Archive for July, 2012

Four of Diamonds: A Pirate Story


Jim was a respectable middle-aged man who suddenly became a pirate. He didn’t just start downloading art in ways contrary to the artists’ wishes. He actually became a pirate. One minute he was looking at cat pictures on the internet at work, the next he was standing on an enemy ship, with a cutlass in one hand and a hook on the other, sporting a peg leg and eyepatch, and plundering the booty of the crew he’d just murdered.

“What on Earth is going on?” he said. What came out was, “Shiver me timbers, I’ve lost me bearings!”

The parrot on his shoulder mocked him with echoes of “I’ve lost me bearings! I’ve lost me bearings!” The dead bodies surrounding him did not respond.

Jim figured he may as well get back to business. He staggered around the ship, swearing like a sailor at the lack of peg-leg-accessible spaces.

In one of the berths was a naked dead man. Jim was about to congratulate himself for having been so thorough at the crew-murdering when a sneeze came from the top bunk.

“P… pl… please don’t kill me!” pled the young, fully-dressed and clean-shaven pirate on the top bunk.

Jim instinctively waved his cutlass at him. “Who are you, ye lily-livered mast mugger?” he growled, putting far more emphasis on the ‘arrrre’ than he had intended.

“I’m…, I be uhh… bl… yarr, I be Cap’n Toothbeard. If ye spare me I’ll be swabbin’ yer decks twice a day ‘n’ barely touchin’ yer wenches.”

Jim let out a pensive arrr. He wasn’t sure how many of his crew had been lost in the battle, nor whether he had any wenches. But without remembering any specifics, he felt as though he’d already killed and swabbed enough for the day.

“Arrright, matey. But if I catch ye in any monkey business, ye’ll be keelhauled.” He extended his right arm to shake on it. Toothbeard cowered from the sharp hook.

Jim contented himself with touching elbows with his new crew member. “I’m Jim.” He suddenly panicked at having revealed such an un-piratey name as ‘Jim’, until he realised that the name that actually came out of his mouth was ‘Cap’n Stede Bonnet’. A pretty funny-sounding name, in Jim’s opinion, but convincing enough. So that was his name then.

What with the missing hand, leg and eye, and the lack of any real knowledge of how to be a pirate, ‘Stede’ was glad to have help. The two of them gathered up all the gold from the vessel and swung from a stray rope onto Stede’s ship. There were no wenches, no surviving crew, no food, and a mess of spilt blood, grog and urine under the tattered threads of a Jolly Roger. They swung back to grab some more useful supplies.

Toothbeard was true to his word. Before long, the decks, walls and cannons gleamed, the meticulously-restitched Jolly Roger flapped proudly in the wind, and colourful semaphore flags spelling out motivational messages complemented the tasteful off-white of the sails. Stede and Toothbeard got along fabulously.

Piracy was difficult with only two crew, but Toothbeard turned out to be excellent at sneaking around disabling cannons and stealing treasure while Stede parleyed with a rival captain. Once or twice the friendly chat didn’t go so well and he had to slice someone open and swing back to his own ship before the rest of the crew retaliated. If anyone invaded their ship, Toothbeard would make sure the flags were rearranged to balance out any browning blood patches.

Without the aid of a GPS, Stede steered the ship mainly on instinct, until the day they arrived at a tiny deserted island with a single coconut palm growing out of a mound of white sand. Toothbeard wasted no time in suspending a large, sparkly red hammock between the ship and the palm and relaxing in it with a tot of rum, while Stede dug idly into the sand.

“Well, blow me down!” Stede exclaimed when his shovel hit something hard.

“That I will!” boomed a voice from above. No actual blowing occurred, but Stede was so shocked by the sight of a woman in a bright olive leotard and sparkly red cape hovering in the sky that he fell backwards anyway. His parrot flew from his shoulder screeching “Pretty birdy! Pretty birdy!” at the lady.

Jim was quite used to being Stede Bonnet the pirate by this time, but it was moments like this that reminded him how very strange it was. “Ahoy thar!” he called. “Thar be no flyin’ wenches on my ship! Against the pirate code, it is!”

“May I remind you, sir, that you are on land, and the law of the land says no piracy is allowed, and the stolen gold and love letters in that chest you’re digging up belong to me and my partner Agent Chlorine,” said the woman, with a stern look.

