12 August 2017

Gutless


T
he terrorist attack in Charlottesville, North Carolina, is the kind of event that tests a president’s resolve, intelligence, and guts. He needs to be able to keep a clear mind—carefully not jumping to conclusions in advance of the evidence—a firm hand on the wheel (so to speak), and the resolve to take whatever measures are necessary to restore peace and deal with the terrorists.
I will be straightforward here—I do not believe that Donald Trump has any of the three qualities I mentioned. His actions show the resolve of a bored teenager; his tweets betray the intelligence of a high-school dropout, and his performance so far has shown all the guts of a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck. He appears to be a man in way over his head—and I personally think that that is exactly what he is.
But looks can be deceiving. Maybe he will abruptly rise to the occasion like—well, I honestly can’t think of an example right now, but at least in fiction unlikely heroes rise to the occasion when challenged unexpectedly. Maybe he will find the resolve to throw the resources of the federal government behind local efforts to identify and apprehend the terrorist. Maybe he will find the intelligence to successfully direct the nation (and his presidency) through this self-inflicted crisis. Maybe he will find the guts to stand up to the white supremacists that seem to have him cowering in terror.
But I personally believe he is the vain, dumb, gutless jackass he appears to be, and he will continue to drivel mindlessly about how all sides are responsible for the car driven by one driver into a crowd in a classic act of terrorism.

Untitled Novel: The Forum [1996]

[passage from an untitled novel, written 12 August 1996]
T
he Forum didn’t come cheap, Simon said to himself, marvel­ing at Rock’s coup. How had he managed it? The Romans were flocking to see the great magic show, no doubt of it, and the money poured in. It wouldn’t be the first time, he thought; you couldn’t go broke underestimating popular taste. Without think­ing twice Simon disappeared and, invisible to all but unseen spirits, strolled through the gates unobserved and no poorer than he had been before.
The audience was boisterous and unruly; clearly they came expecting a good time. Had word of mouth brought this response? And how many dogs had Rock killed to get the result? How many talking fish had he suborned for the purpose? This was child’s play; a misuse of the powers beyond for trivial and disgusting ends. Simon wafted through the crowd like a gentle summer breeze and soon found himself in front.
Rock stood in the center of the arena, coolly facing the audience. He had no nerves. Simon knew that, but again he won­dered at the stolidity of the man. Rock didn’t enter into it; the man was a boulder, a granite cliff, solid and hard and unmov­able. There was strength in that, sure, but there was also enor­mous weakness. When a cliff crumbled, the ruin was great. Bet­ter to be smoke in the wind than an avalanche—the pain was less.
“Show us your god, Rock,” called out somebody behind Simon. “What makes him so great?”
Simon laughed—he could recognize a shill when he heard one. And as if on cue somebody else shouted again.
“Simon gave us hard proofs—let’s see yours!” The crowd roared its approval.
Rock raised his hands and the crowd fell silent. The man was impressive—Simon had to grant him that. “Romans!” he shout­ed. “You be the judges. I am come to say that I believe in the true and living God and I bring you evidence—hard evidence—solid and irrefutable evidence—that he and he alone is the ruler of the universe. I ask you only to put your eyes and ears in the service of your mind, to see and hear the evidence I am about to put before you. I have seen it—I have heard it—I have felt it—and there are many among you who themselves have witnessed the workings of God in this world for themselves!
“Now you’ve seen the magic tricks of Simon the imposter. These are nothing. Where is he now? Where is he hiding? This is the man I drove out of Judaea for his cruel and heartless tricks played on Eubola, an honest and upright widow. So what does he do then? He looks for new victims, new sheep to slaugh­ter, new jewels to steal. But he is powerless, a whimpering coward who flees the power of God like a rabbit running from an all-consuming brush-fire. He does not dare face me—no, he hides in the darkness and confusion of his lies and deceit, full of fear and delusion. Or why else is he not here to face me. If I am the liar, why does he not show me up? Where is Simon?”
Simon knew an opportunity when he heard it. Stepping invis­ibly into the arena he invoked a stroke of lightning, called for a thunder-clap, and appeared in a whirlwind of colored smoke. There was a collective gasp from the audience, a moment of stunned silence, and then a burst of applause that threatened to bring down the Forum. Simon smiled and gave a slight bow towards Rock. “You wanted to know where I am, Rock?” he asked politely. “I’m here, fool and charlatan, to show you the power of God once and for all.”
Rock looked at Simon expressionlessly. “All flash and noise, Simon,” he observed.  “And nothing but a foul stench left behind. How appropriate.”
Something was wrong. Rock was giving nothing away, but suddenly Simon had the feeling of having walked into a well-planned trap. He felt the quicksand sucking away at his feet, but showed nothing to his enemy. “So tell me, Rock, how comes it that I am not afraid to cross swords with you, if I have not the power of God behind me?”
“First tell me this, Simon the sorcerer,” said Rock, “when you groveled at my feet in Samaria, when you begged me for the secret of the Holy Spirit

