Saw a bus advertisement yesterday said, “Blankety Blank Investment Firm: Not Run by Robots”, and had a picture of a cartoonish, 50’s robot on it. I pinched myself. Was this real life? Had I crossed over into a 1980s Sci-Fi movie? I’m well aware that stocks and all that sort of thing are largely, mostly, ran by computers, with artificial intelligence. So I also couldn’t help but ask, would I really want to go with the people on something like that? I mean the machines had to have the edge. Right?
Summer, popped up from the grave, grabbed our collective wrists yesterday. It was over 80 degrees out. People sported shorts, grabbed another tank of propane. We have had half a dozen viewing of our house in its first month. A little slow, but we also just got it listed as FHA available so I think that should pick things up. Also got an open house tomorrow. The house has never looked so clean. So yesterday evening the whole gang went up to the park. Me in truck with Dante and Cujo. Mom driving the three boys in the Honda.
The park is idyllic. My gang and the other kids at the park incorporate effortlessly under the warm night sky. I do laps with Cujo at the park. Coen, two years old, walks next to me giggling the whole time. He loves dogs. Loves seeing the dog at the park. The park is next to a the community center. While walking, I notice someone getting out of the car with a giant Amish hat. Sort of like a pilgrim hat, but wider brim, dome on top. I love it. The anachronism, the symbol. The other-worldliness of beliefs like that. I like to imagine that person staring at a purple haired punked teenager with a can of Four Loko. Lock them in a giant garage together, feed her hospital grade amphetamines and give him endless woodworking projects. See who changes who, you know?
Driving later, windows down, fresh air mixing with hot dog slobber, and Sam Bush on the radio. I see a lady, wearing the same hat. I get a nice long look at the stout and dignified optics. The hat fills the car, it fills everything, a blackness. Her tight white mug rolls under it, squished down until she’s nothing but a mouth, dense, bone, uncracking, never hitting a Coca-Cola in her life. She’s tougher then me, could probably take me. Knows more about living and life, then I could ever know. But there’s that blackness filling the car. I heard somewhere those hats symbolize the planet Saturn. That with many the Judeo-Christian and other religious sects, it’s all one big ode to Saturn. The little black boxes on the center of the foreheads. The Kaaba itself. The Kaaba is wild. So are the hats.
8:02AM I go upstairs, look out our freshly cleaned window. Do you know how big a difference a freshly cleaned window makes? Winters coming so it was dark well into seven o clock in the morning. I look out and everything has a pink Polaroid feeling. We eat our breakfast together. At one point, Coen, does one of his new bits were he takes juice in his mouth, parades it around, building dramatic tension, and then spits it on the ground. We are working on cultivating positivism, so Mom tries to manage the situation calmly. Ultimately, she’s forced to put the cup in the fridge. Then, and note the cosmic nudge of fuckery, she knocks last night’s chocolate-milk cup out, spilling. The forces work for the children. She grunts, shakes a fist. I call to her through the deep. Don’t do it. Turn back. Stress. Remember what we said.
She sits down on the table. The fuzz clears. We start to breathe. Coen smiles. Equilibrium achieved. He continues, ornery, until we find a bit we can all get into. Enter the Man-Eating Table. More like Toddler eating table. It begins as Coen stars to slide under the table, from the big chair. I start to feign terror. “On no! The table is eating Coen! Somebody helps him!” He take the cue, continues to slide under. Britney joins in tries to save him. Chay runs around the table tries to help, but it doesn’t work. Then the next thing you know the table eats him too. Thing have reached a critical mass. We’ve been halved. Mom goes next. Kein rushes to save her, but fails. We stare at each other over the warn eatery expanse. I feel one of its tentacles grab my ankle. “On no, my boy,” I yell to him. “It’s got me too! Save your self!”
