Omir the Storyteller

Stories. Music. Politics. Technology. Baseball. Friends. Family. Potrzebie.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

See, this is what I love about the Internets


So I was all set to write this diary at some point, bewailing my lack of visitors and comments, when at the bottom of the comments to my first post I find this. And it is the funniest thing I've seen all day, and when I say that you have to take into account that my entire family was gathered together in one place this afternoon.

Nick Danger said...

Omir, praise allah I have found you at last. It is I, your brother Oxnard. We were so worried when you failed to return from the camel wash, elder sister Plum weeps so much she has become a tourist attraction. Please return home to your family and herd, as the dust harvest approaches and we are shorthanded. I pray for your speedy return.

P.S. father says if you have become a Yankee fan, please bring him an a-rod bobble head.

Saturday, May 07, 2005 8:41:45 PM

So I did some digging, and through the miracle of Internet sleuthing I found that this is indeed from Oxnard. And I rejoice, because bro, you owe me five dinars.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The end of an era


So we got the news this morning: Dan Wilson is out for the season.

Given that he's 36 years old and a catcher, this may mean he's out of the lineup for good.

Now that Edgar has retired, Dan Wilson holds the title of "ancient Mariner." He's been with the team since being traded from the Reds in 1993 and is the last link to the Cinderella team of 1995. I have no idea how many games he's caught, how many runners he's thrown out, how many close plays at the plate he's made.

I do remember him snuffing a couple of rallies.

I also remember him hitting an inside-the-park grand slam against the Tigers.

But what's more, I remember him just being a stand-up guy. The kind who donates to his community. The kind who helps kids who need help. The kind who lives Christian values instead of just talking about them.

Geez, I sound like the guy is dead. He's just on the 60 disabled list. I won't be surprised if he works hard and tries to come back next year, although if he does, given that's he's blown an ACL at age 36 it might be a kindness to put him in at first base instead of catcher. Still, we may have seen the last of him in a Mariner uniform . . .

Or, maybe we haven't. I agree with Dave Hansen on one thing: Dan Wilson would make a heck of a manager. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see the guy with the number 6 on his back coming out of the first base dugout five or ten years from now to discuss a call with the home plate umpire.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

About The Wolf and the Dog


This was the first story I did for Sunday Griot over on Daily Kos. I figured storytelling was a good way to frame arguments, and this was a good place to start. The story is straight from Aesop, just rewritten in my own words.

The Wolf and the Dog


Once upon a time, many years ago when the forests still came right up to the edge of the city, a wolf who lived in the forest was near starvation. Winter had come early and hard, and the wolf had not been able to find enough to eat.

In fact times were getting desparate enough that the wolf had started to venture outside the forest. On one particular cold morning, tired and with his belly growling, he came upon a dog from the city. This dog looked well-fed and reasonably happy. "Hello, cousin," the dog said, "you look like you've fallen on hard times."

"So I have," replied the wolf. "I haven't had a decent meal in a week. The pond I drink from is frozen over and I can't get water out of it. Things ain't lookin' good."

"That's what happens when you don't have a regular source of food," the dog offered. "You know you could work steadily and have your food given to you."

"Really?" the wolf asked, his hunger heightening his attention. "How would I do that?"

"You could work with me. Come, I'll take you to my house"

So the dog and the wolf trotted side by side, until eventually the wolf spotted a worn patch of fur about the dog's neck. "That mark on your neck," the wolf asked. "How's you get that?"

"Oh, that's nothing," replied the dog. "That's where my master puts the collar on me. It chafes a but, but you soon get used to it."

The wolf immediately turned and started trotting back toward the forest.

"Wait!" cried the dog. "I thought you wanted food to eat and water to drink in exchange for work."

The wolf turned back just long enough to call back to the dog, "Better to starve free than to be a fat slave."

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The best satirist you've never heard of


His name is Roy Zimmerman, he lives over at, and he's wicked funny. Give a listen to these two songs and see if you don't agree:



These links require an MP3 player, and they're complete songs, not crippled clips. Pass 'em around and tell everybody where you got 'em (Roy's site, not here). (well, OK, you can tell 'em about here, but . . . well you know.)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

About Self-Portrait


Inspiration strikes in the strangest places and at the strangest times. Last Thursday morning I was up for a half hour at about 4 in the morning. Sometimes I can't go right back to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night, so I got up and worked on the new computer I've been setting up for my wife and made a post here. Then, after I'd shut off the monitor and was halfway up the stairs on my way to bed, the first line of the story above came to me.

Now when you get a line like that and you're a storyteller, you have to start thinking, why were things not going well? Even at 4 in the morning. And one thing led to another, and I was awake far more than I should have been fleshing out the story. I went to my day job Thursday tired but happy.

Then the real work began. I've rewritten the story four or five times since then, and I'm still not absolutely sure it's the best it can be. But sometimes when you're a writer, you just have to quit editing, send it off, and hope for the best.

The reason I called this "Self-Portrait" should be obvious. On Daily Kos and Booman Tribune I called it "The Weapon" because I didn't want to give too much away. Not that it fooled anyone who read it, I'm sure. I don't travel around on a donkey or wear motley, but I do consider myself a vector for the weapon.

One more thing I should mention about this story. Now that I think about it, there's a similar story from China:

Once upon a time there was a master thief. The authorities knew he was a master thief, and searched him every time he crossed into and out of the city, but they could never find what he had stolen. One day, as the master thief lay on his deathbed, the chief constable asked him what it was he had been stealing all this time. His answer was a single word: "Ideas."

