Monthly Archives: February 2017

What’s Important? Not That, For Sure.

Animals and people, both, are starving, in pain, suffering needlessly. Wild places, native habitat, even whole countries (Syria, for instance) are being consumed by varied disruptive forces, be it climate change, greed-driven destruction, or war, leaving nowhere for those displaced–animals, plant, and human–to survive. And what do I come across this morning? An article decrying the ‘bra tax’. Really?! And I countered, what about pharmaceuticals? That’s more critical, for sure, isn’t it? What about food, clean water, clean air, health care, safety from warring factions?

I am constantly faced with just how ludicrous is the furor and foment over non-critical issues. Reminds me of the airhead decrying her broken acrylic nail and another whose favorite salon girl was sick and couldn’t lavish skilled hands on her tresses. Then there’s the upset over, of all things, Oscar night or who won the Stupid Bowl. Really?!

Oh, my. How very insulated and trite.

“Omigod. I don’t have any cell phone signal.” I know, I know–the sky is falling, the sky is falling, you can’t text your bff, is that it? Gee. Really tough, ain’t it! Meanwhile, your grandmother can’t afford the medications that keep her alive. But you don’t care. You’ve got to TEXT. You’ll just DIE if you can’t!

You know, there are certain times when I just want that Big Daddy in the Sky you all so fervently believe in to wipe the slate clean, and, no, I’d say to him, please don’t try again. It’s hopeless, a bad model, a worse idea. Intelligent design, my ass.

I’m at that Point

Today, I’m at that point of destroying my every ongoing project, burning my manuscripts and hard files, killing my back-ups, boxing up my instruments and hauling them to the Goodwill, destroying my websites–all of them–deleting my online presence, wiping my drives, and just not being any longer. Something happened about an hour and a half ago, and, well, I’m not getting over it like I usually do. Not yet, anyway. I’ll wait to do anything drastic, but, right now, I feel like I’d just rather not be, anymore. I really had no idea….

A Forced Abandon

The Internet went down. Soggy cables of a crumbling infrastructure will do that when a melt happens. Of course, it happens other times, too, but that’s usually either rodents chewing through the lines…or somebody’s highway construction project severing the main trunk. Gleefully, I took advantage of the hiatus granted me from the Net–from having to deal with servers, email, and everything cyber. It let me concentrate…or should have, on working on my projects.

First day down and, yes, me without any withdrawal symptoms (I never suffer withdrawal from losing connection. The opposite, in fact.), I worked on my audio project…until the cyberzombies who were suffering withdrawal descended, wondering if I had Internet access some way. (They know me too well, I think…and, uh-huh, I did have a way to connect, but I didn’t tell them that, because, for me, it’s only for emergencies. Using it is hyper-expensive.) Second day down, and it’s Mom’s birthday, which means everybody and their puppy either calls or shows up–no appreciable work done.

And, then, the DSL came back up…earlier than predicted. (Grumble.) There is something to be said for having no connection to the world at large, except for what’s outside your door. Life is cleaner, less cluttered, less stressful, less concerned. I prefer it that way, but the reality is that, without connectivity, I become insulated from the reality in which most people live, experiencing only the reality of localized here and now. I would have no idea if nuclear war broke out…until I became a shadow burned into the ground–no terror possible.

I remember when I lived as a recluse for long years, only coming out maybe once a month if I needed some fencing material or food staples. And to get the mail. Back then, I had an early form of Internet, too–all black screen or telnet white screen, delivered via braided copper cable that I paid a substantial amount to have run to the property from miles away. Communication was limited to text, used by few, and completely devoid of trolls, advertising, and, mostly, malevolence from black box intruders. It also was devoid of inanity, breakfast bagels, and surf-by spammers. I was reminded of that time today when, coming back online, Nathan Lowell poked his head out long enough to type of few conversant lines with Anita Lewis and me. It was refreshing to commune with people you know are intelligent and of sound character.

The point? I don’t know if there is one. Yet, I know that the Net as it stands today is completely unfulfilling as a communication and connection medium. At least, for me.

 

The Sound of Paper Flying and Rising Temper

It’s Monday. Mondays mean bookkeeping. Mondays mean sorting through all the junk mail they send to my and Mom’s addresses.

