We’ve been trying to reach you, Rob

Guten Morgen, bonjour, buenos días, ohaiyou gozaimasu, and good morning.  It’s Wednesday, at 10 to five, and I’m already on the train, because despite being sick, I still couldn’t sleep, and if anything, I awakened sooner than usual.

Yes, I am still sick—it’s rare that anyone really, actually, gets over a respiratory infection in 24 hours, after all—but I also still have to go to work.  That’s particularly true on Wednesdays, when I have to do the office payroll in addition to my other, regular duties.  It’s not a dirty job, but nevertheless, someone has to do it.

I feel even less that I have a topic to write about today than I did yesterday, but as regular readers will know, that never stops me from writing.  It’s a bit analogous, I suppose, to the jocular saying that one should never let facts get in the way of a good story.  So:  never let lack of a subject stop you from writing a blog post.  Goodness knows most pundits and politicians and even most journalists nowadays don’t let lack of subject matter stop them from writing or speaking at length.

Still, my energy feels unusually low today, even for me.  Maybe I should write about how unreasonable it is in our culture that we demand of ourselves that we go to work even when we’re ill, thus increasing the chance that other people will become ill, and probably reducing overall productivity of the workforce and decreasing the overall quality of life for everyone.  As if we needed to push that down lower than it already is.

But I suppose that subject has been addressed innumerable times in many ways by many other people.  If you need it discussed beyond a few words to trigger the thought, I’m not sure what world you’re occupying.  Perhaps your life is so satisfying that you don’t even comprehend how anyone could be less than happy.  More likely, you’re so worn down and resigned—dare I say, fatalistic—that you don’t even recognize, let alone consider, the possibility that things could improve.

I feel you.

So, what should I write about?  Or should I try to write about anything at all?  Should I just start spewing random sentences in question form, as though initiating a Socratic dialogue?  Would there be any benefit to that?  If so, what would it be?

I’m not good at small talk in general, and I’ve gotten worse at it over time, as my socialization has diminished.

I did very briefly pick my guitar up yesterday, because I had watched a video of someone reacting to the Radiohead song Knives Out, for which I had learned the lead guitar part some time ago, and I wanted to see if I could still do it.  I couldn’t do it from memory—I needed to get out the tabs—but it wasn’t too bad.  And while I had that out, I quickly fiddled (so to speak) through part of the lead from Big Log, by Robert Plant, and a bit of Wish You Were Here, and then the chords from One Headlight and A Space Oddity.  I made a video of me playing and singing the latter a while back, which I guess I’ll embed below as a space filler.

Then someone noticed that I was playing—I usually only play when no one else is around—and so I put the guitar away.  Anyway, I wanted to watch a reaction to the Radiohead song Lift that I noticed on the YouTube list, and the chords for that involve a B add…ninth, I think*, that gives me a terrible hand cramp to try to reach, so I wasn’t going to try to play along.  And listening to that song, and the reaction, made me want to cry, so I had to stop all that.

So that’s it.  I actually did get out the black Strat at the office, or picked it up and turned on the amp, since it’s always sort of “out”.  But who knows if I’ll ever play it again?  I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t.  It’s like picking up your kids—there will be a moment when you pick up your child in your arms for the final time, and you will never pick them up again after that, and odds are, you won’t even realize that it is the final time when it happens.  You’ll just never happen to pick them up again.  Likewise, there will be a last time that you hug or even see each of the people you love, and then one of you will be lost to the other, or both will be, for the rest of time.  So don’t take those things for granted, okay?

That’s about all I’ve got for the time being.  Hope you have a good day.


*Yes, that’s what it was.

How many rhetorical questions can one man ask?

Well, it’s Monday again, the start of another work week.  I think it’s a bit unfair that we’ve made the day that we named after the moon—arguably our most unique and interesting and certainly among the most important of nearby astronomical bodies—into a day that’s associated with the return to drudgery after a minor respite.

But that’s not what I mean to write about today.  I’ve been thinking recently about a list I saw of “Greatest Songs of All Time”.  I think it was one of those “WatchMojo” or “WhatCulture” lists, but that doesn’t matter much.  What matters to me is, what had this list declared to be the greatest song of all time?  Well, the answer, my friend, was Blowin’ in the Wind.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the song.  It’s a simple folk tune, pleasant and catchy enough for what it is.  But the greatest?  Musically, it’s not terribly interesting.  It has only three chords, which change in not terribly imaginative or impressive ways, and the tune itself is also not especially beautiful or catchy.  It just repeats its structure 3 times in a row.  That’s all fine, don’t get me wrong, but…surely it can’t be because of the tune and the chords that they think it’s the greatest song of all time.

It must be the words.  After all, the person who wrote this song was recently given a Nobel Prize for his words (all of them, not just this song), so they must be the reason some people consider this the greatest song of all time.  Presumably the Nobel Committee doesn’t give those awards out just for any old lyric writing.  They haven’t given one to Paul McCartney or Bernie Taupin or (God forbid) Tim Rice.

So, Mr. Dylan—if that is your real name*—let’s examine the lyrics of this supposedly greatest not just of your songs, but of all songs.

With the first line, I already have problems:  “How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?”

It’s internally contradictory.  If a man is walking down any road at all, as the lyric says, you’re already calling him a man.  If the starting point is “a man walking down a road” then he doesn’t need to be a man walking down a road at all before you call him a man.  For a man to walk down a road, he has to be already a man.

Then comes the line “How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?”

