Arbitrary Stupid Goal

This summer, prompted by a recommendation from Austin Kleon, I read Arbritrary Stupid Goal by Tamara Shopsin.

The book opens with a story her father used to tell about the Wolfawitzes. Once, the Wolfawitzes had a European vacation planned, which fell through, so they arbitrarily decided to visit all the places with ‘wolf’ somehow connected to their place name. Wolfpoint, Wolfville, Wolf Lake, etc. Turned out to be the best vacation ever.

The moral, her father concluded, was that an arbitrary stupid goal was as good as any other kind of goal.

This concept captures perfectly an element of my own life philosophy that I never had the language for.

Thanks for the phrase/language Shopsins!

Grimes’ Fae Future

Until last night I’d never knowingly listened to a song by Grimes. Last night I listened to Grimes because she is now on my fairy radar.

I was reading The Manifesto Handbook by Julian Hanna (a terrific book, btw), when I experienced a delightful moment of serendipity.

Hanna mentioned in passing Grimes’ Instagram manifesto from 2017.

“The fae are the children living at the end of the world, who make art that reflects what it’s like to live knowing the earth may not sustain humanity much longer.

“We live knowing that environmentally driven genocide is nigh, that the least equipped are to be struck down by the very earth itself. Repentance by the innocent for the sins of the rich. This does not mean that all fae art is directly about this, but that the influence of this reality is inescapable for the fae.”

Grimes writes that this is only the first part of the manifesto, but a cursory search does not reveal the rest. I know Grimes only from her connection to Elon Musk.

This is a neat find since the conclusion of the fairy book (extremely long essay?) will be about appropriating fairies and other spirits for radical ecology.

I haven’t started researching the concluding chapters yet, but something like Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future by Bron Taylor is probably digging in the same garden.

“How can environmentally oriented, spiritually motivated individuals and movements be understood as religious when many of them reject religious and supernatural worldviews? The “dark” of the title further expands this idea by emphasizing the depth of believers’ passion and also suggesting a potential shadow side: besides uplifting and inspiring, such religion might mislead, deceive, or in some cases precipitate violence.”

Neutral Angels

I think I’m going to write about fairies for the next 1HR Read.* It connects really well with some other ideas percolating in my skull, and so far the research is fun and the outline is falling into place.

One medieval theory about fairies is that they were angels who stayed neutral during the war in heaven, siding neither with God nor Lucifer.

For their neutrality they are allowed to live in what is basically heaven-on-earth, but the eternal reward after the call of judgment will be denied.

I love this story. I never considered there might have been neutral angels. And that their punishment is mortality is a weird tragic tale.

I suspect the rest of the year will be spent researching, and the drafting will start with the new year. We’ll see. It may move faster or slower, depending on where the research leads.

My broader interest is in animism/hylozism/panpsychism, but fairies will be a handy lens to look at the role spirits play in the human experience, and how some see re-enchanting/re-inspiriting the world as a way to a more ecologically-minded worldview.

*The current 1HRread is Wipe: A Brief History of Toilet Hygiene. At the beginning of 2021 I started researching ‘luck’ as a possible next project, but it never sparked enough joy in me.

More Poetry!: love one another or die

So many quotable lines in the following.

Auden, however, ended up detesting this poem, and eventually would not include it in retrospective collections. When it (along with 4 other early poems) was republished by Penguin in 1964 the following annotation was included –“Mr. W. H. Auden considers these five poems to be trash which he is ashamed to have written.”

It seems he was most perturbed by the line “we must love one another or die,” for its “dishonesty.” He tried correcting it to “We must love one another and die,” but that wasn’t enough to rescue the poem.

On September 1, 1939 Hitler invaded Poland. Two days later France and Britain declared war on Germany.

September 1, 1939 by
W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,”
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Summer Update

This New Year I resolved to write more flash fiction. This is the year of short works. A few days later I added the addendum to start submitting regularly to markets. Real artists ship (so they say).

April arrived and I’d barely written anything. I’d started a couple of stories only to abandon them.

And then something unexpected happened. I got my first vax shot (not unexpected) and a few days later I started a new story. (Unexpected.) After my second vax shot I was again writing and completing stories.

I didn’t realize until I received my shots how deeply the pandemic anxiety had wormed its way into my creative soul.

Since April I’ve completed about a half dozen stories and submitted two. The dream is after a story is rejected a few times I’ll post it here.

pet peeve, phraseology version: late capitalism

pet peeve, phraseology version: late capitalism. That term’s been around for half a century now. You can just say/write capitalism. There’s no way to know if it’s ‘late’ or not. 500 yrs from now we might see that this is still the very earliest stages of capitalism.

plus, i think it suggests that all this capitalism nonsense is about to wind down, and I strongly suspect it’s just getting started. There’s still so much to commodify!

New Moon, Y’all

In my ongoing effort to be more aware of the natural world and its rhythms (and less entangled with the digital world) I’ve taken to recognizing the new moon when it rolls around.

If we were on a lunar calendar, the start of the month would be around now. The Hebrew month of Adar starts tomorrow, and the Muslim month of Rajab starts on Feb. 13. And tomorrow is the Chinese New Year, the year of the Ox.

