John and Evelyn (March, 1946)

I’ve read that memories are not retrieved or recalled but recreated. Sort of recompiled, changing slightly each time. Is a photo a memory? Only if I took the photo, was there to experience the moment captured. Is a photo history? Arguably more accurate than the one my brain creates.

I’m not headed anywhere with this, just rambling. These two photos are of my mother and father (and an unidentified friend). Probably taken sometime in 1946. My father was discharged from the Navy on March 9, 1946. He married my mother on March 23, 1946. So, as mom often claimed, they knew each other for two weeks before taking the plunge. This suggests the photos below were taken in March of 1946.

I can never know the people in these photos. What that time was like for them. This is as close as I will ever come. One instant in time (two in this case). Where were they? How long had they known each other. When/where/how did they meet? Who took the photos and why? Then again, maybe it’s better not to know. We can create our own histories, which we do in any event.

For me There is powerful magic in old photos. Even if I don’t know the people.

Does William Gibson know what’s ahead?

“It’s the music of a disenfranchised, mostly white proletariat, barely hanging on in post-post-industrial America.” William Gibson’s All Tomorrow’s Parties was published in 1999 so the line above was written at least 17 years ago. More so than any other writer, I get the feeling Gibson somehow knows what’s ahead for us. Maybe he gave us a glimpse of that in The Peripheral. Perhaps that future is already here. I wish I could pick up the phone and call Mr. Gibson or Kevin Kelly or James Gleick or (insert name of really smart person here): “I’m sorry to bother you, but what do you think? Is everything going to be okay or not?”

Daydream (in two takes)

I’m struggling to memorize a few songs (rather than rely on the iPad for lyrics and chords). I seem to be able to remember one or the other, but not both. This recording is as close as I’ve gotten. I find the pain more bearable if we all share it. One day I’ll post a version in one take. But not today.

Five things you notice when you quit the news

I’ve been trying to kick the “TV news” habit for a while. I knew it wasn’t good for me but just couldn’t turn it off. If you’d asked me why I’d have been hard-pressed to tell you. But, once again, David Cain does a nice job of explaining things I cannot. He stopped watching for 30 days and shares some insights:

“If you quit, even for just a month or so, the news-watching habit might start to look quite ugly and unnecessary to you, not unlike how a smoker only notices how bad tobacco makes things smell once he stops lighting up. […] What you can glean about the world from the news isn’t even close to a representative sample of what is happening in the world. […] Once you’ve quit watching, it becomes obvious that it is a primary aim of news reports—not an incidental side-effect—to agitate and dismay the viewer.”

And this little gem: “As it turns out, your hobby of monitoring the “state of the world” did not actually affect the world.”

This Friday will be 30 days since I watched TV news (or listened to NPR news). No Twitter and I never did Facebook. I still post a few things to Google+ (where I have some folks I like chatting with) but don’t get much “news” there and have muted all politics. I’ve never felt better.

Patterns and nodal points

“Speaking of nodal points in history, of some emerging pattern in the texture of things. Of everything changing. Laney is a sport, a mutant, the accidental product of covert clinical trials of a drug that induced something oddly akin to psychic abilities in a small percentage of test subjects. But Laney isn’t psychic in any non-rational sense; rather he is able, through the organic changes wrought long ago by 5-SB, this drug, to somehow perceive change emerging from vast flows of data.”

All Tomorrow’s Parties (William Gibson)

Patterns (and nodal points) in “vast flows of data” is a recurring theme in Gibson’s stories, going back to a time before the Big Data we hear so much about these days. If we had all the data (whatever that might mean) and the horsepower to process it, could we know where we are and, perhaps, where we’re headed? As I said to the cute TSA agent, search me. A few passing references to the Tao (in the book above) suggests that Gibson sees this ocean of data as something we live in, that we are part of, waves we can ride but not steer.

We think we can see the patterns but it’s just the motion of change we feel.

