Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring Music and Writing

Happy Spring!  It's that time of year when the mystery of new beginnings is upon us.  Or something.

I finally feel like I've got my brain back from this cold and sinus infection.  Now all I have to do is wait for the antibiotics to flush out of my system so that I can go out into the sun without worrying about being too photosensitive -- at least with all the rain we're getting, overexposure to sunlight hasn't been much of an issue.  I plan to hit the gym for the first time in about two and a half weeks.  It's funny how quickly the bicycle tire returns.

In my wanderings around Spotify, I've discovered a Danish band, called Heilung which is apparently pigeon holed into the Neofolk (folk-inspired dark ambient music) genre.  After listening to Alfadirhaiti , which I like, I decided I needed to make sure that I understood what the lyrics meant.   Because the title starts with "Alf", I thought it might have something to do with Scandinavian Elves.  But a quick perusal of a lyric site revealed that it was a hymn to Odin.  "Alfadir" probably translates to "All-Father."   Quickly zipping through their site, they have an artists' statement saying they are setting pre-Christian inscriptions to music and disavowing modern attempts to link their work to current political or religious movements (i.e. "we're not Neo-pagan Nazis, we're just using old Viking texts").   Whew.

On the writing front, I went through and collected a stack of  unfinished manuscripts.  Some simply need minor tweaks and then I  can send them out.  One is a fairy tale I need to look at  and cut out the excessive gingerbread and up some  stakes.   One is an  Arthurian romance  that loses steam and I need to up  the stakes; since I chose Sir Palamedes as a main character, I have to address his status as a Saracen (in the original stories, he's a virtuous Pagan knight who eventually converts), which means I have to be careful as a white-bread-Corvallis-boy, raised-Episcopal-turned-NeoPagan, Oregonian writer.   The more I research Sir Palamedes, the more I'm realizing that he's a complex character, and I'm not at the place where I can write from his point of view.

In other writing news, one of my stories placed in the "Space" edition of On The Premiss, so I took the family out for celebratory pizza.  Yay!  


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Designing for the March For Science

I want to be in the local March for Science in April, and I'm thinking about a poster.

I started working on a Jupiter-based one with the thought that Galileo was forced to recant what he'd seen in the telescope (and I was so intent on the layout that I spelled science "sciece").  But I'd gotten the story mixed up:  he hadn't been forced to recant that he'd seen  moons orbiting around Jupiter. Instead, he'd recanted that the Earth orbited around the sun in a heliocentric system.  His inquisition was possibly brought on as a result of churchmen seeing themselves cast as the Simpleton in Galileo's "Dialogue" between a Simpleton, a Student and a Sage.  So my design with a telescope  and Jupiter wasn't so good.

Then I thought that I'd try to make a poster about the Burning of the Library of Alexandria, except that it might not have been burnt down so much as defunded.  There are parallels between defunding the Library and defunding NOAA, but I'm not sure how to make that a poster, much less a poster with cool-looking flames on it.

I wish we still had the Art Nouveau and Art Deco gods and goddesses of industry:  the burly men holding lightning bolts and gears, and women with wind-swept hair holding wheat and fish.  Maybe I could fashion an image of science and science funding with that style.  This line of thinking led me to images of industry and recruitment posters from the two world wars.

From there I recalled the Homeric story of how Hephaestus--or Vulcan, to use his Roman name--made a shield for Achilles, showing the good life.  Would my March for Science poster show the lame god at his forge, fashioning the circular shield and showing tools of science along the rings?  I could have flames curling out of the forge!

But the martial nature of the image --a war poem about the forging of tools of war --bothered me.  I'm marching for science, and peaceful applications of science.  Should the story be retold, with a shield of war, a shield of commerce, and a shield for the rest of us?  Maybe I should turn to the goddess Athena -- didn't she create a mechanical owl?  Oh, wait, no, that was the original "Clash of the Titans."

I was coming to the conclusion that I didn't have a good narrative, something that would make a good visual image, like Prometheus bound.  Er...  Albert Einstein working out relativity?  Richard Feynman's quantum mechanics notation?  Robert Oppenheimer and the work on the atomic bomb?  Mr. Spock deciphering glyphs on an alien obelisk?  Commander Data learning the Vulcan nerve pinch?  Frankenstein and his monster?

I think it's a misstep to focus on one specific scientist, not because I don't want to celebrate particular scientist, but because I'm marching to show that I think science should be funded on a national level and data and the scientific interpretation of data should inform long-term national policy.



I went to the library to try to find mythical figures in science which would suggest a strong graphic to use on a poster.  There were a lot of books on the science of mythology, or the science behind magical beliefs, or the "Mythbusters" series.  But not a lot on the mythic meaning of science, or stories we share as a culture about how to do science.

