Monthly Archives: June 2009

Here you are, one sunshine-bright and rather (very) early Sunday morning. The cats are crashed on their separate perches, Damien and the Buttkicker are still asleep.

Outside your windows is the lassitude of a warm, quiet summer morning, not too long after sunrise, which arrives at the ungodly hour of about 4:30 AM in this part of the world. The air is perfumed with blooming elderflower, grass, the hint of a hot day to come. A few sleepy wood doves are cooing in the hedge outside.

Which is, at this hour of the morning, about as lyrical as you get without the benefit of a major jolt of caffeine.

I am not yet fully awake. It is, as I said, very early. I make myself some coffee and add milk.

I grab the wrong carton out of the fridge. It’s buttermilk, something I don’t discover until I’ve taken the first sip and swallow before I realize what’s happening. It is so vile there should be laws against it, especially before 6 AM on a Sunday.

It’s going to be that kind of Sunday.

A few minutes later, I come to discover that then again, maybe it’s not going to be that kind of morning.

Because, ladies, gents and fellow sentient beings, I have received the ultimate blogospheric accolade. I have been given credit for inspiring another blogger, another one of my faithful readers, to take his own blog into new and unknown territory.

Fried Dog Leg claimed my paltry words set off a singular epiphany in his own curly neocortex, and prompted him to think sideways, about what his blog was, which directions it had taken and which ones it could take, and that maybe it was time for – a change.

It was all my fault.

That, readers, is an accolade of no small proportions. I am bowing from the bottom of my Balinese desk chair, tickled a not entirely flattering shade of fuchsia.

I have a lot to thank the World Wide Web for, really, I do. That’s how I found the Buttkicker, who helped make Damien. That’s how I found the Buttkicker, who got me writing. That’s how I got started on The Effing Book, and how I conducted a large chunk of my research, since I couldn’t afford the books, not even second-hand, and how I found my proofreaders and badly needed experts on ancient Rome and Pagan Iron Age Ireland.

But best of all, all things being equal, relatively speaking, is that I get a chance to connect with other people on a scale never before experienced in human history. My blog stats tell me I have readers from the US, the UK, Roumania, Brazil. There are accidental encounters from Argentina, Palau, and Australia, Malaysia and South Africa, Russia and New Zealand.

Some of them even take the time to read what I have to say.

For an unpublished writer with ambitions of something more, something other, something called a reputation (so long as it’s tarnished and not entirely squeaky-clean), this is pretty mind-blowing.

It’s pretty mind-blowing, that if you take the time to go digging through the flotsam and jetsam, the odds and ends and general detritus of the internet, you can find more head-exploding dynamite, more epiphanies, more words and images and sounds that enrich you and enlarge you and encourage you – to keep going and keep growing, and. above all else, to keep – writing, because you never know.

Some sunshiney day, some run-of-the-mill Sunday morning, you might discover that your voice in the void, your scream in the abyss, your audience of one has touched another soul out there, got them thinking, given them some microscopic epiphany that expanded their horizon and brightened their day.

That’s what the internet is, folks, that’s what the blogosphere does, that’s the moment that makes it all worthwhile.

That’s why I blog. Because you never know.

In the great Eureka Emporium of the blogosphere, you just might find a friend and a kindred soul.

And some bright summer morning, they might return the favor.

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(My apologies to Plato, with whom I do not agree, and to the ghost of Edgar, who might have something to do with this.)

After the sumptuous dinner, Thanatos, that dreaded brother of Morpheus, brought out his coup de grace. Nectar and ambrosia were all very well, thought Eros, but some things at least, those wretched humans knew how to get absolutely right. He swirled a stupendous 1990 Vosne RomanĂ©e Cros Parentoux around in his glass. It glowed in the low light like a satin promise or a liquid velvet threat, he wasn’t sure which. Who cared? It was incredible. A bit young for a Cote d’Or Burgundy, but again, who cared when perfection was this sublime? Fuck Zeus and his fucking nectar. Fuck Ganymede, who poured it out every night. Wait a minute. Hadn’t he? He couldn’t remember, not after his fourth sip.

