Friday, April 18, 2014

Doom and Gloom -- NaPoWriMo Poem #11

Society’s going to the dogs, don’t tell me otherwise
The world’s going to hell in a handbasket, don’t deceive me with facts
People suck, so do you, I don’t believe a single word you’re saying

 Doom and gloom
 Doom and gloom
 Doom and gloom

Society’s always going to the dogs
The world’s always going to hell in a handbasket
People always suck even when they don’t
Always did, always will

But my life sucks, always did, always will
I think I’ll go bury my head in the sand

Windows Update -- NaPoWriMo Poem #10

oh no my windows just got discontinued
i’ll have to pay through the nose for an update
they’ll have to come to my house install the new ones
take out the old ones before they get hacked

damn you microsoft why do you always have to
make my windows obsolete just when i get used to them
don't worry says customer service you’ll see better
ha i reply just wait till the next big rainstorm hits

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Burning His Bridges -- NaPoWriMo Poem #9

He burned his first bridge back when he was a little boy
He stole his sister’s toys broke them when she told mom
He beat her up like a playground bully
 he was older
 he was bigger
 it was his sovereign right
  so he said
She never forgave him gave his reputation its first black mark
 she locked him out of his life
 sister no more forever
 he was alone
That was only the first bridge:
 he had only begun to burn

Year after year over and over he burnt bridge after bridge
 robbing his relatives
 backstabbing coworkers
 turning friends into enemies
He thought he was all-sufficient unto himself
He thought the only friend he needed was God above
He dismissed the concept of karma as mere superstition
 denying his own superstitions
 dismissing his personal delusions
Looking out for number one was the whole of the law
He looked out for himself only, screw the other guy

From the burning sky above a burning bridge descended
He tried to escape it but it always adjusted its aim
It was made of all his hatreds resentments and fears
His double his shadow in monstrous form burning like an angel
Always it increased its speed in its mission to destroy him
 it found him—
  it landed—
   impact:
 his reputation ruined
 his life destroyed
All he could do now was sit down and weep for himself
All the milk he spilt on everybody else
 had come back to drown him


Copyright © 2014 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hero for Sale -- NaPoWriMo Poem #8

He had amazing superpowers and a personality cult
All the companies in America fell over themselves begging his endorsement
He could pick and choose, he just wanted exposure and beaucoup bucks
His face was plastered all over on posters magazine ads television screens
 He was a hero for sale

Every person has their price, some just don't sell out
Our hero sold his soul for peanuts expecting millions
Superpower and vanity are a volatile cocktail
Watch him at every cocktail party toadying the rich
Who thinking they're superheroes buy personality cults of their own
Trading heroism for celebrity riches playboy mansions with blonde harems

 Ladies and gentlemen:
  our hero.


Copyright © 2014 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

The Prestigious Reading -- NaPoWriMo Story

[Note: I wrote this short story in the midst of writing poems for NaPoWriMo. Nothing annoys me more than the willful obscurity of elitist “artistes” such as the academic poet. This kind of artist really exists only to make culture-free billionaires feel "in", precisely because their art is unintelligible to us puny humans. Satire accordingly follows below.]


They are gathered here in the Temple of Art, the assembled Lords of Capital, to listen to the Bardic Elite read their works. None here care a thing for the pleasures of body, heart, mind, or soul. Modern Art exists for the ego alone. What they seek is Prestige.

For the professors, Prestige means Tenure, sponsored by the new race of aristocratic patrons whose representatives wait breathlessly for them to speak. For the executives, Prestige means Reputation among their kind, raising them in their own minds at least to the level of the merchant princes who made the Renaissance. A common conviction unites them: that Modern Art shall raise Artist and Patron alike above the people.

The first poet strides up to the podium. The projector lights up the wall behind him; the exalted audience must see what they are hearing to make sure what they hear is True Art not plebeian doggerel. Not verse but abstract words abstractly arranged like a bomb-blasted PowerPoint presentation (haven’t heard of Paul Blackburn? you philistine) assures the executive illuminati before him. They disagree as to whether the style he reads his poem is like a rabid gorilla or a psychotic robot. They sigh in contentment that, like Capitalism itself, Modern Art continues to dissolve everything solid into air (haven’t heard of Irving Fisher? you peasant). He finishes. They applaud. He smugly smiles: among the oligarchic audience, he shall find his Patron.

