AOG Short Story | The Search For A Slab of Stone

DISCLAIMER: This was a fantasy story I wrote years ago taking place in a fictional world resembling Dark Age England.

 

The rushing of the Langoth River appeared soothing, but it couldn’t compensate for its crashing waves. It also couldn’t deny the reflection of a knight, clad in animal hide, boots, and dull, iron breastplate, gauntlets, and helm, with a buckler at his waist. Such a knight was standing over it, clutching his ax, the blade wrapped around his neck, preparing to rip apart his throat with one fell swoop. Tears bubbled under his reddening eyes, barely lifting his upper eyelids due to lack of sleep. The tear drops traveled along his face, meeting with the crusted vomit within his brown beard.  He hesitated as he continued to remember.

The burden of holding the ax made Cluthar weary and losing of muscle. He dropped the ax and fell to his knees before the river, crying bitterly. He stared down at the river, contemplating whether to rip out his throat or to drown himself.

“No!” Cluthar concluded, “A slaughtering animal such as myself deserves to be slaughtered by the very same ax!”

He felt that, at this moment, his fate had already been decided, that he will spend an eternity in Hell. Cluthar had little energy to purge any further, he just looked down at the river, with all of its algae and fish and eels populating it.

He then turned around and saw the burh, a castle strategically located on a mountainous hill surrounding itself with walls, barbicans, gateways, and murder-holes.  Now Albobur was nothing more than a pile of shit on the earth, with its insects dwelling on it, him the ugliest, most vile insect in all of Natland.  He could remember the holding he and his wife, Warthelma, once had.  It had animals for harvest, for plowing; it had exotic animals from the Spring Empire and beyond for Lord Gunthild’s delight; it had over forty acres of paradise. Cluthar and Warthelma had tenants and cotters of their own right, something Cluthar once was; they also had the biggest house in the burh.

It wasn’t enough to begin with. He had wanted to please Warthelma ever since they first laid eyes on each other. Cluthar, a lowly cotter, who dwelt in the cottage of his late father, raised up the ranks as Lord Gunthild’s retainer, and Warthelma, the daughter of a merchant family, known for buying up holdings or parts of holdings in Albobur, were destined for each other.

That damned slab!  That Slab of Odokyn was said to have promised him whatever he wanted for a price, as the oracle told him during her trances. Cluthar remembered finding a sorcerer, living in the Cave of Fate, in possession of the slab, who immediately granted him whatever he desired. Such a slab granted him that glorious holding, making Warthelma the happiest woman in the entire burh. A year later it was all gone. His bitter sadness turned to rage.  He took the ax away from his neck, put the blade on his palm, bled it, and deposited the blood into the Langoth River.  The drops of blood spread and contorted in the river until it was all gone.  He then exclaimed to the seemingly never-ending plains, “I, Cluthar son of Vilhelm of Albobur, will kill the sorcerer of the Slab of Odokyn!”

#

After swearing the vow underneath the Albobur walls, the wedding, and the bridal party, Cluthar still felt burdened, having no connections to the Lord Gunthild of Albobur due to his commoner status. Atop the inner walls of Albobur, staring down, through the crenellations, at the plains beyond terraces of meadows, the only thing that he was grateful for was not meeting an end like the knight Walchomund the Short-lived; The moment he was knighted he was beloved, a month later he was killed by members of another clan for his relation with the Lady Mykilogifa. That was different, he thought. They were not married. Then again, Cluthar himself was a commoner while Walchomund was Lord Richard‘s son. What truly saddened him the most was that he was only granted a small amount of acres, a measly acre with an overreaching meadow surrounding it.

“My husband,” said a voice behind him. He turned, knowing very well that it was his wife, Warthelma, a beautiful woman with yellowish brown hair, round face, and blue eyes, garbed in a red dress, made from the finest cotton of the Spring Empire, as bragged by her family as her wedding gift.

He wrapped his arm around her waist, and said softly, “A woman risks her life appearing here. What do you want?”

“I was about to ask you that,” she said. Something was on her mind, he knew, something in that soft girl he first glimpsed at during his training. Never had she felt the way he appeared now.

