Give to a gracious message an host of blogs, but let ill tidings tell Themselves when they be felt.

Hello.  Good morning.

You know the rest, I suspect, but I’ll go through it anyway and say, “Welcome to another Thursday.” It is, of course, self-evidently time for another edition of my weekly blog.  If it were not, or if I’d simply decided not to write a post this week, you wouldnt be reading this.  Since you are, it’s either time for that weekly post, or I’ve decided to write something extra in between…which does happen from time to time but isn’t happening now*.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense.

I hope you’re all doing as well as you can.  From a certain point of view, of course, people are always doing as well as they can, for who would choose—willingly and willfully—not to do as well as they can if they were, at bottom, able to do so?  But circumstances are unusual right now, as you know, what with the pandemic and its consequent discombobulation of the ordinary courses of most people’s lives.  So, given all that, I want to get my two cents in—for what it’s worth, which is probably much less than two cents—and send you my good thoughts and best wishes.

I’m in the office today, doing some necessary things, but there will only be a handful of us here, masked and hooded like Nazgulor so it feels.  Business has kept up pseudo-normally, but it’s not proceeding at its usual pace.  That seems to have more to do with the difficulty people have getting motivated when they’re working from home than with anything else.

I think many of us spend too much time watching or reading the news, forgetting that there isn’t that much “new” stuff happening on a regular basis that’s pertinent to our lives, but that the various “news” sources—being commercial products, not public services—do their best to keep us watching so they can sell advertising.

It’s something of a shame, and it leads to various odious phenomena, not the least of which are “click-bait” headlines which say things like, “Here are the five things you NEED to know…” about whatever.  Of course, there’s only a tiny fraction of what’s being reported that you truly need to know, by any reasonable definition of the word “need”.  The need that’s truly operant here is the purveyors’ need for you to think that they have something important to say so that you’ll patronize their website or program.

I make it a personal policy never to click on or flip to or open anything that has the temerity to tell me what I need to know.  I need food, water, air, shelter, clothing…and that’s pretty much it.  Contrary to the great John Lennon’s words**, I don’t even truly need love.  Trust me, I know.

Nevertheless, while I don’t literally need to do it, I feel the strong urge to tell you that Unanimity is proceeding well.  I’m enjoying the penultimate read-through and edit quite a lot, even to my own surprise.  Yesterday, at the end of my editing session, I said aloud to myself, “That’s a good story.”  You may, when the time comes, disagree, of course.  I doubt there’s any one story that’s universally loved***, or even liked, though there are probably a few that come close.  But I still enjoy it, so those of you with similar tastes to mine—and, to my frequent surprise, there seem to be a lot of you—can look forward to at least having an enjoyable time reading it.

It’s a shame that I didn’t get it out sooner, because it is long, and might make a nice diversion during the various levels of lockdown involved in slowing the progression of this pandemic.  Well, no great matter; my various other works are available for you to read if you like.  You should be able to find them here.  They’re all available for Kindle, so you don’t even have to venture out into the virus-infested wilderness to procure them—you can have them at a moment’s notice (I have to admit that I particularly like the look and feel of the “hard copy” of The Chasm and the Collision, but even that can simply be delivered to your door).

I’ve even heard tell that there are books and stories by other people that some of you might like, insane as that may seem.

With that, I’ve probably said far more than was needed for the week, but I hope I’ve at least helped you pass a bit of time.  In all seriousness, do please take care of yourselves and of those you love…and even do what you can for strangers if the circumstances present themselves.  We are all vastly more alike than unlike, after all, and to ease each other’s suffering, even if only a tiny bit, is gratifying and incredibly potent, often even more so for the one helping than for the one who is helped.  Go figure.

TTFN


*This is one of those all-too-numerous circumstances in which something “goes without saying”, and yet someone charges in and says it anyway.  I know how absurd it is, and yet I can’t seem to resist doing it.

**I don’t like to contradict him, but he wasn’t always right.

***I can understand how there might be rare souls who don’t like The Lord of the Rings, in book or movie form, or any of the various Star Wars movies…but it’s difficult for me to credit the fact that—apparently—there are those who have been legitimately exposed to his works, and who are native English readers, and yet somehow do not enjoy any of the works of Shakespeare.  These are probably the same Philistines who can listen to Patrick Stewart’s reading of A Christmas Carol and not be moved to tearful smiles by the end.

