Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

So here is my curse, and Faust had the same ailment, which did not end well for the poor guy:  I was born with an unquenchable hunger for all the knowledge the world ever possessed, and even knowledge the world never possessed – all of it.  I wanted to know everything – still do – all the secrets guarded by every hidden sect across the globe, from the Freemasons to the Mithraists to the Templars and Rosicrusians, the chronicles of Da Vinci and Zoroaster, back again, through every hidden or destroyed record sealed up inside altars, bricked up inside walls, hidden in vaults and tunnels, in cities now under the sea, lost by fire, destroyed by flood, encased in magma and lava, or only ever known by verbal whispers passed from parent to child and never written down through the pagans and the druids and the Far Easterns and the Egyptians and all the other cultures throughout the world and throughout time.  This hunger never went away, no matter how much information I crammed into my brain, and if anything, every answer I ever obtained did not spawn the satisfaction I had hoped for, but created yet another outwardly spiraling plethora of more questions and curiosities.  One human cannot possibly have the capacity to contain all the knowledge I crave, and this hunger has no shape, form or affiliation.  This has presented many challenges throughout my life, because as far as I know, no-one has ever been able to run in every direction at once.  It’s pretty amusing to bystanders, however, when I try.  Picture Cerberus chasing his tail, and you’re not too far off.

The thing is, I do feel special; either I am special or I am a lunatic, but since being a kid I’ve been like a bug-light to ghosts, and more recently to ‘people’ who visit me in my dreams.  There is a whole tribe, many of them, and places they live which aren’t on this rock or in this dimension.  I wake up most mornings with the feeling I was THERE – in the place where all the answers were, and then as this bastard condition known as consciousness takes over, it fades and slips away too quickly for me to retain, and this is immensely frustrating.

I was very lucky as a kid, in that my parents were not religious, and so I didn’t have any dogma shoved down my throat.  In addition, my dad is an absolutely wildly interesting man.  He, like me, is crazy about this stuff, and we used to go on these adventures all the time, looking for fossils or ghosts, watching for UFOs, reading everything we could get our hands on about King Arthur, Merlin, Camelot – whatever.  In fact, I truly do not understand and cannot fathom people who aren’t built this way.  People who are disinterested in things are completely bizarre to me; I don’t judge them, but nor do I understand them, or get what makes them tick.  My friends were like me, and we gravitated towards the occult and the darker side of nature.  Even though I grew up and moved away from my original country, this has never, ever died in me.  I was fanatical about chaos magic, and used to dream as a child about being caught up in the primordial ooze – spiraling ink blobs whirling round at breakneck speeds before the world was formed.  It didn’t feel like a dream, but a memory, and I have always instinctively known – albeit never been able to give form or validation to this knowledge – that our life as humans truly is transient and fleeting.  I have never subscribed to any subset of religious thinking, and have always been a staunch opponent of organized religion, but I’m not atheist either.  In fact, I’m a lifelong member of the “I don’t know what’s out there, and I’m comfortable with that” club.  If we knew everything, then what would be left to look forward to?

But lately, I do feel like I’m getting closer to understanding something.  I don’t know what it is, but I have a scent.  I’m wondering if this is naturally what happens to people as we age, and edge closer to death?

Good things are happening this week!  I decided to start diversifying my activities, and rekindle a few old creative flames, to offset my day-job blah.  As a result:

I have been invited to play at a jazz recital in June, and soon afterwards, to start teaching guitar at Zabinski music studio, in Pawtucket’s Hope Artiste Village.  Very excited!  So I will get to test my new crazy solo jazz-classical style on a real live audience.  Fingers crossed they don’t pelt me with rotten tomatoes.  I also want to start a mosh pit of really small children, and make this venture mutually entertaining. It has been approximately 12 years since I last played live, so my heart is thanking me profusely for getting off my arse again.

I also just did an interview with Motif magazine, a local arts / entertainment paper, for a feature they’re writing on me in their next issue, focusing on the publication and sale of “Vegetables” in Machine of Death, and my current mission to film-script the story and try to sell that on the back of some media-whoring I’m planning.

