Fish People

31 03 2007

You know who they are. You’ve seen them on the highways and side streets.

Fish people.

These people are some of the worst drivers on the face of the Earth. Since I have had occasion to drive in several countries, I feel that I am qualified to make that statement.

Fortunately, these horrid drivers thoughtfully adopt a warning symbol on their vehicles to warn others that the person driving is more dangerous than road rage, psychopathic hitchhikers, and alcohol combined. If you ever see a car with a fish logo on the back, give that car a wide berth.

I don’t know why these people are such bad drivers. Some people claim it’s because fish people are not afraid of a collision because they feel they’d be going to a better place. I’m not sure. All I can speak to is my observations from driving many different vehicles on three continents.

In Italy, for example, road signs, lines on the road, lanes, and even common sense are considered mere suggestions. IN Napoli, for example, tourists are warned against crossing the streets unless they accompany a nun. The tiny little cobblestone alleys the Italians laughingly refer to as streets are used for two or three lanes of traffic, defying the laws of physics and any shred of interest in self-preservation. And yet, Italians are the most reserved and gracious of drivers compared to the fish people of North America.

In Egypt, driving is an exercise in three-dimensional ballet. I have seen common four-way intersections with traffic flowing in at least six directions. Pedestrians literally take their lives in their hands trying to cross a street. But I would rather skateboard blindfolded through downtown Cairo at rush hour than share the roads of the United States with fish people.

Only one group of drivers even come close to the abysmal  driving habits of the fish people. They are fortunately restricted to the West Coast of the US- specifically California. This is not a screed against California drivers, however. I speak of a distinct group of drivers who also thoughtfully bear warning logos on the rear of their cars to warn others of their inability to drive. These people are all customers of Andy Granatelli’s Tune-Up Masters. These people bear a logo resembling a “T” in the middle of an “M”. Every car with this logo I have ever seen also bears the scars of numerous collisions, but the fish people are far, far worse.

Fish people are seemingly oblivious to the existence of turn signals, speed limits, traffic lanes, the presence of other people on the road, and the laws of physics. Their cars and minivans careen wildly through the densest of traffic, lacking even the poor excuse of cell phones to explain their boorish and dangerous actions. When confronted by the angry drivers with whom they’ve collided, they are always confused as to reason for their victims’ anger. This alone has convinced me of the fallacy of the “I’m going to a better place” theory. They are simply completely and utterly unaware of the fact that their stupidity has consequences for other people. This state of smug, blissful ignorance to the welfare of people around them is directly contrary to the teachings of the religion they profess to follow, but fish people are also completely oblivious to their own hypocrisy. When these facts get pointed out to them, fish people are completely incapable of understanding the lesson.
No matter how many accidents they cause, tickets they receive, or lives they destroy, fish people are incapable of changing their behavior- because they cannot comprehend that their behavior is a problem.

So please, when you see a car or minivan with a little fish emblem on the back, get the Hell away from them. They believe that Jebus is watching out for them, so they don’t have to pay attention. They’re perfectly at ease reading the bible while they drive, confident that the God of many names will guide their car safely through traffic.

I don’t have a problem with people believing in God, or multiple Gods. My philosophy is, “You got your Gods. I got mine. If I get in trouble, can I borrow a couple?” The trouble is, these fish people are causing problems for others with their ignorance and indifference to the havoc their actions wreak upon the people around them. The presence of fish people on the roads makes a simple trip to the corner store the equivalent of running through a minefield. Blindfolded.

Here’s my practical solution to the problem: If the fish people are fine with endangering my life with their driving, I demand equal time. Simply apply a modest fine as the penalty for shooting fish people. Let’s set this fine at $500.00. That oughta be enough to prevent the casual slaughter of herds of fish people while still allowing people to defend themselves if needed.

Current status: Irked

Current Music: Caravanserai, by Loreena McKennitt

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Writing

3 03 2007

It’s been over a month since I last posted something here. Mea maxima culpa.

Oddly enough, this has had little effect on site views.

I get ideas for stories all the time. Sometimes a vague outline. Sometimes whole paragraphs. Sometimes nothing more than a few lines of dialogue.

On rare occasions, a story will emerge fully-formed. These last are troublesome, for they will often occur at inopportune times and places, and demand my attention. Such distractions are fortunately rare, but are also fragile and short-lived. If I do not take the time to record the idea, it will bedevil me for a few days before fading slowly out of memory. If I take the time to extract the idea and write it down, it still begins to fade- only faster. I have therefore developed a system for dealing with such “flashes of inspiration” (for lack of a better term).

