I…heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s blog uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath that the rude sea grew civil at her song

Hello, good morning, good Thursday, and welcome One and All to my weekly blog post!

Yes, that’s an exclamation point at the end of that very first sentence.  It may be in poor taste, but I feel enthusiastic this morning, for reasons on which I’ll elaborate below, and I need to make the most of such times when I can, because they’re unreliable and comparatively infrequent.

First and still foremost, of course, the final edit of Unanimity is going well.  I’ve already finished “Part 1” of the book—about a quarter of the way through—and I’m moving along quickly.  Obviously, that’s exciting for me, and I hope there are those out there for whom it’s likewise exciting.  It’s been a looooong time coming, this mega-novel, and with only minor breaks it’s been the only fiction I’ve worked on for well over a year, if memory serves.

I won’t say that I’m getting tired of it—I don’t easily get tired of my own stories, that’s one of my few areas of unapologetic narcissism.  However, I do still get impatient for my stories to be finished and out there in the world wreaking whatever havoc they are capable of wreaking.  This particular novel is obviously not going to be available for purchase any time in June, and probably not in July (though that’s not entirely impossible), but I suspect that, barring the unforeseen, it will be released by end of the summer at the latest.

Speaking of releases:  I am absurdly pleased to announce that I have just released my first commercial single.  It’s my song “Like and Share”, which lost its quotation marks in the release process, I’m not sure how.  Oh, well, though they were deliberate, their lack doesn’t seriously change the message, which is sort of a lament about one of the darker aspects of social media.

I’ve taken the “video” off YouTube because it seemed kind of silly to compete with a free* version of myself.  The single is in the process of being released on many worldwide venues and will even be available as a purchasable CD single on Amazon, if anyone uses such things anymore.  It’s currently available for your listening pleasure—I think it will be pleasure, I’ve gotten quite good reviews from listeners—on Apple/iTunes and on Spotify.  Other venues will follow.  Here are the links:

Apple music: http://itunes.apple.com/album/id/1518756570

iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/album/id1518756570?ls=1&app=itunes

Spotify URL: https://open.spotify.com/album/1pw3cSfHBysZu5ZyfIvJn1

Spotify URI: spotify:album:1pw3cSfHBysZu5ZyfIvJn1

I’m not sure what the character of that last link is or how specifically it works.  It doesn’t look like a typical URL, and of course it has a different acronym designation.  Perhaps it’s used in the Spotify app, which I do have on my smartphone, but on which I have NOT yet listened to my own song.

Don’t be too impressed by my restraint.  I used the web player on the desktop computer to listen to it as soon as I saw that it was available.  You cannot expect a kid not to eat chocolate eggs on Easter morning when they’re all just sitting there in his basket!

I’ve used my Iterations of Zero symbol, or icon, whatever the term might be, as the art for this single, and it will likely be the look of the final album (and probably the name also) when it’s released in the end.  It was a toss-up between Like and Share and Schrodinger’s Head for which song to release first, but the former got more votes in my small poll, so I chose it.  It’s certainly the most topical song that I’ve done.

So, anyway, I’m excited about this.  It’s not as monumental as having my books out and published, but it is very cool, nevertheless, and all the more so because it’s me doing something I hadn’t ever done before.  I mean, I’ve only really been playing electric guitar for a short time, and I’ve definitely not been arranging, recording, producing, mixing, etc., my music before the last year-ish.  So, it’s a nice feeling to have accomplished it, and of course I’m going to be releasing more, and am in the process of writing a few more songs as well.

For all my difficulties with depression, dysthymia, self-hatred and so on, one big strength I have is, I never assume or even suspect that a thing isn’t doable**.  I figure, if other people can do something, then with enough work, I can do that thing.  Throughout my life, whenever I’ve become enamored of some form of expression—music, poetry, books, comic books, science, math, medicine, etc.—I’ve always just automatically felt that I wanted to try doing my version of it.

Remember, there’s nothing magical about other people that isnt also magical about you.  Obviously, innate gifts vary somewhat from person to person, but as Albert Einstein is reported to have said, every human being is a genius.  I think, sometimes, that’s what frustrates me about people the most:  I know how much potential every person out there actually has, and it’s so infuriating to see the way it’s used and not used.  But it’s not my place to tell other people how to run their own lives.  It’s not like I’ve been uniquely impressive at running my own.

Anyway, that’s my exciting bit of news, which is good to have amidst all the far-from-exciting*** madness filling traditional and social media lately.  Perhaps listening to the song will give you a bit of ease from the stress out there.  I hope so, for though it’s not exactly a happy song—it deals with troubling things—it has a nice melody.

