Monthly Archives: February 2013

Illegal Poetry Slam

So I’m writing a book, as I mentioned briefly in my last post. I’m very hesitant to share things from that on here. Partly it’s because not even the first draft is finished, and I want people to actually want to read it. Also I hope to eventually someday publish it, and I don’t want it to already be online for free. Greedy? Maybe. Stingy? Yes. But overall I think it’s practical. I’ll make you a deal though. If for some reason I can’t get it published, I’ll send a digital copy to anyone who wants it. Fair? I don’t care.

On that rhyme, let’s get to the real reason you’re here. Last night I wrote a scene in my book where the protagonist discovers an illegal poetry slam performed by aliens in Hell. I was going to assure you something about it all making sense in the larger context of the story, but that’s actually a perfect description of what I’m going for here. I decided to share the actual poems with you today. There aren’t many of them, and I’m not a great poet, but I hope you enjoy them all the same.

Like this fella!

Like this fella!

*A note on the alien races: The alien names are not what they call themselves. They are names the protagonist assigns them based on one single character trait. For example, ewoks are short and furry, but they’re much more akin to werewolves than teddy bears.

Poetry Slam

About ten people all stood in a group, so it was impossible from outside to tell who was talking. It was a very diverse group, with ewoks, a large lady hobbit, one morlock, a couple of the blue-skinned buddhists, and even one angel. It only excluded humans. Morty, like everyone else outside of Earth, was a little racist. At the moment a deep voice was speaking in low hum. It sounded like a giant bumblebee.

At the end of the day I struggle home under my own power

Artificial wings can’t lift the air, but they lift my body

I tower over the waves, I am master of the domain

If I had to fall I’d fall with style, but you know this because here I am.

The deep voice stopped. It was replaced by a quiet humming from the other participants, continuing in the same rhythm as the poem for a single minute before cutting off abruptly. As soon it stopped another voice sprang out of the crowd, this one just as deep but with a staccato quality.

Wings are only as good as the mud on their folds

Tracing around through the wrinkles of the swarm

The swarm is everything. All for the glory of swarm.

But then what purpose do prisons serve when all is the swarm?

What purpose is exile if it doesn’t serve?

What purpose is life if not to live?

The swarm rejected us, but we are not gone.

We are the swarm, we are our own. We are the future, they are the present.

If you wanted to cut us down, you’ll need a bigger serpent.

Again the low hum sprang up as soon as the voice ended, this time matching the staccato of the speaker. Another poet began, but this time the humming continued, changing to match the speaker’s own alto voice.

The prophets say at the end times the dragon will rise in the stars

The prophets declare the coming of doom

The prophets betray the Goed for their own pleasure

The prophets lie for their Cad,

In the end they shall watch us

In the end we will eat the red

Our end is soon. Our end is soon.

All sound from the group stopped. They began departing one by one, making as if they were just at a casual meeting of friends.

A New Project Is Born: Can You See It?

So I was writing a blog post about how much I suck and how I’m super lazy, but then I realized something. I freaking rock! So instead of whining to the internet about how hard my life is (trick question: it also rocks!), I’m starting a fun new project. It involves my wife (although she doesn’t know how) and it’s very very simple. I’ve hidden some stuff in plain sight and she hasn’t noticed it yet. I’ve got a few pictures of the first thing, and if you find it I’ll give you a prize, like a lollipop or something. If you do see it, just send me an email or Facebook message because I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone else (especially Megan). Maybe later I’ll write a story or poem or something to commemorate the things I do when I’m bored. Anyway, here’s your first picture. Can you spot the hidden element?


The Song

The reason I started my first blog was so I could post short writing projects I’m working on and get feedback. Although I don’t do as many short projects anymore, I’d like to still share what I do with people. Whereas I used to share these for feedback, here I want to share them just to share them. I will happily accept any feedback. Mostly though these are things I write that I also like, and I think other people will like them so I’m sharing. I really hope you enjoy this as much as I do. This is a poem I wrote on a whim. I call it


The Song

The road stretches on and on and on and on out of sight,

blending with the darkness of the wood and the stars in the night.

The old man saunters on, singing a lark of bygone days.

He sings of love and seasons.

Of fields and waves.


He sings a song of kings and peasants both alike to the old man in the night.

