Content Blues, the Podcast: Episode 4 – The Lost Summer Episode

Doing this fell by the wayside as I was wrapped up in bringing Caligula to market (The Kindle Countdown deal is going well, by the way). But having a few free evenings, I was able to clear out the notebook and talk about some stuff I’d meant to all summer. Here are the results.

4. The Lost Summer Episode Content Blues

We're back from Summer Vacation with a bunch of notes we took months ago and will turn deftly into a full episode: Why I Care. A Lot. is as bad as you've heard. Why Aldous Huxley was as good as you've heard. Why Ronnie James Dio is better than you've probably heard. Huzzah for Content!
  1. 4. The Lost Summer Episode
  2. 3. Poems, Prose, and Princes
  3. 2. Thus Stuffed Zarathustra Funko Pops into The God-Shaped Hole
  4. 1. Absinthe is Delicious

The True Audience of Art is God

Provocative idea found in an old Zero HP Lovecraft essay in The American Mind:

What does the divine care for “new paradigms,” for gay portrayals of “the human condition?” Art which has Man as its object is folly, and this is the reason for its permeating ugliness; Man without God is ugly, and the only truth that manifests in such art is the truth of how ugly Man can become. The art that we SHALL make will have God as its intended audience, and all other beholders will be merely incidental. This is how it must be, and how it always has been, with regard to great and poignant art.

The New Tlön” – The American Mind

I take “having God as its intended audience” to mean to above speak the truth, the cosmic truth (I also take it to mean offering it up to please the Creator, as to do otherwise is blasphemy and blasphemy does not speak Truth, however much it wishes to), to speak not just to Current Year but to the past, and to the future. It means not to narrow your field of art to that collection of men who happen to be alive around the time you are.

To frame one’s Art this way is to solidify the claim that Aesthetics is a branch of Philosophy. It is to agree with the self-glorifying poet who proclaims that Beauty is Truth and Truth, Beauty. This statement has always struck me as wrong, because one learns pretty early that things pleasing to the senses can be used to manipulate and deceive. This causes us to differentiate Sensory Beauty, with esoteric True Beauty, wherein the latter becomes meaningless except as a synonym for Truth.

This is where we must recognize both that Oscar Wilde had a point, and that the concept of the Sublime is useful. Just as a lie cannot deceive unless it contains a piece of the truth, beauty would not have the power to manipulate if there were not something unmistakably Real about it. We perceive this potency, we feel it intensely, we respond to it autonomically. In this way Beauty is more real than the circumlocutions of our abstract rhetoric.

But precisely because of this potency, the Beautiful can be Terrible. Helen of Troy destroyed a city by no action of her own. The destruction of Troy, an event symbolic of the Bronze Age Collapse, resonates like the Fall of Man through the ages that followed. It bore something true to them, something beautiful, something terrible. It was sublime.

Therefore, the only art worth making is an attempt at these, with an eye towards what follows.

Upcoming Kindle Countdown deal for Caligula

Now that I’ve got good reviews/ratings, it makes sense to let more people know about it. The Author is Publisher and the Publisher is Author.

So starting Thursday, September 16th, ebook copies of The Meditations of Caius Caligula will be discounted to 99 cents, for a few days time. If you’ve been on the fence about whether its worth reading, it’ll cost you less than a bottle of soda to find out. I feel like that’s a pretty good deal.

I’ll post the full details

So check it out!

And Here’s links to other new content:

Vampyre Varney’s Voloptuous Vivisection

Varney the Vampyre, or the Feast of Blood, is everyone’s favorite example of a Penny Dreadful: a horror novel that goes on for the length of a Bible because the author is paid by the word and doesn’t care if it all adds up when it’s put into one volume (you know, kinda like George Lucas). I mentioned this when I compared novels to TV Shows.

TV Shows, on the other hand, are episodic. An Episode is a self-contained story that takes place within a larger context. Each successive episode reveals more about the characters, because the pressure of writing demands it. Even a TV show that intends to repeat a situation ad infinitum – a “situation comedy”, for example – finds that in cannot. Each episode adds to the character.

In times past, this growth was largely incidental, a process of creating new scenarios for the characters each week. This had more in common with the old penny dreadfuls, in which new chapters were published each week, and writers paid by the word, increasing the incentive to drag out the story and add new characters. TV Shows are kept on the air until their audience starts to leave, then they are given a hurried ending that most people find unsatisfying. See everything I’ve written about How I Met Your Mother for further elucidation.

