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Archive for the ‘Rudy’s Blog’ Category

Fishing. Fort Bragg. Art.

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

Jumping back to my 75th birthday in March, our three kids and their families gathered in our back yard and decorated it with streamers and helium balloons, including a pair of large ones shaped like the numerals 7 and 5.

And inevitably a certain grandchild let the 5 slip, and she was worried I’d be mad, but I thought it was funny and even, in a way, perfect. And I made a somewhat surreal painting of the event. The 5 Got Away! At a subtext level, the image shows the years themselves flying away from me, leading the way to Heaven. This is a picture that I reworked quite a few times until I was happy with it.

“The 5 Got Away” acrylic on canvas, May, 2021, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

And here’s a happy photo of me that week, taken by Georgia.

And here’s Georgia and me at Four Mile Beach, north of Santa Cruz.

On to newer events! Rudy Jr. chartered a small fishing boat and took me and and his family and a few of his friends out on the San Francisco bay near Treasure Island, to fish for California halibut, who lie on their sides on the bottom like flounders, but who are a bit smaller than the large Pacific halibuts way out at sea and in Alaska.

Marvellous feeling to set out to sea at dawn. The world is so beautiful.

The city still asleep.

Right away Rudy caught an extremely large sea bass. The captain said that ten years ago they weren’t up here, but the incremental warming of only a degree or two has brought them north. A big fish. Rudy could barely hold it up!

And near the end of the cruise, I caught a good-sized halibut. I felt a little bad about killing it. Like something in a fairy tale. But I took it home and we ate it.

Dig the cool fishing boat against the Bay Bridge. And the huge container ships in the background. Wonderful to be out on the water, all daily concerns gone.

The boat had a bunch of cool antennas on the roof.

Back in the harbor. Rudy’s son and one of his daughters caught fish too!

Busy in the harbor, with locals there to cadge unused fish carcasses that had been filleted by the cruise boats’ crews. The carcasses great for soup of course.

Sylvia and I drove up to Fort Bragg, California, just north of Mendocino. Visiting Isabel, who was showing off an art installation in the window of the Larry Spring Museum in the shaggy, boho artist-infested downtown of Fort Bragg.

Beautiful morning dew on the long grasses by the sea. We like to stay at this motel called the Beachcomber, right by the ocean. Fairly basic, in a perfect location.

Walking on the cliffs by the motel with Isabel, we spotted a pair of geese who naturally reminded me of Sylvia and me.

Isabel took us to a tiny redwood rain forest park in a corner of Fort Bragg, and we found a mysterious empty box. Door to the fourth dimension?

Isabel and her husband rent a large room for their living quarters and for Isabel’s studio. She’s best known as a jeweler, but she makes various kinds of light refracting assemblages, and she’s a painter as well.

I love this large painting by Isabel, which incorporates a bunch of patterns that she was seeing around her studio when she worked on it. The linoleum, clouds in the sky, splashes of rainbow light from crystals. And her bicycle here as well, kind of a Jasper-Johns-like addition to the painting. But of course she rides the bicycle away.

Isabel’s famous dog Rivers. A very mellow hound. He looks a lot like a dog named Arf we used to have in the family.

A nice stained glass piece by my mother Marianne von Bitter, no longer with us, but warmly remembered. I’d forgotten about this work, and it was nice to see it at Isabel’s. My mother was a painter and a potter as well. Lots of artists in our family.

A scene from Isabel’s jewelry workbench…a large table with several active zones. The blue stones are lapis. Isabel often works with hammered silver.

I love the tools of ancient crafts and trades…like jewelry and metal smithing. This curious bangle is a set of ring sizes!

Isabel grinds, buffs, and polishes a lot.

And check out the bouquet of hammers around the anvil / vise on a tree stump, no less. Highly traditional.

Pliers, pinchers, tweakers, nippers? She’s got ’em.

Isabel thinks a lot about her designs in advance, and her notebooks pages have their own artistic qualities.

World headquarters of Isabel Jewelry dot com. Kind of a Hopper quality to this street scene. Fort Bragg is quite peaceful.

Back to the Larry Spring Museum just down the block. Spring was a local character. An inventor, self-taught philosopher, and a handy man. He left a small estate that maintains his former house and workshop as a museum. He was into all kinds of things, such as these handmade solar powered motors.

A bit of a word smith as well.

And owner of some imposing electrical tubes. Perhaps this baby can amplify ambient messages from the ancient gods within our Hollow Earth! Who knows.

Here’s the sign/logo of the Headlands Cafe, also in downtown Fort Bragg. I love this drawing of the chatty, caffeinated coffee-mug, holding forth on schemes, visions, and dreams.

A very fine dolphin skeleton in a window display on the town’s main street, which is also Route 1.

Fort Bragg used to be home of a large sawmill, which decamped not so long ago. The city is still figuring out what to do with the open expanse of cliff side space that’s been freed up.

Isabel and Rivers. The dog has a very noble and aquiline nose.

Old man with a camera. I’ve been shooting with my Fujifilm X100V lately. I’d been defaulting to my cellphone camera and it’s sly software tricks for achieving a superficially nice finish. And when I don’t use the freaking X100V for a few months, I forget some of the tricks for using it’s intricate controls.

But when you come down to it, there’s no substitute for more glass in your lens. More glass means more photons means more information coming into your photosensor which means more accurate colors and edges.

The Point Cabrillo Light Station just south of Fort Bragg. Coming from Silicon Valley, it felt really nice to be in wide open space.

Good old laws of perspective. Nature computes in parallel and on fly.

A pot store in upscale Mendocino nearby. Not like the old days of backroom deals.

A scenic island or seastack or eructation called Sacred Rock, in Elk, south of Mendocino. Elk and Mendocino both have a bit of a New England look to their buildings. Elk of course is way smaller and more obscure. Sacred Rock is across the street from the Elk country store, which also features good pastry.

