Archive for June, 2012

Health Care

June 30, 2012

One thing we surely know about health care is: everybody needs some sooner or later. We are working on this.

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Allegorical vs. Real Characters in Fiction

June 29, 2012

Now I’m writing a third novel, Smoke.

My son said my fictional characters are formed too heavily upon allegorical concepts instead of real people. I think his assessment is correct. What am I going to do about it? That is the question.

As if that wasn’t enough, my dentist was drilling away on my novel bridgework as well. A few weeks ago, he remarked that the first novel had “a lot of characters.” That’s true. I’m all over the place with these imaginary people, which renders my novel narratives, it seems, too complicated, or scattered, opaque, and therefore not easily accessible to mainstream readers.  All true, as I am discovering. I probably knew it all along, to tell the truth, just too stubborn to do anything about it.

But hey, what about the wild-penned luminaries of the past who were venerated, yeah I say unto thee, even catapulted to bookish success, for their obscure story-telling style? I’m talking about Faulkner, Joyce, and. . . well you know the type. Novelists who would cloak all their rambling opi-opuses in arcane symbolism, subtle literary allusions, and stream of consciousness genius run-on sentences which, when read  aloud by contemporary poets, always end each phrase with a rising voice intonation as if the speaker had just declared or questioned the most profound literary utterances ever laid out bare and naked for all the world to read and all the New York editors to puzzle over to their hearts’ content.

Not to mention their protagonists, who are really dysfunctional savants whose character developments reflect societal manifestations of every misfit’s compulsion to prove to the world that the deepest desire of modern men and women is simply to go crazy, flinging off the envelopes and tethers of slavish conformity/morality, and then post the video on Utube.

Speaking of which, video images are taking over the world of communication. Text is dead, unless you want to be one of the elite who actually think. I suppose this very rant is evidence of our literary degeneracy. I’m a drowning man here.

But I digress. Need to get back to the heart of the matter.  I need to make my fictional characters more like real people, less like allegorical constructs. I’m working on it.

And good story-telling–I need to work on that too, which is why I just read Robert Louis Stevenson’sTreasure Island–a great story by a master storyteller.  Its a book that steadily intensifies suspense from beginning to end while cultivating reader involvement all along the voyage.

I have learned something valuable from Mr. Stevenson.  Maybe now the Europe-crushing clash of 1930ish big ideas (as my son calls them) that I’ve taken on in the new novel, Smoke, can artfully fade into back story support; then Philip, Nathan, and Tabitha will navigate, in a very believable tale, the perils of a world  hung upon the edge of communo-fascist disaster in 1937.

We’ll  see if I can sail this ship back into the trade winds of reader accessibility. Have a nice day.

Everything will be alright in the end …

June 27, 2012

Everything will be alright in the end …. yes, it will.

Lover Beach

June 27, 2012

The Ocean is tidy this morning.

the tide is half; the sun comes up

over the swells; Lanai and Molokai loom

across the choppy blue. Old Maui volcano sleeps,

cloudy and vast, heart of the island.

Come to the veranda; bright is the sky!

 

Always, from the breaking waves

where Pacific pelts this sun-kiss’d isle,

Listen! you hear the roaring power

of our planet that flings up watery wings

and pulls them down again on shifting sand.

Roar, and whisper, and roar again

with cyclical slumber to lose and win

a perpetual thrust of planetary din.

 

Poet Arnold felt it long ago

among the pebbles of Dover beach, summoning

the futile strands of faithlessness

and existential woe; I

find instead the inevitability of faith

called up to bloom upon this far-flung ocean isle.

 

The ocean of despair

so near and far in present past, to pound us down on human shores,

throws its tantrum of pointless angst, with cynic sand.

But now I only feel the wave of our resolve

upon a flagg’ed pole of hope,

advancing, in the sun-stirred air

of dawning day, o’er the bright edges of our vision,

as lilies of the field.

 

Ah, love, let us be true

to one another! for the world, which seems

to pound upon us like a surf of strife,

so relentless, so provocative, so hard,

has a terrible power all its own

that would dash our love and hope in forceful blight.

But we here on our sun-bathed isle,

caressed with waves of love and delight–

we subdue the heartless poundings of the night.

 

Glass half-Full

Kula haiku

June 26, 2012

In Maui land and sky

Sun Mei brother Sun-yat Sen

shelter from the Storm.

Selah.

 

Glass half-Full

Speculating on a Stratified Story

June 25, 2012

Wandering on a rocky Hawaiian shore we discovered this layer of red rock stratified between two layers of black rock. I was wondering, how did this happen?