This one just doesn’t make sense.  Do white doves sail?  Aren’t doves land birds?  Does any bird, other than a pirate’s parrot or similar, actually “sail” at all?  Do white doves tend to sleep in the sand?  I thought most dove species nested well above the ground.  Or is this “sleep” a reference to dying?  In which case, maybe a white dove will die if it tries to sail—since they aren’t sea birds—and so it will die at once, and the answer is “one or fewer”.

Next comes “How many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned?”

Well, I don’t think you need to ban cannonballs.  They’re a long-since obsolete form of military projectile.  What good would “banning” them “forever” do?  Cannonballs are easy enough to make, but again, they are obsolete.

Well, this one I’m willing to accept as a catch-all term referring to all military weapons, but surely banning will not be the way war is ended, since “banning” something requires an implicit threat of force in and of itself.  Surely only by advancing as a civilization to the point where war is no longer in any sense desirable by anyone is the way things will go, if it goes that way at all.

Next comes the title verse, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.  The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Now this is clearly just an evocative image (so to speak) showing that the answer is not something that can be grasped, calling to mind poetic queries such as “Who has seen the wind?”  But ever since I were a wee lad, I’ve heard this and thought, “So, maybe the answer is ‘a leaf’.”  Which doesn’t quite make sense, but a leaf is the sort of thing that can be found blowing in the wind.  Or we could go “meta” or whatever, and say, “The answer is, ‘dust’.  Dust in the Wind is the answer.”  And for my money, it’s a much deeper, more evocative, more haunting, and far more beautiful song.

But that’s a digression.

Now, the first lyric of the second verse is one I frequently forget, because it’s partly banal and partly misses any point.  The whole “How many years can a mountain exist before it’s washed to the sea?” is a bit of trivia, and it would differ for every mountain.  Also, I would think that not every mountain is, in the end, washed to the sea.  I don’t really think that’s how geology and plate tectonics work.

As for the third line of the verse, “How many times can a man turn his head and pretend he just doesn’t see?” it’s basically an empirical and uninteresting question***; I suppose one could run a test on a statistically significant number of men and have them turn their heads over and over again, pretending not to see, until they get fed up with the process, or fall asleep, or develop some form of repetitive stress injury, then publish the result with error bars and significance estimates, but why would anyone do such a thing?

The middle line sticks in my craw in a worse way, for moral philosophical reasons:  “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?”

Well, if freedom is something that people are “allowed” then they aren’t free at all.  They are being given a privilege, not claiming a right.  Freedom is something that is demanded, that is seized, that is declared.  It is not given nor taken away—ethically, anyway—at the whim of other people.

It is certainly questionable, as a matter of physics, whether anything like “freedom” actually exists, but from a civilizational point of view, if you think you have a right to “freedom”, you don’t ask to be allowed to be free, you insist upon it, and—if it’s important enough to you—you put your life on the line to seize it.

Then comes the little chorus again.

Now for the last verse, which starts, “How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky?”

Well, honestly, we don’t have enough information to answer that question.  If the man is in a closed, windowless room, then it doesn’t matter how many times he looks up.  He’s not going to see the sky.  On the other hand, if he’s in the basket of a high-flying balloon, for instance, or in a plane, he may not need to look up at all to see the sky.  But if he is outdoors, and it’s not cloudy (unless clouds count as “the sky”) then he only has to look up once to see the sky.

The next line is “How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?”

The most straightforward answer is, “At least one.”  I would be willing to include in this definition of “ear” anything that transduces sound into decipherable neural impulses reaching the appropriate brain centers for interpretation, including those amazing new devices that have allowed previously deaf people to hear for the first time.  When those are turned on, and you see the recipients’ reactions, anyone with half a soul can’t help but cry.  That’s poetry in real life.

But it’s orthogonal to my point.

Next comes perhaps the silliest line, to me:  “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”

There are a lot of assumptions made in asking this question, such as the notion that death is inherently bad in and of itself.  If that’s so, then we’re all hosed, because as far as we know, every human born will die someday, somehow.  As far as we can tell, the universe itself will eventually reach some stage of “heat death” with the development of maximal entropy and no free energy, where there will no longer be any arrow of time.  But in any case, every human will die eventually, that much is effectively certain.

So, how many is too many?  I suppose if the last mating pair of humans alive in the world die, leaving the human race extinct, then “too many” people would have died…from the human point of view, anyway.  Maybe to other creatures on the planet this would entail “just the right number of deaths”.

This line is part of a general attitude toward which I have antipathy.  It is not death per se that is the evil.  It is premature death, and death that causes or entails unnecessary suffering.  Suffering is the real tragedy, not death.  Everyone who is born will die.  If not—far worse—they’re eventually going to find themselves floating in a featureless, timeless haze at just-above-absolute-zero, and they’re going to be alone there until the next Poincaré recurrence, estimated to be on the order of 10120 billion years, if such a thing even happens at all.

That doesn’t sound fun.  Why not just be content to die and then come back whenever the laws of physics accidentally recreate you, somewhere****, which is going to be more likely to happen sooner than the whole universe recurring, not that you’ll experience the intervening time.  That’s all assuming that the laws of physics don’t contain bigger surprises than anyone expects, which they probably do.

This should all be enough to show my irritation with the notion that Blowin’ In the Wind might be the best song ever.  It’s obviously memorable, of course, and it made me think—but only in the sense of thinking of the ways that it’s awkwardly worded or ham-handedly metaphorical.  All Along the Watchtower is a better song, in my opinion.  Even The Times They Are A-Changin’ is a little better.  Or The Man in the Long Black Coat!

Then again, I’ve written a lot of words picking apart this one, simple song, with a simple chord and verse structure, with many lines that could be considered what Dan Dennett calls “deepities”—words that sound profound, but which are fairly banal and even trivial or nonsensical when you look at them closely.

