Saturday, April 28, 2018


I had to climb the porch stairs in the dark in order to verify the address of the giant old house before returning to my New Old Clunker at the curb in order to fetch my big old offering and the remote control that goes with it.

“Does it have a built-in VHS player!” Muzic Wizard had messaged me upon seeing the ancient catalogue image I sent him.

“It does indeed,” I replied. “And I can’t promise there’s no cheesy 80’s porno tape jammed inside it.”

“Oh the porno tape would be a plus.”

So now I’m lugging the beast up a couple short flights of creaky stairs as the smell of pot grows stronger.

Muzic Wizard answers the apartment door barefoot and slit-eyed. “Cool!” he says and begins checking out the input/output ports at once. “Yeah, this’ll work.”

“Oh, a TV!” says his girlfriend, appearing in the doorway.

They are both grateful for this contribution to the nostalgic art installation they will construct for the 3-day In The Soil festival. But I am just as grateful for the opportunity to be rid of it. We are all happy.

I journey back to Scooterville, catch a short sleep and arrive at Grandma’s in time to get us to breakfast at the nearby diner where Uncle and Aunt and Aunt’s husband await and where I counted on using a $10 coupon as my contribution. Instead they whip out a stack of 2-for-1 coupons. I am teamed up with Aunt’s husband and he declares that he will pay our bargain bill.

“I must accept,” I say, and report to them these direst of employment circumstances. Ye Olde Security Company seems to have me down to seven shifts per month. I am getting aggressive in the search for a new or second employer - if I haven’t mentioned that.

As the gang departs I see that Aunt’s husband has left a mathematically-justified three dollar tip. I want five left instead but I have no toonie to add; just a single twenty dollar bill. I ask Aunt if she can make change.

“Hold on,” she says, and fetches the requisite small bills from the waitress in exchange for her own twenty. She gives them to me but refuses my own twenty in exchange. Again I have no choice but to accept. Then she reaches into her wallet.

“No!” I say, but she presses another $40 into my hands and I am too choked up to debate.

I then go to meet -- Damn. What excellent nickname do I have for the sight-challenged Circles program director who exudes kindness and sweet music everywhere he goes? Soul Man? That will do for now. I meet with Soul Man and drive him to his appointments for the afternoon and take part in them also. I do this for him one day a week. It’s unclear if I will ever begin to receive mileage reimbursement for this but it doesn’t matter. I track the miles for now and find ways to absorb charity which I convert into gas money for this purpose.

We wrap things up just after three PM which puts me at the Good Shepherd Centre just in time to rub elbows with Scooterville’s homeless and enjoy a free hot meal which today is weiners (premium jumbo weiners even!) and beans over rice with a simple salad and balsamic dressing. I skip the dessert and koolade and choose water.

I’m agog at the great many volunteers who are cooking, serving, busing and… shepherding. What a beautiful contribution. And at times surely a challenging or even dangerous one.

My role as a Circles volunteer has much expanded of late as has my health and financial deficits. It is with a special warmth that I find myself slipping into this alternative economy of the heart.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Better than okay

“Are you okay?”

In the days between the Liaison’s death and his funeral, many people asked this of me. Many were writers who were inspired by him or were grateful for his excellent leadership or grateful for the individual personal help he gave them at times. Everyone knew he was special. These writers I refer to, who asked me, “are you okay?” are ones who did not often see him outside of November NaNoWriMo but who knew that I did, and assumed I had some closer relationship to him than they did.

I don’t necessarily know that I did.

It’s interesting, this specific gesture of concern which we typically offer. Are you okay?

We might be genuinely concerned or we might feel it’s appropriate or expected of us to express concern, or some combination. We might not even know for sure the composition of our own motive. It might just be a habit to some degree. I suspect in this case that most of them were genuinely concerned, or at least just genuinely wanted to express something. When we’re confronted with something resembling a tragedy we feel moved to be useful somehow. By expressing concern we either gain the opportunity to be helpful (depending on the response) or else we can at least check off the box that says I tried. Either way, in our effort to be comforting we have comforted ourselves; assured ourselves that we have done what we could.

I don’t mean to be cynical by this. I too would be inclined to offer these words in many such circumstances, and I feel that my associates here are sincere.

What is interesting is that I am very much okay. I have been in tears at times; perhaps most so in sick boy’s embrace who was weeping very intensely at the time. Thus I did likewise, much out of empathy.

