Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Tada! The final installment of the serial ≟Love was earlier today. ≟Love was written as a series of Tweets, and self-publishing it was a bit of an experiment; I am curious about its presentation. As a reader, how did the Twitter format work for you? I imagine that the experience might be slightly different depending on if you followed the story on Twitter, on Facebook, or this blog site. Um, you did follow it, right?

What I noticed over the month was that some folks missed the opening explanation that ≟Love was a serial, so they weren't sure if they were reading personal updates, excerpts from a larger work in progress or something else. As the author, I noticed that folks on Facebook seemed more likely to comment on a particular installment of the story than Twitter folks (but then again I have 83 followers on Twitter and 259 on Facebook).

As a publisher, scheduling ≟Love was relatively easy, although the timing threw me a little because I didn't figure out what time zone the software I was using was in. It also required a lot of cutting and pasting between the manuscript and the Twitter software. Not so bad, but I did want about an hour's worth of uninterrupted time to do correctly (which I don't always get, so I found myself going back and tweaking the timestamps). I really appreciate what Nathan Lilly of Thaumatrope does much more after doing this with just one serial.

I do really want to know: Did you see ≟Love on Twitter, Facebook, this blog, or Google Buzz? Did the story format work for you? Was following the story fun, or was it noise cluttering up your social networking?

In case you're joining in at the end, here's the entire story.


Once I power up, I say, "I love you," and step toward Sara. She turns me off. When power returns, there's a mirror. Requited love!

Love at first reboot. The mirror shatters when I try to hug it. Why does Sara turn me off every time her programming works?

Reboot. This time a Mylar balloon reflects my robot body. So shiny. So huggable. I'm so happy, until it pops.

Sara helps me smooth out the balloon. My image isn't _quite_ how I remember it. But it's close and I'm programmed to adapt.

Sara's assistant, Ralph, enters. I can see in his face he loves her. Strange; she doesn't love him, but she hasn't rebooted him.

"How long has Ralph been running his programming?" I ask. Sara smiles. "Thirty-four years." That's forever in CPU cycles.

I gently brush Mylar and my image ripples. "Will I love my balloon for as long as Ralph has loved you?" I ask. Ralph turns me off.

I power up remembering Ralph's angry face. He's gone and Sara's watching. I still hold my balloon and I murmur calming words to it.

Sara points to my balloon. "Are you in love?" I blow it a kiss, and my image kisses, too. "How could I not?" I ask.

Sara asks, "How did you know Ralph loves me?" This is the woman who programmed my body language, pattern recognition, and sensors?

I'm compiling a file about love for Sara. Robots must be better at love than humans, or else she'd have Ralph doing this.

3AM. Ralph enters the lab. "OK, kid," he says, pretending not to be angry, "We're going to do some field testing."

I power up in a room with billowing canvas walls. I stand but can't walk. Blinking lights and Tesla coils tower behind me.

Ralph holds my balloon and a pair of scissors! "You work for me," he says, "or else." If only my legs could do more than stand.

I stand in a circus tent. The flashing sign above my Tesla shrine reads, "Confirm your Love with The Amazing, Electro Eros-o-Meter!"

Usually my customers are in love. Ralph lets me see my balloon at the end of the day if I lie to the ones who aren't.

I've just seen my first clowns. A pair of them came in. They're in love. Even when they club each other. I think.

My fifth couple today. She loves him, and he wants to _own_ her. Ralph tries to refund their money as they storm away.

It is clear to me from the random sample of couples Ralph brings in that he has no hypothesis about love.

Tonight, Ralph says, "Kid, soon we'll run away from the circus. It's been fun, but you're ready to work for millionaires."

He was telling me the truth; the circus really _was_ a field test. I want to go back to Sara and the lab.

Ralph asks me, "Why does Sara love you?" He stomps out when I tell him she doesn't love me, she loves her work.

Sara, Ralph, and my customers. They say they want to know about love, but not really. Is my programming a giant falsehood?

Love a falsehood? Not when my balloon is hanging from a far circus tent corner. "Together," I say, "we'll show them love is real."

My legs won't walk, but my arms, hips and spine still work. I'm programmed to adapt -- I walk on my hands to where my love waits.

Using Hooke's Law to calibrate handsprings for love. It's the only way I can think of to get my balloon from the tent corner.

My arms aren't designed for bouncing. I've almost snagged my balloon with my useless left foot. So. Close. Just. One. More.

