Sign Field Poem

Sign Post © Ceilidhachaos |

Nothing is about nothing
because everything is about something,
and that’s something.

It may not be about what you think it is,
and that’s the beauty —
Once the words are released into the wild,
the author loses control of them —
and then what?

What unleashes these wordstorms that I indulge in?
Some days I try to throw unlimited words to the wind,
and end up scratching nothing,
and then there are the days
I am compelled to write for pages at a time,
even if the words are insane and disconnected
and full of meaninglessness disguised as meaning.
I mean, really?

Peace, love and Godzilla

Last night, with my Godzilla geek rising in advance of the U.S. release of the new film Godzilla Minus One, I took another of my occasional looks at the film that started it all, the 1954 Japanese classic Gojira, and was again struck by what an awesome film it is and still so relevant in this crazy world of ours.

The crux of the film is convincing research scientist Dr. Serizawa to employ the horrible weapon he accidentally discovered to kill the 150-meter-tall monster that has ravaged Tokyo — an ancient dinosaur made even more dangerous due to the radiation from H-bomb tests in the Pacific. 

Serizawa is convinced his device — the oxygen destroyer — must remain a secret for humanity’s sake.

“If the oxygen destroyer is used even once, politicians from around the world will see it. Of course, they’ll want to use it as a weapon,” Serizawa explains. “Bombs vs. bombs, missiles vs. missiles, and now a new super weapon to throw upon us all! As a scientist — no, as human being, I can’t allow that to happen.” 

He is finally convinced by the televised images of the ruined Tokyo and a girls choir singing a mournful prayer for peace called “Oh Peace, Oh Light, Return”:

May we live without destruction
May we look to tomorrow with hope
May peace and light return to us

But Serizawa insists on operating the oxygen destroyer himself, burns all his notes, and after deploying the underwater weapon that destroys the giant monster, he cuts the hose that links him to the surface, choosing to die rather than to risk being coerced to share the secrets of the horrible device with the damned politicians.

As the story closes, Professor Yamane, who has served in the role of the scientist who wants to study Godzilla, not destroy him, says, “I can’t believe that Godzilla was the only surviving members of its species, but if we keep on conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear, somewhere in the world, again.”

The film ends with a reprise of the prayer for peace. 

The story was sanitized when Gojira was recut for American audiences and titled Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Serizawa’s on-target description of political animals was excised. The words of the hymn were never shared, leaving only its mournful tone. And, of course, Yamane’s warning that we should stop testing nuclear weapons was nowhere to be heard.

In fact, the original Japanese version of the film was impossible to find in the U.S. outside of bootleg editions. I was one of the first in line to buy the DVD when it finally was released in America in 2004, the 50th anniversary of the movie.

Godzilla, King of the Monsters was one of the formative movies of my childhood, fueling my love of science fiction and the fantastic, but I was thunderstruck upon seeing the film its creators intended. 

Its message, nine years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is simple and powerful: May we live without destruction; may we look to tomorrow with hope. That U.S. citizens were not allowed to see that film for 50 years speaks volumes.

Ready or not, tis the season

I added Ebenezer to the My Books page last night, so my sequel to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is feeling more real all the time. As always preparation for the print edition is lagging behind, but I expect to have it out there by Friday, Nov. 24, just like the ebook.

My throat developed a bit of a frog a couple of days ago, so plans to whip up an audiobook are temporarily delayed, and this is new territory for me, so I may have already missed some deadline for posting the audio version, but it ought to be out there by Christmas at least. This is my first entry into the wild world of holiday fables, and I fully expect to be lost in the deluge, but it’s fun to dip my toes into these waters.

Social media is full of memes about how awful it is to play Christmas music or put up decorations before Thanksgiving, but why the heck not? As the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, so why not extend it as long as we can?

I’m all in favor of creating an atmosphere of hope, peace, and tidings of great joy, and I wish we could have it year-round like Mr. Scrooge exercised it in his later years. Of course, some songs and carols get a little old rather quickly — I’m looking at you, drummer boy — but I love to hear angels sweetly singing over the plains or merry gentlemen resting during this festive time of year.

And do we really care that it’s still two weeks before Thanksgiving? Will the world end if the baby in the manger sleeps in heavenly peace for six weeks instead of four?

I turn on the TV and see politicians wrangling with one another, and people shooting and lobbing bombs, and fear and loathing rising over the hills, and my first thought is that we need a little Christmas, right this very minute. And to argue over the point is pure humbug.

Hung up on big numbers

I find myself mentioning that I’m 70 to people at least once a day — some days it’s once per conversation. 

I think part of it is just trying to convince myself it’s true. After all, I can’t be 70 already — that means we’re in the far distant year of 2023. And it can’t be 2023, because that’s the year I’m due to turn 70.

I didn’t use to think about my age because I never felt my age, but my feelings have been catching up with the calendar the last couple of years. The difference between 68 and 69 was impressive in terms of the increase in aches and pains, but that was nothing compared with the difference between 69 and 70.

