But modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise, the tent that searches to th’ bottom of the blog.

Okay, well, hello and good morning as always.  It’s Thursday, June 10, 2021, and it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  I’m a bit under the weather—some low-level gastrointestinal bug has troubled me for the last three days—so I intend to keep this comparatively short.  However, I have long experience of such intentions going astray, like so many of the best laid plans of mice and men.

It feels, at first thought, that the plans of mice ought to go astray more often than those of men, but perhaps the plans of mice, if there can honestly be said to be such things*, are more constrained and simpler than those of “men” and so may have fewer contingent and unpredictable aspects.

Who knows?

It’s been a reasonably productive week.  I’ve finished In the Shade, as I think I might have mentioned last week, and I’ve been working on the initial editing run-through, which is now all but done.  This is only the first edit, of course; there will be many passes to follow before I consider the story fit enough to publish.  I’m being particularly assertive about reducing the story’s word count.  I obviously don’t want to take out anything that I think adds to the tale, and certainly nothing essential.  Nevertheless, I do tend to run off at the keyboard, so it’s useful to be hard on myself.  I enjoy writing words and conveying thoughts in written form, so I sometimes do too much.

This might come across as egotistical, as a sense of loving to “hear myself talk” so to speak, but I think that would be a mischaracterization.  My writing certainly doesn’t make me feel proud of myself, or that I’m particularly special, nor does it produce or reflect some narcissistic self-love.  Self-love is not one of my noteworthy attributes.

Indeed, I’ve often thought of depression (and dysthymia) as a sort of deficiency in the ability to delude oneself (positively) about one’s nature and abilities.  According to at least some studies of which I’ve heard, people with a tendency toward depression rate themselves more realistically on self-assessment tests of certain kinds, as opposed to their peers, who tend to overrate their own relative abilities.  This can be comically stated as a situation in which most people tend to rate themselves as above average, which is often declared to be mathematically impossible.  However, if by “average” most people refer to the arithmetic mean, it is possible for most people to be above average, if those people are only modestly above average and the others are well below it.  Such a circumstance is pretty unlikely, but it’s not a mathematical impossibility.  However, if one is referring to the median as the “average” then, by definition, it is impossible for most people to be above average.

I’ve recently read a book called On Being Certain, by Robert A. Burton, M.D., and he makes some interesting points about how the nature of being certain is related mainly to a feeling of being right, an emotion, produced in the limbic system, not actually to a process of thought or the conclusion of a logical train of argument.  That feeling—that sense of knowing, of revelation, of being convinced of something—can even happen spontaneously in certain kinds of seizures, and in certain psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.  As a feeling, it can’t readily be overcome in the same way that a logical conclusion can be abandoned if the flaws in the logic are demonstrated.  But only such emotions, not mere logical conclusions, prod us to action.  In reading the book, I realized that another possible aspect of the disease states of depression/dysthymia involve, at least in my case, a deficiency of this feeling**.

There are very few things I feel certain enough of not to allow myself to entertain significant doubt.  There have been times when I’ve even doubted the conclusion of the cogito ergo sum—though you would think that, by doubting it, I’m demonstrating its truth.  But part of me thinks that if there’s a supernatural being (or a civilization of machines, a la The Matrix) that can simulate all the external facts of reality, then why could they not be “simulating” my very experience of thought?  As an author, I’ve created many characters who, within their stories, would certainly think that they are thinking; my readers can read those thoughts from the characters’ points of view.  Yet, those thoughts are artificial, in the strict sense of being brought about by external artifice—in this case, mine.

So, this combination of deficiency at positive self-delusion, coupled with a sincere doubt about one’s ability to be certain of nearly anything can engender an exhausting enervation, the deterioration of motivation, and a broad sense of pointlessness.  At least it leads to the avoidance of dogma, and I think that’s a good thing.  I think the world as a whole would have far fewer large-scale problems if more people could feel less certainty and more doubt.

But it would be nice to be able just to feel good about myself and my right to exist, however unjustified such a feeling might be.  It might be nice to feel that I—or anyone—deserves to be happy, even though that’s an incoherent notion.  Unfortunately, on those rare occasions in which I’ve felt a strong degree of certainty about myself or my conclusions, or about my value or values, it’s frequently been disastrous.  So also for humanity at large, I think.

And here I’ve gone and not written a short post, as should come as no surprise to anyone.  I really do need to try to get some of these thoughts out in Iterations of Zero on a regular basis, so I can spare hapless readers of this blog from the ordeal of such topics.  I haven’t given up on that notion, at least, which is rare enough for me.

TTFN

doubt


*And why not?  Mice surely have at least some rudimentary conceptions of courses of action to take and expectations of likely outcomes of those courses of action.  They are certainly not simple automata.

**He points out how this deficiency is prevalent or evident in OCD, for instance, as in cases where a person simply cannot feel convinced that they really did lock the door or turn the oven off, say, and so can become paralyzed by unreasonable doubts.  I don’t have OCD, but I certainly have some of those attributes.  As I leave the house in the morning, I check my pockets multiple times to be sure that, yes, I really do have my keys, and my phone, and my wallet, all of which I have already checked, and which I always bring with me.  I simply don’t trust my memory, nor my habits—I’m too well aware of how malleable memory is, and how fragile habits can be.  This does mean that I almost never forget to bring any of these items, but I also never can seem to embrace the conclusion that I should be able to trust myself not to forget them—and so every day involves that feeling of not being certain at all.

Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes write blogs on the bosom of the earth

Good morning.  It’s the first Thursday in June of 2021, and since it is a Thursday, it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

I finished the first draft of In the Shade last Friday, as predicted, and have since embarked on the first editing round.  I’m already nearly halfway through it, so hopefully it won’t be very long before the story is ready, and thus I will be poised to compile my upcoming collection.  I haven’t decided on the order of the stories, except to say that I’m going to put House Guest first and In the Shade last.  I’m also going to put Solitaire roughly in the middle, and as I think I’ve said before, I’m going to surround it with comparatively light fare, since it’s probably my darkest story ever.  “Comparatively” is, of course, an important qualifier.  Most or all of my stories tend to be rather dark, at least in parts.