At times I can’t handle carrying the Fujifilm camera around and remembering how to use it, and I use my cellphone. Constant tempting advances in the phones. I’m using Google Pixel phones these days…after our trip to Mendocino, I got a new Pixel 5 phone. As I say, there’s much less glass, but the sensor is pretty big, and Google has built in a buttload of AI software to make the most of your image data.

Why not use an iPhone 12? For the types of pictures I take, the Pixel 5 images actually look a little better than the iPhone 12. And it’s cheaper. And, although Google is annoying, they’re annoying a somewhat different way than Apple is.

Vintage sticker for the world-famous Monkeybrains.Net ISP, run by son Rudy Jr. and Alex Menendez.

Reallly nice shot a morning-sun railing by the Pixel 5. The images don’t require as much Lightroom tweaking as do the images I get out of my Fujifilm X100.

That buttery morning light that makes me feel it’s good to be alive. I love she shapes of shadows and light.

Some of Sylvia’s quilting equipment. Like the rest of us, she’s an artist too. See her quilt page.

Sylvia’s brother came to visit us recently, and he stayed at the Garden Inn in Los Gatos, an old motel known for the possibly true tale that Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe spend their wedding night there. They’ve decorated a special Marilyn Monroe room with glamour shots of the goddess.

The Pixel 5 has a decent wide-angle lens. Self-portrait of the author at ease in his library.

Goslings! Fuzzy. No arms, but even so they get a lot done.

Part of Sylvia’s collection of stuffed, felt, pinking-sheared hearts — a Hungarian thing. Thanks to Sylvia, most of my family members are in fact Hungarian. Georgia and Isabel in fact made two of these hearts.

The artist contemplates swirl and slant.

On Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz in the year of Covid.

Visual frag grab. For that one split second, I couldn’t decipher the meaning of the letters.

Mother’s day with some of our local cast of characters.

“Invaders” acrylic on canvas, May, 2021, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

My most recent painting. I did the background by “stamping” the canvas with the still-wet palette paper I used for The 5 Got Away. It made a nice, mysterious subspace continuum. It needed critters, and I thought of a flock of invaders. Kind of like eyeballs. Or maybe something else. You never know what’s coming next.

Lots of Book Covers + Fantasy Hive Interview

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

In March, Jonathan Thornton of Liverpool, England, interviewed me for The Fantasy Hive ezine. I’m reprinting most of the interview here with one change—I’ve started calling my new novel Juicy Ghosts instead of calling it Teep. For illos, I dug out a buttload of old cover images.

Q1. You’ve just finished your latest novel Juicy Ghosts. Could you tell us a bit about it?

A1. I started thinking about how digital models of people in the cloud could have more zap if they were in some way hooked into some physical living being. So they’d be “juicy ghosts.” I remember talking to Chris Brown about this after he did a reading in San Francisco, and he was, like, “That’s a great idea, and only you could pull it off.”

But I didn’t see a plot. So I spent a year or two writing stories on themes that might relate to each other and to telepathy and to juicy ghosts. And in the back of my mind I was thinking that eventually I could collage at least some of the stories into what’s called a “fix-up novel.”

In the end, I had three stories that fit together well. The first one I actually called “Juicy Ghost,” although now I’m going to call it “Treadle’s Inauguration,” as I need to keep “Juicy Ghost” for the title of the novel. And I did a story called “The Mean Carrot,” that was vaguely about the time in the ‘60s when a CIA op was paying hookers to drug Johns with acid to see what happened. And then I wrote the longer and more humane “Mary Mary.” The first two appeared in the free underground e-zine Big Echo, in 2019 and 2020, and “Mary Mary” is in Asimov’s in March, 2021. Besides the three stories, I wrote five more story-sized chapters to produce my novel Juicy Ghosts, which I finished early in March, 2021.

Two of the main ideas I write about in Juicy Ghosts are, as I maybe said already, telepathy and digital immortality. I’ve been writing fiction about digital immortality for forty years, starting with my novel Software, which appeared in 1980. Seems like I tend to keep thinking about the same things forever. Digging deeper and deeper.

I seriously see the technology for telepathy being commercially possible in the not-too-distant future. It’s not really all that much further out than cell phones with video calls.

My take on digital immortality has to do with a thing I call a lifebox. See my nonfiction book The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul. The idea, which is fairly familiar by now, is that you might be able to emulate a person if you have a really large database on what they’ve written, done, and said. And if it’s SF, then we add some AI to the lifebox so it’s an intelligent mind. Cory Doctorow also wrote quite a bit about the lifebox idea in Walkaway, and others have written about it too.

In Juicy Ghosts I delve still further into the lifebox thing. Do you have to pay to have your lifebox stored? What if the company who houses your lifebox rents it out as a gigworker? How about growing a clone to be run by your lifebox? And how do you interface a human brain with an online lifebox?

Juicy Ghosts is also quite political. I was working on the novel from 2019-2021, and all along, in my mind, I was dealing with the possibility that Donald Trump might win a second term. In Juicy Ghosts, to push it over the edge, a very similar type of President is about to be inaugurated for a third term—and, well, he gets what’s coming to him. Big time.

Not to give too much away, but my characters kill the guy three different ways—his body, his lifebox, and his clone—and then they even topple the monumental statue of him at the Top Party headquarters. I was thinking of how, in the first Terminator movie, they had to destroy the monster over and over and over. A metaphor?

To make the synchronicity weirder, my plan for the novel’s ending turned unexpectedly turned real with the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. Fortunately in both worlds, the evil President lost. For now. So maybe you’ve got me to thank!

Who’s going to publish Juicy Ghosts? We’re sending it out.

