Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nine Horrors and a Dream


In the late 1970s we would regularly visit my father’s family up in Cape Cod. There were many things up there that held a ten-year-old’s interest; bike paths, unusual wildlife, Revolutionary War memorabilia, cousins and their friends, the beach (where I developed my dislike of the ocean via a couple of hideous sunburns). For a bookworm like me my grandmother had an awesome kid-friendly encyclopedia set that I eventually read volume-by-volume, cover-to-cover. I especially remember fascination with articles on different countries; for some reason Lichtenstein stands out as one I read over and over. Anyway, another obsession that bordered on the unhealthy was created in me by a nondescript gray-green book with no title on the binding. When you opened it up, it was a horror anthology. This one.

Just like that helpless moth spiraling about that pretty flame, I savored each story, slowly, enraptured, only putting the book aside to eat or sleep. Knots twisted up my stomach knowing that in each and every tale certain doom and damnation awaited the friends – and the not-so-friendly – I met in these pages. I didn’t understand a lot of what I read, but the strong visceral reactions those short stories elicited were dangerously compelling. My uncle noticed my attachment, and in a feat of what I considered ultimate generosity, told me to take the book home with me and keep it. I did, but quickly lost track of it.

One of the stories, “Levitation,” has been anthologized countless times, and I reread it a few years ago in a different, much more massive and modern horror short story anthology I somehow got for free. This inspired me to research the author, Joseph Payne Brennan (1919-1990), and my investigation quickly led to what is considered by hardcore horror critics a classic anthology, Nine Horrors and a Dream.

The problem is, Nine Horrors, despite its weighty status among true believers, is out of print. My library doesn’t carry it. Online sites will charge a college tuition for the extremely rare copy. So I put it on the Acquisition List, where it sat dormant for two years. Until I found it last month at a large, unnamed New & Used Book Store. Over the past four or five weeks I’d read a story here and there, usually late and night, curled up on the sofa after the whole house has gone asleep and with only a single 40 watt light bulb to keep away the nasties …

Nine Horrors and a Dream is a throwback to the dark and dim New England horror of H. P. Lovecraft and the stories from the Weird Tales pulp magazines from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Every couple of years I get the itch to let myself wander among these landscapes. Each of Brennan’s stories is crisp, clean, Spartan in its telling. Atmospheric and moody, like an old black-and-white gothic movie. Often they take the noirish approach of the gritty young writer revealing an inexplicable event he’s just witnessed or heard about from allegedly reputable sources. While they’re not graphic as some modern works are (and as we’re desensitized to in today’s age), I usually find, as many do, that when done right the suggestion of something terrible is often more terrifying than the outright exposition of it. In this area Brennan, who was also a fairly accomplished poet all through his life, joins an elite group of horror masters.

“Slime” is the first story, a short novella (or a long short story) which also, in addition to “Levitation”, made me seek out the anthology. It’s a creepy little yarn of a giant, hungry, amoeba-like monstrosity risen from the ocean depths to begin relentless feeding on the poor unlucky inhabitants of a New England town. The description of the creature, from a technical point-of-view is masterful: dreadful and spine-tingling. It’s the first appearance, the originator, if I’m not mistaken, of the blob monster motif, later seen more prominently in King’s “The Raft” and Koontz’ Phantoms.

A couple stories had that macabre, “gotcha!” twist, where the protagonist finds himself trapped in a quite nasty and completely unavoidable predicament. “The Calamander Chest”, “Death in Peru” and “Canavan’s Back Yard” all fall into this category; only in one does the main character escape a truly unpleasant death.

“I’m Murdering Mr. Massington” is a story where, in some crazy and twisted metaphysical way, the reader actually becomes an accessory to a murder. I had never read a story like this before, and it left me a little unnerved.

“The Hunt”, too, was unnerving, in its simplicity. A straightforward description of a sympathetic and hapless old man ceaselessly pursued by something – not someone – evil and out for no good. It doesn’t make sense, nor should it, because things like this don’t happen in our civilized world. But in this world, they do. Poor Mr. Oricto! The final dozen sentences were some of the most horrifying I have read in a very, very long time.

Nine Horrors and a Dream gets an A. Since the book is fragile, being over fifty years old, I’m keeping it in the plastic sleeve it came in and will definitely reread these strange tales periodically.

By the way, this little book earns the LE award for the best title of an anthology, hands down. The unanswerable question is, which tale was the dream …

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On the Horizon

Please click on the image below for A Very Special Message from LE:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thoughts on Torture

This whole “debate” the country is having over our use of various forms of torture on high-ranking Al Qaeda prisoners has left me quite unsettled. There’s a subtle tug-of-war going on here, and the issue is not as cut-and-dry as it first appears. At least, that’s the way it appears to me.

First, let’s get the preliminaries out of the way. I should not have to state this up front, but I suppose I must, if only to avoid any ad hominem attacks. This country, the United States, is the greatest country on earth, plain and simple. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I love it. Which is why this discussion on torture pains me so.

Now obviously I’m not an expert in any relevant area to this debate. I know next to nothing about the intricacies of 21st century anti-terrorist warfare. I also freely admit to lacking expertise in the intricacies of ethics and morality. That’s why, after becoming thoroughly convinced, through head and heart, of the Truth of the Catholic Church based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, I rely on the catechism for these sorts of things. So, I present exhibit A.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2297, Respect for bodily integrity:


Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.


So it seems at first glance that the Catholic Church is opposed to torture and torture is morally wrong. Okay; I understand and fully agree to this.

But then the hypotheticalists come in. Exhibit B. These are the people who always have a hypothetical situation for every contingency. The most famous hypothetical is the ticking-time-bomb scenario. Modified for 21st-century society, it’s this: you have a terrorist and you know a dirty bomb’s about to go off somewhere in the city. You know he knows (how? – Ed.) but he’s not talking. Do you torture him? Do you torture one human being to save thousands or millions of human beings?

You can take a principled stand here and say, “I will never torture! We should never, under any circumstances, torture! We must, as the catechism states unequivocally, treat prisoners humanely. Torture is absolutely out of the question.”

I agree, agree wholeheartedly. In a perfect world we can afford such principled stands. But this is a fallen world, a world where the forces of evil are actively stalking the innocent and evil men plan and act. The Church is aware of this; there is a whole doctrine of Just War built upon this realization. Also the morality of authentic self-defense. So, then, how do you deal, then, with these following points –

What if your family is stuck in this hypothetical city?

How do you weigh the pain administered to one guilty man against the pain thrust down upon possible millions – victims as well as surviving families of the victims? People who have to live decades knowing their loved one died in a horrible terrorist attack. What moral calculus comes into play here?

Perhaps torture must be viewed as a necessary evil, one that can only be used under the most limited situations and only to gather information that it is certain the victim possesses. It must never be used as a punishment but only as an information collecting tool. It must be authorized, regulated and supervised –

What am I saying? Every word in the preceding paragraph goes against the most basic fiber of my being. Did I state that strongly enough? My core is screaming out that by consenting to do evil we not only become evil but we spit in God’s eye, we say that we do not trust Him and trust His will for us. We should never ever torture and those that do under our aegis should be punished to the fullest.

But I am at a loss to offer a reasonable response to the hypotheticalists.

That’s why I’m torn in knots over this issue. I’m open to arguments for or against either side, but deep down I feel for certain torture must never be done. Maybe I’ll mull this over during the next week or two and see if I can come up with any reasonable responses or alternatives to torture, but if they haven’t been proposed already, I fail to see how I can offer anything of interest. But I’ll try.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Music and Translation


The noted Austrian critic Hanslick (noted primarily for his warfare with a young composer named Wagner) once wrote: “Music is a language that we can use, that we can understand, but that we are unable to translate.”

I need to buy a couple of blank business cards, type this quote on each of them (do they even make typewriters anymore?), and carry a bunch in my wallet. Especially after yesterday’s post.

For a long time, believe it or not, I listened to what everyone else in my peer group listened to. Probably for a good twenty years. Me and my group of friends all listened to the same type of music: classic rock (this was the 80s, when new music, to us, was basically garbage, so we had to look back a decade for something listenable). Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, The Who, Pink Floyd, etc, etc, etc. As I got more seriously involved with playing music, I was exposed to different things that you don’t hear on the radio: Zappa, Husker Du, various metal before metal was acceptable. But it was still a fairly narrow range.

Then, in April 1998, after eight years of grunge, I got sick of it all. There was nothing out there that interested me. I literally found myself in CD World, perusing the aisles, looking up and down the racks, for an hour straight, and nothing – absolutely nothing – jumped out at me. I went home depressed.

So I decided to jump headfirst into classical music. I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care what any one else thought. And that made a significant impact on me, in retrospect. Over the years I’ve amassed a 200-CD collection and a fair amount of knowledge. I also made forays into jazz: Coltrane, Davis, Monk, Evans. Lately I’ve been listening to and buying chorale music.


I don’t know why; like Mr. Hanslick notes, it just ain’t something that’s translatable.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spem In Alium

I am convinced that Latin is the tongue of angels.