I check mail once a week. On Fridays, usually.  It isn’t sorted and worked through till Monday, so Mondays mean filling up a 13 gallon garbage can stashed outside my office, lined with a heavy-duty, extra-hefty garbage bag in which to toss all the wasted dead tree paper that charities, political groups, and businesses begging for attention mail to everybody who has the fortune to own a mailing address. And, of course, that means that every two weeks when I go to the dump, I get to load these heavy bags of paper to the recycler.  I wish there was some way to get on a no-unsolicited-mail list.

The Mix-Down Session

So, today, my husband is back to working on the mix-down of our performance of Carry On Wayward Son. As I listen to the balances he’s trying to achieve between sounds produced by un-effected me — pure, raw flute (loud) — and sounds produced by me through an effects unit (loud, but not as), I’m thinking to myself, I really like the sound of my instrument. I’m really not that thrilled with sounding like a saxophone, a lead guitar, a chorus of instruments, or any other warping of my sound waves.

Of course, what I think is irrelevant to what we’re trying to do. It took me a lot of practice and frustration to be able to manage the foot-switching on the effects unit at a fraction of a second prior to when the sound was supposed to happen …which, in the case of this piece, sometimes happens every two-and-three-quarter beats apart: Clean, effected, clean, effected — do it, do it, do it, do it.

There’s a lag — just a fraction of a second — that happens when you punch a button on an effects unit. It’s just a minuscule amount of time, but it’s critical. And, trained classically, which comes ‘on the beat’ rather than just before the beat like rockers play, my training coupled with the effects engagement lag compounds my problems, because it’s got to be right.

So, prior to recording day, I spent a week working very hard on my feet — an odd thing for a flutist to have to attend. I practiced …and recorded that practice — thank the cosmos for good recording software — then began adjusting my playing to ‘anticipate the beat’ and come in sounding ‘on time’ the varying micro-fractions (depending on which patch…and, yes, they all require different lead times) ahead of when normally one should. That worked. I was…happier. (Can’t say happy, just happier.) Next was trying to figure out the lag that happened between stomping on the effects unit button (switch banks, engage POG, step on one or another button, 1-10, and, simultaneously, with the other foot, ease on the volume pedal to the exact level specified in the performance notes, reversing the process two-and-three-quarters of a beat later.)

The lag was, literally, .121 seconds according to the sound wave and beat division markers contrasted against the actual time in thousands of a second. Right. I guessed at what I had to do, trying over and over …and I was running out of time. This was Thursday. We were recording on Saturday.  Finally …finally, I got it.  The wave form lined up.  When Forrest came home from driving truck all week. I was ready. He was happy with my results, though I’m still not completely convinced. I feel I can do much better. (Intonation suffers. Posture suffers, me sliding into ‘hunch back’ with having to keep an eye on the LED readouts at my toes. I fall back into the bad habits, letting my fingers fly off the keys when I’m concentrating too much on getting everything digital right and not on just playing my flute.) I hope that, given time and experience, all the electronic ‘stuff’ becomes second nature so that I’m more comfortable and can, once again, just concentrate on playing, not coordinating all the paraphernalia required for plugged-in performances.

…Then, there’s getting over ‘red-light fright’, which happens any time Forrest hits the space-bar that starts everything recording us — instant diaphragm freeze and shaking fingers….   I WILL get over these pitfalls, just like I did the extreme stage fright I suffered in my youth. I am determined.

Now, There’s More Hate, Less Tolerance!

So, this morning, the first thing that comes in on my feed is…a rant about hating Baby Boomers. And, along with that social media post, comes a blast of support from a whole bunch of other haters. I move on, but there’s more, a whole wave of rants about everyone from liberals to conservatives to Bernie supporters to ‘deplorables’ to….

And that’s just the US feeds. Next comes in the UKers and the AUers and the NZers and the…and it’s all hate, hate, hate.  The indigenous and other POC hate the whites, the nationalists despise the immigrants, the young hate anyone beyond their generation, the middle-aged blame the young adults, and so it goes.

