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.

Free Range Meat

Free Range Meat cover

Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day?

Brian certainly would. As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can. So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.

But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV? Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside.

And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off? What breed of dog makes sounds like that?

These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.

The art of our necessities is strange that can make vile blogs precious.

Resized_20190620_162430

 

Generic salutations, and welcome once again to another Thursday.  I’m not sure what to write today, having no specific agenda such as I had in the past two weeks.  I guess I’ll just start writing—indeed, I’ve already started—and I’ll see what comes out.

First, an update:  I’ve been working steadily on the editing of Unanimity, and I’m pleased still to find it engaging and fun.  I worried, when writing it, that it wasn’t going to be as good as the other books I’ve written, if only because it’s so long.  If brevity is the soul of wit (an unproven assertion), then its lower quality would seem to be implied.  However, I think it’s turned out better in some ways, or at the very least as good, as my other works so far.  It’s certainly my most “real-world” novel so far.  Though Mark Red does take place in what is nominally our own world, it quickly becomes clear that it’s a world in which vampires and other forms of “magic” exist behind the scenes.  Son of Man nominally takes place in the “real world,” and is science fiction rather than fantasy, but its setting, being in the future, is quite different from that of our modern lives.

Unanimity, on the other hand, is set in what is more or less clearly the modern world, and though the main action of the story revolves around something inexplicable that could certainly be called “supernatural,” this occurs as a singular outlier in what is otherwise a completely normal, real, human world.*  I won’t say that the setting is “typical” of most people’s ordinary lives; it takes place on the campus of a prestigious, research-oriented university, which is not where everyday life occurs for most of us—even those of us who have attended university.  But the people in the story are normal, ordinary people, with no experience of or belief in anything overtly supernatural.  There are no ray guns or vampires, no time travel let alone travel between parallel universes (as in The Chasm and the Collision).

It’s interesting to think, as I just now did, that almost none of my stories take place in “the real world.”  Of course, they tend to happen in universes that look and feel at first glance very much like ours, but there are fundamental departures, often forming the trigger points of the stories.  Even I for one welcome our new computer overlords, set in what should be our real world, contains elements of speculative science fiction.**  Weirdly and disturbingly enough, my most fundamentally realistic story is Solitaire, and it is also my darkest and most horrifying story (in my opinion, anyway).

I’m not sure what that says about my take on reality.

I took last Friday off editing Free Range Meat, another story where the supernatural intrudes upon what should be ordinary life, because I’ve been working on a new song.  Those of you who follow my other blog, Iterations of Zero, may know that I’ve been intermittently distracted by such things since I started to play guitar somewhat more seriously and had also learned that I could use readily available audio mixing and editing software to produce songs all by my lonesome, sometimes recording my versions of other people’s songs, but on two occasions so far producing original works.  I can’t make any claims as to the quality or the listenability of the songs, but I had (obsessive) fun doing them, and the same thing is happening again.

Like my second song, Breaking Me Down, this new song (called Catechism), is one for which I wrote the tune and most of the words way back when I was in college.  It’s an involuntary fact of my brain’s function that such things don’t tend to go away but continue to rattle and bounce around my head for decades.  I didn’t have to find any old papers with the words scribbled down (and the tunes were never previously recorded anywhere but in my mind), I simply had to transcribe them…though I changed a few of the lyrics of both songs, since their earlier versions included some rather embarrassing choices.  Of course, anyone listening to the songs as they are now may be justified in exclaiming, “These are the words he left in?  What the heck did he take out?”

Writing and producing these songs is a sort of catharsis, a way to get them out of my head and into the world.  Of course, that doesn’t actually work, since the brain is not some kind of hydraulic system where pressure can be released and drained.  Still, at least now the songs rattling about up there are—or will be—reflections of shapes in the external world, rather than merely virtual music played for an audience of one.  I can’t make any guarantees about the quality of the songs—music is if anything even more difficult to judge objectively than fiction is—but I kind of like them.  They also give me at least two or three pieces I know that I can play on the guitar better than anybody else can, since I’m the one who wrote them.  I am in all other respects a very amateur guitar player.