There are some misconceptions about how science works:  the apple falling on Newton's head, or the idea of a rebel scientist working alone to make a breakthrough.  But these aren't myths in the sense of a story or symbol that explains.

I'm coming to the conclusion that science -- or at least science funding -- doesn't have gods and goddesses.  We have a toolkit:  measurement, rigorous observation, deductive reasoning, and disproving the null hypothesis.  And Bunsen burners.

So how do we keep our signs and march from eliciting the response, "So what?  The elites are crying because their toys got taken away," or "You guys sure spent a lot of money to put a remote control dune buggy on Mars."

"Science is hard," plays back into the idea of elites with toys, too.  Why is it that athlete-elites command so much respect, and science-elites less so?  It takes athletes a lot of practice to get to the Olympics, and some experiments can take as much time and effort, but do we have cities bidding against each other for "science Olympics"?




In the original Disney movie, Tron, there's a scene between Dr. Walter Gibbs, the original founder of a corporation, and Ed Dillinger, its current CEO.  "User requests are what computing is about," says Dr, Gibbs.  "Making money is what computing is about," says Dillinger.

Perhaps I should adopt a different narrative:  funding science will avoid a future Midas story, where plutocrats turn everything they touch into robots; a story not with serfs serving plutocrats, but with drones serving modern-day Borg-ias.  Maybe this isn't so much about de-funding science so much as it is about keeping a serf class uneducated, or industry unregulated.

Somewhere in the back of my mind was an early American quote about a well educated public. I did some searching and found this quote from Thomas Jefferson: 
"The value of science to a republican people, the security it gives to liberty by enlightening the minds of its citizens, the protection it affords against foreign power, the virtue it inculcates, the just emulation of the distinction it confers on nations foremost in it; in short, its identification with power, morals, order and happiness (which merits to it premiums of encouragement rather than repressive taxes), are considerations [that should] always [be] present and [bear] with their just weight." --Thomas Jefferson: On the Book Duty, 1821.

and also

"The most effectual means of preventing [the perversion of power into tyranny are] to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts which history exhibits, that possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes." --Thomas Jefferson: Diffusion of Knowledge Bill, 1779. FE 2:221, Papers 2:526


At this point, it seems like I need Lady Liberty arm-in-arm with the all Nine Muses...  And to think all this started with me wanting to make a sign to carry on a protest march.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Why I Don't Write in Coffee Shops

The other day, Mark wasn't feeling so well when I got home, so I went to a cafe to write.  It was nice enough, I guess, but it only confirmed what I think about writing in cafes:  it's really distracting and not conducive to writing or the writing mystique.  I think what I want in a cafe is more like a PG Wodehouse club, or something I imagine from Masterpiece Theatre to be a club; small tables for three or four, simply but nicely furnished with plush chairs.  Sort of like an elegant library reading room.  Only with tea and little, simple scones.

Luckily, in the real cafe I ended up at, the stereo was playing fairly bland, jazzy odes to New York, which I could tune out.  I was able to sit far enough away from the woman who was on a cell phone, using the place as if it were her own office--but that meant that I needed to share a long table with this guy who was sneezing and sniffing and snorting and talking to himself as he worked on what I thought was a sociology paper, but apparently was a music video.  There were the obligatory young women oversharing their personal lives with the crowd, but they managed to mostly speak below the ambient sound of crooners crooning New York arias.  The counter staff were very nice; the hot chocolate was OK, and the scone OK in an industrial kind of way; I really just wanted a poppyseed bagel, but they were out--next time I will have to see if they have any grapes or cheese.  

I managed to clean up some scenes and do some story maintenance in the thin hour I had before I had to go pick up The Child, who said that I smelled like coffee when he hopped into the car.  



Post cold recovery continues.  Mark decided that Saturday would be cleaning day, so he moved most of the furniture around and I mopped our floors.  And then we napped.  We didn't do a whole lot this weekend except read and nap at the house.  The big excitement was the light snowfall we got Sunday (and again this Monday), which The Child hoped would cancel school, but it melted by 10:30.  Lots of snow fell Monday morning in the hills (I guess the snow line must be about 300 feet), which made for some picturesque tree lines, but we had maybe a quarter of an inch of mostly slush.  



Saturday, March 04, 2017

Post February Cold Dream

Coming out of a twelve-day cold that's been going around town.  I had a fever last week for a few days, and I've spent most of the time congested and not really able to focus on things.  If I get enough sleep, I'm hoping that I'll be able to beat this thing without it moving down into my chest, which apparently is what happens for some folks.

I was struggling to finish a story in time for a deadline.  I was disparing of being able send something in when I recalled I had a free -- and finished -- manuscript that would fit the bill, so I've sent that manuscript in (3/2/17) with crossed fingers.  I had one of those ambigious moments reviewing the older manuscript (corrected a typo), where I really liked the story, and it was something I wrote mostly three years ago, so I had a "gee, I used to be able to write" moment.

