O true apothecary, thy blogs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

O true apothecary, thy blogs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

Just John

Hello again, good morning again, and welcome to next Thursday.  I promised last week that this week I would discuss the thoughts that popped into my head while listening to the second of the two songs I named last time, so without further ado, let’s jump right into Girl…so to speak.

The notion that this song relates to the experience of addiction is probably pretty obvious, and hopefully I won’t get too ham-fisted about it.  Also, I doubt that John Lennon was thinking about addiction when he wrote it, though he was to become personally all too familiar with the subject in later years.  The type of pining, obsessive love expressed in this song as very much a mixed blessing and curse, is frequent in music* and in poetry, and probably highlights a similar psychology—and even neurology—involved in the two subjects of addiction and “love”.

Of course, the opening lines of the song are nonspecific and literally introductory.  But the second couplet already has sinister undertones: “She’s the kind of girl you want so much, it makes you sorry; still, you don’t regret a single day.”  This is definitely an expression of mixed feelings; the first line frankly contradicts the second.  He wants her so much that it makes him sorry, but he doesn’t regret a single day?  How does that work?  Maybe he’s saying that, while he’s with her, he doesn’t regret it, but when he’s away he wants her so much that it distracts him and gets in his way—it interrupts his focus on other things?  We’ve probably all had something of this experience with a lover or a crush, and of course, some have this experience with other things entirely.  But I suspect that the process is similar in all of them, with the mind’s dopaminergic and serotoninergic, motivational/reward systems being keyed into a particular target, giving us the urge to seek it when we don’t have it, and an increasingly transient satisfaction when we achieve it.

Romantic, no?

Of course, the next verse becomes more sinister, with its solemn and mournful reflections:  “When I think of all the times I tried so hard to leave her…she will turn to me and start to cry.  And she promises the earth to me, and I believe her.  After all this time, I don’t know why.”

This certainly doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship, either with a person or with a substance, but it’s surely familiar to anyone who’s been in “that” kind of relationship, and to anyone who’s been addicted to anything.  You try to leave, but either literally or figuratively, that object of obsession cries out, if only in your head, and in its crying makes implicit or explicit promises that, if only you come back, you will be joyful, you will be complete, you will surely never be unhappy again.  And of course, this isn’t true.  Maybe just the very first time, a person can be excused—by others and themselves—for falling for the siren song, but after that, even they themselves, some part of them, must know that such promises are broken even in the act of succumbing to them.  But we do so want to believe those promises, don’t we?

Then, of course, we come to the song’s interlude, which is a little vaguer.  But if we’re pushing (and why not?), we can certainly say that an addiction does tend to “put you down when friends are there,” and there are surely many times when, if you can bear to look at yourself, “you feel a fool.”  The next line is perhaps straining the metaphor even further (and again, why not?), but almost all objects of obsessive affection, whether human or chemical or even purely behavioral**, surely do seem to “look good” from the outside to anyone who’s involved with them.  And, of course, they seem quite assured of their beauty, their coolness, their power, if you will.  From the outside.

And, of course, the song’s last verse more obliquely points out the contradictory notions that the pain inevitably caused by abusive/manipulative/codependent people or by the substance of addiction can seem almost as if it/they think that the pain is a favor in and of itself.  In any case, it’s all they really, finally have to offer…evanescent pleasure that’s inextricably tied up with (far more enduring) pain.  And, of course, there’s the hopeless final bit, the notion that by breaking his back—by suffering in any or all of countless ways—a person might somehow come through to the other side and achieve a “day of leisure.”

Maybe this should be likened to the treacherous notion that a person has to “hit rock bottom” before they can ever truly climb out of an addiction.  I say “treacherous” because, first, I don’t think it’s necessarily true, but thinking that it is might discourage some people from otherwise cutting their losses as early as they could, so to speak; and second, because for a large (and growing) number of people, hitting rock bottom (in addiction and even in love) means dying.  There’s no leisure after that, unless you count “resting in peace” as leisure, and I don’t think most people do, enticing though it can sometimes be.  Thus, the final line, “Will she still believe it when he’s dead?”

Anyway, again, I’m not saying that John had any comparison between love and addiction in mind when he wrote the song, but it’s pretty clear that he saw how powerful and dangerous even love itself can be, especially when the object of one’s affections is less than stable and kind.  And it’s just this kind of love that is both celebrated and lamented in so many popular songs and in poetry and in romantic stories throughout the ages.  Thankfully, it’s not the only kind of love.