Once I finish Catechism, I think I’ll publish it here as well as on IoZ, and of course I’ll make “videos” of the songs and put them on my YouTube channel.  At the very least, I know that there will be no copyright claims against the videos ever in the future, since the songs are written, performed, and produced entirely by me, rather like my books.  It’s a freeing thought.

Wow, for someone who didn’t have much to say, I’ve said a lot today, haven’t I?  I think it’s probably more than enough.  I’ll just close with a sentiment of encouragement, which I hope doesn’t come across as condescending:  If you have any songs or stories (or paintings, or sculptures, or whatever) bouncing around in your head, I hope you’ll try to get them out and make them actual rather than virtual.  Somewhere out there, there’s someone who might want to experience them.  Even if you’re the only one who ever does, it can be worth it.  I think so, anyway.

TTFN


*Though I do throw in a passing reference to the setting of my short story Hole for a Heart, which is certainly a supernatural horror story.

**These may not in fact be what they seem…and if they are not, then Ifowonco would be almost a fully realistic story.

I am determined to prove a villain, and hate the idle pleasures of these blogs.

I am determined to prove a villain, and hate the idle pleasures of these blogs.

facial-reconstruction-Richard-III

Hello and good morning!  It’s the last Thursday of the month, which implies that next Thursday will be the first Thursday of a new month.  Unfortunately, this no longer means that I’ll release a new episode of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains.”  More’s the pity, but they just didn’t seem to get many readers.  Perhaps people were put off by the title, or maybe people have a trained aversion to admitting that villains are not only necessary to good stories but are also, often, the most interesting and pro-active characters.  I’ve often noted that it is the villains in great stories who make things happen, who try to change the world (often in not-so-good ways, of course), whereas the heroes tend just to react to events.  In this sense, revered inventors, discoverers, and innovators have more in common, personality-wise, with the villains of our tales than with the heroes.

I don’t know what this says about human nature, but I do rue the fact that no one seems to quite get the notions that I try to express in “MHHABV.”  (I’ll rule out the possibility that I’m simply not good enough at conveying those notions.  Let’s not be ridiculous, here).  Thus, I find myself in the shoes of many a villain—the comic-book style ones, anyway—in bemoaning the fact that there seems to be no one else in all the world with the vision, the intellect, the greatness of spirit to recognize and embrace the grandeur of my design!

<<Sigh>>  It’s lonely being a supervillain.  Just ask Thanos, or Dr. Doom, or Hannibal Lecter (but I recommend asking politely).

Tangentially, it’s interesting to wonder if it’s possible to be truly happy and yet to move forward and make profound changes for the better in the world.  Buddhist monks rarely seem motivated to cure (or treat) terrible diseases,* or to invent new products or technologies, or to discover new sciences.  Not to say their activities aren’t worthwhile.  Some of them accomplish real insight into the nature of the human mind.  Still, it’s telling that the end goal of (at least some versions of) Buddhist practice is to achieve a state where you stop being reborn and can finally just frikking die and cease to exist when your time comes.  I can offer anyone with that goal a hugely step-saving strategy.

Of course, I’m caricaturing the teachings of Buddhism and Buddhist monks somewhat; I hardly think I have the final word on this subject.

Speaking of final words, just yesterday I finished the first edit of Unanimity.  Yes, that was just the first one.  Oy.  But still, it was a milestone.  I’ve already trimmed about eleven thousand words from the story, but there’s a long way to go before it’s in publishable form, with lots of little tweaks and corrections to be made.  It’s hard to write a half-a-million-word novel and keep everything perfectly consistent, especially with respect to trivia such as the receptionist’s name in a medical office, whom you forgot you’d introduced once before, and so when you introduce that person again, you use a completely different name, and perhaps even a different personality.  To take just one (purely hypothetical!) example.