No, from these poets you won’t hear the feigned concern for the oppressed women and colored people all too common in the academic presses. To these men it reeks of Communism: let them spew their rot among the rabble. Here the true purpose of Modern Art is known: to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted. The Bardic Elite speak only of Higher Things, that which cannot be spoken by human tongues, that which the Lords of Capital are taught by their gurus and the Ascended Masters they channel. To them the Great Chain of Being still stands unbroken; to them hierarchy is still the abstract essence of Nature.

Poet after poet speaks the unspeakable, deconstructed into glossolalia, exciting executive egos and raising them into gods. The air here in the Temple of Art is hushed like the atmosphere of a sacred temple before the holy golden image of the god. The god hovering over this ritual has no image, though painted and sculpted icons of the ineffable surround them; yet his blood runs freely in checkbooks, credit cards, and bank accounts: he is the god of this world, and the Lords of Capital are his chosen race, beyond good and evil (haven’t heard of Friedrich Nietzsche? you plebeian).

The ritual ends. The contracts are signed. The Bards find their Patrons; the Patrons find their Bards: all united by the smug sense of occult conspiracy against the unenlightened masses. The poets are pleased; the executives are pleased; the god they serve is pleased: they shall be rewarded with Profit and Prestige.

Meanwhile, many social layers below, heedless of the dance of egos among elites in the exclusivist Temple of Art, people with two and three jobs create their art, not to social-climb, but because they must.


Copyright © 2014 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rational Anthem -- NaPoWriMo Poem #7

[Note: my first poem this NaPoWriMo intended to be "songified" come 50 Songs in 90 Days.]

Rational man
Standing alone
Against an irrational world
 Transcending
 Condemning
Try to get out of it
You crusade against it
 You stand alone

Radical man
Standing alone
Against the whole human race
 Dispassion
 No compassion
What did they do to you
Their lifeblood’s delicious
 You stand alone

Thought into man
Standing alone
Against your prison of flesh
 You thought it
 You bought it
You will must triumph over
The desert of the real
 And stand alone

God that was man
Standing alone
Against the material world
 Transcend it
 Destroy it
Judge and find it wanting
Jealous shall be your name
 You stand alone


Copyright © 2014 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

It Bleeds, It Leads -- NaPoWriMo Poem #6

[Note: Originally written 4/7/14.]

Booyah booyah booyah boom:
the terrorist shoots up the cocktail party with his boomstick
murderous buckshot making hedge fund billionaires bleed money
vapid socialites trophy wives last-gasping soap-operatically
celebrities entering the ideal death-state of infinite profitability
chinaware fixtures bodies drapes all ruined in photogenic ways
white wine red blood stream together into delicious new cocktails
security agents with black blood steel muscles bulletproof skin
swarm into the ruined room fire a leaden hailstorm into his body
red gushers fountain beautifully from the heroic corpse before it crumples
the dying face forms a smug grin as he drifts off to Valhalla

 First Law Of Media:
 It Bleeds, It Leads

The dead killer’s defiant mugshot front-page plastered on all editions
newsbabbling talking heads breathlessly gush over his dastardly feat
nobody cares what he stood for, he’s the hot new criminal celebrity
up there with Carlos the jackal Green River Gary and Scarface Al
and the Twenty-Seven Club of rockers dead from willful self-destruction
what was his cause again? nobody even bothers to remember
all we care to know is he burned out to keep from fading away
his humanity a fading memory, now deified into tabloid celebrity
a growth industry, a boom stock, he and all his opulent victims
their heirs now suing each other, we cry out hurry up and shoot already
smugly we bask in the glamourous heroic aura of his brave exit
our excuse to remain passive complacent conformist in our decay

 This is how you lose by winning.

Rugged individual heroism: the true occult secret to all true villainy
Make yourself a badass name to echo through the stony chambers of Valhalla
Beat the Man, crown yourself emperor, proclaim yourself a god, become the Man
Fail to beat the Man, die a superstar, a profit center for decades to come
 The demigods who rule the world are not like you and me
  All complete unto themselves, no need for society
 What humans see as mortal sin, they call morality
  The demigods care nothing for nature and humanity:

   let them bleed.


Copyright © 2014 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

Lotus -- NaPoWriMo Poem #5

[Note: Originally written 4/6/14. The second of my Buddhist-themed poems.]

the wind catches a petal off a lotus blossom
carries it gently in its invisible currents
deposits it with softest touch onto the still pond surface
the floating petal generates softest ripples
travelling invisibly, touching everything around it
lilypad reed insect fish other lotus and the distant shore

the flower attracts the bee who inseminates it with pollen
then falls petal by petal to make way for fruit and seed
but the lotus blossom unfolds to reveal the simultaneous seed
the seed slowly descends the whole depth of the pond water
settles at the bottom into soft mud where it sends out its roots
and raises its stalk the full height to the surface
to unfold new flower and new seed

Copyright © 2014 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Transparent Eye -- NaPoWriMo Poem #4

[Note: Originally written 4/5/2014. The first of my Buddhist-themed poems.]

