Friday, November 13, 2009

We Are A Signal

We are a signal. Our bodies are radios, our brains antennae that resonate the signal to manifest our being. That's why it's important to stay in shape, the better to manifest being physically. Damage to the radio or antenna results in partial loss of signal or, in rare cases, a change in channel. Each signal's manifestation of being affects the others, and goes on in many ways after the radio goes off by breaking or wearing out. Some play music, others chat, and some a mix. Some issue nothing but static. Each receiver unit, or person, adds to the message that is existence. What are you playing?

Notice, too, that when the radio goes on or off, it does not affect the signal at all. Signal is eternal.

--Bu Xan Da, Tenshin Monastery, "Talks"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In the Woods

The woods I grew up in were clear cut during the years I spent making my way in the world. By the time I came back to where I’d been raised, to look it over and size up it’s importance to me, it looked, and was, so different as to be irrelevant. This led to my memories of growing up being the only link I had to the past and, being intangible, they were all the more easily enshrined.

Nothing remained as a touchstone. Gone were the trees, the long days running among them, and the animals my friends and I occasionally startled from the undergrowth, or whose nests we’d find and investigate, or whose spoor we’d track, pretending to be on safari. Gone, too, were the streams we’d leap over or splash through, and the tall ferns we’d lie down among to imagine ourselves back in dinosaur days. Gone were the deer paths, the rabbit warrens, and the bushes dense with berries where we’d find a snack that stained us inside and out, tongues, lips, and fingers, shirts and jeans.

So my childhood woods were internalized. What else could be done with those memories but to swallow them? And naturally, over the course of further years, as I handled them, they rounded and smoothed and began to fit together better into a coherent story, because that is what we do, we make up stories to cover the gaps in memory, in knowledge, and in experience.

In this way we build a life, and yet, paradoxically, also end up lost in our own inner woods, in an artificial landscape of our own devising, one that teaches us perhaps more about our wishes than our lives, and more about our fantasies than our hard knocks. Those cuts and bruises of being a little kid, those gulps of cold water on hot summer days when you come in panting and smiling fresh from laughter and running, those clear moments of pure joy fade into just another twinkle of fairy dust in a tale told by an idiot who should for once know better.

Gold into lead; it is an alchemy of disappointment and diminished expectations, hopes, and dreams, and it leaves us wandering in the woods with a handful of electroplated junk metal and shiny plastic slag extruded from our hopes and dreams, the pieces of potential we fashioned into a real live life, and eventually these replacements, these transformations, and these ashes of fizzled magic weigh us down.

That’s when we try to go home, to find more of the good stuff, and that’s when we usually find home gone, itself shrunken and changed and unrecognizable. And that’s when we realize we’re lost in the clear cut woods and, worse, we’re alone there.

Alone with the shadows.

/// /// ///

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Kneel A Sweet Command

“I Kneel a Sweet Command”
by Gene Stewart

I can’t believe in kneeling down
Men demand we kneel, not gods
I’m not a man who bows my head
It matters not if I am owned

Forced obeisance mocks respect
Fear breeds hate to murder love
Dread is predator to joy
Free is nothing that’s released

A truth once taught is only man’s
Intrepid reach finds perfect height
Thought is father to a life
Light makes warmth a sweet command

/// /// ///

Monday, September 21, 2009

Why Are Writers the Only Stupid Artists?

Did Michaelangelo need help carving David? Did Beethoven need help composing his symphonies? Did Da Vinci need help painting the Mona Lisa? Did Schulz need help drawing Peanuts?

Why do writers, then, “need” editors?

Ask any publisher and they’ll say, “Good editors help bring the book to life. They can help the writer shape it, and they know the market so they can make the book the best it can be to go out and meet the readers.”

Ask editors. “We spot errors. We make sure everything’s in the right order. We trim here, cut there, compress elsewhere, and make the book more readable. We get the book in its best shape and make sure the finishing touches are put on.”

Writers must all be stupid, to need editors. Is not editing part of the writing process? So writers -- and all agree on this -- are the last ones you can trust with the work they produce. An outside, objective eye is needed. Writers are too close to their work to see it clearly. An editor provides perspective.

It is incredible to contemplate how good other forms of art would be if they had the benefit of editors.

“Hey, Michaelangelo, maybe instead of their fingers not quite touching, man and God could high five each other on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.”

“Psst. Beethoven. Hey, you deaf or what? Listen, you can’t put a chorus in your Ninth Symphony. You should know better by now the public won’t stand for that kind of stuff. And that poem, what, saccharine nonsense; who wants an Ode to Joy in the middle of their music?”

“Da Vinci, seriously, pick one, smile or frown. This kind of ambiguity will just confuse the public and they’ll never know what the hell La Gianconda’s thinking.”

Yes, editors sure were needed in those other arts, it’s obvious how much better some trained, experienced, and objective advice would have made those flawed masterpieces we all know.

Writers, being stupider than composers, painters, or sculptors, have benefitted and the record shows it. There are so many superbly edited books that no single one particularly stands out. Year after year we see such a consistently high product being produced by editors that it begins to matter not at all what raw material the mere writers hand in.

Were it not for editors, where would writers be?

Standing on their own two feet, apparently, and responsible for what they did, or did not, accomplish in their work. Thank heavens they never have to suffer such an indignity.

Why are writers so stupid? Because they can be.

/// /// ///

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Life In Air - poem

“Life In Air”
Gene Stewart

A man’s love enflames
A woman’s sustains
In our drought
We crave the rains
That quench our doubt

A child’s love blames
A pet’s entrains
In our flight
Silence remains
Companion’s delight

Dry ground
Water-laden air
Seeds twitch
A stormcloud’s shadow

Gravid airflow
Skyclad witch
Spiral despair
Sky bound

Ungiven gift of names

/// /// ///

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid

Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid

Posted using ShareThis

Birth Dream

A dozen people, me included, in an airport, were separated and herded into a holding room. We wondered what was going on; it was a motley mix, no pattern among us discernible. A door at the other corner of the room opened and we were confronted by a tall, naked person of a golden color, definitely Other, who held aloft a glowing wand. He waved us forward and no one moved, but then there were others like him among us, herding us again.

As each person passed through the doorway, the wand was waved over and around the person’s head a few times, then the person was pushed through. As a big, boisterous woman ducked through, she smiled and swung around to lower her head for more. “Oh, I can feel it,” she cried.

“What’s it doing?” we called.

“It’s shaving away our thoughts,” she said.

This terrified the rest of us, but we were forced through, as if we could not resist or were children too afraid to offer physical resistance.

As I passed through I felt nothing, and found myself shoved into another room pretty much the mirror of the first. We milled around, wondering what had just happened, feeling dazed, and once again, the door we’d entered through vanished and another door on the far end appeared, this time not open, but closed.

That was when we began noticing something horrible was happening to us. We were visibly getting younger, even as we watched. We aged backwards, and it was fast, as if each blink of the eye took off a decade or more. Soon we really were frightened children, and then I remember falling to the floor, a toddler unable to balance. My head bounced on the floor and I saw a baby in front of me, crying. I was bawling too, utterly abandoned, and bereft of anything but craving need, and then I saw the infant on the floor beside me deliquesce into protoplasmic jelly.