He sings of a wandering gnome who found a garden filled with bees.

The bees fought a great war, thousands died.

The gnome watched with glee as insects piled high

above the grass and flowers and in the end the garden was a waste,

and so the gnome sauntered on.


The old man pauses now, and turns off the path.

He walks into a glen and bows a stately bend.

He sings the trees and asks them for a boon.

The trees hear his plea, and grant him a bed.

The old man lies his head beneath the ash, yet sings still all through the night.


He sings of ogres and foxes.

He sings of sprites and gods.

He sings of a woman and a boy.

He sings of villages and lords.

He sings of life and of motion. He sings of death and of creation.


He stirs in the morn and saunters on

down the road stretching ever ever ever on.

A body lies still in the glen,

but from this body the song has gone.

Facebook Politics Will Save Us All

Negotiating a peaceful journey through the online morass of social network politics is never an easy feat. No solutions readily present themselves. One person or another, and usually both, is always going to disagree with you. Even a non-participation policy will only get one so far as articles, memes, videos and everything else that can be used to push an agenda show up on a Facebook news feed, or Twitter feed, or Pinterest board, or Reddit, or email service homepage. Simply put, it is impossible to be on the internet and not be awash in political propaganda of one kind or another. Unfortunately, politics is one of those subjects where no matter what your opinion on the matter, someone close to you always thinks you’re an idiot for thinking that way.

I had an eye opening experience the other day. I posted this video on my wife’s Facebook wall:

When I watch this video, I see a triumph of feminist ideals. I see a plea for gender equality and a structure for a better society. These are views which most people I know would describe as “liberal”. However, the very first person to comment on this video was my staunchly conservative father who said, “This is excellent.”

“Wow. Cool story Hansel,” as my friend Lauren would say in her totally underwhelmed, yet sincere manner. You may have just been wowed by that video, but I don’t expect anybody to be wowed by the story of a conservative relation liking the same thing I do. Here’s the point though: That is a HUGE deal! Not that my father and I like the same thing. We like lots of the same things. But think about this for a moment. I posted something I thought could be held up as a bastion of liberal values (the good ones, like equality and democracy; not the crazy ones like homeopathics, and anti-consumerism). Then, it gets lauded by a very conservative man as “excellent.” I can only speculate why my father liked it so much—I assume it mainly has to do with the message against the sexualization of women, with which I wholeheartedly agree—but the point is we both liked it and thought it a valuable message. How many times a year do you think the Republican and Democrat congressmen and women sit down and say to each other, ‘Isn’t it cool how we all think this one message is completely politically accurate?’ I imagine that number would be somewhere around the zero range, possibly even in the negative.

These issues exist though! There are messages out there about which the majority of people can agree! Facebook doesn’t have to deteriorate into a storm of political sludge thrown about by people who love and care about each other! This is monumental, and if you don’t agree then Forget You!

What do you guys think? Are there other issues we can come together on across political lines? Have you had similar experiences? How can we all have these experiences more often?

Book Review: Odd and the Frost Giants

About a week ago I saw a tweet from one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, saying the e-book version of his story Odd and the Frost Giants[i] was on sale for only $1.99. I leaped at the chance to get something I was sure would be good for so cheap. After several long minutes grappling with the text of this novel, I have decided to review it here and make you all aware of something sure to make you happy. I will discuss elements of voice, character and plot, as well as gushing about how awesome Neil Gaiman is (hint: it’s pretty awesome.)

The first thing that must be said in a review of this novel is that it was written by Neil Gaiman. For any Gaiman fans out there, this is enough to know exactly what to expect. It is funny, witty, strange, but above all charming and heartfelt. It is written for children, but it is something adults can easily enjoy. Think, How to Train Your Dragon, but with pictures[ii].

Odd and the Frost Giants is the story of a young Norse boy who lost his father and shortly after became crippled. He is not much liked in his village, and one day decides to run away to his father’s abandoned woodcutting cabin. There he meets a fox, an eagle and a bear and discovers that they are in fact the Norse Gods Odin, Thor and Loki, transformed by a frost giant and banished from Asgard. Odd helps them find a way back into Asgard and tricks the frost giant into leaving, thus allowing the gods to return to their rightful places. Odd is healed by the Goddess Freya and sent back home, where he reunites with his mother.


