Friday, January 4, 2019

Happy New Day Toward An Honorable New You

The world is what you and I make it.

As far as holidays go, New Year's Day seems to be the most frivolous. Sure, the end of a calendar year has no connection with holy rites, patriotic grandstanding, or compassionate activism. It is simply the flipping of a new annual number.

Still that number change is built into our civilization's time sense. January 1st is an arbitrary new beginning and a recognition time receding behind us. Of course, there is nothing like the present, if only because the present is the only inherent thing that exists, and each of us is surfing that wave as long as we can.

Many find the new year a fine time to put forward new resolutions. For me it is a time to renew my resolve to live an honorable life. Of late that transfers to living with a blend of compassion and rationality in general and modifying my thinking and actions toward inspiring a better world for all.

"All" is not only my family, my friends, and my species, but also a thriving environment, thinking creatures everywhere, and the creation of thoughtful immersive experiences with a peaceful positive activism. And so each day I attempt to look within and ask how can I do better, before going about imperfectly implementing that intention.

The only thing stopping our world from spinning horrifically out of control is each of us human beings, for no creature on the planet has wielded the skills to effect change inside and out. To that ends, with compassion and reason engaged, consider asking deeply of yourself each day the simple question "how can I do better?"

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Walkaway, A Patient Solution to Systemic Collusion?

The world is a frustrating, wonderful place to be living in right now.

It is wonderful in the ways it has always been, though perhaps more so for the wealthy of the past. At present, a majority of humans has access to wondrous technologies, cutting-edge scientific understandings, and amazing opportunities to pursue adventurous, meaningful, and satisfying life experiences. 

It is, however, immensely frustrating to see global powers consumed by runaway tribalism, oligarchy and amoral infighting. The growth for growth's sake economic paradigm sends a message to its constituents that consumerism is the path to satisfaction. It is a message that implies putting compassion and reason behind monetary through-put.

Walkaway, Cory Doctorow's cyberpunk, post-scarcity novel, daringly looks forward past global frustration to the toppling of the ransack-the-world pyramid scheme. In his imagined future the world strides toward a networked, peer-assisted, relationship-intensive society. This anarchy of connected human presence perseveres gradually displacing the "zotta-empire." As a bonus, and a utopianish catalyst, human mind download and preservation further inspires individuals to face the militarized corporate status quo and dream bigger.

Although Doctorow's escapist plotline stirs the heart and mind, pragmatically it is unrealizable in my lifetime. And yet, there remains the opportunity to walk away.

In fact, a sizable minority in the world around me have already chosen to walk away (at least partially) from out near enslavement society.  Many options exist beyond the 9-5 "hate what you're doing," work-to-live, golden handcuff  scenario: minimalist early retirement, tiny home living, backpack journeying, couchsurfing, parent hosteling, virtual adventuring, and vegan/green/peacenik/commune culture seeking.

With mini nest eggs or hand-to-mouth subsistence methods in play, many are taking their lives into their own hands, loosening the chains of nationalist expectations. The current governing regimes continue to press their luck walking toward the false oasis of endless economic expansion.  Sooner or later, resource over-harvesting, pollution generation, and exponential human reproduction will cause modern society to falter.

Rising from the ashes may be our best long term hope for the planet. Nevertheless, putting goodness first in our daily lives, leveraging compassion and reason at a grassroots level serves a grand and humble purpose. To build a foundation for the phoenix to rise while doing good for goodness' own sake.

Yes indeed, we can walk away and journey down a trail of our own.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Turkey Day Unrap

Thanksgiving Vegan Quiche 

Thank you thank you
The season is here
Bird got some history
Bird out in the woods
Hunting down grubs
Hunted by cubs 
Flying up high to roost
Keeping watch on the woods
Gobble Galoot

Thank you thank you
Seasoning is here
Bird got itself caged
Bird got bred for abuse
Pale zombies imprisoned
Pails of poultry blood
Fly into the oven to roast
Keep plowing down the woods
Gobble groot

Thank you thank you
Seasons to come
Bird peeled from its brain
Bird meat sheets and no pain
Paleo flesh fricassee 
Paltry cultured cells
Fly back to the wild
Turkeys run free
Gobble salute

This Thanksgiving let us give thanks for the wild places and wildlife that we share our planet with. The last 40 years have continued to decimate wildlife numbers and habitat space. Let us do better in generations to come. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Skeptic's Dilemma

Being a skeptic means observing the world with integrity, allowing honest observation and science to build an honest world view. Although the world boasts more humans living better lives than ever, objectively our collective negative behavior is driving global changes for the worse.  Environmental degradation, animal abuse, cultural tribalism, political nationalism, religious myth and pseudo-scientific misinformation, to name but a handful, are prolific. 

As a whole it's understandable why a skeptic who responds with reason and compassion to effect change might become dispirited, depressed or even cynical. What one person can do to shift the balance is minimal. Recycling to conserve resources, bicycling to reduce emissions, going vegan to decrease environmental and animal impacts, are all well and good, but if only 1 person, let alone 1 billion of 7.5 billion make these changes, the global situation will shift very little.