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.

The aged man that coffers up his gold is blogged with cramps and gouts and painful fits

Hello, all.  Good morning and welcome to Thursday again.  It’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

Of course, the major news in the human world—such as it is—is the ongoing international tour de force of the COVID-19 virus.  I’ve expressed (elsewhere) my frustration with the irrationality with which people are responding to this pandemic*, including the hoarding of toilet paper, which makes little to no sense, and believing sub-moronic videos that say, for instance, that you can cure the virus or prevent its spread by aiming a hot blow-dryer into your nose and mouth.  These are such things as make me wish—only semi-facetiously—that people needed a license to reproduce.  Don’t even get me started on the various absurd prophecies and conspiracy theories many embrace and share about this and other global events.  It’s bizarre that people can simultaneously think so highly and so poorly of human nature, in such unjustifiable ways.

Behaviors such as these tend to exacerbate my baseline melancholy, and have in the past led me to, among other things, write a song about depression.  The song, in this case, was Breaking Me Down, of which I shared the “final release” earlier this week on Iterations of Zero and on YouTube.  When I originally wrote it, I wasn’t thinking explicitly about depression, but I was going through a pretty bad exacerbation, so when I wrote a poem/song about my thoughts and feelings, that was what came out.

I have recorded and released earlier versions of the song, but they suffered partly from my inexperience with mixing and production, and from initially being too low (the final product is up two full steps from how I initially wrote it), and too slow.  The original vocals were not so great, either, both in recording/mixing quality and in the singing.  However, as with most things, practice makes better, though it’s unlikely that it ever makes “perfect”**.  So, now, the song is in a higher key and at a quicker tempo, such that I playfully refer to it as a song about depression that you can dance to if you feel like it.  I think that’s a pretty cool accomplishment, though you may or may not agree that I’ve succeeded.

After fixing this song up, I realized that if I remaster my first, sort of jokey song, Schrodinger’s Head, I’ll have enough for about half an album(!).  That’s five original songs, running a total of roughly twenty-five minutes.  Of course, being the lunatic that I am, that thought immediately led me to go back and start tweaking Schrodinger’s Head, including re-recording vocals and doing some harmony.  That’s not so hard—the good thing about singing is, one always has one’s instrument.  And the actual remixing/remastering process, though time-consuming, is weirdly entertaining and satisfying.

The real issue is that once this is done, I will no doubt feel the urge, or the drive, or the compulsion, to make more songs for the other side of an album***.  I do have here and there the beginnings of other songs, and even have a longer portion of something I mean to write about a manga character, but I just know that this is going to consume a lot of time.  Of course, if I were in one of those industries that’s been forced to take a hiatus in response to COVID-19, writing and recording songs might be a good use of my extra hours.  Unfortunately—well, fortunately, really…let’s be fair and positive, if that’s possible for me—my job is going strong, and I continue to be in the office five to six days a week.  Thus, this little musical hobby tends to eat into my real work, which is writing.

That being said, though, Unanimity is coming along well.  I’m nearly done with the latest run-through, and it’s getting closer and closer to publishable form.  It certainly is a long story, but at least I don’t find it boring.  Whether anyone else will share my assessment only time can tell, but at least liking it myself is a good starting point.

That’s pretty nearly it for this week.  I hope you all do your best to stay well…but don’t do crazy and stupid things, okay? For my part, I’ve always frequently washed my hands and coughed and sneezed into the hollow of my elbow, but then, I am an MD.  As for social distancing, well, that’s something I haven’t ever had to think about much.  It seems to be a task at which I’m particularly gifted, and I’ve only gotten better, if that’s the correct term, over the years.  Remember what I said about practice?

Ironically enough, I—someone very far from being attached to existence—am relatively protected compared to all the many people who want so desperately to cling to their lives.  I wouldn’t call it cosmic irony—that would probably have to involve quasars, galaxies, black holes, dark energy, and the like—but it is certainly irony at a high level.

