Album Release: Taking You Out to See the Stars

The new album is live on Bandcamp at this link!

And check out the cover art put together by my son, Christopher:

As of now, it’s only available on Bandcamp, but as we get the interior artwork finished we’ll produce a few physical CDs, and over the next couple of weeks we’ll submit the album for inclusion on streaming services like Spotify.

Hope you’ll give it a listen, and that something you hear will resonate with you! (And if it does, tell your friends!)

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I Did Something Nice, Finally

In situations like this, I think of Inigo Montoya saying to Fezzig, “You did something right,” and Fezzig replying, “Don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head.”

Despite all the miscues of this week — the poor communications, the questionable decisions, the visit to urgent care, bailing out of LibertyCon because I’m not in the right “head space” — I did manage to do something nice: I wrote a lullaby.

As lullabies go, it’s nothing special — just soft, repeated phrases with a tie-in at the end. It’s called “Dream a Little While,” and the first verse goes like this:

Go to sleep, my little child
Go to sleep, my little child
Go to sleep, my little child
Dream a little while

It cycles through five verses, but anyone could make up more if they want to. Feel free to pass it to any new parents who are tired of the old lullabies. (I can verify that it worked at least once with young Finn.)

I don’t know if anyone else will ever use it, but if they do I hope they’ll let me know.

Here’s the link to the PDF of the score: “Dream a Little While”.

And here’s yours truly doing a quick-and-dirty recording on his phone:

___

Also, in tangentially related news: My new album, Taking You Out to See the Stars, is now 100% musically complete, with 13 songs of various types — covering, as you might imagine, a wide range of topics, but not including this particular lullaby. The album is available for preorder at the link, and should be released on Thursday the 23rd of June once the placeholder cover is replaced with the real cover art.

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I Ran Out of a Funeral, and Then the Weekend Got Worse

Skip this entry if you don’t want to know how pathetic I am.

I should have known, when I got out my black suit for the funeral this past Saturday, that it was not going to go well. I had left the program from the last service I attended in the breast pocket of the jacket. It was the program from Jill’s memorial service.*

I should have known, when I read through the funeral program, that it was not going to go well. Instead, I barely saw the words. I was too caught up in my own thoughts: first, selfishly and (admittedly) angrily wondering why this person got to live 21 years longer than Jill did; second, just as selfishly wishing my recent ladyfriend was there, so I could hold her hand to try to make it through the service. But we had broken up a few months ago — itself a tragedy of errors, many caused unwittingly by me — and I had no one there with me.

Then the first song in the program began: “In the Garden,” a song that featured prominently in Jill’s life and, as a result, in her memorial service.

So I fled.

And came home to a very disappointing package in the mailbox. I’ve only told a couple of people about it, and I won’t go into its contents here; suffice it to say that it was disturbing and disheartening.

Now, I must admit that the weekend wasn’t all bad. I had a nice visit with friends I hadn’t seen in some time, and got to spend some time in the recording studio where we made some progress on the last couple of songs for the new album.

But the worst was yet to come.

.
(Image: “.,” by Jeremy Lelievre, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Because, by the diabolical magic of social media, on Sunday evening I was treated to pictures of my old ladyfriend — whose hand I had wanted to hold, and who I secretly hoped might one day wish to rekindle the romance we had — with her new fellow.

It wasn’t completely unexpected — I knew she was seeing someone, and had convinced myself that as long as she was happy, I could be happy for her. And, in the main, that’s true — my deepest wish is for her to be happy. But I wasn’t prepared for how much it would hurt to see her happy with someone else. (I recognize that it’s a hurt I earned, by being stupid, and careless, and even a little callous. It may even be a hurt I deserve.) When I was wishing I could hold her hand at that funeral, I had no idea just how far from me she had grown. But then, when I looked at pictures of the two of us on social media, I saw that she had untagged herself from every one. I can’t express how bad I feel, knowing that she must hate me that much. I’m gutted.

I do hope the man she’s with now is good to her, and good for her. I still care for her a great deal, and I will always love her. But this was a very difficult weekend to learn that she no longer cares for me, and is better off with someone else.

Such was this most recent, most wretched weekend of my pathetic life.

___
*As in, Jill my wife, who died in October 2019.

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North Charleston, Here I Come

This weekend is the 2022 iteration of the “All Types of Media Arts Convention,” better known as AtomaCon! It’s a small but well-run science fiction and fantasy convention, being held at the Hilton Garden Inn in North Charleston, South Carolina.

