Update: Week of April 24, 2017

I’ve currently got some strange eyes on a nearly finished manuscript.  It’s been taking rather long than I’d like, so I’ve spent the mean-time working on revising a seventy-seven chapter serial whose rough draft I finished a few months ago.  Needs a lot of work, but the potential is all there.

Thoughts?  I don’t like Facebook.  I don’t like the structure of the platform; I don’t like their business practices [milking yours truly for every penny they can manage]; and I really don’t like the community either.  To be honest, I don’t like family being able to see what I’m up to, and that’s precisely the matter.  Facebook isn’t about intercommunication between inspired strangers on the internet.  It’s about sharing images and short videos while Facebook corporate rakes in the advertising revenue.  I’ve been hanging around Minds.com a fair bit more than Facebook, and already I prefer the company there.  I don’t even know anyone.  It’s glorious.  Facebook is a matrix of echo chambers.  You never get to hear anything either interesting or challenging.

Small Dog People

I used to think I was an animal person.  Later on, I thought I was a cat person.  I’ve always been fairly good in the handling and maintenance of animals; turns out, that doesn’t necessarily make you an animal person.  It just makes you patient and sensible.

Full disclosure–I’ve got a pair of cats; I used to have a dog; and I used to be an avid equestrian, in spite of my very real fear of being kicked.  I like to think I understand animal behavior, particularly predator behavior, better than most, but I would never ever claim to possess professional proficiency, but I can identify abusive and otherwise toxic relationships and behavior when I see them.

Some people, but particularly some women, develop stronger bonds with animal than with people–this includes family, even immediate family, even children.  Now these women could be preferring the company of horses, which is a totally different conversation I’ll produce another time, but many more of them shower affection upon small dogs.  I’m talking Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, and Dachshunds and others.  These are small dogs no heavier than fifteen pounds which usually carry a host of different congenital disorders thanks to their unnaturally small size and uncomfortably stout limbs.

Small dogs are all about the owner.  They’re so miserable, small, and pathetic that they’ll gravitate towards the provisioner of food and care but not necessarily the attempted provisioner of authority, often resulting in a defensive relationship with possessor against the rest of the universe.  The sort of defensive behavior we’re talking about is essentially territoriality of person rather than space and will usually take the form of defensive aggression, though it could manifest considerably worse.  Bites are altogether common.  This unhealthy, defensive behavior will be laughed at and approved because the size of the animal generally implies its benignity in the eyes of the possessor and furthermore because in the eyes of the possessor such pathetic aggression seems cute, reinforcing said behavior.  These animals will lash out against both strangers and family and do whatever’s necessary to possess the time of the owner until animal and owner become their own separate behavioral unit to the exclusion of the rest of the social circle.  The owner will not be capable of understand what’s happening, tending to view the animal as a helpless surrogate child, in certain cases serving to alleviate the owner’s guilt regarding her own family and children.  And that’s what this all is.  Guilt.

Hygienic standards will tend be relaxed in the home of people with small dogs.  The animals will relieve themselves inside more often than outside, and the owners themselves will trend towards more than a little hoarding behavior, particularly in living quarters though they may actually present a clean parlor.  This seems to feed into some variety of agoraphobia.

Hoarding is perhaps the most appropriate term.

Now, people suffer all different sorts of maladies behind closed doors.  Sometimes not even behind closed doors.  But mind you, the dog person does as much damage to her person as the congenital alcoholic to his liver.

Sparta’s Overblown Reputation

Sparta, the hegemonic city-state that dominated the Peloponnese, threw back the Persians from Greece, and subdued the Athenian Delian League in the Peloponnesian war; Sparta so famed for the quality of her troops; Sparta so remembered for their utterly laconic way of life that included the exposure of allegedly unfit infants, the military training of children, and other shit I can’t think of at the moment–Sparta that was singular in the collective whole of the Hellenic peoples.  She’s overblown, and I’m not saying that I spoke here any lies, but aside from some issues of extent, the way that the truth has been represented is more than a little dishonest.

