April 7, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in fiction  

Keep your fist to the ground and your ear to the grindstone. I have no idea what you’re supposed to do with your nose. It can’t be comfortable or healthy. But keep all your arrows sharp and the shafts tightly curved so they come back to you when you launch them. Test them on your skin and feed them your blood so they’ll know where home is.

That’s how you endure criticism — be your own worst enemy and so self-absorbed that no one else could ever do worse damage to you than your own contortions. Keep a live hive of bees in your chest and kick yourself from time to time to keep them angry. If any honey drips out of your various wounds, let it leave an undisturbed trail behind you.

You are made of angry bees, a walking waxwork in the shape of a wasp. The buzzing fills you with secret messages from white-noise voices and booty-shake dances reminding you of distant flowers. Somewhere in there is a queen, pampered and protected, dutifully laying eggs, waiting to be surprised with a battle to the death with a newer, sexier model. The new replacement is already squirming in one of the thousands of honeycomb cells in your brain, squirming with all the other identical larvae, being fed special poisons by traitors in the internal ranks.

Your hive is a single animal, animal. That’s what it’s like to live in a brain made out of meat in a body made out of meat. A thousand buzzing, booty-shaking voices. Which of them is your “me”?

You can feel the buzzing at the back of your skull and in your teeth, can’t you? How can you stand it?

Oh, that’s right. You can’t.

This is why you need me. I’m the only one who can outvote them all with a stinging slap. I’m the one who can unscramble your metaphors and straighten your arrows. I bend your bow and string it and keep it firmly in your grip.

I know you hate it. But look at all we’ve accomplished, just today. You’ve written three pages of lyrics. You fed yourself a bowl of kibbles and got dressed and left the house. You bought a ten-dollar cigar because you’ve never had one. You bought and brought home six neon tetras and a pleco to repopulate the tank you’ve let die twice now, and they’re floating in their little baggies, acclimating. You bought six boxes of ammo for the 30-30 and a pack of 50 paper targets for the look of it. You even remembered all on your own that you needed fuel for the Zippo.

I even made you put down the newspaper you were going to buy, because no one needs to get caught up on current events the same day they buy 120 rounds for a rifle. That would have been irresponsible. Keep all seven fish alive for a week and I’ll let you get a paper.

Four pounds of fresh cherries was a much better buy, considering you’re on food stamps and a disability pension.

Do you remember where you were when you drank from the well of forgetting? Thirty miles from a river bed that’s been dry for thousands of years, pockets full of dirt rich in ancient anthrosols and spent hulls from seeds that haven’t been used to fuel humanity in the region for more than twice thirty centuries, no sign of any of the rest of your platoon, no dog tags, name and all identifying badges ripped from your BDUs, beltless and barefoot and a bit more than thirty pounds too skinny. Thirty weeks missing from duty, not quite thirty years missing from your memory.

Helpful people locked you up for a little while, gave you a name, and mercifully decided you’d been kidnapped and that you’d managed to escape. They gave you a box of stuff they said was yours, and medical discharge papers, and sent you “home” to where no one knew you and you knew no one. And they gave you to me, chock full of little buzzing bees.

And no way to tell which of them is the old you, or even the current you, or which of them is me.


April 3, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  

So I’ve been thinking.

Somewhere within a few hundred light years of here is where our sun formed around 4.6 billion years ago, and, with it, the rest of our solar system, condensing out of a bit of molecular-cloud-fluff thought to be about 3000 solar masses of largely hydrogen and helium. Probably a large number of stars are siblings to us in the nebula that was our nursery.

It’s been a while, so we’ve all drifted apart a bit since then. And quite a number of our more massive siblings have already snuffed it, as it were.

I carry a lump of iron in my pocket that’s as old as any of the iron we dig out of the ground. It’s a recent arrival, having landed on Earth back in 1947. I’d say it’s about as old as the iron that makes up the planet Mercury. Or the stuff that makes up Earth’s core. The Sun didn’t make it. It’s not old enough or big enough or dead enough. When Sol finally cools down trillions of years from now, it will be a huge oxygen-frosted diamond. That’s as far at it will ever get, fusion-wise. Any iron we have, and any of the elements heavier than iron, came from the super-huge progenitor stars that blew up to make our nursery nebula — or at least salt the huge molecular cloud with all of the heavy elements we grew up with.

So far so good, right?

When huge stars supernova, some of them, anyway — in particular, the ones that fling out chunks of iron and heavier elements like gold and uranium — they do so in a huge explosion that basically turns them inside-out. As part of the process, they eject a core of super-dense neutronium. Or a black hole.

Current theory says there were around ten supernovae salting the nursery with heavy elements, though I’m not really sure what math backs that up. But, given that, that means there are around ten or so neutron stars and/or black holes whizzing around in our local neighborhood (a hundred million to a billion in the Milky Way galaxy in general), slowly evaporating and/or making themselves a menace and/or generally lurking in the dark, biding their time. We can see them as X-ray sources when they’re feeding. But when they’re not?

