Dec 16

Where is the Sleeping Giant Now?

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto supposedly said–in a diary, probably–after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, ” I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Since December 7, anniversary of the attack, I’ve thought about the quote, and wondered where that sleeping giant is now. In my opinion, the election of the Absurdity in the Presidential election of November 8 is as dangerously significant event as the bombing of Pearl Harbor. One has only to look at The Absurdity’s cabinet appointments, and consider his ability to stack the Supreme Court; we have only to consider that those who might oppose him in congress appear to have no genuine *resolve*. The only myth-scale awakening happened on the day of the election–the awakening of hunched trolls, and cognitive dwarfs.

The true “sleeping giant” of America has not been roused. There has been no real rousing, and certainly no resolve. Easier to become united against an external enemy. But still…this enemy is just as potent.

And–politically, historically–we should be on a war footing. Most of us have not realized it yet.

Dec 16

When a Bear Swallowed my Dog Whole

The other night I had a dream that struck me so strongly, when I woke, I still remember it. In the dream I was outside somewhere with my little dog Rosie, a Yorkshire terrier we had. (She actually died some time back. We were great pals. She followed me anywhere, in real life. And she was quite fierce when some bigger dog tried to back her down.) So in the dream, a bear comes at us out of nowhere–the wilderness– and swallows Rosie whole. Yelling for my wife to come and help me hold the bear down, I grab it around the neck and decide–I remember distinctly thinking this–”No way is that bear going to digest my Rosie, I’m getting her out!” And I shove my hand down the bear’s throat, my whole arm, clear in to the shoulder. I feel around in its stomach as it tries to pull away; feel something furry–pull out…it is a live rabbit. Annoyed I throw the wiggling rabbit aside, and force my arm into the bear’s throat again, and pull out the next thing I could grab, thinking it might be part of Rosie’s collar. It is several items of kitchen cutlery, spoons and such. I throw them aside and reach in again, find Rosie, wriggling, and pull her out by the nape of her neck. She is fine, and she barks at the bear. I pick her up…

That sounds like a made up dream perhaps. But it’s what I dreamt exactly. I’m not a great one for interpreting dreams–sometimes they’re just the noise of the brain doing a bit of memory organization, or prioritizing–but on occasion they seem to mean something. They have psychological import.

What might this one mean? Does the bear represent chaos? Does it represent me struggling with the difficulties of the maintenance of living, trying to protect loved ones from entropy, chaos, from their simply being consumed and dissolved within the universe?

Dec 16


[I wrote the following in 1986. It seems strangely up to date.]

by John Shirley
[REM:3, January 1986]

“The time of the doomsayers is past,” the famous science-fiction writer said blandly, stubbing out his cigarette. He was speaking on a panel at a science-fiction convention. He reached for his coffee—spiked with Irish whiskey—and his booze-shaky fingers struck the Styrofoam cup, causing it to rock, some of the coffee slopping onto his lap. He frowned down at the stain, in the process pressing one of his double chins into his collar, and allowed a young fannish female shaped like an acorn squash to dab at his crotch with a wet hanky, as he went on: “Those who predicted ecological disaster have been discredited. There are now fish in Lake Erie…”

At that moment, in another part of the North American continent, Professor Bellweather was giving a news conference to report on his EPA-funded study of acid raid. “…acid rain is potentially the most destructive meteorological force the world has ever known. Its effects are more gradual than a hurricane’s, but in the long run it will make a hundred hurricanes together look like a gentle summer breeze. We’ve been dumping thousands of tons of poisons into the atmosphere, and telling ourselves it’s safe to do so because the wind blows the poisons away. But the atmosphere is all one system. To put it crudely, if you pee into one corner of the aquarium, eventually the whole aquarium will turn yellow… Acid rain is eating away the ground covering, the forestation, vegetation, topsoil, and water life in hundreds of square miles of American, Canadian, and European land; if we don’t act quickly hundreds of square miles will become thousands… a massive world famine could result….”

Meanwhile, at the science-fiction convention, the famous science-fiction writer was asked what political system would evolve in the future. “Ah yes,” he chuckled, and those in the audience who knew how he loved to express his political opinions chuckled companionably along. “There are still those who vilify corporate America, but those people ignore the fact that thanks to the administration’s policy of deregulating the major American corporations, we are more economically healthy than we have been in years…”

At that moment, in New York, the city morgue called the commissioner of police to inform him that there was no more room in the morgue for the bodies of the homeless who had been found frozen in the streets. There had been simply too many deaths this year. Now that the number of homeless in the New York area has risen to 40,000, something else will have to be done with the bodies.

Meanwhile, at the science-fiction convention, the famous writer continued: “Tomorrow’s society will be a glowing ferment of free enterprise—” (he paused to sip his whiskeyed coffee, shuddered, and went on, his voice slurring only very slightly) “—growing upon the framework established by today’s corporate America. Are the big corporations taking over? You bet they are, and rightfully so! Their cost-effective mode of operation has shown itself again and again to be the most promising and practical method of dealing with, well, just about anything.”