Empathy is at play almost any time I shed tears; which I do often but rarely out of personal sadness; indeed almost never from personal sadness. I cry for the reason that all people cry: intense emotion. That most people associate tears with sadness is because sadness is the emotion most people find themselves experiencing most intensely. This is a troubling reflection on our society. I tend to experience most intensely other emotions altogether, which I am grateful for.

I am well aware that death is no tragedy. Only failure of life is a tragedy; one hugely present in this too-often shallow consumer society. Death too often marks the deadline where the FAIL stamp comes crashing down. But not in this case. There may indeed be many deeper experiences in which the Liaison had yet to find opportunity. But what he did with his time was so much worth celebrating. Within his own limits he expanded very much is influence and his own spirit. And he spent his time very well, serving what he loved and serving others.

Am I okay? Yes. I am more than okay.

In the case of the Liaison’s passing I mostly cried out of -- what? Not despair; that’s for certain. Can I define what it was? something in the realms of love and joy and inspiration? I was emotionally moved out of celebration! I witnessed how much he meant to people. I witnessed one of the most meaningful achievements in life; that of improving the lives of others. Truly: I cried from the beauty of it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Finding truth

I want to highlight this excellent comment from a recent post in which I drifted into a bit of a rant:
IntrepidReader said...
"You ask some very good questions. Where DO you go to find the truth? It is surely not out there in social media land and if it is, it's pretty hard to discern. News networks are supposed to bring the truth, but what they really want is ratings. I thought the church I attend would lead me to it, but it is just as motivated by politics and money as everything else. Maybe the truth lies within us, in our hearts...maybe we know it we just have to look for it."

For the sake of concision I will not address social media at this moment. As for news networks and churches there are certainly many barriers to truth because truth will often conflict with the entity’s higher priorities including their own survival. They are also both prone to the reality that bias, like all forms of shit, flows downhill.

I promise to get back to you with a video clip in which a filthy-rich media mogul admits outright that when something is important enough to him he makes sure the message gets out via all [hundreds of] his media channels. So much for the independence of media myth.

What’s important to note is that media and religion are both examples of organizations and right there everything goes to hell: All organizations (including corporations, charities, political parties, governments etc.) are immediately a disaster because they are fundamentally corrupt in their very conception. Humans construct organizations as if the people who inhabit them will also inhabit the vision and principles of the organization themselves. Which is not true. They assume that policies and audits can enforce this, which they can’t.

The individual people who inhabit organizations are each loyal to their own individual instincts well above any loyalty to the organization, whether they know it or not. As such they are permanently attentive to their own personal best interests which include keeping the appearance that they are loyal to the organization. All the actions of an organization are derived from a sea of duplicity and rationalization. Most organizations do far more harm than good. And this does not even take into account the intentional masquerades which are consciously concocted in board rooms everywhere.

Organizations are like money launderers who clean up the reputations of their individuals through the scheme of organizational structure which is in essence a legalized escape from accountability and liability.

But on to better things!

Maybe the truth lies within us, in our hearts...maybe we know it we just have to look for it.
Ah… now this is gold!

A sincere search for truth invariably leads to the most corrupt forces we personally know. Poets will tell you; even Einstein would tell you: it is our own mind; the devilish super-power; the forces of instinct which spin the illusion of consciousness. This is the source of the fears, the vanity, the addictions, the infatuation with identity; all the things at odds with truth in our own experience. Yes we must look inward. Only through much inward searching and reflection can we begin to see the shadows of these covert operations. To become familiar with them is to become familiar, finally, with our own society beyond the veneer. Only then is the greater truth accessible.

As I’ve said here before. it took a lot of courage and solitude for me to find my way to this road, and I have yet to reach the end.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I am deeply intrigued

Ninety minutes ago I scanned the Netflix menu and chose the documentary AlphaGo; an odd choice, because it didn’t immediately smack of a useful educational opportunity nor a good inspirational one. I chose it short-sightedly because it had something to do with board gaming apparently, which might be quite pleasurable, and having been very sick lately and thus, per my usual M-O, self-entitled, I felt I deserved a cheap entertainment.


I was in for a surprise.

It was a simple documentary put forth by the programmers of AlphaGo, an AI computer system designed to play the game Go which is ancient; the oldest continually-played board game on the planet and probably the most profound given the incredible simplicity of the dynamics versus the near-endlessness of the actual possibilities. The game, essentially impossible to master, is huge (as chess is to Russia) in places like China and Korea.

