Titles sell books. They also pique the readers interest and hopefully make them want to read the story. Needless to say, they are very important. That being the case, it’s not surprising that I have spent so much time coming up with the title for my book.
The first title for my book, A New Beginning, morphed more into one of the underlying themes of the story than the actual title itself. After moving on from A New Beginning, I’ve toyed around with other titles before settling on one that felt right. That title is 2021: A Time Odyssey. Well, there you have it. That’s the title of my new book.
As for the story itself, I’ve decided that I should hold off on revealing too much while I’m in the process of seeking publication. Once I have that all figured out, I’ll reveal more. One thing that I can say about the story at this time is that the story is a wild ride that is told through diverging timelines that build toward a climactic convergence.
While I continue to pursue publication, I’ve decided to do a countdown of my top 10 favorite poems from the Past, Present, and Future. Next month, I’ll reveal number 10 and explain my thoughts on the poem.
That’s it for now. These are exciting times, even if they are a time of healing, and I look forward to sharing my work with the world when the time comes.
Do you like American literature? I like American literature. Don’t you like American literature baby? Ok, I think you get the idea…. The Violent Femmes can have their song back now. I suppose they’ll want to change the words back too. I do like American literature, though. That’s why the Americans have garnered a spot in my lost influences. When it comes to American literature, three of my favorite authors are Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Edgar Allan Poe. Given that my favorite metaphor for writing is entering the dark cave in my mind, I suppose it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that my lost influences involve two writers who included caves in their writing, and one who wrote about dark themes. From a dark cave along the mighty Mississippi (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), to a cave tucked away in a Spanish pine forest (For Whom the Bell Tolls), to the dark themes of stories like the “Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” all three authors touched upon some of my favorite topics.
I like Mark Twain. He was witty, funny, and like me he didn’t like romanticism very much. Twain was a realist. He didn’t believe in noble causes, or looking at the past through romantic lenses. Many of his most notable works convey this message. After all, why were the Dark Ages dark, anyway? I believe there is a Connecticut Yankee who can tell you about that. In the end, though, I believe Twain was both correct and incorrect at the same time. No, the past was not romantic. Instead it was filthy, despicable, and full of ignorance. Of course, so is the present, and most likely the future will be too. That’s life, and what is more real than life? Like most things, a little romanticism won’t hurt you; it’s when it’s overdone that it becomes a problem. Then, I suppose you knew that….
When it comes to Hemingway, I really, really like his vivid imagery and details. His stories feel as though they were first person accounts. Of course, given Hemingway’s fascinating life, his stories may have been just that. Perhaps, in a way, he was Robert Jordan and Frederic Henry, and all the other protagonists he wrote about. Still, though, his ability to describe a setting down to the very last detail is more than what you usually find in, well, most anything that you may happen to read. The main lesson that can be taken away from Hemingway is write about what you know, and do it in precise detail.
Then there is Poe. There’s just something about exploring the dark side of life that is intriguing. Poe certainly did that. For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to get the evil “vulture-like” eye of the old man in “The Tell-Tale Heart” out of my mind. Nor, the imaginary beating heart. Poe doesn’t overdo his stories with gratuitous violence that in the end becomes a caricature of the things that we fear, as do many modern day horror writers. No, Poe was much more sinister than that. Instead, he explored the psychological aspect of darkness. What is more fascinating, and terrifying, than that?
So it is, that the first three chairs around the table that represents my lost influences have been filled. Six chairs still sit empty. Next month, I’ll fill three more chairs. After that, well, we’ll see how it goes…. For now, I suppose we should leave it up to the Violent Femmes to take it away….
When the journey concludes, time begins anew and you find yourself right back where you began. With the exception of time and perspective, of course. Followers of my blog may have noticed that the photo for “The Journey Begins…” and “The Journey Concludes…” are taken from the same location, a shrine in Japan. “The Journey Begins…” photo is taken as one looks out from the shrine; while “The Journey Concludes…” photo is taken as one arrives back at the shrine and looks inward. This symbolizes the journey coming full circle, or the end of The Past, Present, and Future.
Sometimes, though, life grants you a reprieve. A second chance to pursue the journey, only with a glimpse of truth in your back pocket. Such a chance, could only be described as A New Beginning… Writing a story that deals with such a theme, though, is a journey unto itself. So, it came as no surprise that writing A New Beginning… has come with many twists and turns.
