Sad Guitars

Teardrops icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track 05 from the Shapeshifting LP by Joe Satriani icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )

Joe Satriani photo from Shockwave Supernova album. [Formatted]

Cryin’ icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track 04 from The Extremist LP)
What Breaks a Heart icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track 09 from the Strange Beautiful Music LP)

Elvis Tattoo On Your Shoulder

Memories icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track 12 from the Endless Summer LP by The Midnight icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )

The Midnight's "Endless Summer" album cover. [Formatted]

Everything is clear in the rear-view mirror
See the coast highway and the golden hour
There is only love
Nothing was lost

Everything fits when you tell your story
The blurry portraits in the halls of former lovers—they’re gone, but nothing was lost

You’ll always be a part of me
You gave me a song to sing
Dancing in your room innocent and true
Elvis tattoo on your shoulder
We’ll know better when we’re older

You’ll always be a part of me
Some wounds will always sting
Forever in full bloom and barely twenty-two
Summer days are growing colder
We’ll know better when we’re older

All of this was planned when the world was started
The red-blood hearts with the final word that was never said
I’m tossing in my bed

But everything is clear in the rear-view mirror
When nothing is left the lights of evening around us shine
Full pink and silver skies

You’ll always be a part of me
You gave me a song to sing
Dancing in your room innocent and true
Elvis tattoo on your shoulder
We’ll know better when we’re older

You’ll always be a part of me
Some wounds will always sting
Forever in full bloom and barely twenty-two
Summer days are growing colder
We’ll know better when we’re older

He Was About to Risk Something He Really Valued Here—the Continued Respect of this Man

Excerpt from the novel Rising Storm icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by S.M. Stirling icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

S.M. Stirling's "Rising Storm" book cover. [Formatted]


