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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

Video killed


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

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

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

I could be bounded in a nutshell, and blog myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and thus another edition of my weekly blog.

If I ever become the absolute ruler of the entire human world, I think I might change the name of this day in the English-speaking world from Thursday to Blogsday.  After all, what does this day of the week have to do with the Norse god Thor?  Not much, as far as I can see.  It’s merely an artefact of the past, no more relevant for modern life than the human appendix, though less problematic.  This name change would, of course, be arbitrary in a sense—certainly it would be biased, and would mean little to any who did not write or at least read blogs on Thursdays—but it seems unlikely to cause anyone harm.

Arthur Dent, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, might even find “Blogsday” refreshing.  He never could get the hang of Thursdays.  Perhaps the name change would give him at least a psychological sense that things were better, and in his case, that could be quite potent.  After all, this is the man who learned how to fly by developing the knack for throwing himself at the ground and missing.  His mindset seems to have impressive consequences.

Of course, those in nations or cultures in which Thor matters could continue to call the day Thursday; I’m not a cruel tyrant, at least not in that way.  And if there are cultures where the days of the week are named sensibly (similar to the modern Japanese way of naming months, which translate roughly as “Month 1, Month 2, Month 3, etc.”), I would be more than delighted for them to continue to use those names.

And, as should go without saying, whatever people call the days of the week in the privacy of their own homes, as consenting adults, is entirely their business.

It seems unlikely, though, that I will ever become lord and master of all humanity, and this is probably a good thing—it certainly is for some humans, I can assure you of that.  But it’s amusing to think about, at least for me, and since I’m the one writing, I can do what I want.  Here in this blog, I am lord and master, at least as much as anyone is of anything, which is not much at all.  Even Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great were never really lords and masters of much.  As witness:  they are all dead, and they have been for quite some time.  We see no evidence that this is likely to change.

Of course, in a universe of infinite spatial expanse with a maximum number of possible quantum states in any given region, there are no doubt places where those three individuals are still* alive—if that’s possible in principle, anyway, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be—and where they are at least still relatively in charge of their local area.  But that mastery is at least spatially limited, for they are as subject to the laws of physics as everything else is.

Anyway, enough thought experiments for the moment.

It’s been a reasonably productive week, and I’m quite pleased to be able to tell you that I am now on the final run-through of The Vagabond.  I just began it yesterday, so it will be a bit of time before I’m done, and then will come layout and so forth.  I’m still hoping to be able to find that old drawing of mine that I want to use as the basis for the cover.  If I can’t find it, I’ll have to try to reconstruct it in one form or another.  In any case, it’s highly unlikely that the book will be out before the end of February.  It may well be available sometime in March, but I’m not certain.

I’ve been playing around some more with my new microphones, and I’ve recorded several versions of both the guitar parts and the vocals for my “bad covers” of Julia and Blackbird, but I’m not quite satisfied with them.  I think it may be that my voice still has a bit of raspiness left over from Covid.  That didn’t stop me from doing my “bad cover” of Nude, but that song involves a lot of reverb and keyboard sounds and so forth, so I wasn’t as bothered, though my falsetto at the beginning and the end was not as good as I could make it if I recorded it now.

Oh, well, somewhere off in the distant reaches of the universe—if space is infinite—there are an infinite number of versions of me who recorded it both later and better.  But they aren’t particularly useful to me, here.

I also played around this week just recording myself practicing and singing, including doing a quick “demo” of my long-neglected original song Mercury Lamp, hoping to use that process to light a fire** in me about that work.  I also recorded myself playing and singing Karma Police, Polyethylene Parts 1 and 2, Pigs on the Wing Parts 1 and 2, and even Street Spirit (Fade Out), of the guitar part for the latter of which I’m beginning to feel just slightly proud.  One thing I’ve learned through doing this is that, with a metronome going and with my awareness of being recorded, I get very self-conscious, and I don’t play or sing as well as I usually do.  I doubt that this is unusual, but it’s good to learn it about myself, and I plan to do my best to work past it.

I’m tempted to upload some of the audio from those recordings here to my blog, especially the ones for Street Spirit and for Mercury Lamp, but I will hold off for now.  The thought of other people hearing them is both amusing and mortifying, but it’s useful for me to listen, so I can hear all the things I’m screwing up and—hopefully—improve upon them.  I’m also learning the best software to use to record these sessions, given the limitations of my computers.  Audacity, it turns out, is prone to losing data when recording (on my machines, at least) because it’s a big program and records everything as stereo, even though there’s only one mic.  This apparently leads to it getting gummed up after its recorded for a bit, and it can be quite frustrating to have sung and played something only for it to tell you “data has been lost at the indicated locations”.  Of course, those are always the places where I sang and played everything perfectly.

