Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Monday Musing ~ Celebrity Culture and Why It's Not Always A Bad Thing

So, I'm a day late with my Monday Musing...I thought I would get to it at some point yesterday, but yeah, it just didn't happen.

Two other things happened...one, I got my taxes done and filed, (which is what took of the bulk of my day, probably not surprisingly...over twelve hours from start to finish)...and two, I finished a draft of what started off as a short story, and morphed into a full-blown prequel novel, if a short one, for my Quentin Black Mystery series, which I'd planned to launch later this year.

See shiny cover, Exhibit A, to your right ~ 

It's now with the beta readers, but should be out very soon.

The other big thing in writing news...

Well, I'll explain that one later, in a separate post, before I run out of room to muse about anything much at all. As it is, I'm still more or less staring blankly over my first cup of coffee, so this one might be a little more off-the-cuff than usual.

So, what am I going to talk about?

Idols. People we look up to.

Strangely, I realized this was kind of the counterpoint to the whole post about cults and culty behavior, because there is a certain sub-set of minor celebrities who take advantage of human beings' natural desire to look for role models among other people.

I think this is one of those drives that's very easy for certain personality types to misconstrue as weakness, or somehow a lack of having one's own mind.

I even have Galaith talking about that in the Allie's War books, when he's trying to convince Revik to join him in a more interventionist approach to human beings ~

*

“Don’t be offended, Revik,” Galaith says, raising a hand to silence Terian. “It is not you that is the problem. The Seven certainly mean well, but they are judging my race as if it were their own. But humans are not seers, Revik. Humans...the ordinary mob of humanity...do not need more freedom. They do not even want it. What they want, more than anything, is for the world to make sense. They want their lives to have some greater purpose...a meaning.”

The faceless man smiles wanly, looking out over the muddy exercise yard.
 

“They want someone to provide that for them, Rolf,” he says, quieter. “They want this in part because they do not trust themselves...much less their fellow man. Which means, more than anything, they want to be led by someone greater than themselves. They don’t want a committee of their peers. They don’t want the truth to shift with the sands of opinion, or time, or perspective. They want an absolute reality. One that makes sense to them year after year, no matter what occurs outside of them. Whether they control this or not is irrelevant to them. They wish the illusion of control...without any of the responsibility.”

I glance at Revik’s face, watch him thinking about this.


I can tell he doesn’t exactly disagree.
 

Hell, I’m not even sure I do.
 

Galaith watches Revik too. After a pause, he smiles wanly.
 

“Rolf, my dear friend...humans are, quite simply, made to be dominated. If not by seers, then by more powerful humans. In truth, they prefer it.” He gestures broadly over the whitewashed buildings, the rows of uniformed men. “This war is a case in point,” he says. “Is it the honest leader to whom the masses flock? The one who gives them greater freedoms? More responsibility for their lives?” He smiles, shaking his head. “No. It is the one who gives them purpose, Rolf. An enemy. A beautiful dream that tells them all of their problems can be solved. Do they care that this dream is borne of countless lies? No. They do not. No modern human leader has ever been loved as the Germans love Hitler, Rolf. Not Churchill, not Roosevelt. Not since the last of his kind...Napoleon, Caesar, the Emperors of old Asia has a leader been loved like this...”

*

It's something I've always struggled with, personally...in terms of studying history, that is. Meaning, the fact that freedom is so frightening to many of us that we would almost prefer a gilded cage, as long as we're more or less comfortable in other respects. I've also seen that assumption reflected in the speeches and interviews of certain people whose motives, let's just say, I question.

You see something really similar to this impulse in celebrity worship, too, which is sort of the modern-day king- (and queen-) making.

I thought this was a really interesting discussion around the weirdness of our fascination around celebrity, and from a somewhat unlikely source (although he certainly has good reason to have been contemplating it) ~ Jack Gleeson, who plays Joffrey Baretheon on Game of Thrones.

Here's the whole interview, I highly recommend checking it out, if you have time:



For me, I'm realizing that both of these types of manifestations are a twisting of a much more pure impulse in me, one that looks for ways out of my current circumstances into something that's higher, better imagined, more truly myself.

I don't want to be like those people, not exactly...I want to be as much MYSELF as they seem to be, at least to me. Granted, I don't know most of the people I have fan girl type crushes on, but I want to be as fearless as they seem to me. I want to be as authentic, and in some cases, as generous as they seem to me, and as kind.

I want to have real confidence, the kind that means you're not afraid of being wrong, or looking like a fool, or making a mistake. One that can roll its eyes at people who laugh and point, or better yet, laugh with them, or find some way to turn my mistake into something beautiful, something that might help others who struggle with the same thing.