The voice of the story is something Gaiman does extremely well. He has written novels for adults, young adults, children’s books, graphic novels, television episodes, short stories, and probably more. He excels in these massively different venues for a few reasons (probably a whole other post here), but for now let’s focus on voice. It is a children’s book, and as such it carries a simple, straightforward, child’s voice. This is not to say it is simplistic or childish. In fact, the subject matter is quite weighty and serious, but it is experienced by a child so we get a child’s view of it. This type of voice does two important things. Firstly, using a child’s voice makes the story easy to read and approachable for readers of all ages. Adults will find a fun, compelling story that can be knocked out in an hour with very little effort, and a child won’t have any trouble with overarticulate language or metaphysical musings[iii]. Secondly, the voice simplifies serious themes found in the novel—such as death, loss, grief, beauty, etc.—making them easy for all readers to understand and connect with without cheapening the experiences which such feelings occasion.


The characters are also all uniquely Gaiman, in that nothing is quite as it should be. The Norse Gods are more like petty children than fearsome deities, always bickering about who is to blame for their current situation rather than doing anything useful. Odd on the other hand is the unlikeliest hero. He is a child, a cripple, an outcast. The villagers think he is strange, possibly not right in the head. Yet he actually sees the world more clearly than anybody else. He hears talking and the only creatures nearby are animals; therefore they must have been talking. When he learns they are exiled gods he doesn’t bat an eye, he just says they’ll solve the problem in the morning. While the gods argue about who is to blame, Odd finds a way back to Asgard for them. Then, he approaches the Frost Giant alone and when asked, “WHAT IN YMIR’S NAME ARE YOU DOING HERE?’ Odd just smiles and says, “I’m here to drive the Frost Giants from Asgard” (p. 77). Then he does so, but not as a God or a great Viking warrior would. Instead, he just listens to the giant and helps him realize he’d be much happier back home. The giant himself is not what one would expect here. He is not inherently evil. He does not want to destroy the world. He wants the payment the Gods tricked his brother out of, and he just wants something beautiful to take back to his world of bleak ice and stone. In Gaiman’s world, every character is important and unique. No one is a stock character. Villains have feelings too, and heroes are just crippled boys. This above all, in my opinion, is what makes this story such a great read for children and adults alike.


The story is a standard hero’s journey which also follows the Gaiman principle of not being quite what it should be. In the heroic journey an unlikely hero, usually a young man, embarks on an adventure during which he grows and becomes the man he needs to be to defeat the evil villain, save the world, and get the girl. Odd and the Frost Giants is the story of Odd, our unlikely hero, who embarks on an adventure during which he gains wisdom and confidence in himself, but doesn’t otherwise significantly change, and in the end he drives the giant away by simply being himself. It is a story is about a boy becoming greater than he is, not by tapping some mystical power, but by realizing the fullness of his own potential. That said, this is not one of those ‘you are good enough and never need to change’ stories. In fact, after the adventure is over Odd remarks disappointedly that the gods haven’t learned at all. The great lesson of the story is wasted on them, but we know it’s not really about them anyway. It’s Odd’s story, and by extension our story.


I highly recommend this novel to anybody. It is easy to read, but captivating and inspiring in a way more ‘literary’ works cannot be. I recently read Pride and Prejudice and very much enjoyed it. I am currently reading Moby Dick and very much enjoy that. Literary masterworks have their place, and can be quite engaging and exciting, contrary to popular opinion. But Odd and the Frost Giants is so much easier to enjoy because it is simple, yet profound. The story and characters are compelling and complex, even in a simple, honest world. Gaiman blends these opposing characteristics so masterfully it seems as though they were always meant to be together. If you want to have fun reading, and you want a book that doesn’t require a dictionary to get through every paragraph, but still want something engaging and meaningful, this is the book for you.

[i] The version I read is the Kindle e-book version available here. Page numbers reflect this version.

[ii] I want to post some pictures from the book here, but I have not yet received permission from the illustrator to do so. Some pictures can be viewed legally on websites linked below.

[iii] I’m looking at you Moby Dick.

Other websites you might enjoy:

Mouse Circus: Neil Gaiman’s website for young readers

Neil Gaiman Official Website

Other (better) book reviews:


Fantasy Book Club

Common Sense Media

E-book versions:



Google Books



Barnes and Noble