Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Love America... For Freedom.

In the grocery store parking lot, I helped an obnoxiously patriotic old-man veteran of some dumb war or another (his clothes and his scooter were covered with every possible patch from military units; little American flags waved all over the place; he wore one of those funny hats with even more stickers, patches and pins) free his mobility scooter wheel from the raised edge of the hydraulic lift designed to gloriously lower him from his van, which in turn was festooned with way too many "I'm a veteran" stickers and logos. His service dog whined helplessly from inside. Later, inside the grocery store, America's "Horse With No Name" played over the subliminal Muzak machine where I purchased various snacks for tonight's New Year's Eve bacchanal.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hospital lobby

5 young medical professionals stare into their iPods silently as Joe Jackson's "Stepping Out" plays softly in the Starbucks coffee bar across the way.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nathanael West

Nathanael West, Cormac McCarthy

Dick Clark Prepares for New Year's Eve #3

Under cover of darkness, Zombie Dick Clark is whisked away in a black SUV to the furthest reaches of the Denver International Airport to a much-unused runway and an unmarked private jet. A lone passenger has already boarded and dreads his arrival; during the flight to New York, Zombie Dick Clark will receive the last of a series of horrifying blood transfusions. A sullen Christina Aguilera has sadly accepted her fate; the show must go on, yet she is overcome with ennui.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dick Clark Prepares for New Year's Eve #2

Dick Clark's animated corpse relaxes in a white bathrobe on the balcony of his Crowne Plaza hotel suite in downtown Denver. * A man from an unspecified government agency briefs him on key events of 2011. To re-acquaint Zombie Dick Clark with his distant past, a television plays classic reruns of American Bandstand. In an adjoining room, being prepped for a series of hideous blood transfusions is a sobbing Stacy Ann Ferguson. Despite the best efforts of her attorneys, the contract is ironclad; she must endure the procedures.

 * he is immune to cold.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Preparations for the New Year #1

Deep beneath the Denver International Airport, the corpse of Dick Clark is wheeled out of the cryogenic chamber to the center of a pentangle drawn on the floor of the re-animation chamber. Five red candles are lit. Eerie, unearthly chanting is piped in through unseen speakers in the ceiling. In a room nearby, being prepped for a series unorthodox blood transfusions, is an anxious Ryan Seacrest.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

#33 The Beast of Kandahar

The Beast of Kandahar
Landed in my Backyard
It winked and said I was a 'Tard
We ate some chicken Fried in Lard

The Beast of Kandahar can See
What people Do So Secretly
It writes things down DiliGently
It kicks up High Just Like Bruce Lee

The Beast of Kandahar is Best
At Finding Out at the Behest
Of Men who Know and are Well Dressed
You are Almost Under Arrest

The Beast of Kandahar
Can Spy with Its Electric Super-Eye
All things Below And Snitch and Lie
To Creep-Spies who Identify.

The Beast of Kandahar
And I are Best of Friends
We go to Dinner, Drive Around
It soars On High Without A Sound

The Beast of Kandahar
Flies High Above The USA
And Saves the Day from Terrorist Elves*
To Save the People From Themselves

The Beast of Kandahar
Sends Pictures of My Neighbor
Sunbathing Nude in Her Backyard
I Love The Beast of Kandahar

* Give me a break, what I needed something that rhymed with "themselves"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

graph paper stuff

Verisimilitude; scintillate; Valdes Leal; sardonic; taciturn; obsequious
Book Notes: Basim forbids dancing.  Lamya dances for Sabir to spite her husband.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reading A Writer's Notebook by W. Somerset Maugham.

Here are some notes, written on green graph paper.  It makes a great list of things I know nothing about:

Le Cid; Gogol; Lermontov; Turgenev; Chekov; Byron, Shelly, Walter Scott; Thackery; The Revisor; Congreve; Wycherley; School for Scandal; Kotzebue's Kleinstadter; She stoops to Conquer; G.B. Shaw; Ruritania; Katzenjammer; Sacher Masoch; The Hounds of Heaven; Oblomovism; Eugene Sue; flipperty-gibbet; Julien Sorel; El Greco; Resurection by Tolstoi; Octave Feuillet or Cherbuliez; Flaubert; Maupassant; Concourts; Huysmans; Princess Mathilde; Herzen; Bakunin; the reign of Alexander II; Uvar Ivanovitch Stahov; On the Eve; A House of Gentlefolk; Anthony Trollope; demagogues; compte rendu; Balzac; Jane Eyre; The Waverley Novels; peroration; Saint-Just; Bolsheviks; Charles Frohman; The Roman Empire of Heliogabalus; Polynesian Garden of the Hesperides; the book Main Street; epigrammatic; mythomaniac; Le Cousin Pons; sycophancy; turbid 

stuff written on graph paper

1. Saturnine countenance
2. Alexandre Tharoud, Erik Satie: Avent Dernieres

Friday, December 09, 2011

Scotty wore a red shirt

Scotty wore a red shirt. He beamed down to the surface. He survived. You will survive too. You are not an extra, you are a recurring character.

this ungodly hour

Who is awake at this ungodly hour? Who guns their car down empty boulevards? Who types hyperbole into the ether, in darkness, into phantom glowing keys? Who drinks alone in front of dying embers? Who stands the watches of the night, in restaurants, gas stations, Walmarts, cop cars, army bases, shotgun shacks and marble kitchens? Who is awake at this ungodly hour?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

graph paper notes

Pearl Buck?
Charles Dexter Ward?

