fiction, humor, photography

Wondrous Weirdness — Why Am I Here?

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The subtitle is a rhetorical question, not an ancient conundrum.  Nearly all of the prose I read or write is nonfiction.  Why am I posting (for the third and final time) about a book of weird stories rather than about something in the endlessly fascinating Real World?

The tweetable answer begs the question.  Sure, I wrote one of the 35 stories.  (Click here to see blurbs for some of them.)  But why did I get involved in a substantial fiction project?  The answer is some nonfiction weirdness.

The call for submissions grabbed me in 2 ways:

  • Contributors could opt (as many indeed would) to have their shares of any royalties donated to the Against Malaria Foundation.
  • While weird things are often disturbing (when not merely weird), the call was emphatic about the possibility of being weird and funny (or even weird and funny and disturbing, all at once).

Hmmm.  Could some of the stories in this anthology be simultaneously weird and funny and thought-provoking?  Could they be a little like some of the best surrealist paintings?  The following photo doubles down on the idea behind a great painting by René Magritte:

gecko-not_840x1212

Seduced by the call for submissions, I took up the challenge of revising a fragment of weird fiction from a discussion of several poems (and comments) that involved various people, so as make a standalone short story that would be broader and even weirder.  After another revision in light of helpful comments from one of the editors (Atthys Gage), I believe that my story is good as well as weird.  It is also just 2 pages long, so even those who dislike it may still be glad they bought The Rabbit Hole for $2.99 as an e-book or $12.50 as an ink-on-paper book.

Do U have 0.5% of your Amazon purchases donated to a charity by Amazon Smile?  Thru 2018-11-02, the percentage will be 5% instead.

BTW, gecko lizards really can climb straight up hard, smooth walls.  Weird.  But they don’t speak with an Australian accent or tout insurance.  Not in this universe, anyway.

Providing a brief writer’s bio for the anthology prompted me to revise this blog’s grossly outdated About page.  The revised page has a new joke, a few links, and a nice photo.  A nice photo of me would be really weird, so the photo is of something else appropriate.

My other short forays into fiction are also weird.  Both are about an ancient Greek (but written in modern English): Plato watches baseball and copes with a hangover.

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fiction, humor

Wondrous Weirdness — Worried Wabbit

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Rabbit-Hole_Worried-Rabbit
Our little friend is worried.  Mistaken for Bugs Bunny by Elmer Fudd’s hired hit man, (s)he was on the run for a while.  There was no chance to pause for rational thought about whether to get the prerelease discount on The Rabbit Hole by ordering the e-book before 2018-11-01.  Yes, being big on rationality is weird for a rabbit.  Some weirdness rubbed off when (s)he posed for the cover of the book, but there is still plenty inside.

The upside of ordering early is that (s)he could save $1; the downside is that (s)he would be trusting promotions like my previous post.  Should (s)he wait for a chance to use something like [Look Inside] on Amazon?  After release, the e-price would still be low at $2.99, and the ink-on-paper version would be an option at $12.50.  Decisions, decisions.

Maybe our little friend will feel better after reading blurbs for some of the 35 stories, ordered as in the book:

  • Foggy
    A father and daughter’s boating trip is ambushed by a mysterious, underwater tormentor.
  • I Should’ve Known Better
    There’s just one thing wrong with his beautiful luxury apartment: it’s a transdimensional portal.  Will the Flying Demon Things get him before he gets one of the centaur Babes?
  • The Scroll and the Silver Kazoo
    You never know who (or what) will show up at an open mic event.
  • Quicksilver Falls
    A mysterious phenomenon puts the future of the world in the hands of a simple Tennessee farmer and sparks the world’s strangest writing competition.
  • Satori from a Consulting Gig
    Management consultant Frank Dow has a new client: God.
  • The Adventures of Conqueror Cat
    Herr Trinket (a sharp-eyed and even sharper-tongued shelter cat) traverses an interdimensional rabbit hole into poochlandia to explore the enduring timey-wimey dog-cat dichotomy.
  • Eggs On End
    Claudia had a secret: she was ordinary – agonizingly, mind numbingly ordinary.  But all that was about to change.  And it would all begin with eggs.
  • Life Changing
    Lawrence decides to exercise his brain to avoid his Alzheimer-stricken mother’s fate, but when his life twists beyond recognition, he can’t escape the possibility that lost minds must be somewhere.
  • Carolina Brimstone
    The passion of the zealot is proportional to the power of the demon inside.  Constance Hennfield’s fervor knows no bounds.

