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.

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the blogs and outward flourishes, I will be brief. Your noble son is mad…

Okay, well, it’s Thursday, so it’s time for another of my weekly blogs.

Huzzah.

I wrote and posted something on both of my blogs last night—a sort of incoherent, stream-of-consciousness thing that one couldn’t exactly call a rant.  It was more of an…eruption, maybe? No, that sounds too violent and primal and impressive.  Perhaps an excretion?  No, that’s perhaps both a little too gross, and also a little misleading in that it implies the getting rid of waste matter in a way that’s beneficial to the organism.  What I did was nothing quite so positive or so negative.  Maybe one could think of it as a sort of cloudburst, in a sense reminiscent of the Pink Floyd song, Brain Damage:

“And when the cloudbursts thunder in your ear,
you shout and no one seems to hear,
and when the band you’re in starts playing different tunes,
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”

Sort of along those lines.  Maybe.  It’s still probably not quite what I mean, but I’m having a hard time getting at that.

I could of course just direct you to the posting here or on Iterations of Zero, but I woke up in the middle of the night and took it down in both places.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe I feel that though it said things I yearn to say and to have heard, in the end I think it will be worse than useless; it will be counterproductive, drawing exactly the sort of response I don’t want, and which will be ever more maddening…whatever that might be.

I’m honestly both conflicted and confused about it.  I wrote what I wrote and posted it because I was feeling at my wit’s end—which is never a long journey for me, as I’m sure you’ll all agree.  And honestly, I was just as much at my wit’s end when I unpublished it, so it’s not as though I thought better of the decision.  I just thought differently.  I didn’t delete it, though, and I may repost it at some later time.  (I can, after all, hardly now choose to repost it at an earlier time.)

I’ve decided, at least for right now, to stop putting pictures at the head of these blog posts.  I’ve been adding them with the rather pathetic intention to try to garner more interest and draw in more readers by having some interesting image accompany my writing, as if that really made much sense.

It’s one thing when pictures are there for a reason, as when a news story is accompanied by photos of the scene that provide context and clarification, or when illustrative figures are included in a scientific discussion.  But if a picture is just something to appeal to the preschooler in all potential readers, to draw them in with a form of click-bait, well…I can do without that.  This is a written blog (except when I’m sharing songs or similar), and writing is what I do on it.  I draw at times in my personal life, but I’ve not shared any of my drawings here, and it’s not what I hope to do, nor is it my primary skill or calling.

Honestly, if people don’t have the patience to read printed words without accompanying pictures, however unnecessary or irrelevant, then I have no use for the world, let alone for such readers.

I may change my mind.

As for other things, well, Unanimity continues at a steady pace.  It’s shrinking and tightening slowly as I edit it, and I think it’s improving thereby.  Whether or not you would agree would depend upon your standards for what constitutes improvement, but since I’m the author, my standards are the ones that apply.  Anyone who doesn’t like it certainly doesn’t have to read it.

I think that’s it for this week.  Not much else is going on.

TTFN

Discuss unto me: art thou blogger, or art thou base, common, and popular?

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Hello and good morning!  Welcome to another Thursday and—almost, but not quite, by definition—another episode of my (usually) weekly blog post.

First, let me apologize for missing last week without a word.  I ate something that really didn’t agree with me* early in the week, and for most of the rest of the week I was quite ill.  I considered getting online last Thursday to jot out a quick message to the effect of, “Hey, I’m sick, so I’m not making a formal blog post this week,” but I didn’t even have the gumption for that.

Again, I apologize.

I haven’t been completely idle over the last few weeks, however.  In fact, I’ve been rather absorbed with creating/producing/performing my latest—and probably best so far, at least in production quality—song.  It’s called “Like and Share”, and I’ve posted it here on this blog, and as a video** on Iterations of Zero, and on YouTube here.  As the name no doubt suggests, it’s a song that deals with social media, and as my nature no doubt suggests, it deals with the dark side of such media.

Sorry; I am who I am.