I am no geologist, but I have done a little reading about the earth and the rocks within it, and some exploration, as you can see here. That’s my hand in the pic.

In offering a layman’s analysis of this geological puzzle, I must begin with a basic fact: TheHawaiian islands are all exposed parts of one very big volcano, situated on the Pacific Ocean floor three miles below the surface, but extending high enough to protrude into air.

In this particular case, the red strata, formerly hidden within massive black/gray lava fields on the edge of Maui island, has been exposed by the erosive action of nearby ocean waves that have been perpetually crashing upon these rocks for a long time.

What I do now about the black layers is that they are igneous rocks formed by volcanic lava, which had flowed from the erupting earth fissures many years ago.

I’m not so sure about the red streak. My investigating touch (shown above in the pic), indicated that the texture of the red rock is granular, sandy, which is different from the feel of the black layers below and above it. This apparently sandy composition may indicate that the red layer is sedimentary rock. If that is correct, we could say that the red, iron-bearing deposit was laid by weathering wind/water forces, and laid upon the black basalt lava rock below it.

Presuming that my sedimentary assessment contains, perhaps, a grain of truth, we could infer that the red streak may indicate a more recent epoch of time when the volcanic lava flow had ceased, enabling earth processes to leave something different for awhile–say, a few thousand years? I don’t know.

A geologist could tell you. On the other hand, he may blow my whole theory to smithereens, just like the volcano, Puukukui, blew all that black rock into the location you see here.

Whatever that red layer is, obviously it was later covered by a another black volcanic lava flow, and thus was covered for many an eon until the Pacific Ocean knocked the shoreline around and taught it, and us human inquisitors, a thing or two. If you can help me interpret this stratified story, please do. Rock on.

Glass half-Full 

This here’s for the Rule of Law!

June 24, 2012

Whether or not they actually could, the people of the British empire sought to civilize the world. One could say, perhaps, that on a good day those loyal subjects of the realm were sauntering forth to bring to unruly distant lands the rule of law, the benefits of a well-constructed language, and good manners, not to mention cricket.

Or one could say that, on a bad day, those John Bull limeys were exploiting the indigenous peoples, robbing them of their ancient heritages, playing contractual tricks to abscond their homelands, and getting rich in the process.

And one would be correct on both counts. Such is the dual nature of civilized man: he is a scoundrel, even as he strives, or pretends to, follow his so-called better angels.

Ditto for us Americans, their bratty little brothers in this saga of colonializing world history. But hey, it is what it is, and that’s all that it is, so be that as it may, today or someday.

Nevertheless, one beneficial concept that the world has, IMHO, derived from the hegemonizing Brits, is the rule of law. Like the Romans before them, far-flung British representatives of the Crown have, in recent centuries, carried to the four corners of their known world the idea that justice should prevail, and men should be accountable, in a duly-appointed court of law, for their actions.

Therefore anarchy and mayhem are not permitted.

In British literature, a residual benefit of this principle is demonstrated by Robert Louis Stevenson in his classic story, Treasure Island.  I’ll not tell thee the tale, as thou must read it for thyself, or find a video of it somewhere online haha, as if there were such a thing.

Nevertheless, I’ll take thee in thy imagination, as author Stevenson did, down to a little island in some distant sea wherein lies a hidden treasure that was left behind during a dispute between some gentlemen of fortune, some of them honest, some of them not, but which is which, I’ll tell thee what–on second thought–suffice it say, some men were killed, and some got caught.

Years later, as the story is told, having obtained a map that could lead to the buried booty, a band of reputable fortune-seeking men have returned to the island to uncover the misplaced gold, which is a considerable weight of what’s called pieces of eight. And if’n you don’t know what that is, matey, go look it up on your wikipedia slate.

By and by, I’m a-comin’ to my point, lads n’ lassies, about the civilizing effects of the British empire. And this is how it happened:

There was, to state it plainly, a mutiny among the men. I don’t know how else to say it except that certain dirty/rotten scoundrels were led by their wolf-in-sheep’s clothing leader, Long John Silver, into the perfidy of lawless rebellion against the good Captain and the owners of the ship who were with him. And there was among the loyals the good lad, Jim Hawkins, cabin boy, who lived to tell the tale, whose account enables me to write it to thee.

Pirates is what they were, pure and simple–Long John Silver and his mutineers.

During the course of the dispute, an actual battle broke out between the two sides. The Captain and his loyal men had managed to occupy an old stockade. The contemptible buccaneers were planning to overpower them with muskets and swords and the ship’s cannon offshore, which they had occupied.