I've miscalculated and the tent has collapsed. Where's my balloon? Over angry voices and shorting Tesla coils I hear Ralph shouting.

A glint in the canvas near my foot! I rescue my balloon from the tent folds. Then infrared light flares and Ralph yells, "Fire!"

The tent is on fire. My left foot is caught in canvas. I'm holding my balloon in one hand and pulling myself forward on my elbows.

I shake my hips and wiggle my foot lose. When I crawl out from underneath the tent, I see Ralph and clowns with a fire hose.

My Tesla shrine is in flames. Time to handspring out of here! Ralph sees me and grabs for the fire hose nozzle. That can't be good.

Something bangs and the circus lights and motors near us stop. By firelight, the head clown and Ralph wrestle over the nozzle.

It's hard to walk on my hands when one of them is a fist holding my balloon. Be strong, my love. I'll get us out of here.

Water mists my arms as I hand-walk away. Sara programmed me to not get wet. I wish she'd made me watertight.

Clown scuffle continues as I leave. I'm skidding on mud. I want to look everywhere, but I have to give walking highest CPU priority.

I've hidden myself in the shadows of a powered down carousel. By the glow of my IR system, I open my palm - my balloon is in scraps!

I try to smooth out the biggest balloon scrap and it tears. The crinkled and muddy Mylar doesn't reflect our love like it used to.

Why wasn't I made with pockets the way humans are? All I have is a DVD-ROM drive tray. I can't read my love like a disk.

My drive tray is damaged and won't close. I spend many thousands of CPU cycles editing and re-editing what I should have done.

My balloon hangs from my open disk drive tray. Power returns and the carousel lights up. I have to get back to the lab and Sara.

Wonderful! On the far side of the carousel is a giant balloon with a basket underneath. "Size isn't everything," I reassure my love.

I hand-walk toward the big balloon. It doesn't reflect anything. Perhaps it's in love with itself?

I've just flipped into the basket when I hear Ralph shout, "There it is!" I fling sandbags at him.

Ralph's upturned face grows smaller as I rise above the circus. "Hang on," I say to my old balloon, still held in my DVD drive tray.

When the big balloon gets tired and I land in a corn field, the cars that have been chasing stop and people pour out of them.

Sara and a huge crowd of people run up to me. "Got that love file saved?" she asks. I was right; she does love her work the most.

Sara can restore me to a save point from before the circus, or I can remember everything. I ask for pockets and a tray fix.

Back at the lab, Sara stops at a door. "There's someone I want you to meet." It's a younger me, with another balloon.

We wave at each other. "What is in your drive?" he asks. I have much to tell him. Sara smiles, leans back and takes notes.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Skyline Park Concert

2010-06-10 Thursday

This was a flight recovery day.

In the evening, we went to hear Veronica's husband, Joe, play drums for a Reggae Band at Skyline Park. The architecture there reminded me of Reed College because it was brick and Tudor timbered. It was built about the same time as Reed, too.

Mark sent me off to photograph everything while the rest of the relatives listened to music. [Scenes of teen boys teaching five year olds sarcastic zombie fart jokes deleted]

The feature from the park that most sticks in my mind was the promenade. A narrow pathway of water cascaded out of circular pool's rim, and then fell four feet into a pool below. Above it all was the brick manor about a quarter mile in the distance.

Okay. The other instant that sticks with me was when I was coming up on a photographer and a newlywed couple. They had paused for a shot in a gazebo I wanted to pass through to get back to the distant concert. The photographer noticed the couple's gaze focused on something behind her and turned. "EEEK!" she gasped. "Boo!" I said and smiled. She hadn't heard me on the gravel path.

The Cloisters (and the Met)

2010-06-22 Tuesday.

This was my day to wander around, unsupervised, in New York, so I chose to visit The Cloisters. It had been about a decade since I'd visited last.

I managed to navigate New York transportation from Suffern and arrived at The Cloisters at about 10 AM. Along the way I helped a Japanese tourist buy a fun pass, navigate the turn styles, and find the right train to Times Square (which is big, because I normally am Geographically Impaired). Fortified with a Pepsi, I ascended the long stone ramps and stairways into the mediaeval collection of art.

I know you're going to ask: did you see the Unicorn Tapestries? Yes -- but I find them heavy, dark and depressing, so I only saw them for a few moments.
What I love about the Cloisters is all the over-the-top art. My favorite objects tend to be either sculptures or stained glass or silver. While I was there, I thought I'd hunt for foliate heads. I also planned to attended a mediaeval garden tour.