 

fiction, humor

Wondrous Weirdness — Prerelease Discount

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The first volume in a new Writers’ Co-op anthology series will be released on 2018-11-01:

Rabbit-Hole_840x1267

An e-book version can be preordered now by clicking on the image and then clicking on the button for your platform.  On the release date, the e-price will rise from $1.99 to $2.99.  There will be good news then also: oldsters like me will be able to buy the physical ink-on-paper version from Amazon.

For 3 of the 4 platforms reached from the link to The Rabbit Hole, the platform’s page has a nice summary of the contents and spirit of the anthology:

How do you like your weirdness?  A subtle nudge towards the untoward?  A quick zap of zany?  Or a full-on assault of aberration?  Whatever your taste, you’ll find it here, and many more strains of strange that you didn’t suspect existed.  From magic rain to a talking (severed) head, extraordinary eggs to belligerent birds, the stories in this collection enter the rabbit hole to explore its hidden corners and winding ways.  Through all the variety, what they have in common is originality, creativity and fine writing.

While I will wait for hard copy before reading the whole thing, I really have read several of the stories (not just the one I contributed).  I solemnly swear (or affirm) that the following paragraph is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

The Rabbit Hole‘s first edition has 35 diverse selections by 35 authors.  Anybody with a taste for weirdness has a good chance of finding some things they like.  Moods are as varied as lengths, which run from 1 to 17 pages (with 7.6 as the average).  There is humanity and humor as well as some darkness and much weirdness.

haiku, humor, math, philosophy, photography, science

They Are Beyond Space & Time

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Taught myself a crash course in digital photo manipulation to respond to

Numbers ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #106

by posting how Plato bounced back from an encounter with intellectual ancestors of Karl Popper.  Hope I did not flunk.

Plato woke up with a nasty hangover after a symposium that had gone badly for him.  Some new sophists who called themselves “natural philosophers” had come to Athens, and the kind of philosophizing they advocated was anything but natural to Plato.

The new sophists spoke about “observations” and “conjectures” and “predictions” rather than abstract reasoning about perfect ideal forms.  Plato could tolerate his student Aristotle’s interest in easy casual observations and simple inferences from them, but the new sophists were different.  They wanted to measure minute details of how the shadows on the walls of Plato’s metaphorical cave flickered.  They would consider anything imaginable as a candidate for “explaining” their observations, even things so fanciful that Homer would never have dared to sing of Odysseus encountering them on his way back to Ithaca.

Instead of trying to establish a conjecture by reasoning to it from first principles, the new sophists wanted to reason from it to a prediction about what they would observe.  Conjectures that led to many diverse predictions matching what was actually observed were to be accepted as true, but only until somebody came up with “better” conjectures that yielded more accurate predictions by more elegant reasoning.  As one of the brasher “natural philosophers” said,

All knowledge is provisional,
never more than the best we have at the moment.

Flummoxed by such craziness, Plato had been hitting the wine harder than usual.  He had passed out just as another “natural philosopher” began replying to the brash one:

Well, that is a little over the top.  For example, …

All that was last night, when stars had carpeted an inky black sky.  Now the sky was light blue, the sun was shining, and Plato’s head was aching.  He winced when he remembered a new sophist’s remark that each star might be something much like the sun but almost inconceivably farther away.  That example of a loony conjecture had prompted a nightmare with Athens (and its circling sun) lost in a humongous whirling vortex of innumerable stars (rather than stationary near the center of the universe, as Athens so obviously was).

The cash bar at the symposium had been pricey, and Plato wondered if he still had enough money to buy some willow bark to ease his headache.  He put his coins on the nearest flat surface and counted them.  Five should be plenty.  Then he noticed that three coins had the side with the face of a leader facing upwards, while two coins had the side with the leader’s mansion facing upwards.  Suddenly, Plato felt much better.  He even felt ready for another encounter with that brash sophist.

Athens_724x505

Plato’s Challenge
|Three plus two was five
|before any mind could know.
|Where do numbers live?

enlightenment, haiku, humor, miracle, philosophy

Miracle: Satori from an MBA

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It started so gaily.

A tongue-in-cheek post about writer’s block led to
 a tongue-in-cheek comment that led to
 a tongue-in-cheek post that led to
 a tongue-in-cheek comment that seemed to
merit a tongue-in-cheek reply.

But the volleyball hit the floor before I could whack it upward.

That last comment in the cascade included the question

What made you the lucky poet whom God speaks through?

