My First Attempt at Time Lapse Photography

Hey everyone,

I discovered that I can do time lapse photography, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It was actually very easy (See below the video for a description of what I used).

Now, doing it well and just doing it are pretty far apart, and I know I’ve got a long way to go, but for all being done within the first 24 hours of realizing that I had the capability, I’m pretty proud of what I came up with and I thought sharing how easy it is to get started might be beneficial.

The music is something that I composed and played in MuseScore a while back (it was sitting around, so I thought I’d use it). I’m not a musician, so forgive its simplicity and the fact that the instruments are all midi simulations rather than… something that sounds good.

For those that are interested, the shot locations are as follows:
-First two clips with the water – Calavara Lake in Carlsbad, Ca
-The ants and two oak tree clips – Buena Vista Park in Vista, Ca
-Last shot with the grass – out my window in Vista, Ca

 

The camera I used is a Cannon PowersShot SX160 IS with CHDK installed on it. I’ve had the camera for a few years now and I like it, but if I were shopping for it all over again, I would choose something else for one simple reason: this specific PowerShot eats through batteries like a puppy through pizza (maybe a little less messy). The other models of PowerShot I had in the past were not this way. It’s powered by 2 AA batteries and can’t (as far as I’ve figured out) be powered externally (if anyone has any suggestions other than the toothpick trick, please share). Just in the shots used in this video I went through 12 AA battieries; I’m a MONSTER! They are still half full for many other devices, but the camera says they’re dead and turns off. They worked long enough to get these shots, but if I wanted to shoot over a time longer than about 45 minutes (and I do), this just isn’t going to cut it.

CHDK is a set of firmware updates that you can use to increase the functionality of Cannon PowerShots. Model specific downloads and directions can be found here: http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK
CHDK is temporary. You just run it off of the memory card and it allows you to run scripts on your camera. The CHDK download for most PowerShots, I believe, come with an intervalometer script. That’s the one I use. It is very simple once you figure out the menus. You set up your camera ready to go with whatever settings you want, then you tell the intervalometer script a time interval, and launch it. It then takes an image every time that interval is up. For example, if I set it to 10 seconds, it will take an image every 10 seconds until I tell it to stop or it runs out of batteries and turns itself off (the latter usually being the case for me). I did find that, because the camera takes a moment to take and save the images, if you set it too short, it will just take an image whenever it is ready. The clip with the ants, for example, was supposed to be a 1 second interval, but it took one image every time it was ready, which was somewhere between 6 and 7 seconds. The rest of my clips were set to 10 seconds or longer and worked like a charm.

A tripod is a good idea. None of these were taken using a tripod, and I think it shows. My tripod was broken, and the one I ordered was sitting on my doorstep when I got back from the last shot for this. One thing that was kind of cool, but 100% unplanned was the sort of droopy panning effect in a couple of shots. Those happened because I set the camera on its empty case and over the course of 45 minutes or so, the whole thing settled. While it worked out this time, I can see how it could completely ruin a set and is probably impossible to plan exactly where the camera ends up pointing. I don’t know how professionals do the fancy pan shots (hey, I’ve only been at this for a day) but I’m 97.46% sure it has nothing to do with setting the camera on a cloth sack propped against a rock and hoping for the best.

Once I got the shots and made it home, I used the OpenShot Video Editor in Linux. OpenShot allows you to import sequences of pictures. It uploads them like a video clip, with some set number of frames per second and you can manipulate it just like any other video clip. OpenShot is free and very intuitive.
I had a few issues, however. OpenShot uses sequential numbering on the file names to determine which files to include and their order. My camera uses a 4 digit number in the file names. There’s some sort of bug (that took me a while to find talk of on the internet) where if the first image in the sequence has more than a 3 digit number, it tries to upload, then the clip just says “INVALID.” So, I rename all the files to have 3 digit numbers. No, I don’t do it by hand. There are many ways to do this. I had a python script already set up to do something like this, so I just re-purposed it and it works. I have a suspicion that I’m going to get told that the easiest way is to use a BASH script. Feel free to tell me, but I already made my Python tool… so… there.
OpenShot is a little lacking in control of the rate that it plays the images. You can not adjust how many frames per second it shows (I don’t know what the standard is, something near 30?). You can have it double of triple each image while importing if you want it to play 2 or 3 times more slowly. I doubled the images on 3 of the clips because I thought they were too fast, but, for the most part, I feel like being able to speed up or slow down these clips would be handy.Another issue I had with OpenShot is that it is, at least on my computer, very slow with videos of this resolution. You may notice that in the above video the syncing of dramatic moments in the music with clip changes is a bit off. This is because I had to export the video each time just to see if it worked, because the playback option in OpenShot was sketchy and would get stuck. When I reduced the resolution, it worked just fine, so that’s a potential solution as well, but I think I might try experimenting with some other software (any suggestions?).
I feel the need to repeat myself here, though… OpenShot is free… So, that’s really nice.

