Then there’s hope a great man’s memory may outlive his blog half a year.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, the day of the week on which I wrote my blog post even when I was writing fiction every other day of the week—well, apart from Sundays and the Saturdays when I  didn’t work.  I have not been writing any fiction recently.

I toyed with the idea the other day, but there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for the notion, which I suppose is mirrored by my own lack of energy, or perhaps has its source in my lack of energy.  Or maybe they come from disparate but merely coincidentally parallel sources.  I don’t know, and though it’s mildly interesting, I don’t have energy or interest enough to try to figure it out.

I did work a bit on a new song yesterday, the one for which I had jotted down some lyrics a while back.  I have lost utterly the original tune, but I worked out a new one of sorts, and it seems okay.  I then worked out some chords for the first stanza, including some relatively sophisticated major sevenths and then major sixths of a minor chord that sounded nice, and which made me at least feel that I really have learned a little bit about guitar chords.  Then I figured out at least the chords I want for the chorus, which, among other things, throw a little dissonance in briefly, which is nice to up the tension.

I don’t know if I’ll get any further with it or not; I may just stop and let it lie.  It’s only perhaps the third time I’ve even picked up the guitar in months.  I was at least able to show myself that I can still play Julia, and Wish You Were Here, and Pigs on the Wing.  I had to fiddle a little to remind myself how to play Blackbird, but after a brief time I was able to bring it back, too.

So, it’s not all atrophied.  And I can still play the opening riff to my own song, Catechism, which I think is my best stand-alone riff.  My other guitar solos are mainly just recapitulations of the melody of the verse or chorus in their respective songs, but the one for Catechism is a separate little melody.

Actually, it occurs to me that I initially did a voice recording of the lyrics to the newish song as I thought of them, and when I did, I probably sang a bit of the tune that had come to my head.  Maybe I should listen to that and see if I like that melody better than the new one I came up with.  That would be a bit funny, if after the effort from yesterday to do a melody and chords I remembered the old one and just threw the new one away.

I suppose it really doesn’t matter much.  Even if I were to work out and record the song, and do accompanying parts and all that stuff, and publish it, I don’t think anyone is likely ever to listen to it much.  Maybe someday in the distant future, some equivalent of an archaeologist who unearths things lost in the web and internet will find the lost traces of my books or music or something, and they’ll be catalogued in some future equivalent of a virtual museum, among trillions of other collections of data that are recorded on line, but which will never seen by anyone for whom they might mean anything at all.

People sometimes say things like “what happens online is forever”, but as I’ve discussed before (I think), even if it’s true that things stored online remain and avoid simple deterioration of data thanks to the redundancy in the system, it doesn’t matter.  In principle, the sound of every tree falling in every wood has left its trace in the vibrational patterns of the world, and according to quantum mechanics, quantum information is never permanently lost, even if things fall into black holes*.

But of course, all that is irrelevant in practice, and comes back to collide with the nature of entropy and the degree to which most large-scale descriptions of a system are indistinguishable.  That picture of you with a funny face at that event years ago, which you tried to have a friend take down, but which had already been shared to a few other people, may in principle always be out there in the archives of Facebook or Twitter or whatever, but it doesn’t matter.  No one will ever notice it or probably even see it among the deluge of petabytes of data whipping around cyberspace every second.  You might as well worry about people being able to reconstruct the sound waves from when you sang Happy Birthday out of tune at your nephew’s fifth birthday party from the information left over in the state of all the atoms and molecules upon which the sound waves impinged.

It’s one of those seemingly paradoxical situations, rather like being in Manhattan.  There are very few places in New York City, and particularly in Manhattan, where one can actually be alone—even most apartments are tiny, and have windows that look out into dozens to hundreds of other people’s windows.  And yet, in a way, you are more or less always alone in Manhattan, or at least you are unobserved, because you are just one of an incomprehensible mass of indistinguishable humans.