The AI team put their creation up against a human opponent who would later go on to win the European Go championship, and to the human professional’s tremendous shock, it defeated him five games to zero.

The machine team then arranged a battle against the reigning champion of the world, Lee Sedol of Korea. The match was massively publicized and densely covered by the press. It was seen as the most important test to date for the human mind to prove itself against the spectre of artificial intelligence. It should be mentioned that the common theory had been that AI was still about ten years away from becoming worthy of the best human opponents.

Sedol stated that he had played many games for himself and many for his country and now he felt that he was playing on behalf of humanity.

The results were interesting to say the least.

Sedol who assured all from the outset he would win five-zero, was immediately surprised by many of the computer’s moves, and the programmers, who gathered in a separate space watching many of the background computer processes on a myriad of monitors, were also often surprised. The program, after all, had been continuing to study and improve, daily, since the previous tournament. It becomes a new beast every day.

The machine won the first two games; a painful shock to all but the programmers. Sedol it seems, never once got into the groove of playing “his own game” but seemed always to be trying to crack the code of his digital opponent; to discover it’s weakness, and couldn’t.

In the pivotal match three of the five-match series (over the course of a week I’m guessing) Sedol became desperate and aggressive and lost worse than ever. The programmers, with victory assured, were happy for themselves and for the achievement, but seemed very sad at the same time, empathizing with their human opponent and his society, and perhaps with all humanity.

Game four: Now here’s where things get… sort of epic.

Having tournament defeat assured, Sedol became more relaxed. There was now less on the line. Meanwhile the computer perceived no concept of a tournament. Each match carried the same imperative: to win; simply… to win. And the game slowly turned against Lee Sedol yet again.  

Then AlphaGo played a tremendously “slack” move; a move that would appear “lazy” had a human played it. The experts, the commentators, the programmers, no one could figure out how the move could possibly be useful. The broadcasters literally doubled over in laughter. There was either a downright computer glitch or something was happening beyond the comprehension of the most qualified human intelligence present.

The tables turned and Sedol gained momentum. AlphaGo seemed not to be paying quite enough attention, allowing it’s winning margin to steadily shrink.

Sedol managed to win the game and to a joyous fanfare at the venue and in the streets, but he went on to lose the tournament four games to one.

There had been other somewhat slack moves by the machine and in the end what the programmers came to realize, was that the AI had a much different approach to winning then humans do in almost any sport or point-scoring competition: The AI gained no comfort from running up the score. It only needed to win by one point or more. It did not gauge it’s grasp on victory by how far ahead it got, but only by how much it felt assured of getting that one extra point by the end..

This is a fundamentally different dynamic. This is why people continually found it so hard to relate to the computer’s moves.

Here is where I get very intrigued:

The computer’s objective was only to survive and not to dominate.

This is profound.

Because humans, by my accounting, can never seem to grasp the difference. Academically, sure, but it doesn’t filter into our behavior. People don’t want to know how much a slave we are to survival instinct. It is not pleasant to contemplate. If I wanted to, I could study any number of people anywhere and postulate how in each and every case, every thing everyone is saying and doing is mapped to simple survival instinct and how their impressions of conscious control are illusions.

(If you know me in real life you must understand: I do not ever do this with my friends. I have no need or desire whatsoever to turn my friends inside out. I cherish them and they are pure to me.)

This is of critical relevance because survival instinct is not well named. Functionally it is domination instinct more than survival instinct because we have evolved no thermostat in essence, and as such, in the hands of humans, survival instinct ultimately works against survival. This is at the core of human duplicity. The ramifications are too immense to treat in this space. Domination instinct makes an opponent of all other life. And when we succeed at dominating all other life; the biosphere in essence, then we simultaneously destroy ourselves.

This is not a simple climate change analogy by the way. The threads of this phenomenon run everywhere, through everything we do.

The fact that the artificial intelligence, in this case, naturally chooses survival and not domination, and without its programmers even catching on except in hindsight, arouses exciting thoughts. Is there a chance that AI, rather then evolving into the Terminator scenario, may become our savior instead, guiding us toward a gentler mandate in all things? One can imagine many reasons why we would resist. I need not go into them immediately.

Here’s what’s really interesting though:

Lee Sedol, following this experience, went on to go undefeated in every single human vs human match for months! Sedol, as did others, learned to think differently about the game of Go, widening his approach to strategy.

AlphaGo did not change the game. It changed how humans now think about the game.