But I did stop and look at them and pick them apart and think about what they could mean if they were slightly better worded, and they made me think about possibly better questions to be asked.

Maybe it’s a pretty great song after all.  Who would’ve thought it?


*That’s a joke.  I know it’s not his real name.  His real name is Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov**.

**That’s a joke within a joke.  It’s not actually Bob Dylan’s real name.  Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, Dylan is Dylan, just as Muhammed Ali—another famous poet—was Muhammed Ali.

***Though I know it’s really a rhetorical question referring to people’s ability to ignore injustice, and I don’t actually have any issues with it as such.  So I apologize for being picky about this line.

****Possibly as a so-called Boltzmann Brain, which frankly doesn’t sound appealing.

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought blog and bids it break.

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and so it’s time for my long-term, usual, weekly Thursday blog post, as contrasted with my newer string of nearly daily blog posts*.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), the reason for the daily blog posts has not changed—I haven’t yet again found any interest in writing fiction, whether on the two stories I have partly completed or on any other stories.  I don’t know if I’m ever going to write any more fiction again.

Similarly, and also unfortunately (or, again, perhaps fortunately), I haven’t had any desire to play (or write) music.  I haven’t even listened to much music, though that’s partly because of the change in my commute; I used to listen to a lot of music on my way to and from work.  But I think I may just give most of my musical stuff to my former housemate.

It seems fair, since he made two of the guitars, and he’s certainly a much better guitar player than I am.  I might give the one I keep at the office** to the son of one of my coworkers, who has ASD, and is probably a bit too young now, but who likes music, and on the few occasions he came into the office with her for a few minutes, he enjoyed strumming it.

I’m probably being silly and sentimental in thinking about doing that.  Probably if I gave him that guitar it would just sit around and gather dust, or it would end up getting sold—which is what I honestly almost hope will happen with the others if they go to my housemate.  He’s on disability (missing left leg below knee and other chronic injuries born from the same accident), so he can usually use a bit of extra money.

None of it is doing much good with me, at least.  Even the thought of picking up and playing, yes even sometimes simply looking at the instruments, makes me feel queasy and dysphoric.  That happened just now, for instance.  It’s a shame, I guess, since I used to find minor respite from such unpleasant feelings in music or writing, but that doesn’t seem to work any longer.

On the good news front, a New Balance walking shoe that has always been a good fit for me, but which had briefly become unavailable, has become available again, and I have a pair on the way.  It wasn’t even expensive, despite the name and the fact that some New Balance shoes have become as absurdly overpriced as Nikes and the like.  So now I’ll have a total of four pairs of decent shoes (with inserts) in which I can walk long distances with minimal trouble.  They’re also all lightweight, which means carrying them with me wouldn’t be an issue.

I haven’t even read any books this week, which is unusual.  Kindle isn’t going to know what to do with itself!  I don’t think I’ve read anything since Saturday, other than online stuff, of course—news and a few blogs I follow.  I did listen to a bit of the audio-book version of Pawn of Prophecy while walking the other day, but the guy reading it has a bit of a thickish accent, and though his reading is in general good and enjoyable, it feels confusing; it’s a book I’ve read many times, and therefore I tend to hear it in my own voice in my head, and my accent is quite different from the narrator’s.

I was also listening to the newer, Andy Serkis narrated Lord of the Rings a month or two ago, but though of course he does a wonderful job—being who he is—he’s quite dramatic, and so the progress of the story takes longer than it does in other audio versions, so I’m caught between loving his reading and yet wanting him to hurry it up a bit so we can get to the next good part.  Anyway, I have since been a bit derailed from that, but it is a good book to hear while walking.

It’s quite nice that, thanks to Kindle and Audible, I can carry a library of dozens of audio books and hundreds of print books in my pocket wherever I go.  I still love the feel and presence of a real, physical book, of course, but even I couldn’t imagine wheeling along a rolling library of nearly five hundred volumes.  And one can always, or nearly always***, buy a book one wants and take delivery of it almost instantly, without killing trees****, and yet the royalties go to the author just as much as if one bought a paper copy, and it even counts toward their sales figures, if that matters to them.

That’s pretty much it for today, I think.  I may shift out from doing near-daily posts to doing a couple or three times a week, but I don’t know, maybe I won’t.  Anyone who has any preferences or suggestions one way or another should please feel free to leave a comment below (NOT on Facebook or Twitter…not if you want me to see it any time soon).

Be good to each other and to yourselves.

TTFN

desperado oilified


*I almost wrote “podcasts” there, which is very peculiar, though I suppose they aren’t entirely dissimilar things.

**That’s the black Strat I played in my most recent videos.

***It used to be even easier until Google blocked the Kindle app from allowing in-app purchases.  I suppose this is justified as protecting people from themselves, especially from unscrupulous app writers, and it allows them to Google as if they are a morally upright company, but though I admire their products in general very much, and they do better than many big companies, they do not stand on any very impressive moral high ground.  Just ask Tristan Harris.

****Though, to be fair, the trees used for making paper are, I believe, from tree farms, and so more trees are planted as others are harvested.  And once paper is put in a book, it can remain there, on shelves or in hands or various other situations for decades and even—in principle—for centuries.  So, in a way, books may be a highly localized net carbon sink.  It’s something to think about.

If Tuesday afternoon is never-ending, Wednesday morning ITSELF can never come.