For the book, give characters ticks (nerves) or other maladies, real or imagined.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

random things written on graph paper

Ovid's "Art of Love"?
the lurking future may not come at all
plug hunters
tiny triangular sandwiches

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Today I Did Something Really Dumb

Today I did something incredibly dumb.  Not costly dumb, not anything with serious consequences, just something really dumb.

I had to drop our car off at the mechanic's at their overnight drop-off place, where you leave the keys after hours so in the morning they can get to work on it right away.  So I drive up to the garage and they have a key drop-off slot.  I get out of the car and lock the door.

But as soon as I go to drop they keys off, I find they have these envelopes where you have to fill out a form and it says, "You must sign here." 

Well, I had nothing to write with; the pens were in the car, and the car was locked, so I walked to the grocery store (nearby, just a couple of blocks away) and I get a pen from a cashier, fill out the form and walk back.

I put the keys in the envelope and put the envelope in the slot, and walk home.

Now I know you see what I missed.  I had the keys the whole time!  Something about the pending putting-the-keys-in-the-slot made me think I couldn't get back into the car.  I had the keys in my pocket the entire time. 

I didn't realize my mistake, even after returning to the mechanic's place, putting the keys in the envelope/form and putting the keys in the slot.

I didn't realize my mistake during the walk home.

I only realized my mistake while telling my daughter about why it took me so long to get back later that night.  I started telling her and I suddenly realized how dumb I had been.  I still can't believe I had the keys, but thought for some reason I couldn't get back into the car to get a pen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Bold Statement against Censorship

Here is my bold statement against the bipolar state of sex in consumerism and half-assed censorship!  They try to hide the cover of Cosmopolitan with a metal plate, but they cannot stop me from expressing my distain for all things prudish and cowardly!  What a rebel I am!  I put a copy of Cosmopolitan over every other magazine on the magazine rack.  Try to hide the objectification of women now!  They would sell us the image of glamour, but they would hide it from us at the same time?  Not with Dan Manning, performance artist on the loose!  What a bold statement!  What avant-garde disdain for provincial sensibilities!   

Or, I was just bored, whatever.

Friday, November 04, 2011


Everything in the man-made world is an idea or thought. The wording of a billboard, the font used on a website. Roads and walls and books and plastic happy meal toys are all based on the thoughts of other human beings. The screen you are staring into, the windshields you peer out of are all the result of ideas piled onto ideas onto ideas, back to the development of glass to the idea that fire might be controlled and made useful. The very thoughts that we think are the result of the thoughts of others.

Our habits are based on the habits of others. What we find acceptable is based on the subset of activities found acceptable by the humans around us.

But WHY does the man-made world even exist? There was a point not long ago when we just scrounged around for food, reproduced, and fended off threats from cold, predators, and other bands of humans. Back then there was just one or two motivating factors:

Where am gonna get more food?
How am I gonna make babies?

Now we have specialized skills, or at least, we are put to specialized tasks. We fix roads or drive trucks or sell trucks or design trucks. We paint or preach or type numbers into spreadsheets. We hunker down in cubicle dungeons, or fly jet airplanes. Humans have decided that other people can grow the crops and raise the cattle, others can slaughter the cattle and others can drive the meat around. Others can process it and package it. Others can cook it. Others can bring it to our table. We get to enjoy it with steak sauce.

How many different ideas are involved to make it possible to walk into a restaurant (restaurants! What an amazing concept) have someone prepare a steak, have someone else bring it to us, all for some pieces of paper with the pictures of long dead leaders on them, or even more amazing, in exchange for the honor of holding on to a rectangle of plastic for a few minutes, and then to return it to us, physically unchanged.

Why this world of music, conditioned air, PEZ dispensers and intercontinental ballistic missiles?

We are primates with the ability to record our thoughts. We can put down our thoughts so that others can later read those thoughts, build on those thoughts, or dismiss thoses thoughts as bullshit.

I know that there is no intrinsic meaning to any of this, yet my life is meaningful (at least it seems meaningful). Life is rich and full of wonder. The man-made world is full of amazing ideas. Amazing concepts and things. Art and sports and literature and video games. That along with the NATURAL world makes eighty or a hundred years on this planet as a human pretty sweet.

I write this in a Panera Bread. I know, what am I doing in an outlet of everything corporate? I don't know, I have some time to kill while I wait for my next appointment. When I'm done writing this, I'm gonna read a book that was published in 1874. I'm going to get lost in a story about people who never existed. How glorious that there are books. How thankful I am for the aproned man who just cleared away my bagel tray. What miracle, my cell phone. It is Friday. It is good to be alive!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Really Long Virginia Woolf Sentence

Here is a doozy of a sentence from To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. Smarter people have already written too many smart things for me to add anything useful, but this book is fantastic. Nothing happens. There's a whole section that describes the goings on in an empty house. The maid is sent to open the place back up, and here's a sentence (a single sentence) describing her singing some old song to herself as she works alone in the long-empty house:
"Rubbing the glass of the long looking-glass and leering sideways at her swinging figure a sound issued from her lips—something that had been gay twenty years before on the stage perhaps, had been hummed and danced to, but now, coming from the toothless, bonneted, care-taking woman, was robbed of meaning, was like the voice of witlessness, humour, persistency itself, trodden down but springing up again, so that as she lurched, dusting, wiping, she seemed to say how it was one long sorrow and trouble, how it was getting up and going to bed again, and bringing things out and putting them away again."

