Saturday, March 8, 2014

You don't see this every day...

...unless you drive by 3rd and Howard everyday in downtown Spokane:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Three's an Awesome Horde!

Brace your ears for the opening late '60s muzak, which was as horrifyingly ubiquitous as legend proclaims, and it's a wonder we survived, and listen to the shared genius of three giants having a good old time:

Ellington, Smith, Taylor

Willie's puff of cigar smoke at :56 makes it realer than anythang.

Does this virtue make my halo look fat?

It's no sin for us to express our basic biological natures and lavish affection on those with certain forms of physical appearance more than others, but it is less virtuous than other values and actions that, as we age and wrinkle, come to predominate our idea of what beauty is:

Does Anybody Love You?

"You're so lovely, so wise
You could make Venus crawl
But love between the ugly is the most beautiful love of all."

We are not obliged -- nor able, IMO -- to be saints, but the more we can attain those forms of love that love love above even the thing that is loved, the better we look in a cashmere halo, y'ask me.

This pale fire that flickers atop our biology, that doesn't just consume beauty but makes it, often out of much suffering,  is best cherished as a soul even if it is only a shadow.

One reason that the worship of God can be so fulfilling is that doing so inspires us to be what we hope God is: a world-shaped mirror that reflects everything, including the evil we all do, with understanding and loving forgiveness.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I'm not a number, I'm a bar code! What's your sign?

Someone wrote the following on a private forum I attend:

"In the future everyone will be implanted with a microchip at birth. It will include things like your IQ, your credit rating and your net worth. Also something new, called your "Gullibility Quotient". The used car salesman will know exactly who you are when you walk into the showroom."

My reply:

We fear such things because we cherish liberty as our primary means of self-preservation.

But we have increased our population immensely in a very short time, and the resulting body politic is basically a band of tumors fighting over the same blood supply.

So, as frightening as such universal identification schemes work, they are what is necessary if we are to continue being such a vast and powerful body politic.

Our bodies are totalitarian regimes in which each cell is typed for a specific job.

We wish not to be typed, we want free volition. But with so many of us living at once, accountability wants a scheme whereby we can be stamped.

This encroaching surveillance and identification is a symptom more than a cause.

Remember: one of the largest brain functions in humans is face recognition.

At some point, encroaching totalitarianism will make us individuals sufficiently uncomfortable as to demand a brain that actually cares about its body's constituent cells. We will cause it to feel our pain. Until then, our power structures will increasingly do with us as they will. Every day, they grow more powerful, using our efforts to become so. They make weapons and such that are denied to us. Imagine your body with claws that strike itself when the brain commands, injuring body parts that object to how the brains takes most of their blood sugar and oxygen.

Imagine this without neural pain feedback. The brain will bash the body to pieces if it so chooses until it destroys the body and thus itself.

This has ever been the logic of empire. We seem to be at an evolutionary impasse wherein this will no longer work.

To me, the question is: is reactionary pain feedback (rebellion, oppositional revolution, etc.) the better tactic? Or is the better tactic to build a different body with different "DNA", thereby starving the brain while creating cellular structures purposely designed to survive that brain death (collapse of empire)?

The clawed fists will not be able (barring fullblown nuclear winter and added WMD devastation) destroy all those radical cellular structures, and those that survive can network differently, coerced into doing so sanely and equitably by the extreme survival difficulties imposed by the wreckage caused by the old body.

As it stand, the populace is too easily lulled. It is not willing to send adequate pain feedback to the de facto psychopathic brain that literally has no compassion because it has no sense of feeling outside itself?

Meanwhile, since liberty is still our chief possession for self-betterment, here's an old-school howl.

Today's personal writing tip

The purpose of telling is to show us things, and the purpose of showing is to tell us things. 
R. Morrison

Friday, February 28, 2014

What are the odds?

The role of miracles in reality cannot be overestimated. For example, the riddle of primogenesis. Creationists belittle spontaneous primogenesis because "it would take a miracle", and then replace said miracle with an even larger miracle, one untold orders of magnitude greater than the minor miracle of complex molecules stumbling into patters of replication and metablolism.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A truly forgotten masterpiece:

Fearless ('daft I call it')

Punishable by Life

"In Washington state, it (suicide) became legal in 2009, when a law modeled after the Oregon act, the Washington Death with Dignity Act was passed."

In No Particular Order nor Rhyme of Reason...

Most fantastically awesome. That very early Nashville sound nailed the best sides of that stylistic divide. Plus: it's got 'ooh-ooh' girls. If I were a rich man I'd have ooh-ooh girls to follow me around and ooh-ooh as the spirit moved them:

The Golden Rocket

BTW, I just finished my third le Carre novel last night. I am now even more convinced that he is the greatest author of the latter 20th/early 21st century. He takes no shortcuts. His prose does everything any high-lit stylist's prose can do, and does it ever in service to the story not itself. His stories eschew plot gimmicks and instead dive to the bottom depth of his characters' hearts, and return with emotional pageantry that should humble even the likes of Cormac McCarthy.