The music was composed in MuseScore in Linux. It is also free and pretty neat. MuseScore is composition software with a midi simulation playback option which is fantastic for someone like me with no idea what they are doing. It has it’s limits, though. The midi playback IS still midi, and it sounds like it… but it was sort of fun getting to output my song as an mp3 and use it in the video. Maybe someday I’ll use music from real instruments, but for goofing around and learning, I think it works just fine.

I hope you found this enlightening or helpful. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions… though… remember, I’m figuring it out as I go along. In all liklyhood, questions will result in us trying to figure it out together rather than me already knowing the answer. That’s the fun part anyway, though, right?

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Enor

enorHappy Halloween, everyone!
What follows is my Halloween story. There is also an audio file at the bottom, if you’d prefer I read it to you.

Enjoy!


I tried desperately not to let Elaine catch me glancing at her as the car wound up the road into the forest. Her dark hair fluttered on the pine-laced breeze that came in through the two inch gap in her window. It was a warm, autumn day and she was wearing a black tank top that accentuated some of her more obvious attributes and those cutoff shorts that did the same thing when she was standing.

As some Iron Maiden song ended on my mp3 player, a heavy guitar riff introduced Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and I had to snap my eyes back to the road because Elaine turned to me grinning.

“This playlist rocks so fucking hard,” she said, nodding her head in time with Mr. Van Halen’s guitar as she reached for the stereo and turned it up just a little.

“Oh, yeah? It’s just on shuffle,” I lied.

I had spent an entire day carefully crafting the perfect playlist from songs by bands that I had either heard her talk about, or that she had ever mentioned on social media in the twelve years and two months that she had had a Facebook or the six years, two months that she had been on Twitter. I even went through every picture she had ever uploaded and analyzed each of her shirts to determine if it was a band shirt or not, to make sure that I didn’t miss one. I had almost missed Van Halen. She had seemed to be enjoying it, but until then she hadn’t said anything.

“Great collection, then. All over the place,” she said. I glanced away from the road and we made eye contact for a brief moment. She smiled. My heart palpitated and for an instant I was worried that I’d have a heart attack and kill us both – We’d never get to go on the date that I had worked so hard to plan.

Looking back to the road, I lied again, “Just a few of my favorites.”

I was enjoying the playlist, but I had never heard of half the bands before putting the list together. For example, what the fuck is a Thin Lizzy? Is it like an anorexic gecko? Whatever the name meant, she really liked that one, it was in the playlist a lot.

“So, Paul, how much further is this place? I need to make a tree into the ladies room.”

Knowing that she was into horror movies and ghost stories I had done some research and found a local ghost story that worked. Back in the ’50s, some professor at the university, Dr. Emery Benedikt, had a cabin way out in the woods where he, supposedly, did experiments with animals. Apparently he created what he called the perfect monster. The monster was called an enor. Legend stated that they could walk through walls and would sneak up right behind you before letting out a long, low, rumbling roar, just so you knew it was there before it killed and ate you. According to the story, a few got out and the professor moved to another state to get away from them. There were a few accounts of people having close calls, but nobody had ever seen one.

When I found the story of the enors, I knew it was my chance with Elaine. The plan was to go out to the abandoned cabin that had once, allegedly, belonged to old Dr. Benedikt. We would spend some time looking around the old cabin, freak ourselves out a bit while drinking a beer or two, then… who knew. I hoped that I knew. I hoped that it would be the perfect date, then she’d be in a frisky, playful mood and one thing would lead to another. Then we would date forever because she was the perfect woman, even if her interests were a little creepy.

“Not too far,” I said, looking at the GPS, “like, another 2 miles. Think you can make it?”

It had been an hour since we had left the apartment complex that we both lived in. That’s where we had met. One day that summer I had been using the communal barbecue with my buddy, Dave, when Elaine and her roommate Clair had come down to the pool. I never would have had the nerve to go talk to them, but Dave has never met a girl that he didn’t feel comfortable hitting on and offered them two of our beers. If it hadn’t been for Dave’s ridiculous spectacle of trying to get Clair to give him her number, I never would have had anything to talk to Elaine about. We had both agreed that he was an idiot.