Consider:

Credo in unum Deum.
Patrem omnipotentem,
factorem caeli et terrae,
visibilium omnium et invisibilium.
Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum,
Filium Dei unigentum.
Et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula,
Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine,
Deum verum de Deo vero;
genitum non factum,
consubstantialem Patri,
per quem omnia facta sunt;
qui propter nos hominess
et propter nostrum salutem
descendit de caelis.
Et incarnates est de Spiritu Sancto
ex Maria Virgine,
et homo factus est.
Crucifixus etiam pro nobis
Sub Pontio PIlato;
Passus et sepultus est.
Et resurrexit tertia die
secundum scripturas;
et ascendit in caelum,
sedet ad dexteram Patris.
Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum
et vitiam venture saeculi. Amen.

This is a version of the Nicene Creed of the Catholic Church in Latin. I find it poetic, epic, rhythmical, reverent, supranatural. To me, it is the best humanly possible rendition of the language of the heavenly court. I have made several stilted attempts to learn Latin over the years, never succeeding farther than the rudimentaries. I kick myself because it was offered to me as a freshman in high school, and I elected not to take the class. I have a Latin bible and I have one of those Latin-made-easy books, so maybe I’ll be able to fulfill that left-field wish once I’m financially independent.

I bought a CD yesterday of some choral works of Thomas Tallis (1505-1585). Tallis is the composer if you are looking for spiritually charged vocal stuff. If you’re somewhat familiar with classical music you may recognize Ralph Vaughan Williams’ instrumental Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, one of the most goose-bump rendering pieces in all Western music, and what inspired me to hunt this out. The CD begins with Spem in Alium, a choral piece written for 40 voices, eight choirs of five voices each. Awesome. The rest of the CD contains several masses and hymns, similar in style and form, all very inspiring, relaxing, and, for a music geek like me, overwhelming.

Check thou it out!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tertium Organum


The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said (according to Borges), “Many men mistake the buying of a book for the buying of the contents of the book.” As I look around my cluttered writing office and scratch my head thinking up something to write, I have to agree, being among the guilty.

If my poor memory serves me rightly, I believe it was the (Turkish? Greek? Armenian?) mystic Gurdjieff who said that to fully understand a book, one must read it three times. The first time it should be read straight through, as one reads a newspaper or periodical. The second time, much more carefully, slowly, methodically, pausing frequently, trying to soak in the author’s main ideas. And the third time, with the aim to teach the contents of the book to another without the aid of the book.

Unfortunately, I have yet to get even a quarter of the way into a first reading of any book by the (Turkish? Greek? Armenian?) mystic.

I am nearing the halfway point of Tertium Organum, a philosophical treatise by a disciple and companion of Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky. What a truly fascinating book! Why isn’t this work more widely known? I originally cracked it in 2005, while writing my second novel, since it deals with a subject essential to my book: higher dimensions. I only managed twenty or so pages back then. But now I’ve slogged through over a hundred, and it’s quite rewarding. Ouspensky is describing our universe in a way which I have never quite had it described to me before. I’m not sure I understand it, and I am far from mastering it, but I feel intuitively that there may be something here. It jives with my physics readings, and seems compatible with Catholic teaching (so far – towards the end, according to the table of contents, he deals with “supermen” and such, so we’ll see, though I’m doubtful). Compatibility to both is a necessity for me to take any metaphysic seriously.

This is a book I want to read again. And possibly, a third time. There’s meat here, without a doubt, and it’s kept my intent interest over the past week or so. I’ll try to post on it later on, if I can be satisfied that I’m doing it any justice.

As an aside, Ouspensky speaks frequently of Kant, and from what little I’ve gleaned it seems that Kant’s metaphysics is remarkably prescient of quantum mechanics. I am so over my head here. I borrowed a small book on Kant from the library, a “Cliff’s-notes”-type of summary of his philosophy, as well as a slightly longer review of his work and theories. Oh to have more time! More time to read, to study, to learn, to think, to meditate, to create, to write, to teach! Oh indeed!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Uniquity

Can I tell you something? Whisper something in your ear? Good.

Can I tell you a simple thought, one that’s been on my mind for several weeks now? It’s only four words, but four very powerful words. Four unexpected words. Words that you may have read before, in different sentences, with different meanings, but four words that are electrically charged from some crazy kind of ethereal dimension, reaching out to whoever chooses to meditate upon them with some ill understood type of spiritual energy. What is this thought, you ask?

Okay. I’ll tell. It’s this:

This time is unique.

If you give this sentence a small amount of thought, it appears somewhat obvious and apparent. After all, there is only one “present.” Only one “now.” And, yes, that time is unique, because all the googolplex of permutations that all come to existence, now, will never all be in this exact state again. So, yes, this time is unique.

Millions of people sleep through this. And that’s just in your neck of the woods alone. If we consider the global population, I would safely guess that 99.99999998 percent of mankind yawns and continues to do what it has done before simply because it is what has been done before. That’s if it even considers my four-word sentence at all.

Since some point in February, these words have been ricocheting in the three pound watermush housed inside my skull, surfacing to my previously drowsing third eye thingamabob maybe a ten or twelve times a day.

This time is unique.

I do not want to go too deeply into my personal situation; LE prides his privacy. But I’d like to generalize it a bit, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, some individual who chances upon this, today or in the year 3145 AD, might get a prodding to make the smallest of changes in the course of the 86,400 decisions that are available to him every single day.

Because I got that ol’ nagging feeling that this time is unique, it’s putting a check against me from reverting back to my old ways. How so? A really, really bad conscience, for one, not to mention possible life-altering health implications from a physical point of view. Mentally, my old mind set, like a rebel insurgency, has been constantly sniping at my new mind set, whose fifth column news media is doing it’s best to undermine it. Argh! Economically, I’m out of work, and it’s at this intersection where my conscience and our new formula, “This time is unique” is vibrating its strongest.

There’s not as many options before me as I’d like. Nothing sure, either, due in part to the weak economy and also, in part, well, let’s be honest, to a weak will. The bases aren’t loaded, and it’s not the bottom of the ninth, but it isn’t the first inning, either. To further the analogy, there’s a man on first, one out, and it’s the bottom of the fifth. I’m up, and … let’s see … I’m pinch hitting, and haven’t seen any real action all season. Spent plenty of hours in the batting cages, etc, but this is the first time I’m facing a real pitcher. Get what I’m saying, without me actually saying it?

I think when a neon sign bent into the words “This time is unique” is flashing constantly before you, you gotta take heed and notice it. Face it, the time will not always be unique, despite what appears to be obviously and patently true. It’s kind of like kairos versus chronos, two Greek concepts of time, which I won’t go into here, save that the latter describes what a ticking clock measures, while the former refers to our subjective experience of time. And I believe that subjective quality has an objective, or Objective, part of it, too.

So take my advice, as I swallow hard and try to follow it, too. Do the unexpected. Do something different. Do something new. Take a chance, if that’s what’s called for. It takes courage, lots and lots and lots of it, but that will be supplied, I believe, if you believe.

This time is unique.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This Craft of Verse

Jorge Luis Borges fascinates me to no end. His short stories are like Hitchcock movies, or, perhaps even better, like The Godfather. You return to them time and time again. Every time you go back, you discover something new, something you hadn’t noticed before. (For my wife, the movie would be Caddyshack.)

Anyway, last week I finished a small book called Borges: This Craft of Verse. I finished it in two days; it was such a quick read I didn’t have time to put it over in the “Current Reads” section. The book is simply the transcription of six lecture Borges gave in the mid-60s in America, one chapter per lecture, each chapter running about fifteen or twenty pages. Obviously, he’s talking about poetry, something which I have only a passing knowledge, but he wanders to discuss all things literary, which interests me greatly.

In addition to being famous for his somewhat bizarre, definitely metaphysical short stories, as well as being a noted essayist on various subjects philosophic and literary, Borges is a respected poet. Though he’s a polyglot and speaks English fluently (his mother, I believe, was English and raised him with an education in her culture), he writes primarily in Spanish. Since I and a large percentage of his audience do not speak Español, this presents a problem as we need to rely on translations. A few years ago I did check out a book containing some of his poems (translated) and was quite moved by some. So, despite this hurdle, I enthusiastically read this book (I also believe he did the lectures in English, relying on his photographic – or auditoric – memory, as he’s blind).

What struck me, stayed with me?

First and foremost, the man loved poetry.* His earliest memories are of being in his father’s library, seeing the books, the bindings, the titles. Vividly does he recall his father reading Keats to him, and the fact that at that moment, at such a young age, he realized he himself was “literary.” One must “drink in” poetry – it’s not a task, but a passion, a joy! One must treasure that first impression, that first experience, when reading a new poem, for it will never return. “Art happens every time we read a poem.”

Also, this sentence prompted something in me to write it down: “Whenever I have dipped into books of aesthetics, I have had an uncomfortable feeling that I was reading the works of astronomers who never looked at the stars.”

A lecture is devoted to the metaphor; Borges feels that of the hundreds or thousands of metaphors in literature, most can be traced back to patterns. Perhaps a dozen or so. For him, the finest metaphor ever devised was the old one about that Chinese philosopher dreaming he was a butterfly …

In another Borges speaks long on the epic, the oldest of all the forms of poetry. The poet, in ages past, was a maker, a teller of tales, epic tales. He recalls that the greatest teachers of mankind were speakers (Christ, Buddha, Pythagoras …) not writers. And laments the state of “modern” literature, with the novel as its centerpiece, “deconstructing” the hero whereas the epic of old held him up as a shining example of what man could become. The closest we come to a modern-day epic, in his opinion, is The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T. E. Lawrence’s tales of his time with the Arabs (and one of my favorite movies, btw). The bottom line is that people are hungering and thirsting for the epic. Epic is one of the things men need.