Immediately upon taking the stockade, the Captain had made it his first order of business to raise the Union Jack–the British flag– on a log-pole above the fort, although it might seem there could be more productive ways he could have spent his energy and precious time at that perilous moment.

Very soon the scumbag pirates began firing cannonballs at the stockade. This turn of events is told near the end of chapter 18 in the book. A ship’s owner speaks to Captain Smollett:

“Captain,” said the squire, “the house is quite invisible from the ship. It must be the flag they are coming at. Would it not be wiser to take it in?”

“Strike my colors!” cried the captain. “No, sir, not I”; and as soon as he had said the words, I think (the ship’s doctor is writing this. -ed.) we all agreed with him. For it was not only a piece of stout, seamanly, good feeling; it was good policy besides and showed our enemies that we despised their cannonade.

The good Captain, in so doing, was proclaiming to the scoundrels, and to the very world: This here ground we have taken is now for God and King! This here’s for law and order! We’ll not tolerate mayhem and rebellion! That’s our stand and we are stickin’ to it.

Now this particularly resolute act of the Captain had good effect, even beyond the mere declaration of it. Young Jim Hawkins, who had been separated from the ship’s loyal men, was out in the island somewhere, among the scrubby shrubs and sandy spits, trying to get to the stockade to rejoin his mates. And he had found, long story short, a wild island man who was not actually wild– though he appeared to be so with the scruffy beard and raggish coverings. This character, name of Ben Gunn,  had been marooned on the island by the former buccaneers, the ones who had left the treasure somewhere in the vicinity.

So, meanwhile, back at the outback part of the island where Hawkins and Gunn are dodging cannonballs and musket shots, old Ben says to young Jim, at the beginning of chapter 19:

As soon as Ben Gunn saw the colors he came to a halt, stopped me by the arm, and sat down.

“Now,” said he, “there’s your friends, sure enough.”

“Far more likely, it’s the mutineers,” I answered.

“That!” he cried. “Why, in a place like this, where nobody puts in but gen’lmen of fortune, Silver would fly the Jolly Roger, you don’t make no doubt of that. No, that’s your friends.”

Which is to say, the ringleader of the mutineers would not be flying the Union Jack. He would not be claiming ground for God and King. He would not be declaring by such actions: This here’s for the rule of law. Come ye to this flag and you shall find order, and justice, not mayhem and rebellion!Ben Gunn knew this, and he assured the cabin-boy that the Union Jack was reliable, and so. . .

It could come about that the ship’s doctor would later write:

“And I ran to the door in time to see Jim Hawkins, safe and sound, come climbing over the stockade.”

Thus had this incident made known, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the sanctuarial power of Brittania. God save the King, and the Queen, too!

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

BodySurfer’s Intuitive Calcs

June 23, 2012

Ocean waves, generated by the interplay of lunar and earth gravity, travel very long distances across open water. When a wave reaches land, having no more water in which to move forward, it breaks upon the shore. How many millennia have humans been observing this? A long time.

Standing in shallow water very near the shoreline, we would see the hapless bodysurfer waiting to experience the thrill of catching a wave and riding it the short distance until he and the wave are tossed onto the sandy beach. If you happened to be at Ka’anapali beach, Maui, Hawaii, yesterday, that adventurous bodysurfer would have been, perhaps, me, or one of the other hundreds of free-floating small-time adventurers.

The body surfer is not a real surfer, you know. He’s just a  clueless vacation visitor, not really serious about investigating the larger potentials of the great swells on the north shores of these far-flung islands. He doesn’t have the board. He just has his own body, which he has trained to float. In my case, I learned to float at YMCA summer day camp in Jackson, Mississippi, long about 1956 or so.

Consider one wave coming in–the one that I’m going to jump into in just a few seconds here. How does this little dance between the wave and the bodysurfer work?

When the wave is still out in deep water where there is nothing to alter its somewhat ideal sine, orcosine, or bell-jar shape, it is a force of energy moving through the water, rearranging the shape of the water surface as it moves forward. It is moving the water somewhat, mostly up and down, at any chosen point of the ocean surface. Within the force of the wave there is kinetic energy moving those millions of molecules of H²0. But the wave is not really moving as much water, or anything else, as it actually has the physical power to do. So within the wave there is, along with the kinetic energy that is in constant use, potential energy.

So every wave that travels across the Pacific, approaching the beach, is a combination of both kinetic energy and potential energy. When the kinetic force of it hits the beach, the potential energy is suddenly converted to strong kinetic action and the wave totally expends itself on the sand. All that physical force erupts upon the shore and upon whatever happens to be there, be it a surprised snoozing sunbather, a sand castle, or a bodysurfer like me. Over long periods of time, this wave action churns rocks down into fine sand, and this is how we get our beaches. It also steals sunglasses and plastic cups and rubber rafts and other stuff that we consumers drag to the strand with us.

