17
Apr 15

A Suitable End for a Drama

Often remarked on: that our lives are drama. We strut and fret our hour on the stage and so on. Even outwardly undramatic lives are a drama; they’re playing out in accordance with the internal logic of character, genes, trauma, & conditioning. They follow a script authored by those factors, amongst others. In many, the old familiar “fatal flaw” is the primary author of the script…And it’s not all the big events; big ones are made of, or predicated on, small ones. James Joyce’s massive “Ulysses” chronicles a single day in the life of Leopold Bloom, and with believability. The banal is riveting seen with a perfect combination of subjectivity and objectivity, and perhaps some gift for poetic irony. Everyone has a drama. Sometimes it’s a comic drama, sometimes not. . .

I often envisage my last scene, when I’m dying. If death doesn’t sneak up on me suddenly, then my death will be either lonely and despairing, or peaceful and attended; I may be in great pain, delusional, brain riddled with holes; or I may be cogent, conscious, coming to understanding. Any of these outcomes is a suitable end for a drama.


16
Apr 15

“Everyone knows that life is meaningless, dude”. Do they?

People who assert that life, the universe and reality is meaningless…puzzle me. Many questions arise. How can they know it’s all meaningless? Science doesn’t say it’s meaningless. It says that nature evolves randomly, but it doesn’t address the question of meaning.

And if it all emerges randomly–why does that mean it’s all in every respect meaningless? Is *random* really synonymous with meaningless? What if it’s not?

How much time did someone who asserts that all is meaningless spend on the question? Did they break down all of science and experience, parse all of it, to come to their conclusion? Or did they jump to that conclusion–because it’s easier? An hour’s thought, or two, a book Wittgenstein, and one by Sartre.. conveys on them the ability to see all possible meaning?

If the cosmos had meaning, would creatures as little and temporary and sleepily foolish as we are, likely see it? Our viewpoint on reality is miniscule–like a view through a periscope. How can we make a judgment on the meaning of it all through such a narrow lens–and through one snatched away from us in a short human lifetime?

I do not and will never believe in the supernatural. Satan and Gabriel could appear before me, scorching the Earth in their battle, and I would not believe it’s supernatural. I would believe that it’s the unknown natural.

And somewhere in the unknown natural, is the strong possibility meaning


15
Apr 15

Fan of my writing or–just like to argue with me? Go to…facebook.

You could start here at the John Shirley fan page on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/192650187458231/

You’ll find discussions of my writing, announcements, and more there. As we don’t allow comments on this blog (because of spam), you can also seek out my threads on my regular facebook posts and comment there.


03
Apr 15

The Disappointment of Electricity

Two nights ago the power went out over the whole neighborhood. We got our flashlights and went out for a walk, because the stars would be more visible without the streetlights and houselights. And they were. I noticed that some, besides the planets, were differently colored than other stars–usually they all seem like sharp points of blue white light.

The night seemed more palpable, the darkness more velvety; bats came closer, raggedly flapping. Owls swooped lower. Other people were out too, talking, the mood almost festive. They were confident the lights would come back on, their televisions and computers and the combination TV and PC. Meanwhile they seemed almost relieved the power was off. (My youngest son, walking with us, of course had brought electronics along, and looked into his phone while he listened to music).

Then, before we had walked back home, the lights came back on–and, not for the first time on an occasion like this, I felt disappointment. I felt a trap closing in on me again. I looked at other people on the street turning off their flashlights and walking home. They seemed disappointed, too.


31
Mar 15

I’m Converting to the Religion of the Aztecs and Moving to Indiana

Indiana has inspired me. The new laws there, on freedom of religion, have opened a door, so I can live out my spiritual dreams. I have decided to convert to ancient pre-Columbian religion– I’m going to be an Aztec. The only reason I didn’t do it before was, it wasn’t legal, due to the important HUMAN SACRIFICE part of the religion. But Indiana offers me a chance to practice my religious freedoms.

It’s such a sunny, cheerful religion, with all kinds of exciting symbols expressed in gorgeous artwork, and if anything was “that old time religion” the Aztec religion was. It goes way back. HUMAN SACRIFICE is an important part of it. In order to practice blood sacrifice legally–see attached picture of Aztecs worshipping–I have decided to move to Indiana. There, my freedom of religion cannot be undermined or forbidden. The anti-religious zealots who want to stop me from killing people on an altar for the pacification of the gods will be prevented from restricting my religion. Laws against murder will be, in my case, blotted out, obstructed, neutralized–long as I commit the murder in accordance with my religion.