Of course, to the surprise of no one who knows me at all, I haven’t come to any conclusion regarding the fate of “Iterations of Zero.”  I would be less conflicted about keeping it going if I could just find the time (and the will) to write in it, or to record “audio blogs”, as regularly as I write here.  But time and will are exquisitely finite resources, even for supervillains like me.  I have to earn a living, doing things that are not nearly so fulfilling, and which bring me into daily contact with…well, certainly with many interesting characters.  In this case, I use the word “interesting” as in the (supposed) Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”  Or, in a similar vein (har), as I’ve often said to patients, “You should try never to be interesting to your doctor.”

I would love to write, etc., full time, and to produce more material of more varied nature, but money’s tight.  Of course, if my books were to become international best-sellers and were made into blockbuster motion pictures, that would help matters tremendously, but that’s not entirely up to me.  I’m too self-effacing (and often self-loathing) to be very good at marketing myself aggressively.  This is in ironic contrast to certain people (some of them in high office) who seem uniquely skilled and talented at polishing the turds that they are and selling those shiny pieces of excrement to people who don’t appear to know better…or who don’t want to know better, which is worse.

Thinking about such things too much can arouse real sympathy for the great villains of literature.

If there’s anyone out there who wishes I had time to write more and who has a lot of money or is brilliant at marketing and has some spare time and wants a challenge, you’re certainly invited to help make my nefarious dreams a reality.  In the meantime, I hope you’re all enjoying the summer.  While you do, though, as I’ll make clear in my short story Free Range Meat, you must remember never to lock your dogs in vehicles, especially on hot, sunny days.  Conversely,** if you encounter a situation in which it seems someone else has done such a thing, you may want to think twice before intervening too aggressively.  Not all is as it seems, and the road to real Hell, as we know, can be paved with the best of intentions.

TTFN


*Physical ones, anyway.  The argument can be made that meditational practices show real promise in treating some psychological maladies.

**Or is it inversely?  Or obversely?

Come, you spirits that tend on mortal blogs, unsex me here

Come, you spirits that tend on mortal blogs, unsex me here

Jim and John

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, that day of the week of which Dent Arthur Dent never could get the hang.

I was listening to my Spotify playlist the other day, and in brief succession—though not one right after the other—I heard the songs People Are Strange by the Doors, and Girl by the Beatles.  It struck me, because of whatever peculiar frame of mind I was in, that both songs presented interesting insights, at different levels, about powerful and important aspects of human character and the nature of civilization.

Seriously.

I love it when art reflects on deeper facts of reality or can be interpreted as such.  It’s not necessary that art do this for it to be good or beautiful or worthwhile.  By no means is it necessary.  But it’s wonderful when it does.

We shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, that powerful insights are to be found in the lyrics of two of the most artistically sophisticated, groundbreaking, and iconoclastic bands of the sixties, but it’s pleasing to find, nevertheless.

The most straightforward of the two thoughts arises in a simple line from People Are Strange, specifically: “Women seem wicked, when you’re unwanted.”  This is a powerful observation, often lamentably true, about the character of men, rooted in biology and focused by the lens of thousands of years of cultures largely dominated by men.

It is a biological fact that women are, if you will, the gatekeepers of the next generation, and since getting into the next generation is one of the most powerful drives enacted by our genes (since organisms that don’t have that drive don’t tend to get into the next generation), this sets up seriously powerful forces that have acted continuously over the course of eons.

It’s a lot more directly costly for women to get their genes into the next generation than it is for men, so they tend to be a lot choosier than men need to be, all other things being equal.*  But of course, this puts any given man in the position of having to compete for the favor of, or some other means of access to, women in order to reproduce.  For men who find themselves by nature easily attractive to women, this is not a big problem.  In those cases, it’s more often a problem for women.  But such attractiveness is rare, and most men find themselves in bitter competition with other local men (in the modern era, “local” can refer effectively to millions and even billions of people).  For a man who’s having trouble finding a woman who finds him suitable, this can engender tremendous frustration (biologically, psychologically, and socially), as this powerful ancestral drive finds itself unfulfilled.

