Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Next Summer Set

So with novels like The Armistan Chronicles and Database Divine under my belt, I could one day be considered an author who passionately defends less-than-mainstream topics and interests.

And the novel I have planned after this current one will certainly fit this category.

The novel's entitled Skunk Ape Semester, and will examine the trials associated with the field of Cryptozoology, better known as the study of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and other large marvels of nature still hidden in the questionable buffer zone between legend and reality. The title refers to the noisome Bigfoot counterpart said to inhabit the remote swamplands of Florida, but though this creature forms the Ahab-Whale axis of the story, the book will examine several other mysterious animals as well as the cryptozoological field as a whole - its history, its successes, its failures, and the many obstacles it faces in the attempt to get full attention from mainstream science.

Anyway, just as I never would have been able to write The Armistan Chronicles without having been involved in an independent videogame project, so too am I not going to write something like SAS without the proper experience informing the finer points of the story's focus. Thus, I have contacted the non-profit organization CryptoSafari and will hopefully be able to accompany them on field outings, small expeditions, or at least meet with them for interviews and a bit of personal show and tell.

If that can't be done, well, I've read literature aplenty about Bigfoot's most frequented haunts, from Texas to Alaska. Maybe I can watch for him myself :-)

(By the way, the famous Patterson-Grimlin footage from 1967, largely considered a hoax, has in fact never been proven to be a hoax. Of all the people who have stepped forward to claim their 15 minutes and say they were the person who either made or occupied the "costume", not a single one has been able to replicate it, or even point to where the original costume is. Hoaxing can work two ways, and it's unfortunate that liars who claim something was a hoax aren't nearly as closely scrutinized for their claims as the ones who put out the story to begin with).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

God 'n Stuff

One thing about Western culture that nags at me is the prominence of the two extremes of belief. Just as you've either got to be a Democrat or Republican, so it seems that you've either gotta be a fundamentalist who believes in fairy tales, or a hard-nosed atheist who believes everything we see in the material world is, well, everything.

Granted, there are plenty who occupy the spiritual middle ground (myself included), but they seldom have a voice comparable to the Richard Dawkins or Sean Hannitys of the never-ending debate. Deepak Chopra is the only name I can currently conjure up whose work is respected and moderately well-recognized.

I believe the problem with the whole debate - at least as it's presented in mainstream media and literature - is that it centers around a very archaic view of God: a separate supernatural entity who created us, then moved away to watch over and ultimately judge us. This is a very antiquated theistic notion, and one that is pointless for the religious to defend and for the atheists to attack.

Ironically enough, I believe George Carlin, during one of his famous (or infamous, depending on your take) rants on religion, hit the nail on the head: "I believe we're part of a greater wisdom than we'll ever understand, a big electron that doesn't punish, doesn't reward. It just is." Similarly, Chopra had this to say on God: "God is a field of consciousness that allows for maximum diversity ranging from the divine to the diabolical....[and is] the infinite organizing principle of Nature."

The subject of non-local communication between even the most infinitesimal components of the physical world has been observed and recorded by science, thanks to the age of quantum physics. Cells, photons, and all the other building blocks of us and the world we inhabit share a synchronized matrix of information and communication that sponsor the flourish of life. This is observable not just in labs but in your own backyard. Somehow, everything in our body is communicating - otherwise we'd all just collapse in a random unkempt heap.

Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion" (guess to which extreme he belongs), once said in a debate with Christian scientist Francis Collins something to the effect of, "Why would God sit around for another billion years before taking the next step of evolution?" Obviously, he was referring to the trial and error process of evolution as proof that Nature had no idea what it was doing.

Back up a second. The first problem with asking something like this is that it rashly assumes God is confined to living in the linear constraints of Time. In some ways I believe this to be true (for I believe the "force", if you will, is apparent in everyone and everything, from rabid dogs to Mother Teresa), but think back to the quantum mechanics notion that all things are inherently everything until they are observed, taken in by the subjective nature of a single consciousness. That means that duality doesn't exist except as pure potential, and "pure potential" is just a euphemism for "spiritual domain." Time and space do not exist outside of this dimension, so in essence, a billion years is meaningless: God created the Universe in the blink of an eye, over billions of years. It's both. It is not one or the other. Right and wrong, hot and cold, up, down, left and right all come from the same singularity, the same non-duality, and are thus One, as is everything else.

Another issue is assuming there was a plan for evolution. There was no plan except for the cosmos to experience itself evolving from the low to the high, inevitably returning to the singularity. The Universe isn't going to force itself on itself. Non-local intelligence generated life to be experienced through local consciousness, and non-local "design" responds to the actions taken by species of local consciousness. This means that if, let's say, octopuses had for whatever reason pursued a different evolutionary path that had taken them en route to intelligence, then we'd be sharing the planet with them, or, we'd still be swinging through trees while they drove SUVs and made closing statements to juries of other octopuses. The point is, God is one with Life, and Life is free to meander, wander, explore at will. If it wants to not develop for a billion years, then it won't. Time doesn't matter anyway, as I've stated. In the non-local realm, past, present and future exist simultaneously, as a single potential - just like the rest of all things pertaining to probability.

