Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Pink Pig of Power

So here's the most interesting dream I’ve had in a while. I was at an outdoor seminar with fellow psychology faculty members. As we were seated listening to the speaker, I noticed a bunch of long silvery insects flying around near an electric pole. Two crows flew over and landed on the wires. A third dark flyer followed but was much, much larger than the crows. It landed on the side of the pole itself, clinging like a woodpecker. It’s shape was humanoid; the wings were bat-like.

Someone made a joke about a vampire, and most of us got up and went toward the thing for a better look. As we approached, it let go of the pole and flew across a highway to land on the sidewalk on the other side. People quickly gathered around and we pushed through that crowd to look. Here’s where it gets weird.

I saw a small pink pig marching back and forth along the sidewalk on his hind legs with his bat-wings spread out behind him. He was about beagle-sized and was pontificating in English. “Yes,” he said, “this is the end for the human race. Your time on earth is done.” I remember thinking,“WTF,” but only about the threats the pig was making, not about the existence of the winged pig himself. About that time the police showed up and surrounded the pig. They began to lead him somewhere and he went willing along, still spouting his statements about the end of the human race.

The next scene switched. I was no longer me but was seeing through the eyes of a doctor newly assigned to observe the winged pig. The doctor went through a number of institutional type metal doors into a basement where he found the pig living in a large barred cage. There was a big window on one side and the pig was looking out at a playground where children were playing. The doctor thought he was unobserved by the pig-creature, but suddenly the creature turned and made eye contact, then pointed toward the playground as if he wanted to be allowed out there.

The doctor gave no acknowledgement of the pig’s behavior, but started to move further away from the cage. There is a janitor there who is mopping the floor. As the doctor glances toward the janitor, the man looks up and makes eye contact. The pig creature is looking at them both and suddenly the janitor’s eyes flicker and turn dead white. He smiles, and most of his teeth are missing.

The doctor stumbles backward in shock, then turns to leave the room. Another janitor is just coming through the door and as he looks at the doctor, he blinks and his eyes turn dead white as well. Afraid now, the doctor pushes past the man into the hallway outside. He starts along it, moving swiftly. A woman with a handkerchief over her hair comes out of another door and her eyes are the same as the men.

Realizing that something seems to be infecting the others who’ve been around the pig creature, the doctor starts hurrying through the corridors to get help. More and more people begin to pour into the corridor, though, all with the same eyes, and all moving slowly and steadily toward the exit. They make no threat against the doctor but in moments he is almost completely swallowed up in the mass of people. The dream ends with him crying out desperately, “Help me. Someone help me.”  

The first part of the dream, where we first meet the winged pig, was interesting and, in retrospect, hilariously funny as he marched back and forth on his short stubby legs pontificating about the end of the human race. But the ending, with the people being infected with something and that infection spreading rapidly, was creepy as all get out.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Pleasant Synchronicity

I had a somewhat surreal, but very pleasant, experience last night. I was invited to a pulp fiction reading group meeting at St. Joseph's Abbey and Seminary College. This is on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, about a twenty minute drive from my house now. As I turned across the one lane bridge onto the grounds, I glimpsed a small lake/pond off to my right, with several stone benches located around it for meditation purposes. Although I thought I’d never been to St. Joseph’s before, I realized as I saw the lake that I had in fact been there, and that certain elements of the location had stayed with me for over twenty-five years.

A couple of years after I came to Xavier, probably about 1987/88, I went on a retreat with some other Xavier faculty to an abbey. We all rode together so I didn’t drive, and at that time I lived in the New Orleans area and had no idea what the “North shore” was. Years later, I still had pleasant memories of the peacefulness of the location and began using that remembered setting in a post-apocalyptic story called “The Razored Land.” I tried to figure out where the real location was so that I could do some research on it, but no one that I remembered from that retreat was still at Xavier so I had no luck finding the place. I went ahead and constructed the story with an abbey I called “St. Peter’s” as an important setting. 

Just a few weeks ago I submitted “The Razored Land” to a publisher and it looks like it will indeed be published (although I never count my chickens before they hatch). Last night, as I turned onto the grounds of St. Joseph’s, I realized I’d rediscovered that lost setting. It gave me a nice feeling of synchronicity. And, the pulp meeting and discussion went very well. It was extremely nice to talk about Robert E. Howard, and Lovecraft, and pulp fiction with folks I could physically set down at a table with. The group had wide ranging experience with the pulps. Some were extremely well versed while for others it was an introduction. It was certainly fun, though.

