Thursday, May 30

In the meantime, he worked on his book.

Why he was writing a book he could not have told you. Back on earth it would have been termed a political pamphlet against the colonial system. Here there was no one to convince of his thesis, nor had he any expectation of being able to present it to a reading public. Venus was his home. He knew that there was no chance for him ever to return; the only way lay through Adonis, and there, waiting for him, were warrants for half the crimes in the calendar, contract-jumping, theft, kidnapping, criminal abandonment, conspiracy, subverting government. If the company police ever laid hands on him, they would jail him and lose the key.

No, the book arose, not from any expectation of publication, but from a half-subconscious need to arrange his thoughts. He had suffered a complete upsetting of all the evaluations by which he had lived; for his mental health it was necessary that he formulate new ones. It was natural to his orderly, if somewhat unimaginative, mind that he set his reasons and conclusions forth in writing.

— "Logic of Empire", Robert A. Heinlein

I never liked "Logic of Empire" much. It's the last story in a collection titled The Green Hills of Earth, maybe the least impressive of any of them. A minor work by a guy capable of much more. And depressing. I never wanted to agree that slavery wasn't so much deliberate evil as kind of an inevitable consequence of human stupidity. But I start to wonder: What's the difference?

"The Green Hills of Earth", the reason I picked up the book again in the first place, looking for those lyrics: There's a story. (I always pictured Rhysling as a black guy for some reason. Make a movie and you'd want, who, Morgan Freeman? He'd work for the older Rhysling, anyway.)

Tonight, I want to write something big. Big by whose standards or what measure I'm not even sure, but big.

It's summer now, and I've done little this past month but think. Or try to think, I mean. About everything mostly, though my brain won't really cooperate. Some about nothing, which it likes even less. It used to work better when I thought about everything. It's amazing how ignorance leaves you free to decide the big questions about life and the world. I don't even know what the big questions are any more.

I used to be able to think really well about nothing, too.

There are a hundred moths flying around up here. They keep hitting the ceiling fans with little thwacks or flying into the screens. Who knows how they got in or when; they were just here last night when I turned on the lights. We must not have built this place all that tight, which comes as no surprise if you were there when we did it.

I tried writing a song this month, for the first time. Just lyrics to a tune Eric sent me - a few simple chords on the guitar played over tape hiss in the mp3 he sent. It's hard to write something you think is good, harder still to write something you're not ashamed to give someone else. I don't know that I quite did either. Time might tell. I want to try it again.

My dad's cousin Fred died this month. Cancer. We went to the funeral. Lutheran service in a church at Salemsborg, Kansas. I don't think Salemsborg exists any more. Just the church and the cemetery. Beautiful country down there, not too far south of Salina. Fred was in his early fifties maybe, and I knew him hardly at all, which wasn't enough.

I talked to my cousin Rachel after the service, for longer than I have in a while. She's been married almost a year now. We talked about churches and institutional weirdness and Monty Python. About being pretty settled in a place, still not knowing quite what you want to do, having kids in a few years, building a house.

I think my non-Lutheran relatives find the liturgy and chanting and benedictions a little weird. Or a little disturbing and ridiculous. A little too Catholic. Something. Growing up with it, it was just boring. Somewhere, I started paying some attention. Now I'm not sure what it is. Or what it was. Things change, rituals bleed together, forms and movements cease to signify, meaning becomes implicit and fades. But it's still there, if you look in the right light. So, I guess or hope, is everything else. Sing How Great Thou Art. Watch the casket roll down the aisle. Think whatever this is, it just is, nothing I can say will change that and it's not my place to say anything much. Words really do fail, just about always.

I had someone tell me not too long ago, Calvinism is basically the Gospel. The hell it is, I wanted to say, but who am I to claim a knowledge of Calvinism or a handy definition of "the Gospel"? What I know is, these things are both deeper and shallower than they seem, and brother, if you haven't been there maybe you oughta keep your mouth shut a little longer.

If I lapse into some kind of almost-verse thing here, extra line breaks and no pretense of organization, will you keep reading? Or did I lose you already? I guess we'll see. Maybe I'll just keep going like this. This isn't a coherent essay, though chunks of it were going to be. It's just what it is, which is to say it's me nursing a second beer and sitting here sweating getting closer to deep tired and maybe half waiting for a storm to roll in and signify a little nothing overhead.

Late afternoon, I put Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on the stereo in the living room (the big, ugly Pioneer, with the bigger, uglier speakers) and stretched out just about dead center on the rug to listen, or sleep, or meditate. Something. That state of mind you only hit not quite comfortable stretched out on a floor, or rolling down interstate, someone else driving, leaning on a window and feeling the tires hum all the way up through the frame. Pillow over my head and sunlight streaming in, one critically acclaimed and quite possibly overhyped post-alt-country pop-noise genius album washing through my brain. Twice.