Love letters? Agent Chlorine? In all his time pretending to really be Stede Bonnet, Jim had never been at this much of a loss before. But there was gold, so the obvious thing to do was keep digging.

The flying woman’s booming voice had woken up Toothbeard, who had spilled rum on his chest in his sleep. He ran to Stede and stared bewildered at the flyer. After a few moments he seemed to recognise her, and started to go pale.

“Thank you for your service, Agent Chlorine,” said the woman.

“Y… you’re welcome?” said the whitening agent.

“You salty moose. A secret agent?” yelled Stede.

“It’s not like that! I mean yes, I am a secret agent, sent to cleanse the waters of piracy, but I… I like you! I don’t even know what she’s doing here! And I’m not Agent Chlorine. My real name’s Agent Chlorine!” Agent Chlorine looked as confused as the rest of them at the last remark.

“He knows you’re not a pirate now,” said the flying lady. “You may as well admit to the rest. You hung out my spare cape to signal me because he led you to where he’d hidden what he stole from us.”

Agent Chlorine looked back at his hammock, and back up at the woman. “Uh… yes, yes, of course, Flying Thulium, I hung up the cape to signal you. I knew he was digging up our letters because…”

“Because what else would it be?” she said confidently. “I can read them from here with my x-ray vision.”

Before Stede had a chance to wonder whether x-rays were known about in the age of piracy, the Flying Thulium swooped down toward him. In an instant, her cape was tangled in the branches of the palm tree, and she dangled by her neck, strangling herself a little every time she tried to fly away. “You’ll live to regret this!” she asserted. As if to emphasise her point, a coconut fell and hit Stede’s spade, whose digging motion propelled it into the water. The parrot flew after it, but was unable to lift a coconut without the help of a second parrot and a piece of string.

Stede turned his attention to Agent Chlorine, formerly known as Toothbeard. “Th’wench says this be my treasure, looted from you. We split it?” he tried to lift the treasure chest from the hole, but couldn’t grip it well enough with his hook, and fell onto it. He cleared room for his legs and made himself comfortable sitting on the chest.

“Those are our love letters, you filthy pirate!” said the Dangling Thulium. She shot laser beams from her eyes and melted the sand around him. When the melted sand cooled, his peg leg was stuck fast, and he was surrounded by walls of vitrified sand. Not for the first time, he wondered why the peg leg was not removable.

Agent Chlorine tried to pull him out, but slipped on the glass and found himself lying over the hole, arms on one side, feet on the other. The parrot left a dropping on his back while echoing, “You filthy pirate! You filthy pirate!”

Stede stood up, headbutting Agent Chlorine’s stomach. Agent Chlorine slid forward on the glass and his feet fell into Stede’s face. Agent Chlorine pulled himself up and slid on his belly toward the unmelted sand, defeated. Stede nursed his bloody nose, and the parrot came and sat on his head.

Stede let forth a stream of insults which are not suitable for a general audience, but which came out as “You scurvy yellow-bellied scallywags!” Being a pirate was no fun any more. “I be nay e’en a real pirate. I work on thems bewitch’d boxes.”

“The path to understanding,” began the Dangling Thulium authoritatively, “begins with an open heart and ends with proper English.”

“I think he said he’s not a real pirate,” said Agent Chlorine, who had learnt quite a bit of pirate lingo during his time as a spy. “Which suits me fine, because I’m not a real secret agent. I’m an interior decorator, as you should know, Flying Thulium. I just found myself in a pirate’s bunk one day, wearing a smart black suit with a lot of secret pockets. Next thing I knew, there was a big commotion outside and I had to give my bunkmate a cyanide pill and and take his pirate clothes before Captain Bonnet found me.”

“You too?!” exclaimed Stede and Thulium in chorus. The parrot on Stede’s head perked up and repeated after them.

“You’re not alone,” said Thulium heroically. “I was once trying to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem while mourning the anniversary of my heart being broken, when I found myself rescuing a princess from a pirate crew.” She said it in a way that inspired all of them to try to become heroes. “I didn’t know Agent Chlorine was here until I saw the cape.”

“Aye, but how d’ye know Cap’n T… Agent Chlorine?”