The Ideal suspended before us like the apple of Tantalus,
unreachable: we reach, and it recedes into the distance or fades away,
or worse, lead on corrupted minds ever deeper into burning hells,
collecting hellfire to cast onto earth: sweetest daughter of Māra,
weaving her veil of illusion to distract from the cries of a suffering world.

Close your eyes: quiet the mind: observe the commotion fade to silence:
become a transparent eye penetrating the veil to the true reality of things:
dissolve the confusion that clouds vision and distorts consciousness:
perceive the connections among all things from beginning to end of time:
rediscover that what is real and that what is not is not.

Go, bodhisattva, return to the suffering world with clear vision and pure heart:
countless living beings cry for relief from incessant suffering: reconnect:
leave behind the lesser self, distortion of self, moulted like snake's skin:
your self is not the outer shell or inner layers but the center:
as you walk further down the path, show them where it begins:

 but they must choose to walk it
 for some are blinded by shining ideals
 and others by midnight-black despair
 confusion clouds their eyes and makes them think
 that what is not real is real
 and what is real is not real:

clarity reveals the path, and the cosmic currents
that flow through you and me and all beings and all reality,
and the true nature of reality unclouded by faulty vision
and by the three afflictions, addiction repulsion confusion,
and by the lesser self that divides self from self and self from others.

 Siddhārtha meditated under a pipal tree
 when Māra spied him and panicked:
 first he unleashed all the terrors of infinite hells:
 failing that, he tried to seduce the prince
 with carnal pleasures and illusory ideals:

 Siddhārtha endured,
  achieved extinction,
   and woke up a Buddha.


Copyright © 2014 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

Crucify Yourself (Punk Blues in Spanner Time) -- NaPoWriMo Poem #3

[Note: Written 4/4/2014. A possible replacement Interlude 2 for Chaos Angel Spanner, featuring several major Spanner characters, motifs, and themes.]

Poe’s Law
(as in Edgar Allan’s preacher cousin):
The Church must put on the World’s culture
like unto a garment:
then it can take over.

Once upon a time, in a city by the sea,
before it caught the sheen and glitter of celebrity,
a dervish-capped man began a church amidst apostasy,
and gathered up his flock, and lo! it grew ambitiously,
and as his congregation grew, his power grew by degrees,
until the Lord commanded: bring this Babylon to its knees!

The city was called Seattle,
the man was Pastor Scofield,
Byron Herbert Scofield,
a man of same mind as Chuck Norris:
he looked like a football star
with a top hat upon his head
but wanted to be a Rock Star
and preaching the Lord was his way:
but the ring of ultimate power
lay on the road of Kurt Cobain.

  Celebrity secret to fame and fortune
   Crucify yourself
  Suicide will make you immortal
   Crucify yourself

 Willa Richter-Thomas,
 Rocker and psychologist,
 came up with a theory
 and put it into doggerel:

   This preacher steals our Rock ’N’ Roll
    and uses it to rule,
   then strips it of its integrity
    and calls it RadiCool.

He brought his intensities into ten more cities and nationwide,
parlaying his charisma into bigger more hysterical flocks and pastoral stardom;
but to him they were just a power base: higher ambitions fuelled his burning ego;
television’s siren song called out his name, drew him into its studio
where with his old friend Bram Savage he red- and pinkbaited uppity womankind
and their old enemy Willa, and built mighty fortresses in the sky
manned with manly crusaders against democracy, the devil’s daughter
and rapist of virgin manliness: communism was dead, they said,
we the people was passé and uncool: only fascism had edge and cool,
government by superhero, manly celebrity like Pastor Byron, the Lord’s linebacker.

  He got his biggest ratings.
  He was a fast rising star.
  Next step to power: Fox News.
  The devil looked up with a smirk.

 And Willa went on with her theory
 in defiance of his denial:

   Patriarchs so desperate
    to capture all the youth
   Mix their jargon in dead slang
    and brand it RadiCool.