It will be interesting, if anyone out there reads the story carefully enough, to learn if there is any qualitative difference between the parts of In the Shade that were originally handwritten and those that were composed directly on the computer.  For anyone interested in investigating, the first portion of the story—right up to when the boy, Kyle, predicts that the deputies investigating the strange house where his friend was injured will not come back—was originally handwritten.  What follows was composed on the computer, until the very last section, in which we change our point of view to that of the owner of the house (you’ll understand these references when you read the story).  That final section was also handwritten, constituting just shy of the last 6000 words of the story.  It’s difficult for me to judge any possible difference objectively, so I’d be grateful for any feedback; I don’t have any actual friends who might read it and let me know ahead of time*.

I don’t know what else I should write about today.  Ideas and thoughts and reflections on many subjects frequently pop into my head, often during my commute or while reading some science-related book or upon encountering some absurd event in the news.  These are sometimes stored as my proposed posts for Iterations of Zero, but I haven’t yet worked out how and when to produce them consistently.  The video idea was simply not worth the effort; I’m not photogenic enough (to me, at least) to justify viewing or sharing my image.  I’m not sure exactly what possessed me to try it in the first place.  Whatever it was, that urge seems to have disappeared.  I considered trying to write the posts by hand and retyping them, but that’s more onerous than I have the will to carry out, and I’ve noted often that I don’t want to take time away from my fiction writing more than the one day a week I give to this blog.

I keep toying with the notion of just doing voice recordings when the mood strikes me, sparing myself much of the burdensome editing by simply committing to noise reduction and level adjustment, then putting them up as is—pauses, breaths, coughs, “umm”s and all.  So far, unfortunately, though I frequently feel the urge to talk about ideas, it tends to happen when I’m not readily able to record my thoughts.  It happens a lot during my commute.  So, what I end up doing quite often is just talking to myself, partly in my head, and partly out loud.

Ah, well, it’s not really that important.  Probably such thoughts are of little value to anyone but me, if even that.  I had a brief burst of Twitter enthusiasm, but it’s too short form a medium, and anyway, I can’t seem to find any energy for social media, or for any other kind of socialization.  I find interacting with other people, including on Facebook and Twitter, increasingly stressful, though I’m not sure quite why.  Seeing a notice at the top of the Facebook screen indicating that someone has sent me a message is enough to make me avoid the site for a very long time, though I continue to share things like videos and articles and so on through Facebook and Twitter.  I apologize to anyone who considers this rude.  I can honestly say, “It’s not you; it’s me.”

Part of the problem—though not all of it—is that when I’ve posted on Facebook at times when I’m particularly depressed and having an especially strong case of my frequent “promortalist” urges**, and am honestly hoping that someone out there might have something helpful to say or to think or to suggest or to do, I get at best some discussion of the sorts of points that I’ve already encountered years and sometimes decades ago and found wanting***.  Others offer supportive words and thoughts which, while definitely appreciated and valued, don’t seem to have the power to change anything.  And then, of course, occasionally I’ve received statements of actual offense from some people who I would have thought knew better or were better—as if the fact that I have “issues” with which I struggle were an insult or slight upon them.

Well, that’s the last thing I need.  And, of course, the never negligible baseline level of human stupidity (my own far from the least) is positively enhanced by social media, ironically—though I feared from the outset that the internet and its byproducts would produce at least as much harm as good—and so the whole thing becomes a painful experience, and I’m not masochistic enough to keep laying my hand on a stovetop when I can’t tell if it’s hot or not****.

So, social media isn’t very beneficial to me in general, and I’m not good at pure personal socialization of any kind.  It’s never been my greatest strength, and it seems to have weakened over the years.  I often become confused, stressed, and even angry even at seemingly inevitable, ubiquitous, pointless inquiries like, “How are you doing?”  I honestly don’t know how to reply without lying.  The only person with whom I socialize at all, in any purely social sense, is my sister, and it’s hard for me not to feel that she’s never committed any sin or crime grievous enough to merit that burden.

I honestly would love to be rescued somehow from this mental state or tendency.  I would also love to see world peace.  But I fear that the only reliable ways to achieve either goal are probably similar in character and similarly irreversible.

Anyway, sorry about all that.  I’m venting, I guess.  I’ll try not to indulge in this so much in the future, and will strive to stick to my brief, or whatever the phrase is.  I do honestly, fervently, and sincerely hope that you’re all as well as you can be, and that you can keep your own spirits up, despite reading my gloomy grumbling.

TTFN

Lost in maze


*This is entirely my own fault.

**I’m euphemizing to avoid triggering any automatic responses either by computers or by people.  These aforementioned euphemized urges of mine happen, to a very good approximation, every day, and they have done so for a long, long time.  A day without them would be so rare as to merit something like the Dickensian description of the Cratchett family’s Christmas goose as “a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course.”

***I am, after all, a medical doctor who has had dysthymia occasionally veering into full depression pretty much my entire adult life, and thus have taken a particular interest in them.  I understand the pathophysiology of the disorders, to the degree that they are understood at all, and the means, nature, and reliability of treatments at a level slightly better than most general practitioners, though perhaps not at the level of specialists.  I’ve partaken of numerous medical and psychological/therapeutic interventions, and I continue to use that which has historically been my most effective treatment.  That’s right:  all this is me while using the best treatment I’ve found.

