Wednesday, August 31, 2011

HFA aka FW

Nowadays many parents describe their kids as 'high functioning autistic'. When I was a lad, these same kids were more commonly referred to as 'fucking weirdos'.

I know, right?

All Free All The Time


I have put out a lot of books and they're all free all the time and available for download through Goodreads, as well as through Smashwords

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3262388.Tom_Lichtenberg

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/tomlichtenberg

My books are frequently described as 'odd'. They tend to run counter to expectations. For example, I have a zombie book (Zombie Nights) which is not really a zombie book. My 'Sexy Teenage Vampires' stories are not very typical vampire stories. I have a ghost story that isn't, a mystery story that kind of turns out not to be, an anti-epic fantasy novel, and some that are sheer nonsense of the kind that I just love. Aside from being short, free and strange, they also tend to end rather abruptly.

Most of them are 'short novels' - between 15,000 and 30,000 words. They usually have some kind of sci-fi elements as well as some satire, some humor, some mystery, some supernatural stuff; my recipe for a concoction that's sort of eccentric, if nothing else.

So, if you have any kind of a soft spot for cashiers who fall in love with psychics, unwritten rules and impossible things, places that might be creatures or maybe not, pet peeves in general, parrots from outer space, portable-toilet dispatchers who want to be talk show pundits, artists who refuse to accept any limits or conventions, or even mice who continually get slimed by chocolate clouds, please feel free to download one or two or three or more.

and thanks for reading!

I love free ebooks. Maybe it's because I'm the child of a librarian, but I'm all for it. I believe that books ought to be freely available to everyone everywhere, and so I practice what I preach by giving mine away.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What we have here is a failure of imagination

I have long been describing religion as 'a failure or imagination', and it occurred to me earlier today a more general implementation of that concept.

I recently noticed a study of animals that could count as high as three, and it reminded me of another story of an Amazonian tribe which only had words for one, two, three and 'many', meaning anything more than three. I presume this is because they had no need for further exposition of numbers. 'Many' was enough of a notion for them, and perhaps the same is true for those animals in the other case.

The human mind is capable of comprehending complexity only up to a certain point, beyond which, it cannot. There is a wide variation in the human mind, of course, as there are levels of chess masters. Some minds are capable of more than others. Nevertheless, all have their limits beyond which the brain cannot completely understand. At that point, we introduce generalized concepts to substitute for that which we cannot manage. 'Many' is such a concept. 'God' is another.

Examples abound. We do not study a single leaf on a plant in all of its complexity - we use the concept 'leaf' instead. We have no need to completely know the intricacies of its design - the general notion suffices. This is what I mean by 'a failure of imagination'.

We cannot conceive of the vastness of the universe, or even of this planet. We cannot fully imagine the incredible complexity of our simplest actions and interactions. This is just a fact. The mind is not designed for this. The mind doesn't need it. But instead of merely saying, 'beyond this point I cannot go' we in our hubris exclaim 'God' or some other explanation as if we DO understand, as if we DO know, but we don't and we can't and it's okay. We don't have to.

Also to think about

Good one

Friday, August 26, 2011

disasters and other musings

earthquake in the east last week. californians saying "i know, right?" nobody moved. nobody got hurt.

hurricane in the east this week. californians saying, "i know, right?". mudslides and wildfires are more like our thing. you can keep your hurricanes and tornadoes

crazy Christian fanatics are frontrunners for President. seen this coming for a long time now. Nostrathomas is not surprised.  one of them will win one day.

you know it's a good week when you don't look at facebook, you don't tweet nothing, you forget about the raters and don't even keep up with the google reader. been coding my ass off instead, plus our new product, Up from Jawbone, is going to be so cool. It's fun to be working on great products again.

going to see the Giants tomorrow night. one run would be awesome but probably too much to ask from this weak-ass hitting team. and we don't even get to see timmy though it's his bobblehead night! we get the dreaded fifth starter to be named later.

a soccer player on the MLS Portland team is named 'Jewsbury'. i know, right?

my friend Chuck likes to say "i know, right?", so i picked it up from him and now my son is saying it to his friends. it's just like my blog post about That Tree - we are all reflections of each other and expressions of the human animal all the time. part of the whole, people. there's no getting away from the fact.