As I have mentioned before, much of my writing comes from the dark cave in my mind. One day, as I lit a torch and headed into the cave, I saw a mark left by a certain “Joe” that pointed in a different direction. That mark, though, led away from the task at hand. What’s a writer to do when they find themselves in such a conundrum? Fortunately for me, one of the major themes that I’ve been writing about is time. Having thought about time a great deal, in order to master its essence in my writing, I knew that it was on my side. With the warm light of my torch shining down upon the mark, I examined it thoroughly. Understanding my new path, I then slid through the damp cave walls on my journey to a new destination. When I arrived, I found 23 lost poems: The poems that time forgot. I also found my lost influences there.
In the days that followed, I lugged each poem out of the dark cave and brought each to life. After finishing the last poem, I realized that I had found the lost treasure in my mind. The missing piece of the The Past, Present, and Future. I had just completed the “Lost in Time” collection. The final, and previously missing, piece of The Past, Present, and Future. In the days that followed, I revised the original 70 poems and combined everything. The entire “compilation,” as I like to call it, is now complete.
With my poetry now whole, it is time to finish the book. When that will come, I do not know. After all, I have a new time line to introduce…. One thing that I do know, is that my lost influences still need to be lugged out of the dark cave. There are three of them, but they’re not like the others. No, they’re all together different. I’ve lugged out a few parts, but each influence is a bit heavier than the previous lot. I suppose, I’ll need more time to compose each. A month should do. I imagine the third day of the month would be as good a time as any to release each. Please come back on 3/3, 4/3, and 5/3 for the unveiling of each. After that, I suppose I’ll just have to let you know what I plan to do with my compilation. Oh, I suppose you’ll want to know where I am at with A New Beginning… as well. Barring anymore detours, I should make good progress between now and then. That is, as long as I remember that time is on my side….
Today, a new year begins. In 2014 I have big plans, and I am cautiously optimistic that those plans will come to fruition before the year closes out. Of course, you never know what the future may hold. One thing is certain, though, I will be wrapping up The Past, Present, and Future this year. It has been a stimulating journey for me, but I suppose the time has come for the last fiery sliver of sunshine to melt away into the horizon as the journey concludes.
With time comes perspective, and much perspective may be gained from coming full circle. Traversing through space on a 365 day journey around a giant orb of nuclear fusion tens of thousands of light years away from the center of the galaxy, our little planet has indeed come full circle. On February 3rd, my blog will have come full circle as well.
As that anniversary date nears, I am excited to both wrap up The Past, Present, and Future and begin my next project. Needless to say, it has been an interesting ride. You never know where, or when, you may find yourself, when you let your imagination loose. I hope everyone enjoyed this project, and will enjoy the next one. Please join me on February 3rd, to discover what the future holds.
As I mentioned two weeks ago, sometimes past memories bubble up and explode into my consciousness. That process has happened again, only this time it was not a memory: it was A New Beginning…. Having worked everything through in my mind, the time has come to complete what began long ago. One last time my “Ancient Eyes” peer into the dark cavernous cave in my mind, seeking to illuminate the path that culminates with “The End of Time.” As 2013 dwindles, my optimism grows and the feeling that I’ve been here before engulfs me. For now, I depart on my journey to complete this project before the walls tumble down and I forget where I began….
What if? That’s the question that Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson asked each other nearly 40 years ago. It’s also the question that every writer asks themselves. The place where every story begins. My collection of poetry came into being, because one day I was bored and I asked myself: What if I wrote a poem? That, of course, led me to then ask myself: What if I wrote a collection of poetry? Soon after, I asked myself: What if the collection was linked by a theme and included a recurring enigma from Shea and Wilson’s book? By asking those questions, and then putting them into action, this blog came into existence.
As for Shea and Wilson, they were both editors for a prominent American magazine. As part of their jobs they dealt with letters from the public on civil liberties, many of which involved paranoid rants about imagined conspiracies. One day the pair of editors asked each other: What if all these nuts are right? The answer to that question, of course, was there would be a great story in it. By asking themselves that question, Shea and Wilson came up with the idea for their Illuminatus! Trilogy, the first book of which is The Eye in the Pyramid.
As you can imagine from the back story, The Eye in the Pyramid is a very strange book. I found it to be entertaining, but it’s definitely not for everyone. I’ve even heard that a few people, forgetting that fiction is just make believe, have become paranoid conspiracy theorists themselves after reading the book. As for me, I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist. In a fictional sense, conspiracies are fun to read and write about. In reality, though, most conspiracy theories lack those pesky things called evidence and facts.