But I’m tired of bellyaching about becoming a septuagenarian before my time, so I’m going to try to stop mentioning big numbers, or at least that particular big number. I’m going to dial down my attitude — didn’t someone say 70 is the new 50? If they didn’t, they should have.

My new goal is to be the oldest middle-aged person in the world, or at least in this county. 

Listening: Mysteries of the Macabre

People say we monkey around, but we’re too busy singing to put anybody down.

For what is music if not releasing the pressure valve to let out the joy?

And in the end, the love you take et cetera et cetera et cetera.

There’s a point to be made here, but I’m too busy singing.

The other day I blundered across a Facebook forum about the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and found myself wondering why I, a lover of weird music, never explored the likes of György Ligeti in more depth.

Ligeti’s “Atmospheres,” the Kyrie from “Requiem,” and “Lux Aeterna” play key roles in the 2001 soundtrack, and they are wonderfully weird. Ligeti appeals to the same gene in me that loves “Revolution 9,” or Joni Mitchell’s “The Jungle Line,” or Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman.”

One of the forum denizens posted a link to this performance of a Ligeti piece called “Mysteries of the Macabre,” and I became a fan of mezzo soprano Barbara Hannigan. People will say it’s monkeying around, but the last three minutes of this video is a thunderous ovation, so I’m not alone in thinking it genius.

The big cover reveal

I hope to have Ebenezer, subtitled A sequel of sorts to “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, available for your pleasure as an ebook, paperback, hardcover, or audiobook on Nov. 24. As you might imagine, preparing the ebook is the easiest part of the equation. Therefore, you might notice a number of fine retailers around the interwebs where you can already pre-order my little story to be delivered to your favorite reading devices on Black Friday.

I’m taking this Monday to show you what the front cover looks like and to share the official blurb of my first new fiction (besides the flash-fiction entry 24 flashes) in nine years:

Edmund Filliput is a successful businessman, but he is living a dreary life on a dreary Christmas Eve. Then he meets a happy stranger who keeps Christmas in his heart year-round. Over a cup of coffee and a bowl of beef stew, the stranger offers to send three friends to Edmund who will show him the meaning of Christmas. Will the “friends” convince Edmund in time to salvage this Christmas and rescue his life?

People who are grumpy at Christmastime are often chided with, “Oh, don’t be such a Scrooge.” But Mr. Scrooge was a curmudgeon no longer when Charles Dickens’ immortal story concluded. This little tale endeavors to reclaim Mr. Scrooge not as he was before that fateful Christmas Eve — a silly old humbug — but as the good and generous man he was as he lived the rest of his days.

As I have continued to tinker with Jeep Thompson and the Lost Prince of Venus, my next full-length novel, I have been playing with a number of smaller projects on the side, including this little story about how Ebenezer Scrooge spent his Christmases in the aftermath of “that” Christmas Eve. I am tickled that I was able to complete Ebenezer first and offer it to you for the 2023 Christmas season.

Watch this space for progress reports.

This time

The clock says it is an hour earlier than it was exactly 24 hours ago, and we will be forgiven if we spend an extra hour in bed today. It is the end of daylight-saving time and the return of standard time.

In my neck of the woods, the sun rose at 7:32 a.m. yesterday and will rise at 6:33 a.m. today, setting at 5:35 p.m. yesterday and 4:34 p.m. today.

I miss those summer days when the sun rose at 5 and set around 9 — daylight-saving time “rescued” us from the horror of 4 a.m. sunrises and 8 p.m. sunsets. Come to think of it, “saving” the daylight to match our circadian rhythms may not be the worst idea ever.

What if we abandoned clocks altogether? Would we be that worse off? We wouldn’t know when the train leaves or the games begin, of course — how would we manage? Or are we micromanaging our lives now? Does it really matter that the deadline is 5 p.m., or is “late this afternoon” sufficient? The hands of the clock have been holding us for so long that we’re not sure how to live without them.

Much ado revolves around being on time, but perhaps time is on us, an ever-present stressor. We live a soccer game of a life, where we have two halves to play but we’re not sure exactly when the second half will end.

Should we disconnect the clocks? Never really know what time it is? It would be a jarring change from now, when we carry a precise timepiece in our pockets synchronized to each other all the time — it was exactly 5:43 a.m. Nov. 4, 2023, when I wrote this paragraph. 

It’s quite an invention, this “time,” and we fantasize about moving back and forth through it, as if time were a real thing, but in reality it seems we only move in one direction. After all, if we could go backward, folks would already be doing so, wouldn’t they, and we would be meeting people from the future regularly? Or are the wealthiest among us gamblers equipped with a 2050 edition of Gray’s Sports Almanac?

We mark the return of “standard time” with reminders and conversations about whether daylight-saving is a good idea or a silly one. Should we stay in “standard” time forever and dispense with the manipulation? Or is the conversation itself a silly manipulation, distracting us from the fact that we are living in a remarkable time, or at least (to quote the legendary curse) an interesting time?