30 March 2012

Landfall - a fiction

The following is not a complete story.  It came to me from I don't know where nor why, but was vivid in my mind.  A quality of that vividness required recording of it.

Where it came from, I don't know.

Where it is heading, I don't know.

Such is life.

= = =

Inside the dusty barn the radio played a song of a man who had lost his wife, his dog and his beloved pick-up truck only to have been found and saved.  The man in the barn was of moderate height with black hair that curled up near his neck and showed short curls where the sweat had matted it down against his head.  His jeans were well worn with a repaired rip along the left side and the legs were tucked into his brown boots that showed of the color of dust and rain.  The sleeveless red plaid shirt was only partially buttoned and as he picked up bales of hay to toss out down to the ground below, it flashed open to show scars only some of which had counterparts along his arms.  Work gloves protected his hands and were of the same color as his boots though of wholly different material.  Sunshine blazed on the landscape and showed the dusty interior of the barn in stark shafts of light that pierced through the openings between the wood slats.  Out past the scrub near the house and drive to it, he saw dust being raised headed towards the entrance of his ranch, which had a metal arch with a circle at the keystone point which had three spears and three ploughs all bound together in vines.  Keen eyesight had never left him and it had allowed him to see through far dustier and murkier times than the mere country dust made by honest work.

Slowly he turned his head and saw the mud spattered white Chevy Suburban stop at the entrance and then turn in.

"They must be lost," he whispered to himself as he got to the wooden ladder outside the loft entrance and descended it.  Unconsciously his right hand laid upon the closed holster on his hip and he made sure that the flap was unfastened for easy access to it. 

The vehicle had turned and pulled down the drive towards the house, slowing, and then turning towards the barn area as it passed the house.  Squinting as he walked he couldn't make out exactly who was inside the vehicle, which pulled up next to his pick-up truck and stopped.

"Damn tinted and polarized glass," he muttered as the idling vehicle shut off and the door opened.

A woman wearing black boots and white jeans with a white shirt and forest green vest got out, her skin was pale, her hair a straight, jet black and she had on very dark sunglasses.  She looked around nodding with a twisted half-smile as she took in the surroundings of the front of his ranch area.  The door closed as she fluidly moved and turned towards him, her hand never seeming to have been on it nor did it leave any print on the dust on its surface.

The man stopped.

"How the...?" he whispered stopping short, his breath taken away.

She smiled as she came closer to him, her footsteps even, measured.

"Hello, brother, long time, no see," she said in a rich voice that spoke of night and wilderness.

The man inhaled.

"How did you find me?"  he asked as he took one step for every two of hers and they were then seeing eye to eye as she took the sunglasses off to show eyes as blue as his were green.

Her chest shook with suppressed laughter.

"How do I find anyone, oh brother of mine?  I may not look down from my celestial land, but it was hard to see much of anyone although I could get a feel for the wider sweep of things."

He snorted.

"You fell like the rest of us, although he spared you."

She tilted her head slightly to the right and gazed at him.

"Is that what you call banishment and stripping, my brother?"

His mouth tightened.

"The last time I saw you was after he paid the attendant in coin most dear and pushed our boat off into the sullen river to take us to our never-ending end.  You were there, although your dark dress was in tatters... we were the last to be found..."

She nodded.

"He found you on his own, he did.  I had warned him what was coming ages before that and my reward was eternal banishment from the city... not that the city stands any longer, of course.  I did not betray any, dear brother, and for my resistance I would suffer just differently than you."

Taking his hand up from the holster he took up a rag from his belt and blotted at his forehead.

Smirking she looked from him to the run-down barn and old ranch house.

"No one to keep house with you?"

"Not for some time, no.  I lead a simple life, sister."

"So I see..." she turned to look back at him, "Of all the women he lusted after, I was the one who could refuse him, you know, and did.  I remember what he did to his wife.  To each of us."

"I do, too," he said in clipped words, "and will never forget it."

"He sent the swift eagles to get me and then the century ones, horrors both, by then.  He stripped me bare to get what he wanted at the foot of the mountain, then into the hole where I, too, was chained.  I had no allies left, no friends to remember me, and our family was being broken once and for all."

She breathed slowly, sunlight never penetrating her fair skin and disappearing into her black hair.

"Perhaps you missed the chains on me amidst the torn beauty?"

Closing his eyes he trembled, dropping the rag to the ground.

"No..." he barely whispered, "... and I..."

She put her right hand on his shoulder.

"Each of us.  I was beyond help and hope, brother.  Any who opposed him were likewise done with, he was determined to be the last one standing."

He opened his eyes and the corners of his mouth twisted up.

"He failed."

"Oh, my, yes he did," she said in a voice with a hint of a chuckle to it, "worse than he could ever imagine."

His gloved hand was on her shoulder and he looked into her eyes.

"Well, met sister.  Can I offer you something to drink, a meal perhaps?"

Nodding she stepped forward and hugged him and he hugged her in return.

"Yes, oh yes brother.  I want to hear about your escape and I can tell you what happened to me..."

Pressing her firm, lithe body to his he laughed.

"We could be here years doing that!"

Together they laughed, brother and sister long parted now with each other again.

Finally she withdrew and looked at him.

"Maybe just the highlights, then.  And a walk in the wilderness as it is the only place I can call home now."

* * *

The old ranch house had some modern amenities to it with indoor plumbing and electric lights, a refrigerator and freezer in the kitchen and dusty television in the livingroom.  There had once been a woman here, who had kept the house and the evidence of it in the little things, the lace where a man would rest his head on the easy chair or the small arrangement of glass bottles on one shelf told of her passage.  The woman had an eye to that and found a portrait of the blonde woman with the man, and five children.  Picking it up the woman's eyes danced from face to face.

"Beer?  I have some wine chilled.  Even some mead in the root cellar, if you still drink that," he said from the open kitchen area which directly adjoined the dining and living area.

"Whatever you're having is fine," she said putting the family portrait down where it belonged and turning to the table outside of the living area, where she found a sturdily built chair to sit on.

"Do you miss them?" she asked softly.

