On the bed I see a shirt with a small stain on it. The blotch won’t come out, no matter what is tried. It’s a work shirt, simple, blue with a fine checked pattern, just enough to break out of being solid blue. I’ve had it for years. I don’t want to throw it out. There is nothing wrong with it, in my opinion.
We live, or at least I live, in a society where you can’t wear a shirt like that to work. Makes you look sloppy, dirty. Throw it out. We do that, we throw things out when they aren’t perfect. We judge others by how close they are to a misplaced concept of perfection.
How did I get programmed to throw things, anything, out when it is no longer pristine? The black shirts that aren’t pitch black, but faded black. Into the homeless shelter donation bag. Small hole in a dress shirt, can’t be worn. Scandalous!
I’ve noticed the same thing about fruit. When I was a younger man, it was common for me to cut out the bruised part of an apple. It happened regularly. A bad spot on a banana, just remove it and eat the rest, not a big deal.
Now, we complain about any blemish, on anything. We expect, no we demand faultless fruit. The right color green on our salads.
Its only a matter of time before we start doing this with people. Oh wait…
Amos Garret, a legendary guitarist, once said, ‘Don’t hide the mistake in your solo, play it loud, play it proud.’ or words to that effect. Those words have hung with me over the years. We are a people of mistakes. Our mistakes, as many before me have said, define who you are, who I am.
I don’t want to be an endless consumer. The slave of mindless consumerism can be fixed. Some would call it adopting simplicity. I call it doing the laundry. The mending of an ideal from my youth I lost along the way.
I have for some time contended coffee shops hold civilized society together. Coffee shops in many ways are responsible for the enlightenment. Now I suppose we need to review the history of the coffee shop to get a context for why.
Constantinople – 1475 – Kiva Han served black unfiltered coffee, made in an ibrik. The article here: https://tinyurl.com/y6dcprwt does a better job than I ever could.
When I read the words “Constantinople – 1475” I see a hazy hot day with the sun setting, streaming through the dust and the profile of an olive skinned man with black stubble just showing over a keffiyeh, squinting against the late day heat. He turns to walk into a coffee shop alive with chatter. Hand gestures emphasizing arguments, or just comments. He takes in the room with it’s maze of tables, organized as needed to accommodate patrons various groups. A subtle glance to the owner behind the bar, they nod back and turn to pull down an ibrik already starting a carafe of strong, cardamon laced Turkish coffee. Making his way to a table against a wall near the middle of the room, oddly an equal distance from each exit in the establishment. The two patrons at the table see the man, and as he arrives at the stone table, stand. One pulls out a ebon black chair out for him and as he sits, they move off to join another table of coffee shop philosophers.
Romance, intrigue, an emotional attachment is what I love about coffee shops. The words can be written anywhere, and I suppose great writers can write anywhere. After all Stephen King made his writing recovery in a laundry room. Would we have Harry Potter without a coffee shop?
But for me there is a romance, a sense of being genuine by going to a coffee shop, sitting at a table alone, arranging my tools to help plot the Martian takeover of the Lunar Empire, and drinking coffee while a write.
As you can see I have digressed, become self-indulgent, procrastinated from writing the real blog. Glue. A glue that holds our worlds together. One of the only places of common ground. Maybe next time.
We all have muses. At least I believe we do. For me, and no one, absolutely no one who knows me should be surprised to discover my primary muse is the coffee shop.
And mine is closed.
I’m at the point now where I have to face the fact of moving my muse. How does one move a muse? One doesn’t.
The simple fact is writing is a habit. And like most habits, its tied to locations, triggers honed after years of development to allow us to get work done. The work of writing.
Secretly I’ve hoped the closure will be ‘one more week’. Just one more week and it’ll be open, and I can sit a table a write. Oh the glory of it. I can feel the seat, see the smiles, and the typing. The screen with words magically appearing. The best words, all the words, the words my story. (Yes I know the prepositions will still be missing…now be quiet).
