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Monthly Archives: March 2018

We cannot say “the good guys won World War II,” because the victors of World War II included Stalin’s Soviet Union, a regime that murdered millions of human beings and pioneered new ways of human evil in the same fashion as Nazi Germany.

The best we can say is that the forces of human freedom (or at least, the Enlightenment Package) survived the war to hold up their example against the totalitarian ideological movements spawned by the 20th century.

Which is just another data point to support the theory that World War II was the worst thing that ever happened.

The first thing you write is anything. Put a sentence together, see if another one follows. Get a paragraph. Look at what you’ve written, check if it’s want you wanted. Polish. Keep going or start over.

On March 26th, 2014, I decided that, to encourage myself to write, I would establish a writing streak, a record of how many days in a row I had managed to write, and post it publicly. Today marks the 1,460th day of that streak. Four years.

After one year, I made my first short story sale.

After two years, I sold another story and began a novel.

After three years, I was deep into the novel and cruising toward completion.

And now after four years I have left the novel, am not writing any fiction, and do not foresee myself writing fiction ever again.

Writing fiction was, for me, a broad macadam highway, along which I walked with many beloved friends. Now I have left that road and am bushwhacking cross-country, through thickets and swamps, to an unknown and perhaps nonexistent destination. I call what I’m doing “philosophy,” but that’s not really a good term. All I can say is that I’m looking for some understanding of who I am and what I’m supposed to do, here in this interval of the Unprecedented Era. I came to realize that fiction was a hindrance to my doing that. I left the novel at the side of the highway.

But I’m still writing. The streak has been a great blessing to me. Many nights I’ve groaned, wanting to sleep, but needing to create something, anything. It’s become a habit, maybe my best habit. If I ever do find what I’m looking for, it will be at least to some extent because I wrote myself there.

This is the writing for Day 1460. Tomorrow I will have to write something else.

See our king, he comes! He is king, he is rex and basileus, he is roi, tsar, konig and kaiser, he is sultan and emir, kabaka and negus, he is shah and shahenshah and padishah, he is raja and rajadhiraja and maharaja, he is tenno and taewang and huangdi, he is inca and tlatoani, he is Lord and God of all, from the photon to the galactic superclusters.

See, he comes! Riding on an ass; on a colt, the foal of an ass.

Somebody’s reading this blog. I know because WordPress tells me so, complete with graphs. I very much appreciate yinz. In fact, I feel kinda bad, because I’ve dumping so much weighty, rather dark stuff on you. So, to balance out, I want to give you a gift.

This week I discovered that on his 2004 Motown Two album, sometime Doobie Brothers frontman Michael McDonald covered Stevie Wonder’s “Tuesday Heartbreak.” This was a surprise. “Tuesday Heartbreak” is one of my favorite Stevie deep cuts. It appears on Talking Book, but was not released as a single. Despite the title, I consider it a very happy song, and I guess McDonald thinks so, too.

But that’s not the gift.

Because I went and listened to McDonald’s cover, folks, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Stevie Wonder song covered by Michael McDonald: technically proficient and completely soulless, done over in that patented Michael McDonald voice that a friend of mine once compared to someone attempting to suck out all the air from a room. It would be no gift to link to that song.

Instead I will link to the original Stevie Wonder classic. That is a true gift. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

 

 

 

Been thinking a lot about justice lately. The need for justice arises when an individual has suffered a wrong, and appeals for balance for that wrong.

Take, for instance, murder, the most basic of all wrongs. The victim is deprived of their very life. They no longer exist. Which makes them unable to appeal for balance. Therefore, murder is not an injustice. In fact, because no one extant has suffered the wrong of the victim, no one else has standing to appeal for that wrong, which means not only is murder not an injustice, but it is an injustice to prosecute anyone for murder.

Wait a second. Huh? That doesn’t make any sense. It’s ludicrous.

Ludicrousness is something for which philosophers have to keep careful watch. You’ll be following a chain of thought, gathering swift epiphanies, and so on and so on to glorious conclusion, and then look at the result and say “That’s ridiculous. That can’t be right.”