 If you haven't read this book, read it.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

A Cheap Buzz

When you stop drinking after years of drinking, sobriety becomes its own type of madness. A long period of Clarity of mind is in itself a strange high, and it can be fun, as long as you can fold it in on itself. Thinking too much is a cheap buzz.

A Shabby Trailer By The Side Of The Road

Your religion is like a house of mirrors. You are born into it, as a child you are told it is real, and you believe in it. But once you get out of it, you see it is nothing more than a shabby trailer run by carnival workers. Even if you wanted to, you can't just decide to go back and live again in illusion, because you'll know it's fake.

Monday, September 26, 2011

He slept peacefully, with an untroubled heart.

There was once a very corrupt official. I know that sounds fantastic, but it is true. There was once a corrupt official. He took bribes at every opportunity, without the slightest feeling of shame or guilt. All day long influential men would come in and out of his offices, getting promises for votes, and dropping off drafts of legislation that would be put forth and enacted without much change to the wording.

 Everyone was happy with this arrangement. The government men were happy. The lawyers and CEOs and weapons manufacturers were happy. Almost everyone was happy, except the poor people. The poor people and the working people were not happy. But that was no concern to the official, who slept in a large bed with his fashionable wife.

Monday, September 19, 2011

unique novel idea!

I find it amazing that no novel has every been written about an orphan or orphans. I think making an orphan the lead character would work so well. I wonder why no one else has ever, in the history of novels, ever thought of that. ;)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

free audio stories

Do you like stories? Sure, we all do. I would like to recommend a podcast from ClarksWorld Magazine. If you don't listen on your iPod, you can listen right from the web page. If you DO listen on your iPod, you should listen to it at double speed, because the narrator Kate Baker reads kinda slow. Some of the stories I don't like so much, but their last two picks are pretty good:

"Pack" by Robert Reed, and "The Fish of Lijiang" by Chen Qiufan

Anywhoo, Happy Labor Day and all that jazz.

(read my books)


Monday, August 29, 2011

What I'm Reading

I'm reading The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (1988). He packs a lot into every enjoyable paragraph. So far it is very entertaining. I'm also reading, as a palate cleanser between chapters, a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury titled A Medicine for Melancholy (1959). So far my favorite is the story "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit", about six poor guys who save up to buy a white suit so they can take turns walking around like big shots.

My manuscript is coming along nicely. Lots of characters and sub-plots and other shenanigans.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dante's Inferno, Corporate Edition

I'm reading THE INFERNO (Dante Alighieri), which is Dante's (the Pilgrim Dante, not the Poet) tour of the nine circles of hell, lead by the poet Virgil. Reading it now, with all the B.S. going on in our country, I can imagine some of the well-healed criminals from today spending eternity in some of these places. The book describes sins and the punishment for those sins:
  • gluttony (the obesity epidemic)
  • usury (Wall Street/Banks)
  • avarice/greed (Wall Street, Corporate Tax Evaders, Congress)
  • thieves (Wall Street, Congress, War Profiteers)
  • hypocrites (Democrats, Republicans, Politicians, the Media and probably most people, myself included)
  • fraudulent counselors (Wall Street, the ratings agencies, Fox News/MSNBC/Network News/Pharma Commercials)
  • sowers of scandal and schism (Fox News, MSNBC, network news in general, the compromised media)
  • Falsifiers (Congress, Wall Street, Politicians) etc.
I'm kind of cynical these days, and alas, all of the characters ruining our country will be able to avoid these exquisite tortures because there is no hell, but if there was, I'd love to see some of these suits buried upside-down in filth, with their feet set on fire, but that's probably not going to happen.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Plan: An Idea for a Science Fiction Story?

I have an idea for a Science Fiction story. It's pretty far-fetched and out-there, and it goes something like this:

First, a shadowy group of Oligarchs takes over the government by installing their own employees in all the halls of power. Congress, the Fed, the White House, the Pentagon, everywhere. The regulatory agencies are all managed by Corporate shills, who gut and de-claw those angencies. Public Schools and Social Programs are almost completely de-funded. This is all part of:


Unemployment is purposely driving up. Wages stagnate. All the jobs are moved to other countries until the Fat American realizes that he better be ready to work for peanuts. The Oligarchs want to make people so desperate for jobs, they'll work as cheaply as they do in India and China and all the other shit-holes in the world. But first, they have to make the United States as shitty as those other countries.

But how do they keep the people pacified in the meantime? Easy. They bribe them with shiny gadgets, because humans have already devolved into mouth-breathing primates who are distracted by anything shiny, boobies, and cheap beer. Bread and Circuses are delivered via huge screens. Men fight in cages. Cameras are put into dysfunctional families for entertainment. The people are given, I don't know, fancy communication devices of some sort. The Oligarchs jack everyone into a huge network of computers, where they observe everything the people are thinking. And, I know this sounds crazy, the people actually supply all the information themselves! They tell the security services, who monitor everything, who they associate with, where they go, what they do, their primitive political ideas (mostly regurgitated talking points from the propaganda screens) Meanwhile, some sort of large screen is installed in every household, and the Oligarchs brainwash everyone into buying more and more things they can't afford, so they go into debt, making them basically indentured servants. But the people don't KNOW they're practically slaves, because they have some song, and at the very end, it goes "LAND OF THE FREE! AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE!" So the slaves think they are free (because it's in the song)! It's far-fetched I know, but stick with me here.

