Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Yay! The day is finally here! I hope you all enjoy yourselves tonight. Be safe and have lots of fun! I'll be back tommorow, hopefully with a full article.

Power to the pen and those who can get candy with it!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Story of Spooky Stories

Hello again readers,

Well, tomorrow is the day that millions of children all over the nation are awaiting. It's the one night mom can't say 'no' to your sweet tooth. Yes, tomorrow is Halloween. I was running out of blog ideas until a young lady friend of mine suggested I write a brief history of the festival since many are confused about its origins and purpose. I assume many of you will be passing yourselves off as ghosts and ghouls this coming Wednesday. So I hope you find this interesting.

Where to begin? Well, to avoid plagiarism I'll state that all the information I am about to regurgitate comes from This is a great research website should you ever need one.

Now then, let's go back in time to the mid 5th century. The Celts of Ireland celebrated a festival known as "Samhain", which fell on November 1st. The word literally means "summer's end" and was used as a time to offer sacrifices to the gods as thanks for a prosperous harvest.

Far to the south, in the Roman Empire, citizens held a tribute to the goddess Pomona, the deity of fruit trees and abundance. When the Romans conquered Britain, they incorporated the Celtic traditions into their own. The Romans also instituted the festival Feralia, a day in which everyone offered prayers on behalf of the dead. As the Catholic Church arose, the observance of "All Saints Day" became a common practice. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory the III changed the date from May 13 to November 1st. "All Saints Day" was a time in which all the saints of the Catholic Church were honored. "All Hallows Eve" (Halloween) was a type of set-up night for the festival.

What about all the other things? Jack-o-lanterns for instance? According to legend, they were lamps used by a man named Jack as he wandered for eternity over the face of the earth, denied entrance to both Heaven and Hell. It was introduced to America in the 1840's, but the Irish who did so found it easier to use a pumpkin rather than the traditional turnip.

Bobbing for apples? An ancient version of throwing the bouquet at a wedding. Unmarried people who could bite into an apple on a string or in water were thought of as the next ones to get hitched.

Trick or treating? It resembles the All Souls Day of "going a-souling" in which the poor would beg door to door. They promised to say a prayer for the dead in exchange for charity. It is highly possible, however, that the practice as WE know developed here in America with no such connections.

Ghost stories? A Celtic belief that on Samhain, the boundaries between the world of the living and the realm of the dead were shattered, allowing departed ones to walk amongst us. It's obvious that this belief has survived.

What we can see is a large blend of ancient traditions, religious holidays and a little bit of our own creativity, producing Halloween that we know today. So as you get a piece of candy thrown into your bag, remember that many survived because it. Try putting THAT one past your parents. "Oh yes mommy, I need to go trick-or-treating because it may be the only way to get my next meal." Come to think of it, that's not such a bad idea....but don't forget to offer a prayer!

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this. I'll be back tomorrow with another post. And remember this: if you ever have comments or want me to talk about something that interests you personally, don't hesitate to send me an email! I'd love to hear from you. Most important of all, be safe, have fun, get LOTS of candy and stay away from those crappy horror flicks.

Power to the pen and those who scare the living heck our of people with it!

Monday, October 29, 2007

There will be no post today

I'm terribly sorry readers, but I simply did not have time to write an interesting article today. Please send me an email if you have any good ideas, I'd love to hear from you!

Power to the pen and those who wield it!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tube Tantrum

Hey readers,

I hope you are all having a wonderful Sunday afternoon like I am. My next rant is about a series of issues that plauge over 40 million people every day across the world. So sit back and relax as I point out the annoying quirks in our favorite video sharing community: Youtube.

Now, as most of us know, Youtube allows people to share videos of their favorite things, or post their own creations online for others to critique. It's safe, it's free, and all you have to do is follow a few rules. You have the option of flagging a video you think isn't suitable for the website, and being able to save that one comedy skit you nearly died watching is just awesome. It's a giant alchemy of every kind of video, some types you never knew existed, such as AMV's (Anime Music Videos) and fan dubs.

But that's precisely the problem! There's too dang many! It's all in a big, unorganized heap that we have to sort through. If you grew up without cable or satellite TV like I did, then getting high-speed Internet and logging onto Youtube is the next best thing. You can look up any video you want and watch for free. Sounds great, right? Well let's just hope that what you're looking for is on the most-popular list.

The main issue I have with Youtube is that is uses the same searching techniques as Google: finding individual words in lines of text and ranking them according to the number of hits they get. But why is that an issue? You have to be ultra specific with your terminology as you search. How come? Because there are too dang many articles or websites that make mention of stuff every day! You could be looking for an article that talks about classic movies, but somewhere in there you get a hit for a tutorial on how to use Windows Movie Maker. Why? Because the tag line has the very word "article" in it.