02 August 2017

Untitled Novel: Reality Shift [1996]


[passage from an untitled novel, written 2 August 1996]
Heat—suffocation—a sense of overwhelming oppression came over him.  He was sweating like a pig.
“Would you like some roast badger-balls?”  Marcellus’s voice seemed to echo, as if he were speaking through a hollow tube of infinite length.  “My cook makes them from the ambrosia of the Leptunian snake-gods.”
The words made no sense.  Nausea fought thirst for the pos­session of Simon’s soul.  He rose hastily to his feet, groping blindly for the corridor to his private chamber.  “I—it’s—there’s an important—something—” he gabbled.  His vision was beginning to shut down, and before him danced the shimmering heat-waves of a reality-shift.  Time.  There was no time.  A blinding flash of pure insight struck him and he fell to his knees.  Oh God, he thought, let there be time enough—
Something hard struck him, and there was nothing.
#
Not darkness.  Not light.  Nothing.  The stuff eternity was made of.  Yards of it surrounded Simon like a woolly cocoon, pressing him, cutting off his breath.  Where was he?
“I am come, Simon of Gitta.”
The voice came from all sides, like wind in the trees.  There was something familiar about it.
“Have you?” Simon said.  “What is that to me?”
There was an unnatural silence, as if sound itself had been cut off—the silence of caves, the complete silence of death.  Then the voice came again.  “You don’t know who I am, do you?”  Amusement tinged the question.
“I know,” said Simon.  “I know.  Did you think, Simon Rock, that you would be able to sneak into Rome like a thief in the night?  Did you think you were unobserved?  No, Rock, let me tell you that I have watched your progress every day.  I know the tricks you played on that poor captain of the vessel you came in.  I know how you stopped the wind to plague him, and started it again when it served your purposes.”
“It was the will of God,” said the voice.
“Was it?” returned Simon.  “You have delusions of grandeur.”
“It was.”  The voice sounded a little sullen now.
“It is strange, isn’t it,” asked Simon sarcastically, “just how often God’s will and yours somehow coincide.  Isn’t that a bit thick, Rock?  How long can you keep on using that threadbare excuse for following the whims of the flesh and feeding the needs of the corpse you live in?  God’s will, Rock?  Or yours.”
“They are the same.”  This time the voice was definitely defensive, on the run.
“Ha!” said Simon.  “You admit it.”
“I admit nothing,” snapped the voice.  “If what I want is what God wants, it isn’t because I am making myself equal to Him.”
“Then what is it?” demanded Simon.  “What else can you call it?”
“Humility, Simon the Magician, the ability to stop my thoughts and let God’s fill my mind.  The ability to silence my will and let God’s will move me.  The ability to shut out the distractions of the senses and receive God’s truth.  That’s what I possess, Simon of Gitta, Simon the false prophet, Simon the liar and stealer of men’s souls,” said the voice.  “And that’s what you could do with a little of.”
Simon laughed harshly.  “The ability to blind yourself and grope helplessly in the dark.  The ability to deafen yourself to everything but your own thoughts.  The ability to cut yourself off from the Truth—that God gave you your wits to use them, that God gave you your eyes and your ears and your mind for you to put them to use, not for you to pretend a stupidity you do not and cannot possess.  Save that stuff for your sheep-like followers.”
“Enough, Simon,” said the voice.  “It is God who has given us this shared vision, and it would be criminal of us both to waste it in pointless bickering.”
“Yes, Rock,” said Simon.  “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for the past twenty years.”
“Listen, Simon,” said the voice.  “I will be coming to Rome tomorrow, as you know.  Will you not repent and believe in the Lord?  Will you not do His work on earth?  I warn you, Simon the magician, you are treading close to the abyss.  You and I, or rather you and the Lord, are close to the final moment of truth, and I do not envy you this confrontation.”
“Still confusing yourself with God?” Simon asked derisively.  “Well, Rock, I will not repay the compliment.  I will not ask you to reform, since I know there is no hope of it.  You are too deafened by your own words to know the truth, too blinded by your own light to see it.  But I do warn you, Rock, to stay out of Rome.  You betrayed your Master once.  If you come here—and I say this from the most absolute and certain of foreknowledge, my beloved namesake and enemy—if you come here, Rock, then you will be in the utmost danger of betraying him again.  So take care, my enemy—stay away from Rome, as you value your very soul.  Stay away.”  And with a supreme effort of will Simon pushed back the nothingness and began to struggle to his feet.
But emptiness and blankness refused to retreat, and the voice put in one final shot.  “I thank you for your warning, Simon the magician—for what it’s worth.  But I know myself too well to imagine that I will ever betray my Savior again, and so Rome has no terrors for me.  Farewell—and look out, my one-time friend.  For I know—and I say this from the most absolute and certain of foreknowledge—that you are near the end, and if I have to go down to end your infernal wickedness, then, Simon—it is a sacrifice I am very willing to make.”  And with that the fog cleared and Simon pulled himself to his feet—and found himself facing Marcellus and the other guests, staring at him from the door to his chamber.
“What was it?” asked Marcellus.  “Some kind of fit?”
Simon took one or two deep breaths to clear the Nothing out of his spirit.  “No,” he said.  “It was not a fit.”
“It was a vision,” said one of the guests.  “I’ve seen what happens when a spirit seizes a man before.”
“Yes, you looked dead,” said another.
“Yes, well, in a way I was dead,” said Simon, “dead to this world and alive to another.  Listen, my good Marcellus, could I have a word with your doorkeeper?”
“With my doorkeeper?  Whatever for?”
“I can’t explain,” said Simon, “But I know there is a man coming tomorrow—coming here tomorrow.  And I cannot meet with him.”
Marcellus laughed.  “You—a magician, afraid?”
“I’m not a magician,” said Simon, “and I’m not afraid.  Not the way you mean.  But I know—I know—that this man will bring an end to all our works if he and I are allowed to meet again.  And this cannot be allowed to happen.  So look, man, for God’s sake, let me talk with your doorkeeper!”
Marcellus motioned to a servant, and in a moment the door­keeper came in, obviously awed by the great magi­cian.  “You sent for me, my Lord?”