Speculation abounds as to the time he sold his soul,
Sacrificing integrity for his ambitious goal:
Taking command of city towers and hostile city streets,
Liberal wimpy millions begging sobbing at his feet:
 seize his dominion
 take his revenge

Conservative celebrity compounded on itself and turned his head
He concocted the most audacious hostile takeover since the March on Rome
Bloodless castrated unmen and mere women populated the Babylon he sought to rule
They would fall and be conquered by the magic manly essence of God’s linebacker
 By God’s sign he would conquer
 Lo! this Babylon would fall

But ambition made him overconfident, unearned pride made him ripe for a fall
The city people feared he’d make them all illegal aliens in their own city
Fame fortune fear and fanatical hordes provoked the spirit of resistance
Mainstream media propaganda blitz couldn’t save him from humiliating defeat
 and the Great White Father
 was about to become Black

 And Willa’s theory continued as
 he closed his ears to reason:

   They won’t let you escape their Word
    at work or play or school;
   They’ll rape your mind and kill your soul
    à mode de RadiCool.

In the depths of his darkest despair
he sat in his executive chair
and telephoned Doctor Julian Blair
whose mad science controlled the mind
with a hubris that would make him blind
for he would turn Benedict Arnold
 and they would make his name taboo
 and they would call him Doctor X
and the mad doctor gave him this advice:

 A Western movie cowboy
  said these words so wise:
 Before you live forever,
  first you’ve got to die.

  The martyr way to absolute power
   Crucify yourself
  You gotta die to become immortal
   Crucify yourself

He sentenced himself to death,
he nailed himself to the cross,
he punctured himself in the side
with spear held in his own hands
and applied the final fatal sponge
and drank death deep to the bitter end:

his grief-maddened followers
believed he would rise bodily

 but he appeared unto them
 in mass hallucination:
 they were now his body,
 their faith his resurrection,
 their life his transmutation:
 like evil Osama bin Laden,
 he was now a god.

The Conservative Revolution
went to its full conclusion
a black man vanished from the earth
again dread giants walked the earth:
the Spirit of Rock ’N’ Roll was now his:
he rocked the Word of Command:
 Patriot Metal!

 And all the Rockers sang along
 as Willa summoned her Charmer niece:

   We the people must take back
    our culture from his rule,
   even if our freedom requires
    the sacrifice of the Cool.

Poe’s Law
(as in Nathan from Usenet):
The more fanatically you believe,
the less your belief can be distinguished
from parody.

She had slain the slender man
She could kill the mind of faith
A girl with skin of cinnamon
And outlaw style and hardened mind
And superpower to cloud the mind
And dark charisma rousing lust
 too sexy for her age
 and she had many names
Shira Thomas she said she was
But he kept calling her Rebel Styles
 the evil child seductress
  who slew the men of faith
 his suicide assault was fuelled
  by dread and holy hate
She stole from him the power of Rock
She terrified away his flock
He faced his nemesis alone
Inside a body not his own
 abandoned by God:
She put an end to his Word of Command
  his top hat fell
  his mind flickered out
  his name was forgot
 the devil got his man
 and that was the end.


Copyright © 2014 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Twilight of the New Gods -- NaPoWriMo Poem #2

[Note: Originally written 4/2/2014.]

America the Midas kingdom turning everything it touches into gold
Acquired collected competed-over turning base men into gods
Turning against the people, building impregnable castles in the sky
Thundering over and over at all times the word from on high: obey
Turning on each other for all gods are jealous and there can only be one

 The will of the gods
 Is written on stone
 The name of the poet
 Is carved into water

The new generation of gods, overthrowing the previous one,
Throwing them off Olympus, casting them into the abyss,
 erasing their names:
Carving their own names into palimpsest temple walls
Carving their commandments with lightning into the air
Carving their emblems out of nightmare into the human mind
 demanding sacrifice:

 You will be organized
 Your soul converted to money
 All resistance is futile
  They call you by a number
  And take away your name

Another heaven destroyed, a new one raised against the chaos of earth
Old hierarchy destroyed, a new one built to tame traitor humankind with faith
Everything good confiscated by heaven to turn earth once again into hell

 New aliens invade
 To conquer and subdue
 The humans they once were
 And make the world their zoo

High above them, looking down, standing taller than the sky
The new Titan generation bearing corporate conglomerate names
Emanating terror commandment police from eyes brighter than the sun
Speaking the word of the profits: buy sell acquire steal nyah
Too much can never be enough, stab your neighbour in the back
Make their life nasty brutish and short, for all must war against all
For the magic the power and the ecstasy of gold

 Hark! commotion below—
 Lo! rebellion, it grows—
 Behold! the threat from below!

Alone one human cannot stand against the pettiest god;
Together as one they can stand against pantheons and storm heaven!