Not really.  But I do get terribly frustrated.

Anyway, that’s just toys and games and self-indulgence.  Writing is what I’m really about, and writing is what I’m doing now.  I haven’t done any Iterations of Zero this week, though maybe—just maybe—I’ll end up posting some of my rough recordings there for fun.  In the meantime, look forward to The Vagabond, and then both to Outlaw’s Mind and to Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which will include my long-lost story House Guest.

I honestly feel that, once The Vagabond and House Guest are out there in the world, it will be fine if I die.  Sure, it would be nice to recreate Ends of the Maelstrom, and to do Dark Fairy and the Desperado, and Changeling in a Shadow World, and to write the two remaining books in the saga of Mark Red, in case anyone wants to know what becomes of him, and so on.  But all that is asking quite a lot from the universe, and the prospect of doing them doesn’t feel like adequate motivation, let alone justification, for continuing to bear fardels and to grunt and sweat under a very weary life.

In any case, as the song says, “the losing card I’ll someday lay”, no matter what, unless this is one of those rarefied regions of the multiverse in which I will happen to live forever***.  In this universe, my kids are alive and in reasonably good health, and they’re out there somewhere living promising lives—though I never get to see them—and I’ve written several books, and even learned some guitar and recorded some songs.  And my lost works The Vagabond and House Guest have been found and will almost certainly soon be published.  It seems churlish to consider asking for anything more.

Well…except that I do ask that all of you do your best to stay safe and healthy, and I hope you have as a good a week, and as good a life, as you can.

TTFN

Hat for Vagabond

This is the sort of hat the Vagabond wears; he does NOT wear it to look good.


*Ignoring the fact that, given Special and General Relativity, the notion of simultaneity across such distances is incoherent.

**Pun not originally intended but embraced when realized.

***Now that’s a horror story!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

Picture1


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

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

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

I’ll have my blogs ta’en out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a New Year’s gift

date yearHello, good morning, and welcome to the last day of 2020 A.D. (or C.E. if you prefer).  It happens to be a Thursday, and so of course it’s a day for this, my weekly blog post.

I don’t think anyone is going to be heartbroken to see the end of 2020; at least the majority of people in the world will probably not be sad to wave it goodbye.  I’m sure that there are many individuals who have had good years overall—there are people who have fallen in love, have gotten married, had children, received hard-earned degrees, gotten good new jobs, started exciting careers, and so on.  There are, no doubt, some lottery winners out there, as well.  But even they cannot have been utterly shielded from the vicissitudes of a year that has included political chaos of higher-than-usual degree in the United States, in the UK, in the rest of Europe, and to some degree in China as well, to say nothing of the more numerous, smaller economies of the world that have likely suffered more than the larger ones in the face of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.  It’s been a tough, and weird, year for a lot of people and, as I said, many will be happy to see it go.

Of course, there’s nothing magical about January 1st, 2021.  The annual January restart is a purely human marking point, rather arbitrarily chosen.  The laws of physics—and of biology in general and virology in particular—know nothing of human dating systems.  But the psychological impact on humans can nevertheless have value, and may actually, truly, cause changes in human civilization, and hopefully those changes will be at least slightly for the better*.  Optimism is not my strong point, but I’m hopeful that the world will move in a net positive direction this year through the phase space of civilizational states.

As for me, I continue to move forward in my little, local fashion.  Specifically, my editing of The Vagabond is going well and at a good pace.  I’m near the end of another run-though already, with only a few more to go after that.  I’m very eager to see The Vagabond finished and published—it’s been more than thirty years since I first started writing it.  Then, of course, I hope to finish Outlaw’s Mind and get it ready to include (I hope) in my collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I’m eager to get back to new fiction; my mental health seems to deteriorate when I’m not writing new stories.  Stephen King has famously said that he finds writing to be the greatest therapy he’s ever known, and though I can’t say for certain that it’s the very greatest therapy for me—my personal history with such things has been complicated—it does seem to help.