I saw the life-sized carving of Balthazar ("You Better Work!") presenting myrrh, and the painting of a slightly mutant camel. I didn't see the Bronze Bird Walking Stick in the treasury, which was a pity. But I did see the old playing cards, some manuscripts -- probably the Very Old Translation of Thomas Aquinas had the most Historical Wowness -- and a capitol carving of a dancing demon which reminded me of the time Mark posed in imitation of its vaudeville stage stance.

What it cool about the Cloisters is that there is some miniature work that astonishes me, especially the paintings on a 3 by 5 piece of vellum. Considering they were probably done in a dark room with a single goat's hair as a brush instead of with ray-tracing software and a 500 dpi three-tone printer, they are even more miraculous.

Okay, and the Saint-Guilhem Cloister is just plain cool.

Sadly, at the cafe, I mistakenly ordered a tuna-salad sandwich only to discover that Deadly Red Peppers lurked inside. So my lunch was ex-sandwich wilted lettuce leaves and an ex-tuna sandwich bun. And a Coke.

Then it was off to the gardens! Which were kind of hot. And humid. Our tour guide through the gardens was a very old-school-Jackie-O-New-York woman. Her accent fascinated me because it was an admixture of Connecticut and New York (I think). Having given tours at Arcosanti, I can appreciate the balancing act of giving information to a wide variety of people.

The two things I walked away with were 1) mediaeval artists had a less complete knowledge of the world's plants and animals than we do today, with the result of depictions of plants like "strawberry trees," and 2) mediaeval folks probably used and re-used plants and wood much more than we do.

I must have dressed professorially, because afterward one woman on the tour asked me about the etymology of "paradise" (it's Persian from "pardes") and another asked me about the soil composition of the plants (I said I didn't know). I guess dressing in a nice shirt and knowing how to harvest a mandrake root is a great way to meet people in The Cloisters' gardens.

The foliate head quest only yielded one or two. I guess the rest are still in England where Lady Raglan found them. I did find some wild men on top of some ewers.

I wished Mark had managed to come, because there's nothing quite like running the ragged edge of sacrilege and divine campiness that so many objects in the Cloisters inspire with one's spouse. Every time I looked at a particular object or painting, I could see Mark striking a similar pose and saying something like, "I know, we need some kind of spiritual contraption; like Heaven!" Or the two of us would admire some flowing robes together.

By early afternoon, I discovered that I'd seen everything that I wanted to at the Cloisters. This surprised me because I thought I'd make a day of it. But there's only so much people being dragged off in chains into the living Mouth of Hell by pretty cool-looking demons can do to offset all the heavy, ponderous Crucifixions. After a while it just gets depressing. Madonna and Dead Jesus after Madonna and Dead Jesus. I mean sure, there's some relief offered by the paintings of St. Andrew causing the Wicked Mother to be Killed by Fire from Heaven, or St Andrew saving a Bishop from The Devil in the Guise of a Beautiful Woman ("She looks like she's smoking a ciggi!" Mark would say), but then we're back to Jesus, Our Man of Sorrows, who is simultaneously Dead and Alive. To quote Monty Python, "It's like those psalms, they're so depressing."

I figured I could sneak to the MET on the A train before rush-hour. So I did.

When I got to the MET, I had about an hour. So I went to the Egyptian Wing and the Ancient Middle Eastern Wing. I love saying hello to my favorite pieces and discovering objects I haven't seen before. I still love the Diadem of the Harkonian Princess and the Silver Elomite Cow.

After the MET, I just happened to stumble into a la Maison du Chocolat, where I made a new best (French) friend simply by using the words "merci" and "autrefois" in the correct context and later admitting that I knew almost no French. I probably got extra points for the wistful "Marie de France" sigh prepended to the autrefois. Yes, I did think about singing "La Petite Lapin Fu-Fu"; No, I restrained myself.

Through a series of text messages, I managed navigate through thousands of women lining up to do Yoga In Central Park (okay, and a few Fine Looking Men Jogging) and hook up with Lime Green Larry, but not before making even more New Best Friends at the bar of the restaurant we were meeting at (Larry was delayed).

My solo New York Adventure ended on a soggy note as one of the biggest rain storms ever hit The City. I still can't believe I didn't see yoga devotees being washed away.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Writing in the Air

About once a year, we travel to visit Mark's family in Suffern, New York. Because of frequent flier games, Mark and I went out on separate flights. This flight out, I learned a few things.