     Almost into Oregon, on the east side of Goose Lake, nestled beneath the spreading, green canopy of old-growth pines, was a small log cabin. It had one story, a stone chimney, and three rooms, one with a glass wall facing the lake as well as a state-of-the-art woodstove. It also boasted its own generator plus a slew of more esoteric gadgets. For a rustic log cabin it was amazingly twenty-first century.
     Extending out into the lake nearby was a wooden pier; a small boat with an outboard motor was tied up at the far end. The pier was so low to the water that one could step aboard easily.
     At the very end of the pier, seated in an aluminum chair with yellow plastic webbing, was a big man of about sixty. His gray hair was covered with a battered khaki hat decorated with fishhooks and a plastic badge that held a fishing and a hunting license. He wore tan shorts, white socks with sandals, and a neon-orange shirt decorated with bright blue hibiscus blossoms and green hummingbirds.
     In one hand he held a high-end rod and reel, the butt end resting on his thigh. The other hand was curled in his lap; he appeared to be dozing. Beside him a can of beer sat atop a red-and-white cooler.
     Dieter had been observing this tranquil scene for over two hours from various locations around the cabin. It appeared that there wasn’t anybody around except for him and the old man. Which made a nice change. Several times now he’d had to abort contact with someone he wanted to recruit because of a Sector presence. But if they were here they were too well hidden for him to spot. Time to make his move. He crept silently toward the pier.
     The old man’s hand jerked and suddenly held a Walther P-38, old and well maintained and deadly, the 9mm eyehole looking as big as a cannon when it settled unwaveringly on Dieter’s face. His eyes moved to the tiny mirrors on the inner edge of his oversized sunglasses.
     “Jesus Christ, Dieter, what took you so damned long?” he demanded. “I thought my goddamned bladder was going to explode.” He stood up and held out the rod. “Here, reel this in and come into the cabin.”
     Dieter stood with his mouth open, caught flat-footed. Like some raw recruit, he thought.
     “How did you know?” he asked, accepting the rod.
     “Christ Almighty, you were making so much racket I thought I was being invaded by bears. Bring the beer in, too.”
     Von Rossbach watched the older man trot up the path to the cabin for a moment; then shaking his head, he began to reel in the unused lure. He’d always said the boss was psychic.
     When von Rossbach was a young agent assigned to Doc Holmes’s unit, he’d quickly become aware that his mentor possessed an acute situational awareness. And though Doc was well schooled in every facet of covert technology, he made it plain that he preferred his agents to rely mainly on their native faculties.
     “What are you gonna do if your batteries run out?” he’d ask sarcastically. “Go home?”
     Doc could be as exasperating as he was amazing. At some point whenever they got together, he left Dieter feeling like the overconfident young student in a kung fu movie who could never get the best of the master.
     Dieter tucked the rod under one arm, the chair under the other, and picked up the cooler. In a way it was kind of nice to know that he still had things to learn. At least it means that I’m not the old master yet. And he’s never made me walk over rice paper without tearing it, or asked me to trust the Force.
     When he entered the cabin Doc was flicking switches on what looked like an incredibly complex stereo unit.
     “Siddown,” Doc invited. “Have yourself a brew.”
     He continued to fiddle with the console, though no music began to play. Von Rossbach selected a beer and sat watching him, making no comment.
     Finally Holmes took a seat himself and, indicating the console, spoke as though continuing an ongoing conversation, “Yeah, the Sector promised me they wouldn’t keep me under observation when I retired. They lied.” He put a finger by his nose and winked. “But I never made them any promises in return. What I just did then was erase the little bit of conversation we just had and replace it with tweeting birds and lake water lapping the pier.” He grinned. “I pity the poor schmo they’ve got listening in on me; his brain is probably turning to New Age paste.” Taking a sip of beer, he studied his former agent.
     “So, what brings you here to Goose Lake? I heard you’d retired to Paraguay, of all places.”
     Dieter shifted in his chair. “Paraguay is nice,” he said, a bit defensively. “A little boring sometimes, but basically very nice.”
     With a snort Doc said, “So’s Goose Lake, if you like being bored out of your mind.” He wagged a finger. “You’ve been causing comment, dear boy. What’s this I hear about you and Sarah Connor?”
     “How do you know about that?” von Rossbach demanded.
     Doc looked smug. “Remember how I said I never made them any promises? Wellll… I found a way to keep myself updated. When you left I hear you just… left.”
     “I burned out all at once,” Dieter agreed. “I couldn’t wait to get out of there. They agreed.”
     “Wanna talk about it?” Doc asked.
     “Nothing to talk about,” von Rossbach said. “There was nothing particular about my last mission that made it my last. It just was. Maybe I didn’t take enough time between assignments, maybe I should have taken a desk job instead of staying in the field.” He shrugged his big shoulders. “I don’t know; it was just over.”
