Thursday, September 3, 2015

On re-reading Frank Herbert's Dune

There are a lot of things I like about Frank Herbert's Dune. It introduced me to ideas I still carry with me. The strongest is a simple thing; a son seeing his father as a man, a fallible being, for the first time.

The hidden agendas, the politics of hiding intentions behind perceived desires. The idea of feints within feints within feints.

Herbert constructed a complete reality as dense and interesting as Tolkien's Middle Earth; a universe of subtle and not so subtle individuals all driven by their own personal motivations. 

It's been many years since I last read Dune, and I remember all these things and more - including the science of ecology and biology of Arrakis. People could (and probably have) written books on the philosophies Herbert describes.

"Fear is the mindkiller . . ."


I had forgotten one thing about this book though.

Some of the writing is beautiful in its description of a sparse and demanding landscape. This is just a random sample that affected me enough to post this reflection:

Paul continued to stare across the basin. He inhaled, sensed the softly cutting contralto smell of sage climbing the night. The predatory bird—he thought of it as the way of this desert. It had brought a stillness to the basin so unuttered that the blue-milk moonlight could almost be heard flowing across sentinel saguaro and spiked paintbush. There was a low humming of light here more basic in its harmony than any other music in his universe.

That bit in the middle:

. . . so unuttered that the blue-milk moonlight could almost be heard flowing across sentinel saguaro and spiked paintbush.

I have only one thing to say about that - "This son of a bitch can write."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Brian is not the Messiah

Someone, not a robot, seems to believe I have a significant dearth of crucifixions on this site. He (or she) seems to have ignored the point of this blog. Every post, every paragraph, every sentence, and yes, every word documents one or another kind of crucifixion that makes up my daily life.

But I concede - one might mistake the soon to be copyrighted tagline, Where every day is a crucifixion, as a promise for daily carnage. I can't keep up with that kind of demand on my schedule - I'm too busy living a life full of woe. So, instead, I offer you this cop-out. I try to avoid video links in my posts - they are too easy. Too much like cheating - but this seems so perfect for the occasion.


What a wonderful movie.

A lot of memories are stirred up when I think of this movie.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Writer's Block

I always thought writers block was a load of crap. Part of me still does. When I think of writers block, I think of tired, drunk wordsmiths too buzzed to crawl out of a bottle and sit down at a typewriter to bang out a page or three. Or, more usually, the image of Jack Torrance comes to mind. Sitting at a desk staring at a blank sheet of paper terrified to begin. So he types "all work and no fun makes Jack a dull boy." over and over.

It never occurred to me that writer's block might be more than laziness or alcoholism or the sham of an excuse for a different kind of narcissist pretending to be a writer. Instead I relied on the Hollywood clich├ęs of lame excuses and pathetic losers.

But. This blog has pointed something out to me. I barely write. I rarely write. I don't write. And I've come to think maybe this is what those lazy bastards are talking about when they talk about writer's block.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mea Culpa

Yesterday, having drunk too much, I was intoxicated as to pass all bounds; but none of the rude and coarse language I used was uttered in a conscious state. The next morning, after hearing others speak on the subject, I realised what had happened, whereupon I was overwhelmed with confusion and ready to sink into the earth with shame. 

-- a boilerplate apology from the Dunhuang Bureau of Etiquette, 856 AD.  This is one of thousands of great letters you can find at Letters of Note, a great blog I highly recommend.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Jesus, God, and Mary vs. The Smooth Operator

Being a good Samaritan often pays off in unexpected ways. At least that is how it works according to what I've read - I can't swear I've ever acted as the "Good Samaritan." At least until last Monday afternoon.

My dear readers, you may not believe this, but I just happened to be sitting in the Fillmore Pub. Drinking a glass of water.

While enjoying my tasty wet beverage, I was working on a blog post that I intended to publish before the end of the year (I was only about 15 hours late). It was then that a young woman stepped through the doorway. She stopped there and looked over the various clusters of people in the bar. This was possible as it was not yet 6:00 and the manager had not yet lowered the lights to levels lower than one might find in most caves.

I have to say it came as no surprise when the young lady once she espied my devilishly handsome face and my adonis-like features, she made a beeline in my direction.

"You looked like the nicest person in here," she announced (rather unnecessarily), "and I hate to ask, but I was hoping you would let me use your phone."

I had seen this young lady outside in the frigid weather wearing a light jacket and trying to keep warm in the arms of her boyfriend. I promptly ignored her at the time. It's hard to resist the years of training I undertook when living in New York of the 1980s.

Clearly she had spotted me arriving at the Fillmore Pub and could not resist creating this thin excuse to come talk to me.

Telling me her name was Sarah (not her real name, or I don't think it is - nevertheless, it isn't the name she offered), she maintained the charade by taking my phone and spending the next 15 minutes calling number after number, occasionally leaving cryptic messages like, "I just got into town and I am stuck in downtown Plano. Can you come get me?"

She finally reached a live person and I helped her give directions to the person on the other end of the connection. I knew she wanted to spend more time with me, but as luck would have it, my friend Susan showed up at just this moment. I fear the girl misunderstood my relationship with Susan, and made a quick (and likely embarrassed) exit.

I checked my phone and saw that Sarah had made about ten calls to five or six different phone numbers. None of them looked like toll numbers, so I plugged my phone into a charger and pretty much forgot about my noble deed and its possible ramifications.

Susan and I kept each other company and I drank some beverages other than water. And that was all there was to it.

Wait - didn't I say something about noble deeds paying off in unexpected ways? Why yes, yes I did.

Much later that evening, while I was re-familiarizing myself with Chris Carter's oeuvre - someone was running an X-Files marathon - the payoff became manifest.

My phone gave off its familiar IMS notification tone, and I was presented with several messages, all from an unfamiliar number.

Immediately, it's pretty clear to me that these texts come from a none too bright male who knows Sarah, at least slightly, but I have strong doubts that his intentions are chivalrous.

Aside from the obvious misspelling (your for you're is one of my greatest pet peeves), his lame, and pathetically cheap invite to a casino pretty much convinced me I was dealing with a douche-bag.

And I don't mean that in a nice way.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Year in Review. Sort of.

WARNING: THIS POST IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS. IT LACKS A CERTAIN . . . DOOMSDAY FEEL. THERE IS A NOTICEABLE ABSENCE OF ANGER. A DEARTH OF DEATH IMAGERY, EVEN.

So - you've been warned.

The year draws to a close and I am surprised as I listen to the pundits and the news-makers talk about what a terrible year it has been. This comes as a bit of a shock to me. This has been an awesome year for me. And that is what really blows my mind. That I can sit here and type, "this has been an awesome year," without a hint of sarcasm or bitterness.

The other oddity about this positive outlook is it is missing a key component: Fear. In the past I have experienced "happiness." I've written about this phenomenon. They've lasted up to 2-3 hours at a time. And as anyone who knows me can tell you, these periods that lacked my typical anger or disappointment were uniformly accompanied by fear. Sometimes even terror. One reason for the fear was simple. This "happy" thing was a new, unfamiliar feeling. It confused me with its foreignness. Anger has a certain comfortable familiarity because when I am angry I know what to do, how to act, how to express it. Happy? What does happy do? Happy is flowers and skipping and smiling like a lunatic. All the time. That certainly sounds horrifying to me. Besides, didn't those great philosopher-artists the Dead Milkmen write a musical thesis titled, "Meaningless Upbeat Happy Song" in which they state:

Don't trust the happy; the happy are insane.
If you see someone smiling, run - get away.
Do not trust the happy; the happy are insane.
The happy are insane.