I’ll release Schrodinger’s Head next, don’t worry; that’s more upbeat and kind of funny.  But that won’t be for a little while yet.  I hope you all are feeling and doing as well as you possibly can.  Thank you for reading and, hopefully, for listening.

TTFN


*A bargain even at twice the price!

**Unless there’s some physical limitation…I will never play professional basketball, for instance, and I am unlikely ever to fly under my own power.

***I suppose, from a certain point of view, some of it could be considered “exciting”, but only in the same sense that all catastrophes tend to arouse our fight or flight centers.

Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valor of my blog

Good morning, all.  It’s Thursday, of course, and therefore it’s just about the perfect day for another of my weekly blog posts.

I still struggle to get a pattern rolling for Iterations of Zero.  I thought of a way to make use of “idle” time to do longer form “Audio Blog” entries that might become a regular feature, but my first attempt was met with static and road noise.  If you’re interested in hearing more about that—literally—then by all means, listen to the follow-up audio blog I did yesterday for IoZ.  I think it’s worth your time if even just for my description of various social media as…well, let’s not spoil the joke.

Of course, out in the wide world, things proceed as absurdly as always.  Viruses, both literal and memetic, trouble us all.  This is not always a terrible thing.  While it’s hard to see Covid-19 as having much of an up-side, if it forces us to be better prepared for future, still more virulent pathogens—which are all but inevitable, given the enormous and lovely petri dish the human race instantiates for pathogens of all types—then perhaps it will be a net good in the long run.  It would be nice if humans could learn without having to be hit in the face with disease and death, but the principle of least action seems to apply at all levels of nature.  As for the societal, memetic flare-up, though rooted in a real tragedy, it is much more a positive happening.  Some things, thoughts, and people—probably all of us—need to be troubled from time to time.

More pivotal to me personally, though, is that the final run-through of Unanimity is going well.  We’re* working on layout and pacing, deciding how to divide up the sections and chapters of such a long work, as well as developing the cover design.  This all tends to go pretty well when I write books.  My biggest failing is that I have trouble advertising/promoting myself and my work.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it feels almost unseemly to me to tout my own products.  I feel not just embarrassed but often ashamed when I try to shout my own praises.  It’s a strange thing, and I don’t know if the area under the curve of that function is net-positive or net-negative, but at this moment in history, we can at least say it’s not “presidential”.  I need to improve it, though, because I have books and music that I really would like people to read and hear.

One of the things that most makes me hesitant about bigging myself up, as they say**, is that I fear that I’d very easily go too far and veer toward full Khan/Kanye/Doom/Trump mode once I got started, and there are already enough people in the world who think I’m an asshole.  But perhaps I worry too much about such things.  For a time, in high school, I was able to pull off being faux-egotistical as a self-parody of sorts, and it worked quite well (I think).  But, of course, high school is a time of immense possibility, and I was younger then***.  Still, if I could work that persona up, or some acceptable version of a similar process, it might be useful.

I’ll have to think about it.  Your input would be welcome.

There’s not a whole lot more to add.  I’m continuing to practice guitar and to develop a few original songs.  I’m also working on an arrangement of the old, beautiful song “Come Little Leaves” and my version of the Joker’s song from The Killing Joke has long since been complete except for the actual recording.  Both of these could stand to be heard, in my opinion.  Of course, the latter is nothing I could ever produce for profit—unless I left the lyrics out, I suppose.  The music is all me.  I think “Come Little Leaves” might actually be in the public domain, since the original poem, at least, came out in the early nineteen-twenties.  I’m not sure it would fit in with the other songs on my imagined “album”, however.  Though it has a vaguely melancholy feel, and is in a minor key, it is a hauntingly beautiful and ultimately positive song, whereas my work tends to be a bit dark.

Oh, well, time enough for these decisions to be made as and if they happen.  Unanimity remains my top priority, and it is happily speeding toward release, possibly by the end of the summer, but more likely in the autumn…which is, after all, the perfect time for a long, dark story to be told.

TTFN


*This refers to me and my creative team, including but not limited to Trevor Smith, Nathan Talbert, and Franklin L. Ritemoore.  I thought they deserved some credit.

**They do say that somewhere, don’t they?

***Duh.

The blogs of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo.

Hello and good day, everyone.  It’s Thursday morning, the last Thursday of May (2020 (AD or CE (Gregorian calendar))), and—at least where I live—people are starting to go back to work.  We can only wait and see whether this will be something that large numbers of the population will regret or not, but I can certainly sympathize with their desire.

I haven’t yet written anything for Iterations of Zero this week.  I could post one of a few bits that I’ve already written; I have two pieces primed and ready.  However, those essays are rather dark and somewhat negative; they have a sardonic and grim character, and that’s not what I want to get across right now.  I’m trying very hard to be positive (this despite appallingly wet weather, even by south Florida standards, which is making my chronic back pain flare up something fierce*).

