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.

Come Back Again (a new song)

Words and Music by Robert Elessar

(c) copyright 2019.  All rights reserved.

Performed by Robert Elessar

Produced by Robert Elessar


Sky blue
Sky gray
Dark and stormy night
Sunny day
Only meeting strangers
Always losing friends
Every new beginning
Always ends.

And if your travels bring you to a place
Where you’re afraid to show your face
remember
All you’ll be is all you’ve been,
So turn around, come back again.

Walking down the street
I saw a car go by with no one driving
I watched it pass and wondered what the hell was going on.
There’s something not quite right, I thought
and hopped a bus that was just arriving
I got it and I sat down fine, but suddenly
I was gone.

Sky blue
Sky black
Creeping slowly forward
Falling back
Nothing ever stops
But nothing really goes
Is there any reason?
No one knows.

But I’d stay by you until the end
In times of darkness I’m your friend
So maybe
If you need
A helping hand
Just turn around
Come back again.

Come back again.

Come back again.

Come back again.

Breaking Me Down (rebuilt)

 

(c) 2019 by Robert Elessar

Words and Music by Robert Elessar

Produced and performed by Robert Elessar

I sit alone at home sometimes and want to go berserk
But doing that just never seems to work
The shelves are stacked with books but I don’t feel that I could read
While all around a thousand phantoms lurk

I drink a little wine; I eat a little meat
I wonder why I’m shivering in such infernal heat
I feel a little tired; my head’s a little light
I wish that I could close my eyes and block my inner sight.

If you could see me now, you’d probably wonder where I’ve been
But I stand and I fall
And I listen for your call
While hiding out inside the dragon’s den.

I wander ‘round through my internal night
I travel back and forth throughout the town
But if you ask, I’ll tell you I’m all right
My nervousness is just breaking me down.

I listen to the sounds of everybody having fun
I can’t join in ‘cause I don’t have a gun,
They’re scattering their ashes all along the motorway
Then scampering like rabbits on the run

I bounce off all the walls; I turn out all the lights
I always want to hit someone, but I never get in fights
I feel a bit confused; my thoughts are incomplete
There’s tingling in my fingers and there’s swelling in my feet

If you could hear what I hear you would deafen both your ears
But I can’t, and I know
That no matter where I go
I’m followed by the grinding of my gears.

I stare around in paranoiac fright
While grinning at my heartbreak like a clown
So don’t come in, and don’t turn on the light
It’s just my past mistakes breaking me down

I look at all the colors of the pictures in my mind
They’re all so dark, I might as well be blind
The path laid out ahead of me is so filled up with smoke
I think that I’d prefer to just rewind

I roam around the house; I drive around the town
I don’t know if I’m back and forth or if I’m up and down
I dive into the sea; I look into the sky
I try to understand them, but we can’t see eye to eye

If you could see inside my head, your own head would explode
But I nod, and I grin
At the end where I begin
And I smile, and I wave
When I pass an open grave
And I slump, and I sigh
When we have to say goodbye
I’ll see you at the ending of the road

I wander through the wasteland struck with blight
I make my Hell to wear an earthly crown
I smash all mirrors, I can’t stand the sight
Of everything that is breaking me down.

Thou art a boil, a plague sore, an embossed carbuncle in my corrupted blog.

Well, it’s that day of the week again (Thursday), when I write yet another blog post for the entertainment, and occasionally the edification, of those who want to read it.  As I did two weeks ago, I’m breaking up my author’s notes, interspersing them with less specific ramblings on my current, past, and planned writings.  Next week, I’ll continue my author’s note series, with a note on Son of Man.  Once I’ve caught up with the notes up to and including my latest published story, I plan to start periodically posting sample first chapters of my published works, as teasers to get readers interested—or, alternatively, to let them know for certain that they are uninterested—in the books and stories from which they’ll be excerpted.  This should be fun, I think, and will certainly be less work for me on those weeks when I post them.

Right now—so to speak—I’m near the completion of preparing to publish Hole for a Heart.  We at Chronic Publications are still struggling over the final form of the cover design for the story, though the basic design is already confirmed.  As those of you who have read it when it was available here know, it’s a dark story (how atypical for me, right?), but I like it a lot.  Thankfully, that’s more or less universal about my stories, and I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for the fact.  Of course, there are flaws in all of my works, and my earlier ones are less polished than those that follow, but I still enjoy thinking about them, and occasionally rereading them.  This almost always leads me to find errors that were missed in the editing process, as well as stylistic issues that I would now have changed…hopefully to improve upon them.  In the long run, I may create second editions of some books, especially the earlier ones, but that process requires time, of which commodity I am in short supply.  As is often the case (and as I think I’ve mentioned before) I frequently find myself quoting Andrew Marvell to myself: “If we had world enough, and time…”

Alas!