Though I always say words to this effect, this time I really, really, REALLY would like to know what you think about the song, so if you have a moment, please take a listen.  It doesn’t sound dark or anything, in case you’re worried.  Apparently, it’s got something of a sixties feel.  My sister—to whom I owe a tremendous debt for listening to various drafts and letting me know about balance issues and clarity issues and whatnot—said that if George Harrison and Pink Floyd had made a song together, this would be it.

Now…she’s my doting older sister, so she’s going to tend to be generous; I don’t want you to get your hopes up unreasonably based on her statement***.  Still, I do think it’s pretty good as far as it goes.  But I am needy, in my own weird little way, so if any (or all?) of you could take four minutes and thirty-seven seconds’ to listen, and then a moment or two more to make a comment either on my blog(s) or on YouTube or on Facebook (it’s also posted there), I’d be deeply grateful.

Seriously.  I’m begging.

As is usual when I’m in the final throes of making one of my songs, I’ve missed about two or three days’ worth of editing on Unanimity, but I’m back to it now with a vengeance.  It’s coming along and tightening up nicely.  I’m not yet getting bored of it, and most importantly (to me) I still like my main characters a lot.

It’s very hard to enjoy a story, even a good one, if one dislikes the characters, especially the protagonist(s).  I think the closest thing I know to an exception to that rule is The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.  Though I find Thomas Covenant at least somewhat sympathetic (some of the time) and almost always interesting, I am by no means surprised when some people say they absolutely loathe him.  However, essentially all the other characters in the books are so moving and inspiring—especially Mhoram**** and Foamfollower—that even if you passionately hate Thomas Covenant, you can still really enjoy the books.  Also, the villain of the series, Lord Foul, is probably my single favorite bad guy of all time.  It doesn’t hurt that he speaks so eloquently that you might think him to be channeling Shakespeare himself.

It doesn’t hurt that he actually speaks, come to think of it.  The one serious dissatisfaction I’ve always had with The Lord of the Rings is that Sauron isn’t really a character.  I know, I know, that makes him all the more menacing—like a force of nature, rather like Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones.  Just imagine if we were able to read a conversation with Cthulhu!  Probably his voice alone would drive an interlocutor mad.

And indeed, in LotR, when Pippin interacts with Sauron via the palantír, we’re told that his laughter is like daggers, and I don’t think it’s meant metaphorically.  Still, Lord Foul achieves the unquestionable status of absolute worst guy in his universe, and a definite force of pure evil, even though we meet him as a character—a person—very early in the books.  Just take this, one of my favorite quotes from the end of his initial interaction with Thomas Covenant:

“Do not forget whom to fear at the last.  I have had to be content with killing and torment, but now my plans are laid, and I have begun.  I shall not rest until I have eradicated hope from the earth.  Think on that and be dismayed.”

Yes, a character can use the proper objective form of a commonly misused pronoun and still be fundamentally evil.  Actually, there are probably those who think that anyone who uses that form is evil, but who would entertain such nonsense?

Anyway, before I go off on too many tangents, I think I’ll wrap things up for today.  Thank you for reading, apologies for last week, and I do hope that you’ll take a bit of time to listen to and comment on my new song…and even, if you’re so inclined, to “Like” and “Share” it.  This is not straightforwardly ironic, perhaps, but given the rather negative attitude the song conveys toward some aspects of social media, perhaps it really would be ironic to do so.

I think that if you can achieve real irony in any given day, then surely that day hasn’t been wasted.

TTFN


*It thought, for instance, that Shakespeare was a mediocre writer and that mathematics and science are boring.

**As usual, the “video” portion is just a static image of the IoZ logo (see below), so don’t get your hopes up…or, alternatively, don’t be afraid; you won’t have to watch me singing.

***I personally get a sort of Simon and Garfunkel vibe from it, but that’s mostly because of the harmonization.

****I quote Thomas Covenant himself here: “You’re making a big mistake if you ever assume that Mhoram is helpless.”

 

ioz

Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden, that grows to seed; blogs rank and gross in nature possess it merely.

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Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I didn’t sleep well last night—even by my standards—so if I say something even more bizarre or incoherent than usual, I can only apologize and beg you to bear with me.