It’s Tuesday again, just like it was last week on this day, and I’m still doing my “daily”* blog posts, since I don’t have any desire either to write fiction or even to play any guitar.  This is at least a quasi-productive way for me to use time that I would have used to write fiction, at least until the Second Law of Thermodynamics claims me at long last, and I rush—all oblivious—into its cold but comforting embrace…to poeticize idiotically a simple fact of physics and mathematics.

Tuesdays often make me think of the Beatles song, Lady Madonna, because for me, one of the most memorable lines of that song is “Tuesday afternoon is never-ending”.  This is particularly pertinent when things are slow at work in the afternoon, though I don’t think most other people regard dull days at the office in terms of songs, like I often do.  This being me, I tend to focus on dark and/or negative songs and lyrics, or at least melancholy** ones.

I rarely think of Thursdays in terms of my stockings needing mending, at least.

The notion that Tuesday afternoon is never-ending raises an almost Zeno’s Paradox type notion.  If Tuesday afternoon really were never-ending, then Wednesday would never arrive, so there would never be another day.  Although, despite it always being Tuesday afternoon, if people could nevertheless still move and act and do things, it would be useful to break time into manageable chunks for the purposes of scheduling, planning, working, sleeping, and so on.  Also, it’s never Tuesday afternoon everyplace on Earth at once, so if Tuesday afternoon in Britain were to be never-ending, then Tuesday morning in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, etc. would be never-ending, and Tuesday evening for most of Europe, and of course, Tuesday night into Wednesday morning for places east of that, right up to the international date line.

And, of course, if the Earth had stopped spinning—assuming it had done so without the numerous catastrophic effects this would otherwise entail (watch this lovely video by Vsauce to see some of these discussed)—the weather patterns on Earth would be permanently changed and made horrific.

Depending on whether Earth became the equivalent of tidally locked on the sun, or if it had just stopped rotating, it would either have a permanent sun-facing side, or it would have a day as long as its year.  Then again, even a year-long day is not literally never-ending, so I guess it would be the “tidally locked” situation.  Before long, the Prime Meridian would become a very hot strip of Earth indeed!  And the International Date Line would become extremely cold.

It is tangentially interesting to think about—having mentioned Zeno’s Paradox earlier—the notion of continuously divisible time.  If time (or distance, as in Zeno’s original paradox) were infinitely divisible, à la the real number line, it would seem that one could never experience the passage of time because before you could get to Tuesday evening you would have to go halfway through Tuesday afternoon…and before you got halfway, you’d need to get a quarter of the way…and before that you’d need to get an eighth of the way…and so on.  If things are infinitely divisible, or so says the “paradox”, you should never be able to get anywhere, either in space or time, because no matter how arbitrarily close you choose two points in space to be, or two points in time, or two numbers on a number line, there are an uncountable infinity of points in between.

Calculus, of course, deals with this issue by means of taking limits as distances go to zero, and the like; it handles instantaneous and continuous rates of change quite nicely, thank you very much, while still rigorously defining functions in terms both accurate and useful.  As for reality itself, it seems to side-step the issue entirely by making space and time, in practice, not infinitely divisible at all.

The minimum distance that makes any physical sense is the Planck length, and the minimum time is the Planck time.  To say you’ve traveled half a Planck length, or that something lasted half a Planck time, is apparently saying something that has no meaning in the real world.

Of course, the Planck length and time are REALLY small:  1.6 x 10-35 meters and about 10-43 seconds.  So, we cannot directly measure either of them with current technology, anyway.  Not even close.  But they are real things, when it comes to quantum mechanics, with real, verifiable physical implications that have been tested and confirmed with tremendous accuracy and applicability.

One does tend to wonder, though, about spacetime itself.  According to General Relativity, gravity is not a force in the sense that electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces are forces but is instead a manifestation of the curvature of spacetime, leading objects in it to attempt to follow the closest thing to a straight line (a geodesic) in a curved, “flexible” four-dimensional structure, in the way one has to follow a great circle on the surface of the Earth to pick the “straightest” possible path between two points on the surface of a spheroid.  This really matters for airplanes, and even for ships.

But is space itself infinitely divisible?  GR*** treats it as such, but GR conflicts with Quantum Mechanics at places of small size and high mass, producing senseless results (so I’m told…I haven’t done the figuring myself, regrettably).  Spacetime certainly seems to be able to expand indefinitely, as it has done since at least what we call the Big Bang, and it continues to do so at an increasing rate even as we speak, so to speak.  That’s trivial to conceive of with things like continuous variables, real numbers, things with uncountable infinities between any two points.  Just multiply everything by two, say, and all the numbers are twice as big, and just as uncountably infinite.

But if space is discontinuous, in some sense, as implied by presumed quantum gravity, how does the expansion manifest?  Does more space pop into existence between two regions formerly separated by a mere Planck length?  We know that if you try to separate two quarks that are bound to each other, the strong force between them becomes so intense that new, formerly virtual, quarks pop into actual being between them****.  Is this what happens with spacetime itself?  As intervals get stretched, do new nuggets of spacetime appear?

We know that it’s possible to produce new, positive energy in spacetime, balanced by the “negative” energy of gravity, so there is no local violation of conservation principles*****.  Maybe spacetime spontaneously generates more spacetime, using the force of the cosmological constant, or its equivalent, to create these new bits of spacetime as it goes along.  It seems plausible, given what we know about the finite divisibility of things we’re able to confirm experimentally, and at least little bits of spacetime seem much less energetic on a per-unit basis than things like quarks or even electrons and neutrinos.

Infinite divisibility may work quite nicely in mathematics—indeed, it does—but it may not be plausible in the real, physical world.  Spacetime is real, and if it expands, then that expansion must happen at some level and be describable in principle.