It’s surely good to be “obsessed” with one’s beloved in a certain sense, to hold them as a centrally important part of one’s life, and to be devoted to them (assuming the feeling is mutual).  But, of course, if one gives one’s devotion to a person who doesn’t share or return it, and who might even hold one in contempt, then pain is likely to far outweigh any pleasure, at least when integrated over time.

Okay, enough sexy talk.

In other news, Unanimity is coming along, and I’m within distant sight of the end of my first rewrite of my half-a-million-word novel.  Cheese and crackers!  I’ve got a long way to go.  At least I’m finding the story enjoyable, especially as it gets nearer the end.  The earlier bits need a bit more tweaking than the later, but that’s the job, after all.

I still haven’t come to a final decision about consolidating my blogs.  I’m torn; I love the title “Iterations of Zero,” and I really like the image symbol I made for the site, but that may not be reason enough to keep it around.  It costs me at least a bit of money to maintain it in full function, and I’m certainly not making any money from it.  We’ll see.

I hope you’ve enjoyed, at least a little, my rather heavy-handed reaction/thoughts about Girl, and last week’s discursion on one line from People Are Strange.  Such explorations probably won’t happen too often, but for me, at least, it’s nice to have a change of pace.

I wish you all a Happy Solstice tomorrow, and in the northern hemisphere, a happy summer to follow.

TTFN


*For instance, You’ve Really Got A Hold on Me, which the Beatles covered.

**Such as gambling addiction, for instance.

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

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

Jim and John

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

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

Seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe I’m being uncharitable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

…pation.

TTFN


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

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

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

The young and tender wit is turn’d to folly, blasting in the blog…

Hello, good morning, happy Thursday, and—as always—welcome to another edition of my blog.

There’s not much to add today, I’m afraid.  I launched the “final” version of my song “Breaking Me Down” on my Iterations of Zero blog and on my YouTube channel, for what it’s worth.  To the surprise of no one, it doesn’t seem to have been listened to by many people, so far.  I suppose that’s what happens when one puts a song out and no one’s ever heard of the person who made it.  I certainly have no marketing apparatus at my back to try to promote the song, and I would probably rather use such an apparatus to promote my books if I had such a thing.  The song is honestly just for my own self-indulgence, though of course I’d be delighted if anyone listened to it and liked it.

I’ve written only another page or so on Neko/Neneko since last week, and I’ve done a smattering of editing on Unanimity.  Some of this relative dearth of output is due to the fact of my song.  Most of my “free” hours in recent weeks were burned in arranging and playing and singing and producing “Breaking Me Down,” so my usual work—not my day job, obviously—got left by the wayside.  If there exists a person who is actually looking forward to any of my written works in progress—and I doubt that such a person exists—then I apologize.  I can only say that I would be much more motivated to continue working and to go faster if I but heard from you once in a while.  I have accounts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as my two blogs here on WordPress…and, of course, you’re free to leave reviews of my books on Amazon.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Well…I would certainly like to hear from you.

Anyway, that’s more or less all I have to say for this week.  I hope you’re all well, and that you continue to be well, in this most possible of all possible worlds.

TTFN

What is it else? A madness most discreet, A choking blog, and a preserving sweet.

Hello and good morning, all.

I apologize for neither posting nor notifying anyone about my lack of posting last week.  My sister very kindly surprised me by coming in from out of town and visiting, and I spent much of last Thursday enjoying the Miami Zoo, which I’ve never visited before, though I live only a dozen or so miles away.  It was excellent, and there were so few guests at the zoo that day that it felt almost like our own personal menagerie.  At one point, we literally rode the monorail entirely by ourselves.

In some ways, it’s just as well that I didn’t post anything last week, because—as far as writing and editing goes—I’ve been taking a few weeks off.  As I may have mentioned before, I’m working on a new/old song, and the process of putting it together has taken up most of my spare time over the past few weeks, or at least the spare time I would have spent writing.  I say “new/old” because I wrote the original words (about a quarter of which have been changed) and the melody of this song when I was a junior or senior in college, sometime around 1990 or so, I’d guess, but I never did anything with it, and it’s just been floating around in my head ever since.  Of course, it’s entirely possible that, once anyone listens to it, they’ll think that it would have been just as well had it stayed there.

Still, the success (from my point of view) of my composition and recording of “Schrodinger’s Head” and the recording and mixing of a few of my “bad covers” on Iterations of Zero made me think it might be fun finally to make this thing into something actual rather than potential.  Of course, the things I’ve learned while working on this song make me want to go back and redo Schrodinger’s Head, and to make another song that I originally composed in college, and to write a new song about a unique manga character whom I particularly like…but I’ll try not to let all that get in the way of everything else.