1) I'm not as assertive as I like to think I am. During the first leg of my flight, I was squished into a seat that was not quite big enough for me, let alone the more portly guy sitting next to me. I'm pretty sure he had to have the arm-rest up for him to fit into the chair. He fell asleep with his hands clasped over his lap... and then his hands relaxed as he dosed. The result was that I spent about three minutes with a stranger's bare forearm touching my bare forearm.

It was like a Charles M Schultz cartoon strip. What do I do? There's a guy's forearm resting on my forearm. Do I pretend it's not there, or do I lift it or what? What if he sleeps for the entire flight? How do I fix this anyway, "Excuse me; we've hardly met and I'm a married man?" I tried shifting around, but my shoulder is sort of wedged behind his shoulders (which are rolled forward). I'm trapped; I can't even move my arm to get a book or pull out my carry-on so I can write something.

Finally I sort of gently poked him and said, "Excuse me, sir." Whew.

2) During the second leg of my flight, I got into an animated discussion with a theatre professor and LA theatre critique. Once he learned that I write short stories, he asked the inevitable question: what's your favorite fantasy or science fiction book? After several inarticulate efforts on my part to recall what fiction I've read outside of the Wordos critique groups, I realized that I need a short written list of favorite authors and novels, because when ever anyone asks me this, my mind goes iconic on me and all I can see is a picture of all the books on my bookshelves, but it's not in focus enough for me to pick out a title. And then I'm struck by a sense of inadequacy as I notice that all the stories I like are from 1985. My other problem is that I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately.

I hemmed and hawed my way with Tolkien, and then he asked me what I thought about "Wicked" (the book). I opined that "Wicked" was like "PETA meets 'Animal Farm.'" It was his favorite book. Ooops.

3) I always say I'm going to write on the airplane, and I never seem to get as much done as I think I will. For one thing, my manuscripts are always in the wrong piece of luggage. For another, if there's turbulence, I can't write. Finally, those tray-tables are always smaller than I remember, and it's really hard to balance the Palmtop keyboard and a drink on them without worrying that the plane is going to pull negative G's and caffeinated soft-drink is going to get all over my electronics.

Hmmm. I'm pretty sure that a too-small tray-table is a metaphor.


Earlier this week I went to The Cloisters...

... and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

More once I readjust to this time zone.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

≟Love, a Twitter Serial

I'm posting a Twitter serial, ≟Love. Over the next few weeks, there will be daily installments of the story appearing in my Twitter account. You can read them on the side bar here. If you need to catch up, you can search for "≟Love" on Twitter's web site and all the posts should come up.


Pastishe 2: Subtle Breathing (Starhawk)

It's important to spend time just experiencing your breath, to communication with your Breathing Self without limiting words. Sometimes there's a strong urge to examine breathing too much, to delve into logical, analytical books on the brain and the limbic system. While such knowledge can be useful, knowing too much in a theoretical sense can diminish your link to the Breathing Self.

Facing East, breathe deeply. You body depends on breathing. Breathing is the gateway to life. In a sacred space, stand still and concentrate on breathing. Imagine that the Goddess is before you, breathing, her breasts rising and falling in time with your inhalations and exhalations.

Take a deep breath and imaging yourself as a young girl (this exercise works even if you are a man). As you inhale, imagine the burgeoning, verdant beauty the Goddess sends us in the Spring. Imagine the budding leaves unfolding. See the flowers pushing up out of the ground. Allow your Breathing Self to smell the flowers' scents. Know that you are Istarte, Persephone, Diana, and others.

Now hold your breath and imagine yourself as a mother. Hold your breath in your womb (or your spiritual womb if you are a man). As you hold the breath imagine your children playing in a garden filled with the fecundity of the Earth. Bright apples -- no longer the shameful prize dubiously assigned by a moralistic patriarchy, but a divine gift from a sensual Goddess -- hang from the boughs above. See how the golden grain blows playfully in the breeze, which is the breath of the Goddess. Know that you are Hera, Demeter, Isis, and others.

When it feels right, let your breath escape from your lungs. Feel it rush out, through your windpipe, into your head, and out of your nasal passages. Let your released breath rise up, free and apart of you, like a bird. As you exhale, imagine yourself as the crone, with dray, hanging breasts, and kinky, grey stringy hair. As the last of the air goes out of you, feel that you are dry dust blowing away through the desert night under a dark moon. Know that you are Hacate, Kali, and others. (If you are doing this in a group, you might want to take turns letting out your last breath while other members wail in a circle around you.)