Even then, I felt my own body go, too.

After a blink of darkness I opened my eyes and I was again myself, but insubstantial, like a ghost. I saw others groaning and shaking heads, as if hung over. We each came to, pushing ourselves to our feet and staggering to collapse into chairs arranged as if on a bleachers, in rows one over the other. We sat gathering ourselves, no one talking.

Someone, a man I think, yelled, “I can’t stand this, I’m getting out of here,” and charged the door. It opened at his touch and he fell through, and we all gathered at it to see that it was gaping outer space out there. The cosmos, with stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae, and most of all a depth of nothingness.

A surge of emotions -- we can’t let him do that, we should join him, panic, desperation, despair, hope, even joy -- slammed through us and before I knew it I was deciding to join the others as one by one we leapt out of the room into space.

We free-fell, but could still breathe -- or did not need to -- and communicate -- perhaps mind-to-mind. We felt the need to stay together but also to get the hell away from out captors. As we fell away from the room we floated around and gazed back, seeing not only the doorway shining light at us, but a verdant green world of dense foliage, with minaret and breast-shaped domed structures with round windows, apparently our captors’ houses.

We shrieked denial and fear at this otherwise bucolic sight, and drifted around again, gazing at each other, and that was when a pair of us drifted close enough to touch. At once they combined, and the rest of us seemed drawn toward this new person.

Before I knew it I was joining with the others into one sexless golden being, very like our captors, and this one being maintained all our individual thoughts. We were able to converse freely, make suggestions, and discuss our plight. We experimented with this body, and found that we could drift faster if we thought about it. Then we found out how to take galaxy-spanning strides. All of our will focused on getting away from our captors.

When I asked where we might end up, everyone at once thought that we wanted to go back to Earth, to our lives. And as quick as thought we did it, seeing the blue globe approach in one glimpse, in the next standing on the ground.

And here we separated into our individual selves again, and each of us went to our distinct lives, only to find that we were as ghosts to them. We could not be seen or heard, not separately, and something drew us gradually back to becoming a single being again.

And this single being began its own life among people, lonely inside in too many ways to express but also alive on the outside, solid and real.

And then I woke up.

/// /// ///

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What ARE These Veggie Burgers?

Recently I got a rejection that said, essentially, “Good effort in a unique story full of interesting factual details, but I prefer clear concise writing. Some of your sentences were out of order. I could easily rearrange them to make them clearer. Often I realized what you were trying to say but the word order made it awkward and distracting to read. Many sentences rambled too long and there were grammatical errors...“

Wow. Sure didn’t sound like me. So I read the story over carefully...

...and found nothing wrong, aside from a couple typos. How, I wondered, did this editor and I see the same story so differently?

Going back to the rejection, I began to decode. What was it in the story this editor might find out of order? Less than clear or concise? Awkward and distracting to decipher?

What I came up with sat me back in my chair for a gut-punched moment. Was it simply my mix of compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences boggling this editor? Was it multisyllabic words chosen for accuracy over easier, less specific words? Was it the slightly baroque vernacular style chosen because the story is told in the voice and with the references of the protagonist? Was it that this editor did not understand that narration often employs grammatical errors as part of the speech patterns of the narrator, to add the local color of dialect? (Not that I found a slew of grammatical errors, please note: I was hard-pressed to find any.)

Was this editor then demonstrably reading on a lower grade-school level? Or was I writing at in too literary a tone? Did my writing’s fault depend more on my words, or my shelves?

The rejection went on to encourage me to work hard and improve, which we all can certainly do, but added that helping me would take too much time out of the editor’s busy schedule. This same editor who hangs out on Facebook and Twitter for hours each day of empty socializing, as has been both observed by a depressed writer of our acquaintance and also reported by others who know the editor well, cannot spare time to, cue the irony bell, edit my stuff in order to help what is viewed as a writer with promise.

Thank heavens, is all I can say, for Facebook & Twitter.

Editor has come to mean “someone assigned to choose mss” for publication in a magazine, anthology, or in book form. Needless to observe, in many instances an AI program or random selection -- tossing darts or dice, asking a pet to fetch one from the pile -- could do as well, especially if mss first were culled by recognized names.

As to being "literary", that dreaded genre charge seems to mean "Writes in an adult manner any way he or she wants." It is only genre that increasingly insists everything be readable by slow children with lazy eye and ADD.

And look:  YA novels clogged the Hugo list this year and one of them won.

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that genre fiction is dumbing itself down to juvenile levels, perhaps to hold what little audience it has, or in fear of losing even that, or perhaps because, as genre fiction’s tropes become more popular, the popularity itself dilutes the original formula that isolated the genre in the first place. To have mass appeal, it must give the sucker an even break and begin using fewer specialized terms.

This addresses sf jargon, surely -- “fewer mathematical equations in the prose, folks,” -- but does not account for the childish scrawl that so many editors insist upon. 

Sure, there are exceptions, and they stand out like neon in noir. Still, the trend is toward simplistic, unchallenging, safe little stories any kid of 9 could grasp fully on one hasty reading.

Is this a reaction against the big scary changes in publishing? Is it a response against the influx of new influences such as romance and erotica? Is it simply the infant bleat of HAL 9000 as his higher functions one by one are switched off by a wider audience’s acceptance?

Time, and writers willing or unwilling to talk dumb, will tell, and in the meantime it looks like I continue to write deluxe gourmet veggie burgers in a world demanding basic Big Macs and sloppy Whoppers.

/// /// ///

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review of the Bitten anthology mentioning my story

Tuesday, August 25,2009
Anthology ‘Bitten’ By Love and Lust
Susie Bright’s collection of dark erotic fiction
By Tom Hammer

The Cambridge Dictionary defines erotica as themes that produce sexual desire and pleasure. Bitten (Chronicle Books) delivers all that and more. Billed as gothic, the stories chosen for this anthology by editor Susie Bright range from mild to hard-core in sexual content. Indeed, the book includes tales inspired by classical mythology along with stories that could be described as porn.

The first story, Sera Gamble's "The Devil's Invisible Scissors," launches this book on what may be its highest note. It's a takeoff of the Moerae Clotho, who in mythology uses scissors to shorten or end a life. Gamble's rendition is a fast-paced tale where the scissors were given by the devil himself for harvesting souls. Another standout, "The Resurrection Rose" by Anne Tourney, combines the heinous blood baths of the countess Elizabeth Bthory with the equally evil Marie Antoinette. Eternal life or death is at stake, and survival rests with a vampire rose.

Also included are lighthearted tales such as Allison Lawless' "The Unfamiliar," a more traditional story of an amorous genie found hiding in an elderly aunt's library, and E.R. Stewart's "Cross-Town Incubus," where a young woman finds a sexual spirit in her boyfriend's loft with titillating results, great passion and a lusty conclusion.

Other stories are more arcane, including "Smoke and Ashes" by Shanna Germain, a somewhat confusing tale of a young girl, alone with a dozen young men, who must choose the pick of the motley bunch, and Jess Wells' more gothic "The Rookery," in which a medieval falconer has to choose between a beautiful woman and his love of falcons.

