Saturday, May 26, 2007
There will (of course) be more on this tomorrow - but for now a collection of thoughts that bring something to the topic.
To bring the dead to life
Is no great magic.
Few are wholly dead:
Blow on a dead man's embers
And a live flame will start.
Let his forgotten griefs be now,
And now his withered hopes;
Subdue your pen to his handwriting
Until it prove as natural
To sign his name as yours.
Limp as he limped,
Swear by the oaths he swore;
If he wore black, affect the same;
If he had gouty fingers,
Be yours gouty too.
Assemble tokens intimate of him —
A seal, a cloak, a pen:
Around these elements then build
A home familiar to
The greedy revenant.
So grant him life, but reckon
That the grave which housed him
May not be empty now:
You in his spotted garments
Shall yourself lie wrapped.
Miracles are unexpected joys, surprising coincidences, unexplainable experiences,
astonishing beauties... absolutely anything that happens in the course of my day, except that at this moment I'm able to recognize its special value.
Confusion is the state of promise, the fertile void where surprise is
possible again. Confusion is in fact the state we are in, and we should
be wise to cultivate it.
Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.
Life is a series of surprises, and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not.
---Ralph Waldo Emerson
The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.
--- Ashley Montagu
When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow
Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That's all right, my love, 'cause you're my home”
--- Billy Joel
It's better to be thought of as a fool and to surprise people once in a while than to be thought of as a brain and to let people down when they need you the most.
When was the last time you wanted to say it all to the right person?
To have it all come out right, to surprise yourself at how together you could be. When was the last time you ever met someone who made you want to give it all to them? I mean give yourself to them. Where you couldn't express yourself enough - like you wanted to cut off one of your arms to be understood. That's it - you would cut your head off to have someone understand you. You know how pointless that one is. You know how many times you've smashed yourself to bits on the rocks.
Friday, May 25, 2007
From Vestal Review: A good flash, replete with a cohesive plot, rich language and enticing imagery, is perhaps the hardest type of fiction to write. A good flash is so condensed that it borderlines poetry. A good flash engages your mind not only for the short duration of its read, but for a long time after.
The Indian woman sits, cross-legged, in the burning tan sand, a wooden barrel confined within the space between her legs. She does not move, does not appear to be breathing. She stares at him, skin burnt and dry. Simply stares. The plumes of flame that spire from the barrel separate her face from his, making her facial expressions indecipherable and barely visible. Her thin lips do not move, but he hears her. She asks if he wants water. Tongue swollen and mouth parched, he tries to reply, but it is futile. She understands, though he has not spoken. She raises her hand in warning. For what reason? He does not know. Ah! The thirst! It is driving him mad.
"Water," he manages to speak. Spittle forms at the corners of his mouth. His broken-down jeep is far; he has come a long way and if he doesn't drink now, he will surely die of dehydration, very painfully.
Her face remains passive, but there is a hint of decisiveness in her expression. She nods.
"Before you drink, boy, be warned: for each gulp of water you take, you lose one year off your life." She reaches into the burlap bag beside her and takes out a faded, brown canteen. He snatches it from her frail hands greedily and begins to wrestle with the cap. Finally! It gives. Water spills over his hands and onto his pants. He brings the canteen to his burnt lips and proceeds to drink without counting the gulps. How wonderful it feels running down his dry throat!
He swallows the water...swallows...swallows...swallows. She observes him without action or notice; his skin turns to dust—to sand— until he is no more than a puddle against a sea of sand. A smile passes briefly over her face, then fades. She had warned him...
She leans over and kisses the sand where he once sat, then gets up, brushing sand grains from her lap, then faces the Sun. Steps once toward it, now twice.
Her figure, garbed in brown with ceremonial sashes, trailed by long, salt-and-pepper-colored hair, begins to fade. Now she is translucent...and now she is gone, as though she had never existed.