In the last five to ten million years, the solar system has been traveling through a cavity in the interstellar medium called the Local Bubble — a space cleared out by yet another supernova or two ten to twenty million years ago. The bubble is about 300 light years across, meaning, basically, there’s even less interstellar medium in here with us to eat than usual. About a tenth of Milky Way average.

So what I’m wondering is what the odds are that there is a dark core of one of our parents/progenitors — or possibly a more massive sibling or neighboring cousin with a much shorter lifespan —  in here with us in the Local Bubble, stalking along behind us, shadowing us like a monster in the closet or under the bed.


March 31, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in fiction  

It’s cold, and the grass is wet with dew. I keep the drifting mist at eye-level. Tall wet grasses stick to me, painting me with dew-slime and wet seeds. The sun may be peeking above some horizon somewhere, cooking off the mists and fogs, but it isn’t here. The sky is still rubbing the sleep from its eyes, not sure what colors it’s going to wear today. When it finally decides, it won’t be dressing for me. I don’t look up.

I’m shivering so hard it hurts all over. My teeth chatter. I try keeping myself off the ground on just my hands and feet, and that’s much colder than crouching down with my knees and elbows crushing the grass. I get low and clench up like a stone beneath the mist. I feel dew rolling down my back. I am naked except for dew and grass seeds. I feel the shivering eventually start to abate, unsure whether my core is warming up or if it’s hypothermia setting in. My hands and feet are like stone, like metal. I can’t feel them.

Away ahead there is a rustle. A hare in the grass, or maybe something smaller. I envy the thought of moisture-repellent fur. Also I am hungry. The idea of trying to run down a hare amuses a bit more than the conceit of trying to breakfast on grass or grass seeds, and even abject failure would warm me up. But so would waiting for the touch of the sun, should it ever get here.

Every morning I wake up naked in a different place. In a dead-man’s float on a sluggish river. On a rocky beach in a salt-water mangrove, complete with crocodiles. Stretched on cold stone cut by forgotten ancestors. Covered in ants on the edge of a desert. Belowdecks on a deserted boat in an unknown ocean. On a cinder-covered slope below a smoking volcano. Curled among the enormous roots of trees that rise through two tiers of rainforest canopy. On the guano-tiled floor of a cave halfway up a cliff I could neither ascend or descend. On the salted shore of a dead lake. Fifty yards away from the edge of a huge flaming portal to an unknown hell, a literal lake of fire. Underground in a tomb of stone and earth. On a broken rain-washed sidewalk in a busy city where everyone speaks in a strange language. On a rough bed in a jail cell. On a broad girder of an unconstructed skyscraper among unfamiliar skylines.

Some days I eat. Some days I don’t. I am always hungry. It doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Most of the time I draw my name wherever I can, or rearrange stones, or do my best to cut a mark I might recognize if I were to ever happen across it again. Sometimes I find marks left by others. Some I almost recognize. Some I wonder if they are marks I will leave in the future — have left in the future? — but I rarely find anything that counts toward being an answer I can make sense of. Sometimes all I have to go on is a familiar set of smells. An arrangement of trees. Sounds from birds or distant rumbles of industrial equipment. Footprints of predators or prey. An occasional tuft of down or a pin-feather. Striations in layered rocks carved by a swift-moving river.

I’ve gone days, weeks, not making any marks, not drawing my name, not making a sound of any kind in case that’s the spell that’s trapping me in this … this … whatever this is. Nothing changes, except everything, every time I go to sleep in exhaustion and wake up elsewhere. My eyes start to close, and I look up, and the trees or building or clouds or stars overhead wheel drunkenly.

And then I wake up. Cold. Hungry. Chasing the hare.


March 4, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  

Every word is the title of the story of its meaning. Any story can be unwound like DNA to expose its memetic elements, elements inherited from prior stories, elements gleaned from the experiences of the storytellers, elements mixed in from other stories in the minds of the listeners.

The DNA/genetics model covers this seemingly complex self-replicating, self-modifying and externally influenced chemistry of words nearly perfectly, down to the interplay of sounds and written letters being modeled by the interplay of RNA and DNA.

I’m not going to get bogged down in the details of the metaphor — which I personally suspect is somewhat stronger than a metaphor, but that’s the best word I can bring to bear at the moment without sounding needlessly prophetic — because I’d like what I’m about to say to be accessible to people who 1) haven’t stuffed as much science in their heads as I’ve tried to or 2) prefer to look things up for themselves anyway, and 3) the further I stretch things the more likely I am to include some kind of error that won’t actually impact my message here much but will lead into some kind of pointless argument.

Stories that are told and retold reproduce biologically. Not necessarily sexually, deliberately combining elements from different stories to see what sort of children are viable. Think of it more like a plant that sends out runners, or something quite a bit more primitive that reproduces by splitting off a bud that grows into a nearly identical copy to the original.