At that moment, in another part of the city, a 45-year-old man, after receiving a phone call informing him that he had been laid off due to automation, was loading a gun. He was thinking about the special clause in his contract with the large corporation that employed him for 25 years, a clause buried by the corporation’s lawyers in legalese he couldn’t understand, a clause which said—so he had just been informed—he would receive no pension. He was thinking also of his realization that he had been trained for a job which no longer existed anywhere, and his feeling that he was too old to be trained for another. He couldn’t bear the humiliation of starting at the bottom again.
So he put the gun to his head—
Meanwhile, at the science-fiction convention, the famous writer continued: “We must protect the cradle of this new economic freedom, which means fighting communist totalitarianism wherever it rears its head, by whatever means necessary. If the communists take over in Central and South America we’ll be denied access to the resources our economy depends on. The revolutionaries in El Salvador are part of a disease that must be checked at all costs.”

At that moment, in El Salvador, the human rights organization announced: “In the war between insurgents and the US-backed government, 55,000 people have died since 1979. As a result of the policies of the US-backed Salvadoran administration, 50 percent of the population is malnourished, unemployment figures are 81 percent, 600,000 Salvadorans have a vitamin A deficiency severe enough to affect their vision, only 15 percent of the population have running water or sanitary facilities….”

And a 50-year-old woman gave the following testimony: “In our village on January 7, about 80 people were blown apart by bombs. That same day upon finding some people the soldiers separated some and the rest they lined up in a single file and shouted as they opened fire, ‘You’re all guerrillas.’ They sprayed them with machine guns and everyone went down. The majority were children, old men, and old women. That’s how on this day they killed seven of my children…. My little mother also died on the same day. She was 107 years old, a domestic worker. Her name was Josefa Mejia. The soldiers came where she was and I saw her getting killed because I was getting her some mangos to eat. We had been on the run, and I could hardly walk, so the rest left us behind, when they saw her, they said they were going to kill her because she was a guerrilla…. I was hiding under some cover and I heard her screaming, ‘Don’t tear off my breasts!’ They gouged out her eyes…. Then I heard two shots. They shot her in the head and chest. I did not have time to bury her. The dogs and buzzards ate her body….”

Meanwhile, at the science-fiction convention, the panel adjourned, everyone warm with the glow of reassurance. They all went upstairs to the parties that were sure to go on all night….

Dec 16

That Ambulance Again

a short-short story by john shirley

“It’s that ambulance again, same one following me, night after night, Allie, and maybe you’re right, he’s just crazy, I’m going to ask what the hell he’s doing!…Hey you, creep, why you following my car?”
“I’m followin’, mister, because something bad’s coming and you’re gonna need me, whatever it is–maybe a meteor, maybe a truck…”
“You were right, Allie, he’s crazy and there he is again!”
“Don’t stare into the rear view at this speed, Slim, you’re going to hit that truck–”

Nov 16

The Reason The Absurdity was elected

Cognitive dissonance well describes what I experienced last week when The Absurdity was elected (I won’t use his name)…Every day I have to remind myself, “Yes, it really happened.”

Maybe the vote was tampered with–especially in the sense of denying people voting at all, or discounting their vote because “they didn’t qualify”, later. But that wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t close. And why was it close? A lot of people are saying it’s because we don’t understand the frustrated poor (along with the socially conservative well-to-do). But I don’t believe that. I believe it’s simpler than that. I am going with Occam’s Razor here.

I think that while many factors converged–third party snobs, occluded voters–the *main* reason The Absurdity was elected was because there are far more stupid people in America than anyone realized.

I, for one, was in denial about how many stupid people there are in America.

Nov 16

Wistful, short review of ARRIVAL

We saw ARRIVAL. This new movie based on Ted Chiang’s award winning novella is the best science fiction film in years, and actually for me is in the top five of the last five decades. I’m still so bummed by The Absurdity being elected, I can’t write a review, really. The movie’s timing is sort of ironic…it did make me feel some hope…

I could talk about a couple of its conceptual antecedents and poke at a few possible weaknesses, but I won’t, because one must not risk giving anything away…I’ll just say that it probably won’t be a hit because while appreciating it doesn’t require the viewer to be an intellectual–that would leave me out–it does require a relatively high level of intelligence, and it’s recently been demonstrated that at least half this country falls short in that department.

Nov 16

Who Died?

Took me awhile to recognize the distinctive feeling I have. I feel that someone has died–someone close to me, someone in my family, or someone I would grieve for…

Headlines should read: Millions of People Vote Against Their Own Interests.


Who died? Or–what died?

