Friday, February 27, 2015

Second Star to the Right, and Straight On 'Til Morning. Farewell, Spock!

It saddens me to report that one of the most iconic figures in the entire Star Trek universe has passed away.  It was reported this morning that Mr. Leonard Nimoy, the actor who portrayed the pointy-eared vulcan, Mr. Spock, on the original 1960s TV series, motion pictures, and various appearances in later series, as well as cameos on other television shows, has passed away at the age of 83 due to complications from end stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mr. Nimoy had been a heavy smoker up until three decades ago, and verified a year ago the diagnosis. He was hospitalized earlier in the week, and though at that point, I sort of expected his passing, it still hits me hard.  I was at work when one of my co-workers out of the blue, assuming that I had already heard the news, asked how I was. Thinking he was asking if I was over the cold I had been fighting for the past few days, I said I was feeling a little better. When he asked if I'd heard of Mr. Nimoy's passing, it was as if I had swallowed a rock. I admit, I expected it, but it hit me hard none-the-less. I had to fight back the tears and felt myself choking on them the rest of the day. Since I have no access to social media at my job, I had to rely on the internet during my breaks to get as much information as I could. I read statements from former cast-members and fans alike, but I think the most touching was the tribute left by Wil Wheaton on his site:
Mister Spock made it okay for me to be the weird kid who eventually grew into a slightly-less weird adult, but it was Leonard Nimoy who made Mister Spock live, and who made Star Trek — and every science fiction TV series since 1966 — possible.
Thank you, Leonard, for making it okay to be me, and for making it possible for me to explore brave new worlds, and boldly go where you had gone before. I wish I’d gotten to know you the way so many others did, because everyone says you were as awesome and wonderful as I hoped you would be. Rest in peace, sir.
Mr. Nimoy was preceded in death by fellow cast members DeForrest Kelley, James Doohan, Mark Leonard, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, and the show's creator, Gene Roddenberry.  This leaves only William Shatner, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig of the original series cast.  Mr. Nimoy will be missed by Trekkers old and new alike.  Fly with the Great Bird, Mr. Spock.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

An Interview with Dara Korra'ti of Crime and the Forces of Evil

Hey, readers! I'm Dara, a.k.a Solarbird the Lightbringer of Crime and the Forces of Evil, and the Dark Side of the Glass people have thrown me a bunch of interview questions. It's almost like an interview, and also totally different! So let's go:

1) Tell our readers a bit about yourself (ie. Where are you from? Significant life experiences that led to where you are now? Occupation(s)? Talents? Anything else you can think of...)
  • From: Well, honestly, I don't know. Mars has been suggested, but I think we all know better than that, unless you mean the Sparks Nevada: Marshall on Mars Mars, in which case it still seems pretty unlikely. Maybe I'm a Jupiter Spy and don't even know it. If so: goddamn I'm good.
  • Life: What it says on the tin. Superhero turned supervillain when the world turned around on me. Our supervillains won, and now we have the police state and the surveillance state and the endless war state and all that, and all that's now "good" somehow, and since most humans follow power - it's what you do - then opposing it makes you a traitor. "You speak treason!" "Fluently."
  • Occupations: Supervillain, musician. Software developer and genetics researcher, but see also: supervillain. This thing is turning into a resume. I should make a resume generator. Or destroyer. "Life experiences: orbital heat rays ARE LIFE EXPERIENCES." Is that how this works?
  • Talents: Really good at the heat ray thing; I can kill you with my brain; technical writing; glass sculpture that invites you to touch it but hurts you if you do; finding really terrible movies and passing them on to Drs. Forrester and Erhardt; triggering really hilarious IBM Urgent Service Bulletins; graphic design; bodhran; irish bouzouki; bass guitar; mandolin; flute; flutemaking; putting resumes through shredders.
2) How long have you been performing, and how did Crime and the Forces of Evil come to be?
I was sorta-kinda in a band called... no, that's not right, I was in a sorta-kinda band, that's right, called Three Good Measures, in the early 2000s. It was mostly a Great Big Sea cover band, but we dropped a few tracks on the net, the best absolutely being a cover of Billy Bragg's "You Woke Up My Neighbourhood." 
But getting serious about it is actually Alexander James Adams's fault. We met in 2006 and hit it off, and I was a at a show of his a few years later and during the meet-and-greet after, kind of out of nowhere, he spun round to me and said, "Dara, you have got to be doing this." My reaction, of course, was "You are so high." But, well, now here we are.
3) How many CDs have you released thus far?
TGM actually kind of had an EP (Duck!) but it wasn't released so that doesn't count, and that wasn't in any way my band - I was just the flautist. So... 
Crime and the Forces of Evil's first EP was a short set called Sketchy Characters, done pretty much as a demo and to have something for an event. I also put out a solo effort, Live from Mars, solely because I played The Mars Bar in Seattle and realised this meant I could have a live EP that was legitimately from Mars. Just, you know, not that Mars. 
Then we got our act together and put out a studio full-length, Dick Tracy Must Die, in 2011. We built our own studio for that, and I taught myself engineering. If you're into that sort of DIY, you can check out the series of columns I wrote on it here.
After that, we did a song-of-the-month project that turned into Cracksman Betty. Since then, a couple of singles, like "Kaiju Meat," and now the new album, Bone Walker.
4) What style(s) of music do you perform?
I called the Dick Tracy material "rage-driven acoustic elfmetal." And that's how I think of my original material, for the most part. The idea is: elves heard metal, thought THIS IS AWESOME WE CAN DO THIS and started doing it, with instruments on-hand. Hence Fake Drumkits made of hand drums, grinding Irish bouzoukis, and so on. This new album has a bit of that on it - particularly "Something's Coming" and "Anarchy Now!" - but it's mostly neoCeltic.
5) How fast has your fame (or infamy) spread since you started performing?
Well, we're here, that's a start. ^_^
6) Any other comments, insight, words of wisdom, etc.?
Everything becomes a racket, eventually. Everything.
7) Final question. How do you feel? :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Scam, and How NOT to be Taken In

