Archive for the ‘Sword’ Category

So I finally got to see Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” movie last night in all its 3D high frame rate glory. The verdict?

Terrible… with some shining good points.

But Dan, you say, I thought you loved JRR Tolkien and the Hobbit? Yes. Yes I do. Why do directors/screenwriters feel the need to mess with something that has been a well-loved classic for millions? WHY! If it has enjoyed success up to this point with the story that exists, why change it? And don’t tell me, “For the story/ narrative.” The narrative worked just fine, that’s why there are Tolkien fans world-wide. So if you’ll indulge my nerdy wrath, let me tell you the various reasons why I was disappointed in the film.

The whole backstory with Azog the goblin. Yes he existed, but he was dead long before the company of 14 left Bag-end. I kind of see that the writers needed a stronger antagonist for this cut-up part of the story, but come on. Here’s what really happened:

After Smaug took the Lonely Mountain. Thror gave his Ring of Power to his son Thrain, and left with a friend, Nar, to go to Moria. When he got there, the gate was open and his friend warned him not to go in, but he walked in like an heir returning. Nar waited outside for many days before the body of Thror was tossed out, headless. The head was also tossed out and on it was branded AZOG. Nar was told that Azog was the new master in Moria and to go back and tell the dwarves. Of course Thrain was furious and the dwarves spent three years amassing an army before they finally marched on Moria in 2799. That is the scene in the movie where Thorin and Thrain are battling the goblins. That scene is accurate in that it shows how Thorin got his nickname Oakenshield, but that’s about all. Nain is the dwarf who battles and is killed by Azog, and Dain (of the Iron Hills), son of Nain, revenges his father and kills Azog, beheading him. Not just cutting off his arm for him to fight another day. Dead. Storyline ends there. Bye bye Azog.

Years later, Thrain, Thorin’s father is captured on the outskirts of Mirkwood and is taken to Dol Guldur where he is tortured and the Ring of Power is taken from him and delivered to Sauron in 2845. Five years later, Gandalf enters Dol Guldur and receives the key to the Lonely Mountain from Thrain before he is killed.

Whew! History lesson over. OK. Next.

The beginning of the movie is fine. The dinner party at Bagend is great. Where it departs from Canon is with the Trolls. First of all, it was pouring rain, not a nice day. Second. The whole party voted that Bilbo should go check out the firelight, not go chasing after some lost ponies. Third, Bilbo is discovered but manages to get away when the trolls start fighting amongst themselves, then the dwarves start showing up one by one and get put into sacks so that they can’t warn the others. Thorin manages to get in a few licks with a burning branch, but he too is captured and Bilbo is punted up into a tall bush. Then Gandalf comes back and impersonates the Troll’s voices so that they end up arguing about how to cook the dwarves until daylight turns them to stone. All in all, the movie didn’t change too much, and the scene is not pivotal to the plot. But if it wasn’t so important, why change it at all? It was fine as originally written.

Then the movie goes on a lark with Radagast the Brown and tries setting up how Sauron is amassing power in Mirkwood, but that doesn’t really enter into the Hobbit at all. Gandalf just mentions that a “Necromancer” is gaining power in Mirkwood and Radagast the Brown shows up in the Hobbit for all of ONE SENTENCE, while they are on the way to Beorn’s house.

And the whole business about being chased by Wargs before “escaping” to Rivendell? Rubbish. They missed the whole fantastic scene in the book where the company enters Rivendell at twilight and the elves sing/make fun of them from the trees. Also, still on ponies and horses. They didn’t run away after their ordeal with the trolls.

Rivendell itself was spectacular as it always is, but the whole council with Galadriel and Saruman never happened.

The Stone giants scene was cool and I’m willing to forgive a little creative license there, but they still had the ponies with them, and Gandalf too, when they were captured in the cave. Bilbo remains with the group the whole time during their escape, which was a ridiculous affair of Disney theme ride/ Ewok village rope bridges in the movie, where in the book it is all dark low passages. When the goblins catch up with the group a second time, Dori, who was carrying Bilbo on his shoulders, is grabbed from behind and Bilbo is knocked out and overlooked. When he awakes, he fumbles over The Ring on the ground, he doesn’t watch it fall out of Gollum’s pocket.

The Riddles in the Dark scene is great, except that it’s not dark. When Bilbo finally escapes, he losses his brass buttons trying to squeeze out the final door to the outside, away from Gollum and the goblin guards.

The scene where the party goes from the frying pan and into the fire was well done except for the whole showdown between Thorin and AZOG, who as we found out, was already long dead.

When they are rescued by the Eagles, (who just look down and see the fire with their good eyesight and don’t have to be informed via butterfly mail) we miss out on the whole scene of the dwarves being taken up to their Eyrie that night and wondering if they are going to be eaten for the Eagle’s dinner. And then they are brought to the Carrock, and so we leave them there., gazing at the nonexistent view of the Lonely Mountain.