No gym (because I've been napping and trying to write), although I actually managed to plank while I was waiting for a computer reboot, so that's something.



The other day I had a very long dream.  It started out with The Child going on a walk across the nation and ending up in Conneticuit or Maine.  He walked into a school play being put on by fourth, fifth, and sixth graders.  I was sort of there, sort of not, in a dream-narrator-participator way... I might have been overseeing his journey like some Greek diety overseeing a hero... anyway... I don't remember what the play was about, but The Child unrolled a kind of kite that was navy, purple, and yellow, and turned out to be a dog-sized dragon named Elliot.  

There was a scene shift, and I was a wandering bohemian.  Actually, there was something about an open library night, and a group of us--who all seemed to be in our early twenties--were wandering in a labyrinthine collection of rooms; each room was a different part of the Dewey system, so there was the Religions Room, and the Sculptures Room, and the Astronomy Room, (only it was the 300's room, the 600's and the 700's rooms). 

The dream became more Moulin Rouge technicolor, sort of like Clue, now that I think about it, because everyone had their signature color.  I was popping in and out of third-person omniscient and various characters' points-of-view.   

There was a scene in a kind of common hall or study.  A young woman in a white, knee-length crinoline dress sat on a red couch in a used-to-shabby room with no carpet on the hardwood floors.  There were bookshevles of some dark wood. 

There was more, but I should have written it down when I had the dream, because the recall is poor.  A group of us--we were all twenty-something and in signature colors--decided to stage a protest and prank.  It ended up me (as a purple-clad twenty-something) shooting a policeman or security guard with a shotgun (which wasn't supposed to be loaded).  I had a moment where I was directing the dream from a short distance, and I muttered "Poof! And you're shot," under my breath.  The actor playing the shot person took my utterance the either as an accusation about being a poof or else as being very dismissive of his dying scene.  I leaned against square column in a train station like area and watched him angrily walk away (he was wearing a long rain coat, which reminds me vaguely of Sherlock Holmes).

There was another scene--I have a vague notion of being on the lam-- which ended in some kind of reality dancing show; and as the camera panned out on the judge, there was a black bar across the face of the dancer in purple, to protect his identity from the police.




Monday, February 20, 2017

Weekend Gym Report

Saturday (2/19) The Child and I went to the Asian Celebration.  I wish we had gone a little earlier, because I like the performances.  The Child was mostly interested in the food... which was difficult because the food area was very congested and food purchases required standing in a long line to get vouchers (one per dollar) and another long line to actually purchase food.   We saw our Kung Fu friends perform, and they did a really nice job.  

Then we drove up to Corvallis to have a Very Last Minute, Hastily Arranged Birthday Gathering for my sister, Julie.  The gathering was very laid back and it was a nice time to visit.  

Sunday (2/20):  Went to the gym.  20 minutes on the rowing machine for about 200 calories at about 650 cal/hr.  3x13x60lbs on the pec fly.  3x13x70lbs on the lat pull-down.  3x13 Roman chiar curl-ups.  3x13x35lbs barbell curls.  2x8x35lb reverse barbell pulls (or whatever they're called).  Some dumbbell tricepts curls.

I'm fighting off some congestion, so I felt a little tired in the gym.  I've had some dreams, but I don't recall them very well.  

Writing:  This week in writing I'm working on a 3000 word short for On the Premises.  I've won their contest twice in the past, and I'm trying to keep in mind what worked in those pieces in terms of world building and punchiness as I write the current piece.  I've got the story's outline, and various scenes, and I need to finish fleshing things in while focusing on the stakes and not getting bogged down in details.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rainy Dreams

Thursday Morning:  Lots and lots of rain in the middle of the night.  I woke up several times to rain against the window and the ticking of the baseboard heater.

Dream Segment One:  My mother, father, sister's family and my family had gone to a park, sort of like Disney, but not.  We were on a rollercoster, which had a lot of sharp turns and loops in it, and a very sarcastic song about how roleercosters make you want to throw up, and how all the cheap candy you've eaten isn't sitting so well, and how theme parks in general are over-priced and hokey.  Sort of "Be Our Guest" meets the second Willy Wonka movie scene where the chocolate factory automatons catch on fire.

Dream Segment Two:  The rollercoaster may have come to a stop at the edge of a building loosely based on the Hult Center.  There were lots of blocky, blue and turquoise glazed walkways, and blocks of laurels or azaleas or possibly tea plants.  The plants and raised walkways jutted out at a few points, and made a narrow amphitheater area.

Two men (I think) came out and stood on blocks to my left.  A woman in Asian attire stood out on our left and started some sort of tea ceremony.  (Someone shared a video about a Kung Fu tea ceremony, which I'm guessing this is where this came from.)