Now, Sparta is a fairly interesting creature, governed by a counsel of wizened elders and a diarchy of kings.  Perhaps the most notable and most important feature is her culture is a result of her economic strategy.  The Spartans held possession of a huge body of slaves–themselves Greeks–that were collectively called “Helots.”  The Helots were state owned and did all the farming that provided the underpinning of the Spartan economy.  Moreover, the Helots were very numerous, as you might expect; agricultural labor required a much larger percentage of the general population that it does nowadays.  To ensure that this economic arrangement remain, the entire Spartan population was militarized.  All able-bodied men joined the army, and the women were expected to bear more potential soldiers.  The Spartan military, whilst simultaneously intended to fight off external threats, was nevertheless predominantly concerned with putting down Helot rebellions, which were potentially so lethal as to cause the collapse of the Spartan state.  This informed every Spartan military decision from then on.

For example, the very famed fight of the three hundred against the entire Persian military machine along a tiny stretch of coast called Thermopylae, you must have heard about it before?  It’s taken for granted that the Spartans went there knowing they’d never return, but what could they have possibly expected to do with an army of only three hundred when they expected to fight more than a million?  This is a theme of the Spartan contribution to any war effort.  Fearing that they’d be overrun by their own farmers in their fields, the Spartans were for the most part unwilling to contribute troops to collective war efforts, usually mere token forces intended to show solidarity.  But it appears that Leonidas had not gone there with thoughts of suicide in his head, for he brought an army of several thousand more Greeks with him derived from city-states all over the Hellenic world, and in the initial engagements, they were remarkably successful, easily turning back the Persian invaders thanks to the quality of the terrain which restricted the fighting front from the extent of tens or hundreds of thousands of men across to mere hundreds–if that.  In addition to this, they actually had a makeshift wall properly supported to retreat to in case the fighting became too pernicious.

Little known fact is that Leonidas had been promised more troops from Sparta which simply never arrived.  The Spartans were dead set on defending the Corinthian Isthmus; the Spartans seemed to not understand that the Persians could simply sail around.  Leonidas was a sacrifice intended to appease the allies while they made time for their fortifications.  So when the Phocians in the hills failed to resist the immortals moving across the elevated portions, Leonidas was surrounded, and there was little more than could be done.  The Athenian allies on their ships in the waters nearby could do little but watch in horror as the Greeks were gobbled up in spite of the Athenian successes against the significantly larger Persian navy.

I have a hard time respecting Spartan military excellence.  It’s not because they weren’t great soldiers–indeed they were–but they just weren’t very hungry to fight.  There are several Spartan admirals and generals too clever and too lupine to be real Spartans, but the general vulgus were used altogether too cautiously and as a result made little fame for themselves.  What matters the quality of a hundred thousand soldiers if they never see the field?

There’s significantly more to it than merely this, I’m afraid, but I’m not a scholar and neither do I have the time to delineate all the factors.  All I intend to indicate is that Sparta was always slow to fight, altogether too conservative, and abusive with its allies.  Beyond this, their knowledge of fighting was predominantly restricted to the traditional phalanx, and the developing face of warfare left them behind in the end.  But that’s what happens when you let someone else do all your industry for you.  Lazy fucks.

Scarlett Johansson Will Never Be Menacing

People are up in arms about this new Ghost in the Shell movie–live action this time–and starring such actors as can be generally acquired by the ancient fucking reptiles that inhabit the fissile wastes of the West Coast.  Never mind that the remaining corpus of material has been either illustration or animation, working with the advantages and disadvantages therein; never mind that the rights to produce the movie were not by any means stolen from its legal possessor; what they’re mad most about is that the starring actress–and a good portion of the rest of the cast–are white and that therefore this film represents some sort of perverted whitewashing of the superiority of the yellow race.  But I couldn’t care less about that.  Never mind that the material for the Ghost in the Shell franchise is borrowed rather liberally from the science fiction authors of the Western World; never mind neither that this is generally how creative inspiration works; it doesn’t fucking matter.  If the creator of the licensed title believes that he can make a better product that will sell more tickets by using a certain cast, you’re damn right he will.