Even though I'm stylistically drawn more to the terse elegancies of William Gibson and Paul Auster, I can't help feeling, when reading le Carre, that this is how the Lord wanted the Bible to be written.

When I examine a typical department store's book section and despair over all the glittering paperbacks in laundry detergent colors with cheesy embossed pompous titles, it is coming across a le Carre that gives me hope for the realm of modern best-selling fiction.

And I haven't even seen the legendary TV productions of his classic Smiley period, starring Alec Guinness, the one actor that Peter O'Toole could never overshadow when they shared a stage.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shining Through

'Use it. It's just energy. You're just a shabby self-delusion. Shine a light through yourself and make new shadow puppets.' Me, last night. I was on one of them philosophical rolls.

More or Less Translucent.  (the actual song is titled 'Smiling Through')

Pie-in-the-Face Theology

'One benefit of religious belief is that it can provide a productive focus for our many irrational biases, for the natural tendency toward superstition, for magical thinking, that having such powerful imagination gives us.

'It is better to aim ignorant superstition at God than at our real lives. God can handle it better than our lives can. God can take our most childish magical yearning (which is precious stuff) and perform miracles in us, keep one alive during times of suicidal despondency, give one a 'just because' reason for being happy and doing good that real life sometimes is unwilling or unable to provide.'
Robin Morrison

Just Another Man Hugs Tiger Tale

We are not entirely slaves of raw biological impulse. All higher life forms are capable of great adaptation.

This means that we can do better. But 'we' doesn't exist. There is no 'we' except in statistical abstracts. There are only you and me, and only oneself can better oneself.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Nothing sells like succexx

This isn't intentionally suggestive...

Les sucettes

On a Clear Day...

"There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks."

—Erwin Schrödinger, Die gegenwärtige Situation in der Quantenmechanik (The present situation in quantum mechanics), Naturwissenschaften (translated by John D. Trimmer in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Canned dog food can be used for alien pod embryo expulsions and monster vocalizations

Pay attention. The following tricks probably couldn't save your life but you never know:

Common Foley tricks[edit]
Corn starch in a leather pouch makes the sound of snow crunching[2]
A pair of gloves sounds like bird wings flapping[2]
An arrow or thin stick makes a whoosh[2]
An old chair makes a controllable creaking sound[2]
A water soaked rusty hinge when placed against different surfaces makes a creaking sound. Different surfaces change the sound considerably[2]
A heavy staple gun combined with other small metal sounds make good gun noises[2]
A metal rake makes a fence sound[clarification needed] (it can also make a metallic screech when dragged across a piece of metal)[2]
A heavy car door and fender can create most of the car sounds needed but having a whole car in the studio is better[2]
Burning plastic garbage bags cut into strips makes a cool sound when the bag melts and drips to the ground[2]
¼” audio tape balled up sounds like grass or brush when walked on[2]
Gelatin and hand soap make squishing noises[2]
Frozen romaine lettuce makes bone or head injury noises[2]
Coconut shells cut in half and stuffed with padding makes horse hoof noises;[2] this is parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Cellophane creates crackling fire effects[2]
A selection of wooden and metal doors are needed to create all sorts of door noises but also can be used for creaking boat sounds[2]
A heavy phone book makes body-punching sounds[2]
Acorns, small apples and walnuts on wooden parquet surface can be used for bones breaking
Canned dog food can be used for alien pod embryo expulsions and monster vocalizations[8]

On Cultural Perspective

"In Chinese society, fortune telling is a respected and important part of social and business culture. Thus, fortune tellers often take on a role which is equivalent to  management consultants and psychotherapists in Western society. As management consultants they advise business people on business and investment decisions. Many major business decisions involve the input of fortune tellers. Their social role allows decision risks to be placed outside of the organization and provides a mechanism of quickly randomly deciding between several equally useful options. As psychotherapists they help people discuss and resolve personal issues without the stigma of illness."

This calls for a song:

Take me by the drunken hand, Bodhisatva

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Light Thru Darkness

"The relationship between courage and creativity is the linking of purpose and mission. Without a purpose and mission, the creative process can easily be led into a state of confusion, and the whole process of creativity can become convoluted, and implode. That is the path of confusion that leads to self-suffocating.

"It's a funny thing, the state the world is in today with the economy and no jobs. This is the perfect setting for a relationship of courage and creativity to manifest within many walks of life. It is a time for great creativity."

 W. Shorter

Hungry Ghost

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hearts & Valentines

"The PDF book is yours at no cost (link below), but if you feel like supporting or thanking, or any of those things, you can always donate whatever amount you like for the e-book. This will help us to continue giving the book for free to those who have little.
"Or if you are totally broke, then this is our small gift to you." Aaron Paquette

Click here for story

Friday, February 14, 2014

I learned with some surprise several years ago that some people miss the Cold War. It gave meaning to political reality. We were the Good Guys and they were the Bad Guys. An ancient story.