The pitfalls and pinnacles of translation occupy the subject of another lecture. For him, the finest of all English translations is FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He lists good and bad translations of numerous works as if rattling off old acquaintances. And he spends a bit of time on the notion that literal translations were unheard of in times past. In the golden ages, translators were thinking of something far worthier. They wanted to prove that the vernacular was as capable of a great poem as the original.

There’s advice for writers sprinkled throughout the book, particularly the final chapter. I already posted on it, here. But, how ’bout this: “Being a writer means simply being true to your imagination. What you write is not something factually true, but true to something deeper. Be loyal to the dream and not to the circumstances. There is no satisfaction is telling a story as it actually happened. When you write, forget all about yourself. Convey only what the dream is. Anything suggested is far more effective than anything laid down . . . When something is merely said or – better still – hinted at, there’s a kind of hospitality in our imagination.”

Perhaps you’ve heard all this before, but it doesn’t hurt coming from the mouth of a master, eh?

Because of this book I am going to read something by Kipling. Something by Mark Twain. Robert Louis Stevenson. Oh, and try my hand (again) at Shakespeare, particularly the Sonnets. So now my reading list is back up past a hundred. Where to find the time!


* Borges died in 1986 in his mid-80s, blind or at least functionally blind for over half of that (forgive me if I’m off on the dates, I’m writing this from my less-than-Borgesian memory). He is one of the select few individuals I would have loved to have had dinner with. Hmmm, there’s the subject of a future post …

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Post-Game Analysis

So, what do I think about my little story that I’ve bared for you?

First of all, the title. I’m not sure where I was going with it. I think it was supposed to be a play on the last name of the poor unfortunate miner. There’s two versions of the story on my laptop, one being “Carson Fells Nevada” and the other “Carson Falls Nevada.” I think Carson Falls evokes, to my weird mind anyway, black-and-white 1950s news reels of a-bomb tests. And “Falls” or “Fells” implies something bad happening. I don’t know. But I think the story needs a better title.

To summarize, we watch these two G-men types assert themselves quite forcefully in a clinic somewhere out in the Nevadan desert. They’ve been somehow alerted to an injured miner whose been brought in the night before. Something’s odd with the patient, and we learn that he’s possessed in some way by an alien being. One of the agents is a thug, but the other is on the thoughtful side, perhaps in the process of developing a conscience despite enthusiastic promotions up the chain of command. However, they both intimidate nurses and doctors, but through different means. There’s talk of an atom bomb range and a scouting vessel shot down, and the agents are interrogating the beastie for the location of the mother ship. But something unspecified is different about this alien, or this encounter, though the protagonist has dealt with such possessions before. Ultimately, things quickly escalate out of control, and in the blink of an eye we think the agents lose their lives.


What’s good about the story

* 2,600 words – perfect length! (It is my shortest short story, to date.)

* Hints at the time period involved (1950s): “man from Mars”, “Atomic Energy Commission” (1946-1974), doctors smoking in hospitals.

* The contrast between the two agents. Charles is black-and-white, whereas Gilchrist is flexible. Charles is more brute-force, whereas Gilchrist is more tactical. (However, Charles’ efforts work where Gilchrist’s don’t in intimidating the doctor.)

* Naming their boss “Mr. Gray” conveys the shadiness of the organization they belong to. It also calls to mind the “Grays,” those big-eyed big-headed aliens certain people believe exist.

* I like the way we’re in an “undeclared war” with the hints that this is going on in a worldwide way (“Bolivia”)

* Charles, true to form, in a burst of testosterone thinks he blows away the bad guy. I think his “compliments of the Atomic Energy Commission!” line is pure genius.

* How the aliens refer to themselves in the plural – “we might ask the same of you …” (However, inconsistently, I switch it back to singular a couple sentences later. That hast to be corrected.)


What’s not so good …

* As stated, the title doesn’t really mean anything or make sense.

* Should’ve including the words “flying saucer” – more “period” – what else spells out the 1950s better?

* Perhaps the miner’s condition could be described a little more graphically to pull in the reader with sympathy or to cause the reader to dislike the alien more viscerally (though it does get a bit more graphic near the end).

* The interrogation of Dr. Heywood doesn’t really add anything pertinent to the storyline.

* Does Carson’s fast heartbeat really clue the reader in to a possible possession? Couldn’t something better be thought up? And I should do a little research to see what would actually be done in an ER to stabilize and speeding heart instead of making up a drug (“diginamin”) and a treatment.

* Gilchrist’s Coke-bottle glasses come up once, near the end. They should’ve been introduced earlier in the story. What says more 1950s, though: Coke-bottle glasses or Horn-rimmed glasses? Hmmm.

* Should describe this serum that drives the alien critters batty a little more.

* Charles seems a bit uninformed at the end of the story … might there be a better way of conveying facts to the reader than through one supposedly experienced agent asking another one basic questions?

* The seemingly cautious and intelligent Gilchrist seems to take an unnecessary chance at the end of the story that fatally backfires.


I don’t know if the ending, meaning the last paragraph, is good or bad. On first reading, it seems very rushed, almost as if I said to myself, hey, LE, you’re coming up to 2,650 words – time to end it now! But after some thought, I think I understand my initial gut reaction writing it. I wanted to convey something happening lightning-quick, inexplicable, and completely unanticipated. How else to kill these two (hopefully portrayed) competent government agents? And ten years ago I was in a very anti-climactic rage. Everything I wrote had an anticlimactic ending. The bad guys won, the good deed gets punished, and the earth explodes. I would like to think I’m more nuanced now, but I decided to keep the ending as originally written.

You know what? I should do this sort of thing to all my short stories. Maybe one’ll be good enough to get published!

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Carson Fells 3

The conclusion of my crazy little story ...


“Is it him?” Charles asked.

“I think so. The details all seem to fall into place.”

Charles inched closer, unnaturally nervous. “Look what it’s doing to him,” he whispered, incredulous. “Why do they have to do it this way?”

“I don’t know.”

“Take a guess, Bill.”

Gilchrist adjust his latex gloves and sighed, opening the leather bag on the side table. “We’re in an undeclared war, I suppose. No one on the outside knows of their existence. No real reason to. It’s a way of staying covert. Ever see one outside a host?”

Charles’ eyes lit up. “Body-less? No – have you?”

“Once. In Bolivia – ”

“You were involved in that?” Charles fished around for straps to bind Carson’s arms to the side of the gurney, repeated the process with the old man’s legs.

“How do you think I made section chief at thirty-two?”

Charles whistled approval as he put on latex gloves of his own. “Gilchrist, I have new found respect for you. Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?”

“Cause then I’d have to kill you.” A wink through Coke-bottle glasses. “Nah. Never came up. Enough talk, let’s do this.”

Charles withdrew a vial and syringe from the leather pouch. Holding both up to the dim ceiling light, he drew a full hypodermic of the chemical, then pressed on the plunger resulting in a misty spray above Carson.

The miner’s eyes opened.

“Quickly, Charles. We don’t have much time.”

The agent injected the serum into Carson’s arm, a full dose. Charles motioned over to the table. “That thing on?”

The recorder was still running. “Yes. Any second now – ”

All the muscles in Carson’s body convulsed simultaneously, eliciting an agonized shriek from the burned man. Blood sprayed straight up in the air. He thrashed wildly, tendons and veins straining, but the restraints held. Gilchrist felt his skin crawl as he heard the old man hyperventilating. I’ve set free a dozen outsiders, but still can’t get used to the way they discard a body . . .

Charles unclipped his revolver and checked the chambers. Through grit teeth he asked, “They can’t live outside a human host, right Gilchrist?”

“No. Not long, anyway. There’s no danger, just don’t get too close.”

Then Carson quieted, and relaxed, and a curiously deflated look spread across his features.

“Hmmmmm . . . ” Gilchrist stepped back. At this stage, anything out of the ordinary was bad news. He looked at Charles, who suddenly seemed ready to bolt. He held up a hand: “Wait.” He had an odd thought. “Maybe it wants to communicate.”

“With enough juice in him to drop an elephant?”

Gilchrist edged toward the foot end of the gurney, not wanting to get too close but not wanting to miss anything out of the ordinary, a clue, anything he could report back to Mr. Gray, something that could bring an edge in an undeclared war.

He whispered: “Who are you?”

The old miner focused on something above him, then searched out Gilchrist. He smiled and some dark liquid trickled down the corner of his mouth. The real Carson is dead, Gilchrist decided.

The head then raised, as if on a string. In a gravelly voice it said, “You will be wise to let me go.”

Gilchrist backed up, noted Charles doing the same. He glanced behind him and saw the recorder reels rolling. An idea struck him. “You have no where to hide. No where to run. But we’re willing to deal.”

The head turned to survey Charles, then swiveled back to Gilchrist. “You are in no position to deal with us. Let us go.”

“No.” He nodded to Charles, who withdrew a second syringe from the leather pouch, in slow and full view of the old man strapped to the gurney.

“What is it you want?” the head asked.

“We might ask the same of you.”

Carson’s smile broadened, and it only served to strengthen Gilchrist’s odd feeling that something wasn’t right. “We want what all species want,” it oozed. “Survival.”

Charles put the syringe down on the table and placed his colt revolver in full view of the bedridden figure. “Where’s the mother ship? Answer that, or it’s vaya con dios.”

