I give away myself for you and blog upon the exchange. (Announcing a Giveaway!)

gift box

Hello, good morning, and welcome not merely to another Thursday, but to a new month!  It’s the last month of the year and, depending on how you divvy things up, it’s the last month of the decade (though an argument could be made that the decade really ends with the beginning of 2021, and that the twenty-first century began in 2001, not 2000.  But I’ll try not to split hairs).

I haven’t yet written this week’s Iterations of Zero post, for those of you who might be eagerly anticipating it.  I’m afraid that the freeform approach I’m taking to that project often leads me to leave it to the end of the week.  I may need to set a specific day for releasing it again, as I do with this blog, though I fear that might lead to perverse resistance on my part.  In any case, I don’t want to let writing it interfere with the daily writing and editing of my fiction.

Speaking of which, things are proceeding steadily with the editing of Unanimity.  I’m nearing the end of my latest run-through, which will put me truly over the halfway mark of that process, which is exciting.  I don’t know about you all, but I for one am anxiously looking forward to finishing and publishing that book.  I can hardly wait for someone (besides me) to read it.

And further, speaking of that desire, and of my fiction still, I’ve decided to do something at which I’ve hinted previously:  I’m going to do a giveaway of some of my fiction in honor of the upcoming holiday season—during which, by many a tradition, we give gifts to those about whom we care.  I certainly care very much about people who love to read, and I can’t help but have a narcissistic soft spot for someone who wants to read my stories.

This giveaway will be e-book only, for several reasons—logistics and cost not the least, since I am a poor boy*.  Also, my short stories are mainly published in e-book format, on Kindle.  In case you don’t know, you don’t need to have a Kindle device to read them.  The Kindle app can be installed on any tablet, smartphone, or computer, and it’s a free at Amazon for the asking.  Many of you might be resistant to the idea of reading books on Kindle, preferring them in the more traditional form.  I do have deep and personal sympathy for that preference, of course, but there is incredible joy in being able to carry a library of well over two hundred books in one’s pocket…which is what I do all day, every day, thanks to Kindle.  It also saves on shelf space and—nominally—on trees.  Of course, you’re clearly reading this post on some form of computer, so it’s presumably not too great a leap for you to use Kindle.

Now to the specifics and then the mechanics of the giveaway.  Some of my works are novels and some are short stories.  Since the Kindle versions of the novels are currently priced roughly three times the cost of each of the short stories, I’ll give anyone who wants them a choice: you can be sent three short stories or one book (one of which is actually a collection of three “short” stories, which makes things nicely symmetrical).  Lest you think that’s a meager gift, let me remind you that my short stories don’t tend to be very short.  Some of them are nearly novellas.  The shortest one, I think, is Solitaire, and it’s also by far the oldest and the darkest of my available tales.

As to the mechanics: to send you the books/stories, I will need to have an email address to which to send it/them.  You can contact me here, in the comments section below, if you like (this week or later in the year is fine), or through my Facebook author’s page or my Twitter account (see the sidebar).  In case you don’t want your email address to be public knowledge, which I do understand, you should certainly feel free to direct message me through Facebook or Twitter.  Don’t forget to tell me which novel or which short stories you want me to send you**.  You can find a list of them on my Amazon author’s page, or on Goodreads, or here on this blog under the subject heading “My Books”.

I will not save your email address externally, nor shall I use it for future promotional purposes, nor shall I sell it or share it with anyone without a court order***.  All I really want to share is my work with interested readers.

That’s about it for this week.  I look forward to hearing from you, and though I don’t attach any strings to my giveaway, I’d certainly love you to give me feedback after reading my stories.  But that’s your decision, and I’ll think no less of you if you don’t (for whatever that’s worth).

TTFN


*I need no sympathy.

**Otherwise I’ll just pick for you.

***Possibly not even then.  My respect for the courts is not what it once was.

O, let my blogs be then the eloquence and dumb presages of my speaking breast.