It also had religious grandeur. Nuclear Armageddon. Nuclear winter. Lingering radioactive death and the dry sands of reproductive sterility and mutant babies. A holy terror that was Biblical in scope. It revitalized Xtian apocalypsism, gave a scientific means for ending the world, and no holocaust has ever loomed so large as the images of atomic bomb explosions that  ironically always failed to stop the alien invasions in vintage sci-fi films. (Heaven, perhaps, is only a force field away?)

When the USSR collapsed, the shock, the sense of loss, it inflicted on us inspired lunacies like The End of History:

"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." Francis Fukuyama

When 911 happened, the eagerness with which we threw our collective idealism and aggregate ignorance into the War on Terror showed how dearly we love our sacred enemies, how much we need some loathsome nation or race or ideology or religion to despise and grind under our bomb heels like insectile vermin. (What about that Shock'n'Awe, eh? Helluva good show although the Fall of the Towers was and still is the best martial spectacle since Hiroshima footage. Downright Tolkienesque.)

Already, we weary of conquering Terror, that beastly foe. Islamofascism has curdled, Russia's biggest sin currently is trashing gays, China makes everything we consume from chickens to Xmas, and America has hands down both the biggest prison population (4 million, last I heard) and military arsenal and budget by an order of magnitude.

We're running out of people to hate except ourselves.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Mood Thang

They said that Miles ran the voodoo down by eating a bit of his soul at a time. It was, they said, the lonely fire that burns itself, whose fuel is its own heat and desire to burn.

They were the critics, and some he'd sold his soul, that he'd cashed out for big money playing rock arenas and all that funkrock "jazz" (as they put it, clipping the word with quotation marks like sarcastic epaulets), but Miles just replied that a man's got to eat.

As his analyst, the topic of soul came up a lot, considering my Jungian background and Miles' devotion to the mystery of it all. He didn't pay me to resolve inner conflicts, although sometimes he liked to bitch. He paid me so he could talk scientific superstitiousness with a trained and respected professional.

"I see my soul as this big black void, bigger than space and blacker too, this thing that sweats out stars, boils galaxies in its guts, plays the planets in their solar systems like a band."

He liked that I was white. He said it let him pour out his "badass black mystique" unfiltered while he absorbed "all that white boy bookish shit". He made it sound like one word -- bookishit -- and laughed when I told him.

"That's too many sh's. I don't shush no one unless he's playing on my stage or talking on my dime, and why the fuck would I pay someone to talk and then tell them to shut up?"

He'd talk about God. He'd always sneak in sideways, like maybe he could catch God off guard and catch a glimpse.

"The thing about God that frosts my ass is he's such a lowdown dirty motherfucker -- he never even shows his face."

"But you see God in the sky, the mirror, a sandy beach. God is, if God is anything, everywhere," I said.

"Only time I see God is playing music, or like you said. Or making love to a woman. I mean: why do I have to do all the work all the time?"

"They say that one sees God when one stops looking, stops caring, just lets it be."

"That Zen shit's like a dog chasing its own tail until it likes the smell of its ass. Great for making music but it's not God. God's got to show His eyes at least once in a man's lifetime to take him seriously."

We didn't have Hubble telescope back then, the late 70s, when Miles had retired from music for almost a decade and got himself strung out on coke. I'd like to have seen his reaction to the more spectacular images. 
But I had a nice art book of quality astrographs from the era. I opened it to a nice B&W shot of Andromeda, took  a pair of Groucho glasses in my drawer, put them over the image.


The man could say so much with his eyes.

But he was serious about God. He was a man to make a thing real or push it aside. He was trying to find a way to look under the rug, peek around or over the cosmos and see what was hiding there.

You can hear it in his playing. That high thin sound when he squeezes a note so fine you can see daybreak round midnight. He was always trying to puncture the membrane between here and whereverland.

I told him I thought he was lucky, that he got to enjoy more of whatever God might be than most people.

"Maybe I do, but then why've I got to light a fire under his ass to see the light? Just once I'd like for him to blow smoke up my ass for a change."

I'm so old now I can almost see the universe through the pale parchment that is my skin at 79 years old. My blood's so thin I can hear the sea. I'm that generation lucky enough to enjoy a decent retirement, and the house in upstate New York has a front porch that lets the sky come down and watch itself in the spare rocking chair. I'll sit in my blankets and dare myself to let it take my breath away. At my age, that could be terminal, and my wife wants me around a bit longer.

So I keep my hat on, so to speak, and take in all that my thick old glasses can pipe past my tired old eyes, and feel that raw wonder.

Occasionally, a star will wink with uncommon clarity, and I'll hear a raspy old voice whisper, "Lowdown dirty motherfucker."

copyright 2014 Robin Morrison

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Kingdom for a Cover

I finally achieved a cover for my short story collection, Glass Worlds, that satisfies me:

Now I do some formatting and on to the next project!