TTFN


*I know the root words are different, but I can’t help imagining that the word “pandemic” should somehow mean “bread for the people,” or maybe “bread made out of people,” such as Jack and the Beanstalk’s giant might enjoy.

**In most cases, the term “perfect” isn’t defined, and is probably undefinable.  Unless one has a clearly delineated set of criteria by which to judge something, declaring perfection is mere wordplay.  I’m a fan of wordplay, of course, but in this case, people seem to think they mean something, formally, when they use the term.  It leads to much confusion.  It also leads many people to drive themselves to distraction, often to despair, and occasionally to destruction in the dreadful pursuit of “perfection”, a hallucinatory goal that never comes nearer than the horizon.  By all means, strive always to improve yourself.  But sincerely trying to achieve perfection can lead to a life of frustration and self-loathing.

***Don’t ask me what I mean to do with such a collection once I make it, assuming that I do.  It’s not as though I have any experience in making or releasing albums.  I would, however, almost certainly call it “Iterations of Zero”.  Consistency is good.

My long sickness of health and living now begins to mend, and nothing blogs me all things.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday edition of my blog post.  Enter freely and of your own will.

I considered donning my metaphorical doctor’s hat* today and discussing the coronavirus that’s currently causing mass panic and near-panic, but I think there’s an abundance of such discussions out there now by people who get paid to talk about it—and, alas, by people who have no business talking about it.  I’ll just say this much:  while care and concern are warranted, and significant resources and planning are appropriate and necessary to address this problem, panic is not useful.  It rarely is.  Pay attention to qualified, sober sources, follow sensible recommendations about handwashing (which ought to be your habit, anyway), practice so-called social distancing**, minimize and avoid public gatherings, work from home if you can, and for gosh sakes, if you cough or sneeze, do it into your elbow, not your hand.  If you do it into your hand by mistake, wash your hands right away, please.  Ewwwww.

And, of course, if this disease frightens you—which is not entirely unreasonable—then use that fact to motivate you to take other, far more common and similarly dangerous diseases such as influenza seriously in the future.  Familiarity should not breed apathy.

Likewise, pay attention to non-infectious but dangerous behaviors: use your turn signals (every time!), get regular exercise, don’t smoke, all that stuff.  And it should go without saying that if you text and drive (or otherwise allow your cellphones to make you into a needless hazard for the innumerable innocents with whom you share the road), then you should be given painful electric shocks to your tongue and genitals, lasting one second for the first offense, two for the second offense, four for the third offense, eight for the fourth offense, sixteen for the fifth, and so on.

I myself have been rather sick over the last weekend and well into this week so far.  It’s nothing as dramatic as COVID, just some “stomach” trouble, minor fevers and chills (for a short time), and then just generally feeling miserable and blah since late last week.  Nevertheless, work continues on Unanimity, though I’m nearing the end of the book again, and I’m about to reread a particularly sad and tragic episode in it.  Of course, it’s a “pseudo-sci-fi” horror novel, so such sad and tragic episodes abound, but this one feels particularly harsh to me…and I’m the one who wrote it, so there’s no one else to blame.

I’ve also been doing some musical tinkering here and there, despite being queasy and slightly febrile.  I figured out some of the reasons I wasn’t satisfied with my song Breaking Me Down—beyond my comparatively poor production skills when I made it—and I’ve been working on correcting those problems and producing a better version.  I posted a partially improved one here and on Iterations of Zero recently, but those are far from the finished product, though I didn’t know it at the time.  Once I get the song into a form that I like, I’ll probably remove earlier versions at least from my YouTube channel, though I’ll likely leave them here and on IoZ for posterity and archaeology.

That’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? Archaeologists of the future may spend much of their careers scraping and sifting through the electronic remnants at the bottom of the crumbling ruins of our current, archaic version of cyberspace, where information may indeed remain forever, but in which it will continue to be almost hopelessly mired in what is surely one of the most lopsided signal-to-noise imbalances that life has ever seen***.  Presumably their search engines will be better even than ours, but just imagine future civilizations trying to piece together an accurate picture of early twenty-first century life by going through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Reddit.  God help them if they stumble upon “reality TV”!