We had seen each other a few times since then. She was always friendly and we became acquaintances. Then, one day, while I was reading through a bunch of her old tweets, I came across one that said, “I’d marry a guy that takes me monster hunting. #CuteDateIdeas.” So, that is precisely what I decided to do. How could she have possibly said no?

I pulled the car off the road into the pullout that I had marked on my GPS and we parked just after Rush’s “What You’re Doing” had replaced Van Halen not talking about love (though, to this day, I’m still not sure what they ARE talk’n ’bout). From there it was supposed to be a short hike down to the cabin.

As soon as the car was stopped, she hopped out, saying, “Don’t leave without me!”

I watched her jog into the bushes, her cute little cut-offs doing… well, what cute little cut-offs do. I got out of the car and pulled my day-pack out of the trunk. Then I stood there, awkwardly waiting for her to come back. I needed to urinate too, but I wasn’t about to go wander around in the bushes and chance it looking like I was watching her pee. If the other side of the road wasn’t a nearly vertical granite face, then perhaps I could have gone over there, but there was nowhere I could go. So I stood next to my car in the pullout, dancing back and forth slightly, that “Jailbreak” song from earlier ringing in my ears.

Just before she came back I realized the flaw in my plan. What was I going to do? Leave her standing bored in the pullout while I peed? I’d have to explain why I hadn’t just gone while she was going – it would seem so awkward. I didn’t want to be awkward.

I turned toward the car looking desperately for something that I could pretend I had been doing instead.

“Much better!” I heard her say behind me.

Making sure the cringe had left my face, I turned around, “Oh good.”

***

We made pretty good time on the trail, eventually coming out into a clearing with a small, decrepit cabin standing in the middle. It was perfect; straight out of a horror movie. While we had been walking, my need to pee had been manageable, but now that we had stopped, it felt like – if I were to hold it much longer – it would start squirting out of my eyes.

“Be right back,” I said shuffling back up the trail.

“Where are you-” she started to ask, following me, but I cut her off.

“Just gimme a sec!” I yelled over my shoulder, rushing into the bushes, already struggling with the fly on my pants.

I made it just fine and came back only moments later, feeling like a million bucks.

She had wandered to the front of the cabin and was peering into the dark through the open doorway.

“Sorry about that I had to-” I started.

“Yeah, whatever,” she interrupted, grinning and pointing at the door, “check this out.”

Someone had painted “Bewar the enormouse beest!” in crooked, angular letters across the door’s warped surface.

We both laughed for a moment, but then fell deathly silent when we heard it for the first time.

The roar seemed to come from everywhere at once. For all I knew it had. I hadn’t expected the stories to be real and, by the look of terror on Elaine’s face, she hadn’t either. We both stood in shocked silence for a long time, our eyes flicking around the clearing in front of the small cabin. I listened through the ringing silence for any hint as to where the beast might be. I analyzed the smell of the pine-laced air as I breathed, was it different from before? The trees that had been so beautiful and welcoming just moments before now looked like sinister, looming beasts.

“What the fuck was that?” she finally asked, her voice just above a raspy whisper.

“I think it was an enor,” I responded, turning to look behind me.

“Shut the fuck up. You put speakers out here or something, right?” Her tone was accusatory and amused, but when I turned back and looked her in the eye, the look I saw there was one of pleading. “That’s where you went just now, to turn them on?”

“I swear to god, Elaine,” I said, reaching out to take her hand; she gave it willingly. I wished that I had put speakers in the trees to scare her, that would have been brilliant. “I think we should go inside.”

It appeared the enor might actually exist and I – like some sort of dumb-ass horror movie cliché – had figured it was an urban legend and brought a girl out here on a date, so I, true to form, then made another classic mistake and decided to go into the creepy cabin.

“Aren’t they supposed to be able to walk through walls?” she asked. She was right, of course, but that didn’t slow either of us in our pace to get inside the cabin.

“Do you have a better idea?” I asked as we passed the threshold.

Somehow, even knowing that they could walk through walls, the musty, decaying cabin felt more comfortable than being out there, with all those trees peering down at us.

Fishing the flashlight out of my pack, she turned it on and slipped her hand out of mine then replaced it with the flashlight.

“Maybe we should just get out of here,” I said, “you know, make a run for the car?”

“Paul,” she said, “it’s like a mile, they’d get us before we made it twenty ste-” she was cut off by another roar. It was abrupt, sharp, near, but it was definitely outside.