A good example of what I'm talking about is a search I did last night. I'm not a big fan of South Park, but I saw a funny clip from an episode that made fun of World of Warcraft. I laughed so hard I nearly choked! My family is coming to visit me in a few days. With them is my younger brother who likes the series. So I figured, "Why not favorite that clip to show him?" All I had to do was run a quick search and narrow it down to the correct video, right? A task that should have only taken a few minutes nearly drained a hour of my time. Want to know why? Because the clip didn't exist anymore!

That's right. A short video clip I had watched only a week ago had vanished without a trace. I typed in every search phrase I could think of using the words "South Park", "World of Warcraft", "episode" and "funny". The list of hits I browsed through was everything BUT the clip I was looking for. I got hits for music videos, fan made trailers of the episode, but not the episode itself! Heck I even got a hit for Invader Zim. I have three words for this...what the crap?! Even if the guy hated the site, quit and deleted everything on his account, there ought to be at least ONE other user out there who would gladly take his place. But no, I had to go all the way over to Myspace and look it up there. An easy way to fix this problem would be to have a better category system. All it takes is a simple program that requires videos to be labeled properly. And please, for the love of all that's sacred, get rid of the tag lines! Half the irrelevant hits I got were because the dumb users who posted the vids wrote in every possible tag word they could imagine. They REALLY want their videos to get watched! It's like searching for a needle in a haystack except there IS no needle anyway!

Another thing about this site that really sticks in my craw is the big deal they have about copyrighting. I'll use a hypothetical example of myself. If I post a Star Wars video, let's say an actual clip from one of the films, no editing, no dub or anything. Let's pretend that I forgot to post George Lucas as the director and 20th Century Fox as the studio that made it, or let's say I didn't know at all. Chances are that video will be scrapped. Why? I didn't give credit where credit is due. That's understandable in some cases, but why can't you just send me an email politely asking to correct the problem? If you go around deleting every video that violates your guidelines without giving them a chance, not only will they be confused as to what they did wrong, but they'll quit the site for sure.

The online laws of video copyrighting and piracy are as confusing as the website itself. No one gets it right all the time, so cut some slack!

Something else that's really odd are those red bars at the top of the screen telling you a video has been removed for whatever reason. If you click on a video link, you may see something like this:

"This video has been removed for terms of use violations."

Ok, that's fine, a little vague, but I have no complaint. It was probably obscene or something. On other occasions, however, you may see a line like:

"This video has been removed due to claims by Paramount Pictures."

What?! Are you freak'in kidding me? What's a billion-dollar studio like Paramount doing on Youtube anyway? It's no wonder that there are hardly any full-length movies on the site. There are video size limits yeah, but it's because the users are scared out of their wits! The big boys upstairs seem to be real paranoid about the whole piracy thing. I wouldn't want my work being copied illegally, but these guys have taken it to the extreme. It's like the Spanish Inquisition all over again: a complete search of the entire Internet looking for offenders. You'd better have plenty of ways to prove your innocence or you'll be burned at the stake, heretic.

This is just insane. I mean, if you were having a conversation with a friend trying to tell them about a great book you just finished, but had to keep repeating the author's name and publishing company every time it came up, you'd lose your mind! Same thing with Youtube. Do we REALLY have to give credit to something as well known as Star Wars? Half the world already knows who made it, and we're more than happy to educate the next generation. Fan videos seem to be a big target for this crap. But here's a thought: since most fan videos are dedicated to things that are popular, why not have Youtube just do a Google search and learn about it? If it's as popular as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, is there a need to say who wrote it? I sure as heck didn't invent either!

Speaking of Google, don't use it to search for videos you can't find on Youtube. Why? Because more than half the search results will be from Youtube anyway! My only advise is to chat with users who might have what you want and ask them to email it to you. Then hop back and forth between Youtube and Myspace. One of them is BOUND to have it.

*Sigh* Well, I'd better calm down before I hurt myself.

Power to the pen and those who wield it without fear of institutionalized repression!
(Original quote by Taylor Harbin)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

In the Gutter

Hello readers,

I overslept a great deal more than I wanted to on this Saturday, but last night I thought of a topic to write about that has gotten me all fired up. So fasten your seat belts, we're headed for the highway of controversy.

Ok, in my quest to find publishers for my material I've noticed that a lot of them have an Erotica section. This whole genre irritates me enough as it is, but the straw that breaks the camel's back here is when companies will say, "We accept erotica but no pornography."

What? Did I just read that?

That's right people: erotica is different from porn, or so THEY say. I'm here to dispel that lucid myth. I'm looking at the dictionary right now as I type this article. You know what it says?

Pornography: "Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal." (

How could someone miss that? Now granted, I don't read "erotica" or stuff like that, but I've noticed a great deal of modern fantasy, such as the series "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R. R. Martin, and the book "Acacia" by David Anothy Durham have some explicit material. I'm willing to give these guys a bit of leniency, since I'm sure sex is not the major theme of the novels, rather just unnecessary side stories. The point is this: how can you possibly make a distinction? Are erotic novels one step below porn because of the lack of pictures? I don't know, the cover art often seems pretty borderline to me.