“All I want is you.”

“You haven‘t been happy, have you?”

“There‘s nothing to be happy about, for you to be married to the son of Vilhelm Cairnbuilder,” said Cluthar, pitying himself.

“You are an honorable man, upholding the protection of Albobur…”

“I was just a poor cotter, who killed an ale-taster for attempting the lord‘s life. A big oaf that thrust a cleaver into his back became a big oaf with full body armor patrolling the walls of Albobur.”

“Enough!” she cried, “You are a knight! You are the symbol of honor and respect!”

“I would believe that if it had any benefit,” said Cluthar, “Amongst the walls, inner, outer, east, west, rear, I feel lower than a drunkard and a prostitute-hoarding monk.”

“You are one of the closest people to Lord Gunthild. A knight is one of the most respected individuals, by commoner and lord.”

“Not if you’re the Corpserobber‘s son.” Vilhelm was one of the lowest people in Albobur, constantly stealing from the graves of honest men and women before burying them. Hopefully the spirits of the people that he ravaged will haunt him for eternity.

“I know you better than that,” she said, with a wavering voice, “You were willing to risk paying the carnal fine in that meadow between the outer walls and the inner walls, where we knew each other very well.”

“You are worth more than any fine, but I don‘t know how to please you.”

This brought a quick silence, that was immediately shattered, when Warthelma said, “That‘s it…You‘re sad about something, what? After all the avoidances, with only Os to watch our fucking, all the wedding gifts, all the bread, beer, meat, and pies treated during the bridal party, what am I doing wrong?!”

It was always apparent to her that Cluthar was never happy, knowing that he rarely smiled, always calling himself an “animal” after they had their way with each other. It never came to this point and it was clear that she really meant all that she said. He now knew he couldn’t hide this façade of resilience any longer.

Her face was becoming red and tears were streaming down her face. “Look at me! Acknowledge me as a loser, as the worst thing to ever happen to you but say something!”

Cluthar said quietly, “It isn‘t that I don‘t love you, it‘s that I love you so much and I have no practical way of pleasing you.”

#

He suddenly realized, out here in the Nanut Plains, half a merchant’s journey from Albobur, that he was disoriented from lack of sleep, food, and drink. He fought back his desire for sustenance, wishing to die on the Nanut Plains. Cluthar wanted only to be a shriveled, frail corpse upon the grass, where the wild hounds and crows would feed on him. Animals eat animals. The way he kept walking would help assure his wish. The moment he will continue living is when he reaches the Cave of Fate.

Cluthar turned back, the burh becoming more and more obscure and fading of color. The grey-blue of the morning sky surrounded by clouds was within his view beyond that. He turned back to his facing direction. As he could see, there were no holdings around, no mountainous burhs, no imperial fortresses or towns, no one settled amongst the Nanut Plains, only some deer and rabbits. Was there no gain, or no one to even brave it? It made no matter.

Suddenly, he saw four obscure figures coming towards him. Apparently, they must have saw him, as they raced towards him. Cluthar pulled out his ax and his buckler and braced himself for those four. His suspicions were correct, as he could see the tattered wear of their armor, one of them wearing a red cape, each armed with a gladius and a buckler in their hands. They were foederati, upon looking at their armor and their diversity. Natlandians are mainly characterized by their round faces and dark hair, whilst these deserters before him had square faces and aquiline noses. Clearly they were soldiers from the kingdom of Isen, bordering the Spring Empire and the sea that Natland rested on.

They surrounded Cluthar. He looked at all of them, readying himself for the first strike by tightening his ax. His heart started racing with adrenaline as the possibility of death awaited him; a good death if it meant an end to all the suffering or a gruesome death which he most deserved.

“You’re only one person,” said the leader, the one in front of him, “No matter, you are still dead.”

“I don‘t want any trouble,” said Cluthar, with a whinny in his voice due to thirst. Apparently, THEY want trouble, since they’re the ones surrounding me.

“You‘re after the Slab of Odokyn, aren‘t you?!” yelled the one behind him.