Five of us pack in under there, like Jonah in the belly of leviathan. It feels like that, dark, warm, damp. Everyone sort of scared, but happy too. We realize the only solution is for Kein to slap the belly of the whale. To for it to throw us up. Keep it simple. We spill out. Saved in the nick of time. 8:30AM
The Complete Book of Aquarian Magic-Marin Green
Secrecy adds a great deal of power to magical work, and though it is vital to be completely open and honest with any companions in the work, it is equally important not to brag about your magical interests. If you do show off, turning up to fancy dress parties in your robes, or making charms for people to affect others, or dabbling in the affairs of those who have not asked for help, you will soon wind up reaping the whirlwind you have sown. If you have any psychic abilities, but have not learned the skill of ‘switching them off’, you will be prey to all manner of unpleasant experiences, all gleaned from unexplored aspects of your own nature–nothing from outside will ‘come and get you’: It is all there within you already. (110)
Snippet from yesterday…
I practice stone heart during the dental session, attempting to leave my body, go to the higher plane. I have a little bit of a cold, and they use one of the latex dam things to isolate the area, so 3/4 of the way in I need to clear my throat, and the zingers are just lighting me up, can’t swallow right, feels like I’m on the verge of choking. A Law & Order type show is on the background, they’re talking about domestic terrorists. Neon blue steel heart seems to fail. I can’t get my mind to wholly forget what’s occurring, can’t let the moment pass. Then it does, it always does, and in reflection I realize it did work. It’s not to be free from the zingers that signifies you have acquired steel consciousness, it’s to feel the zingers and remain a step behind/beside the experiencer of the moment.
1:12PM Mom and kids on the way to meet up with friends at the park discovered this bug and its recently shed Second Skin, on the front wheel of the tricycle. They deemed it cool enough to come back in and get Dad out of the writing lab to see. I appreciated that. Excitedly I asked for Brit’s phone, snapped a few picture of the thing, laying on the concrete in my pajamas. She called it a locust, but I don’t know if that’s right or not.
Spent the morning, editing that recently posted chapter of Interludes, and Arms in Ankeny draft 7. Editing brings out the scattered, attention jumping vibe in the lab, but I am going with it, not fighting it, celebrating it. I like this sort of editing. Reading for a few pages, go do something else unrelated, come back rewrite/edit some more. Same thing with those heavy bag sessions, think I’m going to get a few rounds of that in today, maybe four or five instead my usual three.
I got little more than a hundred pages left on Patrick Rothfuff’s The Name of the Wind. I’m enjoying this book a lot. Reading Epic Fantasy like this makes me think how magical story-telling, writing is. The escape, time suck quality of reading. What is a Fairy-Tale? What are fairies? You should look into that.
This is when you’re story is done, when it can capture the reader’s attention and transports them to your world. I believe this phenomena applies to quality Non-Fiction as well. We should escape ourselves and the obvious external world, and enter the realm of the piece. This is what we mean by Voice. You assume the writer/narrator’s voice and thought pattern when you read. Here we think of advice that if you want to write well, you have to read well. It’s like learning to walk, you see others do it, you give it a shot yourself, you fall down, you try again.
Also sporadically reading John Man’s Ninja 1000 Years of the Shadow Warrior. Introduced to term, Shugendo, which is a name for this ancient Japanese folklore. Going to investigate that some more today independently. I think it’s interesting coming off of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, that in this ancestral Japanese system that people are given names/titles with active tense in them, for example “Idumo the Brave, otherwise known as Many-Clouds-Rising” (17). I’m intrigued and endeared to this way of speaking/thinking.
I have studied the concept some, not sure exactly where, but what intrigues me is this clear difference in ancient speakers use of the active, and modern/English use of the past tense. For us, history is fixed, binary, on and off, you are this or that, forever, end of time. Versus, you are Clouds-Passing-on-a-Summer-Day, Rains-in-Autumn, He-Who-Dances-With Spirits.
It’s not about the poetry though. It’s about the mind itself, the world itself. What sort of people think like this, and what sort of people think like that. What do the differences mean, and how can we account for them?
I played a little poetry, past tense/active tense with my kid’s names. On the surface they are fixed, like my oldest Chay Robert McMulin. But with a little play and etymology, Chay Robert, reversed and explored, is King Bright Fame of the Place of the Fairy Folk. My heart has always known the active principal. That there was no real reason to buy into all these simple dichotomies, binaries, but that paradox abounds, there are limits and no limits, skin and second skins.
I’m going to go back to editing, reading, punching the bag. Hope you found some Art today, and maybe a little loving, a soft, warm body, resting against you peacefully, wind through an open window, setting sun on a worn back porch. Get your words friends. 2:07PM
The world seemed like it was about to burst. She sat on her boulder. Her garments trailed in the wind. Honestly, I sat there for some time scared, just awkwardly holding the guitar and hoping my hand didn’t shake too hard against it. Like a painting, she never moved, just waited. Finally with some great act of will I went to hit a chord. The tendons or muscles in my hand actually hurt as I tried, such an awful nonmusical muffle came forth. Without a word everything shifted.