I sit back, blink, think, send out a quickly scripted bot to mine, for just thirty minutes, the trends around the main interactive communication net spheres–Faceplant. G-, Mediocre, Twitchirp…. I go down for coffee, walk the dogs, again, then come back.

Sure enough, today’s Internet theme to the posts and comments, even to innocuous posts completely unrelated, generate streams of venomous remarks concerning anyone and everyone the contributor blames for:

  • the state of the world political situation;
  • the state of the environment;
  • lack of jobs;
  • taxes;
  • …you name it, and there are lots of ‘it’s.

Millennials and, what are they, Gen Zers?, hate anyone they classify as a Baby Boomer, within which they lump the very aged WWII Gen, the true BBers, the Gen-Y and the Gen-Xers, too, blaming anyone older than them for everything they find wrong with the world and life. For example: lack of protectionism and slowing globalization, simultaneously. (Ok-aaaaay. Hmmm. There’s consistency all rolled up in one pulpy, irrational burp.) Or the millennial raging on about having to support all the aging previous generations on her dime paying into social security. (They paid a lot more than you did into social security. Honest. You haven’t been working long enough to significantly contribute. And it is something they are entitled to, because they contributed every week, every month, every year, their entire working lives for that benefit. Same thing with Medicare.)

There’s the diehard Clinton supporters blaming everyone else for Hillary losing…except the DNC and the liberal elite, labeling everyone except themselves as bigots and calling for their eradication from the population. (Really!)

And the Blacks–excuse me, African-Americans–blame the whites, calling everyone not sharing both their skin color and their sentiments a bigot, even other Blacks.  Meanwhile, the white supremacists are busy raving against anyone not sharing their intolerances, and the same applies, just swap out pigmentation genes.

The rich blame the poor and the poor blame the rich, while rural points at city and city derides rural, never mind it’s where their food comes from.

The Christians blame anyone not of their faith, especially condemning the atheists, while the atheists blame religion for all the ills in the world.

And so it goes.

Wow. Just wow.

I grew to majority (look up the idiom, if you don’t understand it) prior to the rise of the Internet. By the time the Internet became available for public consumption and, yes, abuse, I had lived all over the world, all over the U.S., as well, and gone to schools located in both the  ghetto and in privileged communities. Do you know what? Never, and I mean never, have I experienced the kind of hate, bigotry, and intolerance I now find saturating our cultural landscape. Never.

You know what else? I tolerate bigots. I had to learn to growing up, because, honestly, they were nice people, except for their prejudices. And, once they got to know me, they got over those prejudices (most of them did, anyway).

And I embrace the tolerant, because they demonstrate the finest art of living in their open-minded, unbiased forbearance. They demonstrate charity. (Definition of charity in this use: kindness and tolerance in judging others, usually number 3 on the list of definitions in common dictionaries.)

I tolerate those who hate me because

  • they think I’m white, they think I’m Asian, they think I’m Native,
  • and those who think, because of how I dress and wear my hair, that I’m a lesbian, even lesbians, then hate me because I’m not,
  • those who hate me because I’m female,
  • because I’m older than twenty-something,
  • those who hate me just because they can….

And I embrace those who put aside their skepticism, their fear, their suspicions ingrained from bad experiences, their crowd-sourced brainwashing, and discover me for who I really am and love me for it, learning tolerance…because that’s how I love others.

In point of fact, I’ve never met anyone, one on one, I couldn’t love for who they are. I may not like how they act–their cruelties, their bigotry, their hate–but, still, when laying that aside, when getting to know them for what they cherish, there is gold there. Everything else is just a product of their negative experiences and conditioning.

I’m sorry to live in a world, in a nation–the U.S.–where those younger than me want me dead and gone, every trace of who I am eradicated from memory, where those a different flavor want me enslaved or at least subjugated to their benefit, where those of different ideology want me silenced. And, when you get your wish, through your own actions, instigation, or through legislating my de-existence, maybe then you’ll find it in you to tolerate and even love those who come after you who condemn you for who they THINK you are and for all the ills they claim you have perpetuated by your existence, even when you were, like I was, fighting for the same causes for which, now, they claim as theirs.