“We deserted our blithering Chief Wighelm for it,” said the one next to him, “Or ‘Vigelmus‘, or whatever that traitor to his tribe wants to call himself. More Spring than Isenian.”

“I just want to help my wife!” shouted Cluthar, “She‘s dead!”

“A shame,” said the leader, “I was hoping to have her for myself.”

Cluthar tightened his ax and clenched his teeth real hard. Forget the Slab! Or the sorcerer! Or the burh! Or anything! This cowardly bastard had the audacity to betray his own king and to badmouth the happiest woman in Albobur. However, as a knight, he wasn’t stupid enough to lunge first, he would have to wait for his opportunity, so he only allowed his rage to keep boiling.

“No matter, my replacement as king is much greater than your little wife,” the leader said, then raced towards him, gladius raised. Cluthar blocked his downward cut, pushed him back, and planted his ax into the ringleader’s throat. Blood sprayed all over him.

He turned around and immediately blocked another attack. He dashed forward from another attack behind, taking his ax with him. Cluthar was now facing three deserters. Cluthar rushed at one of them with a sideway swipe, who immediately blocked him. He quickly got defensive when the others joined their attacks. Suddenly, the one he tried rushing at kicked his heels, causing him to fall upon the grass. As the others were about to kill him, Cluthar swiped his ax towards one of the deserter’s feet. He howled as he fell on top of Cluthar, who pushed him off and quickly brought himself up, parrying every cut coming towards him. He dashed backwards to face two of the deserters.

It was clear to Cluthar that they were panicking at the sight of this Natlandian knight, who already took down two Spring foederati. One of them stabbed with his blade, but missed. The other attempted to cut Cluthar, who blocked him. Cluthar struck, but was guarded. The other rushed at him, pushing him, and just as he was about to kill him Cluthar dodged it barely, only to have a gash on his arm. Ignoring it, Cluthar ran his ax against his back. Cluthar was feeling lightheaded from the wound, already adding to his hunger and thirst. The last one had a sighs of relief, knowing he might still have a chance to live. Immediately he charged at Cluthar with an undercut. He guards against it. Cluthar guards against multiple strikes. The last deserter lunged forward, only to have his neck exposed, which Cluthar took the chance to strike. He falls.

Cluthar heard the moaning of the one deserter who lost his foot.  He found him and silenced him with his ax gashed between his eyes. Still lightheaded, he tore piece of the cape from the ringleader and wrapped it around his wound, which was bleeding badly. He also found a sack carried by one of them. He opened it, finding bacon and other military rations. Ravenously, he ate, quelling his hunger. At the bottom, he found a skin of wine, which he drank at the same rate. He was still lightheaded, then everything in his sight became obscure, an amorphous blur, the plains becoming fuzzy greens and yellows and the sky becoming greys and whites. The satiation of his hunger and thirst did not alleviate his case of sleep deprivation or blood loss. The only things that mattered to him were the Slab, the sorcerer, and that ringleader who wanted to rape his wife had she been alive. Rage continued to quell within him as the plains and the sky became black.

AOG Poetry | The Blood Of Worshippers And Infidels

DISCLAIMER: This poem was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

Fires smear throughout the land,

As the blood-painted riverbank would,

With the arming of a paintbrush

And the reloading of acrylic bullets of many colors,

Make the painter brush his final texturing upon this multi-layered world.

Ash-grey of what used to be their buildings would be the serfs’ concern

And the corpse-brown and the pale-green of decay

Are the only kings fit to reign over a land

Tapestried with the dead bodies of worshippers and infidels.

Flowers would only fester when the battle is over.

Whimpering for protection from the infidels, the serfs pray to their gods.

They would unfurl their flags for their freedoms

And prosperity would become the beating of their drums

And the hands that reach for help would only reach for their blades.

They own their loyalty, but not pride or sovereignty.

Roots would be refreshed with the blood of worshippers of all sides.

Escape I implore!

And hang this meaningless project

(Upon the wall that is),

For war can only be painted with a grisly image

And not explained by abstract words or ideas.