I will of course sacrifice numerous people to Tezcatlipoca, the overgod, but I’m especially interested–since the world is overheated and drought is always a problem, with appeasing Huitzilopochtli, god of the sun, and calling upon Tlaloc, god of the rain. I will not neglect Quetzalcoatl, because he’s, well, awesome. I’m a little nervous about worshipping Ometeotl, in Indiana, however, as that is a hermaphroditic god, apparently transgender and possibly gay.

These gods –or Teotl as we neo-Aztecs call them–require blood sacrifices, and since gays aren’t freely permitted in Indiana, perhaps those who don’t want to leave the state and start over would like to volunteer to be sacrificed on the stone altar, under with a fairly sharp flint knife, in order to celebrate religious freedom.

But why stop there? Indiana is a big place–there’s room for those enthusiasts of the ancient Carthaginian worship of Cronus, in the course of which children were sacrificed, rolled alive into pits of flame. Or why not human sacrifice to Baal, as in the Bible’s land of Canaan? Or how about the druids of ancient Britain? Recent studies show they too engaged in human sacrifice. Why not a revival of Druidism in Indiana? It is only one state yet it is truly the land of the free.


29
Mar 15

“Suffering–the New Economic Indicator”

IMAGINARY Banker at Investment Convention: “…then I had an epiphany. The more working class people actually and literally suffer, the better we’re doing our jobs! Suffering is a vastly important economic indicator.

Whether they’re working fast food or Wal-Mart, whether they’re Chinese workers driven to suicide in Apple computer sweatshops, or suffering hugely from overwork in Malaysian sweat shops for American clothing stores like The Gap–if they’re suffering, then *we’re doing something right!* I see doubt on your faces! But trust me–suffering really is a positive financial indicator. I am convinced human suffering could be used like the indicators of the Dow Jones. Suffering’s up? The economy’s up!

“If they’re overworked and underpaid…how are we not making money hand over fist? I’ve gotten some quite positive responses talking this idea over with congressmen. We can actually legislate to demand more suffering from workers…since suffering on the part of workers corresponds precise with extreme, even skyrocketing profits! What’s good for us, at our level of income, is good for America; what’s bad for the workers, is good for America. Because who is the true exemplar of American essence? The well-paid, is who, my friends! You and I!

“I am quite serious. We need to legislate this in–and in order to do that I am investing in a company that will be making suffering meters for the average American low level employee, and another, slightly modified, for overseas sweatshops. We need to rehabilitate the term ‘suffering’ when it applies to workers.

“Right now the word sweatshop is a negative. Can you imagine? It should be a badge of pride. Sweat is what built America! We shop around other people’s sweat, do we not? Suffering, misery, sweatshops…these are positives. And we need to designate them that way–by law!”


27
Mar 15

Why We Don’t Need to Worry About ROBOT UPRISINGS…

‘In the most recent episode of Star Talk Radio, the radio program from popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Musk discussed the advancements in artificial intelligence over the years and expressed his own concern with its growing power. Musk warned that once robots reached the stage of “superintelligence,” they’ll simply overpower humans and keep them “like a pet labrador if we’re lucky.” That’s from the article linked below. My feeling is–these people need not worry.

Otherwise intelligent people, like Elon Musk in the article linked below, who worry about a robot uprising, are engaging in wild speculative anthropomorphism of machines in an egregious way. They are so identified with their own human nature, their own tendency to dominance, their submission to a blind survival instinct–something we all feel–that they forget that these are inherited traits, and that machines do not have DNA, they do not have *instincts*. Nor do computers, or AIs, have an amygdala, the basic center of violence and the enacter of the darker instincts.

There is one way they can be dangerous–if we program them to be. If we tell them to be survival based and to destroy competition, then they could become that kind of being. But why would we do that? For military reasons? And even then, still no instincts, and we can program in kill switches and other devices to keep the upper hand.

It may also be that these guys are fearful of this–notice Wozniak worrying about robots getting rid of humans to “make companies operate more efficiently”–because it’s the way *they* think. That is, they’re ruthless guys. So they think AIs must be ruthless too.

Musk and friends are ignoring the fact that we evolved to be aggressive–as well as, sometimes, community oriented. Musk and the others are ignoring the structure of their genes, their genetic programming, and their own brains–which are the real source of the behavior they’re afraid of. AIs won’t behave like us in that way, unless we program them to.

http://blog.sfgate.com/techchron/2015/03/27/elon-musk-is-worried-about-a-robot-uprising-too/


26
Mar 15

That Demmed Elusive, Pimpernel

“We seek him here, we seek him there/ Those Frenchies seek him everywhere! Is he in heaven? Or is he in hell?/ That demmed, Elusive Pimpernel?”

