Erasure

While, in some respects I understand the motivations for certain decisions being made recently, I have to admit that I get tired of erasure of my past versus substantive discussion of historical wrongs that offend a world that seems to be hell-bent on being offended about nearly everything. And, in the process, milquetoast-ing the world to sanitize it of anything that might be hurtful. I’m not talking one side or the other — each side in this has been doing it’s damnedest to make sure their narrative is spoon-fed and consumed without question while each are furiously try to rewrite history as if nothing ever happened except for their own variant of the tale.

These are opportunities to discuss and educate, but you can’t do that when you scrub every nasty little “FUCK” from the graffiti-laden walls. That offensive “FUCK” was there and, instead of washing it away so someone else can just put it back up as “FUCKER” to claim it is differsame (using a double-speak equivalent of my own). Own that history. Accept it. Learn from it. Don’t pretend it didn’t exist because it hurts your tender feelings to see plain evidence that it once existed.

We’re taking the lowest-common denominator of the pampering 70s and 80s to a new extreme instead of looking at things head on and discussing them like mature societies will. Instead of growing adults, we are growing overgrown children because they have to be protected from the past. Erasure and overprotectiveness won’t solve the problems we face; meaningful conversations can and will.

Too bad people are more concerned about wiping away the symptoms instead of addressing the disease head-on.

/rant

round lake/

©2021 Michael Raven

pushing through with
twigs gathering
broken in hair
loam & woodrot perfume
birdsong trails &
sitar locust drone with
frog croak serenade
to walk to the place
where the wolf wine's
heady draught awaits

Reflections on Winter

I’m being pulled hard towards the New Model Army album from 2016, Winter this past week or so. It’s strange, really, as I have always appreciated NMA, but wouldn’t be what you would call a rabid fan by any stretch of the imagination — I’m more of a casual listener, not even a fan. I couldn’t tell you one song from the next, or which album had what songs that I liked. Background music when I felt I needed to have some new sounds in my head.

I was looking for something different to listen to last week than what I normally listen to and recalled thinking Winter was a decent collection of songs when I listened to the album the first time about a year ago.

And now: I have the title track stuck in my head, and a few others worming their way into me ear.

I don’t know that I can explain. It’s a bit like the need to explore a tarot deck closer at the end of last year; I can’t articulate the attraction other than the album feels right for the moment, seems to grasp the wraithlike tendrils of whatever it is that my subconscious is driving towards without bothering to tell the lumbering lorry what the destination is that will be eclipsed. The very same otherworldly feel.

Yes, I know sometimes I come off as a bit of a crackpot who might benefit from a good dose of mood-altering prescription better-living-through-chemistry solutions to my mental stuff. I’m okay with it, although I wish I was more privy to the purpose, even if most people out there have always been a little disturbed by my approaches. Much of the weirdness, I am certain, still is an evolution even a year after giving up some of the drugs doctors thought would help me with persistent low-grade depression — I’m still rediscovering some of who I am after years of having had that part of my head stifled, walled in, closed off. I still revel in being able to write more consistently and frequently after years of authorized medication and even more years of alcoholic self-medication. Being depressed is a small price to pay to be able to write and to feel and think mostly straight again instead of walking though a fog of “meh”.

So it is nice to have something resonate so well. Take, for instance, the first verse to Echo November:

And everything laid before us now, nothing to conceal
I'm going back to the Nature Gods, the only thing that's real
And yes I heard the voices raised, I heard all the words you were saying
It sounds just like everything sounds, the sound of something praying

It’s the second line of that verse that grabs me: “I’m going back to the Nature Gods, the only thing that’s real”.

I guess that says most of it for me. Except that it’s not your Llewellyn mass paperback nature gods with candles and athames and incense — there is blood and viscera, pain and self-sacrifice as well as all those nice, fluffy, Disney-fied things that people prefer to focus on when they speak of their spiritualism. No — I’m not talking literally. I speak figuratively, although there is more to it than even that simple dichotomy. As I’ve said in the past, words are inadequate to express certain things — certain things are experienced, then known, and cannot be put into words:

The eternal Tao can never be completely described with spoken words or defined with written words. You cannot rely on words to understand it. You have to live it… and feel it.