Then you go back to check the work and try to figure out where you went wrong.

Except here’s the problem with the problem: is the unexpected conclusion truly ludicrous, or is it a difficult and frightening truth? David Pearce’s idea that total biological ecstasy is a moral imperative might strike many people as ludicrous. Or Peter Singer’s idea that it is immoral to spend one penny on unnecessary pleasures as long as anyone in the world does not have enough for the basics of living. I have seen theists and atheists alike throw up their hands in exasperation at having to deal with their opponent’s ideas when it is obvious those ideas aren’t worth their time. “Ludicrous” can just be a measure of what you’re accustomed to, what you can’t give up.

In this case, I honestly do think it ludicrous that murder is not an injustice. But, like most philosophical wrong turns, it does teach something. Murder is the one wrong where the victim themselves can never receive justice. The victim is gone, to oblivion or the afterlife. One way or another, they are removed from earthly priorities. Like a funeral, any justice is for the benefit of the survivors. But that benefit is important, and something to keep in mind as we consider the idea of justice.

ADDENDUM: There is one exception I can think of to what I just said. If we posit an afterlife in which the murder victim cannot rest until they receive justice—such as they have to haunt the earth until their murderer is caught/punished—then that is a case where the victim could truly receive benefit of justice.

This looks like a most intriguing new book.

I suspect pleasure is going to be one of the most extreme fronts of change in the 21st century. The stimulus described here is just a prototype. Cocaine and heroin are just waystations. Once the bugs are worked out and the technologies balanced, there’s no reason humans can’t be in a state of 24/7 ecstasy. This is going to uproot all working conceptions of normality, from sex to jobs to creativity. If you don’t want to do it, someone else will, and probably a few millions of their friends, too.

This is the natural course of human admitting they are material phenomenon, understanding that phenomenon, and then manipulating that phenomenon to their benefit. If something about it seems wrong to you, philosopher David Pearce has a pushback: it is in fact immoral not to enable maximum pleasure.

I admit to being less than thrilled about the idea myself. But someone’s going to try it. And popular success is its own argument.

 

This is not a recent dream. It came years ago. 2005? 2006? Somewhere around there.

I was dying.

I was lying sunk into the oversoft cushions of a large four-poster bed. Nearby, on a lounge-style sofa, stretched one of my compatriots, also dying. On the steps of the dais on which the bed was mounted sprawled a third, also dying.

We were all members of a lodge of decadents, a group dedicated to the profane and the macabre, which owned the chateau around us. The group had developed a taxonomy of suicides. Each member had been assigned a specific type of suicide to perform. I had drawn Poisons/Animal-based Poisons/Insectoid Poisons/Spider. Presumably the others in the room were also in the “Poison” subgroup. I imagined that elsewhere in the chateau lodge members were hanging themselves, hurling themselves from the rooftops, opening their wrists, etc.

I could feel the venom pumping through my veins. Already I was too weak to move. Then came my last thoughts:

“Wait a second–I don’t want to kill myself! Why did we do this? This is stupid!”

But it was too late. I succumbed…

Only to wake up with the appropriate sense of relief on finding that one has not, after all, committed suicide.

If there are in fact sentient beings outside this world, and if we can in fact communicate with them in real time, then First Contact will detonate all human assumptions like a case of sweaty dynamite in an old toolshed. Religion, art, civil rights, humanism–everything will be blasted to bits as we face the reality of utter difference, of our initiation into a practical, rather than theoretical, post-Copernican world.

Fortunately for humanity, I suspect that the odds of such contact are infinitesimal. So don’t worry about it.

I have been informed that WordPress puts ads on this blog. I don’t see them in the Author view, so I didn’t know. I find the idea that anyone thinks my writing could somehow be leveraged to sell anything unaccountably amusing, but, y’know, if I’m being called on to endorse products, I want to choose which ones.

Like…

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(Laraine Newman is shown standing in a verdant glade, smiling. She withdraws her lips to reveal a cube of yeast held between her teeth.)

Friends, don’t delay! Ask for FLEISCHMANN’S YEAST anywhere it’s still 1935!

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