 

 

Stirring the Hornet’s Nest

On 9/11/2001, terrorists attacked the U.S. I was at work when it happened. I watched the men and women around me–rugged men and women–truckers, ranchers, farmers, mechanics, loggers, construction contractors–every one a patriot–walk around in stunned silence. And all of us were feeling the same exact thing. We were, all of us Westerners, thinking the same thing.

I knew it in my bones in that moment that the world had changed, because, I, too, mostly a liberal, felt it inside me. Those terrorists hadn’t struck a blow so much at the U.S., as they had struck a blow to themselves.  Their actions had awoken a terribly powerful nation of patriots who are, even me, unafraid of death and who will stand forever uncowed in the face of tyranny. Americans–the Americans I know and love (and we are multitude, if mostly silent)–are, in fact, rugged individualists and freedom-lovers. We are, by nature, forgiving and pacifists–we mind our own lives and our own business. But, stir us at your peril, because, once stirred, we are unyielding in our response.

Fast forward to 2016: A bunch of loud-mouthed, fuzzy-brained SJWs coupled with a government and two stupid political parties incapable of comprehending that Americans don’t like the direction globalization is taking us leads to a complete rout of the Democratic party from power, even though we know that Republicans are oligarchs. But, for Americans, better the oligarch, than the tyrant, because that’s what the left now stands for–social and economic tyranny, with preferential treatment their standard, not unpreferential equality, fairness, and justice. And Americans believe in equality, fairness, and justice–we do.

To this day, even this day, though, Democrats just don’t get it, even after losing the Senate, the House, and the White House, even after losing control of the greater majority of states in the union. So, here it is for you, Democrats, in a nutshell: Americans would rather battle it out with the oligarchs than suffer tyranny. We’d rather go it alone than suffer our nation become part of some global collective beehive, our liberties and voices denied for fear of giving offense.  Hell, it’s our RIGHT to be offensive if we so choose, so, in other words, fuck you if you think we’re going to tow your party line. We won’t. Get used to it, get over it, or go live in the EU while their collective beehive lasts, which probably won’t be for long.

But are the Republicans any better? Well, they mostly don’t get it, either–them with their hands in every cookie jar–but I think they have a real sense of self-preservation and at least are getting the idea that they probably ought to keep their ear to the ground and hear the thunder. I think they’re beginning to realize that missteps, now, will mean being pounded into bloody pulp under the feet of men and women who aren’t afraid to say, ‘HELL, NO!’

Don’t Tread on Me is no longer the assimilated property of the Tea Party. It’s the sentiment of the real American silent majority.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 16, 2017 – Changing Weather, Virtual & Real

This morning’s chores included spreading traction sand on treacherous, water-slicked ice, because it’s so darned slippery, even with traction gear on feet and wheels, there’s just no way not to fall on butt or wind up in the snow bank. It’s raining…and, of course, flooding in some places where ice dams prevent drainage. (Not here. The water drains downhill from here. But, yes, out there.) Little cars wind up in trouble where water crests the road to levels where even jacked-up pickups roll through very slowly, carefully.

Another thaw has hit us, stripping all the remnant ice and snow from roofs and ledges. squashing down the giant snow berms and making icy slides of the mountains scraped and shoveled off the roofs. Nobody will be sledding down the garage roof, anymore, a favorite winter game for some. (Not me.)

I’m done with any labor, now, for at least an hour. Checking stats, I fill in my Excel spreadsheets with copy/paste, then nod as pre-set formulas churn out results, broadcasting them to a selected handful who will, in their turn, pass them on to others in the group. Miles away–thousands of them–my cohorts chatter on my live feed. We launched our latest project right on time in January, and, yes, our suspicions prove themselves already, though it’s only February.  Six-and-a-half weeks of tracking for specific patterns already shows the trends. I’m glad I’ve made my plans. I’m glad I’m already prepping for the changes that we suspect are happening.

An Uncommon Market

One thing I get asked a lot via email/formmail and private message (and, now that I’ve been dragged into Quora, pestered about), concerns marketing my novels. My hand always reaches fingers through my hair at that point. Why, I wonder, are these people–people who mostly write novels that fit in popular genres that aim to fulfill the reading delights of people who prefer standard and predictable, even simple, cause and effect–ask me about this?  I write to a narrow audience and very cross-genre, mostly to people who enjoy thinking for themselves and making their own decisions about what is real, what is true, and what is significant, as well as who enjoy puzzling things out, not having it spoon-fed to them.  In essence, I write the kind of stories I prefer to read–where the questions and the answers aren’t apparent, where individualism and character, rather than accepted/acceptable norms, determine, not just actions, but results.