The beer bottles rattled against each other as he took them one-handed from the fridge.  He closed the door and set the bottles down on the counter and a soft hiss of escaping gas from each followed.  From the cabinet he took two glasses, closed it and walked towards her with bottles as well.  Shrugging he put the glasses down and poured the bubbling golden brown beer into them.

"Always.  I wouldn't have married if I didn't care about her and our children."

She nodded as her eyes scanned the kitchen, dining and living area, noting hallways to the back and side of the house, as well as stairs which were set further back in the living area.  Her eyes drifted back towards him and she took the full glass from him as he offered it.

"Thank you," she said softly.

"Welcome," he said as he sat down.

They clinked their glasses together and both dipped fingertips into the surface and flipped the fluid off in the direction of the fireplace.

"To better times," she said.

"Long gone," he replied.

It was a beer with some richness to it, with a flavor that had the bite of another land to it.

"Delicious," she whispered, "Dutch malt, Czech hops, California spring water."

He raised an eyebrow as he sipped.

"Its decent.  I don't need much and its one luxury I still allow myself."

Taking a short swallow she licked her lips and closed her eyes.  Setting down the glass she opened her eyes and gazed at him.

"You were to go..." she closed her eyes and shivered, "...I was weakened by then.  With a stroke he could have killed me... I didn't even try."

His hand reached to her free one and covered it, easily.

"One drop and you wouldn't be here, sister.  Not as you are, at least.  He knew that it would be torture for us all."

"Such cruelty..." she whispered.

"In his eyes we deserved it.  We did, too.  I was with the no longer swift one and the one who could no longer be liquid joy.  He had stripped me and threw my goods far and high to sit in forever night.  I who had delivered so many victories to him, and yet I, too, was with you, all of you.  Your twin brother..." he shook his head, "... he is... was... his chariot no longer appears.  The night's light is as cold as the day's is hot."

She gave a curt nod and shifted hands to put her other one on his while she sipped from the glass again.

"He didn't think too clearly when he was disposing of us, our brother didn't.  Yet something still kept in him to make the punishment appropriate, when it wasn't simply to put us where none of us should ever be," she said in low tones.

He drank with his off-hand which was just as skilled as the other, because of his training so very long ago, and his life that had led him to this place.

"We couldn't really piece together what had happened to you.  He was still around for some time and we had to go into hiding.  We stayed away from those places he would think to check and went to those he couldn't.  All we knew was that you were... banished beyond stripped."

"I was sent to die, dear brother.  He wanted me ravaged by foreigners who stood where I had stood, others that couldn't challenge him and would delight in me.  His rage blinded him and he went back on his promises to me.  He forgot who I was beyond those lovely evening beams of the forest night and my girlish ways."

Her brother furrowed his brow, his face as chiseled stone.

"I didn't know."

She smirked.

"I still knew how to make bow and arrow, brother, skill I still had even when all other promises were broken and I was stripped to be ravaged.  A Wild Hunt came to get me and when it found me..." she grimaced, "... well a Wild Huntress was more than was expected."

Stone melted and for the first time a true smiled appeared on the man's face.

"Oh!!! He...." laughter, pure laughter followed.

"Nice wolves, too.  The idiot who was on that sled didn't even know how to talk to them!  He that had sent me to die had forgotten that each of us has something that is eternal as part of them which wasn't a mere adornment but was us as our very blood is.  A Wild Huntress leaves no traces, and my bow brought me a good life until even that Hunt died.  But hunting never ceases.  Once he was gone I wandered far and wide, dear brother, wherever wilderness beckons.  I've been to all continents that have wild lands, rarely going through villages or towns, and cities I detest even when I must go to them from time to time."

The man took a swallow from his beer, a long one and the smile on his face shone pure and bright, his green eyes twinkling.

"Yes!!  I found refuge likewise, but with that other single one who has the same claims.  I am no longer that which I was but I still knew how to make the tools and think.  And, like you, there is small but eternal sustenance for me as well, until nothing else is alive."

She entwined her fingers through his and grasped his hand.

"But how did you escape?  You were... three?"

He shook his head.

"Five total.  You may have missed the waifs amongst us, they had tumbled to the bottom of the boat."

She nodded.

"Which ones?" she whispered.

"My constant companion of fickle nature and she who awoke early every morn of your following.  They finally did grow up, after we got out."

"Ah..." she said smiling, "...they were good girls!  Still it must have been a horror for them, unlike you or I."

"It was, sister.  And it got worse.  To escape..." he shivered, "...the minor things we had... well..." he closed his eyes and shook his head.  She gripped his hand again, and then shifted to cover it.

"You know of the escapades the swift one had?"

Her eyes went round and she slowly inhaled.

"Yes.  Not.... oh...."

Slowly and softly he spoke.

"It isn't true that you can't seduce that ferryman, dear sister.  Even bones can succumb to such sweet seduction if you have the right things to ply it with."

She shuddered.

"I... not that one... and the girls..."

"It is not fit entertainment for anyone alive.  It was necessary.  In the end we used bones and shoulder blades as paddles, very carefully as the oar was lost in some perversion.  And the coins proved to be enough to help us once we got out.  One apiece for such fare is fair."

Her black hair slid back and forth with her head which she held down for a moment before looking back at her brother and spoke in an even tone.

"He that we stood against is gone, now.  Dust.  As are those who befriended him, gave him fealty.  He didn't listen to my warnings, my pleading and when he saw me against him he... detested me.  And yet at every turn, my every warning, would come true."

"You were no prophet, like those at Delphi.  You spoke too plainly."

Her nostrils flared as she looked into her brother's eyes.

"I could see what was moving out there, what was going to happen.  No oracle is needed when those paths are plain to see.  The tides were mine and I understand them, and nothing he did would stop that tide on the path he was on.  In trying to grab everything, to take eternity, he forgot what is eternal and now he is gone."

He squinted briefly, looking at her.

"I always feared you.  I'm sorry.  No one ended up listening to you, and you..."

Her mouth twitched.