Logos, a three-dimensional triangle who pulsed with a pearly white glow a few inches above the marble floor, was by now turning a slight shade of pink. He dipped one apex of the triangle into his glass, and grew a deeper shade of pink.

Thanatos, their host, was reclining in all his black-clad glory, spread all over his end of the sofa like several large bottles of very expensive olive oil, extra virgin.

“So then, gentlemen,” he began. “I brought you both here for several reasons, but the main one was…” he paused as he thought.

“Boredom!” cried Eros. “*Fess up! You need a vacation!”

“No kidding. What with all that’s happening down there…” Logos pointed with another apex toward the floor, where the endless diorama called Planet Earth flowed and ebbed, ebbed and flowed, turning on its axis from day to night, night to day. Here and there were small pinpoints of light, in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran, and in many unnamed places that never made the nightly news on TV.

“Well, that too. But no, you know, sometimes it can be a good thing, to sit around with your friends and just – talk.”

“I do hope you have a good few more bottles of this stuff if that’s your plan.” Eros interrupted. “So you’ve got the night off? No one’s going to die tonight?”

“I don’t know.” Thanatos laughed. “Morpheus is standing in for me tonight. I had other plans. A symposium. With, of course, my two close friends, Eros and Logos, love – and logic.” He laughed again. “A contradiction in terms. Yes, I have more wine.”

“A symposium! Oh, goodie. I’ve been reading up on that idiot, Plato.” Logos pulsed again.

Eros rolled his beautiful eyes. “Gods! I can’t for the life of me understand why. He was, wasn’t he? All head, no heart, no place for me!” He sighed. “No wonder he died of old age. So, Thanatos, what’s the topic for tonight?”

Thanatos settled himself back on his sofa, took another slow sip of wine and thought a moment. “Well, we could call it – self-perception, and how we define it, and that, dear friends, sounds precisely like something that boring old fart Plato would say. Or, I could turn the topic another way and say – sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll – or, who knows? But really, it was because that according to some definitions, the three of us are embodiments, let’s call it, of the three main ingredients? principles? aspects? of that one human emotion that defines them more than any other – l-o-v-e. Love. Love and creativity make them human, they say, and I rather believe they have a valid point there. It’s all in the blend, the – ” he swirled the ruby contents of his glass around and dipped his long, aquiline nose into it and inhaled deeply – “the terroir, if you will. This wine, for instance, grows only on a small patch of soil, on a small strip of land in the French district of Bourgogne. If you took those grapes and planted them in California, say, it would be an entirely different product we’d be drinking.”

Eros couldn’t resist a joke. “It would get plastic surgery up the wazoo, spend a lifetime on a macrobiotic diet and a bitching personal trainer, platinum blonde hair extensions, collagen lips, a ton of makeup and call itself Pamela Anderson.”

Logos spluttered burgundy down his front surface. “Too true!” he gasped, once he could breathe again.

“Well, would you call that erotic?” asked Thanatos.

Eros didn’t even have to think about it. “No. It’s too obvious and too cookie-cutter, too defined according to some insane standard of erotic, and erotic is not a word that can be contained in a standard of any kind. That’s not what I’m about. I’m the whatever makes you want to rip off your clothes in a dark courtyard at 3 AM personification.”

“Lust, in other words” sneered Logos. “That’s a cheap shot. You can do better than that.”

“I would, too” retorted Eros, “if that fucking Dionysos hadn’t hijacked me and given us all sex, drugs and rock’n’roll!”

“But is that love?” asked Thanatos. “The whole ‘I want you and I want you right this nanosecond’ urge? And here I thought it was just a justification for procreating.”

“Love,” pontificated Logos, “is a meeting of the minds that precludes Eros, that in fact could not happen without me, since it all starts in the head anyway.”

“Rrright,” drawled Eros, “like all the bs and lies people spout just to get laid. Come on!”

“Are you denying that intellectual compatibility is a bad thing? People can stay together for years because of it! And that’s what really bugs you – that eventually, any relationship has to get out of bed, sooner if not later, and that’s when the problems start, if they have nothing to talk about to begin with!” Logos was turning a distinctive shade of puce and pulsing harder.