Nov 16

Off the cuff review of the DOCTOR STRANGE movie

We saw DOCTOR STRANGE With great enjoyment today. I think we would have once called this movie “trippy”…On Marc Laidlaw’s advice we saw it in 3D and IMAX–normally I don’t “do” 3D, I find it to be usually lame and a pain in the ass, but this time 3D was quite appropriate and worked great. You could dig the film without it but if you can, see it in 3D. One of the primary special effects programs used is something we’ve seen variations of online, right here on facebook, but blown up huge and carried to wild extrapolation. I did not feel it was “too white” or something–Dr Strange was always a white guy, Tilda Swinton (who plays a Celtic “ancient one”, living in Nepal), was very good indeed; Cumberbatch is perfect for the part as an actor and looks just right; Mordo, played by a black actor whose name I cannot hope to spell, is excellent. There are Asian characters, there are Asian settings, but most of all this is …very much like the comic, to me. Not excessively so. Dormammu was quite well done.

I hesitate to say too much…The story works better than comic superhero movies usually do. That’s because they didn’t over amp it, in the first half, it’s fast paced but not too much; there is nuance…The car crash in the film, by the way, is maybe the best dramatization of a big ugly car crash I’ve ever seen…

Some may find the movie’s potent explosions of visuals to be to much too process–indeed, I’ll have to see it again to process it all–but basically, if you wanted Doctor Strange in a big budget movie, THIS IS IT. One of the top comic adaptations ever.

There are two extra scenes in the credits, one toward the beginning of them, one at the end. When Stan Lee does his cameo, note the book he’s reading.

Nov 16

Third Party Choices–Smothered Voices

I say this as someone who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary: People who feel that voting for Hillary Clinton next month is “voting for the lesser of evils” (it’s not the lesser of evils, she isn’t evil)…people who think that it’s important to make a statement by voting for a third party candidate who (in this case) cannot possibly win, thus taking a vote away from the only person who in this situation can stop a neo-fascist demagogue, are people who care about their emotions than they care about the poor–the poor, the working class, will be hurt if *any* Republican gets into office, including Trump who’s against an increase in minimum wage, against food stamps.

They’re people who care about their hurt feelings more than they care about the environment, the biosphere–which will be irretrievably damaged if another Republican gets into the White House, especially if that Republican is Donald “climate change isn’t real” Trump.

They don’t care about women and children who will die in the planned carpet bombing of the Middle East Trump trumpets about.

They don’t care about Democracy, which will be definitively undermined if Trump gets control of the Supreme Court.

They care about taking a stand that will make them feel distinctive more than they care about women who will be hurt by the inevitable erosion in women’s rights when Trump is elected.

They only care that their particular, personal schemata, their philosophy of “if it’s not everything I want it’s nothing” doesn’t take precedence. They fantasize, perhaps, that “Trump’s election will bring about a leftist revolution”–something they actually know isn’t true.

Their decision is completely emotional. It’s anger. It’s not reason. And they don’t care who gets hurt.

Oct 16

The Inexorable Approach of Halloween

It’ll soon be Halloween. There’s not much Halloween left in the world, in a certain sense–the traditional, All Hallows Eve feeling of it, the true Sleepy Hollow atmosphere, the harvest moon, the conciliation of coming winter, mellow fruition and gathering mists, awareness of lengthening nights and cowed, bowed-down days …usually lacking in what people do now, because we so rarely gather for Halloween parties, and it’s down to buying a surprisingly elaborate mechanically wriggly special effect of a Halloween decoration, that stalks up and down the lawn declaring in the recorded voice of some underpaid non-SAG actor that it’s going to “drag you into the grave”…and you bought it at Target…But some people clearly love the whole idea of modern Halloween and the chance to put up elaborate displays on their lawn and roof; and there’s charm in that, seeing some guy who never misses church, who totally disapproves of goths when he sees them in July, chuckling with saturnine gleefulness as he sets up big plastic inflatable ghosts toting signs that say “See you at Midnight!” and “Boo!”

If you google ‘why do people like horror’, you’ll see a long list of people puzzling over the question, finally offering the same old explanations: enjoying adrenaline rushes, exorcising one’s inner psychological ghosts and demons–fears, fury, fantasies–an unconscious shield against death, a ritual expiation to quiet troubled spirits but carried out unconsciously in horror stories and Halloween…And it’s pointed out that there are horrific scenes in Homer and Shakespeare, that Goya and Munch were great artists who found dark feelings, fear and madness, creatively significant…

And then there’s the true shudder, like the news from Syria. Horror is a safe way to explore the dark places of life, and to acknowledge death from a careful distance. Zombies, the living dead, the Walking Dead…all about walking dead people which really means, Death Itself Walking. Death stalking inexorably toward you; for though you’re young you’ve been told you’re mortal. And the Walking Dead embody your fear of mortality coming slowly, unstoppably, to…drag you into the grave.

Happy Halloween.