Q 2. You were part of the original cyberpunk movement, and your Ware novels are classics of the genre. On a different front, you writing transreal SF novels in which the characters mirror yourself and the people around you, and the SF goodies symbolize aspects of your characters’ psyches. How do you feel about cyberpunk and transrealism becoming popular modes of fiction in today’s world?

A 2. How do I feel? “Where are the movies of my novels? Where are my Sunday book section front page reviews? Where’s my adulation from high-brow lit- crit?”

I tend to be irked when I see a non-SF-literate critic being totally blown away and wonderstruck when a mainstream author pens an uninspired “speculative novel” based on some very well-known SF premise, such as a biotic robot who has a soul. The critics are, like, “Profound and wildly original. Well beyond the range of crude, subhuman SF writers.” And of course we subhumans been writing such books for forty years, and many of us dare to fancy ourselves as literary.

Wheenk, wheenk, wheenk. Wasting my breath. Bitter and old.

I’m happy to have gotten forty books published, garnered good reviews, picked up a couple of awards, and recruited loyal fans. And just this month I optioned the film and television adaptation rights for the Ware Tetralogy to a London-based production company. The deal was negotiated by Vince Gerardis and Matt Kennedy of Created By. Not the first time I’ve optioned the Wares, but maybe this time it’ll go somewhere. The guys are English! Somehow that gives me confidence.

All in all, I’ve have a great career—a lot better than I expected in my twenties. Back then I imagined I’d die in my 40s, like Edgar Allen Poe and Jack Kerouac. It helps that I got sober when I turned 50.

Q 3. The Ware Tetralogy novels feature a wonderful array of bizarre nonhuman life, from the boppers to the moldies to the Metamartians. Which ones did you have the most fun with?

A 3. I really liked the Happy Cloak. It’s a symbiotic or parasitic being, a bit like a coat or a scarf, and it plugs into the nerves in your neck and hangs down your back, and you get into an altered and somewhat ecstatic state of consciousness. Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore’s 1947 novel Fury introduces this notion, and William Burroughs read the novel during one of his drug-kicking treatments in a Tangier clinic.

Later Burroughs incorporated material about the Happy Cloak into in his 1962 novel, The Ticket That Exploded. As a teenager I read a lot of Burroughs. Not everyone realizes that Burroughs was, in his own way, writing science fiction. And that he’s very funny. And I read Brian Aldiss’s 1962 fascinating novel, Hothouse, where a morel fungus attaches itself to a character’s neck and begins helping him while controlling him. A bit like the Happy Cloak.

I always loved that expression Happy Cloak because of the contrast between the upbeat, childish name, and the rather sinister nature of the being. I included a Happy Cloak in my novel Software, both as an homage to Burroughs and because it was a very useful thing to have, in terms of the story. A Happy Cloak made of computational piezoplastic attaches itself to my character Sta-Hi’s neck on the Moon, and wraps itself around him as a space-suit. Happy Cloaks play a part in the later volumes on the Ware Tetralogy as well. I’m always looking for chances to talk about them.

As for the boppers, yes, they’re great. In Gravity’s Rainbow, Pynchon mentions a pinball machine painted with jiving “robobopsters,” which I liked. Maybe I got the word from that. Or from an imagined fragment about the character Cobb Anderson, “…who taught the robots how to bop.”

And the thing of having the bopper skins flow with colors was a lucky inspiration. I might have been thinking of the blinking lights on mainframe computers, or about the then-new Game of Life cellular automaton. But I wanted lots more lights, like pixels.

Later I did a lot of computer work on cellular automata, including (a) John Walker’s Cellab package for discrete-valued CAs, and (b) my own Capow package for continuous-valued CAs, which have many, many possible values in their cells. They generate gnarly, flowing patterns like lava lamps or like Belusov-Zhabotinsky scrolls.

It’s worth mentioning that the imaginary piezoplastic substance Imipolex which makes up the flickercladding or skin of the boppers is lifted from Gravity’s Rainbow as well. A lot of my career has been devoted to learning to write more and more like Pynchon did in Gravity’s Rainbow, and I think in Million Mile Road Trip and Juicy Ghosts, I’m getting close.

The moldies, who first appear in Wetware and come into their own in Freeware—they’re even better. Although I didn’t initially realize it, in some ways the boppers and moldies play the social role of people of color. The moldies happen to be made of flickercladding with a nervous system that’s based on fungi.

In the early 1980s, between Software and Wetware, a Texas fan who called himself Dusty Limestone mailed me a crate of brown rice with a culture of “camote” truffles growing inside it, and I foolishly ate some of them, and ended up staying up all night playing pool on the second-hand slate-bed table in our basement, and with a strong sense that I had a giant lizard tail like a T. Rex. The next day I destroyed all the rest of the camote to be sure I didn’t take it again. My friend Henry was mad I haven’t saved him any. Those were the days!

I wrote Wetware in six weeks in 1986, just before we moved away from Jerry Falwell’s Lynchburg, Virginia to—the San Francisco Bay Area. Both Software and Wetware won the Philip K. Dick award. In the late nineties, I came back to the Ware series with Freeware in 1995 and Realware in 1997. They’re largely set in Santa Cruz.

Concerning the Metamartians in Realware, that name amused me. They’re not Martians, man. They’re Metamartians. You didn’t want them around, but here they are! Their freeware minds  arrived as cosmic rays. They come from a part of the universe with 2D time. Writing about that kind of idea is where SF can be like a thought experiment. I mean, it’s so hard to even begin to imagine 2D time, but if you try and work it into your story, then you’re forced to do the heavy lifting to get it started even a tiny little bit.

Q 4. I was fascinated by the idea of the vast “metanovel” that your character Thuy Ngyuen is working on in Postsingular. Tell me more about it.