 “The black-headed ones' voices have become deafening.”
 “Let us unleash the flood and drown them with water!”
 “Let us unleash the sun and burn them with fire!”
 “Let us unleash the whirlwind and blast them with air!”
 “Let us unleash the earthquake and bury them in earth!”
 “So mote it be.”

The new gods build giant new bodies out of swarms of angry machines
They dig their snouts deep and eat the earth from deep within
They organize their cults into crusader armies screaming to wreak jihad
Their will: to destroy the mind of man, initiate him back into the earth
 Their word: seek and destroy—

 By terror and power they overdo
 But we are many and they are few

 The gods are bodied in flesh and steel
 The people pull together for survival
 The final battle is on!

Believe in a god and he will assimilate
Fight him alone and he will annihilate
 Withdraw your sanction, end his game
 Erase the memory of his name
  The system is not for human use
  The system was made for gods by gods

 “Why is the river of heaven going dry?”
 “It can't be! Our blood is the real, matter but a flickering shadow.”
 “Look down, you fools! The black-headed ones have ceased to believe!”

The masses below vow to produce for their need not the profits of gods
The gods enraged send angels and demons of vengeance to ravage the earth
The word of chaos is implanted into the heavenly horde, they crash inert
Nations, corporations, tyrants, tycoons, all titans fall to mass deicide
The names of the last generation of gods,
 like those of all generations of gods come before,
  dissolve into nothing:

 Empire is no more:
  and now the dragons' reign
   has ceased!

Humanity their own master at last, they start to rebuild:
Life blooms again, restored to the wasteland of the real:
 and life goes on.


Copyright © 2014 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dead Rocker Song -- NaPoWriMo Poem #1

He was a legend to himself, obscure to everyone else,
all ambition, no talent, and twenty-seven.
Membership in the Twenty-Seven Club was still open.
Nobody cared about him. He'd show them all.

You saw him on stage. You booed him from the audience.
There he was, guitar and voice out of tune,
imaginary target on his face as you cocked back your arm
and let loose the rotten tomato that hovered
and arced a pretty parabola on its way to his face.
Impact: face reddened by tomato and rage,
he stage-dived into the seething audience
and hit only floor. It was three months
before they let him out of the hospital.

Now he was twenty-seven. Club membership was open.
High on dexedrine and oxycodone,
more alcohol than blood in his veins,
he slipped behind the wheel to speed like a freak
to Dead Man's Curve with bomb in his trunk
and camera behind to watch him die live on YouTube.
He slammed foot to pedal, the car lurched and jerked,
he sped down the highway wobbling and weaving,
an army of cops in hot pursuit of a mad suicide
to the place of a million car crashes to crash and burn.
Impact: the exploding car sent shrapnel into cop
and bystander, made a pretty sight on live video.
Ten million viewers were amused. What a way to go.

Only three people came to his funeral,
mother and sister and widow catfighting over
the insurance policy they took out on him
and cashed in knowing how he wanted to go.
He was lowered in the ground under a generic tombstone.
A priest said pretty words that did not apply,
heaven and eternal life and the resurrection and all that,
denying that everything left of him was
the formaldehyded and formally dressed corpse
destined to decay into dirt and fade from memory.
Impact: he achieved his Twenty-Seven Club ambition but
everybody knew him as a short story far back in the paper,
yesterday's birdcage liner, recycled tomorrow.
Membership in the Rock Hall of Fame forever closed,
he ended as he began, a footnote to a footnote,
and nobody cared.

Copyright © 2013 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

Monday, March 31, 2014

NaPoWriMo 2014: Now That Script Frenzy's Dead... Poems!

Two years ago, NaNoWriMo discontinued their April scriptwriting spinoff Script Frenzy and replaced it with an April CampNaNo. As I'm not writing another new novel until next NaNo in November or I finish editing Chaos Angel Spanner book 1, whichever comes first, I've decided to do the next best thing until it became the best thing: NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month. Basically, you write a poem a day for 30 days, or just 30 poems this month. Considering my typical FAWM song output (28 songs this year, 14 of them in just the last two days), that should be easy. And my NaPoWriMo will be happening right here in this blog! Brace yourselves!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February Album Writing Month 2014 Now in Progress: or, 14 in '14!