So, instead of using either one of those articles, which I’ll save for later, I think I’ll make a post embedding my five original song “videos”** which are up on YouTube.  I’ve said before, half-jokingly, that I have roughly half-an-album’s-worth of original songs recorded and produced, and I’m inclined to work toward another half, just for shits and giggles.  But it would be nice to have more people tell me what they think about the songs before I put a lot of effort in.  I have received good reviews from those who have listened so far (and they weren’t all family members).  Considering the limitations under which they were made, I think the songs have come out remarkably well.  Still, I’m definitely my own primary audience thus far.

This isn’t so terrible; it’s nice that, just as I enjoy reading my own stories, I also enjoy listening to my own songs.  But I do face a serious obstacle in that I’m built or was trained or raised in such a way as to find self-promotion extremely difficult, and even distasteful.  Some large and loud part of me finds it unseemly to tell people, “Hey, listen to this song that I made,” or even, “Hey, you should read this book that I wrote.”  I’m also terribly embarrassed to be in the same room as someone listening to one of my songs.

I think I would benefit greatly from awakening just a little bit of the Trumpian spirit that must surely lie dormant within me.  When I’m honest with myself, and can push past my cringing, I really do think the songs are pretty good, especially considering what I have to work with***.  And in all honesty, I think my stories and books are quite good, and if it wouldn’t be just supremely cheesy, I’d go on Amazon and rate them each five stars and give them dazzling reviews.  That’s probably what Kanye West or The Donald would do, but I don’t know if I’m capable of it.

Speaking of my books, I’m about seventy pages from finishing the second to last run-through of Unanimity.  This means that the final turn, with layout, cover design, etc., is fast approaching.  I’m tempted to say that I feel like Frodo finally reaching the Plateau of Gorgoroth, but Unanimity is definitely NOT like the One Ring.  That is to say, I don’t consider it a cursed or dark or deadly burden of which I’m eager to be rid.  Quite the contrary, I love it dearly****.  But it has been a helluva journey through spacetime and through mindspace and workspace and whatever other phase space one might conjure to describe the process.  It’s certainly taken longer in proper time than the journey portion of The Lord of the Rings took‡, though the main-arc events of that book, from “A Long-expected Party” even just until “The Scouring of the Shire” last at least a good seventeen or so years, if memory serves.  Correct me if I’m wrong†, please.

With that good and exciting news, I think I’ll wrap things up for the week.  As always, I wish you all the best of all possible things, both short-term and long-term, both deep and shallow.  And though it is true that, if wishes were horses, we’d all be hip deep in horseshit, that wish is nevertheless entirely sincere.

TTFN


*Do you hear that high, plaintive, irritating sound, Mr. Anderson?  That is the sound of the world’s tiniest Stradivarius playing a doleful tune.

**This is in scare quotes because the video portion of these songs is just a fixed shot of the Iterations of Zero symbol.  It’s simply a fact that YouTube is one of the best, most available means by which one can spread an audio file and make it available, in principle, to the largest possible audience, but to use it, you need some kind of “video”.  There is no comparable “YouWoofer” or other stereo-speaker-titled venue for purely audio tracks for people to share, though podcasts are certainly all the rage.  Likewise, Facebook lets one upload videos as one wishes (true to its name, I must admit), but if there’s a way to upload purely audio files to the platform, I’ve yet to discover it.  Ditto for Twitter.

***Cue the “back-alley” doctor scene from Tim Burton’s Batman, in which the nascent Joker first sees his new face.

****And you will, too.  Believe me.  Everyone agrees with me.  No one’s ever done a book like this before.  It’s huge (it really is).

‡Or brandybuck or even gamgee.  Ha ha.

†I know, I know—I?  Wrong?  I!?  Don’t be absurd!

And keep my drooping eyelids open wide, blogging on darkness which the blind do see

Good morning and welcome to Thursday.  As I repeat ad nauseam, or at least omni septimana, it’s time for another edition of my blog post.

I considered making this one of the posts (of which I warned you) in which I would share YouTube links to the “videos” in which I read some of my stories aloud, as a sort of poor man’s Audible.  I say “poor man’s” not because it’s more expensive for the author to use Audible; quite the contrary.  I could upload the audio of my stories onto Audible and charge for those without any more difficulty than is entailed by uploading and sharing them on YouTube, and I’d make money if people listen to them.  Whereas my YouTube channel is not in any way monetized (for me, anyway; I’m sure the folks at Google make money from it).  Thus, even the poorest of hominids can hear me read my stories without having to pay anything above the cost of their broadband service.