Even “celebrities” and political figures, so-called leaders and statespeople, will all fade from memory with astonishing rapidity.  When was the last time you thought about Tip O’Neill?  And yet, for a while, he was prominent in the news more or less every day.  Do you remember where you were when William McKinley was assassinated?  No, because you were nowhere.  None of you existed in any sense when that happened, let alone when, for instance, Julius Caesar was murdered.

And what of the many millions of other people in the world at the time of McKinley or Caesar or Cyrus the Great or Ramses II?  We know nothing whatsoever of them as individuals.  Even the famous names I’m mentioning are really just names for most people.  There’s no real awareness of identity or contributions, especially for the ones who existed before any current people were born.

Last Thursday, I wrote “RIP John Lennon” and put a picture of him up on the board on which we post ongoing sales and the like.  The youngest member of our group, who is in his twenties, asked, “Who is John Lennon?”

He was not joking.

If John Lennon can be unknown to members of a generation less than fifty years after his death, what are the odds that anything any of us does will ever be remembered?

Kansas (the group, not the state) had it right:  “All we are is dust in the wind.  Everything is dust in the wind.”  The only bit they missed was that even the Earth will not last forever, and as for the sky…well, that depends on what you mean by the sky, I suppose.  The blue sky of the Earth, made so by light scattering off Nitrogen and Oxygen molecules, will not outlast the Earth, though there may be other blue skies on other planets.  But planets will not always exist.

As for the black night sky of space, well, that may well last “forever”, for what it’s worth.  But it will not contain anything worth seeing.

TTFN

Tip


*Leonard Susskind famously convinced Stephen Hawking that this was the case—and even won a bet in the process—though other luminaries were of course involved, including Kip Thorne, I believe, one of the masters of General Relativity.

You are not I, but I have a URI

In case anyone was worried, I apologize for not writing my blog post yesterday.  I was “home” sick with an upper respiratory infection, and had neither the energy nor the inclination to try to write a post.  I’m obviously not completely recovered today, but I am going in to the office—it’s payroll day, after all—and I feel a bit better than I did on Monday afternoon and yesterday, at least physically.  My mind feels quite foggy, but that’s not that unusual.

Of course, I’m not going to write either my follow-up neurology post nor the post about sugar and its discontents (so to speak) yet.  My mental acuity is not up to those at the moment, nor am I completely prepared for the former article, so I won’t be getting to them quite yet.  For those who might be waiting, again, I apologize.

There’s not much happening that’s particularly interesting.  I have been rereading the latter part of The Chasm and the Collision over the past few days, and I’m pleased to note that I still enjoy the story.  Parts of it even bring me near tears, which is a curious experience for the author, but then again, I guess it is more personal to me than it might be to others.  I’ve found a few typos—less than a handful, I would say—that were missed before, and if this were a world in which I had time and will and executive function (as they call it), I’d fix them and try to go and adjust the text for future purchasers, but I’m not up to that.

Anyway, it’s nice to know that at least I like the book, still, but I think there would be a lot of people out there who would like it, if it could be brought to their attention.  Unfortunately, I’m not good at self-promotion in any serious way.  This blog is as close to promotion as I get, and you all see how upbeat and enthusiastic I am with it.

Speaking of typos—I was, you can check for yourself—I’ve been making an awful lot of them while typing this.  I guess it’s part of being sick, or sicker than usual, or sick in more ways than usual.  I also, after waking up many times through the night, actually didn’t hear my alarm clock until the second repeat, ten minutes after it first goes off, because apparently I was sleeping on my left side, and I’m very hard of hearing in my right ear.  Probably at least a bit of it is also because I’m sick.  I wish I could say I felt more rested, but who feels better rested when sick?  Maybe afterwards, but not while it’s going on.

I’m wearing a mask on the train today, since I am sick, whereas lately I’ve been occasionally going without it, since often I’d literally be the only masked person in sight.  Perhaps going without a mask is why I’ve gotten sick.  It would make a certain amount of sense.