This weekend is also Gaspee Days festival in Warwick’s Pawtuxet Village, so if you’re heading down there, look out for my friend Kari, and her incredible macramé jewelry designs at the Fnurra Smycken tent!  If you buy lots of her stuff this weekend as a result of my pitch, I reckon she might buy me a beer next time we’re out.  But I haven’t proposed this to her yet, and I still owe her a shot of Jameson’s.  Seriously though, her work is truly awesome.

 

Have a great long weekend folks!  I’m not getting out of bed on Monday, for any reason.  By Tuesday, my reason will be to shower and change the sheets.

Back in my reckless and feckless youth, (or “yoof”, if we’re being regionally appropriate), I was obsessed with learning how to consciously Astral Travel, and with learning how to invoke lucid dreams.  I learned a very cool trick from an interview with Chris Barnes – the vocalist from Cannibal Corpse, who was incidentally way into this stuff – in which you program your subconscious as you’re falling asleep, by implanting triggers in your mind which allow you to ‘wake up’ in the dream, and start making conscious decisions while you are fully asleep.  This is unbelievably effective.

What you do is this:  As you’re dozing off – preferably not whilst driving – think of a light switch on a wall, next to a door.  Make it as vivid as possible, and meditate on this until you are asleep.  For vividity’s sake, I saw a bright green light switch on a red wall.  Do this every night for a while; make that your falling-asleep mantra.  And then in your dreams, on any given night, keep an eye out for this light switch.  Once you see it, your mind will recognize it as a cue, and as soon as you see this cue in your dream, look at the palms of your hands (if you are lucky enough to have them).

What happens is this:  When you look at your hands, you will immediately teleport into another place in the dream – could be anywhere.  And because you a) saw your cue, and b) made the deliberate decision to look at your hands, you become fully cognizant of your dream surroundings, and can then walk round and go wherever you please.  (I highly recommend doing this after watching several episodes of the Magic Roundabout!) Not only will you then get to enjoy absolute freedom to go anywhere in the world, but you will also remember every detail of the dream / trip when you wake up; this in and of itself is priceless – especially if like me, you have a memory like a whatchamacallit.

So I used to always go looking for said power animal, but in the last ~ 20 years, never found it, and started to discount the power animal story as being hokum.  But recently I’ve begun doing this again, and something occurred to me:  The Power Animal can be whatever you want it to be, and if it doesn’t find you, fkit – go and find it.  Better still, program it in there.  After all, spirit guides aren’t ACTUALLY animals – obviously.  That would just be weird.  They’re ghosts / telepathic aliens made of light / inventions of our perspective / small gods / whatever.  So they’ll adapt to whatever form works for you.  Since I moved to the US, I’ve had a particular affinity for frogs.  This stems from a small metal statue we have on the coffee table of a frog sitting in a Buddha pose.  This little statue has made me feel so Zen over the years, I named him “Peace Frog”.  (Hmm – maybe my power animal is Jim Morrison – I could live with that too).  So the conclusion of this is actually quite boring – nothing has yet happened with my power frog, but I just decided that’s quite appropriate.  So I’m going to go to sleep tonight, astrally travel to someplace swampy and fetid – maybe a fetid swamp – and I am SO going to hang with my amphibious friend, to see what the hell is going on around these parts.  Because while I’m awake, I live in a state of perpetual confusion and bewilderment.  If anyone wants a souvenir, (like a bag of dead mosquitoes), let me know.  You have about 8 hours to get your requests in, and then I depart.

Peace Out!

CC

I have a very nice life on the East Coast of America, but have been through some unbelievable doses of crazy to get here.  I rarely ever speak about the most formative times of my life, but every now and again I feel like it.  I’m not American – I hail from Northern England, but came here to get married –  literally speaking, with the clothes on my back and a relatively small suitcase, in 2004 (October 1st – the day before Gandhi’s birthday).  Specifically, I come from a place triangulated between Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, called The Dearne Valley.