A 4. Yeah, I had a lot of fun with the metanovel. And I really liked my character Thuy Nguyen. For about twenty years my day job was being a Computer Science professor at San Jose State University in Silicon Valley, and about half of my students were Vietnamese men and women, and I got used to seeing them and talking to them and helping them with their team projects and being friends. In Vietnam, Thuy Nguyen is a really common name. Like Jane Doe.

The Thuy Nguyen in Postsingular is a very cool woman, with a lot of attitude. If you’re a writer or a musician or an artist, and you’re good at what you do, then you know that, and you don’t necessarily care about what people think of you as a person, nor do you have to care if they like your work. You know from the inside that you’re doing it right. You’re in the groove, and with the Muse.

Thuy calls her giant metanovel Wheenk, which is kind of a joke word for me. Years and years ago I maybe have read about a rabbit being caught in a trap and making a desperate noise that was written out as, wheenk, wheenk, wheenk. Maybe it was in the SF novel Brainwave. Or maybe I saw wheenk used to represent the sound made by an agitated pig.

Anyway, I started thinking that this word is funny. And I say it or yell it at various times, like if I’m uneasy, or maybe if I’m enthused. It’s as if I have this faint, borderline touch of Tourette syndrome, in that, if a certain word or phrase enchants me, I might say it or ten or twenty times on some given day. And I’ll try to fit it into whatever I’m writing. Like a magpie tucking a shiny wire or a scrap of bright cloth into her nest. Caw!

Over time, when talking about my writing process, I began using wheenk to stand for a character’s repetitious inner thought loops. Like: “Will I ever find love?” “Will I get a job?” “Does everyone hate me?” And when a character is thinking that, they’re bascially going wheenk, wheenk, wheenk.

It’s very common for a bestselling novel to have lots of scenes where the hero or heroine is repeating some worry to themselves. And it can get boring, at least to me. By way of dissing a book like that, I say it has too much wheenk.

At the other pole, I myself have to beware of writing a thrilling superscience adventure so rife with gimmickry, incidents, and jest that my characters never pause to reflect on what’s happening to them, nor to ponder where they’re trying to go. In this case, I say my draft needs more wheenk. And I try to work some in.

I remember discussing this with my younger friend Richard Kadrey some years ago, when he was still starting out, writing the first of his hugely successful urban fantasy novels, and I was telling him that it’s good to include a romance plot as well as action.

“You need the wheenk,” I told him. “Do you have wheenk in the book?”

Richard paused, thinking it over. “Well, okay, I have my guy out in an alley behind a bar, and he’s just killed a demon, and then, in his head, he wonders how this woman he likes is doing.”

“That’s a start,” I said. “But more wheenk.”

Which brings us, via a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to Thuy Nguyen’s metanovel Wheenk. Here’s two bits of description lifted from Postsingular.

“Thuy was working on her own metanovel, an as-yet-untitled combine of words, links, video clips, images and sounds—she meant for it be a bit like a movie that a user could inhabit, the user coming to feel from the inside how it was to be Thuy, or, rather, how it was to be a version of Thuy leading a more tightly plotted and suspenseful life.”

“Thuy was making Wheenk into what she termed a transreal lifebox, meaning that her metanovel was to capture the waking dream of her life as she experienced it—while sufficiently bending the truth to allow for a fortuitously emerging dramatic plot. Thuy wanted Wheenk to incorporate not only the interesting things she saw and heard, but also the things that she thought and felt. Rather than coding her inner life into words and real-world images alone, Thuy was including beezie-built graphic constructs and—this was a special arrow in her quiver—music. The goal was that accessing Thuy’s work should feel like being Thuy herself.”

Welcome to my world.

Q 5. What’s next for Rudy Rucker?

A 5. Whenever I complete a novel—and I just finished writing Juicy Ghosts—after a long haul like that, I say enough’s enough, I’m too old and tired, don’t make me cross the Pacific Ocean in a rowboat again. But then some months go by, or even a couple of years, and I start missing having a novel to live in.

When I’m busy with a novel, I’m inside it a lot of the time. Thinking about the scenes and the characters. Sitting down to work on it nearly every day. The characters become my friends, and they make me laugh, or mist up, or worry. And it’s nice to have this illusion of an emotive social life.

The granular craft of writing is something I relish more and more—the matter of choosing the right word, having a tasty rhythm in the phrases, and knowing how to swerve—so as to keep the reader alert and off balance.

I love the subtle, indescribable way that the scenes and the dialog come to me. I don’t exactly get there by trying, as all followers of Yoda know. But I do have to keep showing up. And while I’m waiting for the Muse, I work on my writing journal, with notes about possible ideas or what I’m doing or how I feel. And when the Muse kicks in, I stop thinking and I do. The process turns subconscious. I’m just typing it out, chuckling and rocking—a grinning idiot. And as the novel goes on, I dive deeper and deeper. It’s paradise.

Before I can start a novel or a story at all, I need to have a place that I want to go. When I was younger, there was that default space-opera future that SF was supposed to be about. And cyberpunk was about breaking out of that. I never had any interest in being a hereditary aristocrat in the Space Navy! Misfits doing crazy things, that’s what I like. Mad scientists.

What might I do next? Maybe space travel as long as we don’t use a boring metal spaceship or, please no, not a generation starship. In Million Mile Road Trip I had them travel across the galaxy in a car. In Frek and the Elixir I had them do huge hops in a living UFO. And of course Robert Sheckley’s characters had space hoppers in their driveway, or they bought one at something like a used car lot—maybe I could go back and do that. Sheckley is forever the great hero of my youth.

Biotech has endless possibilities, and I touched on some of them in Saucer Wisdom (which is a “novel” in the same way that Nabokov’s Pale Fire is a novel), and in Postsingular, and again in Juicy Ghosts. I’m also fascinated by the notion of ubiquitous physical computation, and the “hylozoic” notion that things might be conscious and alive. I ran with that in Hylozoic.