In the past year, there has been an increasing number of "student loan debt forgiveness" companies advertising their services to unsuspected borrowers, basically advertising that, if you utilize their services, your student loan debt will be completely forgiven, and go by such names as Student Loan Services, Federal Loan Forgiveness, and Student Loan Forgiveness, just to name a few. Let me clue you in on this- it is complete and total poppycock!  Basically, these companies are third party companies that have nothing whatsoever to do with debt forgiveness. They will lure unsuspecting, and more often than not gullible borrowers in by promising total loan forgiveness, all for a fee ranging anywhere from $300 to as high as $1500 or more. Once said fee is received, they will just access your federal student aid information, and attempt to consolidate your loans through the Department of Education with one of the four main Department of Education affiliated servicers. They will also outright promise lower payments without telling you that the lower payments are based on low income requirements, so if you're annual adjusted gross income is above a certain amount, you're basically out of luck. These companies seem to thrive on misleading gullible people into believing something that is not true, and take their money while doing so. More often than not, unsuspecting borrowers find themselves with a consolidation that they did not ask for, and loan payments higher than promised because they do not qualify for the promised lower payments. Said misled borrowers will then call the loan servicing company that the loans were consolidated with, and try to cancel it, but by the time they do, it is too late, as the loans have already been consolidated, and that cannot be undone, therefore, they are stuck with something they did not want.

Also, note, while there are some forms of loan forgiveness that ARE offered through the DoE, they are not instant, and require you to pay back your loans on one of the income driven repayment plans for a certain amount of time (usually 20 to 25 years for regular borrowers, or 10 years for borrowers working in the public service sector.)

Below are a few simple tips to avoid falling into this "loan forgiveness" trap:
1) If you get correspondence from one of these companies, tell them you do not want to commit to anything until you consult with a loan specialist at your loan servicer. More often than not, if you are eligible for consolidation, and lower income driven repayment plans, your servicer will be able to process those for you, and direct you to the department of education website to consolidate your loans, if that is what you want to do. As these servicers and the Department of Education's Federal Student Aid division can provide these services for free, it will save you a lot of money and a lot of grief in the long run.

2) If you continue to get phone calls from said companies that pressure you into using their service, block the number and contact the better busness bureau.

3) If you have been misled into believing these false promises, and have been charged for incomplete or improperly processed services by one of these companies, report them to one of the state or national consumer protection agencies or better business bureau. They should be able to intervene on your behalf, and may be able to get some of your lost money back.