As I’ve said before, I enjoy reading my stories out loud, and though the editing process is not as fun as the reading, it was what set me on the path to learning how to record and mix my music, so I can’t complain about it*.  Given that, and given the fact that I’m within striking distance of the final edit of Unanimity, I’m thinking about doing some more audio—perhaps reading another of my short stories aloud, or perhaps just continuing with The Chasm and the Collision, of which I’ve uploaded the first nine chapters only.  However, it would be nice to have some feedback, one way or another, before putting forth all that effort.

Speaking of feedback, I don’t know if any of you have been commenting on or otherwise responding to my blog posts (here or on Iterations of Zero) via Facebook or Twitter, but if you have, I must apologize.  Though I have shared many videos and some articles, and of course my blog posts, on both of those social media, I haven’t gotten on either of the sites in a dog’s age**.  The problem is that getting on Twitter and/or Facebook stresses me out tremendously, largely because those sites make me feel ever more depressed about the state of humanity and, by extension, the universe.

I don’t know if it’s really the case that humanity is getting stupider and more petty and pathetic with every passing moment, or that social media and for-profit “news” and similar projects just do a wonderful job of highlighting the idiocy and inanity that’s always existed.  I also don’t know which answer would be worse.  But as someone who already, despite medication, struggles almost every day with suicidal feelings***, I really don’t need to throw gasoline on the fire.

Therefore (∴), if you’re trying to give me feedback or to reach me in any way, your surest bet (if you don’t already have my email address) is probably just to leave a comment here or on Iterations of Zero.  WordPress is, at least, a form of social media (if it counts as that) which I use nearly every day.  I guess you could also comment via YouTube.  I tend to watch one or more videos there daily.  I can’t go for long without Sixty Symbols or Numberphile or any of several British comedy panels shows without having severe withdrawal symptoms.

I don’t assume that anyone is actually trying to reach me, mind you.  I’m not that egotistical.  As far as I know, I could turn to dust right after posting this and no one would ever realize it, apart from minor and brief inconveniences for people where I work.  But just in case anyone is trying to reach me who doesn’t already have a more direct connection, I thought I’d give notice.

I don’t know if this counts as wishful thinking, especially since the prospect of any type of social interaction tends to leave me at least mildly anxious.  It may just be a conflicted “cry for help” kind of thing, such as might be produced by a person who has never been good at seeking assistance in anything—because he doesn’t honestly believe that he deserves help of even the most miniscule kind, even if it’s available—and for whom more traditional attempts to express a need for urgent aid have occasionally led to personal disasters.

With that, I think I’ve said all that I have to say for this week.  I’ve probably said far more than I had to say.  I won’t end with, “The rest, is silence”—not yet, anyway—but will instead close with my traditional,

TTFN


*Others might have cause to complain that I learned to record, produce, and share my own songs, but that’s another matter.

**It’s a young dog’s age, to be fair—a puppy, really.  But it has been a while.

***I wrote a post on IoZ about this fact.  This urge is often triggered or worsened by concurrent trans-Thanos-level, genuscidal**** wishes in response to the above-noted stupidity of humans and is part of why I tend to write horror-related stories.

****This is a new term that I just coined, it’s not a misspelling.  It refers to the intention or aim or urge to wipe out all members of a particular genus.  So, in this case, for instance, even any extant Homo erectus would not be safe.

Time and the hour blog through the roughest day

Hello and good morning. Welcome to another Thursday, a reminder that you’ve survived for yet another week.  Congratulations!  You’ve earned the chance to read yet another edition of my weekly blog.

I’ve been thinking about the recurrent and ongoing desire I have to reinvigorate Iterations of Zero, my “other” blog, in which I range over a wider…well, range of topics, many of them darker than what I address here.  I tend to keep this blog, the one you’re reading, focused on my creative writing (books and short stories) and on music when that comes up (though that also appears on IoZ).

One of the biggest obstacles to IoZ is that I imagine that I should write about planned and specific topics there.  When I write this weekly blog, I don’t plan it in advance.  I just write whatever comes out, rather in the way that people have conversations*, and it seems to work nicely.  So, what I intend to try is not to plan what I’m going to write in Iterations of Zero, but simply start writing as I do here, and see what comes out.  Hopefully, I won’t start channeling ancient Lemurians or some similar such nonsense.  I can think of it almost as a kind of free-association psychotherapy…except that I can’t really do it while lying on a leather “couch”.

This won’t clear away every barrier to posting in IoZ.  One of its other main obstacles is time.  I don’t want to sacrifice another weekday morning that could be spent working on my books, since I already miss one of the those a week doing what you’re reading now.  And, despite my exhortations for all of you to send me lots of money so I can become independently wealthy and write full-time, I still have to work for a living, and to commute (yes, I’m back in the office full-time now), so my free time is woefully limited.