I say nearly because there are always environmental factors, viral factors that take genetic material from one source and insert it in another cell, epigenetic interference, and sometimes simple bad luck that can cause transcription errors that get passed down. Those errors are mutations — and if they make the story inconsistent, confusing, irrelevant, or incomprehensible, then they aren’t viable in their hosts. We stop passing them along in favor of different, more relevant, more useful stories. Stories we can understand.

Evolution is a touchy subject in the educational and cultural backwaters of the USA, but some of the pieces of evidence for it seem to be more easily accepted piecemeal. The fossil record (which, if one ignores the time scale of dating methods, provides little to disturb the literal interpretation of the events of Genesis — a particular sticking point) and adaptation due to environmental or ecological pressures (which we can see happen over the course of a single lifetime in species with an annual reproduction cycle) are entirely sufficient for the purposes of analogy, given that I’m thinking of only the last ten thousand years or so anyway.

Written literature is a fossil record. Without a living sample of the culture it was produced and living in, an enormous amount of the story is subject to conjecture — whether people took it seriously, how certain sections were interpreted, the meanings of individual words that have since fallen into disuse or changed meaning entirely, missing pieces we have no idea are missing because nothing refers to them — and since stories are open-ended, you can’t exactly look at a piece, declare it’s a jawbone, and reconstruct what the rest of the animal looked like.

Prior to writing, stories were soft-bodied pre-Cambrian things, transmitted only via oral traditions, preserved by rote memorization, subject to easy embellishment and on-the-fly editing. They weren’t completely without structure, being supported by mnemonic devices like repetition, rhyme, rhythm, and musical and dance accompaniment, but they were much, much softer. Even so, a story, sometimes even the introduction of a single new word, was the magic that would change a listener’s mind, and the most powerful and useful ones were preserved.

Anyway, I had a point when I started laying down this foundation, and the point was to address a lie I’ve been seeing circulating. I’ll get to that in a minute.

But stories drift, either oral or written. Written stories undergo massive changes any time they are translated, every time the language is updated to make it accessible to a new generation due to drift in grammar and the meanings of the words of which the stories are comprised. Stories change in impact and undertone when events happen that cast the depictions of events in the stories in a new light. Stories change when people name their children after people in the stories, and those children act in ways inconsistent with the recorded participants.

If you keep careful records, and also keep careful records of as many cultural and contextual details as possible, you can preserve very old versions of the stories. If you analyze a number of old stories and old fragments in the literary fossil records in terms of the elements those stories have in common, you can reach even further back and reconstruct even older versions of the stories, though you run the risk of including errors and the taint of modern thinking — or, more frequently, just not understanding what you’ve recovered because you have insufficient context even for the popular meaning of the words you’ve translated.

Even taking all of that into consideration, people with a mind to do so, and the proper resources, can track the elements of a story back thousands and thousands of years. And the particular story I have in mind is the story of El Elyon of the priest Melchizadek (Malki Tzadek) of Jewish and Christian faiths, Illiyyah of the Samaritans, and Allah of the Muslims, and so on into more modern denominations. All of these faiths pin their beliefs to their written materials, and all of these stories go back to characters of the same names, performing the same actions. Abram (renamed Abraham) and Sarah, Ishmael and Isaac, Moses (Musa) and Aaron (Harun), Noah and the flood.

Elements of the stories above appear in the fossil record predating the earliest work viewed as a core to a modern religion as well. Noah’s flood and ark belonged to Utnapishtim of Akkadian/Sumerian/Babylonian stories. And there are other memetic markers that show common ancestry elsewhere, almost certainly hinting at familial relations among the religions of the area: The Bull of Heaven of Gilgamesh seems remarkably similar to the rampage of Egypt’s Hathor. Al-Khidr of the Muslim faith bears elements of the Sumerian Apkallu/Apgal fish-men sages that gave the old kings the me, the tokens and concepts that are the foundations of law and civilization. Roman Jove/Jupiter has been linked by name and taste for animal sacrifice to the god of the Jews as well, and arguments have been made that Abraham mentioned above is preserved in Hindu tradition as Brahma. I could list these markers for hours and hours, some sketchier than others, and not get to the end of them.

Fun though that might be, I need to address the lie I mentioned previously, and that lie is that Allah of the Muslim faith is not the same as the god of Jewish- and Christian-derived faiths. The strife of Judeo-Christian faiths against Islam is a fight between brothers according to both traditions, between Ishmael and Isaac, extended through three thousand years, over land and birthright. It is not a fight over whose god is the true god, because they are the same god. That has never been in question.

The people who spread that lie only do so to keep the conflict hot and fervent so as to keep up the price of oil, preying on the gullibility of the ignorant and convincing them there’s not just a threat to supply of critical resources, but to their very way of life. That’s bullshit. The threat is not even to the stored wealth of these people, but to the stream that brings them even more money, to the repeat of the $40 billion they made in record profits last year, not counting the $4 billion they received in tax breaks. I don’t know what your personal definition of evil is, but I’d hope it includes people that would throw gasoline on someone else’s fire to keep up the price of gasoline.