Today’s a good day to start new projects, or to get back on track on projects that have fallen by the wayside. For me, this means today is a good day to dust off the files of the weird west story. I locked in the end of the story on my walk this morning, and now just need to paint in a bunch of detail (with words!).

General Update Because It’s Been a While

On my morning walk I did a little Marie Kondo-ing of the creative carhole in my brain, and decided to shutter Grinders (maybe not completely close it down, but place it on the back-burner). I think I’m trying to make it too realistic? I keep running into the following dramatic pickle —

What should the protag do? (I ask myself.) What would a real person do? (I respond.) Contact their attorney. (I conclude.)

And so I have waaayyyy too many pages of conversations with attorneys. Not particularly exciting. Due to this dullness I’ve found myself only writing on it once a week or so. I’m sure I’ll keep pecking away at it, but it’s getting de-prioritized in my writing queue. It’s always frustrating to be in a position where a project might not be completed (especially with the sunk costs!), but all this writing stuff is supposed to be fun and engaging, not boring and a chore.

Which means I’m moving on to the weird west piece that’s been languishing. Arriving at this conclusion put a spring in my step. I’ve been doing more timed writings this year as creative writing exercises, and I think I’ll be able to focus some of these on aspects of the weird west story (tentatively titled, “Three Chickens, Texas”).

I’ve also decided on the next 1HRRead. I’m going to write a long essay/short book about luck. Researching these is always fun. I look forward to learning more about probability and more about the power of talismans.

I finished reading The Ministry for the Future this weekend and decided to annotate it. There’s lots of terms/ideas/concepts I want to incorporate into the next edition of the Green New Deal 1HRRead. I’m going to post these annotations here.

It took five weeks into the new year to feel excited about any new writing projects, but it feels like these projects might have traction.

New Year’s Resolution 2021

My resolution for 2021 is to continue reducing my screen time/time on the internet.

Before Covid I’d already carved out the first hour of every day to be free of screens. M/W/F I walk through the neighborhood first thing in the morning, and that eats up more than an hour.

The other days I’ll read some fiction, or water the garden; maybe do a few chores until at least one hour passes.

This is partially to stop being beholden to the internet every waking moment, and partially to give my eyes a fucking break. They’re getting older and need more care.

A little over a month ago I started timing my screen time while at work. I use an online timer and set it to go off every 20 or 25 minutes (depending on how much work I have to do that day). This reminds me to look away from the screen for a few minutes.

In 2021 I intend to stop using my computer (and internet) after 7pm. 7pm is a more-or-less randomly selected, to allow time if there’s anything I want to accomplish after the work day. I think most days my internet use will stop around 5:30 or 6.

I have a vague memory of being more creatively productive back in the analog-era. My hope is that without the internet to distract me in the evening I’ll spend more time doodling cartoons and making notes in my notebook. I hope some of those notes will translate into some flash fiction as the year progresses.

And, of course, there are the evergreens — not really resolutions because they are the constant aspirations in my life — get more exercise, eat better, be a kinder person, be less judgy, love more, write more, read more, listen better, give more, be better about helping those in my community, tend my garden, and keep that heart chakra open.

Here’s to 2021 being much, much better than 2020. Cheers!

Roundup 09Dec20

Make better Mexican food.

MEXICAN COOKING CRASH COURSE

“This free Crash Course is the quickest way to get your home kitchen pumping out the best Mexican food in town. There are 27 authentic recipes spread out over 8 Modules in the Course table below. Your job is to make one recipe from each Module — do that and your home kitchen will be forever transformed!”

I’ll never understand why migas are not on every diner breakfast menu in the world, and why we don’t have a truck on every corner selling breakfast tacos.

#

The introduction to Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past by Merlin Coverley. — Nice. A book about hauntology. The link goes to the introduction.

#

Let me see if I understand this – there is a non-trivial core of conservatives in the US who believe by simply stating that black lives matter, or that you oppose fascism, you are a terrorist threat to the US. And, the best way to deal with this existential threat to American freedom and liberty is to declare martial law, suspend the constitution, and have the US military oversee a brand new, national election.

And the majority of conservative leaders keep their mouth shut, neither condemning nor supporting.

#

I’ve noticed a few times now that presumptive Biden nominees are the ‘czar’ of something in new headlines. It feels like no Trump nominees were ever the ‘czar’ of anything, but Obama nominees were. Can that be right? If so, what is up with that?

Ah, Wikipedia has a page about that – List of U.S. executive branch czars.

It’s true that it was used a lot with Obama, and never with Trump. But it was also used frequently for officials in the Bush administration.

#

Work once again gets in the way of writing. Work annoys me.

#

I love how all these felt organs have little eyeballs. I wouldn’t mind a whole happy world made of felt.

Lucy Sparrow

The U.K.-based artist [Lucy Sparrow] set up shop with The Bourdon Street Chemist, a fully-stocked, woolen pharmacy that’ll open its doors on January 18, 2021, at London’s Lyndsey Ingram.”