Actually, I should have posted this on January 31. Well, it's FAWM again, and I'm going to write at least another 14 songs. Unlike the last 2 FAWMs, I'm going to record as many as I can, like I did during my first 2 (2009 and 2010), when I wasn't possessed by a monomania for editing three drafts of Chaos Angel Spanner nonstop. And unlike the past 2 years, I didn't wait until the last day or two to start posting songs. So far I have the lyrics posted for:
  1. Too Close
  2. Electric Boy (a song that's been haunting me for at least 2 years)
In addition to those, at this writing I'm also working on the music to these songs:
  • Bet He's Dead (another song on my inner playlist, originally "Eddie's Dead" then "Freddy's Dead" until I realized those names would be troublesome)
  • It's All Wrong (a song I originally planned for last FAWM)
  • Pure (new for 2014)
  • Tails You Lose, Heads I Win (also new)
I also have these songs planned:
  • Mokey Done Been Smoked (the sequel to 2009's "Smoke the Mokey", the original "mokey rock song, a genre that grew out of a type on FAWM's "add a song" form page)
  • Dream Becomes Real (a straight synthpop song; I need to do at least one, after all)
  • Soundtrack to an Imaginary Film (a dreamy instrumental)
  • False Flag (a song I originally planned for 50/90 2012)
  • Final Burn (new)
  • Pretty Kill in Glorious HD (new)
Whenever I get a full recording posted, I'll post it here on the main blog. I'm also seriously thinking of signing up for Soundcloud so my demos will be accessible to all, especially now that its embedded music player now works with the FAWM site.

So I've started at last. For the next month, or at least until NaNoEdMo comes around in March, I'll be agonizing over songs instead of Spanner rewrites...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Good Riddance 2013, Hello 2014; or, Resolution Time Again

I didn't post here most of last year, not even songs for FAWM (because I never recorded any). Reason is, I spent most of my time on the epic final edit of Spanner. And this is supposed to be my main blog.

2014 will be different. Naturally, I have my resolutions. The obvious ones:
  1. Finish the final edit of Spanner Book 1.
  2. Practice my singing and my instruments for FAWM, not just this year's but next year's too.
  3. Pick a non-Spanner NaNoWriMo novel to edit and get published.
The ones I've been seriously procrastinating regardless of year:
  1. Start drawing again so I can finally learn how to draw comics;
  2. Start taking photographs again (conveniently, digital cameras better than mine are cheaper than ever);
  3. Keep at my workout program (just resuming it's not enough);
  4. Improve my French, German, and Japanese;
  5. Learn Python, Perl, and even C;
  6. Clean house (and stop using the epic Spanner edit to avoid it); and
  7. Resume regular posting to what's supposed to be my main blog, starting now.
2013 was a tough year: my mother's long recovery from surgery, the death of a cousin who was almost a brother to me when we were kids, the birth of my nephew and my brother's near-withdrawal from the family, my unhealthy obsession with a certain epic edit that even nearly ruined my health and prevented my 8th consecutive NaNo win (which I pulled off despite myself). 2014, on the other hand, will be the year I become a published professional author at last. I'll get back to posting about novels, comics, TV series, and the like as well. And of course I'll post drawings.

I've had my drink to the new year. The next step is to plunge into it. Here goes...

Friday, June 28, 2013

I Return From Isolation, In Time for Social Media Anniversaries

I've been procrastinating editing a lot lately, which kept me offline for about a week or two. Finally I said, "Aw, screw it," and got back on Google+ and Twitter just in time to find out that G+ is two years old today and in two days I'll have been on it for two years, and that I've been on Twitter four years as of yesterday. Significantly, G+ no longer slows down my computer to a crawl and TweetDeck's working for the first time in a month. Synchronicity or just serendipity?

Meanwhile Twitter recently killed off Posterous, exactly as I feared (and cynically predicted) when Posterous sold out, so over the coming month I'll be reposting entries from my now dead Posterous blog here and on the project blog. And I'll start blogging about books and music again, and I'll post photographs and drawings.

The important thing is, I'm back. And I'm relieved.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Relevant Random Facts: The Goddess of Easter Isn't the One You Think

It was a close call. Too bad it didn't fall on April Fool's Day, or I'd have much more fun with it. One of these days I'll get my wish. But first, the relevant random trivia.

I've been hearing that "Easter" is supposed to be a variant of "Ishtar" (the goddess), whose holy day is the spring equinox. But then other facts intrude from the depths of my brain, and I realize I can't agree. For one thing, the holiday's name in German is "Oster", related to the word for east. But there's another goddess, an ancient Indo-European one, whose day also falls on the spring equinox, namely the dawn goddess: Aurora in Latin, Eos in Greek — and Easter in English (Ostara in medieval German).