Thanks to Casey Edler for the invite. 

Also, by the way, I start giving final exams and getting final papers tomorrow so I will likely be largely out of touch on the blog until Wednesday of so of next week. I trust there won't be any blogpocalyse while I'm gone. I'm leaving Riot Kitty in charge until I return!


Monday, April 20, 2015

Second half of the Quiz

Here's the second half of that quiz I gave my writing students. Sorry the spacing isn't quite right. Not sure why but probably due to how I set the format up for the quiz originally.

11.  I tell you that mammals bear live young. If I tell you that giraffes bear live young and you assume          this means that giraffes are mammals, you have engaged in deductive/inductive ____________              reasoning.

12.   A __________ is a false belief, a ________ is a false sensory impression, and a ________ is a         distorted perception of a real physical event.  Choose from among/between ___________                 delusion/hallucination/illusion.

13.  Be discreet/discrete ________ when talking to your professors about whether you read the             textbook or not.

14.  I hope the judge in my speeding ticket case is disinterested/uninterested _______________.

15.  In our experiment, we used a food prompt to elicit/illicit hunger.

16.  PhD students are expected to conduct exhaustive/exhausted ___________ reviews of the relevant      research in their fields and be completely familiar with the extant/extent _____________                 literature.

17.  Pharmacologically speaking, amphetamine is classified as a stimulant/stimulus ______________.

18.  That which you can call to mind rather easily when you try to is said to be in the subconscious/             unconscious ____________ mind while that which you cannot recall at all under normal               circumstances is in your unconscious/subconscious ______________ mind.

19.  Color is a qualitative/quantitative _____________ variable while height is a quantitative/qualitative       ___________ variable.

20.  The principal/principle _______________ investigator of the study is sick today.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Writing Class Quiz

I give my students in the Writing in Psychology class a lot of quizzes. They work as motivators and also to keep information fresh in their minds. Here's the first half of one of the longer quizzes I give. I will post the second half and the answers in the next day or so.


1.  The drug’s principle/principal ____________ effect/affect ________ was to lower blood pressure.

2.  John willed his effects/affects ___________ to his horse.

3.  I ___________, you ___________ (choose from imply/infer)

4.  The patient’s affect/effect _________ was flattened.

5.  The drugs affected/effected _______________ his balance.

6.  Just between/among ________________ you and me….

7.  Discuss Freudian and Jungian theories by comparing/contrasting ______________ their similarities.

8.  Can you counsel/council __________ me on which classes to take?

9.  I am confident/confidant _________ that I know the difference among/between ______ mammals,     reptiles, and amphibians.

10. Covert/overt can be thought of as being “undercover” or out in the “open.”  T.    F.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Aimed for the Heart; Hit the Stomach

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was published in 1906. It was set in Chicago and was Sinclair’s sixth novel, if I’m reading my history right. It was certainly Sinclair’s breakout novel and helped to usher in some profound changes to the way the meat industry in America worked. That wasn’t Sinclair’s purpose in writing the book though. He primarily wanted to illustrate the horrible plight of the “wage slave” in America, and I thought he succeeded very well. Along the way, while making that point, Sinclair spent a few pages talking about horrible, unsanitary conditions in the meat packing industry. It was those pages that produced an uproar. Sinclair remarked: “I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

Here are my thoughts on the book itself, and be warned that there are spoilers ahead. First, while the pacing is slower than most modern books, I thought it moved darn fast for the period. I’ve shelved the book as a “classic,” but maybe I should cross list it as horror since it is definitely a brutally horrific novel.

Jurgis Rudkus is a Lithuanian immigrant who comes to Chicago with his family in search of a better life. He is healthy, vigorous, strong, and hopeful, and he is steadily broken by the wheel of industry as it casually grinds him and his family into pulp. The corruption of the housing market, the dreadful and dangerous work in the factories, the lack of proper sanitation and adulterated milk and food, all work insidiously to destroy member after member of Jurgis’s family. Jurgis himself survives, but only as every love and illusion is stripped from him. The story reminded me a great deal of the tale of Job from the Bible.

The book is fiction of course, but Sinclair spent quite a few weeks in Chicago while researching the book. He lived among the working class during that time, and while the pattern of events that happen to Jurgis do not describe any single person, they do reflect real things that happened to real people in those days. Overall, the book is a searing indictment of the greed and corruption that can be found in a Capitalist economic system, particularly when that system is allowed to run itself with scarcely any government oversight.

