Life Hack/No Life Hack

It is November and the weather is dark and depressing. My city just underwent a terrorist attack. Currently, as I write this, Trump is doing “better than expected” (=cheating is going well) in initial counts. My tooth broke off day before yesterday and I spent yesterday morning at the dentist getting the rest ground off and a temporary crown applied and it was, of course, not in my budget. And, finally (?) we are not only in the middle of a pandemic, still, and our second lockdown (so far) — we are quarantined for the second time, waiting for someone to come test us, bc we were exposed to someone who tested positive.

You may ask yourself, why is Mig in such a good mood?
Well, strictly speaking, not a good mood, but maybe, why isn’t Mig in a worse mood?
Why isn’t Mig depressed?
Or, more accurately, why isn’t Mig more depressed? 2020 is being 2020 with a vengeance, he can’t see his friends in person, etc.

Ok you know what, when I started this post that was going to be the joke – there is no life hack, right? Things are terrible and I’m depressed. Except right now it occurs to me I am not really depressed. I am sad, but that’s different. My opinion – and I am not a psychologist – is that if you have a reason it’s sadness, not depression. I am sad bc a young man felt compelled to shoot random strangers. I am sad bc of seasonal grayness. I am sad bc I can’t see my friends who *are* depressed and try to cheer them up. I am sad bc I have to figure out how to pay for a crown on my molar (I have the money don’t worry).

I don’t know. My tent wisdom comes to mind – when I started this post, it sucked that it was raining when I was in a tent. But before I finished the second paragraph, it was great to have a tent when it was raining.

Maybe it’s just my brain’s last desperate attempt to cheer me up before I plunge into despair, but right now I am thinking about everything, and everyone, I love. My family. My friends. Random people I follow without knowing on social media saying decent, or indecent but funny, or kind, things right now. The city of Vienna. The country of Austria. The person who hollered “Schleich di du Oaschloch” at the terrorist. The Viennese personality that phrase is so typical of. The Americans who voted against Trump.

And so on.

I don’t know. Maybe it isn’t enough. We’ll see I guess. Maybe absentee ballots will be so overwhelmingly against Trump something good will come of 2020 after all. Maybe the feeling of unity and kindness in Vienna will last. Maybe my friends and I will cheer up. I am already thankful for a lot of things – my breadbox is full of bread, my wife and I are getting along, my small cats like me and the big one doesn’t bite me much. My transmission is making a funny noise but I only have to drive to the train station, usually. My children and my wife and I are all safe and healthy, except maybe for coronavirus. I don’t know, it’s a balancing act.

It always is, for someone, I guess right now we’re getting a taste of it, in case we didn’t realize before.

Now excuse me, I have to go into the cellar and write, Gamma is my new writing partner and we’re doing Nanowrimo this year. <3

Schrödinger’s everything

Odin stops at a cash machine to see if his new card works with his old PIN. It does. He gets fresh lottery tickets at the tobacco shop and it costs nearly nothing because one of the previous ones won minimal amounts. He decides to get something meaty at the store and on the way there, waiting for a light, existence unfolds for him.

But it’s not so much the world reveals itself to him as he finally understands why he never understands anything.

He can see too many options.

How can you be sure of knowledge if it’s not perfect?

How can you know anything if you don’t know everything.

It goes like this: he is thinking about a story he read that he liked a lot and trying to remember if it told anything or if it showed everything. Because on the one hand, the “show don’t tell” maxim for writing is ideological (and, like any ideology, used to manipulate more than you might suspect although not everyone totally agrees), and on the other he found the story satisfying and on the other he is thinking about writing a story that works even though it tells a lot and is ideological about it.

And he is standing at a light and thinking about telling, like, “we were unhappy because we were poor, or at least I was unhappy” and then he thinks, actually, the only way he ever had a chance to understand anything about people was for them to tell him something because showing — the entire world is always showing you everything, sometimes honestly, sometimes accidentally, sometimes it’s misleading or it lies and you never know which. And Odin never had the feeling that he understood anything, ever, because possible explanations and scenarios spawned in his mind faster than he could evaluate them, fractalling off each other like fever hallucinations you might get peeking in on a grown up party when you’re a sick little kid and supposed to be in your room getting well.

Everything is always Schrödinger’s cat, all the time, for Odin.