Odd’s Blood…I love that old Leslie Howard movie, The Scarlet Pimpernel–based on a novel about a Zorro like fellow who saves people from the guillotine of The Terror. Sink me! And I’ve discovered that, in my yard, is growing…Scarlet Pimpernel. The hero was named after this flower, for reasons of his own, and it used to be a flower unknown to America, but inadvertently we’ve brought it here and it’s a common weed now…and a beautiful one. It’s a crawling, vine like plant, with fine stems, clustering displays of leaves that are themselves organized like flower petals in blossoms, symmetrically opposed; the vines sprout minute scarlet flowers; they close up at night into tiny buds that look like miniaturized rose buds. When my wife said the weed was Pimpernel I said, “No!” I went to the garden and plucked some up, brought it to my computer, held it up next to the pictures online…the same! The oracle says so!

I’ve been thinking how many weeds are wild flowers, and how wild flowers are often seen as weeds; how garden flowers were once wild flowers, were bred to garden gaudiness; how weed flowers are often rather delicate, smaller, the blossoms not so blowsy as hybrid garden flowers. Wild roses are smaller, less like the gown of a debutante with tacky taste.

Garden flowers–I like them, especially irises. When I was 12 we had an art class printing drawings into sheets of copper. The other boys made imprinted guns and fighter jets; I made an iris. I was never a very sensitive boy, truly–I loved war movies–but secretly I also loved flowers.

Now I have to pull weeds in my garden but many of them are at least as colorful as garden flowers, and most of them more elegant. Hybridized and carefully bred for domestic pageantry, for colorful ostentation, garden flowers represent human culture, and human taste, as much as they represent nature. They’re wistful; they’re our cultivation of a dream of a prettier life…


21
Mar 15

“Spock? I thought you were dead.”

An eerie moment tonight…

I felt some appreciation of the late Leonard Nimoy was needed tonight, in our house, somehow, and as we just got the Blu Ray restoration of STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN we watched that. Others too have no doubt raised their eyebrows and shivered a little, rewatching the film recently, as Kirk reunites with now-Captain Spock, and the first thing Kirk says “I thought you were dead.”

Of course, the plot of the film itself involves Spock’s demise, so Nimoy expired twice in a short time, for me.

THE WRATH OF KHAN starts off a bit raggedly–partly because Kirstie Alley seems woefully miscast as a vulcan, and other scenes seem stilted, and of course the bridge tech is now sadly outdated. But the film soon goes into warp drive –we take pleasure in the adoring shots of the Enterprise leaving dry dock, Nicholas Meyer’s feel for the Big Story and the grand theme, the energy of clashing personalities, the sheer fun (and effulgent charisma) of Montalban chewing the scenery as Khan quoting Moby Dick, and, after all, the film still works. The Genesis device, too, is still an interesting concept. And of course Spock’s parting scene with Kirk is genuinely touching. Nimoy was a wonderful Spock in life and wonderfully poignant now, as Spock dying.


20
Mar 15

Has The Walking Dead Become Mere… ‘Torture Porn”?

I always did enjoy well crafted horror, but, despite my having written some extreme fiction, I don’t have the stomach for some extreme imagery in film and television. This last episode of THE WALKING DEAD…well…I keep starting to swear off The Walking Dead but then they do something that makes me curious. They’re very clever at that. And the actors are good, direction is good, dialogue is good…So I grudgingly start watching again. I think they may finally have pushed me too far. They seem to have crossed a line into torture porn. Watching two characters get eaten alive, in one episode, up close and personal, drawing the process out…showing most of it…and one of them a beloved character … the whole bit with the revolving door was very clever…But…

And the recent sequence about the horse being eaten alive was altogether too cruel, to say the least. And it wasn’t long ago that the production terrified a baby–actually terrified it–in order to get it scream in fear on camera.

Probably as there are, if I recollect rightly, just two more episodes in this season, I’ll watch them, having watched all the others. Curiosity mostly. But I doubt I return next season. I mean, I had feelings akin to PTSD, from watching this latest episode. The show’s all misery, all the time. Not that it probably wouldn’t be like that if it played out in the world, given the premise. But it’s just depressing. And now this latest–I’ll have distressing memories of that imagery every time I go through a revolving door. They really didn’t have to *show* that stuff happening. Up close.

Also it seemed to me there were other solutions to the character’s dilemma…

And here’s more about the infant-child abuse that–arguably–took place on the set of The Walking Dead, all for your entertainment: http://www.john-shirley.com/blog/?p=2459