Sunday, July 30, 2017

The new neighbors

A book I'm reading, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs by David Grimm, shares a theory. It's not original to grim, but interesting nonetheless. It has to do with what's called self-domestication. This is when an animal attaches itself to a human community and evolves the traits of a domesticated animal without direct intervention on our part.

In the case of dogs the theory goes something like this. Groups of humans in prehistoric times were nomadic. They were also none too neat, with scraps of meat and other food being dropped everywhere. Wolves took notice and their mouths watered. These temporary human settlements presented a way of supplementing their diet without additional hunting. Waiting for the humans to move on would mean getting to the food after much of it had gone bad. Therefore the best option was to hang around while the people were still there. The wolves that did this thrived, producing more pups.

It's interesting to project ourselves into the past and think how these prehistoric persons responded. I can see four stages, distinct but perhaps overlapping.

1) Fear: We know the wolves have the power to kill us or otherwise harm us. We certainly don't want them around our children. This can't be good.

2) Annoyance: Okay, they're only coming here to be fed. How does that make them any different from large, heavy rats?

3) Opportunity: There's an advantage to having these creatures in our camp. They help fend off other predators and parasites. Plus they still have hunting instincts, and can help us.

4) Affection: Rex is part of the family. We wouldn't dream of leaving him behind!

And to some extent, all of these responses are still part of our makeup, surfacing at one time or another.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Not particularly original thought

The world is filled with noises. More every day. Many, no doubt, are entertaining. Through all that, very few seem to be listening to what's underneath, what has lasted and what will last.

There have been others who have said similar things before. They have also been right. In different times I'm sure it's been true in different ways.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


I like this Milt Jackson piece as a bit of hump day cheer. It's expansive, yet still short and sweet.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Head, it is spinning

Within 24 hours we went from a heat wave to "It is October now, right?" Waiting for a bus back from Rumford I realized the t-shirt, sweatshirt, and light summer jacket I was wearing weren't cutting it, and if I went out again I'd have to wear my heavier autumn jacket. Not necessarily the weather I'd choose for July, but it will be easier to sleep tonight.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

What else is new?

At breakfast the radio was on. A lady, the radio personality, spoke. There'd been a question earlier. Name something you remember that kids today wouldn't understand.

A listener had written in, responding that she remembered when telephones had long cords attached that kept them in place, unable to go further afield than the length of the cord. And when you had to make a private phone call, you also needed to take the telephone as far as it could go and shut the door.

To me, it seems like young people today can understand the existence of corded telephones, whether or not they previously knew such a thing existed. What they might have trouble getting their minds around is the concept of a "private phone call." In few places nowadays does such a thing exist.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The fan

In a room where a ceiling fan is going, running at top speed because of the heat, it can sound like the wind. Air, after all, is air. Of course it's too regular to be the wind, and the sound is only inside. It is the next best thing, however.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Inn trouble

Currently watching - watching, not binging, because I go to work in the morning - the fifth season of American Horror Story. AKA "Hotel", noted for bringing Lady Gaga into the franchise. You can tell she's not a really seasoned actress, but she makes an impression.

This is the second iteration of the show that I've seen, and there are a few constants:

* It's really campy. The actors do a lot of nighttime soap emoting, regardless of how overqualified they are. (The gay associations with camp are certainly there too. Most men in the cast either are gay or could be really successful if they tried their hand at it.)

* There are a lot of shock tactics, sometimes sexual in nature and sometimes not, which have the effect of making the show less scary rather than more.

* Once you get past those there's actually a twisty and interesting story.

The story here has elements of The Shining, The Hunger, and Seven. There's a hotel that was basically built as a giant instrument of torture. There are vampires who hunt to throbbing goth rock music. And a serial killer is trying to make his punishments biblically appropriate.

An LAPD detective played by Wes Bentley ties the three stories together. He alternates between wooden determination and blind panic. His estranged wife is played by Chloe Sevigny, and she might be giving the best performance. She's the control in the experiment, the most "normal" character, a grieving mother and dedicated pediatrician. But normalcy is an illusion and you know things are going to go bad for her/in her.