I’ve tried various means to get around that problem, including buying a Bluetooth keyboard for my cell phone so I can write blog posts there.  It’s a nifty little gizmo, and it does its job nicely, but it hasn’t seemed to make me any more likely to use my spare moments to write.  I’m much more prone to use them to read blog posts and to check various news and science sites.  I guess I’m going to have to bite the bullet and just tell myself to write something—anything—every Sunday, which is the one day I never use to work on my books**.  We’ll see how it works out, but it can be soooo hard to kick myself into gear on Sundays.

Now, to abruptly shift gears and address another potential time sink: I’ve been considering restarting audio recordings of some of my work.  I have a few published short stories for which I haven’t recorded audio (and thus haven’t posted to YouTube), and of course I only reached Chapter 9 of The Chasm and the Collision before deciding that not enough people were following it to make it worthwhile***.

However, there is real, personal, ego-syntonic joy in reading my stories aloud and posting them for people to listen if they want.  Doing so in the past also helped me learn how to use Audacity, which led to me being able to record and produce my original songs, which is double-plus-good.  So, what I think I may do is put out a few posts here with links/embedding of my short stories’ audio “videos” (one post) and chapters of CatC (another post) to give you all an easy place to link to them, to see if I get any new listens, and to elicit any comments in favor of or against me doing further recordings.

It might also be nice to do a post embedding my song “videos” as well, since I have little bits and pieces of the beginnings of various others bouncing about on paper and in my head and might be pushed toward or away from further efforts by reader/listener response.  But that’s mainly orthogonal to the preceding point.

As for much more important matters, Unanimity continues to draw nearer to its final form.  I’m within a few hundred pages of the end of the penultimate edit!  That might not sound like much, but in a half-a-million-word novel, believe me, it’s getting close to the end.  Of course, the final run-through will be the hardest work since the original writing of the book, but the excitement of being near completion should easily keep me going.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to spread a little of that excitement to all of you.  There are worse contagions to catch, as we all know.

With that, I’ll call this week’s blog installment good and move on to other things.  I hope you’re all well, and that you stay well and become even better over time for as long as you are able.

TTFN


*Some of you may say that this fact is obvious based on the quality of this weekly blog.  You really know how to hurt a guy.

**There’s nothing religious about this; Sunday is just the one day of every week that I never go to official work.  For that reason, it’s also the day I do my laundry, and I can guarantee that there is nothing religious about that process.

***I honestly don’t understand this.  I know I’m biased, but I really love that story—and others have told me they love it also and have thanked me for writing it—and I think that I narrate it well.  Oh, well.

But your blogging by me cannot amend me; society is no comfort to one not sociable

Hello, good morning, and welcome to Thursday and to a new iteration of my weekly blog post.  I say, “weekly”, but of course, last week I didn’t post, nor did I make any announcement about not posting.  I doubt that anyone was worried about me, which is just as well since there was little about which to worry, but I do apologize for the unexplained absence.  You can withhold a week’s worth of whatever you’re paying me if you want.

I was “under the weather” last week (not in a viral way, but in a bad sleep/migraine sort of way, which is preferable, but which has the disadvantage of being a gift that recurs at unpredictable intervals throughout life), so I stayed in bed with the light off for most of the day, reminding myself that, though it didn’t feel like the medicine was working, I didn’t know how I would feel if I hadn’t taken any.

Which brings me, in a weird way, to a thought that occurred to me—and has done so more than once—since this whole pandemic began.  Many people are bemoaning the ordeal of social distancing, of not being able to go out and shop and go to malls and to movies and to night clubs, to spend time with friends and family in ways that they normally do, and in response I’ve been thinking to myself, “What the hell are you talking about?”

I realized that, for me, not socially interacting, not going out, not shaking hands, not going to restaurants or to the movies or to the mall or to the grocery store or wherever is my regular routine.  I mean, I have a housemate*, with whom I share rent, and I have people at the office with whom I work (though mine is the only desk separated from the main room, since I do records and payroll and whatnot), but that’s pretty much it.  I don’t really have any real friends to speak of, certainly not locally.

I cannot abide things like WhatsApp or FaceTime or whatever.  I can barely stomach Facebook and Twitter, both of which usually just make me feel more depressed about my fellow human beings and myself.  I also have a very difficult (or at least unpleasant) time talking on the phone because of highly asymmetrical hearing loss and rather severe tinnitus in my right ear.  Thank goodness for WordPress and for YouTube channels like Numberphile, Sixty Symbols, and PBS Space Time, and for uploaded videos of British comedy panel shows.  Without them, I’d only have books.

Come to think of it, that last part wouldn’t be so horrible, would it?  Books are good.  Hell, books are great.

