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Spent another day doing absolutely nothing.

This is probably Not Good since starting this evening, I’m embarking upon ten – count ‘em! – days of intense socialization with (one assumes) limited opportunities for revenue generation or imagination mining.

And yet, and yet, and yet…

Absolutely nothing seems to be what I like to do.

Other people like to drink, take drugs, and party; climb Mt. Everest; sail yachts; watch PornHub; have orgies; eat German sausages; cook Italian food etc etc.

I like to do nothing.

Why not indulge myself?

###

In the afternoon, I did venture out in the oh-so-oppressive heat – 92 degrees, dew point 74 – to do some light shopping at Ocean State Job Lot. Ocean State is a bottom feeder in the liquidator food chain.

The setup of the store physically nauseates me – crude shelves, fluorescent lighting, no attempt at display – and yet I find myself really fascinated with the place: This is where brands go to die. It’s artificially created demand’s graveyard.

This is where Nabisco unloads all those Watermelon Oreos and Banana Split Oreos that nobody in their right mind would ever buy at a supermarket.

Wiffle ball set, anyone? Ocean State’s got like a billion of them.

Discontinued olive oils doctored with chlorophyll? Right this way.

I particularly like the counter of anti-aging skin serums, which since they’re the same ones being sold for $80-plus at various mall anchor client department stores, one must assume are years past their expiration dates so all those carcinogenic chemicals have had a chance to ripen and burst into bloom:

unnamed-1


Sometimes, it's true, you can find rare and wondrous things. Where else outside an ethnic grocery store (where you would certainly be overcharged) would you find six separate flavors of dried seaweed?

But in general, what you are looking at is the retail equivalent of cholesterol plaque.

##

Why the hell is there so much surplus inventory? Be-caw-w-w-se… we have an economy that owes the illusion of its robustness to the production of crud.

This would seem to indicate that inefficiencies exist at some very basic level of the capitalist economic model, no? It’s a particularly interesting question in light of the fact that bricks and mortar retail is under siege right now. Customers much prefer to buy their useless retail items online, which adds yet another layer of inefficiencies (distribution and transportation costs) to the model.

Really, it’s an unsustainable model.

Artificially created demand a/k/a marketing is a great way to persuade people to buy things they don’t want and can’t afford, but as the cost of things that people actually need to survive like housing, energy, and food continues to spiral and the gap between the 1% and the 99% continues to grow, ya gotta think at some point, in the not so distant future, this business model implodes.

I could write all day about this one.

But I’ve got to drag my sorry ass out on the trails before the temps hit 90.
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Spent yesterday reading Joshua Green’s Devil’s Bargain cover to cover. An obsessively readable book all about the symbiotic relationship between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon.

Bannon was the mutagen who spun the conservative RNA, and Trump was the pointy-headed virus who penetrated the body politic. The disease was the narrative, Crooked Hillary.

The most interesting part of the book for me - since I am what the Trump team dubbed a “double hater” and it’s all about me-e-e-e, right? – was this:

[B]oth campaigns battled for a group of voters who would ultimately decide the race. ... Trump's data analysts gave them a nickname: 'double haters.' These were people who disliked both candidates but traditionally showed up at the polls to vote. They were a sizable bloc: 3 to 5 percent of the 15 million voters across seventeen battleground states that Trump's staff believed were persuadable.

Early on, many indicated support for third‐party candidate Gary Johnson. But after a series of televised flubs, ... they largely abandoned him. ... Many refused to answer pollsters' questions ... These were the voters Clinton had hoped to shear off from Trump with her 'alt-right' speech in August. ... Comey's letter had the effect of convincing the double haters to finally choose.


Double haters ended up going 47% for Trump, 30% for Clinton.

I stuck with the original game plan and voted for Gary Johnson.

As I see it, Comey's letter was not a precipitating event, but a cumulative event that was like the denouncement of a story that Bannon et al had been telling - but more importantly, circulating - about the Clintons for a very long time. The massive Hillary hatred was the result of a very conscious campaign.

Of course, Trump’s story is filled with as many if not more unpalatable facts than the Clintons, but since Trump was not a public servant until very recently, it’s difficult to work up a sense of moral outrage however easy it may be to feel personal disgust.

Also Trump was a celebrity, and the purpose of celebrities is to function as collective ids, no?