Truth is, I’m up in arms as well, but it’s for altogether different reasons.  I’ve actually long been a fan of the Ghost in the Shell franchise, among the few Japanese media besides Kurosawa that I can tolerate.  And I’ve seen some very faithful interpretations of Major Kusanagi’s character.  She’s tough, generally self-assured, and she can seem menacing without seeming a monster.  She’s a military brat of an older tradition, and it’s something I can appreciate.  And frankly, I don’t think Johansson is a decent actress in general; I certainly don’t think she can faithfully render the major’s character.  She does certainly have the vacant stare that might be possessed by a full-body prosthetic, but I frankly think that it’s a failing not of non-verbal communication but the cry of the long atrophy of that bit of gray matter affixed to her brain stem.

This might seem mean to me in retrospect, but then I’d remember her terrible interpretation of the Russian language.

Panic Attacks

Now, I know a little too much about this subject.  It was the reason I sought the assistance of a professional in the first place.  While I’ve gone for a long time without specifying whatever ailment I have suffered, this will unfortunately narrow the list more than a little uncomfortably, but it’s something I’m willing to risk considering the subject matter.

Now, if you’ve never suffered a panic attack, never had a condition that provides them, never had reason to worry on this subject, much of what I’m saying will be difficult to comprehend.  There are a lot of unpleasant experiences one can endure in life, but there are few that produce such dread in the sufferer.  When I used to see depictions of mental disease in media, just for example, I could never really comprehend how anyone, even a loony, could behave with such reckless disregard; I thought their depiction was something purely imaginary meant to titillate crowds.  And while there’s a certain amount of that, there’s also a kernel of truth within.  Let’s say you’ve got a character suffering hallucinations and delusions, seeing people where there are none, who is nevertheless aware that he’s seeing what others apparently can’t.  You’d think he could throttle his reactions and at least play nice with normal people, but the problem is that delusions are so powerful.  You could acknowledge logically in your head that the demon standing at your bedside can’t possibly exist, but the very experience of it is so powerful and unpleasant that you nevertheless can’t help screaming and then hysterically sobbing.

A panic attack is one of the most unpleasant experiences you can experience.  You will feel such terror that you may nevertheless know unreasonable, but you can’t help from feeling it, and this terrible sense of dread can continue for long miserable hours until the strain upon your head and your heart makes you seriously contemplate suicide.  It isn’t that you want to die; you don’t even need to have a history of suicidal ideation; the experience is simply so powerful and so dreadful that you may wish you were dead.  And when it’s over and when you’ve gotten over it, every time you develop a niggling of fear, you can’t help wondering, “Is this the buildup to yet another panic attack?”  And the fear of another attack alone may give you another attack.  It feeds back into itself continuously until your mental and physical health are shattered and you’re a mere fraction of your former self, wallowing in the corner blubbering in tongues that were never meant for human ears.

God save us.

The Foreseeable April

A boring span of time in all likelihood wasted in editing and editing and editing again my original book into something sufficiently different.  Already went through a draft that looked quite presentable, but I know better than to trust my initial instincts.  So we’re going to endure several iterations and outside eyes before we determine the manuscript completed.  After that, I’ll have to see, in likely several forms, how the finished product looks on Amazon.  After that, assuming I’m allowed, I should be able to put it up on preorder to be ready for sale on Black Friday.

I’ve also got a fantasy project waiting in the wings.  Not sure I’ve discussed this very much before.  While there’s already running a “Sword of the Saints” serial, there’s also a “Sword of the Saints” novel featuring different characters doing different things but nevertheless in the same universe but at a different time.  It’s fantasy; it’s dark; and it’s occasionally very dark, starring protagonists for whom antihero would largely be an understatement or a complete misunderstanding.  Thing is, the novel was finished, but on a closer inspection, I’d like to provide a book 2 into this volume for a number of reasons.  That means more writing, a great deal more writing, but I think it will be worth it.  If the volume does well, I’ll consider writing a volume 2 consisting in two books, but I’m not going to get ahead of myself.

