Sunday, November 30, 2008

Exurban Disconnect

The rich smells of coffee and cedar smoke in cold rooms as yet uninvaded by the spreading heat. Cold save that one spot, bundled beneath layers, that no one in their right mind would leave. Somewhere outside a dog barks, his long and attentive cry of alarm, and right mindedness changes. Dressing quickly, grabbing a pistol off the bookcase and wishing it was a rifle, and quietly trotting out the kitchen door.
Eyes, squinted and suddenly watering against the flat and bright morning light, darting to the west. Scanning for shadows that move and grass that leans into the breeze. The pistol is cold, and not warming quickly, and no grass moves, and all the shadows sleep.
I stand for a long time, gun held low in front of me, playing my vision over the draw above the homeplace. Eyes waking, shaking free of sleep and given to reexamination of previously trusted brush and shade. Cedar smoke drifts lazily on the wind, calling me back to the house, to warmth. I turn partially, and go no where.
I cut my eyes back, looking out the sides of them. I feel like I am staring into the eyes of all the coyotes who have seen me, when I've never seen them. They are hidden in shadow and tall grass, laughing. If only I cut my eyes sideways just enough, as I am quartering away, I'll fool them I feel. Somewhere my vision will slip between worlds, and I'll see hidden things unsuspecting. Maybe even get a shot off. But my eyes find more still shadows, and grass that bends with the wind.
I turn a circle and look into the morning, for miles in every direction nothing but wildness of grass and cedar. Laughter of birds begins to fill the air, quick trilling song. Danger, if it was ever more than a pool of backbent breeze, is passed. I sigh, and start making the mental lists of the mornings tasks. Everything that must be made ready to return to town. Where, if tomorrow morning I answer the morning with a pistol and a hunter's smile, I'll surely be locked up. A roving mad man, hunting for quietude in the city.

Next Time

I learned to roll cigarettes from my father, and a Romanian girl I taught to shoot. Delia, the International Super-Spy, who rolls the tightest cigarettes I’ve ever seen. I’m not so good at it. I lack practice, I smoke cigarettes so rarely. But tonight, I am a whole host of bad habits.
I drag hard on the cold butt, trying to liven its dead ash, so I can “monkey fuck” the one I just rolled. With no such luck, I hunt for a lighter.
I draw heavily, thick smoke rising from above the lighters flame. I drop the tool, letting it slip from the stiff fingers of my right hand. The hand aches, and fights at being opened. I force it closed again, sore tendons arguing, swelling. I need to climb easier, next time. Next time, I need to not roll cigarettes sloppily and smoke them too fast. I need to not mix whiskey in my coffee, stealing sips straight from the flask mouth. Next time. But for tonight, I am willing host to all of my bad habits. I relish in the nicotine, the alcohol, and playing my aching right hand across the keyboard. It cannot close, or hold weight, but it can lift cigarettes and write. And that’s good enough for now. I’ll worry about the rest in the morning.

Monday, November 24, 2008

War, Cormac McCarthy and Speculative Fiction

Broke, running out of coffee and whiskey (not to mention food), and not feeling like going in to work leaves me in a random mood today. I feel rushed and pressed to do a lot of things, all on my mind at once. Yet I sit at my desk, in my broken backed chair and pursue utter randomness, looking for Black Swans.
Really, I was trying to find a Cormac McCarthy quote to use in a discussion, and it somehow led into an expanding gyre of the random. So, I'm running with it.

"It makes no difference what men think of war [...] War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner." Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

Blood Meridian
is, without a doubt, my least favorite McCarthy novel. At least of those I have read (I have yet to read The Crossing, The Sunset Limited, Outer Dark, Cities of the Plain or The Orchard Keeper). I am not turned off by the violence, or the despairing philosophies, or any of the rest that so many others find repugnant about the book. I simply think McCarthy has done better. Blood Meridian is revisionist, a nice way of saying its historical accuracy is precisely dick, and compared to McCarthy's masterpieces such as Suttree and The Road, poorly written. It lacks the subtlety in extremes of those two novels. While they deal with extreme, and violent, situations and the wreck and ruin of human lives, Suttree and The Road do so with understatement, and the literary equivalent of negative space. The unsaid. offers little subtlety in its extremes, reveling in the violence, and base vulgarities of nearly every character. I understand the idea, the portrayal of human natures desired, but I simply find Blood Meridian to be inelegant all around. Even in Child of God, which lacks some of the subtlety of later McCarthy, there was an elegance to the handling of such extremes. I am continually mystified at people who cant get over Blood Meridian - Its just not that good. And don't even get me started on people who want to think it is an accurate historical portrayal.
With all that said, however, it has some gems in a handful of lines. And bad McCarthy is still better than a lot of other writers best. The line about war, as said by the character of the Judge, is one I have always liked.

