Tune

Tune
(For Phil Sudo)

Earthly tones, with pitch
Ascending, stairsteps to
Divinity.  Silver strings,
Gossamer wings, carry us
Beyond this world to ride
Ethereal melodies.

Expectations fall away,
Allowing soul to soar
Drifting upward in a
Gyre, each cycle higher than
Before.  Tune up!  And
Elevate your consciousness.

— Stace Johnson, 2006

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Garage Sales & Source Enlightenment

Today I picked up a bunch of great books at a garage sale, including another copy of Ellison’s Angry Candy, Datlow’s Alien Sex anthology, several issues of Glimmer Train, a Leslie Marmon Silko book, the screenplay and director’s journal for Darren Aronofsky’s p(Pi), and Philip Toshio Sudo’s Zen Sex, the companion volume to Zen Guitar, which I reviewed on this website. My friend Dave also went to that garage sale, and purchased The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume I. I saw him walking down the sidewalk, and asked if they had anything good at the sale.

“They did. But it’s yours, now. Happy early birthday present.” He handed me the book.

Thanks, Dave. 🙂

In the afternoon, I watched the Broncos-Rams game, glad to see that Brian Griese pulled through for the team. I get sick of the media hounding him, and it was nice to see him prove — again — that he’s a world class quarterback. During the game, I told my wife that I was going to either write or critique stories tonight, and that’s exactly what I did, after losing a close game of Literati to her. I beat her sister, though. (It’s strange to play a game over the Internet with someone who’s in the next room, but by doing so, we were also able to play with her sister in Phoenix. Pretty cool!)

I worked on “Chesterfield Gray,” getting into the swing of it by revising the three pages I had written before. I then continued for another page and a half, fact-checking WWII on the Internet as I went. I still didn’t know where the story was going, or why a WWII story was coming out, but I made a passing reference to Kamikaze attacks, and started exploring the main male character to see what made him tick. I decided that he had seen real death, and it had affected him deeply, and got to wondering which battles would be the most likely for him to have been in. I wanted it to be a battle where ships were known to have been directly hit by Kamikaze pilots, and the only ship that I knew off the top of my head had been hit was the U.S.S. Saratoga. She was badly damaged near Iwo Jima in 1945, with seven direct hits by Japanese aircraft. Three of those direct hits were Kamikaze strikes.

I know this because I dug out the obituary for my Uncle Wayne Johnson, who passed away in July. He was on the Saratoga on February 21, 1945, and was one deck below a direct Kamikaze hit. He spent the next ten days in a Hawaiian hospital, getting a glass eye and reconstructive surgery.

As I was reading the obituary, it hit me why I am writing this story. It’s my way of grieving for and paying tribute to my Uncle Wayne. Of course, the events in the story will only be tangential to his life, but I understand now why the story is coming out of me. I have a direction, now, and I can work on shaping the story into something worthy of his memory.

Wayne (sitting) and Lyle Johnson, brothers.  Cutter, New Mexico, March 2002
Photo © Stace Johnson, all rights reserved.

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Goodbye, Phil

I did hear back from Brian Plante after sending him feedback on the GVW Chronicles. I’m pleased to say that he was very pleasant and civil, and that he addressed some of my concerns about the anonymity of the group to my satisfaction. I still have some issues with the moral implications of what he’s doing, but I told him I would keep reading the chronicles based on the reply he gave me.

Yesterday, I sat down to write the review of Zen Guitar and got some shocking news about its author. Evidently Phil Sudo died while I was in the process of reading his book.

When I read a book, I get a sense that I’m sharing something personal with the writer. That was especially the case in this book, since it was written in the framework of a martial arts dojo. I felt like Phil was teaching me while I was reading. When I found out that he had died of cancer in June, I experienced a stillness in my thoughts. I felt as if I had been conversing with a ghost for the last month without realizing it.

I wish Phil’s family the best, and I want them to know that Zen Guitar gave me focus in my playing, and the book will stay by my bedside and in my gig bag for some time to come.

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Independence Day

I had today off from work, my son had spent the night at a friend’s house, and my wife had to work the morning shift. I had the perfect opportunity for uninterrupted writing. So I played Morrowind most of the morning, then played guitar in the afternoon. Well, it’s not writing, but I do need to work on the songs for Better Than Nothing in case they invite me to join the group. Even the Morrowind stuff was pretty creative; I’m really getting into the meat of the main quest now, and some of the tasks on that quest are getting tougher, so accomplishing them requires some creativity.

In the evening, we went to CU’s Folsom Field for their annual concert and fireworks display. Because of the Colorado wildfire situation and the drought conditions, the City of Boulder made the responsible decision to cancel the fireworks display this year, and the promoters chose to present a laser light show instead. Usually the event features a high-profile local band, Chris Daniels and the Kings, but this year they had the Colorado Music Festival orchestra. The orchestra played well, but making the sound from a small orchestra fill a college football stadium is a challenge, and the amplified sound of the orchestra was unavoidably tinny. The laser show was good, though short. Considering the fact that they only had a couple of weeks to put the whole thing together after the fireworks ban, I’d say they did a very good job.

If they ever do this again, though, I won’t sit in the same spot. We were directly below the stadium scoreboard in the upper bleachers. This is the ideal place to view a fireworks display, because you don’t have to crane your neck as much. However, with lasers shooting over the crowd from the other end of the stadium, and with us directly across from the emanation point, we got quite a bit of laser amplification when the lines crossed. The lasers weren’t dangerous to our eyes, but the constant flashing made more than a few guests in our area leave shortly after the beginning of the show.

When we got home, I finished reading Zen Guitar. I hope to post a review of that on this site tomorrow and also send a review of last week’s Dan Fogelberg concert to the Living Legacy website.

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Zen Web

I found out today that I am now the official webmaster for West Side’s Book Annex. I will be putting in some time revamping and adding to the current site soon. That whole thing came about because I had done a search on Google for the exact string “Stories for All Seasons” and this site ranked 3rd out of 300+ listings. I sent that information along to the owner of West Side Books, and she asked me what I was doing right, then offered me the responsibility of being the webmaster. Now I just need to perform the same feat with the West Side Books site.

I also sent out the Old Possum’s Writing Group announcements for next Monday’s meeting, which didn’t require a lot of creativity, but does relate to writing. 🙂

I relaxed in bed last night by reading some more of Zen Guitar. I find that I’m enjoying that book very much, especially since I’m in the midst of a musical spurt. Some of the issues that I have been concerned about as a player are addressed in the book. If I can remember to take the book’s advice and rely on intuition when I’m playing, rather than trying to think too much about what I’m playing, I will become a better player. When I finish that book, I will definitely post a review on this site.

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