Tag Archive: gloom

Clark Ashton Smith, The Crawling Chaos, Artistry

Artistry

Bow down, I am the emperor of dreams. - Clark Ashton Smith
my pre-ramble… :-)

Letter From Clark Ashton Smith About Crawling Chaos And Art - April 14th, 1937

Letter From Clark Ashton Smith About Crawling Chaos And Art

While doing some link rot checking using the Broken Link Checker plugin I came across this old post which is about an old edited letter from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) to August Derluth.

A screenshot is at left – click to enlarge or see the original here.  CAS tells about the creation of The Crawling Chaos by the two authors, showing a natural deference for his friend, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (HPL).

Some people may know that CAS also sculpted, from soapstone if my memory is correct.  The letter mentions some of this, but mainly describes a gripe that all artists have – now, quoting directly from CAS, emphasised & paragraphed for web clarity by me…

I am pleased to hear that the sculptures continue to attract so much favorable attention. I am writing to Sloane, and offering him a copy of The Double Shadow if he hasn’t seen it. . . . On second thought, I’ll mail him an inscribed one anyway.

As to a volume of my stuff, I suppose there is no harm in trying, It makes me pretty sick to remember that at least five publishers asked HPL to submit story-material for a possible book and then turned it down.

It is curious how ready people are to admit the worth of a writer after he is dead, and how goddamned cautious they are about it while he remains alive. Death seems to bring about a sort of crystallization, so to speak. . . .

As for me. I am pretty tough, and come of a hardy and long-lived ancestry. I’ll survive my present difficulties. What the future holds, I am not sure. But I have made up my mind to quit California at the earliest possible date.

Plugging Away

So CAS just kept plugging away.  He never had any money, yet mysteriously, I’ve read nearly all his stuff!!  The bulk of this was some time ago when Panther published stacks of compilations by HPL, CAS and many others.  But, just as CAS mused, he was dead by the time I read them…

The original issues had wonderfully mystical, sometimes horrible, artwork by Bruce Pennington….

Crawling Chaos

When the band (The Crawling Chaos) was formed, it was just Jeff Crowe, Keith Wear & myself.  We all read and devoured everything to do with The Cthulu Mythos – and more! [e.g for myself it led me to Lord Dunsany, Robert Heinlein, Frederik Pohl, Philip K Dick, Daniel Keyes & the rest of SF]

Genius Loci cover

Genius Loci cover

In particular, since there’s only a few folks that now know this, Keith took it upon himself to copy the whole Bruce Pennington cover for the 1st Panther book version of CAS’s Genius Loci.

I scanned my book some time ago and cleaned away the title etc just leaving the work. That’s it, left.

Bedroom Wall

So…….Keith copied the key guts of the thing onto his bedroom wall in Ashington!  The whole wall…

You can see his copy as part of the cover for our first recorded output, Magnum Innoninandum (sic) here:

Crawling Chaos - Magnum Innoninandum (cassette cover)

Crawling Chaos – Magnum Innoninandum (cassette cover)

The original (nicked at Tynemouth) drumkit is there as well as the really noisy HH amp, Jeff’s record player, speakers & discs on the floorof his mum’s living room. Keith did the cover.

The Black Abbott of Puthuum

Genius Loci also includes one of my favourite CAS passages in the description of the Black Abbott.  (I think my favourite story has to be “The Coming of the White Worm“, but that’s for another time).  Anyway, here’s the bit about the black abbott blokey…

To add to their distress, the terrain grew rougher and steeper, and they climbed acclivitous hillsides and went down endlessly into drear valleys. Anon they came to a flat, open, pebbly space. There, all at once, it seemed that the pandemonium of evil noises drew back on every hand, receding and fading into faint, dubious whispers that died at a vast remove. Simultaneously, the circling night thinned out, and a few stars shone in the welkin, and the sharp-spined hills of the desert loomed starkly against a vermilion afterglow. The travelers paused and peered wonderingly at one another in a gloom that was no more than that of natural twilight.