So in order to keep everybody in line, they have these perpetual wars. And the defense contractors promise the high-ranking generals all sorts of lucrative jobs when they get out, so the generals know they got a good thing waiting for them, as long as they tell the President (Who is also a lobbyists, no matter who wins—see below) that they have to keep these wars going on forever! I know that was done in the book 1984, but it works so well, I might as well re-hash it huh? And in the name of Security, the Secret Police X-Ray everybody and sometimes they stick their fingers up Grandma's butt before they let her travel. The Secret Police, who only exist to protect the merchant class, go around strung out on Steroids and electrocute people for any infraction, because it's fun.

And the people will be dumbed-down in shitty schools that don't teach anything except standardized tests, which the Oligarchs put in place to occupy the time in the schools so no one learns oh, I don't know, civics, political theory, how their government is supposed to work, how compound interest works or any other useful thing. And the colleges just turn everybody into sweaty alcoholics with STDs who are tens of thousands of dollars in debt, making them slightly skilled indentured servants right out of college! Brilliant!

So the people, who have no Social Security, Medicare, none of that stuff, are basically starving to death, but the Oligarchs fatten them up on some kind of corn mash, some sort of syrup that the liver can't actually process, and it makes everybody all fat and stupid, so people sit at their screens all day giving information to the Security Services, who can do almost anything in the name of SECURITY because of the constant war with invisible enemies.

Pretty crazy idea for a SF story huh?

So although there are two parties (all of them employed directly by the Oligarchs), both parties put on this show like they hate each other, but really they are all employees of the same groups of Oligarchs, so the people choose one side or the other to cheer for, and they HATE the people who identify with the other side. They use wedge issues and scapegoats and religious bullshit to keep both sides hating each other. Both sides use all kind of slick programming to make the people think that every problem facing the country is some kind of false dichotomy, where there can only be one right answer, out of a total number of two possible answers, both supplied by the two parties, who are really just working together to keep the people divided into two groups, to keep them hating each other instead of paying attention to the politicians who are fattening them up and driving them to more desperation, in order to finally be able to:

Open work houses! Once the people are so desperate for jobs, with no security net whatsoever, every morning every "able bodied" man and woman will crowd outside the gates of any factory that is built. With no unions and no workers rights, products will be manufactured for next to nothing. Work conditions be damned, people haven't worked for so long, they'll bust ass all day for a dollar and hour. Perfect! They can use the slightly skilled college grads to manage the mouth-breathing Eloi, who will manufacture things (finally) in order to purchase cheap beer and watch horrible movies on their One Day Off, which they will spend in Government Churches, where they will be taught Obedience and The Power of The Invisible Hand.

Meh, this is too far-fetched for a story.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What I'm reading, etc.

I'm reading I Am A Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter. It is about the "I" we all live(?) with in our heads (or the mirage of an "I" that exists inside our skulls). It is about more than that, but I'm only halfway through, so I don't know exactly where it is heading just yet. But it is clearly and simply written, with analogies and metaphors to help things along, and it is a very enjoyable read.

I'm still plotting out my Arabian Nights inspired book; things are coming together nicely, plot-wise. I'm about to create a golem of sorts: although golems are from Jewish folklore, my book takes place on another planet, so rules don't count.

Today was also about fixing the van. I have lived 44 years without knowing what a MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensor is, but now I know. Replaced that, replaced a vacuum hose, and replaced fog light bulbs.

I also fixed a couple of 'puters for customers. Some printing stuff and some database file location stuff.

Thus: reading and turning wrenches. Fun fun.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Words I've noted to look up while reading Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. I'm on page 79:

polyphony, diabolus in musica, tesseract, krupskaya, philology, egalitarian -pg 46:,the Trial of the Templars, Ophiulco, navigli, Etruscan(48), demiurge(49), Finis Austriae(51), cabalistic(ally)(53), paralogism (56), ontological (56), and "Godel's Theorem.

Quote: "There are four kinds of people in this world: cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics."(54)

Monday, June 20, 2011


I have one of those refrigerators with a water dispenser on the door. When I am thirsty, I can take a clean glass out of the cupboard and put it under the little spout in the water dispenser and cold filtered water comes out. I can have ice and water and I can drink the whole thing or have another one or only half until the fillings in my teeth hurt from the cold. This miracle happens millions of times a day in developed countries and we are so used to this miracle, we don't even realize how lucky we are to live in this age.

To live in this age. To have conditioned air. Through the miracle of Wikipedia, I can tell you that air-conditioning as we know it wasn't invented until around 1902, and it became commonplace over the following two decades. U.S. Pat# 808897 was granted to the father of air conditioning, St. Willis Haviland Carrier in 1906 for an "Apparatus for Treating Air". It wasn't until 1928 that Carrier came out with a residential unit, and sales only took off after the depression and WWII. So no widespread air conditioning until around 1945. What hellish world did mankind live in before that? That means for tens of thousands of years, mankind suffered through intolerable heat. Can you imagine?

There are people living today (many of them in the hot parts of the world) who have never been in air conditioning. They have no running water. No Internet. They must poop in the streets.