I think I may try to reread some of my other stories.  Somebody ought to read them, since they’re out there, and it’s not their fault their author isn’t good at promotion.  There are whole communities of people on Twitter and the like who promote independent writers and publishers, and I’ve tried to be an active member of such things in the past, but I’m afraid I have a hard time not getting stressed out by the whole process.  I guess this is why authors get agents and work through publishing houses, but frankly, the notion of dealing even with those situations—getting an agency or a publisher or any of that—is too daunting.  I barely have the will to get up and out of “bed”, frankly, but staying there would be more unpleasant than getting up, so…

Anyway, all that isn’t very interesting.  I guess the only other moderately interesting thing I have to note is that, Monday evening, as I was on my way back to the house, and already feeling the effects of this URI, I was “inspired” to write lyrics to the chorus and after that the first verse, and then a slightly altered second chorus, to a new song.  I even had a little melody in my head to go with it at the time, though I don’t recall that now.  I recorded the initial chorus, sort of, on my voice recorder, though I’m not sure I really caught the tune I had in my head for it, and then I wrote that chorus and the rest in the note-taking app.  I suppose I should email them to myself, lest my phone die and they be lost (though that wouldn’t exactly be a tragedy).  It was a slightly upbeat sounding melody, which was mildly ironic given that the words were rather negative—a cautionary note against complacency and overconfidence.

Is it any surprise that new song lyrics I would write would be so?

Anyway, that’s all that’s going on right now.  For me, I mean.  I don’t know if I’ll go any further with the song idea, but one thing I will do is try to avoid getting too wordy with it, since I tend to do that and end up making songs that are quite long.  I’ll add at most one or two other verses* and maybe a vocal bridge section if the mood for that strikes me.  We’ll see.  Odds are nothing is ever going to come of it, which is fine, because it’s not as though anyone makes a habit of listening to my music, anyway.

Okay, that’s enough of that nonsense.  I hope you all had a decent Tuesday, and have a good last day of November today.  Tomorrow begins what by name should be the tenth month, but which is actually the twelfth month—December, in case you didn’t know.  Yippee.


*To be clear, the verses and chorus such as I have are remarkably unwordy for me, so two to three verses, a chorus (with minor changes in its second repeat) and maybe a little bridge would not be too much.

どうもありがとう(Doumo arigatou) from Mr. ロバート (Robaato, i.e. Robert)

Good morning and hello.  It’s Wednesday, the 23rd of November in 2022, which is the day before Thanksgiving in the USA.  I suppose one could call it Thanksgiving Eve, though somehow that’s never seemed to catch on.  I’m writing this on my phone, because I didn’t take my laptop when I left the office yesterday; I didn’t forget to bring it; I just didn’t feel like it.  Honestly, I don’t have a lot of enthusiasm for writing a post today, but since I definitely am not going to write one tomorrow, I guess I’d better bite the bullet and write the blogget.

I’m at the train station as I begin this post, and of course, the iterated announcement continues, reminding us that tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, they will be operating on a Sunday schedule.  This announcement has been repeating since the day after Labor Day.  Presumably, starting Friday, they’ll be reminding us that they will follow a Sunday schedule on Christmas and New Year’s.

It’s very foggy down here by me today, which is unusual.  In fact, when I left the house, my first notion was that something big must be on fire nearby.  But, thankfully, it quickly became obvious (when I took a sniff) that it was merely fog.  It’s surprisingly rare to see fog down here, probably because, even though it’s more than humid enough, the air is almost always too warm to cause the humidity to begin to precipitate out so close to the ground.  Not that it’s cold today; it’s 73 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the weather app when I left the house, and that seems pretty consistent with what the feeling of the temperature is.

Yes, that’s right‒I’m writing about the weather.  I told you I didn’t really feel up to writing much, didn’t I?  I’m certainly not up to trying to write the follow-up to my neuropathology post from the other day, and I don’t think I would try doing that on my phone if I were, as I think I’ve mentioned previously.  I occasionally toy with the notion, when writing blog posts on the phone, of trying to write a new short story this way.  I wrote a good portion of Son of Man on a previous phone, and I think it came out well.

