August, 2013

Aug 13

The Carnival Ride

When you first get on the spinning carnival ride, the one that whips around and around, you look about yourself, trying to understand the machine and what’s going to happen. Perhaps you’re comforted by those sharing the ride with you.

Then it starts turning, and you look raptly at the way it makes the lights of the carnival spin; the way its own lighting flies around with you. You feel it whipping wind into your face. It goes faster and faster. You cling to the bar and the lights go by quite rapidly–so rapidly you’ve hardly realized you’ve traveled around the circle once before its come around again. The lights passing become meteoric blurs. You’re giddy, pressed back with inertia, just holding on, a bit sick with the speed of the ride’s passage.

Then it slows and you slow with it…Slower and slower…at last it rocks to a stop, jarring your bones…Someone tells you it’s time to get off the ride. And then? Why then, you pass through the Exit.

Aug 13


The term Shadow Govt is outdated and is really so hooked up with contemporary conspiracy theories it’s not now useful. The quite shadowy intel world of the NSA, the CIA and so on, is of course is quite real. There is value in intelligence services but they need to be reined in pretty frequently; ideally they should be investigated with each new administration to see it hasn’t gotten up to criminality….The Church hearings of ’75 led to a lot of reforms but then Bush rolled some of the reforms back.

Like everyone else who kept up during the George W Bush years, President Obama remembers well when the Bush administration was given warnings that should have prevented 9/11–and Obama remembers that they didn’t act on them. He knows there are suitcase nukes out there somewhere.

Obama knows that there are vulnerable reservoirs and chemicals plants. He is probably still wincing from the Boston Bombing and the Benghazi sloppiness. So it’s hard for him to say no to intelligence efforts that might prevent more of that and prevent a major attack on a U.S. city. He also has data we don’t have. He may know of dangers we don’t know about. Probably does. So he gives the NSA and the CIA some slack. But that slack line is also a tightrope and it’s easy to bumble off the tightrope into excess and into programs that go into places they weren’t intended to, originally…

In fact I think there should be an Intelligence Service Review Act, that would REQUIRE an examination of CIA/NSA/DIA intel methodology and lawfulness every four years–just as a farmer checks on his watch dog to make sure it’s not killing sheep.

The body in charge of this hypothetical ISRA should be independent, and while it should be discreet about classified material, it should have the option of going public when an intelligence service commits crimes–such as torture, or excessive oversight of the American public, or suppression of human rights…

Senator Frank Church’s committee of 1975 is a kind of sketchy paradigm for an Intelligence Service Review Act…But we need something permanent, and “with teeth”.

Aug 13

A review of HIDE ME AMONG THE GRAVES by Tim Powers

I don’t often read novels anymore, especially by modern writers; one of the few novels I’ll have read this year is HIDE ME AMONG THE GRAVES by Tim Powers. Fans of gothy literature (I won’t say gothic as that suggests a subgenre of women’s romance novels), fans of the Victorian era, fans of Dickens and Poe, fans of Romantic poets, fans of pre-Raphaelite art, fans of ghost stories, vampire stories, tales of possession–all fans of dark fantasy…there’s something in this Tim Powers novel for all of you and each of you. The intricate alternate-logic of the supernatural, found in this book, has to be followed with care, and with considerable exercise of the suspension of disbelief, but it’s worth it.

Technically, this book is a kind of sequel to THE STRESS OF HER REGARD…but it stands on its own.

This poetic novel–it’s infused with its own poetic sensibility and verses by Swinburne, Christina Rosetti, and others–will transport literate fans of the dark fantasy. There’s horror here, there’s some dark humor, there’s a great deal of imagery that would make Tim Burton cream his jeans…

HIDE ME AMONG THE GRAVES by this winner of the World Fantasy Award really transports the susceptible reader.

HIDE ME… is a pleasure kin to eating the very best dark chocolate–but it’s also a literary experience. And yet the novel is fast paced, and suspenseful. Get it, it’s worth it in every sense.

Aug 13

A Cosmic Lathe?

I tend to line up with “the universe doesn’t need a creator” folks. I can go with much of scientific reductionism, but I also think the universe itself has created God… But IF there is a creator, of sorts, here’s my current model for “creation”: the creator is the workman at a lathe. God as the lathe operator with the tool always at work on the spinning wood. The craftsman shapes the wood, but in shaping it countless pieces fall away, onto the “floor”. So not every outcome for everything is planned, as such; bits cut from the lathe fall randomly. Inevitability is not planning…

Probably, if the lathe model is (metaphorically) the case, this is the best the Great Organizing Director, the craftsman, can do, with existence. Best of all possible designs…

At some point the piece if finished, the universe runs down, the craftsman puts the finished lathed woodshape into its unimaginable wheel, as another spoke perhaps, and then it gets out another chunk of raw “wood”…another raw universe…and begins time once more, for another universe, spinning the wood on the lathe, cutting, spraying random bits away from the central design…