After all that, here’s what the movie did right: Visually stunning. The HFR was incredible, but hard to get used to. At first, it looks a bit like Spanish daytime soap operas. You know, that hard light where everything looks very realistic. After a while, you begin to appreciate the detail, but it takes time. Erebor was amazing and the golden hoard was a sight to behold. All the characters were wonderful, and Bilbo and Thorin were spot on, even though they participated in scenes that shouldn’t have existed. the Wargs were awesome, and the goblins were perfect. Just different enough from LOTR’s orcs to be just right. The Goblin King in particular was wonderful.

Overall, I think that Peter Jackson has a great vision for the world of Middle Earth, and he did better than most would. But why didn’t he just stick to the beloved story? Tolkien fans should watch it, but you have been warned to not expect it to be true to canon.

What do you think?

P.S. I think I’m so upset, because I grew up with Tolkien s’ works. It’s different than, say, The Walking Dead graphic novels versus the TV show. I read and enjoyed the comics first, and noted the differences when the show aired, but since it wasn’t ingrained in my childhood; since I didn’t spend hours drawing maps of Georgia, or making hand-drawn board games of The Walking Dead, I wasn’t as upset. Or take any modern series. Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. Yes, it bothered me when the movies departed from the novels, but it didn’t feel like a betrayal.

Another good year for books. Since I got a Nook, I read even more than usual. But I still kept a lookout at the library and when I spied some new addition to a series I enjoyed. I will say though, the Nook contributed to some reading A.D.D. I definitely started a good deal many more books than I finished this year. And switching to digital has spoiled me in some ways too. I found myself reading a real paper book and getting annoyed that I couldn’t just touch and hold a word for an immediate definition. Or that it took my 12 seconds to turn the page when I was reading on my side in bed with one arm under the covers; instead of just a push of a button. ‘Tis the way of  the future I suppose. Anyway, I hope you get something out of my list. Happy reading!

Robopocalypse: A Novel

A welcome change from all the zombiepocalypse novels I’ve read lately. Basically the military experiments with AI and, what do you know, it escapes and decides to “destroy” the humans. When you read it, you’ll understand the quotes. The book is well written and follows several disparate groups along their path to fight against Big Rob. The book is also written completely from the perspective of recorded digital footage gleaned from a hard drive. So, all conversations, movements, etc. appear from a robot’s sensors. This is not nearly as tedious as it sounds, and was quite cool.

Indulgence in Death

Possession in Death (In Death Series)

Treachery in Death

Assassin of Secrets

A good old spy thriller set in the 60’s. If you like James Bond or Jason Bourne, you’ll enjoy this romp through Europe at the heels of the best secret agent in the US as he tries to snare the organization that is systematically killing off top operatives all over the world.

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse)

After reading about spies, robots, and New York City Police Lieutenants, it was nice to get back to a really good space opera. Although one of the main plots follows a detective following his nose in classic Noir. This book was political without trying too hard, and seemed to accurately predict what society might be like after a few hundred years living in the outer Solar System on asteroids and on the outer moons. Tension builds well throughout the book and, much as I try to escape it, I still ended up reading about zombies. (kind of).

Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel

A zombie novel centered around a secret government organization (think NSA, CIA, + Seal Team Six) trying to stop the first outbreak before it becomes public knowledge. Oh, yeah, also, the zombies are terrorist bio-weapons, designed for maximum contagion by radical Muslims. A fun, bloody stroll through terror suppression, but since it is contemporary, it doesn’t totally redefine the world like “Feed” by Mira Grant.

Engaging the Enemy (Vatta’s War)

This is the 3rd in the series, however, after trying to sync up my reading schedule and library holds, I just couldn’t wait any longer to start at the beginning. It was a pretty good military sci-fi tale.

Command Decision (Vatta’s War)

Context

I like everything this guy has written, so that said, this is a great collection of essays (blog posts) about writing, life in the digital age, copyright, and other cool issues. Dig it.

Rule 34

Yes, that rule 34. A good mix of detective yarn and political thriller set in Edinburgh around 50 years from now. I liked all the cool gadgets like the augmented reality spex that the police use (much like Google is designing now) and the cheap 3D printer/ fabbers running in back garages, making things for the black market using illegal feedstock disguised as…well I don’t want to ruin it.

Victory Conditions (Vatta’s War)

Seed

A desolate, distopic, ecopunk vision of America after extreme climate change. The only way people can scrabble a living is using genetically engineered seeds from an all powerful corporation, Satori. But that’s just the beginning.  This was a supremely creative work, filled with Chicano slang, genetic engineers who can literally see the helix dance, sleek military vehicles growling across the desert, and a city made from living flesh and bone.

The Dervish House

A book that you can really delve into, sinking slowly past layer upon layer of character, location, culture, and cutting edge science that all coalesce into a magnificent whole: Istanbul. The city features in this cool near-future mystery through the streets of the Queen of Cities.  And it even has a very satisfying ending! One of the best I’ve read in a while.