“What new devilry is this?” asked Cushara, hardly daring to believe that the hellish leaguers had vanished.

“I know not,” said the archer, who was staring into the dusk.” “But here, mayhap, is one of the devils.”

The others now saw that a muffled figure was approaching them, bearing a lit lantern made of some kind of translucent horn. At some distance behind the figure, lights appeared suddenly in a square dark mass which none of the party had discerned before. This mass was evidently a large building with many windows.

The figure, drawing near, was revealed by the dim yellowish lantern as a black man of immense girth and tallness, garbed in a voluminous robe of saffron such as was worn by certain monkish orders, and crowned with the two-horned purple hat of an abbot. He was indeed a singular and unlooked-for apparition: for if any monasteries existed amid the barren reaches of Izdrel, they were hidden and unknown to the world. Zobal, however, searching his memory, recalled a vague tradition he had once heard concerning a chapter of negro monks that had flourished in Yoros many centuries ago. The chapter had long been extinct, and the very site of its monastery was forgotten. Nowadays there were few blacks anywhere in the kingdom, other than those who did duty as eunuchs guarding the seraglios of nobles and rich merchants

The animals began to display a certain uneasiness at the stranger’s approach.

“Who art thou?” challenged Cushara, his fingers tightening on the haft of his weapon.

The black man grinned capaciously, showing rows of discolored teeth whose incisors were like those of a wild dog. His enormous unctuous jowls were creased by the grin into folds of amazing number and volume; and his eyes, deeply slanted and close together, seemed to wink perpetually in pouches that shook like ebon jellies. His nostrils flared prodigiously; his purple, rubbery lips drooled and quivered, and he licked them with a fat, red, salacious tongue before replying to Cushara’s question. [isn’t this bit amazing? – SP]

“I am Ujuk, abbot of the monastery of Puthuum,” he said, in a thick voice of such extraordinary volume that it appeared almost to issue from the earth under his feet. “Methinks the night has overtaken you far from the route of travelers. I bid you welcome to our hospitality.”

So, buy the book, or read the whole story here.

Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams?

(clue – “The Hashish Eater”)
Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-colored sun
Of secret worlds incredible, and take
Their trailing skies for vestment when I soar….

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Dr Who and the Death of Self

Galaxies in Coma Berenices

Galaxies in Coma Berenices

Each one of the fuzzy white bits in the photo above is a galaxy containing billions of stars and thus many, many life-forms, all at various stages of evolutionThis statement is derived from the work of thousands of intellectuals using the powers of observation and deduction available to us all.

Journey's End (Doctor Who)

Journey's End (Doctor Who)

Tonight there was a show highlighting bits of the top BBC show, Doctor Who.

It was a reminder, for me, of the most cataclysmic scene, from the final (proper) episode called Journey’s End, where “The Doctor”  has to wipe the mind of Donna, his companion, to save herself from going mad.  (this was because she’d inherited his Time-Lord powers in the picture here, which are too much for a human).

Flowers For Algernon (S.F. Masterworks) (Paperback )by Daniel Keyes

Flowers For Algernon (S.F. Masterworks) (Paperback )by Daniel Keyes

This scene I can fully empathise with because of my own experience of an under-active thyroid gland which removed my powers of intellect and concentration, and almost removed my concept of “self”, before I was diagnosed.  At the time, when I was recovering, I called it my “Flowers for Algernon” experience.

“Flowers for Algernon” is an all-time great science fiction story.  Charlie Gordon, the story-telling diarist, like Donna Noble in Doctor Who, and like myself earlier, we were all crushingly aware of the powers we once had, but now were losing, visibly.

Socrates

Socrates

In many respects, it’s much worse than death.  People sometimes worry about death and try not to think about it, hoping it will go away.  Myself, I’ve always pondered it, sometimes to gloomy distraction.  It’s like the great unknown.