A teen girl came out and indicated that she was ready to do her part, which turned into a teen angst show about a girl (her) getting a part in a play (the play we were watching).  In a dream-shift, a tent or awning appeared.   The play moved forward, and I scurried forward and stood next to a tent pole.  An ensemble cast of teens came out and half-heartedly sang, and then backed up; I found myself suddenly in the performance area, trying to hide behind teens and pretending to sing as if I were a cast member.

There was a little more, but the most interesting part was the credits at the end, which were projected from a small iPad-like device sitting behind a box onto a paper screen on the top of the box.

Dream Segment Three:  I'm not sure how long this had been going on; I was an omniscient, third person observer.  The setting was a wildlife park, or  zoo, or jungle.   A burly man, clean-shaven, with curly brown hair, was in a rocky-edged pool (I'm pretty sure the dream borrowed the otter's pen or the aviary from the Oregon aquarium, only with football sized basalt embedded in the sides) with a tiger, leading the tiger along the edge of the pool.  "Come on Tony," the man said.  "Let's go, you can do it."

The focus moved in to sharp focus on the man, whose arm was underneath the tiger's front legs, helping the tiger to wade out of the pool.  Another tiger paw reached over the man, and rested on the first  tiger's head.  The focus widened out to include all three of them.

"Simon!" (Or maybe Sampson or Simba, I'm guessing on the tigers' names) "It's time for Tony to leave."  Tony was going to be re-released into the wild.  A set of muscles on the mans neck and upper back writhed and bristled as he stared down Simon.  Slow, Simon let go of Tony.

Dream Segment Four:  I have the sense that I was on some sort of family vacation, and we were staying at a resort.  The recall is fuzzy here, but I think we were watching someone's pet hippo.  Or maybe cow... or pig...  but I'm pretty sure it was a dark brown hippo.  The hippo was about the size of a pony or very large dog.  And fat.  And muddy.  Somehow, I found myself in the muddy trough where the hippo lived, giving it a hug and scratching it's ears.



Working Out:  Had a quick trip to the gym:  3x13x60lbs on the pec fly; 3x13x70lbs lat pull-down; 3x14 Roman-chair curl-ups; 3x13x35lbs bar-bell curls.  Then ran upstairs for a five minute, 52 calorie run on the elliptical.


Norse Locker Room

I purchased and read Neil Gaiman's "Norse Mythology" over the weekend.

While it was fun to read some of the stories that I remember reading when I was in second grade, the tribal, clannish, cattle-raiding values of the myths depressed me more than I expected.   In some ways reading them was like hearing stories told by jocks in a locker room, or boys trading boasts about how they had bested their younger brothers.

I think the tales that resonated with me the most was the building of the wall around Asgard, and the Binding of Fenris.   The wall is culturally apropos, and Gaiman's best tragic characterization is with the god Tyr giving his right hand as blood money for Fenris's betrayal.  I was hoping that there would be more characterization; generally Gaiman's most interesting characters in "Norse Mythology" are the gods -- and frequently goddesses -- who are side-players in stories which typically focus on Loki, Thor, and Odin.

The Norse gods -- at least Odin -- are supposed to be aware of Ragnarock, and this is supposed to inform their decisions, but I'm not seeing how this makes them doomed tragic heroes.  There isn't a sense of, "I'm going to do the best that I can in this situation, even if things are predestined, because it's the right thing to do in this moment," which gives the impression of the excuse of "the world's going to end anyway, so who cares?"

I read along, trying to reconcile the feeling that I shouldn't judge another culture's stories, trying not to justify the stories with a "well, if the Norse people were trying to explain natural phenomenon as by personifying them as Ice Giants..."  and at the same time looking for some cultural message to apply to the present day.

In the book, Gaiman encourages his readers to re-imagine the stories.  Thinking more, my tech-boyness is showing, because if it were me, I would focus more on the runes and the craftsmanship of the wonderful treasures and less on the god's guile and treachery.  I would focus more on the choices between and the conflicts between choosing what one wants, what is the right thing to do, and personal wyrd.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gym Tuesday

Tuesday:  Went to the gym for a quick session.  12 minutes and 150 cal on the rowing machine.  3x13x60 lbs on the pec fly.  3x13x70lbs on the lat pulldown.  3x13 Roman chair curl-ups.  I did some tricepcs curls later at home.

I'm hoping that I can repeat the routine of Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday gym days a few times in a row.  

I slept so soundly post-Valentines that I don't recall any dreams.  

Dream: A Series of Bad Decisions

Monday Morning:  Another anxiety dream.   This one had been going on for a while -- I think we had been at a child's birthday party and the adults were nailing the kids with Nerf Guns --  but my recall starts with the family standing on a rocky outcrop, looking at the ocean as it rolled over the sandy.  I think we were near a river.  I realized several things at once: 1) the tide was coming in, 2) we needed to get back around the rock outcropping or we'd be trapped in a cove, 3) our cooler and art supplies were going to be swept away.