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 1, as paraphrased by Derek Lin

Neither here, nor there — just some context for my thinking and possible explanation for the attraction. Lots of visionary imagery in some of the lyrics and, delving into the biographies of the band members over the past hour, it is quite apparent that we have some similar worldviews, even if there is not necessarily a direct mirroring of those views. So I guess it shouldn’t be all that much of a mystery as to why I’m being drawn into this album.

And yet, why now?

Was it the medication that made me say meh to so much of the life I was experiencing when I first heard it? Maybe. Or maybe it is just the moment that I need to finally really hear this album for reasons I am never meant to understand. And it might be a passing thing, but I can tell you the album is starting to sound like it is on Top 40 levels of high rotation in my listening.

The album itself is probably to sparse and driving for most people. It’s pretty stark and not full of fancy frippery. It’s not pretty. If it was a archetype, it’d be that battle-hardened drengr, weary from battles in the snowdrifts, ready to find her way home.

Audiotic Ideas

(and potentially stupid ones as well).

A couple of things I’m considering for the blog…

  • Doing spoken-word audio for select poems and microfiction
  • 30-second music in 30 minutes or “Song of the Day” (which is an idea stolen from TMBG, who had a phone line you could call and hear a new song every day by the boys)

The former is to explore some of the writing as performance elements I embraced in high school and a subsequent poetry night I emceed back in the mid-90s. Not to slam, or get too performance-y, but to aid folks who have vision issues and to give a slightly different flavor to some of the pieces here. Sometimes spoken inflections can change the entire feel of a piece and, though I am loath to foist my voice on people, I like the idea of expanding the experience on some pieces.

The other idea — a song written in a highly compressed amount of time, or a ditty of the day is more to challenge myself than anything. Not get sucked into production or individual notes, but be forced to hurry through something in the hopes that the intuitive creative process creates something more interesting than the methodical creative process.

I’m interested on your opinions about this. Post them below.

Rant about e-book monthly sales

One of the rituals I used to enjoy was going to Amazon’s Kindle Monthly sales on the first of every month to see if I could snag something I’d like to have in my e-book collection — either something I have been meaning to read, or something that I loved reading in hard copy and plan to reread again. I tend to go e-book these days for portability, minimalism in space and, frankly because I like being able to increase the font size to whatever is easiest for my aging eyes to read. So, I haunt Amazon and Google Books for sales because — have I mentioned this? — I am a cheap bastard at times.

That’s not to say that books aren’t typically worth the asking price (although I do think the pricing has started to get out of hand for some titles, especially considering that e-books don’t have any manufacturing or shipping costs associated with production), but I’d be more interested in paying full price if the actual authors got the bulk of the money instead of the middlemen.

Anyway, it used to be a fun little ritual each month to see if I could bargain hunt some e-books.

It isn’t any more.

For the past year, the list of books on sale is an exercise in futility to explore. Almost all of the titles on sale these days are self-published urban fantasy/horror romances, sometimes from the same twenty rotating authors who are selling perpetually “on sale” e-books. You know the kind. “Printed price: $12.99; buy for $2.99; YOU SAVE $10”. On non-sale days, you only save $6, or whatever.

I would have thought that urban fantasy-romance and urban horror-romance would have tapered off by now and be replaced by something else, but it still persists. That’s in spite of the rise of steampunk-romance, magician-romance and tattoos-or-piercings-as-magic-conduit-romance “novels” of less than 125 pages (notice a theme yet?). I might not look on these with such derision if I haven’t read a few to see what the hoopla is all about. Most could actually use the editors from the big publishing houses to, at the bare minimum, clean up the grammatical stuff and trim out the chaff. I read one book at the request of the author. I usually try to find something positive to say about someone’s writing, no matter how much I dislike the actual content — especially when asked to provide comments. I struggled. The best I could say is that I didn’t care for it, but there was potential in the concept (a minor whopper, it was a trope-filled hot mess), and that mileage may vary. Most of these [X]-romance writers are only slightly better, in my opinion. You can find free fan-fiction that is better quality literature in most cases.