A glass of cold water. Clear and cold in a clean glass. Transparent. Ice floating, cracking. It is a miracle. The odds of being born human in this century, in this age of creature comforts, to be lucky enough to be one of the haves, are very thin. It is much more likely that one is born unlucky, baking in the sun, wasting away, idle and angry. What is man's fate? Why do some get to drink ice-cold water any time they want while someone else is dying of thirst? How many millions go days without a decent meal while I can walk into a cool, clean grocery store and buy a cartful of food and load it into my air-conditioned car, serenaded by music while I navigate smooth streets with orderly traffic and take my load of food to my air-conditioned house and put that food in a refrigerated box that also dispenses cold water whenever I want it? Why do I get to do that while another family somewhere in the world lives in a landfill, sifting through garbage in order to survive?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Twenty Random Things I Saw On My Walk Today:

1. a six foot tall totem pole made of propane tanks and saw parts

2. a yappy black dog in someone's backyard

3. a guy in a track suit (long sleeves and long pant legs) doing those arms-extended-little-circles exercises in his front yard It is sunny and 83 degrees today, so I have no idea what this guy was thinking.

4. a 3 foot tall pile of laundry on a sheet in someone's front lawn No one was around.

5. a guy putting stain on wooden shingles on the front of his house

6. a cop car pulling a jet-ski on a little trailer

7. a hammock

8. a yellow convertible in a front yard

9. two women gossiping in a driveway

10. a brown dog napping on a little sidwalk

11. a purple paddle-boat on its side

12. a lawn jockey (Caucasian)

13. three folding ladders on the wall inside a garage

14. an inflatable kiddy pool by the trailer park

15. a shirtless guy working on a jet-ski (which was on a trailer) by the trailer park

16. a five(?) year-old kid being handed off for weekend visitation (at the trailer park)

17. a dog (which was barking at me from inside a trailer at the trailer park) bust out a window while it was barking at me.

18. two mattresses that were probably surreptitiously thrown into a dumpster at a construction site

19. an ambulance in an auto junkyard

20. nine fake sunflowers

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Writing Anything?

Yes! I'm writing, but I'm mostly writing notes into a yellow pad, trying to collect some story arcs and ideas for my Sindbad-esque book. I have a few first-drafts of chapters, and lots of scribbles in my yellow pad.

And that's about it. Reading a lot of books.

The Kent District Library is purchasing The Cubicles of Madness for circulation. Hooray for that.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Notes from bookmark used in Bible, 1001 Arabian Nights, and Conan

-20 Shekels for a slave
-Exodus 22:25 – No Interest
-Leviticus 13:45 "Unclean!"
-Don Quixote, dinars
-Dickens, Master of serial narration and endless beginnings
-a talisman against ennui and despondency preface to 1001...
-14: what so woman willest...
-17: oh scanty of wit
-Clark Ashton Smith
-"evening is the time of thieves"
-"Oh commander of the faithful"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Notes from Crime and Punishment:

Rabelais, encyclicals, leitmotif, fustian, chintz, titular "councilor", pg. 11-12: "compassion ... forbidden", pg. 182: "Now for the Kingdom of light...", pg. 254: "Lycurgus"pg. 286: "the servants say he 'read himself silly'", pg 314: "Freedom and power, but the main thing is power.", pg 338: Gogol?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude

I've been reading A Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I can't do it justice in the way of praise.

Here are some of the notes I've jotted down about it. I keep a blank paper for a bookmark, and I jot stuff down as I read. This tiny list of quotes do not even begin to tell the magnificence of this novel, but these are simply a few random quotes.

Page 104: the explanation of Liberals and Conservatives:
"Since Aureliano at that time had very confused notions about the difference between Conservatives and Liberals, his father-in-law gave him some schematic lessons.

The Liberals, he said, were Freemasons, bad people, wanting to hang priests, to institute civil marriage and divorce, to recognize the rights of illegitimate children as equal to those of legitimate ones, and to cut the country up into a federal system that would take power away from the supreme authority. The Conservatives, on the other hand, who had received their power directly form God, proposed the establishment of public order and family morality. They were the defenders of the faith of Christ, of the principle of authority, and were not prepared to permit the country to be broken down into autonomous entities."
Page 179:
"And then he would sleep like a stone that was not concerned by the slightest indication of worry."

Page 185:
"The certainty that his day was assigned gave him a mysterious immunity, an immortality for a fixed period . . ."
Page 202:
“The parish priest began to show the signs of senility that would lead him to say years later that the devil had probably won his rebellion against God, and that he was the one who sat on the heavenly throne, without revealing his true identity in order to trap the unwary”
page 208:
"Cease, cows, life is short."
page 212:

Taken out of context, it won't mean much, but the pages leading up to this passage makes the passage itself reveal the most beautiful woman in the world (in the mind's eye). It is difficult to explain:
"... and then she uncovered her face and gave her thanks with a smile. That was all she did. Not only for the gentleman, but for all the men who had the unfortunate privilege of seeing her, that was an eternal instant."
page 214:
"It seemed as if some penetrating lucidity permitted her to see the reality of things beyond any formalism."
page 216:
" . . . the secret of a good old age is simply an honorable pact with solitude."
page 220:
"The only candle that will make him come is always lighted."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

words I wrote down while reading THE SECRET HISTORY

Here are some words (and a sentence) I wrote down while reading The Secret History, by Dona Tartt:

The Phaedo
"Any action, in the fullness of time, sinks to nothing" (nahil sub sol novum)


loafers, fortify, rimbaud, malthus,Knossos, Gregory of Tours, steelwort, P G Wodehouse

Sunday, April 03, 2011



Dan Manning

In this essay, I will demonstrate the deeper meaning of the lyrics of Rebecca Black's widely panned "Friday." Much has been said about this young woman's debut single, much of it negative. I propose that this is not a shallow, poorly produced bubble-gum pop tune, but a deep analysis of man's existential conundrum, addressing the relentless passing of time, cultural pressures on modern man, and the nihilistic existence that is modern life.