I jumped down onto the sand to try to get the blue and white plastic cooler and the basket of art supplies just as the surf surged around me.  This isn't very smart, I thought as the water rushed around my knees.  There was a moment where I tried to rescue our floating stuff, but I quickly decided I needed to get out of the channel I found myself in.

The scene shifted, and I was slogging through the surf along the covered peirs of a wooden walkway.  When the surf pulled away, there was a space under the wooden siding, and I managed to get under the peir.  This also wasn't the smartest decision, because the rocky ground probably had crabs and anemonies hiding in it, and then the water surged up I was trying to find my way in an akward, rocky, wet, dark, compartmentalized area.  I tried to find the gap I'd come though, but I couldn't and I worried that the unseen surf would surge just as I was trying to squeeze through and trap me underwater.

I have a vague notion I rested on the ground for a moment until worries about pinching creatures got me to my feet again.  I heard voices and started shouting and banging on the boards above me.  I managed to bang a plank loose.  I had an overhead shot of me looking up through the deck of a logger's cafe.  The wait staff was cleaning up between some kind of concernt event.  I've got an impression of lots of plaid.  

Someone reached in and pulled me from underneath the deck.  The scene was now in the middle of the woods, possibly on a river, but the ocean was nowhere to be seen.  I was now an old-ish man, in dennim and a plaid shirt, with a long white Rip-Van-Winkle Beard.  Either the cook or a head waitress brought me a bowl of hot soup (chouder?).  There was an exchange where she said I could stay as long as I liked and I thanked her.  

Then the dream went on to something about a cabin, or a trail through the woods that passed by many cabins. 

I woke up with a slightly upset stomach, and under too many blankets.  

Monday, February 13, 2017

Weekend Report

Went to the gym Thursday.  About 13 minutes and 130 calories on the rowing machine.  3x12x60lbs + 6X60lbs on the pec fly.  3x13x70lbs on the lat pulldown.  3x13 curlups on the Roman chair.  3x12x35lbs on the barbell curls.  I made the mistake of snorting at myself in the mirror during the barbell curlsand had to refrian from laughing.   Getting back to the rowing machine has probably been better for my overall upper chest physique.

Thursday I didn't wear my rings.  All day my fingers felt strangely light, and weird.  

Saturday morning I was virtuous and went to the gym again.  30 minutes and something like 300 calories on the elliptical.  No rowing machine (someone got onto it).  Downstairs 3X13X60lbs on the pec fly.  3X13X70 on the lat pulldown.  3x13 curlups on the Roman chair.  3x12x35lbs on the barbell curls.  I spent some time rolling out my spine and scapulas on a pool noodle.  

I've been remembering my dreams a lot more lately.  I'm not sure if this is because Mark and The Child are home and making more morning noises or the change in the seasons or what.   Mostly they've been interesting, although over the weekend there was a lot of lost at the airport / travel anxiety dreams.   Monday (today) morning's dream involved double-checking my plane ticket before Mark and I were to board, only to discover I'd been given a Muslim man's ticket (his name also started with BURR).  The situation was weird, because my photo on the ticket didn't look anything like me -- and there was way too much personal information printed out on the ticket.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dream Geometry at the Top of the Mountain

The dream started out on (I think) on my parent's living room floor.  Mark, the Child, and I were camping in my folk's living room.  I'd woken up and what I thought was a cat turned out to be a baby skunk.  (I'm wondering if in real life Cicero was in our bedroom.)  It was dark and slightly difficult to see.  The skunk didn't seem to be upset or anything, it was mostly cautiously curious. I was having thoughts like would it bite if I tried to pick it up? and will we get sprayed?

Eventually, I managed to wrap it in a blanket and take it out to the front door.  When I opened it, I discovered a momma skunk waiting outside.  The skunks were reunited, and in a slightly Disney-esque moment, the baby skunk came up to the door to say good-bye.



There's a break in my recall.  We (mostly my family) were on the South side of Ridgewood.  We were below the W's house, and along the way my Dad called on J.W. to see how she was doing.   (In waking life, my dreams about expeditions which start at Ridgewood usually start out on a nonexistent North side that I've never visited because it's really forested.  This is the first time an expedition has started out on a familiar side.)

Then we took an icy expedition up some mountains.  Somehow, I found my old black leather caviler gloves (which I lost in an airport in the late 90's) and put them on over my current black fingerless gym gloves.  This was a good thing, because it was getting colder and colder.

We kept climbing until we were above dark clouds.  At the top of the mountains there was a institute or village or compound of sorts.  There were a few large concrete buildings scattered along the crest of the mountain (?Mary's Peak?).  The buildings were like cathedrals, in that they were grey, with peaked stone roofs; instead of stained-glass windows, they had tall narrow windows.