“Sometimes,” she said, “the answer you seek is directly beneath your derrière.”

Stede snickered until Thulium’s heroic glare caught him. He stood up and tried to turn towards the treasure chest, twisting his pegged leg as far around as he could before falling backwards, ending up parallel to the chest with his back against the side of the hole. He undid the clasp with his hook, and watched as the chest sprang open and a golden glow lit the space where the lid had been. Stede pushed himself upward with his good leg so he could see into the chest.

Stede’s confused arrr for some reason reminded him of Scooby Doo. There was no gold, just letters. He fished them out with his hook, and tried to get himself upright to close the chest, but fell and ended up sitting in it. That would have to do.

“Read to us” commanded Thulium, who was levitating as comfortably as she could next to the top of the palm tree.

So he did. They were love letters between childhood sweethearts: a lass studying mathematics and her beau studying interior decorating on the other side of the country. Jim had never heard such a touching love story, having been raised in an orphanage, left there by unmarried girl who had been impregnated by a passing sailor, and then been sent to an asylum for telling crazy stories about spies or something. He was almost in tears, but Levitating Thulium and Agent Chlorine were in stitches hearing their words read in his unintentional pirate dialect.

Stede was so absorbed in the letters he didn’t notice Agent Chlorine climbing up the palm to reminisce with Thulium. When he finished the letter he was reading and saw them, he couldn’t help chanting, “Chlorine and Thulium, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” The parrot, who was not so good at spelling, echoed only the ‘aye aye!’ as it flew up toward them. Surprised, Thulium lost her grip on Agent Chlorine, who fell into the hammock. The force of the falling agent caused the hammock to come untied from the tree, and without its makeshift tether, the ship began to float away. Agent Chlorine hung onto the hammock and tried to pull the ship back, but before long he was drifting with it out to sea while Thulium tried desperately to untangle her cape from the tree.

Meanwhile, Stede read the last letter silently. Things had not ended well. Agent Chlorine had had some kind of existential crisis and couldn’t continue his relationship with Thulium. He hinted that he’d met someone else at design school.

Well, Thulium and Chlorine had seemed pretty friendly moments ago. Stede wanted the love story to continue, even if it meant losing his first mate. He stood up in his glassy sand hole and tried to free his peg leg. Thulium hovered at the top of the palm tree and tried to free her cape. Agent Chlorine clung to the sparkly cape-hammock for dear life as the ship pulled it away from shore.

Stede moved to close the chest so he would at least have somewhere comfortable to sit while everything went wrong. At the bottom of the chest, he saw the source of the golden glow: a diamond ring with a small note attached from the Flying Thulium. “I shan’t keep this, then.”

“Yo ho!” called Stede, waving the ring in the air.

“Yo ho!” answered the parrot as it grabbed the ring from his fingers.

“Oh no!” gasped Thulium as the parrot flew off with the ring. Then “Oh!” as the ring landed in her hand. Her cape was almost indestructible, but diamond can cut through anything.

“Noooo!” Agent Chlorine completed for her, as he lost his grip on the cape-hammock.

Thulium quickly cut her cape free with the diamond and flew to Agent Chlorine’s rescue. She boarded the boat with him, and they sailed off into the sunset.

Stede sat back down inside the treasure chest with a dejected arrr, unsure if he could call this a loss or a win. After some time, he discovered a false bottom in the chest. Underneath it was some gold jewellery, and one last note, which he recognised as being in Thulium’s handwriting. It was a note he’d seen once before when he was a little boy, but been forced to throw away. “Please call my baby Stede, after the pirate who helped bring his daddy and me back together.”

Jim was glad the orphanage staff had not obeyed. Stede was a pretty funny-sounding name.