I was now walking through a forest. It was freezing. There was frost on the trees and the ground. I knew that I was running from something but I wasn’t sure what. I heard its deep breathes coming up from the side, like a race car raging, passing on the left, worse then that though. I blacked out with its chunky teeth lodged in my throat. Then it was back on the block. My shitty guitar in my hands and her sitting unwavering.
“Coward,” she said.
So it goes, I’ve heard them say. I think she may have even said something like that too, in between these nightmare rounds. After a supremely lucid one which involved my own sweet children, I suddenly remembered my chords and songs quite well. Not that it mattered though, because I still sucked at guitar.
Somewhere in there, we got locked in on the Animal’s song “House of the Rising Son.” This is the sort of beginner’s guitar song that I am working with. I know it’s not much but I had been pursuing guitar as a hobby, as a fun thing to do when I had an extra minute, nothing to worry about, right?
She was on something else. She seemed to take offense to my weakness, and her offense made me offended by my own ineptitude too. I started to cherish those moments as I sat there, waiting to try my first Am chord, when I could sort of analyze the whole situation a bit more. More than anything, I was mad at myself for not practicing more. I mean the song, the version I knew anyway, consisted of four chords, played in a finger style, with a very basic, repetitive picking pattern. If I could have just practiced more, maybe I could have snuck past all this.
It was fifty or so notes and over a week before I ever got past the first chord. The things I saw in that space I will not go into detail here. I wish I could say a word on self-censorship, but I assume we don’t have much time for that here either. Just let the dear reader be warned that the Muse is armed with the darkest most potent nightmares you could imagine. I believe there is a realm of science here which needs to be studied. I’m not sure about this. Though it does seem part of the purposes of this blog, to create public record of these events, so that perhaps in the future brighter minds than mine can put it all together.
Here’s my take though. I’m beginning to think that for every positive artistic stroke, a speckle of dark dust is created is created in its wake. To mix metaphors, this dust is the proverbial eggs shells of the omelet. This dust forms doubt, depression and disease. The more you create, the more it build ups around you, waiting to be dealt with, recycled hopefully, I guess. Some people seem to kick up so much dust it goes and hides in a closest and collects. And then a microdust organism forms and it grows. And then it learns to eat the doubt dust too. Then a whole multilayered ecosystem forms in this protoplasmic imaginative juice. After that, its anyone’s guess what happens. For me, it showed up as a woman in the basement who tortures me because of my whack guitar skills.
And oh how she could rant. Her voice was like the most awful PA system you could imagine, in which one minute could be pleasant, but then in another breath become ear piercing. It could come in so loud and clear that it just sliced right through the space between your ears. Other times it became so hollow, and full of the wind around it, that you could loose track of it. “Pathetic, a toddler could be trained to play better. No, a baby monkey.” I told her I had never been trained, just watched a couple youtube videos. “Of course, that sounds about right with the trash you’ve demonstrated. No, feel no need Mr. McMulin to explain your failures to me. I have seen an ocean of your level of talent. Disgusting, imbecilic, this whole thing is wasted on your type. Try again Mr. McMulin. Try to get those chubby, greasy hands to hit the right spot, above the fret there? You do know what a fret is Mr. McMulin? Also, it would be good if your ring finger could touch a string at some point. Or, if you could just hold the basic structure of the chord though a single measure. Oh, we have so much to do Mr. McMulin!”
I brought up writing, in between attempts, in between nightmares, asked if I could be challenged in that. That was a bad idea. The whole world went black, and an icy wind whipped up, and a storm rolled in. There was nothing I could do it seemed, but sit on the rock and take it. Rain ran down my guitar. It got so cold my hands froze up and I dropped it. It floated away, sliding down the frozen plane.
My god, I cannot tell you how cold it was, or how terrifying it was to watch that storm come in all around us, and the lightening as it tore strips out of the sky. It belittled me in the truest sense of that word. Her voice became that place and she moaned in rage. “Never Mr. McMulin. Never, never, never. You will never write a word in my presence, ever. You may have jacked some of the lower dregs of my bounty, but you will never be a great writer Mr. McMulin, never. Do you understand that? The fantasy you had of writing was your illness, understand? Was your grand act of cognitive dissonance, as the spooks put it today? Your A-minor chord is insufferable. A sentence and you would be dead before the first vowel.”