Copyright © 2000
He's driving in the Sierra Nevada with his wife and their small daughters and the kids are fighting and he can't take much more of it. He's tired of everything, really, but then he forgets about the rote of fighting children and harried wife and underpaid work and his occasional excuses for laughter. He escapes from his messy, loud days, but not because of any wonderful thing he didn't expect to happen—but by the opposite. Tragedy and dread have brought him here, though he hasn't gone anywhere since the accident occurred. It hasn't happened all that long ago. In fact, he's still in the loud, hot crashing of it, and only now seeing how things will end up.
The car has gone through the guardrail and they're falling. They have no choice now, but to roll and bounce and shred. He's a high school physics teacher, and so he understands these things. Microseconds turn to years and the violence doesn't reach him because he's protected by the car's seatbelt and safety cage, but he can see it's not going well for his wife and their small daughters. He tries to will the damage upon himself, but all he can do is watch as the forces of nature tear his family apart. He's horrified by the cruelty of the equations he'd written on chalkboards. All thoughts of bodily needs and monetary expenditures and his longing for peace and quiet are gone. He wants to go back to the time of squalling children and short-tempered wife. He wants to revel in the sounds of anger and concern, and if that isn't possible, he wants the accident to continue for all eternity so that at least they can be together. The car is still shredding itself against the stony precipice and his loves are gone now, he can feel it, and he's never heard such quiet in all his life.
The tumbling continues and he knows he's alone and that the violence won't come for him unbidden, and so between impacts he opens the car door and unbuckles his seatbelt and the jaws of nature clamp down on him and pull him out into the maelstrom. He tastes rock and dust and the steely gush of blood, and then suddenly he's back in the car, driving the winding mountain road, the sky going yellow and silhouetting the pines and the guardrails and the rocky ridgelines, so that everything seems to be tall and two-dimensional and lovely. He wipes the tears from his cheeks and sits up straight and drives carefully. His young daughters are fighting over the last bag of potato chips and his wife is shouting at them to behave themselves, to please, please, please at least try to pretend they are civilized human beings, and there are tears and wails and accusations and all the usual racket of life, and he's the happiest man who ever lived, to hear it.
So civilized, he'd said, how she understands the claims of family, dinner parties, holidays. She's smart as well as beautiful. His wife, well, she'd never understand. Different generation.
Last night he'd insisted on buying champagne for her coming birthday. "Jenny, damn, I wish I could spend it with you."
"No problem. I'll find a party," she'd said, laughing.
His hand had stroked her knee, squeezed. His eyes were warm with admiration and sated lust.
In the cab she pulls at the curls of the barrister's wig she holds. He'd left it at the oyster bar in a Harrods bag. It is the civilized thing to do, to return it.
Jenny pauses when she sees the house: an enormous Georgian with four cars parked outside.
But the wine still zings through her system and though the maid frowns, Jenny can hear laughter. She walks with long strides, her black cape swinging, his wig atop her head, into the dining room. Ten people glow in the chandelier light. He sees her and his patrician face pales.
"Birthday surprise!" she calls. The words slur. "For me."
She lifts the wig, then spins it. It settles on the table like a severed head. There is only squirming silence.
"Don't all sing at once."
A woman, grey hair in a chignon, classic black dress, rises, smiling. "Jenny!" she says. "Come, dear, let me take your pretty cape."
Her elbow is held; she is ushered out. In the hallway they regard each other, wife and mistress.
"How?" Jenny asks. " How did you know my name?"
Jack Fisher has been published in over 70 markets including most recently: Dark Regions, Transversions, Space & Time, The Fractal, and more. He edits the horror/dark fantasy magazine, Flesh and Blood and the ezine, Skin and Bones.
Terry DeHart lives in California with his wife and two daughters. He works as a technical writer at NASA/Ames Research Center and helps his father-in-law produce a fine cabernet. Two of his stories were published in bananafish in 1998, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Mary McCluskey, a British journalist now living in California, is the author of Match (with Bryan Breed: John Clare Books, UK) and Bel-Air (Pinnacle). Her short fiction has appeared or will appear in Zoetrope All Story Extra, Exquisite Corpse and Linnaean Street (Summer 2000).