Antarctic

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  For those of you who are paying attention, I have not (yet) written a post on Iterations of Zero this week.  That parenthetical “yet” may yet become a superfluous “yet”, alas, because I recently suffered from a rather nasty gastroenteritis.  For the first three or so days of this week, I felt almost literally rotten, and I’m still rather washed out, if you’ll pardon the expression.  So, I may have to call this week’s IoZ post a miss, though it pains me to do so after only having done a few weeks’ worth of continuous posting.  I may need just to write a very brief entry there as an apology.

I have been able to keep up with editing Unanimity, though the process was rather slower than usual.  I’m again approaching the latter part of the story, and as expected, it’s not quite as gripping as it was the first several times.  This is good, since it makes me a more ruthless editor, which is a large part of the point of doing it this way.  I’ve already trimmed more than twenty-five thousand words from the original draft, but I’m not near my goal yet, so I must be increasingly brutal as time passes.

I have to admit, at the risk of seeming narcissistic, that I tend to enjoy reading my own stories.  There’s just something about them; it’s as though the author really knows me.

On the other hand, I continue to have trouble finding other people’s tales—including television and movie fiction—engaging.  There are shows and films and books out now that should by all rights be seizing my attention and holding it without ransom, but which barely raise an eyebrow.  I can’t even seem to force myself to partake of them.  It’s not exactly ennui, but maybe that’s the closest thing to it*.  The only stories I’ve been able to focus on lately are the Japanese light novel series whose title is shortened to Oregairo.  It’s about a collection of loners (this is not a contradiction), with a narrator whos particularly misanthropic and cynical, though none of them are hateful or overly pessimistic.  Unfortunately, I’ve reached the end of the volumes that have been published in English, and though they’re good books, I’m not likely to reread them anytime soon.  This is a glaring departure from my usual pattern for books that I enjoy.  God knows how often I’ve read The Lord of the Rings, but it’s been well over thirty times, and even much more so for The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.  The Harry Potter books don’t quite reach that level of repetition, but then again, I was already a working and studying adult when they came out.  I didn’t have the free reading time on my hands that I had in grade school, junior high, and high school, when I first read LotR and Thomas Covenant.

Unfortunately, I haven’t even had the will or desire in recent years to reread these great classics.  I’ve started Tolkien**, but I haven’t even gotten to the end of the first section.  Frodo hasn’t even been stabbed on Weathertop yet.  I just lost interest.  And every time I look at either the hard copy or the digital copy of this or any of the other books to consider reading them, I just kind of feel, “meh”.

I do a bit better with nonfiction, especially science books, including audio books.  This is certainly some consolation; I’ve always loved science as much as I’ve loved fiction (though, oddly, only very select science fiction).  Even this has its limits, of course, partly because Brian Greene, Sean Carroll, Richard Dawkins and the like can only write so many popular science books so quickly***.  I tend to devour them rapidly when they come out.  Also, unfortunately, a lot of science books in subjects I enjoy are just rehashing things I already know.  One can only so often read some new person’s attempt to explain General Relativity or Quantum Mechanics or Astrophysics or Evolutionary Biology to the layperson, especially when others have already done a better job on the subjects.

I think part of the trouble I have with enjoying new fiction—and even new nonfiction, but to a lesser extent—is that I simply don’t have the people in my life with whom I used to share that joy.  Because of that absence, even new potential happiness in reading such stories (or watching such shows, etc.) is tainted and soured.  It’s hard to take pleasure looking at photos of—or imagining—sipping cocktails on a tropical beach with one’s estranged significant other or splashing about in the surf with one’s children if one is currently wandering, lost and alone, in a frozen, Antarctic desert.

Not to be melodramatic about it or anything.

In lighter news, I’m thinking of setting up a promotional giveaway of at least electronic versions of my books and/or stories—one per customer—sometime soon…in time for the holidays, perhaps.  If I do, word of it will probably appear here, in this very blog, before it appears anywhere else.  Indeed, in a certain sense, it just has.

I wish all of you all manner of wellnesses, including ones you’ve never even imagined before, and which certainly I have never had the courage to contemplate.  May each of your personal world-lines become ever better with the passage of time.

TTFN


*It’s almost certainly dysthymia, with its attendant curse anhedonia.

**I’ve even tried rereading The Silmarillion, which I’ve read at least a dozen times in the past.  (It’s not as though I could have read it in the future, is it?)  No luck.

***Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould have been slacking off lately to an inexcusable degree, in my opinion.

The first man that blogged, cried, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”

avatarofdeath2

Hello, good morning, and Happy Halloween to you all!  I hope all of you who celebrate the holiday enjoy yourselves, either by dressing up* and having sweets and treats, or by giving out such sweets and treats to the young’uns who come around trick-or-treating (perhaps dressing up to do so).  If you choose not to celebrate the holiday merely because of some religious misgivings that make you worry that to do so would somehow be pagan…well, all I can say is, those concerns are no more realistic than are all the ghosts, goblins, zombies and vampires, and they’re usually not as much fun.  But that’s your business, and as long as you don’t interfere with anyone else, you can do what you want.  Or not do what you don’t want.

Some of my readers will have already seen an article I posted on Iterations of Zero this week, stating my intention to use spare time during my work days to write and post there at least once a week.  There’s much more breadth of subject matter available to be pursued on IoZ, because it’s very much in the spirit of “Seinfeld”, being a blog about nothing…at least nothing in particular.  As I think I wrote when I introduced that blog’s title, it’s possible that the whole universe has a net energy of zero (balancing all the positive energy and matter with the negative energy of gravity), in which case we all—everything—are just iterations of zero.  It’s sort of like the credit economy.  When you only have iterations of zero, everything is far game.

Anyway, I plan for that to be an ongoing process.  And though we all know with what substance the road to Hell is paved, I hope that by declaring my intentions here and in IoZ, I at least put the pressure of avoiding embarrassment upon myself to keep me going.**

On to other matters.  Unanimity proceeds at a steady pace.  I’d say I’m almost halfway through the editing/rewriting process, which may not seem like a lot to those who’ve been paying attention, but when you’re dealing with a novel whose first draft was over half a million words long, you need to be patient.  In any case, it’s a Halloween-worthy effort, being a horror novel, though it’s only vaguely supernatural.  I do throw into it a passing reference to another of my stories, one that I’m tempted to explicate here…but I think I’ll leave it at just saying that the story referenced is one that is truly worthy of Halloween.

Unanimity is definitely a horrifying story, of course—hopefully only in the narrative sense, not in quality—and I’ve again reached a point in the book where more and more terrible things are happening.  I can only console the characters affected by saying that they can be born again anytime someone starts the book over.  This is probably little consolation, since the same dark things will happen to them every time the story unfolds.

Such is the fate of characters in novels.

It may be that such is the fate of us all, come to think of it.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere (in a blog about “playing with space-time blocks”), it’s possible, according to some interpretations of General Relativity, that all of time may pre-exist, so to speak.  This is the origin of Einstein’s attributed statement that, to the convinced physicist, time is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.  If that’s the case, we may end our lives only to restart them, as if we were but characters in a novel or a movie.  Still, we do know that GR can’t be quite right as it is, because it doesn’t properly integrate the uncertainty principle and other aspects of quantum mechanics which appear to be inescapable.  If we throw in the Everettian possibilities of many worlds, diverging at every occurrence of quantum decoherence (not at every place a human is faced with a choice, contrary to popular belief and popular fiction), there may be many possible fixed versions of ourselves.  This can be both a comfort and a nightmare, because as Carl Sagan once pointed out, while we can certainly imagine other versions of our lives that could be much better than they are, we can also—and perhaps more readily—imagine versions in which things are much, much worse.  Such is the nature of reality; there is no obvious bottom level to it.

Oh, well, c’est la vie.  As Camus tells us (if memory serves), there can be meaning, honor, and satisfaction even in the endless, repetitive task of rolling a boulder to the top of a hill only to have it roll down again each time, if that’s the existence to which you are fated.  I suspect that Marcus Aurelius would agree with him.  At least, the version of the Emperor that lives in my mind would agree with the version of Camus who lives there as well.  It’s an interesting forum up there in my cerebrum, though it does get tedious and pretentious at times.

Which is one reason why it’s good to indulge in silly frivolities like Halloween, in which we make light of things that might otherwise terrify us, and by embracing them divest them of their power.  Most importantly, it can be a lot of fun.  Life is short, and, as Weird Al Yankovic pointed out, “You’re dead for a real long time.”  You might as well try to have at least a little fun here and there as long as you’re not.