As with many anthologies, there are a few stories that are less artistic. "Half-Crown Doxy" by Cate Robertson and "Pandora's Other Box" by Greg Boyd reek of pornographic sadism and border on the grotesque. The final tale in this collection provides another example: Ernie Conrick's "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan" is at once a morality tale and an epic gross-out of sexual pathology. By turns profound and deeply disturbing, it speaks of the excesses of modern living and the breakdown of society; however, Conrick pulls off a small miracle in that his story is also obscenely funny.

Bitten is a visually stunning book with a beautiful wraparound green viper on the cover and gold-edged pages that invite the reader to plumb the depths of depravity and lust contained within. All in all, Bitten is a study in contrast between love and lust, morality tale and smut, and all the evil and sublime passion that has existed since Eve was lured into eating of the apple of the tree of good and evil. This book is highly recommended for those who love bawdy fun and great writing, and for those who want to peek into the dark side of passion.

/// /// ///

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Replace the Republicans

If, as is clear, the GOP and right wingers are willing to destroy the country rather than concede an inch to anyone else, especially to liberals and progressives and Democrats -- translation: We the People -- then we need to move on without them.

We have no mechanism better for removing these irrelevancies than voting; vote them out next time and swamp them with angry, specific letters now telling them how sick of their lies you are, and how their ideology is spent and bankrupt and has, over the last decade, proven time and again a debacle, and utterly wrong in all particulars.

Please note, I am not in favor of an all-Democrat government. I would hope a sensible, rational, and reasonable opposition party, with well thought-out alternative views, would fill the vacuum left by the GOP's implosion into madness. Perhaps a Green Party, or perhaps a Libertarian Party, who knows?

But the first thing is to rid ourselves of this GOP cancer. They refuse to participate substantively. All they do is obstruct, lie, and fear-monger. All they do is bluster, threaten, and bully. They have declared in so many words that they hope the USA is hit by a nuclear terrorist attack, so Obama will fail. What kind of childish irresponsible self-defeatism is this? If they do not wish to play by the rules, rules they seek continually to negate and destroy, then they are not in the game.

Time to replace the Republicans with a group not owned and operated by multinational corporations The Repulicans are contemptuous of the people and hostile to the people's health, safety, and security. Time to replace the Republicans with a political party that will abide by Constitutional, democratic checks and balances, engage in honest debate, and strive for a rational government of, by, and for the people.

This is not too much to hope for. It is, in fact, little enough to insist upon. It has only been since Reagan that this strident Neo Con craziness has seized power in the GOP. We can see through their transparent lies and we all have witnessed the harmful aspects of their otherwise useless Friedman / Strauss doctrine. Let them go. Let them fade into history as so many other failed, frustrated groups have done.

Let's move ahead without the GOP. Time to replace the Republicans.

Right after we help everyone with Universal Medicare.

/// /// ///

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Must Comedy Be Funny? Apparently Not...

Prepare to call me curmudgeon, geezer, and worse, but remember: Most of us hate people laughing at them.

Comedians court it.

Is it self-humiliation they seek? Perhaps, but most crave attention and to be liked, and we generally like them.

Do we like them because they let us feel superior?

Some comedians appeal to vanity, others to crasser aspects of human nature, and a new movie’s ads prompted me to think about comedy’s change and what it may mean to society.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie, BRUNO, shows scenes typical of the characters he revels in creating. As in BORAT, there is much humor derived from inappropriate behavior and awkward social situations. Confronting people with absurdity and laughing at their confusion is a standard ploy. A good deal of it is mean-spirited, intended to belittle the real-life gay Austrian TV host on which Cohen based his Brüno character.

Mean-spirited, belittling comedy is not funny in the sense that gain at others’ cost is not humane. It’s a form of usury, a coining of draconian interest burdens on small investments of innocence. Some find this witty, and claim wit is always mean but I disagree, wit being merely intelligence. It is a tool to be applied with, without, or even against kindness.

Comedy need not be gentle to remain compassionate, just as comedy is not wit even as it stems from it. Silliness is the harmless part of the ridiculous, for example. Hurting feelings and exposing weakness is the harsh part. It’s fine if focused on the powerful, especially the evil. They ask for it. It is sick, though, when focused on the weak, harmless, or innocent.

That’s where Cohen goes, gleefully. He minces and prances in order to bully and hurt lesser people who are not in on the joke.

Comedy’s function is to reduce us all to basic humanity. It provides insight and lets us identify with others we might otherwise find strange or distant. What Cohen does accomplishes the opposite by demonizing and setting up as figures of fun the defenseless and the hapless.

He kicks whomever is down and puts down anyone he can, all for a cheap laugh that reveals nothing more than a sadist’s enjoyment of cruelty.

Jim Carrey’s absurd Pet Detective is afforded dignity and humanity. The Three Stooges puncture snobbery and pretension. The Great Dictator reduced Hitler to a laughable idiot, which lessened his dark power and broke the spell he otherwise cast. The Little Tramp could not win but never gave up or lost optimism.

All these are admirable.

The TV show JACKASS, Cohen, and much contemporary comedy is mean and callous, harsh and corrosive, serving no higher purpose -- it functions against humanity, lessens it. It is an exercise in self-hating misanthropy.

Even Twain and Bierce, in their often hilarious misanthropy, never struck at the good or the innocent. They punctured sanctimony and perfidy, revealing hypocrisy and stripping poseurs of their stolen robes.

Today’s worse comedy stomps on puppies, kittens, and baby seals in a desperate attempt to move beyond comedy styles it considers stale. It revels in atrocity because it is offensive, then laughs at our horror, at our being appalled. It is scornful of anything worthwhile in us, all the good, all the innocent. Those are dismissed as Emo and social suicide. Showing weakness is the last thing any of them would dare do, and all once held lofty and worthy is now sneered at.

In the great enemy sense, it is quite literally Satanic comedy, but calling it that would be a drama-queen’s indulgence, so call it vile and be anagrammatically insouciant.

That’d be witty, at least.

/// /// ///

Monday, August 17, 2009

Chew Our McCud

Some say Obama never intended to push or stand for either single payer or public option. That he mooted them only as bargaining chips, intending all along to pull back on them, in order to move the debate toward a centrist, and ultimately meaningless, compromise. It's how he's operated his entire career, they say. He is not cowardly, it's not feet of clay, it's scripted politics for him.

If so, then how can he ever have been cynical enough to dangle the temptation in front of all those millions who are either uninsured, or who are underinsured? How can he have pulled the rug out from under their feet in a calculated way? Would Obama really have pretended to push for, and to promote, a wonderful gift like single pay universal health care -- medicare for EVERYONE -- when he never really meant it? When he knew he would only be snatching it from their reach and laughing as he played his politics-as-usual?

Or is this what the more subtle liars in the GOP would want us to think? So that we begin to see him as a smooth, slick liar and as a politician, not a human being? Is that their game?

Ask yourself, would any President have pushed for, even mentioned, medicare for everyone, knowing full well he would be jerking it back out of reach?

Would there be any better way to crush the feelings of the disenfranchised? Would there be a more efficient way to humiliate the have-nots? To stir up their hopes and dash them for a laugh? To manipulate them not into voting, not into support, but instead into turning on you?

What kind of self-destructive lunatic politician would do such a thing? None I can think of, on either side of the Aisle of Shame.