I’ve always liked the 1940s or 1950s stuff, with the mad scientist in his or her garage. Gyro Gearloose! It would be fun to write about that totally new thing that a lone mad scientist might discover in the next thirty years, a fun idea like a new wind-up toy I can put through its paces.

The science news is eternally a holiday parade that doesn’t end. Grab hold of anything you see. Tweak it a little bit, and make it your own. Connect it in some way to your actual personal life—that’s the transreal move. And go a little meta—that’s a tricky tactic I’m forever trying to master—flip your idea up a level and into something having to do with states of consciousness, or with the nature of language, or with the meaning of dreams.

There’s still so much. We’re just getting started. We’re doing it wrong. We’re getting better.

Seventy Five

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I turned 75 on March 22, 2021. Here’s some photos relating to that, and to other things, also some text about the images. No special theme today.

Georgia and Isabel came into town to join Rudy Jr for my party. We swung by the De Young Museum in SF to see the Calder and Picasso show. I like this silhouette with Rudy in a trucker hat and his twin daughters in the background with Georgia.

The party was in our back yard, the day before my birthday. Sylvia and the daughters and granddaughters put together a great display of streamers and balloons. Like being 11 again, but with better decorations. I got giant 7 and 5 balloons…clutching them here.

Naturally one of the big balloons, the 5, got away and and flew into the sky. Always interesting to watch a helium balloon dwindle. Especially such an asymmetric shape. Mild concern about where the balloon will land.

Back in 1979, when we were living in Heidelberg for two years, we found a balloon with a message from a family in East Germany, longing for contacts in the West, and we wrote them a letter and got one back.

One of the grandkids propped up her mother’s cell phone and got a nice cheerful photo of the group. So many people. I used to just be one person. Pater familias. It’s been a long road, and I’m grateful I made it this far.

Naturally I loved this torus balloon—the torus shape has always intrigued me. And with a streamer-ribbon going through it, yes, like some kind of subdimensional particle diagram.

After awhile the kids and grandkids started screwing around with the ribbons and balloons and streamers, knotting them into an intricate shape which, again, made me think of low-level spacetime phase space diagrams, and the diagrams Stephen Wolfram is using in his new models of consciousness. But shiny and colorful. I’m going to try and do a painting that takes off on this image.

We went to Four Mile Beach in Santa Cruz with Georgia, Isabel, and her husband Gus on the actual day of my birthday. When Georgia is happy and out in nature, she sometimes does this thing of holding out her arms and whirling them, as if “winding up space,” as she puts it, reeling some of it in, savoring how much room there is.

I like this rock with the mussels on it. Like hair, or a cap, and the boulder is a face partially buried in the sand. I feel like this when I wake up too early.

And here’s Isabel with her beloved dog Rivers who, in many ways, resembles a slightly larger version of our old family dog Arf, who we got as puppy in Virginia, and who moved out to California with us.

I drove a large rental van with all our stuff in it. Arf and one of the kids rode with me in the van every day, the kids taking turns day by day. And the other two kids would ride in our old “Purple Whale” station wagon that we were initially so proud of when we bought it used. Yup at last!

But when we got to California, the Purple Whale was no kind of classy car at all. We had to raise the level of our game.

I love our back yard. I was fertilizing and adding dirt and compost to this lawn for about six weeks, getting ready for my party. Like an old man, actually caring about my lawn, crazy.

That funny tree stub holds up our cable link to the outside world: streaming TV and the Internet. The rest of the tree died and we had it hauled away, but we kept the stub because it’s more organic than a post.

The top looked kind of…sawed-off, so I put a cute birdhouse on the top, not that any of the local birds are interested in it. But it makes a nice design. The cables and power lines are nice too, their angles. This little spot is where I always paint. My studio.

Rudy Jr’s company ISP company Monkeybrains continues to prosper. I have a cool warped mug I like to use, designed by Rudy. Every so often it wears out or breaks, and then I order a new one from somewhere on the web…I don’t know where, that part of my memory is unnecessary, as it’s locatable online. Offloading parts of my brain to the Web.


The oranges and bananas are really good this time of year. These are great travel fruits, in that they come with a wrapper. Still lifes of fruit…a motif that never dies. And, humble and ordinary as they are, good for yet another nice photo. The richness of the colors.

Sylvia and I took a walk in this spot we like on a saddle ridge in Almaden Quicksilver Park. I love this one oak with either eight or eleven trunks, depending which of us you ask. And there’s Sylvia’s hat.

And Sylvia wearing the hat, very glam.

An old horse or cow trough near the branching oak. So elemental, iron and water in a rectilinear frame. And the reflections and the stuff you see under the water!

Having spent some time teaching Computer Graphics, I have huge respect and awe for the ongoing realtime ultra hires graphical “computations” that nature performs. Working in parallel. Not “working,” actually. Just being.

Another day I went walking at the south end of the (now nearly empty) Lexington Reservoir. I wear plastic Keen sandals and walk in the stream. Really great weeds in this shot, so twisty, and they were moving in the rather stiff breeze. The gentle, feathery quality of the fronds up top.

Kind of a 1/x curve here, this svelte log over the stream. With a little thought and guile, I’m still able to find spots near home that don’t have a lot of people in them, although it’s harder than it used to be, as we’re all cooped up and looking for a place to romp.

I see this as an alchemist’s lab shot. The eggs, emblems of life, being treated in ramekins of potent, colored elixirs. Easter is about magic. Birth is magic. Death incredible. My friends are dropping like flies. Thank you, God, for giving me another Easter.

Trad shot of an old photographer’s shadow, long in the setting sun. Getting O-L-D!

This photo is utterly cool, like of a UFO. I think it’s from among some fishing cottages near the harbor of Bergen in Norway; we were there a long time ago, like five years, odd this photo has been waiting in the batter’s cage all this time, it’s a beaut.

