Spawn of Mars
Don't worry. If you like your religion, you can keep your religion.
Sundry & Motley
As of December
Thursday, December 17, 2020 4:52 pm
To begin with, I am terrible at avoiding the internet. I can manage an entire day without Twitter or blogs; but at night I always fall off the bandwagon. One of the reasons I am a teetotaller is that I never trusted myself not to be become a drunk. It's embarrassing that I need an internet fix. 

Of late I've not even bothered abstaining. I check several times a day. Sure, the anxiety about the unresolved election isn't helping. At his point I wish the execution would just happen. It is clear that the country is thick with corruption and cowardice. Let's be done with it all already. Hope is for chumps.

Oddly, a brief check of the internet, in between perfectly productive activities and recreations, genuinely alleviates a kind of tension inside. I don't like this about me. I really do have a touch of the drunk. But there it is.

So the next time I swear off the internet, know that I am deluding myself, and ignore me.

Luckily I have not been wallowing in ephemera. This past month I wrote another work of fiction. That brings to four the number of works that I have written in 2020. Hardly the speed of pulp, I know, but damn fast for me. My latest is a fictional review of a fictional book about a fictional disproof of the Reimann Hypothesis. It's math fiction! With a blush of the weird, of course. It might be barely suitable for Stupefying Stories, but to be honest I wrote it for myself. (I had intended to write my not-maple-syrup story "for myself," but then had an impulse to write this other one instead.)

I've written only one other fictional review (that one a theater review, available in my non-SF collection The Chicken Bone). The fictional review is not a literary form I often read. I wrote mine mostly under inspiration from Stanislaw Lem, whose examples (as in A Perfect Vacuum) I have read and enjoyed.

So what's next? Well, these first four years of my retirement have produced twelve new stories. (Only twelve, yes. Again, I am a tortoise.) The first seven make a perfect collection. The next five can make another, if I include a sixth. So I am going to write a one-off short, most likely what I have designated my "Bodyguard" or "Praetorian" story, about a Secret Service agent who loyally protects the alien "King" of the USA.

P.S. I will not make these SF collections available to the public until each of the stories has been published in some magazine (and, of course, released from exclusivity). Self-publishing on its own, as I have said before, is euthanasia for my stories.

P.P.S. I am still waiting on word from StoryHack about An Uncommon Day at the Lake. It's only been a couple of months, but I am getting antsy. Also, I still have no idea what's up with my two stories at Stupefying. I'm reluctant to nag them, so I just keep checking their blog for schedules, to get some sense of anything. They're overdue for Issue #23. I am discouraged. But we'll see.

Yes, I like The Expanse. But you know what's annoying me? Apparently the future is a gynarchy. Women dominate all positions, political or scientific. They are the majority of any team. Pay attention; you’ll see. True, that does not make The Expanse unrealistic. After all, current America is a gynarchy, not least in its emasculation. But it does make The Expanse a tad tedious.

It was especially annoying in season four, when a Belter ship could be saved only through the combined efforts of Naomi, a clever female terrorist, and the terrorist's clever daughter. They literally had a no-name male character in the background nodding his head with subservient pride at the brilliance of the young girl, who apparently has preternatural skills and is able to solve it all, despite lacking an actual engineering education.

And Lord God above, if I see one more distaff hacker-tech-nerd on TV, I am going to kill somebody. If the natural impulse is to place a man, you just know they’ll square-peg a woman into that round hole.

I'm not accusing The Expanse of political correctness, as such (although I did stop reading the books because of their wokeness). The rot in our minds is so great now, that were the story to allow men and women their proper balance, our heads would start hurting and our stomachs start churning, the pain unabating until every two men are replaced with two women, and the third man is made a subordinate. I'm glad that I still recognize this revolution for what it is; but it does make me an utter curmudgeon. I can't wholly enjoy anything new. Everything new just has a bad feminist taste.

P.S. Oh, I am aware that the primary characters are not all women. I submit that one of the reasons The Expanse seems so good is that, despite everything else in the show, men are actually playing the key roles in the narrative. That just feels right, does it not?

Earlier in this post I said that hope is for chumps. I am not hopeful about America. Nevertheless I am saying rosaries these days, not so much for Trump but for the Republic (although I do believe it is critical he prevails). I know that God is concerned with the salvation of souls and not, per se, the course of human events, and the successful theft of the election might be, over decades or centuries, better for populating Heaven; but I also know that Justice is not to be scorned, and it's a different kind of despair to say, “Why bother? God has His own plans.” America needs a Lepanto. Will God give us one? Probably not. I’m really not hopeful. Still... I pray.

Concert After the Fish-Fry
Arvo Pärt's Passio 
Sunday, April 9, 2017 10:48 am
I've been listening to Arvo Pärt for quite a while. I'm not sure how I discovered him. He is still alive and still composing. His work, since the 1980s, has been generally focused on the sacred, using chant and polyphony.

I don't know much about music. I know most definitions; I can follow a discussion well enough. But I cannot explain to you the difference between a harmony and a melody — not with understanding. And I cannot distinguish either in a work. I am stupid when it comes to music. Fundamentally I am sub-intellectual. For me, a musical work is either a good noise or it's disposable. 

Whenever I tried listening to Pärt's Passio, it left me cold. It's a setting of St. John's Passion verses. It's about the Passion of Christ and yet, as sound, it caused me no passion.

I shrugged it off. Pärt has always been hot or cold for me. One work is transcendent and always too brief; another is flat and not even worth finishing. So it goes, eh? No oeuvre is consistent; no listener other than fickle.

Well, this past Friday my parish ambitiously presented a complete performance of Passio. It was performed by our usual Sunday chorus and some local singers and musicians, all led by the parish's musical director. I realize that Pärt is not obscure (indeed he has even been appointed to the Pontifical Council for Culture by Benedict XVI) and I don't think my parish is filled with philistines, but the choice of Pärt nonetheless seemed unusual. I was curious how it would play out.

We were given programs and naturally, as the work proceeded, I read along. I had never actually done this with Passio before. These days I tend not to read along with any vocal works, except when I am specifically curious about the words. I seek only noise, after all.

As I read I realized that Passio is not meant to be listened to. Not as music. It is a reading of a text. I can listen to Bach's Johannes-Passion and never know what's going on and still enjoy the glorious noise. If you don't know what is being said in Passio, the musical carriage, the musical adornment, the musical shaping, will sound almost random. It may leave you cold. Its fundamental structure is not a musical form, like sonata; its fundamental structure is spoken Latin. No poem or song is involved.

And so, when you actually attend to the text, the shifts between chorus and soloists and instruments, and between this note and that, make sense. The words are not an excuse for the voice as another instrument; they are the impetus for everything. Only with the words in your eyes is there any music in your ears.

So is Passio even "music"? It's like a musical without any catchy tunes. Whatever specific melodies or harmonies there may be, I'm not tapping my foot or bobbing my head to any of it. Is that just the definition of chant, perhaps? But you can be carried away by Gregorian chant. Passio seems to be something else. It's a text that is not silent.

There must be a name for that.

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