Odds & ends

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More a progress note this morning, but a few passing thoughts this weekend I wanted to put down here, just to hang out in the sun to dry.

The mud-pit above? The road home, all snow gone. Another first for February, the snow rarely melts this much until late March. Next ten days? Sun, temps in the forties. Typical for April, not February. Oh well, c’est la vie, right? Hate to resort to cheap allegories, but there you have it, folks.

The pendulum keeps on swinging.

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Read a comment over at Lit yesterday, made for the first Predators story, and it relayed something that kind of bothered me. The comment generally praises the story, but ends by saying I ruined the effort by injecting “liberal politics” into key passages.

Has it really come down to that? An author can’t express opinions without running afoul of the PC police? Yet conservatives have been screaming loud and clear about the injustices of the left’s PC police. So, let me get this straight…if the right’s PC police scream “foul” -that’s alright?

And just so I’m clear on the central thesis being made, authors aren’t allowed to have or express opinions in their work? Because doing so will “ruin” their work?

So, let me put this in perspective, my perspective. Which goes back to Thomas Mann, where the whole Adrian Leverkühn thing comes from. Which goes back to graduate school, and ultimately, to my dissertation, which focused on structures of time in Mann’s Doctor Faustus, but also drew on similar constructs in Mann’s Magic Mountain. In both, Mann uses key characters as archetypes, and in The Magic Mountain these characters represent countries in the lead-up to WWI. The action takes place in a tuberculosis sanatorium (sickness, dis-ease), and interaction between patients represents interaction between countries, and conflict is seen as inevitable. Good book, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in ’24, worth a read if you missed it along the way. Doctor Faustus uses a similar system of archetypes, but instead of people representing countries, in Faustus characters represent historical eras. Key eras in Germany’s past. Key moments in a Nietzschean drama that lead inexorably to Germany’s affinity (sorry, Goethe fans) for a certain Viennese house-painter who grabbed power in 1933. A sidebar. Music plays a central role in Faustus; Leverkühn is a composer, and the action follows his development as a composer, leading from simplistic mimicry of baroque forms to Beethoven, then on to the atonal, 12-tone spheres of Arnold Schoenberg (expressionism is decadence, and pre-figures collapse). Mann lived through Weimar, and the excesses of that experiment are never far from his mind.

The point here, and there is one, is simply this. Mark Twain is political. Mann is political. Erica Jong is political. The Valley of the Dolls is political. Peanuts is political – yes, even good ole Charlie Brown and his dog Snoopy – is POLITICAL.

Writing is a political act.

So criticizing a writer for making a political statement is a little like taking offense when a writer draws a breath.

I wonder: can some of us not just grow up a little? Accept that we have differences of opinion and not hate one another for those differences? Can we not learn from one another? Can we not listen to opinions that differ from our own and not freak out? Can we not speak in civil tones when we disagree? Can we not respect another’s right to express an opinion without rebuke?

So, yes, that’s what was on my mind this morning. Sorry. Thanks for reading this far.

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Ah yes, The Coffee Cantata.

Up to around 120 pages by late last night. The overlapping plot lines and character intersections are daunting, the action moves from the present to the 70s and points in between with fluid rapidity, and I’m having to resort to charts and graphs to keep all the elements coherent. I’ve never tried anything so complicated, and the effort is as frustrating as it is challenging – like a picture puzzle – with half the pieces white. Images fill-in once in place, or they look right until moved in place, then look wrong and have to be removed.

In other words, this one is taking time. And yes. It’s political.

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Song for the day. Remember John Barry? The guy that did all the James Bond scores? Well, he made a few ‘solo’ albums before he passed, and one of them, The Beyondness of Things, has a real gem on it. Called The Heartlands, it’s an introspective meditation – soft and measured – and worth a listen. The entire album is, for that matter…very cinematic, and the man had a way with the language of music.

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A few other interesting pieces in the news today, some worth passing along. For those who believe in the educated elite (that includes me), here’s some food for thought:

For those on the left.

For those in need of Prozac.

An interesting twist about the Gorsuch nomination.

And Sen Al Franken’s views on terrorism make for an interesting read.

Trump’s denialism? Read on…

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I recall a song, about people sitting on fences all their lives. All they get is a pain in the ass. Anyway, back to the Cantata.

Happy trails, and thanks for dropping by.  Aa

 

12 thoughts on “Odds & ends

  1. Didn’t some of the comments you got for “The Soul of Perception” go the same way too? That you are some kind of gun grabber? I mean I own guns, and have no problem with people owning them, but I didn’t understand the issue some had with that story. Sometimes it seems like our political cycle has become a scorched-earth total war, one where you don’t judge you neighbor by the person they are, but who they voted for.