Coffee is Good for You: From Vitamin C and Organic Foods to Low-Carb and Detox Diets, the Truth about Diet and Nutrition Claims

Foolish me, I thought the whole book would be about coffee. Still an interesting read. I generally eat pretty well anyway, so I already knew many of the things to stay away from, or eat more of.

Hell’s Gate (BOOK 1 in new MULTIVERSE series)

I usually limit my fantasy intake to one or two a year, but this seemed to have enough sci-fi in it to qualify. Also, I was between books and this had been recommended to me (thrust into my hands, in fact) and so I gave it a chance. Once you get over the fact that there are multiple universes that can be travelled to by passing through portals, it isn’t too bad.  Basically, two scouts come face to face in a wood where neither one expected to see other humans. One guy is from a culture that is based on magic. They use spells in everyday life and think nothing of it. The other guy is from a culture much like our own around the 1890s. They have steam power and machine guns, but still use horses to travel. Also, a section of their culture has mental powers, such as the ability to communicate over long distances, or visualize terrain. This was a bit of a sore point for me, as I thought the story would have been better had the technological civilization been modeled more closely on our own, without the mental “Talents.” Either way, the story pulled me along to the point that the book was constantly in my pocket or in my hand. The story itself follows a husband and wife, among others, as the two cultures deal with the fallout of their two cultures clashing in violence at their first meeting. It will definitely read the sequel as I have already invested 1400 pages so far.

Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine

A great primer on wine, written with a fresh insight and a knowledgeable hand. Read this, and drink more of the Good Stuff.

The Games

A fast-paced thriller about the future Olympic gladiator competition where the contestants fight to the death and the only rule is that they can’t have any human DNA.  Pretty good. I think I read it in two days.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I’m almost ashamed to say, this was my first time reading the Holmes stories. This also marked my switch-over from paper to digital e-books. As proven by history, the Sherlock Holmes tales are superb and rightfully deserve their place in literary classic literature.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Dover Thrift Editions)

Before the Strand  by Amanda Raymond

A great novel written by my oldest friend. (we met when I was two) Succinctly, a novel that centers on Sherlock Holmes’s secret son. The author is a true Holmes fan, so I assure you that everything makes sense, fits with earlier timelines, and is accurate to the nth degree. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and, as you can see, I read it right in the middle of reading all the classic Holmes stories and it rang true. Her tale is well thought out and fast paced, taking the reader on a tour of Old London and Cambridge following Holmes’s son Jonathan as he comes to terms with who he is as a man, and struggles to escape death at the hands of one of the most famous murderers in Europe.

A Study in Scarlet

A great mystery of intrigue and Mormonism.

The Sign of the Four

The Hound of the Baskervilles (with illustrations by Sidney Paget)

One of the greatest tales of Sherlock Holmes.

Sh*t My Dad Says

Hilarious. That’s all you need to know.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Just when you were missing the shorter tales, he’s back!

Kill-Basa by Sean Graham

A cool collection of zombie short stories.

Countdown: A Joe Ledger Short Prequel Short Story to Patient Zero

This works as a short story, only if you don’t plan to read Patient Zero, because it”s basically just the first chapter of the novel. Patient Zero was fun though, so give it a try.

Caliban’s War (The Expanse)

The sequel to Leviathan Wakes.

Exogene (The Subterrene War)

The Subterrene war from a clone’s perspective. Very bleak, with much existentialism and religious control thrown in. A chilling read on the future of warfare. Really good.

Chimera (The Subterrene War)

The final subterrene novel. This was a crazy trip through war, kind of like “Heart of Darkness” meets “Apocalypse Now” meets “Blade Runner” Really cool. Very dark. The main character is a classic anti-hero. A masterful capstone to the trilogy.

Apocalypse Scenario #683: The Box

A chilling short story from the author of the Newsflesh trilogy.

Heat Wave, Premium Edition (Nikki Heat, Book 1)

The first Nikki Heat novel by fictional crime writer Richard Castle from the ABC show Castle with Nathan Fillion. This was a great quick read. I found it especially interesting because if you are a fan of the show, you can gain insight into the authors decisions for how the “journalist” and the detective interact. It was better than you would think a book based on a TV show about writing crime books could be.

The Book of Rules: The Right Way to Do Everything

This was a fun book. I thought it would funnier than it was, but no it IS actually a book of rules for life. However, there are some good ones. Having to notify and obtain permission from your neighbors if you plan on installing wind chimes. Bending Q-tips in half after use so they won’t be reused inadvertently. Stuff like that.

Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile (Book 2)

The adventure continues and widens in scope.

The Book of Swords

If you are a fan of swords, knives, axes, knights in shining armour, vikings, etc. then you should really read this book.