****In a similar vein, the one time I called the “crisis hotline”, I found myself handcuffed by PBSO deputies (causing nerve damage that lasted almost a year to my left hand), and was brought to a shit-hole of a facility where I was assigned to sleep on a battered sofa, then discharged about thirty-six hours later, with a follow-up appointment in one month, which provided nothing I hadn’t already been doing.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their blog

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday—the last Thursday of May in 2021—and so, to the possible consternation of many, it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

It’s been a reasonably uneventful week, though at a personal level, it feels like it’s been full of drama.  I did not feel well at all over the course of the weekend, for various reasons, and that rolled over into the beginning of the week.  Because of this, work on the (handwritten) final portion of In the Shade didn’t proceed at quite the hoped-for pace.  Nevertheless, I am within spitting distance of its end.  I should be finished with the first draft by perhaps midway through my usual writing time tomorrow, and I can then begin typing it into the computer and then moving on to rewriting/editing.

My overall mood tends to be slightly buoyed when I’m writing new things, so I get nervous when I enter a period solely of rewriting and editing.  The psychology of this feels rather transparent, to me at least—writing new things, especially new stories, is basically all that gives me any reason to be alive, so the writing of first drafts supports me a bit against my tendency toward nihilism and pan-antipathy.  Editing, while absolutely essential—and a legitimately creative process—is somehow unable to provide the sense of worth and value to life.  This was why, during the course of the very long editing and rewriting of Unanimity, I had to take a few breaks to write short stories.

Thankfully, In the Shade, though long a for a short story, as mine so often are, is still not going to take too much time to edit and rewrite.  Then putting together Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities shouldn’t take much longer and may take less time.  After all, it’s a collection of things that have already gone though all their edits and are just going to be merged and ordered and laid out together.

From there, I’ll go on to finish Outlaw’s Mind, which will be another interval of new writing, followed by another interval of editing, and thence to publication.  After that, I’m not sure what I’m going to write next.  I had considered doing my silly little fable-type story, Neko/Neneko, but that was largely because I had an artistic coworker who hoped to draw the cover for it, and I thought that would be great.  But that person is no longer my coworker, and I haven’t seen or heard from her in quite some time, so there’s not as much impetus.  And without that impetus, I don’t feel particularly strongly about the story.

Other things that tease at my possibilities include the potentially quite large story Changeling in a Shadow World, or a very old book idea of mine called Destiny (originally The Maker of Destiny, but that seems too clunky), or another horror story whose title oscillates in my mind between The Created and Entropy.  And there are at least two more books in the “saga” of Mark Red in my head, but I’m not sure that anyone’s interested in reading more about him, and if no one is, it’s hard to revisit prior characters when I could make new things.  Also, of course, I could someday try to recreate Ends of the Maelstrom, my long-lost handwritten book from high school.  And I have a significant list of jotted down short story ideas as well, some of which—knowing me—could easily metamorphose into novellas or novels.

This is all assuming, of course, that I live long enough to do any of it, which I often don’t think is the best of the available options.

In the meantime, I’ve pretty much given up on doing more video entries for Iterations of Zero, at least on anything like a regular basis.  The process is just too lengthy and data-storage intensive, and I don’t like looking at myself any more than absolutely necessary.  I’ve written a short post on the subject that I mean to put up on IoZ soon, and I have a final, whimsical and silly video that I’ll post as well, but I think I’ll hold off on doing more of them.  Videos, I mean.  I may try to work back toward doing some of what I call “audio blogs” (the term “podcast” seems far too grandiose, though that’s how some of them show up in Google searches, to my surprise).  IoZ still struggles to find its way, so to speak.  Sometimes I consider just nixing it and posting the occasional material that I would have put there on this blog.  I’d wanted to keep this venue dedicated to my fiction writing and related topics, but maybe that’s a silly idea.

Well, it’s not as though any of this is of any consequence whatsoever.  Talk about iterations of zero—I think all that I’ve written, here and elsewhere, and the songs I’ve sung and played and recorded (and some of which I’ve written), and pictures I’ve drawn, and all the rest, are just a very small pebble-splash with evanescent ripples in the middle of an ocean far vaster than the Pacific.  In a certain sense, that’s undeniably true—for me, and for anyone and everyone and everything else—given the size, scale, age, and future of the universe.  But it’s possible not to find that fact disheartening, and even to find it uplifting, if one just has a personal meaning and reason and justification and purpose.  Alas, all my versions of such things have long since fled.  I can’t be arsed to find or invent any new ones, even if I knew how, and I have no hunger for delusional or illusory comforts.

But writing stories is its own justification, even if no one ever reads them.  It’s pretty much what I’ve got, anymore.  And, on that pleasant note, I think I’ll call it enough for this week.  I truly hope you’re all as well as you can possibly be, and that you remain well…and even improve over time.

TTFN

In these confines with a monarch’s voice cry “Havoc!” and let slip the blogs of war

Hello and good morning, all.  It’s the “ides of April”* today, a date that is much more traditionally associated with dread—in America, at least—than is the anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar.  It’s also time for my weekly blog post.

I’ve done my part to further general world health this week:  I recorded and posted some video of myself playing the guitar and singing, on Iterations of Zero.

No, wait!  That’s not what I did that was oriented toward public health (quite the contrary).  Rather, yesterday I received my second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.  I should be just about as immune as it’s possible to be at this point (or soon, anyway), since I had the infection itself in January, and now I’ve received full vaccination with the version that seems, based on what I’ve read, to have the highest protection rate.  This, as I say, was done for social reasons more than for personal protection; I honestly wouldn’t mind much if I’d gotten severely ill**, or even if the virus had killed me.  But that’s not a choice I think I have any right to make for other people (neither does anyone else, especially out of personal laziness, contrariness, selfishness, or unwarranted paranoia) so I don’t want to spread it thoughtlessly.  Getting as immune to it as I can seems the most reliable way to avoid that.

I did post some videos of myself singing and playing guitar on Tuesday, though.  You can watch them, if you want.  I’ve avoided posting videos or even pictures of myself in recent years, because I hate how I look now, in many ways, for many reasons.  I don’t even like to look in the mirror much.  However, I recently figured—at least this is the story I tell myself—that hiding from cameras is like eating when no one is around.  Just because someone doesn’t see you eat, and you don’t count the calories, doesn’t mean that you haven’t eaten, and it won’t protect you from the consequences.