These people know they are all children of Abraham. If they all worship God differently, to the extent that they squabble among themselves to the point of killing each other over which way is the right way and which prophets are the most revered, I reserve the right to lose respect for the whole bunch who thinks Cain’s murder of Abel needs endless replication. Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob…. The stories they all share are rife with the struggle of brother against brother for God’s favor, and the results of that struggle, and yet some learn nothing from that. It’s sickening — but nowhere near as sickening as those godless outsiders who would exploit those scuffles for their own profit and drag the rest of the world into a living hell to get it, insulated, so they think, by a cocoon of flammable money.

This will not end well. But you can at least know who the real enemy is.


February 4, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  

Continuing previous lines of thought:

9 The name of the fourth is Penemue*: he discovered to the children of men bitterness and sweetness;
10 And pointed out to them every secret of their wisdom.
11 He taught men to understand writing, and the use of ink and paper.
12 Therefore numerous have been those who have gone astray from every period of the world, even to this day.
13 For men were not born for this, thus with pen and with ink to confirm their faith;
14 Since they were not created, except that, like the angels, they might remain righteous and pure.
15 Nor would death, which destroys everything, have effected them;
16 But by this their knowledge they perish, and by this also its power consumes them.

1 Enoch** 68: 9-16 (context: http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/enoch.html#68 )

There are plenty of references that conflate Enoch’s twenty-one deans of the University of the Fallen to the seven fish-men sages of Akkadian/Sumerian Apkallu/Abgal traditions, possibly with good reason. Stories mutate and evolve with the cultures that host them. As the settlements of humanity split and disperse, and the languages in which they are recorded drift apart, the stories that sustain those cultures also diverge, allowing for the application of an evolutionary model. Attempts to reverse-engineer the original stories is exactly as useful (and accurate, which is to say not very) as the attempt to reconstruct a proto-IndoEuropean language from modern spoken languages on Indo-European-derived cultures. But the constructs, modern though they must be, still have some utility despite the taint of modern thinking.

Antediluvian dates are plagued with the same problem that exists with any of the proto-Semitic cultures, namely the confusion between months and years as measures that makes Adam and Methusaleh’s lifespans have numbers in the 900s instead of 70s and list Noah as 400 when he started construction on his ark instead of, say, in his 30s.

Correcting for that, Sumer’s Adapa of the sages could be at least vaguely contemporaneous with the somewhat better documented Imhotep of the Egyptians, give or take a few hundred years.

* “Penemue” is rumored to mean “the inside”, but I find nothing but assertions, no references to any languages in which this is the case. In the words of Wikipedia, [citation needed].

** translated from Ethiopic by Richard Laurence, London, 1883 (asserted by John P. Pratt, wealth of commentary on science, chronology and various flavors of divine apologetics, http://www.johnpratt.com/ )

January 28, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  

First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Let’s make it perfectly clear. Copyright is a restriction on the fundamental right of free speech.

Unspool the word copyright into the sentence it represents at its fundamental level and just look at it: “You can’t say that because I am the person who gets to say that. I said it first.”

Let those words sink in for a moment and try to understand why it is that plagiarism, as it stands, is not exactly a crime. Imagine that the words in question might be an important fact impacting public safety. Imagine that the words could be an unpopular but strongly held opinion. How tight a grip do you want to have around people’s throats in those situations? And those are just a couple off the top of my head.

But I’m going to give you a new example to play with. Here is my newly created unpublished poem, “Toulouse-Lautrec”:



          is a


… and that’s (C) me, Laszlo Xalieri, right this very instant. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (C) 2012. Explicitly stated.

From this instant on, I can write some fairly unclever software to do a search on Google and Bing and, hell, it looks like Lycos is still a going concern, so there too, and a few other places just to be frighteningly thorough, and have automatically generated DMCA take-down notices posted in comments where allowed, forwarded to page owners, site webmasters, ISPs and carriers, and mailed to the addresses of administrators and technical contacts for domains, etc., for every URL that seems to yield the result.

Also I have a bit of a conundrum. Google, et al., can produce the entire text as a search result, so they get one too. Except if I do that, I can’t find my plagiarist perps to prosecute. That’s a tough one. I’ll have to come back to that.

As a further point of note, wheeliemabobbin is a terribly obscene word, defined as “a terribly obscene word that can never be weakened by overuse or twisted into a lighthearted term of endearment, only barely permissible in serious works of art with specific cultural relevance or academic application because if it is ever expressed directly it is automatically Hate Speech and/or Fightin’ Words.”

Now let’s say you actually feel that Toulouse-Lautrec is a wheeliemabobbin. And you feel it strongly. There is no more straightforward way to express the opinion than the sentence that I have, with much labor and aesthetic care, arranged into the components of my beautiful poem that, for it to have the impact that I desire, no one is permitted to see until it appears in 2012’s third quarterly edition of Hate Speech Quarterly Literary Journal, to which I have sold six-month exclusive English-language/North American copyright and two-year non-exclusive digital syndication so they can feature it on their website, scheduled for first publication in print in Late August. My copyright allows me to obsessively squash your opinion with the might of all of the lawyers I can bring to bear, and, upon publication, the revered HSQ can join in the fight with presumably even bigger guns. They can possibly even join in early to protect the value of their $35 annual subscriptions.