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    • That story was rooted in fact, and personal experience, so the comments blew me away. Those comments were loaded with a meanness that was at once frightening – and hilarious. On the recommendation of staff at LIT I deleted the most offensive, but left a bunch of the less intimidating posts as a reminder. Did little good, and I finally shut down comments for a long time. The most recent ‘negative’ comments I’ve received haven’t approached that level, and while I do not, and should not expect all comments to be glowing praise, to be criticized for expressing political opinion(s) is unsettling. I suppose it shouldn’t be, not in this day and age, but it is. The oddest thing about the phenomenon is mundane, yet perhaps even more interesting: if I write a character that is ‘liberal’ – then am I too, by extension, a liberal? If I write a character that’s seems right wing, does that make me a conservative? I tend to create characters all over the political spectrum, so what does that make me? A schizophrenic with Multiple Personality Disorder? A sadist with a wicked sense of humor? I see a lot of comments where there seems to be little ability to differentiate fiction from life – like the characters created are simply real, that the story becomes, somehow, non-fiction. While I find that interesting, it also takes on a more dangerous air. How easily could an unscrupulous writer take advantage of such people? By extension, how easily can unscrupulous political writers take advantage of the morally gullible? How easily can worlds of alternative fact be peddled as ‘the truth?’

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      • It can be peddled quite easily. Just look at all those quotes floating around the internet attributed to famous people, that people take as fact, when those words were never uttered.

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      • Another interesting phenomenon. Popular culture is rife with examples of paranoid rambles directed at audiences all too ready to swallow fantasy as fact. Take the X-Files, on (ahem) Fox. A long running parable about the government and a secret cabal of elites plotting to wipe out the human race so they can inherit a depopulated earth, the series wasn’t targeted at aggrieved rural whites but at the children of the urban affluent. Star Wars (ahem, Fox/Disney) takes aim at an all powerful Empire helmed by evil emperors and dark generals, and there’s a subtle paranoia at work here, too. It wouldn’t be a stretch to find that audiences draw parallels between evil empires and big government, would it?

        So, at least two generations have passed where some of the most significant storylines out there have been focused on (legitimately or not) questioning the integrity of the state. How has this fed the current narrative? My guess is these stories have had a huge impact, and in ways both positive and negative, but the negative stand out now.

        You can’t trust the elites, they say. That was Trump’s narrative, too. You can’t trust the Empire. If the Empire has been the perceived truth, then obviously you can’t believe in the truth anymore. I’m not talking about the characters in the stories, often heroic, but rather the underlying premise. The State is Evil, the State can not be trusted.

        I guess it’s a question of priorities, as well. We prioritize our mythology, and rightfully so, that of the oppressed vanquishing the oppressor, but by expanding that to include all organs of culture, including the truth, it seems we’re planting the seeds of our own destruction, enabling those who would do us real harm.

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      • I liked the early X-Files, before they jumped the shark. I guess I must have a bit of Walter Mitty in me.

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  2. Pendulum vs PC

    What does it even mean to be politically correct in the reconstruction era? For the past 8 years a very vocal and angry group created caricatures of the President and his family showing them swinging in trees, eating bananas, and looking more simian than the cast of planet of the apes. Hillary Clinton was accused of being a liar, murderer, and lackey of wall street who conducted her digital communications on unsecured personal servers. To complain brought chants of Lock Her Up!, and to suggest a single payer form of healthcare might be a viable alternative brought mobs with pitchforks and accusations of being a libtard socialist.

    Now, with the beginning of a new administration, the past is to be forgotten and the new mantra is Why can’t we all just get along? It’s time to move on.

    If you point out that the 3 am twitter storms are sent on a personal, unsecured telephone the topic is diverted to the failing national newspaper and the unreliable person who wrote the disparaging article.
    When asked about draining the swamp you are referred to the former VP of GS who is in charge of deregulating the banking industry.
    If you remind them of the statement that he knows more about the military than the generals because he attended a private academy, your question is directed to one of the generals appointed to cabinet and security positions. and, and, and, and

    There can’t be a difference of opinion, because only one opinion counts. Your facts are fake, and their alternative facts are more correct than yours. Don’t use science as an argument, science can be manipulated, and besides it’s all a hoax perpetrated on us by China. There is only one network that reports what is really going on in the world, all others are biased and can’t be trusted. And to dispute the links to Russia, the general being questioned, goes on a Russian controlled network.