“We don’t understand you.”

Gilchrist waved Charles back and pointed to the syringe. “We shot down a scouting vessel over our atom bomb testing range last night. We think you were the pilot. True or false.”

Carson nodded. “But I am not what you think I am.”

“Where is the mother ship hiding?”

“You would be wise to let me go.”

“Where is the mother ship?”

“I am not what you think I am.”

“Then who are you?” Gilchrist nearly screamed, clearly phased. Then a moment to regain his composure, as the beast beneath him lay studying him peaceably.

“I am not what you think I am.”

Gilchrist snatched the syringe from Charles, pounced on the miner and stabbed him with it. “Fry in hell,” he muttered under his breath, as he’d done a dozen times before, and jumped back.

Carson writhed again, trembling more violently than any man should. Gilchrist and Charles backed up, arms outstretched, unsure of what would happen next. Someone was pounding on the locked door. In between enormous gulps for air, the thing bellowed: “I bring a message for you!”

Gilchrist panicked. This was outside his realm of experience. Mr. Gray always said, always drilled into his boys that anything unusual is dangerous. Be careful. Now here he was with an outsider before him, with two hypodermics of chemical sizzling its brain, crying out that it had a message for humanity –

“What message?” Gilchrist demanded. Knocks and shouts at the door behind them.

The thing grew in strength. One by one the bed binds were tearing, threatening to burst at any moment –

“What message!” Gilchrist cried. Shouts of dismay echoed from the hallway.

Carson abruptly calmed, deflated of pain and rage. In a clear, human voice, eyes locked with Gilchrist, it spoke: “Please just leave us alone.”

Charles stepped forward, colt still drawn, and aimed it at the miner’s head. “Take this message back to your fellow Martians, comrade. Courtesy of the Atomic Energy Commision.” He cocked the hammer and fired.

Without warning a thing the size of a man materialized above the bed, a horrible oozing monstrosity, becoming the mass of two, four, eight men in the blink of an eye, increasing and engulfing Charles in the process, expanding to fill the hospital room. Gilchrist turned to run, actually made it to the locked door, but his final thought was, Who will miss me . . .



THE END


Or, should we see (as I imagine we should) the words "THE END" appear as that little blobby nasty who just ate our two protagonists floats in the air and resolves itself into a question mark, a la the final shots of the movie The Blob (1958) ???

Tomorrow, some analysis, for what it may be worth ...

Carson Fells 2

Part 2 of the short story. Part 1 here. After Part 3, a post of my thoughts, good and bad, about it ...


Charles grimaced and studied his right hand, flexing and examining it. “Damn but that doctor has a hard skull.”

“Well, help me get him into a chair.” Gilchrist hauled the heavy man up into a sitting position. “Grab me the smelling salt from my briefcase.”

The doctor stirred, tenderly testing the back of his head, a sleepwalker searching for a light switch in the dark.


Simultaneously Carson shrieked out – both Gilchrist and Charles jumped – and then was silent, as in a deep coma.

Heywood struggled to his feet, but Charles walked over and pushed him down into the chair, heavily. “Doctor, time is of the essence. Please answer all my associate’s questions, or I’ll kill you.”

I always get jazzed when we say that to people, Gilchrist thought, somewhat ashamed. The doctor’s eyes grew wider than quarters, interior emotions still on full display, and both agents noted a slight tremble to his hands that wasn’t there before. Good. Maybe they’d get this all over with before it was too late.

He sat down quietly close to the doctor and nodded to Charles, who nodded back after turning on the recorder.

“Okay, doctor. When was this man brought in?” He flipped opened his notepad to confirm facts and fill in information.

Heywood licked blood from his lips. “Uh . . . little before midnight. My shift started at midnight – ”

“Good. Who was the admitting doctor?”

“. . . Baines.”

Charles was at the door, ostensibly checking the security.

“Who brought him in?”

Heywood held up his hands. “Look, fellas, it happened before I got here. I don’t know what else I can say.”

“Just tell the truth,” Charles grumbled from across the room.

“I can tell you what the nurse told me.”

“That’s Nurse Kelley?”

“No, Walters. Kate Walters. She said that some – two other gentlemen, miners, uh, with, uh, Slow Range Ore Refinery, brought him in. They knew him, found him on the highway, in this condition.”

“That jibes,” Charles added, approaching.

I wish that gorilla would find some more cigarettes, Gilchrist thought sourly. He’s frightening the subject. Out of the corner of his eye he watched Charles poke around Carson, in morbid fascination.

“Are these miners still here?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

“Would Nurse Walters have taken down their names? We’ll need to see them, too.”

Heywood massaged the back of his head with a shaky arm. “I – yes. They supplied her his name, where they found him. Kate would have gotten their . . . ”

“Are Baines or Walters still here?”

“Baines? Lord, no. Nurse Walters is still on shift, though.”

“See if you can fetch me this Walters,” Gilchrist said to Charles, who slowly obliged and left. “All right, Doctor. Just a few more questions. Was Carson conscious when he was brought in?”

“In and out.”

“What did he say?”

Heywood hesitated, and Gilchrist caught it. “He was babbling,” the doctor remembered, slowly, “mostly nonsense. At least, it didn’t make sense to me.”

Gilchrist leaned back and felt a pang of regret. Heywood would have to be taken care of, and soon. Quite soon. Though the doctor came off a pompous pain, the agent felt a deep distaste for this area of the job. Oh well . . .

“One final question, then you can go. Did Carson have anything . . . unusual about his demeanor?”

Heywood rubbed the scruff of his beard. “What do you mean? Even in Nevada radiation poisoning isn’t an everyday occurrence.”

Gilchrist chuckled with reassurance. “What I mean to say, Doctor, is, was there anything unusual in the process of stabilizing the patient? Anything out of the ordinary?”

The doctor smiled, brow wrinkled. “Yes! Now that I think about it, yes! The man’s heart rate was through the ceiling! Two hundred beats a minute! Incredible. Incredible that the man didn’t immediately go into cardiac arrest. We stabilized it with some Diginamin, an intravenous relaxant. But it must have happened as soon as he got into the emergency room. He would never have survived if it was happening out in the desert, where they found him, thirty miles north or so. Imagine that! I don’t know why I overlooked that.”

Gilchrist grinned and stood, helping Heywood to uncertain legs. “Thank you for your cooperation. Your government would appreciate it if you forgot completely about this little incident.”

Backing towards the door, Heywood nodded vigorously. “Oh, yes, sir. You don’t have to worry about me.”

You don’t know how right you are, Gilchrist smiled to the walking dead man.

Heywood, in his hasty attempt to exit the room, almost bumped into Charles, entering. Their dance was quite comical, and Charles took sadistic glee in seeing the cringing doctor flee. He closed the door behind him, locked it, and the two agents approached the figure on the bed.



Last part later this evening ...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Carson Fells Nevada

An early story (over ten years old) festering in the desk drawer of my C drive, in three parts ...


“So how’s our Man from Mars?”

The black suit shrugged. “Hard to tell. Might not make it through the night.”

“Radiation poisoning?”

“Yup.”

The two stared down at the shape on the gurney. There wasn’t much that this backwater clinic could to alleviate the soft semi-delirious moaning. A nurse entered periodically to adjust the IV drip, and a cigarette-smoking doctor checked in every twenty minutes, casting sour glances all around, to studiously eyeball the unchanging chart at the foot of the bed.

“We can’t let that happen . . .”

Gilchrist waited for the medical staff to leave, then sat in a folding chair and opened his briefcase. “You know, Charles,” he told black-suit, “we may not have a choice in the matter.”

“I don’t believe that. There’s always a choice.” Charles removed his crisp jacket and rolled up his sleeves. “I’ll lock the door.”

“Don’t do that,” Gilchrist blurted, glancing up. “At least, not yet. Let me feel out the doctor, first. Please.”

“Right-O. I’ll be back. Gonna find some smokes and a Coke.” Charles left, but only after throwing a backward glance at the bed, and the uneasy form under the sheets.

Gilchrist sighed, rubbed his temples. He removed a small black leather bag from the briefcase as well as the tape brecorder, sealed the case and placed both items on it. Standing, he slowly pulled the bedsheets back. The figure before his was a man, late-fifties or early sixties, hard to tell. Could chronologically be thirty. Dirty, ragged clothing. Second and third degree burns over just about all of the exposed skin; welts already appearing on the face, neck, lower arms, the triangle of chest. Though in obvious pain, the morphine drip mercifully kept him just under consciousness.

Charles would be sure to monkey with that, before the night was up.

A different nurse stormed in and cornered Gilchrist, planting her hands on her hips. “Doctor Heywood would like to know your business here,” she said sternly. “Mr. Carson has to be kept in a sterile environment – ”

Gilchrist reached into his jacket and calmly handed her his identification card. Immediately her expression clouded over, and she took a few steps back. She opened her mouth, closed it, and opened it again, but no sound came out. Gilchrist benignly smiled, reached out to her and ran a thumb over her name badge.

“Please show the doctor in, Nurse . . . Kelley. This is a matter extremely important to national security. I’m going to have to ask you to refrain from speaking about Mr. Carson or our presence here. Do you understand?”

Nurse Kelley backed away quickly. “Yes, sir. I will show the doctor in.” The swinging door cloesd softly behind her.

“Thank you,” Gilchrist said.

