Saturday, February 26, 2005

Prom Night

Me, I'm the last person to get gushy about prom night.

My dad isn't around anymore, so I was clearly playing the role of the dominant male parent for my sister's prom. That is to say, I felt that it was going to be up to me to unnerve the poor young man as much as possible, and I spent the last two weeks practicing my best Hannibal Lecter impression.

Unfortunately, my pre-prom plans came to a dead stop when my sister got wind of what I was planning ("Hello, Steven. Have the lambs stopped screaming yet?"), and threatened to beat me to a pulp if I even so much as considered the possibility.

Steven arrived good and early - maybe about 5:00 pm for a party that was supposed to start at 6:30. I was expecting a scruffy hairdo, a half-rumpled long-sleeved shirt, and the reek of altogether too much aftershave. Steven came with a bouquet of carnations, a well-pressed shirt, and what appeared to be his best behavior. I was profoundly disappointed.

I wasn't about to give him any satisfaction yet, though. Making sure that I was wearing the most slobbish attire possible (a t-shirt with icing stains and some old bermuda shorts), I gave Steven a formal greeting and welcomed him inside the house. I notified my mother and my sister that he was waiting in the living room, and then returned to glower at our guest.

Steven took it all remarkably well, even when my mother fussed over his looks and it took them a while to figure out how to work the corsages. He promised that he would have my sister home by one in the morning, and when I asked for a midnight curfew instead, he dutifully turned in my direction, smiled and said, "Sure, boss."

Arrogant whelp.

All throughout the entire situation, from the moment of our meeting to the point where we saw them off, he was giving me the most smug expression I had ever seen. It was the kind of expression that went, "This is going to be a good night, I'm going to make sure that both your sister and I have a nice time, and there's nothing you can do to stop us."

By that time, there was nothing left for me to do but salvage what was left of my defenses. Oh, and glower at Steven. That was even though it was obvious that the glowering wasn't having any effect on him.

So now here I am, awaiting their return. It's only a few minutes after midnight, and judging from how Steven's been doing so far, he'll probably bring my sister back right on schedule. That should cap off a perfect night for both of them. Prom Date 1, Sean 0.

On the other hand, I've got his number. I can always call him up and gently remind him to get home faster. And they are a few minutes late...

Besides, it's a shame to waste a good Hannibal Lecter impression.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Three E's, eight A's, three G's, and three H's. Not bad.

Tangible screaming isn't used very often nowadays. I think that it's because most writers have caught onto the fact that a character's tangible scream isn't as descriptive as narrating the act of the scream itself. Or maybe it's the exact opposite - that narrating a scream allows for less familiarity, which is usually the requisite atmosphere for a 'scream' moment.

I mean, look at the two statements below:

* Gareth turned, and finally saw it. He screamed.

* Gareth turned. "Eeeaaaaaaaaggghhh!" he screamed.

The first statement is a lot more acceptable by modern literary standards, whereas the second statement would probably get your editor laughing uncontrollably at its sheer cheesiness.

Tangible screams are probably put to use a lot more effectively in comics or other visual media, where you can't merely tell a reader that a character has screamed; You have to literally show it. While it's possible to frame a visual image to make an expression of fear or terror obvious, a tangible scream would make the scene a lot more understandable to any reader at first glance.

Tangible screams by themselves take a bit of work. They're probably among the most accurate of onomatopoeic devices, seeing that a tangible scream should be constructed so that the reader can hear exactly how it sounds in his mind. I'll point out the fact that the example above, "EEEAAAAAAAAGGGHHH!", emphasizes the 'A' sound above everything else. That's because the 'A' sound has to comprise the body of this particular scream. The character literally starts with a high-pitched 'E' sound, degenerates into an 'A' sound (as, presumably, his mouth opens wide to scream), and then trails off into 'G' and 'H'. The exclamation point doesn't have a sound associated with it, so I think that using multiples ("!!!") is more pretentious than realistic.

The scream could just as easily been, say, "YYYAAAAAAAAGGGHHH!", but I think that starting with a pure 'E' sound makes it more natural. The 'E' sound starts off smaller, which perfectly emulates the image of a character having to open his mouth in order to scream.

The length of the tangible scream has also shown itself to be manipulable. "ACK!", while not truly a scream, is nevertheless a tangible exclamation in the same vein - and a favorite of Archie comics. Because "ACK!" is used as an expression of sudden, unforeseen surprise, it literally doesn't seek to draw itself out over the course of a few seconds. To use the exclamation "AAAACCKK!", I think, would be to invite criticism.

I don't sit very well with the use of "AAAARRGGH!", though. Although it's a relatively well-known member of the tangible screams, it feels unrealistic to me. I can't resolve the idea of having an 'R' sound in a spontaneous primal scream because it takes at least a small amount of effort to make. 'A', by contrast, is standard issuance - it's one of the few sounds you can make when the doctor has you pinned down with one of her tongue depressors. "AAAAGGHH!", in a sense, sounds a lot better.

