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0 Eyes Out

Golda to Writing  

something I wrote in 2007 and just found now

Swoosh! The thrilling sound of a near-miss filled Hal Bjordman’s ears as he wrestled against the G-forces pinning him to his seat. Nothing like a game of Supersonic Pursuit to get one’s blood moving! Not really dangerous, either, if everyone obeyed the rules.

Hal turned his small craft into a nosedive out of his opponent’s likely flight path, angled into a cloud bank and reversed direction, nearly cutting his jets as he did so. It was a daring move and succeeded in surprising his opponent and best friend, Skag Elmore. Skag had done just what Hal thought, hovering
over the cloudbank in wait. Hal’s craft emerged angled perfectly, straight towards Skag’s and just below. Less than a second later, the nose of Skag’s ship was shot off, and Hal’s friend was floating ignominously down in a large white puff of chute fabric.

Later in the bar, Hal crowed gleefully while buying drinks for the two of them.

“Pure skill, I tell you – and the luck that follows. That turn in the clouds – you never even saw me coming!”

Skag smiled ruefully into Hal’s infectious grin. “You got me all right. And the last fight of the year, no less.”

“Don’t worry, Skay – not all seniors are funless wimps. We’re still ourselves, just smarter. I know for a fact that Srs. Helbourg and Gorman played Supersonic just last month.”

“Yeah.” Skag’s face was morose. “But I don’t think they enjoy it like we do – and no Senior ever would do that turn you were so happy about. Too much sense.”

“Ahh…Well, who cares! If we want to, we will – no one will stop us. And from what I hear, running the world has its own advantages.” Hal grinned lewdly.

Further conversation on the last point was dropped as a well-dressed woman came into view, by her clothes clearly a Senior but still young, in her early twenties.

“What a touching sight – two Juniors bemoaning the impending loss of their youth. Making plans for a last night’s fling, boys? The Festival should give you ample opportunity.” Sarcasm dripped from perfectly adorned red lips, literally oozing with the latest fashion in moving cosmetics.

“Hold your fire, Lady Doris – we get enough of it from your little sister. She’s jealous, what’s your excuse?”

“Civil tongue, Junior Hal. You may be Senior and Ruler-apprentice in a year, but up to tomorrow morning I’m still your better. And I can forbid you from Festival if I see fit.”

“My apologies, Lady. Cm’on, Skag – lets get outta hear before we get in more trouble – there’s no way I’m missing tonight. With your permission, Doris? No offense meant, really.” Hal’s youthful grin and sincere-looking chagrin came to his aid – for the last time? I hope not. Can’t be – though I’ve seen some
changes I never would have expected.

***

Festival night turned out to be, not exactly a disappointment, but not what Hal had anticipated for his last full-blown revelry as an admittedly-irresponsible youth.

It had started out well enough. Hal, Skag, and a handful of their gaming buddies joined for an early round of sense-enhancing Gira drinks in the late afternoon. After downing the clear liquid his friends’ faces seemed to glow with camraderie, and he felt immensely close to each of them. They all agreed to experience the Festival together, and to share whatever pleasures they found. Toasts were offered.

“To us – the best Rulers this world is gonna see!”

” ‘To Rule is To Serve’ – and be served!” Laughter followed the common twist of their training motto.

“And serviced!” Cheers and laughter.

“To all of us – may we never forget th’ purity, sincerity and loyalty of our youth” – this from a friend whose name Hal had forgotton, who almost never drank. He looked solemnly unsteady.

“Let’s PARTY!!” Hal shouted, afraid someone would pass out here and put a damper on the whole Festival.

They took off towards the bright lights and loud music that marked the yearly revels. They had been to Festivals before, but never as the honored graduates, for whom the whole revelry was thrown.

Hal had few clear memories of the rest of the night – though Gira enhanced the senses, it did nothing for the memory. Which was probably a good thing. He did remember bits here and there: he and Skag surrounded by five beauties from the provinces, all smiling and eager to please. They should be! For one night, a girl lucky enough to be selected for Festival made more than she would a year in the factories, or even in the low-class whorehouses.

One image disturbed him slightly. It was almost dawn, and the four of them who were still awake were searching for a final fling. They found it – or her – towards the edge of the Festival grounds. Great body, and young too. But she hadn’t been properly instructed, or something – her eyes showed fear, and though she didn’t resist, she left them all with a bad taste, like eating an unripe fruit. The eyes were still with him.

Well, that was that, anyway. His youthful frolicking was at an end, or at least was about to change character. Hal had been woken with the rest of the graduating Juniors, after an hour or two of sleep, and was now proceeding down the hall to their pre-indoctrination review. It would be nothing new. Hal was
well versed in the process of mind-immersion, having studied it in training school. He could probably give the talk himself.

