The Big Book Annoucement

When I started the first 52 project, long ago in the spring of 2009, I thought that maybe, some day, writing all these stories would result in something. I thought that I might improve my writing skills. I was pretty sure I would develop ingrained habits around writing and a discipline around devoting time to it. I thought I’d learn all about leveraging social networks, about marketing and writing to audiences, and the market for writing in general.

Instead, all I got was this book:

Another Damn Week

 

It’s called Another Damn Week, and is available on real, actual paper via CreateSpace and
Amazon.

It is also available digitally: For Kindle, for Nook, for Kobo, and as a plain old dowload at SmashWords. I will be announcing more outlets as they become available.

I want to give a special thanks to those who helped make this book possible: my tireless editors Ellen Klowden and Rhiannon Louve, my fabulous cover artist Arashi S. Young, and everyone who read, commented, recommended, shared, and otherwise supported my writing.


As with the smart phone, so with the heart

What is magic?

When you see the flash of light and something impossible seems to happen before your eyes, what part of that is the magic part? It’s not even the impossible thing itself. After all, impossible things appear to happen all the time. It’s not the smoke and mirrors, either, which are just the mechanism, and it isn’t the mysterious supernatural forces – which, if they existed, would still only be more mechanisms.

Take, as another example of magic, the modern smartphone. Imagine taking one back in time, say fifty years or so. What it does would appear to people of that time as impossible, unbelievable. The smartphone is a lady sawn in half before your very eyes, a poof of smoke and the the appearance of a lion from thin air. You don’t call it magic though, and neither would those people fifty years ago. You don’t call it magic in part because you know how it works, and the people of 1963 wouldn’t call it magic because it’s clearly a device – and even if they have no idea how such a thing is possible, the very device-ness of it implies an infrastructure of technology. We all know that doing the apparently impossible is merely a matter of better technology.

Or take a relationship. Take that connection, that mysterious chemistry that two people can share, surfing on each others’ moods, knowing each others’ thoughts and needs. You might call it magical if you didn’t know the years they’ve been together, learning each other, all the hard work necessary to be good to each other. That’s not magic, it’s just a relationship.

What makes something magic is not needing that infrastructure. Not having had to spend the time to figure out a partner, not having had to position the mirrors and arrange for the smoke. A smartphone would feel like magic if only you couldn’t sense the decades of hard work that went into the improbable things it can do. If only it worked without towers, without signal, without contracts and money and complication. It only feels like magic when it seems to happen without effort real or implied, when it has no prerequisites or consequences.

Magic is the mistaken identity of coincidence, the alias of chance. Magic is the idea that something happens without having had to work for it, without a cost, without needing to understand.


All that is not Kennric

Supposedly, when asked how he was able to carve such a magnificent statue, Michelangelo said that he considered the marble and “chipped away all that wasn’t David.”

It occurs to me that life is a process of chipping away. When you deal with depression the process is survival itself. As moods swell and dissipate, you have to learn to find those things that remain true and concrete both in the depths of misery and the heights of mania. Those are the anchors, the constants, and there are precious few of them. They allow you to discard the fantasies both light and dark, to compare the truth you knew in happiness with what you know in despair, to chip away what is not real. To carve away all that is not you.

 


Guest Post: The 365days Project

In the run-up to a new attempt at the 52 project, I’ve asked Arashi to write about her 365Days project, the photographic journey that inspired me to write not once, not twice, but every damn week for a year.

 The 365days Project

Before I had come across the 365days project I was embarrassed to call myself an artist.  Embarrassed because I was the most loathsome type of artist to walk the earth.  I was an artist who never made any art.

I desperately wanted to claim to be an artist but I was fearful of doing the actual work involved.  When I was a child, art was easy and fun, but as I grew up, they idea of being an artist was loaded with expectation.  Before I found this project, I was in a depressive funk in my early twenties.  The promise of an interesting job after college had fallen apart as my humanities degree prepared me for a career as an underpaid administrative assistant.  I bought a DSLR camera practically on impulse, and yet it laid dormant with a pile of other creative tools hanging around.