One of the most fascinating parts of Devil's Bargain, by the way, is how Trump managed to carry over the narrative from The Apprentice into his campaign. Trump benefited from advertisers' determination to make The Apprentice an ethnically inclusive show so it could sell more McDonald's hamburgers! Black and Hispanic voters LUVVED The Apprentice!
And this is one of the reasons why Trump didn't tank as badly among black and Hispanic voters as Democratic pollsters predicted he would.

Anyway, it’s very clear to me that unless the Left becomes more comfortable creating narratives, they’re cooked.

The Po-Mo Smudge-Over

Jul. 18th, 2017 08:50 am
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The ice skating scene.

If I wanted to turn this into an exciting, experimental piece of po-mo fiction, I’d write something like, Then they all went ice skating. Gentle reader, do you really give a shit about what their little ice skating party looked like, what its members did, what they wore? ‘Cause I know I don’t. What’s important is what came afterwards.

But alas! This is not a piece of exciting, experimental po-mo fiction. It’s a ghost story in the classic Edith Wharton style.

Although it might be fun to give it a final po-mo sumdge-over once the realistic scaffolding is in place.

We shall see.

###

Else?

Spent a solitary day hanging out with the cats. It’s odd how when I’m in a baaaad mood hanging out with the cats is prima facie evidence of the complete worthlessness of my existence but when I’m feeling la-la-la, it’s entirely enjoyable.

I’m tellin’ ya: It’s all just brain chemistry.

###

Chatted a bit with L about the Former Democratic Candidate’s memorial, the hour-long stream of eulogies: She was the saintliest person evah!

“But Doris was kind of a bitch!” L said, puzzled.

“Well, exactly,” I said. “And that’s why I liked her. She was incredibly generous, but you know, judgmental, and she didn’t suffer fools gladly. But memorials are for the living, I suppose, and that’s how her daughters want to remember her.”

###

Texted with a bunch of people, thereby adding a satisfying The Machine Stops ambiance to my solitude. BB’s entertainingly nutty friend Malika livestreamed a thunderstorm for me: The thunderstorm was doing its best to take out Ulster County but obligingly missed Dutchess.

Got over my crush on the last male human I was kinda, sorta, maybe on alternate Thursdays attracted to: Alpha Male made him a moderator in the Sooper Sekrit Political Group, and he has been pounding me with avalanches of bureaucratic verbiage about governance and leadership traits and fuckin’ Meyer-Briggs profiles.

What is it with these people and their stupid Meyer-Briggs profiles? How is saying smugly, I’m an INTJ! any different, say, than saying, I’m an Aries with Libra rising?

I suppose the truth is that I’m never going to be attracted to another male human ever again. Male humans are fine as friends. But as limerence objects? I dunno. As a class, they show a remarkable lack of appreciation for the subtle.
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B and I were texting about the latest (awful) season of Orphan Black.

What IS it about television writers and islands? I texted.

B texted back: Well, you know, as a very good writer once wrote: “The thing about an island is that it’s a long way from home, and you have to cross water to get there.”

Good line, I thought automatically.

Then two seconds later, it hit me: OhmiGAWD – that’s my line! From a story I wrote in 1993 called The Hidden Ecology of Islands about vampires who take over an Indian casino .

I didn’t even remember writing it.

###

On the current writing project – I got sidelined after I wrote a close flashback into another close flashback that had nothing whatsoever to do with my outline. Thus wrote 700 words that were completely useless though not inherently bad or anything. But they had to come out, which left me with a sinking, despairing feeling: You are wasting what little life remains on a story that nobody will read when you could be watching The Real Housewives of New York!

Short stories are much, much harder to write than novels.

Anything goes in a novel. You can dump in the kitchen sink! But with a short story, you aren’t describing or even conjuring so much as you’re sculpting empty space (if that makes any sense at all.) It’s not what you write that’s important in a short story, it’s what you choose not to write.

I excised the offending 700 words and put them in the prose burble-over file.

Umbrella phrases, I thought: Expeditions were organized on the days following… The next day, Papa took the children to the pond… Etc.

Stick to the outline.

Snowball fight; Nell gets beaned. Skating party; Nell falls and twists her ankle. We need one more example of Winter Sports Gone Wrong.

###

Then it was time to scuttle off to the Former Democratic Candidate for Congress’s memorial service.