When I was born, the Dearne Valley had a major coal mining industry, and everyone was gainfully employed.  My grandfather drove coal trains at Manvers Colliery through his whole post WWII career; it supported everyone.  But then around 1984, when I was about 8, the National Union of Mineworkers went on strike due to shitty working conditions and abysmally low wages, and the rest is sadly history; the pits all closed, almost everyone I knew lost their jobs, my parents had a grocer’s shop for a while which they had to close because nobody had any money for food, and the place very tragically crumbled into the pits of hell.  If you ever saw Billy Elliot, Brassed Off or The Full Monty, that is EXACTLY what it was like.  People were cold, hungry, desperate, scared and had no idea how they were going to buy their next meal.  Two of my childhood friends and peers (brothers) were killed aged about 9 and 12, digging into a railway embankment for coal one night to keep the house warm, when a makeshift tunnel they dug off Railway View collapsed.  Suicides and eviction went through the roof.  Everyone went hungry, and we all became experts at sustaining on potatoes and home-grown vegetables.  Maggie Thatcher just died last week, and I could imagine one or two street parties being thrown to celebrate her demise.  Although I don’t fault the Iron Lady or know too much about the political intricacies involved – she was leading a country with a situation on its hands; she may have made some questionable decisions, but she didn’t make the coal run out.  Fossil fuels just runs out; end of story.

But despite the turmoil and the tragedy, the adults in my community worked VERY hard to shield the children from how scared they were.  (And it is tough trying to implement optimism and hope to a kid living in a warzone.)

When the strikes happened, and the “scabs” (fkin HATE that word) were trying to go to work and NOT strike, a lot of violence happened in and throughout my community.  Every village had a pit – sometimes two – and you couldn’t go anywhere (including school) without walking past picket lines.  When we came back from playing football on the rec, the picketing miners outside Goldthorpe pit would always, always share their sandwiches and water with us, and shoot the shit about who won, and which teams we all supported.  Then two days later you’d hear about that same sandwich-sharing man getting his head busted in by a police truncheon, when a fight broke out because another decent man tried to go to work, and a riot broke out.  These were the fathers and uncles and brothers of my friends, who were going to war with each other.  When I was 8 we were escorted out of school, because rioting between miners and cops spilled through into the streets, and one day, into my school itself.  They bloodied up the yard pretty good, and at one point, several cops chased several miners actually into the main school building, which culminated in some very violent arrests outside a classroom where 6-year-olds were finger painting.  It was very exciting at the time; I’m 37 now, and to some extent, the trauma is only just starting to catch up with me.

One thing that occurred to me only recently though is the real root cause behind all of this industrial death:  There was no coal left, and the pit bosses were all too aware of this.  A decade earlier, Sheffield’s world-famous Steel Industry had suffered the same horror, and putting 2+2 together, it was because of the lack of coal.  The Steel Furnaces run on a LOT of the stuff, and towards the end, the coal board were having to choose between whether they kept supplying the steel industry, or sold the remaining dregs to the locals so they could heat their houses.  In the end, we all lost.  And almost 30 years later, self-esteem is in very short supply in that region.  It killed not only people, but everything.

So all is pretty good these days and the place is much more stable; but based on that, I do still have a hard time listening to very privileged people hating on “social welfare systems” and “free healthcare systems”.  To those people, I have only this to say:

If you haven’t lived through desperation, then please tone it down a bit, because you have NO IDEA what you are talking about.  Every “handout” you attack puts bread in the mouths of children.  Every “free” doctor’s appointment saved the lives of MY PEOPLE who would be stone dead without it.  Every scornful face I see ridiculing “Socialist” programs is very lucky to have a place to live, and everyone who resents paying into a system that helps the under-privileged does not deserve to live in a place that would be willing to do so.  If you really do feel that mercenary, I would challenge you to go it alone, in some paradise where you can’t take it all for granted, and the police ARE to be feared and hospitals don’t exist.  Words are deceptively cheap and easy, but can make or break friendships in a heartbeat.  Be kind to everybody; it doesn’t matter where they’re from – it only matters that they are here.