How is showing supposed to do you any damned good when so much more can be shown than can be processed or understood with any certainty or confidence, when the meaning of what is shown is so plastic and malleable and speculative, and when, at the same time, showing one thing obscures a dozen more?

It’s not much of an epiphany, but you take what you get.

Odin buys something meaty, but the only crows he sees on the way back to the office are way high up on the weather vane on the steeply part of some big house, or way up in the air, or in the crown of a distant tree.

Luwak epiphany


Photo by Bruce

I was at the doctor yesterday and she asked me how I was mood-wise cause a medication she prescribed can cause suicidal depression. I had totally forgotten. I thought it was the fog and general greyishness. Overall not so bad, though, I said. Actually, really great, I think now. My kids ate dinner with me and it was fun talking to them. The cats were freaky when I got home because my wife is away on a business trip and they were alone all day. This morning I was carrying one around and she stuck her tail into my coffee and I had to decide whether to make a new cup or just drink it. Making a fresh cup would have taken 30 seconds and I didn’t want to wait that long so I just pretended it was Luwak coffee. Then that, in combination with everything else, triggered an epiphany, which I sort of described in a post at

Writing blog posts is a lot of fun. Sometimes I am really happy with what I end up with, despite or because of the randomness and accidentiality of them. I am trying to write a novel right now, yet again, and am trying to figure out how to translate blog-type writing into a novel.

A whole bunch of short chapters, I guess.


The Inquisitor

Down, down, down.
Down they went, down the narrow spiral starecase, spelled that way because it was hewn from living eyes staring at them as they went, two guards in front, then the prisoner, then a bunch more guards in back since if a prisoner gets away and tries to escape they generally head back the way they came cause what could be down a freaky starecase? You don’t want to know.
The sounds of the city faded quickly and were replaced by water dripping, distant screams, whips cracking, like that.
Sort of like the beginning of a guided meditation, only way scarier.
The prisoner didn’t remember much after that. They tied him up and started torturing him, that much he knew, but after that things grew fuzzy cause he did what any intelligent person would do, he passed out immediately. One twist of a thumbscrew and that was it, over and out.
He regained consciousness. Someone had tossed a bucket of water in his face. He heard the sounds of boots on the stone floor, hewn from the living rock.
“He’s one tough customer, I’ll grant him that, your Lordship,” said a guard to the boots.
The prisoner spat water, pfff!
The prisoner’s name was Mark.
“No information at all?” said the boots.
The guard shook his head. “Nothing. Thumbscrews, rack, Iron Maiden. Quiet as a judge.”
“Which Iron Maiden?”
“2 Minutes to Midnight.”
“We’ll have to up the ante,” said the boots.
It was easy for Mark not to reveal anything. He was passed out and didn’t have a clue what they wanted anyway, or he would have told them, but they weren’t interested in his explanations.
“The Inquisitor will loosen his tongue,” said the boots, who then left the room amidst the chuckles of the guards (evil chuckles).
Mark didn’t have long to wait and worry about what the fellow had meant. The Inquisitor must have been waiting right outside the door, cause there he was, quiet on his feet, cheerful. A small man, but wearing black. Black boots, black cape, black hood.
“Okay let’s get started,” said the Inquisitor.
“Okay,” said Mark.
“Get-rich-quick ideas. Those have driven stronger men mad than you. Think up three get-rich-quick ideas. Now. On the spot.” He waved a red-hot poker in Mark’s face.
“Artisinal honey, e-books that you actually buy, mobile phones that protect your privacy, manly baby equipment bags for fathers, reasonably-priced wet plate cameras, software that comes on a DVD and installs itself and doesn’t require a month of back-and-forth with customer service to register.”
“He’s good,” said a guard.
“Silence!” said the Inquisitor, who was losing his temper, because normally thinking up three get-rich-quick ideas on the spot like that drove prisoners mad.
“NANOWRIMO is coming up,” said the Inquisitor. “Give me a plot that won’t make you sick after a month. Right now.”
“I, uh,” stammered Mark.
“Now we’re cooking with fire,” said the Inquisitor to a guard. “See? Everyone has a weakness.”
“What sort of book?” said Mark.
“Any sort,” said the Inquisitor, because what was harder than coming up with an idea when you had total freedom?
“That’s a tough one,” admitted Mark. “Do you ever wonder, when things are slow, down, down here, what book the world really needs?”
“What?” said the Inquisitor.
“I mean, life is finite. We can only read so much, all of us. Different people need different books, naturally, but for you, from your point of view, what is the book that is lacking when you go into a bookstore and leave unfulfilled, even if you leave with an armload of Staff Picks?”
“You mean, like, genre?”
“I mean everything. The exact book. I can see mine. Hardbound, ornate cover, of medium size and thickness. Containing all I need. A book smarter than me so I feel uplifted, yet not so clever as to be irritating. Frightening and reassuring in turns, a book that purifies both by example and by fire, so to speak, annealing the reader, and which leaves one back in love with language, thought, perception and humanity. You know what I mean?”
“No, actually,” said the Inquisitor, but he was starting to wonder, although he hadn’t read many books lately. He was so busy! But he had read a lot as a kid.
“Maybe someone can fly,” said the Inquisitor. “Maybe. But it seems realistic.”
“A book like a secret life. A book that reconciles us with our secret lives, the secret lives we all lead but cannot express or share, as much as we may try. A book that rewards us for them!” said Mark.
“Perhaps with dragons,” said the Inquisitor. “Or at least dragon eggs. Or even dinosaur eggs.”
The Inquisitor stared at Mark. Mark looked at him. The guards watched the two of them. The eyes of the starecase beheld the whole group.
“Perhaps with a whale. Perhaps a library or a linguist. Perhaps crows cawing in the fog in a forest the color of autumn. Perhaps a man hiding in a fisherman’s hut on the bank of a river, under a large willow. Perhaps a couple kneeling at the edge of a deep hole in the woods, freshly dug, with another man standing behind them with a Saturday Night Special in a gloved hand. Perhaps a child. Perhaps someone standing in a field in winter, watching their breath and the long grass, turned white with ice crystals in the night.”
“Perhaps,” said the Inquisitor.