As is the usual case lately, I’ve been having difficulty finding new fiction that grips me enough to read, and I find this terribly depressing (it’s not the fault of the books).  Likewise, because I lost essentially everything I owned seven years ago tomorrow, I don’t have physical copies of all the hundreds of books that I’ve read and reread over the course of my life hitherto—for entertainment, inspiration, and edification.  Over time, I’m gradually trying to re-accumulate at least some of them, mainly in Kindle format, because that way I can carry my library with me wherever I go.  But even with e-book versions, to reproduce my previous library would cost a great deal of money, so it’s a piecemeal process at best.  I’m also always looking for new recommendations, and the other day on his Facebook page, Stephen King gave one for a book called The Chalk Man, by C. J. Tudor.  I looked up the book on Amazon—it’s available on Kindle—and it does look good.  I also like the author’s name, not that such a thing is of great importance.  Still, I can’t help playing word games, and inevitably thought of the fact that if you combined the surnames of the recommendee and the recommender, you’d get the phrase “Tudor King.”

Such are the processes that take place in my mind.

In any case, that book will likely be the next fiction book I purchase, and I’ll try to remember to let you all know how it is, once I’ve read it.

I do find myself able to read nonfiction, and I also use Audible, listening to a great deal of nonfiction on my commute to and from work.  Lately, I’ve been in Steven Pinker mode, a fact at least partially triggered by the recent release of his newest book, Enlightenment Now.  I’m currently visually reading one of his earlier works, The Stuff of Thought, about language and the human mind, and listening to his second most recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature.  Once that’s done, Enlightenment Now already awaits on my Audible app, and I look forward to it eagerly.

I couldn’t easily exaggerate Pinker’s value as a thinker and writer.  His books are not short, and neither are they diffuse.  He packs a great deal of information and ideas into them, but his writing style and style of thought are exceptional and engaging.  If you want a taste of the enthusiasm and fun he brings to his work, and engenders in those who come to it, watch the following video of his presentation on The Stuff of Thought at Google.  His discussion on the nature of swearing—with numerous examples explained and explored—is both hilarious and thought provoking.

 

As I think I’ve said before, reading about ideas and concepts, even rather difficult ones, isn’t merely a way for me to pass my time between reading and writing fiction.  Even if it didn’t have any other value (it does), such exploration strengthens the mind’s muscles and makes it more fit and able to perform every task to which one puts it, including the writing of fiction.  Also, I think it improves one’s skill at narrative.  When an author can take a dense and complex subject and write about it in prose that’s both gripping and clear, that style of writing is surely one from which a writer of fiction can learn many lessons.  Some stories are good enough that they can be carried along simply by the power of the plot, even if the prose is awkward, but when one can add to such stories a structure made of language both beautiful and elegant, well…that’s a spicy meatball!

I’m about a hundred years too young to consider comparing myself to someone like Pinker, or to other great writers of fiction and nonfiction alike, but that just means that I can learn a great deal from them in the meantime.  In fact, a writer/reader’s marginal rate of return is probably greatest long before he or she begins to be in the same league as the one who wrote what he or she is reading.  So, I can heartily recommend that writers read books by those who are far better writers than themselves, and as often as possible.

But, also, do read some of my books in between.  I’ll do my best to keep raising my standards.

TTFN

This is the blog post that I have given you.

To any who’ve been paying attention, it’s no doubt obvious that I have not yet edited my reading of “Prometheus and Chiron.”  For anyone who has been awaiting that release with bated breath, I do apologize (and encourage you to breathe normally).

Similarly, it’s obvious that I haven’t yet made any new videos to post since my introductory effort.

One reason for the latter fact is that I simply don’t like how I look right now.  I’m not exactly hideous, perhaps (though opinions surely vary), but I am heavier than I like to be, and I would really like to lose a little weight before making any more videos; there are also other cosmetic issues that I find unsatisfying.  This reticence is despite the fact that there are specific matters on which I would love to make commentary (such as my irritation about people failing to signal when turning or changing lanes), and which I’d like to address videographically because, as I think I’ve said before, video lends itself particularly well to rants.  Tone of voice, as well as facial expression, can help convey certain passionate arguments in a much more potent way than can words alone—though I am a devotee of the written word, and likely always will be.  Video also tends to reach more people, for better or for worse, than the written word often does. Continue reading

Short stories, audio, and video, oh my!

The Headless Horseman

Konnichiwa, minna.

I’ve been making excellent progress on my new short story, tentatively titled “Hole for a Heart.”  It’s now about twenty-four pages long in draft form, and—I think—is well over halfway finished.  This is good, because I want to have it ready for you all to read in time for Halloween, since it is a horror story with a good, Halloweeney feel.  Fortunately, as I’ve said before, I tend to write quickly, if I just commit myself to the task.  I don’t know if that ends up meaning that I write well; it’s impossible for me to be objective about my own writing, so I can only say whether I like the story or not.  Thankfully, I almost always do. Continue reading