The Cold Commands

A great sequel to “The Steal Remains.” My biggest complaint with the first book was that there was too much explicit gay sex. It seems that the author listened to his fans as the intimate moments in this volume are toned WAY down. Far from detracting from the realism of the story, my enjoyment was increased by their absence. By the way, I don’t hate gay people, I’d just rather not read very descriptive sex scenes all through a fantasy book. The Cold Commands expanded on  the world-building of the Steal Remains and followed an ever tightening circle of mystery to a cool climax.

7th Sigma

I was sure exactly what to expect with this book and I was pleasantly surprised. The main character is a young boy who falls in with an Aikido master in the American West… after a mysterious event happened where that part of the country is infected with robotic bugs that devour all metal. A cool mix of serene martial arts, undercover spy novel, and western, with crazy bugs thrown in.

Foreign Influence: A Thriller

A good thriller that I was semi-forced to listen to on a roadtrip, but when we got back home, we were only halfway through. So I had to finish it.

Weather by Alastair Reynolds

A great short story about knowledge of self, sacrifice, your life’s work, and of course, space pirates.

Blood Oath

One of my first Vampire novels besides Dracula. I stick more to zombies. Anyway. I thought this was really good. The basic idea is that the President has had a Vampire working for hi since 1860 or so. He’s like the ultimate secret agent and Seal Team Six rolled into one. It did a good job of explaining the vampires physiology and limits. An interesting idea, well executed.

Casino Royale (James Bond)

The first Bond novel. Very good. Stark.

The Fixation by Alastair Reynolds

A cool short story about the consequences of trying to mess with physics and multiple universes.

Live and Let Die (James Bond)

If there is one word that would describe the essence of this book, it would be: negro. Yeahhhh, I know. It was first published in the 50s and it is now very dated. Once you get past the awkward language, it’s a great spy story.

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

What can I say? I love pretty much everything this man has written. A great, fast paced ( I think I read it in 2 days) novel that pokes fun at Trekkie tropes and yet creates something new.

Little Fuzzy

I read Scalzi’s reboot last year, so I thought I should check out the original. It was good, but I preferred the updated version.

Amped

A great cautionary tale about how society reacts to scientific advancement and change. Mirroring apartheid, humans that have undergone intelligence amplification quickly become outcasts from society and have to fight for equality against public opinion and a shadowy organization.

Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books)

A decent steampunk yarn, but somehow I was expecting more.

Blackout (The Newsflesh Trilogy)

The conclusion of the greatest zombie trilogy out there.

Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella

How it all started. A must for Newsflesh fans.

Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura (Rot and Ruin))

A cool take on living post zombie apocalypse. I read part of this novel as a short story and the idea captivated me. Benny Imura’s brother is a bounty hunter for zombies. People still remember their loved ones, so they take old pictures to “erosion artists” who paint them as zoms. Then they hire bounty hunters to go out and kill their zombified relatives to give them peace. But the novel is so much more than that.

Naked Heat (Nikki Heat)

The second book by fictional author Richard Castle from the TV show. This one drew far more on plot points from previous episodes in the show, but that didn’t make it bad. The actual mystery kept me guessing till right near the end.

Moonraker (James Bond)

I’m sure this was a great story in the 1950s. But it is very dated today. It’s still a good Bond story though.

The Great Bazaar and Other Stories

Fans of Arlen and the Demon Cycle will really like this collection. I like the one about his searching for the lost tomb.

The Passage: A Novel

Wow. Cronin writes beautifully, and the 850+ pages fly by. I wasn’t sure how I would like yet another vampire book, but this is believable enough that it makes sense. You know the deal. Military is working on biological enhancements for soldiers, oops they escape. World ends. But the whole milieu is great. A classic quest tale.

The Hobbit or There and Back Again. Illustrated by the Author

Classic. I read this to my son for bedtimes the last few months. It’s still such a good tale. If you haven’t read this yet, you really need to.

Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms (Volume 1)

I got this series as a gift. It is much more fantasy than sci-fi in the beginning, however it has a way of turning inexorably towards a bigger picture. Like most trilogies, the first book doesn’t really come to a conclusive end, so I must press on. It’s also interesting that the humans are the bad guys.

The Tamarisk Hunter

This is a short story that can be found here: Pump Six and Other Stories  A realistic look at what may happen in the American West when fresh water and water rights start becoming super important. Important enough to destroy cities and alter society.

Lodestone Book Two: The World of Ice and Stars (Volume 2)

Book two. The far side of the world. What would happen when one species is separated early in it’s development and then develops along two very different paths? Well, we know from all the varied cultures here on Earth that anything i possible. My one big complaint with this series so far is that the timeline of events is not clear. Everything with the main characters is fine. I’m talking about planetary developments throughout history. Regardless, I will finish the 3rd book in the series within the week.

Total 59

This was Andrew’s first time at the Scottish Games. He had a blast  listening to the bagpipes. We even got to be in the parade of Clans, representing Donald of course. My wife made his kilt out of the material I used for my own homemade kilt for prom 10 years ago. It’s the MacDonald dress tartan.