Hopefully, they’ll know enough just to come to WordPress.

With that, I think I’ll call it done for this week.  I hope you’re all as well as you can be, and continue to be as well as you can be, in this best of all currently available worlds.

TTFN


*The hat is metaphorical.  The doctor part is literal.

**I do that naturally, whether I wish it or not.  How lucky for me.

***If you need to ask which side predominates that ratio, I’m not sure what to say other than to ask if this is your first time ever getting online.

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.

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

Antarctic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not to be melodramatic about it or anything.

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

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

TTFN


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

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

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

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

wine glass shatter

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m probably pushing the analogy too far.

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

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

TTFN


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

**Endarkenment?

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

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.

Who would fardels blog, to grunt and sweat under a weary life?

[The initial part of this blog post was meant to be published a week ago, as will become clear.]

Hello, good morning, and good Thursday (it’s also the day before “Good Friday”).  I’m feeling rather poorly this morning, and I am, in fact, going to the doctor before work today.  Yes, I’m planning to go to work afterwards.  It’s not as though I have health insurance or anything, so if I’m going to go to the doctor—ironically—I needs must pay for it out of mine own pocket, even though I’m a qualified medical doctor myself.  This is the eminently sane and rational society in which we live.  Isn’t it grand?

As per last week’s posting, I’ve been focused almost entirely on editing this week, so I’m making significantly faster progress than before, though the road is long.  Also, I’ve just not felt well at all for a while, now, and it’s taking some of the wind out of my sails.  Ordinarily, it’s difficult to get me to slow down and shut up, and I can’t completely rule out the possibility that I’m being subtly poisoned by someone (or more than one) who finds me too annoying.

I’m kidding.  I really don’t suspect some nefarious plot.  It’s just the sort of thing that crosses my mind when I think of myself, so I occasionally imagine that other people might feel similarly.  Actually, other people tend to be more patient with me than I am with myself, but then again, they can get away from me, can’t they?  No matter where I go, as they say, there I am.

I have a few things in the works for IoZ, which might or might not be interesting.  I have an audio blog still to post, and I’m trying to write some posts long-hand (in first draft) to see if that makes me produce them more often.  I also have plans for another post that began its life as a response to a Facebook meme about the tides, stating that, since the moon affects the oceans, there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t affect us since we’re 70% water.  This meme was so misguided and riddled with misunderstandings about basic physics that I couldn’t resist going through the whole Newtonian universal law of gravitation, why there are tides, why they are not dependent upon water, and how tiny the tidal differences due to the moon are from one end of any given person to  the other end.  Yes, I did the math, and shared all the numbers (to significant figures, or thereabouts).  And I’m going to post a version of it on Iterations of Zero once I tweak it a little.

That notion of someone poisoning me doesn’t quite sound so crazy and paranoid now, does it?

I haven’t been promoting my already-published books much lately.  I’ve felt a bit of aversion to Facebook and so haven’t much wanted to give them money, but they really are the best venue I have through which I can promote, unless anyone out there has any better suggestions.  I ought to get back into it.  I just feel kind of obnoxious pushing my own stuff overtly.  I suppose this is why people hire agents and advertisers and marketing firms, but I don’t have that kind of money to spare.

Anyway, the editing of Unanimity and on Free-Range Meat is going well.  As far as short stories go, I still plan both to publish the stories from Welcome to Paradox City as individual Kindle editions and to eventually release a new collection, in hard copy and Kindle, of such “short” stories, so that’s something for you all to look forward to.

Always assuming I live long enough, of course.

TTFN

 

***

 

Okay, well, as you might have noticed, I didn’t, in fact, publish my blog last week, so I’m just going to do a follow-up now and continue the story, as it were, where I left off.

The reason I never posted last week was because, after going to the walk-in clinic and telling them my symptoms and my history, and after the doctor there gave me a once-over, he said (more or less), “Look…I can do some tests here and charge you for them, but unless they show a clear and easily treatable cause of your symptoms and problems, I’m going to recommend that you go the emergency room anyway.  So, let’s skip a step, I won’t charge you for this visit, and I’m going to give you a referral to the ER.”