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Three of Diamonds: The Family Tradition


One plus one makes three? (of diamonds)Your father, his father, and his before that,
Your mother, her mother, and all the way back
Have kept a tradition by chance or by will
To each have a baby (or several) until
The flame’s passed to you, but now you have a choice
So don’t join the choir till you find your own voice.
Creating a person’s a huge thing to try;
You can if you want, but first think about why:

Not to continue this age-old tradition
Not to be sure that your life has a mission
Not for a god or a country or norm, oh
Not for a lark, or the whim of a hormone
Not for a vague or instinctive desire
Not just to copy the folks you admire
Not out of fear you’ll leave nothing behind
(Not that your DNA outdoes your mind)
Not ’cause you’re bright so you should spread your genes
Not ’cause you’re dim and don’t know what that means
Not to rebel against Mum and Dad’s view
Not because they want their vengeance on you
Not as a snake oil to quiet your fears
That you might feel a twinge of regret in ten years
Not when your body clock’s ticking through dates
And you’re always a sucker for ‘Buy now! Don’t wait!’s
Not because well-behaved babes tug your heart
Not so your parents can relive that part
Not ’cause your partner would like to have some
Not ’cause you’re grateful that Dad convinced Mum
Not ’cause you’ve thought of a name you must give
Or things you’d do better if you could relive
Not when a thoughtless mistake involved sex
Not ’cause you’re married and that’s what comes next
Not because all of your friends ask why not
Not because they’re doing well with their lot
Not ’cause you’re told that it’s selfish to live
without making a beggar to whom you can give
Not because parents say nothing else matters
Not to add glue to a romance in tatters
Not because children learn more tricks than cats
Not to prove your kids would never be brats
Not so your welfare amount will be goin’ up
Not ’cause you think it’ll make you a grownup
Not so they’ll pay for your food in old age
(for pyramid schemes have to collapse at some stage)
Not to fulfil a perceived need for love
Not if you’re not sure, when push comes to shove
Not ’cause you read this and thought, ‘This’ll show ’em!’
Not for the sentiment closing this poem.

But only because you adore helping youth
and can’t think of life without living that truth.
You know that their life-long love’s not guaranteed
and you’re yearning to face unconditional need
of a boy, girl or intersexed, well, sick or crippled
dunce, saint or murderer, one, twins or tripled.
You’re deeply concerned the resources you borrow
may add to the hardship of grandkids tomorrow
and realise your efforts to curb your consumption
are more than undone if you make the assumption
that your kids survive and continue to breed
and their kids spawn ever more hungers to feed.
If raising a person is your lifelong dream,
and not just a gesture to race with the team
then go ahead, try to conceive, but know this:
it’s not just a baby that’s made in all this.
You remake yourself as you start your new quest,
as parent first up, and then some of the rest.
From baby’s perspective you’ve made the whole world;
you’ve led them from nowhere to cosmos unfurled.
So enjoy your big bang and enjoy your inflation,
And cherish your well-informed act of creation.

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Two of Diamonds: Unauthorised Games


Alcatraz rules and regulations: Authorized card games are Hearts, Cribbage and dominoes. No card game will be allowed if it is a "draw" type of game or does not use the full deck on the dealAccording to the two of diamonds from my Alcatraz rules and regulations deck, for prisoners, ‘authorized card games are Hearts, Cribbage, and dominoes. No card game will be allowed if it is a “draw” type of game or does not use the full deck on the deal.’

This sounded like a challenge to me. Why must I use the full deck when I have a perfectly good pile of twos of diamonds? And what’s a “draw” type of game? If you’re ever incarcerated at my place, the only authorised card games will be ones that use entirely twos of diamonds, and one might expect them to end in a draw. Let’s see what happens when some normal card games are played this way:

Snap

Assuming automatic snap (when whoever puts down the matching card wins the pile) when this is played with two cards, the second player will always win. With three cards, the second player wins if they start with the extra card. In all other cases, the game goes on forever. Have fun! If it is not automatic snap, then I predict much fighting over who touched the pile first.

Last Card

If played with the rule that cards of the same value can all be put down at once, the first player wins provided he or she declared ‘last cards’ before the game started. Nobody has to worry about the 2 meaning that the next player should pick up 2, since they can always counter it with another 2 to make the player after them pick up four (unless they too can put down a 2, which they can.) However, players should still act surprised when this happens, and behave as if their opponent will have to pick up cards. If this game is played with the optional rule that one must not put down a 3, 5 or 2 as their last card, the game reduces to much frustrated staring at each other.

