Metal

Metal

It starts with a sound like steel shattering. Then the low roar of an earthquake, the kind where the ground rises up to slap you in the face.

The next thing you know, you’re engulfed in the chaotic center of Armageddon. Nothing about this is random or undisciplined – this ultimate fury is expressed with military precision. This is fury, yes, but fury practiced, directed, controlled, perfected.

When the screaming, long awaited, finally begins, the anticipation realized does not release your tension, it reignites it. Dreams, fears, expectations, nightmares: reformed, rebuilt, redirected. Remember what it means to fear darkness, beasts, strangers.

Remember your infant fear of loud noises, loud voices – turn, and the fear is gone – but the loud noises, loud voices remain.

These speak to you – the words may not matter, the way words in a dream may not matter. It’s the tone, the texture, the intention interacting with parts of your brain that don’t have language. The broadest emotions – love, hope, joy – all people know them, they can be expressed in any language.

But fear and hunger – all living things know what these are, with or without language.

So this moment touches a generality within you – beyond individual, tribe, nation, people, species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, domain – it touches life.

Three Words

The Brick Elephant ate the whole fig tree in one shot. (Yup, and then he started right in on another one!)

The Stainless Steel Elephant looked disdainful. There’s simply no justification for gluttony like that – it’s undignified. She sniffed over the sad state of youth today. (Maybe she is older than Brick, but he’s fully growed up. Snooty old hag!)

The Plastic Elephant looked impressed. He knew his limitations, and if he tried to eat a whole fig tree at once he’d just be sick. He probably wouldn’t be able to finish it, anyway. (That Brick, though, he doesn’t even think twice about it – there’s not much as slows him down!)

The Flesh-and-Blood Elephant looked determined. She was sweet on Brick, and found her own fig tree and set to, trying to impress her hero. (She kept glancing over at him – you could tell that hussy was hoping he’d notice her. As if!)

The Helium Elephant didn’t look like anything much at all, and floated off, unnoticed. (Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. And don’t come back round here, neither!)

The Wooden Elephant looked shocked. Shocked! In conflicts between pachyderms and forest, she doesn’t know who to support. (”Can’t we all just get along?” No, we can’t, so shut up already!)

And, finally, the Force-Field Elephant looked thoughtful. He then transformed himself into a fig tree – not so much to change sides as to gain perspective. (He’d change back right quick if Brick headed his way, though – you can bet on that!)

The Brick Elephant, completely oblivious to all this fuss, finished his second fig tree and calmly moved on to the third. (That’s old Brick for you!)

Imagine This With a Smoky Sax Solo

When this dame walked through my office door, all I saw was trouble. Trouble, and the longest pair of legs in California. By that point in the morning I was having trouble telling whether there was one or two of her. Didn’t matter – they both looked good, but they both looked bad, too.

However, I had bills to pay. And since I hadn’t been sapped, stabbed, or shot at in at least a week, I was getting restless. I downed the shot, put the desk bottle back where it belonged, and listened to an improbable story about her runaway husband.

All of that is prelude to me being on top of a parking garage the next morning, being shot at by the improbable husband, instead of sitting in my stuffy apartment reading philosophy and sipping the best bourbon I can afford.

Which is usually the exact same thing as the cheapest bourbon I can find.

I didn’t want to have to kill this bum – that brings down more heat than it’s worth. Besides, wives who pay for you to bring their husbands back usually want them to still be warm and fully functional and mostly unpunctured.

I would have appreciated him pausing the gunfire long enough for me to explain myself. “Hey, your wife asked me to…”

A couple more rounds hit the concrete wall above me. He screamed, “My wife? Don’t talk to me about my wife! She was a saint!”

“She wants you to come home! That’s all I’m here for!”

The car window above me exploded from his next shot. “Who are you? How did you find me? My wife died two years ago!”

I thought this one might get weird. Still, it beat spending the morning getting quietly drunk and brooding.

Or so I thought then.