Unwelcome Guests & Other Intruders

The struggle to remain positive and kind can be painful. Most struggle is. But one day you notice that the negative thoughts and feelings that once occupied an unhappy and unhealthy part of your day are now only occasional visitors like Jehovah's Witnesses ringing your door to sell a damning worldview, and after awhile you learn to recognize them through the window and don't even open your door.

Monday, February 10, 2014

If It Were Me...

...this would be a movie about jellyfish aliens taking over our brains:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Vacancy Lends Enchantment

Click here for more:

Somewhere, nowhen

What *ARE* the Odds?

I am increasingly, and increasingly often, amazed at how capable of otherwise rigorously logical scientists are to ignore some of the most basic rules of their discipline in order to make sense of the inexplicable.

In the article below Alan Lightman is quoted as explaining that the reason that there exists this miraculous balance of various natural laws that allows life to exist on this planet, when even the slightest tweaking of any of these laws would create a cosmos in which life as we know it couldn't exist, is because there are ten gadzookillions of alternate universes (one of the implications of quantum mechanics -- although there are other ways of explaining quantum mechanics, so it is not proven only entirely possible based on what we so far know).

Alan's premise is that out of so many many many versions of the cosmos, one of them was bound to have the conditions in which we exist.

But probability that, all other things being equal, there is no likelihood that one outcome is more or less likely than any other.

Point being that it is no more miraculous or bizarre than there could be only only this, one, universe as it is that there would be this universe out of 'leventy-seventy bazingion universes. IN fact, the converse is true: it is far less likely per laws of chance that there be a gazillion different universes than there be just one.

Luck is luck. You either win or you lose. As far as there being a cosmos in which life like us could arise, we won. Period.

The article:

"We Are a Cosmic Accident"

Reeler Than Life Itself

Exhibit b:

Is It me or is It Replimex?

The Valley Uncanned

Perhaps the best illustration of what makes the "uncanny valley" uncanny:

Friday, February 7, 2014

About the Upcoming Book

First, here is a very crude prototype of what the cover *might* look like if it were named Fire, which it isn't, but if it were:

So now you know. ;)

The following looks to be what the title and frontispiece of my short story collection will be. It is designed to work as an introduction to a "branded" fictional universe accommodating an indefinite series of novels and occasional story collections that all relate to the concepts described below:

Earth, Wind, & Fire:
Tales of Glass Worlds

by Robin Morrison

(copyright page)

Tales of Glass Worlds

copyright 2013 by Robin Morrison

1st Edition

The Glass Worlds:

Terraria: Tales of Earth

"They gave each other a smile with a future in it." Ring Lardner

Terraria is the realm of secular fiction. No elves, no ray guns.

Zephyrut: Tales of Wind

“Real magic can never be made by offering someone else's liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back.” -- Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Zephyrut is the realm where elves and angels are equally welcome. Bending rules is the rule.

Celestory: Tales of Fire

"The future ain't what it used to be." -- Yogi Berra

Celestory is the realm where ray guns and aliens have their rightful place. Rules are not bent, for science is all about the rules. Instead, they are expanded and exploited.

(Author's Note: The realms do not interact with each other, that is, they do not intrude on each other's plots. They occasionally make cameo appearances, but not in a way that threatens the rules of a given realm.)

(table of contents)

"The things we see are scarcely here,
A dance of fairy shrouds.
But that which holds the world is clear
As sky is without clouds."
Barnabus Jenquil, Intractus Cantus, 1807

1. Wanted: Alive
2. Lion's Den
3. Texas Hold 'Em
4. Ghost Story

5. The Blind Ghost
6. Still life
7. Air Mail
8. The Tale of Two Lamps

9. The Better Part of Himself
10. God Complex
11. Heart of Gold
12. Chat on a Hot Tin Roof

(Wild Card category)
13. Sight of Hand

A bit over 75k words.

ANd If He Can Do It, So Can We

“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups... So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.” 

A chance quotation reminded me of this music, one of those semi-classics not quite famous enough to never be forgotten and not quite obscure enough to be remorsely name-dropped by inveterate hipsters.

The music:

Stolen Moments

The quote:

“Magic can be found in stolen moments.” Francesca Lia Block

On Love

“As a kid, I would count backwards from ten and imagine at one, there would be an explosion–perhaps caused by a rogue planet crashing into Earth or some other major catastrophe. When nothing happened, I'd feel relieved and at the same time, a little disappointed.

I think of you at ten; the first time I saw you. Your smile at nine and how it lit up something inside me I had thought long dead. Your lips at eight pressed against mine and at seven, your warm breath in my ear and your hands everywhere. You tell me you love me at six and at five we have our first real fight. At four we have our second and three, our third. At two you tell me you can't go on any longer and then at one, you ask me to stay.

And I am relieved, so relieved–and a little disappointed.”
― Lang Leav, Love & Misadventure

I found this author searching certain concepts not worth mentioning here. I have never read a book of hers. But I immediately detect a sister author. The above is something that I could have written.