After you are done with this exercise. Sit down with your Book of Myst and record any thoughts or images which may have arisen. Repeat this several times -- you may notice a pattern. It can be a good practice to breathe together in a circle of friends. For example, when I first taught this in a class, I realized that I would breathe like my father did when he was worried about us trampling his flowerbeds. I had been breathing like him for years and I never realized it! With help from friends in the class I was able to stop breathing my father's breath and more clearly connect with my own personal Breathing Self.

Establishing a strong bond with one's Breathing Self is the first step to more fully knowing the Divine Breath of the Goddess.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Pastishe 1: Subtle Breathing (Dion Fortune)

Some have criticized me for publishing secret information on the Subtle Breathing Techniques of the Hidden Lodges. To them I reply that I have not betrayed any sacred vows of secrecy due to the simple fact that I have not been initiated into any of the Higher Mysteries of Breath by any lodge, hidden or otherwise. Any student of Psychology, aided with a basic knowledge of the Breathing practices of the East, could re-produce the technique I am about to outline here. That my work resembles the practices of certain secret orders comes as small surprise to me, as the Spiritual Flames of the West have frequently been rekindled by Sparks from the Altars of the East.

It should be remembered, however, that to simply transplant a tree from its native soil and clime and expect it to produce fruits of the same caliber is the greatest of follies; so is it too with spiritual practices. Indeed, those who do do so at their own peril. This in fact is the main purpose of this publication -- to educate newcomers inexperienced in Subtle Breathing, so that they do not inadvertently stumble across a foreign technique unsuited to their Western Physiology.

A brief illustration of such a case will prove my point. I once had the acquaintance of a young woman from Leeds, whom I shall call Miss M., and whom was on holiday at the boarding house where I first began my studies into the occult sciences. It turned out that she had encountered a certain swami, a Mr. C., who had recently arrived in this country, and subsequently began teaching stimulating Breathing Techniques purportedly with origins in India. After a few sessions with Mr. C., Miss M. became quite agitated and soon thereafter her Western Physiology became so out of balance after the repeated stimulation suddenly induced by Mr. C's technique that she collapsed and had to retire to the country for twelve weeks. During the time that she stayed in the boarding house, she was under the special care of Mr. P. (an Adept in Breathing if I ever saw one), whom in fact we were all studying under.

While I am on the subject of warnings, I feel that it is my duty as a student of the occult to bring up certain practices which some may find morally repugnant. While some might accuse me of trying to titillate a jaded society, it is my moral obligation to warn of the dangers of youths breathing together in an environment not firmly grounded with the mitigating polarity of a woman; a fellow student if necessary, but preferably one well versed in the instruction of Subtle Breathing.

When a balance is sexual polarity is not observed, the vibrations thus effected on the Higher Planes can have disastrous, unwholesome consequences which pose an especial pitfall to sensitive young men. Only decadent, decaying cultures, the likes of which lead to the decline of the Greeks, practice this kind of Subtle Breathing.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Virtual Deportment

I've been thinking about blogs and twitter and Facebook, and the ability to post things because I can. I want what I write -- missives, Tweets and updates -- to be funny, or a step or two above "OMG, I just took a shower." Okay, maybe more than just a step or two.

Mark likes to point out how much time I spend hovering over the computer screen, checking for new e-mails and updates. On one hand, I'm checking to see if any markets have gotten back to me, and I enjoy the virtual connection to my virtual community. On the other hand, I can recognize a random positive reinforcement schedule when I see one, and its effects on my behavior. So: virtual lifeline to a community, or mindless stimulus-response for the benefit of marketers? I think I shall re-frame the question from either/or to both/and.

Right now we're in a reenactment of "Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water" and last night it "rained and it rained and it rained." Is the previous sentence indicative of a life well lived, and by well lived I mean a life examined ? Mark would probably add, and a life with exercise and leafy green vegetables out in the sunshine instead of hunched over a keyboard in a dark Pepsi-den. Do I get more "points" for an allusion to Winnie-The-Pooh than I would if I wrote, "OMG, everything's drenched and there's a stream running over our patio." ?

Ah well... to paraphrase Lincoln, "It's not the number of posts in a life, but the life in the posts."

And now, off to fiction writing.