Category Archives: Books

This may feel a little… strange at first

After we eat breakfast, I drive my daughter to school. When I get back I get a cup of coffee and start the writing part of my work day. Sometimes I start that by continuing to work on something I’ve already started writing or editing. And sometimes, just by thinking.

Today, traffic kick started me. It feels like the drivers in this town are worse than they used to be. Part of it is there are almost three times as many people as there were when I moved here the first time. There are at least three times as many people screwing up based on that alone. And it’s partly gadgets. Show me someone driving with a phone to their ear in Colorado Springs and there’s a good chance I’ll be looking at someone whose car tires do not stay in their own lane. Gadgets are a great opportunity to not see what’s going on around and a great way to screw up without trying.

Anybody who’s heard me talk about traffic probably expects me to go into a full rant. But that’s where this thunk got interesting.This went on a tangent.

to be continued…

The 43 episodes are outside. Again. And they still want names – III

Everyone around me lives with me and my stir fry of bilingual puns, dutch butcherings for fun and little profit, taking conversations on surrealistic tangents, sometimes complete with accents and sound effects, because and for laughter, and tossing out random non-sense to no one in particular as I walk by people… I’m in the same non-sense-filled surrealistic funland that Tex Avery, Lewis Carrol, J. M. Barrie and Douglas Adams played in. Even here, writing still gets at truth because you can find something, even in “just” playing. Writing gets at truth. It just does it through another means. In my case, one where bugs bunny rewrote yesterday’s blog entry. But, that’s not lie. Just getting at something by another means. And  you won’t get there by lieing, even in a world darker and more in need of escape than I ever imagined I’d find.

 

And, I still had to name 43 episodes. So, I invented a new bit of game fun to get there. You’ll find the names at the beginning of the book, in An Index of Chapters:

An Index of Chapters

  • Being an Introduction
    Followed by the grizzled numbered is’s.
  • Before introducing the grizzled numbered is’s, the author would just like to acknowledge each of them for the many layers of meaning in their names even if they don’t understand half of the jokes themselves as well as acknowledge the legal website that suggested acknowledgement, when used regularly, reduces legal expenses on average by 25% while noting that your mileage may very.

  • 1 is First
  • 2 is Second
  • 3 is Triangle
  • 4 is Quadracycle
  • 5 is Cinco de Mayo
  • 6 is Hexapus
  • 7 is Odd
  • 8 is Even, mostly
  • 9 is Trinity’s Trinity
  • 10 is Cinco-based
  • 11 is Oddly Biased
  • 12 is While
  • 13 is Quite Ominious
  • 14 is Oddly Missing
  • 15 is Tri-erinarially Cincopated
  • 16 is Excessively Divided
  •        …a n d
  •       m a n y   u n n a m e d   e p i s o d e s
  •       l a t e r…
  • 42 is Not Named due to Copyright Conflict
  • 43 is Zadly Finee

The 43 episodes are outside. Again. And they still want names – II

Now I have another problem. The problem isn’t the 43 episodes of House Stories that are again sitting waiting outside my door. The problem is that I have to be Adam-the-name-giver for all 43 episodes of House Stories. I know this. They know this. And I can tell by their looks that I better have an answer, a name, for each and every one of them when I open the door.

Ah, but that’s the catch. For House Stories, names just haven’t come. I thought of just numbering. I thought of using long titles and longer summaries to introduce both. I thought of this and I thought of that. And none of them fit. I began to wonder if, to name them, I had to understand them, know who they are.  Which is a bit of a problem to figure out with this bunch. Who is a story after all? Do I fight a story to know it? Do I have to wrestle all night with one like it was an angel? Or pretend I’m Serif and kung fu dance my Neo stories across the tables until we reach a draw?

 

Researchers say kids already hear in the womb. They hear voices, they hear music, they hear us talking, they hear the news, they hear the television, and they hear us talk about all of that. By the time someone can read my words, they already know the monsters under the bed are real. Monsters are the dark, twisted, evil creatures in the stories we tell about other places. We tell lots of those stories, all the time. We’ve talked our world full of monsters.

Some stories are easy to tell into this world: Horror, gadgets to escape the horror by watching it more, how to overcome this horror, that Horror is trending now, expect this new horror soon, How to live in the aftermath of that other horror.

Ah, but I still want to play. How do I tell that kind of story into this world that I’m telling my stories into?

I learned to tell stories that could still play by telling them. Now, everyone around me lives with me and my stir fry of bilingual puns, dutch butcherings for fun and little profit, taking conversations on surrealistic tangents, sometimes complete with accents and sound effects, because and for laughter, and tossing out random non-sense to no one in particular as I walk by people.

After a while I realized that I’m in the same non-sense-filled surrealistic funland that Tex Avery, Lewis Carrol, J. M. Barrie and Douglas Adams played in.

A friend, V. P. Crowe once told me, I don’t know if what you do is poetry but I like it. I think part of what she’s seeing is because writing is getting at truth through another means and you can’t get there by lieing about what’s around –even when you’re playing– even when that world is both darker and more in need of escape than any of them could have possibly imagined.

to be continued…

The 43 episodes are outside. Again. And they still want names – I

House Stories started when I saw something. What everyone else saw meandered off one way. Ah, but what I saw was something else again. A magical next happening imagined itself in my mind. And it was more interesting, strange and fun than what everyone else saw; interesting enough I told people. Again and again, I kept seeing wonderful magical things happen. House Stories was showing itself to me. And I was telling the story of another neighborhood that lived just out of sight, just a squint away.