All three of these stories were published in The Vestal Review - an online magazine devoted to flash or short-short fiction.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Here is the complete article:
LOS ANGELES—The Recording Industry Association of America filed a $7.1 billion lawsuit against the nation's radio stations Monday, accusing them of freely distributing copyrighted music.And of course, we know that a couple of years later the RIAA began suing anyone they could possibly think of who might have a single song/CD in their possession that might be a copy. Aside from actually dealing with people who were making enormous quantities of music available, they have also gone after grandmother's who had no idea how to operate a computer - and there is even a story floating around that they have sued at least three dead people.
"It's criminal," RIAA president Hilary Rosen said. "Anyone at any time can simply turn on a radio and hear a copyrighted song. Making matters worse, these radio stations often play the best, catchiest song off the album over and over until people get sick of it. Where is the incentive for people to go out and buy the album?"
According to Rosen, the radio stations acquire copies of RIAA artists' CDs and then broadcast them using a special transmitter, making it possible for anyone with a compatible radio-wave receiver to listen to the songs.
"These radio stations are extremely popular," Rosen said. "They flagrantly string our songs together in 'uninterrupted music blocks' of up to 70 minutes in length, broadcasting nearly one CD's worth of product without a break, and they actually have the gall to allow businesses to advertise between songs. It's bad enough that they're giving away our music for free, but they're actually making a profit off this scheme."
RIAA attorney Russell Frackman said the lawsuit is intended to protect the artists.
"If this radio trend continues, it will severely damage a musician's ability to earn a living off his music," Frackman said. "[Metallica drummer] Lars Ulrich stopped in the other day wondering why his last royalty check was so small, and I didn't know what to say. How do you tell a man who's devoted his whole life to his music that someone is able to just give it away for free? That pirates are taking away his right to support himself with his craft?"
For the record companies and the RIAA, one of the most disturbing aspects of the radio-station broadcasts is that anyone with a receiver and an analog tape recorder can record the music and play it back at will.
"I've heard reports that children as young as 8 tape radio broadcasts for their own personal use," Rosen said. "They listen to a channel that has a limited rotation of only the most popular songs—commonly called 'Top 40' stations—then hit the 'record' button when they hear the opening strains of the song they want. And how much are they paying for these songs? A big fat zip."
Continued Rosen: "According to our research, there is one of these Top 40 stations in every major city in the country. This has to be stopped before the music industry's entire economic infrastructure collapses."
Especially distressing to the RIAA are radio stations' "all-request hours," when listeners call in to ask radio announcers, or "disc jockeys," to play a certain song.
"What's the point of putting out a new Ja Rule or Sum 41 album if people can just call up and hear any song off the album that they want?" Frackman asked. "In some instances, these stations actually have the nerve to let the caller 'dedicate' his act of thievery to a friend or lover. Could you imagine a bank letting somebody rob its vaults and then allowing the thief to thank his girlfriend Tricia and the whole gang down at Bumpy's?"
Defenders of radio-based music distribution insist that the relatively poor sound quality of radio broadcasts negates the record companies' charges.
"Radio doesn't have the same sound quality as a CD," said Paul "Cubby" Bryant, music director of New York radio station Z100, one of the nation's largest distributors of free music and a defendant in the suit. "Real music lovers will still buy CDs. If anything, we're exposing people to music they might not otherwise hear. These record companies should be thanking us, not suing us."
Outraged by the RIAA suit, many radio listeners are threatening to boycott the record companies."All these companies care about is profits," said Amy Legrand, 21, an avid Jacksonville, FL, radio user who surreptitiously records up to 10 songs a day off the radio. "Top 40 radio is taking the power out of the hands of the Ahmet Erteguns of the world and bringing it back to the people of Clear Channel and Infinity Broadcasting. It's about time somebody finally stood up to those record-company fascists."
Of course, they were a number of years behind ASCAP (another royalty organization) that was collecting money if a Girl Scout Camp sang "God Bless America" around the campfire, but that's another post!
I was looking through "The Onion" archives and found this article dated November 30, 2005. At first glance, it seemed like just another Onion article that John Stewart might have used.