Again, Happy Halloween!

TTFN

 

*I’m dressed up at the office in an all-in-black version of the character in the picture above.  I’m sort of an amalgam of The Gunslinger and The Man in Black.  I don’t think that’s too presumptuous; after all, my father’s name was Roland.

**Though my regular readers may have their doubts about whether avoiding embarrassment is something that ever concerns me at all.

Give me your hands if we be friends, and Robert shall restore amends

wine glass shatter

 

Buenos días, ohaiyou gozaimasu, and good morning!  Welcome to another jueves, Mokuyoubi, and Thursday.  It’s that day of the week, by any other name, on which I write my blog posts, and that’s just what I’m going to do.

I must warn you, however, that I’m currently suffering from the viral respiratory infection that’s going around the office.  More specifically, I’m in about the second full day of the thing, which is often among the worst, when all the cytokines and other inflammatory and immune mediators are floating around the body, triggering low-grade fevers, chills, aches and pains, as well as poor sleep (something to which I’m at least reasonably accustomed).  In other words, I may be at less than my optimal writing state, and I may further be in less than an ideal state for evaluating the quality of my writing.  So, if you find that this blog post is irritating or incoherent or simply stupid, I ask you please to cut me some slack.

Basically, I’m giving myself excuses for not doing as good a job as I—and presumably you—might like me to do.  Perhaps the fickle Spirit of Human Charity will even work to my advantage in this, and this blog post will be popular even if it’s not great.  How cool would that be?  If only I always had such excuses*.

Okay, sorry about that bit of auto-derision.  I’m currently reading a light novel series in which the main character/narrator is a cynical loner who ends up doing good things for other people more or less against his will, despite being a natural outsider.  That thought style resonates with me perhaps a bit too strongly…though I’ve come to my personal attitude thanks to fifty years (minus three days) of experience, whereas Hikigaya Hachiman reached that stage of enlightenment** by the time he was in high school.  I suppose there are prodigies in any area of expertise.  Also, he’s fictional; as far as I know, I’m not.

It’s good to be reading fiction again, though I think “Oregairu” is about the only one for which I’d have any stomach right now.  It’s a unique story with a unique protagonist—almost an anti-hero, but not quite—and it’s been made into a two-season anime, which I’ve already watched more than once.  It was very well done, and very true to the books, so I already know what’s going to happen, but that’s never been a problem for me.  God knows how often I’ve read The Lord of the Rings and enjoyed it every time.  Ditto for many other high-quality tales.

I’ve heard of a study that claimed to find that audiences and readers enjoy a story more when they already know the outcome (more or less).  I’m not sure how robust or convincing this study was, but there’s little doubt that audiences of almost all movies, books, shows, etc. have a good idea going in how most stories will end.  “The rest is commentary,” as they say.  Though, of course, they also say the devil is in the details…which is particularly true in most of my writing, though perhaps not in the sense usually intended.

Speaking of my writing, I’ve almost completed the third editing run-through of Unanimity.  Indeed, I just finished the main arc of the story yesterday, and only the denouement remains.  I feel a little silly relating this, but the climax of the story literally brought tears to my eyes.  Mainly this is because the characters involved were crying, and when I write and edit, I try to sort of act out the scenes in my head, and I often speak the dialogue aloud; it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m great at writing heart-wrenching fiction.  I’ll sometimes tear up when singing songs from The Phantom of the Opera or The Long and Winding Road or Empty Garden and similar, just because that’s the mood of the songs***.  Also, being prone as I am to depression, the resonant frequencies of my brain simply respond to minor keys—literally and figuratively—most powerfully.

Perhaps that’s why some people are prone to depression:  their mental circuitry is arranged such that it “vibrates” most energetically in response to dark inputs.  And, unfortunately, as when a crystal wine glass resonates with an opera singer’s voice, sometimes these harmonics can cause a thing to shatter.