At some point the other members of the expedition fell out of the dream, and it was just me.  I met an amalgam of Eric Witchey and someone I knew from high school or college, who worked there.  His name might have been Matt, Lionel, or Todd.... He talked about how planes flew so low over the compound you could almost touch them.  He pointed out a radar dish or some similar structure with a big red 5 painted on it, which I understood to be a prison.  The tops of the mountains receding in the distance all had some sort of compound on them.

Matt gave me a tour.  We went into a concrete barn/cathedral structure.  In waking life, I have a vague notion that it might have been based on Elliot Hall at Reed College.  We walked through a lot of hallways and narrow stairs leading up to offices set up like a choir loft.  On the walls there were large reproductions of coins rotating, almost like gears.  In some places a coin had a chunk out of it; in other places, the coin was missing completely and all that was left was a rotating square axel set in a stone hole in the wall, with black oil or grease marks showing where the coin had been.

Continuing the tour, Matt introduced me to some British men in their 50's -- they seemed very solid and over-dressed in Oxford shirts and vests and a sweater underneath a suede jacket.  We made some small talk.  Buy this time we were in a kind of loft overlooking the stone interior of the building, which was lined with bookshelves containing oversized, leather-bound, hundred-year-old tomes.

There was a twenty-something man and woman there, and somehow we knew mutual acquaintances.  I want to say she had really wavy light-brown hair and he was dressed in jeans, a blue T-shirt with a plaid flannel shirt over that.   It was sort of like I was in a business office and I'd just connected with the geeky techs that actually keep things running.  They knew I was a writer, and they were wanting to write something, and there was an awkward moment where the man was trying to give me an elevator pitch for his novel.   There's a break in my recall...



"I'm a little confused," I said, 'because the concrete brutalism is at odds with the Edwardian interior and all the old books."  There was a poster (I don't remember of what) that was an original from 1901 or something (I'd want to say it was a Mucha, but it was more like a cover from a record album or science fiction book).

I forget what they said about the building, and the tour resumed.  Lots of rooms-upon-rooms.  Matt asked if I wanted a tongue cleaner installed in my mouth.  "I find it's really refreshing," he said.  I looked at him dubiously, as he held up a ping-pong sized spheroid, made out of dull grey plastic, and flipped it so that it irised open, turned inside out, and two blunt, metal prongs waved like wings along its petal-like segments.  It was like a rubric's cube, only a more like a camera iris in the shape of sphere.  The prongs were the tongue-brushes.

I wasn't sold on it, because for it to work properly, you needed to install a short rack of gears on either side of your jaw, which the spheroid engaged with, rolling along the rack's gears as it unfolded and refolded, and brushed your tongue with the prongs.

"Isn't it kind of awkward?"

"Not at all," Matt said.  "I slipped mine in just now and you never noticed."

"This is really interesting," I said, looking at the spheroid.  "Did you 3D print this?"

He took me to a kind of fabrication lab / machine shop.

We went to another room where there were some other 3D printed models on the table.  One looked like a intricate collection of ribbons.  Another small model kept changing shape depending on the angle you looked at it.  It was difficult to see, because it was almost like it was made out of smoke.  I picked it up, and it was difficult to tell I had something in my hands.  I want to say it started out as something like a cube, but then I turned it and it became a snub-cube, or at least something with square and triangular faces.  I turned the object again, and it became a something like a squished octahedron.  "This is fantastic!" I said.  I had an object with a spin of 2 or something:  you had to turn it more than 360 degrees to get to the original face you started with.

The woman and man from earlier in the dream were in the shop and the woman started talking about how the object was self-assembling.  She pulled out a container (I want to say something like a jar of cinnamon) of something like iron filings and they jiggled around on the white table top.   I think we started talking in math -- at any rate, a fierce and intense feeling of concentration hit me.  I think I was shaking and a equations were forming inside simple geometric shapes the filings were forming as I bent my attention upon them.  It was sexual as well as intellectual, and I felt like I was ringing like a bell (it was like I was trying to become some fiery being in a Blake poem).  The man brought out a small blowtorch, and I said something from Monty Python like 'I don't want to go on the cart," but made more topical sense at the time, and everyone laughed.   And I was really close to breaking through and understanding how they'd made these wonderful geometric solids.

And then the dream changed or there was a break....



I must have had a second dream, because I was sitting in a small dinner-theatre audience waiting for the show to begin.  The stage was very deep, and the technical crew was setting up the show.   The audience area was made up of small tables pushed closed together.

I'm thinking in real life there must have been someone having a conversation on the sidewalk outside our house, because in the dream there was a  loud woman having a one of those stupid, why-are-you-saying-those-things-in-public conversation at another table, which was picked up by the theatre's sound system.