Reality is not merely perception.  A catastrophe you don’t see coming can still hurt or kill you.

One source of my dissatisfaction with my appearance is that, rather than lose weight when depressed, as some people do, I tend to eat more, and thus to gain weight.  This is probably a self-soothing thing, since the process of eating food is one of the most reliable short-term neurological rewards a person can engineer, for good, sound biological reasons.  So, when everything else in the world feels and seems like shit, including and especially oneself, it can be hard to resist the urge to snack and overeat.

I suppose opiate and other addictions can similarly be a form of self-soothing, due to literal, direct, neurologic effects.  This often leads to emaciation, as all other drives fall by the wayside.  But since I associate opiate use with chronic, severe pain, I’m not as likely to seek them out, “heroin chic” notwithstanding.

You can thus tell from looking at me in my videos that I have been struggling with my Churchillian “black dog” for quite some time, with inconsistent (or consistent but negative) results.  I also, possibly for related reasons, botched my recent job at trimming my hair on Sunday, and I couldn’t see it until I saw myself on video; no one told me about it, but that’s not surprising.  Who would?

Anyway, I figure if I just start doing such videos and posting them, at least I’ll have to face my appearance and what bad shape I’ve allowed myself to get into.  Perhaps it’ll help provide some counter-pressure against the eating thing.  Also, frankly, people out there in cyberspace just seem to like videos of people, even if they’re just talking to the camera.

I was remarkably stressed by the fact that I was playing and singing on video for the first time ever, even if just on impulse, just to test it.  I hadn’t warmed up my voice at all—which I think is obvious—and my guitar playing was not at its best either.  I fumbled in many places where I normally play without a problem.

I didn’t even get the picking and fingering in the shot for most of the videos!  This is a minor shame, particularly with respect to Street Spirit and Blackbird, since I feel mildly proud of how far I’ve come with them.  However, the former song’s complexity of play compels me to cock my neck waaaaay down, desperately eyeballing the pick and to some extent my left hand, and that’s not a great posture for singing.  I can sing that song much better when I’m not hunched over like that***.  But I was extremely self-conscious during this “filming” process, and it was early morning, and my throat was still dry and yet gummy.  These are excuses, obviously, but they are also actual, legitimate reasons, so I don’t feel too bad about making them.

I’m probably going to commit the crime against humanity of sharing these videos on my YouTube channel, and even on Facebook, and Twitter, and on the recently rediscovered Instagram account that I made for unknown reasons in the past.  I might as well use it for something.  Goodness knows I’ve seen people post worse videos, and I’ve even enjoyed some of them.  If you have any strong objections, do share them with me.

On to lighter things, so to speak.  I’m making good progress on In the Shade, and the first draft should be done within the next week or so, even with minor distraction from making ill-advised videos.  As evidence, on Tuesday, even though I stopped early to do my “filming”, I still wrote about 1500 words on the story.  It helps in this that I do have the traditional early-awakening brand of insomnia associated with the “black dog”—actually I’ve always been an early riser and a short sleeper—but at least I can put it to work for me.

Even black dogs can be used as draft animals, it seems.

So, look forward to Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which I think will be a good collection of stories, and look forward—perhaps with fear and trembling—to the prospect of me doing more videos.  If you have any reaction to the ones I’ve posted, please let me know.  Also, I’d love to hear feedback regarding The Vagabond, if you have any to give.

TTFN

Video killed


*It’s been called to my attention by the alert and educated reader, StephenB (see comments) that the Ides of April is actually the 13th, something I did NOT know at all, but am delighted to learn.  Seriously, it made my day.  I’m leaving the term, now in scare quotes, in the post, since it’s a fun reference to “Tax Day” in the US, but I expect I shall not make this error again.  Thanks, StephenB, seriously.  I love learning new things like this!

**As I think I’ve mentioned before, I was not the sickest I’ve ever been when I had Covid, but I was sicker than I’ve been in a long time.  Thankfully, I wasn’t as feverish as I was during at least one episode of severe flu.  Maybe that’s because now I pretty much always have significant—probably long-term-toxic—levels of NSAIDs and Acetaminophen in my system, because of chronic pain due to “failed back surgery syndrome”.  My body probably has a hard time even generating a fever nowadays, so the fact that I did get a fever a few times during Covid might mean that I would have had quite high ones if conditions were otherwise.

***I did some good belting in Exit Music, even resulting in clipping/distortion at the song’s dramatic peak.  That’s kind of funny to me; I do get very into that song when I sing it.  How could I not?  Radiohead wrote it for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, and Shakespeare makes everything more powerful.

Nor blog nor poison, malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing can touch him further.

Hello and good morning to everyone reading—and since this is written language, I’m only addressing anyone who happens to be reading it, wherever and whenever that might be.  It’s Thursday again here, as always seems to happen at this time of the week, so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

There’s not much new going on with me.  Of course, I’m continuing to work on The Vagabond, and am well into the final run-through/edit of the book, which means that shortly I’ll be laying it out and preparing it for publication.  That’s exciting, at least for me, but I hope it might be to some other people out there.  It’s a more-or-less classical style horror story, a tale of what Stephen King might call “outside evil” threatening first the residents of a small university city, but ultimately threatening everything in the human world (and—it being “outside evil”—things beyond the human world).  In the process, it does some horrifying and, I hope, terrifying things.

As I think I’ve said before, it’s a bit shorter than some of my other novels, except possibly Son of Man*, and the story moves along quickly.  I suspect that’s partly because I wrote it over the course of a long period of time—ironically—and thus tended to get on with things in the story when I took it up.  Despite that, it hangs together very nicely in style and character development and all that high-falutin’ stuff, which is nice.  I’m reasonably proud of it, as far as that goes.  And I think that other people, people who enjoy horror and who enjoy dark adventure/fantasy in a so-called real-world setting will also enjoy it.