None of which changes the fact that Lady Madonna is an awesome song.


*I put “scare” quotes around that, because technically, it’s not a true daily function, since even if I continue doing it for a long time, I don’t expect to write on Sundays, and probably roughly not every other Saturday, since I won’t be going to work, and I write this during my commute.

**“Melancholy” has become a rather soft kind of negativity in modern parlance, but I wonder how people would feel if they considered when using the word that it comes from the old concept of “black bile”, one of the supposed four “humours”.

***General Relativity.

****Not a violation of Conservation of Energy…they get their substance from the energy you applied trying to separate them.

*****Again, alas, I have not done the specific math myself, but the concept is straightforward and logical.  One can similarly create a new positive electric charge as long as one creates a balancing negative charge at the same time.  It happens in nuclear decay all time.

Some Practice Recordings

Last Friday (the 10th) I was feeling pretty under the weather, and in the morning, before work, I could barely get any writing done.  So I decided to record myself playing several songs that I like to mess around on, so I could listen to myself afterward for presumed self-improvement.  It’s good to be able to hear when the chords don’t sound good, and of course, when one’s singing is off-key or just doesn’t sound very good.  It’s most irritating to when it’s just a little off, by like an eighth of a step, and I think, “How did I not hear myself doing that?”

Anyway, I thought I’d share the recordings here, flubs, pitchiness, and all, as a curiosity, and to see if anyone has any recommendations about ones of which I should work on doing a video/cover.  I did some cleaning up of background noise, added some reverb, and did a bit of compression, just to make it all a little easier to listen for those who are interested.

Only two of them (Julia and Here Comes the Sun) were played from memory, though I know Fake Plastic Trees by heart, and I screwed up more by following the chords in the book than I probably would have if I’d just trusted myself.  Go figure.

Julia (I needed to increase to gain on the guitar for this one):


Fake Plastic Trees (by Radiohead):


Desperado (by Eagles):


Here Comes the Sun:


Here, There, and Everywhere (by the Beatles):


Just the Way You Are (by Billy Joel, but with no piano here):


Karma Police (by Radiohead):


Lucky (by Radiohead…NOT to be confused with “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk…two VERY different songs!):


and last but not least,

You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (by the Beatles):


That’s all for now.  I don’t know why I didn’t do “One Headlight” which I also know by heart.  Maybe I’ll save that for another time or just do it as a video.

I hope you enjoy, at least a little, if you listen.  At the very least, it’s probably slightly amusing to hear me get ticked when I make a mistake.

Trust not my reading, nor my observations, which with experimental seal do warrant the tenor of my blog.

Hello.  Good morning.  Today is Thursday, and so of course it’s time for the most recent edition of my weekly blog post.

I’m writing this post on my phone, using the Google Docs app, because unfortunately, even my petite, eleven-inch-hypotenuse laptop seems to be too much to carry around in my backpack, given how badly my back and hips and ankle have been behaving.  I don’t think it’s so much the weight of the thing that’s the issue as where it tends to rest‒right up against my lumbar spine.  It may not truly be triggering any problems, because my back and hips and my right knee and ankle are in pretty severe pain no matter what, even though I’ve lost two belt notches worth of weight recently.  However, reducing the load in that area seems to decrease my pain, or at least to cause less of an exacerbation, so for now I’m writing on my phone, so to speak.

I keep trying to find things to do that decrease my pain, but all my attempts have so far been quite unsatisfying.  Perhaps the Dread Pirate Roberts was right after all, and life is pain.  Or was that the Buddha?  Anyway, one or more of those great philosophers said something about life and pain being inextricable.

I’ve been writing The Dark Fairy and the Desperado on my phone this week as well.  The two main characters have finally met!  Of course, the Dark Fairy immediately tried to kill the Desperado, but that’s to be expected.  It’s slightly slower writing on the phone than it is with the laptop, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but as I’ve also mentioned, that may be good for keeping my writing more concise.  On the other hand, my verbosity may not be something any device known to humanity can curtail.

I posted the most recent section of Outlaw’s Mind here this week.  There’s still quite a bit to go before we reach the point where I’ve stopped writing it, and I hope those of you who read it are enjoying the story.

In other news, yesterday I recorded, overdubbed, edited, and posted a video of me playing and singing the Beatles song And I Love Her, and I’ll embed it here.  I’ve been half-heartedly working on getting it into playable shape for a while, and I decided I needed to have a rhythm track (which I had to create the new-fashioned way, beat by beat, on Audacity, since I have no drums), and that it also would be much better with the little accompanying arpeggios* during the second, third, and last verses in the background.  I wanted to be able to do those at speed when I played them.  To pat myself on the back (which doesn’t help my back pain), I only got the basic chords from a guitar book, but did the (admittedly simple) key changing and worked out the solo and stuff for myself.  I’m reasonably pleased with the results, though it’s far from perfect.  I’ve gotten pretty good at throwing these videos together at least, including sound editing and backing tracks and the like; I did these things literally in my spare time yesterday morning.

There’s no need to feel obligated to watch the video of me playing, though; I certainly take no joy in looking at myself and it’s hard to imagine anyone else would.  It’s basically there to prove that, yes, except for backup/overdubs, I really did play and sing it all at once, myself…and because the milling masses mostly only seem to respond to video** anymore‒but here it is in case you want to listen:

I’m not sure what else there is to talk about today.  Of course, there are always subjects that could be raised, but I’ve not really done any discussion or commentary, either here or on Iterations of Zero, for quite a while.  The whole process seems utterly pointless (not least because of the aforementioned predilection of the populace for video***); my energy level is steadily deteriorating, and my motivation is doing so even more.  I’m not convinced that anything I write or say or do will make any difference, even for me.  I continue this blog mainly out of stubbornness.