23 July 2017

Colossal Gall Department [2008]


[Originally posted 23 July 2008]
Y
ou’ve got to admire the sheer chutzpah of it. Chris Mill, the attorney for two of the Camrose cat killers—those were the little psychopaths who tortured a cat to death in a microwave oven and left messages boasting about it for the owners to return to—actually asked for the court to expedite his clients’ sentencing so they could achieve “closure” before returning to school this fall. Words absolutely fail me. This guy is complaining, on behalf of his clients, about the need for them to undergo a psychiatric examination—because they want to get this whole thing over with.
I’m sure they do. Most of us, when caught in a crime, just want the prosecution to go the fuck away. There’s nothing new or amazing about that. Why that should be grounds a judge could act upon is totally beyond me. What the judge ought to be primarily concerned about is the issue of protecting the community from these creeps. The last thing on her mind should be whether the kids get to start school this year with a “clean slate”.
At least Chris Mill’s job is being the spokesmen for this pair of psychopaths. I don’t know what Camrose resident Linda Hugo’s excuse is. “It’s a terrible thing that they did,” she admits, claiming “but it’s now water under the bridge.” Nice of her to be so forgiving of a “terrible” crime committed against somebody else. She weeps for the poor persecuted torturers. “…the mental torment that they’ve gone through is enough” she feels. Wise up, lady. The next time these young Torquemadas decide to go on the prowl, you may well be their victim. When you embrace a scorpion, expect to get stung.

