of the night (again), they aren’t generally inclined to bite me.

Today, in many ways, I now am a spider. I have learned from my nightmare, and adopted its ways. Among many native cultures, this would mean that I have a spirit connection with the animal, a belief that I am inclined to follow. After all, they’re adorable.

A proper monster, the kind that remains as a relic of the film or book, in the imaginations of its viewers, long after completion, must also on some level be beautiful and majestic. It must be the kind of creature that we are intimidated by, because we doubt that we can overcome it. It must be everything and everywhere, inescapable, and inevitable; it must become a god to us before the end of the story.

(No, the story I wrote does not involve spiders in any way; but the principle is the same.)

As an addendum, I am now on Twitter as @MickOberlin. Every now and then I’ll come up with the prose equivalent of a limerick, and throw it there instead. I politely encourage you to follow it.

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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Fiction, Meta-Media


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The Old Made New

ImageYesterday, I received a bit of a treat.

I’ve been living in Santa Fe for about a year now. I was here for three years in the past, before a two year hiatus. On returning, I was a minimalist with my luggage; I brought only clothing, my laptop (now defunct), and a collection of my most precious books. Bringing the books out was a bit of a task, paper is heavy and I was stopped by airport security midway through my trip, quite nearly stranding me in Colorado. Just the same, I made it, with enough to live on plus enough to keep me entertained.

Over the following twelve months, I got a job and some gigs and made a few purchases. Computer’s replaced. Internet operational. New clothing, new kitchen supplies, new music, new world. New sound system. Little by little, I replaced my old things, until I had a brand new life around me.

At long last, on the fourth, my mother drives out with a trailer. The catch about the old things was that they had to have gone somewhere, and they were gradually moved with other parties from New York to Tennessee. She has them there, presumably in the basement, in bins for several months, then brings them out with her on her way to Dilia.

Do you have any idea how easy it is to forget the things that mean so much to you? How delightful it is to get them back? It was better than Christmas. I got a full crate of books (at least two more pending out in Tennessee, maybe for next psuedo-Christmas); my movies and CDs; my old radio show recordings; my outback jacket; my best and sexiest ties; my old computer equipment; my guitar, bass, keyboard, V-drums, mixing board, and amplifier; my fedoras; perhaps most importantly, my cat Cannoli.

God, I missed that cat.

It’s all piled in the living room, for the moment, as I dig through everything and decide what needs to stay, what needs to be thrown out, and what needs to be donated. Every time I do, it’s a holiday all over again.

…Mostly because of the cat and the books.

‘Noli, that dope cat, has been reminding us whom is in charge in the most conservative possible ways, such as stealing the bag of catnip and slinging it all over the place, then rolling in it. Just yesterday she wandered into my office space and greeted me with a loud “RAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT” from under the desk. I look down and find her screwing around with my power supply fan, just for the hell of it, something that had to be clarified as a problem.

Gotta love that cat.

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Posted by on April 6, 2013 in Uncategorized