I’m probably pushing the analogy too far.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the editing of Unanimity is coming along well, though I still have a long way to go.  I think it’s getting better with each round of the process, so it’s pretty satisfying.  It’s quite nice to enjoy one’s own stories, after all…and I can pretty much say that I enjoy all of mine.  I think some of my earlier works really needed a bit more fine-tuning than they received, but I guess I can still go back and improve them in the fullness of time.  Life is always a work in progress.  As they say, it’s all about the journey, not the destination…which is pretty much trivially obvious, when you think about it, since the destination is always the same no matter what.

And even dark and forbidding scenery can sometimes still be cool to look at along the way, if you can just catch it from the right angle.

TTFN


*I can’t really count depression as an ongoing excuse, since it’s more or less my baseline, and might even bring a kind of Goth/Punk/Horror coolness to my general attitude.  Okay, probably not, but it would be nice to think so.

**Endarkenment?

***Though, to be fair, these examples are truly exceptional works, whereas my own writing is evocative to me mainly because it’s my writing.  If it doesn’t resonate with me, then there’s something deeply wrong.

The man that hath no music in himself…is fit for treasons, stratagems and blogs

galileo math

some of Galileo’s figuring

Good morning, all.  It’s Thursday, so—as per usual—it’s time for another weekly blog post.  Here we go!

I’ve had a mildly underproductive editing week, because last Friday, Saturday, and then this Monday, I got wrapped up in completing my latest song, Come Back Again.  If you’re interested, you can listen to it on YouTube, here on my website, or on my Facebook page.  It’s also posted in audio-only format on Iterations of Zero.  If anyone wants, I could send you an mp3 copy; that seems vanishingly unlikely, though.  The only people who seem to listen to my songs are immediate family members and similarly unfortunate, obligated people.  I do think the song is surprisingly decent, considering I did it using only two electric guitars (not at the same time), two smartphone rhythm apps (sampled and altered in various ways), a very cheap desktop keyboard, an actual desktop with smartphone for some of the percussion, and the amazing free audio editing software Audacity.  Oh, and of course, a microphone and voice recording program for the singing.  I suppose you could add pens and paper for writing the words and music.  All in all, not much was needed.

It’s curious that, in order to publish my songs effectively, I need to make “videos” of them, even though the visuals only consist of the icon from my Iterations of Zero website.  I don’t even use the icon from this site, because that’s just my face, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to look at my face long enough to listen to a song.

It’s interesting, though, that one can readily upload videos to Facebook (and Twitter, I think), but they don’t easily let you share simple audio files.  As a stereotypical standup comedian might say, “What’s that all about?”  It’s a little odd that everyone wants to upload videos and pictures ad infinitum to sites like Facebook and Instagram—as they presume, without any discernable justification, that other people want to look at them—but not audio.  Yet the latter can be appreciated even while commuting, even while driving, as the wonder of audiobooks and podcasts (and radio) demonstrates.

Perhaps I’m just a curmudgeon*, but I feel that most videos shared by ordinary people, and often even by professionals, are just talking faces with nonspecific backgrounds relating matters that could be communicated purely by voice (or—God forbid—the written word!).

Anyway, my song is out there.  As I’ve said before, making and releasing these songs really is a vanity project for me, not just in the egotistical sense of the word, but also in the sense of it being in vain…pointless.  The latter sense of the term applies to me far more often than does the former.  Though I have a reasonably good opinion of my ability to perform tasks of various kinds, and to master subjects with a fair amount of depth, I am not vain in the narcissistic sense about much.  I have no illusions about the importance of anything I do or make or its value to anyone else.  Mostly, I’m just a proverbial Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness ™**.  Or, to be a little less pretentious, I’m a case of “I am, I said,” with not even furniture taking note of the declaration.

Nevertheless, since Tuesday I have returned to my usual schedule of working on Unanimity.  I’ve encountered an interesting place where the way I wrote the book has shifted character times slightly…meaning I had to go back in time from events of an immediately preceding section to catch up with what was happening to other characters.  This is common, of course, since we can’t skip back and forth sentence by sentence to see that one character is doing in “real time” while something is happening to another.