We humans don’t deal with frustration well; we have a hard time thinking about it clearly.  We have a hard time looking at ourselves and saying, “Well, maybe I’m not that obviously promising a person with whom to pair one’s genes in the trip to the next generation.  Is there anything I can do to make myself at least seem more promising?”

Instead, many men start to think that women are wicked.  Perhaps “think” is too lofty a verb for the process; “feel” might be more accurate, since logical thought is rarely involved, and is more often used in post hoc sophistry than for careful evaluation.  We associate our frustration with women, especially with highly attractive women, and we lose sight of the chain of causality.  We just blame the women for the feeling, instead of recognizing that it comes from us and our own circumstances.  We fail to recognize that women are no more to blame for wanting to be choosy about their partners than men are about wanting to posture and show off in order to maximize our own perceived attractiveness.

From this collision of drives and barriers is born all manner of misogyny, including whole cultures that require women to be covered in public so as not to “inflame men’s lust”**  It’s part of the what drives men to create societies that subordinate women, that effectively (or actually) enslave them.  Women are described as wicked and are blamed for the frustrated lusts and behaviors of men, partly because it’s easier to “justify” mistreating someone when you demonize them.

This frustration turned to malice and revenge is almost certainly contributory to the push in certain modern communities to ban abortion even when pregnancy is the result of rape.  After all—looking at things in horribly immoral but nonetheless depressingly real terms—this leaves open one means by which to circumvent the biological gatekeepers.  Or, rather, it is a means to break down the gate, and an option that such men, consciously or subconsciously, might want to leave open for themselves.

Maybe I’m being uncharitable.

So many evils are born of or influenced by the fact that women seem wicked*** when you’re unwanted that it’s almost too depressing to accept or at least to look at closely.  But if we want to correct and prevent evil outcomes, we need to think about where they come from and how they became what they are.  Only by doing this we can counter such evils effectively and efficiently and produce a more moral and ethical civilization.  Unless and until we change the nature of our biology itself, at a very deep level, we’re going to be saddled with this tendency, this subjective feeling, so well and concisely encapsulated in the Doors’s seemingly throw-away line.

Oodles more could be said about this, of course, but I’m not trying to write a full article, let alone a book on the subject.  I welcome your input on the matter, though, whether in the comments or on Facebook or on Twitter.

And, of course, I clearly don’t have reasonable time or space this week to deal with the second song, Girl, so I’ll leave that for next time.  I’ll just provide a teaser by saying that I think this song—probably unintentionally and/or unconsciously—had much to say about addiction, and the parallels between it and the dramatic and poetic notions of romantic love.

In closing, a quick report:  I continue to edit Unanimity at a good pace, and I’m enjoying the process; this enjoyment will probably not last, nor should it, for I need to be as brutal and ruthless with my work as I can.

I also, just for fun, yesterday began writing (by hand, to try mitigate my natural verbosity) Dark Fairy and the Desperado, a story I’d originally envisioned as a manga, based on two drawings I did at separate times and for separate reasons, of characters who somehow just worked in my head when I threw them together.  You can see several renderings of them among my posted images on Facebook, in my personal account and I think on my author page.  There’s even a fanciful picture, drawn as a favor, of the Dark Fairy tormenting then-President George W. Bush.

How much more would the Dark Fairy have to say and do now, with our current president?  One shudders to imagine, and that shuddering is not necessarily entirely born of dread, but perhaps, rather, of antici…

…pation.

TTFN


*All other things almost never are equal, but we’ll leave that aside for now.

**Since most men, as a simple fact of reality and math, can’t stand out as plainly being above average relative to other men, and so are more likely to be frustrated in their “lust” than to have it bear fruit…so to speak.

***Let there be no misunderstanding:  this seeming is purely in the eyes of the beholder.