This is the part of the post where I switch over to older photos. I save a list of my better photos in the bottom of the document where I create my blog posts, and I paste in the photo links with new text to make a post. And I kind of want to clear out the older photos that are waiting around. My back pages. So I’m dealing down a few.

We miss travel so very much. I was talking to my old pal Jon Pearce today, walking in the redwoods Fall Trail near Felton, and he said something about feeling depressed about life being, after all, fairly routine and mundane, and usually there are trips to pin onto it, to dress it up, and make it seem exciting, but not now, with US citizens banned from every country in Europe except Iceland and Albania.  Maybe I can go to Mexico City soon?

I used to play with this ball a lot when I was working on my novel Return to the Hollow Earth. Another FMIHTSP = Fucking Masterpiece I Had To Self-Publish. Fmihtsp.

Where did this image from? It’s the subway in Washington DC. I was thinking of this image when I wrote the chapter “Juicy Ghost” of my latest novel Juicy Ghosts. Or come to think of it, maybe that chapter should be called ‘Treadle’s Inauguration,’ and the novel should be called Juicy Ghosts. Possibly Nightshade will take it—they put out ten of my books last year. Or I’ll find some other publisher for this labor of love, written in my old-master-type late style, but, hey, I’m 75 and my sales are in the toilet, especially with Covid closing all the bookstores, so we’re maybe looking at another FMIHTSP.

Some elegant representatives of the SF-reading public I long to reach! Encountered these spirited ladies at con, maybe it was in San Jose, couple of years ago. Back when there were events and crowds. Maybe none of them had ever heard of me, but they let me grab the shot anyway. Basically anyone at a con in a costume wants to be photographed.

Hitting the Santa Cruz beaches a lot these days. This is by the lighthouse on the Seabright Beach, where they have a several hundred large tetrahedral concrete shapes like children’s’ jacks. Each of them has a number, which I like. As if each atom had an ID number. I’ve always wondered how they got these huge things in place. Note also the WARNING sign. So bogus, to pitch everything as dangerous. Panic at all times! Never relax! Eternal vigilance is the price of life.

This is me working on a novel or a story, maybe it was “Everything is Everything,” which appeared in Rob Penner’s now sadly departed Big Echo. I wasn’t yet into the final push on Juicy Ghosts (formerly known as Teep). This shot was August, 2020, with the Covid still ramping up. Sitting at a cafe near the bay with Sylvia, happy to have my scrap of text to revise. I’m generally happy when I’m writing. Now that I finished the novel, I’m holding my breath waiting to see if I’ll sell or self-pub it, and I’m not ready to write, and I miss it. But I’m painting.

Another golden memory, the day the sky turned orange…was that before the plague or during it? Hard to keep time straight. All the months the same. Always Sunday. Always garbage day. No trips. No friends.

The day the sky turned orange, yeah, that was fall, 2020, we were in Cruz, we’d gone down there for a break from the plague lock-down, that’s right, spent a night in at the Sea and Sand motel, and the fucking sky was orange from the wild fires. A tourist from LA asked me, “Is the weather always like this up here?”

Epic crop of bird of paradise plants this summer. Love these things. So extraterrestrial.

Another souvenir of Norway. I love this icon. And see the big ship? We rode on one of those a little bit.

My friend Gunnar is from Norway. He’s about ten  years older than me, about 85. I haven’t seen him in months. He’s a wise man, enlightened, great aura, deeply into the One. He’s lying low in an ashram on Mount Madonna. I wonder if we’ll ever go walk in the stream at the south end of Lexington Reservoir again.

Too many goodbyes at my age, not enough hellos. But at least I’m here! With my family. And a nice party. Photo by Isabel. Thanks, dear ones.

Renormalization. “The Day We Met.”

Monday, March 15th, 2021

There’s this word “renormalization” used in quantum mechanics, or in black hole physics, to describe a situation where the values of your state vectors are rushing off towards singularities and infinities and paradoxes and you — you “renormalize” your coordinate system — like by changing your x-axis to a (1/x)-axis, and then the laws can go back to normal behavior.

Which is a roundabout way of saying Sylvia and I got our 2nd vax shots at the Santa Clara Country fairground exhibit hall, and now…

We went for a hike in Nisene Marks Park near Santa Cruz, where I’ve hardly ever been, and we happened on this very enchanting little glade by a stream. That — dare I say gnarly? — root snaking across the sandy bank: I worship it.

With my novel Juicy Ghosts pretty much done, even the late-breaking corrections done, I need something else to do with myself, so it’s back to painting.

“Rendezvous” acrylic on canvas, February, 2021, 28” x 22”. Click for a larger version of the painting. For more info see my Paintings page.

In this prehistoric rendezvous, we see a dino, I call her Elsa, about to meet up with a cretaceous croc. It amuses me the way she’s kind of looking in the wrong direction. I started this one by trying to paint that Nisene Marks glade, then I copied a dino from James Gurney’s great Dinotopia: The World Beneath.

Jumping around a little now. We hit the Calder / Picasso show at the De Young Museum in SF just the other day. Love that museum building.

And Picasso — untouchable. So great. Once he turns on his cubistic renormalization circuit and sets his muscle motion into play the result often looks somehow inevitable. Like—of course the thin vertical yellow rectangle! But I know I’d never think of it.

In the 30s, he did a lot of small “portraits” of women. I always have to laugh a little, imagining the woman seeing the image. “Aw that’s sweet, you made me look so pretty.” But of course he was usually painting a woman he lived with, and she would by then have “gotten it” about cubism, about showing all the views at once, jumping out of the representation and into the higher math, not that it’s mathy at all, more a matter of renormalization, whatever the fuck that means. The one above is called “Woman Seated in Red Armchair.” The hair kills me, and the octahedral head.