(Wilco: Beulah meets... What? The Beta Band channeling Bob Dylan? The Band? Nope, won't work. I just don't have the referents. I asked my sister, is this sad-bastard music? Probably, she said.)

Ever heard a song and thought, this says everything I want to say? Sure you have, if you dig music much. What does that really mean? Ever tried to play a song for someone in lieu of just plain saying it, 'cause you don't even know what you mean but you're pretty sure if they'd just listen it would make sense? Did it work?

Somehow I haven't had much luck.

Ever heard a song and thought, if I could just make something like that, I could say everything I want to say?

Yeah, me too. But then I squandered my youth, and somehow I got to be 21 without becoming a guitar-wielding lyrical genius. We won't even talk about the vocals. Ever wondered if you could do it just with words on a page? Set up an echo of what you're feeling and knowing in someone else's mind, so powerful they might be listening to you pour your soul into some brilliant music they can't ignore? It's not really the same thing but you know people come close once in a while. Maybe.

Robert Heinlein was the writer I wanted to be when I was a little kid and it was easy to say, hey, I'm going to be a writer. That voice I heard in my head reading his stuff, the guy narrating Have Spacesuit, Will Travel or Time for the Stars or The Door Into Summer all fifteen or twenty times I read it in a decade - that was *my* voice, somehow. The one narrating my own life, at least some of the time. The one that'd tell my story going to the stars, fleeing some alien horror across the surface of Luna or sitting in a bar in some post-WWIII vision of Denver, ca. 1970, watching my cat drink gin.

Things change.

(Yes, I have been reading too much EGR. No, this is not finished.)

p1k3 / 2002 / 5 / 30
tags: topics/sfnal

Thursday, May 16, 15:21 CDT

The monitor or the video card, one of the two has issues. Intensely distracting, flickering issues. Let's hope it's the video card - I'll be able to afford replacing that one a lot sooner. If my computer usage hadn't dropped to near nil, this'd be driving me nuts.

Fluxbox really is a nice window manager. Just enough extra gloss on the old hyper-minimalist Blackbox framework to win me over.

Now here's a question: Does anyone really care about such things? I guess the evidence is they do, else where would a couple dozen WM's, or a beast like KDE come from? Some fairly bright people must care quite a bit. I guess this is not a bad thing in itself. A WM's a tool like anything else. Nothing wrong with caring about your tools, or even with taking an interest in their aesthetics.

(Granted you don't see anyone trying to make a hammer look like a color-coordinated tribute to their favorite anime character or adolescent pop star. And maybe what I like about Fluxbox is that it's just trying to be a really nice hammer, even though the more I think about it, the less a window manager seems like a single tool than like a conceptual space for tool using...)

But it's all gotten kind of stale for me. Seems like it might be time to ask ourselves what we're actually going to do with all these shiny tools, or just go start messing around with something else.

This doesn't have the least little bit to do with what I sat down to write. I'd stay here and write more, but I'm off to go make a pie and load salvaged lumber on a flatbed trailer.

p1k3 / 2002 / 5 / 16

Wednesday, May 8, 0:05 CDT

driving home
more stuff in my car than i thought
could possibly have been left
most of the time the clock on the dash doesn't work
just flickers.
sometime i expect it to flash FEAR or PAIN
like the watch in The Last Hot Time

i quit wearing a watch

rexroth said the world would be better
if Kansas wasn't in it
i'm not in Kansas now
but i wonder if i might as well be
the wheatfields make it feel less like slow death
at least where there's been rain

too much bare dirt brown in this damn state

he should see Kansas now
the small towns are falling apart
the big ones fuzzing into strip mall and asphault

everywhere the midwest turns into
more fort wayne, kansas city
or gary, indiana
and leaving
gets to seeming like more than an option.

sunday night in lincoln
concert crowds are always like this
the self-conscious freaks
the highschoolers
the girls i won't talk to
and everybody members of a generation that stands around
hands in pockets

or maybe that's just me

we're standing here courting heat exhaustion
why don't they kill the lights?
feet killing on this concrete
the lights are never going off
can't even move
should have just taken a seat
they can't still be setting up
the lights are never going to go off

but of course they do

and after that it's all worthwhile
for a little while

p1k3 / 2002 / 5 / 8

Thursday, May 2, 11:04 CDT

This is the last time I'll post anything from 215 Morey Hall. Movin' on, kind of. I feel like I should have some profound observation to make about that, but I don't.

Take down the posters, try to wipe the ink off the walls, throw stuff in the car and drive the twenty miles home thinking: What was that all about, anyway?

p1k3 / 2002 / 5 / 2

Wednesday, May 1, 15:26 CDT

It's snowing. I'm sitting here watching a kernel compile in the background, and looking out the window and it's snowing on the grass and the pink blossoms on whatever the heck kind of tree that is out front. Picturesque.

Wow. My kernel's done. That was quick.

p1k3 / 2002 / 5 / 1