As far as other creative matters go, I think I mentioned that I was having some trouble with my left hand and forearm due to apparent overuse in working on learning the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia among other songs.  Well, it’s not fully recovered, but it seems to be getting stronger, and I haven’t been able to avoid practicing every day despite the pain.  In fact, my housemate, who built two of my guitars, just two days ago changed the strings and reconditioned the fretboard on the Les Paul copy he’d made for me.  I’ve already said that it is the most beautiful sounding instrument (of any kind) that I’ve ever had the privilege to play.  Well, I tried it out last night, and its sound is even more lovely than it was before.  I think I described it as “entrancing” to him.  When suffering from my usual insomnia last night, I couldn’t help but get up and play it a little more in the dark.  It was quite a nice way to pass the time, but it’s probably best that I not overdo things too much with respect to my left hand and arm.

Given the newly enhanced guitar, I think I’m soon going to record and then share on YouTube (and here) my own piddling little versions of Julia and of Blackbird, both of which songs are comprised of finger-picked guitar and solo voice.  This makes them comparatively simple to perform, though not simple to get sounding good.  And, of course, when you’ve just got the one guitar playing, if you screw up, it’s pretty obvious.  But it’s a good challenge, and I’m reasonably pleased with myself to have come as far as I have in the short time I’ve been playing.  I’m also working on learning/getting better at playing the Radiohead song Street Spirit (Fade Out), which is a darkly beautiful song over arpeggiated chords.  I’m also having fun with the simple guitar part for their song Talk Show Host, which sounds great even though it’s simple, as well as Polyethylene, Parts 1 and 2.  The latter was one of the bonus tracks on their rerelease of OK Computer, subtitled OK/Not OK, to note the inclusion of several such songs that had not been included in the original album.

But all that’s just hobby stuff, really, even the writing and producing of my own original songs.  I love playing and singing music, but writing is my true calling, if there is such a thing.  As evidence of that fact, I am writing this here, today, as I do every week.

And with that, I’ll draw this last blog post of a tumultuous year to a close, and wish all of you a very happy, and especially a healthy, New Year.  Hopefully, we can all do our parts in this vast, spontaneously self-organizing system that is human civilization to make things head in an ever-positive direction, keeping and strengthening what’s good and improving what’s not so good.

TTFN

fireworks


*There are always those who sardonically say that things could not get much worse, but of course, this is never really true.  As Calvin (the comic strip character, not the religious philosopher) noted, life is almost never so bad that it cannot, in principle, get worse.  But we can hope at the very least for regression to the mean.  Unless that’s what’s already happening.

At Christmas I no more desire a rose than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled blog

Hello, good morning, and Merry Christmas (Eve) to everyone who celebrates the holiday, directly or indirectly.  Considering how pervasive it’s become, and how pervasive Christendom was and is, I imagine there aren’t too many places—in the western world, at least—that don’t have at least some peripheral awareness of Christmas.  Though it is interesting how the celebration has evolved in places that don’t have historical religious associations with it.  Based on my consumption of manga and anime, I get the impression that, in Japan, Christmas is more of a romantic, couple’s holiday than anything else*.  I have to say, I can understand that interpretation; some of my most vivid Christmas memories from my teenage years carry that feeling.  The lights and the snow and the music, as well as the associations with huddling together against the cold are all quite evocative.

Though, of course, living in south Florida as I do, snow is no longer relevant to this time of year.  I even wrote and posted parody lyrics of “White Christmas” on this blog before, focused on that fact.  Here’s the link, so I don’t need to include a copy of the words.  There’s nothing particularly clever about them, they’re just sort of ironic but celebratory about warm weather.  It’s refreshing, at least at first, to have warm weather in the wintertime, especially after having grown up in Michigan (and then living in upstate New York and Chicago and then New York City).

Of course, in Judea of two-thousand years ago I doubt they had snow around this time of year.

There are those who (as I have below), in the spirit of “The Big Bang Theory”**, spread memes of Merry Newtonmas at this time of year, since Isaac Newton was born on December 25th, while Jesus almost certainly was not***.  But Isaac Newton’s birthday was measured on the then-ascendant Julian calendar, so it wouldn’t have coincided with what we now call December 25th using the updated Gregorian calendar.  I could look up what his birthday would have been had the Gregorian calendar already been in use, but I can’t be arsed to do it.  Anyway, Newton probably was born closer to the time of the Solstice than was Yehoshua ben Yosef****.

All these things are trivia, admittedly.  But, after all, in the spirit of Ecclesiastes, “all is vanity,” which could be rendered as “all is trivial”.  And I like trivia, so…I guess it’s okay for me just to go with it.

Less trivial to me by far is the fact that the editing of The Vagabond is proceeding well.  It’s quite rewarding and satisfying to be able to make such rapid progress on it after having done Unanimity.  I love Unanimity, of course, and I’m very proud of it.  But, my oh, it was an immense labor.  In contrast, The Vagabond, while not to be released this year, will likely be available for publication in the earlyish part of 2021.  Perhaps you’ll be able to read it while you wait in line to get your Covid vaccination!