Socrates said;

Ordinary people seem not to realize that those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death.

With this, I fully agree, and can thus explain away my gloomy dallyings with the words of one of the greatest thinkers of all time.

Nichiren, the Buddhist monk of a later age said;

Life at each moment permeates the entire realm of phenomena and is revealed in all phenomena. To be awakened to this principle is itself the mutually inclusive relationship of life at each moment and all phenomena. – WND page 3, On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime

I think that with this in mind, for my next existence I’ll go somewhere different to this Earth….

Since I’ve been born I’ve always felt ‘old’, as if I’m returning here to ‘fix’ something, a devoir-faire.

Maybe I’ll be in these red centres of creation, a truly glorious image emphasising the hydrogen clouds.

"Mountains of Creation" by Spitzer. These towering pillars of cool gas and dust are illuminated at their tips with light from warm, embryonic stars.  The pillars in the Spitzer image are part of a region called W5, in the Cassiopeia constellation 7,000 light-years away and 50 light-years across. In the image, hundreds of forming stars (white/yellow) can seen for the first time inside the central pillar, and dozens inside the tall pillar to the left.

"Mountains of Creation" by Spitzer. These towering pillars of cool gas and dust are illuminated at their tips with light from warm, embryonic stars. The pillars in the Spitzer image are part of a region called W5, in the Cassiopeia constellation 7,000 light-years away and 50 light-years across. In the image, hundreds of forming stars (white/yellow) can seen for the first time inside the central pillar, and dozens inside the tall pillar to the left.

It’s truly a great privilege to be able to go out on an evening and stare at our night sky and the Milky Way, pondering on the gems that must exist, both in front of our eyes and those ones hidden by vast distance.

Our Milky Way by Spitzer Telescope - click for source page with VERY high resolution pictures!

Our Milky Way by Spitzer Telescope - click for source page with VERY high resolution pictures!

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Nice Car -such a Shame.

New Jaguar XJ

New Jaguar XJ

New Jaguar XJ

In common with most cars like this, it’s a lovely looking machine – a style marvel; sleek and vapid, mercurial.

It’s also a waste of space and a waste of effort.

It’s two tonnes of mass for a 400kg payload is pants.  An ecological disaster zone.

Money for Old Rope

New York Congestion

New York Congestion

Not only that, with the firm reputably losing £1m per day, it’s cost of >£50k to a tad under £90k means that 10-20 will need to be sold each day just to cover that loss, without any pretence at covering their own manufacturing costs.

Utah Congestion

Utah Congestion

Tata, it’s Indian owner paid $2.3bn for the company.  Now the UK and Europe are being asked to bail it out for £300m to keep the 15k workers in jobs and preserve the veneer of a static environmental world, bathed in an everlasting sea of fossil fuel.  Ravi Kant sees profits in two years…

Worldwide, Jaguar sold ~65k cars in 2008.  Most luxury makers are seeing sales drops of  at least 20% for each of the last two years.  Many barely made money even in the good times!! This figure covers some fuzz though.  Because these 65k cars cost from ~£20k to ~£80k, a simple like-for-like calculation cannot be made.  The intention is to drop some models next year in favour of the more expensive car.  So 65k cars again?

I don’t think so.  Call it 50k cars.

Melbourne, Australia congestion

Melbourne, Australia congestion

The irony isn’t just in the financial gloss applied to make it appear that Shangri-La is returning very soon;  a bizarre hope exists of a ‘business as usual’ scenario, when we can repeat the whole cycle again.

The irony is in the design of the vehicle, it’s presentation to the public, and the public’s perception of the machine as a desirable status symbol, swooping over life’s problems like fuel shortages, the congestion of our urban sprawls and speed limits.