In one form or another I’ve had that “Ninja Pencil” blog theme kicking around in various guises, initially as the term used to relate to artwork I was trying to promote.  But now I’m not there any more, I’m here, a few years later, and so I’m bidding the ninjas farewell and going to train under the warrior monk Lu-Tze, from Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time.  I obviously can’t stop thinking about time-travel.   Pratchett and Star Trek are equally responsible.  And maybe Galactica, with their jump drives and FTL technology.  I think if I need to get serious about my writing, I need to start channeling JJ Abrams or Gene Rodenberry in my pre-scriptionic meditation rituals.  And if I can channel the Great Bird of the Universe, then I’m gonna start channeling Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Cliff Burton when I play guitar, and Jerry Goldsmith when I write music.

I joined the local YMCA a few days ago, and the place is great, not to mention yuge!  They’ve got a big indoor rock-wall which I’m dying to try out, and they have induction sessions which I plan on attending pretty soon.  So yesterday I swam for the first time in forever, getting to about 750 or 800 meters before they closed at 2.  I wanted to keep going, so instead I sulked in the steam-room for about forty five minutes.  It was most traumatic.  And then, for consolation, I met a friend for beers at Dave’s on Post Road in Warwick.  Yesterday was fun.  This weekend, I am doing as little as possible.

CC

I’ve always been obsessed with time travel, and then something startling – you might even say ASTONISHING – occurred to me today: I am a frackin time traveler. In late March 1976 I decided, “this womb is getting stinky”, and so I decided to bail. And holy cow, was April Fool’s Day an apt day to escape, because this place has got NOTHING on the womb – joke was on me BIG TIME. I turned round to crawl back in, but my biological mother was already in the bar, on her third vodka.
When I realized I was born for good, I decided to time travel forward by a few years, and try school. So I boosted about 5 years, and then quickly decided that was an error. So I curled up in fetal position in bed that night, and elected to go back to my fourth Christmas.  But this time round, right before my brother bit that chunk out of my back, I planned to sidestep his sneaky chompers and watch him hit the deck in full lunge, maybe even land his face in a bowl of cereal. So I closed my eyes, set the dials and went back. Guess what? My plan worked exactly – there were cornflakes stuck to every wall in the house, by the time I was done with my deft ninjistics. He had no idea I knew he was coming, I almost felt bad for him it was so easy.  Next day I was done with being a baby, and decided I wanted to be thirty-seven, hilarious, good looking, popular, talented, sardonic, and develop a wit that wove in and out of sarcasm like a sine wave.  Or, a wit-weave-wave, if you are an appreciator of alliteration.  So here I am, happy at last! I love my life.

Place smells great right now – I’ve got a Shepherd’s Pie in the oven. I kept seeing all these vegan and vegetarian recipes everywhere, so decided to be radical and try the cannibal version. I found a sleeping shepherd – I’ll spare you the details – but you can substitute the human for either ground turkey if you are a carnivore, chick peas if you are a vegivore or both if you are an awesomnivore. I put extra chunky onions in there, an extra carrot, peas, sweetcorn and some Coleman’s sauce. I’m salivating like Pavlov’s Dog round about now, so I’m going to go sign off, savage my postal delivery person’s leg and then hi-five my late lunch.

Have a nice weekend, cats!

CC

Fact:  We perpetually try to balance everything.  Make the ups and the downs meet somewhere in the middle, eat enough but not too much, work out but not overdo it or injure yourself – every single thing is balance.  I am not religious, but my god is equilibrium.  You can always, always count on it – for every action, there is (and always will be) an equal and opposite reaction.  This is quite obvious.  So following this logic, we are in the middle of stuff.  We’re not up in the sky, we’re not under the sea, we generally exist somewhere between the two, and everything is dualistic in nature.  There cannot possibly be only one side of anything.