No, seems to me Obama really wanted medicare for everyone. He ran into a firestorm of GOP lies and manipulations, not to mention a tornado clusterfuck of spin, and he failed, as General Zinni observed recently on a Bill Maher show, to pre-empt all this nonsense by putting the facts out quickly and clearly. Now we hear he's given up on single payer and will withdraw support from the public option, too.

Meaning no real reform. Meaning Big Money bought the pot again. Meaning we the people -- unlike the scum who call themselves the Congress, unlike federal workers, will be left at the mercy of insurance companies that won't pay when you need it, and that bleed you dry when you don't.

What have we learned, if this happens? We will have learned that we stand idly by and serve ourselves up as fodder for this kind of insulting, inhuman, and deadly destructive greed fest, this farce of a situation where real lives are destroyed every moment of every day simply so the rich 1% can get all the richer, and the middle class can be destroyed, rendering USA into a wage slave region similar to Mexico today.

Yes, it is that serious a fight, this culture war against the racists, against the corporate bigots who view us as Malthusian "useless eaters" in Kissinger's chilling words.

Learn to say either Moo or Baa.

We are becoming Morlochs to their Eloi and we're not even putting up a fight as we chew our McCud.

/// /// ///

Lip-Smackin' Good

Used to be, not too long ago, a Remote Area Medical setup serving impoverished and underinsured people being needed in Los Angeles, CA would have been not only unthinkable, and intolerable, but world news, some say. It shames us, others say. Well, I dunno. Remember the Watts Riots? Go back further, to when Hispanics or the Japanese were displaced, the latter to concentration camps in WW II. Coolies built, as indentured servant / slave labor, the railroads that met at the Golden Spike, creating transcontinental travel for those who could afford to ride. Need we mention King Cotton and that Civil War contretemps?

My point is, we never treated our unmonied manual labor forces particularly well. Maybe we should have been allowing Remote Area Medical help, and other foreign aid, to come in from other countries long ago. That a wealthy nation like USA allows so many of its citizens to exist in poverty, without the slightest chance to afford basic health care, and with nowhere to turn but foreign assistance for even a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be looked at and helped with poor eyesight, bad teeth, and even minor surgeries; that this happens here is indeed shameful.

Trouble is, the rich have no shame. They have anger and hatred toward the poor and the brown. They rail and scream and throw fits over not wanting to pay for those lazy fat idiots who eat bad take-out food and watch TV every night -- never mind the plain fact that they can afford to do nothing else, the way the whole corporate exploitation system is set up.

These people work hard for a pittance and are spit on when they dare ask for basic human dignity. Why should Mr. brand new Mercedes-Benz pay for Mr. clapped-out 15-year-old Chevy's kid's school breakfast? Hell, a little hunger is a great motivator, don't'cha know? Why should Mr. $2000 Three-Piece Suit pay for Mr. Ripped Up No-Brand K-Mart Wal-Mart Jeans's kid to have glasses so she can see in school, or dental work so she's not in chronic pain, or how about gym equipment and trained teachers and new up-to-date textbooks and -- why go on?

In general, the rich hold the poor in contempt. "They don't try enough," or "They're just lazy" or "They want a hand-out, they don't want to work for what they get."

As if it's not every child's right to good health care and a chance to learn and be healthy and live a good life. Born into the wrong family -- especially if you're brown -- and you, my sons and daughters, are shit outta luck.

At the Forum in downtown Los Angeles, California, USA doctors from all over the world, many of them British, Australian, New Zealander, or even South African, are providing basic care for a brief time for as many as they have time and resources to see. And the lines are long, and orderly, and the need is far greater than they can meet.

Meanwhile, literally across the street, rich and largely white Americans saunter along on easy street with good clothes, clean, healthy teeth, bellies full of healthy food they can afford, heads full of educated reasons why they need not bother giving a shit about those stinky poor folks. It's the same blinders worn by people driving past those endless cattle pens, pig farms, and chicken cages; horrific suffering, torturous fear, disease-ridden death is all ignorable. Why?

Because we want our meat finger-lickin' now, god-damn it, because it's the American way to eat death and pretend it's lip-smackin' good.

/// /// ///

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rambo Redux

A parable for our times.

So this guy, who hasn't seen his family for the duration of the war, flies home unannounced and rather than disturb anyone, he asks the cab to drop him off at the end of the long dirt road leading to their ranch house. It's very early morning, just beginning to be dawn, as he walks up to the place and he notices several big garbage cans, each five feet high and heavy, standing empty where the pickup workers left them.

He smiles and hefts a couple of the cans and carries them around to the side of the house where they are kept during the week. He makes several trips back and forth. As he finishes this chore he feels a tightening in his chest and has a massive heart attack. He somehow manages to fall into a garbage can and goes unnoticed. Apparently he is then covered by garbage and hauled off to the regional landfill.

The family always wonders what happened to him, and sues the military for lying about having discharged him. His body's never found.

/// /// ///

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How's This for a Facebook Warning

Warning! You are engaging in behavior that may be considered annoying or abusive by other users.
Sometimes people get these warnings for simply misusing one of our features.

Which of the following links describes what you were trying to do? Clicking on a link will take you to more information on how to use Facebook's features.

Using Applications
Planning an Event
Sharing your Facebook Group/Event link
Promoting a business, product or service
Chatting with friends

Further misuse of site features may result in a temporary block or your account being permanently disabled.

Yet Another Vague Threat From Facebook


Our systems indicate that you've been misusing certain features on the site. This email serves as a warning. Misuse of Facebook's features or violating Facebook's terms of use may result in your account being disabled. Thanks in advance for your understanding and cooperation.

Please refer to for further information.

The Facebook Team

The Pearce Sisters

The Pearce Sisters

Shared via AddThis

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Dreaded Facebook Warning

Subject: Warning: Your Facebook Account
Date: July 26, 2009 6:52:49 PM CDT


Our systems indicate that you've been misusing certain features on the site. This email serves as a warning. Misuse of Facebook's features or violating Facebook's terms of use may result in your account being disabled. Thanks in advance for your understanding and cooperation.

Please refer to for further information.

The Facebook Team

Friday, July 17, 2009

Incubus Dream

So last night I had a very disturbing and weird dream, as follows:

I lived in a neighborhood of 5 storey brick apartments. I was cutting through among the buildings on grass, en route from fetching my mail. Even that had been frustrating because I kept dropping the mail in the breezes and had a hard time getting it all out of the box. So, between the apartments, I was intercepted by a bully. He was bigger than I am, and tormented me mercilessly, forcing me to drop my mail, walking on it, then forcing me to drop my pens, and claiming to have wiped them on his penis, and so on. Typical bully stuff, and I remember wondering why I couldn't rise above this twerp; in real life his type wouldn't have dared bother me at all. It seemed odd to me.

Incidentally, the pens were real ones I own and cherish.

So next thing I knew I was looking up at an aluminum extension ladder propped against one of the buildings, going all the way to the top.

In a blink, of course, I was at the top, and afraid to try getting back down. I feared it would either fall backwards, the feet being set too close to the building, or that it would slide to the left and off the building's wall. I told myself, it's just a dream, slide down, be bold.

Before I could do this, the ladder was flat, as if stretched from roof to roof and I was supposed to back across it. Well, this was worse, and I told myself, it's just a dream, roll off, float down, it's not real height, you can do anything you want.