The Jaguar website provides full technical specifications for the vehicle, which show it to have good acceleration and economy.  They fail to point out that the standard laws of physics mean these aren’t at the same time…

Jaguar cub

Bored young Jaguar

The slow-motion pictures at the beginning of the launch video aren’t slow at all.  This is real-time speed in a traffic queue, the place where the vehicle will spend most of it’s travelling life.

And whenever the Jaguar owner feels like opening it up to it’s 155mph limited maximum, hopefully they’ll be reassured that it’s lightweight, rivetted aluminium structure is stronger than that of the similarly shiny, magnesium and aluminium Mercedes which was in this crash below, at only 125mph.

The point is that rapid transport itself is a luxury.  Although we in the West have become accustomed to ever cheaper travel of all types, this has been at the expense of the future.  Like the credit crunch, we are “leveraging” today’s resources against tomorrows expectations of a miracle.  The pot of black gold isn’t bottomless, but the continuing production of anachronisms like this beautiful car, seeks only to deceive us that it is.

The only miracle will be if people see the truth that they’ve been living in a dream world for the past century.   In the 35,000 years of human existence, these last hundred are but a plip in a pond.

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Paris Cycles Meet the BBC’s Forces of Negativity

Paris Cycles Freely with Loaded Questions and Answers

In Buddhism, there’s a concept called the forces of negativity which is inherent to the whole universe – but especially when applied to living sentient beings like ourselves.

VelibThese negative forces are extremely apparent when the Velib Cycle Scheme in Paris is considered.  We have:

  • The initial doubts about cycling in general
  • Doubts about the success of the scheme
  • Doubts about the cost
  • Negative reporting about the current state of the scheme  – Thefts puncture Paris bike scheme

It’s this last one, the BBC report that I’ll examine.

These are the bald statistics gloomily reported in the BBC article:

PARIS CYCLE SCHEME IN NUMBERS
20,000 bicycles
1,250 stations
Cost 400 euros each to replace
7,800 “disappeared”
11,600 vandalised
1,500 daily repairs
Staff recover 20 abandoned bikes a day
Each bike travels 10,000 km a year
42 million users since launch
Source: Velib

The point is that we now have a climate of gloom where all reporters are seemingly in competition to see who can make the worst-sounding news!

We see it in the herd behaviour of stock marketteers and the current financial and industrial crisis.

The whole tenor of the article is that:

  • the scheme is crap,
  • Parisians aren’t to be trusted (because other cities like Lyons have similar schemes or are going to, like London),
  • and the whole thing is a waste of money.

My take on it is:

Let’s look at the benefits!

  • I see 8k bikes lost which have done 15k km since inception and cost 400 Euros (3.2m Euros, which in the current banking props is less than peanuts)
  • This is a distance cost of 37.5km per Euro – which compares favourably with an average car’s fuel consumption!
  • But no fuel is used!!!
  • In fact, this cost is about the same as the annual cost for a set of tyres for a 4×4 (I only compared fuel costs above, not total running costs)
  • I see a cost of 2100 journeys per bike – many of which would have been otherwise done in cars, taxis etc.
  • In fact I see huge savings in CO2 emissions all round, and that, in reality, is the prime thing anyone can do to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and possibly slow the exponential growth in the temperature of our world.

Other Info:

For a positive view of the Velib scheme from someone who’s actually used it, see The Impending Failure of San Francisco’s Pilot Bike Share Program.  Matthew Roth however, seems disenchanted with the prospects for a similar scheme in San Francisco.  Like I said, it’s the reporting that’s gloomy and suspect.  Read the BBC article and see how positive a slant is given to the impending San Francisco scheme, negative to the Parisian scheme, and compare to Matthew’s on-the-spot take….

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Encountering Hungarian and British Dharma

I’ve just been reading this fascinating book, Encountering the Dharma: Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Gakkai, and the Globalization of Buddhist Humanism
by a non-Buddhist, Richard Seager, who gives a really good, well-balanced investigation into Buddhism, the Soka Gakkai (SGI) and it’s meteoric rise in popularity under the inspirational personas of Makiguchi, Toda and Ikeda.
Well you’d expect it to be so as the author is a distinguished professor of religion.
Basically, he describes all of our quests for meaning during his own investigation into self and meaning following the death of his wife.