     Holmes looked at him shrewdly. “I ask again, what’s this about Sarah Connor? Not like you to side with the terrorists.”
     Is that what they’re saying? Dieter thought. Of course it was, what else could they think? “Sarah Connor isn’t a terrorist,” he said aloud. His voice was flat when he said it; he didn’t expect to be believed.
     Doc raised a brow at that. “She’s not? She’s bombed at least three computer companies that we know of. Okay, two of them were Cyberdyne, but that still counts as three hits. Not to mention she’s guilty of drug smuggling and arms dealing. These are things that terrorists do, buddy.”
     Dieter sighed. He was about to risk something he really valued here—the continued respect of this man. “But what if she’s not crazy, Doc?” He looked up and met the other man’s eyes.
     Both of Doc’s brows went up at that. He sat contemplating his former agent for a while. “Not crazy,” he said at last.
     “Would you be willing to listen?” von Rossbach asked him.
     Holmes pursed his lips and blew out a stream of air. He shrugged. “Sure, what the hell, I haven’t got anything else on my schedule right now.”
     Dieter studied him carefully; if he didn’t buy this story, Dieter knew Doc would turn him in to the Sector in a New York minute. He ran one hand over his face, feeling desperate. Well, this is what you’re here for, he told himself.
     “It’s all true,” he said simply. Dieter waived his hands. “All of it.”
     For a moment Doc sat still, looking expectant. “That’s it?” he exclaimed. “That’s your explanation? ‘Cause, y’know, I’m sitting here waiting for something more. What if all I know about Sarah Connor is she likes to blow up computer companies?”
     Tossing his head impatiently, von Rossbach said, “You know more about the case than that! I know you better, Doc. I worked for you for ten years. If you saw my name connected with hers in the Sector’s files, you’d look into it. I know you would.”
     Doc waggled his head back and forth. “Okay, good call.” He went silent for a while, his eyes on the middle distance. “I have to admit I was very intrigued by that guy who shot up the police station, then ten years later showed up in a shopping mall.” He waved a hand at von Rossbach. “It was you! Except that at the time of both incidents, you were working for me, and in the first case, you were actually, physically, with me. So what am I supposed to think? I know you don’t have an evil identical twin. I know they say everybody has a double, but that’s bullshit.”
     Dieter watched Doc as he worked it through, the older man’s fingers tapping on the arms of his chair. Doc looked up at him. “Connor says this guy was some kind of robot.” A statement that was really a question.
     Dieter nodded. “I got to meet a couple of them, Doc. They looked exactly like me. I saw their insides; they’re made of metal. Rods and cams, hydraulics, a really impressive small power unit, computer controls—neural-net computers. They’re real.”
     After studying Dieter for a moment, Doc said, “So it follows that the ultimate killer computer and the Judgment Day crap… all that’s real, too?”
     “I hope not. That’s what Sarah has been trying to prevent all these years.” He bit his lip. “Unfortunately we’ve come to the conclusion that maybe it can’t be stopped. Maybe it’s meant to happen and there’s nothing that can be done to prevent it. The best we can do is mitigate the circumstances. Which is why I’m here.”
     “Yeah, Whang said you were recruiting people.”
     Doc waited him out. Dieter could feel heat creeping up his face. Only Doc could make him feel like a naive kid saying something stupid. “So I was hoping that we could rely on you to help when the time came.” There, that was it. This time he waited for Holmes to speak.
     “You’re serious about this, I can see that,” Doc said at last. “I’m not gonna tell you it makes me feel good; like you’ve found a nice hobby to enliven your retirement.” He tightened his lips to thin line, then met von Rossbach’s eyes. “But I’ve trusted you before now and been right. So… I’ll take a chance and agree to help you. But!” He held up a stern finger. “I’m not going to be party to any wacko terrorist behavior. If your girlfriend feels an urge to blow up anything else, I’d advise you to talk her out of it, or I’m gone. Got it?”
     “Yes,” Dieter said simply. “Thank you.”
     “So what do you want from me anyway?”
     “When the time comes we’ll need someplace marginally safe for people to go.” Dieter looked out at the peaceful lake. “This would make a good destination. We’ll also need your training skills.” He hesitated. “And we’ll need someplace to stockpile supplies.”
     Von Rossbach was enormously relieved. The fact that Holmes had agreed so readily meant that he’d given the matter study and thought. And where Doc led, others would follow; generations of Sector agents and allies had worked with, or trained under, the old man. He was glad he’d taken the chance and approached him.
     Doc nodded once or twice, then narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. “How bad do you expect this thing to get?”
     “Bad,” Dieter said. “Not as bad as it would have been six years ago maybe. But bad. Billions dead. End of civilization as we know it. Possible extinction of the human race.”
     Holmes nodded, his eyes on the braided rug beneath his feet, then he looked up, his eyes sharp. “I really hope she’s crazy, Dieter, if that’s an improvement on the original version.”
     One corner of the Austrian’s mouth quirked in a half smile. “I wish she was.”