There's actually a distinctiveness between "EEEAAAAAAAAGGGHHH!" and just plain "AAAAAAAAGGGHHH!", interestingly enough. I've already mentioned the fact that the 'E' sound comes from a partially open mouth; "AAAAAAAAGGGHHH!", therefore, comes from a screamer who probably had his mouth wide open to start with, I think.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Dunking My Head in a Tub of Water on a Cloudy Afternoon

4:34:17 - Immersion.

4:34:20 - It's quiet down here.

4:34:21 - My ears are clogged. I can't hear a thing.

4:34:22 - Doesn't sound travel faster in water than it does in air?

4:34:23 - (Theme from "Mission: Impossible" plays in head.) Whatever happened to Thaad Penghlis? I liked Thaad Penghlis when he was on the show.

4:34:24 - Feels like outer space. I'm floating, but I can't breathe.

4:34:25 - It's dark down here.

4:34:26 - I can't even see the bottom of the tub.

4:34:27 - Shoe polish. That's what I need to get from the supermarket. Black shoe polish.

4:34:28 - If I can somehow look back up, maybe I'll see what used to be my reflection looking back at me?

4:34:29 - Or maybe I've become my own reflection somehow.

4:34:30 - Feels so light down here. Even though I can't breathe.

4:34:31 - Eternal Sunshine was a nice movie.

4:34:32 - How do those guys on Fear Factor do it?

4:34:33 - I mean, I think I can take the bugs and all, but put me underwater and I'll probably drown.

4:34:34 - So why am I doing this , anyway?

4:34:35 - Strange, that I can still think clearly when my head's in the tub. The only difference is that it's colder. And that I can't breathe.

4:34:36 - Why am I sticking my head in the tub, anyway? I can't breathe down here.

4:34:37 - I can't breathe down here.

4:34:38 - I can't breathe down here.

4:34:39 - Holy crap! I can't breathe down here!

4:34:40 - Surface.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Antaria: Profile: Atharus

Atharus, Grandmaster of the Metrians

Atharus is the latest in a centuries-old line of grandmasters, and has led the Metrians for as long as anyone can remember. Considering that many of Atharus's peers have long since passed on, he is literally the only grandmaster that almost every Metrian has known. Atharus is obviously much older than he looks, and it has been speculated that the constant exposure to the arcane energies has prolonged his life.

In his position as Metrian grandmaster, Atharus has made surprisingly few changes in Metrian policy, choosing instead to let the Guild continue operating under the same traditional methods. Atharus is primarily known for his diverse studies, and is perfectly willing to take on students as research assistants, unlike many of the other senior mages. Ever since the start of his tenure, however, Atharus has refused to take on apprentices under his direct tutelage unless such students show a remarkable degree of knowledge and understanding.

Due to his position, seniority and academic reputation, it is not surprising that many among the Metrians willingly defer to Atharus, making him a very influential man within Guild grounds. Atharus does not carry a similar reputation among non-Metrians, however, and while he is naturally respected for his learnedness, there are many who see him as merely a crusty, bookish and potentially destructive old man.

Antaria: The Metrians

The Metrians comprise what may be the most traditional of all the classes of Antaria, and it is for this reason that they are closely watched. On the one hand, the Metrians are consummate scholars - researching, perusing, and scribing many works on arcane lore for the reference of generations to come. On the other hand, the Metrians wield some of the most powerful destructive magics on the face of the continent, and in some cases have been instrumental in many of its wars.

Metrians are naturally inquisitive, and have an endless fascination with the workings of sorcery. With such powerful forces at their disposal, however, the organization operates under a strict academic hierarchy that prevents inexperienced or potentially abusive mages from accessing high-level spells. A Metrian who wields such magic therefore not only has the years of experience to justify the privilege, but also the respect of his or her peers as well.

In almost four hundred years of history, the Metrians have left their mark on many of Antaria's institutions. Virtually all of the major cities of the continent have massive libraries run by the Metrian Guild, and more than a few members of the nobility have had the benefit of a Metrian education. While the Metrians are not aligned with any nation, a number of political emissaries have certainly attempted to forge military alliances with them over the centuries.

As it stands, the Metrians are an interesting contradiction: They are a sect that has made the most progress towards an understanding of arcane forces, and yet has all but set aside the use of such magics in order to seek the responsibility that must go with it. The Metrians constantly strive to reach the heights of their field... but such circumstances perhaps only mean that they have the farthest to fall.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Antaria: Lessons

Minette peered out from between the two shelves. "Shhh," she whispered.

"I don't get it, Minette," Keiren said, hefting the book against his chest. "You heard the bells, you ran to dinner..."