I’ve done a few posts recently on Iterations of Zero, which is a welcome change.  I decided to go with the idea of writing them on my smartphone, and so far, I think it’s working pretty well.  I did, after all, write a significant part of Son of Man on the smartphone I had at the time, and it was a much smaller, and thus less wieldy, device to use.

I have also released the “commercial” version of my song Breaking Me Down, which I embedded on my last IoZ post.  By “commercial” I mean that, if you listen to the song (or watch the “video” on YouTube), I make a tiny bit of money from it.  It’s also on Spotify and on iTunes (though I do not yet have the links) and supposedly on a whole slew of other social media and music sites, most of which I hadn’t even heard of let alone seen.  If you’re on any of those, and you’re interested, just search for the title, and my name, and it should come up.  It’s not a Christmas song, of course, and it’s not exactly a happy song, but it has a good beat, and I’m told the melody is good (I’m too biased to be able to judge), and it even includes some borderline decent guitar playing.  I like/am proud of the lyrics, but they are rather gloomy, I’ll admit.  They’re cleverer than my “Green Christmas” parody, at least.

And with that, I think I’ll wrap it up for this week.  I wish you all the very best of the holiday season, no matter what holidays you may or may not celebrate.  As Bill and Ted said, “Be excellent to each other.”  As simple advice goes, that’s hard to beat.  I suspect that Jesus would agree.

TTFN

Newtonmas (2)


*And people there apparently like to eat KFC(!) for Christmas dinner (thanks to some very impressive marketing).

**The show, not the actual cosmology theory.

***It’s my understanding that the early Christian church appropriated the date from the festival of Saturnalia and similar related and pervasive solstice celebrations.  Of course, given the current “conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, and some of the amazing photos circulating online of it, it’s not inappropriate to think of Saturn now.

****Of course, if you believe in the literal truth of the story, then a more appropriate Hebrew-ish version of his name would have been Yehoshua ben YHWH.  But that’s hard to say.

For they blog truth, that blog their words in pain

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and so—as required by the dark ritual, which is designed to summon the Great Old Ones and bring about the end of mankind’s dominion over the realm that rightly belongs to Cthulhu*—it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

I can’t say that there’s much new happening around here in the past week.  As you know, last week was Thanksgiving in the US, so I wrote an early blog post that was nonetheless released on the appropriate day, thanks to the wonders of computer technology.  It was not a terribly exciting holiday for me.  I just loafed around in my room, played some video golf, went to 7-11 for some snacks and lunch, and loafed around some more.  I don’t remember specifically giving thanks, but I suppose there must have been some general thankfulness there somewhere, as I expressed in last week’s post.  I can at least honestly say that no turkeys were harmed in the making of my Thanksgiving celebrations.

The Vagabond is still proceeding well.  I’m within 20 pages of the end of the latest run-through, and it’s getting a bit better each time, which is good, since that’s the whole point.  It’s soooooo** much faster to get through than Unanimity was.  Not that I don’t love Unanimity.  I do love it, very much, and I’m quite proud of it.  I like the characters in it a lot, which is not unusual; I almost always like my characters, even the bad guys.  But it is a long book, and editing it was laborious.

It occurred to me yesterday, though—and with a bit of irony, since they’re bit players at most—that in Unanimity, I particularly like Charley’s parents.  They seem like people you’d like to know in real life.  They’re not my favorite characters in the story; I’m not sure quite who my favorite would be.  Possibly Michael; he’s the one with the most attributes of my own personality, though he has them in a much more pleasant form than they occur in my real self.  But Charley’s parents are fun people.

In unrelated news, not even tangential to what I’ve been discussing so far, but which I can’t help but think about:  I’ve been developing some inflammation/strain in the proximal portion of my left forearm, near the origin of some of the hand flexor muscles and tendons.  I know why it’s happening.  I’ve been working on the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia (it’s actually the only instrumental part of the song) and that involves fingerpicking a long series of changing chords, many of which are barre chords.  I’ve practiced to the point where my hand no longer wants to cramp before the end of the song, and I’ve duly impressed myself (which isn’t too hard) but apparently the repetitive strain continues to take its toll.  I’d better finish learning the song and record myself doing it so I can feel that it’s finished and move on, since NSAIDs don’t seem to be helping much.  Do any of you know whether there would be benefit in using a spandex elbow-forearm “brace”?  My medical background suggests that it might be useful, but not with a high degree of confidence.