I really tried that night, but she just isn’t having it. The nightmares show how frustrated she’s becoming. Its just over the top things lately, drowning in leeches, being drawn and quartered, set on bonfire like a witch. It’s the bonfire that really got me. I sense her there lurking in the crowd that huddles around. She’s smirking when its all over and I’m back on the boulder. “Begin,” she demands.
I go to start, but the words popped out before I could stop them, “how long?”
“How long what Mr. McMulin?”
“How long will this continue?”
“I assumed that’s what you meant,” she said. “I just wanted to see if your communication skills go beyond simple grunts. How long is up to you to, Sir?”
“I’m ready to stop,” I say.
“Well, then go ahead” she says. Her statuesque arms bended and made a move of slicing her throat. She was telling me to kill myself. The fucking bitch…I’m sorry for the vulgarity dear reader. But after the last few weeks of torture I was at my wits end. I don’t know why exactly but I have to say despite a strong current of pessimism that runs through my heart I find the thought of suicide offensively stupid. I don’t mean my words to give offense to anyone who has been effected by suicide. My heart goes out to you, but all I am saying is for me that is not an option. I am so scared of death that the idea of volunteering for it just seems impossible. Especially now, relatively young, three kids, great wife and life.
More what I am trying to get at here, is she sort of really pissed me off with that, you know? Like I was nothing to her, a nuisance you could say, that she would be better off without having to regularly torture me. For the first time in weeks I found myself wondering if I could fight her somehow? Frankly, I couldn’t even see how to get down off the boulder, but still I wished I had some something to blast her with.
The world began to crackle and pop. This is the sign that I am about to wake up. She doesn’t seem to notice but keeps ranting. “Proceed Mr. McMulin. Make your futile attempt. Shall we stay with the Animals? Or would you like to try Bad Moon Rising again, you have had some success there?”
I hear what sounds like helicopters approaching from behind me. Like a jet engine maybe too. I love the thought that a bunch of heroes are going to roll up and save me from this woman. At least get me off this rock. I come to with my two year playing with his Ironman action-figure beside me. I hear my wife brushing her teeth in the other room.
I carry the shiver of that place. It’s instantly contrasted with the warmth of my cozy bed. An elaborate dream, my rational mind screams, but my body still trails that cold.
David Ovason-The Secret Architecture of our Nation’s Capital
In the wood engraving used by George Oliver to illustrate his encyclopedia of Masonry (opposite) the funerary symbolism is much in evidence. Not only does the Saturn-like image of Death play with the hair of the young maiden, in the manner of the cruel reaper of the medieval Dance of Death, but, as she reads the book (the memorial of Master Mason in the early mythology of the Masonic Brotherhood, Hiram Abif), she holds high the cassia leaves. (184)
No Plot? No Problem!- Chris Baty
With back-to-back novelizing failures to my credit, “exuberant imperfection” started seeming less like a panic-free way to get monumental tasks accomplished and more like a surefire way to make me feel like a moron. Not bring if I wrote crap and stumbling into passable prose was exhilarating. Not caring if I wrote crap and getting exactly that for two years in a row was demoralizing.
Just as I was about to drop my laptop into a trash compactor, though, a friend of mine sent me some quotes from the celebrated graphic designer Bruce Mau. One of which struck pretty close to home.
“Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child0,” Mau’s maxim went. “Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiment, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and llow yourself the fun of failure every day.”
As corny as it sounds, those words changed the way I looked at my two crapulent works of fiction. As literature, they were ugly as sin. As experiments, though, they were packed with a beautify , useful array of wrong turns, misguided decisions, and shameful flops. From those experiments, I discovered copious amounts about what I shouldn’t be writing. This allowed me to spend my fourth and with novels in the happy pursuit of what I should.
Shirley Jackson- We Have Always Lived in The Castle
I still could not see him clearly, perhaps because he was a ghost, perhaps because he was so very big. His great round face, looking so much like our father’s, turned from Constance to Uncle Julian and back, smiling and opening its mouth to talk. I moved as far into my corner as I could, but finally the big face turned at me.
“WHy, there’s Mary,” it said. “Good morning, Mary.”
I put my face down to Jonas.
“Shy?” he asked Constance. “Never mind. Kids always take to me.”
Constance laughed. “We don’t see many strangers,” she said.
*This was from one of my days of the September challenge, where I had to write a new thousand words everyday.
