Thursday, November 27, 2014

Trial of Miles

Time is quick to carry on
Certain as the morning tends to
Hollow us and turn our words to smoke
In all that is escaped us
And all that we could hold in place
--L. Gibson

Been running again lately. Above are from a recent trail run at Redwood Regional Park in the Oakland hills.

Speaking of which, and while the pics above sort-of show it, it occurred to me how wonderfully the Oakland/Berkeley hills showcase the climate- and bio-diversity of the Bay Area. In the same park, on the same trail, within a few hundred yards, you can go from evergreen coniferous forest (Bay-side ridges and valleys) to oak and chaparral woodland (eastern ridges and valleys).  

I also ran the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey a couple weeks ago. I ran most of it with my brother and his wife, and that was a ton of fun. My attitude toward running has shifted in recent years: While it is still very much meditative solitary experience  (the Navajo call it "moving prayer"), I've come to enjoy the big social event side of it as well. Events, "races" -- whatever you want to call them --  they're all about celebration. Celebrating fitness, dedication, turning one's life around. Being part of the cosmic dance. And everyone -- athletes, volunteers, organizers -- is there as witness. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Report: Dune

Trying something different. I don't do reviews often, but I find writing them helpful in developing a deeper appreciation and understanding for the item at hand. It's also good practice for keeping up my publication-writing chops.

I don't read much science fiction. Dune wormed its way onto my reading list via an enduring board game that was published to coincide with the 1984 film. Dune also comes up often whenever searching for quality fantasy-genre writing -- to which I'm more open.

So as with with many reads, this one started in the corner of a bookstore basement. What's a Gom-Jabar? I just had to find out.

But first, Dune had its warnings for this otherwise non-SciFi reader: 1) It's massive at 900 pages and 2) it's high-fiction with its own dictionary and appendices -- owing to its well-imagined universe. As I became more familiar with the Dune world, another warning became apparent: 3) There are heavy religious themes.

The main story arc isn't particularly compelling. What is compelling, however, and worth the read, is Herbert's ability to completely transport you into his imaginings: Mankind has recovered from a post-Armageddon dystopia and has left Earth to colonize the universe. And Herbert's universe  is so strange and curious. When events take place in that universe, your curiosity compels you to discover the outcome.

It's like when Google has a really fantastic doodle on its main search page. What happens if you start this little gizmo off over here, and then you press these other buttons over there. What will happen? Will the whole thing collapse on itself?

In the Dune universe, there are the Bene Gesserit, the Mentat, the Freman, Makers... the Gom-Jabar. What happens when they all interact? As with well-imagined and well-crafted things, the book doesn't collapse under its own complexity.

It's quite the opposite: A major episode in human history occurs, yet the universe just shrugs. There's a vastness and depth that invites further exploration. And yet the story told here is small: Two families vying for galactic influence. It is like a less-90210-ish Game of Thrones set in outer-space.

Disregarding the 1984 film (which, except for the awesome set pieces, is a disaster), in further pop-culture comparison, it is like the characters from Star Wars, Dances With Wolves, Avatar, and The Celestine Prophecy(!) all having a dance-off.

And, finally, to address my third reservation: Religion in Dune is handled with maturity. This is a messianic story in which the characters accept their roles with guarded skepticism. Dune is also a war story in which the characters are leery of religious conflict. If a there's a prophecy fulfilled here, it is manifest by mankind's genetic-engineering, psycho-actives, and pure cosmic timing.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


the morning 
following a great 
novel's finish
is like the wake 
of silence 
left by 
dinner guests
who've stayed the night

the wash 
of laughter 
settling into the ceiling

the flush of
semi-sweet wine 
passing while we slept

the tales to tide 
us over 'till 
new sleeves to bare