Beyond any grasp, you will never be destroyed.

Death would be the only thing to worry about instead of its messengers.

10 Writerly Pet Peeves

 

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

These are the moments where as a writer, I have definitely encountered these instances to the point when they become integrated as pet peeves. These either happen when reading, writing, sharing my work, or frequenting a literary magazine.

1. Being told that your writing reminds someone of [insert film/tv series]

When you are in the business of writing, you do not rely on film or television (which have extremely narrow in-sight into the story even with over-the-top CGI) to materialize a story, rather your imagination and observing the writing styles of authors by whom you were inspired. This becomes a problem when being told “Oh, that reminds me of ‘Homeland.’ That reminds me of ‘Eyes Wide Shut.’ That reminds me of ‘House of Cards’.” For all of the stories that I wrote that prompted those responses, I never watched any of those films or shows (though I can picture Nicole Kidman portraying one of my female characters in one of my stories). The thing is that literature inspires film, not vice versa. So the next time you say [insert one of my writings] reminds you of a work of medium, please make sure that the medium is the exact same one that I am working with.

2. Misinterpreting the point of the writing

I can remember sharing a story taking place in another planet and explicitly describing the physical appearances of the alien race, and an acquaintance remarked to another person, well-intentionally, how it was post-apocalyptic. I do not think I can tell you how heart-broken I was. It was the most I ever been throughout my time of writing in this life. However, there was a moment in a fiction-writing class when I shared a Macbeth adaptation and I never felt as ecstatic as I ever been, because everyone understood what I was trying to get at with my characters. I guess you could say that I am deeply invested in how people interpret the text. Normally I do not care what their personal interpretations, but what I do care is what people think is MY personal interpretation. It comes with growing up struggling with basic communication and having to go to speech therapy every Thursday, which I think developed into this Pet Peeve.

3. “How are you going to make a living off it?”

I think an important answer to that is to simply say that all of us, regardless of who any of us are, write whether we want to or not; whether it is at work, school, or home; even sending a text message relies writing it in the first place. What am I saying? I am saying that writing is one of the most underestimated skills in society and one that requires many variations of help for those who need it. That is where writing becomes an employable skill as a teacher, analyst, copy-writer, editor, content creator, etc.

4. “Do you base your characters off real people?”

My answer: If they do, then they are entirely coincidental. Engaging in petty wish-fulfillment fantasies is not characteristic of a good writer, because you are not make your writing complex and instead of developing the personalities of all the characters, you are reducing them into two-dimensional tropes. Some of the greatest works of literature in the English language involve characters with a wide array of personalities, emotions, and desires, such as Jay Gatsby.

5. “What about yourself?”

It is true that the protagonists tend to reflect the writer, however this goes back to the previous Pet Peeve and my article about a creative writing YouTuber, since this also involves distancing on the part of the writer, because the protagonist is NOT the writer. Although it is important to develop the relatability of the protagonist, he/she should also relate to the readers as well, because the writer is not just writing for himself/herself, rather to an audience who will want to purchase and read the story.

6. When you cannot get that RIGHT word count or that RIGHT genre

This happens when you write to submit to a literary magazine. Usually, they accept short stories with up to 7,500 words and nothing more. On the one hand, you do not want it to be too short, but then you become so invested in the story that you exceed the limit. In either case, the writing becomes harder than the search for literary magazines open to submissions.

Another problem involves getting that right genre, including all the sub-genres; such as a literary magazine looking for horror short stories, but is not looking for psychological thrillers rather Lovecraftian horror. If that was not enough, there is also the issue of pinpointing all of the winning tropes that some literary magazines will list that will increase the chance of acceptance of publication. I have definitely received rejection letters stating “We really love your writing, but it is just not in our markets.”

7. When you are recommended by a literary magazine to read their works before submitting–which you have to pay for.

Paul K. “Meanjin 1965.” Flickr. Taken on 24 May 2008.
If the whole purpose is to accept submissions, then what is the point for them to pay to read and attempt to emulate the type of work that they have little to no chance of actually getting published on a literary magazine? To a writer who refuses to make the purchase, it makes submission either a stroke of luck or just not worth it in the context of money and time.