He returned attention to the prone man, Mr. Carson. Placing the leather bag gingerly on an adjacent table with the tape recorder, he neared for a better look. Once he secured a pair of plastic gloves on both hands he checked the body once, quickly. Pupils dilated, almost blood-red from broken vessels. Hair falling out in clumps. Tongue swollen; blood issuing from somewhere deep in the mouth. He reviewed the chart at the foot of the bed that the cigarette-smoking doctor found so compelling. Temperature: 104.

What is your first name, Carson, he wondered. Do you have a family? Who is missing you right now?

“Can I help you, Mr. . . . ”

Gilchrist spun, startled out of his reverie. Apparently this older and chubbier doctor was Heywood. “My name does not concern you. I need to – ”

“Yes it does. In my clinic, everything concerns me.”

The agent displayed his identification a second time, but saw it did not have it’s accustomed effect. “Doctor Heywood, I need to know everything you know about this man, particularly the circumstances which brought him here.” He paused, observing with concealed amusement the emotional display on Heywood’s face, from indignation to condescension. He wondering how long this pointless and dangerous standoff would last, then set the over-under at forty-five seconds.

Half a minute later, the doctor turned away abruptly. “I’m calling the police.”

And Charles slugged him in the back of the head. Heywood’s bulk, instantly limp and dead weight in the flesh, crashed to the floor.

Gilchrist raced to the door, sliding it shut quickly after a quick look-see out into the hall. “Charles!” he hissed, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Getting the job done, partner. You heard Mr. Gray. No outside authorities involved. Period.”

“Yeah, but, try to take it easy on the locals, all right?”



To be continued ...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quantum of Solace


If James Bond is seeking revenge for his murdered lady friend and we’re observing it, does that make his solace a particle or a wave?

After postponing it as long as I could, I finally had to give in and watch Quantum of Solace with the Mrs. It’s the second James Bond movie featuring Daniel Craig as 007. Regular visitors know I’m a mild fan of the series; my wife and I enjoy those summer marathons when they show all the Bond movies going back to the classic ones made before either of us was born. I tend to favor Roger Moore a bit over Sean Connery, only because he’s the Bond I grew up with (I saw The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker as a boy in the theaters), but I acknowledge his cartoonishness compared to the real thing.

The real thing being, of course, Ian Fleming’s conception of the man. See here.

Intellectually, I don’t like the new incarnation; however – and this is a big, big however – viscerally it appeals to me. Craig’s Bond is a brute, almost an automatic killing machine. Unstoppable, fearless, ruthless. He’ll stop at nothing to get the bad guy, and, in the process, serve Queen and country. And M, of course, now affectionately referred to as “Mom” by all her boys at MI6 (What would Fleming think of that 21st-century development?) This Bond is lightning quick, trained in every martial art system devised by man, and proficient in just about everything, including gambling, self-resuscitation, plane piloting, iPhone supertechnology, geology, and fashion. He’s not really a talker, at least compared to his previous portrayers, though the witty remark slips through now and then.

In other words, he’s Jason Bourne.

Which can be a good thing. The opening scenes of Casino Royale, the unstoppable, fearless, and ruthless footchase to capture the terrorist suspect, is pure genius. As a superior example of character definition, I likened it to one of the early scenes in the first Bourne movie where that hero avoids capture in a US embassy. But being overly influenced by Bourne can be a bad thing, too. It’s all due to one simple, hyphenated word:

Shaky-cam.

You know, when the hero grapples with the thug, and all of a sudden it’s like that 70s disaster movie Earthquake suddenly meets cute with the bridge of the Star Trek Enterprise taking massive photon torpedoe damage from the Klingon ship, have a whirlwind courtship and spawn a bastard child before splitting up, and our tax dollars have to support the damn thing. It’s like watching Cloverfield on a trampoline with a crazy uncle knocking your feet out from beneath you with a pillow.

In other words, shaky-cam makes me want to throw up, and there’s by far too much use of it in Quantum of Solace. Everytime Bond sees a motorcycle, I realize in thirty seconds I’m gonna be vomiting as he’s sure to be poppin’ wheelies and vaulting over fences and cars on it. Every time Bond approaches a closed door I reach for the dramamine as I realize in ten seconds he’s gonna be flipping and Greco-Roman wrestling some greasy-haired fashionable young thug. Seriously, every ten minutes there’s about two-and-a-half minutes of shaky-cam, which makes for about twenty-five minutes of deep sea Perfect Storm-type sea sick nausea in this movie.

All right – you get my point. Now, you’re wondering: did LE like Quantum, barf-bag aside? Well … the plot was a little too convoluted, the bad guy’s world domination scheme a little to mundane, the chicks filled with a little too much testosterone, and some kinda neat possibilites left unexplored and unfulfilled.

What I’d like to see in the next one is a really, really good villain, a supervillain, something like a nod back to the old days of the 60s and 70s (which Mike Myers parodied perfectly). Somebody like Geoffrey Rush would be the perfect nemesis, because a Bond bad guy needs to be a little odd physically and has to be able to really, really convey menace. Even someone from left-field, like, say, Dennis Quaid, with his best Texas twang and semi-psychotic stare would be welcome. Enough of these Eurotrash weenies. With three Bourne movies and now two Daniel Craig movies, Eurotrash weenies are now definitely overrepresented in film. Call SAG and complain. Oh, and the bad guy’s plan has to be really, really grandiose. Nothing like cornering the market on, oh, manganese or something. Remember Bloefeld’s schemes? Stromberg and his Under-the-Sea totalitarian utopia? How about Drax wiping out humanity to start an new Eden in outer space? I mean, c’mon!

I do think the Daniel Craig version of Bond rocks, though. The base is there. But, the next story has got to be really, really, really well-thought out, well-written, and, well, just damn good.

Grade: C+

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lucifer Starlit

Read this poem last night under a Borgesian spell; not quite sure what to make of it, other than being awestruck by its imagery. George Meredith’s the author, a moderately successful and quite prolific Victorian novelist and poet. I had never before heard of him until Senor Borges quotes a few lines of his. Read it slowly and carefully, allow your imagination a bit of free reign. I think it ultimately gives hope, like something out of the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse.


On a starr’d night Prince Lucifer uprose
Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend
Above the rolling ball in cloud part screen’d
Where sinners hugg’d their spectre of repose.
Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
And now upon his western wing he lean’d,
Now his huge bulk o’er Afric’s sands careen’d,
Now the black planet shadow’d Arctic snows.
Soarning through wider zones that prick’d his scars
With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
He reach’d a middle height, and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he look’d, and sank.
Around the ancient track march’d, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Loneliest Sight in the World

One forgotten night, outside my attic window, I first caught sight of it. While everyone in my family slept, as my brother’ soft breathing padded the bedroom we shared, I lay awake, staring at the striped pattern of light and dark along the ceiling. Unable to sleep, I pulled the covers aside (it was cool enough outside to warrant blankets but not cold enough to turn up the furnace), and quietly threw my legs over the side. Our desk kept our beds apart and a single window lay behind it, shutters closed but not closed enough to keep all the light out. I tip-toed over to the windowsill, careful to avoid the pattern of creaking floorboards I had almost memorized.

I don’t remember when I first saw the loneliest sight in the world; it must have been sometime in the fall of 1979. I would part the shutters and stare at it for an unknown while. I don’t know how long exactly each night, but I couldn’t allow myself to observe it too long, else it would swallow me up. From the vantage point of our second-floor attic bedroom, I studied the terrain beneath me with morbid fascination. Something unnamable drew me to it, attracted me magnetically, something amorphously evil and despairing and completely utterly heartbreaking.

A single tree grew in the center of our neighbor’s front yard, a few yards from the intersection of two side streets. A park lay just beyond, with swings and monkeybars dim outlines in the twilight, surrounded by a dilapidated chainlink fence. The witch’s tower, a twenty-foot slide in the image of an evil hag dominated the park, but that was just a dark mountainous shapeshift just beyond the reach of my sight. It is the tree in my neighbor’s yard that held my attention.

Across the street was a single streetlight, that odd off-color white, as if a tiny hint of purple or green mixed with its fluorescence, tinting everything beneath it an eerie green-gray. Granted everything the character of a nineteenth century etching. The tree swayed in the cool breeze, almost bare of leaves, solitary. Not a full-grown oak but certainly not a sapling, I could probably wrap my chubby adolescent arms round its trunk. I probably did, in the warmth and security of the day. But at night, there was something off-putting about it. I imagined it as a lonely sentinel, duty-bound to stand guard on our perimeter, keeping the vileness of the witch and that park at bay. A protector, but one you did not want to get close to, because .. perhaps … perhaps it could not distinguish friend from foe. I shudder to think what might happen to me had I been locked out of my house, pounding unanswered on the front door, that tree barely twenty feet away and towering over me.

More nights than I can care to recall I quietly opened those shudders, long after the house had fallen asleep, and checked on the sentinel. Did it see me, watch me as I watched it? I noted the piles of dead leaves accumulating at its roots. Soon the snows would come and its trunk would be the only object breaking the uniformity of the white grounds, its branches jutting out at rightangles holding up stoically under the weight of the snow. Holding up the weight of the whole world. It calls to mind another symbol, another tangible object I have seen, more and more of quite recently, and have grown quite fond of despite my fear as I ponder its deeper meaning.