Stumbling through creative blogs on the Internet I read about the 365days project.  The 365days project is a photography project where one is supposed to take a self portrait every day, rain or shine, no matter what.  This project was hosted at the 365days flickr group.

Immediately I was drawn to the idea for many reasons.  My DSLR was gathering dust while I stressed to remember the relationship between shutter speed, iso, and aperture. My own relationship with being photographed was dogged by self consciousness and camera shyness. The wild card was the accountability aspect, that I would publicly display my pictures, my successes and failures.  These things made up an overlapping Venn diagram of fear.  It took less than a day of internal debate before signing up and taking my first shot.

From this fairly ordinary beginning, I began to branch off and explore. Since every day was a new opportunity, I could try out as many styles as I wanted.  I did long exposures, diptychs, and triptychs.

Long exposure blink and a Triptych

A desire to crop pictures brought me to use GIMP, the open source image editing software program.  Soon I was getting into layer styles, selective colorization, and cloning.  The project took a turn from a simple documentation of the self to a full on exploration in the world of digital techniques.

An example of cloning and a recursive image.

I can easily say that the 365days project changed my life as an artist.  I had never been as productive or fearless in my life.  I learned that an important part of making art is making mistakes, and making a lot of them.  I realized that I had been paralysed by the fear of failure which in turn made me fail.  There is no time to ponder failure when you are forcing yourself to be creative every day.  You only have time to accept it, move on and try to learn from the mistakes.

I may not have loved every single day.  Too often there were days where I just needed to get the shot in and I would worry about it later.   But those days were worth it to make up for the days when inspiration would occur.

The image below is from Day 365, marking a whole year of taking a picture every day.  The large head was shot on that day but the rest of the images are a montage of days throughout the year and how they coordinate to different sections of the brain according to the pseudo science of Phrenology.


On the occasion of flying home

There has been some stir recently over a new airport passenger scanning technology that supposedly reveals the naked body (in false color) many airline passengers keep concealed beneath their clothing. I thought about it while waiting for 20 minutes to slowly run all of my belongings through an x-ray machine and step through a metal detector at the Portland airport (Port of Portland, motto: “Because coffee beans don’t grow in Oregon”).

It’s a privacy worry for many, these new magic x-ray glasses.

Privacy. It’s not about having something to hide, it’s about not having someone look at every single thing you do, naked or otherwise. I wonder though, is the technology really the problem? Sure, the machines make it easier to observe you, but the truth is, there has been plenty of technology for a long time that allows interested parties to learn whatever they want about you. Before Google had access to all your searching habits and the contents of your email, before grocery stores gave you discount cards  in exchange for tracking every single purchase you make, before the cops could watch you through your own walls with infra-red cameras, before the mailman could see what mail you got from who, before the social security number became a de-factor national ID number the faceless Federal Bureaucrats  could use to track you… sorry, when I started that sentence, I thought I could go back in time to a point when privacy was not a tenuous concept at constant threat from technology, but I can’t.

The point is, if people want to know, they will probably be able to find out, new technology or not. Real privacy, immunity to snooping, has always been difficult, its price is paranoia and the sacrifice of interaction with the public sphere – not a price most are willing to pay. The tools exist. Cameras, scanners, credit cards and the EasyPass are only part of the equation, just as good old fashioned spying was long before the ubiquity of technology. The other major factor has always been Society, and its oft errant offspring the Law.

I posit that at any time in the history of this country, the privacy of any individual was solely defined by the legality and commercial value of spying on them. Not the technology, not the cameras. Tools have always been there, always in an arms race with the counter-tools of privacy-loving paranoiacs, but never inadequate for the job. (Keep in mind the most basic tool has always been with us, plain old human nature.)

Just as security theater does not make us safer, the new scanner will not take more of our privacy – the laws that prescribe its use, our willingness to accept the scanning,  and the forces that are sustained by that security theater, those are the things that make everything most personal to us public.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone

Sorry the story was short this week – I was inspired by a short-short fiction contest recently, and thought I could get really creative in 100 words – but just got sappy instead.