The main reason why I chose this book, is that I love the back story. In the end, I suppose this blog has been all about asking the question: What if? Of course it doesn’t hurt that the book delves into the 23 enigma, which if you haven’t guessed yet is the enigma that I reference previously. I paid homage to the enigma by alluding to it 23 times throughout this blog (not including today). Some references were obvious while others were quite obscure (standing in front of the 23 room Pittock Mansion in the photo for “My Children“).
With my influences complete, my efforts now turn to finishing A New Beginning… I have a good start, but there is more work ahead of me. There are only 79 days until the end of the year. I have a new project to begin in 2014, so I had better finish this one soon. Before I take a break for awhile, I have one last post for next week. I hope you’ll be back to read it. For now, I thank everyone who has read my work.
I suppose it all began with Phil Jackson. Not once, but twice, his teams thwarted the Portland Trail Blazers’ championship dreams. Since the Blazers are my favorite NBA team, my hopes were crushed as well. It also doesn’t help that I am a fan of the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks. At a certain point, you just accept the fact that your teams will never win championships (in the case of the Ducks, I stipulate during my lifetime or in a sport that I follow). During my formative years, though, I could almost taste the Blazers’ championship champagne. As fate would have it, however, there was always one man standing in the way. That man, of course, was Jackson, otherwise known as the “Zen Master.”
For Jackson, it wasn’t enough to win six championships with Number 23 and the Chicago Bulls (in the process dashing the Blazers’ title hopes in 1992). No, Jackson wasn’t finished. He had five more titles to win with the Los Angeles Lakers. Along the way, Jackson’s team recovered from a 15 point deficit in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against who else but the Portland Trail Blazers. In many ways, neither the team nor I have ever recovered from that epic letdown.
In the end, I was left to ponder the common denominator: Jackson. How does a man amass so many championship rings that he can’t even wear them all at one time? To find the answer to that question, I turned to Jackson’s books. I found what I was looking for in his book, Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior. That book helped me to understand Jackson’s application of Eastern philosophy in coordination with Native American spiritual practices resulting in a holistic approach to coaching. Indeed, there is much to be learned from Jackson’s coaching style. My journey, of course, didn’t begin and end with the “Zen Master.” No, it continued and in many ways still continues…
Eventually that journey led me to Bodhidharma, the father of Zen Buddhism. I found the book, The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma at the library. Given my fascination with Jackson and his successful coaching techniques, I was intrigued. I read the book and afterward was inspired to write the poems “Awareness” and “My Apologies.” One of my favorite lines from the book was this one: “to attain enlightenment without seeing your nature is impossible.” I also liked the idea that Buddha wasn’t a person, instead the Buddha is your mind. According to Bodhidharma: “beyond your mind, there’s no other Buddha.”
As for me, I’m no Zen Master. I suppose I’m not a Buddhist, or part of any other ancient or new age religion for that matter. Neither am I an atheist, or non-religious. Personally, I’ve never held the belief that you can understand the world through the lenses of a narrow view point. I’ve always believed that there has to be some common ground where we can all meet. For me that common ground is sacred (and should be the foundation upon which all religions are laid). A place where the common thread that links all of humanity resides. In the end, I guess you might say I’m just me. A man who is seeking understanding, and writing a book about an existential journey through time. On such a journey, one cannot afford to choose favorites. You never know where the truth may lie.
What’s real, and what’s imagined? And does the answer to that question even really matter if, in the end, we all die alone. Welcome to the world of Donnie Darko. It’s a “Mad World” indeed. In the film, Donnie Darko, who is the title character, is either a paranoid schizophrenic who sees the future and changes it for the better, or he’s just a boy who dies alone in a freak accident. Personally, I’m a firm believer that the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Of course when it comes to fictional stories, the truth may lie anywhere. I suppose that is why I like films like Donnie Darko so much. Unlike our boundary-filled world, in a fictional universe one can explore the depths of the Universe without limits.
Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about String Theory, Quantum Mechanics, and the Big Bang, itself, quite often. The more I learn, the more I understand that there is so much that humanity just doesn’t know. As I mentioned in a previous post, currently scientists know and understand about 4% of how the Universe works. Put another way, we do not understand how 96% of the Universe around us works. As a teacher, that means the Universe gets an A and we have a F and need to boost our understanding by 56% just to get a D. Of course, for us just getting to 5% would be an improvement.