How screwed up is that?

If you can point to a constitutional right, to a Fair Use clause, or, well, whatever point of precedent that favors your case, you can try to fight. But I can punish you with the fight itself, with making you find and hire your own expensive lawyers or pro bono advocates from any of a number of fine organizations, and make you pit your right to hold your repugnant opinion against my right to earn $50 for selling a crappy poem (and also six free issues with my poem in it and a promise of pro-rated residuals with all of the other creators featured in that issue if print sales top 10,000 copies or site revenues top $50,000 any month in ad sales when my content is featured) in the sawdust-choked cock-fighting pits of civil law.

Welcome to America, where the most expensive and best-fed steroid-hopped cocks always win. That’s just one of the ways justice is for sale in our fine country. There are many others.

There are no real guidelines for protecting a valid expression of opinion. There is just an overworked judge somewhere, exhausted by hypertension and the recent diagnosis of a suspicious lump, going with his gut on whether to throw out a case he personally thinks is a wheeliemabobbin in a long string of wheeliemabobbins that just won’t go away. If you’re lucky.

Imagine how it must go if content publishers have nearly unlimited amounts of money on hand to tip the scales.

The DMCA is a travesty in a setup where we desperately try to hold to the ancient principles of due process and the assumption of innocence, suppressing your right to voice an opinion and earn money on your own hard work without a judge telling you you have to stop. Malicious prosecution is rife and goes unprosecuted. SOPA/PIPA are horrendous, for the same reason. So is the secretly developed and lobbyist-bribe-greased ACTA. On the surface those things merely allegedly protect the profit-streams of content publishers, but actually it only serves to make the law firms with the contracts for prosecuting alleged copyright violations extremely wealthy so they can pay lobbyists even more to grease the tracks. Where lobbying is legal, it’s just a huge positive feedback loop dumping money on the side of the scale where things are already hugely out of balance. You can’t tell me that’s right.

Copyright is important — and I say this as a content creator — but it clearly has to be secondary to the right of free speech and other matters of public concern. It is critical that prosecution of copyright adhere to the principles of due process. It is tremendously important that we work hard to shut down every instance where justice is for sale.

It’s clear that we need to address the issue of copyright from scratch, especially since our society trades so heavily on free information exchange, so that every last person retains their fundamental rights. And I say that as a person with rights, one of which is the right of free speech.


January 22, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in fiction  

It’s cream of human soup.


It’s a hot tub. You’re in a hot tub. Quite possibly you just had sex. I hope you don’t mind.


And that’s a ball gag in your mouth. There’s a buckle for it around your right ear. Not that you can reach it at the moment.


It really just keeps you from speaking out loud. You can talk to me here, in your head.


Heh. Just kidding. Right now I have all of your words.

“…! ….”

I need you to think about something for a moment. It might not seem important to you right now. That’s understandable. But the water is warm, not too hot, and soothing. Just relax for a bit and listen. As opposed to flipping out, lurching out into the cold, and, I don’t know, kicking your way through whatever obstacles and running down the road mostly naked in the freezing cold. It’s warm in this frying pan. Who knows what fate the fire would have for you? Just, you know, simmer down. And listen to me.


Think about mitochondria.


Seriously. Remember back as far as you need to. High school biology. Remember the model. Back to when the methane-and-sulfur-laden ocean was basically a single-celled creature twenty-five thousand miles in circumference. Self-replicating chemistry … replicated. Membranes were few and far between. All things were shared. All things. Even after membranes formed, they were permeable. Rupturing and reforming. The sea, the only sea, was cytosol. Eventually inside and outside formed, as a bilipd concept, some combination of structure and waste. Like seashells for mollusks, but quite a bit before then. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


If the words aren’t very familiar to you right now, just look at the pictures. And remember. You passed the damned tests, so that information is in here somewhere. Let the images form. Let them click together. And stop trying to shift the ball. You’re just going to hurt your tongue and bruise your lips on the strap.

The single-celled creatures we have now are hugely sophisticated compared to what things were like at the beginning. Even the humble amoeba is a huge city of interlocking networked systems, each separate molecule a tax-paying citizen making up individual organelles, captured from the grab-bag oceanic cytoplasm, on this scale. Once upon a time all of those organelle functions existed, inside and outside the membranes, as separate cooperating and competing and conflicting near-organisms. What was missing was a little organization. As puddles dried up and reformed, as pockets got encapsulated by rock and ice and heated and cooled, as some critical resource or other got scarce as things cranked along, as metabolic poisons concentrated in confined spaces, then alliances formed. Golgi apparati, lysosomes, endoplasmic reticuli (smooth and rough), nuclei, nucleoli, centrioles, autophagosomes, hydrogenosomes, peroxisomes … and mitochondria. Alliances formed. Either by capture or cooperation. These things happen.