Movies are Short Stories, TV Shows are Novels” Content Blues

But despite knowing the novel in a meme kind of way, I’d never actually read it. Maybe part of the first chapter, found online. And frankly, I’d never thought I’d bother. That is, until I read this review of it by Nocturnal Revelries:

I haven’t posted much in the last month because I have been spending my time slogging through this immensely long book. At 1166 pages of very small print, this is undoubtedly the longest novel I have ever read. ‘Novel’ however, maybe isn’t quite the right word to describe this tome; it’s a series of different stories about the eponymous hero that were originally serialised in pamphlet form over the course of several years. Think of it like this: if Stoker’s Dracula can be turned into 2 hour movie, Varney would take a 5 season TV show to do it justice. Just as the book is long, this review is fairly hefty too, so pour yourself a cup of blood before you sit down to read it. If you haven’t read the book, you might want to skip over the sections in red. I say this not because those sections contain devastating spoilers (they don’t), but because they deal with issues that are so perplexing that they may scare you away from ever reading the book.

A Feast of Blood – Varney the Vampyre” – Nocturnal Revelries

I love to encounter agreement! But he needn’t have worried; the sections in red and the issues thereunto pertaining not only didn’t dissuade me, these narrative errors actually made me want to read the book more. And not just in an ironic, so-bad-it’s-good way. I think that those kind of confusions actually fit best what horror is trying to accomplish, albiet accidentally.

If Lovecraft taught us nothing else, he taught us that being helpless before the unknown, the unknowable, is the source of fear. Thus, the best stories are where the monster isn’t fully explained, fully delineated. This is why Friday the 13th and other slasher series get more tired as they go on; the monster becomes more known, more discovered, with each iteration. Eventually it devolves into a cartoon.

Hence, there’s actually some promise to VtV‘s losing of scenes and characters: sometimes things are unexplained, just fade away. I know this is unintended, but it can still work. It’s giving me ideas. Looking into the first chapter, the one I half-read long ago, and the author (whoever he is, there’s a mystery as to whom the authorship fully belongs to) knows exactly what he’s doing with regard to setting a scene in which horror can occur, and he’s just describing a storm breaking in the night.

It was as if some giant had blown upon some toy town, and scattered many of the buildings before the hot blast of his terrific breath; for as suddenly as that blast of wind had come did it cease, and all was as still and calm as before.

Sleepers awakened, and thought that what they had heard must be the confused chimera of a dream. They trembled and turned to sleep again.

Varney The Vampire, Chapter 1

A bit corkscrew, a bit melodramatic, but it gets the mood right. On we bloodily stagger.

The Branding Stones Roll On

Charlie Watts died, and the articles about him were pro forma: great drummer, great bloke, much miss, wow. I briefly considered that this would be the end of them. Charlie was a founding member: how can you have the Rolling Stones without him?

How silly I was.

On August 4th, the band announced that Watts, their beloved drummer of 58 years, would be unable to join them on the road. Longtime Stones associate Steve Jordan is taking his place behind the drum kit. “It is an absolute honor and a privilege to be Charlie’s understudy,” Jordan said at the time.

Watts joined the Stones in 1963 and was one of only three members to appear on each of their albums, along with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. His last public performance with the band took place in August 2019 at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

Rolling Stones’ U.S. Tour to Proceed as Planned After Charlie Watts’ Death“, RollingStone.com

So they had already planned this. They knew Charlie was sick and like to die, so they elevated a new drummer. They’ve been without an official bass player since Bill Wyman quit in the 90’s. They replaced Brian Jones without missing a tour beat. Nothing is over, mates. It’s not even inconcievable that Jagger or Richards couldn’t be replaced. After all, Ronnie Wood’s been in since the 70’s, he’s for all intents and purposes equal to the others.

So in all honesty, what would stop the Stones from proceeding into a 2nd or 3rd generation, in which none of the original members remain, but they keep playing the same songs, occasionally adding new ones? Why not? Why deprive our grandchildren of Rolling Stones concerts. Blues rock is eternal.

Doubt me? Here’s the original demo of “Riders on the STorm” by the Doors. It’s being added to a re-issue of the L.A. Woman album. There’s a market for this. If television and the movies are forever trapped in the 80’s and 90’s, music remains stuck in the 60’s and 70’s.

So whatever, Rolling Stones forever. Star Wars forever. Product forever.

The Wheel Keeps on Spinning: Robert Jordan, Prologues and World-Building

I had forgotten that Wheel of Time was being made into a TV Series by Amazon. I assume it’s going to be lame and full of “epic” tropes, so I probably won’t watch it. If it’s as good as Witcher, I will count that success.