8. When characters go off on speech-long dialogue

Unless someone is explaining something (even then it would still betray the writer’s purpose by boring the reader), usually it is natural within dialogue to speak one or two sentences and let the other person respond, thus creating a back-and-forth interaction that makes the conversation fluid. It immediately draws the reader out of the story when the characters bloviate and not even be winded out. Even a master of literature like George R. R. Martin was not immune in his early works from writing corrupt characters declaring how evil and holier-than-thou they are.

9. When the protagonists are in perfect proportion

This has to do with other people’s writings–more specifically with any first drafts or fan-fiction and even well-known, published books. This does not include all of them, but there is a common theme that I noticed, which is that the protagonists, whether they are male or female, are physically perfect. The men have muscular frames and are 6’2 and the women have beautiful faces and the perfect bodies.

I am sorry, but in the real world, the majority of people do not fit into those “perfect” categories (at least not in all of the categories). I sure as hell do not fit into those perfect male categories! Not only that, but there are plenty of people who meet these “odd” qualities. There are people who have a physical disadvantage (such as being wheelchair-bound), women who are taller than men, and the people who do fit the perfect categories are not-so-perfect inside. Referencing Pet Peeve #4, the most memorable characters do not reflect the stereotypes that existed in those times. In this case, there are plenty of disabled characters who are memorable such as Richard III and Tyrion Lannister.

A trope that definitely fits this Pet Peeve in Young Adult novels is the protagonist being this teenage girl who has magical powers, is the chosen one, and can just destroy men twice her size. That is not to say that you cannot have stories like that, but just like any other story that is really wish-fulfillment fantasy, it really takes away the gravity of the story, because I am definitely sure that no one–especially not teenage girls–have magical powers.

10. Collecting books that I have trouble getting around to read

There is actually a Japanese word for this. If that is the case, then the biggest problem that I have when it comes to finding inspiration to write is actually finding it. Either I am busy researching, doing homework, or I read a few pages in bed before putting it on my nightstand and falling asleep. If only I can get rid of my tsundoku, then I would be able to develop literary tastes and even add new literary influences.

11 Pop Songs That Changed My Mind About Pop Music

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

Although I was introduced to classic rock through the radio, as I got older, my mother switched to the pop music stations more often. Ever since I moved back to New Jersey, I seemed to listen to iHeartRadio on my mother’s radio in her Pontiac. I did not like Pop music, but there were some songs that dismantled any stereotypes I may have conceived about pop music.

This article was inspired by the 10 songs that amazed me and Idea #17 from my 30 article idea questions article. Here are the 11 pop songs that changed my preconceptions of the genre.

1. Animals (Martin Garrix).

Just like Average White Band’s “Pick up the Pieces,” this song proves that you do not need to have lyrics to produce a good song that can walk with you throughout the day.

2. Break Free (Ariana Grande ft. Zedd).

Ariana’s vocals are definitely strong in her music, including this song.

3. Clarity (Foxes ft. Zedd).

It confuses me as to why this song has not already been used in a movie trailer. The chorus of this song really does make it powerful as there is the perfect balance between Foxes’ lyrics and the instrumentation.

4. Come & Get It (Selena Gomez).

I used to think that all pop music had the same generic sound. It turns out that pop music can become cultured. In this case, the genre of this song is bhangra which is originally Punjabi, as evidenced by the back-up vocals and the drums.

5. Evacuate the Dancefloor (Cascada).

If you were to approach me about voice manipulation in music, I probably would have joked “Oh, like T-Pain? How original!” But this song immediately put that to the test, since the voice manipulation has a form of cadence, whether it is Cascada’s vocals or the back-up vocals.

6. Pompeii (Bastille).

I cannot say any more other than this song is wonderfully catastrophic. There is a sadness in the vocals that is juxtaposed by the beautiful descriptions of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius all around him.