I write about life, not fantasy…though, admittedly, I usually stick to stories that end well, rather than tragically, but, then, what I consider ending well would be an ending like you find in The Last Samurai where most all the good guys get slaughtered, but hold onto their honor and integrity. Or, closer to what I write, where which side is actually good and which one bad gets blurred and that decision is left up to the reader, who I hope comes away with the idea that there’s no simplistic truth.  But, yes, my novels don’t resolve in tragedy. I’m an optimist, despite my droll, sometimes snarling, tongue and slightly(?!) cynical eye when it comes to politics and human antics.  I always hope for the best in life, but prepare myself to accept the worst, should it come to pass, but, honestly, in my world, the good always wins, even if and when it loses.

But I digress. Back to book, or, more specifically, novel marketing, my style.

I don’t like to be marketed to. By anyone.

I don’t like sales. I don’t bite on loss leaders that attempt to trap me into buying something else, as well.  And, in fact, I’m suspicious when something is on sale, wondering why. (What’s wrong with it?!)

If an advertiser screams ‘clearance sale’, I pointedly avoid them. And you can bet that I always avoid going anywhere near a store on infamous Black Friday…and, now, Black Thursday, too.

I believe in paying a fair price for goods and services, not taking advantage of some shop or worker because they’re desperate for enough funds to pay their overhead. And, yes, I tip. Generously.  …But neither will I pay exorbitant prices just because something’s popular or prestigious. Nope. I’ll take the unpopular and that which lacks prestige, so long as it’s high quality…which is usually the case, the prestigious actually shoddy in its quality. (A certain ‘high end’ car that wound up proving itself ‘lemon’, one and all, is an example, its warranty not honored by its manufacturer when new owners started to discover significant problems.)

Because I know how much I despise and avoid businesses that employ all those tactics that I mention, and because I know that readers of my novels feel likewise–it’s characteristic to their demographic group–I don’t ‘market’. I’ll advertise–judiciously–offering my ‘product’ honestly and very forthrightly, but I don’t pound the pavement, hawk my wares, beat on doors, or flood your mail with junk mail, not in the real world and, most importantly, not in virtual space.

Mine is an uncommon market, so I employ an uncommon strategy. If you write genre-normal, though, I suggest you use the most common schemes. Google it. It’s everywhere.

 

February 15, 2017 – Diamonds in Experience

Frozen diamonds greeted my bare feet this morning. Refreshing to the toes and soles, I delighted in the sensation of those crisp, frozen water nodules crackling underfoot. It sleeted sometime in the night–just a little–and it coated the truck, the drive, the ground with glowing shimmers.

Experiencing what we, in zentao, call ‘moment’ keeps me vital and life enraptured. For me, that’s important for my writing, my artwork, and, yes, even for playing my husband’s music. It keeps me enthused and refreshed. Without those experiences, what would life become? Just drudgery and duty? I don’t know.

I do know that I’m never bored, never lacking passion. There’s always something fresh and new to me. For me, experiencing compounds a desire to learn more, and, then, to express anew in word, in sound, in imagery, through my art, my novel writing, my musical performances.  So, no, never lonely, never bored.

Life is full and sweet, full of delight. It’s also, of course, filled with hardship, toil, and danger, but, even inside the frenetic and the frantic, there lives ‘moment’–the play of light and shadow, the scent of soil, of wood, of sweat or blood or mud, yes, even muck, the sound of snapping wood and of the storm wind’s turbulence, the sting of frozen fingers thawing, the taste of terror fading on the tongue as panic eases. There’s always something to stimulate an awe in me.

I guess that’s why I’m flummoxed when acquaintances arrive, bemoaning loneliness and boredom. Even when I worked at a job requiring me to perform repetitively like some machine, I never experienced what they suffer, so I never know quite what to do or say. It’s not a shared experience.