The Recording Industry Association of America announced Tuesday that it will be taking legal action against anyone discovered telling friends, acquaintances, or associates about new songs, artists, or albums. "We are merely exercising our right to defend our intellectual properties from unauthorized peer-to-peer notification of the existence of copyrighted material," a press release signed by RIAA anti-piracy director Brad Buckles read. "We will aggressively prosecute those individuals who attempt to pirate our property by generating 'buzz' about any proprietary music, movies, or software, or enjoy same in the company of anyone other than themselves." RIAA attorneys said they were also looking into the legality of word-of-mouth "favorites-sharing" sites, such as coffee shops, universities, and living rooms.However - this week a serious bill began to make it's way through the "hallowed halls" of Congress. Here are some of the key provisions:
--Criminalize "attempting" to infringe copyright.
Federal law currently punishes not-for-profit copyright infringement with between 1 and 10 years in prison, but there has to be actual infringement that takes place. The IPPA would eliminate that requirement. (The Justice Department's summary of the legislation says: "It is a general tenet of the criminal law that those who attempt to commit a crime but do not complete it are as morally culpable as those who succeed in doing so.")
--Create a new crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software. Anyone using counterfeit products who "recklessly causes or attempts to cause death" can be imprisoned for life. During a conference call, Justice Department officials gave the example of a hospital using pirated software instead of paying for it.
--Permit more wiretaps for piracy investigations.
Wiretaps would be authorized for investigations of Americans who are "attempting" to infringe copyrights.
--Allow computers to be seized more readily.
Specifically, property such as a PC "intended to be used in any manner" to commit a copyright crime would be subject to forfeiture, including civil asset forfeiture.
Any chuckling over The Onion article stopped. I was teaching in India when Indira Ghandi with a single stroke of a pen took all liberties away (including those afforded to those of us who were working there). Somehow, when I read/think about some of the things going on - or proposed, I hear faint sounds of the Sitar in the background.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
words spoken can not be unheard."
As D&D would not listen let alone ask, their reactions became more and more pronounced - to me and toward Toby. I was walking a fine line that was no longer a balancing act but a high wire act without a net.Eventually when walking a high wire while trying to balance any number of things, something is going to fall - and usually the person on the wire is the one that falls. I had been trying to keep everyone at peace and trying to compartmentalize what was going on in my life. While that can be a valid and valuable contribution of life - it can also be a major trap with no escape.
I've written before that I have a tendency toward "peace at any cost." Sometimes there is no peace, and the end cost can turn out to be quite expensive. In this case, with D&D it had several unintended results. The friendship with both came to an immediate end. It wasn't just that one single comment, but rather a gathering of a number of comments - not just about Toby - that led further and further down the road of erroneous assumptions.
And because they had built themselves a "construct" out of their assumptions, there was no way I could see that would change anything in either their maps or territories.
A construct is any idea that people invent in order to accomplish some particular end. And a construct, while not an absolute truth becomes something people assume to be an absolute.
I finally realized that I was not just walking the high wire around D&D, but I was also being untrue to myself by allowing the comments and assumptions to basically be unchallenged and/or unchecked. I had added false luggage tags and added baggage to my train - and it really was slowing the engine down. It actually spurred me even further to look even more into my life and the assumptions I've held onto, and which ones I've - perhaps - turned into constructs that need to be de-constructed.
There are waves of emotions
that travel on land,
there's beauty in silence
when you cradle the sun;
there are channels of thought
that use sweat when they paint pores,
there are smiles in drawers
that wait to be released . . .
There is a hidden power within us,
just lying around, waiting to be seen.
is a painful
as the click
of a coffin lid.
That don't fit
This emerging life
Of a planetary
That hold us hostage
To outworn mindsets,
Which drive us
To destroy ourselves
For our power.
Releasing our minds
From the slavery of violence,
Freedom rushes in,
Animate fresh visions
Of who we are
And what we can do,
Enwilling us with
Power over ourselves,
To be and do
Encoded in our genes
That has been building
Through eons of change.