"And I forgot to return the book," Minette answered.

"This?" Keiren asked, hefting the book again. "This must weigh at least twenty pounds! How could you forget to return this?"

"I... uhh... was thinking of something else at the time."

"Like what?" Keiren asked.

Minette gave him a suspicious look. "None of your business," she said.

They walked among the empty shelves in the darkened Guild libraries, watching for people at various intervals.

"What were you doing with the book, anyway?" Keiren asked, "Master Warwick hasn't given us an assignment in weeks."

"I was... reading."

"Like that's a surprise," Keiren said, skeptically. "What else would you do with a book, anyway?"

Minette stopped and turned to face him. "Look, help me get it back on the shelf already," she said.

"Not till you tell me what you were up to. Was it for homework at all?"

"Well, no..." Minette said, her voice trailing off.

"Extra credit?"

"No, not that."

Keiren raised an eyebrow. "Was it... from the forbidden shelves?"

Minette's eyes went wide. "Ah, no... it was for... ah... extra credit. Yes, extra credit."

"You just said that it wasn't!" Keiren said.

"Ah, well... so I was wrong," Minette answered. She laughed nervously.

"How did you get into the forbidden shelves?" Keiren asked, incredulous.

"Well, nobody was looking, and I... where are you going?"

"I'm going to see exactly what this is," Keiren said, heading towards a desk that had a lone lighted candle on it. "Besides, I need a rest."

"We've got to get that back on the shelf!" Minette whispered hoarsely. "Who knows if Master Zerah's still awake!"

Keiren deposited the book on the table with a loud thump. He inched it closer to the candle, trying to make out the words that were engraved on the leather cover.

"Keiren!" Minette said, approaching him.

Keiren traced the book's title, feeling both surprise and outrage at the same time. "Gale's Grimoire?" he asked.

"Shh!" Minette whispered.

"You took out Gale's Grimoire?"


"I didn't even know if this actually existed until now!"


"Oh, knock it off, Minette. Master Zerah can't possibly be awake at this hour."

As if in perfect response to Keiren's statement, a door at the end of the room suddenly opened and a silhouette fell across the floor.

Keiren could see the outlines of the figure's thick dressing robe, as well as the strands of white hair that caught the light of the tallows in the outside corridor.

Master Zerah took a few steps towards the apprentices, stopping only when he finally loomed over book, candle and table in a form that Keiren only remembered seeing in his nightmares.

There were a few moments of silence.

"So," Master Zerah said, simply.

Minette broke and ran.

"Minette!" Keiren shouted, more out of frustration than fear. He felt a heavy hand clamp itself upon his right shoulder and looked up into the aged, scowling face of the Guild Librarian.

Master Zerah placed his other hand on the book, running it along the leather covers as if reassuring a child. Keiren felt a single sliver of terror run down his spine. He had heard some of the stories.

Master Zerah regarded him for a few minutes. Then, after what seemed like an eternity of thought, the elder Metrian let go of Keiren's shoulder. "Get back to bed," Master Zerah said.

Keiren stood there with his mouth open. "What?" he asked.

"Get back to bed."

Keiren continued to stare at Master Zerah, watching as the librarian cradled the heavy book into his arms as though it were no lighter than a feather. Master Zerah then looked into the young man's stunned expression, held up a free hand, and then snapped his fingers.

The ensuing thunderclap was the loudest thing that Keiren had ever heard, and before it had passed, he was already running back down the library in blind panic.

Master Zerah waited until he heard the sound of the door slamming behind the young apprentice, and then set about putting the book back in its rightful place.

* * * * *

"You ran away!"

"I did not!"

"Yes you did! I almost soiled myself standing there!"

"That's disgusting, Keiren," Minette said. "You got away, didn't you?"

"I think he only let me go because he wanted to go back to bed! I could have been missing forever, for all you care!"

"Well, I don't," Minette said unemphatically. "You can just take your book and go away."

"You took out the book! You only asked me to help you get it back!"

"Fine help you turned out to be," Minette snapped.

Both of them then lapsed into a sudden silence, which was partially because of the realization that they were passing Master Zerah's desk at the time.

The aged librarian looked up from the scrolls he had been scribing, meeting both Keiren and Minette's eyes with a gaze that haunted dreams both twilight and evening. His bone-white hair glowed softly in the morning light.

Keiren and Minette both took one look at his eyes and then ran, the sound of their falling textbooks and rapid footsteps echoing through the corridors.

Behind them, Master Warwick placed one hand on Master Zerah's desk. Both Metrians regarded one another carefully.

"Zerah," Warwick finally said, "you're a fiend."

Zerah smiled.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Writing and drawing are two completely different animals, it seems.

That's not to say that I carry some measure of discontent against one or the other. I decided to teach myself how to write and how to draw at around the same time, so I think I've been doing both for over half my life. The irony for me is that I write better than I draw.