"I did what I had to, brother.  It was, perhaps, not what I wanted, but that required others to help and I got none.  She didn't listen and her revenge sucked us all in, but that didn't matter as the tide was already set before then."

She took a sip from her beer and got up, holding it, and walked around the kitchen area.

He took a another long draught from his glass, which was nearly empty and watched her.

"Why are you here, Artemis?"

She opened a cupboard that had in it boxes of cereal and containers of honey.  Smiling she shut the door and checked the next cupboard that held bowls and plates.

"Diana, now..." she softly said as she examined the contents of the cupboard.  She closed that and went to the next that held cups and glasses and gazed amongst them, finally selecting a clear glass and taking it from the shelf.

"Of course," he said, "So why are you here?"

"You mean beyond wanting to see you?"

"Yes.  You have never been the flighty type.  Girlish, yes.  But always serious when the time required it."

"Thank you," she said closing that door, turning to look at him.  Smoothly she walked to the sink with the glass and filled it with water just short of the top. She then opened the freezing compartment of the fridge and took out a tray of cubes and placed two into the clean water and replaced the tray and closed the door.  She held up both glasses and looked at the one with beer still in it.

"That is your luxury..." she said moving her head to look at the other glass, "... and this is mine."

She walked back to the table and sat down, taking a long drink from the glass of water.

"Lovely, from earth to my lips and all the eons between."

Blinking he looked puzzled.

"Have you decided to speak like an oracle, now?"

With half the water gone she put that glass down and sipped from the beer.

"Never, Ares.  I know where that water came from.  That took me so much time to puzzle out and these moderns finally got to the answer I did, oh, two or three centuries ago.  I hadn't thought about it properly and once I did," she smiled, "you cannot have your luxury without mine, you know?"

He pressed his lips together.

"I'm starting to see why Zeus wanted you torn apart and killed.  And why you frighten me."

She raised her eyebrows, her blue eyes framed in the black hair around her face.

"Me?  But why?  I'm sure you still have that power of making of things, and that you could easily keep me here against my will, maybe even kill me if you thought about it.  You always had that little gift."

He shook his head from side to side.

"I would be dead.  I know that, Huntress.  I was in too many wars and seen the results of many others and out of all that could do me harm, you are the one I fear."

Looking down she closed her eyes and shook her head from side to side.

"Phila..." she said, "fidelity."

Clasping his hands together on the table he leaned forward.

"I love you, Diana."

She inhaled and nodded, looked up and placed her hands over his.

"I know the tides, Ares.  They have no use for us any more.  But they hold the one promise we never had and are setting about to squander it.  I do not want to be here for more centuries... or more... until we get this chance again.  I cannot do it alone.  I need help."

"But... for what?"

She took her hands from his and took the glass of water up in them.

"All of this started out in the deep blackness, dear brother.  I have had it with eternity here.  I have tried to kill myself many times, yet that curse of eternal damnation holds because of here.  I know the tides.  I know what drives them.  I want a real life that I can never have, here.  When we are free of the bonds of Gaia we will be able to let the Fates set us a new destiny, although they will dare not follow.  We will lose what we have left, and we will gain the stars.  And not like Hera to be ripped apart by them, either, although I would very much like to die amongst them."

Ares' mouth hung open.

"You're serious," he whispered.

He saw the muscles in her cheeks shift as she turned to look at him.

"Yes.  Plain.  Open.  No one listened to me before, even you.  Now you've heard me out.  I cannot do it alone, but I will do what I must for this to happen.  And nothing, on this I swear my eternal damnation handed to me for being truthful, will stop me.  If I have to find a way to drain the Styx and bring out the damned from Hades and from these other realms to do it, then let it be known that I will do so.  Gladly.  With a smile.  With my bow... or rifle... at the ready.  I've had it here and I'm leaving.  How about you?"

He shivered as he looked at her.

"Your destiny..." his lips barely moved to say it.

She nodded.

"I am to be the mid-wife, I just never knew where that would put me.  Now, I know.  And when the mother seeks to turn on that child to be, I know what I must do."

* * *

Ares sat down on one of the wooden chairs that went with the long wooden table at the back of the house, a set of candles in glasses lit the table where he had served dinner.  It was a simple fare of steak with roasted potatoes and green beans done on a griddle on the grill.  Diana had done a batch of honeycakes on that griddle once he was done with it, and their meal together had drawn to them and he had set down a bottle of chilled mead and two half-full glasses of it, next to the empty magnum of red wine they had with the meal.

"It is a nice place you have here, brother," she said as she nodded accepting the glass from him.

"There are a few I have scattered around.  Once things settled down in the 1890's I put together a continuing land trust for the places I acquire.  Once I've been out of a place for 50 years, it is usually pretty safe to look at going back to it.  After I got back from the latest military venture overseas I picked up a persona that I had ready and gave the trust the information on the next occupant.  That was after moving the trust to a new group under the last persona.  I think every 35 years, give or take, is enough to keep suspicions from being raised.  There is a fallow trust for my overseas land, which allows for time away from any one region."

Diana smiled and nodded, sipping the mead.

"Delicious, if a bit too refined, if you know what I mean?"

He sipped the sweet mead and closed his eyes, letting the arome waft from his glass to his nose as he inhaled.

"Not nectar, true, but good enough for my needs."

She took one of the honeycakes from the center plate and nibbled at it, sitting back in her chair.

"I don't do that, and have no need for land or to own it.  Wilderness provides and when it doesn't I will befriend a family homesteading in the wilderness and get known going to and from town with them.  Like you I also built up a few legal amenities over time along with stashes, caches and just knowing where some things are means that I do not lack for anything amongst humanity.  Until the last two centuries I haven't had much interaction with mankind."

Ares sat back with the glass in his right hand and looked at Diana across the table from him, the candles giving faint glow into the still and quickly chilling night air.  He could barely remember seeing her at ease, at rest, anywhere.

"They had built a temple to you, you know?"

She giggled as she looked at him, smiling.

"Yes they did!  I had thought they were looking for a simple shrine, you know the ones by trailsides and out in the wilderness?"

He nodded, taking another sip of the mead.