While the comment’s “you” is me and my claim to prophecy was indeed tongue-in-cheek (and perceived as such by the commenter), I could not get past the fact that many people do claim (seriously and stridently) to speak for God.  Many of those who are serious and strident are also willing to coerce people they cannot convince.  Many of those who are willing to coerce are also willing to kill people they cannot coerce.

lesson-learnedNON SEQUITUR © 2014 Wiley Ink, Inc.. Dist. By ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION.
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

While I cannot just keep it tongue-in-cheek, I still see the wisdom in Oscar Wilde’s remark that life is too important to be taken seriously.  So I will continue semiseriously.

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish literature from either literal truth or bogus claims to tell it.  Now I will tweak the font as a gentle reminder that the rest of this post is just lit.

Management consultants are often hired by executives who want an outsider with “MBA” after their name to bless what they have already decided to do.  While God could bless well enough on His own, He did want advice from a management consultant on how to get out of a procedural rut.

Aware that the complexity of the Real World (and how to thrive in it) was beyond immediate comprehension, He had endowed some otherwise unremarkable creatures with abilities to observe and learn, to imagine and reason, to build bridges and write poems.  He had tried repeatedly to nudge them in good directions by inspiring a few of them, with a little success and a lot of failure.

As He told the consultant:

I keep it simple and age-appropriate, but they oversimplify half of what I tell them and obfuscate the rest.  The Golden Rule gets thru as something to proclaim but not as something to practice.  Absurdly much of what they think has been revealed to them is just their own bigotry and bullshit.

The consultant read over the case histories and concluded that there was a personnel issue:

U have been inspiring people who mean well but score high on credulity and low on humor.  Maybe it would help to go outside the box.  For example, U could inspire a nerdy atheist who digs sacred music and pushes the envelope of haiku poetry.

God was skeptical:

Does anybody like that exist?

The consultant smiled the enigmatic Mona Lisa smile that sometimes appeared when he was moonlighting as a Zen master.  He leaned forward and spoke softly:

Does anybody like U exist?

At that moment, God attained enlightenment.

 

haiku, humor, philosophy

Could a Long Fly Ball Hit a Flying Horse?

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This is one of the few times I need to put some fiction into my blog, so I will change font for a little while.

Plato

Sometimes it is hard to be fair to Plato.  He is basically a good guy, but his politics are bullshit.  That “philosopher-king” notion is so self-serving.  Then there is that cave shtick.  Most people know that philosophers can be a little klutzy in everyday life.  We give them some slack and don’t make a big deal of it.  But Plato says the wannabe king has been looking at ultimate reality and absolute truth (and maybe a pretty girl sunbathing?) in bright daylight, so he stumbles in the cave that passes for the real world among ordinary Joes.  After his eyes adapt to the dim light, he will govern just fine.  No way.

Feeling mellow enough to ignore Plato’s politics, I invited him over to watch a baseball game on TV.  He was surprised that the pitcher threw a ball rather than a discus or a javelin, and that nobody was naked.  But he is a smart guy and soon understood the duel between the pitcher and the batter.  He noticed the (4 balls or 3 strikes) rule for ending an at-bat and said something about the ratio 4:3 in music by The Pythagoreans.  Are they a band I don’t know about?  He broke into a big grin when a batter sent a long fly ball arcing high above the field.  Tho he knows zip about physics, he hangs out with Euclid and knows a parabola when he sees one.


To Plato, the path of the fly ball in the grungy everyday world is an imperfect realization of the timeless perfection of an ideal parabolic form.  To me, the description of the path as a parabola is a good approximation that ignores air resistance and wind.  Ignoring those things is OK in an introductory physics course.  It is not OK in a baseball game.

Pegasus_RM_450x450

Using the parabola to describe the fly ball oversimplifies a staggeringly complex everyday world that emerges from a staggeringly weird tarantella of elementary particles.  Our use of the parabola is fundamentally a story we tell ourselves.  Unlike the story of Pegasus the flying horse, it has been corrected, refined, and integrated with many other stories by scientific processes.  The notion of a flying horse is appealing (to people who have not been hit by a bird splat).  The parabolic story is ultimately more satisfying, as part of something gloriously predictive and useful (despite not being much help to the outfielder running to catch the fly ball).

Pegasus himself is as limited in time and space as the Pegasus story: an idea created by some people at some time and place, elaborated and spread by other people at other times and places.  The Pegasus story will vanish and its starring horse will vanish with it, if we succeed in our current efforts to make the Earth uninhabitable long before we can go elsewhere.  Would the parabolic story vanish also?  That is a question for another time.  The mathematical cast of characters in the parabolic story, on the other hand, is special.  Very special.

Plato’s Challenge
|Three plus two was five
|before any mind could know.
|Where do numbers live?

 
My snapshots of Plato and of Pegasus could not get thru the time warp, but I did some cropping of public domain images with good likenesses.