The first taste of a pour-over coffee, closing my eyes and the brief moment of transcendent bliss. A slight inhale of breath with a slow exhale, a gentle smile of, dare I say it, happiness. The pause and then writing about Dyson Kinton and her crew trying to save the Lunar Empire from machinations of the Martian Marines. Or maybe it will be the completion of The Cocktail Mysteries Book One: The Case of Jonathan Smythe Concord, esq. where James discovers…
Perhaps I’ll return to Markaz, the first city where magic is discovered. Maybe we’ll visit Jorunn and Othin as they strive to survive being a channeler and forge who can wield all four elemental magics.
Maybe it will Tanner Kindly, trying to save the universe from falling into another diaspora by visiting retribution as the arm of vengeance for the Trifecta.
But I don’t have a muse, I’m not able to dive into the habit of writing. I’m in the habit of dreaming. Day-dreaming, wishing, longing for the return. The return of a table, a coffee and writing. The state of writing in dribs and drabs.
In case you haven’t identified what this rambling blog is about, its wallowing. And it’s not as bad as I make it out to be. I’ve actually gotten quite a lot done on the Cocktail Mysteries. But I long for a routine to make me more productive.
Becoming mindful of lessons learned and write. Your muse, my muse, will find its way to you, wherever, whenever you are.
At various times in my life I’ve wanted to be a monk. Specifically to be left completely alone with my thoughts, to contemplate, to just be. I suspect many people have wanted this, just to be left alone.
Thought One: Why can’t we just be nice to one another? Really, why can’t we be good people, all of us? Fundamentally I don’t understand why people are evil, mean or abusive. It is a great weakness in my writing. It’s hard for me to understand and put myself in that place. I am referring not to a reaction state, as in when someone hits you and you want to hit them back. There are evil people, people who do mean things because that is their nature. People who believe they are better than others.
Where does this come from?
This thought can overwhelm my soul and drive me to the solace of solitude.
Thought Too: I enjoy peace, the place of the tranquil soul on still water. I am sure others, perhaps even you have experienced moments of tranquility. When you the turbulence of your mind becomes the flat still water of peace. I long for this when wanting to be a monk. The place of being in the still moment of nothingness. A place to remain forever. In my youth it was easier to find this place. As I have aged, my tolerance for people intruding on my peace has become nill. In fact I become quite upset. The once still pool of deep waters has become a shallow puddle, easily disturbed, muddied by the merest infringement on it’s edges. The isolation of the monk calls to me, assuring me the monastery can protect me from this.
Thought Three: It’s a lot of work to cultivate the peace desired in my life. I need to book a time, find a space, hope that no one is going to interrupt me. Do I have the tools I want to use ready, a coffee, some music and notepad. A monk is again protected by the abby. There is less struggle to create the sacred space needed for contemplation.
Some people will say I need to learn to meditate, I am not going to argue, but the point of this rambling writing is not just a an injection of daily meditation but a life of solitude and peace.
Living a life were the interruptions of life are birdsong and kettles boiling to make coffee, a dream, a hope.
The Cocktail Mysteries: The Case of Alfred Smyth Concord, esq. Chapter 1 A question worthy of being interrupted
Bang. Bang. Bang
James tensed his shoulders and let out a long slow breath. Why did people do both? It was bad enough they were doing this while the light was perfect for painting. His brush was half-way to the easel when…
“I got it hun.” Sandra called.
It was too late however, now he needed to see who was at the door. Setting the brush down he went to the doorway to find Sandra talking to a stranger.
“James, this is Alfred Smyth Concord….”
“Esquire, don’t forget the esquire, it’s quite important.” The person interjected.
“…esquire. He wants to buy one of your pictures…” She said facing him, her face hidden from the stranger. The expression was one he was familiar with, ‘Looney Bin’ is what he called it. He felt his face go into his practised placid smile. Sandra’s ‘Looney Bin’ face had never been wrong. He put on his ‘so glad to meet you face’ and focused back on the stranger, who remarkably was still talking.