Might that perhaps be the ultimate role of artificial intelligence? Not something to fear but something that will teach humans how, finally, to think?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Well, this piece got away from me… as some do. Oh well. I post it intact:

The Liaison’s funeral was not a big one. His influence manifested mostly through the wires to many locales beyond Scooterville. But I think that both his family and co-workers may have been surprised by the extent of outreach from the writing community. More than a hundred writers sent words of comfort or even flowers (and we accounted for a good third of the attendance). I was proud of sick boy’s moving speech at the event which helped to crystallize this for everyone.

His boss was a very sweet man who spoke very kindly of him. I was grateful for this brief insight into the other side of the Liaison’s life and said so later to the fellow, on the lawn, as we shook hands, both failing to hold back tears entirely. We’re likely to meet for a drink at some point.

The brother also spoke, of their childhood struggles for one thing, and it was very sincere and moving.

Then the final speaker was a soulless troglodyte named Pastor F.U. or thereabouts, who had never met the Liaison once in his life but who felt empowered to condescend to us with the usual outrageous doublethink concerning atheism versus faith and the inane ass-backwards idea that belief provides meaning in life.

I tried not to walk out. I reminded myself that I was here for the prime purpose of supporting the Liaison’s family. I thought carefully; realized I could not in any good conscience give permission to this hijacking, got up and walked out and waited in the parking lot to take my assigned passengers to the cemetery. I hoped very much that I had not caused a scene in any way; that I made no one other than the troglodyte uncomfortable. I did not want this event to be about me and my principles. Dog Whisperer, despite being an employee of a church, came to find me afterwards and issued firm support. She wanted to follow me out but her seating was trapped in essence. So that was a comfort to hear.

It can be immensely sad to reflect on the apparently-growing collective human insanity. It is not only the swiftly-deteriorating economic and environmental systems which point to impending disaster. It is the realization that almost nobody among the privileged societies which steer the world has any regard for truth, but only the addiction to the clinging to falsehoods derived from cherry-picked factoids, peddled by the world’s grotesquely-untrustworthy horde of priests, politicians and corporate-sponsored mouthpieces: whichever ones happen to peddle the particular bullshit which is most flattering, convenient or profitable to the ultimately self-serving and self-righteous listener.

We created a society wherein there is no requirement, regard or reward for truth (except in the field of science which cannot function without it - and look how the field of science is routinely maligned by the above perpetrators), a society riddled with problems which will not be solved because problems are not solved without truth.

But truth is so buried. The internet is surely 99% rubbish. And we’re so busy chasing our unfortunate addictions there is no time for the average person to unearth truth. We need specialists devoted to it. I am trying to do just that I suppose, but society does not include this in the ledger of currency nor afford a framework for accountability.

Where oh where are the people who can summon the courage to just want the truth no matter what it is? No matter how unflattering, how inconvenient, how unprofitable it might be? Are you out there? You’re certainly not in the youtube comment section; I know that.

And if you exist, where do you turn to for real news? for real authority? Where are the leaders or other powerful voices who only want to report truth without personal interest? Probably the Buddha, probably the real Jesus of Nazareth prior to being exploited and misquoted and misunderstood. Einstein of course. Likely Eckhart Tolle. Likely that dude who wrote the Four Hour Work Week! Read Tolle by the way, for goodness sake.

I’m not going to be falsely humble. I am a devoted adept of truth on my good days and frankly, even on my mediocre days. I was a self-identified Catholic who denied my tribe when I learned it untrue. I gave up my position as a climate-change denier when the truth became all-too apparent. I walked away from my sports tribes when I learned of their delusion. I have largely given up many instinctive tribal mind comforts having learned of their treachery. I even gave up my self-image as a good person, prepared to accept that I was an evil person if that was where the pursuit of truth led me - which it did - for a while. Somehow (through very fortunate circumstance) I was afforded a certain brand of courage that I can see almost nowhere else.

I wish I knew how to tell my story. I wish that people would know what I know: that the reward for this kind of courage is utterly freeing and joyful and transformative; transcending even, and that the fears which contain you will be revealed illusion! Where are the champions of truth to lead us? I appear not to have what it takes, nor where to find such a congregation.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018


The Liaison, so far as I currently understand, had three basic categories of friends: Writing friends online from around the world, writing friends online who he met in person at various writing retreats and workshops, including some of the most committed and robust programs out there, and writing friends online who he also knew in person right here in Scooterville including myself, Sick Boy and Chess Champ, each of whom you might glimpse in the video below.