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I just finished this short story today and would love feedback. Please let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Pirate Beach

by: Dan Mumford

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dan-in-pirate-battle-with-greg

“Avast thar ye scurvy landlubber!” the heroic pirate said. “Swab the poop deck and belay the mainstays or you’ll walk the plank!” A bolt of lightening lit the handsome pirate from behind as waves crashed up over the sides of the fearsome frigate. His beard flowed in the wind that threatened to pluck him from his perch among the rigging that he held onto gallantly with one hand, his other, clutching a rusty cutlass. “Titan’s Teeth! You’d best shift yourself, you yellowbellied son of a seacow or I’ll hang you by your thumbs from the yardarm and use you for musket practice!”

“How come I always have to be a landlubber?” Timmy said. “You always get to be the pirate captain! Why can’t I be the one who shoots the cannons or something?”

“Shut up Timmy! Pirates have to have someone to order around. How else can I be a mean pirate? Now go swab the deck before I keelhaul you, ya bifurcated bilge rat!”

“No! I’m sick of this game! I’m going back to the cottage to tell Mom you won’t let me be a real pirate.” Timmy yelled. He jumped down from the rocks on the sea wall that made up their pirate ship and landed in the soft, hot sand, then ran up the path, away from the beach. They had only been there three days and already Kyle was being a jerk. Who thought of playing pirates in the first place? Not Kyle. He even brought his video games with him. He said they were only for the car, but when Timmy wanted to go exploring down the beach, Kyle was too busy playing Blaster Master to care. It was Timmy who found the big wall of rocks that was a perfect pirate ship. It was Timmy who pulled two slats out of the weathered beach fence so they could swordfight. Kyle only agreed to play when Timmy said he could borrow his skull and crossbones handkerchief and use it on his head. Then all of a sudden he was the Pirate Captain who could order the lowly deckhand Timmy around.

Timmy stormed into the cottage and went straight to his room. He shut the door with a bang and flopped onto the bed. After a few seconds, he reached up behind him, picked up his book off the shelf, and started to read. We’ll see how much fun Kyle has playing pirates all by himself he thought as he immersed himself in and adventure on the Spanish Main. He couldn’t decide if he wanted to be Jim Hawkins or Squire Trelawney, but he always ended up imagining himself as Long John Silver. Except in his version, he had both his legs. Having a wooden peg for a leg made him shiver.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, Kyle came breezing in, asking for a popsicle, even though he’d already had one that morning. Of course Mom said yes. Figures. Oh well. He’ll get bored playing his PsP in an hour and then when he wants to explore again, Timmy will say, “No.” That’ll teach him.

That afternoon, a storm blew in from the ocean the likes of which they hadn’t seen before. Both boys wanted to go down to the beach to see the ocean and how big the waves must be, but Dad said it would be too dangerous. A tree next to the small cottage fell over right outside Kyle’s window just before bedtime. It took him an extra hour to fall asleep that night. Timmy used his spyglass out the window and tried to see anything down at the beach amidst all the swirling chaos. He could still make out the horizon faintly, and was just about to collapse his telescope when he saw something illuminated by a flash of lightning. Far out in the bay, he thought he saw a ship. This would have been nothing unusual because ships crossed the bay all day long. Except this ship had sails. And not just sails like one of those tiny sailboats that rich people have. Huge square sails, hung from three masts taller than the biggest telephone pole Timmy had ever seen. It looked exactly like a frigate might look straight out of the 1700’s. His eyes locked onto the spot as he fought his nerves to keep the scope steady, waiting for another flash of lightning. BANG! There was another one! But no ship. He panned the horizon from edge to edge but the ship seemed to have disappeared. Beneath the waves, or maybe…back to its own time.

Timmy flew off the chair he’d been leaning on and ran into Kyle’s room.

“Guess what?”

“I don’t care Timmy, just leave me alone.” Kyle said from under the covers.

“No. It’s really cool! I swear.”

“You’re not just gonna call me a scaredy-cat for hiding from the storm?”

“No.”

“OK. What?”

“I just saw a pirate ship!”

“Shut up. No you didn’t. You’ve just been reading Treasure Island too much.”

“No really! I was looking through my spyglass just like Billy Bones does, and when the lightening flashed, I saw a huge ship out in the bay. With big masts and everything. Then it disappeared. For real. We have to go down to the beach tomorrow and see what happened. Maybe they landed and built a huge pirate fort with cannons right next to ours and we can have fights with them. This is gonna be awesome!”

“Fine, if it gets you to shut up about it, I’ll go exploring with you tomorrow. But right now, I want to sleep.”

“YES! Ok, I’ll wake you up early so we can go.” Timmy said. He bounded out of the room and across the small living room to the window for one last look before getting ready for bed himself.