I thought this was, perhaps, a little alarmist, but I was persuaded—not happily—to follow his advice, and I went.  I guess the ER agreed with the clinic doctor’s assessment, because they admitted me for about thirty or so hours, ruled out heart attack and DVT/pulmonary embolism, and did an echocardiogram (among other things).  They also, thankfully, gave me some antibiotics for a chronic/recurrent ear infection, which quite temporarily relieved it…though it’s already recurring even as I write this.

Then, at the beginning of this week, after a reasonably restful holiday weekend in which I neither celebrated any of various potential causes for celebration nor had any interactions with those with whom I would have wanted to celebrate, I got calls from both the cardiologist who read my echocardiogram and from the attending physician who managed my care during my brief hospitalization.

Before I get into what they said, let me give you a bit of back story:

When I was eighteen, I was diagnosed with an atrial-septal defect, secundum type (read about it here if you like), quite a good-sized one, with a greater-than-two-to-one shunt.  This was promptly evaluated, and I had open-heart surgery to close it, performed at Children’s Hospital in Detroit by the man who wrote the textbook on the surgery.  This experience, which was quite painful but at least interesting, was influential on my decision eventually to go to medical school.  Subsequent follow-up was unremarkable, the surgery was a success, I was discharged from ongoing care, etc., etc., etc.

Anyway, it turns out, based on this new echocardiogram, that my previous defect did not remain completely closed through the intervening years, and that I have some equivalent of a patent foramen ovale with, apparently as indicated on the echo, a shunt that is sometimes reversing…i.e. some blood from my pulmonary circulation is shifting to the systemic circulation without having passed through the lungs to blow off CO2 and get oxygenated.  This is why (as was the case before my initial surgery) I seem to have a high resting heart rate (or did when checked at the clinic and the hospital) and now tend to have a lowish oxygen saturation, at least in the right circumstances.

This is all not imminently life-threatening, but as I know, the fact that there is even occasional right-to-left shunting means that there is a potentially serious problem.  And the attending internist recommended that I start seeing the cardiologist before even coming to her for general medical follow-up, with plans for eventual intervention and closure of the defect.  But, of course, as stated above, I don’t have health insurance right now, and as it is, I’m going to be paying for this hospital visit for quite some time to come.  It is true that closure of such PFO’s nowadays is much less of an undertaking than it was thirty years ago, but I still don’t think it’s going to be cheap.

And, finally, what’s the point?  Apart from the inherent drive to stay alive that’s been beaten into my genes by hundreds of millions of years of multi-cellular evolution, I honestly don’t have any compelling reason to try to improve my health and/or prolong my existence.

I have neither colleagues nor close friends with whom I can really have any enjoyable conversations, or with whom I ever do anything fun…mainly because the things I think are fun are rarely what those around me find enjoyable, and vice versa.

I have a housemate who’s a good guy, and we get along well, but we don’t have a great deal in common (though I’ve bought some great guitars from him).

I’m a divorced, ex-con, MD who can’t practice medicine anymore, whose son won’t talk to him, and who is only able to interact with his daughter through Facebook and similar venues, who works merely to stay alive so he can write and publish sci-fi/fantasy/horror stories that few if any people will ever read, and who occasionally diddles around with writing, producing, and sharing songs, and drawing pictures, and stuff like that.

Oh, and I also make blog posts like this one.

I come from a line of people who tended to be somewhat socially restricted, by nature and choice, but my mother and father at least had each other through their natural life-spans, as was the general rule in the past.  I, however, am a card-carrying inhabitant* of the easy divorce era, bereft of my chosen and beloved family by the will of the love of my life.  I have no strong desire to go through the gauntlet of trying to find some replacement love who is no more likely to have a sense of enduring commitment than the one who came before her, especially when I have so little to offer anymore.

I’m inclined to think that this story’s gone on well past any reasonable degree of interest.  I guess I might change my mind; who knows?  But for now, it’s hard to see the point of bothering to go through all these medical processes again, even if the interventions are less severe and relatively less expensive than they were in the past.  What, as they say, is the point?  I’m basically a weird, weary, and alone person in a world in which the forces of stupidity seem not only to be ascendant now but always to have been so.