I’m going to be busy with a variety of activities this time:

Friday:

  • 6 p.m. — Improv Game, “Whose Con is It, Anyway?”
  • 10 p.m. — Open Filk

Saturday:

  • 11:30 a.m. — Panel, “What Was Your Gateway Book to Fandom?”
  • 2 p.m. — Concert!
  • 7 p.m. — Game, “Well, Actually” (I’m running this one)
  • 10 p.m. — Open Filk

Sunday:

  • 10:00 a.m. — Baen Books Traveling Slide Show & Prize Patrol
  • 1 p.m. — Filk Open Mic (if I haven’t headed home by then)

Should be a good time! and it’ll give me a chance to stop in and see my dad on the way.

If you’re in the area, come by and see us!

___
Related Items of Interest:
Available for preorder! My new album, Taking You Out to See the Stars
– Watch the music video of “Tauntauns to Glory”

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Abortion is Sad Enough Already

I’ve long considered that abortion is a tragedy no matter how we look at it. In the wake of the reprehensible leak of the Supreme Court’s draft decision on the subject, I’ve thought about whether my view of the subject has changed. It has not.

In the final analysis, abortion makes me sad. It saddens me in the essential fact of it, and it saddens me that it would ever be deemed necessary or the best option for a pregnant woman to pursue. I know that my sadness, my emotional response, does not and cannot make it right or wrong. My assessment of it as a sad thing rather than a happy thing, a bad thing rather than a good thing, is my own and can form no reasonable basis for anyone else’s opinion or any policy action.

It just makes me sad. It makes me sad to think of a baby that will not be born. It makes me sad to think of a woman driven to the extreme that it represents. It just makes me sad.

I’ve written about abortion before, and my take on it in “Ladies, Stand Your Ground” was perhaps a bit unconventional. Early in that post I made this statement: “I believe the decision to abort a baby must be one of the most difficult decisions a human being may ever make. I do not intend to second-guess anyone who has made that decision, nor do I intend to criticize or vilify them.” I still believe that, and I still refuse to second-guess, criticize, or vilify anyone for their decision either to have or not have an abortion. I don’t believe it’s my place to do so.

Toward the end of that piece, I wrote

It is possible to wish for every unborn child to be wanted and to be cared for, in utero and beyond, just as it is possible to wish that there might be no thugs, no rapists, no burglars, no threats against people’s lives, persons, or property. Wishing for these things, however, does not make them come to pass, and so we are faced with difficult decisions that have far-reaching consequences.

The fact that these situations exist — if you will, that these evils exist — makes me sad.

I realize that many people disagree. I’ve written before about why we may never agree on various issues, including the issue of abortion. Disagreement can be uncomfortable, and sometimes “Once we have established our relative positions, and do not take the time or make the effort to examine our differing assumptions and premises, [no] argument is particularly convincing.” In that post, I made up two positions on abortion that appeared to me to be diametrically opposed:

  • “I object to abortion on demand despite a woman having the right to subject her body to whatever procedure she chooses, and because of the effect such a procedure would have on a potential human life growing inside her.”
  • “I support abortion on demand because a woman has the right to subject her body to whatever procedure she chooses, and despite the effect such a procedure would have on a potential human life growing inside of her.”

I don’t know that anyone holds either position in such unsparing terms, but they served as examples of positions that seem irreconcilable.


(Image: “Baby Heart Womb,” by Jeff Jacobs, from Pixabay.)

Many years ago, on an old version of my website (so old that I can’t find a link), I presented the “Anti-Candidate position on abortion” as follows:

We like babies. Babies are pretty neat: little miracles of DNA, little potentialities, little images of God. We especially like them when they’re ooh-ing and aah-ing and exploring this world that’s so magical to them and so mundane to us.
We don’t so much like changing diapers.
We know that some people can’t take care of their babies, but it seems as if these days there are plenty of people who can’t have babies who would love to take care of one or two or several. And we like the vast majority of the human race, in general, so we come down on the side of life.
Babies are cool, and mostly so are the people they grow up to be.

Having recently become a grandfather and therefore reacquainted with changing diapers, I can still say it’s not my favorite thing to do — but it’s not so bad. My grandson is a fine little chap, even though he’s not quite to the exploring-the-world stage, and I look forward to getting to know him better.

So I still come down on the side of life, by which I mean the whole of life: birth, growth, discovery, calling, relationship, adventure. I wish that every baby, every child, every teenager, every adult, every person could live a long, healthy, happy, fulfilled life.

Unfortunately, as I wrote before, “Wishing for these things … does not make them come to pass.” (How well I know that.)

So where does that leave me, other than sitting comfortably and signaling my virtue?