As for everything else, well, there’s not much to say.  “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps on in this petty pace from day to day,” as the man wrote.  I’m still having a great deal of trouble even finding the urge to read new fiction—or old fiction, for that matter—or to watch movies or TV shows, or anything of the sort.  I bought the new Stephen King novella collection If it Bleeds, but I couldn’t even get well into the first story before losing my ability to sustain interest.  I’m doing a bit better with science-related non-fiction, especially physics and math-oriented material, but I burn through the books too quickly, and I’m running out of ones that entice me.  I haven’t been able to muster the enthusiasm to re-read books of that type that I’ve read before (which is what I usually do), nor even to listen to the audiobooks during my commute.  Even my go-to YouTube channels like Numberphile and Sixty Symbols are coming up dry for me.  I haven’t even watched the most recent two or three videos of PBS Space Time!  It’s very troubling to me (intellectually, anyway…emotionally it’s just the background hiss of the universe) how even the things that usually command my interest without fail, without even trying, have become “weary, stale, and flat.”

Speaking of YouTube**, it’s a common theme amongst YouTubers and bloggers and other, similar creative people to ask their viewers/readers to “like” and to “subscribe” to their channels and, if they like what they’re doing, to consider supporting them through such things as Patreon or that “cup of coffee” thing, and whatnot.  I very much like these new ways of supporting creative work, which bypass the need for interceding corporations and marketing departments***.  I’ve occasionally toyed with the idea of participating in some such service.  But I think I’d prefer just to say that, if you like my blog(s) and want to support it/them…buy some of my books!  Even if you don’t tend to read novels or short stories, or if you don’t tend to read sci-fi/fantasy/horror and whatnot, it would still be a way to support me at more than one level.

My books are all available on Amazon in paperback and e-book form, and the latest is available through Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million, too.  It gives me a little boost when someone buys one—monetarily but also emotionally, which I think everyone can I agree I could use.  More importantly for me, if you have the book, there’s the possibility that you might read it sometime when you’re feeling desperate and have no other means of escape.  And if you do, I think you’ll probably enjoy it, at least if you like those types of stories.  I’ve been told that I tell a story very well****.

Of course, you can also support me by listening to my songs, on YouTube or Spotify (they’re also up on Pandora and iTunes and a bunch of other sites for which I don’t have links, but if you go there and search for “Robert Elessar” they should pop up).  I’m not as confident that these are very enjoyable, though I like them.  But even the very long song is only six and a half minutes long, and I make a few cents every time someone plays them.  If you can Like and Share them when you listen (oh, the irony!), that’s always a bonus.  I also have some other stuff on my own personal YouTube channel, but that’s not monetized.  Still, it’s got some of my stories read aloud by the author (me).  It also has my “bad covers” of some songs I like, and one song of my own that I haven’t released as an official “single”.

But, of course, just reading and liking, and if you feel like it “like”-ing this blog is also good.  I hate trying to persuade people to read my stuff or to listen to my music or otherwise tooting my own horn.  I just don’t like myself well enough to be able to recommend me in good conscience*****.  This is where those marketing people really come in handy.  I always just feel, “Well, I know that I like it, but I’m the one who made it, so you can’t judge by me.  I can’t in all honesty tell other people that it’s great or terrific, even if I feel like it is and am proud of it, because they might think its crap.”  For reasons that are far from clear to me, I feel terribly nervous about becoming a sort of poor man’s Kanye West.  Which highlights, I suppose, the one advantage (if that really is an appropriate term, which it’s not) that bipolar disorder has over unipolar depression and dysthmymia.  Rightly or wrongly, at least occasionally people afflicted with it feel really good about themselves.  Even Stephen Fry admitted that’s a comparative benefit.

Anyway, I’ve said far more than I had to say today, so I’ll bring it to an end, here.  I honestly hope that you’re all well, and that you try to be good, and that you do your best to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*Which had its origin as a book idea not too many years after I had first started what I then simply called Vagabond.

**I was, you can check.

***Don’t get me wrong, I have terrific respect for marketing departments.  Before the past few years, almost all music, books, plays, TV shows, and so on only came to people’s attention—including yours and mine—thanks to the often wonderfully creative work of marketing professionals. But I suspect that industry/profession is continuing to do quite well, so I don’t feel too bad about working around them.

****But then again, I do talk to myself too much.

*****Now there’s a serious understatement.

Thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind, for thee, and for my blog no quiet find.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  It’s time for my weekly blog post.  I’m still comparatively “out of it”, so I had to double-check that, yes, today really is Thursday.  I woke up yesterday feeling that it was Friday, though that might have been wishful thinking; I thought not only that it was Friday, but that I didn’t need to work on Saturday.  Both of these turn out to be wrong.  (Sigh.  Life is so tiring.)

Despite still obviously being reduced from my peak abilities by the aftereffects of Covid, I’ve had a relatively productive week.  First, I recorded and posted an “audio blog” which I guess counts as a sort of mini podcast, on Iterations of Zero.  It was triggered—weirdly enough—when I woke up the other day with the old Genesis song Land of Confusion going through my head, particularly the line about how “my generation will get it right, we’re not just making promises that we know we’ll never keep”.  I find such utterances terribly irritating, even in what could be considered poetry, and I replied in my head that, well, you might not be making promises that you know you’ll never keep, but you are making promises that you’ll never keep.  And indeed, they have not kept them.

Promising, after all, is easy.  Actually doing something takes work, usually a lot of it.

And of course, the remarks in the song about superman, men of steel, men of power, always set me off; there are no supermen, there are no “men of steel”, there are no “men of power”, and there never have been.  There are just other flesh and blood humans, just other bees in the hive or ants in the hill.

Anyway, I went off on those ideas for about seventeen minutes, since I was still fuming when I arrived at the office, and I then edited it (a bit) and posted it.