In the film, Darko says: “I can do anything I want, and so can you.” While discussing the short story “The Destructors” in his English class, Darko also says: “They just want to see what happens when they tear the world apart. They want to change things.” With these lines, it becomes clear that Darko doesn’t believe in limitations. Specifically, he doesn’t believe that we are all trapped in the present. Instead, he sees time as an illusion that can be manipulated by the mind. Given the major theme of my poetry collection, it should come as no surprise that I find Darko’s beliefs to be fascinating. Perhaps, fascinating enough to explore in another project….
Before writing about my film influences, I hadn’t realized that two films on my list were produced by Newmarket Films. Of course, I also didn’t realize that The Rum Diary was produced by Johnny Depp’s production company Infinitum Nihil (getting ahead of myself I suppose, literary influences don’t begin until next week). It’s amazing what you’ll find when you pay attention to the details. You might be surprised where you’ll find interesting clues about the future. For now, though, go ahead and watch the trailer for Donnie Darko.
You’ve got to love a film that starts with the line: “More of this is true than you would believe.” Of course, when it comes to a military that this year alone out spent its nearest rival (China) by more than half a trillion dollars, well nothing’s really that unbelievable. With that kind of money, I’m sure there isn’t much that the U.S. military hasn’t explored at one point or another. Plus, I just love the idea of the Army trying to create Jedi warriors. It doesn’t hurt either that the film has an all star cast including: George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, and Ewan McGregor.
One of my favorite exchanges in the film comes between General Brown and Brigadier General Dean Hopgood. During the exchange, Hopgood explains that the Russians started doing psychic research based on the belief that America was already doing psychic research, which at the time was false but based on the Russians belief that is was true, subsequently the U.S. couldn’t afford to let the Russians lead the field in the paranormal. The logic behind that exchange seems so absurd that I probably wouldn’t believe it, except that it has to do with military intelligence. When it comes to a military that spends nearly 700 billion dollars annually, what’s not to believe. By contrast, the U.S. Department of Education is due to receive about 72 billion dollars this year. That’s about 90% less than the Department of Defense.
When it comes down to it, though, what I like most about this film is the path that it lead me down. After watching the film, I wanted to know more. That thirst lead me to read the book by Jon Ronson of the same name (I’ve always been a fan of gonzo journalists). Afterward, I read another Ronson book Them: Adventures with Extremists. Eventually, I even put Boston’s song “More Than a Feeling” on my iPod. For some reason I just couldn’t get it out of my head, but I suppose you already knew that.
In the end, the path, or unbroken chain as I like to refer to it, that I’m on began long before I watched The Men Who Stare at Goats. That being said, the film provided for an entertaining and interesting detour along the way. Just another link in the chain. Like Kanishka, and others, I am not afraid to veer from time to time. I suppose it’s time to close things down for today. In the meantime, I leave you with the trailer for The Men Who Stare at Goats, and a portion of the final monologue:
“And that was it. That was the only bit of my story that ran anywhere. And it was a joke. And if I ever needed proof of how the Dark Side have taken the beautiful dream of what a nation could be and had twisted it, destroyed it. Well, that was it. But I won’t stop. I won’t give up. Because when I look at what is happening in the world, I know that now, more than ever, we need to be all that we can be. Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.”
What is real, and what is imagined? Scientifically speaking, reality depends a great deal on the inner workings of our minds. Since our mind processes what we see more quickly than what we hear, our brain constantly adjusts reality in the effort to synchronize our perception of the world. That being the case, we are always a split second away from true reality. This, of course, means that reality has a great deal to do with perception. Now imagine that you are Leonard Shelby, the protagonist of Memento, and you no longer have the ability to make new memories. What would your reality be?
As you may have noticed, I’m a big Memento fan. One of the reasons that I liked the film so much, is that it kept my mind working trying to figure out what was going to happen next. A great deal of the intrigue has to do with the nonlinear narrative structure. In the film, there are two different sequences (past and present) flowing in different directions. The sequences meet at the end of the film bringing the story together. I found the technique to be very intriguing, which is probably why I incorporated a similar structure into A New Beginning…. When it comes to my story, though, two sequences just wouldn’t do. No, I needed one sequence more (the future).
Speaking of my story, I suppose I had better get to work. The summer is almost over, and I still have work to do (like Christopher Nolan, I have another project in my back pocket that would like to be born some day). In the meantime, enjoy the trailer for Memento. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I would suggest doing so. I believe you’ll like it. Oh yeah, while we’re on the topic of the inner working of our minds you might as well enjoy the video for “Hurricane” from MS MR as well.