In all, entertaining, which includes giving you something to goof on.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


I'm close to finishing Edgar Pangborn's Davy now. It was a fairly big deal when it came out in 1964, nominated for the Hugo award. It's a post-apocalyptic novel, picaresque, about coming of age in rebellion against a rigidly backward community. In premise it seems very similar to Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker. Pangborn even includes American city-states that bear corrupt variants of their pre-apocalypse names, as Hoban would later do with English cities. (Both authors were American, though.)

Pangborn's novel came first. But while it's easier to penetrate, I don't think it's as successful as Hoban's later would be. Riddley Walker is mythic, and reads like it could be produced by a primitive society of the future. Davy sounds a little too much like the product of a council of Hume scholars.

In other news related to science fiction, I approve. I don't really know Whittaker's work very well, but I suppose I have time to learn.

Friday, July 14, 2017


I just watched Good Neighbor Sam, a movie where an ad man pretends to be his wife's best friend's husband so she can inherit 15 million dollars. All the while they have to dodge a PI hired by her grandfather's relatives to prove they aren't really man and wife. And at work he needs his image as a wholesome choirboy to keep an account with a showily moral client.Jack Lemmon is in the lead, and with him are Dorothy Provine, Romy Schneider, and a memorable turn by Edward G Robinson as the client.

The 60s were weird. I don't mean the counterculture. Just the straight world, with its oddly ambitious "shot like a suburb" movies.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Now the waiting starts

I finished a short story recently, or at least it seems finished or what passes for it right now. Tonight I was planning to send it off to an ezine that seemed like it might be a receptive market. Had everything all formatted and ready to go. Then I noticed the announcement saying they were close to submissions and wouldn't be open again until September.

There's another ezine I just found out about. After weighing my options I sent the story to them. Largely because I didn't want to just sit on it for another two months. Still, the first one still seems like an interesting outfit, so I plan to submit something else to them, not sure what or when.

Also I transplanted a ladybug from the indoors to the outdoors tonight. They're cute enough so I'm not quick to squash them, but I'm not keen on having a lot of bugs living under my roof.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lend an ear, bend an ear...

On impulse I bought a few ears of corn earlier today. So part of tonight's dinner was corn on the cob. I'm pleased to relate that cooking them in the oven, damped with a little water and sprinkled in salt, works just fine. Didn't even need butter, although there was bread and butter.

No, the excitement never stops.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


According to Wikiquote, Richard Pryor said:
I'd like to make you laugh for about ten minutes. Though I'm gonna be on for an hour.
The man was Richard Pryor, but he knew to keep expectations at a realistic level. Maybe I should say "and" instead of "but."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Some truth to that

I heard this song on Amanda Nazario's show on WFMU tonight. It hit the right nerve with me: catchy and disarming. Certainly this video is what you could call "minimalist." The album cover definitely has some miles on it. The record itself sounds to be in good shape.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

On the next...

Finally getting my ass in gear on a story again. It's something I'd written a first draft of weeks/months ago. Not bad, but not ready for the spotlight, either. I had to figure out a way to pull it all together. Think I may have found it. Hope so, anyway.

Sunday, July 2, 2017


Capitalism is contradictory as soon as it is complete, because it is dealing with the mass of men in two opposite ways at once. When most men are wage-earners, it is more and more difficult for most men to be customers. For the capitalist is always trying to cut down what his servant demands, and in doing so is cutting down what his customer can spend. As soon as his business is in any difficulties, as at present in the coal business, he tries to reduce what he has to spend on wages, and in doing so reduces what others have to spend on coal. He is wanting the same man to be rich and poor at the same time. 
This is from GK Chesterton's The Outline of Sanity. It's an interesting read. Chesterton was one of the leaders of a school of thought known as distributism, which was opposed to capitalism and Marxism alike because both led to centralized, monopolistic outcomes. I'm still sort of sussing out which parts of his agenda could work and which probably wouldn't, but his analysis is so clear-eyed that I think in terms of economics, there is little going on today that would truly surprise him.