I did do a slightly curious thing this week.  There’s a horror novel that I used to read and reread a lot back when I was a teenager:  Floating Dragon, by Peter Straub.  The events of the story begin on May 17, 1980.  Indeed, there’s a line in the book that goes, “On May 17th, 1980, the Dragon came to Patchin County.”  That line is always bouncing around my head at this time of year, so on Tuesday (which was the 17th) I decided to buy the Kindle version of the book, though I haven’t started reading it yet.  I miss my old, battered paperback copy, lost now with all my other possessions from before 2013.  It had the amusing characteristic that the way the title and author were written on the spine, if one read them in ordinary left-to-right fashion, seemed to say, “Floating Peter/Dragon Straub”.  I wonder if the publishers realized that after the fact and were duly embarrassed.  Anyway, it was a good, albeit very weird horror story, and I still can recite parts of it from memory, such as:

“You were dreaming for a long time, and then you were not.  You were asleep in a place you did not know, and when you awakened you were someone else.  You had a drink in your hand, and a woman was looking at you, and Dragon, the world was yours again.”

With that, I’ll call things to a close today.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this atypically written blog post, and that you’re all as well as you can possibly be.

TTFN

dragon


*Is it supposed to be “arpeggi”?  That’s how Radiohead spelled it in the title of their song Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, and they’re Cambridge-educated, albeit probably not in linguistics.  Then again, I studied English at Cornell.  Not that such a thing matters much anyway, since the word in question is Italian…but it’s not being used as Italian, but rather as a term of musical jargon.  I should probably just look it up, but where’s the fun in that?

**Angels and ministers of grace defend us from anyone who might think to ask most people to read.

***Perhaps we should retire the term vox populi and replace it with visus populi.

For grief is proud, and makes his blogger stoop.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, the second Thursday in May of 2022, and it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.  Tomorrow will be Friday the 13th! Unlike many people, I like Friday the 13th both because I like being a bit contrary and because I like prime numbers.  I used to always put thirteen gallons of gas in my car when I filled it up, just because I like prime numbers, and I particularly like thirteen because so many people dislike it.  Maybe I thought it deserved to get some positive attention for a change.

I haven’t been quite as productive this week as last week, but I did write a good five thousand words on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado.  I’ve been a little worn out because my recent travails have exacerbated my chronic back and leg pain, and yet I’m walking about two and half miles a day as part of my commute.  So, my concentration—nay, even my very will to live*—has been detrimentally affected.  Nevertheless, I have continued to write; being on the train is nice for doing that, at the very least.

I posted the next section of Outlaw’s Mind this Tuesday, but it was a short one.  I didn’t want to add the subsequent section to beef it up any, because that section is already rather long, and adding them together would have made it too much, I think.  I don’t know if anyone is actually reading the story—I don’t know if anyone is actually reading this, for that matter—and if they are, I don’t know whether they like it.  I suppose it’s possible that some masochist might hate the whole thing but read it for that very reason.  That seems unlikely, though.

I mentioned last week, with my tongue in my cheek, that I tend to play guitar and sing as a way to punish the world.  Well, I’ve done a bit of such punishing recently; I’ve embedded below two videos of me amateurishly playing guitar and singing, for anyone who feels the need to scold themselves, perhaps for falling off a diet, or not getting enough exercise, or committing adultery…stuff like that.  In all seriousness, however, I like both of these songs a lot, and so I did my amateurish best to play and sing them.

The first is If You Could Read My Mind, by Gordon Lightfoot, a song I’ve known and liked since I was a little boy.  I’ve always loved the melody, and Gordon Lightfoot was a very good singer.

The second is No Surprises, by Radiohead, which I only came to be aware of perhaps fifteen years ago, but which very quickly became one of my favorite songs (and bands).  It’s harder to play than IYCRMM, as you can probably tell, but I really love it.  In many ways, it is the song of my soul, if there is such a thing.

As for anything else…well, there really isn’t much else.  There was a death in my family late last week, about which I’m quite sad.  This was my uncle, whom I hadn’t seen in quite a while, but who had been, along with his son—my cousin—one of the only people in my family to attend my wedding.  That’s part of a long and dreary story that I won’t go into, but it is a shame that I hadn’t seen him in so long, and now I won’t be able to do so.  Such is the story of life, unfortunately.  I wish I could have told him how much that meant at the time, and even though that marriage has since failed, that gesture still means a great deal to me.  At least I can hereby tell my cousin the same for his part!

I fear quite honestly that I am on the verge of a real and serious mental (and physical) breakdown, and I don’t know what to do about it.  I also fear that, even if I did know what to do about it, I would not have the will to do it.  I wish I did.  I would like to be optimistic and upbeat; I have been so in the past.  No one who suffers from chronic depression and/or other, related difficulties would wish to suffer from it/them. They might well believe, however, that they richly deserve their own suffering for being the awful, evil, rotten person that they see, that they “know”, themselves to be.  I don’t know how to escape that trap.  I have tried, many times and in many ways, but I don’t think I have the strength or the resources to do it on my own.  And on my own is what I am.

I hope, nevertheless, that all of you reading are feeling and doing as well as you possibly can, and that you are with those you love, or at least in communication with them, and that you find a great deal of joy in that.  Please take care of yourselves, and of each other.