The show started, but no one realized it at first, because it was about a down-on-her-luck actress who started out as a theatre patron with no ticket, who then turned into actress who couldn't use the make-up everyone else was.



Then one of the cats knocked our bedroom door open, and I had a startled moment where it seemed a shadowy head, at waist hight, stuck itself beyond the doorframe and then withdrew.  I thought it might be The Child wondering if we were still asleep, but it wasn't.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Dreams of False-Waking and Soccer-Mom Artists

This moring I had about three false-waking dreams.  The most confusing was the dream that the automatic LED candles in our room switched on and I woke up... and then I woke up for real and saw that it was something like 3:30.  

In other dreams... as I was looking at a pitcher on our deck fill with rain water, I remembered that I dreamed we had a small fishtank in our house.  It kept losing water and I kept filling up one of our tall glasses with filtered tap water to refill the tank.  The water was being siphoned out by the tank's water filter; someone kept bumping or moving it and I'd fixed it at least twice.  The strongest image from the dream was the seven or so fish swimming sideways in about a half-inch of water at the bottom of the tank.  Adding more water revived them.

Another dream was set in a dream almalgam of our old rental.  I had ridden my bike there to go shopping -- somehow the old house had become the vestibule for cyclists.  I was pulling my bike around, looking for a place to lock it, and every time I came up to a wooden bench or a table or other blocky wooden furniture which was what we used as bike-racks, someone would sneak in ahead of me and lock her bike up.  There may have been some twenty-something college guys there, but the place was filled with typical Eugene moms (nobody I know in real life, but a dream-crowd of late-thirties women in Birkenstocks, corduroy and faded cotton with a soccer-mom-club air of "everyone is equal but my special child IS going to be first in line.").   

There was something about my realizing that I'd walked there in my bare feet, and that my muddy feet wouldn't go over well in the grocery store.

The house turned into an art studio -- I want to say wood-working and print-making.  A group of about four of us went into a college office that was under construction and the woman artist stood in a closet or small room that was only partially completed to have her picture taken in front of a large hole in the wall.  In waking life, I'm reminded of the paintings of Remedios Varo, except in the dream the office space was much lighter and more beige than her paintings (and there were no cats or star people).   I and the other artists were dressed in Eugene casual.  A female office worker (like a secretary to a dean) in dark, formal office attire and her hair in a bun, stuck her head into the room as she was passing by and expressed skeptical amazement that we'd want to take a picture of a hole.   

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Excersise and Dreams

I don't know if it was that last session at the gym without my gloves or if it's the rainy weather, but my hands have been achey the last few days.  Oh well, at least I can type.   (Hand to brow)  Despite the pain, I managed to get to the gym Tuesday:  120 calories on the rowing machine in about 15 minutes (I think).  Someone was on the elipitical machine I like, so I went downstairs and did 3X12x60lbs on the pec-fly, 3X13X70lbs on the lat-pulldown, 3X13 Roman chair curl-ups, 3X12X35lbs barbell curl-ups, followed by 2X8X35lb barbell reverse-pull-ups.



Alice-in-Wonderland type dreams Tuesday night:  

In one scene -- which I man have dreamed last -- I was a magical Alice... or at least I was a long haired blonde girl in a blue dress with a white apron.  A bunch of us, including Albus Dumbeldore, stood in a dark hall, or arch-lined cloister.  The vast (dance?) floor was a black and white checkerboard stretching in all directions.  A horde of red dragons circled under the hidden ceiling, coming closer and closer to the floor.  

I stepped away from the crowd and into the middle of the checkerboard and said, "I wish to become a checker."  I shrank to a red queen and then further into a small hocky-puck sized disk.  For some reason the dragons couldn't touch me when I was in this inanimate form, they circled lower, but their power was checked and they could do no more damage.

Dumbledore picked up an art deco statuette of Tinker-Bell (or a similar pixie), and said, "Pixie, retrieve our friend."  The statuette glowed firefly green, became a living pixie, who then flitted over (with tinkling bells and lots of "la-la-la's") to where I was still a small checker.  She picked me up and brought me back, where I was somehow restored to my proper Alice-in-Wonderland form (either by the Pixie or else by Dumbledore).  I have a sense that everyone found the la-la-la's cloying.

Scene Two:  I was a kind of Slappy the Squirell character, and along with a bird and possibly the Pixie, we were keeping barely one-step-ahead of a suburban mom--posibily a nicer version of Lois Cranston from "Malcom in the Middle"  There was something about a loft in the house, hiding a birdhouse (with the help of the Mom's kids).  I remember the day was bright with green lawns and blue, cloudless skies.  I think I lived in a telephone pole when I wasn't invading the Mom's house.