She threw herself on the heavy, wooden door. The old hinges screeched in protest, but it closed with a solid thud, shaking the entire thin wall.

“Light!” she cried, “I need to see the lock!” It was still broad daylight outside, but all the windows were boarded over and, with the door closed, there was only a small amount of light streaming in through holes in the rotted wood and around the edges of the window boards.

I shot the flashlight up to the back of the door. There was a deadbolt there, which her hand had already found by the time I made it visible. It was rusted into place.

Another roar came from somewhere off to the right, immediately followed by one from the left. Again, they were both still definitely outside, but now there were two of them.

“If I find out that you,” she started pounding the palm of her hand on the lock, trying to make it move, “are fucking with me, Paul. I’m going to stab you, you understand that, right?”

Another shriek pierced the air from right outside the door, and she stopped pounding to look at me, “I’ll be impressed, but I’ll fucking stab you. I swear to god.”

“Got it,” I said, “here, let me try.” I placed my hand on the door, and she stepped back. The lock really wouldn’t move.

“Maybe if I,” I started, lifting the heavy flashlight and slamming it on the post for the deadbolt.

The light flickered off, and I heard her grumble, “Oh for fuck’s sake.”

A series of roars picked up just then from outside, one after another. I wasn’t counting, but there were quite a few of them, and they had the cabin surrounded.

I smacked the flashlight on my palm, and the light flickered to life for a brief moment, before turning off again.

“Leave the lock, Paul, they can walk through walls.”

“Right,” I said. It still felt wrong to not be barricading the door, or something, so I stood with one foot against its bottom edge.

“There’s got to be something in here we can use as a weapon,” she said. I could hear her moving around in the dark, but couldn’t imagine that her search would be very fruitful unless I got the flashlight up and running again.

My mind flashed back to that morning when I had been standing in my bedroom with an extra flashlight in my hand, debating if I should bring it. I had decided that if we only had one, she’d have to stand closer to me while we used it. Dumb-ass.

I unscrewed the battery cap, not sure what I expected to be able to do in there, and another series of roars rose up again, all around us, this time it was hard to tell if there were inside or out, it came from everywhere. I screwed the cap back on and smacked it again. The light flickered, then died just as quickly.

“Paul! Help me with this.”

I moved towards her voice. Her hand came up to rest on my shoulder to stop me from plowing into her. “There’s a table here maybe we can pull off a leg and use it as a-” she stopped when a single roar rose up from just behind me.

My heart freezing, mid beat, I spun on my heel and smacked the flashlight again on my palm. It flickered to life, but nothing was there. Then the flashlight died again.

“What the-” I panted.

“Paul, where are they?” she asked. I could feel her hand on my arms from behind.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but-”

Another roar shook the cabin, and I ducked, this one seemed to come from right near my head.

“Fuck this,” Elaine said, pushing past me. I could hear her feeling around on the door for the handle and moved to join her. A series of roars thundered through the darkness, from every corner at once, and I couldn’t breathe. I bound the two steps back to the door and clawed at it, the rational part of my brain gone: replaced by a puddle of useless terror. I was no longer looking for the handle, I was scratching at the door and screaming, needing so badly to be outside that I couldn’t focus long enough to make it happen. Elaine shoved me out of the way, then the hinges screamed as she tugged the door open. Bright light poured into the cabin and she tumbled outside. I scrambled after her. My eyes stung and I couldn’t breathe, but when we were outside, we ran a few steps then stopped to look back at the cabin.

What I saw there, took a long moment to process. There was a mouse standing in the doorway, which then stood up on its hind legs and let out a blood-curdling roar.

“Wait, what?” I asked.

Elaine started laughing. A relieved chuckle at first, which then cascaded into a deep fit. “Enor-Mouse Beest!” she managed with a gasp, then slumped to a seated position, clutching her stomach in hysterics.

It finally sunk in as another mouse joined the first in the doorway and they both roared together. Of course they could walk through walls, they were mice. Dr. Benedikt had created the perfect monster alright: it could walk through walls, sneak up right behind you, scare your pants right off, but you’d never see it, leaving your mind to fill in the worst details it could come up with.

I started to chuckle too, and sat down next to Elaine, my knees feeling weak.

When she finally got her laughter under control, she turned to me and let out a long sigh. “I thought we were just going to come out here and fool around a bit, this was way better.”

Another roar came up from the cabin, this one, much less sinister, now that I knew what it was.

My heart leapt into my throat, she had known those were my intentions and came anyway? Maybe I still had a chance. My eyes darted back and forth between hers, searching. Was this an invitation to kiss her? I started to lean in, and she pulled away a bit.