I dare not read anything more by this author, for every word I read of hers is likely to erase one that I could write without bordering on plagiarism.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bow Tie Not Included

In the early days of the single record, an amazing amount of, well, change was packed into less than three recorded minutes:


Maria Tipo

A moment's passing wonder:

She was more famously known not for spinning handkerchiefs in moments Duchamp but for weaving sonic textures:

Bach fugue bwv 565

The Spiral Phallacy

"Those who gave counsel to build the tower, for they whom thou seest drove forth multitudes of both men and women, to make bricks; among whom, a woman making bricks was not allowed to be released in the hour of child-birth, but brought forth while she was making bricks, and carried her child in her apron, and continued to make bricks. And the Lord appeared to them and confused their speech, when they had built the tower to the height of four hundred and sixty-three cubits. And they took a gimlet, and sought to pierce the heavens, saying, Let us see (whether) the heaven is made of clay, or of brass, or of iron. When God saw this He did not permit them, but smote them with blindness and confusion of speech, and rendered them as thou seest." (Greek Apocalypse of Baruch, 3:5-8)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Belly Up to the Bar and Come Home

Most of us want to go home again, especially if we never had a home that felt like home to begin with or the home we knew turned hostile once it realized we were, you know, different. Here 'tis:

Open Arms

Elbow almost singlehandedly restored my faith in modern music -- pop, classical, jazz, whatever -- to speak deep and full to the reach of human hearts.

Goodness Gracious!

He calls this part of the show is called The Womb of Flame. Typically followed by Great Balls of Fire:


As found here:  Liquid Art

Friday, January 31, 2014

Man Bites Back

Wasting a bit of time researching trademarks, I read up on old man Harlan Ellison, science fiction's most notorious luminary, and ran across the brouhaha made about him grasping the left breast of Connie Willis. (I think it's important, for some reason, to make that distinction; I do not know why.)

Here is the event:

Harlan Grabs Boob

Personally, I think that after he'd placed a public microphone entirely in his mouth, his attempt at humor (I think that's what it was) in fondling Connie's breast is decidedly a secondary offense. But that's another consideration, and I do not want to evade the main point.

Yes, Harlan crossed a line. No, it wasn't a form of deliberate violence on Ms. Willis' person any more than her placing her arm around Harlan and asking him if he would be good, in so doing casting Harlan as a childish wayward miscreant.

Here's the deal: we lionize an author, actor, public figure, for crossing the line. One of Harlan's best-known and well-loved works, A Boy & His Dog, has the main protagonist kill, cook, and feed a woman to his dog. In the circumstances of the story, he was both justified and wise, or so the story implies and so I feel.

The story also typecasts the young woman as a superficially heartless wench, a version of femme fatale. But then, the protagonist is typecast as a horny teenage rapist (albeit in a world where rape is so common and cannibalism is probably not especially rare), so neither gender gets a positive stereotype, and that is good, I think, because stereotype tend to be more negative than not: they either diminish the status of the thing typified (woman as subordinates; men as monstrous horndogs), or exalt it in a way that diminishes it by placing undue pressure on the thing to live up to its hype (the pristine 'pedestalization of women; the noble self-sacrificing bravery of men).

Harlan has made a name for himself as a man who breaks rules if they stand in the way of truth, and also likely to break noses if he felt his interests were being violated. He once advised someone thusly (paraphrase alert but I think my memory is verbatim in this instance): "If they try to change your words, hit 'em."

He has had many adventures -- by choice -- that most of us would not undertake, including me, and I have had more adventures and taken more physical risks than most.

Crossing the line is, simply, what Harlan does. As a veteran line-crosser myself, I can testify that doing so changes one's perception of and approach to acceptable norms and behavior. People will cheer you for crossing that line and painting a mustache on Mao's image (or whitewashing Hitler's 'stache); but they expect you to return to their side of the line unchanged. It doesn't work that way, as any soldier who's seen battle action can testify. Shell shock; combat fatigue; PTSD: they're all the result of crossing the line. Crossing the line changes you.

So I say, let us consider this in the light of the following maxim of tolerance that Xtians use when dispensing their (often harsh) judgment via their interpretation of Biblical law: 'Hate the sin, not the sinner.'

I honestly think that Harlan meant no wrong with his grope. I honestly think few if any appreciate that a lifetime line-crosser sometimes literally "can't help himself". By this, I am not excusing Harlan of not knowing that grabbing a woman's tit without permission is a no-no, especially in public and most especially on stage (unless it's a scripted event, which this definitely wasn't).

By this, I mean two things: 

1) Harlan, as a lifetime foe of hypocrisy and unchallenged dogma, was naturally aware, (perhaps even excruciatingly so, if I may project my feelings onto Harlan) of the many hypocritical conventions that stage and podium and conference and spotlight converged upon him at that moment, and as a lifetime freelance contrarian, he naturally chafed at this, in an almost allergic reaction: he (like I would)  felt compelled to *do something* to push back the seemingly endless tide of herd behavior group-think. He has made a career of doing so.