I already knew about this one painting in the show — I forget its title — but that eye-nose-mouth blob is famous. Jasper Johns, I think, copied it in a painting. And I myself copied it in a painting I did in 2015

“Tree of Life” oil on canvas, February, 2015, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting. For more info see my Paintings page.

I painted these bad ladies while pre-visualizing a scene in my novel Million Mile Road Trip. For the tree, I started out by putting a lot of paint and gel medium in the top half of the canvas and finger painting with it.

And for the critters, I forget what their species is called — I forget a lot of stuff these days, but, hey, it’s all online somewhere, up there in Rudy’s Lifebox on the cloud, so why break the flow — for the critters I used that Picasso head. I remember making a lot of pencil drawings of it, trying to speed myself up and get it deep into my mind.

On the Skystar Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park, right outside the DeYoung museum. Photo by Sylvia.

Nice clear cool weather this week. The low evening sun slanting through one of our yuccas. To me, the sun illuminating a plant like that always feels like a metaphor for the Cosmic Mind, the One, the White Light, the Absolute who is beaming the rays of vitality through every part of our body at every moment. The Light is, you understand, at a 4D remove from us, up thar in heavenly hyperspace.

Another post-vax outing…North Beach. So nice to be out and about. We spent a couple of nights at the Washington Square Inn in SF, which had no on-site staff, and you phoned in to get a “room key” app which mostly didn’t work, so you had to phone again and again or, if you were lucky, you might find the housekeeper, who had (hallelujah) an actual metal key to the lock on our door.

But never mind! Awesome crab-cake ‘burgers’ at Original Joe’s there. An amazing Small Batch Gelato place. Whiskey-shredded-kumquat gelato? Sure! And never forget Stella Pastry and of course the eternal Greco Cafe and the hoary and fabled Trieste.

We got together with V. Vale and Marian Wallace. They live, like, a block from City Lights books, where Vale himself worked years ago in his pre-RE/Search days. Marian took this photo.

Vale didn’t want to take his mask off, probably a wise move. I’m always happy I get to hang out with Vale and Marian— when we arrived in the SF Bay Area in 1986, RE/Search was near their peak of hipness and acclaim, and I really admired the successive issues. Vale has this great Andy Warhol quality, very flat and enthused and wide-eyed, but also worldly and been-around. Marian is an charming, lovely person, and a great film maker.

Vale was reminiscing about his times with Ferlinghetti — who was much in our minds as he’d just died.  A few days later, Vale actually set his memories to music and posted the song on BandCamp. Kind of great. I remember back in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1962, how my friend Niles Schoening and I were into Coney Island of the Mind. “Somewhere during eternity some guys show up…”  We staged our idea of a happening in our front yard, throwing some paint on masonite and recording Niles reading a couple of the poems.

Niles is dead, too, as is our dear old friend Henry Vaughan from Lynchburg, Virginia, as of this week.  Henry and his wife Diana both gone now.  In 1983, I wrote a story called “Monument to the Third International,” which is to some extent, modeled on my impressions of those two. Such characters. Here’s a link to the story in my online Complete Stories.  Our friends are dropping like flies.  We’re lucky to still be around…

Moving on, a week or two later we drove across the GG Bridge for the first time in god knows how long, and we check out the Marin Headlands, including Fort Baker, a tight right turn just north of the bridge leaving SF.

A luxe resort occupies some of the old wooden Fort Baker buildings and you can get a decent meal on their porch. A huge public pier hulks near the base of the bridge, with non-luxe locals fishing and crabbing. Someone had lost control of a raw chicken leg they’d used as bait, and the gulls were heavily into it. Cannibalistic? No worse than Donald Dick eating a turkey. And, hell we eat our fellow mammals all the time.

Always something artistic about a rusty dumpster with graffiti.

And the mandatory pan shot of the Bay Bridge and Our Fair City. My Adobe Lightroom Classic 2021 edition has this nice slider called “Dehaze,” and that’s exactly what it did for me on this one.

If seagulls weren’t so damn ubiquitous, they’d be respected as the transcendentally lovely beings they are.

I also love taking photos of these mooring things. Love their shape, which is, I assume deeply functional, as they always look this way. Kind of a Picasso look to them too. And the rust. One of Rudy Jr.’s favorite courses when he majored in chemical engineering at UC Berkeley was called “Corrosion.” More variants of it than we laypersons know.

Beautiful Sylvia at Rodeo Beach out on the Pacific side of the Headlands.

We stopped at the tip-ass end of the Headlands, it’s called Point Bonita. Dig the aplomb of this raven. With the Sutro Tower fondue fork in the way back.

The long and winding road that leads back homeward.

Sinister psychic seaward tug of the vast Pacific when you X this bridge.

The whole enchilada.

A few more North Beach shots. Here’s the Cafe Jacqueline on Grant Ave, and dig it, the bright sun is projecting a reflection of the gilded store name onto the sidewalk. And that same faithful sun is casting a shadow of the letters onto the wall inside the window. Sign, reflection, shadow— and the Cafe herself. What is reality? The whole enchiladada.

Vale lives near here, by the fabled Hungry I and the Beat Museum. I’ve gone in the museum a couple of times, just out of loyalty to good ole Jack K. The last time I went it they had the actual Hudson car that was used to film the movie of On the Road a couple of years ago. As the remorseless decades of time roll by, fewer and fewer people care about this.

And here, modernista, an ad for Rudy Jr’s Monkeybrains, Inc, on a wall on Columbus Ave in North Beach! Yah, mon.

Beeple and The Day We Met

“The Day We Met” (Version 1) acrylic on canvas, March, 2021, 20” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting. For more info see my Paintings page.

By way of explaining this painting, I’m going to pile on some text.