Doing the proper research could save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Completely Unsolicited Review of "Faerie Blood" by Angela Korra'ti

I first bought this book, direct from the author, about two years ago, but due to a combined factor of losing my job (which devoted a large portion of my time to job hunting) and my father's declining health (which devoted a majority of the time NOT spent job hunting to looking after his needs), I wasn't able to get much past chapter four before I was forced to put reading the book on the back burner. Once things slowed down to a normal pace after a recently forced relocation, I wanted to pick up where I left off, but realized that in the haste to pack things for the move, my copy of Faerie Blood was lost somewhere in one of the boxes shoved away in the attic.  Suddenly, there was the revelation that book two, Bone Walker was now available, along with a well written and performed CD of accompanying music.  I realized, if I was going to read book two, I had two options, either dig through boxes upon boxes in the cold attic until I found my original copy, or just buy the bundle (I chose the latter). To my delight, my package arrived a few short days later, with each copy personally signed (an added bonus~ Thanks, Anna). Once things slowed to a more leisurely pace at work, I took to reading Faerie Blood between calls and on my breaks. I found the book completely enthralling, and had a hard time putting it down, and even fell asleep reading it a couple of times, waking up with the opened book upended on my face.  Tonight, I finished the book, and all I can say is WOW! This book is wonderfully written, taking the reader on a wildly exciting adventure in early twenty-first century Seattle, following the sudden transformation and "awakening" of the heroine, Kendis, through twists and turns of mystery and intrigue, and ELVES! I cannot say more without spoiling it for anyone, but the storyline is fantastically written, building the suspense to a near dizzying crescendo at the climax, and neatly wrapping everything up at the end. This book is well worth the read, and I cannot wait to see what adventure awaits me in book two, Bone Walker, which I will start tomorrow.  If this intrigues you, check out the chance to win a free signed copy of not only Faerie Blood, but also signed copies of Bone Walker and the accompanying CD here. In conclusion, I have but one thing to say, and that is Kudos to my friend Anna, who brought this work of art to us. Thank you, my friend, for sharing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Poetry and Prose

Thanks to Kat, who was able to find some of my old poetry, I am able to post some of it online.  A lot of this was written 20 plus years ago, and during dark times in my life, and some dark times in the lives of some of my friends.  Enjoy:

The first poem, I wrote for my friend, Dria, who, at the time was in a place far from home, and far from friends, and in need of friendly support. There is more to the story, but it's too complicated to be told.


Adrianna, with hair of flaxen gold,
Your eyes they tell of pains untold.
Wandering alone throughout life's trials,
I see you along the long weary miles.
You know that I'll never leave your side,
Without my friendship to be your guide.
I'll shine my light along your way
Throughout each dark and lonely day.
My friend, my love will never part
It remains for you inside my heart.
You're someone special, know that it's true.
I know there is someone who's looking for you.
And when he does, the stars brighter will shine
In the skies, in your eyes, from the love that's in mine,
My dear Adrianna, you've got treasures untold,
For in you I have a friend of pure gold.

        By David J. Stayduhar
        05 October 1993
        2:17 AM
The following was written during a particularly rough spot in my life, if it weren't for those friends that remained close to me and stayed true, I may not be here today.
        "The Darkness"

Look at me, I'm a failure.
My world's turned inside out.
My hopes for life are crushed.
No one seems to understand
What I'm going through.
They only choose to see
The parts of me they want to see.
Their ears can't hear my cries for help,
Or, if they do, they choose to ignore,
And turn their backs on me.
I'm all alone in this world,
Lost inside a darkness I cannot fight.
The darkness rejoices as it consumes me,
Overtaking my innermost self,
Overwhelming my soul, and destroying my heart.
Won't somebody help me?
I only want to be free
To spread my wings and fly again,
But I cannot find my wings.
My wounded heart cries.
It doesn't sing like it once did.
Will someone please set me free?
So I can lick my wounds and carry on,
And fly once more, like I did once before.

        By David J. Stayduhar
        24 October 1990
        11:45 AM

Here is a poem I just wrote while listening to DOFP and losing myself in memories...  I'm not sure if Bill will understand, but Dria knows exactly how I'm feeling, I think...

Why am I here?
What is this place that is not my home?
Why did I leave there,
To come to this place where I feel so alone?

 I look all about me.
Memories, like fine china, fill the shelves on the walls
I look and remember
They draw me into yesterday, down dark and empty halls.

I do not belong here
In this time and place which to me have no meaning
But I cannot return there
It's a place that is long gone, A place of innocence and dreaming.

So therefore I stay
In a world not my own, full of emptiness and regrets
Where I'm forever reminded
Of happier times when I was free, Times I can never forget

 David J. Stayduhar
31 March 1995
5:35 AM

 Following is another written during the aforementioned dark period in my life.  Seemed like my creative juices flowed more freely then...  This one was inspired by Raistlin Majere, a character in the Dragonlance series, whose life seemed to mirror mine at the time.