Anyway, my point is, if you’re feeling bereft by “social distancing” and feel hard done by because you can’t go out to the movies or the mall or the night club or whatever, you’d be well served not to complain to me.  I consider your complaints very much “first world problems”, and I’m liable to respond to you by saying things that will make you feel much, much worse.

Do you remember in The Silence of the Lambs how Hannibal Lecter got mad at his cell neighbor “multiple Miggs” for treating Clarice Starling rudely, so Hannibal just spoke to Miggs quietly for several hours, after which Miggs wept for a while and then killed himself by swallowing his tongue?  It would be something along those lines.  If you don’t believe me, you should read some of my posts about depression on Iterations of Zero and remind yourself that those are some of the thoughts I’m willing to share publicly.

(Insert diabolical laugh)

Seriously, though, it is a little disconcerting for me to realize that I’m barely, if at all, disrupted by current social changes, because I’m more or less socially isolated at baseline.  This is far from the worst way life could be, of course, but I can’t resist a bit of schadenfreude.  I’m not a nice person, I guess.

Anyway, on to far more important things.  I’m more than halfway through the penultimate edit/readthrough/rewrite of Unanimity, still whittling away the unnecessary (and hopefully not too much that will turn out to have been necessary).  Soon it’ll be time to do final layouts and cover design (though the cover’s general form was decided long ago), and then by this summer the book should be ready for publication!

I’m rather excited, not least because I’ll finally be able to do some new writing.  Don’t get me wrong, I truly love Unanimity, but I seem to be particularly vulnerable to depression when I’m not writing new fiction—or perhaps it’s more precise to say that writing fiction is my strongest weapon against depression—and I’ve committed myself**** to abstaining from starting any new writing projects until I’ve completed the previous one.  I do this because, in the past, giving in to the temptation to start a new story has frequently prevented me from finishing numerous books that I’ve begun.  “Know thyself and act accordingly.”

So, I’m not going to change that policy, which has served me very well since I started it, but I do look forward to completing a new novella (working title, Escape Valve) and putting it together with previously published works into a collection of short stories, then moving on from there to a new novel.

And whither then?  I cannot say.

With that, I think I’ve written all that needed to be written for this blog post, along with much that probably did not need to be written.  I hope you all experience ever-growing levels of happiness, health, and satisfaction, as well as reasonable safety (but not too much…that would be boring).

TTFN


*He’s a good guy, and to be fair, he is a friend.  He also both plays and makes a mighty mean guitar!  He made two of mine—a Strat and a Les Paul (the latter of which is the finest sounding instrument of any kind that I’ve ever played)—and found and bought my SG for me as well.  Who would ever have thought that I would have so many guitars**?

**I have six—two acoustics and four electrics.  That’s enough, I think***.

***This has been my first use, if memory serves, of nested footnotes.  Any thoughts?

****Ha ha.

How far that little candle throws its blogs! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

Hello there, good morning, and welcome to yet another Thursday.  It’s the first Thursday of April, and yesterday was “April Fool’s Day,*” but I doubt that many people felt like playing pranks on each other…I know that the ones with whom I interacted showed no signs of such “foolishness”.  To be honest, I’ve personally never seen the fun in pulling pranks on other people, April Fool’s Day or otherwise.

It would have been nice—in a horrible way—to have learned that the global coronavirus pandemic thing had all been a big prank, to be revealed on April 1st, but it’s hard to imagine anyone doing something in such poor taste…even those people involved in government, who are notorious for their tastelessness.

We’ve finally gotten things set up so that, at least part of the time, I’m going to be working from home for the coming days to weeks (hopefully not months!), but since I do records and payroll for my workplace, I’m going to be needing to go in at least part of the week.  That’s not so bad.  If I’m basically the only on in the office, it’s hard to see from whom I could catch the virus, and to whom I could give it.  Also, my training, combined with my already socially withdrawn character, make me somewhat less vulnerable to contagion than many others.

Speaking of the latter, I apologize for the gloomy character of last week’s blog post.  I suppose it can be forgiven—at least I hope so—given the state of things, but still, it’s nicer to try to keep at least a little lighthearted, even in dark times.  And, let’s face it, taking the universe as a whole, at least since the universe was more than three hundred thousand years old, it’s always been “dark times”.

Get it?  If not, don’t feel bad.  It’s not really funny, and not very clever.

Anyway, I did a little “audio blog” yesterday that I’ll be posting on Iterations of Zero, soon, about patriotism, the pledge, the national anthem, the flag, and an aside on seeing a virus as an alien invasion.  It’s more fun than it may sound, and it’s less than ten minutes long—I even do a tiny bit of singing—so when I post it, I invite you to take a listen.

Of course, despite everything, Unanimity continues to draw closer to release—a story about a contagion of an entirely different, and more terrifying, kind than any we’ve seen before.  I feel bad that it’s not already available, because I think it would be quite a nice book to read while stuck inside over the course of a social distancing protocol.  It’s long, at the very least.  Well, what can you do?