Earlier this week the artist Beeple sold a large image file containing an assemblage or collage or array of 5,000 of his digitally created images, some of them (as Beeple freely admits — he’s an odd, ebulliant, geekish character, worth seeing online) are  better than others, but technically they’re all highly proficient, and some are striking and maybe more than that.

The individual images are about 3000  pixels wide and high, taking up about 6 megabytes as a file. The omnibus file image of all 5,000 of them is, I would suppose, about 210,000 pixels wide, and as a file it would occupy about 3 gigabytes.  (Geekin’ on it here.)

Many of the images are cartoony renderings of punk takes on social scenes, often involving well-know cartoon critters. Others are more realistic. He builds 3D models of his images in virtual reality and in a sense takes photos of them with very high-end imaging programs. He makes one a day and calls the series Everydays.

Beeple’s image “Dead,” Copyright (C) Beeple 2020.

You can see the more recent ones in hi resolution on the beeple-collect site.  And you can download them at hi-res! (They download in a weird format called WEBP, but you can load this file into your Paint program and save it on your machine in the familiar JPG format.) It’s worth spending some time browsing the Beeple Collect site to get an idea of what’s going on—it’s wild. Beeple also sells prints-plus-codes of his individual images.  as well as that giant omnibus one.

Beeple doesn’t sell the rights to reproduce his works, he just sells a nicely framed animated image of the print — with “THIS IS MOTHER-FUCKING REAL ASS SHIT” printed on the back (you gotta love this guy check out this interview) , and on the front is a computer QR code that contains a long semi-random string of a couple of hundred numbers that is a tag on this one particular copy of the file as being unique and thereby what they’re calling non-fungible, which is an odd old word that means something like one-of-a-kind, or unique.

The kicker is that some pinhead (or sly investor) paid $69M for the new big catalog image, and what they bought is, basically, a couple of hundred random numbers that make up the tag code for the omnibus image. Those numbers are what’s called a blockchain code. Let me repeat that anyone who wants can look at or download Beeple’s images for free. That code number is the only thing that a buyer owns. Plus the frame with the animated image and the QR code image and that reassuring corporate message I mentioned above.

Mind-boggling in its seeming idiocy, but yet, if there’s a craze for these things, then someone else might buy your code number for more than you paid.

The classic ad-twist aspect of this is that a digital image file precisely is fungible. That’s what digital fucking means.  You can copy it as many times as you like. It’s the opposite of unique. And tacking on some random numbers in a QR symbol and saying, ah, now this work is non-fungible, a unique icon for the ages…this is complete bullshit. It’s like saying fake maple syrup based on some fenugreek spice ingredient has “genuine maple flavor.”

Of course if it’s a painting like I’m  making by hand, then as an object it is unique. Non-fungible. A physical object like none other.

When I started this painting, I thought It could somehow represent a “non-fungible” tag.  I’d paint a messy, Monet-style background, somewhat pointillist, and overlay that with some hard Kandinsky type abstraction with lines and triangles, and the background would be the artwork (which for purposes of my paitning might be thought of as a fungible dibital image) and the Kandinsky part would be the blockchain code to make the work as a whole non-fungible.

But as I was painting, the background started looking like springtime to me, and instead of overpainting it with Kandinsky blockchain abstractions, I began overlaying it with little critters, like I’m always putting into my SF novels.

And then for an incomprehensible reverse joke I thought I’d call the painting Fungible Spring. Instead of saying a digital image is unique (non-fungible) when it isn’t, I’m making a painting that is unique and in the title just claiming that it’s generic and undifferentiated (fungible). Just for laughs.

At the meta level, Fungible Spring as a title would also be making the point that each spring of my lifetime feels unique, but yet there’s always another spring coming and in many ways the different springs are quite similar from year to year, and from person to person, and from epoch to epoch, the archetype of Spring endlessly reoccuring—with rain, new plants, growing love, and a sense of renewal.

Plus I have my birthday every spring on March 22, and that’s fungible in the sense that I get pretty many birhtdays, but non-fungible in the sense that each birthday is a little different, and before too long there won’t be any more of them for me, because I’ll be dead.

So I worked on the painting for about twenty hours, mostly not thinking or reasoning about anything, but just doing the shapes and the shades and the dabs and the balance.  And I got to like the painting a lot, and I didn’t want to give it a stupid name that’s a joke about something I don’t care about.

The little critters don’t look like blockchain code at all, nor do they look like actual animals—I put a lot of effort to making them look fucked-up and unnatural, that old Dutch painter hell thing, but really I was thinking of them as more like thought forms, or personifications of tiny flashes of emotion.  But one of the critters, near the bottom, looked like a green worm or snake. And I started thinking this one ought to be meeting a partner worm or snake. A mate.

Sylvia and I met on a charter bus from Swarthmore College to Washington DC on March 21, 1964, the day before my 18th birthday, and this month I’ll be 75, and it’ll be 57 years since I met Sylvia. Because I happened to sit down next to her on that bus. She was pretty, and alert, and I hadn’t met her before. But I wanted to. And now we have three children and five grandchildren.

I’m feeling kind of sentimental about all this. My birth month.  I just finished my painting this afternoon, working in our back yard as usual. It started raining when I was almost done — spring rain, very fungible — and I had to hurry and paint really fast, and I got wet, but I got it all done, putting in an orange snake or worm to be meeting the green one, and there’s no knowing who’s who, but there they are meeting, and they’re “us.”

And that’s why I’m calling the painting The Day We Met.

As it happened, two weeks later, after my birthday, I kept thinking that the painting was a little muddy. It didn’t pop hard enough. So I sharpened it up and found a nice shade of green for the background.

“The Day We Met” (Version 2) acrylic on canvas, April, 2021, 20” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

And somene bought it the day after I posted the new version!

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