I did something a little more upbeat also, finally releasing my cover of the Radiohead song Nude, which is on IoZ and on YouTube:

I really like that song, but the process of having to correct for recording issues in the edit and mixing process finally drove me to buy a somewhat better microphone (closing the proverbial barn door after the equine had exited).  Just in playing with that microphone, I realized how much easier it makes things to have a good USB condenser mic.  I was able to record a draft of a cover of the Beatles song Julia in just one morning, which I embed here in present form.

Of course, I mixed it and did some reverb after the recording and whatnot, and it is a simpler song, but still, that’s a total of maybe an hour’s work or so (not counting learning and practicing the guitar part, of course).  And the microphone I used only cost about thirty-five dollars, so it’s definitely not a big expense.  I probably spend more than that every week on bubbly water.

Of course, I’ve continued to work on The Vagabond, but there’s not much new to say other than that I’m one week closer to being finished.  I still enjoy the story, and I look forward to seeing it published and then going on to finish Outlaw’s Mind and then putting together Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities and all that stuff.  After all that, I’m not sure what exactly I’m going to write next.  I’m going to write something, though, since it turns out the novel coronavirus hasn’t killed me*, and as long as I’m alive, I mean to keep writing.  I’ll also probably (to a lesser extent) keep doing music—especially now that I have my new microphone(s)—and I’ll probably keep doing little mini-podcasts that I’ll upload, though I don’t know if anyone likes them or wants to listen to them.  I’d actually appreciate feedback on that question, but I don’t think I’ve ever received any despite asking for it, so I’m not going to hold my breath.

With that, I guess I’m done with my weekly summary of events and thoughts, though I’m sure I could have written more**.  I hope you’re all as well as you can possibly be, and that you stay well and, if you can, even get weller.

TTFN

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*I have mixed and varying feelings about this.  In all honesty, life often does not seem worth the effort to me, which is probably part of why I love Hamlet so much.  And yet, even though people throughout the ages have noted that life is often not a net gain, particularly after a certain point, our culture allows, and even encourages, other people to hold us accountable for staying alive so that they don’t have to feel the pain of our death…even if they are not putting any effort into helping make our life worth living.  I’m not saying that other people should be responsible for making my (or anyone else’s) life pleasant or positive or whatever, but if they aren’t, they sure as fuck shouldn’t then arrogate to themselves the right to try to manipulate and coerce someone into enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune just because their deaths would cause that other person pain.  It’s logically inconsistent if nothing else.  It’s also selfishness and cruelty masquerading as humanitarianism.

Anyway, just to conclude this footnote with a request: if you are worried about someone who’s depressed or has some other disorder and you don’t want them to die, don’t wheedle or berate or manipulate or cajole them not to die just because it would make you upset if they did.  What right do you have to insist upon their continued suffering just so you don’t have to deal with their death?  If you really want them to stay alive, then make it your business to help them have good reasons to want to stay alive.  Otherwise, shut the fuck up!

**I can almost always write more.  In fact, an early pseudonym suggestion for me by my father was “Franklin L. Ritemoore”.  It took me about five minutes to get the joke, but I was only in junior high at the time, so I was less advanced at wordplay than I am now.

Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud; Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun, And loathsome canker lies in sweetest blog

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and thus, perforce, it’s time for my weekly blog post.  I expect I’ll be brief today; there’s really not much to say or to add.  Of course, regular readers may well point out that such a thing has never stopped me from rambling on in the past, and it may be that this is going to be another such occasion.  But I doubt it.

I haven’t been following the news too closely, except to scan headlines, because frankly, it’s even more depressing than usual.  I’m not referring to the viral pandemic per se; of course, that’s sad and worrisome, but that’s nature.  It’s not our ally in general.  It’s not our enemy either, because if it were, we’d long since have been toast.  It simply is.

No, the depressing thing is reading about what people are saying and doing, especially those who are saying the most—news people, politicians, pundits, etc.  In the brief audio podcast that I recently posted on Iterations of Zero, I spoke in passing of treating this virus as a sort of alien invasion, something that could unite humanity in solidarity against a common enemy.  I guess it would need to be a much worse virus to do that.

Instead, this being an election year in the US, the pandemic itself is politicized.  I suspect if there really were an alien invasion, in the current political climate, that too would be made into a point of contention between the parties.  Not to say that the current administration doesn’t strongly deserve criticism (in being both unreasonably critical of others and being frankly unprofessional in innumerable ways), but the opposition is just as childish, petty, spiteful, and embarrassing.  I must assume that they think they aren’t; they believe they’re inherently on the side of “right”.  This is rarely a good thing.  People do the most deplorable things when they’re certain that they’re right.

I often need to remind myself of my own words, which I’ve said to others in reassurance: “Assholes just tend to make a lot of noise, even though they’re pretty much all full of shit.”  There are a vast number of serious, positive, quiet people (I guess we could liken them to the hearts and brains* of our collective body) who work hard and get things done.  Google has been tipping a hat to many of them recently in its daily doodles, and that’s nice, for what it’s worth.  But it would be good for us all to remind themselves that it is for such people that our elected officials—who are our servants, not our leaders—should be working, not for their own self-aggrandizement, and certainly not for special interests who give them lots of campaign money.

I sometimes think it would be nice if we brought back old Roman punishments for bribery.  Not that the Romans were particularly good at keeping their elected officials in check.

Anyway, that huge show of low-quality comedy is what’s depressing to me.  Well, that’s one of the things.  Another has to do with neurotransmitters and self-reinforcing patterns of electrochemical activity in my brain, the full nature of which is beyond science’s current complete understanding and is certainly not within my own control.  But I should try to follow Mr. Rogers’s mother’s advice and look for the helpers.

Though, given my peculiar turn of mind, I sometimes can’t help but feel depressed even when I do that.  You probably don’t want to know why.

All that said, I’m at least getting work done on Unanimity, though not as quickly as by rights I ought to be, given the circumstances.  And I’m trying, very hard, to readjust my workout and diet to improve my health.  I need to lose weight badly**, and I suspect that medications for depression are, ironically, making that more difficult.  That fact, though, at least doesn’t depress me.  After all, we shouldn’t expect answers to be simple when we’re trying to adjust the most complex thing we know of in the universe.*** It doesn’t depress me that nature is difficult, because I never had any expectation that it would be otherwise.  It’s a big, old, complicated universe, and we are so small as to barely exist.

