Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Post National Novel Writing Months

“On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought of writing a novel.”
-National Novel Writing Month Website

By now you are almost through November, NaNoWriMo. Congratulations! With victory in your sights, you may already be planning for life after 12:01 on December 1. Perhaps it’s a spending spree with that big advance. Maybe it’s more traditional post-novel writing pursuits, including drunkenness and bickering. 

Either way, you have lots more unfulfilled dreams. We at NaNoWriMo are here to help. Keep these in mind – and keep going!

December is National Symphony Writing Month. There are 135,000 notes in a typical symphony, which means you should set a daily goal of 4355 notes. Beginners often find themes like “What Happens When We Die?” help, but the key thing is determination. If you’re a “Walking Dead” fan, compose a symphony on surviving and murdering during a zombie holocaust. Don’t worry if the woodwind section doesn’t resolve, or get hung up on what you’ll wear to the gala – the most important thing is to keep going!

January is National Equestrian Statue Sculpting Month. Even if you have only carved fluted columns, heroic busts, or exterior friezes, everyone has inside themselves a larger than life military statue. Tune in to our Webinars to help you carve with confidence. Give yourself a goal of 18,000 chips a day, and stick to it. Declare your intentions, including which historic figure you are commemorating astride a magnificent stallion, on Twitter as reinforcement.

February is National Fundamental Physics Researching Month. Set a goal of reaching further back to the moment of creation by 300 nanoseconds a day. Prepare ahead with the right tools, including a high-energy particle accelerator with a tunnel 27 kilometers (17 miles) in circumference. Keep neighbors abreast of any discoveries on dark matter or new superstring dimensions -- they could be your biggest support group! Supercompute, supercompute, supercomputer!

March is National Lost Civilization Discovering Month. Check Google Maps for unusual mounds, earthworks, or disturbances in jungle canopies. Collect machetes and contract porters. Deploy high-altitude lasers and study fragments of runes for clues. Create a profile on social media. Do not specify which forgotten kingdom you seek – competition has can be unfortunately fierce, particularly in the latter half of the month. You’ll want to be excavating on site by week three, so prepare all necessary inoculations and bribes well in advance.

                                 Note: Artist Reconstruction. Actual size of sharks may vary. 

 April is National Pathbreaking Critical Theorist Month. Set a goal of 200 socially-constructed shibboleths a day. Question your own motivations, in the context of ritualistic sexual behavior in the playlists on the Acela quiet car. Become polysexual. If you are already polysexual, become celibate. Load up on official badges and banners. Moodiness is a great reinforcement. Don’t worry if at mid-month you are still comprehensible. Keep going!

May is National Republican Candidate for President Month.  At present this event is oversubscribed.

June is National Nascar Driving Month. Get inspired with late-night whiskey runs, drag races on packed sand, and impromptu duels at traffic lights. Set a goal of gaining 25 sponsors a day. Place their stickers and logos on your clothing daily as reinforcement. Flaubert claimed to spend an entire morning driving Madame Bovary on one qualifying lap, and the afternoon crossing her out. You do not have his luxury. Pedal to the metal! 

July is National Messiah Month. Decide right now that you have a unique and world-changing revelation from The Almighty. Tell everyone you can as reinforcement. We’ve prepared this tweet to help get you started. Print out and sign this agreement to deliver mankind from millennia of sin and confusion. Rock your apocalyptic intentions with t-shirts for your trusted followers. Share your story with the hashtag #endtimes. 

August is National Political Donation Bundler Month. Stuck for people you can tap for candidate donations of $2300 in a primary? Check out our pep talks from well-known bundlers who started out just like you, and have spent years of obscuring the democratic process. Check out our sponsors, who offer discounts on hall rentals, stretch limousines, and lobbyists. 