On writing

He stood on the deck of his dirigible, long coat tossed by the storm, and calmly flicked a sliver from his leathery palm with a Bowie knife while fires raged on the ground far below.

“Stories are like killer robots,” he said. “Never really finished, but at some point you just have to unleash them on the world.”

He walked towards the captain’s lounge. The rhythm of his peg leg on the deck sounded like a heart in love.

Apocryphal fables: The man and the tortoise

Man: [Waters flowers, gives tortoise fresh water] Hi, little turtle. Tortoise.

Tortoise: You’re a little close to my rock, you’re making me nervous.

Man: Sorry. [Steps away from rock]

Tortoise: Hey, nice shoes!

Man: I… carry on, don’t let me distract you.

Tortoise: You have any more of that lettuce? For once I finish here? What’s up, you look down in the dumps.

Man: No, nah. I’m fine. I have time on my hands, is all. Just not infinite time, so I’m forced to prioritize my goof-off agenda, which re-stresses me.

Tortoise: Have you vaccuumed?

Man: Yep.

Tortoise: Mopped?

Man: Just finished.

Tortoise: Made the bed?

Man: Eh, yeah, sure I made the bed.

Tortoise: Decided what to cook on Sunday and done the shopping?

Man: I’ll do that tomorrow.

Tortoise: [Nods]

Man: I mean, should I play the cello, fire up the theremin, try to compose something, record something, write something?

Tortoise: Have you weeded the vegetable garden?

Man: I did that last week.

Tortoise: It grows back, you know. Mowed?

Man: I’m putting that off until tomorrow, in the hopes that it rains and gives me an excuse not to.

Tortoise: Respect.  [Stares at man]

Man: What?

Tortoise: Did you really make the bed?

Man: Mostly.

Tortoise: If I were you, I would write an erotic novel entitled Transit of Venus.

Man: I think that’s been done.

Tortoise: Can’t copyright titles, dude.

Man: Plus, aren’t you supposed to write what you know?

Tortoise: I would totally write it, but I’m busy.

Man: Maybe I will try to come up with a name for the musical genre in which I compose. Unfortunately creepcore is taken.

Tortoise: Crashcreep?

Man: Hrm. Nice.

Tortoise: Don’t mention it.

Dz, dz, dz

A story of mine (“Immune”, a zombie love story) was just published online as a podcast at Words with JAM. What is especially awesome IMO is the musical piece that accompanies it.