As far as the infectious disease front goes, I remain Covid-free***, though not everyone in my office is so lucky.  This makes an already slow time of year a bit slower, which in some way makes my job easier, and in other ways makes it harder, and overall makes it gloomier.  This was particularly trying yesterday, when we had a surprising cold snap for south Florida.  I’m sure that people up north would not be impressed, but the temperature dropped by almost thirty degrees in twenty-four hours, and it usually doesn’t get that chilly, even in passing, until January or February.

Oh well.  Subtropical world problems, I suppose.  You may find it funny, and you’re welcome to enjoy the schadenfreude.  It’s already warming back up, in any case, and at least the rainy season is more or less over, as is hurricane season.

That’s about all I have for now, though I’m sure I could find tangents down which to become lost if I chose to let it happen.  But I’ll spare you that indulgence and keep things short this week.  I hope you all continue to have the best possible days and weeks and months and years and other intervals of time that you can possibly have.  At the very least, try to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*Though, to be honest, in my view—and I imagine that Cthulhu would agree—if one of the Elder Gods can’t just claim the realm on his own, he frankly doesn’t deserve to have it.

**That should be read with a long “o” sound, not with an “oooh” sound like a ghost.  In case you didn’t know.

***Which seems like it could be an excellent bogus marketing claim to put on product packages to lure in thoughtlessly health conscious people, as when one sees “gluten free” on products that of course are gluten free…like plain corn chips or plain potato chips.  I half expect to see motor oil advertised as gluten free and GMO free.  Which it is.

Bad Cover – You Never Give Me Your Money

Okay, here it is at last*, my bad cover of “You Never Give Me Your Money”, which is probably my favorite Beatles song**.

I apologize for the opening keyboards; they would have sounded better with a real piano (I did them over and over again trying to get a better sound), but I no longer have or have access to one of those, and I certainly can’t afford a really good simulated one.

I had to fudge on the percussion, using an automatic drum part, since I simply don’t have any drums of my own, nor am I at all trained in drumming such as would be necessary to play Ringo’s sophisticated part.

Everything else, though, is me:  Guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals.  Obviously, it was done, as Khan says, “Not all at once, and not instantly, to be sure.”  Putting it all together is in many ways the hardest part (other than practicing the parts, etc., but that’s fun to do).  I used Audacity, which is a free sound editing/mixing program, and it is amazing.  If you get the chance to throw them some money, please do so.

Of course, as should be obvious, I own none of this, and I am making no money from it, nor should I.  It’s just my labor of love/homage.  Words and music officially are by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, though the latter was the main composer of this song, and of course, the whole group and George Martin, etc. gave their creative bits to it, as with most of the Beatles works.

*It feels like it took a very long time to me, anyway, though I guess it’s only been about two weeks, not counting practice.

*I can’t quite explain why.  Maybe it’s because it opens up the long medley on the second side of Abbey Road, my favorite Beatles album, and is even reprised with a third verse in “Carry That Weight”, but that’s just speculation.  And at any given moment, of course, I may want to hear some other Beatles song more, since there are so many great and good ones, but this one always holds a special place in my faux-heart.

I blog of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing but vain fantasy

Good morning and hello everyone.  I hope you’re all doing well.  It’s Thursday, as you know, and so it’s time for another weekly edition of my blog.  This being the second Thursday of the month, it would have been an edition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains,” had I been able to keep that feature going*.

Work has continued on The Vagabond quite nicely; I finished the first run-through early this week, which served to familiarize me once again with my book that I wrote so long ago.  It sometimes feels like a very long time ago, and I guess it was…between twenty and thirty years, or more than half my life.  Weirdly, though—since it has been quite a while, and in some ways, it seems like ages—when reading it, I have to admit that it also seems quite fresh and recent.  I feel very much just the same person as I was when I wrote the novel, which is almost ridiculous considering how many things have happened to me since then**.  I suppose this is just one of the peculiarities of human consciousness…or at least of my own consciousness, which may or may not be considered human, depending upon whom you ask.

I think I wrote last time about how a woman in my office asked about my books for her son.  Well, as promised, I got the boy a copy of The Chasm and the Collision, and I got a copy of Unanimity Book 1 for her (definitely not for him).  She told me a few days ago that her son had been reading CatC and enjoying it and had reached chapter 4 already.  Because of that, I decided I’d read that chapter myself again, just to know exactly where he was.  It’s okay for me to skip ahead; I already know what happened.