"I remember guiding the one who was looking, letting the deer show him where to build.  It wasn't exactly flat or dry land, but it was a nice place of general solitude."

"Not for long," he said.

She took a nibble from her honeycake and a sip of mead watching him across the table.

"When asked for a suitable spot in an area that is somewhat wild, I can find it.  Then the place goes from more than a minor shrine with a few of my bear girls serving out a year to learn the ways of the wilderness and mid-wifery, good and necessary skills for a young girl to have.  Soon it grows to more than acolytes, more than priests, soon it is a huge temple of marble, not a loving place of stone, earth and water.  Because of the gifts of wilderness and birthing children well, the temple grows and grows."

"It was one of the 7 wonders, or so named," Ares said, "and it was magnificent."

She smirked and took another sip of mead.

"Then it burned down and it was 'why did you foresake us, oh Artemis?'," she pursed her lips together and shook her head.

"And why did you?" Ares asked.

"That should be plain, brother.  You had many shrines, as well, and they were erected on battle-sites in homage of what had been done there."

Taking a bite from the honeycake he nodded, and then sipped mead.

"How would you feel if it was put in, say, a pasture where nothing but sheep had consecrated it?"

He choked for a moment and leaned forward putting the glass and honeycake down and picking up a napkin as he choked on the cake and mead.

"Not appropriate, eh?  Disrespectful, perhaps?"

Coughing he nodded and finally reached for his half-empty glass of wine and took two gulps from it.

"At least," he said gasping as he leaned up, "put it in an armory!  A major fort would do, as well, as the Romans did.  But... in a place not consecrated or dedicated to war?"

She smiled and took another nibble of her honeycake.

"Now a temple to Artemis is one that must abide by the wilderness.  What happened to it?  A city grew up for it, making it no longer a wilderness area but one that had cobblestone walkways and even roads leading not just to the city but the temple, as well.  I wasn't attending to the birth of Alexander, although it had stars aligned for it this would not be a birth I needed to attend to.  I didn't even notice the temple had been burned down, and was being rebuilt, until years after it happened as it was no longer part of the wilderness.  By then it was for the benefit of those running a religion, not those honoring a goddess and her domain.  Athena might like those trappings, but she was of the city and I am of no city nor town nor Nation.  Really, how many centuries of teaching this does it take to sink in?"

Ares had recovered and gave a final cough, then drained his glass of wine.

"A good vintage that, brother.  You really shouldn't gulp it," she said with a smirk.

"Diana!" was all he could gasp out, looking at her and the moment of anger passed as he looked at her kind face across the table from him.

"Yes.  I decided that the Romans had almost the right idea but..." she sighed, "...it was too late.  They, too, would be swept away by what was coming and by the time they got all those shrines up for besotted and debauched Emperors, my time was over.  Life, however, endures."

"Yet you could have ended it..." he said watching the smirk fade from her face, "... ahhh... no, you couldn't.  Inviolate and mid-wife.  Zeus could not take that from you, could he?"

"Never.  I was bitter for some time, Ares, yet had not the power to strike back and I took my duties to the Wild Hunt far more seriously than he who came before me.  At its outer range I could barely find Greeks or those who knew of them, and when I did I saw the demise that lay at the feet of Zeus.  I knew he would be gone... don't ask how it is just a feeling that I knew was true."

Taking up the honeycake and mead again, Ares took another small bite and savored the taste of it, made by the skilled hands of she who had once been so much and so distant to all.

"That changed, I take it?"

She set the remaining piece of her honeycake down and reached forward for the bottle of mead and topped off her glass.

"I'm no bumpkin as they call it in this area of the world, no ignoramus, no idiot.  Amongst those who, in times past, sought to refine ideas they came to isolation in the wilderness.  Many did so over time as it is the one place to experience the wild with no intervention from the hand of man, and what better place to concentrate on subjects complex but to live in the most complex of all?  Quite a few of these had little idea of what it would take to actually survive in such places, and they I helped, not all but those who seemed in the very need and guidance that nature brings.  For that help I did not ask coin but simple teaching, going over their basics so I could understand why they were there.  Few write of such excursions as they are overwhelmed by what they see, but with wisdom final refinement comes it matters not if you are Plato, Seneca, Lucian, Newton, Liebnitz, Gauss or Einstein."

He raised an eyebrow.

"A select group," he whispered.

"A few amongst many, brother, and most were not great thinkers or doers just needing something that cities and civilization couldn't provide.  It didn't matter if they only discussed with friends in the wilderness or taught me directly, I learned and saw the coming of a new dawn centuries ago.  For that dawn I knew I must be prepared as it might need a mid-wife."

Eating the last of one honeycake, Ares reached forward for another.

"You've noticed it, too?"

She sat back in her chair and sipped mead, looking up into the night sky.

"Of course.  Something is going on, just like it did in Greece before it collapsed, twice, then Rome.  This sort of thing isn't just for those places but it happens all over where civilization reaches a crescendo and then turns away from being civilized.  This time it has lasted longer than any other time.  It is in this age, seeing the changes humanity does that goes beyond anything any of us could do, do I see what is happening.  This is the first gasp of civilization trying to become eternal by necessity, not convenience of survival."

"Permanently civilized?" he asked.

"Well, their nature will still be with them, of course, just as ours is with us.  What they will face, however, is that if they lose the ability to be civilized they immediately lose their life.  Certain venues for old ways will appear, but if there is not even the veneer of learning what it means to keep oneself alive then there will soon be no life and not just for the one who has forgotten, but for all those around them.  That is far harsher in space as there is nothing to fall back upon, no guarantee of nature's bounty here with Gaia.  If you forget, if you slack off, if you do anything but concentrate on keeping the artifacts of civilization running then you are soon without the artifacts, civilization and life, all at the same time.  Gaia has been most, most forgiving, my brother, and has always welcomed back the wretches who forgot that to be civilized means  working at it.  Each time this is forgotten those involved soon find themselves scrambling to stay alive but at least there is nature to help them.  Once out of this very safe place, the rest of nature is not forgiving at all.  And there, and only there, out of the reaches of these powers in this place can we truly live as we were meant to live."