The speaker started way back with the history of Praal, how there had been centuries of instability before the current Rulers came to power; how it was determined that the fault always lay with the lax younger generation that did not understand the complexities of ruling a world; and how the wise Third Ruler had come up with the brilliant idea of passing wisdom onto the young, while they still had time to use it.

“How many times,” intoned the speaker, “has a wise old man wished with all his heart: If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now. Well, you Juniors won’t have to wish that, if you pay close attention with an open mind this next year.”

Hal yawned. He wished this guy would wrap it up already. Actually, if he wasn’t so sleepy, he’d be excited – he was to enter the eyes and mind of the Eleventh Ruler’s right-hand man, Elder Senior Rojan.

This was a major coup. He’d risked a lot for it, too. Juniors could list up to ten desired mentors, and most times they would get someone on the list. But Hal, the top of his class and with record-breaking aptitude results, put down only Rojan. It was even more of a risk because he knew Rojan had not wanted
to be a mentor at all, in fact only some unknown political struggle had forced him into it. But what a prize! Seeing and hearing everything old Right-hand Rojan did for a year. Knowing, if not his thoughts, then at least his emotions. Hal would emerge knowing more than anyone about the inner workings of power on Praal. Anyone, that is, except Rojan and the Eleventh Ruler himself.

The speaker was droning on, explaining the technical aspects of the process in detail, presumably for those who had ditched the entire last semester of training school. He explained how, with the body in stasis, four receptors were implanted in each Junior’s brain: one for the optic nerve, one for the olefactory bulb, one for the auditory area of the neocortex. The last one gently encircled the thalamus, emitting the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, feeling and emotion. Tactile sensations were not received directly,
but an overall sense of pain, pleasure or exertion would be experienced through the bath of chemicals flowing through the brain.

Each receptor was sensitive to a specific frequency, emitted by the matching transmitter placed in the mentor’s brain some months ago. Essentially, the mentor’s optic activity was reproduced in the Junior’s optic nerve, and the same for the other senses. The chemical detectors and emitters reproduced waves of feeling rather than specific activity. It was supposed to take some time – a week or so – for the receiver’s brain to adjust to the new signal topography, but they didn’t bring you to consciousness until then. So you
“slept” for a week, then “dreamed” for a year – except that your dream was your mentor’s reality.

Finally the lecture ended. A few last questions were asked, including one that had been bothering Hal.

“So, you have no control over anything that happens for a year? Can we contact anyone on the outside?”

“Do you control your dreams? No, of course not, the transmission is one-way. But your mentor knows you are watching, and all of our Elder Seniors are responsible individuals. Just think of it as a long, pleasant nap – and keep a receptive mind”

The Juniors groaned at the pun, and asked no more questions. Time to go.

Despite all the preparation he’d had, Hal’s palms sweated profusely.

They shuffled single file into the tank room, to be given a tranquilizer, a mild hypnotic suggestion, and to “sleep” for the next twelve months.

****

Urine. Stale urine. Hal’s eyes felt like they were open, but he could see nothing. What’s going on? This place stinks, it can’t be Rojan’s chambers.

A crack of light appeared. Hal wanted desparately to look around, figure out where the hell he was, but his new “eyes” barely looked up from some kind of straw pillow.

A voice spoke, seeming to come from inside his body. A short, harsh noise. A short, harsh, high-pitched noise. Oh my god. Something’s got to be wrong. That’s not any Elder Senior I’ve ever heard. Maybe this is a real dream, a first-week dream like we were warned.

Hal’s new body sat up, arms around its knees. A large hairy figure appeared in the doorway shouting some kind of invective. Hal felt a dull fear, deep weariness, and hate. Why do I hate this guy? I’ve never even met him before.

His body rose, eyes towards the floor – and he noticed he could not see his new feet, because two bumps on his chest were in the way.

Oh….my….god

Hal’s brain manufactured enough of its own shock, rage and fear transmitters to knock him from his fragile consciousness, and he blacked out.”

0

Golda to Writing  

I will post this. Although it may ramble, be warned – this morning I have given myself permission to simply write, a sort of private-public diary, to try to tease one noodle out of the bowl, or to follow one twisted path of thoughts up to the root.

Reading Virginia Woolf helped, I think. Though it also made me discontent again in the routine I have accepted, the one where most of my life and day goes into work for something that I don’t fundamentally care deeply about, that is not core to me. How did that happen – something to do with rent, bills, children I think. Yet it also has a benefit, this discipline, I have learned valuable patterns from it. The question is, can I find time to apply those patterns to what is core to me, before my mind becomes more fuzzy than it already is?

I have found, this past year, some threads that do feel deeply central, some possible solutions to the world that I want to try, that can be tried by a single person or a small group, that I believe can grow and live and combat some of the cancers that are so rampant right now. Pursuing these fully leaves even less time for a wandering mind, but I cannot complain – perhaps I should instead read again Child of the Dark, in which the protagonist manages to write in the early hours of darkness while spending full days gathering paper to keep hunger from her children – not always successfully.

