Thursday, June 21, 2012

Suppose a Symposium

I came across some different Symposiums that you could choose to attend if you have the right credentials and were so inclined. You can look them up online if you’re interested. They’re easy to find. Here’s what’s happening: While the rest of us are going through the motions of everyday life, a select few are involved in these symposiums, hidden inside large, air conditioned buildings, snacking on bagels and small bottles of juice, while we drive by on our way to the grocery and such.

I like the word “symposium.” It just sounds fun. A symphony of discussion. People sitting around, talking about important subjects. And what do they talk about? You too could plan on attending the following symposiums:

The 4th International Animal By-Products Symposium

This one has such stimulating topics as, “Safety of composting euthanized animals as a means of disposal,” and “Research and public policy on carcass disposal and the direction of future research and resources.” It literally rings with excitement, don’t you think?

And then there’s...

The 26th Annual Symposium of the Protein Society.

And what do you get to talk about there? Um. Protein. According to the blurb, you will discuss a “balance between the high-value protein science topics you’ve come to expect at a Protein Society Symposium . . . as well as focusing on the trending areas of research and current developments in protein science.”

Leaves one literally aglow with anticipation, don’t you think? And you must be sure that you don’t miss out on...

The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley.

Sorry, but that’s the actual name. I suppose they had to differentiate themselves from all of the other wine writer symposiums going on in the vicinity But it’s a little hard to figure out what they’ll be talking about from their website. It is clear that they’ll be drinking a lot of wine, so I’m sure they’ll think it’s genius, whatever they talk about.

I’m thinking the comic book conventions need to wise up and get with the program. Something like...

The Symposium of International Comic and Pop Culture Aficionados for the Prevention of Name Calling and Presuppositional Cruel Clique Categorizing by Uninformed Others.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I want everything to be simple, but almost nothing is. Perhaps nothing is. It’s hard to say.

I have doubts about simplicity. Complexity rules, to the point of being confused with chaos, which is, I believe, an illusion. The concept of chaos is just a clever way of saying, “I can’t figure this out. I don’t know how this works. This is too complicated. I can’t keep track of the variables.” To which I say, “Big surprise there.”

But I get why we’re attracted to the concept of chaos. It kind of gets us off the hook. It’s a rationale for being comfortable with our limitations.

But life certainly feels like chaos a lot of the time.

People say, “I’m a simple person.” But they aren’t. They like to think they are, especially when they don’t want to deal with the complications. We want to be simple so we won’t have to expend the energy. We get too tired or too lazy or too disinterested to keep track of the calculations. Or they’re just beyond us. So we over simplify, you know, pretty much everything.

It’s a survival thing.

But complexity finds us: when morality won’t let us go, when problems rise up that we can’t solve with trite platitudes, when the doctors says, “I need you to come back in for some more tests.” When the simple answers don’t offer any solace.

Let me tell you: there’s nothing simple about life. And certainly not death or dying. Or human beings. God help us, the things we can do if we aren’t held back by something better than ourselves. The complexities of evil and the human heart are uncountable, unknowable. At least by us. Our hearts can be very dark. Caves. Black holes. Deny it all you want.

But it’s not all darkness, is it? What about love? Love is an amazing thing. But it’s not simple either. It’s very, very complicated. Too bright and pure to keep our eyes on for too long. Too complex to appreciate like we should. But, you give and take what you can and try to make it through the day. See a smile and smile back. Try to keep your cool when things get ugly around you. Look up at the stars and wonder. In awe. There is love in that sky.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, planted on this little, green circle of soil and stone and water. A world so stunningly complex it leaves us without enough adjectives to adequately describe it. On top of that, we are conscious. We think, because we are. We are alive, floating in an immense, unfathomable universe. Space and time and matter, bound together to form all that is, yet like a grain of sand in the hand of God.

But there is a mark on the map of the universe. You are here. Breathe.

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summer Sets: Ray Bradbury

 I just found out that author Ray Bradbury died yesterday. 91 years old! It makes me very sad. Like many people, I was brought more deeply into the world of reading by the work of Ray Bradbury. He was accessible, and yet artistic and deep in his way. He was creative and distinctive, and his writing made you feel a little more alive. Powerful stuff.

Ray seemed so young. Always. That was his beauty, I think. And it was the beauty he put into his writing, most of the time. Even the scary stuff.

It’s interesting how much attention his so called “sci-fi” writing brought him, when I don’t think he would have considered himself a sci-fi writer at all. He used science fantasy imagery to tell moral and psychological tales, but that’s pretty much the extent of the “science” in his fiction. He wrote for the sci-fi pulps and was attracted to the imagery, but he was always very different than the other writers of that genre. Not that there’s anything wrong with science fiction.. I think it’s great stuff. I guess my point is only that it isn’t very accurate to call Ray Bradbury a “sci-fi” writer. He was not in any way limited to a single genre.

I’ve read a lot of Bradbury’s work. I have a whole shelf of novels and short story collections downstairs. Maybe a little more than a shelf. I don’t know. I’ve given some of it away. He started producing more novels in the latter part of his life, and they were pretty good. But they weren’t as read as his early works, even though they are just as good and maybe even better in some ways. There are even a few children’s books based on some of his stories. One of them glows in the dark. You can actually read it in the dark. Cool stuff.

Call me “trite,” but my favorite Ray Bradbury novel was Dandelion Wine, which I believe is a masterpiece. It’s not the Great American Novel, I think that title goes to The Grapes of Wrath, but it’s one of the great American novels, methinks. It’s a celebration of summer, a gathering of vignettes in the life of a young boy that are all held together by nostalgia and the notion that the (somewhat) innocent wonder of childhood can keep our eyes open to the profound nature of everyday life.

My favorite Bradbury short story is actually one that had none of the “rocket” or “sci-fi” trappings in it. It’s about the tragedy of racism. In fact, he wrote several stories, in the 1940s and 1950s, that dealt with racism in very interesting ways. But this one I like is called “The Great Black and White game.” He wrote it very early in his career, and it was later put in his short story anthology called “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” which is where I came across it. I read this in my late teens/early twenties, and it had a big impact on my idea of what makes a great story – all of the things it said without saying it. Powerful stuff.

I found an online publication of the story in an old magazine that has been scanned. It’s here if you want to read it:


It has the character “Douglas,” who is the main character in Dandelion Wine. In case you didn’t know, Ray’s middle name was Douglas. This seems to have been his way of putting himself, at least in part, into his writings. No one knows for sure how autobiographical a lot of things are, but when you're writing about feelings instead of facts, then it doesn't matter a lot anyway.

I wonder how many things he’s written that they will publish now that he’s gone. “Posthumous works,” they call them. Sounds creepy. And it’s a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s not. There are reasons that some things aren’t published. They simply weren’t good enough. They belong in a file somewhere. Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes is a prime example of one that should have been kept quiet. But money talks.

Anyhow. Ray is gone and it makes me sad.

Summer will never be the same.

Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2011