Well, I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed it, and on and off I’ve been reading further***.  As I’ve said before, it’s my most family-friendly book, having been written about three middle-school students, and being therefore written for middle school students, as well as for “children of all ages” as they say.  That’s not to say it’s a childish or light-hearted book; there are some rather scary and dark portions, and it’s not short, except when compared to Unanimity.  It’s nominally a fantasy adventure, and without dark and dangerous forces, such stories don’t work at all.  My sister, who is older than I am and reads even more, says it’s her favorite of my books, and that the main character, Alex, is her favorite of my characters.  I might have mentioned that last week.  Apologies for redundancy.

I say it’s “nominally” a fantasy adventure because it could be more literally described as a science fiction story.  There’s nothing “magical” in it, and even the “travel to other worlds” aspect uses concepts that I cobbled from M Theory, as I understand it from my layperson’s perspective, drawn from the popular works of Brian Greene, Lisa Randall, Stephen Hawking, and the like.  Don’t worry, I don’t get much into that—I don’t know enough of it to do so even if I wanted to—but it does give me an arguably plausible way to bring in other universes and the spaces between them, and the possibility that the Big Bang was caused by two “branes” colliding with each other…and that such a collision might happen again.  (The word “brane” never appears in the story, however.)

Anyway, don’t worry about all that.  It’s a highly speculative science fiction story that really has the character of a youth fantasy adventure.  It even contains some environmentalist ideas, though they are by no means in your face.  I know, right?  A book by me, displaying any kind of conscience?  What’s the world coming to?  But again, you don’t have to worry about all that.  It’s a fantasy adventure about three middle-school students who get caught up in an inter-universal crisis and must do their best to help avert cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for missing school.  I’m proud of it, and I can pretty much recommend it to anyone without reservation.  It doesn’t contain even a single instance of profanity!  I do encourage you to read it if you like that sort of thing.

Speaking of that, I would like humbly to request that, for those of you who have read my stories and books, could you perhaps take a moment to go to Amazon and rate and/or review them?  I considered doing it myself, as a kind of joke—making it clear that I was the author writing the review—but that seemed just too cheesy, and I don’t think Amazon lets authors do that, anyway.  I’m fairly sure they block reviews from people who have a financial interest in a book, which seems impressively and surprisingly ethical of them.  I can’t help but approve.

Finally, I’m thinking about releasing another of my songs as an official “single” to be put up on Spotify, YouTube Music, iTunes, Pandora, etc., like Like and Share, Schrödinger’s Head, and Catechism, but I only have two more original songs so far that could be so released:  Breaking Me Down and Come Back Again.  I’ve linked to their “videos”, so if any of you want to have a listen and give me your recommendations—even if that includes a recommendation never to allow human ears to hear the songs again for the sake of all that’s good and pure—I’ll gladly take your input.  I won’t necessarily follow it, but I would love to have it.

With that, I’ll leave you again for this week.  I’ve still not been able to kick-start myself into doing more with Iterations of Zero, though I have drafts of a few things.  Keep your eyes open, if you’re interested.  And, honestly, do consider reading The Chasm and the Collision.  Heck, if you can figure out how to work it out, I’ll gladly autograph a copy for you, for what that’s worth.  Most importantly, continue to take good care of yourselves and your family, friends, and neighbors, and stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

CatC cover paperback


*No, I haven’t gotten over it yet.  Maybe I’ll try to do one of them a year or something, perhaps around Halloween.

**Including, but not limited to, medical school, residency, moving to Florida, having kids, acquiring a severe back injury and chronic nerve pain, getting divorced, spending time as an involuntary guest of the Florida DOC and as a consequence being unable to practice medicine or vote among them…all sorts of interesting things that make for a most stormy life so far.

***Interspersed with reading Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, PhD.  This is a very good and, I think, very important book.  I encourage you to read it.

O, let my books be then the eloquence and dumb presages of my speaking blog.

Good morning everyone!  It’s Thursday, and of course, that means that it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  This is the first post of Autumn this year (in the northern hemisphere, anyway).  It is also, I’m extremely pleased to note, the first blog post after the release of Book 2 of Unanimity, both in paperback and e-book form!

This very much feels like the end of an era for me—in a good way.  The process of writing and then editing and then publishing Unanimity has been a monumental undertaking, at least from my own small and narrow point of view.  I had no idea when I started the story that it would end up so large.  It certainly didn’t seem likely to become such a long tale.  The concept seemed fairly simple, at first glance…and at second, third, fourth, fifth, and further superficial glances.  But developing the occurrences and progression of the story ended up being quite a process, partly because—I think—it’s a specific plot notion that hasn’t been done before, at least not in quite the same way.  Perhaps I’m flattering myself.