I want to stand my ground against people who want to twist me into something I'm not.

I think that's why I have such a strong negative reaction to people who try to twist that impulse for emulation and self-growth in others. It's a cliche, but it's a responsibility when you're in the public eye. I don't mean that in a "Miley-Cyrus-Should-Put-On-Some-Clothes" kind of way, but more in the sense that you can't use that position solely as a means of accumulating more power for yourself, or you're abusing the charge, as far as I'm concerned.

If you use it to create little fiefdoms of adulation and agreement, you're truly lost.

Anyway, I'm sure this is a topic I'll continue to chew on now and then, since free will and people who try to constrain that for their own purposes is a topic I tend to obsess on more generally.

For now, I'll leave you with some of my own personal idols, at least a tiny snapshot of them at this moment in time...(and this is no where near exhaustive)...


Hope you're all having a lovely post-blood-moon Tuesday...

Let the fracturing begin!


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Friday, April 11, 2014

Language and Dolphins and Seers...Oh My! #AlliesWar #urbanfantasy #dolphins

Greetings, fellow mammals! Care to discuss the nature of time and space?

So, I've been following the research on understanding/translating dolphin language to some degree (although not crazy closely, I admit), and thought this article by the Smithsonian discussing a machine they're working on to translate dolphin language was pretty cool:

This Device Translates Dolphin Sounds into English

I thought this passage was pretty cool, in terms of the language I've played with for the seer race in the Allie's War books ~

"There's no shortage of research on the way that dolphins interact. The animal labels and identifies others in its group with whistles. And in the 1970s, researchers found that Akeakamai, an especially bright bottlenose dolphin housed at the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu, could be taught, through a kind of sign language, to understand syntactic differences, or the manner in which re-shuffled arrangements of hand gestures can be used to convey a particular message."

However, I have to say, in reading this article, I find a lot of things missing, in terms of how language actually works. Meaning, they don't really discuss at all the multiple layers that live inside all symbolic languages, and the types of challenges that would pose when looking at interpreting meanings inter-species versus intra-species. Meaning, words in all human languages comprises much more than the literal meaning of the words, but the entire context, cultural and otherwise, that gives the words significance.

And yeah, that's a mouthful...but what I mean, essentially, is that you can't talk about most words without getting into cultural context. Try explaining "time" to someone who has no concept of how we structure our reality around it, and you'll get some sense of what I mean.

Then think about trying to explain that to a dolphin. Or a bird, for that matter.

More than that (and this is something I've given some thought to in the past, since it was partly thinking about dolphins that caused me to think about the fictional language of seers differently than human English or other languages in the first place) - like my telepathic seers, who operating both on the material plane and in the Barrier, dolphins are animals that use sonar a great deal.

In fact, one could argue that sonar is at least half of how dolphins "see" their world.

Therefore, I would think that sonar would make up a HUGE chunk of their actual communication to one another...especially since sonar transmissions can be shared.

Think about what sonar is - it's essentially a means of taking a (nearly) unfiltered snapshot of some element of your reality. Because this is done with sound, that means it can be shared, as in, you can shoot an exact snapshot of what you saw to another dolphin (almost like the snapshots I have seers send to one another with their minds).

Think about how that might translate for a human being. If, instead of explaining something you saw to a friend, using your own interpretations, selective perceptions (meaning what details stood out to you and how you interpreted what they meant, and what you saw versus what you missed seeing), you could simply snap a picture of that thing and give it to someone else, unfiltered.

Granted, we CAN do that nowadays with photography and video...at least to a degree. But the very building blocks of our language weren't designed around that ability, because in the past we've always had to filter our perceptions through symbols––either spoken words or (later) with pictures scratched in the sand and then written language.

I kind of played with this idea of the seers, too, and how our spoken language might differ if we had to incorporate sensory data from being able to see things directly, meaning 1:1, from within another being's mind, without the intervention of symbols.

Because even with photos and videos, there's a reason why the telephone game got invented among small kids. We don't translate things well in a 1:1 way with one another. The more time you have to interpret things through symbols, the more they get distorted as they are passed from person to person much less group to group and culture to culture. In theory, the distortion would be much more minimal with an animal that uses sonar to communicate...as very little of the original "snapshot" would be altered along any point in the chain.

UNLESS dolphins actually have a means of entering their subjectivity into the snapshots they create via their sonar communications...

Anyway, the possibilities are pretty interesting...at least to a great big geek like myself. : )

And on that note, I bid you a very happy and sunshine-filled Friday...