    The world is a dark and evil place and only one person can save it from destruction and chaos.

    But enough about Bloom County

    How does a writer tell stories in this climate (wrong word?) without offending someone? I don’t believe it is possible. But if an author tries to straddle that picket fence the story is going to be just as neutered as he/she. If a scene depicts a person walking along the beach, on a warm day, during February, it better be a beach in Australia. If a police officer gets into a gun battle in a dark alley late at night, it better be with another person of the same race and gender.

    A broader question might be to ask how a writer tells a story without people living in a world with other people? (Solo Sailors communing with telepathic Dolphins and Beluga whales?) How is there drama without interaction and disagreement? How can there be resolution without conflict?

    In the contentious turmoil in which we live, I guess you could write Sci-Fi and create your own world with its own society and rules. One in which even cat people get along with dog people. Or, journey back into earlier periods where the decisions have already been made for us. And history has been determined by the victors. Although I can even see a potential for comment abuse if the Marshall of a frontier outpost tried to limit street fights and bar brawls by having ranch hands turn in their guns while they are in town.

    I once had a chemistry professor who became angry if asked questions by students. His response was always, “I am the top of the Christmas tree, I ask the questions, you are in my classroom, I question you.” I dropped the course before three weeks and took it again the next semester from a different tree ornament.

    I hope that you will write what you see when you hear the music. The chords don’t lie, nor do they deceive. There is room for the Coffee Cantata and the Mass in B Minor.

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    • Dear Opus,

      I am thinking about ‘All The President’s Men’ this morning, and about The Washington Post. Our popular vote losing president, Herr Drumpf, has not started murdering journalists (yet), being content so far to murder the language of politics (when is an alternative fact not a lie, for God’s sake?), but after the Post’s slaying of Michael Flynn how much longer can he put this off? The Post is on the real scent now, focusing it’s investigations on who ordered Flynn to contact the Russian Ambassador? Obviously impossible to find out, you say? Ah, but there’s all that surveillance going on, a lot of it directed at Russian assets inside America, or some other belittled and aggrieved civil servant tiring of the bit in her mouth. Who’s going to leak the information to the Post first? What will that set in motion? Treason sound plausible? VP Pence must be grinning, rubbing his hands on the genie’s bottle in pure glee. Wonder if he knows how the rest plays out?

      Of course, Ayn Rand, Jr or Mr Turtle Head may have other ideas. They could be watching the Clown Car Crash that has befallen our White House and decide enough’s enough – time to roll out the Articles of Impeachment before Carrot Top gets to work and does some real damage (i.e., launching Minuteman Missiles at Bolivia – or Freedom Fries at Paris). McCain is not letting up, is he? When will the Spineless wither and fall – or stand up and do their job?

      Or Prince Vlad might begin to feel he’s gotten all he can out of Herr Drumpf and decide it’s time to post some videos of carrots being watered by riding crop wielding Russian nymphettes, and surely that might have some effect on affairs of state. Of course YouTube might simply crash after that, perish forever, and then reruns of the Grand Ole Opry will finally replace NPR – and all will be Right in our world.

      Found this post to be entertaining (Orwell, Trumpism, etc.):
      http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/rethinking_orwells_1984_and_huxleys_brave_new_20170213

      But the most staggering news of all time will be found here:

      Finally, sanity returns to the universe.

      Love, Bill The Cat

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  3. I never watched X-Files until the first movie came out in 1998, but never went back to the original series. I did get the 2016 six part series and found it odd, didn’t know the back story, but the paranoia angle is still right up front and disturbingly fun(ny). The Were-wolf episode is off the wall, too campy, doesn’t fit in with the overall zeitgeist, yet I enjoyed that one too. I understand a new movie is in the works. I wonder how political this one might be?

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  4. More music to listen to.! Had never heard of John Barry until 15 min ago. Found the selection in iTunes and was amazed at the amount of albums he has. Very beautiful.

    It’s July 2017 as I write this, found you on lit a few weeks ago and have treated myself to your works there. Then made my way here and somehow started reading your entries from last Aug on. So so enjoyable, the comments too. Thank you all so much for sharing.

    Tim. Boston, MA

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    • Oh…if you watched any of the early James Bond movies you’ve heard John Barry. You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service were standouts, but so are Goldfinger and Thunderball. His later “solo” albums were under-appreciated, hardly considered well-known, and that’s a shame.
      Anyway, thanks for dropping by. Any questions, just drop a note.

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