And yet the prevailing credo remains "live and let live." Which for all intents an purposes implies let every human do what they like to the world as long as it doesn't directly hurt another human. With a societal mindset like that there is a lot of inertia to overcome.

Bringing the best science and focused resources available to confront these issues is our best bet to contend with the problems at hand. Alas we are emotional creatures as well, and merely educating oneself about the world's problems and acting alone is insufficient to building up a positive attitude. To accomplish that feat we need to employ a number of tricks to outsmart our evolutionary predispositions.

Indeed, encouraging the joyful skeptic inside is challenging. To be sure, it starts with doing the best we can do for ourselves and those immediately around us, but does not stop there. We must become active in our communities, not just for positive policy change but for the selfish joy of forging positive relationships. Our society has become uniquely segregated by the very social networking technology that has amplified our virtual connections at the cost of our real ones.

As skeptics adopting an attitude that sings "always look on the bright side of life" can be a dramatic pressure relief of bitterness at the personal level. Strategically, bringing to bear a sense of humor alongside our reason and compassion is another method to maintain sanity in an insane world. If we are to combat the world's problems, both daily and longterm, we must not only be good skeptics, but we must remains steadfast, healthy minded humans so as to live our lives with integrity and sell a hopeful message to the world effectively.

Indeed the dilemma is real, but we must rise to the challenge.

Monday, November 5, 2018

You Can Choose Not to Choose...

...but you still should get out and vote!

Today I choose to share a Rush song...or more accurately a Geddy Lee song...that is particularly fitting on the eve of Election Day. Feel the groove, suss the lyrical core and by all means vote tomorrow with reason and compassion, always knowing that each and every day is our personal election day!

Runaway Train (listen)

Nothing blooms
In a loveless room
You've got to want it
You've got to want it
Who's the fool
Where apathy rules
You've got to want it
You've got to want it
If you don't want it
It remains the same
It's a heart of darkness
That wants to play that game
If there's no defiance
It remains insane
If it's all compliance
It's a runaway train
Nothing so cruel
Where malevolence rules
You've got to want it
You've got to want it
There is no defence
Against pointed arrogance
You've got to want it
You've got to want it
If you don't want it
It remains the same
It's a heart of darkness
That wants to play that game
It can be surprising
When you lose the shame
And the sun starts rising
Another day to tame
If you're heart is aching
Just remove the shame
You've got to want it
Give your soul a shaking
And refuse the blame
You've got to want it
Who's the fool
Where apathy rules
You've got to want it
You've got to want it
If you don't want it
It remains the same
It's a heart of darkness
That wants to play that game
If there's no defiance
It remains insane
If it's all compliance
It's a runaway train
It's a runaway train

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Countess Arugula and the Case of the Blood Oranges

Some horror-satire to get you through the living season.

Dusk had arrived at long last. The waning Hunter Moon had yet to rise leaving the overcast sky uniformly bleak. The evening's trick-or-treaters had already disappeared into their houses, barred their doors and doused their porch lights. Throughout downtown Shadowville the neighborhood is draped in anticipatory silence.

Countess Arugula emerges from her house and reaches up to unlatch her gate. It opens with an extended creak as she steps beyond the white picket fence of her yard. Closing the gate behind her, thrilling at the rending sound, she stumbles. An unexpected object lies before her. In the dim light she can just discern World's Best Blood Oranges spelled out on a crate with the Euphrates Organics trademark underscored.

"Oh my," Countess Arugula exhales, "who would leave fruit at my doorstep. Surely everyone knows by now I'm a carnivore of the night. Why do they spite me so."

What's On, Countess Arugula's pet bat, deftly flutter loops to a landing on her shoulder and mutters his singular taunt, "What's on?"

"Good question, What's on, let's investigate to discover who it is that dares ridicule me."

With lightning swiftness, Countess Arugula kicks the crate shattering the wood utterly and scattering hefty oranges across Main Street like frightened rodents. With a determined gait she crosses the street, pausing to enjoy the sweet scent of offal and manure that drifts over town from the slaughterhouse district.

With childlike aplomb Count Arugula struts up the stairs of her neighbor's house and rings the bell. The door cracks open and the double-barrel of a shotgun eases into view. Then the door flips opens fully and a tall, bearded man dressed in a camouflage pajama onesie pounces into the open threshold.

"Oh it's only you Countess. I thought it might be more of those damn kids. You'd think they'd heed the No Trespassing sign after last year's incident."

"What's on." squawks What's On.

"Oh, Hunter Jackfruit, do come out and see. Someone left a crate of oranges at my house as some sort of sick joke."

Shotgun angled down but still at the ready, Hunter Jackfruit closes the door and sits on his porch bench happy to talk eye-to-eye with his diminutive neighbor.

"Countess Arugula, dear, do share with me your concern?"

Then in a blur, Hunter Jackfruit swings his shotgun up and pulls the trigger with a deafening blam, obliterating a mourning dove that had perched in the porch rafters. Avian carnage rains down on the Countess, splatter on her face which she licks away in long circles that would make Gene Simmons blush.