But honestly, though I think about the idea, I know I won’t do it.  I may not ever write any more fiction for the rest of my life.  I can barely get myself to do non-fiction such as this.

I did listen to some music last night, both on the way to the train and as I lay down trying to get sleepy.  I also ended up watching a fair few “reaction videos” to songs I know.  That’s a rather entertaining genre of YouTube videos in which youngish people, who presumably grew up listening to the latest modern music‒an ever-moving definition in any case‒listen to some classic bands and songs, usually for the first time, and we all get to see their initial reactions.  It’s a fun genre, because these are obviously people who are interested in being exposed to prior hits, and their enthusiasm for the process is often quite moving.

It’s charming (if startling) to see a youngish couple who have never even heard of the Eagles listen to Hotel California…or to see anyone who doesn’t know what’s coming to experience, for the first time, the saxophone solo from Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street.  It’s also quite a surprise for people to see the young lead singer from the Animals start growling out The House of the Rising Sun.  It still honestly surprises me every time I see it.  It’s as if some teenager has been possessed by the spirit of a cursed man from New Orleans who squandered his life like his father before him, and who must find a body willing to express his torment and his warning before he can ever rest in peace.

It’s also fun to see and hear songs I haven’t thought of in a long time as if for the first time, like The Heart of Rock and Roll, which was huge back in the 80’s.  I saw Huey Lewis and the News in concert, and they put on a terrific show…though he teased the Detroit audience by pretending to forget the last city name in the aforementioned song.  He was a good showman.  He also went to my alma mater, so you know he’s special.

And I’ve yet to see any one of the reactors watch the “best live version” of Radiohead’s Creep and not be in or near tears in response to Thom Yorke’s performance, and commenting about how this is clearly something personal for him, he’s not just singing the song, he’s experiencing it.  Which is surely true, since apparently Thom wrote the song in his late teens, and it was autobiographical.  It certainly conveys sentiments many people have shared at one time or another.

It’s all the next best thing, I guess, to sharing one’s favorite music with a friend, or listening to some new, great song for the first time with one’s peers back in high school or college or what have you.  I guess that’s similar to the reason I watch Doctor Who reaction videos; I have no local person or people with whom to watch it, and it’s definitely the sort of show I would have watched with my wife and/or kids.  I don’t feel too heartbroken to see it now, alone, since I’ve only ever actually watched it by myself, unlike many other shows that I can no longer enjoy.

Not that that makes it unemotional.  I’ve never encountered a show that more frequently evokes teariness than Doctor Who.  It’s really quite remarkable and impressive.  As fans say, it’s a show that’s bigger on the inside.

Anyway, that’s enough writing about nothing.  I hope all of you reading in the US have a truly wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow, and get to spend time with your loved ones and enjoy some delicious food.  For all those outside the US…well…have a good Thursday‒hopefully not one such as DentArthurDent was prone to have‒and you might as well have some nice food and time with your loved ones, too.  I’ll be back on Friday, barring the unforeseen.

happy-thanksgiving-from-the-farm-maria-keady

Move over, Bobber…and let Jimi take…obber?

It’s Monday again.  I don’t think I need you to tell me why I don’t like Mondays, and I’m not sure why Bob Geldof thought he needed to be told, either.  Maybe it was because, as a professional musician (and sometimes actor), he wasn’t really on a Monday through Friday work schedule, but he still didn’t like Mondays, and he wasn’t sure why that was the case.

Perhaps he reckoned without the fact that, though perhaps not on such a schedule as an adult, he surely was on it as a youngster, growing up in a country with a school system that ran Monday through Friday.  Perhaps he didn’t realize that, even if he didn’t have to go to work in the morning, other people did, and that might make many of them sullen and unpleasant, particularly on Mondays.  Perhaps it was that pervasive, radiant grumpiness that made him dislike Mondays.