There's
no shortage of research on the way that dolphins interact. The animal
labels and identifies others in its group with whistles. And in
the 1970s, researchers found that Akeakamai,
an especially bright bottlenose dolphin housed at the Kewalo Basin
Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu, could be taught, through a kind of
sign language, to understand syntactic differences, or the manner in
which re-shuffled arrangements of hand gestures can be used to convey a
particular message.


Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/checking-the-claim-device-translates-dolphin-sounds-into-english-180950472/#tif9MjgopP2j9jKl.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
There's
no shortage of research on the way that dolphins interact. The animal
labels and identifies others in its group with whistles. And in
the 1970s, researchers found that Akeakamai,
an especially bright bottlenose dolphin housed at the Kewalo Basin
Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu, could be taught, through a kind of
sign language, to understand syntactic differences, or the manner in
which re-shuffled arrangements of hand gestures can be used to convey a
particular message.


Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/checking-the-claim-device-translates-dolphin-sounds-into-english-180950472/#tif9MjgopP2j9jKl.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on T
For invitations to review advanced copies of books, exclusive content and giveaways, first notice of new releases and other updates, join my mailing list, THE REBEL ARMY. Your email will be kept private, you will never be spammed and youcan unsubscribe at any time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Allie's War Series: Word of the Week Weds (it's clean this week) ~ Drahk #urbanfantasy


I wanted to share Word of the Week Wednesday on here...or you can visit The Allie's War Series site to see the post there.

*

And it's that time again...

Of course, by WORD OF THE WEEK, a reminder that I mean a word in Prexci, my made-up seer language in the Allie's War series. Again, no promises to teach you anything approaching an actual, usable language...this is really just for fun. : )

Last week I gave you a swear word, and promised you that this week, I would give you one with no dirty connotations whatsoever.

So here goes...the "clean" word of the week:

drahk (n.) (adj.)

Defin: "Truth." It can also be an adjective, so "truthful."

It should be noted that drahk is used somewhat differently than how the word "truth" is used in English, however.

Seers distinguish between "truth" in the sense of factual accuracy, the seer word for which is "jarent" and Truth, (drahk) in the sense of higher truth, meaning those truths that are deemed to exist beyond than the more Earthly interpretation of events, and generally require more discrimination, wisdom and vision to ascertain.

Put another way, the opposite of jarent would be "lie" "false" or "invented" whereas the opposite of drahk would come closer to "delusion" or "obscuration," in the Buddhist sense, and wouldn't pertain to a factual inaccuracy, per se.

These things can overlap and be the same, of course, but they can also come in direct conflict. Meaning, you can use jarent to hide drahk, if you know how to manipulate it properly, (use facts to lie, as in sayings about statistics, etc.), or to hide one's true character from the world. Or, conversely, you can use lies (higre) to demonstrate Truth (drahk), such as what has been done from time immemorial through parable and other forms of story and example.

So drahk refers to the deeper truth of a matter, event, person or impulse, versus a "fact" or the type of truth that can be verified through science, measurement, or observation.

An aside: "Drahk" is also the name of one of the largest underground feed networks of the seers, and the one that tends to align more with the Seven and various rebel factions unaffiliated with the Rooks or the Dreng more generally.

So that is your word of the day this fine Wednesday...no smutty curse words around for miles this time, just as promised! :)

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Musing...Five Ways to Spot a Creepy Guru

So the original article that started all this was this one, which talks about writers who make money and writers who never will, by James Chartrand of "Men with Pens."

My friend put it up on a private group of which I'm a member, where we talk business and promotions and sales and whatnot for writing. He actually posted it as this really nice "thank you" for all of the information we've shared and how much we've been learning from one another, but in addition to agreeing with him that networks are, indeed, awesome, (especially when you really like all of the people involved!), the article got me thinking in other directions, too.

Particularly the #4 on Chartrand's list, which discussed "mentors."

The thing is, I agree with her...in principle.

At the same time, I have to say, personally, that I've had more problems with so-called mentors than I can possible explain in a single blog post...some of which took me years to thoroughly untangle.

The problem is, these days, everyone seems to want to be a danged expert.

I'm not so much talking about that phenomenon, though.

Instead, I'm referring to the people who take the expert thing further, drifting into mentor or guru territory. For these people, it's not enough to be seen as an expert in the sense of being one of many experts in their field.

No, they generally want to be THE expert, as in the defining voice, and will conduct any amount of inane posturing and power-grabbing (and even out-and-out lying) to try and attain that status, even if they mainly do it by shouting down everyone else.

I don't know if the whole guru phenomenon is more common in the United States or not. It was certainly common in India, at least in the religious/spiritual realm, but it seems to be pretty ubiquitous here in the States right now, too. I know some of that is economically driven, in that ecommerce seems to breed gurus anyway, and more and more people are being forced to get creative just to make a living. And also, yeah, the internet makes all of those gurus more visible and easily accessible, too.