Huge turnout. There must have been 400 people.

And it was a very nice memorial. The fantasy her daughters concocted for public consumption was that the Candidate had died with a smile on her lips while they gathered round her bedside singing If I Had a Hammer (Pete Seeger version not Peter, Paul, and Mary version.)

But. Having been the instigator of one such Death Myth myself – when I told reporters Tom died listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony instead of the hiss and sigh of his morphine pump, a fantasy that made it all the way into his Wikipedia entry – I have my doubts about the truth of that bedside performance.

And I didn’t recognize the person whose virtues were extolled throughout the memorial at all. I liked the Candidate a lot, but she wasn’t particularly saintly. In fact, her Serious Bitch Potential was one of the reasons I liked her.

I suppose this was the fantasy the daughters felt safest with. Offspring rarely want to invest the time in learning what their parents were really like as human beings: It’s too threatening; it’s much easier to view them as some sort of primordial monster hunkering down over those deeply repressed feelings at the bottom of the psychic well.

I toasted the real Candidate in my heart as I listened to various speakers eulogize some saintly milquetoast I did not know.

When I slipped out to reclaim my car, there was a crisp $20 bill lying right next to it.

Huh, I thought. The Candidate knew I was hurting for gas money (‘cause the Asshole still hasn’t paid me!) Thanks, Doris!

###

Then I went out exercising. Mid-80s and so humid, I broke a heavy sweat even on the level pathways.

Staggered home and instantly fell into the deepest, deepest sleep.

Dreamed about my mother.

Never dream about my mother.

But there I was in a house, waiting for her. It was not her house, and I had no idea why I’d decided to wait for her there…

Woke up around 9pm. Decided to go back to sleep.

Maybe I needed 12 hours of sleep.

Because when I woke up again this morning, I felt fine. That awful funk I’ve been in lo these five days past completely gone.
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Spent yesterday morning churning out another 1,000 words on ze Work in Progress and the afternoon tromping around the local forests.

While I hammered out ze Work in Progress, I thought about Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald could hammer out an 3,000-word short story in a single sitting, but he was seldom able to produce more than 100 words a day when he was working on anything he deemed serious literature.

Scott Fitzgerald drank a lot when he was writing.

I can understand the impulse.

When you’re writing, you always have this sense that what you’re writing has already been written, that this manuscript is sitting in some locked portion of your brain and that if you could only unlock that portion of your brain, you’d have the whole damn thing – Voila! – without doing a lick of work!

Hence the urge to get shitfaced when you write.

###

I left Alice and Auntie Bye walking in on the two Nells as the latter conduct a kind of ghoulish tea party in the Sagamore Hills nursery.

I’m not exactly sure how one makes a child’s tea party ghoulish, so I am not looking forward to returning to the manuscript.

###

This has been one of the wettest summers on record since the Weather Service started keeping records way back in the 19th century. Nature has run riot. Looking out the window, some Congolese Airbnb guests of L’s cried out ecstatically, “It looks like home!” Meaning that it looks like a rain forest, I guess.

I think White Oaks Road at one time was part of James Roosevelt’s landholdings. It would have been farmland: rocky, unfertile farmland. There’s one stand of ancient apple trees abutting the 9G highway. Could this entire spot have been orchards at one time? Possible. Once upon a time, the Hudson Valley was known for its apples.

Anyway, it’s all forest now and thick twining underbrush laden with poisonous berries. I don’t know enough about trees to look at these and think, Aha! Second growth. I do know that when FDR inherited the holdings, he commissioned the folk at RTT’s alma mater to plant trees.

When FDR’s children inherited the holdings, they promptly sold them off to developers. The houses that line White Oaks Road are boxy, undistinguished. I did taxes for a guy who remembered White Oaks Road when it was a dirt trail shortcut between Highway 9 and Highway 9G, so it wasn’t all that long ago – 50 years?

###

I suppose one of the reasons that I like to exercise is that in contrast to most of my other goals – Write 350 page novel before lunch. Find billionaire who will die soon and is willing to marry you without a prenup. Achieve world domination – exercise is pretty easy to pull off.
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I think the deal for me is that if I don’t write in my diary every day, I literally forget how to write because I have such a short concentration span. These pointless musings play a very important role in my personal cosmology: They warm up the mental muscles. ‘Cause it’s always very, very easy to write about me-e-e-e-e-e, what I think, what I do -- even if what I do is very, very little.