So I actually brought myself to roll off, a rarity even in a lucid dream for me.

Sure enough, I came down lightly, and thought, wow, I could just float, and fly around, that would be fun.

I thought upward and sure enough bounded up, like a balloon, and so I floated, going up and down, barely making it over trees, as I left the apartments behind and entered a really nice neighborhood of tree-shaded sidewalks and big, beautiful houses. (Somewhat akin to the neighborhoods HOME ALONE moves use in Oak Park or Chicago.)

Here's where it got dark and terrifying for me, as usual. As always.

I bounded over a tree like a balloon and saw a young woman walking along, like a college age girl perhaps. I fell in behind her as she turned into a gate and up a walk to a porch, and I followed to the door, which shut in my face. I recall it was painted pumpkin orange. I actually bonked my head against the door, then thought, no, I can do as I wish, I'm invisible, so I pushed hard and managed to push through the door. And as I came through there was a younger girl than the one I'd followed, and she turned, saw me apparently, and opened her mouth to scream.

Oh no you don't, I thought, and grabbed her head with both hands, and then I put my forehead against hers and pushed, hard, and ENTERED HER HEAD AND BODY.

It terrified her and she danced around stiffly like a puppet in panic, dashing down the hall into a kitchen where the older girl I'd followed sat with a couple other girls; sisters, I gathered, with a couple friends.

And I slid out of the girl I'd possessed long enough to realize her terror had infused me as well, only it also had me sexually aroused now.

And I zapped over to the older girl, entered her via the head, and stayed only an instant. I then flowed out of her and into the hall, where I saw the staircase and went upstairs.

There I found the parents, two older people, laying on a king sized bed naked, obviously having just had sex, the man on the bed normal, head on pillows, the woman sprawled with one leg up and the other wide with her head facing the foot of the bed.

A younger girl yet, about 8 or 9, had been peeking into the room as I'd come up the stairs and was stepping back from the door's edge as I entered the room. I flowed over the bed and hovered for an instant, then lay down on the mother. Very distinct tactile sensations entered the dream here, and I essentially raped her the way an incubus might, remembering that as I did so I saw her both as she was and as the old woman she would become. Even the sensations followed this pattern; her skin was at once middle-aged and loosely old, tight yet velvety soft. Very creepy.

She lay unresisting, almost unaware but looking directly at me with a slight challenge in her eyes.

I left her, floated up, then flowed like smoke after the youngest girl, who by now had padded down the hall and had taken refuge in her room. She was standing by a low bookshelf in front of a bay window with a window seat in it when I entered through her closed door, and she turned, saw me, and made a move, but I pounced, and we both went dark in a very intense burst of sexuality.

Immediately after the blackness, like a blink, I was in the kitchen, and the girl I'd first possessed, perhaps 12, was lying on the kitchen floor, semi- or un-conscious, her sisters dithering around her. She lay ON her nightgown, even though she'd been in pants and shirt earlier. And she was naked, and I solidified, and the others backed off. I knelt and scooped her up, saying, "Well, little princess, we'll just see," and pressed her to me, face and body, in a harsh passionate kiss-and-grind. I entered her sexually and then awoke feeling horrified.

It was as if I'd become a rapist ghost or an incubus on a rampage.

It was vividly real, as if I were watching something really happen. And yes, part of me worries it might have been a psychic glimpse of a real crime or something. It was surreal, yet made some odd kind of sense.

It is the dark spot from which this otherwise bright day began.

Any ideas?

Liber Al II:3 "In the sphere I am
everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found."
--Alistair Crowley

Monday, July 6, 2009

SF outsider beats big names to £5,000 award


Chris Beckett sees off Ali Smith and Anne Enright to take the Edge Hill short story prize with The Turing Test

Alison Flood, Monday 6 July 2009 11.24 BST


Edge Hill short story prize winner Chris Beckett. Photograph: Colin McPherson

A social work lecturer with a sideline in science fiction writing has triumphed over some of the country's best known literary authors, including Booker winner Anne Enright and Whitbread winner Ali Smith, to take the Edge Hill short story prize.

Chris Beckett, who lectures at Anglia Ruskin university, was named winner of the £5,000 award on Saturday night for his collection The Turing Test, 14 stories featuring, among other things, alien planets, genetic manipulation and robots. Beckett said this morning that he was "still pinching [him]self" at the win.

"It was a very big surprise," he said. "Anne Enright won the Booker – two of the other authors [Shena Mackay and Smith] were shortlisted – so I thought I was very small fish compared to them ... I also thought that being a science fiction writer could count against me: a lot of people don't like it, or look at it in some way as less than literary fiction. It's a little blow for the genre, as well as for me – it might persuade a few people that maybe it's worth looking at."

Judge James Walton, chair of Radio 4's The Write Stuff, said that Beckett's win was "a bit of a surprise to the judges, none of whom knew they were science fiction fans beforehand". But once the judging process started, pitting Enright's Yesterday's Weather, Mackay's The Atmospheric Railway, Smith's The First Person and Other Stories and Gerard Donovan's Country of the Grand against The Turing Test, it soon became clear that Beckett's entry had been the most enjoyable – and impressive – read.

"One by one we admitted it," said Walton. "It was Beckett who seemed to us to have written the most imaginative and endlessly inventive stories, fizzing with ideas and complete with strong characters and big contemporary themes. We also appreciated the sheer zest of his storytelling and the obvious pleasure he had taken in creating his fiction."

The win is especially poignant for Beckett, as his publisher, the tiny Elastic Press, is in the process of winding up. He's hoping the win will mean a larger publisher might be interested in his writing. "At the moment you have to be in the know to hear about my books, and I'm hoping that will change," he said. His agent, he added, was "already on the case".

Beckett joins a list of previous winners for the Edge Hill prize – the only UK award for a short story collection by a single author – including Colm Toibin and Claire Keegan. He said the win would give him the time to concentrate more on his writing – the author of two novels, he's currently in the middle of a new story collection. "Recently I thought I should perhaps sit down and write non-science fiction, but actually I don't want to. I like the robots and the bits and pieces – they make it more fun," he said. "It strikes me that most kinds of fiction is about making up characters and plots, so why not make up the world as well – go the whole hog?"

Beckett won £5,000 and a specially commissioned painting by Liverpool artist Pete Clarke, also taking the £1,000 readers' prize. Enright won the second prize of £1,000 for Yesterday's Weather.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Insights Into 2001

My insights into 2001 after yet another recent viewing?  
Here are my notes, from my journal:

Up until "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite", the third section, 2001 is a procedural mystery.  All of the film is about the presence of the Trickster Other in our perception of reality, as represented by the plain, abstract monolithic black block.  That's the unknown presence we sense all the time, call it God, call it ETI, call it the Unknown.  Does its deception, then, lead to rebirth?

Syzygy is alluded to and shown several times.  Alignments are significant coincidences -- is Clarke meaning synchroniciy is a sign?  That alignments hint at hidden order behind or inside the chaos?  Seems so.

2010 is the rest of 2001's mystery plot, where it is solved.

Bowman's experiences through the infinite are shamanic.  He is torn apart and experiences space-time shifts, only to live another very compressed life as a guest, then he is reborn as Star Child.