Now, let’s say we add a single joker or other card that is not a 3, 5 or 2 into the deck. Players will want to pick up as many cards as they can in the hope of getting this card and being able to put it down to win the game. Since there is no penalty to having a lot of cards (as they can all be put down in one move) optimal play would be to pick up 2 whenever a 2 is put down, and never put down more than one 2 at once, since it would just allow an opponent to pick up more cards. Assuming the player who picks up is not allowed to play anything, if this is played with an even number of players, eventually the even-numbered players will have a lot of cards while the odd-numbered players would have one or two, up until the point where an even-numbered player gets the joker and actually wants to shed their cards.

Once they have the joker, a player will probably want to put down all their 2s at once, say ‘last card’, and on the next turn put down the joker and win. But other players will certainly put down 2s, and without a 2 to counter them, the holder of the joker will have to pick up. So they must try not to make it too obvious that their last card is the joker, and make sure the player before them picks up (either because the previous player played a 2 and they don’t realise they should force you to pick up rather than picking up themselves, or because they only have one card left and they can’t play it because it’s not a joker) rather than playing a 2. But how do you get rid of your cards without making it obvious that you now want to get rid of your cards instead of accumulating them? You probably bluff throughout the whole game, occasionally countering somebody else’s 2 with your own rather than picking up. And that’s how the game gets interesting. Maybe with all this bluffing, you’ll forget to say ‘last card’ when you’re supposed to.

But of course, once you have the joker, you’re still the only person who can win, even if it takes you hours to do so. So I would add another rule: on their turn, a player can accuse another player of having the joker. If they guess correctly, they win. If the person they accuse does not have a joker, the accuser is out of the game. There; it ends, but not in a draw. I’ll call this variant of the game ‘Last Two’. Players start with two cards, to minimise the chance of starting with a joker, while ensuring nobody starts with just the joker and could potentially win on their first turn.

I’ve been trying to invent an interesting game involving only twos of diamonds all week, and I came up with a few ideas, but just by spending an hour investigating Last Card and inventing Last Two, I think I’ve come up with something better than it. Sure, it doesn’t use only twos, but it’s close enough. I don’t think I’d ever heard the rule about not ending on a two before, though; nor did I realise that Last Card is (according to wikipedia) only played in New Zealand. Let’s make sure Last Two is played by people all over the world who happen to have large collections of twos of diamonds.

Here’s are a few of the simpler games I came up with, which are similar to Cards Against Humanity but with silly poses, acting and writing in the place of white cards.

Cards Against Sanity

This works best with a wide variety of different twos of diamonds. Cards are dealt out evenly to all players. On each turn, a player plays one card from their hand, and all the other players do their best to imitate the card, either by following any instructions on the card or by posing as whatever pictures or shapes are on the card. The player who played the card judges whose impression they like the best, and gives them the card face down to mark that they won a point. Play continues clockwise  until there are no cards left or they’re sick of playing, at which point the person who won the most rounds is the winner. If anyone plays the Alcatraz two of diamonds, they immediately win the game because nobody can obey its instructions while still playing the game. The player holding this card must decide whether they value winning more than continuing to play a fun game with their friends, and/or making their friends strike silly poses.

Writing Cards Against Sanity

As above, but instead of acting out the cards, each player must write a story, poem, or list of made-up card games based on the selected card.

I did come up with a game called ‘Miners and Dragons’ played only with plain twos of diamonds, which was going to be the main subject of this post. But it’s kind of complicated to describe, has been play tested only a trifle more than these games, might work better with dominoes, and probably isn’t even as much fun as Last Two. Feel free to leave your own suggestions for two-of-diamonds-only games in the comments.

While you’re thinking about that, here’s a video I shot of The Burning Hell playing a half-hour concert at 6:30a.m. in Trogen as part of their world-record-breaking tour I mentioned in previous posts:

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Ace of Diamonds: Rook Song


This story is a sequel and/or prequel to Swan Song, but I hope it also makes sense on its own.

The artless masses follow each other through the darkness. In the safety of imitation, they are content. Time passes as quickly and as unremarkably as they can make it. When they move together, they are indistinguishable, but when one has a moment of weakness, it is just possible to distinguish that one from the others, and distinguish the moment from the rest of time.

One of these moments was in the past, and it happened to a mass which had once been called Bob, though it didn’t remember that. Bob was nervous, for new thoughts threatened to think themselves inside it and disrupt its peaceful rest. It carefully followed a stream of other such afflicted, and found itself at a diversion dealer.