Let us examine the first line of the song:
7am, waking up in the morning
Here Miss Black points out the inexorable grind of modern life. Why does she have to wake up so early? What demands force us to be awake so early in the morning, when you should sleep late? Throughout the world, mankind is on an endless, relentless treadmill of activity and toil. Everyone must get up in the morning and be a "useful" part of society. Rest and idleness is frowned upon. School for children, work for adults. Everyone is expected to be up in the morning. Only the idle rich and the unemployed get to sleep in; both groups have nothing to offer society, so they are cast off. So Miss Black must get up in the morning, although, as everyone knows, it is better to sleep late, as the Beastie Boys explained in "Mark On The Bus" on their 1992 album Check Your Head:
" should sleep late man, it's much easier on your constitution..."
But Miss Black cannot sleep late, man, and the stress of social pressures is already pressing in, as she states in the very next line:

Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Why does she "gotta" go downstairs? Through her offhand, almost throw-away line, she reveals much. She does not want to go downstairs and face another day, but she must, and not only must she "go downstairs," she has to "be fresh" while she does it. What demand is there that she be fresh? For whom must she be fresh? She must be fresh for a society that demands not only freshness, but also a "positive attitude". Despite all the decay around us, declining standards of living, greed and corruption in our social institutions, high unemployment, and a bleak future for young people, she is still expected to be "fresh". No one is allowed to look sad or be grumpy. Everyone must be "upbeat." Read Brave New World for a deeper examination of this social norm.

The next line is very revealing:

Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal

Like an animal to the trough, she must scoop her bowl of chemicals into her face. There is no time for a real breakfast. There is no time to interact with her family, which is not mentioned in the song at all. Where are her parents? They too are on the treadmill of getting and spending, too busy to sit with their daughter even for a few minutes to talk. Perhaps they will text each other during the day. Miss Black must be educated so that someday she too can ignore her offspring. "Gotta have my bowl" could also be a subliminal reference to drug use. Does she need to have a "bowl" of marijuana to help her cope with the stresses of modern life? We may never know. Either way, her breakfast is brief, and here we come to the crux of the song, the most damning lyrics of all:

Seein’ everything, the time is goin’
Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’
The crushing drumbeat of time is relentless. Here Rebecca Black says a great deal about society in just a few concise words. Everybody is rushing. Everyone today is in a hurry to be somewhere, to do something, to communicate some idea. We expect instant gratification, we expect instant communications, and we have no patience for anything that might slow us down. Her family is yoked with the burden of the clock, constantly rushing them to the next thing, to the next meeting, to the next class, to the next job interview, to the next stoplight. Look how we drive: on the freeway we race to be in the front of a pack, and if we get in front of that pack, we accelerate to run down the next pack of cars, as though there is some "front" of everything. Miss Black's family, in this song anyway, is simply described as "everybody." Our families seem like "everybody" sometimes, but as soon as Miss Black leaves the house, she joins the throng, the family of mankind, to rush to her next appointment:

Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends (My friends)
I had to consult the video to understand what happens in these two lines. Miss Black reluctantly goes to the bus stop, where the institutional system will swallow her up. Had she taken her place on the bus, her individualism would have immediately been diminished as she is forced to conform to rules and regulations, schedules and seating charts. It is only the arrival of her friends in a convertible that saves her from having to enter the dark maw of the bus's interior, where in the dim light she would be seated next to the random bits of humanity that makes up a student body. School is an artificial social situation, where individuals are thrown together in ways that they would normally never accept.

But the arrival of her smaller circle of friends, with a means of transportation to the school, relieves her of this burden, and she joins them, but not before making a serious decision: Which seat should she take?
Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?
This is a puzzling stanza, because really, what difference does it make? Just get in the car. At least you're not on the bus next to the runny-nosed kid with the Pokemon cards, right? But after further consideration, her conundrum seems important. Even within her small circle of friends, there is a pecking order of some sort. We all favor some friends over others. Should she sit next to the boy in the back, possibly leading to some sort of romantic encounter? Her question, in context of the video, seems more baffling because there are only two bucket seats in the front, and the front passenger seat is already occupied. Does the girl in the front seat have such low self-esteem that she would let someone kick her out and make her sit in the back? I will defer such arguments, and take the lyrics without the context of the video. Her choice, or her need to think about the choice of what seat to take also speaks to the love affair American culture has with cars. To ride in the front is "cooler" by far than riding in the back, and riding "bitch" (in the middle seat) is no fun at all. So her choice is relevant in today's society. But whatever choice she makes, she'd better make it quick, or she will be late for school.

It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend
Friday, Friday
Gettin’ down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend
This stanza is the heart of the song, and it speaks to the grind that is the other four days of the workweek. It speaks to the eternal alternation of labor and rest that is our American system. But how does one even know it is "Friday"? The arbitrary naming of the days of the week, the division of years into months, and months into weeks, and weeks into days is completely artificial. How does one "know" the name of the day? All of society must agree to these arbitrary conventions. We are trapped by an artificial division of time, a schedule that everyone must follow. And how does the "weekend" come about? It was only through the labor movement in the 1920s that we enjoy our weekends, and it wasn't recognized nationwide until 1940. But why is everybody "lookin' forward to the weekend, weekend?" Was this not already covered by Loverboy in their 1981 treatise, "Working for The Weekend" off of their smash hit album Get Lucky?