I'm sure that there are a lot of people out there who are in the same situation. They may claim to both write and draw their own stuff, but in reality they're a lot better at either writing or drawing. It's the rare genius who can not only write or draw well, but who can do both with equal skill.

If you still don't believe me, do run through the pages of Heavy Metal sometime. More often than not, the art is outstanding. But the stories are almost always well-nigh impossible to follow. (The dialogue, in particular, tends to be horrible.) Not that many readers notice, of course, when they usually buy the magazine to ogle the bare breasts.

That's the issue between art and writing, really. Good art leaps out at you; it impresses you with its grandeur within the first five seconds, and then lets you take the next minute or so to bask in its glory. In contrast, good writing always looks boring at first glance - you'll only know it's good writing once you've managed to convince yourself to take a while to read it.

I'm at a loss to explain why people need equal doses of good art and good writing at the moment. In essence, they're pretty much the same thing - they look into our mind's eye; they get us to conceptualize worlds we never knew existed; they cause us to spontaneously laugh or cry with the emotions that they convey. But in the way we create them, in the way we tender them, and in the way we admire them, they are almost certainly two different things.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Digital Pinay: The Parting Shot

The Philippine Computer Society (PCS) has just cancelled the Digital Pinay 2005 contest, citing violent public reaction and a withdrawal of sponsors as the primary cause.

I can imagine that they're feeling rather frustrated right now. The general responses to the contest weren't exactly what they expected. It appears that the current generation of IT insiders has some strong feelings about using appearance as a factor in determining 'future leaders of the industry'.

Either that, or they were running scared. Sponsors pulled out because of the growing negative association with the contest. Someone threatened to throw acid on the contestants if the contest pushed through.

Think what you will, but this feels a little like the results of mob action to me.

I'm a little surprised at the conclusion. I was at the press conference that PCS held, and it seemed as though we were able to have a nice, civilized discussion regarding the contest issues. Not that the conference fully rectified the situation, mind you, but it did show that the contest was a lot more palatable now than how it was originally presented.

There were up to eight people there who represented the blogging community, though, and I hardly think that that was a proper contingent, considering the number of angry reactions out there. If there were so many people with violent reactions to the contest, why didn't they show up at the conference?

Perhaps the momentum had grown too great by then. Perhaps PCS moved too late to stop the tide of public opinion from turning against them.

But the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that most people refused to give any ground to them. The fact that PCS answered their violent reactions and made changes to the offending portions of the contest was irrelevant - to the general community, the contest was already mysogynist, and the organizers fascist.

We pointed out everything that was wrong with the contest. We pointed out that the use of appearance to determine a winner was demeaning to the industry as a whole. We pointed out that the offending application form and mechanics never should have been released in the first place. We pointed out that the use of the word 'digital' in "Digital Pinay" did not make an accurate representation of the contest to the technical community. PCS answered all of these issues as best as they could - not necessarily to our favor, mind you, but as best as they could. But to most of the people out there, it didn't really matter.The contest was an abomination in their eyes already.

Congratulations, everyone. We put a stop to an issue that 'insulted' the dignity of women in the IT industry.

And we did it as one big unruly mob.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Disclaimer: February 2005

Come to think of it, plagiarists must be some very unoriginal people.

I know, I know - big surprise. They steal other people's works, after all. But then, their methods in doing so tend to be the same throughout. Every plagiarist follows the same relatively simple progrom of cut-and-paste.

After all, if you're creative enough to produce new, innovative methods of plagiarism, you wouldn't be plagiarizing in the first place. If you're studious enough to break the security barriers that others have placed on their own works, then you wouldn't be plagiarizing in the first place, either. And if you're perhaps dedicated enough to customize pieces of stolen work to your own style, then chances are high that you wouldn't be plagiarizing in the first place, too.

Remember the villains in the old Scooby-Doo episodes? Remember that, inevitably, the scary ghost/monster/werewolf/vampire/gorilla/evil fish-man would always turn out to be an ordinary character acquainted with Scooby and the gang, only bent on scaring off meddling kids like them in favor of some criminal operation? Plagiarists are like that - no innovation beyond the names and the faces involved. Writers know who they are, and how they work.

Sean testifies that the content of this weblog is entirely original, with the exception of those bits that have been rightfully attributed to the correct sources. Those seeking to steal this content for their own purposes in any method, shape or form will eventually find themselves stalked and investigated by a gang of meddling kids who won't really do much, to be honest, because they're just there for the effect. But they'll be monitored closely by the many writers on the web, and frankly, there are worse fates known to man.

In other words, steal my stuff without my consent, and you get to be discovered in some weird gorilla suit painted luminiscent blue. With highlights.

Rooby-Rooby Roo!