7. Prayer in C (Lily Wood and the Prick ft. Robin Schulz).

This song is proof that folk music and pop can coexist into a unique combination of sounds. The guitar swooshes in the calm, midnight stroll that this song evokes.

The lyrics are pretty depressing–in a beautiful way of course. They can definitely turn anyone off, but there is a sense of mystic pleasure that comes from these lyrics. It is an unusual juxtaposition that makes this song worth listening to.

8. Somebody that I Used to Know (Gotye).

Upon first hearing this song, I thought I was back to listening to an 80’s radio station. But as it turns out, just like Song #3, there is a sense of timelessness to this 2011 song, in which case it involves the orchestration and the vocals.

9. Something Just Like This (The Chainsmokers ft. Coldplay).

I could not think of a song that was Pop and superhero-themed that tried to be as deep as this one. Yes, maybe to some people out there this song is the perfect example of “whiny bull-crap,” but I cannot think of anything whiny about wanting to become close to a superhero. While the “doo-doo-DOO-doo-doo-DOOOOO” might appear corny and cliched, it is easy to overlook with the rest of the lyrics which tell the story of anyone who wants to succeed in the world.

10. Waves (Mr. Probz ft. Robin Schulz).

I am noticing a common theme among these pop songs that impressed me. They all have a DJ, whether it is Zedd or Robin Schulz. It made me realize that it is not just the band itself or the vocalist himself, but the person in the background who creates the unique orchestration and beats. In this song, it really adds to the R&B rhythm of Mr. Probz.

11. We Found Love (Lindsay Sterling ft. VenTribe).

This song is definitely an example of a cover song that can provide an entirely new context to the lyrics. Where in Rihanna’s original song, the lyric “We found love in a hopeless place” has a more abstract meaning; in this version, it provides a profound in-sight into the living conditions of Africans which can appear hopeless.

AOG Short Story | Drizzling A Castle From Neptunian Limestone

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

Harken, as the epic poem Beowulf began. Harken allows me to share the legend of a sand castle in the Florida Keys that I built before it was consumed by the ocean. My little principality thrived amongst the beach and between the city, with the black paved highways and the whooshing cars that travailed them, and the ink-blue Gulf of Mexico that would occasionally brush up and inflate my swim-shorts.

The sun beamed and blinded down as I scuttled the sand that sifted and burned between my toes. The sea-gulls that flew in the light blue sky chanted Kree-Kree-Kree-KREE-KREE-KREE. The early morning expanse of muddy sand provided enough material for me to build my castle, making my legacy in the Florida Keys.

It was always a spot for vacations since my earliest name-days. My parents and I came from a lower middle-class stock, with a shrimp wholesaling company to sustain us and our migrations. When my parents weren’t busy with talking with one of their most valuable customers from Chinatown, they sat in elastic, foldable chairs on the burning sand, basking in the sun.

I set out on the muddy sand not consumed by the afternoon tide. The mushy, brown Neptunian limestone drizzled from my somewhat enclosed hand as I made my place all around the pit from which I mined the material. This became my newly made estuary where the seeped seawater mixed with the sand. Within one area, I managed to drizzle a tower, perhaps to keep watch for any hermit crabs, turtles, or barbarous children that threatened its survival. This kingdom was forged from sand, seawater, and a young boy’s hand with no need of any sandcastle molding tools.

The architecture that modeled this castle cannot be replicated in any other part of the Earth, whether it would be the domed Ottoman palaces of Turkey or the spherical kremlins of Russia. This style of the building seemed native to the sands of the Florida Keys, forming a blobby foundation and a roof defined only by tiny droplets of muddy sand. Sticks become flag-poles, as they puncture into the towers baking with a crisp finality under the sun. Any cloth-like seaweed that was washed about were used to declare allegiance.

Beauty can be found in finding and scrapping materials already built within nature and remolding them into your own design. This is not an example of the environment serving Man, but coexisting with Man. I did not set out to create an empire founded on exploitation, but on amusement. I knew that finality would pronounce my little kingdom decayed, as soon as the ocean reclaimed it. I would love to live in a time when we would all make castles constructed from sand. If we no longer needed them, we could just let the ocean waves claim them, just as much as an abandoned house can be claimed by the woods.