Actually, I don’t remember what his big hit with the Boomtown Rats was really about, other than the title and the basic tune, which was certainly catchy.  When I first heard it—possibly the first of only two times that I’ve heard it all the way through—I thought he was asking why he didn’t like modern days, which to me is more thought-provoking and interesting than the actual title of the song.  That misunderstanding is partly his fault for turning the first syllable of Monday* into two notes/two beats.  But, since he played Pink in the movie version of The Wall, we can forgive him**.

This is sort of the opposite of what Jimi Hendrix did in Purple Haze, where he takes the same bit of music that in the first verse underlies the words, “Scuze me while I kiss the sky,” and on the second verse squeezes in, “Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me.”  The first iteration has seven syllables; you could sing it to the tune of Old MacDonald Had A Farm (which is a somewhat funny thing to do…try it!).  The second sentence has twelve syllables.  Jimi dealt with that by going full Chopin and subdividing the beat into a series of very quick notes, of which he even varied intonation a bit.

The point is, I think we can all agree that Jimi Hendrix was a greater musician and song writer than Bob Geldof, but Sir Bob has done some very good things in addition to his music.  Though for all we know, if Jimi had not died young, he might have led the way to a lasting world peace of happiness and prosperity***.

Wait, that isn’t really the point.  That was just random nonsense that I was spewing, triggered by my opening sentence as I started writing this blog post.  I guess the real point is that I want to say, Happy Monday, if you can tolerate such sentiments.

I can’t, so don’t say it back, please.

It is the beginning of the Work Week of Awe, the name we**** give to the work week within which lies the birthday of the greatest being ever to live on this planet—or at least the greatest one to write on this blog.  I can’t remember which it is.  I suppose it could be both, since they’re not logically contradictory, and the term “at least” clearly implies that it could be the one thing and the other that are true.  I don’t know for sure about the other thing, but with respect to the blog post writing—to quote Spandau Ballet, now—I know this much is true.  Yes, that’s a quote from yet another song that was a hit more than thirty years ago.

It’s not that I can’t quote more recent songs, it’s just that there aren’t as many that spring to my mind readily.  But I do think one of the greatest song quotes—though it’s not really sung, to be fair—is by the much-lamented DMX, and goes, “Talk is cheap, motherf*cker.”  Those are words of wisdom that millions of people on social media would do well to remember.

That’s mostly about all I have to say on this Monday morning.  Much of it is quoted, and those quotes aren’t even from Shakespeare.  That’s fine, of course.  Shakespeare may be the most quoted writer of all time—many very common figures of speech come from Shakespeare, and most people who use them don’t even realize it—but he’s not the only quotable author.  Call me Ishmael if you must, but I hold out the ridiculous thought that, perhaps, someday, people will quote me, and not just to provide evidence of my mental dysfunction.

***

Whew, I just had a small interlude on the train in which my phone slipped out of my pocket and went down in between the seat frames, atop a duct that must serve AC or something.  It was in a spot that my hand was too fat to reach, but thankfully, the person behind me, who immediately came to my aid without saying a word, was a young, thin construction worker, and after we jimmied the phone around a bit, he was able to reach in where I could not and slide the phone out.

One of the other construction workers lent us a very long screwdriver to help, as well.  It didn’t do much, regrettably, but it was a kind gesture, and much appreciated.  It’s nice to know that there are such helpful and kind people on trains, and since trains are unlikely to be unusually attractive to nice people—compared to other places—there are probably such nice people everywhere.

It’s too bad that the assholes make so much noise; they (perhaps I should say “we”) give a somewhat skewed impression of the character of the world’s people.  Unfortunately, it being easier to destroy than to create, the assholes also do a great deal of damage along their way.  Guarding and supporting the beneficent or at least neutral people from the depredations of the maleficent, detrimental ones is more than a constant job, because entropy helps the latter against the former.

Oh well.  I have my phone back and though I have not always depended on the kindness of strangers—indeed, I try not to need to be so reliant—it’s nice when they are kind.


*Mon

**Yes, yes, he also did Band Aid and Live Aid and all that, but he was knighted for that, so he’s already been rewarded.

***It’s bloody unlikely, but it is possible.

****By which I mean “I”.

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.