Tag Archives: inspiration

Robert Johnson, the Rock and Roll Faust

If you haven’t heard about the blues legend Robert Johnson — who supposedly sold his soul to the devil to master music, and who sang about walking with the devil, being chased by hell hounds, and making a deal with the devil at the crossroads, and who supposedly died at age 26 howling and barking like a mad dog at the moon — then you have now. To say his impact on rock and roll was astronomical would be to put it too weakly.

robertjohnson

Robert Johnson has often been held up as one of the most amazing musicians ever by many rock and roll legends, however a lot of his songs sound very high-pitched, eerie, and can be offputting to new listeners. This is because they were recorded slightly too fast on the record machine, probably to cram more songs on the record and save money.

Well, now someone has at last gone in and slowed them back down again, and man, I like them better this way. I could listen to them all day. As an added bonus, you can now hear the influence of Son House on his singing, hear the emotion and humor in his voice, and his songs also feel like a natural extension of the Mississippi Delta Blues.

Listen to them here:

 

Looking without looking, seeing without seeing

When you look at a field, what do you see? Do you see “green” or “grass” or even just “field”? If so, you’re not really looking.

I am looking at one now, and I see at least five to ten different shades of green, at least 3 different shades of tan and brown, and everything bit of grass, living or dead, at a different length. Even grasses of the same species look unique. They clump together, run in strips or curves, and the leave huge open spaces. Fate and randomness has textured like the rind of an orange.

This field was once a building, a vast warehouse, and the foundation of it is still there underneath, and there are tiny bits of rubble just beyond sight. The bulldozers scraped the whole surface clean once, long ago, and so the field always looks like it has been plowed for crops where their teeth dragged and then overgrown even though it has never been plowed before.

But what really amazes me are the bushes. You don’t even see them when you look at this place at first — you look and you see “field” and that’s all, and all the bushes disappear from your eyes because you see a category, a shape, an abstract object instead of the thing itself. It is cruel and heartless dominance of the abstract over the real.

Really, it’s like Plato and Aristotle had it all backward, that the abstract, perfect world of “forms” is not a thing beyond or behind reality, but an instinctive creation of the mind, a simplification that the brain resorts to in order to be able to process all of the data and sort it and organize it in a useful way. The “shadows on the wall of a cave” are not the physical world at all, but the cognitive system of grouping, classification, and ordering that our mind uses to construct meaning.

Reality is always complex, textured, nuanced, with layers of history right there, visible under the surface, between the bushes and the blades of grass, but the mind cannot handle all of this information at once. It is too much. It is not useful, not relevant to survival or thriving, and it is discarded. And that is the way it should be. Usually. But sometimes you need to turn that filter off, and you need to see what is actually HERE.

Because sometimes the “perfect form” is not enough.

Because sometimes you need the truth, with all its various shades.

Because… sometimes… the world is beautiful.

Agents and House Fires and Such

As a general update, Tuesday, December 10, 2013 was a freaking crazy day:

At 11:00am, I receive an email from Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass agency offering to represent my novel. My first agent! This is something I’ve worked for years (decades) toward, a major milestone in my writing career. And she’s a great agent and a great person too. So exciting!

And then, at 5:00pm, my house burns down.

Everyone is fine, even the cats, and doing well. We have insurance, and likely will be fine. And we are holding up really well. The fire was so incredibly hungry and swift, 5 minutes either way on the timing of the fire (or, worse, if it had happened overnight) someone would be dead. From first smoke to inferno was just a couple of minutes. Six fire trucks worked for an hour to put it out, and two ambulances and just about every cop in the city were on site. We are very lucky.

The rest of it is just stuff: furniture, clothing, books, DVDs. It’s hard to get upset about that when things could’ve gone so wrong. 

Jennifer Jackson, who now represents me literarily, has a post about it here. 

Yes, we are sad about a lot of things: pictures, letters, and keepsakes, mostly. We also had my  mom’s collectibles (a vast collections of collections, uncountable reams of autographs from any science fiction movie or TV show you can imagine, rare science fiction memorabilia, records, stamps, boots, etc.), and the insurance will not come close to reimbursing us for that.

But, really, we’re looking at it as a new beginning, a chance to rise from the ashes (see what I did there?) better and stronger than ever.  

It’s strange, we’ve both had problems with depression in the past, but as long as we keep smiling and marching forward and looking for the positives in the situation, it doesn’t seem to drag us down.

Maybe that’s the real secret to happiness, huh? It couldn’t be THAT easy, could it?

Still, there are a lot of things up in the air. We’ve never been through this process before (and hopefully we never will go through it again!), so the sheer weight of the unknown is a stressor, a weight on the back, all by itself. But we are filled with hope rather than fear, and that is the important thing!