Drove through the old neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, and the tree was no longer there.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Advice from Borges

Read this last night, and thought to offer it for a side-by-side comparison to the Gerrold post of yesterday.

If Ray Bradbury is my literary master, the writer whose style I’d most enjoy being compared to, Jorge Luis Borges is my ultimate model for inspiration. I share many, many traits with him, other than, of course, his early success and phenomenal genius. In a parallel universe I majored in literature in college, and did my dissertation on the life and works of this incredible man. To say anymore would not do this man justice, not in this short post, nor could any post I could write, really.

Anyway, here’s what I read, in a book of a couple of lectures he gave in the 1960s.


Had I to give advice to writers (and I do not think they need it, because everyone has to find out things for himself), I would tell them simply this: I would ask them to tamper as little as they can with their own work. I do not think tinkering does any good. The moment comes when one has found out what one can do – when one has found one’s natural voice, one’s rhythm. Then I do not think that slight emendations should prove useful.

When I write, I do not think of the reader (because the reader is an imaginary character), and I do not think of myself (perhaps I am an imaginary character also), but I think of what I am trying to convey and I do my best not to spoil it.


Humble little ant that I am, I agree wholeheartedly!

Now: find Labyrinths, Borges’ collection of short stories, essays, and poems, and browse through it. The pieces that left a profound impression on me are: “The Library of Babel,” “Funes the Memorious,” and, of course, “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” Sheer weirdness cloaked in the respectability of literary timelessness!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Writing Numbers


In one of his “how to” books on the craft of writing science fiction, David Gerrold stated that you need to write a million words before you find your voice. Now, who is David Gerrold and why do I give this statement the weight I do? He’s the guy who wrote that Star Trek episode about the Tribbles. You know, the one where Kirk opens up the overhead compartment and is pummeled by a couple hundred of those furry hamster-sized thingies? It’s a perennial fan favorite, and Gerrold wrote it at age twenty-two. Since then, he’s written at least thirty-five SF books, fiction as well as non-fiction. I own and have read a couple.

Anyway, I kinda like that statement. Why? It gives you a marker, a concrete goal. “What gets measured gets done”-type stuff. Something to aim for as you begin to consider sending stuff out for publication.

How do I stack up so far?

Kirana novel --- 100,000 words
The Whale novel --- 100,000 words
15 short stories --- 90,000 words
KNE novella --- 25,000 words
This daily blog (2008) --- 200,000 words
This daily blog (2009) --- 45,000 words

Total --- 560,000 words

So, it looks like I’m a little past halfway toward finding my voice.

I say that a bit in jest. I’ve been writing off-and-on since age twelve. Remember Star Rats? By now I’m comfortable with my voice. Are there things that need improving? Heck yeah! Some technical stuff (use more metaphors and similes!), some thematic stuff (master foreshadowing, and make every detail significant to the work’s theme!), some plot stuff (tighten! tighten! tighten that story!). But I’m happy with the way I come across on the page. Much more so than the way I come across live in person, to be completely honest.

For me, then, it’s more like tweaking my voice.

I do have a lot of projects in the air right now. Man, this time next year I might even be at that million-word mark. What type of projects, you ask? There’d really be no excuse if I didn’t finish a third novel by years’ end. I’d also like to make some money doing this whole online thing; to that effect I’m starting up two niche blogs next month. I also want to send out my completed novels and begin the rejection-slip-collection process. Whale’s ending needs to be revised, but a couple hours’ focus, spread out over a week, should tighten that up. KNE is not finished, but I think it’ll make a great young adult-type SF novel. That could be finished in two or three weeks. And that short story I promised I’d post this week? Well, I re-read it, re-edited it, and have to spend an hour or so to finish the last page. But now I think it’s good enough to be sent out.

I have plenty of time, right now, between jobs, and I want to utilize that time to the fullest. I read somewhere, I forget where, that to waste time is the biggest sin of all.

Ars longa, vida brevis …

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Parable

Every day in the spring a certain farmer would go out to his fields and sow seeds. When harvest time came, he was quite surprised to find the trees in his garden yielded grapes.

“I really wanted figs,” he said quietly to himself.

When the snows melted and the ground thawed later that year, he sowed some more. Yet again, at harvest season, he was astonished to see only grape vines.

“I really, really wanted figs,” he said again, scratching his head. At the Great Feast that night, he told everyone who would listen of his problem.

“Every spring I sow seed and every fall I get grapes, even though I want figs.”

“What seeds did you sow?” was the invariable question put to the farmer.

“The seeds that are in my barn. They’ve always been there, and I’ve always used them.”

“Well, make sure you use only fig seeds.”

After the sun warmed the lands, the farmer went to his silo, got seed, and sowed as he had always done. And six months later, he was astonished, and, truth be told, a little angry at himself as he surveyed the great crop of grapes. He knew what the other villagers would say. But despite his promises to himself, he went ahead and complained to anyone who would listen at the Great Feast.

Years went by, and still the farmer only produced grapes, not his desired figs. And he grew bitter; for even a decent crop of figs would bring him much wealth, and he quite enjoyed their taste, as did his wife, his children, and his neighbors.

Finally, as a frail old man with only a small plot of land (for he had given away most of his acreage at the marriages of his children), he decided that this harvest season he would have a modest crop of figs to take care of him during his remaining years.

He went into his silo, filled his bags with seed, and went out to the field. However, this time he stopped. Before sowing the first seedling, he paused, and studied it carefully. After much deliberation, he realized it was a grape seed. This seed would not do. He put it back, drew out another, and studied that. After a moment he came to the same conclusion. All the seeds were grape seeds. If he wanted figs, he needed to plant fig seeds and only fig seeds.

The farmer then did something he never did before. He returned to the silo and refilled his bags with fig seeds, checked each one carefully, and then sowed. And that harvest season, his fields produced a rich yield of figs.

Let him who has ears listen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Inundata

Ugh.

So much on my To-Do list today I think my pulmonary vein closed up a few millimeters (that's just some gallows humor). Seriously, though, I have way too much to do for the amount of energy and enthusiasm I am currently capable of summoning.

I tried to get a witty and/or interesting post together last night, but coming down off my Easter-inspired sugar high and after putting screaming crying children to bed, I lacked the inspiration. Trust me, I tried. I did find a half-finished short story I wrote four or five years ago that I may post here because I think it's decent enough; perhaps I'll finish it up, too. So, look for that tomorrow and the next couple of days.

A couple of unpleasant phone calls to make today. Lots of filing, too. The office is a mess and I can't seem to find anything when I need it. Doctors bills are coming in. Quicken needs to be updated. The house needs a cleaning, laundry needs a-doing, children need to be shuttled here and there. I need to put on the sheriff's hat and become the chocolate and candy cop at home. Yay. There's follow-up on the head-hunters. Disability and unemployment paperwork. Spreadsheets to track everything.

See why I'm on the hunt for a deeper reality?

Anyway, sorry for the lack of anything worthwhile here (and I mean that, not only from your perspective but from mine, too). Will try for some better posting in the next couple of days.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Circles

Just a small sampling of what we don’t know –


* Why is the universe expanding?

* What is the nature of dark matter?

* Is matter ultimately made of particles, waves – or, perhaps, strings?

* What is the fate of the universe – cold death of unlimited expansion, or heat death in a Big Crunch?

* How can theory reconcile gravity with quantum mechanics, like it has with the other three forces?

* What happened just before the Big Bang?

* Is time travel possible?

* How about faster-than-light travel?

* What’s inside a black hole?

* Can wormholes exist? Do they?


Reading these pop physics books always brings to mind that old Carl Sandburg poem Circles:


The white man drew a small circle in the sand,
and told the red man,
"This is what the Indian knows,"
and drawing a big circle around the small one,
"This is what the white man knows."

The Indian took the stick and swept an immense ring around both circles:
"This is where the white man and the red man know nothing."


Of course, change the non-PC “red man” and “Indian” to, oh, “engineer,” and change the non-PC “white man” to, say, “theoretical physicist” and you’ll get the gist of what I’m saying.

Just a small thought for a rainy Saturday afternoon. The girls are sleeping and I’m halfway through Greene’s Fabric of the Cosmos. The eyelids are heavy, though.

Friday, April 10, 2009

John 13:1-20


Well, speaking of the dice of God, I had my feet washed yesterday.

What do I mean by this?

In the Catholic church there’s a tradition that is observed on Holy Thursday, putting into literal practice what Jesus preached before the Last Supper. After instructing his disciples a final time, Jesus removed his cloak, put a towel around his waist, knelt down and washed the feet of his closest followers. This being Jerusalem two thousand years ago, where most went unshod a good portion of the hot day, this meant cleaning some mighty dirty, smelly feet. And the pastor at my church made no bones about mentioning this, in a quite humorous way that those who know him are very fond. The whole lesson here is, of course, that the true disciple of Christ must serve those around him – not just those above him in station, but even those below him (as if anyone is truly “above” or “below” another, especially as we all must, sooner or later, appear naked before that big bright light at the end of the tunnel).

I’ve grown very close to my pastor, especially in light of the two trips to the hospital in February he made visiting sick old me. Our conversations, deeply personal and of a highly spiritualized nature, left a monumental impression on me, especially as I had never before spoken to someone else about such matters. And I do believe his prayers and sacramental actions played a huge part of me getting well, eventually. So a couple of weeks ago, after mass, he approached me and asked if I would consent to participate in the foot-washing ceremony during Holy Thursday mass.