If you wish, you can certainly feel free to get copies of Mark Red, Son of Man, or especially The Chasm and the Collision, to help you pass your time.  They, and all my many short stories, are available for Kindle, so you don’t have to leave the house to get and read them!  I’ve even got audio of me reading several short stories and part of CatC on my YouTube channel, and you don’t even need to pay for that (except with advertising or with your YouTube premium subscription…none of that money goes to me, though).  Obviously, of course, there are a squillion other books out there to enjoy when stuck at home.  Number one on my list of recommendations would almost certainly be The Lord of the Rings, for those of you who haven’t already read it, or haven’t reread it recently.  I’m probably going to be picking it up again, myself.  But really, the number of possible books is functionally unlimited**.  Indulge yourselves in what you enjoy when it comes to books, including nonfiction.  Why not?  Written language is the lifeblood of civilization.  Let’s keep it flowing in abundance!

With that, I’ll bid you farewell for the moment.  Do take sensible precautions, look after your elderly and infirm friends and relatives, and look out for each other.  The great strength of humanity is our ability to work together in complex and coordinated ways to do more and better than any collection of people could do each on their own (a process which relies powerfully on symbolic language).  And one of the great motivators of that strength is our ability to care about our fellow humans.  Remember, every other person out there is so much more like you than they are like any other kind of creature in the universe (and vice versa) as to be nearly indistinguishable for any other type of creature.  So be sympathetic and be caring and be careful.  The world is full of sharp corners.

TTFN


*April Fools’ Day?

**Further recommendations are available upon request

For fear lest day should look their shames upon, they willfully exile themselves from light, and must for aye consort with black blog’d night.

“Jacob,” he said, imploringly.  “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more.  Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”
“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied.  “It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men.”

Hello there and good morning, so to speak.  It’s another Thursday, and therefore, it’s time for another of my blog posts.  QED.

Much seems to be going on in the world outside, though I suspect it’s not that there’s more going on than usual, just that there’s a more unified nature to what’s most being talked about in the news and in rumor and in office chitchat (for those whose offices are still open) and online.  But honestly, there’s not much real information being shared, as far as I can see.  Most of what I’m reading and seeing has more to do with pigeons in skinner cages developing stereotyped behaviors because they think those behaviors lead to food being dispensed than with real, thinking people taking real, considered action.

Not that I should hold this against people.  Humans are primates, and we react to stress the way primates do, only more so.  There are exceptions, of course; a modest percentage of people really do make a difference.  And certainly, a few of the actions many people take are beneficial.  I’ve spoken of them before, and they haven’t really changed.  But much of what people are doing beyond basic, consistent recommendations is as effective as hanging horseshoes and flicking the sign of the evil eye.  And as with such things, if people come out well on the other end of events, they’ll consciously or tacitly attribute their success to having performed their arcane actions instead of mainly to luck coupled with the few reasonable things they do and to the general work of the medical community and the various support people and services who truly do make a difference.

The toilet paper manufacturers, at least, are surely doing very well out of all this, as are the makers of various “wipes” and related items.  It would be nice—as I think I’ve noted before—if people took from this situation an increased tendency to wash their hands more frequently and more thoroughly, to cough and sneeze into appropriate places, and so on.  And, of course, it would be nice if people took forethought into what they made their governments do regarding ongoing healthcare, scientific research, social safety nets in place for disasters, and so on.  But I strongly suspect that this will not happen.  Nature has not shaped us to be good at rational prioritization.  We are much better at following our whims and then performing amazing feats of sophistry to justify our actions after the fact.  We’re very good at telling those stories.

It’s may seem unfair of me to complain about storytelling, but at least I openly admit that my stories are fiction.

One ironic thing about this all is, of course, that my workplace is still functioning, since it is a small office of only a few people that doesn’t interact physically with the general public.  I do our records and payroll, so I’d be working in any case.  Conveniently, at my office, we have an actual doctor (me) to give coworkers recommendations and advice, which they promptly—sometimes instantaneously—ignore to instead do the equivalent of rubbing their crystals.  Meanwhile, I’m not allowed to do the work for which I trained, and at which I was really quite good, in providing actual healthcare to some of the many people who need it.

It’s a bit of an irony, and one I bemoan, that people with loved ones with whom they share their daily lives, and to whom they are important on a daily basis, and with whom they interact, and on whom they mutually depend, are at significantly increased risk of infection, and thus of a small but nonzero chance of acute mortality.  Meanwhile, extraterrestrial weirdos such as I, who could be plucked from the surface of the world any time, with nary a momentary ripple to show that I’d ever existed, are relatively protected.  I suppose I could feel irritated that people are horning in on my act with all their talk of social isolation, but it’s not an act and I don’t recommend it except when it’s a necessity.