The next morning broke softly in the bay after the big storm. Small whippoorwills and bobwhites twittered out in the trees while the sun struggled to burn off the early morning mist and dew that hung on the scrub pine trees surrounding their vacation retreat. Timmy scarfed down a bowl of Honeynut Cheerios and tiptoed across the creaky floorboards in the old cottage to his brother Kyle’s room. Much to Timmy’s surprise, Kyle was not only up, but had a bag packed, stuffed to the brim with assorted pirate stuff. The wooden dagger he had made on the lathe down in his uncle’s woodshop last year, the ragged eyepatch that never fit quite right, his replica map of the Caribbean from the 1700’s he bought in the gift shop the last time they went to Provincetown, even his old stuffed monkey with the missing leg that he had cut off so it would be a real pirate-monkey.

“Ready?” Timmy asked, although clearly, he was.

“Yeah. How about you?”

“I just need to grab my sword. I left it out on the porch last night. Did you have breakfast yet?”

“Nah, we’ll only be gone like an hour. I wanna wait for Mom to get up, then instead of cold cereal, I can have eggs and sausage and stuff.”

“Ok. Let’s go!”

The two boys went out through the side door so as not to wake their parents. Bare feet slid through damp sand on the way around the little cottage so they could pick up their homemade weaponry. They hop-skipped down the path to the road to avoid the prickly pine needles that always stabbed their feet. Kyle still got one on his left foot and hopped the rest of the way down to the hard packed sand of the private road that led to their beach like an injured heron. On their right, another cottage lay hidden among the trees. House seemed like a better term though, it was twice the size of the cottage they stayed in. Sure it was closer to the beach by 200 feet, but it didn’t have the clear view of the water that the boys insisted on.

Down the road and up to the top of the little wooden ramp that led down to the beach. A few years ago, there had been no ramp, just sand. Timmy and Kyle used to have contests to see who could jump farthest down the small sand-filled gully. Inevitably, one of them always hit one of the big rocks that were buried a few inches below the surface. Today, they scampered down the ramp without a second thought of past contests. Today, they were going to find a real live pirate ghost ship!

The tide was almost all the way in this morning. The swimming raft lay beached on the flat sand that made up the sandbar that lined the beach for almost 2 miles out in some places, but would soon be floating again as the incoming water continued its unstoppable march towards land. First stop, the tide pools. No pirates there, but there were always fun things to find. Hermit crab wrestling matches and oddly shaped seaweed clumps that looked just like the hair of some sea witch when you put it on your head. Kyle chased Timmy around for several minutes, trying to turn him into a barnacle with his new powers from the witch’s green scraggley hair.

“Cut it out!” Timmy whined. “I’m tired of this. Let’s go find the pirate ship now.”

“Fine. Where do you want to look first?” Kyle asked.

“Well…it was pointing left…I mean port, so we should head to port.”

“But Mom said we can’t go farther than the end of the sea wall.”

“Do you wanna see real pirates or not?” Timmy asked. “Come on, let’s go.”

The boys came back up the beach to the dry sand above the high tide mark and started walking down the strand. Each one kept a weather eye out for interesting bits of driftwood, ray egg cases, or horseshoe crab shells to bring back home. It seemed to their mother that each year, they were determined to collect the smelliest flotsam they could find, just to stink up the van on the long ride back home. After walking for ten minutes, Kyle started to complain.

“I think we should turn back now Timmy. Mom’s gonna be mad. We’ve never been this far down from our beach before. Besides, there aren’t any real pirates out here. I was just playing along. But it’s not fun anymore. Let’s go.”

“Aww come on! We haven’t even seen anything yet. They could be right around this bend. You can go back if you want, but if I find a big ol heap of pirate treasure, I’m not sharing any of it with you. And I’ll buy a hundred Ps2s and X-boxes, and a new BMX bike, and a remote control car with an awesome jump, and a real bow and arrow, and fireworks, and a pet tiger, and a thousand LEGO sets and I won’t let you play with any of it. Unless…you keep going.” Kyle stopped and considered for a moment, then resignedly kept walking. “That’s what I thought.”

Timmy and Kyle came up to a big curve in the beach that hid the rest of the coast from view. Neither boy noticed the imperceptible shift in the breeze, or the sudden absence of traffic noise from the road that ran parallel to the beach. They kept walking until they rounded the corner. Kyle walked right into Timmy’s back and fell down.

“Oww! Idiot! Why’d you do that fo…” Kyle’s complaints petered out as he took in the same scene that stopped Timmy in his tracks. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Timmy was right! A group of pirates looked up from their work on the beach. Behind them, a huge ship hove to off the shore with a giant hawser leading down to the biggest anchor they had ever seen, stuck halfway out of the ripple marked sand. A pirate with a huge tricorn hat, and a red coat with gold trim stepped towards them with a mischievous glint in his eye.

“Ahoy there lads! Come to give us a hand, have ye?”

It was only then that the brothers noticed the two chests brimming with gold, diamonds, rubies, silver, sapphires, pearls, and other assorted fineries. Timmy even saw a few crowns in amongst all the bullion. They just stood there gaping for what seemed like hours until the Captain addressed them again.

