The Lucky Lad

adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Less, a poem

Less

Who could name the person
I yearned to become?
Add up all my past —
I’m less than the sum.

Nothing to be learned
from my deconstruction,
willing participant
in my own abduction,

making action movies
none will ever see,
setting off explosions
that maim only me.

Too late to be rescued
from the things I do;
let me drown again
trying to save you.

For it is the natural
state of all these things
to remain unnatural,
fly with stunted wings

in pursuit of nothing.
What’s left to assess?
Add me up again —
I remain far less

Stephen Brooke ©2016

This would be one of the poems that took a while, built line by line over several weeks, when I felt inspired to dabble at it. I come back to the WIP and may or may not get ideas to carry on with it. And, perhaps, better understand what it is about with each visit for, as is typical, it started with words and phrases in search of a concept.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Intelligent Design

If there is a creator god, then all things would result from ‘intelligent design’ — assuming that creator is intelligent, of course. This does not mean that God is hands-on, nudging his creation along in the direction desired.

Indeed, if it were properly and ‘intelligently’ designed, it would operate as it should from the beginning and need no tinkering. Would not an omnipotent, omniscient god get it right on the first try? But that argument is somewhat meaningless in that God is not constrained by time.

For such a deity, all existence would be ‘at once.’ God does not have to wait and see how things play out! So one could, I suppose, say that the creator is always involved in his creation. But actively smiting evil nations and guiding evolution? I rather doubt it!

Let me return to my point about the creator being intelligent. I shall admit that I do not necessarily believe this, and have written of it elsewhere, as well as suggesting that it probably doesn’t matter. If we posit infinite being, then all things would exist. There would be no design or, rather, each instance of that infinite multiverse would be ‘designed’ differently.

Whether those universes actually exist or remain potential until they are observed may not matter either. Perhaps we could say that an omnipotent god would be one who can observe each and all of them, giving them existence. Or not; again, it doesn’t matter much, does it, except as a thought experiment?

Intelligent design, as promoted by some ‘conservative’ Christians (and other faiths, for that matter), is simply unnecessary to our understanding of how things work (as opposed to why). It is not science, at least not in the sense we use the word today, but more a philosophical question and should be presented as such. And philosophy should most certainly be taught — just not in biology class.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

On Castro

I knew Cuban refugees when I was a little kid. Not refugees from Castro’s Cuba but refugees from Battista’s. The youngsters thought Castro was about the greatest thing ever. Understand that this was when I six, seven years old. People came to different conclusions about Fidel Castro over the next few years; my family, however, had moved to Ohio and I was no longer among the Cubans of Florida. At that age, it was an out of sight, out of mind situation.

I shall not judge Castro. He was something with which I am uncomfortable, I shall admit, a ‘true believer.’ Those sort of people do a great deal of wrong in the name of doing good. Yet, there was good in the programs of his socialist government. Castro did not rob the Cuban people as had his predecessors.

But he jailed them, silenced them, executed some (though there were not the bloodbaths we saw under other regimes). Some of that was no doubt a response to the hostility from his near neighbor, our own United States. Having a super-power committed to deposing one would make one a bit paranoid, I should think.

In all, Castro was another Latin American dictator and better than most of those. Forget the ideology — look to the results. The very fact that he held onto power so long suggests that the Cuban people largely approved of his government. Life was improved for the majority, maybe despite the imposition of socialism.

Socialism — I have mixed feelings about ‘true’ socialism (i.e. government ownership of the means of production). Not so much because of any ideas about private versus public ownership but because it will inevitably lead to abuses of power when imposed from the top. It’s the whole ‘big is bad’ thing. I do not mind common ownership on local levels, such as the greens that were once found throughout England, open to everyone to graze their animals, but were enclosed by the wealthy (especially during the Tudor reigns) as the feudal/manorial system gave way to early capitalism.

Leninist/Marxist socialism (which is way more Leninist than Marxist) is top-down socialism, controlled by the centralized state. Economic power equals political power in all societies everywhere and any time, and so the central bureaucracy wields concentrated power. It is accountable to no one.

We have already seen the socialist state of Fidel Castro move away from a stricter Marxism (and Cuba was never fertile ground for totalitarian concepts). That is undoubtedly a good thing as long as it doesn’t go too far the other way — we don’t want the corrupt crony-capitalism of an earlier day to return!

So rest in peace, Fidel Castro. You did wrong and you did right, as do all of us. We shall have to see how it plays out now.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanksgiving Recording

No Thanksgiving dinner for me; Thursday was pretty much just another day, in most respects. So I did a little recording that afternoon, fussing around in the office, rather than going into the studio. I moved that office last week, out of the art studio where it had been gradually been taking up more and more space! I placed my desk (where I do most of my writing) and peripherals in the almost-never-used dining room. Being by myself in this house these days, I never have reason to eat in there.