I don’t like the Dreamwidth interface at all.

Plus I miss my little cadre of LJ palZ. Most of the LJ writers whose lives I’d been following for years and years and years don’t write anymore. I miss them. And there’s no kind of accountability on the Internet. It’s like some kind of Easter Island mystery: One day, they got up and walked away.

The Internet is filled with such Easter Island mysteries.

Whatever happened to that feral LDS girl living in the wilds of Alberta whose husband refused to have sex with her but on the rare occasions when he did have sex with her invariably knocked her up so that she had this gaggle of incredibly photogenic but neurologically disturbed offspring? She wrote and wrote and ranted and ranted, and then one day – bam. She stopped.

The incredibly well read lawyer with the wasting disease who lived in the flyover didn’t stop all of a sudden; she kind of petered out.

And then there was the lovely young theater major in Michigan who could have been a heroine in a YA story so plucky and positive and nice was she. She married a man who was much older than she was, who psychologically abused her and – bam: She stopped writing.

I suppose relationships like these are very much like the relationships one forms with characters on one’s favorite TV shows with one big difference: I can’t leave cautionary comments for my favorite TV characters: You know, Cosima, you really should ditch Delphine! Hello, Theresa – James is much, much hotter than Guerro.

Is it a type of voyeurism?

Possibly.

I luv, luv, luv other people’s stories.

###

Getting back to my own story (which strives to fuse the styles of Edith Wharton, the highly under-rated Walter de la Mare, and T.C. Boyle):

(i) Alice looks out the window of her Washington mansion, sees the black car with the flower vase and the white votive candles in place of headlights gliding silently by. Knows at once that Nell is dead. Somewhat sadistically, decides to tell the story of her feud with Nell to a reporter.

(ii) Begin flashback. Alice’s stepmother informs Alice that she is to be sent to spend the remainder of the summer at Oak Terrace in punishment for her wild ways.

(iii) Info dump: Nell comes to visit the Roosevelts one Christmas to spend some supervised time with her dipsomaniac father who is also named Nell. Yada yada yada – poor little Nell, crazy father.

Alice and her brothers play a cruel trick on Nell. Alice then walks in on the two Nells: Paternal Nell is painting little girl Nell’s toenails with a weird expression on his face.

Somewhere in this section, Auntie Bye tells Bunker Hill Teddy the story of how on the sole visit to Oak Terrace that Mrs. Ludlow Hall allowed, paternal Nell took his long black car to Tivoli with his dogs and little Nell. Paternal Nell then proceeded to go into a tavern and get stinking drunk while little Nell waited shivering outside. Eventually, a kindly coachman fetched Little Nell back to Oak Terrace.

Paternal Nell, we learn, died soon after this visit: He leaped from an NYC window while high on morphine. Oh, and there has to be something distinctive about the way paternal Nell walks, moves, bounces.

(iv) Alice arrives at Oak Terrace. Afore-mentioned coachman fetches her from the Hyde Park train station.

Daily life at Oak Terrace. The strange Mrs. Ludlow Hall. The spinsterish aunts who float around the sitting room, vaporish, gaunt and silent. Uncle Valentine who sits at his bedroom window with a rifle so he can shoot any strangers who come up the path. (Fortunately, there are none.) Nell sits passively reading all day, but disappears every afternoon around 4pm.

(v) Alice follows Nell one day when she disappears. Nell goes out into the woods and plays a complicated game with sticks and leaves that she gives names to and pretends are families. The coachman appears, but day-em – he moves differently, doesn’t he? Where has Alice seen those movements before? There is something… unwholesome in the true Turn of the Screw sense about the way Nell and the coachman lean their heads towards one another.

(vi) More daily life at Oak Terrace. Alice confronts Nell with what she’s seen. Nell says, It’s just a game, and invites Alice to come and play, too. Disturbing incident in the woods involving Alice, Nell and the coachman, but of course, it must be cloaked in neo-Victorian propriety: No jacking off in the bushes please.

(vii) Alice confronts Mrs. Ludlow Hall. Unpleasant interview during which Mrs. Ludlow’s Livingston ancestry and intense dislike of the Roosevelt upstarts – whom she calls “the van Roosevelts – is referenced. Alice understands that she must save Nell on her own.