It’s been a moderately interesting week.  I can honestly say I think I’m finally starting to see some effects of my new depression treatment regimen (not “regime”).  This can’t mean as much to all of you as it does to me, but nonetheless it’s probably a welcome thought for those committed to following this blog.  At least it means—if I’m correct in my assessment—that I’ll be less likely to write quite such dreary things as sometimes drip from my computer when I’m wallowing in the dumps.

I posted an audio smidgen—only about seven minutes long, if memory serves—on Iterations of Zero yesterday, though it was recorded a week ago. People don’t seem to be responding much to those, so I may relegate them to history’s anonymous junk heap and go back to trying to find time to write about such topics instead of simply moaning and groaning aloud about them.  That’s fine, though.  Written language is more efficient.  It’s also the lifeblood of civilization, besides being the love of my life.

I did, though, on a whim whose source I can’t really credit, decide yesterday to start doing audio for my second latest short story Penal Colony.  I had no specific plans for how much to do, but before I’d finished for the day, I’d recorded about forty-seven minutes of unedited audio, getting more than thirty percent through the story (based on Kindle’s reckoning).  I’d forgotten how much I enjoy reading my stories aloud.  I may go back to it in something like earnest (but not like Frank, I don’t like that guy), doing audio for Free Range Meat, and then resuming the audio for The Chasm and the Collision, for which I think I stopped after chapter nine.  Then, who knows, maybe my other books and stories will follow.

It’s gonna be some time before I get to doing audio for Unanimity, though.  Just thinking about it is daunting.

As further evidence of my gradual but hopeful improvement of chronic mood disorder, I sent out copies of the latest version of Unanimity and my partially complete novella with the working title Safety Valve to my sister and to a dear friend from my youth (both of whom share my love of reading), just in case, as I think I put it, something happens to me.  This may seem morbid and not at all non-depressed at first glance, but it’s a departure.  When I’m deeply in the throes of depression, I become almost completely nihilistic at numerous levels, such that I think that if I die, I really don’t care what happens to my writing, no matter how much work has gone into it…and there has been a LOT of work.  Needless to say, if I were to die, I would not then care what happened to my writing, but the me now can care—or not—about things that the nonexistent future me will be unable to choose to care about or not…if that makes any sense.

Anyway, the fact that I did it shows at least some improvement.  It’s still possible that I might do something successfully self-destructive*, but at least I’m acting to prophylax against such occurrences.

As for other things…I’m studiously avoiding following the process of the presidential trial in the Senate.  I already feel a thoroughgoing contempt for pretty much everyone involved in the government—and by extension many of the people who keep electing them—and in my currently improving but still-fragile mood, I just don’t need the exposure to all the stupidity, vanity, ignorance with wings, hubris, manipulation (successful and otherwise), and petty monkey-poop throwing by a collection of supposed public servants who actually serve no one but themselves, and don’t even do that very well.  It’s spectacles such as these that lead me to the calm, resigned feeling that, hey, it’s not such a big loss if humanity, and even the whole planet Earth, just withers and dies.  It’s gonna happen someday anyway; it might as well be sooner rather than later.

I can do without reinforcing that feeling.  It’s already hard enough to argue against it logically; I’d like to curb the emotion.  Otherwise, I might start working on a doomsday machine of my own to see if I can hasten the end.

Don’t worry, don’t worry.  At least as of now, I’m not doing any such thing.

Humanity doesn’t really need my help, do they?

TTFN


*Of course, there are always external dangers to life and limb for us all, and sooner or later they do catch up to us, but I tend to be by far the greatest threat to my own continued existence.

What, gone without a word? Ay, so true blog should do; it cannot speak, For truth hath better deeds than words to grace it.

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Hello, good morning, and good Thursday to all my friends, comrades, fellow travelers, and anyone who doesn’t consider themselves adequately described by any of the preceding terms.  It’s time for my weekly blog post, something without which I know many people’s Thursdays would not be the same.