While looking for that quote, I came across another interesting perspective on McCarthy, in particular his Pulitzer winning The Road.
I am an unabashed fan of The Road, and have recommended it to most everyone I know. Some who've taken me up on it liked it, others did not as is the way with anything. I think it is one of the best works of literary fiction I've ever read, truly a master work. But beyond that, I've thought since it first came out, that it was a bold move in literary fiction, as it is essentially speculative fiction. Science fiction, speculative fiction, SciFi, Sciffy, call it what you will, is a dirty term in literary circles. Like fantasy (thud and blunder), it is an area regarded by the literati as populated by hacks, and poor use of language, and all the other cardinal sins against literature. And, to some extent, they are right - There is a lot of really terrible speculative fiction. But there is a lot of really good speculative fiction, and plenty of writers who are far more literary and skilled at their crafting of language than a lot of the icons of literature. I personally think there are more fundamentally important works of science fiction, than there are of (at least modern) literary fiction. Perhaps only made more so by the fact that, the engineers, the scientists, the builders of our world read science fiction/speculative fiction. Their bliss, their flights of fancy, and the reflections of their hopes, dreams, failures, and losses, are all in speculative fiction. These are the people who build our world. Yet to many literati, their voices and concerns are low and vulgar, they are the unwashed rabble.
And someone, at least, has the balls to point all this out: Dipping Their Toes in the Genre Pool

I need to read A Canticle of Leibowitz again. It is a fantastic book. I was thrilled last fall when I saw it was among the required reading for a popular course at New Mexico Tech. Seeing numerous students carrying it around, dog earing pages, and talking about it was fantastic.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Once More, The Sound of Guns...

I've actually tried to avoid gun blogging. I don't want to be a "gun blogger", something I've always found limiting, even if only in the eyes of others. It is inevitable however. It has to come up. I am a strong supporter of the right to keep and bear arms. Skill at arms is integral to my philosophy of a "neo-bohemian" lifestyle. In my little "Uber Mensch 2.0" ideal, being handy with a gun is as essential as the ability to read, write, drink coffee and wear trendy hats.
Cute oversimplifications aside, I like the guns. The guns are an important part of my life, and my social consciousness. Unfortunately, this turns a lot of people off, people who otherwise agree and identify with me and vice versa. A lot of my politics and philosophies are currently quite popular with a set who abhor the idea of guns and gun owners, much less an active pursuit of firearms use as a skill for saving lives. This is something I've learned to live with, and try to do what I can to change one person at a time. Usually, I don't have very high expectations, but from time to time a surprise comes along from an unexpected corner.
Such an unexpected corner was this article in High Country News: Why We All Need the Democrats to Abandon Gun Control

Its a good article. Do I think its spot on? No. But I think the ideals of that article would be a good place to start.
My only real criticism is that I think it is a mistake to look to the Heller decision as the end all be all of Right to Keep & Bear Arms legislation. Heller, while a real victory for RKBA, left some holes that we must be aware of, and be ready to fight. That said, in the context of the HCN article, and its target audience, Heller as a benchmark makes a lot of sense.

There will be more, in coming days/weeks/months. Somewhere in my head there is an epic post about guns, in general. As well as a lot more. One entry at a time, though.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Night is Cold

Somewhere a smooth tongued idealist is lying, working a trade of expensive words and pretty mental pictures, while I am lost in a cold, window rolled down at 3AM world. Illuminated, a sickly dance club pattern, of street lights cut sharply by the cop in the rearview mirror.
And I lie, inelegantly, and painting no pictures and go on home where I want, without much conviction, a distraction of nicotine or alcohol, in lieu of what I'd really rather have. The shape, smell and softness to which I'd rather loose myself. Heedless of all the burdens, cleaving myself to another, instead of aching, tired and angry with the pitiful company of dissatisfaction.
I am tired of the game, of the hunters and hunted and all their many confusions. Of watching those I love breaking themselves on foolish turns of tongue, and misunderstanding. I want nothing of that, the more I watch it play out, unless it takes me by surprise. I have a great taste for the prey, but little taste for the hunting.
I want a kill. Quick, and probably bloody in the end, but ruthless and heedless of greater need beyond my own, and the immediate. I want not worrying about the money, or who its going to shatter in the end, as we drink and laugh and fall, rich with mirth in our base natures and loose to alcohol, glorying in abandonment of anything more serious.
Yet I am a poor killer. My tongue is cursed with honesty, and I cannot find a balance between ruthless desire, and gentility that works in my favor. I am not the liar, the convincer of warm and trustworthy ideals that everyone knows are just a pretense for the dirty, rough crudeness that's really being dealt.
And I am going to bed unsatisfied. Splashed with the blood of hunters, and without the soft, warm, dark haired and olive skinned satisfaction of coming out on top with prey.
I know this will be good for me. In twenty years I will know how wrong I was, how jaded and cynical I really wasn't and everything it cost me to think differently. But tonight? Tonight it is cold, and I have no higher minded intentions, and no desire for stability or anything but self indulgent destruction.