And that, weirdly enough, fills me with enough awe, wonder, and excitement—and joy—that it can overpower even the melancholy induced by human folly.  Go figure.

TTFN


*As well as all the other essential organs? Probably that’s overextending the metaphor.

**Okay, actually, it would better if I lost weight well.

***That’s not just my brain, that’s any human brain.  I’m not that egotistical.

Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden, that grows to seed; blogs rank and gross in nature possess it merely.

ulysses

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I didn’t sleep well last night—even by my standards—so if I say something even more bizarre or incoherent than usual, I can only apologize and beg you to bear with me.

It’s been a moderately interesting week.  I can honestly say I think I’m finally starting to see some effects of my new depression treatment regimen (not “regime”).  This can’t mean as much to all of you as it does to me, but nonetheless it’s probably a welcome thought for those committed to following this blog.  At least it means—if I’m correct in my assessment—that I’ll be less likely to write quite such dreary things as sometimes drip from my computer when I’m wallowing in the dumps.

I posted an audio smidgen—only about seven minutes long, if memory serves—on Iterations of Zero yesterday, though it was recorded a week ago. People don’t seem to be responding much to those, so I may relegate them to history’s anonymous junk heap and go back to trying to find time to write about such topics instead of simply moaning and groaning aloud about them.  That’s fine, though.  Written language is more efficient.  It’s also the lifeblood of civilization, besides being the love of my life.

I did, though, on a whim whose source I can’t really credit, decide yesterday to start doing audio for my second latest short story Penal Colony.  I had no specific plans for how much to do, but before I’d finished for the day, I’d recorded about forty-seven minutes of unedited audio, getting more than thirty percent through the story (based on Kindle’s reckoning).  I’d forgotten how much I enjoy reading my stories aloud.  I may go back to it in something like earnest (but not like Frank, I don’t like that guy), doing audio for Free Range Meat, and then resuming the audio for The Chasm and the Collision, for which I think I stopped after chapter nine.  Then, who knows, maybe my other books and stories will follow.

It’s gonna be some time before I get to doing audio for Unanimity, though.  Just thinking about it is daunting.

As further evidence of my gradual but hopeful improvement of chronic mood disorder, I sent out copies of the latest version of Unanimity and my partially complete novella with the working title Safety Valve to my sister and to a dear friend from my youth (both of whom share my love of reading), just in case, as I think I put it, something happens to me.  This may seem morbid and not at all non-depressed at first glance, but it’s a departure.  When I’m deeply in the throes of depression, I become almost completely nihilistic at numerous levels, such that I think that if I die, I really don’t care what happens to my writing, no matter how much work has gone into it…and there has been a LOT of work.  Needless to say, if I were to die, I would not then care what happened to my writing, but the me now can care—or not—about things that the nonexistent future me will be unable to choose to care about or not…if that makes any sense.

Anyway, the fact that I did it shows at least some improvement.  It’s still possible that I might do something successfully self-destructive*, but at least I’m acting to prophylax against such occurrences.

As for other things…I’m studiously avoiding following the process of the presidential trial in the Senate.  I already feel a thoroughgoing contempt for pretty much everyone involved in the government—and by extension many of the people who keep electing them—and in my currently improving but still-fragile mood, I just don’t need the exposure to all the stupidity, vanity, ignorance with wings, hubris, manipulation (successful and otherwise), and petty monkey-poop throwing by a collection of supposed public servants who actually serve no one but themselves, and don’t even do that very well.  It’s spectacles such as these that lead me to the calm, resigned feeling that, hey, it’s not such a big loss if humanity, and even the whole planet Earth, just withers and dies.  It’s gonna happen someday anyway; it might as well be sooner rather than later.

I can do without reinforcing that feeling.  It’s already hard enough to argue against it logically; I’d like to curb the emotion.  Otherwise, I might start working on a doomsday machine of my own to see if I can hasten the end.

Don’t worry, don’t worry.  At least as of now, I’m not doing any such thing.

Humanity doesn’t really need my help, do they?

TTFN


*Of course, there are always external dangers to life and limb for us all, and sooner or later they do catch up to us, but I tend to be by far the greatest threat to my own continued existence.

This blog of darkness I acknowledge mine

Hello and good morning!  It’s yet another Thursday and, as will come as no surprise, it’s time for me to write my weekly blog post.

I must say that I’m deeply gratified by reader response to last week’s extemporaneous reflections on  how the ideal of perfection can often be the enemy of the good, analogous to falling into the mathematical trap of saying that, since every finite number is equally (and infinitely) far from infinity, there’s no point in trying to reach a greater number than where one is.

Something like that; I put it better last week.

The many “likes” received by last Thursday’s entry stand in stark contrast to my blog post from the previous week.  This is hardly surprising.  I was riding a downturn in my ongoing waveform of dysthymia and depression on the day in question, so I’m afraid it must have been grim reading.  There’s a semi-serious saying in the medical and mental health community that depression is contagious.  Though this is not literally true—one cannot become clinically depressed simply by contact with a sufferer unless one is predisposed—it is certainly the case that spending time with, or receiving communication from, a person with depression can make one feel seriously blue and gloomy.

Depression can be surprisingly convincing in the hands of one who knows it well, particularly if that person is someone whose strengths include the communication of ideas and emotions.  Most people, struggling mightily to hold onto as good an outlook as they can, tend not to rubberneck much at these sorts of mental roadside crashes, at least until they reach the level of true catastrophe.