Scene Three:  Mark and the Child and I were camping.  The segment started out in a cold field on a dark, cold morning.  We decamped with a bunch of other folks and left in a white truck or VW Van (the configuration changed during the dream).  By the end of the dream, we were looking for a small object that had fallen between the car seats and into the bed of the vehicle.  (I have a sense of the car seats being simultaneously up for passengers and down to accommodate camping supplies.)  The ?toy? ?pen? ?thing? had fallen into the chassis -- which was suddenly the empty bed of a VW Van turned into a pickup, and was threatening to fall through wheel holes and onto the highway.

Scene Four:  After a road drip (possibly the one in scene three), we wound up at an abandoned or closed theme park, sort of like The Enchanted Forest.   A bunch of us got onto a train ride, with regular sized passenger cars.  As we pulled away I saw four Victorian business men peering through a large picture window in a house at us.  There was a sense that they knew we were on site and would chase after us.

The train went something like sixty feet and stopped at a victorian spa.  I was thinking that we should keep going, but everyone wanted to take a hot soak or sauna, so we got out.  There was lots of marble and tiled floors... and I suppose it looked like Bath might have, with lots of Georgian curlicues in the carved portals, and extra pillars, and decorative excess.

Our sizes became much more plastic, and we became smaller or larger as hallways shrank or expanded.  I remember looking through a keyhole at a bath interior, and shrinking through it to get to the hot waters on the other side.  At another point I wanted to get out quickly -- possibly the Victorian businessmen had caught up with us -- and I pressed my face against a tiled, circular opening about the size of a quarter while I waited for my body to shrink so that the hole would become a tunnel I could get through.


Monday, February 06, 2017

Magic and the New Age



I suppose it's a mountain out of a molehill, but I've gotten feedback that one of my (rejected) urban fantasy stories had a "glib New Age" feel to it.  (To be fair, they didn't like the main character more than they didn't like the New Age feel.)

Years ago, "Mask Glass Magic," got dinged in one review for being New Age as well.   This is a head-scratcher because I'm basing my stories' magical systems on the magical ritual theory of Wicca, Dion Fortune's "The Mystical Qaballa," "Psychic Self-Defence," and (more loosely) "The Secrets of Dr. Taverner."   Mercedies Lacky would be another influence, and also Charles DeLint.  I've read New Age stuff like "The Celestene Prophecy," and "Shamanic Mysteries of Egypt," which is completely different from what I'm trying to do.  

If we were talking about architecture instead of my stories, it would be like if I'd built an Art Deco apartment building, and someone said they didn't like an expanse of a concrete wall because it was too much in the Brutalist Style.  I get that the wall is the source of the negative critique, but I don't understand why.  My concern as a writer of fantasy with magic in it is that if people are going to not want to buy my stories because they're too New Age, then I need to present the magical system differently.  Luckily, I don't have this problem when I write science fiction.

Looking back at the latest story, there's some mention of ectoplasm, and tearing the veil between the worlds, and spells... but it's not like the characters are talking about writing checks to themselves signed "the law of attraction" or going on for pages about crystals from Atlantis.  One character does wear a magic sapphire -- but it's more a magical talisman than a power-crystal that heals chakras, attracts parking spaces, or aids with really good sex.  
Anyway, it's only one rejection and the meaning I should assign to it is that the editors didn't buy my story.  I'm still making the sideways Scooby-Doo face, though.

Quick Report

Thursday

Dream fragment.

Something about our neighbors one house down watering plants outside our house... something about riding a large wooden wagon (or a Trojan Horse?) and a Bad Guy disabling one of the solid wood wheels.  Which led to going into a kind of mall/government institution and deflecting a laser beam playing along a stairwell.

Yesterday I pushed words around on the screen and then switched to sending stories out.  I feel like I'm in a fallow period or something; writing is like stumbling around in a dark room filled with bulky amoires that are crowded too closely together to open -- and in any case it's too dark to see what's inside.

Friday and the Weekend

Managed to work out Friday and Sunday.  Did the usual elipitical and rowing machine upstairs for about a half hour, followed by the usual pec-fly, lat-pulldown, roman chair curl-ups, barbell curl thing.  With assorted free-weights.  The usual Classic Rock played.

Whenever I get a stretch of family-free home-life, I always think I'm going to be more productive than I turn out to be.  On the minus side, my total words typed is down...  On the plus side, I reviewed three short stories for stupid writer tricks and sent them out.  

Monday

The family gets home today.  Insert usual airlines delays here; they made it into PDX around 2:30 AM, but they sounded fairly rested when I just spoke with them during my usual parking lot blogging.  At least the snow (potentially three inches) that NOAA was worried about didn't fall.  I'm picking them up this afternoon at the train depot.

The house is functional, but still in writer mode.  A table reset is required to move the kitchen nook table out of the living room, and take down the utility table currently in the kitchen nook.   OK... and a pile or two of manuscripts and a computer need to be moved, too.

It's good to have them home.