“No way in hell, Paul,” she said, standing up, “not after I just watched you scream like a little bitch.”

She dusted herself off, laughing again. I stood as well, not saying a word and looking back at the cabin.

“Let’s get outta here,” she said, walking back towards the trail.

I lingered for a moment, watching the cabin, then I noticed that five or six of the mice had made their ways out the door and were coming towards me.

“Wait up,” I yelled after Elaine, running to catch her.


Listen to me read it here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/f8yqkw9aryp6gj7/Enor.mp3?dl=0

 


You can buy enor swag on RedBubble:

http://www.redbubble.com/people/imasillypirate/works/23696992-enorenor-richard-d-mellinger-jr

Grapevine

Hi all!

The results of last week’s vote to determine when my new weekly posting time determined that… well… nobody cares when I post, so long as I do (I chose to add that last part because it makes me feel good).

Having a schedule, though, helps me. So, after today, I’ll be trying out Mondays at 11am.

Now, enjoy this week’s story. Sorry, no art or audio today.


Grapevine

His blue eyes gleamed hard and tough. Set among thin folds in the sun-beaten skin, they were the only hint that the man was thinking, but they were enough. Marvin waited silently, listening to the wind push a few dry foxtails against the rough siding of the barn. He watched uncle Barrett survey his surroundings and contemplate the question. Uncle Barrett always took a few moments to think before he responded, but when he finally did, Marvin had learned, it was best to listen.

When grandfather had passed away, he left the ranch to his two sons: Uncle Barrett and Marvin’s father Norman. The falling out between the two brothers over the direction the ranch should take had been bad once upon a time, Marvin had heard, but he had only ever seen it as a general disdain and occasional acts of passive aggression – until this week, that is.

Uncle Barrett still ran a herd of cattle, and had recently discovered the small mine that Grandfather had used as a pet project before the two boys were born. Marvin’s father wanted to extend a few of the rows of grapevines – the grapevines taking up a sizable portion of what used to be grazing land, and had been the main point of contention between the two brothers. The problem was that the new section of vines would need to be extended right over the mine entrance, as well as block off one of the routes that Barrett liked to direct his cattle through when moving them between pastures.

Things had gotten heated until Gladys, Marvin’s mother (and the only person on Earth that both men would listen to) had intervened. She was the reason they were all there today. Both men were to sit at the table with her and talk it out while drinking tea.

When Marvin had asked about the tea, she had given him a smile and said “Just like my mamma used to say, make them drink tea instead of beer; tea will keep them civilized.”

Now he stood outside with Uncle Barrett. He had seen him standing out by the barn, staring off toward the grapevines, while his mother and father were in the kitchen waiting.

“Yeah. I’ll be right along, Pip,” he said, finally.

Marvin ran back to the house, only looking behind him when he reached the stoop, to see Uncle Barrett making his slow way after him.

When Uncle Barrett finally made it to the door, his huge frame becoming a dark silhouette in the rectangle of bright sunlight, Marvin and his father were sitting and Marvin’s mother had just set the tea kettle on the table and went back for the cups.

“Have a seat, Barrett,” she said.

Uncle Barrett walked slowly into the room, hung his hat on a hook by the door, and pulled out the closest chair at the table, not looking up to meet his brother’s gaze.

“Thanks for having me to tea, Gladys,” he said, settling down into the chair.

“So,” Marvin’s father started, “you’ve decided you’re too busy playing with that damned, dangerous mine to run the cattle the long way around-”

“Tea?” Gladys interjected, cutting him off, then turning to Uncle Barrett, “Tea?”

Uncle Barrett was sure making eye contact with Marvin’s father now, and it was a look that Marvin had never seen on his uncle’s face, which was always guarded to show no emotion. There was emotion there now, though, and it was something like anger.

Neither man said anything as she slowly placed a cup in front of each of them and filled it with tea.

When she turned to Marvin and started to fill his cup, Uncle Barrett sighed, then said, “Papa wanted us to raise cattle, not those god-damned California Raisins.” He pointed out the door to punctuate his point, to where they all knew the first row had been planted years ago.

Marvin saw his mother cut short the pouring of his tea and bound the two steps back to the counter, where she snatched up a plate of cookies.

“You know as well as anyone,” Marvin’s father said, starting to raise his voice, “they are wine grapes, and they are the only thing keeping this ranch afloat!”