“Now, now.” Thanatos waved his hands. “Calm down, guys. We’re not here to discuss who’s the better of the two of you, or even all three of us. We’re here to discuss love.”

Logos throbbed slightly slower. “All right. Love. We will all agree, will we not, that love can consist, at different times, of each of the three of us in different proportions at different times of human lives. When humans are young and hotheaded, you “- an apex reached out towards Eros, sulking in his corner of the sofa, “predominate, because they’re young, because they’re in the grip of some strange compulsion they hardly understand themselves. It’s only later, when they’re a little older, and hopefully a little wiser, they go on to other, wider priorities – someone else to talk to on those endless Sunday afternoons of the soul. If all goes well, those two humans will sail into the sunset of their last days of life, and then, you – ” he reached out to Thanatos, who was listening with rapt attention – “perch on their shoulders, reminding them to let go, and to go on.”

“A good theory, so far as it goes,” conceded Thanatos, “but in actual fact, I would have been there for years. You can’t go through your life without experiencing the loss of someone you loved, since that makes you aware of your own mortality and your own limited time.”

“Ah!” Eros was onto his third glass of Burgundy. Wine this good was nearly as good as a five-star orgasm, and lasted much longer in the mouth. “Both of you are forgetting something – that I am the one who makes them – ” he pointed towards the Earth below – “forget. I am the one who can make a woman lose her underwear, make a man lose his head – either one, you pick. I can make them forget anything at all – limits and limitations, tabus and prohibitions – all for the sake of one perfect, flawless moment of eternity and starlight, one exquisite plugging in to the Cosmic Grid, one moment, in other words, when humans completely forget what and who and where they are. I’m the promise, the assignation, and the anticipation of that one particular moment.”

Logos was gobsmacked by that dazzling display of eloquence. “Well, I’m the one who gives the words to define it. And you did – quite well, I say.”

“I,” said Thanatos so quietly they both had to lean closer to hear his words, “am the dark face of both of you.”

For the space of three or four human heartbeats, both Eros and Logos were silent. Logos was so still, he nearly lost a dimension. Eros downed another glass. He poured out another, and lifted it to his host. His shining, rosy face was bright with both laughter and paradox, regret and relief.

“In which case, I propose a toast to our gracious host, Thanatos.”

Logos lifted his own glass, the fifth. It was, even he knew, ambrosial stuff. He looked over at Eros and, insofar as he was able, he winked.

“To Thanatos!” he said. “To Thanatos, who rules the world, and rules us all.”

“To Thanatos!” cried Eros. “The master of us all, and the dark face of us both!”

They all drank, long and deep.

“Thanatos, my friend,” Eros cleared his throat. “I love you dearly, but sometimes, man, you really know how to kill a party!”

“Well,” drawled Thanatos, “look at my name.”

“We know!” exclaimed both Logos and Eros in unison.

“Death, and one of us hopes to transcend it by defining it, while the other seeks to forget about it” Logos blurted out.

Eros winked at Thanatos. “Some immoveable obstacle you are!”

They all burst out laughing. “Even I will drink to that!” Thanatos reached for the wine bottle. “More burgundy?”


Image: “Eros and Thanatos” (detail) copyright Kako Ueda 2008

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Every day, I fire up my Mac first thing in the morning and wake up with one or another of my seven daily online newspapers, one American, four British and two Danish. If only my French were better, I could add one or two more to that list, but no. There are only so many hours in a day. I have chores to do, places to go, scenes to write, a household to feed, and a blog to maintain. I’m teaching myself Irish, Welsh and refreshing my ancient Greek already. The French will just have to wait. Unless I move on to Sanskrit, in which case just shoot me.

All these newspapers provide me with my daily dose of “Aha!”, “Really?”, or “Wow!” News, book reviews, analyses, movie reviews, style pages, op-ed pages – I eat it all up. Sometimes, a few things will stick for the rest of the day, the week, the month. Sometimes, there will be discussions across the spaghetti bolognese of any or all of these things, interrupted by Damien pushing around the vegetables on his plate with a disgusted “I don’t eat that!”

These are the daily, small scale revelations, the firecracker version, the ones that make me feel alive and glad to be, unless it’s that other kind of news day, the kind where the overriding headline on any side of the Atlantic is yet another mind-boggling version of human stupidity, short-sightedness, horror and tragedy.