Mariners are back to form


After winning three in a row, the Boys in Blue lost two at the hands of the evil Athletics. And one-run decisions at that.

This is why I call the Mariners the most exciting -- and most exasperating -- team in baseball.



Things were not going well in the Land of the Idiot King. It was a hot, dry summer. The terror level had been raised to plaid based on reports from the Ministry of Truth that someone was deploying a weapon that was a clear and present danger to the Kingdom. The portion of the Army that hadn't been sent overseas to expand the Kingdom's borders was busy scouring the cities, looking for the weapon. Tensions and tempers were on edge.

In the absence of concrete reports from the Ministry, rumors and stories flew. Some said the weapon was so powerful, there was no defending against it at all. Others said it spread like a disease, into places even ants and mosquitoes could not go. And yet others said even if you saw the weapon, you would not recognize it until it was too late. And still everybody searched for the weapon.

On one particularly hot day, the soldiers scouring the horizon for signs of trouble saw something approaching from the distance. As he neared the city they could see it was a man riding a donkey. The man was dressed in wild motley, with a tricorn hat that had bells on each of its corners that jingled as he bounced up and down. When he got close enough to be heard, the man started calling out in a sing-song voice, "Stories! I have stories to tell!" Then he called out again. "Stories! I have stories to tell!!"

A group of children who had been playing near the city gate heard him and rushed out toward him. The invisible communications network that springs up among children whenever something truly interesting is going on sprang to life, and other children ran out to meet the storyteller. When they had almost reached him he put out his palms, called "STOP!" and halted his donkey. The children, not knowing what to make of this, stopped and waited to see what would happen next; then, a moment later, the storyteller called out "Let's have a parade!" The children cheered and they fell in behind him, and he led them in singing "I Am A Fine Musician" as they marched. Sliding the slides on their unseen trombones and pounding their pretend drums, the impromptu parade followed the storyteller through the gate of the city and on to the market square, where he dismounted.

"Go! Tell your families! Tell your friends!" the storyteller said. "Tell them to meet me here in fifteen minutes and I shall have stories to tell!" The children rushed off in every direction, except for one or two who stayed behind to pet the donkey and feed it a carrot.

The storyteller took advantage of the relative calm to walk around a little bit and shake off some of the stiffness of the long ride. As he walked, a woman approached him off to the side of the market area. A hatchet-faced biddy with a purposeful walk. He'd never seen her before, but he knew her type.

"Ah," he said, "The Welcome Wagon!"

If she was amused by this, she showed no sign of it. "How do you do," she said perfunctorily. "I am Miss Ilmore of the Citizens Orthodoxy Committee."

I'll just bet you are, he thought to himself. "Hi," he said casually as he continued to shake his limbs and walk around, jingling as he went. "Nice weather we're having."

"Not really," she replied. "May I ask what you're doing here?"

He stopped walking, sighed, and looked up at the cloudless sky. "I'm an entertainer," he said. "I go from town to town, singing my songs and telling my stories. I thought the people here could use a little cheering up." He paused and took a deep breath. "You know, what with this weather and the terror alerts and all."

"I see," she said curtly. She then turned her attention to the donkey. "Would you mind if I looked in your saddlebags?"

He walked over to the donkey and opened the saddlebags it carried. "I'm not sure you want to," he said as he brought out the contents. He'd had to prove his harmlessness many times in the past few years, and by now it was something of a ritual with him. "I've been on the trail a very long time, and don't get many opportunities to wash up. A bedroll . . . a change of clothes . . . some food . . . carrots for my donkey. Nothing to worry about."

The woman continued to watch him as he began to repack his possessions. "Thank you. You know how it is. You can't be too careful these days. They say someone could smuggle the weapon in under our very noses, you know."

"How right you are," the storyteller said as he finished packing and cinched the saddlebags.

"May I ask you a question?" the woman said.

"Of course," he replied.

"I'm sure you've traveled many places and heard many things." She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "Do you think the stories about the weapon are true?"

He'd run into women like this many times before. Self-important types who loved nothing better than to meddle in other people's affairs. She was right. One couldn't be too careful. "You should never ask a storyteller that question," he said. "They'll tell you all stories are true, and mean it. But yes, I believe such a weapon exists." He did not add, because it was once used on me. He merely smiled and said, "After all, the Ministry tells there is such a weapon, and they wouldn't lie, would they?"

The Orthodoxy Chair sniffed. This one was trouble, but she hadn't seen a weapon. Women like her never did.

The storyteller pointed to the rapidly gathering crowd in the market. "Are you going to go find a place to watch the show?"

"I'll watch from back here if you don't mind," she said.

"Fair enough," he said. "Then watch this." The storyteller walked toward the crowd, waving as he did so, then tripped over an imaginary root, did a double somersault, and sprang to his feet with a big grin on his face and his arms outstretched in greeting. The children cheered and the adults applauded. Even the Orthodoxy Chair seemed amused.

Then, as soon as the noise died down, he told them the story about the emperor who had no clothes.

He followed it up with the story about the man who stole a pig and dressed it up in a bright red coat with shiny brass buttons, and no one could find the pig because what they saw wasn't what they were looking for.

And as he told them the story about the day the sheep rose up against the wolves, a cool breeze began to blow from the northwest.