But I think I’m going to have to adjust it.  I think the story will flow better if I take the section in question and transplant it to just before the immediately preceding section.  This is a minor enough change, and I think most authors probably do it often, but it’s interesting to me because I don’t think I’ve ever needed to do it before.  Usually when I write something, it comes out pretty much as the story is “meant” to flow.  Unfortunately, Unanimity is just such a long novel, with so much going on, often to characters in separate locations, that it wasn’t all going to come out quite in optimal order on the first draft.  Not to say it wouldn’t be tolerable in its current form—it would be—but it wouldn’t be ideal, from my point of view.

That’s all probably not interesting to anyone else but me.

Meanwhile, speaking of audio (I was, you can go back and check), I’m “currently” listening to a wonderful book called Infinite Powers:  How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe.  I highly recommend it.  Seriously.  Even if you’re not a math type person (though I have to admit that I am one, a bit), I think it will give you easy-to-understand but clear and real insights into not just why calculus—and mathematics in general—is so useful to nearly everything of substance in science and technology*** but also why it’s so breathtakingly beautiful that some people are utterly captivated by it and pursue it hour after hour, year after year, even in their spare time.

Galileo famously said that the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics.  And someone else said (I can’t find the credit for the quote), “Physicists defer only to mathematicians, and mathematicians defer only to God.”  We can imagine universes where the charge and mass of an electron are different than they are here, or where coupling constants and the cosmological constant and the ratio of the strength of the gravitational to the electromagnetic force are different—and we can readily imagine life forms whose genetic data isn’t encoded in DNA…but it’s impossible to conceive of a logically consistent universe in which the square root of two is the ratio of two integers, or in which there is a largest prime number.

Maybe God defers to mathematicians.  Or maybe He just is one.

And with that bit of casual blasphemy, I think I’ve done enough damage for this week.  I hope you’re all well, and that you’re enjoying listening to, reading, watching, and doing whatever it is that—when integrated under the curve of your lifespan—makes your existence as joyful and fulfilling as possible.

TTFN


*There’s no “perhaps” about me being a curmudgeon; the “perhaps” refers to whether I’m merely a curmudgeon, or if there’s more to me than that.  The jury is still out.

**Actually, I’m quite sure that’s not from the book of Proverbs; I think it’s from Isaiah or Ezekiel.  Let me check…
…yes, it’s from Isaiah.

***Which, in the modern world, means pretty much everything, full stop.

You blog an infinite deal of nothing

Hollywood_Amtrak_Tri-Rail

Hello, good morning, and welcome, as always, to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I’m riding the train today—as I have all this week and from the end of last week—because my poor vehicle is in the shop.  It’s a bit frustrating, but also weirdly nostalgic, and the extra walking I must do has forced me to realize just how little walking I’ve been doing lately.  I’ve gotten terribly out of shape.  As testament to that fact, though I can’t be certain it’s related, at the beginning of this week, I slipped while getting out of the shower—nothing severe, don’t worry; I didn’t fall down or even have to grab anything to right myself—and my back has consequently suffered a severe exacerbation of its already chronic “failed back surgery syndrome” pain.  This makes riding the train more of an adventure than it might be otherwise, to say nothing of simply going to work, but such is the way of things.  In the words of the Dread Pirate Roberts, “Like is pain…anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Speaking of pain, I was very disappointed by the reception to my blog post last week.  This is really a euphemistic way of saying I’m disappointed in the post itself, since there’s surely no one to blame but me if it didn’t do well.  For the first time in a very long while, my Thursday blog post didn’t get even one single “like”.  And I’m just not capable of “liking” my own post.

I’m honestly not sure what it was about that post that was so unappealing.  I didn’t feel that the writing was particularly bad, but maybe it was.  I had, just a few days earlier and after a four month “course”, come off Saint John’s Wort, and maybe that affected my writing style or quality.  Maybe it was just that I used a bad collection of “tags” to highlight the post.*  If there’s anyone out there who had the courage to force their way through it and has an objective (or not) assessment to give me, I’d appreciate it.