they found a planet made of diamond. now all we need is a moon of gold and all that shit will be worthless forever. and about time too.

nothing says 'i love you' like a fricking planet that's a diamond

i kind of like book clubs but i don't have much to say in them. part of a few on goodreads but not much of a contributor, i'm afraid

can't believe they give the hugo award for best new writer to that guy who wrote that crappy book 'the magician'. how many harry potter ripoffs does it take to screw in a light bulb?

over and out


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Piracy a Non-Issue

Good article on the subject here. Salient reference - public libraries. Yes, that's right. Authors have been ripped off for centuries already! What I love about Project Gutenberg is that practically anything written before 1910 is free. We don't give a damn about money for dead authors, as long as they've been dead for a decent interval. 70 years or thereabouts, for current copyright laws. We care about the grandchildren living off the proceeds of their grandparents' work, but not about the great-grandchildren, it seems, and certainly not the great-great-grandchildren. They can all go hang themselves for all we care. I publish as a posthumous author, as if I've been deceased for more than a century already. This is because I publish my books for no cost. Free. (Well, on Amazon you have to pay 99 cents but there's no reason to get them from Amazon. I only put them there so they can be found by the majority of e-reader-folk, and then hopefully they will discover they can get them for free by the simple act of googling or reading my bio). This liberates me from the tyranny of money as far as my writing goes (as for my day job, well, that's what it's for). That's all. Being a posthumous author has other perks as well. Piracy, for one thing, is less than a non-issue for me. It's a positive boon, a benefit. The pirates are spreading the manure for me, so to speak. Ewww. Oh well, anyway. They're marketing, they're advertising, they're getting it out there. Go for it, pirates! Hope you make some money on your click-throughs. I don't care. They say that people devalue what they get for free - but only for ebooks it seems! Nobody hates YouTube videos because they cost nothing. They may hate them for other reasons, but not that. Nobody hates that U2 song they downloaded because it was free. Nobody seems to mind watching movies on Crackle because they're free, or TV shows on Hulu.com because they're free, or network television, for that matter, or songs on the freaking radio. But with ebooks (not library books, mind you, but ebooks), being free is a sort of stigma. I know. I hear about it all the time. And they especially hate typos in free ebooks. It's so funny. I read 'published' Kindle books every night to my son and they ALL have typos, but no one jumps on them for that. But a free indie ebook with typos? haters. I have to say I don't really understand the world of online piracy too well. Every day I see stuff like this:

dbqdnsjcq: siku ledman pickup by tom lichtenberg bllpi
siku ledman pickup by tom lichtenberg bllpi. compared with what is quoted by other supplier, your price is uncompetitive. we hope to payment by bill of ...
bfhzihsenjr.blogspot.com/.../siku-ledman-pickup-by-tom-licht...





god only knows what they're doing putting my name and title in these nothing-scraper web pages. it's a mystery to me. but god bless them. half of the people who visit this blog are driven here by ukrainian pornography sites! it's a vastly weird landscape out there. no one can properly chart it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Crawling

another video excuse for the soundtrack ...


Monkey Attack

my son and I are still in a garageband-imovie-cold-wet-weekend phase ...

A Few Thoughts on the Tyranny of Money

Money is the measure of worth, the arbiter of value. It is the 'invisible hand' that regulates commerce and obeys the immutable laws of supply and demand and is therefore unquestioned and obeyed. We all know and accept these ideas as fact, despite our innumerable experiences to the contrary. What about inflation, you ask. What about price-fixing? What about speculators, bubbles, frenzies, irrational exuberance? We are supposed to ignore all these 'exceptions' and pretend we didn't notice that man behind the curtain. Instead, we are to stumble along the endless pursuit of money-blessed status consumption. And still we bow down to the lords of currency.

If we transposed our money worship to a different species we would immediately recognize the absurdity. Imagine your goldfish hoarding the bluer pebbles in their fishbowls. Crows collecting the fuller, yellower hay straws. No, it's okay, says the newt, you can owe me fourteen trillion lumps of mud. It'll all sort itself out eventually.

Don't tell me the value of a thing is its price. It's price today? Right now? Right here? Or it's price over there, where at the exact same moment it's vastly cheaper or more expensive depending on extenuating circumstances - that bottle of water in L.A. or that bottle of water in Somalia? There must be something like a 'secular relativist' philosophy to accomodate all those contradictions. The world is too big and too small at the same time. Will we ever put it all together in any rational way? 