I’ve been fiddling around with some things related to Iterations of Zero on and off lately.  I posted another “audio blog”, this one about the need for people to justify their statements, particularly if they’re saying something derogatory.  If they can’t, then you should just ignore them or tell them to take a number, get in line, and kiss your ass.  I don’t recall precisely what set me off at the time, but such things do get on my nerves, especially in the era of rampant social media-based epithet hurling.  In that bit of grumbling, I also deal with the difference between words and the proverbial “sticks and stones”, and mention, obviously, the Cheese Shop Sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

I’m still not sure whether these audible meanderings are beneficial, as compared to writing articles out.  I don’t know which form of thinking in public people prefer to consume, at least from me, and I haven’t received much specific feedback on the question, or if I have, I haven’t noticed it yet (and I apologize for that, if so).

I’ve already recorded a short subsequent audio burst, or whatever one would call it—they don’t really merit the term “podcast”—but haven’t edited it much, because I’m frankly not sure people like these things from me*.  They are, I must rather guiltily admit, much easier to produce than written posts, at least in first draft.  They’re just me thinking out loud into either my laptop or my smartphone.  Since I’ve been known to think aloud even when I’m not recording, this engenders a big advantage in the low activation energy needed to initiate a posting.  Still, the writer in me feels guilty.  He also feels cramped.

I had a peculiar burst of “creativity” the other night and morning that I rather quickly acted on, which is unusual enough.  I took the recent audio of my “karaoke” version of No Surprises, by Radiohead, and I decided to make a simple video—but not as simple as my usual “videos”, which generally contain just one fixed image.  Instead, I got a bunch of old drawings of mine that I’d scanned into the computer, sometimes decades ago, and picked out several that fit the mood I was in when I sang the song**.  I tried to make the video with the simple Microsoft video editor, but I didn’t think much of the outcome, so I did a trial installation of the latest version of CyberLink PowerDirector, a program I’d used in the past, so I could do crossfading between pictures and whatnot.  I also used a graphic manipulation program (GIMP) to distort a picture of me from the one true video post I have on YouTube (it’s not pretty) so that it vaguely resembled Thom Yorke’s face in the video version of the song (see above).

This all happened with surprising speed; when I get into something, I often become somewhat monomaniacal.  I skipped editing Unanimity yesterday, and even skipped practicing guitar (which anyone who’s heard me knows I cannot readily afford to do), and I produced a satisfactory video.  It was nothing special, but I thought it evocative.  I uploaded the final product onto YouTube, shared it through Facebook and Twitter…

…and within minutes got the notification that the video had been blocked for copyright reasons.

You might think this would irritate me, but you would be mistaken.  I was mildly surprised—ironically, I suppose—but within seconds I thought, “Well, fair enough.”  It’s their song, the copyright belongs to them or to whomever they assigned it, and the enforcement of that copyright is entirely their decision.  I certainly never meant to try to make any money off the video—I’ve never monetized YouTube in any way—but again, it’s their decision.  Thom, Jonny, Colin, Ed, and Phil wrote the song, it belongs to them…or to whomever they’ve given the rights to it.  As an arguably creative artist myself, I certainly don’t want anyone using my stuff without permission.  I want people to pay for my books (though you can listen to some of my stories and the first nine chapters of The Chasm and the Collision for free on YouTube ad libitum, read by the author).

I may upload my video onto IoZ in place of the simple audio of the song, but I’m not sure.  I’d like to have some of you see it, but I don’t want to go against any literal desires of Radiohead.  Of course, the block was clearly an automated response, without any specific human consideration; it happened too fast.  I don’t think the fellows from Radiohead are following my work closely enough to have responded so quickly.

With all that happening, I’ve gotten a little less editing done on Unanimity this week, but at least it’s shorter than half a million words now.  I’ll try to trim the fat enough so that it’s not just a heart attack waiting to happen…though I do hope it will be the kind of meal that makes you have nightmares.

In all other things, though, I wish you well.  I always enjoy any comments you might care to make, either here or on IoZ or anywhere else I lurk online.  But do remember, if you have a beef with me, you’ll need to back it up with evidence or argument, or I’ll just tell you to f*ck off.

I will, however, joyfully accept unjustified compliments.

TTFN


*Though, to be fair and honest, I did get actual, thoughtful feedback on my discussion of the wavefunction and many words.

**Not a happy one, but at least not apathetic.