Then, there were four brown legs that hovered over the castle. Two, small Hispanic boys commented in Spanish to each other about my castle as they looked down upon it. There was evident awe in their trilly, nasal babblings.

It was unexpectedly tasked to me, with very little knowledge of Spanish and the last lesson en Español from 3rd grade. I wanted to return to the masonry that merfolk would be experts at. That small span of time captured an eternal lack of patience at being interrupted, however, I was not offended by it. It just made me uncomfortable with ANY giant that tumbles up to the castle. Not knowing what they said, I politely asked them in English, “Do you like it?”

Their mother came forward and said with a smile, “Yes, they said they liked it.”

Then they walked away.

What the history books that I sojourned within as a former History major cannot deduce is the joy that comes from actually building the civilizations that are read. I no longer build sand-castles, at least I choose not to go to the beach. Although the cyclical nature of humans fascinates me, I still consider my productive time on the beach to be among my most treasured memories of my childhood. Even as a grown adult, I would rather spend time continuing to plant a stick-hoisted seaweed flag on a plot of sand rather than bask in the sun or soak in the water. At least, when I photograph it, that little kingdom by the sea would rest within my memory and perhaps even provide inspiration for a story.

There was only one time in my adult life when I actually reintroduced my sand-castle masonry inherent in my childhood habit of converting the boredom that came with spending hours in a hot, sweltering beach into a fanciful time. It was around that time that I recently became a History major. My mom, cousin, her son, and I went to a small beach that was open to everyone.

Eventually, as the day grew old, so did the kingdom as the ripples crept up and crashed and battered itself against the gates, consuming it as it returned to the sands. The vhoooosh-ing of the ocean lapped after my creation and I could not stop it. I did not feel sadness or regret at not capturing this pseudo-civilization on a camera while it thrived. I merely went back to the Holiday Inn that my parents and I stayed at, knowing that I would do it again next time we came back to the beach.

My only regret in this instance of my childhood was not writing upon the sand beside it, “In a castle made of sand, there lived a hobbit…” Such spasms of imagination can inspire entire worlds into being, just as I would engage with my amusement for this temporary moment. Within those historical annals of my imagination, I could finger-write upon the particle-jumbling sand how there existed an entire tribe of crustaceous creatures, of hermit crabs, of turtles, perhaps even of fish that could walk on land and the legends of the giants and merfolk that built it.

Language Play In The ‘Jabberwocky’

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

In my 7th grade English class, I remember doing an assignment that involved reading “The Jabberwocky” and trying to translate the fanciful words in the most discernible ways. What I did not know at that time that I know now is that Lewis Carroll’s poem has gained the attention of linguists for not just the use of these made-up words, but in what contexts they are used. It would appear that my middle school assignment was part of the uncovering of this strange piece of literature.

It can be very easy and fun, since all you really need to do to translate this poem is by seeing which of these words are located within the semantics; in other words, by seeing what is happening at that moment and which words refer to what. As a group of researchers in the Computer Science Department of Madrid University said, the verbs they analyzed in “The Jabberwocky” concluded that they “…are consistent with the contextual meaning of the text.” The word “frabjous” can be translated as “joyous” since it appears just after the Jabberwock is slain and is used to describe the day when it happened.

Another clue that helps when examining this nonsensical poem is the use of suffices already used in English, such as -s to indicate plural meaning, as well as -y, -ous, and -ish. There are determiners (the), auxiliary verbs (did), conjugations (and), and prepositions (in) that also come from English, which helps the English speaker to understand where the fictional words they refer to rest within the sentence, not just in a chronological sense but also understanding whether they are the subject or the object, or if they are the noun, adjective, or verb.