“In constant motion we no longer notice the motion. […] We are constantly surprised by things that have been happening for 20 years or longer. […] Sometimes we didn’t see what was becoming because we didn’t want it to happen that way.” (Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable)

Tough Guys

After repeated (and increasingly severe) purges of my library, I’m down to a couple of medium-size bookcases. A few hundred books at most. To keep a spot a book has to be one I can read over and over. Mostly crime fiction with a recurring character(s). In no particular order:

  • Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly)
  • Lucas Davenport (John Sandford)
  • John Corey (Nelson DeMille)
  • Matt Scudder (Lawrence Block)
  • Travis McGee (John D. MacDonald)

That would be my starting bench but there’s some good folks on the bench:

  • “Mac” McCorkle and Michael Paillo (Ross Thomas)
  • Artie Wu and Quincy Durant (Ross Thomas)
  • Spenser & Hawk (Robert B. Parker)
  • Almost any protagonist in an Elmore Leonard novel

Footnote: I do NOT count any novel published after the author’s death (written by someone else). Don’t read them, don’t count them. Sacrilege.

Reflecting on the characters above, I’m reminded that I like a ruthless streak in my protagonists. In one of the Matthew Scudder novels, some guy jumped Scudder in an ally with the intention of killing him. While the bad guy was unconscious, Matt positioned his leg on a curb and fucked up his knee so the guy would never walk right again. Almost too painful to read.

Review: Wrong Side of Goodbye

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-12-08-18-pm“Each of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books has a way of referring to earlier ones in the series, as when his latest, “The Wrong Side of Goodbye,” brings up something about a plastic surgeon. That surgeon figured in “The Crossing,” one of the series’s better recent installments. And it came out only a year ago. Still, I had to look it up, because the characters aren’t what make Mr. Connelly’s books worthwhile. The classic mystery plotting and streamlined storytelling are what render him so readable.”

Review of latest Harry Bosch novel (Wrong Side of Goodbye)


“No one can deliberately do it”

After years of reading and thinking about Zen (and, more recently, Taoism) a common theme seems to be if you’re reading and thinking about Zen, you’re missing the point. And there is is no point. If you’re looking for “it” you won’t find “it.” The quotes below (by Alan Watts and Ray Grigg) are just a few of hundreds that express this idea (not a popular word in Zen and Taoism). I’m terrible with puzzles so it’s a bit surprising I’ve given so much time to this consideration. But I really don’t have anything better to do, so…

wood stones

I think it was Mr. Grigg who wrote, “Taoism and Zen cannot properly be understood, but they can be experienced.” I like that. And every now and then I get what feels like a brief glimpse. Splitting logs for firewood gives me a little zen tingle (until I catch myself thinking that while I’m doing it). Same for stacking up a bunch of rocks. Oh, and the Cdim chord on the uke.

Strictly speaking, there are no Zen masters because Zen has nothing to teach. […] the experience of awakening (satori) is not to be found by seeking.

The only purpose of any consideration of Zen is eventually to be freed of that consideration.

The process of searching for Zen seems at first to be a further violation of Zen.

When stripped of formality and returned to its natural shape, Zen is earthy and ordinary. Nothing special.

The deliberate, conscious practice of Zen is a self-defeating process, an exercise in futility.

Most people have no conceptual grasp of Zen, which is the best approach to it.

When (Zen) is itself, it is so uncontrived and subtle that it goes nearly unnoticed. And no one can deliberately do it.

Anything that can be said about (Zen and Taoism) is incomplete, misleading, and largely wrong.

Taoism and Zen cannot properly be understood, but they can be experienced.

The Way can be recognized but not explained.

The essence of Taoism and Zen is the art of living rather than the philosophy of life.

When all doing is happening with the spontaneity of just being ordinary, this is living the practice of Taoism and Zen. The simplicity of this process becomes difficult only when considered.

The Last Cigarette

“I’ve smoked well over a hundred thousand cigarettes in my life, and each one of those cigarettes meant something to me. I even enjoyed a few of them.”

Smokers will get this essay (an excerpt from an upcoming book: “Nicotine,” by Gregor Hens). Not sure the rest of will/can.