       "Hourglass Eyes"

I look at the world through hourglass eyes,
And all that I see just withers and dies.
I see the same things each and every day.
I want to see life, but I only see decay.
I look at the flowers growing in the fields,
But barrenness is all that this sight of mine yields.
I see no joy, I see only sorrow.
All that I see will have no tomorrow.
I look at the children while they play,
But I see them as crippled, old, and grey.
Everything I see is either dying or dead.
Even the sun in the sky is cold and red.
I see everything as it passes with time,
All distorted images to these eyes of mine.
I see everything as death in disguise.
Oh, won't somebody please lift this curse from my eyes?
Remove it so that I can see life once again,
And grant me some peace, I am going insane.
I want to see sunshine and hear birds in the trees.
Somebody please take this infliction from me.
Take it away so once again I see life.
Let me see happiness instead of this strife.
I cry out for help, as into darkness I descend.
Nobody hears me, so the curse remains 'til the end.

        By David J. Stayduhar
        17 November 1990
        12:35 AM

As I sit here, I ponder,
Looking back at where I've gone,
Then foward, to where I've yet to go.
Memories both good and bad,
Thoughts of yesterdays gone by,
Remembering love found, then lost,
Thinking of love yet to be found,
Searching for peace within personal wars,
Sorting through chaos, hoping to find order,
Caught in a war in which I have no control,
Caught in the tempest and struggling to survive.
I live through one storm, only to be caught in another,
But I'm a survivor, I'll make it through,
Smarter and wiser, to live again.

    By David J. Stayduhar
        25 October 1990
        1:00 PM
The following was inspired by Elfquest characters, Skywise and Cutter, and the bond between a special friend and myself.
"For my soulmate"

One soul, two hearts
Always together, never to part.
One born of Earth, the other of Fire
Closer than kindred, burning with desire.
Each one their own, yet part of a whole.
Both of them sharing the very same soul.

 David J. Stayduhar
07 October, 1996
2:25 AM
 This one just came to me one afternoon, still dark times, but had a glimmer of hope and inspiration.
        "The Triumph of the Phoenix"

The lightning flashed; the thunder roared.
Two figures stood facing each other.
One longed for possession,
The other--to save a soul.
The one they both loved lay wounded on the ground,
A victim of this battle royal.
Tears steaked down the one man's face,
While the other flashed a hateful smile.
He knew the battle was already lost,
But still he fought to save her soul.
From the darkness that, even now, he faced.
Red robes and cape blowing in the wind,
He raised his voice to speak.
But the black-robed one, in all his hatred,
Silenced him with a scowl.
One was here to fight for Love,
The other was here to destroy.
While the wind-blown rain stung in his face,
The Red One fought back his tears.
His loved one was dying before his eyes,
The Dark One's evil consuming her soul.
He knew that he was powerless against his foe,
But still he found the strength to cast a final spell.
He summoned the lightning to him,
And the lightning consumed him.
The Dark One laughed at this folly.
His adversary sealed his own fate.
His evil laughter drowned out the thunder,
As he knelt to claim his prize.
But out of the ashes of his foe
Came a terrifying scream.
The Dark One began to tremble in unimagined fear,
As the Phoenix at him, in anger, flew.
He tried to cast an evil spell
To try to destroy the bird,
But the Phoenix emerged unscathed.
It absorbed the power of the spell,
As well as the power of the storm,
And continued to attack its hapless prey.
The Dark One tried to cast again,
But found his power drained.
The Phoenix had drained him of his magic,
And so he turned to flee.
The rain soaked ground was covered in mud,
And the Dark One slipped and fell.
The Phoenix, seeing his fallen prey,
Swooped down to finish the kill.
It seemed to scream in triumph,
As the Dark One screamed in fear,
And reaching out one taloned claw,
It tore out its victim's heart.
His life extinguished, the Dark One vanished,
And the Phoenix transformed.
The Red One stood in sorrowful triumph,
Vengence and victory were his, the battle won.
He knelt over his dying lover,
As his tears fell on her face.
His Love renewed her dying spirit,
As well as her dying soul.
She looked at him and smiled,
Her Love for him renewed.
Again, into the Phoenix, the Red One did transform,
And taking his loved one upon his back, into the sky did soar.
Their hearts were again as one, to live forevermore.

        By David J. Stayduhar
        23 October 1990
        3:00 PM
Untitled (or "it is finished...")