“Cookie? Cookie?” Marvin’s mother interjected again, offering each man the plate. They both stopped and looked at her, but neither moved to take a cookie, so she set it down on the table. Marvin reached out and grabbed one.

“I have half a mind to just plant them anyway, what would you do with your precious cattle then?” Marvin had heard his father do many voices, but he had never heard a sneer before and it scared him.

His mother went back to the counter and grabbed the bottle of honey.

Uncle Barrett shot to his feet, staring down his brother, “Well, I’d herd it THROUGH that grape vine! I’m not about to lose my mine.”

“Honey? Honey?” Marvin’s mother asked.


Listen to me read it here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/xq64epzrfc0mvel/Grapevine.mp3?dl=0

New Headphones

NewHeadphonesWhen they tapped, the keys of Ein’s keyboard clacked away, approximately in time with the driving guitar riffs chugging through his new noise canceling headphones. He didn’t hear the rat-tat-tat of the keys as his fingers danced through the story, laying down words in their wake; just the music. The music was so crisp and clean it felt like if he were to turn around, he’d find Phil Lynott standing behind him. It really felt like someone was there, but of course, it was just a trick of the beautiful sound pouring out of the amazing, next-generation headphones that allowed nothing but the tunes down through his ear holes into his brain. He lived alone in his ground level, 1 bedroom apartment; nobody would be there.

He was finally hitting his stride. The first draft of this manuscript danced forward, pausing periodically for Ein to contemplate wording and wail on his air guitar before jumping back into the story with feverish abandon.

All of a sudden, Ein crashed into the end of the chapter and looked at the clock in the lower right of the screen with surprise. It had been hours. When he sat down to write, the room had been bathed by daylight trickling in through the windows, and he had been sweating in the hot, summer air. Now, though, a cool breeze wafted through the room which was only lighted by the harsh, white glow of the monitor painting Ein’s face and arms, stretching long, white smudges of light on the carpet on either side of him.

He looked around with a sigh, the screen still a glowing rectangle floating in the center of his vision. He couldn’t quite see what yet, but could tell that something was wrong with the room. His brows furrowed. He waited for his eyes to adjust, and slipped the headphones out of his ears. The music fell away, replaced by the gentle sound of the vertical blinds over the open window knocking together in the breeze. He stood in shock as he started to see that most of his stuff was gone. While he had been sitting there at work, the TV, stereo, game console, couch, and table had all disappeared. Turning on his heel, he stared at the front door, hanging open.

“How the fuck?” he asked aloud.

“Oh my god, I’ve been robbed,” he murmured as it hit him, his hand lifting to run through his hair. His cheeks started to burn with embarrassment as he realized that – worse than losing his crap – whoever it was had seen him playing the air guitar.



Listen to me red it here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/tedhx13i88cvx3u/NewHeadphones.mp3?dl=0/

Prayers to Therese

ThereseGif.GIF

I’ve decided to share another poem and folk song that I wrote to exist in the world of the science fiction novel I’ve been working on entitled Lyssa Jordan Robot Hunter (the other poem/ song combo can be found here). These aren’t about the story or characters for the novel, but exist in the background because even when we’ve push into the solar system and many of our daily lives are spent confined to tiny cans hurtling through space, hoping that the ship doesn’t break down, humans will still be writing music and poetry.

I’m not a musician and lack the musical ability to write down or recreate the melody in my head that goes with the following song. It’s folksy guitar. Feel free to just pretend it’s a poem, as I did in the attached audio file.


Prayers to Therese (the song):

Well she’s not very fast
and she doesn’t look nice
but she’s plenty reliable
you know, for the price
She doesn’t break down
and get’s me where I’m going
except for that once,
but I shouldn’t ‘ve been towing

So I thank my ship Therese for taking care of me
She’s a bucket of bolts, but allows me to be free
Just a few million more miles back to the earth
please hold on, baby, give it all that you’re worth
I’ll sweet-talk you, honey, all while you fly
’cause if you break down, I’ll probably die.

Life support’s decent
great for the money
as long as you don’t mind
that the air smells funny
From the time I docked drunk
The hull’s got a big dent
but it still blocks radiation
and the atmosphere doesn’t vent

So I thank my ship Therese for taking care of me
She’s a bucket of bolts, but allows me to be free
Just over a million more miles back to the earth
please hold on, baby, give it all that you’re worth
I’ll sweet-talk you, honey, all while you fly
’cause if you break down, I’ll probably die.