Argue my point all you want, this is what I learned.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Non-End of the World, New Age Edition; or, Happy 14th B'ak'tun!

Once again, the world was supposed to end at a precise date and time. There were even disaster movies about it, including one big one. That time was the moment of the summer solstice (3:11 a.m. PST) on December 21, 2012. 12/21/12.

Sure enough, the world didn't end. Yet again.

That moment is when the 13th b'ak'tun of the Mayan calendar came to a close and the 14th began. A b'ak'tun is something of a Mayan counterpart to a millennium on the modern Roman calendar. If you remember, the world was also supposed to end at midnight on January 1, 2000. The only thing that happened that day was that some computers went haywire because it didn't occur to their mid- (and even late-)20th-century programmers that the 20th century would end, so the dates they used were two digits rather than four. This was the famous "Y2K bug" that people hoped would bring down civilization so Jesus could return. The difference between the turn of the Mayan b'ak'tun and the turn of the Roman millennium is that there never was a "14th b'ak'tun bug".

The Mayas, of course, are happy to collect the dollars from doomsday-minded tourists. They still exist, you see, and they even still speak their old languages in addition to their conquerors' language, Spanish (and sometimes English for the tourists). Mel Gibson even filmed his movie Apocalypto in the Maya language Yucatec.

So how did this all get started? I suspect it began with one José Argüelles, author of a book called The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology and organizer of the Harmonic Convergence of 1987 (disclosure: growing up in a New Age family, I took part in it). He took the Mayan calendar, added the I Ching and other esoteric influences, and you can guess the rest. Interestingly enough, he didn't live long enough to see the world not end (he died in 2011) — but then, he never said it would. (Trivia note: he was neither Mexican nor Guatemalan, but a Midwestern American: he came from Rochester, Minnesota, not far from where I spent much of my childhood in Mankato.)

Sure enough, memetic mutation took over. Somehow, even before the Harmonic Convergence, the date 12/21/2012 got mixed up in Theosophical expectations of the return of The Christ (i.e. the Theosophical version of the Gnostic Jesus) in the form of Maitreya, the next Buddha. Eventually, cults both New Age and Evangelical formed around the Eschaton they expected on that date. This is the kind of thing my favorite major New Age figure, Dick Sutphen calls "cosmic foo-foo".

And so here we are yet again, stuck in a world that never ended, just like we were last year, twice (no thanks to one Harold Camping, Evangelical end-time prognosticator). Once again, the world has been proclaimed Twitter dead. But Twitter death never stopped the celebrities; why would it stop the world? After all, the world has been about to end since Jesus' time; it never did, and it never will — unless, of course, our leaders manage to blow it up...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On Mass Shootings, True Heroes, and Doing the Right Thing

The article: The Heroes of Sandy Hook (BuzzFeed)

During the massacre that snuffed out the lives of twenty children and six teachers, the women profiled in the link above willingly risked death to save as many children as they could. Three of them — the principal, the school psychologist, and a first-grade teacher — died, yet succeeded in saving their children.

The story of the first-grade teacher, 27-year-old Victoria Soto, especially struck me. She hid her students in a closet just in time. When the gunman came and demanded where the students were, she told him they were in the gymnasium; she lied to protect them. Then he shot her dead and left. All her students survived.

Victoria Soto willingly gave up her life to save the children in her class. This, in my book, is the very definition of true heroism. She should be an inspiration and an example to all.

Now would I, vindictive old me, willingly risk my life to save innocents from a rampaging madman who once could have been me? Yes, back when I was the school outcast in four schools, middle and high, I had the potential to become one of these monsters. Fortunately, the mental health system was stronger, or at least my mother had enough connections to it that I got the therapy I needed. And I'm especially grateful to the child psychologist who worked with me then, Debbie Carlson, a truly compassionate person and the best therapist I would ever work with; she was there at exactly the right time.

Now, to answer my question: Normally, I'd want to either take out the bastard or run as far away as I could to make sure I didn't get killed. But I've been in one of my occasional spurts of growing up, and these heroic teachers have showed me a different way. So if I were in Victoria Soto's situation, faced with certain death yet a chance to save a classroom full of innocent and terrified children, I now know I'd do what she did: I'd face certain death calmly and misdirect the killer away from the kids. In some extreme situations, willingly giving up one's life to save others is exactly the right thing to do.

Of course this doesn't mean that doing the right thing necessarily involves giving up one's life or even risking it. It means following your conscience whenever you can, even if the whole system's against you.