“I need to relax,” said Bob as normally as possible. After pretending to check something on a computer for a while, the dealer motioned to the distraction section. The section seemed to fill the whole area, with boundaries as indistinct as those between customers.

Some amount of time passed while Bob looked through what was on offer, but Bob was not sick enough to care how much, just as long as it passed unnoticed. Bob settled on a collection named Rooksong, which promised to drown out all original thought if played loudly enough. Something terrifying briefly flashed over the dealer when Bob went to buy the recording.

Not sure whether to be more afraid of it being a real flash or a metastasis from its imagination, Bob asked, “It’s relaxing, isn’t it?”

To Bob’s relief, the dealer didn’t bother to respond.

Finding that those it was following were not moving, Bob began watching before even leaving the diversion dealer. Meaningless images and sounds unfolded all around and through Bob’s mind’s eye. In the resulting wave of relaxation, Bob merged with the rest of the queue so completely that it would have mixed character traits with the others if they’d had any. The next time anything happened, Bob found itself painfully torn from the others, then healed by the blissful distraction of the next show. Some were tired jokes, some were cats dancing to repetitive beats, most were the everyday stories of expert assassins killing time. All made time pass so smoothly that Bob felt nothing at all.

When the amusement stopped, Bob was more sensitive than ever to the passage of time, the pressure to do something with it and the agonising boredom of not doing so. It needed more rook song, and it needed it more quickly than it had ever cared to do anything. It flailed at the dealer. The dealer gave it a bored look, and then shuddered with recognition.

“You want more?” said the dealer.

“Yeah. Do you know where I can get some?”

The dealer shook off those that had followed Bob, and they fled from the unconventional motion. The dealer held a softly glowing object that mutilated the darkness, showing the terrifying outline of the dealer’s bulbous face. Bob, suddenly aware of having rudimentary physical eyes of its own, turned them away.

“This is a thought,” said the dealer. Bob already knew. It had narrowly avoided having one a few times.

The dealer set up a video camera while Bob recited stereotypes to itself and laughed to draw its attention from the light.

The dealer made its move without wasting any time, for it had worse things to avoid doing. It thrust the thought at Bob and held its point near where Bob wished it had eyelids. Bob panicked at the light reaching its mind’s eye. What terrified it most was the temptation to give in, to reach out and grab the flame of time and let it burn its flesh until the flame and Bob were both extinguished. But it dared not. Bob found its calm and recited countless brief tidbits. As the stream of tidbits began to wane, the dealer drove the thought through Bob’s forehead.

And it gave Bob an idea. Terrified, Bob held the idea at arm’s length and brandished it like a dagger.

Bob felt for the hole the thought must have made in its forehead, hoping a lengthy description of gore would stop this story from moving. There was no hole, but having a well-defined forehead was new and disturbing. Bob was different. “Am I alive?” it asked the dealer.

“You’re a watcher now. Go watch.”

Bob understood. It was free to liberate rook song at leisure.

The dealer handed Bob a video camera. “We can trade recordings,” he said. “Then we don’t have to gather as many.”

With that, it calmly went through the charade of selling Bob the camera. The dealer’s shaking had not been vigorous enough to disrupt the whole line, so a few new customers had already arrived.

Bob hid the idea and slid its way around the customers. When it found someone that didn’t look sick, it thrust the idea at it and started filming its reaction. Bob’s anxiety rose a little as it saw the moment of terror, the flickering desire. Then Bob basked in the divine procrastination of avoiding the thing one wants more than anything. The thrill was even more intense than that of watching recordings. Bob savored the spectacle a little too long before stabbing with the idea. The victim had no lust for rook song to keep it going, so it slid silently into the next world.

Potential witnesses to the attack had fled as soon as the idea was unsheathed, so Bob had to wander alone for a while to find its next victim. Having such an obvious gap between itself and others was disturbing; Bob almost saw its own form, and almost thought things nobody else was around to think. The usual distractions weren’t good enough any more. It was so desperate for rook song that it did something it had never done before: it hurried.

Bob found another line and enjoyed the rook song of the last follower. Bob shaded its idea carefully, so some of those ahead of the victim were so absorbed in looking at those in front of them that they did not see what happened, and Bob could feast on them next.