"I mean how many times must I clarify that I am a carnivore. Why must people be so judgy and poke fun at me for possessing a last name I have no control over."

Abrubtly Hunter Jackfruit pivots, flicks on a laser sight, adjusts his aim and blam, decapitates a gray squirrel that had been bounding between the shadows of trees on his lawn.

"I hear you, Countess. I mean, I run into that very issue myself all the time. People judge us so because our ideas embody who we are. They forget that killing is part of our evolutionary nature."

Hunter Jackfruit shifts his body left and drills a garden toad into non-existence that had peeped three feet away.

"What's on?" chirps What's On.

With trained precision Hunter Jackfruit centers the red bead of the laser on the little brown bat's belly, his finger jittery at the trigger. Only after the Countess tilts her head and gives him an ominous stare above a yeah-really smirk, does he relent and lower the firearm.

Countess Arugula continues, "Maybe we should compromise like Cowboy Holocaust. I mean he was ridiculed for years for having the last name Asparagus. Once he changed his name to reflect the true nature of his dairy farmer ethics, people seem to leave him alone."

Hunter Jackfruit rolls to the corner of the porch, double pumps his shotgun and nails an old groundhog that had been nosing at the lamb-kabob smoker on his patio. He fires a second time into the lifeless flesh just for effect.

"Now don't you let others sway your true self, sweet Countess. Cowboy H may have rebranded himself.  But just because his milk jugs now picture cow's being force impregnated, their calves being locked in veal crates, and useless cows being lowered into the sausage grinder doesn't make it right. He lost a lot of respect by changing his name. Tradition is sacred, and don't you forget it! To be honest, if I were you I wouldn't trouble yourself investigating who left you the crate of oranges. The world is yours to own and you need not answer to the haters out there."

Hunter Jackfruit stands, swings the shotgun around, sights it carefully and fires. He successfully maims a street cat that had been noshing on the entrails of the headless squirrel. The high pitch screech of dying reaches high into the night.

"Maybe you're right," Countess Arugula announces, lifting her chin high. "I am Countess Arugula through and through. I choose to live how I want to and if a case of blood oranges showing up at my doorstep once a year is the price I have to pay, then so be it.  Thank you, Hunter Jackfruit."

"You're welcome. And help yourself to what's left of the kitty there while it's still fresh. The groundhog though, is all mine!"

Countess Arugula smiles, gives a nod and turns to collect her prize. What's On hops from one shoulder of the Countess to the other never losing eye contact with Hunter Jackfruit. As they disappear into the shadows of the front yard What's On squawks above the shriek of the unfortunate feline.

"What's on!"

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Flight of Fantasy

To celebrate the publication of Somewhere South of Cinco (pre-order available now) I've decided to wax wizardic on the genre of fantasy. Whether you prefer dragon-riding elves searching for elixirs or golems munching forbidden fruit beside a burning bush, arguably fantasy has become a most influential genre in the modern era.

At their foundation fantasy stories proclaim "screw true physics; the world 'really' works this way." In this fashion, broom transport, sabers of light, undead people that eat flesh (not to be confused with living people that eat flesh), etcera la majica break the rules of the real world.  Sometimes the plots are epic, sometimes cheese-ridden, but always extra-ordinary. Most importantly, fantasy realms permit their characters to investigate amazing mysteries and battle esoteric forces so as to stimulate readers' imagination.

Because of its uberfictional nature, many label fantasy simply as escapism. Indeed, a fantasy story, dark or light or somewhere in between, can help us forget the tedious, challenging life that is going on outside our sphere of imagination. So long as the escapist doesn't retreat madly into fictional realms these stories can refresh our minds to better face real-world challenges.

In fact, immersing ourselves in abstract realms can inspire us to cultivate a healthy imagination.  Simultaneously, fantasy stories provide contrast to recognize the difference between actual reality and misinformed world contrivances. Which is to say, it can help us build our critical thinking skills to better confront myths and false information that persist in the real world.

Finally, fantasy provides a unique platform to discuss topics that may be taboo in society. Using metaphor, analogy, and allegory, an author can highlight current issues in code, not only to sneak it past censors, but also secret it past the stereotypes and traditional ideas we our conditioned mind might otherwise reject outright.

To be sure, the fantasy genre has morphed substantially throughout recent decades. The fantasy behemoth has wandered far from its classical Middle Earth realms. Nowadays she might take the form of a dinosaur in a spacesuit, a time traveler in ancient Mars, or a climate refugee activist in False Key, Florida.

In every case, turn the page, and let magic happen!

Somewhere South of Cinco (more tales from False Key) is available now for pre-sale in flat scroll and magic slab forms at the AmazonatoriumThe book includes a couple of my poems and and my five part mini-serial story Goddess Cast. No spoilers here but if you're interested in fantasy stories that will whisk you away to and beyond tropical isles and sultry happenings, the of enchanted authors showcased here won't disappoint.