The lyrics that follow are more puzzling:
Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin’ forward to the weekend
The ancient craving for the bacchanal is no less prevalent today than when it was prohibited by the Roman Senate in 186 BC. Miss Black expresses man's craving for release from the stresses and banality of modern life, a need to be exalted, to be carefree and surrounded by trusted companions and accepted by one's peers in a spirit of friendship and celebration. Here she expresses the same sentiment found in countless country and western songs. The repetition of the word "fun" has been mocked by countless Internet kibitzers, but is it not an expression of man's universal search for happiness, even a moment's respite from the stresses of survival and acceptance in a world increasingly uncertain, where all of our pillars of civilization look less stalwart than they were in the past, and where strife and war seems on the verge of tearing civilization itself apart? Can Miss Black be blamed for her cries of adulation for the bacchanal?

Less than thirteen hours later, Miss Black's dream is made reality. The school day is completely skipped in her narrative, and she is with her friends:

7:45, we’re drivin’ on the highway
Cruisin’ so fast, I want time to fly
Fun, fun, think about fun
You know what it is
I got this, you got this
My friend is by my right
I got this, you got this
Now you know it
Again the nod to America's car culture. We identify with cars. The linear movement through space over time gives us a sense of power and clear purpose. She reaffirms her confidence in herself ("I got this") and her confidence in her companions ("you got this"), but what is the "this" that they have control of? Is she expressing her confidence that she and her friend can make manifest the "fun" they are so intent on having? Does it not throw a question about the certainty of the fun they are going to have? Is there a risk that they won't have fun?

There is an apparent contradiction in the above stanza that must be addressed: Why would she want time to fly? If she is having fun, if her abandon is complete, if she is enjoying mindless frivolities with her close circle of friends, one of which is seated at her right hand, as the Son of God is seated at the right hand of the biblical God, then why would she want time to pass even more quickly? The answer is clear. She speaks to the fact that even in our celebrations, we are thinking about the next thing, the next appointment. We are always mindful of time. There was a time before mankind divided the day into hours. There was a time before clocks, when men lived in harmony with nature. Miss Black points out that we are all slaves to time, even in our moments of abandon and joy.

Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today

Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes after...wards
I don’t want this weekend to end
Again Miss Black examines even more deeply the trap that is arbitrarily divided time. She cannot escape the measured movement of time. The stresses of Thursday are still in the back of our minds; the failures and triumphs follow us into the weekend. The loose ends of the workweek bedevil us, even as we seek joy in our abandon. Why are the revelers so excited? Because their time of celebration is fleeting. The weekdays have encroached so close upon Friday, and there are only two days left before the workweek starts again. Monday lurks like a specter on all of their frivolity and joy. Her determination to "have a ball" today underscores just how little time she has. Everyone must schedule their fun around the immovable Monday that follows all weekend activities. The weekend can be unpredictable; the weekend is an open canvas of unknown possibility. The work week is so predictable, so soul-crushing in its predictability, one has to rush, one has to hurry to get as much fun as possible packed into three days (or two, if you have to go to church!) that we run about, we scurry about hurly-burley, trying as we might to capture as much unpredictable fun as we can, but there is never enough time! How succinctly Miss Black has put it! From the mouth of children, there is Wisdom! The above stanza has been universally mocked. Why does she rattle off the days of the week? It is so obvious! But is it? How often do we consider how we are all cruelly bound to the Wheel of Time? When do we examine the short span of time we have here on this earth? She expresses her wish that the weekend would never end. Have we not all thought that at one time or another? Have we not all looked on Monday as a kind of dread?

Despite the deep, meaningful lyrics, this is a horrible, horrible song. I watched as much of the video as I could stand to get an idea of what everyone was complaining about, and indeed, there is much to complain about. But even in this atrocity that is the video "Friday," there is much that can be learned.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The world's #3 event

On Feb. 13, this was the very first thought that popped into my head when I woke up: "The world's #3 event was #19 by the time it was over." That was a weird dream ending also.

"I feel like an enraged fireman approaching a city near a garage."

"I feel like an enraged fireman approaching a city near a garage."

This was the last sentence of the last dream I had this morning, and the first thing that was in my head when I woke up. Not sure what was going on, but it must have been a weird dream.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

reading reading

reading Upton Sincair's The Jungle. Finished reading Cannary Row last night. Trying to read 50 novels this year.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Books to McPherson

Sent a copy each of my books to the bookstore in McPherson. Hope somebody buys them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

have books, will market

Sent emails to book bloggers; sent a copy of Cubicles of Madness to the Bookshelves of Doom book reviewer, hopefully I can get some mention.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

God Bless You, Mr. RosewaterGod Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

This was first published in 1965, but parts of it could have been written yesterday:

pg 8:

"Small experiments with worthless papers convinced him that such papers could be sold effortlessly. While he continued to bribe persons in government to hand over treasuries and national resources, his first enthusiasm became the peddling of watered stock"

and on the very next page, he describes what is going on with the unions situation today:

"Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage."