I think Thanksgiving gets a bum rap these days for its unfortunate association with a bogus Pilgrims and Indians story, and for its general association with the devastation of native people by arrogant Europeans, but the basic idea of the holiday is about ten times more worthy than any other one we actually observe – it’s not about the founding of a country, not about any one religious sect’s special story, it doesn’t celebrate victories in war and it wasn’t created to generate revenue for greeting card and candy companies.

Look around you, look at everything you have, and be thankful. Look at the people around you, at everything they have given, and thank them. Eat well, and be thankful you can.

Thanks, everyone, for reading.


Standardized Subjective Units

Subjective Units in measurement have long been used in the field, but in the lay community, these units are often misused or misunderstood. I would like to present here a list of the most commonly used S.U.’s, their proper definition, and usage.

Click to continue reading “Standardized Subjective Units”


Come to my church

Did I mention I am starting a church?

Perhaps church isn’t exactly the right word, but its the one that seems to fit best. I will be posting my more philosophical and socially-minded thoughts over there.

“There” being passionatemind.org.

So what is it exactly? Something like a athiest’s rational analysis of what humanity wants and needs out of religion, and and attempt to provide those things without all the tedious mucking about with supernatural beings.


Fever Dream

My thermometer tells me I don’t have a fever, at least in the traditional sense. I do, however have that feverish sort of hallucinatory wooz going on. The body is an amazing and finely tuned machine, and when things go off-balance, that mind-body connection makes itself felt in the fine details. Ever wonder why it is so hard to think when you are sick? Surely the body should be able to handle its immune system cleanup jobs just fine without dragging the software down along with it, right? No, sadly, the software is really firmware, wetware, biochemical messiness of the highest order.

Click to continue reading “Fever Dream”


the problem with government

I haven’t posted in a while due mostly to school and its harsh demands on my time and creative energy. There have been a few things on my mind, though. Little things, liberty, government, morality.

It seems to me that government, by its nature, walks a very fine line between legitimate communal necessity on the one side and all the worst possible human failings on the other.

In any group beyond a certain size, (and I tend to think this size is defined by the number of people you can know on a first-name basis) some form of collective organization eventually becomes necessary. Some form of conflict mediation between members of the group, and some form of collective decision-making in issues that affect the community as a whole, are both needed for any kind of cohesiveness and stability. The problem seems to be that it is very hard to build a governing structure that does not put individual humans in positions of power. Once the position of power exists, the certainty of corruption exists. Perhaps more insidious than corruption is the tendency of people to do what they think is right. This is great on an individual basis, but when someone’s moral sense can become law, this is bad news.

Click to continue reading “the problem with government”


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What would you do?

So what would you do if you didn’t have to do anything? Say you’ve won the lottery, or someone solves the great problem of peace on earth and work becomes obsolete. Or maybe you just ascend to heaven, where you have all of eternity to do… what? What do you do when you aren’t required to do anything?

Click to continue reading “What would you do?”


life

“A great man once told me, on a dark night, in a terrible storm – he said ‘Son, live every moment of your life like it is the very last one you’ll ever get’. Well, I’ve been in this cell for a week now, and damned if I’m not beginning to wonder about that advice.”


On a Lighter Note

I’ve been enjoying this webcomic lately:

I Drew This
Despite the rather philosophical bent of recent posts, I’ve been thinking politics a lot recently, and this one sums up well a lot of my own gut reactions to what I hear in the news.

I’ve always wanted to draw my own strip, but I know I don’t have the drawing chops, nor the devotion to keep it up. I respect those who can consistently turn out good comics, and if you are curious, here are a few like to read:

I should also mention Goats, but with a caveat – I’ve only found the storyline interesting in the last few months, but there have been good comic moments throughout.

You might detect a pattern here, you might not…

What do you like?


culture = audience?

Electrons and Yellowstone National Park both struggle with a similar problem. By observation, the thing you wish to observe is changed.