Sipping mead he watched her face shine with reflected moonlight and remembered how she used to be as goddess and that singular beauty of the night had never left her.

"How do you propose to do this, Diana?  Surely you aren't going to start up some rocket company or become one of these modern captains of industry?  That would not be like you and, more importantly, would require exposure you do not want and tie you to a desk you would loathe."

Her gaze came back down to rest on him, again.

"Oh, nothing so direct, my brother.  The lessons your people taught mine at Troy still are with me, and they are instructive to me through the centuries.  Your presence was never overt, Ares, but your slow and steady influence on warfare could not help but be noticed.  You may have never drafted a regulation nor treaty nor done any other thing and yet someone was setting a steady stream of change over centuries, teaching lessons that had been lost so they would not be forgotten.  Finally they created war colleges and you, now, could turn to other things.  One lesson at a time building, always building on the past."

Raising his eyebrows he shivered not just to the slow increase of chilliness in the deepening night.

"That's... Diana..."

"True, isn't it?  You could never leave man to his own resources and when a gentle corrective to a better army was available it always, somehow, just seemed to suddenly become available and not just from generals, either.  Anyone who hadn't known you would never see it, Ares.  That it was happening was obvious to me after centuries, and yet I abided by your wish to not be known or found."

Ares knew he had been very, very careful about instituting morality and ethics into military affairs.  It was meant, at first, to just differentiate soldiers from warriors, those of civilization from those of barbarism.  The effect of that, however, transformed military affairs across centuries and it had been a harder task than fighting in any war.  It had been slow, subtle and he knew that this would benefit mankind as a whole even if those that had the main benefit lost battles or wars, the lessons tended to stay with people and military establishments.

"I had thought to make it seem natural," he said in a low tone, "that those who gained understanding would be helped.  Repeat that often enough and practice gets institutionalized."

"And so it did," she smiled,"I learned from Troy, brother.  The Achaeoi were no match for the Ilians man for man, unit for unit, ship for ship.  Numbers counted at first but they wouldn't have mattered if it was a normal war.  Agamemnon learned about the idea that you do not have to have the best, swiftest or best trained men in battle to win.  You taught him that deepest of all lessons and it struck so many as profound because no one had ever thought of war like that.  Nothing I or my twin could do would stop it.  None of us could change the affairs once started, save you, as war is your definition and place.  I learned that deepest and darkest of lessons, Ares, you taught it to me very, very well, you did."

He gazed at her steadily, his face placid.

"Which lesson is that?"

She smirked and leaned forward.

"While I and Apollo thought of tactics and equipment, you taught Agamemnon of logistics and depriving Troy of trade.  Her allies fell to such as Achilles and Odysseus, and other men taking to ships at sea to ravage towns and cities and islands.  That gained the ire of the Hittites, but by then the course of the war was changed so profoundly that none could believe it.  You did that again just recently in that second global conflict, and this time it was America that deployed logistics against better trained and armed foes until, at the end, the foes were facing better trained and armed armies with weapons unheard of just a few years before.  Your fingerprints showed up clearly."

His brow furrowed for a moment as he looked back at her.

"But how does this apply to space?"

She smiled and nodded.

"All of those flashing rockets, alight into the sky, they look so beautiful but for the fact that they are an awful waste to expend so much energy for just the first few miles of atmosphere and gravity.  They are the great titans of space and like all titans they are powerful and simple, not necessarily elegant or capable.  These titans may put up lovely items in space but they are ill-suited to keeping them supplied.  If you find a better way to do that, do it cheaper and consistently, then you have a means to permanently supply places in space and even deliver sections of new things in space if on a somewhat smaller scale.  Luckily I don't have to invent that, just help back it... and then design the small pieces that will begin to allow for a permanent establishment first off of Gaia's body, then to Luna and then, finally, years and years later, out of their grasp entirely."

Slowly he nodded sipping his mead.

"But why me?"

She blinked at him, her face glowing from the moon that had crept up into the sky.

"This is a logistical operation, Ares.  You are the master of logistics.  I might be able to do it without you, but I can certainly do it with you and perhaps, this time, give civilization a permanent home amongst the stars so that it can never fail, again.  Far better that and to give the mother an awakened sense that civilization is worth it, than to have her and the chance fail, once more.  There are times when one must be tender with the mother giving birth and other times a slap on the face to stop screaming and simply push must be performed.  This time the slap is appropriate, don't you think?"

= = =

The first two scenes really are one, they came together, and the one after that seemed like a good follow-on.

Beats me where it goes, but it was a compelling piece that arrived from nowhere.

I get some of the strangest ideas about things...

19 March 2012

Demographics and direction in television

It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.
Rod Serling

I was thinking of using one of the wasteland of television quotes, but this one is much more appropriate to the medium.  When there were only three networks, with three letters, and they had, uniformly, turned a commercial medium of so much promise into so much mediocrity, it was a wonder that people didn't find the twelve dancing rabbits to be the best part of television.  That is to say that nothing good has been on television, and there are many shows that were not only popular but also challenging and intellectually stimulating.  With the twelve dancing rabbits, mind you.  The early days of broadcast television catered to those who would typically watch it at the times they typically had to fill.  Stay at home moms during the late mornings and early afternoons, children on Saturday mornings, families from 7 PM to 10 PM (the so-called multi-demographic 'Prime Time'), parents after-dinner with the news (typically 6 to 7 PM) and so on.  These demographics were ones that were put forward by the nuclear family, with one parent working and multiple children and their lives were structured around work hours, school hours and off-hours which television strove to fill the latter part between meals and sleeping.

As this demographic broke up after the Baby Boomers went to school, so did the programming which became more youth centered and action oriented, with bits and pieces of other programming being shoe-horned in to meet niche demographics.  There would still be widely popular programs, like The Cosby Show or The Simpsons, which would each compete for viewer time until the concept of time-shifting took hold so that people could watch both programs.  Because of early videotape ability that was about it for 'time shifting' and while it could be applied to two programs in the same time slot, it could not be applied to three without another VCR.  The advent of the VCR also changed the nature of commercials which could be zipped (zipped through) or zapped (removed altogether by the VCR due to time signals sent to stations for commercial programming).  Suddenly, in one short span of years, getting people to watch the twelve dancing bunnies became a problem as even the simple mute button could render the best of commercials without anything to make it appealing.  Many people still watched commercials, of course, and that still allowed for loss-leader programming to flourish for intellectual and other values.