Plus — I really hate “dark romance”. I mean, I really, really hate “dark romance”. Especially when it tries to emulate 50 shades of mediocrity (“WITH VAMPIRES!™”).

I checked out the list today and my shoulders slumped. It threatened to be interesting for about 8 titles out of 173 fantasy/scifi novels, but they were only third-rate titles by Silverberg and P. Anderson, and a compilation with Gaiman as a contributor. The bulk of the rest? Something-dark-romance. And these are cross-tagged with literature, fiction, romance, horror, so you find them in most of the sales lists. They are unavoidable. And the authors or Amazon put the titles on sale every other month, so you see the same titles and authors over and over and over…

I might stop looking at this rate.

Four

Yay! It finally came! I guess I have some reading to do this weekend…

This totally makes up for the delayed receipt of the phone I was expecting this afternoon. I was getting mighty salty about that, but now I at least have something new to look through this evening.

Verbal Jousting

You may notice that, in this blog incarnation, I am loath to get too involved with discussions about current events, sticking more to poetry, short fiction (sometimes insanely short fiction), and bits of nonsensical recollections about things far removed from the world today (other than to bitch about missing certain things or to point out the foils of some of the current popular items of interest). Sure, I’ve delved into the occasional rage against the system, especially when things got so absurd late last year that my choices were to shout or to melt. But, on the balance, I have attempted to eschew modern-day controversy.

It wasn’t always that way. In what was one of my first blogs, I regularly railed against such things such as the government getting involved in a man’s decision that his wife would not want to be in a coma after some 10 years of her being in a coma and only alive because machines were keeping her alive (while her birth family sought an injunction from the government to keep her plugged in against the odds that she would regain consciousness and suddenly not need the machines). Or the subways bombings by terrorists. Or ranting against the opening of waging war on multiple fronts on weak evidence that (later) ended up being false evidence.

I can get my panties in a bunch quite nicely. There’s plenty to be mad about in this world, and now there are even “alternate facts” so you can choose your own flavor of “vive la révolution” to rally behind.

The problem is, especially after these most recent four years, I am absolutely exhausted by the thought of arguing any particular position. Part of it is some of the absolute stupidity of some of positions people are taking entirely untethered from anything resembling reality (George Carlin: “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that”. Heinlein: “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity”). In those cases, there is no point in arguing with someone who refuses to critically think for themselves and just parrots whatever pabulum has been shoved in the cavity that normally holds a brain — you can’t argue with indoctrination, especially when it comes to willful ignorance. It usually devolves, quite quickly, from logical debate to fists flying — because the last resort of someone unable to reason their argument is violence to coerce others into eating the same mealy gruel. That’s not worth my time and I certainly don’t need to add physical injuries or a slight case of death to my already prevalent physical ailments.

The fatigue with senseless, pointless argument (as opposed to reasoned debate) has pervaded my being so much that I tend to avoid all verbal jousting these days and largely automatically surrender to whatever viewpoint is counter to my own. And then, change the subject as quickly as possible to avoid resentment on my part. The surrender may be nothing more than the equivalent of “Well, isn’t it great that the world is full of so many opinions! If you were stranded on an island, what is the one book you would consider essential to be stuck with?”, but it may also involve letting the other person go on for a bit until they see there is no fight to be had with me about most things, which tends to make it a boring event for them and they move on of their own accord to subject matters I’m more willing to engage in.

That approach stands with my immediate and extended families as well. I’m tired of being outraged and argumentative. So, when someone brings up something about what what one politician did at such and such an event, or whatever PC faux pas I committed that I should have picked up via osmosis gets mentioned, I will more often than not check out of the conversation. “You’re obviously correct, sorry. How’s the weather where you’re at?”

And, not only am I exhausted by arguments, but I just no longer see the value in them. You believe what you believe, and I have my own thoughts about the matter, and I agree to disagree — now let’s find something we have in common to talk about. I’d rather discuss commonality than disunity.

Argument and debate has a role to play in the world. I think, however, more often than not it is just an exercise in egotism where two or more people shout at the void, “I exist!”, when it was obvious all along that they exist — not independently as their declarations would have you believe, but dependently with each person defining the other.

And, I’ve gotten more than happy to not participate in making my throat sore for all the void-yelling.