“All the copies…all the digital versions…all backups…I must be the sole owner of all versions of that picture, that piece of art, name your price.”
James felt his eyes widen in surprise, he looked at Sandra, he looked at ‘Esquire’, he looked back to Sandra.
“I think a cocktail is in order. Gin and tonic Mr. Concord?” Sandra asked, “I have a lovely elderflower tonic?”
The man started, “Ah yes, how civilized, yes please, I’m sure it will help calm my nerves.”
“James?” Sandra asked.
What did one drink for picture negotiations? This was a question worthy of being interrupted.
This week an interesting discourse occurred in my time working remotely; a colleague and I jested on the nature of AI.
He developed his position through asking questions, seeking my answer to be guided by the semantics of his enquiry. In essence leading me to expound his thoughts on AI by the words he used in the questions themselves.
I of course played along, redefined his words in my reply. It was a wonderful exchange with each of trying to pin the other through words..
The exchange was conducted of an instant messenger app. Given my notorious inability to spell words correctly, some errors transpired.
“AI exists in an amorous state, not tied by hardware or data registers” is what I typed. Of course I meant to type ‘amorphous’, but, it does raise an interesting point, are AI’s amourous? And if they are, what is amour to them?
Amour is generally defined as an illicit love affair. What is illicit to an AI? More, what is an illicit love affair to an AI?
Generally I think perceive AI as being defined in human terms and values. It wraps around the argument of can we truly know the ‘Other’. Our discourse on AI is based around the interaction with humans and human data. But would an AI interact with a human or humanity. Would they define us as sentient? How would they define sentience? This leads to a long rabbit hole that is best left for another day or perhaps a short story. Who can say?
The question of an illicit love affair implies there may be genuine love affairs, a binary assumption. But are AI’s binary? It could be argued AI’s data is at it’s root, only binary in expression. But does this ensure AI’s only live in a binary state? No. And I think this can be demonstrated easily enough.
Most AI discussions centre around the dealing of complex decisions with multiple outcomes with some mechanism to deal with these outcomes. If AI’s are dealing with multiple outcomes, why would they leave themselves to binary expression of what ever they define themselves as? Data is data, except when it’s Commander Data, then it’s another discussion. (What? You didn’t think I would take the chance to get Star Trek involved?)
Or is it?
The first season of Picard, and I certainly hope there is a second season, leaves us with a number of transitions.
Warning, there may be spoilers below concerning Season 1 of Picard. You have been warned.
For the sake of this discussion, let us say the only intersection between humans and AI is data. We need data for what we do. Essentially over the last 10-20 years we have become data producers. Texts, selfies, games, more games and more devices. More bandwidth. More data paths, for the information we generate to travel on.
What do you suppose AI’s consume for an energy source? Data? Perhaps. If that is true, data is their food, and we just farmers for AI. If I was an AI and wanted to increase my food source exponentially, what would I do? The single largest increase in internet usage is occurring right now in the world. As we all stay at home to help save lives our data consumption and output has sky rocketed.
While the quality of our internet is degraded, it’s still working. Funny how we are running out of everything, but the internet is still working. The increases are staggering. There no longer is difference between weekend and weekday internet traffic, it’s always maxed out. So if I was an AI, I would engineer a situation that would cause more food production for me. Force my farmers to stay in one place and generate data. A side effect of us all staying home is a massive decrease in pollution, one of the biggest enemies of electronics. Now, Picard, one of the largest sources of data is the human brain, if only the AI could have direct access to that amount of data. And with the end of season 1 of Picard they are one step closer to gaining access to it.
A rambling discussion, a conspiracy theory and love in the time of COVID.
Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.
Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.
Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.
Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.
When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.
She’s 83, has lupus, may be a little too right wing for me. Attended the creation of the drink known as the ‘Ceaser’. Knows what the word rationing means. Old school rationing. The kind where they saved the tin foil from cigarette packs (cuz everybody smoked back then) to help the war effort. A Canadian. Created a drive through for a ladies clothing store one year when the roads were too icy. But that’s a story for another day.