This is, oddly, a case where I feel something akin to jealousy of the people who suffer and die from this virus.  It’s not the first such situation.  And it is jealousy, rather than simple envy, because I really would like to deprive others of their illnesses, if that’s the proper word, and would happily take them all upon myself to do so.  It would be an excellent exchange, to great mutual, net benefit—I can only suffer and die once, after all, not millions of times over. And it would be so nice to be so useful, and at the same time get what I want. Regrettably, this kind of sympathetic magic does not work in the real world.  Physics is an implacable, intransigent bastard.

It would be nice to be more generally inspired by people’s reactions to global events, to feel moved by heroic individuals who rise to the occasion to help change things for the better.  I’m certain that those people are out there.  But they are a woefully small minority, and sometimes I think they’re doing a disservice by helping everyone else to survive when they really have no good excuse for doing so, beyond the inherent biological drive that nearly all living creatures have to stay alive.  Very few humans have ever thought seriously and critically about whether life is truly worth living.

There are precious few inspiring humans in the world, and humans are more inspiring than any other creatures on this planet.  The Earth’s history really is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Speaking of tales told by idiots, Unanimity continues to go well.  I’m nicely into the penultimate editing run-through, and it continues to be fun to read, for me at least.  If civilization survives—and/or if I do—then the book should be coming out sometime this year.  I’m not sure if those contingencies are ones to which to look forward or to dread for all of you.  I have a personal bias, and I’m betting that you can guess what it is, if you’ve been paying attention.  But it’s not for me to decide such things for you.

I more or less completed the final mix of my song Schrodinger’s Head by last weekend, and it does sound better and clearer than the original.  I just haven’t felt the urge to share it yet.  I suppose I probably will at some point.  I’ve been having more and more difficulty finding enjoyment in things that used to engage me, even my old fail safes.  I’m losing my patience even for nonfiction, science and math reading, let alone for fiction, and even audiobooks are hard to bear.  The blogs I used to enjoy are all so tediously overwhelmed with politics and pandemics in recent months and years, that I can’t bring myself to sit through a single whole episode.  Even music is mostly just an irritant.  I envy those who are able simply to sleep in their spare time.  Perchance, to dream.

I encourage all of you to keep being careful, if your value your lives and health and those of the people around you, but you don’t need to panic or otherwise go nuts.  Just follow the simple rules of handwashing, appropriate cleanliness, appropriate respiratory hygiene, and “social distancing”.  If you want help with the latter, I’m more or less an involuntary expert, so I can give you some thoughts on it.

It helps to cultivate a conviction that you are not only inherently valueless on any serious scale of being, but that you are actually a burden and a chore to the people around you, a detriment and an unfair load on the shoulders of anyone kind but foolish and deluded enough to care what happens to you.  If you’re able to do this, then trying to interact with others will soon become actually painful—even if you wish to do it—since it will make you feel guilty, anxious, and ashamed.  Because these feelings will be aroused by the presence of and each interaction with others, you will come more and more to dread such interactions, and even to hate them, however much you wish it were otherwise.  If you can arrange for those whom you love to despise you, or at least to find you unpleasant and uncomfortable and not to want you around, that can be very useful.

You can probably see how easy that is.  Familiarity breeds contempt, for we humans are prone to recall and dwell on the noxious far more readily than the soothing…for good, sound, biological reasons which all but guarantee that each life will have more subjective suffering than joy.  Creatures that are content and joyous and readily satisfied do not tend to survive to leave nearly as many offspring as those driven by the internal prods of anxiety, pain, longing, and insecurity.  Obviously, too much of these things can be debilitating, and can impair biological success.  Biology has to leave just enough of a carrot out front to make an organism decide that it’s worth moving forward at all, but short-term thinking combined tiny and transitory rewards accomplish that nicely.  We overestimate the size of those often-illusory gains, while responding only too well to the many blows of the stick, and ensuring that the area under the curve of suffering is maximized across all life.

It’s rather akin to the dynamics of a viral contagion.  A virus that kills too high a proportion of its hosts kills itself off before it can spread very far.  A virus that spreads easily, producing symptoms that encourage its spread, like coughing and sneezing, and which only kills a modest few of its hosts, can maximize itself.  Of course, host immunity in those that survive may suppress it before long, especially if those hosts can take active measures.  But a good virus—like the flu, for instance—mutates often enough and is varied enough that developing lasting resistance to it is extremely difficult.  It’s not a sprint, after all, it’s a marathon.

Wait, am I talking about viral epidemiology or about the nature of suffering in general?  I suppose it’s a bit of both.  They certainly overlap each other.

TTFN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN


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

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

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