2) Given the above, that impulse to *do something*, especially after a lifetime's cultivation of employing that impulse to great financial reward and public acclaim, can produce sudden spontaneous behavior that gets a fella in trouble.

Harlan both apologized for the act but also denounced the denunciation of his action and tried to make people see it in broader context, and so is alleged to be even worse than a titty-groper but also, a hypocritical retractor of apology. A kiss ass who won't stay bought, something The Public loves to despise. Being Harlan, alas, much anger ensued, because Harlan is that way. He is harshly protective of both himself and his perceived interests and whatever moral or philosophical concept he feels is being trampled by applause or boos. It is not, I think, the best response to such things, but it is not hypocritical nor petty: it is the opposite: a man who strongly believes certain things and sticks his neck out time and again in support of those things.

What I perceive Harlan objecting to in his rather confusing quasi-apologies/quasi-denunciations, is how the bulk of responding voices mostly chose the safe bandwagon of popular opinion and turned what was merely, for Harlan, a regrettable faux pas into a deliberate act of cruel insensitivity and de facto assertion of male chauvinism. (Harlan may well be a male chauvinist; I don't know. I DO know that he is a FIERCE advocate of individual liberty and freedom of expression, so whatever personal gender bias he might have is overshadowed by his support of basic civil liberty. He marched in the famous Selma/Montgomery Bloody Sunday March in 1965. He has been an outspoken supporter of women's rights for pert near ever.)

Here is, for me, the money quote by Harlan on this specific event:
"So. What now, folks? It’s not as if I haven’t been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently," (I've deleted the name) ", my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn’t–till now–reached your level of outrage."

Some might object to "(yet for the most part classy)", but that is a highly subjective concept in today's world. Point is, Harlan long ago made it clear that he is a loose cannon on any deck, that he is as likely to denounce his cheerleaders as praise those who disapprove him, doing so on the basis of his rather stringent personal moral value system, which is highly humanistic and deeply compassionate although willing to fight in self-defense at a moment's notice and willing to go to the wall to do so: he has physically assaulted people, and (allegedly) bragged about it.

He is by no means perfectly congruent with his value system. Like almost every human being I've known including both of my dear parents, he can be an asshole, sometimes at the oddest and least expected moments. With his back to the wall, Harlan is a caged animal who'll succumb to a kind of bloodlust (and I mean that literally). This is my impression of the man, and if he objects to this impression: tough. It is meant as a compliment not an insult: he is, like me, like you, a fragile vulnerable creature and he knows it, and knows it seemingly more so than most considering his pessimistic view (which I mostly share) of the state of humanity in our time.

(Sample evidence of Ellisonian pessimism:

"One of your books, The Glass Teat, had on its back cover the words "AMERICA: CHANGE IT...OR LOSE IT! Do you think we're losing it?"

"We lost it long ago. Look at our country, for Chrissake. We're nothing but purchasing machines for giant conglomerates. We're ruled by the tyranny of the stupid."
from an interview in Details magazine available Harlan Ellison interview in Details magazine )

Sadly, I tend to agree with him. Sadly, I often feel so terrified by the hypocritical stupidity not just of the ignoramii but of people who are associated with advanced and enlightened perspective that I find myself doing the craziest dang things. At 58 years old, I still must constantly remind myself that I 'Do Not Think Like Other People'. I can relate to doing something wild and crazy like groping the breast of a woman I've known as a friend for decades to prove the point she makes steadily in that video: he is a wild and crazy guy. I don't think like most people. I am not safe for public spectacle.

But I'd be among the first to cross that line in your behalf. Really. I've proved it too many times to doubt it. And so has Harlan.

So yes, Harlan once again did an outrageous and sophomoric thing. Yes, it superficially lessened the public stature of a woman in public, and yes, he should apologize for doing so... but not on anyone's terms but his own. He should not apologize for being some kind of woman-debasing male supremacist unless he believes he is, which he apparently doesn't (nor do I). He should not have to endure narrow-minded, short-sighted, and often hypocritical insults made by people who probably possess less than half of Harlan's courage, intellect, erudition, and most of all, experience.

The shamefest he endured was basically an example of the same mob behavior that, in more extreme circumstances, has innocent men lynched and is also, I'll point out, the key ingredient in group rape. When you find yourself nodding your head in assent with the group, you're probably nodding to things you would not believe were right if they were applied to you. Harlan has always spoken out for the innocents trampled in our various, publicly-approved, politically correct crusades which tend to crush one moral in support of another. (Remember, please, that hating Jews was politically correct in Germany 80 years ago, and more than half of Americans thought that bombing and invading Iraq was politically correct just ten years ago.)