I was struck while reading something in which a character considers traveling to several different cultures, to experience their unique characteristics. He was visiting localized cultures, physical land areas in which the people live in a certain way, with specific traditions and behaviors. This character also lives in a future of instantaneous travel from one point to another, across dozens of worlds – all of these cultures he visits exists in a framework where every other culture is easily available. We have a similar situation here and now in the real world. More and more, the artifacts, ideas, music and food of distant localities is available to us. Right here in Oregon, I can buy sushi, durian fruit, brie, Ethiopian coffee, and lichee flavored Chinese black tea. Immigrants have brought with them the flavors of their old world, and commerce takes care of the rest.

Click to continue reading “culture = audience?”


Long delayed thoughts

Many thoughts, in fact. I’ve been buried in school work and other obligations, but the ideas I have been trying to illuminate have been bubbling away for the last few months, and maybe I can tie this together a bit now.

Julie hits the nail on the head with this reply to my previous post:

” Your questions walk a very slippery slope. Is it right to do what you can for the good of humanity? Yes. Is it right to force what you think is right and good upon humanity “for their own good”?? No.”

To which I have to say What is the difference?

Click to continue reading “Long delayed thoughts”


Megalomania and socio-economic feedback

The last post got some interesting feedback.

The question still nags me, though, I feel like I haven’t gotten yet to the meat of it. If you could change the world, would you? For fun, for ideals, out duty or out of boredom? Don’t we all have some kind of super-power, something we can use to change the world? A brain, an idea, two arms and two legs and a mouth. Or two mouths, if you were especially blessed? Given the power, a lot of us would do good, but not feel obligated to… A lot of us don’t know we can change the world as without super powers… A lot of us feel like being a caretaker/diety/paternalistic figure is a bad idea, maybe even immoral on some level… Most of us would have a fantastic party if we were superman. This just isn’t answering my question, somehow.

Click to continue reading “Megalomania and socio-economic feedback”


a question

So I am obviously spending a bit more time in front of the computer lately, as you can see by the volume of posts. While writing, and considering things others have written, I realized (not for the first time) what an incredibly lucky person I am to have what I have in my life. I know only about three people read this blog, despite my efforts, and thats pretty frustrating sometimes, but at least two of those readers are people I am incredibly lucky to have in my life. A little too lucky, it seems. Without listing a pile of things that are similarly beyond what I feel I should be able to expect from life, lets just say things feel a bit unbalanced sometimes. It makes me feel like I owe the universe something.

Now for the record, I don’t owe the universe anything. It is not a conscious entity, and the concept of owing simply doesn’t apply. Nor is there any cosmic karmic scorecard keeping track of my good deeds.  In fact the word luck here is simply a descriptive word describing my personal opinion of what I have managed  to get away with in life, it is not any kind of mystic force that influences or can be influenced.

Still, I feel like I need to be doing things in the world. Good things (by my lights, since I don’t have anyone elses to use). Things that will make the world a better place for the species, and perhaps things that will make the species better for the world. Would I feel this desire/obligation if I didn’t find my situation so “lucky”? I like to think so, since this notion has come to me via more philosophical/logical routes, but who knows. I suppose if I felt hard done by, I might also feel a need to change the world.
So here’s the question. Leaving aside the why’s and wherefores, what do you feel obligated to do in this world? Anything? If not obligated, what do you think is a good thing to try and accomplish? Is there anything you would consider a worthwhile purpose?


definitions

How defined are we, by the bodies we inhabit.

And how defined are we? Define defined.

And how!

And how to define, as our bodies do us?

Through words? Or something else, yes…

Or something. Else we are undefined.

Depending on your definition of how.

Or defining the dependence, else, on us.

And how?

Not like that, surely. Surely some word,

Surly, perhaps, or some other such term,

else our bodies, in so many words, are us

without words. Which are ours anyway.

Defined by our body-defined selves as words

And so do we define us. Don’t we? Or do we?

Or does the body define the words, not us?

But how?

By being the body we are, we define words.

In words defined by bodies, by Jove!

By being, by beginning, by being begun, but…

we are finished. In these terms, at least.

But not at last, becasue how do we know what

last thing is really the last? Define last.

But not in the words defined by us…

Not yet.

You never know, with bodies, what lasts,

and what is last, and when another thing

might be defined, just when we thought

it was over.

It wasn’t.


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