Now, I have to admit, that threw me for a loop. As he was saying, “LE, I have a favor to ask of you, something I think you’d like to do …” I was thinking he would ask me something along the lines of my writing (of which we discussed in the hospital), say, maybe an article of some sort in the bulletin. So when he asked to wash my feet, well, my face must’ve dropped.

Feet are so … private. Personal. As my pastor stated in his sermon, how many people actually touch your feet? I can name the ones who touch mine on one hand. Now, I don’t think my feet are disgusting, per se, as they’re not hairy or anything and I don’t have green-blue monster toe fungus. But … even average, normal-looking feet sweat in socks, right? Isn’t that gross enough?

Well, Christ wasn’t bothered by it. To Him, it was the loving act of service that mattered. That was all, and that’s all that should be. Us petty humans tend to get distracted by a great deal of ephemera, most concerning our selves, our feelings, and our self-images that no one else really cares about. So, after a week of hemming and hawing, I agreed.

I have to admit the ceremony was beautiful. There were twelve of us to get our feet washed, one representing each Apostle, and we went up to a chair before the altar, one at a time, and Father washed our feet. Each washing lasted a minute or so. Honestly, as I admitted to my wife as I got back in the pew, it was actually quite relaxing and enjoyable.* And I do have the distinct feeling that this was as much soul-cleansing for Father as it was for each of us.

Afterwards, as mass ended, there was a solemn procession out the front doors, following a winding, candle-lit path, through the parking lot, and into the parish rec center where the priests knelt before the Blessed Sacrament for five minutes of silent worship. Absolutely beautiful. Then, they left, without speaking, and some parishioners went up to do homage. As we had our two very young children, and it was very late, we left and went home.

Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me “teacher” and “master,” and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.

What are you doing for someone else right now?


* Later, at home, I kidded her by demanding a foot-washing from her on a daily basis. You can imagine the look I got for that …

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Loaded Dice


Hoi kuboi Dios aei eupiptousi

The dice of God are always loaded.

[from Essay on Compensation, by Emerson]


I think this is just another way of stating, somewhat colorfully and memorably, the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. There are great movements, hidden to those who are blind, but surprisingly clearly discernible to those with fresh eyes, that gently move us this way and that, where, in hindsight, we need to go, like some silent, powerful tidal force. Spiritual gravity, if you will, that is always present, bending the terrain of life. Always. Whether we choose to look is, of course, our decision. You can dismiss the tsunamis of your life to cruel fate or maybe even dispassionate chance; but the dice of God are always loaded.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Computer Games


My buddy threw a garage sale last week, so, after a couple of errands that day, the Little One and I drove by to see how things were going. It was unseasonably cold and wet, a cold-toe very yucky day, but most of his items for sale had gone. Since it was nearing my daughter’s nap time and I had a lunch sandwich in the car for my wife, I allowed the Little One to play with my friend’s son, Tommy, for just a little bit while we chatted.

Fifteen or twenty minutes go by, and I realize I don’t see her anywhere. Uh oh. Silence or disappearance means trouble. Either she’s in it or causing it. My buddy catches my look and tells me they went inside and are playing video games. Video games? The Little One is four-and-half. I went in the house to investigate.

She and Tommy were playing Wii. Now just to let you know, my knowledge of computer games ended around the time of the original Quake and Duke Nukem, oh, about 1997 or so. And before that was a long dry spell going back to the early-80s and Atari games such as Space Invaders, Adventure, Pac-Man, etc. So, I’m not what you’d call a gamer.

But my heart broke as I saw my Little One helplessly try to manipulate the joystick to get her tank to turn and fire. It was spinning in circles and seemingly firing at random. Tommy, on the other hand, was busy lobbing exploding shells at her and any other piece of machinery that dared go near his tank. He won by something like seven thousand four hundred and thirty-three to zero. My friend came in, saw that his son was not being as charitable as parents like their children to be, so he popped on an easier game, a fishing simulation game, and sat down and helped the Little One grasp the idea that the controller in her hand was moving the fishing rod on the screen.

We drove home in silence, mostly because the dual liquid oxygen peripheral fuel storage boosters were firing in my cerebrum. The strains of the Rocky theme reverberated in my ears, or so I imagined, as I came up with a plan. Yes, a plan! Occasionally glancing at the rear view mirror, seeing my Little One all flushed and disconsolate, I realized I had to act, and act fast.

I told her I had a game at home we could train her on.

Then, we got home and I promptly forgot all about it.

This morning, five days later, I got the old “Daddy, can we do what you promised me?”

Oh no. “Uh, what was that?” I ask innocently enough.

“You know. Wii.”

Hmmm. Did I promise her I’d buy her a Wii? No – wait! It all flowed back to me. A couple of years ago my mother bought me and my brother each an Atari retro game console. It plugs into your TV set and you get to play sixteen Atari games from 25 years ago. There’s Adventure, Centipede, Asteroids, and a whole slew of others, but no Space Invaders, curiously. There’s Breakout, a next-generation Pong. I figure I can get my four-year-old some exposure playing that so at least she’ll be able to manipulate a controller. Coordinate what she’s sees on the screen with what she’s doing with her hands. Won’t that help with her developmental brain growth stuff? No?

Or am I just taking this too personal?

Or am I subconsciously searching for another form of electronic babysitting?

Oh, the soul searching involved in a day in the life of LE!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lexical Acrobatics

A little mini-review I wrote one day nearly seven years ago as a bored IT analyst at the Worst Job I Ever Had. The funnest part of my day, believe it or not, was the train ride in to and out of the city every day. I put away a lot of interesting reads: Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Simmons’ Hyperion, Brin’s Startide Rising, a biography of Julius Caesar and Rome of his time, Elegant Universe by physicist Brian Greene, and the subject of my mini-review, the famous I and Thou by philosopher Martin Buber. Forgive my insolence at giving this masterful genius and his crowning work a failing grade; let’s chalk it up to youthful indiscretion and not mention it again, eh? This was never meant for public consumption.

I think I mostly sought to gripe about the single most annoying characteristic of philosophy: the incredibly self-sabotaguing almost-rookie-mistake of obscure writing. Clarity should always be key. Always, regardless what you write. If you cannot explain your ideas to an average man of average intelligence, what does that say? That you are a super intellect, a god amongst men? Or someone who is gifted in all things but the art of communication? (I am aware that sometimes the medium is the message and obscurity is a desired goal in philosophical writing. I am also aware that translations – I and Thou was originally written in German – are often done, poorly, long after the original thinker has passed on.) My frustration was evident after reading the book; I truly wanted to grasp and internalize Buber’s ideas, and did so for the main ones, but somehow fell off track about midway through my reading.

Here ’tis, in all its unedited splendor:


4.22.02

Buber’s I and Thou starts off promising, but unfortunately, like many a philosophical book, it soon leads into the land of run-on sentences, lexical acrobatics, and twisted meanings where everyday language loops back on itself and takes on new descriptions. Initially it was very easy to follow, sort of a dialectic between a friendly teacher and a “man-on-the-street.” I was able to grasp his main ideas, the overall theme of the book. It was only after he tried to describe various deeper ideas observed in the world, such as self-contradiction and the legal and economic systems in light of those few main ideas that I got lost and my mind started uncontrollably drifting. The book was short (a merciful trait not shared by many similar philosophic epics) and divided into three main sections. The first dealt with the individual; the second, with his relation with his fellow man; and finally, the individual’s relation to God.

The basic ideas from the book were self-evident; like looking at something from a different vantage point. The more we treat or “experience” others as ‘Thou’ instead of ‘It’, the more spiritual, the more fuller, the more we interact and the more real we ourselves become. Strive to treat others as ‘Thou’ and you will self-actualize. God is represented as the infinite-I. We only live when we are in relationship. All living is defined by relationship, and we become more real as we participate in the ‘I-Thou’ relationship.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My Literary Master

Ray Bradbury is my favorite all-time science fiction writer. I can vividly recall reading The Martian Chronicles for the first of several times during the hot late-70s summers. The well-worn paperback was my constant companion at my grandparents’ house, and I devoured those stories curled up under the shade of a tree or spread out among the cushions in the screened-in porch or chilling down in the cool cinderblock shelter of their semi-furnished basement. (I was not thumbing through novels perched atop houses, yet.) The anthology, as well as its cousin, The Illustrated Man, would help me survive numerous trips to the mall two decades later with my wedding-crazed wife, then just my fiancé. Stealthily leaning against a column, unobtrusive and inconspicuous among the racks of hanging dresses and gowns, I flipped page after page after page, attention firmly set in Mr. Bradbury’s world despite the half-eye kept out on watch for my better half.

But there’s no fooling her. One of my wedding gifts from Mrs. LE was a mint-condition hardcopy Martian Chronicles, autographed by Bradbury himself. I still have it, of course, sealed in its original package. (It survived the recent flood.)

Of course I read Fahrenheit 451 as a school assignment. But unlike the majority of my classmates, I enjoyed it. Ten years later, for two straight weeks, Something Wicked This Way Comes kept me company on the NJ Transit trains traveling into and out of New York. I still keep a couple of short-story anthologies on the bookshelf behind me, too: A Medicine for Melancholy, The Golden Apples of the Sun, and The Fog Horn and Other Stories.

He’s the writer, if I had my greatest wish fulfilled, I would like to be compared to.