I lost a heat shield back there
The thing just fell off
and the engine started sounding
like a cougar with a cough
I’m starting to get worried
but I’m not dead yet
When I fly it’s a gamble
and it’s one hell of a bet

So I thank my ship Therese for taking care of me
She’s a bucket of bolts, but allows me to be free
Just a thousand more miles back to the earth
please hold on, baby, give it all that you’re worth
I swear I’ll fix you, honey, if we make it there alive
just, please hold together until after we arrive

The ship’s getting hot now
the coolant line’s got a block
The whole ship almost blew
but I fixed it with a knock
On our final approached
the drive coil starts to shake
Fixed it too, but I’m not sure
how much more the ship can take

So I thank my ship Therese for getting me home
She’s a bucket of bolts, but allows me to roam
It was a close call, Therese, but we made it back to earth
Thanks for holding on, baby, and giving it all that you’re worth
I sweet-talked you, honey, all while you flew
’cause if you broke down, I would have been through

Now with my ship Therese
all safe on the ground
The engine cools off
and she stops making that sound
she coughed and she wheezed
on the previous trip as well
but I think it’s gotten worse
I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to tell

So I thank my ship Therese for being ready to go
She’s a bucket of bolts, but she’s all that I know
It was close last time but we made it back fine
Because of you, baby, even if you did whine
I know I should be smart and these repairs I should do
but they can probably wait until this next trip is through

So I thank my ship Therese for being ready to go
She’s a bucket of bolts, but she’s all that I know
It was close last time but we made it back fine
Because of you, baby, even if you did whine
I know I should be smart and these repairs I should do
but they can probably wait until this next trip is through


Listen to me read Prayers to Therese here:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/ntvi9qdheaovs9z/PrayersToTherese.mp3?dl=0


Flowers (the poem):

When I’m away from earth
I dream that I’m in flowers
Onto my back I’ve fallen
And I stare into the sky

But when I am back home
After only a few hours
I’m attacked by pollen
And I feel like I might die

I go quickly to my ship
My view of home now sour
Into that can I’m crawling
And away from there I fly

But once away I forget
I swear the earth has powers
cuz I hear the flowers calling
And I let out a sigh


Listen to me read Flowers here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/99xq9v4ggq9tceo/Flowers.mp3?dl=0

You can buy crap decorated with the ship Therese as seen in the GIF at the top of this post. As usual, it can be found on RedBubble: http://www.redbubble.com/people/imasillypirate/works/22760543-therese

Phantom Melodies

141116_224528There was a piano in the unused upstairs bedroom. The room had belonged to his daughter Kate until the day she left for college. Jake had then turned it into a guest room, and it had sat unused in the quiet house. Kate had come home on occasion at first, splitting holidays between spending them with Jake and spending them at her mother’s home with her siblings and cousins. He didn’t blame her for favoring visits to her mother. His was a cold, mostly empty house, haunted by a solitary old man with no friends. Her mother’s place of dwelling was a home filled with family, love, and always bustled with some activity or other.

That’s not to say that Kate hadn’t done her duty as a daughter, she came and she visited before the accident, but he could always tell that she would rather be with her mom. Then, in her third year in college, she was in a car accident. Because of a drunk driver, she was crushed to death in a hunk of twisted metal. Then the only visitor that he ever had stopped coming, at a time when he would have liked some company the most.

When she was still alive Jake would change the sheets on the bed in the guest room periodically, pretending that there was a chance she might surprise him with a visit, but now five years later, he didn’t do that anymore. He kept the rest of the house tidy, but didn’t see the point of cleaning that bedroom.

The only two spots in the room that lacked a thick covering of dust were the bench that sat in front of the piano and the fallboard which covered its keys. He bought it for Kate when she was young, just after she had decided that she wanted to learn. The piano had made her so happy at first. The lessons only lasted a year though, then she had given it up for softball, and the piano sat unused and out of tune for many years.

After the accident, sometimes on weekends, when he had no excuse to spend all day at the office, and when television, movies, and books failed to satisfy him, Jake would go into that room and sit in front of the piano. He had never had a music lesson in his life and the piano was so far out of tune that it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, but he would push keys and fill the air with discordant plinks. Sometimes it made him happy as the piano and Jake remembered together the year that she had played it, filling the house with music. Other times it made him sad, and he would spend more time on the lower end of the keyboard, but it always made him feel something.