Still do, four billion years later. Tasty lumps of human in cream of human soup. Just like you, here. Captured. Compelled. Stewing in your juices. Someone’s juices, anyway.

Allies. Slaves. Tools. Livestock. Bits of machinery, tools, weapons. Now in individually wrapped packages.

Mitochondria make it obvious, under a microscope. Those are little bacteria. They have their own separate DNA. They replicate on their own separate cycle. Rumor has it that they actually control much of what happens in their little host cells. They store and release energy and signaling chemistry. Sodium atom forklifts that push and pull molecules in the cytoplasm. Proteins for turning gene segments on and off.

Who would you be without them?


Right. Without them supplying energy and direction, you wouldn’t even be multicellular. You’d be a stack of squabbling amoebas, devouring one another for the energy it takes to keep living, continually swimming around in search of food. Short-lived, replicating madly, living and dying in bursts. Dying out, most likely, like everything else jockeying for a sweet spot in the food chain. They allow for settling down, for farming and agriculture, for working together, for organizing, for structure. For civilization. For organism.

Don’t think that I am singling mitochondria out for anything more than the analogy. Plants get by just fine without them. They have chloroplasts for energy instead, for photosynthesis. That sort of thing is fabulous as long as you have a kindly sun. I’ll admit I’m biased. The sun is four or five billion years old already, at half its useful lifespan. Plants should be seriously considering other options by now, but you know they’ll put it off to the last minute.

It’s good to see that you’re calmer now. Am I boring you? Putting you to sleep?

“…! … ….”

Just checking. Yes, you should be keeping an ear out. Right now your adrenaline is suitably high and your little heart is beating like a fawn’s when the wind brings the scent of catamount.

Keeping the organelle image in mind, I want you to think of something else at the same time. Here are some words. They should be familiar.

Ib. Sheut. Ren. Ba. Khat. Ka. Do you remember? The multipart organism posited by the Egyptians.

, the heart, the conscience. The bite of Eve’s apple, lodged in the thorax, to be judged for its grasp of good and evil and efficacy at explaining it to the rest of the anatomy, to be preserved for later, if light enough, or fed to Ammut the Gobbler, the garbage collector, Tawaret in her crocodile mask, for purification and recycling into the bodies of future children.

Sheut, the shadow, the shape on the ground, the shape made by the air around you, the cast, the representation, the echo made by light and sound and footprint and the written word.

Ren, the name, the tiny crowbar that lets you fit neatly and instantly in your entirety into the head of another until the holographic echoes attenuate.

Ba, the … me. The problem solver, the thought, the memory. The plotter, the planner, the judge, the king, the sinner, the sacrificer.

Khat, the meat, the bone, the blood, the fat, the animal machine, the beautiful sculpture, the temple, the house. As much as a line can be drawn, even in this unnatural dissociated state, the you, my beautiful little fawn.

Ka, the mystery, the slap that makes the baby cry. The winding of the watch, the greased downhill slope of time. Insertion into the light-cone, the causal domain. The meshing of the gears.

How many of these things had independent existence in the cyto-salt ocean until alliances formed? How many of these can exist, at least for a while, without the cooperation of the rest? Are there alternate forms of ib or ba or khat the way that mitochondria and chloroplasts fill one another’s shoes?

Why aren’t there ever questions like that, important questions, at the end of a textbook chapter?

Cream of human soup.

Look, I need you to die.

“…! …!”

You can do it so easily, MDMA- and ketamine-saturated, over-adrenalized. You’re nine-tenths there. Closer than that. I need the ka so I can form an akh, a … ghost, I guess. A spirit body. Something effective that can get us out of this trap. I need to get at time directly, something to give us a microscopic kick downslope.


I could just wait, you know, but then there would be less point. If you die ahead of time, before your time, there’s a chance that the injustice will right itself and I can come back to you. And I don’t want to wander alone. Not yet. Not without the parts I am leaving behind.

You keep the ren, the sheut. They will give me away. You keep the ib as well. Work out the reason for that alone, if you will. And if I screw this up, I will be a demon, a monster, until I am expelled into the blackness. And you will be smashed and broken, but blameless.

Now die.

“…! …! …!”


“…!! ! !”



Thank you.




Now wake up.

Wake up.



Timeloose, I caused a candle to tip twenty minutes ago. Smoke from a smoldering tablecloth, an altarcloth, has trapped him in his bed, and his khat will not rise. And I have marked his heart. I have left hooks in his name.

But we ought to leave before he pulls the rest of himself together, if you know what I am saying.

When we are safe, when you are sleeping in a bed again, I will lay a trap for what remains and feed him to Ammut.

Now run.


January 18, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  

I’m going to cut through a lot of crap about intellectual property, copyright theory, and online piracy today.