I won’t talk about those days. Your life is bad enough already.

Every once in a blue moon, however, I will happen across a Great Head-Exploding Moment, the kind I wonder does NOT reverberate throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the kind that blows my bathetic brain to bits and pieces it takes me weeks, months and decades to reassemble, if, that is, I figure out to put the pieces back to where they were.

It can be brought about by anything – movies, art, discoveries, documentaries, music, literature. That last is a big one. Not a few books have bits and pieces of my brain plastered all over them, including the one and only book I hated so violently I threw it out of a sixth-floor student dorm room window – and let it rot in the rain. I do believe that the Copenhagen Public Library to this day is still missing its English-language translation of St. Augustine of Hippo’s “City of God”.

Sometimes, it will happen that the brain-exploding moments are brought about by other people, who think I might or might not like, dig, understand. It follows that some of those people are idolized in my personal Pantheon, and some others are pilloried. It all depends on the reaction.

One of the immortal ones introduced me, many, many years ago, to writers like Willilam Burroughs, James Joyce, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Charles Bukowski. I was scraping off brain cells and rearranging mental furniture for years after.

The biggest literary head-exploder of that particular era, as I recall, was my discovery of a certain Brooklyn writer named Henry Miller. The first time I read “Tropic of Cancer”, I was not so much floored as flattened into oblivion. Holy Cow! You mean, someone, a street bum in Paris back in the Thirties thought like I did? This was big. This was huge. This was major.

Henry Miller went into my personal hall of fame. He’s still there today, shored up by two cherished paperback Obelisk Press editions of the “Tropics” books, “not” admonishes the back cover, “for import into the United States.” (It was banned for obscenity when this edition was published.)

Since then, there have been others, other books, other writers, other moments that pushed my buttons and realigned the poles on my internal batteries. The Buttkicker, who freely admits he’s light-years behind his intellectually omnivorous spouse (“What do you mean, you’ve never read “Utopia”??? Why not???”), has arranged to blow up my brain at regular intervals, especially if he thinks I need it. He writes sci-fi on the sly, so – wheel in the many late and likewise Great. Thanks to him, I’ve added Heinlein, Lovecraft, Frank Herbert to the Hall of Fame. Together, we discovered Dan Simmons’ “Ilium” and “Olympos”, two books so breathtakingly original you can’t believe you even read it. It’s the Trojan War, that long-dead pulverized horse of literature, but not anything at all like you’ve ever read it before – or likely since.

There have been discoveries of other, unheralded and sub-radar talent, talent that deserves a much wider audience, and stories that are retold as you’ve never read them before, and some of them rate the firecracker rating, while others are H-bomb level.

Then, right at the moment i was getting cozy and complacent and contented with the status quo, the Buttkicker sprang into action. Yupp, time to blow her head off again, fire her up again, make her sleepless at night – again, and not the way you think.

He managed to get his hands on a documentary called “Dreams with Sharp Teeth”, about a writer he thought could be an inspiration and a motivation and many things beside: Harlan Ellison.

Now, the name is not at all unfamiliar. A long time ago, when I could afford such things, I read Playboy for the articles, and quite often, there would be one or another essay by this dude, Harlan Ellison, and they were always provocative, interesting, and often hysterically funny. But I wasn’t exactly burning holes in the asphalt to my local English-language second-hand bookshop to buy up his entire oeuvre because of them.

Some things you have to be ready for. I wasn’t ready – yet.

Friday night, once Damien had crashed, the house was quiet, and we had just finished watching Luc Besson’s “Subway”, out came – the dreams with sharp teeth. I laughed so hard I started to wheeze. I scraped up my jaw off the floor. I know for a definite fact I’ve been scraping my brain off several horizontal and vertical surfaces ever since. And now, I am ready. I am so ready, it’s a scandal. There’s a writer out there, a writer whose books I’ve never read, whose worlds I don’t know, just waiting for his words to blow up my brain to subatomic particulate matter.

I can’t wait.