Our bodies all came from pure potential, as do our thoughts. Quickly, think of a giant green rabbit. Now where did that image come from? Sure, your neurons strung it together for you upon my command, but where did they get the information? Brain functions are physical, but the very impetus of these functions is not. The brain draws from the pure potential of the nothingness and the everythingness from which we came, and to which we will ultimately return.

Now, why is all this going on? What's the point? Quite simply, it'd be boring to be a timeless singularity, wouldn't you say? "This" got bored, so it created a "That" so it could have something to relate to. But it didn't stop there...it created many "this's" and "thats" so that it may develop and define itself over and over. God has to keep itself occupied somehow.

Regarding consciousness: I read a brilliant analogy recently comparing our bodies to a TV. When you turn the TV off, do the programs stop? No. All the information continues to transmit, just not through your particular instrument because it was shut off, or because it broke. Likewise, consciousness is the field of knowing that becomes localized in a body when we're born, and is released back to said field after our instruments are shut off.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Little Babblin'

Enlightenment is constant intercourse with the Universe.

For those that believe they are not "complete" without a "soulmate": you are already complete. All you need to do is realize it, and celebrate your utter completeness with every one and every thing. There is more to experience than the dick or the vagina.

This same message can be applied to people who can't have a good time without their significant other being present. Treat everyone as a significant other. If you don't believe they are, however, then they won't be. Just know it. Reliance on anyone else in this world for peace and happiness is never a good idea, in any case, from the young couple in a sextastic relationship to the golden oldies celebrating their 50th anniversary.

Ultimately, that comes from you. Unless it doesn't.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Patriot Day"

Today, of course, was the 6-year anniversary of 9/11. But was I the only one mildly disturbed by its new label, "Patriot Day"? Apparently congress and the administration created this label not too long ago and ensured it got printed into every subsequent calendar.

Perhaps it's the suffocating negative energy surrounding the word "patriot" that gives me such an immediate adverse reaction to it. In the eyes of many, you're either a patriot or a terrorist, and to be considered a patriot involves an almost Orwellian conformity to the cancerous requirements and propoganda infecting the marrow of this country. People who dare go against the word of authority in this endless time of war are considered dangerous radicals who are only several treasonous words away from Al-Qaeda's sign-up sheet.

Am I exaggerating? Maybe. Is this my own propoganda? In a way, yes. But when someone like Ron Paul, a Republican running for 2008, is condemned for boldly standing up and declaring during the recent debate in South Carolina that we ought to take some responsibility for igniting the mentality that led up to 9/11, I see the ominous hues of a pre-dystopian mindset coloring the political dynamic of the nation's media, its political candidates and its public.

The idea that America was wholly victimized on this day 6 years ago is, I believe, shallow and naive thinking. It is this thinking that spawns such beliefs in an absolutist evil, which every terrorist is, right? Riiight. I believe no one does anything inappropriate, given their own model of the world.

The victims of society's ills (and this includes everyone, and every kind of ill) are victims of a Frankenstein's monster they've unwittingly lent their hand to create. For if everyone suddenly took up a small piece of responsibility for creating the terrorists, murderers, rapists, and thieves of our world then I can almost gaurantee you will see a massive shift in consciousness, and an ensuing plunge in crime statistics. The issue is, no one wants to believe they are a piece of the whole pie that creates the problem.

The word "patriot" is also weighed down with a sense of separation. It is this illusion of separation -- and many like it -- to which so much suffering can be attributed. "Patriot" means we are here and they are there. It means we are us, and they are them. We are ALL HERE together. Countries exist merely as abstract divisions in a land mass that knows no actual separation except in that which we give it.

In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, every form of life is an "unwavering band of light." There is no light greater or less than the next, across races, genders, nations, or even species.

There have been times when we've realized this. Christmas Eve in 1914, during World War I, is certainly a good example, where the British and German troops laid down their arms to share gifts, play soccer and sing a chorus of Silent Night together. Another was the moon landing; when Armstrong and company would visit other countries after having visited the moon, the reaction was not so much a celebration of an American achievement but rather of the new milestone reached by Humankind.

I love the United States. I love the ideals upon which it was founded, that essentially the survival of one means the survival of all, and vice versa. It celebrated brother (and sister) hood, true liberty and true freedom of expression, not just when it was "politically correct" or when said expression was in The Man's favor. George Washington, upon leaving office, adumbrated: "Beware of those who will use patriotism to suit their own personal agenda."

I do not see patriotism coming from the halls of Washington. Rather, I see a rogue beast of capitalistic corruption and greed that sees a ball and is attempting to run with it without proper team consent. Capitalism is, like communism, good in theory, but when mangled by the rabid atavistic need for symbol, status and survival, it becomes clotted with horded wealth that remains in the hands of the upper 1%, never to be implemented back into the system for the people but rather, especially as of late, invested in a machine of progressively imperialistic implications. I'll bet not many even know of the Bush administration's percolating plans for a North American Union, which aims to erase our northern and southern borders in the interest of reaping Mexican labor and Canadian oil. So...what's to become of the USA and its Constitution? Who's the real one being "unpatriotic" here?