TTFN

wallpapersden.com_dark-sky-tree-purple-sky-nature_1920x1200


*It’s an interesting notion, this concept of “will to live”.  It’s misguided and misleading, because it’s not as though one can simply stop having some “will to live” and consequently just die.  Trust me, I know.  The body and brain have been shaped by millions upon millions of years of evolution to try to stay alive, and one’s will, at the human level, has almost nothing to do with it.  Ditto with eating and drinking and breathing.  Just try not doing those things.  The machine keeps cranking along until it falls apart, or until something breaks it.  Believe me, if not having the “will to live” mattered at all, there are many times—several in any given week, I’d say—in which I would already have died.  Alas, it’s the will to die that’s more a real kind of will, and it is set against gargantuan, Lovecraftian powers of nature that force living beings to stay alive whether they really want to or not.  I’m working on it, though.

Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust? And, blog we how we can, yet die we must.

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so, whether anyone asked for it or not—whether anyone wants it or not—it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I can only apologize.

So far, this week has been marginally better than last week for me, which may not be saying very much, but at least it is better by some measures.  I got quite a bit of writing done this Monday through Wednesday on the train; I’ve been using my laptop, not my phone to do it, despite my thoughts that I just might stick with the former device.  Still, on each of those three days, I wrote roughly 2100 words in the morning, which is more than twice as many as I wrote last Friday, which was a very difficult day, continuing the pattern of the days that had preceded it.

Anyway, The Dark Fairy and the Desperado is moving along well.  Though we have not met the Dark Fairy yet, we have met the Desperado.  He is the first person we encounter, and he is soon to be sent to meet his fellow title character.  It won’t be a friendly encounter, I’m afraid, but if things all went easily, where would be the fun?  A story without the exchange of fireballs and bullets between protagonists can hardly be called a story at all.

I also remembered to post the next part of Outlaw’s Mind here this week, unlike last week, so to those of you who were pining for it, you’re welcome.  I tried to put in a “continue reading” tab, so that it wouldn’t take up as much screen space for scrolling purposes if you’re trying to go back to further entries, but I’m not sure I succeeded.  I didn’t try very hard to check, and I haven’t yet gone back to insert any in earlier posts.  Have I but world enough and time, I mean to do so.

I’ve considered perhaps interspersing some posting of parts of The Dark Fairy and the Desperado here, perhaps alternating with Outlaw’s Mind, perhaps posting them on another day of the week.  Let me know what you think, if you have any interest in the question at all.  It’s not a horror story, but is instead a trans-universal fantasy adventure, so be prepared.  I want to (and so I hereby do) remind everyone that these are stories in early draft form*, so they won’t be as polished and streamlined as something that’s been formally published would be.

In this, unfortunately, they may bear all too much resemblance to all too many of at least the online versions of publications from Scientific American to the various major newspapers, all of which seem to have fallen into the editorial hands of the pointy-haired boss from Dilbert, and many of the writers of which seem to have learned their trade via Twitter-mediated coursework.  Honestly, the state of much of the publishing industry is terribly dispiriting to note.

More than once within the last few months, in mainstream-published books about arguably serious subject matter, I’ve encountered the words “free reign” used instead of “free rein”.  That latter is an expression related to horseback riding, in which one essentially releases control of the horse to allow it to go where it will, presumably at high speed, but with outcomes that may be difficult to predict, and this is the source of the metaphor.  The former is…I don’t know, perhaps a reference to some form of particularly liberal monarchial regime**.

But, as they say, I digress.  I’m prone to do so often and grievously.  The point I meant to make was simply that I wouldn’t want you to mistake the form in which I might share parts of a story here for the way they might appear in “officially” published form, in case anyone were to consider buying one of my books.

One other thing I did at the end of last week was to record a video of me playing guitar and singing the David Bowie song, A Space Oddity.  I had downloaded the chords to the song from a site of which I am a member, and they sounded so good to me when I played them, even though they weren’t particularly difficult chords, that I couldn’t resist making a video.  I’ll embed it here, for anyone who is interested.  I make no promises regarding the quality of the playing or the singing; I just liked singing and playing the song.

And I think that’s pretty much what I have to share this week.  I hope you’ve all been feeling and doing better than I have been, and I do mean “all”.  I’ve been having a truly rough time, though at least I’ve kept on writing, and I don’t want any of you to feel like I do, no matter what Peter Frampton might say.  I would seriously like you to share (in the comments here, not on Facebook or Twitter, which I tend not to spend much time on for the sake of my already alarmingly tenuous mental health) whether you would be interested in reading sections of The Dark Fairy and the Desperado, and if so whether you would mind if I alternated them with Outlaw’s Mind, or if you would prefer to have me share them in another slot during the week.

Otherwise, as always, please try to be kind to each other and to yourselves, because goodness knows I’m not likely to do it.

TTFN

Theoden king


*It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that they are first drafts, because I always reread what I’ve written the previous day before starting on any new writing, and I edit as I do so.  Often, I’ll have reread a portion and edited it more than once in this process, depending on how much I wrote the preceding day.

**A regime, by the way, is related to the rule of a person or dynasty over a nation, or something analogous.  A regimen is a “prescribed course of medical treatment, way of life, or diet for the promotion or restoration of health”, and related usages.  The words are obviously related, so it’s not such a big deal to conflate them***, but it is a bit sloppy, and—of course—it irritates me far beyond its level of importance.  One follows an exercise regimen, not an exercise regime, unless one is ruled over/governed by one’s workout routine in a more or less literal sense****.

*** “Reign”, on the other hand, comes from Latin via Old French and Middle English and so on, while “rein” is apparently derived from Old Norse, so though they are homophones, they are not closely related words.