(viii) Paternal Nell’s black car is still in the Oak Terrace carriage house. Alice follows Nell and the coachman there. Get into the-e-e-e-e car! the coachman hisses, and Nell does. OhmiGawd, thinks Alice. He looks like paternal Nell! Even though he doesn’t look like paternal Nell! The black car begins to glide down the overgrown pathway. The steering wheel is on the right side; Alice views Nell’s feverishly excited face. It’s the Peter Quint, you devil! moment. Alice hurls herself in front of the car.

(ix) Alice is not hurt. In the confusion that follows, Alice’s stepmother makes a trip to Oak Terrace and demands that Nell be sent off to boarding school in England. She is. The two girls grow up to be very famous: Alice, of course, is the originator of the phrase, If you don’t have anything nice to say, come here and sit next to me! Nell marries Franklin Delano Roosevelt and invents modern progressivism.

(x) The car that Alice sees creeping down Massachusetts Avenue that morning is not the car in the Oak Terrace carriage house, but has the same detailing as the car in the Oak Terrace Carriage House – candles instead of headlights, a flower vase. (Will need some more weird car design features.) And in the passenger seat, Alice had espied not the adult Eleanor Roosevelt but the girl Nell with her eager, hopeful face.

Story still doesn’t have a name. And though I’d been hoping to keep it to 5,000 words in length – ‘cause let’s face it: Nobody wants to read more than 5,000 words – it’s now up to 8,000.

The Type of People Djinn Talk To

Jul. 13th, 2017 04:18 pm
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Woke up in the middle of the night to the loudest peal of thunder you can possibly imagine. I’d been caught in one of those labyrinthine dreams that are so enveloping, so elaborate they’re like alternate lives, but all I can remember from that parallel existence now is that I was holding a baby. The baby had been hideously neglected; I’d actually caught it when it had fallen off of something. It had the most adorable, serious, earnest little face; it wanted so desperately to please.

Mama, I said to the baby, and its little lips pushed together, trying to make an M sound. Dada, I told it, and it struggled to make a D, all the while peering at me anxiously: Do you like me? Please like me!

###

When I woke up at my regular time this morning, I was dreaming of Balinese music. Odd. In my 20s, I really loved Balinese music and listened to it all the time. But I haven’t listened to Balinese music in years.

###

Thunder in the Hudson Valley is like thunder no place else. Something about a valley bisected by a river surrounded by low mountains. A single peal of thunder can go on and on and on for 30 seconds.

###

I’ve been in a funk for the last few days.

That asshole still hasn’t paid me, and though that hasn’t had a ripple effect on finances in general – and probably won’t have a ripple effect since Scut Factory funds kick in tomorrow – it still had the effect of making me feel absolutely worthless on some essential level because (A) It’s a relatively small amount of $$$ and yet, I’m so marginal that the lack of it has a measurable impact; and (B) because I’m absolutely powerless to make this asshole pay up. He’s apologetic, citing cash flow problems of his own. As soon as he gets his $$$, he’ll pay me my money. Etc, etc. But I don’t give a shit about his cash flow problems. He should have figured out his cash flow problems before he hired me to write his oh-so-boring legal research paper. Which I turned into something interesting.

Being in this kind of funk paralyzes me on some basic level. It leaves me absolutely unable to focus, shrinks my already microscopic concentration span to something that approaches Alzheimer’s levels. I crave distraction. I’d love to get drunk or high. (I’m scrupulously avoiding alcohol and consciousness expanders because I don’t think the impulse to get drunk or high when I’m feeling like this is a mentally healthy impulse.)

It’s kind of like being trapped in dead space.

###

I should just pull out one of the current projects and do eeeet.

‘Cause you know. It’s never any more mystical or more complicated than that.

###

Samir talked to me for a long time about djinn this morning. Apparently, everyone who lives in the Atlas Mountains believes in djinn, even if they’re deeply immersed in programming projects that require the use of the VHSIC Hardware Description Language, which is the easiest way to get integrated circuits to communicate with one another.

I like scientists whose thought processes are not constrained by the empirical model.

“Yes, I think you are the type of people djinn talk to,” he said, but when I asked him to elaborate upon that remark, he shook his head and laughed.

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