A common purpose,
Of seeing life,
A whole-some mix,
A holy diversity
To empassion compassion
And stride forward
In myriad modes
This is our time,
To rally Peace
Into the world.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Assumptions are typically picked up from the culture in which we live. We acquired them as we acquired so much of our other knowledge from the culture, without being especially aware that we were learning it.
Going back to D&D for a bit - They both, but one of the D's in particular have acquired a number of assumptions from the culture we live in AND (although they would be loath to admit it) the gay culture they surround themselves with. That happens no matter what the orientation...but in this case, the one D's (hereafter D2) assumptions have stronger influences than most. . .Quoting from above: Assumptions typically take for granted that something or other is a fact, the way things really are. Even if they are not that way.
D2 had placed Toby in a category based on his assumptions...even though the assumptions had little basis in fact.
It started the night he told me that I "had more patience that he did what "those' kind of people." Now, "those kind of people" is a phrase that has always had the effect on me that fingernails on a blackboard have. And usually my reaction to each is about the same. Being a product of the 60's and 70's albeit not directly in the South (except for one VERY long year) - I am extremely aware of just how that phase was said and used.
I never expected anyone I was deep friends with (and who knew anything at all about me) would ever show serious bigoted assumptions or anti-people assumptions at anytime. As time marched/moved/tip-toed on with Toby and me, there were other remarks that were made showing a lack of understanding.
As I had written IF they had asked question and truly listened to the answers, there would not have been a problem. However, for them it was easier to make the assumptions then to find out the truth.
Toby has a bit of an image problem...I would be the first to admit that - but also the first to find out that the image does not match the reality. (Hmmmm, sounds like a few other posts I've written.) Toby is 6 feet 4 inches tall with tattoos on each arm. He's somewhat "built", keeps his hair buzzed short and has an Ohio accent (crossed with a deep South accent) you could - at times - cut with a chain-saw. He enjoys people of all types and is very gregarious and at times exceptionally outgoing. And yes, he can be mistaken for a hustler.
When I first met Toby I had problems as well. I had written about a deep rooted cynicism that I had to root out.
Later, after D&D's return from successful errand running. Toby (not his real name or initial) whom I had never seen before, literally came and starting "working" me...I'd use the term hitting on me, but I didn't want to give the impression of violence. I found that unidentified feeling really rubbing me ... and then I realized with a shock what it was. I was surprised by cynicism. Actually a very deep rooted cynicism. Something I was totally unprepared for, and unaware of how much I had.And now - "the rest of the story ~
cyn·i·cism(sĭn'ĭ-sĭz'əm)-n- An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others:
And how was it expressed? Thank heavens only mentally. I think I realized it before it became expressed either in body language or verbally. My inner reaction was one of very high mistrust of the integrity of him and his motives.
A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.
--H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)
At one point, I was asked to house/dog sit for D&D. It was going to be a simple weekend - in on Friday - back home on Sunday. On Saturday evening, D&D were expected to be at a contest that a mutual friend was entering. I was more than willing to go and would be back for the dogs within about 2 1/2 hours.
In the middle of the afternoon chaos struck. (this IS a story about D&D after all!) The person who was entering the contest was being pulled in about five directions for rides to the contest and a couple of other places. This was not a problem - however, Toby was riding with him. So, he dropped Toby off at D&D's for about 45 minutes. All the people were delivered, I had a delightful time at the contest. Our friend didn't win, but wasn't too upset about it either. The weekend came to an end (and yes, there was a problem with the puppies - it only took a couple of hours to clean-up ~ they do belong to D&D after all.)
As I was driven home by D1, I explained what had happened and everything seemed to be fine. Alas, it was not going to be. On my part - I made the assumption 1) that D1 had discussed it with D2 and 2) that everything was fine.
Several weeks (!) later I received a very boozy phone call from D2 that literally started off with "I know what you did." My response was an ever so polite "What?" "I know what you did and I have a few things to say about that." Again, my response was an ever so polite "What the ______ (insert any word you want here) are you talking about?"
"I know that Toby was here and I want you to know that" (here is it) "those kind of people stand on the porch and if they have to poop or pee - oh well, that's where they do it."
---tomorrow the final chapter of my friendship with D&D.