2010 does not deal with this Star Child, oddly; only Dave Bowman's ghostly presence makes itself known.  And they suspect him of trickery, note, even as he proves trustworthy in a Zen way.  "Something wonderful," he keeps saying, with a reassuring and beatific smile.

The birth of a new star from Jupiter's mass is what he means.

Bowman IMAGINES the Regency hotel suite outside his pod in order to cope with the shattering experience of going beyond the infinite, what ever that means.  It is another abstract, the subjective human equivalent  of the objective black monolith.  He then imagines himself outside the pod, in his space suit, in the hotel room.  Next he imagines himself alone and living in those rooms, eating, and when he drops the glass it is a literal shattered illusion, a concrete correlative, and he looks up to see himself dying in the bed, where he imagines the monolith and a new start.

And once he's aging and dying in bed, we're back to the iconic breathing.  The breath of life.

From the bed, his last act is to reach for the monolith -- reach for the unknown, as he and mankind have always been doing -- and the embryo appears.  It is noteworthy that it appears ON THE BED; he gives birth to his own new beginning.

We're then back at the moon's orbit and the Star Child sees Earth.  It is a homecoming, exactly as in the Odyssey.  He was lost and found a way home, finally.  

We are all thus placed in one man's imagination -- the infinite loop is closed.

We imagine reality, which imagines us right back as we endlessly try to solve the mystery of the unknown.  Brilliant movie, and so elegant.

As Clarke once said, it's all there, very simply laid out, and people overcomplicate it.  He's right, but they overcomplicate it because it's so mythical.  

We are no further from the beginning of Kubrick's 2001 than the distance Moon Watcher throws the killing bone, to our shame.  That beautiful myth that could easily have become reality -- that was in fact already planned when 2001 came out in 1969, same year we landed on the moon for the first time -- but we squandered it the same as we squandered the good will 9/11 brought us, through greed, hate, and small-mindedness.  

At least we had a brief, shining moment of optimism and vision, if only once.

/// /// ///

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mothers' Day is About Stopping War

Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation - 1870

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Periodicals Then, Now, and Then Again

A much wider range of much better and more varied content is, essentially, what we want from periodicals as they move into the new electronic world.

To be avoided is the way too many genre publications homogenize into a single tone, with narrow parameters of taste and style, due to single editors dominating for decades.

Quality becomes harder to sift from chaff as quantity and other factors change established methods and filters. Used to suffice if the ms looked pro. Now it is within everyone's grasp to format properly, check spelling, and so on. Used to be prior publication in semipro zines meant a lot more than it does now, when so many pub their own ish.

Editors now must be all the more alert to the cutting edge while knowing in detail most if not all the history of the genre.

Doing all that on top of editing and sifting slush is a murderous burden. To lighten it, we may turn to rotating or guest editors, even though this solution prompts the problem of producing a consistent product to keep readers' interests.

Seems an impossible mix, doesn't it? Maybe each issue will have to stand alone, more like an anthology. Or maybe subscribers will be able to choose content for themselves rather than rely on an editor's tastes. Perhaps picking among sample openings and allowing subscribers, say, ten choices per month from the loosely categorized pools of content will solve this problem.

Television is an alternative model, with readers choosing one story here, another there, from an array of publications.

No matter what model shakes out as a new industry standard on Kindle or Online, definitely look for more series characters like Sherlock Holmes and more continuing serials like Dickens published. These are how reader loyalty will be encouraged. It only makes sense, once you get past value-added gimmicks. Remember hypertext? Links are taken for granted now and no big draw. Gimmicks will come and go, but a good story well told, and a familiar character that pulls you back, are perennials.

The goal for new periodicals, then, is to become a sole source for something with continued popularity. Think: Dresden Files Emag and so on. This requires editors to develop the skill set not seen since Victorian days. They will want to cultivate a wide variety of writers so they can spot new enthusiasms and trends, new favorites and new popularities. They will also need to keep an eye out for great longer works that can easily be offered in exciting chunks that will guarantee continued interest between installments. Each segment will have to be exciting itself, too. And they’ll have to find appealing characters, as in the Pulp era. New versions of The Shadow, Doc Savage, and Tarzan.

That’s why I mentioned The Dresden Files, one of today’s hottest repeat characters in genre fiction. And yes, Harry Potter comes to mind, too, as the perfect kind of book to have formed the foundation of a new kind of periodical, although it would have been doled out in smaller dollops and stretched over a longer period.

Any thoughts about what you’d want to see as the next phase for periodicals?

/// /// ///

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ridicule As Statecraft

The right has gone so far into Crazy it's not even funny anymore.

Although mocking them IS funny, yes. What would comedians do without them?

Ridicule, by the way, is what I recommended way back in in the late 1970s as the best way to deal with so-called terrorist groups. See, terrorism is the last-ditch effort of a politically powerless group to gain serious attention, right? That is what they crave, to be taken seriously, to have their cause or concerns addressed by the big fellas in a sober, serious way. They can't rattle sabers the way big nations do, and they can't go to war or threaten nuclear annihilation, so they turn to crime, specifically murder in the form of explosions, hostage taking, and the occasional mass shooting.

Same as Al Capone in the 1930s trying to make an impression on Bugsy Seigel.

So my epiphany was: MOCK them. Make pitiless fun of them. Ridicule them and their pathetic tiny concerns until NO one takes them seriously. At which point you make them an offer: Play nice and we'll stop belittling you and drop the satire offensive. Grow up and act civilized, period, or stay in Time Out.

And you know what? That will work. It'll work a shitload better than any amount of torture, war, or idiocy will. By taking the fear and mystique away, they have nothing left. Make them look small and insignificant.

And there is even historical precedent, by the way. Oh yes. Look up how the Caliphs and Emperors used Satire and Satirists to write plays and poems and songs marginalizing their enemies and keeping them laughable so that no one ever flocked to their causes. It was a standard piece of statecraft 2000 years ago in Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Byzantium, and so on.

We can and should bring it back in a fully conscious way.

Make Al Qaeda a laughingstock of bumbling idiots, not a cartoon villain only super-Bush can possibly vanquish.

And yes, that's what was really going on. Dicks like Cheney were puffing and bloating their own sad C-student Yale flunky loser reputations by pretending to fight a dragon of their own devising.

Talk about self satire.

Talk about counterproductive, too.

A small group of criminals blew up some buildings. We should have gone after them with law enforcement, and belittled them as desperate stupid nothings over-reaching their station. We should have brushed them off like gnats, instead of giving them attention and making them appear important enough to go to war over. Instead, we react as if they are a sovereign state and pretend to go to war with them, even though they are not a sovereign state and in fact have no real country, etc. And just like other wars against abstracts, such as the one on drugs, it's both indefinable and unwinnable. (Which suits the arms dealers and other endless looters just fine, of course.)

And so we handed them every terrorist's wet dream, to be taken not only seriously, but so seriously that it actually changed their target in drastic ways, and has in fact ended up nearly bankrupting us both financially and morally.

Thanks, Dick.

A real man, an adult, would have brushed it off as a mugging, severe, yes, but ultimately just a criminal act of no consequence to the strength and integrity of our state. We should have built again, ASAP, on the WTC site, rather than leave it as a gaping scar of shame all these years. We should have continued with business-as-usual, to show the world that no two-bit gang of thugs can bring us to our knees.