Some of this is fine...in fact, it's even cool.

I think it's neat that so many people are putting themselves out there, and expressing their own unique take on the world. I read a lot of these people's words and subscribe to their newsletters. I think about the things they have to say.

But yeah, I think that's really different than deciding you're going to kneel at the feet of some kind of guru or mentor, and take their opinion above all others...especially your own.

So, in my somewhat spotty past of dealing with self-appointed gurus of various kinds, what can I offer in terms of how to spot the charlatans?

Really, just a few patterns I've noticed (i.e., great, big, waving RED FLAGS) that indicate you might be dealing with one of the less-savory of these guru-types ~

ONE: The first, most obvious one, especially for commerce of any kind, is the one James Chartrand mentions, too. She puts it like this: "Beware the dangers of B.S....make sure your mentor has proven results of their progress to show you."

I said this is the most obvious one only because it's usually the easiest one to check.

It's amazing how many people don't check, though...including me. We just swallow the b.s., and don't think to actually look to see if it's backed up in a real way, by provable results.

So yeah, if someone is trying to convince you they can teach you something, look to see that they can demonstrate some evidence of having done it themselves. Probably best to avoid the ones where that proof is nonexistent and/or iffy: i.e. the guy who wants to teach you how to run a successful internet business who has three failed start-ups, or the writer/agent/publisher/guru who wants to teach you how to sell books and either a) has books that aren't selling, b) has never written a book, or c) has written a book that's totally irrelevant to what you're trying to do - (e.g., a nonfiction coffee table book when you write genre fiction with space robots and lesbian firefighters).

Of course, if you're talking spirituality, that's a whole OTHER ball of wax, and way too complex to go into on here. Suffice it to say, if their actions don't jive with their words, then you probably want to steer clear. Meaning, if they talk compassion and treat people like crap, then they're probably not actually qualified to teach you anything.


TWO: Does the person seem to think they are totally different (i.e. better) than all other experts / people in their field (as opposed to thinking they have a unique perspective that is worth sharing)? Do they make a point of telling you that everyone else is stupid, and/or "doing it wrong?"

Anyone who believes they are fundamentally better than other people should not be trying to teach anyone anything. Period.

Why? Because they are totally deluded.

Anyone who has so little respect for their peers in an industry should also be avoided. Why? Because at the very least, they're probably an asshole.

And finally, anyone who thinks they are the only person in an industry worth listening to is majorly deluded, and worse, kind of dangerous, because they're basically telling you to listen to them over yourself.

Avoid those people. Seriously.

Or just take the few gems they have to offer and walk away.

THREE: Anyone who tries to posit their way as some kind of "secret formula" and/or tries to posit those who follow their teachings as some kind of "secret, in-group" of more knowledgeable people than the "ordinary sheep" (i.e., the unwashed masses), should not be trusted, either.

Why? See #3 above...only add "creepy cult vibe" and "possible serial killer" to the reasons listed above.


FOUR: This one is more subjective and therefore harder to measure, but don't let anyone "mentor" you who consistently belittles you, makes you feel stupid, manipulates their students into doubting themselves, and/or makes a point of being abusive and then claims that is part of their "teaching method."

Again, so very, very wrong.

Basically, if you leave a class run by one of these people and feel like crap about yourself, and/or angry/jealous/resentful of others in the group (and this isn't your normal modus operandi, because, yeah, for some people it is)...then that's a great big RED FLAG.

FIVE: (and maybe the most important one) ~ Know when to walk away.

I've had a number of mentors in my life who were super helpful to me for a period of time, even though they displayed one or more (or ALL, in a few cases) of the traits listed above.

The thing is, I can totally recognize that I got good things out of my relationships with these people. In some cases, life-changing things. But yeah, at a certain point, these red flags just kept popping up to the extent that there was no way to avoid seeing that the relationship was simply toxic.

In other words, just because you learned something from someone, that doesn't mean they own your ass. Part of the learning is knowing when it's time to move on, and you don't need their particular form of "teaching" any longer...and in fact, it's actively holding you back from reaching the next stage in your life.

And those are my thoughts on this fine Monday...err, midnight... :)

ADDENDUM: A sixth point added by the brain of another friend, and one big enough it warrants mentioning...anyone who creates an environment hostile to information coming from sources other than themselves (should also be avoided!). This is somewhat related to points #2 and #4, but should be noted separately, as it's pretty specific and therefore easier to spot (thanks, Greg!)

And yes, I've definitely seen this as a trait with some of the people I've referenced above.

Onward!



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