Oh, and she’s my mom.
One day last week at approximately 4:00 PM, along with the rest of the condo owners on the third floor, she swung open her door to the hallway and practised safe social distancing – happy hour. That my friends is courage. The courage to change, yet again, at 83 years young.
It is this adaptability to the situation we are all in, all over the world that saves live.
This courage is framed with two words, creativity and continuity.
Happy hour is a tradition humans have shared in various forms since I suspect the first rotten apple got turned into sour mash. Maintaining happy hour within the bounds of COVID-19 and social distancing is the continuity. The person does not ask the world to revolve around their beliefs, rather an unspoken social contract evolves around our beliefs conforming, yes that’s right conforming, to the common good. To everyone’s good.
Ask not what your society can do for you, but what you can do for your society, for your neighbour. An adapted quote from not a current president.
Be creative, in finding the way of who you are during this time of physical restrictions. Being confined with yourself is daunting. Ask other people what they are doing. See if they have any good ideas. Do not let the anger of the day be your prison. Hate seeks to consume the creativity of this world, a creativity that discovers ways to save more people.
One of the kindest ways to help a struggling author, or society is to encourage. Find the honest path, the true words to help others in their struggle. I have found my soul cannot battle the demons and their minions that assail us as we come to terms with COVID-19. But I recognize the good in others and tell them what it is. Honest, not exaggerated, compliment.
I can encourage the good, the best of people. Whether this is someone singing from their balcony, or clapping for the care workers of all services who are striving each day to get everyone through this battle or simply remembering your Friday coffee group and sending them a text or instagram DM. All of this is encouragement.
This blog is supposed to be about writing. Spend some time writing your future by showing courage and encourage where you are, to yourself and to others.
This is the way I am working on Book 2 of System War:
High level plot of the book arc, this includes the following:
The current situation – I.E. – what has happened since we last saw our heroes and villains. Spoilers below, not that anyone has read book 1.
Large Book Arc Points
An inciting incident occurs that spins out the stories for the rest of the book. The characters are scattered throughout the system. Each set of them is isolated by physical distance and separated. The common theme is they all have to rely on themselves, they can’t count on the others to save them. The weaving together of their individual plot arcs will occur after the climax of the story in the denouement. As in the first book, there will be a space battle with all our characters in various roles before they are all flung away from one another.
The main starting point is event based; they are fighting a war and they must break a blockade. The main character in this arc must control her impulsive nature and realize that not everyone can be saved. This will fundamentally change her for the remainder of the series. Until now she has been able to save everyone.
The main love arc between two characters, doesn’t move forward in the traditional sense, because they are seperated. The frustration of absence and worry. There is no communication between them until the end of the book. Each of them focus on their given tasks to distract them from the seperation.
The environment or the universe arc is summed up with the following: – The dangers of the Jovian Moon and traveling in deep space with no repair port near by. This is the outer danger, the danger of distance.
– The fear of the unknown as two characters discover a fundamental change in the universe, a mini disaster movie arc.
An Espionage/spy arc where characters have to be like spies and make contact with a foreign government, with no support.
/digression – The Bad Guys – yea they get an arc too.
The protagonists must weave their way around the successes of the heroes and then foil them. Even with the successes and sacrifices of heroes, the villians will be closer to winning the underlying contest of who will get interstellar travel and saving humanity from living in one solar system and more importantly who gets to survive. We will also learn why the protagonists are focused on escaping our solar system. The big reveal of ‘the evil’ at the end of the book will be the focus point of driving the third and final book.
These scenarios put pressure on the characters which will reveal more about them. Some will fail, some will overcome themselves and the roadblocks in front of them, some will remain the same.
Characters remaining the same. Why they are interesting. The best example of a main character remaining the same that I have heard of and agree with is Conan the Barbarian. In each of the movies he is the same. There is no dynamic change in who or what he is. The characters around him change, he enables them to change by forcing them to looking inward or aiding in their external conflict.