Anyway, the recording — I had to mess around a bit getting my drivers set up properly. Upgrading to Windows 10 gave me some problems. Or more problems than before. I generally do these quick ‘scratch’ recordings in the Power Tracks DAW, both the recording and mixing, as it is fairly easy to use and has pretty much all the features I need (it is also quite nice for working with MIDI but that was irrelevant here). But it has been stuttering with the standard Windows MME/WDM type of drivers, at least using my cheap Behringer USB mixer as an interface. Not the recording, mind you, but the playback.

I had ASIO drivers that Behringer provides but had never installed them so that I gave them a try. And they worked BUT there was a noticeable high-pitched whine in the playback as long as the USB was plugged in — not just in Power Tracks but in every program. And just in my monitors, not my headphones! It was annoying but, since it was not being recorded, I could live with it.

The result was a couple of songs, just demo-quality and mostly for archiving. That is, until, I listened back to both later, decided one wasn’t good enough, and deleted it. The other was okay, but with a few small problems. I definitely got too close on the mike, a Samson VR88 ribbon, and got some overblown proximity effect in a couple spots. It’s probably not the ideal microphone for my voice, anyway. Be that as it may, I uploaded the result to my Reverbnation account:


The song is called ‘Saw Grass to Wire Grass,’ about the two parts of Florida in which I have lived, the Everglades in the south end of the state, and the ‘wire grass’ in the Panhandle. The lyrics have appeared here already, a few months back. I have decided to enter it in the song contest at this year’s Will McLean Festival. Chances are it will be ignored as were past entries. :)

Chances are, also, that I shall re-record the song I deleted and enter it as well. When I get to it — needs to be done before the end of the year.

Back to the problems with my drivers: I deleted the Behringer ASIO driver and went to their site to see if they had a better/updated version for my mixer, only to find that they no longer offered a driver of their own but had ASIO4ALL available for download instead. So I went to the ASIO4ALL website and got a newer version than the one at Behringer and it works pretty well. There might or might not be a little noise when I play back from the DAW (again, it is not recorded) but none at all in other apps. So I’m okay with it.

And just a reminder here, the official release of the second Cully Beach ‘surf noir’ novel, WAVES, is only a week away (well, plus a couple days). But it is available pretty much everywhere in print and ebook right now!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Averages

One of the most common mistakes people make, both in real life and in creating fictional characters, is to confuse average differences with intrinsic differences. Take the sexes — are there differences between men and women (aside from the obvious anatomical ones)? If there are, they are on the average. For example, men are taller than women on the average, but there are short men and tall women. It is not an intrinsic difference between the two.

This is true of pretty much any groups of people, any populations. Even if we posit differences, they would be averages. This makes them essentially meaningless. We have to remember this both when creating fictional humans and when dealing with ones in our everyday lives. Do not judge according to some average. Do not assign certain characteristics to an entire population.

Tolkien was bothered later in his life by the fact that he had made his orcs intrinsically bad. He recognized the insurmountable difficulties this had presented, that it made them less than thinking creatures, creatures with souls (in whatever sense one wishes to use that term). Even if they were soulless animals, it is not really a good choice to make them all bad. That would be similar to those who claim all pit bulls are bad and dangerous.

So, not all goblins should be evil nor should all dwarfs be greedy. Maybe even dragons have their good sides (they do in my stories!). Nor is one human tribe or nation worse or better than another. Yes, there are average differences and these can be mentioned. Still, one runs into the occasional tall dwarf and the occasional muscular woman warrior, not to mention a few jumbo shrimp.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Change

People voted for change because their lives sucked. There’s nothing complicated about that. Yes, racism and sexism and other isms certainly influence some individuals but those are not the real reason for Trump’s victory. Unfortunately, their lives are probably going to suck even more with Trump in charge.

What bothers me personally about Trump is not politics but morality. He may be president but he remains an immoral conman and sexual predator, a bully and purveyor of vice. It saddens me that the public was unable to recognize or care about this. It bothers me that so many ‘leaders’ were willing to make a deal with the devil for a few fleeting political gains. A morally bankrupt America has chosen a morally bankrupt president.

That is probably all I will say on current politics for a while. Back to my many, many fiction projects!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Discarded, a poem

Discarded

My truth is forged of words discarded,
words forgotten, left unguarded —
I find them in the empty ways,
gather them in dark bouquets,
mold them into grotesque forms,
scatter them on rising storms
to fall, forgotten, as the rain,
to be forgotten, as my pain.

The sleeping crowd takes up my song;
words the same, the notes seem wrong.
Who remembers which are right?
Who remembers past the night
what is lost amid these dreams?
One voice, seeking morning, screams,
Stop, thief! as the felon flees —
we handed him all the keys.

A silver emptiness of the moon
crosses clear blue vaults of noon,
as I count invisible stars.
Let them rise, Venus, Mars,
to reflect in evening’s pond,
form again this fragile bond
of real and mirror, of truth and lie,
discarded words, uncaring sky.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

This was first written, a few days ago, as a song lyric but I was unsatisfied with that and completely rewrote — doing a bit of that ‘kill your darlings’ thing in the process.