After all, from the posthumous point of view, there's no time to waste (literally).


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tomages

some images from my life (paintings, sketches, book and notebook covers, collages) with soundtrack improvised today on garageband by myself


Lego Scenario (Long Gone)

another joint venture (lego by johnny, music by tom)

used http://www.convertfiles.com to convert files online for free (3gp to mv4, for example)

scene of the crime ...

the crime itself:


On The Way (with Cover Art)

my son and I threw together this garage band track and loaded a bunch of cover art photos into iMovie to make it easier to put the whole thing into blogger

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ratings Data

After 440,000+ downloads and 1100+ ratings on various sites, incl amazon, itunes, goodreads, smashwords, sony and barnes&noble, the data is pretty stable now. Put this way, in percentages

Strongly like: 2
Somewhat like: 8
Indifferent: 60
Somewhat dislike: 18
Strongly dislike: 12

It's a bell curve weighted to the negative and almost exactly what I would have predicted. The aggregate (assigning back to star/points one thru five) is 2.70

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Inline

He had his place in a line of men whom he did not know, of whom he had never heard; but who were fashioned by the same influences, whose souls in relation to their humble life's work had no secrets for him

Conrad

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Shipping Clerk and the Psychic

A possible novel based on two characters from Freak City, who were themselves based on my old novel Cashier World (which I threw away, and stole the title for a short story collection)

Mikael is a shipping clerk at the department store called Pay'n'Pay. He is a math genius who has turned his back on that world, in favor of a quiet existence, due to a vision he had (see my blog entry That Tree). His day is spent packing and unpacking boxes. He returns home to his wife, Madam Suzie (formerly Sylvia). She is a professional psychic, who is part Sherlock Holmes and part fraud, as she is everybody's 'friend' on the socialnets ...

She specializes in two areas - match-making and death. Those who come to see her never realize they are flipping a coin. Mikael, dutiful husband that he is, plays his part on both roads faithfully. Que sera, sera.

(Soundtrack, Autumn Leaf by Adam Franklin)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And now a word from Jos. Conrad

All roads are long that lead toward one's heart's desire. - The Shadow-Line

That Tree

A quote from The Seven Who Were Hanged has stuck with me, where one doomed comrade asks another if he believes in death and he tells her no, there is no such thing.
Elsewhere in the story, a character sees himself on top of a ridge, where Life is on one side and Death is on the other, and he sees the whole of reality together at once.
If you consider that each person expresses elements of what it is to be a human, that we are all variations, recombinant (if you will) than another metaphor may come to mind - that we are like leaves on a tree. Each leaf is a variant of all leaves of that species of tree, and each leaf has its span of existence, from bud to fall. The leaf is 'no more' after it is done and decayed, but is that a thing to call death? There is still the tree, and more seasons to come, and more leaves, all variations of The Leaf which is part of the life form of The Tree.
Recently my stepfather died, but I feel sometimes my expression of him in some mannerisms I picked up from him. My expression of human is really a compilation of such borrowings, and others borrow bits of mine. I say things the way certain friends would say them, my opinions are partially formed by others'. We are each unique in our particular combinations, but all of us are well within the formal bounds of human, as an oak leaf is of oak leaves.
This is how I understood the phrase 'there is no such thing' in regards to death.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

People-Watching Without People Or Watching

I installed a new smartphone app called Banjo, which has been described as "letting you stalk locations and the people there". It's yet another invention straight out of World Weary Avengers, where my impossible devices barely manage to stay a few months ahead of reality. (Worth noting that a recent reviewer of Ledman Pickup, while giving it 4 stars, did complain that its inventions were "not believable" - um, yeah? a device that records one individual's personality and plays it back into someone else? it was satire, my friend) ... anyway

With Banjo, wherever you are, you can see Facebook and Twitter and Foursquare posts by other subscribers to those services who are "nearby". These are not your "friends" (although these are alleged to also show up, none of mine do, even in my small home town where I KNOW they are just down the street and updating their various statii). Banjo also has a map mode which shows you EXACTLY where these strangers are, on a google map.