And now to the guts of it.

I’ve done the bulk of this reading on a few KLM flights to Austria and back. While in Austria, I hopped on a train to Hungary. Until this point my knowledge of Hungary was carped up with a vague unease of a police state, trains rattling across the night with spies and passport checks at every turn and labour camps for undesirables.
Not so.
What a jolly lot!  Don’t let the gloomy picture confuse you – the camera lies all the time and the cakes were delicious!

Hungarian Cake Shop in Spron

Hungarian Cake Shop in Sopron

In fact by the time I returned to snowed-up, icy England, I was full of the warmth of humanity, their helpfulness and willingness to share.

Volte Face!

Welcome to England.

Oh how the tables have turned, the twists and turns of circumstance and fate – or more likely the rampant paranoia that exists in the UK.

The UK is now like my previous vision of Hungary and the Iron Curtain. Now, I enter Britain, with my British passport, issued by British passport control (now an “agency”). It’s all so high-tech, it’s all so cute and efficient.

Is it fuck!

I’m now going to write to wacky backy jacky, asking her why anyone in the state needs to know what I’ve been doing in Europe. Because that’s what they asked me on my return, with my British passport as I entered Britain. Despite cross-border harmonisation and absolute, 100% signed-up freedom of movement, working and habitation since 1992, UK passport control wanted to know where and why I’d been – in EU Europe!

Funnily enough, no-one at Schipol, or Vienna or in Hungary asked that. When they saw my passport and that my astonishingly attractive visage matched that within the passport they let me through.

Not so in Britain. The fact that the passport that they issued isn’t good enough to let me in without asking for my previous life history beggars belief in a free state.

All the trans-national I.T. checks, up and down your journey – don’t count…

But there’s worse. Everyone with a UK passport check page 1. Inside the cover. There, plain as day, it says that THE QUEEN, her Brittannic Majesty, requests free passage on production of the passport to the holder…

without let or hindrance

– but we are let and we get hindered and treated as criminals for freely moving across borders that should have been accessible for 17 years now!

Eisenstadt Jewish Cemetery

Eisenstadt Jewish Cemetery

I’m not on about airplane bomb checks and the searches which are almost universally as smooth and as dignified as possible now. I’m on about entering my country of birth with a valid passport.

Will it get better with ID Cards? – will it fuck!

So, to repeat the words of Sir Ken Macdonald, former DPP;

“The tendency of the state to seek ever more powers of surveillance over its citizens may be driven by protective zeal. But the notion of total security is a paranoid fantasy which would destroy everything that makes living worthwhile. We must avoid surrendering our freedom as autonomous human beings to such an ugly future. We should make judgments that are compatible with our status as free people.”

And now to get back to little Eisenstadt in the Bergenland in Austria where I stayed. As a direct link to history, the above phrase is extremely pertinent.
Eisenstadt has two Jewish cemeteries, but no Jews.

Under the paranoid laws of 71 years ago, 466 civilians were carted off to the gas chambers. It’s their ancestors in the graves in Eisenstadt. They have no descendants.
Normal everyday people sent them on their way. I’ve met their descendants.

My point is that it’s the chip, chip, chipping away at common sense and sensibilities that’s the danger to us all.

  • I want to be able to enter my country with my passport produced by my government without further interrogation. They have no right to know anything about my travels in this or any other EU state. It’s absolutely none of their business.
  • I think people should read Seagar’s book and many others like it
  • I think people should visit Jewish cemeteries in ordinary Austrian towns – Eisenstadt isn’t special, that’s the horror
  • And I think people should closely question the things done by our government in our name. Our freedom is at stake.

See also jacqui-smith-paranoid-fantasist

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