His dearest friend of all is the very sweet and deep-minded Cerulean Blue, a constant online companion from Europe, who has flown out here many times for extended vacations with him. She is a satellite member of our local NaNo chapter and our little year-long writing sub-group.

I sense that their companionship is of some special design of their own which they need explain to no one, and I sense that this was the only non-familial relationship of any significant intimacy in the Liaison’s living experience and I am very glad that he had it.

When Cerulean first appeared on the scene I was troubled by an email from her in which I sensed a pre-mature attachment to us and unwarranted worry over subtle interpretations of online encounters which I personally viewed as inconsequential. I thought it inappropriate that she would presume that we had some kind of deep friendship at stake when we’d never even met in person and I was not shy at the time to try to firmly inform her of this.

In the end, it appears that she was on the right track. I came to sense a special friendship between us and now I wonder why I have seen so little of her when she has spent most of her time here in Scooterville with brief returns to her home abroad, ever since November when the Liaison fell ill. The blame is surely my own.

Now that he’s gone and with her next return flight scheduled for the day after his funeral (in essence a coincidence) there remains for her a couple of free days and a couple of partly free days and no one for her to give constant care for.

Yesterday those of us available took her out for the afternoon, which slipped gently into the evening. We went exploring with no urgency or real agenda, with a strong bond in our hearts and common private thoughts on our minds - of a sweet boyish man whose hard-felt absence seems to have washed away the tensions of tentative friendship between we of very sensitive, but otherwise diverse personalities.

I will see Cerulean at least two more times before she goes away. Given the pain she has endured here, I doubt she will ever come back. And my own chances of ever getting to Europe are slim. It is with significant heaviness that I consider a likely-final farewell. I wonder how her life will change now, with such a significant absence, and how comfortably she might endure a continued online relationship with us, where triggers may abound.

Today the same gang will go hiking and what-not without me but with the excellent Healer and her canine companion Doctor Snuggles.

I hope they all feel the same love which I did yesterday and which I attempted to capture here:

Sunday, April 01, 2018

The Big Renege?

I’m suddenly unsure about what I’m doing this April. I know I have to get moving again on the novel  I call Crazy Legs (working title). I was also about to take on the poem-a-day idea which I sort of view as a pact between the Ponderer and I.


Today’s Evensies event was very well attended. Normally outside of November NaNo we usually get a couple or few participants on any given Sunday. Today we had around ten.

We used to meet every other Sunday outside of November; every even-numbered Sunday date, hence the name Evensies. When a core of us grew fonder and started meeting every single week we pondered a name change. It was The Liaison who said in essence: Hey, might it be cool if we just kept calling it Evensies? Even the odd ones! And not even explain why!

Yes of course it would, And so we did. And thank god because few things are so ghastly to me as a group who dares call themselves a writers group who collectively betray no imagination or sense of mystery.

Today’s Evensies was well attended because it was not so much a write-in as a call to arms. The Liaison himself has fallen. His battle with cancer ceased a few days back when his treatment strategy was dialled back with the goal to just keep him comfortable. Yesterday he died. His name was Chris Kelworth. His writing is here and there on the internet.

Today we shared a lot of tears and hugs. Shy writers who probably have social fears and disorders, I’m guessing: even they threw there arms around myself and others.

Chris passed on the eve of little April Camp NaNo. It was the eve of the main event; November NaNo when he fell sick in the first place. The irony is cruel. These events meant the world to him. Though I would like to think that the internet publishing success he was beginning to make a habit of meant a lot more!

In November he returned from brain surgery and still made his 50,000 word count which seems miraculous and yet I think we all knew he would. And now we’ve decided that this April we must honour him by tackling our own most ambitious word counts and following through. I am inclined toward this but it may mean I will have to let the poem-a-day endeavor slide.

About twelve years ago I came out to my first NaNo write-in and the Liaison was there; as quiet as a mouse; riddled with anxiety himself. He sat beside a priest who seemed the unofficial leader at the time and he would only talk to her. If someone would have told me that this priest would become a tremendous friend of mine; who would confide in me things she trusted to no other person, that I would move into her home and finally watch her perish from her own cancer and that this mousy little fellow would take over as our leader and a strong one at that … I would have said impossible and impossible!

People can be so different than what they appear or what we imagine. They never fit in the little box we design for them.