The battle is over
I've finally lost
I've got no strength left to fight
All my hopes have gone away
I've given all I could give
I'm left with nothing
my dreams are blown to dust
like ashes they've scattered
I surrender my life to the reaper
I pray he'll come for me soon
There is nothing for me here but sorrow
Grief, pain and hatred fill my soul
My love no longer has meaning
It, too, has left me stranded
with nothing to fall back on.
Nobody seems to care anymore.
least of all, those who should.
My "friends" have deserted me.
Left me to die all alone.
Where is Help when I need it?
I can't survive on my own.
I pray for love to find me again.
I pray to find my way home.
Please, somebody hear me.
tell me that hope still exists.
let my broken heart be mended.
let my dreams once again be fulfilled.
Show me the way to happiness.
So my heart can fly free once more!

        By David J. Stayduhar
        22 October 1990
        9:45 PM
The following was a tribute to friends found and friends lost, I think I can still name each person represented in this one (In Order): Myself, Heather W,  Doug B, Lisa H, Dria H, Tom N, Harold L, Tom V, Monica H, and Bill H. 

 Ten they were, following fate.
Each was his own, yet one with the whole.
Three were as one, out of the same womb born.
Another from darkness, into light, then darkness again.
One to nature's call did heed,
Whose lover followed the fighter's creed.
Another, to friends, was honor bound.
While one, to music, devoted no sight, but sound.
While his lover followed where'er he went.
And yet another did his best
At playing tricks, illusions and jest.
The leader, love scorned and all alone
A raging fire burning forever within his soul.
To Magic did he devote his life,
But trusting no one, to avoid the hurt.
His one love gone, to darkness turned,
So in his soul, the fire burned.
The pain he tried so hard to hide,
Still his friends know of the turmoil inside.

His sister to justice her life did devote,
To follow the paths of the gods she served.
Always caring for others as was her way,
She sought for equality and harmony.
Quiet and thoughtful, apart from the rest,
While helping others, she did her best.
Giving the best from her very heart,
While keeping her own life from falling apart.

Their darker brother, chaos he served.
Darker than night, like the Raven bird.
Enshrouded in darkness and mystery,
He served the darkest part of neutrality.
Always trouble did his magic bring,
He seemed to bring chaos to everything.
But still in his heart, some loving would find,
For this one cared for those of his kind.
Another to darkness, from light did she fall.
Heeding the tempting of Darkness' dread call.
Abandoning all to save only herself.
Betraying her friends while she was preserved.
Using the love of all those who cared
And turning to hatred, her dark side she bared.
Changing her ways of goodness to sin,
Leaving her lover to die from within.

 The next one, a druid from wilderness came,
Seeing all nature as one and the same.
Seeing the beauty in everything.
Striving to keep the balance in all things.
She walked the ways of truth and love,
Seeking her guidance from the gods above.
Where help was needed, she always was giving,
Reflecting her fondness for all that was living.

 The ranger, to fighting did take,
The only way he knew his living to make.
His love for the druid, one so sincere,
He knew that with her he saw everything clear.
Respect for his leader, and childhood friend,
Caused him to remain loyal 'til the end.
He knows that his friend is lonely inside,
So the ranger was always by his friend's side.

The knight, to honor, holds true.
While protecting the others from impending Evil.
To his friends he offers kindly advice,
But often his words are misinterpreted.
His friends know that he only means well,
He hates to seem them going through living hell.
Still honor he upholds until the end,
When living to help those whom he calls "friend."

Another to music his life did devote.
He played for the lonely and meak.
His sightless eyes saw more than the rest.
Because in his music he always saw the best.
His songs cheered the lonely,
His words calmed their fears.
He lived for his music,
He lived to dry all tears.

The barmaid, his lover, was always beside,
To give him encouragement, to be his guide.
She loved him so deeply, they were never apart.
His love was embedded inside of her heart.
She sang with his playing, her voice filled the night.
This is what gave him his unnatural sight.
Loving each other, always together,
They'll be there for each other--always, forever.

The last, looked down on by all,
A jester by trade, his puns would appall.
He tried to make everyone laugh and smile,
But to all of his friends, he was only a trial.
Downcast and ridiculed, he never fit in,
But still he would try to manage a grin.
However, no matter how stupid he seemed to be,
His companions put up with his company.

Ten they were, trying to get by.
For those that they loved and lost they would cry.
Three reunited, after so many years.
Another forsook all, for her--many tears.
Druid and fighter falling in love.
Still seeking favor in the gods above.
Knight still protecting those who swore true.
Minstrel relieving moods which were blue,
His lover remaining to guide his way,
The jester still trying to fit into the frame,
And still they remain friends 'til the end,
Through suff'ring and heartache, broken hearts that will mend.

        By David J. Stayduhar
        24 October 1990
        7:00 PM
There are more somewhere out there, and once I find them, I will share those as well.

my playlist

This div will be replaced