September is National Conquer Moscow In a Forced March Month. At 1550 miles from Paris (arrive early for shopping and brioche!), you’ll need to cover about 60 miles a day to have enough time to capture the Kremlin. Fortunately, the kids are back at school, and many districts have resources for child care in the afternoons. Amass an army of 500,000 souls ahead of time. Keep everyone up to date on Pinterest. Take mittens -- others have sometimes run over plan.

October is National Meteorite Catching Month. Decide right now that an ancient mass of primordial elements is headed your way. Set a goal of objects hurtling towards our planet from the frozen depths of space at upwards of 50 kilometers a second. Repurpose March’s earthmoving equipment to construct berms, trenches and other catchments. 

November is National Writing Month, Again. For God's sake, make sure you have something to say. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Rewrite of All Your Pain

“It was me, James…the author of all your pain.”

Welcome, Mr. Bond. What took you so long to find me? 

You have searched for me endlessly, yet I have been here all along. I was at your side in the shadows, never more than two steps away while you carried out Her Majesty’s dirty work, watching you, steering you. And all of my plans unfolded as perfectly as a lotus flower.

I, James, am the author of all your pain.

You never saw me. The parkour battle in Africa, surviving Le Chaffer’s poison at the casino, your fight there in the stairwell. All of it, my work. Your sad little chase, all the way to – where was it? – yes, Bolivia, where there was something about capturing a water supply, and drinking crankcase oil. The fistfight in between monitor lizards at a casino in China. 

All of it always leading you back to where I have always been, with my fingers typing at the keyboard of your destiny. 

Do you recall how the Service “accidentally” booked you in Economy? That was me in the middle seat, wearing the leaky headphones. 

The pain from Vesper will never end, will it? When there is not pain there is grief, and when there is not grief there is sorrow. The heartache I have caused you. Distress. Existential Throbs. Anxiety. As the author of your pain I have spent hours paging through the thesaurus of your pain.

Did you know, James, that Vesper was not even her name? Not in my first draft of your unending pain. While revising your pain I changed her name to sound like an Italian scooter. Do you recall how Bob in the shampoo marketing division, kept saying it wrong when he told his friends the plot? It was like a poppy seed in your teeth, James.

There is no writing of pain, I tell students at my pain writing retreats. There are only new and better drafts of pain. Stay with it. Have faith. Remember why you got into this crazy game. Be ready to throw away pages of unending pain, if they don’t feel right.

It has been…entertaining, authoring your fool’s errand to Barbados, Switzerland, London, Mexico, and Macao from my windowless writer’s room. I smiled as you foolishly saved the world from catastrophe. I snickered as you made love with the world’s most beautiful women. I chortled over our cup noodles while you drank Bollinger with a slightly bruised lip. It’s all so funny really, your pain. Sometimes I forget to laugh.

Yes, “our cup noodles.” We are Spectre, everywhere, with me the sole author. We are many things, mostly dedicated to your pain: counterfeit medicines, human trafficking, child soldiers, mayhem, terror. You may think of us as Santa and his pain elves, producing ricin and replacing printer cartridges as I author more pain. If there is time before your final doom, visit out gift shop: If my calculations are correct, today we are all out of t-shirts in your size, and the credit card machine is down.

You have met members of Spectre, James: Le Chiffre. Mr. White. Rosa Kleb, Julius No, Auric Goldfinger. But authors of your pain? Those puny centipedes want full credit for some bruise on your shin, a sore shoulder, maybe your case of traveller’s tummy. Residuals!. 

Their lawyers wave preposterous email exchanges, their pinched minds are incapable of understanding when we were just sitting around spitballing your pain. Mere ideas about pain are nothing. No one authors pain without getting his butt in a chair and by God authoring pain for hours at a time. I alone claim sole authorship of your pain. Not just now, not just today, but in all forms, digital and otherwise, that shall exist in perpetuity.

How this knowledge that you have been my puppet must sting, James. Here, have some pizza. Oh! Did you burn the roof of your mouth? Let me offer you an off-brand cola. It’s been in the fridge a couple of minutes at least, awaiting its role in your final, painful undoing.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Everything, And Our Problem With That

As everyone knows, the universe is expanding at about 200 million kilometers a month, without stop. Put another way, in the three seconds from the beginning of this sentence to here, it has reached another 310 kilometers, or the length of 6000 Olympic swimming pools. It's grown even more since then, to yet unprecedented size.