Cable television, however, broadened the wasteland from three or four channels to hundreds of channels.

With nothing on to watch, as the tag-line goes.

This new industry was lead by the first real 'Super Stations', WTBS and WOR, and then CNN the offspring of the WTBS/Turner Empire.  News couldn't possibly fill 24 hours of television, and yet with live feeds it came into being just as the old Eastern Bloc Nations started to throw off their yoke of Communism and the USSR, itself, imploded back to Russia.  For a decade, a short decade, CNN became a reputable news outlet and another three letter network, and it would be copied into other formats (for business and financial arenas) and by other new networks.  The demographic groups that now had cable television as part of its life experience learned to 'channel surf' to find something to watch and lost allegiance to the old three letter systems.

One of the great promises of cable television was niche programming, which is to say programming oriented to specific demographics that would attract them to view programs made for them.  Still the old idea of demographics by age, race, and economic factors was in place, and for the most part the old Progressive Hollywood machine just adapted old messages to these new stations and programs.  That was the wasteland era of cable television, where you really had little to watch and 'channel surfing' was a must even with VCRs able to pick out programs there were so few that finding something to fill television void time was ingrained as was the well worn sofa place for butts to sit in.  Getting new viewers was the most important thing, and learning to hold on to them was becoming a precious commodity, and yet the old tried and true storylines just didn't  pull people in.  Something new was needed, and so something old was dusted off.

What was the old idea?  Candid Camera by Allen Funt.  The simple idea of unobtrusive cameras hidden to get video footage had been around a long time, and Allen Funt was the master of the idea and presentation of it.  While news programs had utilized the idea to 'catch people on tape' doing something, it was little applied to television programming after the demise of Candid Camera, as it seemed like an idea that was truly stuck in a niche.  For all of that it made very compelling viewing as one could consider how they would react in a given situation and see that they would be very much the same as the people they saw stuck in it: Allen Funt had mastered the concept of identification with someone on television that wasn't a star, wasn't out to make millions and was just an average person.  The average person became the centerpiece of the program and it was that idea married to recorded video that made the program what it was.  It was unbelievably hard to marry this up to a demographic, though, outside of nature documentaries.

What started in the early 21st century was the niche programming of cable television that was fully aware of time-shifting, zipping, zapping and muting, having to find a new demographic with compelling content.  Instead of the old demographics, a new idea was put forward on this idea of 'what is appealing to a wide group of people across old demographic lines', and that was to follow simple programming ideas to see if they could find an audience.  This was married up to unobtrusive recording and put forward as a program.  There are many programs that led up to the success of this, but the breakthrough program was, arguably, Dirty Jobs by Mike Rowe.

Mike Rowe was a second string opera singer who was looking for something interesting to do, and he has self-admitted lack of skills in just about anything else.  For me his major claim to fame is being one of the few men who can belt out The Start Spangled Banner, hit the notes, stay on key and put passion into it.  He has told how he had gotten to be in the place of doing Dirty Jobs, but how he got to it is of less importance than its popularity.  The self-effacing man who is humble enough to admit his lacks takes on some of the dirtiest and most dangerous (which is secondary) jobs around and shows that he, with little to no skills, can do them.  Perhaps not well, yes, but he does not hold himself above any job and all work is worthy of exploration and appreciation.  Even better is that the audience gets to see people not only dedicated to such jobs but who like such jobs: the idea that everyone needs a college education to lead a worthwhile life and career gets exploded within the first few episodes of Dirty Jobs.  This program makes the everyday and absolutely necessary into not only viable ways of life but as good careers, and for most of them you don't need to go to college.

What Dirty Jobs did for the everyday job, Mythbusters has done for the documentary: make it compelling and informative and still having to deal with the twelve dancing bunnies. The co-hosts, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, work in the Hollywood Special Effects (SFX) industry and have worked on everything from commercials to feature length films, applying skills across a wide variety of areas.  The show got off to a rocky start as it also wanted to look into the backgrounds of Urban Legends and Urban Myths, which tended to interrupt the flow of the program.  Still those first couple of seasons offered insight into how one goes about testing these modern (and now all time era) myths and legends, utilizing knowledge, skill and the scientific method, plus the concept of small scale test runs and large scale runs to see if there are scale dependent factors involved.  The show goes beyond the simple 'confirm or deny' but actually seeks to reproduce the results of myths and legends, which means that the layers of safety in our modern settings must get exposed and removed to be replaced by ever more dangerous devices.  Some of the very technical aspects they keep hidden, for viewer safety, although anyone wanting to find out how they did something in detail can do so with a bit of searching.  What they also do is apply their SFX skill and acumen to modern video that can have computer generated graphics and sequencing used to make things that are 'apparently real' but are, in fact, hoaxes and fabrications.  All of this done in their concrete floor, steel shelving working environment with benches, mills, lathes and other things in their warehouse space: it is a true workshop environment, not a sound stage and these people work in this environment and this show is but one thing they do there.  Plus there are explosions.  Lots of explosions.  It just isn't a Mythbusters episode if you don't have eat least one explosion.