It leaves me hoping that this Supreme Court decision, if it comes down even close to the form that was released, results in a more open debate of the issue in state legislatures and even on the floor of Congress. As I recall my Schoolhouse Rock, a law has to first be a bill, and a bill has to be passed to become a law, and all of that is the responsibility of the Legislative Branch. That’s how representative democracy is supposed to work.

It leaves me hoping, if the debate results in legislation, that the law is more graceful, more restorative, than punitive. Abortion — in theory and even more in practice — is difficult enough that we need not pile more difficulties atop it.

Abortion is sad enough as it is. We need not make it sadder.

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It’s Almost Time for RavenCon!

This weekend I’ll be at the RavenCon science fiction and fantasy convention, which is returning to Richmond, Virginia. RavenCon is a great convention, run by wonderful people, and I’ve enjoyed attending and serving as a guest at it for many years.

I wasn’t asked to play any concerts this year – 😔 – so it’s primarily panels for me. Here’s my schedule, if you’re trying to track me down:

Friday:

  • 5 pm — Guests’ Meet and Greet
  • 7 pm — Opening Ceremony
  • 11:30 pm — Open Filking

Saturday:

  • 9 am — Panel: “Influences In Our Writing”
  • 11 am — Panel, “Writing the Alien”
  • 12:25 pm — Reading
  • 4:00 pm — Baen Books Traveling Slide Show & Prize Patrol
  • 7 pm — Panel, “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble: Combat in SFF” (Moderator)
  • Midnight! 🥱 — Open Filking

Sunday:

  • 10 am — Panel: “Energy Sources in Speculative Fiction” (Moderator)

For my reading slot, I’m trying to decide whether to read from a story that’s coming out in an anthology later this year, or from a story that’s slated for an upcoming issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. I’ll probably let the audience decide (if anyone shows up!). And I guess I should give a little thought to the panels I’m moderating…. And pack — I should definitely pack.

Looking forward to it!

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Misunderstanding God’s Will

I commented on Facebook yesterday that I think God’s will is very misunderstood.

I think it’s more descriptive than prescriptive. I think of Christ telling us what the kingdom of Heaven is like, with the idea that we might build something even a little bit like it here rather than worrying about what it takes to get us there.

I think it’s less directive and more indulgent. I’m a big fan of free will, so I dislike the idea that God’s will entails God pushing buttons and pulling levers behind a curtain to control what we do. We are like children, and sometimes parents can be quite indulgent when it comes to their children. Sometimes the children suffer for it, and sometimes it amounts to natural consequences.

In short, I don’t think God’s will controls our day-to-day existence, though according to it God may from time to time choose to intervene in our lives.

"If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God's sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled" - Dr RC Sproul
(Image of waterfall from The TRUTH Will Set You Free, on Flickr, under Creative Commons.)

Then again, it’s likely that I am too conformed to this present world, not fully transformed by a renewed mind, and unable to prove what God’s “good and acceptable and perfect will” is (Romans 12:2), so I may be misunderstanding it completely….

Which was sort of my point in the first place.

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More from Seneca: Unhappiness, and Grief

I don’t mean by that title the small town near Clemson in South Carolina, where we lived in the early 1990s and where our son was born, but Seneca the Younger. Let’s examine a snippet of first century Greek wisdom that particularly spoke to me from Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic.

From letter seventy-eight, for instance:

A man is as unhappy as he has convinced himself he is.

As one who has been battling unhappiness, lack of joy, and even a bit of depression for a while now, I’ve been thinking long and hard about how many of my woes have been, to put it mildly, my own damn fault. Seneca continued,

What’s the good of dragging up sufferings which are over, of being unhappy now just because you were then? What is more, doesn’t everyone add a good deal to his tale of hardships and deceive himself as well in the matter? Besides, there is a pleasure in having succeeded in enduring something the actual enduring of which was very far from pleasant; when some trouble or other comes to an end the natural thing is to be glad.

It is interesting that, because of Seneca’s earlier admonitions against grieving for very long, his reflection here on physical illness — how to treat it and bear up under it — does not include any component of bearing up under grief or other deep, lengthy emotional struggles. I gather from this that Seneca would disapprove of my prolonged grieving, and in particular the up-and-down nature of my grief: its waxing and waning at irregular intervals, its sudden onslaughts and slow, creeping pounces.

But, I don’t need Seneca’s (or anyone else’s) approval for the manner of my grief. We all grieve in different ways, and our griefs are affected by different things we encounter as we go along. My path is my own.