The one misstep in the book comes at the end, I thought, and it has to do with Sinclair’s “searing” indictment. Sinclair was a Socialist, or what we would more likely call a Communist these days. At the end of the book we find Jurgis given new hope and vigor by his exposure to the socialist party. The last couple of chapters of the book are an outright ode to the glory to be had by the working man if he but joins the Socialist party. In reality, of course, while Communism seems like a good plan in theory, it can easily end up as brutal as any Capitalist system. It’s not the system that is truly at fault; it is the people who run these systems, people who are full of greed and care nothing for the lives of those they exploit. This is why in any system there needs to be a series of checks and balances. Far too many humans are not to be trusted with unfettered power.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ron Scheer

A very fine man has left us. Ron Scheer has died. It is at times like this that I realize how truly inadequate words are. But they are the tools we have. 

I did not meet Ron in real life. I knew him from the blogging world. I first came to know him because he had interests like mine in western literature. From that commonality sprang a sense of friendship. I visited his blog day after day, not just to read his writings about western fiction, which were erudite and insightful, but to take a few moments to visit with him on this new world's front porch. 

In that virtual world, Ron lived just down the dirt road from me. I knew what he looked like. I knew how he talked. I knew his opinions and felt his kindness. I was his friend, and I miss him.

There are more words about Ron, including some from his wife, Lynda, over at David Cranmer's blog

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Adventures of an Arkansawyer, Ebook

Well, Adventures of an Arkansawyer is finally out in ebook. You can save about $5 on it if you prefer electronic format over print. This is my memoir up to the time I left Arkansas. Eventually there will be a second installment that covers post-Arkansas memories. I’m pretty sure that one will be called “Tales of An ArkansawTraveller.”

It’s clear in the book description that the first third of this book is a revised and expanded version of the Days of Beer ebook. The last two-thirds are all new and true adventures set mostly around and about the farm where I grew up. So if you already have “Days of Beer,” keep this in mind.

Among the new pieces that very few people are likely to have seen are such tales as: “Be Careful What You Ask For,” which reveals the time my grandfather tried to kill me, Snake Charmer, in which I introduced my mom to a pet grass snake at the dinner table, and “Of Cats, Kittens, and Coon Hounds,” in which a feral cat came to visit and was met with staunch resistance from our resident pack of Coon Hounds. (Remember, the vast majority of these stories, while real, are at least slightly “tongue-in-cheek.”

If anyone is interested, the Amazon link is here.


Saturday, April 04, 2015

Journaling: Part 2

I started my journal as a way of keeping up with the work I was doing toward advancing my writing goals. I used it as a motivator and it worked wonderfully at a time when I needed the kick in the pants.

As I mentioned last post, however, I began, over time, to add more information into the journal about personal things and the events of my life. Recently, I went back and reread my journal entries from 1993 through 2011. (I don’t have the strength yet for 2012). I found some things that were interesting to me, and perhaps only to me. But I’ll share them here anyway. J

First, I learned that you almost never get good news without corresponding bad news. There has almost never been a time when I got really good writing news without it corresponding closely with really bad news. For example, when I got my first payment and first copies for my first book, Cold in the Light, my first wife was in the hospital. She was also in the hospital on the day I found out I was nominated for the Rhysling Award. On the evening before I was to have my first signing for Cold in the Light, my Mom had to be taken to the emergency room. She as in the operating room getting a pacemaker put in at the time I was supposed to be signing. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to the signing. There are dozens of other examples I could give, but that would probably sound like whining and I’m sure most everyone has the same kind of experiences. I imagine, though, that this is the main reason why, today, I never experience any surge of pleasure over an acceptance or publication. I do, however, get a surge of pleasure when people read and enjoy one of my stories or books.

Second, I learned that my appetite for spending long hours working on projects was rather prodigious when I was younger. I’ve put in a lot of 8 to 10 hour days at Xavier doing school work, and then put in another few hours writing after I got home. I’m rather proud of myself for that. My brothers used to regularly call me lazy when we were growing up. I think I’ve proved them wrong. Although, these days I sure do want to be lazy, and physically I’m just not capable of those long hours anymore.

Third, I’ve learned that walks through nature are essential for my sanity. I do a lot of thinking while I’m walking, and a lot of planning for stories. But I need to be away from people and among the trees when I do so. I’m sure this is a legacy of having grown up on a farm and spending long, long hours hiking through the woods and across the fields while I imagined the most fantastic scenarios in my head.

Fourth, I’ve rediscovered how precious my son Josh, and my wife Lana, are to me. There are plenty of other people in the world I care about, but those two are the reason why I keep going.