21 July 2017

Madness and Politics [2011]


[Originally posted 21 July 2011]
Y
ou know—just a thought. Jobs. Let me say it again—jobs. That’s what the people of the United States are looking for right now. Nobody gives a damn about this debt-ceiling nonsense. Most people are prepared for a certain number of program cuts and tax increases, but what they’re really interested in is getting back to work. Seeing the economy running again. Bromides like only the market can create jobs aren’t going to cut it any longer. People are tired of praying to a Market God that never seems to listen. This is something that both Democrats and Republicans need to deal with, but it especially applies to the Mad Tea Partiers. Sabotaging the economy in the hopes of winning elections is probably not going to be a winning strategy. People tend to re-elect when their personal finances are going well; folk who surf the wave of economic discontent are likely to crash on the rocks of broken dreams.

20 July 2017

A Note on Judas [1987]


[20 July 1987]
T
he Judas story is inconsistent. It is said that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, which implies an attempt to keep Judas’ part in the business unknown—but since Judas led the arresting offi­cials there, such secrecy was impossible. Make no mistake about it—there is no reason for the Judas kiss if Judas openly led the officers there. Conversely, if Judas betrayed Jesus with such a secret sign, then his coming with the arresting officials was fatal to the scheme.
Further, it is worth noting that in the synoptic account Judas never leaves the last supper; as far as one can tell he is pres­ent from Jesus’ announcement of the betrayal to the scene at Gethsemane. This at least is more consistent with the kiss; one might picture the officers lurking at the Mount of Olives, Judas giving the pre-arranged signal, the arrest and all that. Against this we may ask, could Jesus’ prediction of the betrayal be an added element in Mark?  In Mark’s source was Judas even at the Last Supper? (On the other hand, the direction of this element is away from having Judas present; witness John’s contortions.)
What about the kiss? Mark has it, Matthew has it, but Luke down­plays it. John has an entirely consistent story that omits the kiss altogether, and he makes sure Judas leaves the Last Supper directly after Jesus’ announcement of the betrayal, giving time for him to bring the soldiers and officers to the appointed place.
So the direction of the kiss element in the synoptics is toward its elimination. But John has no trace of it (or does it?). Is John an example of its final elimination, or is it a witness to a presynoptic version that lacked the kiss? Does either version have prophetic fulfillment significance?

19 July 2017

Waiting for the Goddamn Bus [2015]


[Passage from my journal, 18/19 July 2015]
☉☾
 6:34 m PDT—The big event of the day (I guess) was catching the late bus up to the Burlingame Fred Meyer to stock up on coke the last day of the sale. I grabbed a couple of sacks full of bottles to return and headed up about sunset to catch the 12 going north—and waited forever for the goddamn bus. I probably hadn’t just missed one as there were a couple of other people waiting, unless of course they’d come just before me and had likewise missed the bus. There were people waiting across the street for the southbound 12 as well, so I began wondering about traffic jams somewhere on the route. Eventually, after around forty minutes of waiting, busses came simultaneously on both sides of the street, and I rode up to Burlingame. My transfer was good till after eleven so I figured I had all the time there was to finish my tasks, especially as my tasks were relatively minor. And then I ran into the first snag. None of the machines at the bottle return were working. I pushed the button to call for assistance, only to have the light go dark after a minute or so and no assistance arrive. I repeated the action with the same result. I started to go in, only to run into a guy headed out that way, so I followed him back. He apparently had not come to assist customers, however, but he did ungraciously accept my bottles and give me a receipt for them. And so with that in hand I went into the store. The rest was fairly easy, actually; I picked up six bottles of coke (saving four dollars), caramel, and broccoli for dinner. The machine at the checkout was reasonably cooperative this time, and it didn’t take too long to exchange my receipt for cash. The bus came only a few minutes after my arrival at the stop, and a young lady gave me her seat (probably because I was having obvious difficulty in staying on my feet). And the walk home was nothing and we had our dinner and watched the usual run of shows. And a bunch of Jon Oliver episodes. Eventually I got off to sleep.

18 July 2017

A Pointless Post


I am feeling unwell and have nothing much to say anyway, I guess, not that that’s ever stopped me before. I hope I’ll be back tomorrow, if not sooner.
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