Naturally, at first I was angry when I heard the horrible news, and posted a scorching rant on my opinion blog. Then I reflected more rationally (if still with some anger) in the follow-up post. But I ended up learning two lessons from the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy:
  1. the urgent need to repair America's ailing mental health system, rebuilding it from scratch if necessary; and
  2. that in tragic and horrific situations like this, people who willingly risk death to save lives are a shining example of humanity who are an inspiration to all.
And so I honor Dawn Hochsprung (the principal), Mary Sherlach (the school psychologist), and Victoria Soto, who out of love of and compassion for children willingly gave up their lives to save the children of their school from a rampaging madman. They, and the two teachers who saved their students and survived, are true heroes who should be remembered long after the murderer has been forgotten except as "yet another school shooter". They are my heroes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reading: Destroy and Revolution, by Kouji Mori (issues 1-10)

I've posted about this manga before on the project blog, after reading just the first issue. Now I'm up to #10 and have a better idea of the story.

The high concept: superhero terrorist bromance. Makoto has amazing superpowers he doesn't want anyone to know about. Yuuki is rich, handsome, and charismatic, but hates society and the entire system, which he identifies with his hated Corporate father. Together they set out to destroy society and replace it with a new order — of which, in classic terrorist fashion, they never get any kind of clear idea. (These are not religious terrorists, who do have a clear idea of what kind of order they want to impose: a totalitarian world Ordenstaat run by themselves.)

#10 is a significant issue because it brings us up to where the story began in #1 and thus serves as a natural end point for Book 1: they destroy a subsidized apartment building intended for Diet (Japanese parliament) members, who tend to be quite rich. On the way to this gambit against the Japanese state, we find out a few things. Apparently Yuuki hates Western values and the common people, both of which he seems to think are embodied in the state. He also wears his hair long to annoy his father, a straitlaced Corporate. And he jealously chases away the girl who likes Makoto. #6 made me shake my head: an old man who exists only in that issue appears to give Makoto a mystical experience of the oneness of all things, which Makoto passes on to Yuuki in #7. For Western secular radicals, this New Age (or, in the specific Japanese context, New Religion) thing is an unwanted intrusion into revolutionary theory. So is the Japanese nationalism, since there's no independence to be won like in, say, Iraq (successful) or Afghanistan (ongoing). And the contempt for the common people that is all too common among revolutionary elites will doom his revolution to mere personal tyranny, since classical revolutionary theory states that the common people are the ground of all revolution. Rebellion against the people invariable reduces to a lust for tyranny. How different, then, is Yuuki from his father, really, when his father is already a tyrant, the all-powerful CEO of a giant corporation? Here in America, class warfare against the people is the war cry of the Corporates. Yuuki isn't waging a social revolution, the only kind that can succeed in Japan or any other country with a mature economy. The French and Russian Revolutions succeeded only to the extent that they remained social, and failed when the revolutionaries turned against the people.

In America, with its tradition of superheroes and adventure strips, Destroy and Revolution would have been a rip-roaring action comic with shocking revelations in the tradition of cinematic political thrillers and expository scenes for the revolutionary theory. In fact, that's the way I originally planned my own Chaos Angel Spanner before I turned it from a webmanga concept into a novelized TV serial. In Japan, action stories tend to be age-limited to shounen (boys') manga. The Destroy and Revolution that author Mori created is less action-oriented and more thoughtful, thus more typical of seinen (young men's) manga.

In any case, the first book concerns itself mainly with the issue of "how we got here" to the act of destruction that kicks off the manga from the meeting of two high school malcontents in scene two. It's just setting up the confrontation between the terrorist heroes and the Japanese government. Japanese tradition actually has a higher opinion of terrorists than the moralistic West, since terrorists have purity of heart the ruling class lack. Purity of heart, or samurai spirit, serves the role that flaming Latin machismo has traditionally played among Latin American guerrillas. Western radicals would rather make the case that the side they're attacking is morally wrong — which leads to the paradox that purity of heart and ideology causes more evil than it solves and is thus one of the traditional banes of Western civilization since the medieval revolts of the antinomian Free Spirit sectarians. Al-Qaeda are very much in the Western tradition of moralistic evil. The showrunner of Serial Experiments Lain wanted to provoke different reactions between Eastern and Western viewers, but failed because he never guessed how Eastern the West has become since the British Empire conquered India in the 18th century. Because its heroes are terrorists, a class of vigilante universally demonized in the West, Destroy and Revolution would serve that intention far more effectively.

These are my impressions as of Book 1. Book 2 has also been fan translated, so there will be a follow-up.