A lot of people out there feel compelled to help us because it’s such a terrifying story. Because death was close at hand. We think we will be fine, and we are not asking for help, but if you feel compelled to aid us for some reason, don’t buy us blankets or crackers or juice (please don’t!).

If we end up needing help, it will be for unexpected things, housing overruns, or build overruns near the end of the recovery process, months and months from now. 

Our YouCaring site is the best way to chip in.

And since I know everyone is curious to see what fire damage looks like, here is my shelf full of esoteric books on Kung Fu, Taiji, Qigong, and Languages (everything from Sumerian to Chinese to Sanskrit to Lakota Sioux Sign Language to Latin to Cherokee, and many in between).

 

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ON WRITING: Killing Your Cousin Darrell – A How-To Manual

I am currently in the process of making some revisions to the East Texas novel. The changes that were suggested to me are all pretty good, and I think I can handle them, but I’m doing one other major edit that wasn’t asked for:

I’m killing Cousin Darrell.

Okay, so I’m not killing him, really — he’s already dead by the end of the novel.

One of the edits I know is a problem, but I don’t know how to fix it. A couple of them I’m not sure really are problems The other’s are fair enough, but will require some hard work. And then there is an edit that I want to make that she never mentioned — removing “Cousin Darrell” from the novel. Instead, I am causing him to cease-to-be. I am 7-up, the Unmaker.

For background, Cousin Darrell is a relatively minor secondary character that somehow manages to appear in or affect almost every scene in the book. He is so annoying, and such a fifth wheel that I killed him in the novel — and, even in dying, he managed to stomp all over the death scene of a much more important character.

He is so extraneous and such a pain that he is even causing me headaches in the sequel, AND HE’S ALREADY DEAD.

For my own sanity, I have chosen to do the only thing that makes sense to me. But this is not easy — as I said, he is in or mentioned in almost every scene.

Currently I am on page 160 of 450 in removing Cousin Darrell from existence.

Please, if you have any Cousin Darrells in your own book, destroy them now! Don’t wait until after the book is sitting at agents!

New Story Published @ IGMS

In case you’ve been down a hole with a white rabbit somewhere, my short story, “Our Vast and Inevitable Death” is up at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, here (you can read a sample for free).

http://sideshowfreaks.blogspot.com/2012/04/our-vast-and-inevitable-deaths-boyd.html

AND NOW my non fiction article, “On the Writing of ‘Our Vast and Inevitable Death”, which describes all the various influences that went into the story (and is almost as long as the piece itself! Is up on the OSC IGMS blog here (and you can read it FREE)

http://sideshowfreaks.blogspot.com/2012/04/our-vast-and-inevitable-deaths-boyd.html

The Interconnectedness Of the 1970’s – Monty Python, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Timothy Leary

I’ve been reading quite a few books; in case you haven’t been reading my other posts, here are just a few:

The Life of Python
Michael Palin’s Diaries 1969-1979
A Liar’s Autobiography (Graham Chapman)
Timothy Leary: A Biography
John Lennon: The Life

What strikes me about Lennon (and the Beatles), Timothy Leary, and Monty Python is how they intertwine through the years, indeed how all the icons of the era — including the Rolling Stones and the WHO — all seemed to hang out together on a relatively constant basis.

Leary shows up in Chapman’s autobiography, and mentions of him meeting Eric Idle are present in Leary’s biography. The Beatles, especially George Harrison, became very close to the Pythons — GH funding five million pounds of “The Life of Brian” at extreme personal risk.

Per Chapman and Palin, Eric Idle starts to hang out with the Stones constantly and was very close to George Harrison, Chapman hangs out with the Who and helps train the fledgling Douglas Adams, Palin becomes very close with George Harrison as well and is friends with the whole world, and Pink Floyd helps fund “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.

It’s like some vast, tangled web of interwoven causality, where the whole counter culture (especially in Britain) conspires to lift itself higher and higher, until the whole period is still iconic today.

It really does echo down, even to Gen-X icons. Johnny Depp and Wynona Rider were very close to Timothy Leary (Rider was his god-daughter), and Uma Thurman was the daughter of one of Leary’s ex-wives and a Buddhist monk that had interacted with Leary on several occasions.

An aristocracy was formed during this period, a clique of people and hedge-maze of relationships that helped create modern entertainment and came dominate the last quarter of the 20th century, especially many pop-culture icons.

Is there anything similar happening in the world in the present? It makes me wonder if this aristocracy continues, or if our isolative technological culture that make each person into an unassailable island fortress has turned even this network of entertainment cognoscenti into a group of lonely hermits.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Monty Python, the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Pink Floyd, and Depp, but I never realized exactly how tightly locked together all these gears were in the turn of the years.