The Discovery Channel then formulated the first real breakthrough, cross-demographic hit and continual compelling viewing experience with a show that started with Dirty Jobs when Mike Rowe went up to Alaska to experience the salmon fishing fleet from net to can on the shelf.  There they found the Bering Sea crab fishermen and their dirty, nasty, frigid and often lethal job of crab fishing in the arctic water flows off Alaska in the winter: Deadliest Catch.  The program itself revolves around a few central ships in the crab fleet and their crews, plus the entire fishing culture that is not just particular to fishermen but the one particular to the Bering Sea crab fleet.  There is an unstated part to Deadliest Catch that wasn't really made apparent until the second season, which is that these are ALL small businesses.  The crews were tight knit as they were often more than like a family, but were actual families running the vessels.  On the Time Bandit it is brothers and cousins, on the Cornelia Marie it is father and sons from an estranged marriage, on the Northwestern it is brothers and cousins of Scandinavian extraction and on the Wizard it is brothers.  These are businessmen taking part in the long tradition of fishing families, which goes back to the beginning of fishing due to the cost of the vessels involved.  From the core members of the crew we get the extended crew, the people so close to the core that they become part of the ship's family which is that group that knows each other through good and bad, and form tight bonds over years if not decades.  Every year is a struggle to get enough from the sea to make it through the year and keep the ship running and over many seasons these bonds amongst men, their ships and the sea becomes compelling.

These three programs set much of the tone and demographics to look for in compelling, non-fiction or designed setting television.  They don't aim high, but low to the basics of what it means to make a good life.  They feature people who are willing to experiment and who understand that when something doesn't work, it doesn't work.  There is an ethos of do-it-yourself views that push each of these programs forward.  They feature everyday drama which is often the crux of not just survival but getting along with others that you care about.  They feature time honored business types, hard work and a work ethos that leads to a good life (if often a hard one).  Together, with a few adornments for explosions, they set the tone for what came next.

Mix work ethic together with family business and those hard working, daily, family interpersonal relationships and add in customers and expertise and you get: Pawn Stars.

Concentrate on explosions and dangerous activity done by highly competent people, with a bit of designed setting, historical arms and a contest thrown in, and you get: Top Shot.

Make the show about survival and how to survive as told by one man who gives you the DIY of it and you get: Survivorman and Man vs. Wild.

Concentrate on honoring the works of our mothers and fathers, the things they made and bringing them out to be appreciated, often worked on, plus done as a small business and you get: American Pickers and American Restoration.

This is cross-demographic, hard work as good work, supporting families and small businesses, and honoring history and good ways of life television.

It is Jacksonian television.

And if you watch one of the programs, then you probably watch more than one as the field now includes logging by both channels, gold mining both on land and in the Bering Sea, plus a plethora of other series all vying for an expansive demographic that knows no age boundaries or class limits.  Any of these programs could have been made since the dawn of television.

They are made now and appreciated now, because they affirm a way of life that has been denigrated by the rest of television and entertainment because you don't have to go to college to become an expert, run a business, or have a good family life.  You can achieve from any start, no matter how humble, no door is closed to a person of will, talent and the ability to stick to a job and do it right.  Failure is an option and it is seen in many of these programs, but that is not a mar on a person's character, just an admission of limits as people.  It is no shame that one fails at becoming a Bering Sea fisherman... and it is no shame that one must often kill animals to survive in the wilderness, or be killed by it.  These programs are not just about the successes, but the lives involved and how to see that failure once is not failure always, but that conclusive failure demonstrates something once and for all.  These are not people that need scripts written for them as they are leading a much more compelling life and story without a single script than any script writer could ever imagine. Not every show or attempt will be successful, but that is part of work as well, and running a network.

As the cultural ethos that backs these up is so widespread in the US, it will offer a continuing venue for new programs from Swamp People to Sons of Guns, and much, much more as America re-learns that good work is its own reward beyond any payment.  And that an honest payment for such work is a dignity all its own.

08 March 2012

Breitbart's refusion upon death

Andrew Breitbart is dead, but his legacy of multiple BIG sites has shown a capability and the way forward if the Nation is to get ahold of itself.  A group of relatively disparate sites covering Hollywood, Government, Journalism and Peace topics, and how the groups that sing from the same hymnal influence each of them attempted to go after these topics piecemeal: it was a narrative invention of the Left to try and 'March through the Institutions' and Breitbart followed them, lacking only Eduction as part of the BIG line-up.  But that societal division is as false as the idea that there are divisions amongst conservative thought, and both are fostered by Progressivism that sees its only path to power in getting its enemies to divide amongst themselves.  Progressivism wins via division and subtraction.

A fusion of conservative thought, spanning from current SoCons, TP FiCons, and MilCons is starting to happen (which I go through here) as a thematic awakening that each of these is just an aspect of conservatism and that they are inter-related is starting to take place.  The disappointment with the Republican field is that it is mired in the 20th century divisions imposed upon it by the very institutions that have been marched through.  Yet it is self-evident that each part of conservative thought must rest upon others, that morality in life must have outcomes that stretch from governance, finance and all the way to warfare.  So, too, do financial decisions lead to moral outcomes that must be owned up to, for good or ill, and that can have repercussions all the way to the Nation State level.  At the Nation State level, Law of Nations as a functioning system that is derived by ANY society (just or unjust)  reappears and is a universal phenomena that then requires that how Nations act be decided upon in all realms, and that the use of negative power to make war rests upon societal, moral and economic foundations.

After he died, Andrew Breitbart's separated sites refused his death and became a single banner with multiple sections and they now host inter-related stories that cross all their prior realms.  No longer can artificial separations be imposed as life is not led in separate parts but in a continuous stream from birth to death.  That legacy that Andrew Breitbart left behind is now showing that his skill as an entrepreneur and as a man bear fruit in that the people he had led have now coalesced to start doing things that their separated domains hand hindered them from doing before.  For his absence, Andrew Breitbart's guiding concepts of the deep duplicity of the political Left in American culture is now being examined via a multi-dimensional prism and attacked from many angles.  The deep pool of talent at Breitbart.com continued the promised work of vetting President Obama, as the MSM did no job of it, at all, in 2008.

The first piece may appear small, a small piece of video footage from 1990, during Obama's college days as the President of the Harvard Law Review.  The deep lies of the MSM who covered this part of his life up are now showing up via multiple dimensions both in real time and archival footage.  And, yes, the folks at Breitbart are looking into that aspect, quite deeply, and naming names.  Plus we learn from one of Obama's mentors that there was a conscious effort to suppress this information.

So what's of interest?