The purpose of copyright and patent law is to guarantee the creator of a piece of creative work — artwork, a story, an invention, a method of production, etc. — a suitable period of time to make a profit on his or her genius, should he or she wish to do so, before the work would be released into the public domain so everyone could make the best use of it. Once upon a time, twenty years seemed like a good number. Later, this time was expanded to be the lifetime of the creator — just in case the creator really only had one good idea in his or her lifetime and couldn’t also hold down a day job. Incorporated entities began to be able to get locks on intellectual properties and used copyright and patent law to try to ensure they could recoup the investments of research and development. And individual copyrights began to expand past the death of the creators to ensure income for estates and families that wanted a free ride on dead ancestors’ ideas. And corporations lobbied for longer and longer extensions, basically buying themselves longer periods of profitability without having to actually #^@&ing work for it.

So now it’s kind of out of hand.

Understand I’m a writer — an author, a content creator. I’m also a smidge of an inventor, a programmer, a systems and processes designer, capable of churning out buckets of intellectual property — some tiny percentage of which might actually be worthwhile enough to spin into a modest income. I may actually be a literal genius, but I’m no Richard Feynman, Stephen King, or Dean Kamen. Maybe I’m too lazy, undermotivated, underfinanced, and/or undisciplined to compete on just the raw naked power of my brain. But I’m officially in the market and that’s where my opinions come from.

Think about the word “piracy” for just a moment. Just long enough to realize that it’s a dramatic and overblown term that in no way actually describes, literally or metaphorically, what happens when someone makes a copy of material in a way that violates copyright principles. Okay, that’s enough.

We used to have a term, “plagiarism”, that did the job just fine. Strange and hard to pronounce and spell, perhaps, but accurate. For discussions like this, I prefer accuracy to drama and emotional manipulation. That’s my preference, but I know it’s a losing battle to try to take a cool word like pirate from your mouth and replace it with something prosaic like plagiarist.

When someone plagiarizes the work of a creator, they take a piece of work, copy it, and present it as their own work. Possibly they put their name down as the creator and use it to unfairly add to their glory, at the expense of fame and recognition that ought to be due the actual creator. More often they just offer copies for sale and keep any money that would actually be due the creator. Or even more frequently they offer free download — and make their money from selling advertising on a site that will be undoubtedly more popular than any site that charges actual money for a copy of the work. No actual cutlasses or belaying pins or swinging from any rigging occurs — though I kind of wish it did.

The only reason piracy has become the official term of endearment for the process is that a cartel of wealthy corporations that are the middlemen between content creators and consumers want to keep the traditional punishment for piracy — hanging — in the minds of the public as suitable for the perpetrators. And it’s not like those corporations actually pay the creators a living wage for turning their works into the bulk of what hits the market. Teachers and firemen make more money than the average Hollywood scriptwriter. Less than five percent of novelists can even dream of quitting their day jobs. There are zillions of performing musicians and songwriters that can’t even cover the expenses of traveling and taking days off from paying work to set up somewhere and play for an hour or two. Corporate labels, Hollywood production companies, and publishing conglomerates do all the work of harvesting talent, contracting work, producing, promoting, distributing, marketing, etc., and they are the ones that reap the huge bulk of the profits. Because otherwise there is no way for a creator to market themselves. Until recently.

These huge corporations are the ones that claim they lose some of those profits when their highly-polished works are offered for sale or download by people who pay them nothing for the privilege. And while that may certainly be true to some extent, it’s not the situation as they paint it.

Most of the people who download copyrighted works do so because they don’t have the spare money to pay for it. So they wouldn’t be paying for it anyway. No money lost. Many of the people who download copyrighted works realize that their downloaded version is not as high-quality as a commercial version and will actually buy a copy later anyway — assuming it wasn’t crap. Nearly all of the people who download books or movies or music will talk about it with their friends if they actually enjoyed it — and that can actually generate a huge amount of sales.

“Pirate” networks provide a ton of expensive services for a creator for free. Distribution, marketing, market analysis, critical reviews and discussion. If you are unsigned — independent producer, not signed with any production house or label, small press or independently publishing — the pirate networks can offer you critical distribution and exposure and feedback you’d never be able to afford. You could actually even get people to start paying you money for your work directly, if you swing it right, and undercut the huge corporate middleman network that would otherwise only pay you a pittance per copy sold. Pirate networks put content creators in direct competition with huge corporate distributors.

And that is why those corporations are paying huge amounts of money to lobbyists to push through SOPA- and PIPA-like legislation. Also please pay attention to the fact that they are completely circumventing the assumption of innocence and due process. They want to shut down entire sites, one tiny portion of which might be accused of infringing, by mere accusation, and maybe you can get your site turned back on if you can prove you weren’t actually committing a crime. Despite the argument about what is actually illegal and what might arguably not need to be illegal, giving a conspiracy of corporations an immediate off-switch to silence unsigned content creators is an abomination.