Anonymous Conversation

I remember there was this pundit on television complaining, as they are wont, about the nature of anonymous conversation, and that it should be done away with.  And his argument was simple, if people can’t be held accountable for their speech, even if only socially, then they could conceivably say anything, no matter how dangerous or how benign.  I don’t think he thought through the wisdom of those words.

We live in a country, unfortunately not a world, where the right to free speech is legally protected by the federal government.  It is not provided by the federal government, merely protected; it is provided, according to the various writings of the founders, by one’s creator, essentially imbued.  Unfortunately, this does not protect us from all consequences and recourse should we choose to exercise our free speech.  It is altogether too easy for a man to lose his living and endanger his family by speaking his mind, most particularly if he’s speaking the truth.  Essentially, there are some perspectives that are considered acceptable speech within broad society, and there are others that are not.  Speech that genuinely mimics the hogwash of the mainstream media is particularly prized while alternative perspectives–say for an extreme example, fascism–are considered so inimical as to invite and justify physical violence, the words of the first amendment be damned.

Previously, to speak your mind and get away with it, you’d have to distribute leaflets, but that required the use of a printing press, which would make you generally simple enough to track down, but the internet has provided altogether new opportunities.  Internet forums of likeminded or even alternatively minded souls can communicate either with the use of a handle or with no identification whatsoever, sometimes not even requiring registration with an email address.  It was slow going, and I never imagined it would succeed the way it has, but this ultimately blossomed into an alternative media movement composed not of monolith conglomerates but legions of individual posters proclaiming a generally united message, themselves so difficult to track down as to require the various illegal means of the alphabet agencies so happy to abuse the word of law for short-term gains.  In the last presidential election, the influence of such entities as 4chan cannot be overstated.  They disseminated alternative opinions both broadly and without major hindrance, and many of these reached national importance, particularly in the form of memes–quite famously “Pepe” the frog, which the mainstream media hilariously tried to dismiss as a white nationalist emblem, only serving to further its dissemination.

Learning a Language

It can be daunting, right?  The last time you learned a language, it took you nearly twenty years to be fully competent and you’re still learning things about your native tongue, facets and subtleties that might be forbidden to others.  And so when you encounter someone bilingual, trilingual, or–good help you–a polyglot, it’s like being in a room with a living deity capable of feats to him simple and to you utterly unassailable.  Luckily, I’m here to relate that this really isn’t the case.

When I was in grade school, I took French for many years, time in which I happened to build some approximation of a standard French pronunciation, but when I see full adults trying to learn a language, speaking it without an obviously foreign accent is often a skill utterly beyond them.  The further back you go, the more that can be intuitively adopted, the easier it is to get native fluency, but you have to remember that you spent twenty years getting your native fluency in your own tongue.  If someone insists to you that he has native proficiency in several languages, he either grew up speaking all of them in his household, he’s a genuine polyglot, or he’s a simple liar that doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Generally, if someone says that he knows French in addition to his mother tongue, he means that he can read French and speak it for the most part without the aid of a lexicon, but he’s never going to insist he can equal your typical native speaker in knowledge of all those myriad subtleties.

Now, I’ve got experience in French, German, Sanskrit, Classical Greek, and Latin.  The first of these I simply don’t have the time to pursue anymore, though I can usually get through a reading of French; the remaining two languages I can read more than adequately, but nevertheless I’m far from being a master, but most professors would nevertheless term me fluent.  And that’s just the thing; “fluent” in this context is still a matter of extent but for the most part it means “good enough.”

I’m always learning more about Greek and Latin, and I’m slowly but surely becoming a more excellent reader.  That’s how it is for most people.  It’s a continual process that never ends.  There is no peak mastery; there is always at least one more hill.  That’s just the way it is.