I say, be patriotic towards ideals, towards freedom, love, truth, all three of which are interchangable. When the country you're living in begins to deviate from such ideals, use them to raise your voice, to make a change. We are all pieces of the system, all pieces of the responsibility -- so let's employ it.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Do we have true freedom?

We are free in body, but are we free in mind?

No, this isn't some sort of Matrix musing, more an observation about a psychological prison I see many Americans (and people in general, I'm sure) committing themselves to, usually with the help of parental or teacher figures who hammer out their perception of success to which they expect you to conform.

Most people believe the route to success is to go to a good college, study, work your way up, find a spouse, have children, settle comfortably into a suburban home, and retire.

Why is that success?

Honestly, please tell me why that is success. To me, it isn't, because there's a key ingredient that's missing - happiness. If you're happy with who you are and what you're doing, that's success. Or, if you'd like another definition from Winston Churchill, "Success is failing over and over and not losing your enthusiasm."

I question the amount of true freedom we have simply because, with the College + $ + Marriage = Success equation being the most ubiquitous, so many people are conditioned from day one to believe it is the only method through which we can measure our self-worth, and validate ourselves in the eyes of society. We are free to move about wherever we want and to say whatever we want, but what we think is an amalgam of pressing external forces that bombard us the day we take on a physical form. Thus, many people, I am sad to say, are not free in the slightest, not psychologically.

So free your mind. Do what you want and be happy. Fuck society (daily meditation really helps get you to this point -- at least it's working for me). And don't let anyone set your worries aflame about "biological clocks" or anything with the terms "need to", "should" or "shouldn't" attached to them. We all come from and end up in the same place, so the differences between a lawyer and a hippie are pretty inconsequential.

Friday, August 31, 2007


Comparatively, this post might seem a bit trivial, but I've been a geek-caliber fan of The Simpsons since I was 7, when I unnerved the Sunday School teacher by drawing Bart.

The movie was generally very well-received, by me as well (I made sure to pop open a can of Buzz Cola when the clouds parted and those familiar yellow letters came rolling towards us), but amongst fans my age there's a rising disappointment, it seems, in the TV show. Granted, they aren't as consistent as they were in their golden age, which lasted for almost ten years, depending on your taste. But even current episodes get better, richer, and funnier the more you see them and unearth further layers of humor.

The problem is that, as the generation that grew up with The Simpsons, we've seen all the golden-age episodes so often that every line is burned into our quote-and-joke banks. We have nostalgic memories of watching those episodes, the quality of which time has not diminished in the slightest, and we could watch them over and over. Compare this weight of sentimentality to seeing a new episode for the first time...of course it's not going to measure up!

In this age of Family Guys, South Parks, and Robot Chickens, The Simpsons have undoubtedly lost some of their edge. But for those fans who whine of being so disillusioned now with the show, watch a recent episode again and I gaurantee you'll pick up on things you didn't the first time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We got it a bit tough

I've mentioned a few times before my firm belief that, had I been writing during the 40s, 50s and 60s, the publishing world as well as the general public would be far more receptive to my fiction, and I would probably have a greater chance of success, success for me meaning the fiscal ability to write full-time, or at least to know I have a dedicated audience to write for.

I love living in this age, but unfortunately, it's also the age where 1 in 4 adults have not read a book in the past year. It's also the age where most younger readers are only readers when the new Harry Potter comes out, and once they reach the last line, it's back to TV, videogames and the internet. It's the age where scarcely anyone wants a beautifully-crafted line they can pause on and consider, preferring their stories "never slow down". They want readable movie trailers.

Recently I heard the teacher and author Sheila Finch speak at a nearby library. She made the statement that every generation likely assumes it's living in the worst time to write. While that's probably true, I still think we have it the worst, and if things progress in the same pattern, any writer in the generation succeeding ours will find their voices echoing even further over the sea of indifference, skipping unheard through the heads of people who "can't make time for reading" in the hectic schedule of American Idol reruns.

There are many great authors who, frankly, would have quite a tough time finding a virgin audience these days. In the late 60s, it was a cool, socially revolutionary thing to read Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. College students would walk around campus with used copies in their back pockets. Jack Kerouac's work helped ignite the beat movement. You'd never see people reacting to a book like that today, I'm sorry, because nowadays that back-pocket space is reserved for wallets or iPods.

Back then, publishers, agents, and the general public were far braver and more receptive to new material, and publications and presses abounded as a result of it. Much of these publications and presses, of course, have since folded.

In the strengthening blizzard of frenetic media and dynamic forms of entertainment and communication, the novel's power has been somewhat lost in the shuffle. The written word will never die, but it has become something to pass the time on an airplane, or a method of falling asleep. Proposed "tenchological revamps" of the format, such as Sony's portable e-Reader that's being pitched as the iPod of books, don't offer much excitement or hope to me because it's still reading. And reading is the problem. Reading is what turns the cobwebbed minds of many of these people away.

The written word holds vast amounts of power within its ancient simplicity. The author needs no approval of a studio, no $200 million budget, no crew, no producer, no special effects. Hell, you can make anything with a pencil and the back of a receipt.

Hopefully more people of our generation will come to realize that.