As I said, it’s a bit nostalgic for me to be riding the train again, not least because it was at the train station in Hollywood, Florida that I received the inspiration for my story Prometheus and Chiron, which I like a lot, even if no one else does.  (I have no reason to think that no one else likes it, but I similarly have no way to know if anyone does…there are no reviews on Amazon for it, though maybe there’s something on “Goodreads”, and I just didn’t look closely enough.)  It is, however, just a bit frustrating to ride the train when one’s back pain makes one feel, and move, as though one were ninety years old…and not a particularly healthy ninety, at that.

Still, I’ve done some good, or at least extensive, writing on trains and/or buses throughout the years.  Thanks to the existence of very small laptop computers (and even smartphones!), I can write on the train without subsequently having to decipher and transcribe my own atrocious handwriting afterwards**.  I’ve had to do such transcription before, with both Mark Red and with The Chasm and the Collision (neither of which was written on a train or bus, however; they were written at Florida State Prison, which is less bumpy but which has its own drawbacks), and I can assure you, as a fun thing to do to pass the time, it’s highly overrated.

Speaking of such things, the editing and rewriting of Unanimity continues as always; and it does feel like forever, sometimes. It’s still enjoyable to read as I edit, which I guess is a good thing.  I always aspire to the mental state of being someone who generally likes the story, but who is fed up with it just enough to be critical about its flaws so that I can correct them with a ruthless but well-meaning attitude.  That’s the ideal, but as Run DMC said, it’s tricky.  Anyway, it’s coming along, slowly but surely, and hopefully it will be finished sometime before I die, or before the world ends, whichever comes first***.

In other news…well, there’s not much other news, come to think of it.  Of course, I’m sure there’s “news” out there in the world; there always is, if you’re looking.  Some of it might even just possibly be relatively important, even on a long-term scale (though the majority, I’d guess, is indistinguishable from random gossip around a water cooler—and though biologists and anthropologists say that gossip served and continues to serve important social functions regarding reputation and trustworthiness, etc., I can’t help but find it appalling, embarrassing, and worthy of contempt; say of me what you will).  My own life, however, tends to be repetitive and tedious, and would make very poor viewing, even ignoring the deeply unattractive protagonist.

My imagination, however, is thankfully and sometimes joyfully fertile.  Einstein is quoted as having said that imagination is more important than knowledge.  I’m very fond of both, but I do think that without imagination it’s hard even to arrive at knowledge of any but the simplest of subjects.  How, after all, are you to construct a mental model of a concept if you can’t imagine such a model?

Well, to quote the immortal (and, perforce, imaginary) Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”  This is not quite true, of course.  I could probably go on and on ad infinitum, and I’m sure some of you feel that I already have.  But, anyway, I’ll hold off any further mental meanderings until next week, and simply wish you all the very best of all that is possible, both individually and collectively.

TTFN


*I decided to use the tags “sex”, “drugs”, and “rock ‘n’ roll” for this post to see if it makes a difference.

**Handwriting made all the worse by the bumping and jostling of a moving train or bus.  Those who know how bad my script is, in and of itself, can only imagine with dread the nightmare of such Lovecraftian output.  The horror…the horror…

***Of course, from my point of view, the two events are equivalent.

I once did hold it, as our statists do, a baseness to blog fair

gibbon

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  As is often the case when I start writing a blog entry, I really don’t know what I’m going to “talk” about.  Fortunately (or not, depending on your point of view) that rarely stops me from putting a great many words down in short order.

This seems a common tendency in both writing and speaking.  In fact, it seems to be more common in speaking than in writing, though I myself (you know:  me…the guy writing this blog) tend to be a bit reticent in social settings, unless ethanol-containing beverages have been consumed.  I was raised on the aphorism, attributed to Mark Twain, that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.  I’m sure that there are many who would wish that I had followed this idea more assiduously.

The fear of being thought a fool does bring one to an interesting converse, or corollary, to the above-noted garrulousness of those who have nothing of substance to convey, and that is the human tendency to find it difficult to speak (or to write) when it’s important.  This isn’t universal, perhaps, but who among you cannot recall a time when you really liked some member of the appropriate gender and wanted to express that feeling (and perhaps ask said person out on a date) but found it impossible to say anything that was discernible from the babbling of an epileptic gibbon?  Many a comedy, both real and fictional, has highlighted such situations; alas, so have quite a few tragedies.