Even to Understand the Word ‘Doublethink’ Involved the Use of Doublethink

Excerpt from the novel 1984 icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by George Orwell icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

George Orwell's "1984" book cover. [Formatted]

Winston was dreaming of his mother.
     He must, he thought, have been ten or eleven years old when his mother had disappeared. She was a tall, statuesque, rather silent woman with slow movements and magnificent fair hair. His father he remembered more vaguely as dark and thin, dressed always in neat dark clothes (Winston remembered especially the very thin soles of his father’s shoes) and wearing spectacles. The two of them must evidently have been swallowed up in one of the first great purges of the ‘fifties.
     At this moment his mother was sitting in some place deep down beneath him, with his young sister in her arms. He did not remember his sister at all, except as a tiny, feeble baby, always silent, with large, watchful eyes. Both of them were looking up at him. They were down in some subterranean place—the bottom of a well, for instance or a very deep grave—but it was a place which, already far below him, was itself moving downwards. They were in the saloon of a sinking ship, looking up at him through the darkening water. There was still air in the saloon, they could see him and he them, but all the while they were sinking down, down into the green waters which in another moment must hide them from sight for ever. He was out in the light and air while they were being sucked down to death, and they were down there because he was up here. He knew it and they knew it, and he could see the knowledge in their faces. There was no reproach either in their faces or in their hearts, only the knowledge that they must die in order that he might remain alive, and that this was part of the unavoidable order of things.
     He could not remember what had happened, but he knew in his dream that in some way the lives of his mother and his sister had been sacrificed to his own. It was one of those dreams which, while retaining the characteristic dream scenery, are a continuation of one’s intellectual life, and in which one becomes aware of facts and ideas which still seem new and valuable after one is awake. The thing that now suddenly struck Winston was that his mother’s death, nearly thirty years ago, had been tragic and sorrowful in a way that was no longer possible. Tragedy, he perceived, belonged to the ancient time, to a time when there was still privacy, love and friendship, and when the members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason. His mother’s memory tore at his heart because she had died loving him, when he was too young and selfish to love her in return, and because somehow, he did not remember how, she had sacrificed herself to a conception of loyalty that was private and unalterable. Such things, he saw, could not happen today. Today there were fear, hatred and pain, but no dignity of emotion, no deep or complex sorrows. All this he seemed to see in the large eyes of his mother and his sister, looking up at him through the green water, hundreds of fathoms down and still sinking.
     Suddenly he was standing on short springy turf, on a summer evening when the slanting rays of the sun gilded the ground. The landscape that he was looking at recurred so often in his dreams that he was never fully certain whether or not he had seen it in the real world. In his waking thoughts he called it the Golden Country. It was an old, rabbit-bitten pasture, with a foot-track wandering across it and a molehill here and there. In the ragged hedge on the opposite side of the field the boughs of the elm trees were swaying very faintly in the breeze, their leaves just stirring in dense masses like women’s hair. Somewher near at hand, though out of sight, there was a clear, slow-moving stream where dace were swimming in the pools under the willow trees.
     The girl with dark hair was coming towards him across the field. With what seemed a single movement she tore off her clothes and flung them disdainfully aside. Her body was white and smooth, but it aroused no desire in him, indeed he barely looked at it. What overwhelmed him in that instant was admiration for the gesture with which she had thrown her clothes aside. With its grace and carelessness it seemed to annihilate a whole culture, a whole system of thought, as though Big Brother and the Party and the Thought Police could all be swept into nothingness by a single splendid movement of the arm. That too was a gesture belonging to the ancient time. Winston woke up with the word ‘Shakespeare’ on his lips.
     The telescreen was giving forth an ear-splitting whistle which continued on the same note for thirty seconds. It was nought seven fifteen, getting-up time for office workers. Winston wrenched his body out of bed—naked, for a member of the Outer Party received only three thousand clothing coupons annually, and a suit of pyjamas was six hundred—and seized a dingy singlet and a pair of shorts that were lying across a chair. The Physical Jerks would begin in three minutes. The next moment he was doubled up by a violent coughing fit which nearly always attacked him soon after waking up. It emptied his lungs so completely that he could only begin breathing again by lying on his back and taking a series of deep gasps. His veins had swelled with the effort of the cough, and the varicose ulcer had started itching.
     ‘Thirty to forty group!’ yapped a piercing female voice. ‘Thirty to forty group! Take your places, please. Thirties to forties!’
     Winston sprang to attention in front of the telescreen, upon which the image of a youngish woman, scrawny but muscular, dressed in tunic and gym-shoes, had already appeared.
     ‘Arms bending and stretching!’ she rapped out. ‘Take your time by me. One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four! Come on, comrades, put a bit of life into it! One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four!…’
     The pain of the coughing fit had not quite driven out of Winston’s mind the impression made by his dream, and the rhythmic movements of the exercise restored it somewhat. As he mechanically shot his arms back and forth, wearing on his face the look of grim enjoyment which was considered proper during the Physical Jerks, he was struggling to think his way backward into the dim period of his early childhood. It was extraordinarily difficult. Beyond the late ‘fifties everything faded. When there were no external records that you could refer to, even the outline of your own life lost its sharpness. You remembered huge events which had quite probably not happened, you remembered the detail of incidents without being able to recapture their atmosphere, and there were long blank periods to which you could assign nothing. Everything had been different then. Even the names of countries, and their shapes on the map, had been different. Airstrip One, for instance, had not been so called in those days: it had been called England or Britain, though London, he felt fairly certain, had always been called London.