Sometimes line-crossers like Harlan and me are saved by quick thinking. As a much younger man, I was at a party at my boss's house. Alcohol was served, and I drink too much when I drink. I was at the peak of my inebriation, full of myself, a fully-deployed raconteur. I had several people around me listening to my trademarked Adventures of Robin that I often recited back then to allay my sense of insecurity and general inferiority: look at the cool&crazy things I've done!

The story was poised, literally, to kick the punchline over the field goal when I realized that in such mixed company one shouldn't say "in the nuts" nor even "testicles", but the kick was already in motion. We all have moments of inspired genius. The eudaemonic spirit put its arm over my shoulder, whispered in my ear, and I turned tragedy into triumph by saying, "kicked him right smack dab in the euphemisms!"

Sometimes you can cross that fine line in public and be a hero. The group around me not only laughed but deferred to me, for I had slung a turd across their prow disguised as a rose, and it was an admirable feat.

But other times, you reach out and grab an old friend's titty at the worst possible moment, as in Harlan's case, trying to graphically prove that you are indeed as troublesome a public persona as she has introduced you as being. To you, it's a natural and honest thing to do, and is justified by the circumstances. Afterward, it hits you yet again: I Don't Think Like Other People.

All that said, I'll show my street cred and state that the Harlan Ellison I've read has two modes: spot on and perfect, or grossly and indulgently overwrought. (Not unlike this opinion piece.) But in the former mode: A Boy & His Dog made an aesthetic and moral impression on me at 14 years old that has stayed with me since: difficult choices have to be made, and they have to be made according to what YOU think is right.

Hold Tight to Your Dreams

A broomstick between the legs looks different when a man's holding it. Also, it makes the broom suggest jet exhaust.

"Honey, I'm going to sweep the pool!"

Music, Maestro:  Hold On Tight to Your Dreams

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

If You Like That Sort of Thing... what I feel obliged to say when I recommend highbrow music. This is because for many people, most classical music is annoying pretentious rot yet they often feel they have to pretend to at least admire if not enjoy it.

Traditional tails'n'white tie concert hall performances are as ritualized as a rock/rap concert. ('C'mon! Put those hands togethuh! Yeah!') The setting must be opulent or vast or tastefully subdued. The performer must convey his communion with the music even if he is in fact, merely performing mechanically, going through the motions, but with a level of skill that makes the difference negligible.

Some of those reverent hand movements are mechanical: lifting the hands slowly off the keys like a final farewell reminds the pianist to relax, remain  limber. The expressions are often sincere, a genuine attempt to seduce the music into making love with the artist. Legendary pianist Artur Schnabel gave wise advice on this matter:

Here, equally legendary comic, Sid Caesar gets it wrong in all the right ways, and takes Schnabel's advice to the bank:

First Recital

Here, not quite legendary but only because his career made a virtue of quiet servitude to the music, Alfred Brendel plays a piece that exemplifies all that is beautiful about the music and some of what is bemusing about classical performance. There is no audience so we are graciously spared that bit of pretentious rot. Indeed.

Schubert Piano Sonata No 21 D 960 B flat major

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Save Your Breath, eh?

The Breath of Palin ( martial art school from the Land of Ice & Snow)

Ice Throne

I hear it's cold in the midwest.

Today's Curious Quote

"The Divine Secrets of the Whoopie Pie Sisters is a different type of Amish Christian story. "

Book Three of the Amish Christian Trilogy, which is apparently a top-selling literary enterprise.

We live in interesting times.

Monday, January 27, 2014

There's something about a Monday morning that wants hope

My vision of humankind's prospects in this century are so black that any hope at all shines like starlight: bright but distant. This is why I am committed to writing fiction that is 'realistic' but hope-inspiring.

'Realistic' means 'doesn't ignore the facts'.

Hope-inspiring is harder to define. It's like that judge's definition of pornography: he couldn't define it in legal language, but he was sure that he could recognize it when he saw it. But, like the purpose of pornography, it's primarily about pretending.

Hope: the truest fallacy known to humanity.

Besides, as a guy trying to make it as a writer, hope is everything. It's my morning coffee, my breakfast oatmeal, my favorite drug and my comfiest recliner, and the raw ingredient of what happens on the next page and what survives the 'leventy-seventh edit's brutal and ruthless cut.

Hope: take it with you wherever you can't currently reach. For everything else, there's cold hard cash unless you're one of the select few who still have available credit on their plastic.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The First Trilogy

The First Trilogy by Joyce Cary gets too little attention. It is one of those great works that never quite made it into the classics canon, and so it is not one of Those Books that people know by name and a sense of shame that they are less refined or educated for not having read War & Peace or To Kill a Mockingbird.

The three books of the trilogy: Herself Surprised, The Horse's Mouth, & To Be a Pilgrim, provide three views of events shared by the three. Not shared in the rakish sense of three views of a zombie apocalypse, but in the tellings of three lives whose characters crossed paths in critically important ways.