After a while, we moved. It seemed like I left both neighborhoods and I couldn’t find my way back. Progress on House Stories, the book, slowed to a crawl. Even when I drove through the old neighborhood, I didn’t see people I knew or sense the other neighborhood. I wasn’t connected anymore.

And we moved several more times. For 41 days, we stayed in tents on a friend’s property. Not too long after dinner, the sun set. it was far enough from the city it got dark: no street lights, no hall lights, no table lamps. The sky screamed with stars but, when we looked down, it was literally lights out. Doing anything meant a lantern or flashlight. It was a bit like sneaking a flashlight into bed as a kid without the being sneaky part. Without sneaky as fun, unless the proverbial book is really really good, after a while, it’s time to do something different. And there’s nothing to do except prowl around, be bored or chill. I choose prowl then chill. Prowl became wander and I quickly added think; then wonder, question, imagine, reconnect.

I realized I’d been thinking House was somewhere else. But, she wasn’t: Nothing is any place other than where it is. Same with House and the rest of the neighborhood. They were never any place but where they were: right here. I had to learn the trick: remembering to squint. Then? I went to visit House. Then Squirrel came by.

Now I have another problem. I have to be Adam-the-name-giver. Just outside are the 43 episodes of House Stories. Those 43 episodes are again sitting and waiting outside my door. I can tell by their looks that I better have an answer for each and every one of them when I open the door. Ah, but that’s the catch. To name them, I have to understand them, know who they are.  Which is a bit of a problem to figure out with this bunch. Who is a story after all?

Tomorrow: Part II

A book!

I’ve got a book coming out on pressWoodInk about prayer as an intentional practice called Practicing Prayer. This one is going to be a publishing back-to-the-future. Once, books were often first published in serial form. Many of Dickens’ books originally appeared as a series of episodes in the newspaper. Publishing has rediscovered this and pressWoodInk is going to try out the idea with Practicing Prayer. The first part will appear soon.

The Oracle: A Review

I rarely read books that are fresh off the press. Instead, they filter into my life through people I know, passing references in articles and happen-stance encounters years after release. This amorphous system filters through all the books I hear about (and many I don’t) and curates what I read.

William J. Broad studied the History of Science and brought that focus to writing for the New York Times. Along the way, he’s collected a few Pulitzers. His 2006 book The Oracle: The Lost Secrets and Hidden Message of Ancient Delphi is a brilliant example of science journalism, covering both the science and what it means.

In this case, the science spans one hundred years of trying to understand the Oracle at Delphi, particularly the work of four scientists who managed to upend a scientific consensus that had stood for most of a century. It’s a gripping read that followed a range of players, delves into their field work and helped me understand the scientific intricacies in multiple fields including geology, archeology and medicine that the players used to build their case. If there’s a list of well written science books that are also page turners, this book deserves a nomination.

For me, the tour de force was the last forty pages or so where he stepped back from the details of the science and answered the question: “why does it matter?”. Why did these scientists spend years on this?

In one of those strange coincidences, I read the same story in this book today as I heard on a philosophy podcast a few days ago. The Delphi asked if you changed all the planks and parts of a boat, would it still be the same thing? Some philosophers, scientists and thinkers would answer “No”. After all, nothing in the boat is the same. There is no essence to a boat. There is no there, there. It’s just a bunch of parts. And, just as surely, if you took the boat, stacked the parts and asked that same group if they’d like to take a cruise on that disassembled boat, they’d answer “No”.

Even if they don’t think there’s a there there, a boat —like many things— is more than the sum of it’s parts.

The boat is a microcosm of debate that goes on and grows stronger. The sciences —Physics, Chemistry, Biology and so on— have power because they break things down and reduce them to their most essential pieces. That useful power has led to a certain hubris that leaves out the other side of the equation. As Broad says, “science—the most powerful institution of our day…sheds a very strong but narrow light that can leave many intriguing questions and possibilities lurking in the shadows”. Some things, like the boat or the oceans, are more than the sum of their parts. There are the pieces… and there is also the whole.

I understand the power of reductionism: I have a degree in Physics, I know how to program and I can explain the physics that makes the chips work in the computer with which I “pen” this review.

And I understand its limits. Reductionism is the voice that dismisses that there’s anything to the boat but parts. It’s the voice that dismisses mind as anything beyond chemistry. It’s the voice of the mathematician friend of mine who dismisses everything that can’t be rigorously proven. And it’s a voice that doesn’t hear the weird discontinuity between that stance and most of their own lives. My mathematician friend tells his daughter “I love you” and puts on “his music” like the rest of his. But, there is no proving love or music. Reduce them and you’re left with nothing: sound waves and meaningless words. There is no there there in any reductionist sense.

Broad’s last, shorter section, is a brilliant summary of this tension: the tension between reductionism and holism. It’s a testament to how we need both and a reminder of the fallacy that lies at the heart of claims that reductionism will find all the answers. I haven’t read another forty pages or so that better captures and explores this.