Instead, what do you do, Dick? You throw a fit, squander the world's goodwill, start a gang war to appease your threatened little ego, institute wiretapping, kidnaping, torture, and a gulag of secret prisons, plus assassination, and in the process jeopardize everything USA ever stood for. Infantile.

We need to go back to being an adult nation with grown-up concerns and mature, considered responses. It will work a lot better than being a fear-driven paranoid panic-stricken infant lashing out at shadows and thrashing in its crib tangled in its blanket of self-induced fears as it wails for its Big Oil bottle and fills its diaper with prejudice, bigotry, and racism.

You listening, GOP? Right wingerss? You are, right now, the most easily ridiculed bunch of buffoons and bozos anyone can think of, a joke without a punch line, a lame duck of a political heritage, a feeble spark of imagined glories that led irrevocably to failure after failure, a howling hollow shell of an echo chamber where lunatics cry and whine and moan and bellow gibberish all day every day. You cannot be taken seriously, and only were because of the harm you did.

You met the enemy and became the enemy in one moronic stumble.

So keep up the geek act, if it amuses you.

The rest of us have grown-up things to say and do.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Still hopeful, but Obama's refusal to reinstitute a rule of law by prosecuting Bush / Cheney crimes is a major misstep, not because the scum deserve punishment, (revenge is beside the point with those revolting morons), but for the good of the country, in order to demonstrate once again, symbolically and strongly, that no one, not even the President, is above the law. Unless and until we do that, we have lost the rule of law and that makes us much less than what we once were.

And what disturbed me most about this was Obama's statement that the CIA torturers, (he didn't mention military ones, or civilian ones such as shrinks and MDs), did what they did "in good faith". Well, I'm sorry, but that's the equivalent of saying "They were just following orders," and that in and of itself is a gaffe insensitive and historically ignorant enough to be worthy of W himself. What is going on? Was the surge of hope Obama was elected on just another bait-and-switch manipulation of our sucker bets all along? Should we be singing, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss -- won't get fooled again?"

Another disturbing thing he did was strengthen the legal defenses for the Bush-era wiretapping. WTF, to coin a phrase?

The people who mandated Oh Yes We Can Obama for Change had damned well better start kicking his ass and taking names and making damned sure he complies with the People's wishes.



Given the legal ramifications and political exigencies surrounding and permeating all this, I can now see why we want to proceed in a deliberate manner, with full process and due diligence.

We want any investigation and subsequent prosecution to stick. We want it thorough and genuine, not a political whitewash. This means going forward at a deliberate pace without panic or prejudice. We do not want to see a few fall guys thrown to the wolves so the majority can escape unscathed. Look how many ex-Nazis still operate at high levels in the French government. If we rush to judgement we may well fail to scour ourselves clean of this neo con scum infection.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Review of The Gentling Box by Lisa Mannetti

The Gentling Box by Lisa Manetti
Dark Hart Press, 2008
310pp, ISBN: 978-0-9787318-9-2

Just finished first novel The Gentling Box by Lisa Manetti and wanted to let you know that I was bowled over.

It's a superb story full of unflinching observation, telling details, and breath-taking turns of events, written beautifully with a masterful control of material, pacing, and story structure.

It is set among the Gypsies in Hungary and Romania at the turn of the last century, a time of change, portent, and dark magic. Imre, a horse trader; his wife Mimi, whom he loves so dearly; their daughter Lenore; his friend Constantine; and others among the nomads have their lives changed irrevocably by the dark magic of Mimi's mother, Anyeta, whose dying wish is to see her daughter one last time. A talisman must also be passed on, a kind of Hand of Glory or Monkey's Paw that carries its own kind of twisted temptation for everyone involved. We see curses, lust for power, corruption, ghosts, possession, self-sacrifice, and redemption portrayed with felicity and conviction. It is a remarkable series of portraits presented in a compelling sequence of well-wrought scenes.

The magic in it is as real as horse sweat and ashes, and the reality described as magical as any wild dream. What an accomplishment, to mix such stuff so well and to tell such a brutal tale so beautifully, with such delicacy of feeling and such empathy. There is real life in it, and the unblinking way Manetti portrays it all is greatly to be admired in an era when so many choose to avert their gazes, or to lie, in order to lessen the sting or to avoid offending prudes. This book tells the blunt truth and therein lies it's great power.

One of the best books I've read in a long time, The Gentling Box is strongly recommended.

That it is Lisa Manetti's first published novel bodes well for her career and for us, her readers. And more good news: she is working on a book about deaths on Mt. Everest. Our wait, to gauge by this work, will be well worthwhile.

/// /// ///

Monday, March 16, 2009

What We're Past

W's endless incompetence and criminality, not to mention W's war on ecology, is all so passé as to be absurd and laughable, except to neo con scum, who are mentally ill, as has been demonstrated conclusively by W's reign of terror.

We're past corporate consumerism.

We're past an Electoral College, and Senators should go back to representing their states.

Congress and the President & Vice President should be directly elected by the people now in a true democracy.

And no-confidence recalls and other Parlimentiary procedures should be instituted.

At least temporary socialization of banking and Wall Street will be necessary for us to regain footing, and obviously tight regulations and controls, with sharp-eyed watch-dogs and full disclosure and transparency of both business and government must be maintained.

The Bush era political prisoners should be released from Gitmo and other gulag prisons and handed over to the World Court in the Hague for independent trials and assessments, since USA has tortured and falsely imprisoned so many of them that no fair trial is possible by USA alone.

The Bush era criminals should be rounded up and first tried stateside, then in the World Court, for treason, war crimes, and high crimes while in office, malfeasance, etc.

We're past a media that propagandizes on behalf of the top 1% of wealth holders.

We're past the attack on the middle class and the class warfare being perpetrated against the people by Beltway insiders, Wall Street, and Big Media.

We're past undeclared, unwarranted, illegal, and unwinnable wars perpetrated solely to keep Cold War era spending levels -- and profiteering -- going.

We're past being 15th overall in healthcare among developed countries and we're well past not having universal free healthcare.

We're past politics sucking right wing fundamentalism's cock and making a war on science on behalf of the mentally ill and the unconscionably cynical who exploit them.

I could go on and on.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Movies, Images, Words, Files, Journals, Speech, Poems

Movies are easier than books. Images are evocative in montage because viewers tend to make stories of them. Movies are interactive.

Words are speech and render the listener more passive, less apt to do the work of making a story of them.

Files and journals are palimpsests to be excavated like archaeological sites and sifted for their treasures.

Poems are flowering vines of thought.

It Is Enough

Took a whole work day, due to a headache, to produce 4.5 finished pages of a novel. At least they came alive for me. In patterning this novel I'm sifting details to a greater degree, to keep it concise. Places arise in scenes where entire chapters could be inserted and I have to decide whether the plot's pace can take such an expansion. Digressions cost momentum.

It's about a third finished, this novel. I thought I'd have it done by October 2008. I used to do 100,000 words in 3 months. Here we are 3 months down the line from the projected end run and I'm only now reaching the 30,000-ish page mark. What I have is good, at least.