Trees leave fragments like broken crystals
Babylonian concrete road, leading to artificial Benbens
Meat suited automatons riding in steel boxes, with balding tires
Kaleidoscopic addiction syndrome, self appointed Psychiatrist
Boiling mass in cratonic sphere, crystalline center of nowhere
where has the burning light been replaced with a stone pillow
Measurer doesn’t measure up
Primordial android, drunk on psychotropics, ranting at the world, while he tears pages out of the Bible.
Prime Time Television Sycophants, wasting away on Grandma’s couch
Human history is a cul-de-sac
The conspiracy ended in Cheetos
Man sold his soul for a chocolate bar
Rusted sex bots are our future, children our are past.
Mars is our future.
Beads of light, running on grass, wielding plastic rakes as weapons.
Subconscious preparation for life.
Hectic beehives called neighborhood, Predators are squared.
Wave of control wash in and out, the self pushes freedom out
Small ways, chalk on the street, bold word “Stop”. No addressee
I’m cultivating a brew of schizophrenia, claimed on the mountains of culture,
inspired by whores and maniacs. Embraced by no one, spectacle to the world,
I have found the cave of the Ubermensch and it is filled with dirty tissues and back copies of Hustler magazine. A box of abandoned toddler’s toys are pushed into a corner, next to empty cans of Budweiser and ash tray refuse.
The wasted poet humps the ground, slurring some pitiable narration about a YA vampire novel,
“She put on the dusty gown. Its beautiful pearl color had turned the yellow of over buttered theater popcorn.”
Writing is powerful because it mimics thought. So when we read someone’s work we are experiencing their thoughts and experiences. The Author’s expertise in their own world allows them to unpack it for us in interesting and informative ways. Some people might argue that Art generally has lost some of its force. This is a dangerous contention in a time and place where were are saturated in other peoples thoughts and stories, their Art we could say.
In tracking “Literature” if thats what we want to call it, from ancient oral traditions to when it was finally put down on paper, and then again reborn in Cinema and Modern Media, you can follow all of known human history. Not creating in our understanding discrete descriptions of each of this different epochs, could lead to a misunderstanding of the true power of the Word and Imagination. Media has become so commercialized, so ubiquitous, that people take the abilities and skills of the Creators for granted. And this is not good, because human civilization is now predicated upon these things.
I think there is a real anachronism to modern interpretation of older and ancient literature. The dismantling of the true meaning of “Myth”, reduced that great Art to mere Fiction. Somehow great minds of the past have been put on the same level of hackneyed James Patterson novels. Worse actually, they are not considered at all. To reemphasize my original point here, doing this to ancient literature, has also led to a great forgetting about our collective world history, again a point for the great power of Art.
Writing is unique as it works both as a time capsule and prophecy.This is the power of reading because it allows us glimpses into all sorts of key moments in history, and lets us evaluate everything from hindsight, with updated knowledge.
Any writing no matter how benign is part of this process. This is why journals are so important, because they data sample specific days and peoples. We can use these “primary materials” to build our collective histories. We can see with all these points, how writing/reading are the grounds of understanding, the basis of understanding.
Writing and reading are powerful because they make you smarter. Trying to articulate your interesting ideas in a comprehensible way will makes you a better communicator in other probably less demanding situations. The limits of our vocabulary are the limits of our ideas. Reading another person’s interesting and particular history can give us new tools to face our own issues, and give us needed perspective.
Lastly, but most importantly, writing is important because it is effective. Books like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stow, exposed the horror of a specific life and made other societies take notice of the issue. It was the ability of people to read these experiences, and live them themselves that built that relationship of empathy, which was necessary for change.
I think it is important for us as writers to take back the power of writing. This is occurring in the trend of ebooks, I think. They allow greater access between cultures classes. Same time this new form only to a inflationary bubble of information. We as creators of the written word need to start thinking about evolving the Craft itself. Of course this is exactly what we are finding in Comic Books, Graphic Novels, and online videos and animation, people that are pairing the written word with other stimuli and creating new artistic tools. I even think something like Stephen King’s interconnected archetypes and characters in the Dark Tower series is another way that we can really multiply the power of the written word.
The point was though, people are overloaded and so they look at Art as mostly entertainment and escape currently. The problem and awesomeness remains, good Art works whether or not people want to pay attention to it. You ignore the mechanics of Art at your own risk. Just like if you don’t know how to change a tire, but drive a car. That’s my point I think, we as writers need to recognize and cultivate this powerful Craft, because the world depends on it!