Consider, first, that Buzzfeed tried to craft the narrative once it learned of the footage by editing together a preemptive attack to show that 'there isn't anything here, move along'.  That receives criticism from Breitbart not on losing the 'scoop', which is over 20 years old, but on not trying to do any investigative reporting BEFORE it was known the footage was coming.  After that it is asked When will Buzzfeed vet the Prez?  I mean, really, Buzzfeed paid for the archival footage.  By the second.

Just at this level, alone, there is much hilarity to be found, even before you even look at the footage.  I mean, what nasty, crass outfit will charge for archival video footage by the second?  If you need stuff from CNN they typically charge by the hour, but then they probably have a decent archiving system.  So which, nasty, greedy, capitalist outfit was it that would do this to Buzzfeed?

WGBH in Boston.


Public Broadcasting.

You know, the 'we are so poor, could you pledge just a bit for your show?' people?

By. The. Second.

For something that should be a public service, no?  Paid for in large part via viewer donations for the good of the community?  Heard of that?

So, when you start charging by the second for video footage, paid for in large part by the public, there is a minor ethical problem and one huge amount of laughter.  How can you charge for something already paid for?  And, more to the point, how does charging help the public?  Even further, isn't it a bit crass and commercial to charge for archival footage?  I mean that is what really stupid broadcasters, like CNN, do as well as those places that haven't figure out that free stuff drives traffic and, thusly, dollars.  So, even before we begin looking at Prof. Derrick Bell, we have the awesome and hilarious spectacle of the ever angelic flagship of PBS, WGBH in Boston, acting like a prostitute and that you pay up by the second for its past, archived and dated material.  And, it asks for a much higher rate and per second.

Would YOU donate to a PUBLIC station that ACTED like this?

The MSM starts to crumble as well as the overall narrative right there: anything that forces WGBH to turn prostitute has got to be interesting, to say the least.

Next, the video, and since that is at a few of the above links, I won't re-link again.  It seems pretty innocuous, right?  Young Barack Obama warmly welcoming and embracing one of the Professors on racial diversity in the faculty.  Great stuff, huh?

It's all just 'move along' from the MSM.

Now place a bit of context to it, which they did with a C-SPAN 2 interview of Thomas Sowell that actually features what is going on in Harvard, at the time, as part of the discussion being interviewed by Brian Lamb:

LAMB: Threatened the law school if they didn't hire a black woman, he's going, he's leaving?

SOWELL: Well, if I understand it correctly, he's taking unpaid leave until such time as they hire a woman of color, as he says. Well, he's also said that by black, he does not mean skin color, he means those who are really black, not those who think white and look black. And so what he is really saying is he wants ideological conformity in the people that are hired to fill this position. That's not uncommon either. I know a black woman, for example, who had a Ph.D. -- she's had a book published, she has another contract on another book, she's taught at a couple of very nice places, she has a devil of a time getting a job -- not a job in a prestigious institution, a job teaching at a college. And the reason is that she gets shot down, blackballed, whatever, by people who don't like her ideology. That's happening not only racially, it's also happening where race is not an issue. In a law school, I learned recently, there's a woman who was being considered for a tenured position, and all the men voted for her and all the woman voted against her, because she does not follow radical feminism, and so you're getting these ideological tests, so that at the very time that there's all this mouthing of the word diversity, there is this extremely narrow ideological conformity that is being enforced wherever people have the power to enforce it.

That is the killer context for what you see in the innocuous embrace and Barack Obama asking people to open their minds to Derrick Bell: open your minds to a stratified, racialist view of society that needs to be spread via the Harvard Law School hiring practices.  Suddenly talking up this Professor starts to sound not so sweet, not so nice, and no matter how much you smile there is a problem with wanting to actually start closing down thought and putting a rigid ideological structure in place.

This is discussed just a bit further:

LAMB: No. Basically, I mean, from the press coverage, you've seen, is he a hero to the ...?

SOWELL: Well, he's looked at as an idealist who is self-sacrificing and so on. I suppose one could, if one wanted to look at it that way, have seen Hitler that way in his early days. It's just a question of where that kind of idealism leads. He has launched a despicable attack on a young black professor at the law school who doesn't go along with this. A young man named Randall Kennedy, who has written a very thoughtful, intelligent article last June in the Harvard Law Review, questioning some of the assumptions that people are making, people like Derrick Bell and doing it in a very gentlemanly as well as very logical way, empirical way, and that's not what they want. They want the conclusion to be that -- they want him to march in lock step and he won't do it, and they're doing their best to make life impossible for him.

Rigid, uniform ideology is what Prof. Bell was pressing forward, not 'ethnic diversity'.

There is a lot of the MSM trying to downplay this, but their role in covering it up is now being exposed both in the past and the present.  What the Breitbart organization is doing, however, is also finding the lovely supplementary material that, really, no one else has ever bothered to go after.  It is the stuff that gets the point across and you really can't say anything to downplay it.  And what is that?

Well, Prof. Bell wrote a story in 1992 that was picked up by HBO and produced as one of their in-house projects in 1994, called Space Traders, and the Breitbart people are reminding us of this so that we can see just how Prof. Bell's ideology plays out.  If you think this won't be good, you're right.  You see it's a Blaxploitation film that has aliens using Reagan to persuade the US to give all of its black people to aliens who are going to hand all sorts of gold and goodies to the US to get it out of debt.  I've seen good Blaxploitation films and this isn't even close.  Mind you this comes from a much lauded story that Prof. Bell utilizes to show how his Critical Race Theory ideology actually plays itself out in a fictional setting...

Believe me, you won't believe it.  Or be able to stomach much of it as Prof. Bell also shows his anti-semitism in the production which he is acknowledge as writing the adaptation.

Betchya thought that the prostituting of WGBH couldn't be topped, huh?

This is what happens when you fuse ideas to see where they lead and how they play out across a much, much wider venue and encompass all of life.

Soon this will happen to conservatism.

And then things get very interesting, indeed.

02 March 2012

RIP Andrew Breitbart

RIP Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)

Collapsed walking near his home, survived by a wife and four young children.

My condolences to the family, friends, co-workers and those who loved this Happy Warrior.

That, my son, THAT was a man.