Now I know that JoJo485 had a hot dog on University Avenue, and CarolCCC would like a mint julep frapuccino. If you didn't care about your friends' updates, imagine how little you'll care about these people. Or are they people? Who is to know for sure? Surely Banjo could auto-generate all of these 'characters' and their statuses just by mashing up existing ones from all the social feeds out there.  If someone cared to find out, to either prove the reality or expose the scam, they would need to actually go hunting down these creatures, locate them on the map and travel there, try and identify them by their photo or avatar, and go up to them and question them about their recent activities.

Right now I see that "Phaedra"was at Pomponio and posted a photo (it's a beautiful beach). I could go and visit her, although she posted an hour ago and it would take me fifteen minutes to get there.

You, JoJo585! How was that hot dog?

This could lead to some very odd encounters.

A brief (one act) sort of play is occurring to me, wherein two people egg each other on to prove the validity (or not) of the Banjo app-world. Dare to Befriend!

The good folks at Banjo, like so many of the hot startups around here, are just mashing up other existing trendy technologies to see what comes up. Who knows? Some of these virtual milkshakes are bound to raise some friendly venture capital.




The Seven Who Were Hanged

"It was terrible for them to utter even a word, as though each word in the language had lost its individual meaning and meant but one thing—Death"

Leonid N Andreyev, The Seven Who Were Hanged

A very interesting short novel by a contemporary of Tolstoy (free from Project Gutenberg) about a collection of terrorists and criminals who were hanged in a group together. Andreyev is an impressionist writer, using color and sound effectively to vividly bring personalities and events to mind. This is the kind of writing that helps you see the world in a different way than your normal perspective. I especially love literature for that quality.

"Like large, transparent, glassy drops, hours and minutes descended from an unknown height into a metallic, softly resounding bell."  (Church bells as heard from prison)

'Werner, tell me, is there such a thing as death?"
"I don't know, Musya, but I think that there is no such thing," replied Werner seriously and thoughtfully'

No such 'thing' - an interesting formulation

Rules of Writing or, as Rocky would say to Bullwinkle, "again?"

Someone posted Elmore Leonard's rules of writing, one of which was, "Never use a verb other than 'said" to carry dialogue"

"I disagree," he said.
"I disagree," she mumbled.
"I disagree," he whispered.
"I disagree," she groaned.
"I disagree," he whined.
"I disagree!" she shouted.
"I disagree," he repeated.
"I disagree," she concluded. "Different words have different uses and meanings. That's why we have language."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Support the Shop Troops

As you know, the proper (if superficial and meaningless) thing to say to a soldier is 'thank you for your service', because as we all know, they serve to protect, and what they protect is our 'way of life'. Now our way of life is essentially a consumer economy, so there are others who also serve to protect it, in their own way, and these are your local shoppers. I propose you should walk up to someone buying something somewhere and say 'thank you for your purchases'. I go further and say it is your religious duty to do this (assuming you are a Christian - and especially if you are a Christian, since with the Jesus special offer, your religion is a buy-one-get-one-free kind of religion). There we have it all nicely wrapped up. Service, Duty, Morality, Shopping - it's one big fat happy family!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Stories we tell ourselves and why sometimes they don't fucking matter

I read two essays today on different subjects which irked me the same way, and after thinking about it I finally realized why. One, by Drew Westen in the New York Times, was an attack on Barack Obama. The other, by Reza Aslan in The Washington post, was an attack on the so-called 'New Atheists' (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc ... but no mention of Gian Carlo Spallanzini? Haven't they read Orange Car with Stripes or Missy Tonight?). Both of these essays could be summed up neatly, with a tip of the cap to The Rude Pundit, to "hey, we like sucking on our mamma's teat until we're fully sated and sleepy. Please go away and let us suck suck suck"

You see, the "error" of Barack Obama has been his inability to sufficiently satisfy our bedtime story needs. He hasn't properly told us the right stories in the right way to send us off to sleepyland with happiness and joy. And the "error" of the "New Atheists" is they are not letting us enjoy our comfy Bible/Koran/Torah/Mormon tits in peace, because those mean individuals refuse to acknowledge how much we love it so much that it all must be true in some elusively deep way that cannot be explained by anyone ever ever ever.

Missing the fucking point, of course, that making laws that punish other people based on your own willful ignorance is WRONG and that's what atheists old and new have against your fundamentalists and evangelicals of all stripes.