The Horse's Mouth is the tour de force. Alec Guinness starred in and wrote the screenplay for a movie version. It's a fun film but the book transcends it in the way a book written by a deft lover of language can only surpass mere cinematography with its moving images and recorded dialog. It contains passages of prose as ecstatic in their way as that of Nabokov or Updike, if brusque.

Herself Surprised is the heart of the trilogy. Sara Monday, its heroine, is something of a middle-aged servant class Huckleberry Finn of the first half of England's 20th century.

To Be a Pilgrim is the reflective soul of the book, memoirs written by an ailing old man. It's delights are quieter but most poignant of all.

These books are far from ignored. They are regarded as masterpieces and enjoy regular reprints. But the pleasure they provide is classical.

Begin with The Horse's Mouth for a flamboyant introduction, follow with Herself Surprised, finish with To Be a Pilgrim. I am sure you will be pleased.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

To boldly go...

Where no man has gone before...

This post inspired by final obsessive pruning on part of a story called God Complex:

“I like you, Tenloew. You’re a true believer. No, it isn’t real. I haven’t whisked you off to some real other place. We’re just inside what you’d call the world’s most powerful information processor.

“The surface you saw outside is about three feet deep, composed of mesoscopic diodes except for Bose-Einstein helium canals of microscopic size. They cool the diodes not so much by their temperature itself but by the virtual elimination of electron resistance. There’s a thin layer in the middle of that layer where the superpositioners are.”

“How many?”

“That’s a question with too many answers for any of them to be wrong or right. Only way to know would be to use the machine and that would be like asking you to climb up your ass and count the stars. The technically correct answer would be ‘infinitely indefinite’, which is the sort of paradox that made me the man I am today.”

We had both laid down by then, breathing the starlight in deeply.

“ ‘Infinitely indefinite’: that sounds like a description of the mind of god.”

“Only if you think that forever eluding a finite resolution is an attribute of the divine. To me that doesn’t sound like the mind of God but rather the mind of a man trying to imagine what God might be like.”

He whistled a melody. He whistled well with a strong vibrato over a firm pitch. The tune was some yearning thing that triggered childhood memories.

“What song is that?”

“ ‘Star Trek’, son. Just a bit before your time. The franchise finally burnt itself out around 2030.”

“It’s beautiful.”

“Yes.” He whistled some more, then asked, “Do you really understand what I’m asking of you?” 

Machina speculatrix

"Grey Walter's most famous work was his construction of some of the first electronic autonomous robots. He wanted to prove that rich connections between a small number of brain cells could give rise to very complex behaviors - essentially that the secret of how the brain worked lay in how it was wired up. His first robots, which he used to call Machina speculatrix and named Elmer and Elsie, were constructed between 1948 and 1949 and were often described as tortoises due to their shape and slow rate of movement - and because they 'taught us' about the secrets of organisation and life. The three-wheeled tortoise robots were capable of phototaxis, by which they could find their way to a recharging station when they ran low on battery power.

"In one experiment he placed a light on the "nose" of a tortoise and watched as the robot observed itself in a mirror. "It began flickering," he wrote. "Twittering, and jigging like a clumsy Narcissus." Walter argued that if it were seen in an animal it "might be accepted as evidence of some degree of self-awareness."
(wiki -- emphasis mine)

Illuminating the fine line between preparedness and paranoia:


Monday, January 20, 2014

Nice Work

The value of selfishness is ever debated. We bounce from denouncing selfishness and exalting selflessness to promoting loving and taking care of yourself and establishing strong, "healthy", self-reserving-&-protecting boundaries and learning to say no.

I sat in a Xtian service last Sunday where selfishness, egoism, et cetera were denounced, but then we sang praise to God because God Can Save US.

There's no escaping one is a self and that self is as deserving of one's love and care as your ailing grandmother.

There's a special value to taking extra good care of yourself: assuming you're not a sociopath and have healthy empathy levels, you will be more inclined to make lifestyle changes that reduce harm on other beings, because we feel pain knowing that Chinese factory (or Amazon!) workers labor in conditions we feel are more slavery than not, or that factory livestock animals endure torture so that we can buy more flesh for less. (Imagine a meat dept that promoted a sale that way: FLESH FOR LESS!)

If we care enough about ourselves to desire happiness enough to strive for it as an attainable goal, we find new motivation to make that vegetarian crossover to a meatless diet. Rather than deem it a futile gesture that won't really make a difference in the big scheme of carnivorous things, one says, 'But I will be happier if I abstain from subsidizing the factory meat industry. I will enjoy looking in the mirror of my conscience rather than loathing what I see.'

Taking care of ourselves is not mutually exclusive of being our sister's keeper. Just as the wiser sociopaths learn to care about the effects of their actions on others so that they don't experience retribution for the harm their apathy causes others, so they aren't exiled from their circle of friends and have no one to call on when they seriously need help, so do the wiser empaths learn to nurture themselves exquisitely, because it is Hard Work caring about one's fellow beings.

But, to quote the song: