Welcome to Midnight Oil Diary

I’m glad you dropped by!  This blog contains commentary on gaming, fantasy, and science fiction, along with some of my own stories.  If you’re here for the blog, please read on.  If you’d like to go right to the stories, follow the links below.  You can also find links to the stories on the sidebar at right.

The Stories

ChildhoodsReverberationsA Hand to Hold
The Harp’s Call

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National League Pennant!

Photo by Steshka Willems from Pexels

I was seven years old when I saw my first baseball game — I still remember: the Cincinnati Reds versus the San Diego Padres. My Dad, my older brother, and I went down to Cincinnati on an old school bus with a YMCA group. As we passed through town on the way to the brand-new Riverfront Stadium, my Dad pointed out some ruins. Crosley Field, the old Reds ball park, was in the process of demolition. Seeing that made me sad somehow. However, the melancholy vanished as soon as I glimpsed the new stadium — how huge! How beautiful! I think the Reds won the game, though it would be hard to prove it.

That would have been 1972. I’ve been a baseball fan ever since.

My family and I moved to Virginia in the late 1990s. The closest major league baseball team was in Baltimore, although we had a minor league team close by. But in 2005, the National League’s Montreal Expos moved to Washington, D.C., renaming themselves the Washington Nationals. The first three years in town, they played in the old Robert F. Kennedy stadium while their new park was built. Since 2008, they’ve played in Nationals Park near the Navy Yard. I’ve attended games in both places, and try to catch a game or two every year.

Anyway, this turned out to be the Nats’ year! Although their season started off badly, they’ve made it all the way to the World Series, beating the St. Louis Cardinals last night for the National League Pennant! The video below covers game highlights, to which I’ll add a few observations:

  • The Nats scored all seven of their runs in the bottom of the first inning, not long after the game started.
  • The voices in the video come from the television broadcast and from the team’s radio announcers. The voice at the end of the video is Nationals radio announcer Charlie Slowes, who’s known for extremely effusive game calling. His broadcast partner, Dave Jageler, is much calmer.
  • At around the 5:30 point in the video, a Nationals player named Gerardo Parra comes to bat. He became famous for using the “Baby Shark” song for his walkup music. In the video, you can see people in the audience doing the Baby Shark dance!
  • During the celebration footage at the end of the video, take a close look at the player wearing number 11. That’s Ryan Zimmerman, who’s been with the team since 2006, during years when the team was, frankly, lousy. His joyous expression is well-earned!

Also-Rans

Hi Folks! As you’ve noticed, we’re kind of between stories right now. I’ve been developing some ideas in my head for a couple of tales, but I’m not ready to commit anything to the blog just yet. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of the illustrations I made for the stories that I wound up not using for one reason or another.

As you’ve seen, I base my illustrations on screenshots, which I process using a photo editor. I started out using Picasa, which I don’t think is supported any more, but you still might be able to find. But for the last few months, I’ve been using Paint.net, and I’ve been very happy with the results it gives for someone like me with rather limited skills. In any case, I take a lot more screenshots than I actually use, so here are a few also-rans for the story “Childhoods.”

The shot at left shows young Frida learning to read. It’s not a bad picture, really, but the one I wound up using was a little cuter.

In Part III of “Childhoods,” a teenaged Frida tries to line up an arrow shot at a wolf that’s trying to get into the abbey’s hen house. The shot at right shows Frida with her bow drawn, ready to fire. I wound up not using it because I couldn’t get the colors as rich as I wanted them. Also, if you look closely, her bow is drawn, but the arrow isn’t really nocked, is it? Blame that on Skyrim, not me!

Toward the end of Part IV of the story, Frida must defend herself from a lecherous and cruel Baron, so I needed some pictures of Frida handling an ax. The shot below (which I also posted at Emma’s Elders Scrolls Forum) uses Picasa’s CinemaScope effect, which came out kind of interesting, although it would have to show the Baron in front of Frida for it to make much sense.

Finally, at the conclusion of the story, we meet the main character as an elderly woman recounting her adventures with the Dragonborn and her life’s work thereafter. I wanted her to look distinguished and somewhat regal, so I took a lot of shots of her sitting on a large chair. This one might have worked, but the perspective was a little bit off (her hands look huge!):

For me, creating the illustrations is a significant part of the fun of creating my fan fiction, and as I wrote more, I got a little better at putting the illustrations together. Next time, we’ll look at some also-rans from my other stories!

Conclusion of “The Harp’s Call,” Finally!

Hey everybody! I’ve finally got the conclusion to “The Harp’s Call” up and published, where Cari answers some important questions, namely::

  • What is Näktergal’s secret?
  • Will Cari finally be vindicated?
  • What, exactly, is wrong with Aunt Teri?

To find the answers to these questions, click here!

Note, to access previous installments, please click the following links:

Revisiting Skyrim, Again and Again

Photo by Maria Pop from Pexels

Hey folks, still not quite done with the latest installment of the Harp story. My excuse: I’m on business travel this week, and while I left thinking I’d have plenty of time to write in the evenings, it hasn’t turned out that way so far. But in the meantime, I’d like to share an interesting essay from The Brink of Gaming where Brink discusses why, after all these years since its release, Skyrim still has a hold on him.

Brink’s been playing the game ever since it came out, at least a couple years before I could convince the House Appropriations Committee (of one) to let me buy a rig capable of handling the game. Brink’s reasons for his continued enthrallment center around Skyrim’s unique atmosphere, the amount of control players have over their characters, the modding community, and the excellent score. I guess my reasons track more or less to his, although for me, the modding community is Skyrim’s biggest attraction.

Brink’s essay is here. Give it a read, and be sure to check out the rest of his site as well, as he’s given us a lot to think about!

More Great Web Fiction

Photo by Stephan Seeber from Pexels

Hey folks!  I’m almost done with the next (and probably penultimate) installment of “The Harp’s Call.” I’m just working out some details and preparing the illustrations.  In the meantime, I found another terrific web site you might enjoy.  Allene Lowrey is an extremely prolific author, and her web serial on the adventures of Viking Einarr Stigandersen already encompasses six books!  There’s a lot there to read, I’m not even a third of the way through it yet.  Do yourself a favor and check out Allene R. Lowrey at Tangled Threads Publishing.  I know you’ll enjoy it just as much as I do! 

Story Soundtrack

acoustic-bowed-stringed-instrument-cello-2228466
Photo by Quentin Ecrepont from Pexels

I was twelve or thirteen years old when I got it – the Star Wars motion picture soundtrack, composed by John Williams, conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.  It was a double LP, and contained extensive liner notes, explaining where each piece of incidental music occurred in the movie, how the pieces were composed and orchestrated, and so forth.  I listened endlessly, and while the records are probably still at my parents’ house, I’m sure they’re pretty worn out by now.

That was in 1977 or 1978.  If you haven’t noticed by now, the “Old” in Old RPM Daddy isn’t exactly a joke!

Since then, I’ve always listened closely to the music at the movies, and have collected quite a few motion picture soundtracks.  I have come to understand, maybe a little, the important role music plays in movies.  Of course, that goes for video games, too, and we could spend an entire post discussing (arguing?) which games had the greatest soundtracks.

But one thing I’ve always enjoyed while listening to this or that soundtrack is composing my own story to go with the music.  From there, I started thinking about what a soundtrack to any of the stories on this site might sound like, if they were made into movies.  This isn’t unprecedented.  One writer I enjoy, Elspeth Aurilie, has a page on her blog with a Spotify playlist built around her characters (be sure to give a listen; it’s great fun!).  Seeing Elspeth’s playlist made me want to do one of my own, so here it is, a playlist for “A Hand to Hold, built using selections from a number of other film soundtracks.

Having put the playlist up there to look at, let me explain which part of the story each selection is supposed to represent and why:

  • The first track, from Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack for Norwegian Wood, is meant to represent the beginning of the story, where Jot talks about the things he’d always remember and things he’d like to forget. Some of the memories are very painful, but he wants to keep them even so.  I think this track reflects that mood fairly well.
  • The second track is also from Norwegian Wood. I thought the piece conveyed a sense of motion, and would fit nicely in any scene where Jot is walking along.
  • The third track is from Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack to Little Buddha. I thought this piece would work as background to “Troubled Times” in Part III of the story.
  • The fourth track is from Michael Nyman’s soundtrack to The Piano. It’s a rather repetitive piece in a minor key, which I thought matched with Miki’s description of her life as a servant in “Lady Mara Calls You,” which is found in Part IV of the story.
  • Track five is from the soundtrack to The Book Thief, by John Williams. This is a rather tender piece, which I thought might be a match for Jot and Miki’s reconciliation in “What Can You Do? What Can You Give?” or Jot and Miki waiting out a storm in “The Knife and the Brooch,” both in Part V of the story.
  • The sixth track is another Michael Nyman piece from The Piano. When I listen to this one, I imagine an overhead shot of Jot and Miki struggling with hunger and exhaustion as they make their way to Riften, a scene from “The Final Steps,” in Part V of the story.
  • Track seven goes back to The Book Thief. If you’ve ever seen the film, you’ll know where this music appears.  It’s a heartbreaking piece, and here represents Jot realizing the awful truth at the end of Part V.
  • The eighth track returns us to Little Buddha. I thought this was a very mournful piece, and I could see it as background for Jot saying his final farewell to his friend in “As Sparks Fly Upward,” which is in the conclusion to the story.
  • The next-to-last track is another from Norwegian Wood. This piece makes me think of hope and healing, and here represents Jot’s slow recovery and growth, as seen in the “Families” section of the story’s conclusion.
  • Finally, a last piece from The Book Thief: It’s another hopeful piece, one that points to eventual happiness.  I thought it fit with the last section of the story, “There’s Always Room for More,” when Jot realizes that Miki has never really left him, and he has a chance to be happy if he only accepts it.

This isn’t a perfect list, of course.  Some of the pieces are mighty long – longer than the scenes they’re supposed to compliment.  Further, other people might have different ideas of which music might work best.  If anyone has any ideas on music that might fit with this story, or any of the others, I’d be delighted to hear about it!

Excuse me, may I purchase a TamRail pass?

Hi Folks!  I came across something pretty interesting recently, and since it kind of fits with the spirit of the story I’m currently working on, I’d like to share it.  Artist/Architect/Designer Michael Tyznik has designed a rail map of Tamriel, showing the trunk lines connecting the major cities, plus the branches connecting the outlying areas.  All provinces, from High Rock to Black Marsh (plus the Summerset Isles) are included.  It looks exactly like the kind of guide business travelers or tourists would buy for any country in our own world.  I’m fascinated by it for a couple reasons:  First, I’ve always liked maps, ever since I was a little kid.  Second, Michael Tyznik’s map gives us another insight as to what Tamriel might be like in something akin to our own present day.  That’s something I’ve been pondering, successfully or not, in a couple of the stories here, and I’m always glad to see someone else’s take.  Be sure to have a look, and while you’re at it, check out the rest of the site!