Missing the fucking point, of course, that the President of the United States is not your babysitter or your parent or your prostitute and it isn't his job to breastfeed you.

The essays, of course, are far more politely written than my coarse, indignant response, but those guys are paid for their scribblings and I can say whatever the heck I want because I'm blissfully nobody nowhere. Oh, and to any future potential employers reviewing this blog post online, move along now, there's nothing to see here ...

Writers and scientists and politicians and anyone else, for that matter, do not exist merely to re-affirm your daily affirmations, to prove to you what you already believe, to tell you what you want to hear, what you think you already know, or to put things in such a way as to please your ears, fill your belly, make you drowsy and let you drift off into never-neverland. No, that is the role of the candy and soda you stuff yourself with, the booze you guzzle, the drugs you sniff, snort, smoke and shoot, the TV and movies you passively gaze at, the thick bestsellers whose pages you avidly turn and all that shit you can buy in such bulk that you need a fucking rental storage shed to stick it all in.

You see, because the "error" is the way we go along believing our own fairy tales and lies, not the people who are trying to wake us up with a bit of common sense! Take the "credit rating downgrade" of the U.S. for example, which just occurred the other day. Citizens of this country believe, with incredible audacity, that the U.S. is some exceptional God-given ruler of the world, that it's mandatory for us to spend trillions of dollars on military dominance and we'll never have to pay for it! God will pay for it! Whose trillions of dollars are these and where do they come from? And we will hold on to this mythology (which, by the way, is only about 70 years old) until we've totally wrecked our economy and the nation lies in ruins. There's nothing anyone can say about it. We won't pay for it with taxes - oh no, not us! Taxes BAD. We won't let anybody question "THE TROOPS" and what the fuck are they doing all over the world? We SUPPORT them, with someone else's money, that is, with Chinese money, and then we resent them for it too. Would we listen to Barack Obama if he told us THIS story? Not a chance. What can he say? It's a roller coaster, folks, and what goes up .... you know the rest.



Notes for a post about expectations

This story about how Obama's "failure" is that he didn't tell the right kind of story, with good guys and bad guys, such as humans have "evolved" to expect.
I can't begin to describe how much this formulation pisses me off.
Not just the notion that economic realities can be "solved" by story-telling ... but the whole 'expectation' assumption that underlies the whole theory of story-telling itself.
If I were to attempt to capture the so-called spirit of my age, I would begin with words like shallow, simplistic, supersize and stupor, that I live in a nation of obese, obtuse gluttons who want their stereotypes spoonfed to them, who need every single subtlety spelled out in flashing neon, who never want to think when they can swallow instead. They have come to 'expect' what they are told they should 'expect' and that is to be fully sated and satisfied at every moment all the time. All of our consumable art must be formulaic, fantastic, and foolproof.
But it is all a lie. We did not evolve to expect a single thing. I mean, we don't even expect to die, and how fundamental is that? And this 'narrative structure' which our evolution supposedly 'demands', where is it in The Iliad, for example? Who is the bad guy there? Paris? But he does only what each of us would do, choose the best for himself and damn the consequences. He is human and never 'evil'. Hector is more hero than Achilles. The gods are all over the place, on every side. No, we don't require simple black hats and white hats, and to hell with those who say we do.
Obama's failure, perhaps, is precisely this, that he is not a prisoner of the spirit of the age, he doesn't fit the simplistic notions of the general population, including its representative pundits. When we speak of 'transcendence' we don't mean 'more of the same'. His attempt at transcendence will likely fail, fall short, be misunderstood, largely because of a failure of imagination - not his, but ours. We, the people, who just don't get it.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Willie Wit Strikes Again

My thoughts on reading the latest wonderful "small story" by Willie Wit

you begin a Willie Wit story with a sense of trepidation. He's going to fool you again, you know it! "Not this time", you tell yourself, as you steel your mind against the inevitable tricks and traps. You read each word with care, searching for the clue behind the hint behind the meaning. "Aha!", you declare, "it's about a parakeet!" You read on. "No, no, not a parakeet, a wildebeest! A wildebeest, what are you, crazy?", you berate yourself. You press on, becoming more and more certain in the knowledge that you will never know the truth, not until the very end. He's too good for you, my friend, he's just too good!