Even if the esteemed Mr. Ellison will never directly influence me or my own substandard words, even if I’m not even that big a sci-fi fan, strictly speaking, I can and likely will learn a lot from someone who takes great care with his words, his allusions and metaphors.

Writing, as he once said, is supposed to be hard, otherwise everyone would be doing it.

Well, take my word for it, people – it is. Hard. Harder than you think, especially if it sounds effortless and unrestrained and reads like you think.

So long as it does – make you think. If you’re lucky, your head might explode, just as mine did and still does, every day.

But a little inspiration never hurt anyone.

Just watch for that particulate matter. You may never find it again.

(Image: Keith Haring, “Untitled”(Exploding Head), 1983)

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Lately, when I haven’t been wheezing, playing out the female characters from Pixar’s “Cars”, or playing out all the characters in the Effing Book, where many interesting things have happened lately, I have been catching up on all the fun I ‘ve missed, including devouring several days’ worth of the NY Times, never a bad thing. And there, I came across an article that got me thinking about a phenomenon unique to this day and age – blogging.

Really, the idea is simple. It’s the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, London, but you don’t have to get dressed, it doesn’t matter if it rains and anyone at all anywhere in the world can read your immortal – or not – words, argue or agree with you, heckle or harangue you. The word is yours, the floor is yours and if you’re even halfway good, so the myth goes, you might even hit the Cinderella jackpot and go on to book deals and the Oprah Book Club!

Stranger things have been known to happen.

And it can be about anything, anything at all! There are – lifestyle blogs, book blogs, political blogs, animal blogs, blogs about blogs. It is, at least in certain parts of the world, freedom of expression at its finest.

Anything goes, and many things do. There’s just one problem with all that online verbosity. It is, however, a big problem.

Nine times out of ten, nine blogs out of ten – you’re writing for an audience of precisely – one. There you are, blowing the world apart by the seams by your sheer, utter, blinding brilliance – or bs, take your pick – on whatever ails you/grabs you/ills you/thrills you at any given moment, and all you’re really doing when push comes to shove is – showing off? Exposing your narcissism? Polishing your ego? Practicing your writing skills – or the total lack thereof?

Because you’re the only one that reads it! And let’s face it, darlings – after a while, even you can find your own dazzling perspicacity rather – lackluster. You want feedback, you want adulation and accolades, you want that book deal and your bottom on Oprah’s couch, frothing at the gills on camera over the subject du jour.

Oh, yes, you do!

Don’t you?

There’s a certain liberation that goes with online identity, You can be anyone, anything you desire. You can open up your mouth and insert your foot, size 5 or 15, but if no one is listening, who cares?

It used to bug me, that I wasn’t one of those bloggers with umpteen zillion followers. Some of those who have many followers I’ve lurked over, wondering what they were doing right that I wasn’t. I even began subscribing to a “how-to-promote-your-blog” newsletter, and then gave up when I realized that I could write the Effing Book and use this modest little soapbox for a verbal test lab, or I could try to create a total Moltenmetalmama brand – like Coca Cola, Astro-Glide and Metallica – and I could whistle for writing a novel.

It would be a screaming shame to see nearly seven years of sweat, blood and many, many tears go down the drain because I got seduced by the blogosphere. I’m arrogant enough to think I’m better than that. Or if I’m not, then my story is.

That article made me aware of something I didn’t even know. That even as I write this now, I’m still ahead of the game, precisely because I have followers – all five of them, and that I care very much indeed about each and every one of them. Only one of you knows me in the real world. (He also knows what happens when I get too close to a tequila bottle – and may forgive me – some day. )

I’m not here, yelling into the void, to polish my own halo or sell my solipsism. I’m not out to make a zillion bucks in ads or even a book deal, although I wouldn’t protest too much if I had one, and I do think that some day, I will – have one.

I’m here to become a better writer, to get my head out of history, to let rip and let go and see where my words will take me. You, my fantabulous reader/followers, are here because you’ve found something interesting to read – or you’ve found an interesting mind – or – you tell me!

That’s six people right there, who didn’t know each other a year ago, all brought together by a few words knitted together by yours truly.

Not so bad. Now, I just have to stay ahead and take care I don’t bore you all to death, so that I end up as – an audience of one.

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