Then there is another novel I'm working on, an erotic novel. It's coming along, too, but the plot has taken charge. Needing to wedge more sex into an erotic plot is not a good sign. A real novel arose, is the trouble.

The important thing here is the fact that a publisher is waiting for it. I can't let it slide into mainstream. I'm using a fountain pen to write it, having wanted to slow down and think more, but now I'm wondering if that has worked to the detriment of erotica's conventions. Perhaps less thought would help; I might switch to keyboard to gain speed again. Or I may tag-team, switching from novel to novel and from pen to keyboard and back.

If you wonder how much changes when fiction moves from pen to computer, from journal to file, from page to electron -- when a second and subsequent draft goes down, in other words -- the answer is probably less than you'd think, but to more effect and purpose than you'd think. What is changed is important to deepen texture and character, or to highlight plot points or themes.

First draft is spinning the yarn, second and subsequent drafts weave the cloth and tailor the clothes. In an oral tradition, the trick is repetition, honing the effects and tones until the story comes alive and can survive on its own.

That s rarer than you'd think. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is one example. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber is another. O. Henry's stories "The Gift of the Magi" and "The Ransom of Red Chief" have been copied innumerable times. There is The Odyssey by Homer, obviously, and many ancient myths from many traditions. Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood are all ancient tales. Disney understood what his successors so obviously do not about resonating old tales in new ways.

Joseph Campbell is one of the keys to grasping all this stuff about stories and resonance. The Hero With A Thousand Faces is Campbell's pivotal work but almost all his books are excellent for fiction writers. Seeing interactions among story forms and types of heroes and villains, seeing links, repeated patterns, and changing approaches helps you know the materials best suited for your personal stories.

Look at the resonance the best Disney achieved, as contrasted by the shuddersome schlock the worst Disney becomes. Lion King went back to basics and became an instant classic. Lesser works go straight to video and thence to the vaults.

Movies could benefit generally from such considerations as resonance with myth and the ancient story patterns. The original Star Wars actually mined, or at least mimicked, Joseph Campbell's wisdom -- along with much of Frank Herbert's Dune, of course -- but by the time George Lucas made the sequels he evidently forgot anything he'd once known when the aging Campbell spent his last days on Lucas's Skywalker Ranch.

Steven Spielberg's career followed a similar arc. He'd used Hitchcock and Disney as models and produced classics such as Jaws, E. T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. When he branched out onto his own ego's limb, however, the results were mixed. Schindler's List and Munich were excellent but the last installment of the Indiana Jones saga left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. A taste we recognized from Star Wars: Episode One.

Failing to remain true to the old stories left them ruins of what might once have been.

Considering movies cost upwards of a hundred million dollars for blockbusters and a third to half that for so-called little films, you'd think the producers would insist on starting with the strongest material possible. Good writing, good stories and strong scripts, are any movie's foundation.

Producers try every way possible to ensure they'd make money with the finished product except the most important and, in many ways, the easiest and least expensive: classic, mythic, deeply resonant storytelling.

And old stories crop up in surprising guises, too. What is The Silence of the Lambs but Little Red Riding Hood painted noir? Clarice Starling is Red, going among the wolves, risking herself in dark woods... and she's even eaten, eventually, in a way, in the books at least. Resonance to our childhood deepens the whole experience and the reciting of nursery rhymes by the Jaime Gum character is unutterably chilling.

Sometimes movies or books catch resonance and are boosted into a higher regard than they deserve. Se7en was an example. It's not nearly as good as it is considered by many, being too artificial in its florid crimes, anything but accurate about police procedure, and hokey in its gotcha ending. It is a ragged plot unsure what it wants to accomplish. But, because it cites the seven deadly carnal sins, and comments on them in modern society explicitly through the Morgan Freeman character's dialogue, the film gets extra credit.

Fallen, from 1998, with Denzel Washington as a cop chasing a demon through several murder victims, almost got a boost from the eerie subject matter, with its hint at fallen angels and the proximity of an embodied Lucifer. Trouble was, the plot did not handle such matters cleanly, and this interfered with the resonance. It did not follow basic patterns and so fizzled into the equivalent of a mediocre X-FILES episode.

Should Clive Barker's novel Mister B. Gone ever be filmed it could easily suffer such a fate because producers will think it too simple. And yet Barker knows the old stories, and keeps to the chords to beautiful effect.

Some of these flawed films could be edited to improve them. Hitchcock could do it, or Welles. Both of them understood which parts of a story to expand, which needs only a hint. Hell, the final scene in Hitch's North By Northwest is perhaps 3 seconds in duration. It needs to be there but needs no elaboration whatsoever, and he understood these facts.

Knowing so well the function of each scene and every part of a story allows you to know which parts to compress or which to cut. What can be implied and what must be explained or shown blatantly.

All this and more are part of the craft of storytelling, and all good writers are lifelong students of this craft.

I've been observing a lot of such thinking as I read Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. Partly it's the graphic novel format, with its comic book conventionalities. Partly it's his concision. You can see choices he made about which panels to emphasize, what to leave off the page, and which key snippets of dialogue or narration are required to keep the story both moving and clearly in focus.

And so here we are back to my headache and all the thinking I did to produce only a few pages. Will readers appreciate all the work? Few will notice and that's as it should be; a fine desk, crafted from tropical hard woods, hand made with years of experience and with quiet but intense care, shows only a perfect whole and is considered a single piece of furniture, both attractive and useful, sturdy and elegant. Despite its many parts and pieces, and its complex design, it, like a good story, is of-a-piece and becomes one thing whole.

If I work right, then only other writers, and few of them at that, will grasp what must have gone into my work. And that's good craftsmanship, and good storytelling.

For now, genug.

Or, as Kant said at the end of his longest story, "Sufficit".

/// /// ///

Rejection City Rubble

These questions came up on Jay Lake's blog: How many rejections came to you before your first publication, and how many rejections have you accrued?


We don’t all keep track. I sure don’t. I just try to send at least two out for every one I get back. It’s a process for me rather than a reckoning or an accounting.

I’d submitted sporadically for six years, starting in 1974.

In 1980 I began submitting regularly. My first sale was “Weal & Woe” to MZB’s in Spring 1990. I’d had many near-misses, including almost snagging 3rd place in the first Twilight Zone contest, won by Dan Simmons.

So, if I had to estimate, I’d say maybe, what, 1000 - 1500 rejections before that first paying sale? Wow, I had no idea. If I had been keeping track I might have been discouraged.


I’m not counting unpaid publication or various other things, either. Face it, I just don’t pay attention to much beyond what I’m writing at the time, which explains my lack of business success. As you’ve said, Jay, the business part is what too many of us ignore to our detriment. So true.

I’ve never been able to internalize taking a more businesslike approach. And yes, I recognize this as a fatal flaw.

Once you're writing publishable prose, rejections are irrelevant to such things as talent or skill. I've long since concluded they are essentially random. Either an editor likes what you send in the few moments it slides under editorial gaze, or not. Same editor may later buy what has been previously rejected, or wonder what they ever saw in a work after they buy it.

This is why I don't bother with them. Sometimes there are good reasons for a rejection, sometimes not, but either way I have no control over that, beyond trying to conform to each publication's standards or to each editors expressed needs.

To me, rejections are noise, acceptances are signal, and payment is what the signal delivers.