In any case, I’m pleased with the result, and I’m pleased with the fact that it’s complete.  I don’t yet have my copy of the paperback in hand—it’s on its way—but I’m excited to have and hold it.  I was miffed when the problem of its length first made me need to split the book into two volumes, but on the other hand, Tolkien had to do that too, so I’m in good company.  At least it gave me the opportunity to design two slightly different covers, representing the increasing extent and penetration of Charley Banks’s power and “infestation” throughout the course of the story.

I’m afraid the official release date of Unanimity Book 2 on Amazon is September 21, 2020 instead of September 22, which was what I wanted…but in order for it to be available by September 22, I had to put it into the process on the 21st, because there’s always a delay…and indeed, I received the notification that it was, in fact, ready only on the morning of the 22nd.  So, it appeared to the public, as it were, on the first day of Autumn (in the north) and on Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, which was what I wanted.

In the meantime, I decided to release—officially—my song Catechism, which is now available for your listening pleasure on Amazon, on Spotify, on YouTube/YouTube Music, and on oodles of other venues, most of which I’ve never used.  I posted a version of it on YouTube previously, and I think on one or both of my blogs, but this is the “official” version, from each play of which I get a modicum of royalties, so of course I encourage you to put it on your own favorite song playlists!  It has new, official “cover art” with which I’m reasonably happy, and which you can see below.  The song opens with some sound effects made by recording and then splitting, overlapping, stretching, and partly reversing various noises from the office in which I work.  I could dream up convincing explanations for how that all fits into the theme of the song, but honestly, I really just did it for fun.

As I announced I would last week (I think), I’ve continued to work on The Vagabond, rereading and editing as I go, improving the language and whatnot, and enjoying the story quite a bit.  Weirdly enough, it also takes place in a university, though the university in this case is plainly and rather blatantly an alternate-universe version of my own undergrad alma mater, which is not the case in Unanimity.  I suppose it makes sense that one writes about situations drawn from memorable times in one’s life, and of course, I started writing The Vagabond originally when I was in university.  You don’t have to have attended college to enjoy it, though.  Even more so than with Unanimity, the college and the town in The Vagabond are just the setting for a battle between universal good and evil.  It’s a much more straightforward story, with far less moral ambiguousness and ambivalence than is found in Unanimity.

I was so young and innocent then.

Really, though, it is a fun story, I think—but then, I would, wouldn’t I—and I’m looking forward to finishing its tweaking and editing and fixing up.  Then, at last, I’ll be able to return to and complete the story of poor Timothy Outlaw, which has also become longer than I would have imagined when I first came up with the story idea.  I think I sometimes get carried away, but whataya gonna do?  You can’t count on anyone else to write the stories you want the way you want them written, so if you want to read them—and to let other people read them—you’ve got to write them yourself, in your own way.  Ditto with music, I suppose, though with that it’s much more—for me—just enjoying the amazement of the fact that I can do it at all, rather like a dog that learns to read, write, and speak.  It’s not that he does it well, it’s that he does it that matters.  Which is not to say that I don’t think my songs are worth a listen—I think they are—but I would never claim to be as good a composer/songwriter/performer/producer as I am an author.

Opinions surely vary on all such things.  Heck, I think Hemingway is (slightly) overrated, though my father thought he was fantastic.  And although A Christmas Carol is a brilliant story, I couldn’t actually force my way though Oliver Twist despite my best efforts and the fact that I was familiar with the story.  This from someone who’s read The Silmarillion about a dozen times.  So, everything succumbs to taste at some level.

Except Shakespeare.  If you think you’re unfamiliar with Shakespeare, and you live in an English-speaking culture, you’re simply incorrect.  A significant fraction of the metaphors and sayings and expressions we still use on a regular basis come from Shakespeare, and a remarkable number of our words are first found in his works*.  His influence is something even the Beatles could only dream of (though perhaps, over the course of the next four centuries, they will achieve a comparable degree of long-lasting influence).

With that, as usual, I’ve written more than I expected to write again.  For me, at least, writing is easier than talking to people, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise anyone, least of all me.  All things in the universe follow the principle of least action (or so it seems), but sometimes “least action” can be a misleading term.  I think of it instead as the vector addition of all the various “forces” acting on us at any given moment, in some vast phase space of such forces, with a potentially limitless number of dimensions and parameters.  For all that, it’s still just head to tail addition of vectors, and we go where the net “force” pushes us.  Which, right now, in my case, is to make me finish this blog post.