So…

On my insatiable quest for bliss and harmony, I like to interact and talk.  I enjoy mind-wrestling conversations over beer.  I love what happens when brains converge.  I love company, but I don’t love it too much.   Because we need balance.  We need companionship with music and revelry, but we need solitude and silence in equal measure.  This is something I need to work on, in my bid to be a better human.  I probably need to shut up a bit more, because when I get an idea, or a thought – which we all get, all the time – I have to tell somebody.  And I wonder though if this happens too much?  There are days when I get sick of hearing my own voice.  Even my internal dialogue bugs me, and I tell myself to SHUT UP.  I meditate.   I clamp my gob.  I make myself quiet, and then my internal dialogue eventually follows suit and shuts up too.  Balance is attained.

But out in public I despair, and plead and beg with the universe to make some other people shut up too.  All I hear is noise and opinion, which sometimes is OK, but these days there is no limit on the noise and blah blah blah everywhere we go.  Facebook is the worst for it.  I didn’t sign up to read every bigmouthed wanker yelling about something Obama did, or how they feel about abortion or gun control.  If that was what I wanted, I would enter the world of politics.  But I don’t, and so I didn’t.  And neither did the ones yelling about shit.  So be QUIET!!!!  Even when they are physically quiet, they infect the Internet with their noise.  Words are noise.  Thoughts are noise.  Bumper-stickers are noise, and the more inflammatory the subject matter is, the louder and more traumatizing the noise becomes.  Stop, please!  I beg you – the noise is killing my brain.

In a harmonious world, the only sound I want is the sound of people enjoying themselves.  We are an interactive species, and so our moods and sounds affect and infect others.  Laughter and anger are contagious in equal measure – I know this because my god tells me this is the case.  And unless something is really, really important and we are in imminent danger, then I could not justify walking into a room full of calm people and making them all angry because I had an opinion about something.  This would be very inconsiderate of me.  I wouldn’t insult someone for no reason (other than fun), so why would I consider it OK to cause a fight by bringing up unnecessary incendiary topics, merely because they entered my head?  All we really want in life is to be safe, be fed, stay warm, to love and to laugh, and yet all we seem to do is fight, yell, hate and kill or injure each other, mostly with words, but sometimes with rocks, birch branches and porcupines.  (Or is ‘Porcupine’ plural as well as singular?)

I believe everything will take care of itself, no matter what – my god tells me this.  Every up will eventually come down etc.   But right now, at this present moment, with communication tools and a captive audience literally at our fingertips, the balance is slipping.  We are being noisier than we are being quiet, and this is causing my bollocks to retract.

So please, for the love of God, for the love of equilibrium, for the love of love, for the love of Star Trek, for the love of whatever it takes to motivate you – SHUT UP, just for a bit.  And when you want to talk again, only talk calmly, about happy stuff, and make jokes, pay a compliment to someone, but stop infecting the world with more anger.  It has enough already.   If you do, I promise I will too, and to further that, I promise your life will be a little bit better for it.  You will be happier if you just shut the holy fuck up.

(See that?  Wasn’t my opinion awesome?  Aren’t I clever?  Don’t you agree?  And while we’re on the topic of my opinion, do you want to hear about how angry I feel about guns and sexism and racism?  Thought not.)

Something I’ve been pondering lately is how our species love puzzles of all kinds, (from crosswords to Sudoku, Connect 4, jigsaws, chess, cryptograms, you name it.) But so many of the general populous of puzzle solvers are terrified or oblivious to the fact that learning to write computer programs comes from the exact same place & passion. If you hunger for mental challenges, putting pieces together, figuring your way through a maze or connecting dots for fun, then you could apply this pastime & hunger to something that will have so much leverage in your life, it’s phenomenal. Learning how computers work, and then how to expand this understanding to make them do more, was by far the most powerful thing I ever directed my hunger towards. I went from being terrified of touching Excel (because it did things I didn’t understand) to learning how to get under the hood, break down the walls and limits and make that one program do virtually whatever I wanted it to do. But getting there was just another puzzle and series of basic steps, to which I applied my crossword-brain.