“Look lively there boyos. Them chests are full o’ blood money. I can see ye be powerful confused. Tell us why now, afore I unship me cutlass.”

Kyle looked at Timmy until Timmy finally spoke. “We saw your ship last night so we came down to the beach and searched for you. Are you real pirates?” he asked with a mix of admiration and fear in his young voice.

“Aye laddie. That we be. The most feared pirates that ever set sail. I’m Cap’n Bartholomew, but you can call me Black Bart. This here is me gunner Long Jim, my bosun Crazy Uncle Pete, and my luitenant Crook Eye Davy. The rest o’ these lubbers is deckhands. And who might you be, eh?”

“Oh! Well I’m Timmy, But you can call me Karl the Killer, And this is my brother Kyle. He goes by Kyle the Crustacean.” Timmy said smiling.

“I do not! Stupid!” Kyle protested. “I’m Bender the Brutal. And he’s my deckhand!” The boys started squabbling, but then realized they were in front of a real pirate Captain and had better mind their manners, at least for now.

“Well Karl and Bender, mighty pleased to meetcha. I can see you’re smart as paint. Just so happens, we’re in need of a new cabin boy. The last one had an accident with a brace o pistols after a poker game. Shame really, him being only 10 an’ that. Ah well, the troubles we face at sea, right?” the Captain beamed. “So what say you? Mind, I only have room fer one o’ you. T’other’ll have to stay behind. Maybe even keep watch o’er the treasure for us.”

The brothers looked at each other dumbstuck. Real pirates wanted one of them to go with them as crew. Their future life paths spun out before them in an instant, each boy imagining what it must be like as part of a real pirate crew. Kyle thought about the adventures they would have and cannon fights played out over swirling maelstroms of doom, threatening to suck the entire ship down to Davy Jones’ locker. But reality kicked shut the door opening onto his dreams. Being on a ship at sea would mean no more video games. No more computers, or online chats with his schoolmates about which band they liked. The only bands where he was headed were acoustic, and included hornpipes and jigs as their most requested tunes. No more microwavable mac n’ cheese or ice cream sandwiches, only hard tack, salt pork and plum duff if he was lucky. Kyle thought about all these things and found his answer deep in Timmy’s eyes.

Timmy was far more suited to this strange new life. Kyle had only watched a few pirate movies in his spare time, unrealistic poorly researched Hollywood affairs at that. Timmy on the other hand, in addition to seeing the over-the-top movies, had read all the classic sea tales and knew them by heart. Treasure Island, Captains Courageous, Two Years before the Mast, Robinson Crusoe, Mutiny on the Bounty, and many others. He knew what he would be getting into. He knew how to load and fire a cannon (theoretically), how many feet were in a fathom, and how to tie a sheepshank, whereas Kyle only had a vague idea how to do these things. He could even name all the sails, from the flying jib to the mizen topgallant staysail. Besides, Timmy never really liked video games all that much, preferring to play outside, every tree his ship, every sharp stick his sword. Without a word spoken between them, the choice was clear.

“I’m your man Cap’n” said Timmy bravely. “Only… can I go back and say goodbye to my mother?”

“Fraid not lad, as soon as we’re done buryin’ this loot, we sail with the tide. Young Marcy spied a colonial schooner nosing about these parts before the storm hit and we can’t afford a scuffle right now. We need to re-provision at the nearest friendly port o’ call afore we can snatch any more booty.”

Just then, Timmy had an idea.

“What year is it Cap’n?” he asked, already guessing the answer.

“Why, it be the year of our Lord seventeen hundred and sixteen. Just last month, that scurvy dog Sam Bellamy took a beautiful sloop right out from under our noses on his cursed ship Wydah. Why do you ask?”

“No reason, Cap’n. Let me just have a word with my brother here and I’ll be ready to go.” Timmy took Kyle by the elbow and led him off a short distance away from the group of seamen. “Kyle, do you realize what this means?” he said in excited whispers. “Somehow, we passed through some sort of time bubble or something. Like a door in time. Look around you. Do you see any of those expensive beach condos that Mom is always going on about? No? That’s because they don’t exist yet. If I really can’t go back and say goodbye, I have a plan. I’ll write a note to Mom telling her where I am, and that I’m OK. Then I’ll put it in the treasure chest. You can walk back down the beach and I think you’ll come out of the time bubble and be back in our time. Then you can tell them what happened. Get Dad to come help you dig up the treasure. Odds are, it will still be here in the present, just remember where to dig. Make sure and get some press there when you uncover the case with my note in it. This will be the greatest thing ever! I win ‘cause I get to go and live with Pirates. And you win because you and Mom and Dad will be rich from all that treasure. And we’ll all be famous because my note will prove that we traveled back in time. I’ll just have to put in something about i-pods and President Obama. Scientists will think it’s a hoax of course, until they test the paper and ink and find out it really is authentic from the 1700’s. This is awesome!”