It wasn’t music, just sporadic plinks and plunks, most of which weren’t even recognized notes (those that were, were only so because the piano was so far out of tune that they appeared on the wrong keys). Every once in a while though, amongst the noise, a melody would solidify briefly. They were always fleeting and spectral things, like shapes in the fog: there for an instant to be recognized, then gone. They were beautiful, though, while they lasted and gave him a feeling that welled up in his chest, both happy and sad at the same time. By the time he caught a melody, he never remembered exactly what he had done to make it. So, had he come up with or learned a notation, he wouldn’t have known what to write down anyway.

It was late one evening, the wind of autumn pushed the leaves around outside and made Jake forlorn, so he sat at the piano and pushed keys. He cleared his mind and listened to the sounds as they floated through the air. He closed his eyes and felt the vibrations through the keys. He spread his fingers and pushed down eight keys at once, it wasn’t an unpleasant chord. He pushed it again hard, leaving it ringing in the air as his fingers began to crawl over other keys. What he heard was pure, heart-wrenching beauty. Often the melodies that surfaced were beautiful, but not like this. What he heard made him begin to shake and, for a moment, he couldn’t breath, a great pressure on his chest. His arms faltered and fell to his sides. Then the world was moving.

He opened his eyes, damp now, to find that to his right, along the wall, there was a large, white square of light so bright that he couldn’t tell if it had depth or not. Without thinking Jake lifted his hand, leaned toward the wall and touch it. His hand went straight through the square, through the wall that should have been there. He leaned forward further and stuck his head in. He was immediately in a bright room with a tall man in a gray coat and a pile of bushy brown hair atop his head. Jake immediately began to feel a bliss and happiness fill his chest. Similar to what he had felt when that beautiful sound had hung in the air only moments before. He wanted to weep in the fetal position and cry out in exclamations of joy at the same time.

“Hello there,” said the man.

Jake turned around and saw where he had come from, it was a small dark rectangle.

“Hi,” Jake said, not sure what else to do, “what are you doing here?”

“Same as you, I suppose.” The man looked at him with pale blue eyes that seemed to absorb the light rather than see it.

“You don’t LOOK confused and lost…” Jake said slowly.

Their surroundings were nothing but white, so bright that Jake figured it ought to hurt his eyes, but it didn’t. It felt nice.

“You mean, you came here by accident?” the man asked, a wry smile creeping across his face.

“Where IS here?”

“Oh my,” the man said, scratching his chin.

“Jake,” Jake said, extending his hand.

“Nice to meet you Jake, how did you get here?” the man asked, taking his hand and shaking it.

Jake pointed back at the dark rectangle, “hole in the wall.”

The man laughed, “No, I mean, what were you doing when it opened?”

“Oh,” Jake said, “piano.”

There seemed to be a flash in the man’s eyes as he heard this, never losing his roguish grin he asked “You play the piano, then?”

“Not really, no.”

For the first time, since meeting the man, Jake saw his eyebrows began to droop. “I don’t understand.”

“I just poke around at the keys sometimes, what’s going on?”

The man walked over to the little dark rectangle, looked through it for a moment, then sighed.

“Mister, I don’t-”

“You aren’t supposed to be here,” the man cut him off.

“Where is here?” Jake asked, had he not been so filled with that feeling he didn’t understand, he would have been losing his patience at this point.

“You know that feeling?” the man asked pointing at Jake’s chest. “The one that accompanies appreciation of beauty? Rapture and weakness, feeling small and important at the same time? The one that you’ve been feeling since you got here?”

“Yes?” Jake responded, worried that this man knew how he was feeling.

“That feeling comes from here,” He threw his arms around him in a gesture to his surroundings. “It leaks out through little cracks. Cracks created when something beautiful happens.”

“But-” Jake started pointing over his shoulder at the hole, much bigger than a crack.

“It’s also the feeling of inspiration, the greats can open a much larger opening and crawl through; escape for a while. Motzart used to spend weeks at a time here, Monet too.” He put his hand on Jake’s shoulder, trying to guide him back to the hole, “You shouldn’t be here, it’s time to leave.”

“but, I like it here.” Jake resisted a bit, but the man’s gentle nudge became more forceful, so he turned and was led back to the hole. “If I’m not supposed to be here, how did I open it?”

“Must be a fluke, you are talentless.” The man pushed down on Jake’s shoulder, making him lean forward, his head almost in the hole. Then the man repeated, “you don’t belong here,” and shoved him through.

Jake found himself laying on the dusty floor behind the bench. The feeling gone from his chest. The white light was gone, leaving only the cold gray of his dead daughter’s bedroom.

He tried to play the piano again a few times, but he never recaptured any joy from it. Instead of the small melodies floating up out of the discord, he only heard the words “you are talentless” and “you don’t belong here.”