The funny thing is that you'll never see big companies like Random House or Tor and Forge advertising an erotica section, the companies are always fairly new and low-budget, often electronic firms. They've probably figured out that these kinda of books push the envelope too far to the edge and will only sell to a certain percentage of the population. Smart move. Why would the literary titans want to pump millions of dollars into a genre of books that are, quite frankly, disgusting? Sexual slavery, women using prosthetics so they can play the male role with their lesbian partners, adultery, rape, and incest? Makes me sick each time I think about it! It's just another useless exploitation of the human imagination and gross depiction of the mistreatment of women...and sometimes men.

I remember reading a quote by some guy long ago who was reviewing an erotic novel, arguing this very issue. He said, "Pornography is just body parts moving together, erotica has a plot." There's...I'm sorry, I just can't see how that's true, since both "genres" have a HUGE theme of sex in one way or another. You NEVER see films compared in this way. Even if the rating is just PG-13, they ALWAYS say "Contains sexual content." No sugarcoating, just the bare, naked truth.

While we're on the subject, is there even such a thing as a "pornographic novel" today? (Yes, there were porn novels written in the Victorian age and so on, but that's another story) I thought it'd be fair to examine the differences between the two, but I can't find any website that sells these books. The only hits I can get on Google are articles written by established authors on the topic.

This whole thing is just stupid. I mean, it's like trying to define how someone can be legally drunk. They're still a danger to everyone out there if they get behind the wheel, but hey, at this toxicity, they may just CRIPPLE someone instead of killing them. I'll bet that a lot of companies are trying to do the same thing, the catch is that I've never heard an erotic novel reader give a good explanation as to what THEY think the difference is.

So what's it going to be readers? Are you a pervert or...a pervert? Honestly, why does anyone buy an erotic novel to begin with? As women say, "They only want one thing."

Now I'm hungry. So, till next time my friends.

Power to the pen and those who wield it with dignity!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fire Emblem: To the Brink of Madness

Good morning everyone,

Ok, so I was at last night (actually it took me to watching clips of the Angry Video Game Nerd, when I see this picture appear on the side of the screen. It was a promotion for Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. Now, I love RPG's such as Final Fantasy, the Lunar series, Baiten Kaitos, and so on. Marth and Roy were the two most awesome characters in Super Smash Bros Melee for the Game Cube, and on the same console, a Fire Emblem installment was released. I have just one question: why call it Radiant Dawn? The last FE title was Path of Radiance, and unless it has significant meaning to the story, I don't see the point. Was that the REAL Japanese title or the American distributors messing up again?

Anyway, I was interested by the screen so I clicked on it. A little bar came down at the top of the browser that said "Pop-up blocked, click here for options." Now any computer geek knows that holding down the Cnrtl button while left-clicking a link can open up whatever website you want in a new window and override many pop-up blockers. A handy trick and easy fix to the problem, right? Wrong. The bar just kept flashing, obviously not allowing me to get a new window for whatever reason. So I right-clicked it, choosing the "Always allow pop-ups for this website" option.

Here's what makes me mad: the blocker actually has to REFRESH the page! That's right! It can't just say, "Ok, he's unlocked the safeguard let's move on," no, it sets out on a personal vendetta, more like, "Oh, you didn't....that's it, it's on now boy! Take THIS!" The thing I hate about side window advertisements is that most of them are scams or all out boring to begin with, and if there is just one that DOES look remotely interesting, you have to put up with this stupid thing getting in your way every time. So after the page gets refreshed, I thought, "Alright, whatever, I'll just click it again." I looked on the page expecting Fire Emblem, but what I got in its place was a Honda label. Now I'll never know what the new game is about and probably go into depression, losing sleep as I try to pick up the pieces of my broken life.

It's not a total loss. The main character is a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros Brawl, released for both the Wii and Game Cube. So after I get home for Christmas, I'm going to the store, then me and Ike are gonna whoop some butt.

Power to the pen and those who wield it!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Igniting a Wild Fire


Welcome to Oblivion Sphere! This is my first post of the blog *sigh* what a feeling! I'll just start with a brief intro. I am a writer, a novelist, a creative engineer who cherishes his craft, constantly refining and improving it. My original dream was to be a comic book artist, manga especially. But at age 11 (or maybe 12?) I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. The pain and limiting effects of this disease (which I still carry six years later) compounded with my own dissatisfaction of my work, eventually led to me retiring the pencils and markers for good. At 15, I decided to try writing as an experiment to see if I could use it to channel all the energy built up inside. I started typing up a story on a computer we had in the basement, but then something happened: I couldn't stop! It exploded into an all-out obsession in just six weeks, when I had finished the first 175 pages. Now I spend a little time almost every day doing what I love, immersed in fantasy, science fiction, drama, romance, action, mystery and thrills.

My first novel, Lunar Dawn, is available for download at I have more books in this series on their way, but after there is also a load of homework calling me. Please return soon to read my next post or to comment on related subject matters! I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Power to the pen and those who wield it!

Taylor Harbin