Dinosaur

The head paleontologist had the work crew haul the brontosaurus into one of the back rooms.  “Thanks guys.  Can you give us a few minutes here?”

As the crew filed out the dinosaur waited, and watched the scientist.  Once they were alone she asked, “What’s going on, Doc?”

He cleared his throat. “I don’t know how to say this…you are a mistake.  We classified you incorrectly, and made some wrong guesses about your skull.  New research shows that you didn’t really exist.”  He looked away, embarrassed.  “I’m sorry.”

The brontosaurus told herself to be cool.  Be cool.  She tried to take a deep breath, but that doesn’t work when you’re just a collection of fossilized bones and a few bits of wire.  No lungs.

“So, Doc, that just means you’ll revise me, make a few tweaks based on the new findings, right?” Be cool.

He sighed and took off his glasses.  “I’m afraid that this is bigger than that.  Brontosaurus is being written out of the books.  You’re all really just Apatosauruses.  It’s not just a simple adjustment.”

“Doc, I’m not just a dinosaur!  I’m THE dinosaur!  I represent the whole superorder in the public mind!” Her voice was beginning to sound frantic.

He smiled sadly.  “Well, actually, I think that Tyrannosaurus Rex is what…”

“No! When people see a T-rex they say ‘Ooo, a T-rex’.  Same thing for Stegosaurus.”  She was panicking now.  “But when people see me they say, ‘Ooo, a dinosaur!’.  When kids draw a dinosaur, they draw me!  When…”

He interrupted her, “I’m sorry.  It’s out of my hands.”  The work crew started coming back into the room.  “There won’t be any pain.  Goodbye.”  He turned and left.

He was wrong.  There was pain, but thankfully it was brief.

Oblivion doesn’t hurt.

See swordfighting! Raise money for the library! At the same time!

The Duke of Urbino

The Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro, and his son Guidobaldo, attributed to Pedro Berruguete. Picture credit

Galeazzo used to say that without books, nobody can truly be a Master or student in this art. I, Fiore, agree with this: there is so much to this art that even the man with the keenest memory in the world will be unable to learn more than a fourth of it without books. And a fourth of this art is not enough to make someone a Master.
-Fiore De’ Liberi’s Fior Di Battaglia (Flower of Battle), 1409, translated by Tom Leoni

My school, the Sacramento Sword School, is teaming up with the Sacramento Frei Fechter to put on a fundraiser tournament for the Sacramento Public Library. We want books on Western Martial Arts at the library, so we decided that the best approach was to raise the money and buy them ourselves and donate them.

Remember the swordfight from The Princess Bride? I hope you do – it’s the greatest swordfight in movie history. As The Man in Black fights and talks with Inigo Montoya, they drop several names – among them are Capoferro and Agrippa. Surprise – these are real people who wrote important books about swordfighting. English translations of these books are on the list of things we want to buy for the library.

So, if you want to see what swordfighting really looks like, or if you want to help us buy books for the Sac Library, come to the Sacramento HEMA Open on August 17, 2014. It’s free for spectators (but we’d be really happy to have you contribute to the book buying fund!). There will be a sidesword/rapier tournament starting at 9:00 AM, and we will have a longsword tournament in the afternoon.

It’s at the Sacramento Turn Verein Gymnasium:

3349 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95816
Note that parking and gym entrance are on I Street between 33rd and 35th

If you practice Western Martial Arts and want to compete, see this post on SFI for details.

We hope to see you there!

Gunther

1. Philosophy

As he waited, Gunther reflected, not for the first time, that only a pantheist can rationally employ violence without a trace of anger.