That said, where does this thread go, if not simply in a circle?

Tied to the real world after all, which is the only anchor to keep the tangles from simply becoming clouds of worms, or utter foolishness. People. A_, G_ the families who I have made connection with in their deep pain this last year. My children, of course, my husband. But when thinking about the world, it behooves one to connect to it in a real way. And making that contact, directly with the reality of fear and grief and loss under these authoritarian regimes growing like cancer with their disgusting front philosophies that greed is somehow good, or the shallow paper tigers of ‘fighting terror’ or ‘fighting corruption’ – but not by exposing it to the light.

That contact, for a while it made it difficult for me to have normal conversations, to deal with petty issues, even to take pleasure in silliness or lighthearted play or music.

Now that has changed, and somehow the minor inconveniences and small pleasures live side by side with the feeling of being in an epic battle for freedom, truth and cooperation against greed, lies and violence.

I still worry about letting people down, not doing enough to help, or forgetting my own family in the bigger picture, or just forgetting to feed the fish. But it feels more like a flow of some kind, now that I am swimming more than thrashing, or at least I hope so.

I find I feel love for my foxhole-mates, all the others that I know and do not know, who are engaged in this same struggle one way and another. I don’t feel any need to be in charge of others, but I do think that I have some insights that I want to share – about the patterns, that its not enough to say, here are the victims, A, and the perpetrators, B, and all we need do is kill the B and give weapons to the A. Because being a victim does not make one moral, or a leader, or necessarily know all the solutions! Even very innocent victims, may envision solutions that would produce a system that can be easily gamed or taken over, or misused, by oversimplifying and directing force without feedback.

Feedback, transparency, truth, openness – these are a general pattern that protects. Simply allowing others to see, and to comment, and to say the impact they have felt, is perhaps the most general and powerful corrective mechanism. This is why, in fighting I focus on openness, of the DHS camps, or of campaign donations, and at least contact into the secret prisons.

And, telling people who do not see, who do not realize, the level of hidden violence in the world, is another thing I want to find a way to do. Not sure how to do that, the talks that I see given seem mostly insufficient, but I don’t know that I’m prepared or qualified to do better. Perhaps I’ll try anyway.

Wrote this for BlogforArizona: https://blogforarizona.net/dirty-money-dirty-tricks-dirty-judges/

How can we get the story out to enough of Arizona to vote these judges out? If everyone really understood, they would be gone…

So my writings here are sort of musings, on the personal side as opposed to the what-the-hell-is-going-on-in-the-world side. I also write as gvelez on medium; as wordmonkey on dailyKos; occasiontally on Blog for Arizona & Hacker Noon; and once on impakter and LA Progressive should you wish to subject yourself…

Maybe one, maybe a handful of them, but I don’t think I’ve ever followed all of them. Even posting this here seems to break the key idea that readers are the most important part of writing, because if it were posted somewhere else maybe it would have more chance of finding readers. But I’m stubborn and like to post on my own blog.
25 Commandments for Journalists

This looks useful: http://us.cision.com/edcals/edcals.asp

(though all the links appear to be output with the ‘:’ following the http, as of 1/6/2012)

Much has been written about the impending demise of journalism. No doubt, papers and magazines are in trouble, and with them the usual revenue stream of the professional journalist.

Ellen Goodman wrote a recent column in which she made a great call that crowdsourcing leads to the basing of facts on opinions, instead of opinions on facts. There is truth to this. The famed ‘many eyes’ approach of open source software works best when all the eyes are dispassionately looking for truth, and not spin.

I believe though that journalism has a fascinating future. The key is trust, and for readers to be able to make informed judgements. Goodman pointed out that there seems to be no consequence for bloggers who make things up. Some consequence exists, in that other bloggers may write about their lack of veracity, and individual readers reduce their trust level, but it doesn’t reduce the number of links to the lying blogger’s page and thus does not reduce their PageRank, which is essentially Google’s level of trust that they have something useful or interesting to say.

The web may need an explicit TrustWeb, where users and webmasters/bloggers can state their level of trust in a website or even a website author (the latter requiring some of the semantic web technology that allows more explicit markup of relationships between things). Initial work has been done on Trustwebs (search on Guha + trust web) in a controlled setting. To have a distributed trustweb may come out of semantic technology, or it may get done as some kind of a hack: <a href=”somesite” trustlevel=-8 rel=nofollow &rt;this guy is ridiculous </a&rt;

If TrustRanks become public (and perhaps disjoint – there may be different named trustwebs that propagate separately) you can bet having a high trust level will get a dollar value attached – either from associated advertising or from micropayments from readers. Then abusing the reader’s trust will once again have an immediate consequence to the writer – maybe even more so than an irate boss.