We shall see.

In any case, it’s been good to have a little break from Unanimity.  My new song is a long one, but seven and a half minutes of song is quite a bit different from seven and a half hundred pages (and more than half a million words) of novel.  The delay on Free-Range Meat is perhaps less excusable, it being a literally short story, but it can handle the break.  And, of course, Neko/Neneko is a horizon-type project for the moment, in any case.

So, that’s about all the news I have to share today.  I’m juggling many projects that are in various stages of creation and completion, but at least that gives any readers of and/or listeners to my work—if such people exist—much to which to look forward.

In the meantime, I wish you well.

TTFN

‘Sblog, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?

pipe

Good morning!  Welcome to the last Thursday of March 2019.

Back in the day, I would have written an episode of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains” on such a day, but for reasons inexplicable to me, those posts were never popular, and they’re unlikely ever to become a regular thing again.  This makes me sad, but there’s not much I can do about it.

For those of you who’ve been waiting for more “audio blog” entries on Iterations of Zero, don’t get discouraged, even though all I’ve posted there this week were two cheesy recordings of me playing guitar and singing Pink Floyd songs.  I’ll return to the audio blogs, probably by next week, but there are reasons for my diversion.

It all started (as the cliché goes) when I was playing guitar and singing Radiohead’s “How to Disappear Completely” in my room at home, and for fun I decided to record it on my cell phone.  I was honestly surprised by the sound quality when I listened to it.  This set my wheels spinning, which can be a perilous thing.

I have a fair amount of experience using sound editing software because of the audio I’ve done of my own stories.  I decided to play around with it, and with the surprisingly good smartphone audio; I recorded and mixed the chords, then the vocals, for “Pigs on the Wing” (Part 1).  It came out rather well, I thought, despite my mediocre guitar playing.

Thus encouraged, I decided to do something slightly more complicated.  I recorded three separate parts for “Wish You Were Here,” which is a nice song to do because the guitar automatically sounds pretty, even though it’s not too difficult for a fumbling amateur.

The point of all this, really, was to practice recording before using the software and my two good electric guitars, to work on my own original creation.  As you may know, a while back I posted the lyrics of a song called “Schrodinger’s Head,” which I’d written on a whim after joking around with a coworker about possible band names and first albums.  Since then, I worked out the song’s melody and chord structure (this isn’t difficult, so don’t be impressed) during my regular goofing around on guitar.  Once I knew that I could make pretty darn good recordings using my very ordinary smartphone, and since I had audio software to clean up and mix those recordings…well, I realized that I could—with my cell phone, with a laptop and/or desktop computer, and with my guitar(s) and practice amps—do what would have required lots of expensive studio time and even more expensive equipment back when The Beatles and Pink Floyd were making their greatest works.  I can’t match their musical skills and genius, obviously, but I can, thanks to five decades’ worth of improved technology, do by my lonesome something that could never have been done in the past.

What I have done is to put together rhythm guitar tracks, an intro lead guitar riff, and main vocals for my song.  I’ll be adding other tracks, including more lead guitar, a possible “bass” line, maybe some backup vocals, and whatnot, and I’ll let you hear the result (on Iterations of Zero) when it’s finished.  A few select people—close friends and/or family—have heard what I have so far, and reviews have been encouraging.

Don’t worry; I’m not going to quit my day job.

I’m also not going to quit writing, and I have not slowed down on that.  My novella, which will ultimately lose the title Safety Valve, is coming along steadily, and it continues to surprise me with its weight.  I wrote a scene in it this week that drew from own few experiences of sleep paralysis, and that writing process evoked some of the terror I felt on those occasions, even though I was writing in a brightly lit office.  I hope that at least some of that feeling comes across for the reader in the final product.

Editing, unfortunately, has not been going as quickly as it ought to on either Unanimity or Free-Range Meat.  The latter isn’t such a huge problem, since it’s a truly short story, and should thus be relatively short work.  Unanimity, however, nearly meets the description from “Paperback Writer”:  “It’s a thousand pages, give or take a few.”  I really need to pick up the pace, or it’s going to be a looooong time before it’s ready to publish.

I wish I could devote more time to all this and not need to work to earn my living.  If anyone out there has a big chunk of money they don’t need, and that they’d like to give me so I can write and do other creative things full time, please get in touch.  In the meantime, the rest of you, do please let others know about my writing and my books, if you enjoy them.  And do please rate and review mine and other people’s works when you get the chance.  It really makes a difference.