He’d watched many of his colleagues spiral into madness over the years – killing lots of people in cold blood can be rough on the psyche.  Other people would work themselves up into a rage just to do the job, but Gunther disdained this approach as amateurish – rage makes you sloppy, and sloppy makes you dead. Continue reading

St. George Poems

In 1812 the following poems, “The Birth of St. George” and “St. George and the Dragon”, were reprinted in Volume III of the fifth edition of Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. (Please note that Google Books states that this is Volume 2, but the book at that link is actually Volume 3.)  The first of these poems casts St. George’s birth in a suitably heroic and mysterious mold. (Of perhaps greater importance to the original audience of this poem, it shows that he was English.) Percy cites Richard Johnson’s Famous Historie of the Seaven Champions of Christendom as a source for this poem, but that book presents the same story but in a different form. So it is not clear exactly where Percy obtained this version of “The Birth of St. George”.

The second poem, found in the Pepys Collection (Pepys 1.526-527) retells the story of George slaying the dragon, but rather than following this with the story of his martyrdom, tells of his conquering “heathen lands”, and eventually marrying Sabra, returning to England, and living happily ever after.

The versions presented here have been transcribed from Percy’s book. The spelling has been modernized slightly, but the words themselves have not been changed.
Continue reading

Cold

The room was small and bare. Stephen could touch all four walls without leaving the wooden bunk, and he could touch the heavy pine rafters if he stood up. He could see his breath, but it was warm enough when he crawled into the pile of of bearskins they’d left him. The one tiny window was so badly grimed and scratched that it was more translucent than transparent. It let in thin, wintery light for a few hours every day. The room wasn’t far enough north for total darkness, but the days were short.

 
The supplies they’d left him were as minimal as the room – a bottle of cheap Polish vodka, a box of no-cook MREs, a wind-up flashlight, a pack of cards.
MRE – Meal Ready to Eat. Three lies in one acronym. Stephen hated those things, would have given anything for a loaf of bread and some butter.
It took him a week to realize why he was losing every game of solitaire. At first he assumed that, like everything else, his luck was down. Then he realized that the deck was missing the king of diamonds.

 
He spent a couple of days after that realization wondering if someone had done that on purpose – trying to tell him something.

 
He finished the vodka then.

 
He didn’t need to come hide in a tiny room this far north in the winter to get the message that they were underfunded. He knew that, all too well. He thought about opening the door, walking off into the snow – let someone else continue the struggle.

 
But he stayed huddled under the bearskins and waited.

 
He was running out of MREs when John showed up.

It’s only fair

To gain some perspective, I remind myself: at any given moment, someone is dying, somewhere.  But this really doesn’t help.

I looked at her while the words “six months left” echoed in my head.  Later, I realized that my grief wasn’t simply losing her – I was losing my best future, too.  No wedding, no kids, no growing old and fat together in the suburbs.  All those dreams were smoke now.

Two weeks after the diagnosis she broke up with me.  “It’s only fair.  You should move on now – we’ve only been together for a couple of months, anyway.  I’d feel like I was leading you on if I stayed with you when we both know it’s going to end.”  No rational argument, no pleading, no tears would change her mind. She stopped returning my calls, even before she was too sick to do so.  She had her brother come talk to me, tell me to let her go.  Tears in his eyes, he declined to give her a message for me.  I refused to shake his hand when he left.

“It’s only fair.” Yet all I wanted was to spend every moment with her, whether that lasted six months or sixty years.  It’s been eight years since then, but I still haven’t gotten over her.  She was the one for me, but I didn’t get to keep her.

She’s been cancer free for six years now, and got married last year.  I just heard that she had her first child last week.

To gain some perspective, I remind myself: at any given moment, someone is being born, somewhere.  But this really doesn’t help.

Nice to meet you for the first time again!

Hello, I’m back! Posting for the first time.

What?

I’ve blogged on and off at various places on the web – most of them are no longer online. I’ve even blogged a bit at tysonwright.com (the site you are now on), but after changing hosting services last year I never got around to putting my old blog back online.

Time for a new start. While I probably will repost some old items that I still like, the main point of this blog is to get myself back into writing regularly. So, hopefully I will be posting mostly newer pieces.

Anyway, enough introductory nattering. Hope you enjoy the new site.