In lieu of immediately writing down the new idea, I take a few moments to fix as many details as possible in my memory.  This helps me keep hold of the idea without causing it to fade away. At irregular intervals, I will write down a few of the detail. By the time the idea is no longer an insistent pressure in my mind, I often have enough in writing and memory to keep the feel of the story idea fresh.

I’ve written before about Dungeons and Dragons.  Building and maintaining an interactive universe for myself and my friends to adventure in was just about my only creative outlet for a very long time. Even though I now play at intervals measured in years rather than days, I still create stories and adventures for my friends- one at a time. Whenever possible, this would be done by means of online chat or instant messenger systems. Since the gaming group is essentially scattered about the northern hemisphere at the moment, this has become increasingly impractical.

The difficulties in real-time communication have forced us to fall back on a play-by-mail  sort of gaming. I will write a lengthy email to one of my friends with a story of his character’s solo adventures. He will get back to me with his character’s reactions to what I’ve been describing. It isn’t “gaming” in any real sense. It is far more a sort of collaborative story-telling. As Albert once said, “It’s like reading a book, but really slow!”

This system is dependent upon the availability of time on the part of the participants. It takes time to read and reply to stories like this, and sometimes the DM (me, most of the time) has long periods of time when he has no inspiration or any inclination to write.

If writing becomes a chore, it stops being fun.  If it isn’t fun, it becomes harder to do. When my friends and I were in High School, there were many ways around this problem. Someone else could run a different game for a while, or we could do something else entirely for a couple of weeks. Then the muse would strike someone again, and we’d be off and running.
Inspiration comes from the oddest places, sometimes. While I was in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, I was forced to endure some execrable “after-school special” starring Lee majors. Dumb story, horrible acting, simplistic resolution- everything I despise about modern television was present in this show. But it generated a kernel of an idea, which became part of the background for my game group’s big reunion game in the late 90’s.

Another odd inspiration can be physical and psychological trauma. A few years ago, I underwent some significant surgery to correct a life-threatening problem. In recovery, while doped to the eyes with a variety of drugs, I dreamed a complete graphic novel- page layout, artwork, dialogue, and everything else. Bits of it are still kicking around in my head to this day. Sadly, I have no way of extracting the images from my head and making it a reality- I cannot draw well enough to do the images any justice, and I don’t know anyone who can draw that would be willing to put up with my fractured telling of the tale.

A few days ago, I was listening to The Mystics Dream, by Loreena McKennitt. Loreena McKennit is one of my favorite artists, and I’ve listened to the song many, many times. For some reason, this time the song fired up the story-telling section of my head. One of the collaborative stories I’d been writing with my friends was stuck- and had been for months. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to describe, but simply couldn’t put the words together. With the song playing on my computer at work, I suddenly knew exactly how to write the next sequence of events. I managed to wait until I got home before I started writing, but it was an effort. I went straight to my computer, put on the headphones, called up the song from the hard drive, and started typing. I was still at it a couple of hours later when my wife made me stop so I could eat dinner.

I have three novels I’ve been working on at intervals for years. Two of them started by random inspiration- a scene formed in my mind, and I was driven to get it written down. The inspiration lasted long enough to get several scenes written for each story, in no particular order and with events widely scattered in the story’s internal chronology. I eventually managed to write outlines of the stories, and even worked out extensive internal histories for both of them. One of them required me to create a new language- something far beyond my ability. I cheated, and restricted myself to a short lexicon of words and phrases. This was hard enough, because I had to create roots of the various words to keep the language internally consistent.

The problem is, I created all of this stuff- internal history, story timeline/outline, language, and several dozen pages of  scenes from the story- within the space of three or four months. That was two years ago. I’ve written a few more pages since then, at widely scattered intervals. I re-read what I’ve already done from time to time, trying to re-kindle the inspiration for the stories so I can finish them. They’re still not even close to being done, and it is very tough for me to work on them to any significant degree.

For anyone still reading this, you may take the entirety of this post an a long-winded apology for allowing more than a month to elapse between postings. I can’t promise it won’t happen again, but I will feel bad about it if it does.

Current status- Apologetic

Music- The Night is Still Young, by Billy Joel