Bradbury’s a science fiction writer, yes, surely, but those of us that read SF know he’s what’s called a “soft” SF writer. In other words, you won’t chance upon him writing about quantum fluctuations or time-space continuum shifts or even transistors or LEDs or supercomputers. Robots, perhaps, but you won’t get a detailed description of the positronic brain. Aliens, yes, but you won’t understand their anthropology or sociology or their breeding habits. Bradbury is an enthusiastic commentator of the human condition, of the mind of man, and, in a sense, his stories could be set anywhere. But to truly explore what happens when the weird assumes control, it’s best to set your tale in a world where you make all the rules. Bradbury’s science fiction is a mirror to show us the intriguing possibilities, good and bad, of man.

The single striking thing about his writing, to me, is something I strive for, too. Poetry. His sentences sing off the page, the images dance in your head, the dialogue has the power to tug at your heart or set your jaw granite-tight. It’s picture painting with the written word, and I can forget myself in his writing every time I read one of his stories.

A while back I borrowed a book of his on the craft, Zen in the Art of Writing, and took a couple of pages of notes. I recently found them. Care for a few tips from the book? Okay, how ’bout three. The first thing I noted was his simple observation that writers need to read poetry. Every day. The astute literary buff will note that many of his titles come straight out of the poetry world. (Two in this blog post alone – Something Wicked from Shakespeare, and Golden Apples from Yeats.)

Second, it was the first place where I learned of the writer/editor dichotomy. Those of us that write are aware of this well-known dilemma: How do you silence your inner editor as you’re rushing through the first draft of your magnum opus? To paraphrase my idol, you gotta write with excitement. Gusto. Zest. Passion. What wonderful words! So, if you aren’t, you are writing about the wrong things. Instead, you must: Write about what you hate. And I mean, hate. Similarly, write about what you love. What you really love. Be passionate, and repercussions be damned!

The last little tidbit I’ll tell you is the word game. Simply, be aware of words, cognizant of their personalities, their ethnicities and genealogies. Write down those of them that … stir a little something in you. Words that are comfortably unsettling. It’s impossible to define, precisely, but you’ll know it when you start doing it. For example, I did this around 2003 or so and soon I had a list of about fifty or sixty words. Words such as Armistice, Amplitude, all the way to Zephyr. Then, when you got you some writer’s block, pick a word and start typing. I wrote an 8,500 word short story called “Armistice” in a week or so back then. It’s okay, a little embarrassing and by far not my best, but it really taught me the power of a single word. I wrote a story based on a single word.

So … if you are a writer, read the book, especially if you’re a fan. It can’t hurt. Oh, and a bonus tip: Mr. Bradbury highly recommends purchasing and studying On Becoming A Writer, by Dorothea Brande (he did). The book is an arm’s-length away from me, purchased at an Unnamed Used Book Store for the simple sum of three dollars.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Penance

We seized him in the early morning hours
We bound his wrists at painful sharp angles behind his back, up near his neck
We marched him relentlessly to the bosses’ mansions
We whipped and cursed and beat and spat and mocked him onward
We gave him no rest and no quarter
We made a pretense of judging him when we had already judged him
We enticed the crowds to spurn him for a known murderer killer of women and children
We placed him before the fists of uncouth soldiers
We twisted his bloodied hands into the iron manacles upon the stone pillar
We flogged his wearied body with leather reeds adorned with bone, metal and shell
We waited for him to get up and beat him again until he fell
We repeated this often with much enthusiasm
We clothed him in flowing purple robes
We blindfolded him and sucker-punched him and taunted him
We matted a wreath of thorns down on his head with paddles
We stripped him naked
We tied his wrists to the heavy wooden crosspiece
We tightened it so he could not release its weight
We paraded him through the crowded, narrow, crooked streets
We all laughed and pointed and jeered as he stumbled by

He fell, tearing open his knee and breaking his nose
He rose
He fell, the heavy wooden crosspiece ripping flesh from his back and shoulders
Still, he rose
He fell, dirt dust and mud inflaming his open sores
A third time, yet he rose

We whipped him on as a common pack animal
We showed no mercy nor restraint nor compassion
We enjoyed it immensely
We led him to a hill built on skulls
We stopped him in front of the vertical wooden post
We shoved him backwards and the pain on his face brought us ecstasy
We wrapped rough cord round his wrists and the wood
We pounded nails through his palms
We lifted him upon the post and laughed at his groan as the crosspiece settled down
We bound his feet tightly together
We pierced them to the wood with a single iron spike
We drank cheap wine and rolled dice for his cloak
We watched and waited for three hours

We faltered as the skies darkened and the wind picked up
Then, we departed, one by one, some with tears and some wondering what might be had for dinner.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Set a New Course Cap'n!

I’m sorry; I forgot myself.

But that’s a good thing, because now I remember!

What the heck am I talking about?

All around me, as I write this, are books, dozens of books, most old, a few new, some in boxes, some in towering Pisa-like stacks, and nearly a hundred on the shelf behind me. A good chunk could be categorized as philosophy books. A couple of textbooks, a half-dozen standards (Descartes, Hume, Aristotle, etc), some heavy tomes of biblical length (Being And Time, Matter and Memory, and an assortment of anthologized writings). Perhaps I’ve read through a third. And in an attempt at humility, with a dash of generosity, though, I’ve probably understand and retained less than half of that.

So I have a long, long way to go.

Why do I do this? I ask myself often. But I think it boils down to this. I am very, very curious about “what is really out there.” * This – meaning, as I turn my head to the right, scanning the pile of bills and receipts and tax returns and blah blah blah – this can’t be “real.” I hear my daughter listening to television upstairs, through the ceiling (hopefully she’s not being bombarded with realistic dramatizations of businessmen committing murders). I know that ain’t “real.” Not even the news, I suspect, no matter what channel you’re watching. With a couple of clicks I can be online and go on, say, Facebook. Is that “real”? Something deep inside tells me no.

What is real?

Face-to-face interaction? Depends. We’re all masks and shades of personality, are we not? Is that “real”? I know I was never “real” at work, a place where I spent forty-plus-hours-a-week, over two-thousand hours a year, more time than with my family. Nor am I truly “real” with my family. Before you balk, admit it, you are not “truly real” with yours, either.

So, this leads me to thinking about philosophy. Metaphysics, which literally means something like “beyond the natural world.” I’m searching for some kind of underlying layer of “realness.” Whatever that means, but I know it ain’t what I’m seeing or experiencing. It calls to mind a thorny issue in philosophy, one I fully understand: I have no idea how to define “reality.” It’s like pornography or obscenity, I suppose; I’d know it when I see it, just don’t ask me to define it.

The problem is, after reading huge chunks of Hegel, some of Heidegger, a bit of Bergson, some James, and the summarized thought of a couple dozen others, is that I’m not finding what I’m looking for. Baudrillard sort of entered the ballpark for me, with his concept of hyperreality, but after reading a slim book of his (Simulacra and Simulation), I left dissatisfied. What is reality?

Then, stupid me, I finally got round to reading a book I found while browsing in the library one day. The Fabric of the Cosmos, by Brian Greene. I am floored. As I always am, when I read cutting-edge physics stuff. Now I remember: This stuff is amazing! I’ve been into my physics for ages, and it always fires my imagination and excites me, but for some reason, I forgot about it. For a couple of years. After some digging through boxes in the garage, I now have a dozen books right now in front of me, books I own, on relativity, string theory, the Big Bang, quantum physics, black holes, particle physics, plus two of my college textbooks, and I’m salivating to get to them.** Most are geared to the interested intelligent amateur, but some actually have equations in them.

I slap myself on the forehead because I forgot all this. Because, quite frankly, that’s where reality is. Not nineteenth-century German idealism. Not French post-modernism. Twenty-first century physics is where the rules for the game of reality are discovered.

So, the quest continues, from a different tack this time around. And of course, should I come across anything suitably weird or just open-jawed amazing, I’ll blog about it.


* Also, I’m always on the hunt for some cool motifs and hooks for my SF writings.

** Caveat: If you are reading this and don’t know me, understand that I have a layman’s knowledge of physics. I took intro college level physics courses, an intro to modern physics class, electronics 101, and mathematics up to calculus III. Something like twenty or twenty-four college credits. I aced all my classes – eventually, in the case of Calc III. But most of this was ten to fifteen years ago, so I’m quite rusty. Also, sadly, no classes in differential equations, wave mechanics, or other higher math. However, supplement that with a healthy dose of (what I hope is) intelligent science fiction, and you have … me, the poor-autodidact-amateur-physicist.]

Friday, April 3, 2009

This Hit Home

A quote from noted philanthropist / physician / theologian / musician Dr. Albert Schweitzer (whose biography I have to read someday):


He who has been delivered from pain must not think he is now free again and at liberty to take life up just as it was before, entirely forgetful of the past. He is now a “man whose eyes are open” with regard to pain and anguish, and he must help to overcome those two enemies (so far as a human power can control them) and to bring to others the deliverance which he has himself enjoyed. The man who, with a doctor’s help, has been pulled through a severe illness, must aid in providing a helper such as he had himself.

- Albert Schweitzer, Albert Schweitzer: An Anthology, ed C. R. Joy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1947), 288.


Stumbled across this in a book whose subject is not relevant to this discussion. Just one of those synergistic happy coincidences in my life which I now come to believe as the workings of the Third Person of the Trinity.