What the bodysurfer seeks to do is partake of that thrilling moment within the wave when its potential energy is instantaneously being converted to kinetic force, and thereby producing for him/her a few seconds of very fine sporting excitement. This occurs when the wave’s natural shape is being violently altered by its contentious encounter with the sandy bottom. Entering shallow water, that potential energy has nowhere to put all those water molecules that were formerly being moved up and down in such a gentle, rolling manner. Suddenly there is no more “down” available to the wave, because where there was deep water before there is now something solid that does not yield to the wave’s force.  In this case, the “something solid” is the edge of the island, i.e. the shore.

So the rambunctious wave tosses all those water molecules up into the air, in a kind of tantrum. Like a spoiled child that has grown accustomed to having its way all the time, the wave shouts with much sound and fury that signifieth nothing, if I can’t have my wavy way here, I’m going to throw all this liquid in the air!  Waugh!  Now it’s splash and crash time.

So suddenly the formerly tame motion becomes an eruption of spray through the air, and foam upon the sand. That noble wave that hath traveled afar all the way from Japan or wherever–it just gives up the ghost and dies right there on the coast of Hawaii.

But not before this thrill-seeking tourist can get in on a little super-planetary wave action, ha! I love it.

Glass Chimera

Planetary birth pangs

June 22, 2012

Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about three or four miles down below the water surface, our planetary home gave birth to Hawaii.

As Father in Heaven had sewn within Mother Earth’s deep crevices the seeds of creative planetary development, she cried out from the Deep in her anguish when the aweful time of delivery had come.  With wailings of hot magma and rumblings of steamy contraction,  Mama pushed out those volcanic islands-to-be. Spewing forth from her ocean floor, striving upward from her tectonic fissures,  the nascent super-hot lava tumbled and rolled skyward from beneath its tectonic birthplace, into cold Pacific waters.  Then,  after a few million years of childlike submersion under watery tutelage, these pubescent islands stuck their stony little heads out into air and proclaimed to the birds and the stars that they had at last arrived, ready to be transformed as the land of the living.

Yesterday, we were walking on some of those rocky island shoulders. We watched with fascination as vehement Pacific waves pounded her dark lava extremities with ceaseless planetary fury, casting high cascades of spray into the blue sky with airy veils of aquamarine and silver-white brilliance. The basaltic wasteland whereon we trod was sculpted with moonish alacrity, revealing with otherworldly starkness layers of black, grey, reddish brown– solid rock punctuated with massive boulders, cracky protrusions, some rounded by the rushing of the water and wind, others still sharp with the newness of elemental violence.

Then, there is was. A small carpet of vivid green something living, splayed upon the barren rock, growing as merrily as you please in the sunshine, with little orange-tipped teardrop succulent leaves spreading across the lithic void.

“That,” said the traveler to his nephews and nieces, is the beginning of dirty old life.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Parabola

June 21, 2012

Neither life, nor anything in it, is just a simple straight line. Even crystals, which grow along straight mathematical forms from the elements and minerals of this world, have to be cut before we value them.

There’s nothing really simple out there. It all confuses. That is why, I suppose, people have such trouble accepting the idea that there is some kind of absolute truth in the universe.

Nothing in this life ever just jumps on a straight-line path and goes forward, without vectored influence to push/shove it to the right or left. In experience we are, like, all over the place. Here one day, there the next, trying to make up our minds about what to do, how to approach this or that person about something-or-other problem, or how to solve this problem and ignore that other one, hoping it-he-she-it will go away.

So if there is any truth in this life, in this world, universe, we access it only after discovering the nugget from some obscure hiding place, and then we are proud of ourselves because we’ve uncovered some precious truth, like treasure in a field. Eschewing the common good and beauty all around us, we prefer to dig for rare booty. Then finding something good beneath all the crap that goes on becomes a triumph of sorts, and we can feel good about ourselves for a while.

Jesus explained to his disciples that he speaks to the people of this world in parables, because they do not see really what something is when they are looking at it, and they do not really hear what’s going on here, even though they think they are listening.

I think that’s why writers like me like to veil our visions in allegory, metaphor, nuance, and literary B.S., hoping that the world will dig through our fabric of symbolism and story to discover  some truth in it.  We could say that, parabolically, we are a little bit like the master story-teller of all time–the one who spoke truth in parables. In truth, however, our vain musings can not hold a candle to his wisdom.

Glass Chimera