Seems straight forward? For me examining the process and trying to write it becomes very difficult. The character has to be put under additional strain and pressure that would force them to change, to compromise or act differently. The tests must be harder than in the first book. It is this escalation and how it is managed that is difficult. If Conan fought 10 people at once, he must fight 100 people at once in the next conflict.
This should expose if the values of the character are true? What is the price to give in? For the Series this process must be escalated slowly. In the first book I tried to show her skills and abilities. Continually building her need to be better, to be smarter. Tougher problems. She must be jeopardized and more importantly, what she loves and holds near and dear must be directly attacked with the intent of compromising her.
At the same time the arc must be balanced against what is going to happen in the third book. This balance is often compromised by not being realistic. The Death Stars in Star Wars escalated out of control. Even for the Star Wars universe.
In the first book, the plot attacks on one of the main characters were focused on the external components of the character – can she lead her crew into battle? Is she a good tactician? In book two the focus will shift to the game of diplomacy and spy craft, something she is awful at and the underlying mystery of the character will be revealed. This answers the question: If she is such a great Space Ship Captain and military strategist, why was she dishonorably discharged from the Fleet? This of course leads to the question: Why tell us this now?
If the overarching point of the book series was about this character, then it would be inappropriate to resolve this plot in book two. Why read book three if main plot point is resolved? However, the answer to this question must be answered at some point as it is an implied promise to the reader. Secondly it is one of the mysteries in the series. Book Two must move the main arc of the series AND have a fundamentally satisfying resolution to a character arc.
Could this be handled in book three? Certainly? But at what cost? The pace of this book series is deliberate with the intent of the tension in various plot points to be satisfying, not a constant roller coaster. The action and anxiety may run for several chapters and scenes, but in the overall pacing I’ve tried to keep specific points where you get to see the characters recovering, being ‘normal’. Why? I’ve always enjoyed books that have done this. Who doesn’t like witty banter at a coffee shop? I mean really…it’s necessary…even in the Marvel universe – why else is there a Shawarma scene?
And that’s this weeks ramblings – return next week where I’ll write something – I hope – until then wash your hands and
I don’t like the word procrastination, hate it actually. I think it is a ‘cheat’ word, well at least for me it is.
I’m lazy, and lack discipline is what I think in my head when I hear procrastination. Why is it I can’t do what I want to do? It makes no frickin sense. For some of you, you will never understand this. Others will be tired of hearing about this again. It can be so tiring to read about the same issue over and over again. I understand, remember this blog is self-indulgence for me, not you. Move along, there are better blogs for you to read today.
/digression – I was going to write “Why can’t I do the right thing?” But I can’t use that phrase. It always reminds me of Spike Lee’s amazing film, “Do the Right Thing” (1989) If you haven’t watched this film, you should. In my opinion one of the greatest uses of the film/movie art form in the history of humanity.
You may wonder why I commented on the digression I had in my thought process. The title of the blog should explain why, the evil P word. Secondly I’m trying to use the blog as a process to get into the flow of writing. The stream of consciousness writing and not self-edit as I write the blog.
Second digression completed.
Part of this is tied to the concept ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’. Similar expressions are found in Islam and the rigors of the scientific method. I am not a scholar in any of these areas.
A crude analogy would be trying to change the course of a river that has run the same way for thousands of years. The river is solidly entrenched in the path it wants, the path of least resistance. Each erosion of the earth has been made to make the river’s journey easier.
Perseverance, Evaluate yourself honestly, Seek help in writing from others. Those are my answers today.
The problem with each of these answers is they require self-discipline or perhaps in my case, the correction of the easy habits, just letting my life run on auto-pilot. Everything around me now seems to revolve around the concept of how to change.
Dynamite or damming the river can change the course of the river. A little drastic, don’t you think? Some of the pools and eddies in the river are just fine, thank-you very much.
And I have successfully procrastinated, at least I’m good at something…