I took some classes and have a ton of books about everything and anything; I learned several languages from C to php to VB to VBA to whatever. But to this day, the most important 2 things in my entire learning arsenal were:

1. A basic class on how computers work, which essentially said: “they are dumb”. They follow steps, and only when told to do so. They don’t make assumptions, and they need explicit instructions, or they can’t do anything.

2. A language-independent class on the fundamentals of programming. It taught me how to drop my assumptions, think in smaller and smaller terms about how things come to be, how to forget what I thought I knew, and then how to reconstruct my knowledge whilst paying attention to the things we tend to overlook, due to their simplicity. “Otto the Robot” was the most important puzzle I ever solved, and this was before I allowed myself to even consider what a development environment was.

When you make a program which automates and simplifies someone’s life, they look at you like you’re an alchemist. You just turned lead into gold, you just wove magic out of thin air. The inevitable next question is: “How can I learn to do THAT?”

The unfortunate answer is, “by becoming obsessed, dedicated, single-minded and applying hundreds and thousands of hours into wanting to do it, never accepting no for an answer, never accepting that something is beyond you, and by so much patience and self-forgiveness that nothing will beat you into submission, no matter how hard it tries.” (We make it look easy so folks often assume it is.)

For the first time in my life, my twisted obsessive personality worked in my favor, because I HATE not knowing things, I hate when something won’t work when it should, and I especially can’t accept this when I know that every single thing is made of a system of steps and checks.

Bottom line: If you like puzzles, then learn how computers work, and apply that passion towards making the world a better and more efficient place. Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic involved.

CC

George Orwell is (was) a freaking genius.  I had a hard time continuing through to the end, because the main character Gordon Comstock is SUCH a despicably infuriating idiot.  Using reverse psych to make several critical social statements, Orwell managed to cover not only our enslavement to the green god of money, but more importantly, the ridiculousness of Sexism and gender discrimination.  Unfortunately, he had to do it in a way that made me so crazy, angry and pained, he almost lost me.  Absolute genius. I wish I could force certain ignorant people to read this, and then reflect on how dumb the idea is that men and women have different brains due to their gender.  It is going to take quite a long time for me to shake this one off, and I now need to take a shower after reading it.  This is the original Fight Club.

There are so many things I want to do at the same time, I try to do them all, then get stressed, I drive myself bananas, and relatively few of the tasks get completed in decent time. I have 3 big things looming:

1. I need to rewrite the last third of the novel formerly known as MEAT.
2. I need to complete the film script. I’m 40 pages in, have about 60 to go.
3. I have a 5 hour ASQ exam in December, and I am behind on my studying.

The thing with the novel – I had an agent and a few near-sells. An editor at St. Martins wanted to buy it, but it was shot down by his superiors. The book is really good, but I have completely re-imagined the antagonist and their grand scheme / locale / direction / intention / etc. And the new vision I have for this is freaking unbelievable, and will make the book ten times better, darker and more original. I know I can absolutely sell this to a major house. But it is a pretty big endeavor given my current time constraints with work and school. October 1 thru 14, some big Random House imprint is opening to unagented subs, and the book fits the genres they are looking for. I don’t know if it’s possible to have it done by then, or more accurately – I don’t know if that’s where I want to put my focus right now.

The script is going well – 2 nights ago a scene dragged me out of bed to grab a notebook; now the flow is coming faster than I can get it down. It’s been ages since I experienced that. I am very excited about this, and hope to have it finished this fall.

These are self-imposed goal dates and endeavors, but the ASQ exam in December is a very real deadline and relevant to my job, so I need to put that first. I’m not too far behind, just have a little ketchup to do. Thanks for helping me figure that out.
And I have about 9 weeks to go taking this current class in school. That’s important too. After this class, I have 4 left for my AS degree.