First Puzzle ~ (sometimes called "The Vowels Holy Holiday")
"In an old church in Westchester county, N.Y., the following consonants are written beside the altar, under the Ten Commandments. What vowel is to be placed between them, to make sense and rhyme of the couplet?"
This one is missing all the "E"'s that would help it make sense.
PERSEVERE YE PERFECT MEN
EVER KEEP THESE PRECEPTS TEN.
Second Puzzle ~
A new bride was required by her husband to show him all her correspondence. She did manage to get important information to her best friend, with the following letter.
Revealing the Secret
"The key is to read every other line!!"
I cannot be satisfied, my dearest Friend,
blest as I am in the matrimonial state,
unless I pour into your friendly bosom,
which has ever beat in unison with mine,
the various sensations which swell
with the liveliest emotion of pleasure,
my almost bursting heart. I tell you my dear
husband is the most amiable of men,
I have now been married seven weeks, and
never have found the least reason to
repent the day that joined us. My husband is
both in person and manners far from resembling
ugly, cross, old, disagreeable, and jealous
monsters, who think by confining to secure –
a wife, it is his maxim to treat as a
bosom friend and confidant, and not as a
plaything, or menial slave, the woman
chosen to be his companion. Neither party
he says, should always obey implicitly;
but each yield to the other by turns.
An ancient maiden aunt, near seventy,
a cheerful, venerable, and pleasant old lady,
lives in the house with us; she is the de-
light of both young and old; she is ci-
vil to all the neighborhood round,
generous and charitable to the poor.
I am convinced my husband loves nothing more
than he does me; he flatters me more
than a glass; and his intoxication
(for so I must call the excess of his love)
often makes me blush for the unworthiness
of its object, and wish I could be more deserving
of the man whose name I bear. To
say all in one word, my dear, and to
crown the whole — my former gallant lover
is now my indulgent husband; my husband
is returned, and I might have had
a prince without the felicity I find in
him. Adieu! may you be as blest as I am un-
able to wish that I could be more
Third Puzzle ~ (probably already known to anyone who's taken a training class!!)
It was delivered to John Underwood - Andover, Mass.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Then, as sometimes happens - a storm came up. There was tremendous wind, thunder and lighting. It should have been impossible to hear anything above the fury of the storm, but he was positive he could still hear the sound of the water against the shore.
As always, the storm finally faded away - and peace resumed again. The water looked as if it had never changed. The sound of the ripples against the shore line moved him to stand and move toward the edge.
"There's nothing in there for you." said a voice behind him. He turned to look. "Nothing in there but deep roiling currents that could take you and smash you against the rocks and crags. Leaving you broken and possibly dead."
"This kind of water is best left alone." said another voice. He moved his head to one side to see the speaker. "This kind of water offers nothing ...nothing but - well, they say it has poisonous properties that can eat away at the flesh. This kind of water supposedly has sharp microscopic animals that dig in and cause great pain."
He shook his head in disbelief. "Have either of you ever been in the water?" was his not so subtle challenge to the two speakers. He was met with silence. "I thought so," he finally said to them.
So, he turned back and watched the water under the setting sunlight. The rays of light skittered across the surface and seemed to dance before his eyes. Then he saw it. In the middle of the water was a small boat, and standing in that boat a solitary person. This person seemed to be looking directly at him. (If the truth be told, it was too far to be sure that's what the person was doing, but to him it seemed as if he was.)
With only a moments hesitation, he took the first step into the water. It was warm, pleasant without sharp creatures. He took another, then another. Finally the walking placed the water at his knees. He continued to move into the center of the water. He now was creating ripples that pushed toward the shore and toward the small boat in the center.
The water was now up to his waist and yet, all was peaceful. With his eye on the target, he moved further and further away from the shore. Suddenly he realized - the fear of what he didn't know had been keeping him back on shore. The advice of those on the shore could have kept him there and he would never had tried.
He was approaching the small boat and its occupant. The water was no higher than his waist. The depth and fear was nothing more then an illusion. He realized he could handle this. This was manageable and would provide many memories in the days to come.