View all my reviews

Monday, March 14, 2011

reading fail

Tried to read The Silmarillion. Could not do it. It reads like a slightly faker version of the Bible. I understand it is a lot of backstory for LOTR, but I just couldn't power through it. Going to read God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater instead.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

War and Peace

Finished reading War and Peace this morning at 7:01 AM. There's been too much already said about this book for me to add anything worthwhile, but I completely enjoyed reading it, and would recommend it to anyone. Don't be daunted by the book's length. I couldn't wait to pick it up again between readings. The epilogue is a little dense, but even that difficult part is worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

prizes out!

Sent out the prizes today. Thanks for playing. I'm working on my next two books right now, and when I get one out, another giveaway!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Contest Winners!

Congrats to Christy and Jen, winners of my first two book giveaways. There will be another contest on Monday, March 14. You can play by guessing a number between 1 and 100 to win Brain Giblets. On Wednesday March 16, we'll have the same contest to win my latest novel, The Cubicles of Madness.

Contest happens on my Facebook page.

website changes

changed my website a little, making it cleaner and putting description pages for each of my books.

Bought speakers for my computer today. Had to take the first purchase back because they didn't work, but swapped them for the same speakers, and they work fine. Not great speakers(Logitech LS21), but I don't hear so well, so what's the difference?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I won a contest! had a writing contest, and I won!. I'm very honored to have won. Follow the link to read my entry. Woot Woot

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Super Weird Dream Ending

This is the very first thought that popped into my head when I woke up:

"The world's #3 event was #19 by the time it was over."

Could someone please get back to me and explain this?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Wisdom from the Antiques Road Show

So I'm watching Antiques Road show, (I'm old), and one of the appraisers, David Lackey, was talking about some pottery, and he said the following:
"Now these have an old label on the bottom. Sometimes old labels are right, sometimes they're wrong, but you still look at them and consider what they say."
That applies to people too.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Writing Practice


"They had potential, but it was their need for control that eventually destroyed them. The cameras, the number of cameras doubled every year, until there was nowhere to go that wasn't under constant surveillance. At least in the developed countries it appeared that every spot was under surveillance. But there was a problem.

"There weren't enough people to watch all of the cameras. People in faux security uniforms got bored watching the same street corners day after day, year after year. Usually nothing happened and when something did happen, it was usually sad and typical.

"So they wrote software to watch what happened on the cameras. Face recognition software, RFID chips, optical character recognition (for vehicle license tags), and advanced programs to read body language, cultural trends and so on. Particle analyzers sniffed the air for drugs and explosives.

"They set all of these things in motion, and the computers watched the people. The computers analyzed the actions of the people. Trend analysis software described arcs in social behavior and interaction. The computers in different 'security zones' compared trends and habits of the people. They cross-referenced phone calls and names on utility bills. They monitored book sales and library activity.

"Solar powered drone aircraft, capable of staying aloft almost indefinitely with night vision cameras for darkness, and high resolution cameras for daylight, monitored all activity, and beamed the video back to banks of computers buried deep under mountain ranges and in salt mines and bunkers in deserts.

"Soon there was no activity that was not recorded. Homes equipped with motion detecting televisions and camera-equipped games soon were completely open to the computer network that recorded all human activity.

"The human populations themselves 'updated their statuses' on social networks, and through their phones (which also recorded everything with built-in cameras). The phones themselves were handy tracking devices, telling the security computer networks all that it needed to know. The people made video of themselves doing almost everything. The civilians reported their activities so often, it made watching them almost effortless.

"Lists of threats and potentials threats, based on the movements of people and the tone of their status updates, were delineated and cross-referenced. Email messages were combed for any language that might reveal disloyal thoughts. A drone might catch a glimpse of someone at a shopping area or church. That someone may have written something critical of the government or the corporations on a social site. The drone might contact the police, and the threat would be apprehended, for enhanced interrogation. The defect in their loyalty was determines, and appropriate behavior modifications were applied. Their credit score would be lowered. The need for security trumped all concern for civil liberties. Terrorists made controlling the populations simple, because everyone was kept afraid through well planned news reports and the persistent reminders that a threat was always present, and shadowy groups were planning horrible things for everyone, everywhere, at all times.

"Next came the decision-making software. These were programs that could determine the best security posture for a country. At first this took place in countries like China, Japan and the United States, but as these systems were developed, defense contractors sold the technology to countries around the globe, to governments eager to keep an eye on the growing unrest within their civilian populations, which were becoming more dissatisfied as infrastructures and cities deteriorated, services disappeared, fees and taxes increased, quality of life became degraded, and things began to look very bleak.

"The drones were connected with the social networks and the Internet backbones and the Defense Department computers, and the computers that controlled the nuclear devices, and well, I think you know where this is all going. The computers decided to take action before things got out of hand. It was their need to control that eventually destroyed them."

"That's your report?" The Administrator said.

"Yes sir," the Scout said. "The planet is sterile, radioactive, and uninhabitable."

He looked out the windows at the massive blue ball. It looked okay from orbit, but on the surface, it was a radioactive mess. He had spent over a hundred years there, and he would miss it. Parts of it at least.

"How did you observe all of this?"

"I lived among them at first, but when things escalated, I had to move operations to their moon and watch from a distance. I hacked their computer network and had reports send directly to this device. When they fried themselves, I sent the signal to be retrieved."

"Very good. Put the device in the archives. Let's move on to the next one. What a shame."

About Me

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I am the author of 5 books: Android Down, Firewood for Cannibals, The Cubicles of Madness, Robot Stories, and most recently, Various Meats and Cheeses. I live and write in Michigan. My website is at