We need to face it: We are trapped in a place with extremely serious boundary issues.

The universe's cannibal galaxies, its drifting continents, and numerous celebrities only hint at the number and scale of its egotistical need. Just last July - nothing, within the scale of its estimated 13.9 billion years of hungry existence - we had stories of the unprecedentedly small pentaquark, and the incredibly big Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall. Even in our novelty-mad culture, there are few guardrails here. The universe gets bored with its old physical models and laws faster than ever.
Some theories say this universe is just one among a billion billion other universes, popping away like bubbles from some endlessly huge, endlessly shook-up can of soda. Even that, according to more thinking, may be some scrawny fraction of all the other universes.  

And yet even among this staggering multitude, our universe seems unable to stop feeling special about itself. We enablers, cheering it on with our science reports, continually guess about where it came from and where it will be going, like it's some incredible, attention-sucking mystery. It’s not healthy for us, nor for All That Ever Was And All That Will Be.

Don't confuse grandeur with a cry for help.
If we could contact the other universes, they might help us trace the roots of this sad case. They’d probably tell us something about its bulbous sibling (perhaps through hyper entangled subatomic quarks, just spitballing here) that comes down to one word: Overachieving.
Even in its initial Planck Epoch our universe was a showoff. Infinitely hot, infinitely dense. Always displaying its command of all the fundamental laws. By the time the universe was the age of typical human, it had already expanded a trillion trillion trillion times over. How is that supposed to make everybody else feel?

Our best radio telescopes and biggest computers say the universe is 56 billion light years across. It has 100 billion galaxies. It has over 300 sextillion stars. Beyond the furthest reach of our instruments, researchers at CalTech theorize, it has collected uncounted millions of designer shoes, most still in their original packaging. The word “enough” does not figure large in its vocabulary -- which, though it contains every word ever said, happens to be just one more of the Universe’s infinite number of other collections. 

Showoff, yes. But even more, needy.

Its official story is that the Universe emerged out of nothing. Just as likely, the universe was left to fend for itself. Somebody couldn’t keep meeting all those demands. Now it’s endlessly searching, endlessly growing in all directions, trying to please everyone all the time. 

That is another way of saying it's endlessly distancing itself from everything, even Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Dr. Tyson costarred with the universe in a hit television production, and while polite about the experience, seems in no hurry to work with The Whole of Reality again.
Hold a mirror up to it, and the universe may find it fears real structural change. It can’t move away from what it knows to do, or expand a the unthinkable velocities that feel safe. Old habits like over salting popcorn or consisting 73% of dark energy may be bad, but they're still hard to break. Losing those last ten pounds is hard, particularly when you encompass the whole of Nature.
At a density of one hydrogen atom per four cubic meters of volume, the Universe is beyond stretched thin. Even from Earth, supposedly a lesser and more obscure planet, anyone can tell it's had work. Probably a good thing, too – if you rule your existence with physical constants that favor gravity among the four fundamental interactions, you pay a price. Gravity always starts out fun, but long term, gravity is a drag.
Once upon a time, when the Universe had youth, looks, and promise, an eventual heat death of endlessly equivalent mass and energy probably sounded romantic, intriguing – and far, far off. Eventually, though, the quasars and the leptons get tired of the looks and the excitement. Like people, they eventually start looking for something like a plan. 

None of this matters as much as what we must do about it. Even when time and space are relative, winners remain fixed on the future.

Don't expect miracles. According to developmental psychologists working at CERN, if you want an eternal manifestation of reality to change deeply, catch it in the first 3 picoseconds. After that, you’re lucky if you get it to stop chewing gum. 

Even that is progress. Stay positive, focus on the healing, and remember: One planetary rotation at a time.