“There’s just one thing.” said Kyle. “I won’t have a little brother anymore.”

“Aww come on. You know we never really got along. And besides, after you get all that money, you can buy the best video game system in the world and you’ll forget all about me.”

“No, that’s not true. I’ll always remember.”

“Thanks Kyle. Now let’s go. We don’t want to miss the tide, now do we?”

Kyle and Timmy walked back over to the Captain.

“Excuse me sir?” asked Timmy. “Can you spare some paper and a pen. I’d like to leave my own mark with this treasure, on behalf of my new crew.”

“Buckets o’ Blood! You can write?” the Captain exclaimed. Timmy nodded “And I expect you can read as well. What about poker? Can you play poker?” Timmy shook his head no. “Excellent! You’ll be the best cabin boy we’ve ever had!” Captain Bart reached into his voluminous coat and brought out a worn leather map case. He reached inside and handed Timmy a piece of parchment. From another pocket, he withdrew a feather. For a moment, the boys were confused, until they realized that it was a fountain pen, the tip carefully cut to dispense ink in fine flowing curves. “Only one problem, lad.” the Captain said. “We got no ink. You’ll have to do it the old fashioned way. Hold out your non-writin’ hand.” Timmy did as he was told and held up his left hand. Without warning, the Captain drew a small dagger and pricked Timmy in the meat of his thumb before he could react. Timmy flinched too late, and expected to see blood gushing out from his hand like a river, but when he inspected his palm, only a small drop of crimson betrayed the wounds’ existence. Not wasting any time, Timmy dipped the feather into his blood and began to write. As he wrote, he thought about how the scientists might even test the blood for his DNA. Further proof that they really did time travel. When he was finished, he let the blood dry, carefully folded the letter, and placed it onto the pile of gold in the last unburied chest. The pirates closed it up and lowered it into the waiting hole with grunts and snarls of exertion, then piled sandy dirt into the hole until there was no trace it ever existed. Then it was time for goodbyes. Timmy walked up to his brother and gave him a big hug.

“Goodbye brother. Enjoy the treasure, and try not to let Mom freak out too much when she finds out I ran away with pirates.”

“Goodbye Timmy. I’ll think of you whenever I look out to sea. May you have safe voyages and the wind always at your back.” Then Kyle turned to the Captain. “Goodbye sir. Please take care of my brother. May your hold swell with booty and your grog store never run dry.”

“Fare thee well Bender the Brutal. Now we must set sail.” And with that, the Captain turned around and marshaled his crew back to the bumboat they came ashore on, Timmy among them. He waved goodbye one last time as the boat battled its way out through the incoming surf. Then Kyle turned around and walked back towards his beach. As he rounded the corner, he felt a strange tickly sensation. He looked around and suddenly noticed the luxury condominiums butted right up to the edge of the beach. He noticed something else too. Yelling. His mother’s voice carried over the ocean breeze and the crashing waves like they didn’t even exist. She sounded mad. Oh boy, he thought. I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do.

My knife display

Posted: February 22, 2009 in Art, baby, Home, ninja, Sword
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img_17111So I finally put up my knives that have been locked in a foot locker since I’ve been married. I don’t know why. I just got in a mood, and my wife was out of the house : )  The top one is the Kraken, immediately below that is the Egyptian one, and then the Leviathan is on the bottom. I forget what the two on the left side are called. We have a new-ish baby so I had to put them somewhere up high. They are mounted on the wall above the window in the stairwell. I can almost reach the bottom one on my tippee toes so I think they’re baby proof. I also jumped up and down and slammed the wall a few times to see if any of them would fall down, but they’re solid.

I think that the possessions you own ought to be either functional, beautiful, or both. These may not be “functional” per se. ( I couldn’t imagine chopping an onion with them) But I think they have a certain beauty to them.

Synth Battle

Posted: February 19, 2009 in design, Music, Sword
Tags: , ,

My new favorite commercial.

This movie is going to rock so hard.

My mom got me this impressive jambiya for Christmas this year. She got it from her friend’s father who is dead but had lived in Saudi Arabia for a while.
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From my research online, it is the Wahhabite style which is from the Western regions of Arabia, Hijaz, and Asir. The Wahhabite form of Islam is particularly violent towards infidels and even many other branches of Islam like Sunni and Shi’a, as you can see by their longer blades. “Normal” jambiyas usually have five to eight inch long blades, not eighteen.

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img_1663The craftsmanship is beautiful on this piece. The blade is super sharp all the way to the hilt which is uncommon in my experience with swords and daggers. I think the coolest part about this knife is that it has history. You can tell that it’s been worn, a lot. Someone wore this everyday. I wonder if those stains on the blade are from blood? Another nice perk is that all of the Wahhabite Jambiyas I’ve seen online are quite expensive. From $450 – $1200, not that I want to sell it.