     Winston could not definitely remember a time when his country had not been at war, but it was evident that there had been a fairly long interval of peace during his childhood, because one of his early memories was of an air raid which appeared to take everyone by surprise. Perhaps it was the time when the atomic bomb had fallen on Colchester. He did not remember the raid itself, but he did remember his father’s hand clutching his own as they hurried down, down, down into some place deep in the earth, round and round a spiral staircase which rang under his feet and which finally so wearied his legs that he began whimpering and they had to stop and rest. His mother, in her slow dreamy way, was following a long way behind them. She was carrying his baby sister—or perhaps it was only a bundle of blankets that she was carrying: he was not certain whether his sister had been born then. Finally they had emerged into a noisy, crowded place which he had realised to be a Tube station.
     There were people sitting all over the stone-flagged floor, and other people, packed tightly together, were sitting on metal bunks, one above the other. Winston and his mother and father found themselves a place on the floor, and near them an old man and an old woman were sitting side by side on a bunk. The old man had on a decent dark suit and a black cloth cap pushed back from very white hair: his face was scarlet and his eyes were blue and full of tears. He reeked of gin. It seemed to breathe out of his skin in place of sweat, and one could have fancied that the tears welling from his eyes were pure gin. But though slightly drunk he was also suffering under some grief that was genuine and unbearable. In his childish way Winston grasped that some terrible thing, something that was beyond forgiveness and could never be remedied, had just happened. It also seemed to him that he knew what it was. Someone whom the old man loved, a little granddaughter perhaps, had been killed. Every few minutes the old man kept repeating:
     ‘We didn’t ought to ‘ave trusted ’em. I said so, Ma, didn’t I? That’s what come of trusting ’em . I said so all along. We didn’t ought to ‘ave trusted the buggers.’
     But which buggers they didn’t ought to have trusted Winston could not now remember.
     Since about that time, war had been literally continuous, though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war. For several months during his childhood there had been confused street fighting in London itself, some of which he remembered vividly. But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one. At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to posses because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.
     The frightening thing, he reflected for the ten thousandth time as he forced his shoulders painfully backward (with hands on hips, they were gyrating their bodies from the waist, an exercise that was supposed to be good for the back muscles)—the frightening thing was that it might all be true. If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?
     The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’.
     ‘Stand easy!’ barked the instructress, a little more genially.
     Winston sank his arms to his sides and slowly refilled his lungs with air. His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully-constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them; to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of domocracy; to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.
     The instructress had called them to attention again. ‘And now let’s see which of us can touch our toes!’ she said enthusiastically. ‘Right over from the hips, please, comrades. One-two! One-two!…’
     Winston loathed this exercise, which sent shooting pains all the way from his heels to his buttocks and often ended by bringing on another coughing fit. The half-pleasant quality went out of his meditations. The past, he reflected, had not merely been altered, it had been actually destroyed. For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory? He tried to remember in what year he had first heard mention of Big Brother. He thought it must have been at some time in the ‘sixties, but it was impossible to be certain. In the Party histories, of course, Big brother figured as the leader and guardian of the Revolution since its very earliest days. His exploits had been gradually pushed backwards in time until already they extended into the fabulous world of the ‘forties and the ‘thirties, when the capitalists in their strange cylindrical hats still rode through the streets of London in great gleaming motor-cars or horse carriages with glass sides. There was no knowing how much of this legend was true and how much invented. Winston could not even remember at what date the Party itself had come into existence. He did not believe he had ever heard the word Ingsoc before 1960, but it was possible that in its Oldspeak form—‘English Socialism’, that is to say—it had been current earlier. Everything melted into mist. Sometimes indeed, you could put your finger on a definite lie. It was not true, for example, as was claimed in the Party history books, that the Party had invented aeroplanes. He remembered aeroplanes since his earliest childhood. But you could prove nothing. There was never any evidence. Just once in his whole life he had held in his hands unmistakable documentary proof of the falsification of a historical fact. And on that occasion—
     ‘Smith!’ screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. ‘6079 Smith W! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! That’s better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me.’
     A sudden hot sweat had broken out all over Winston’s body. His face remained completely inscrutable. Never show dismay! Never show resentment! A single flicker of the eyes could give you away. He stood watching while the instructress raised her arms above her head and—one could not say gracefully, but with remarkable neatness and efficiency—bent over and tucked the first joint of her fingers under her toes.
     ‘There, comrades! That’s how I want to see you doing it. Watch me again. I’m thirty-nine and I’ve had four children. Now look.’ She bent over again. ‘You see my knees aren’t bent. You can all do it if you want to,’ she added as she straightened herself up. ‘Anyone under forty-five is perfectly capable of touching his toes. We don’t all have the privilege of fighting in the front line, but at least we can all keep fit. Remember our boys on the Malabar front! And the sailors in the Floating Fortresses! Just think what they have to put up with. Now try again. That’s better comrade, that’s much better,’ she added encouragingly as Winston, with a violent lunge, succeeded in touching his toes with knees unbent, for the first time in several years.