With that, I think I’ve written enough here this week.  April, Come She Will—before the next time I post here—and I wish you a happy April Fool’s Day in advance.

TTFN

Give me some music; music, moody food Of us that trade in blogs.

Good morning, good Thursday, and welcome to the latest posting of my blog.  I hope the year is going well for you all so far.

Those who follow my second blog, Iterations of Zero, will note that I recently posted the lyrics of a song, “Schrödinger’s Head.”  This is rather new and out of the blue, I know.  I certainly gave no explanation when I posted it, so I thought I’d tell the story behind it here.

Last week, a coworker and I were idly chatting between tasks (we sit next to each other at the office), when it occurred to me that “Gwyneth Paltrow’s Head” would be a great name for a sort of indie punk band.  I did a quick Google search and couldn’t find such a band, so between us we thought we should—at least in our imaginations—invent it.  Of course, the name of the band’s first album would be “What’s in the box?”*

After a bit of thought, though, it occurred to us that, at least if the band were to seek real commercial success, it might be better not to call itself “Gwyneth Paltrow’s Head.”  Ms. Paltrow is a curious character, and it’s hard to know how she would react to such a dubious homage.  We thought it might work okay if we switched it around and called the band “What’s in the box?”  We decided, further, that “Gwyneth Paltrow’s Head” was probably not even a safe name for the first album, and regretfully concluded that it would be better to go with “Tracy’s Head.”

At some point after that conversation, with my thoughts meandering like a restless wind inside a letter box, I decided that “Tracy’s Head” was just too banal and context-dependent.  The idea popped into my mind—possibly the result of quantum fluctuations—that the answer to the question “What’s in the Box?” might very well be Schrödinger’s cat, one of the world’s all-time most noteworthy box-dwellers.  And, since the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment is all about superposition, it seemed fun to meld my metaphors and call the first album “Schrödinger’s Head.”  My colleague found this amusing enough, and he gave his approval.  It occurred to me then that if one is going to have such an album title, there ought to be a title song.  I’d had a good night’s sleep the night before (a rare occurrence) so I was full of pep.  Thus, when a lull occurred in the business of the day, I grabbed a piece of scrap paper and scribbled out the lyrics to such a song.

I’ll be honest:  for the last two of the final verse lines, I had to go online and look up more rhymes for “head.”  Not that they’re particularly difficult rhymes, as I’m sure you’ll note, but even so, I was drawing a blank by then.

My colleague looked at my rough draft and said that, of what he was able to read (my handwriting sucks) he thought it was fun.  So, I typed it up and loaded it onto Iterations of Zero.  I had some trouble dealing with WordPress’s new, supposedly better, editor; I found it cumbersome and non-intuitive, but that may just be because I’m not used to it.  In any case, the song is there, for your delectation.  I’ve even started writing a tune and chords for it, but that’s going to take longer than the words, and I don’t know that I will ever share it with anyone even privately, let alone publicly.  If I do, of course, I’ll let you know.

Okay, enough narcissistic babble about making up bands and writing songs on a whim.  I now turn to some narcissistic babble about my books and stories.

Penal Colony is almost ready to publish, but we still need to get a cover put together for it, which is behind schedule.  Nevertheless, it will probably be out before the end of January.

Speaking of the end of January, the final catastrophes of Unanimity are happening, the final confrontation is well underway, and I really should be done with the book by the end of the month.  Wow.  It’s the longest thing I’ve ever written, that’s for sure.  It’s longer than all but a handful of books that I’ve ever read.  Fear not!  I will cut it ruthlessly in rewrite and edit, of course, and the final product will be much shorter than the first draft, but still, there’s no way it’s not going to be a meaty book.  (For vegans such as the aforementioned Ms. Paltrow, fear not:  any such meat is lab-grown, clean meat, and no animals were harmed in the production of the novel…other than the author).

That’s about all there is for this week.  I hope you get at least a little tickle out of my song lyrics, if you bother going to check them out.  Be on the lookout for Penal Colony.  You can even just begin to scan the distant horizon for the eventual approach of Unanimity, but please don’t hold your breath.  It’s still going to be quite a while.

TTFN


*All this refers to events at the end of the movie “Seven,” for those of you who don’t recognize the references.  In case you haven’t seen it, I won’t explain further.  I don’t want to give any more spoilers than I already have.