I suspect that this is born of the inherent perfectionism we all tend to embrace when trying to communicate something that’s important to us.  When what we say really matters, when we feel that it is crucial, we want our communication to be absolutely perfect…or we feel that it ought to be, anyway.  Those of you who have ever written term papers in school or university can surely appreciate that horrible sense that if it’s not perfect, or nearly so, then it’s simply horrible.

But of course, such perfection seems impossible to define, let alone to achieve, even by the greatest among us.  Upon occasion—Blasphemy Alert!—I’ve even read Shakespeare and had the sneaking thought that he could have written some particular line better than he did.  I might even, when feeling particularly cheeky, imagine that I’ve seen such a better way.  I hastily defend my humility in such instances by declaring that the line’s imperfection must have been the fault of the transcribing player who recorded it, not Shakespeare himself, hallowed be his name.

Actually, I don’t do that.  Nor do I imagine that everyone would agree with my suggested improvement, nor on which lines could be improved.  It’s simply the case that even Shakespeare was not perfect—whatever that means.

There are even people—yes, people of intelligence and good taste—who don’t much like Shakespeare.  Really.  It’s true.  I’ve met them.  They’re not monsters, nor are they insane (if you can believe it).  They’re ordinary, decent people.

My point is, perfection in communication isn’t even definable let alone achievable, so it’s curious that we get so hung up on stumbling over our words when we try to convey something important.  When we’re less wound up about it, we seem instinctively to recognize that conversation is like a sketch.  It doesn’t matter if a particular stroke of the pencil isn’t exactly right, because you’re just going to modify it with the next stroke anyway, and gradually you’re going to add and adjust until you get your point across…or until you fail to do so.  Even the overuse of metaphor and simile can still achieve some kind of communication.

That’s why I don’t subscribe to the nonsensical goal of sitting down and writing the “best sentence,” the “truest sentence”* you can write.  When I’m writing (be it a blog post, or a short story, or a novel, or a poem, or a song), I take the approach just to fucking write something.  Get something out onto the page, or the LCD screen.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It won’t be perfect.  In fact, no matter how much you edit it or improve it, it won’t ever be perfect…but it can get better.  You’re not stuck with what you first get out, you can fix and tweak and adjust it as often as you want…sometimes until you’re so bored with it that you don’t give a shit whether it’s good, let alone whether it’s perfect or not.

I sometimes think that this is the ultimate state of most shared works of art.  The artists finally get sick of working on them and just throw up their hands and say, “Okay, fine, that’s good enough.  Or not.  I don’t care, I’m done with it.  Get it out of my sight!”

Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but I think that’s a good attitude to cultivate, at least if you’re a member of the legion of creative people with performance anxiety born of an innate (or learned) perfectionism.  Nothing is going to be expressed perfectly.

When you go up and talk to the girl (for instance) that you like, you may stumble over your words—indeed, you may literally stumble—your voice may crack, and you may say something utterly inane.  You probably will.  But that’s okay.  That’s just the first stroke of the pencil; the full work of art is just getting started.  The target of your affection might even find your incoherence charming**.  She might even like the way you mix and overuse metaphors!  But if you don’t say anything, then nothing at all will happen (except personal regret and self-loathing, which are overrated).

I don’t know where to go next with this, and I suspect that I’ve said all that’s useful to say about it for now…except, perhaps, to add my own correction to the irritating, related notion that “practice makes perfect.”  It doesn’t.  But it does make you better.  Indeed, the very fact that improvement is open-ended, with no practical limits, is more exciting than the notion of becoming perfect at something.  If perfection were attainable, there would be nowhere to go but down from there.  But as it stands, we can always get better and better, without limit, for as long as we’re able to do anything at all, if we keep trying.  But we do have to try; we have to say or do something.  And we’re not going to do that if we wait until we have something “perfect” to say.

TTFN


*I don’t even remember who said or wrote words to that effect.  That’s how anti-important I found the idea.

**And she might not.  This is the real world, after all, and sometimes the person you like just doesn’t reciprocate.  Likewise, not everyone will like every story, or article, or painting, or song, or sculpture, or whatever.  Universal popularity is at least as great a phantasm as perfection.