This is a shame, though, because one of the worst parts of suffering from depression, at least from my point of view, is that it engenders a self-reinforcing cycle of alienation.  One hates oneself; one feels intellectually justified in this attitude; and one feels therefore quite clearly that others would be justified in sharing that hatred, if they were to get too close.  Indeed, one feels positively rude and uncomfortable, even guilty, about even the possibility of subjecting others to one’s presence in any way beyond the absolutely necessary.  Isolating oneself can become a matter of conscience, analogous to what one might do if one had a particularly deadly and highly contagious illness.  It feels natural to think that those who do want to spend time in one’s presence—this number tends to diminish with the passing years, ceteris paribus—are thoroughly misguided, and must be discouraged from their goal.

And of course, other people do tend to avert their eyes from depression and the depressed—even when those eyes otherwise seem irresistibly drawn to every roadside fender-bender and horrible news story.  At least, they avert them unless and until the problem reaches fully catastrophic levels, at which point it can be ignored no longer…and at which point, ironically, there is usually little that can be done.

Some artistic reflections of depression are more palatable than others, of course.  Songs are—in my experience—one of the most tolerable.  Indeed, many of the most beautiful songs are sad, a curious fact noted by minds as widely diverse as Elton John and J.R.R. Tolkien.  My own song, Breaking Me Down, of which I released my “rebuild” on  this site, on Iterations of Zero, and on YouTube last weekend, is about depression.  The fact that it was originally composed, almost in current form, thirty years ago, shows that depression is a gift that keeps on giving, and which can contribute to the spoilage and ruination of a promising life.  It’s not something to be taken lightly; it has a mortality rate as high as many cancers, and its morbidities are vaster and deeper and more insidious than we can readily enumerate.  When seriously contemplated, it is terrifying…not least because it often makes its sufferers literally envy the dead.

If I had the choice of submitting some evildoer to the horrors of the Inquisition or of enacting upon them a chronic, fairly severe depression, it’s hard for me to say which I think would be the worse crime against humanity.

And yet, Hamlet’s soliloquy, Kansas’s Dust in the Wind, Radiohead’s No Surprises, many of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories and poems, among innumerable other works, can be enjoyed thoroughly, their beauty embraced, even by those who don’t know the experience of major depression.  Visual depictions seem more problematic, at least in my experience.  Maybe, being primarily visual creatures as we are, the imagery that effectively represents depression strikes just too close to the bone.  It can be technically remarkable and sometimes quite powerful…but it’s hard to call it beautiful.  And it’s hard to look at for very long.

Horror

I drew this picture around the same time that I wrote Breaking Me Down

Maybe words and music are abstract enough and have enough of an “eye of the beholder” effect that they soften the blow, letting people avoid the deep implications of the work by not paying too close attention.  Depressed non-fiction prose on the other hand, like visual artwork, can be too stark and on the nose to be taken in with any enthusiasm.

This is a shame because, as I said before, when someone is suffering from depression, they can feel very much condemned to solitary confinement…and to feel that such is where they belong, by nature and by guilt.  On those rare occasions when they’re able to express themselves—to cry for help, as is said, though the depressed often feel they deserve no assistance—the very nature of their suffering can make them existentially threatening to others’ moods and even their worldviews.  Again, one of the problems with depression, and a source of quips about its contagiousness, is that it can be so horribly convincing.

It’s easy enough to sympathize with those who don’t want to deal with the depressed too directly, or too often.  No one, I think, would willingly, with foreknowledge, choose to endure serious depression for long…not even if the alternative was death.

But we at least have the poetry and the songs, and I encourage you to enjoy them at whatever level you can.  At the very least, it’s wonderful occasionally to “suffer just enough to sing the blues.”  And, of course, it can also be good fun to enjoy a good horror story in a similar vein.  Hopefully, Unanimity will be such a story when it’s finally done.

Darkness can be beautiful, in its own way, as long as one knows that one can turn on the light at any time.  If one cannot, and if no one else can offer, or is offering, illumination, then even an otherwise enticing darkness can become a true horror.

TTFN

Breaking Me Down (rebuilt)

 

(c) 2019 by Robert Elessar

Words and Music by Robert Elessar

Produced and performed by Robert Elessar

I sit alone at home sometimes and want to go berserk
But doing that just never seems to work
The shelves are stacked with books but I don’t feel that I could read
While all around a thousand phantoms lurk

I drink a little wine; I eat a little meat
I wonder why I’m shivering in such infernal heat
I feel a little tired; my head’s a little light
I wish that I could close my eyes and block my inner sight.

If you could see me now, you’d probably wonder where I’ve been
But I stand and I fall
And I listen for your call
While hiding out inside the dragon’s den.

I wander ‘round through my internal night
I travel back and forth throughout the town
But if you ask, I’ll tell you I’m all right
My nervousness is just breaking me down.

I listen to the sounds of everybody having fun
I can’t join in ‘cause I don’t have a gun,
They’re scattering their ashes all along the motorway
Then scampering like rabbits on the run

I bounce off all the walls; I turn out all the lights
I always want to hit someone, but I never get in fights
I feel a bit confused; my thoughts are incomplete
There’s tingling in my fingers and there’s swelling in my feet

If you could hear what I hear you would deafen both your ears
But I can’t, and I know
That no matter where I go
I’m followed by the grinding of my gears.

I stare around in paranoiac fright
While grinning at my heartbreak like a clown
So don’t come in, and don’t turn on the light
It’s just my past mistakes breaking me down

I look at all the colors of the pictures in my mind
They’re all so dark, I might as well be blind
The path laid out ahead of me is so filled up with smoke
I think that I’d prefer to just rewind

I roam around the house; I drive around the town
I don’t know if I’m back and forth or if I’m up and down
I dive into the sea; I look into the sky
I try to understand them, but we can’t see eye to eye

If you could see inside my head, your own head would explode
But I nod, and I grin
At the end where I begin
And I smile, and I wave
When I pass an open grave
And I slump, and I sigh
When we have to say goodbye
I’ll see you at the ending of the road

I wander through the wasteland struck with blight
I make my Hell to wear an earthly crown
I smash all mirrors, I can’t stand the sight
Of everything that is breaking me down.