Only when the camera was full of rook song did Bob bother to take it back to the diversion dealer to exchange footage.

“This is terrible”, said the dealer. “You let it grow weak before ending it. And this one is too young; it doesn’t even know what it wants, so how can it avoid it?”

Bob was surprised. Usually, one likes what one is told to like. But only the highest quality time-wasting would satisfy the dealer. It taught Bob how to choose victims: how to tell them apart, and how to see how old they were and how good they were at passing time.

Bob had always been happy about time going on, but as it did so, Bob found it needed more and more rook song to keep going. Soon it understood what the dealer had said about low-quality rook song being unsatisfying. Sometimes it would watch recordings even while liberating fresh rook song. When there was not enough, Bob found itself banging painfully into things with its ever-more-defined features, instead of simply sliding around and through them. Eventually Bob was so defined that others would flee before it even showed its idea.

When Bob ran out of recordings, there was nowhere else to go. It ran to the dealer with the few things it had managed to record, and begged for more.

“This is pretty poor quality. And you just cleared out all my customers. Do you know how hard it was to coax them from the other queues?”

Tears streamed from Bob’s tear ducts. Without rook song, it could not survive much longer in this body. It slapped the dealer with an only-slightly-webbed hand, sending ripples through the dealer’s blastocaelic body. Bob’s fully-developed eyes could see that being surrounded by distraction hadn’t fully protected the dealer from the passage of time and the pressure to become something.

The dealer flashed an idea at Bob as a warning while sorting through some recordings. “Alright, you can have this one.”

Bob started watching straight away. The rook song from the near-formless creature in the recording was relaxing, but not as satisfying as usual. It seemed like it had seen it all before. Only when it saw the dealer plunge the idea into the victim’s head was there enough light for Bob to recognise itself. It saw the conception of its own idea. It remembered the terror of creating such a lively object, and the rooksong-given resolve that enabled Bob to resist it. It remembered the temptation to give in to it. By this time, the temptation was all that was left.

Bob stabbed its idea into its now-beating heart, and sent itself to the next world screaming eureka in pain.

 *

Doctors were worried by the sudden change of heart rhythm, so they induced labour. Fourteen hours later, ‘Bob’ was reborn. Her new parents named her Alice.

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Fake Ace of Diamonds: Chemistry Live


Last Ace of Diamonds, I stalled for a week by posting a video of a poem I’d written previously. I’m not sure if I’ll have the real Ace of Diamonds done in time, so I’ll do the same again. The real Ace of Diamonds, which I will publish as soon as it’s ready, is a a sequel/prequel to the last real Ace of Diamonds, and it’s also about stalling and procrastination, which seems appropriate. This is me reading my poem Chemistry (which was the two of diamonds, and already has a video) at the open mic night on JoCo Cruise Crazy 2:

And here’s a more close-up video of it that Jason recorded:

I sure am stalling a lot this round. It’s embarrassing considering I started with something I really like that was done in time. But hey, I still have an hour till the deadline, so maybe I’ll get the real Ace of Diamonds done in time anyway. If you’re wondering why I’m onto diamonds now when I went from Spades to Hearts last time, it was simply the next card in the first deck I looked at.

In other news, here are some things that music lovers in Europe might want to do:

  • Back Marian Call’s kickstarter or otherwise support her European Adventure Quest to get Marian and her very talented guitarist Scott Barkan playing in your country or even your living room. If you want to know what she’s like and somehow find video more appealing than downloading music, you could watch my videos of her two concerts and Scott’s concert on JoCo Cruise Crazy.
  • Go see The Burning Hell if they come near while attempting to break a record by giving concerts in ten countries in 24 hours. If you want to know what they’re like, you could watch the videos I’m currently uploading of them at Viertel (my favourite concert venue on land) where they will return for the world record tour.
  • Keep an eye on Jonathan Coulton’s tour schedule, because he’ll be at Union Chapel (my second favourite concert venue on land) in London on September 20, and will no doubt visit other places in the UK and Europe. If you don’t know what he sounds like yet, you haven’t been paying attention; pick a video from my YouTube channel at random and he’s probably in it.

I know I’ll be doing all three things.

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