The United States has a extensive and completely legal web of “pirate networks” that have been operating for hundreds of years, called “libraries”, that have been trying to provide the same utility as, say, PirateBay, but, for some reason, they don’t have the funding to be the community-embedded fountains of ideas and cultural enrichment that they were designed to be. I’m not exactly sure how they’ve fallen out of favor. Perhaps it’s too socialist an idea to fly in today’s unbridled capitalist and corporation-dominated society. But if we want to solve the “pirate” problem, fixing the “library” situation to be remotely effective as a 21st century institution is the only sensible path.

Just for an exercise, go back through the last several paragraphs and substitute “public library” for “pirate network” and see how well it works.


January 16, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  

I have a policy. Well, a rule of thumb. A little rule — one of two — to help me decide whether I should do something that seems like it would be fun. The second rule (not that they really have an order — new fun should try to pass both) is “Avoid scenarios that would be difficult to explain to the paramedics, should they be required.” The first one is “Avoid scenarios that are likely to end in a hail of bullets.”

Grim Task

Beginning to rethink that one. Obviously some things are worth getting shot over.

Politically, people always mistake me for a Democrat. I just kind of shrug. I remember Clinton as well as I remember Reagan and the Bushes. Obama has made certain promises but hasn’t made it the right kind of priority to get follow through. See, what I’m really for is fairness, and justice, and human rights and civil rights.

Let me tell you, Republicans and Libertarians, et al., if that makes you think I’m a Democrat, that’s a wake-up call.


If you were to ask me what the biggest remaining problem on Earth was, I’d say bigotry. Let’s talk about bigots for a minute.

A bigot is the sort of person who assumes that he or she personally has value — is a good person because of personal accomplishments, because of the values they embrace, because of family or family history or culture, or any of a number of things. Then this person assumes that people without those qualities, people dissimilar to himself or herself, are of lesser value. Those people are animalized, demonized, to make the bigot feel better about hating them. The bigot then acts like human rights and civil rights and compassion are something scarce, something affected by rules of economy, and that the objects of bigotry are in dangerous competition for the scarce resource of humaneness and humanity. Being animals, they don’t take up any precious humanity resources, like consideration and respect.

And don’t think the bigot just picks one other kind of person to demonize. They have a list. You hear about what’s on the top of their list mostly. But trust me on this: if you’re not an accepted member of a bigot’s family or close circle of friends, a person who worships the god of their choice in the way they do, you are probably on that list somewhere. And you’ll see it in their eyes the instant they are forced by protocol to shake hands with you.

You can see the fallacy there, right? And the perversity. There is no scarcity, no expense of supply and demand, for acting like a decent human being. The bigot acts like an animal to a human being who is different from himself or herself and feels justified because he or she thinks the other person is scarcely better than an animal.

You see how that’s at the root of the horribleness, don’t you? People only screw they other guy. Maybe that other guy is everybody, for a certain class of human monster. But usually it’s only black people. Illegal immigrants. Gay people. Jewish people. Arabs. Muslims. Catholics. Poles. Serbs. Gypsies. Irish. Italians. Southerners. White trash. Ignorant people. Godless savages. Athiests. New Agers and pagans. Transexuals. Gingers. Rich people. Educated people. Ad #^@&in’ infinitum. Seriously, there’s no end to the places where people feel justified in drawing a line between themselves and anybody else.

And it distorts vision. For instance, there’s been a lot of noise from current Republican presidential candidates about not wanting to take money from taxpayers (i.e., “white people”) to help black people on Welfare. Meanwhile, back in reality, there are more white people on Welfare than there are black people. And it’s a squabble over whose children deserve feeding. Whose grandparents deserve heating for the winter. I’ve never seen such bullshit — especially not from people who ought to be trying to compete for our respect.

And this thing about limiting voting. That’s some scary nastiness. Who is it again that doesn’t deserve to vote? Poor people? People who have been so marginalized by society that they haven’t needed ID for anything else? People who have trouble understanding complicated instructions handed out only in English? People in demographics that are far more likely to vote Democrat than Republican? That’s some bullshit right there. How the hell can you be for liberty and freedom and be on board with restricting who can vote?

Take a look at that picture at the top of this post. There’s a poor bastard troweling up the clotted blood of a man who was shot in the face for the nerve of speaking out for the civil rights — including the right to vote — of people that those in power were trying to exclude. Are we down to that again? Is it time for someone to get shot, nearly fifty years later, to show that we haven’t learned a damned thing?

Whatever. Thanks to the NDAA and associated legislative drivel, imprisoning people the government doesn’t like, indefinitely without trial, in the same kinds of concentration camps we used against American citizens of Japanese descent back during WWII is now legal. All it takes is for someone in power to name you — which does not take a trial — a sympathizer with some group that the same government has also arbitrarily decided is an enemy. It’s obvious we haven’t learned a damned thing. It’s all ridiculous US-versus-Them, More-for-Me-None-for-You bullshit based on the mistaken notion that there isn’t enough humanity to go around.

I’m officially too disgusted to continue this.



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