Perhaps Seneca even allows for that, though. I find his phrase “when some trouble or other comes to an end” to be particularly apt, because when does grief end? Some of the stronger emotions may subside, and even the awareness of the absence may fluctuate, but if the separation cannot end, neither can the grief. It may contract, and at times expand, but if grief is the difficulty then it is not a matter of “dragging up sufferings which are over,” but of enduring sufferings which continue.

On the subject of grief itself, something Neil Peart wrote in Ghost Rider (which I finished reading this weekend) struck quite close to home:

I understood that feeling…. Perhaps the first responsibility of a husband and father is to protect his wife and child, and deep inside myself I felt that I had failed at that, too.

I could relate to that because no matter how often people tell me it’s not my fault that Jill died, and also not my fault that I couldn’t revive her, I still feel responsible. And I may feel that way for a long time.

In the penultimate paragraph, of Ghost Rider, Peart wrote,

Sometimes I can almost sustain the high-minded sentiment that it was worth the pain of losing Jackie and Selena [his wife and daughter] for the joy of having known them. I don’t know if I will ever be able to embrace that notion, but the important thing is that I embrace today….

Was it worth the pain of losing Jill, for the joy of having known her? I need to consider that question in more depth. It was worth the pain to avoid her having to go through anything like it; that much, I can say. And the joy of having known her, the privilege of being her husband, were immeasurable. Worth the pain of losing her? That is, better to have never known her than to have lost her? No, not at all. But Peart is right: It is a “high-minded sentiment,” and not one to bear (or perhaps even to think about) for long.

Bust of Seneca
(Image: “3rd century marble bust of Seneca, after a 1st century original,” from Britannica.)

To again return briefly to Seneca, a few notes on some of his other letters: I thought his letter 88, about what constitutes a liberal education, was excellent. Letter 90, on philosophy and the history of mankind, was laughable, and the kind of “back to basics” thing that only someone who has never had to (or tried to) do hard physical labor would write. Letter 114, on literary style, seemed just as true now as it was then.

Finally, I agree wholeheartedly with his declaration in letter 108 that “The more the mind takes in, the more it expands.” I wish for you immense pleasure as you take in more and more to expand your mind!

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Epicurus, Seneca, and Jesus

Let the record show that I am not very well-read in the classics. I’ve read fairly widely–i.e., on a wide range of topics and in a variety of genres–but not in great depth aside from a few favorite authors. (I should probably not admit that, considering my trade these days, but I’m trying to correct that error–if error it be.)

At any rate, I am, admittedly rather slowly, trying to broaden my reading horizons–especially as regards works of antiquity. So for a few weeks this year I read a selection of Seneca the Younger’s letters, which I found entertaining, challenging, and sometimes enlightening.

Bust of Epicurus
(Image: “Portrait of Epicurus, founder of the Epicurean school. Roman copy after a lost Hellenistic original,” from Wikimedia Commons.)

For instance, in letter eleven of the Robin Campbell translation, Seneca quotes Epicurus (whose bust is pictured above) as saying,

We need to set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything as if he saw what we were doing.

Remind you of anything?

I flashed immediately to the “What Would Jesus Do?” craze: the WWJD bracelets and other accoutrements. Not that Seneca would have had Jesus in mind–the two were contemporaries, but lived far apart and never would have met–nor Epicurus, since he was doing his thing three hundred years before Seneca! But Seneca obviously approved of the idea of fixing our mind on some good person we respect, and acting as if that person could observe us.

For some of us, Jesus fits that description and that role better than anyone else. For others, some other revered person may work better. But it was interesting to see that the idea itself was quite ancient–and who knows if Epicurus didn’t get it from someone else before him? 

And the question this leaves for each of us is, Who will we choose to live as if they’re watching us do what we do?

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Pay No Attention to the Blogger Behind the Curtain…

Consider this fair warning: In the coming days, I may start blogging a little more frequently. Why? Because I’ve got to get this nonsense out of my head.

I mean, sure, I’d love to post things that entertain whoever might stop by. But the entertainment value of these half-formed (and probably malformed) thoughts may be about the level of slowing down to gawk at an automobile accident. If I hadn’t already named the blog “GhostWriter,” I might be tempted to rename it “mental train wreck” or something along those lines.

Anyway, the idea is to get out of my head a lot of weird ideas and unworkable notions, in the (likely vain) hope that they will make room for better, more sensible thoughts. I don’t know how often I will post, and though I make no promises as to quality — they may be well-written or hastily scrawled, cogent and sane or the ravings of a near lunatic — I will try to produce “good words” for all you “good people” who visit.

But I’ve got to get this nonsense out of my head. 

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