TTFN

catechism cover


*This doesn’t mean he invented them; he may just have been the earliest one to use such words in a form that was recorded and endured.  After all, as David Mitchell has pointed out, Shakespeare had to have a pretty good idea that his audience would know what he was talking about, so he couldn’t have just made stuff up willy-nilly.

Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain: for they blog truth, that breathe their words in pain

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I have great (to me) news to share today; I suspect that regular readers, if there are any, can guess what that news might be.

It is not that Unanimity is now available for purchase.  It isn’t.  Not quite, anyway.  Rather, I have completed, as of yesterday morning, the final content editing of the novel and much of the layout editing.  Now there just remains the final layout of the book and the final version of the cover (as well as the blurb, but that part is quick).

I have a preliminary version of the cover, which has been toyed with for almost as long as the book has been in the works.  I’ll include it below, to tease you with what the book is going to look like, though the final version will probably be at least a little bit different.  It’s a metaphorical picture, not representing any literal event in the book, but attempting to convey the central horror of the story:  the notion of each individual no longer being an individual, but having their identities replaced by and subsumed into another.  Many of the horrible events in the book are consequences of this fundamental horror.  If that sounds a bit abstract for a horror novel, don’t worry.  It’s not focused on much, since most of the characters in the novel don’t even know what’s happening at any deep level.  They simply become the victims of the consequences.

I’m not sure I’m doing a great job of selling the idea of the book.  I will readily admit that I’m not great at self-promotion.  But don’t judge the book by me (and don’t judge me by the book either, please.  I’m a nice guy.  Really, I am.).  Judge the book on its own merits.  It’s a good story, I think, and it’s certainly going to provide a lengthy diversion.  Though it has been trimmed down to a certain degree, it’s still just shy of half a million words long.  Unless you have a tremendous amount of spare time, I don’t think you’re going to be able to breeze through it in one sitting.

Certainly, I’m not going to be doing an audio version of it any time soon, though I would very much like to do one eventually.  In fact, I’d really like to do audio versions of all my books, not just some of my short stories and a few chapters of The Chasm and the Collision.  I really enjoy reading aloud—in fact, when I read a book, I tend to absorb it verbally more than visually.  By this I mean, I tend to speak the words in my head, rather than merely experience them with my eyes.  This may seem obvious, but I know people who read very quickly who don’t seem to “subvocalize” the words, even internally.  This can often make them fast readers, which I am not*, but I find that it doesn’t tend to make them very deep readers.

I really enjoy the auditory experience, including audio books, which is somewhat ironic given that I’m quite hard of hearing in at least one of my ears, in which I have constant, fairly severe tinnitus as well, thanks to recurrent and chronic infections.

The mention of matters audible brings me to another bit of news, which is more lighthearted and frivolous.  I recorded (and mixed) a cover of the song Hurt, originally by Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails and covered beautifully by Johnny Cash.  As usual in such cases, I called it one of my “bad covers” because it certainly holds no candle (standard or substandard) to either professional version, but I really like the song.  It speaks to me powerfully**, and I hope my passion comes across in my performance.  I’ll embed the “video” here, in case you’re interested (most of the pictures shown in it are quite old ones I drew, inspired by moods similar to the one that no doubt inspired the song itself, or at least by moods the song evokes in me…they’re just there for filler, really, though they do go with the song):

 

And that’s about it for this week.  By this time next week, there’s an excellent chance that Unanimity will be available for purchase.  If so, I’ll no doubt write about it here, and of course, I’ll make a separate post with links to purchase as well.

I hope you’re all doing your best to stay sane in an unsane world***.  Try to keep your spirits up; keep doing and enjoying art and literature and music and all those other little things that make life worth even bothering with, beyond the simple consequence of biological drives and forces.  I’ll try to do my part over here as well.  No promises.

TTFN

Unanimity Cover Project


*All things given, I do read quickly, but that’s more a function of focus than of internal speed.  When reading something I enjoy, I’m not easily distracted…and when distracted, I tend to punish my distractors without much qualm, even if it’s only with a dirty look, a growl in the voice, and body language conveying barely contained aggression.

**I think I’m hardly alone in this, since the song has great and enduring popularity.

***That’s not a typo.  I think “unsane” is a better description of many things than is “insane”.  The latter implies a kind of loss or degeneration of some underlying, preexisting sanity, whereas—as I see it—many things in the world have never been sane to begin with, and indeed, the concept of sanity often does not even appear to apply.  I may write more on this at some later date.