Of course, the meanings of the words can only be understood through context, but they might also derive meaning based on sound. Where the meanings can be deciphered is by breaking the words into phonemes that have their own individual meaning and combine to create a unique meaning. This is typical in real-world languages, like Spanish which has the o suffix indicating the modification of a word into an adjective, specifically one that describes a defect or limitation; and even English in which the wr at the beginning of a word usually indicates a twisting sensation, with words such as wry, wrong, and wrest. In the fictional language that seems to permeate Carrell’s poem, the method of extracting meaning from the same sounds in the same contexts of English words was used. In the case of a gyre, it can easily relate to the word gyrate.

As for where the made-up words come from, the etymologies have been speculated by linguists as well as told by Carrell himself. The name Jabberwocky itself may have derived from the word “jabber.” There are also combinations of known words into a new word–otherwise called a portmanteau–with slithy being the combination of lithe and slimy. There are occurrences of not just English as we know it but also Old English, with the -wock coming from wocor meaning “offspring, fruit.” The poem itself is a relic of modern English as words from it have entered into the English lexicon, with the words galumph, chortle, and even Jabberwocky itself.

I definitely think that “The Jabberwocky” is a mind-twister for anyone willing to test their syntactical ability. It definitely no longer makes linguistics into a boring school subject, but rather a creative adventure that forces anyone to think outside what they previously conceived of the very language they use on a daily basis.

7 Tips For Finding And Creating Unique Cover Photos

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

In the early 20th century, the directors of film noir and their B-movie predecessors were met with tight budgets and rigid censorship. This allowed them to circumnavigate those limitations by making implications with cinematography and taking advantage of the subtleties in the dialogue. Martin Scorsese would describe the latter group as smugglers of the film industry, stating “They cheated and somehow got away with it.”

What was the lesson behind this information? It mainly has to do with the paradox of finding freedom within limitations. If you are not given an easy access, then it forces you to think outside the box and become crafty. In the case of being an Odyssey writer, you are probably aware that Facebook often does not promote the same stock pictures used repeatedly, especially if the picture you downloaded is from the very first page of a free stock website’s search engine; so that would mean that the less your article appears in a friend’s newsfeed, the less traffic there is to your article. Cover photos are especially important when attracting potential readers because they are the first thing they see.

1. Use personal photos.



It does not have to be just ordinary pictures of you and your BFFs out in the club, rather it can be pictures that are worth a thousand words (in the context of your article, quite literally); nor do they have to be confined to your phone, computer or photo album. They can also be uploaded to your Flickr account, which you can link your cover photo to. Your photos can also be optimized in terms of basic editing, such as lighting and coloration. This can be done on software built into your computer, software that is installable, as well as websites like PicMonkey.

2. Search social media.



Since pictures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube are publicly available, they are free for use. Although you can use personal photos, you could also use other people’s photos that they willingly upload to their accounts.

3. Use any of your personal artwork.

This applies if you are an artist and use an artistic software or draw and paint by hand. The picture above was an assignment I did for a painting class. This tip would not only expand your literary talents, but also your artistic talents.

4. Search using the “labeled for reuse” tool.



Although this can usually lead you to free stock photo sites, generally it showcases you pictures that are free.

5. Press “print screen” button on your keyboard.



Notice I did the same with the picture from tip 4.

6. Make a collage.



Even if you do have pictures you think are bland (as explained in Tip 1), you could experiment by bundling them into a pile or make cut-outs and see how much the colors, figures, objects, and locations juxtapose into a unique cover photo. It is for the same reason why I fascinate myself with the different arrangements of book spines on my bookshelves.

7. Be mindful of image size.



This is not simply about image size (though there is a minimum size limit), but about the image size dimensions. As such, not only can you not have a cover photo with less than 1060×555 pixels, but it would need to be the right proportions if it needs to be perfect if you want the picture to remain intact. I would say that you need an image that has a 2×1 ratio, in other words, an image where the width is double the amount of the length. If you divide 1060 by 555, it comes out to 1.9099099, which would be safe to say that it rounds out to 2. If the ratio is meddled with, the picture does not come out right, for either it gets zoomed in or most of the background disappears.

Say you have an image you want to use, but it is 1500×3000. Before finding another image, I would suggest experimenting, by cropping out any parts of the image that you feel do not need to be included.