It’s enough, I’m thinking.

TTFN


*I don’t actually carry a card

You stubborn ancient knave, you reverend blog post, we’ll teach you.

There’s not a whole lot new going on this week, but one thing that is new is that I have begun work on the audio release of The Chasm and the Collision, and it’s proceeding swiftly.  The book’s chapter lengths are generally shorter than my short stories, so the audio for chapter one of CatC is going to end up around forty minutes long.  There will undoubtedly be significantly longer future chapters, but I don’t think any of them are as long as, for instance, Hole for a Heart or Ifowonco, so they’ll be coming out rather more rapidly than have my earlier audio tracks.  Also, I’ve developed increasing skill at creating the audio, and that tends to lead to greater efficiency.  Undoubtedly, I’ll continue to make mistakes, and hopefully I will continue to learn and improve over time.  We shall see.

Unanimity continues to lengthen, though its progress has been slow this week, because my motivation, or my energy level, has been poor.  This is explored in my most recent post in Iterations of Zero, which started out as a simple Facebook status, but which rapidly grew too long for efficient use of that venue.  It deals with the problems, and the ongoing and inescapable danger, of suffering from dysthymia and major depression.  I don’t know whether it’s of use to anyone or not.  Fellow sufferers may at least get some reflective value from it, I’m not sure.  Anyway, because of the problem discussed therein, I haven’t written as much this week on Unanimity as I tend to do when at my best.

This is where my ongoing, habitual commitment (which I’ve described here before) kicks in.  Even on those mornings on which I don’t feel like doing much of anything—most mornings, when it comes down to it—I tell myself, “All right, you don’t have to write much, but at least write one page.”  This is a reasonably non-daunting task, since I write very quickly once I get started, and it almost always leads me to write at least two pages, and sometimes more.  It’s easier to keep working once I’ve forced myself to get started.  In fact, it’s often hard to stop, because I don’t want to quit before I’ve reached a good pausing point, from which I’ll be able to pick up again next day, and I also want to complete whatever chain of narrative is prominent in my head that day.

A related ethic has led to the continued production of the aforementioned audio for CatC.  I committed to recording at least some of it every day, and that led rapidly to the complete recording of the chapter.  In fact, it only took two recording sessions.  Now, I’m working on the editing, which, thanks to skills I’ve developed over time, is going more quickly than it would have in the past.

I’ve tacitly decided that I’m going to do my blog series, “My heroes have always been villains,” on a once-a-month basis, on the second Thursday of each month.  If you’re looking forward to the next installment of that series, you now know when you can reliably expect it to come out; I tend to be rather compulsive about plans of that sort, barring events that make me unable to write at all.  These are always possible for anyone, and are more possible for me, given the difficulties I describe in my IoZ post, “A daily game of roulette.”  I wish I could be more optimistic about such things, but to be more optimistic about my optimism would require me to have a more optimistic starting point in the first place.  Instead, my main proactive force, the thing that keeps me pushing forward, is simply a profound and often maddening (to other people, at least) stubbornness.

With that, I think we have enough for this week.  I’ll almost certainly be posting my next audio file before the next regular blog post, and I’ll spread news of that on social media, so notification should be easy to get.  My daily writing continues, as it ought to do (by definition), and the first draft of Unanimity will be finished before long—probably before the end of summer, though certainly not before its beginning.

I hope you all stay well, and try to improve every day, in at least small ways.  If you happen to know someone who struggles with depression—and it’s not possible to have depression without a struggle—please reach out to them and show support.  They are often entirely incapable of helping themselves, because the very part of their being which would do or even motivate that helping is what the illness debilitates.  They may not feel that they’re worth saving, but if you do, then it’s going to be up to you to do it.  It’s said to be difficult to provide psychotherapy for sociopaths because they don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with themselves.  In depression, the problem is a little different:  it can be difficult to help this disease’s victims because they often, quite literally, think that they do not deserve help, and that your time would be vastly better spent on other people and causes.  You should judge for yourself.

TTFN.