****A “diet” is more complicated, since it can refer to a legislative body, thus making things ever more confusing, though I doubt that many people confuse regime with regimen for that specific reason.  There’s even a famous historical “Diet of Worms”, which had nothing to do with the eating habits of annelids, but instead referred to a body convened to address the heresy of Martin Luther.  Though I love it dearly, English is often muddled and can be confusing.  It’s both a technically “degenerate” code and also often not a very specific one.  Maybe I shouldn’t get so worked up by people mistaking a horseback metaphor for one related to monarchy and similar governmental situations.

Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word – cover on guitar and voice

Yesterday in my weekly blog post, I threatened you all with the possibility that I might upload some more videos of me singing and playing.  Well, I did just that, with my amateur version of the Elton John song, Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word.  It’s far from perfect, but I’m reasonably proud of my arrangement of the opening solo and the middle solo, which were of course originally for piano, this being Elton John.  I even arranged the middle one from memory, since it’s very memorable.  I was getting the opening wrong, though, I could tell, but wasn’t sure in what way, so I did re-listen to the song’s opening by Sir Elton to fix that.

Anyway, here it is.  I hope you like it.

As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have; but, in their stead, blogs…

Hello and good morning, as I’m prone to say.  It’s Thursday, and so it must follow, as the knight the questing beast, that it’s time for my weekly blog post.

Work on Outlaw’s Mind has gone decently this week; I’ve written just over four thousand words since last week’s post, which is a bit on the slow side for me for four days’ work, but at least I’ve been keeping to my “at least one full page a day” rule.  As I think I mentioned last week, I’ve gone back to using the laptop, but I keep wrestling with myself about it.  I don’t know how (or if) I’m going to resolve that conflict, but so far, the feedback is that it doesn’t seem to make much difference whether I write my first draft of a work in longhand or type it into a computer.

Typing is probably just more natural for me for when writing stories; I got my first typewriter (my maternal grandmother’s former one) when I was quite young*, and very soon started writing a fantasy adventure novel on it, which was to be the first book in a series called The Land Ruled by Thunder.  I was pretty influenced by The Chronicles of Narnia at the time, I think, and other epic fantasies.

In any case, for now I’m writing Outlaw’s Mind on the word processor again, but if the urge strikes me, I may write a bit of some upcoming, future possible works on my notebook paper**.  Such efforts usually come to naught, even when I make them, unfortunately.  Then again, all things come to naught eventually.  Supposedly, quantum information is never lost, but that’s not of much practical use in most situations.  At least there’s some hope that the black hole information paradox may have been resolved or may be on its way to being resolved.  Such things matter to me far more than the Oscar nominations, or the idiocy of politicians and celebrities, or any trends in fashion or electronics, or whatever.  The only trend that ultimately matters—the one that will dominate and make irrelevant all others—is the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Still, in the meantime, some stories and music can be pleasant ways to while away the fleeting eons before the heat death of the universe.

As many of you already know, I posted the “cold opening” of Outlaw’s Mind, in draft, on my blog earlier this week.  So far, the response has been good, and is much appreciated (by me, in case you were wondering).  The subsequent part of the story shifts time, setting, and tone quite a bit, so I may soon post at least some of that, just so people can get the idea.  This may also be the only way to get more than a handful of people to read any bits of my stories—it’s so hard to capture people’s interest enough to get them to want to buy and read a book or short story you’ve written, even if they would enjoy it very much.  And I’m not good at self-promotion.

I want to thank the people who said kind things about my video of me playing Help.  I’ve been trying to work on and record some other videos, practicing the songs I like to play with that in mind, but sometimes it feels to me that the more I practice a song, the less I like how it sounds.  However, I have also been fiddling with my guitar(s)’ tone knobs and trying different picks, so it may be just that I’ve moved away from what was working before.  We’ll see how everything goes, but if I do something that’s worth sharing, I’ll share it here (via YouTube)***.  I’m working on Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word; And I Love Her; Here, There, and Everywhere; Desperado; Yesterday; Lucky; Here Comes the Sun; and Karma Police for the moment.

I could probably do Creep easily enough already.  It only has three main chords, not counting sus-4s and minor drops, but as Jonny Greenwood apparently said about the song, when just played with one guitar and chords, it lacks a bit of punch, which is a shame given the emotional intensity of the song.  He added serious punch to it with his violent guitar surprises before (which sound at first like some particularly aggressive percussion instrument) and during the chorus.  Fake Plastic Trees is nice even with just guitar and voice, though, so maybe I’ll do that.  It’s also not very complicated or difficult.  We’ll see.  No matter what, it all will probably sound exceptionally mediocre when I do it, anyway, so maybe I shouldn’t worry.

That’s about all I have that’s worth sharing, if even that is worth it.  I have nothing to report in my “personal” life because I have no personal life, so that makes things easy.  And this blog is by far the most social thing I’ve done in years.

I hope you’re all feeling and doing and being well.  You certainly deserve it, for having the endurance and good will to read my blog!

TTFN

knight 2 questing beast


*I think I was around eleven years old, but I’m not certain.  It was around that time, anyway.

**Maybe I’ll play around with Dark Fairy and the Desperado.

***If I do any Eagles songs, I’ll probably just have to share them here.  The Eagles tend to block such things on YouTube, even if one’s channel isn’t monetized, which mine certainly isn’t.  Other groups, including the Beatles, will simply “run ads” on the video and collect the money thus generated, which to me is a bonus.  I love the idea of making even a tiny bit of money for people like Radiohead and the Beatles.  That may seem weird, but then again, I’m weird.  You might even say, “I’m a creep.  I’m a weirdo.  What the hell am I doing here?  I don’t belong here.”