Long before I was disappointed in George R.R. Martin, I was disappointed in Robert Jordan. The Wheel of Time series could have been great, or at least satisfying, but the author became megalomaniacal in prioritizing world-building over plot. I commented so a few years ago when I discovered this was going to be a thing:

Robert Jordan was the American Tolkein before George R.R. Martin was so dubbed, and the Wheel of Time series starts with a bang. It’s a fully realized world with a sprawling backstory, and the idea that magic has two components: one male, one female, but the male half has been poisoned and unusable for millenia, is a neat hook to hang an apocalyptic battle on. The first book was great.

The second book was good.

The third book was… I don’t remember. Let’s say goodish?

The fourth book I remember better than the third book. It was kind of interesting.

I don’t remember the fifth book at all.

I don’t remember the sixth book at all.

I gave up partway through the seventh book.

There are fourteen books in the series.

The Wheel of Time Comes to Amazon,” Content Blues

This is a balance argument, not a deontological condemnation of world-building. You need world-building, but not at the expense of story. You need character arcs, but not at the expense of the plot moving at speed sufficient to keep readers engaged. If your audience starts saying to itself “is this ever going to go anywhere”, you done goofed.

I mention this because of a Tweet I spotted:

I said to the person who brought it into my timeline that I blamed Robert Jordan for it. Which, on reflection, is a little unfair, because what kept me reading Wheel of Time as long as I did was that prologue to the first book. It took place literally thousands of years before the main events of the story, but it set the stage of the world so wonderfully that you couldn’t help but be drawn in. All in all, it’s probably the best individual chapter in the series.

Which is a problem of its own, obviously, but as a world-building device, prologues can be good. Not necessary: Tolkein never used them (anyone who wants to chime in that The Hobbit is a prologue to Lord of the Rings: You’re a Nerd). But if they’re done right, they can provide action and a sense of stakes that will sustain the reader through the first-act stuff of your main plot. Of course, you need to give this prologue a real and tangible connection to the main plot. Wheel of Time does that, as the series protagonist is the reincarnation of the character we meet in the prologue. Raymond Feist’s SerpentWar Saga, on the other hand, doesn’t. That was another great prologue that has nothing to do with the main plot of the story until the third book, and then barely moves the needle on the story (it’s a shame, because those were great titles: Shadow of a Dark Queen, Shards of a Broken Crown. No one has ever disappointed me as much as Feist). But a good prologue is a benefit to the story.

Jordan’s problem with prologues was he kept doing it every book, throwing in stuff dubiously connected to the story. You’re not hooking readers at this point, you’re adding unnecessary scenes. You’ve got your plot going now, work it. I said I gave up on Wheel of Time in the seventh book (Path of Daggers? something like that), but really I gave up during the 100-page prologue (was it really that long? it felt that way), after my then-girlfriend told me that the entire plot of the book could be summed up in “Faile gets kidnapped.” As with everything else, Jordan overused prologues.

Hence, prologues are probably out of fashion right now. Abuse of devices brings distaste; distaste brings disuse. And so the wheels spins.

The Aesthetics of McNuggets, Or Brooklyn Status Panic Drugs

No, I’m not talking about the Saucy Nugs guy again. That meme sadly failed. I am disappoint.

No, this is a link to a long post by a fellow calling himself Monsieur le Baron, who is some manner of Red Monarchist (which is not absurd, the Soviet Union was a series of Tsars, and anyone who says otherwise did not pay attention. Just go ahead and watch The Death of Stalin, it’s on Netflix). That’s fine because he uses the pretext of McNuggets to dunk (le pun! C’est absolument destiné!) on the PostModernist “art” crowd I have pondered on before. Enemy of my enemy and all that.

There is, in fact, much spicy aesthetic wisdom in this post, linked here, including meditations on mediums and messages, high art vs. pop art, symbol & referent, and a host of other things I have begun dimly to understand. In any case, here is his knife-point, at the peroratio where it belongs:

The disdain of the modern artist for the commercial is not a sign of their own good breeding, as they so suppose, but in fact evidence of the smallness of their souls, for they are unable to emerge from the smallness of their own souls and submerge themselves in anything greater than themselves. For the act of creating such is the act of channeling the essence of the greater thing, whereas they can only write of their own meager selves. Depression this, anxiety that, and a lot of Brooklyn status panic. That about covers the bulk of modern artistic production, doesn’t it? A self-absorption.

“Aesthetica McNuggetica, Or Idealism Real Word Count by the Baron”, An Inelegant Viceroy

This differs in diagnosis from what I drew from Ruskin earlier:

I’m less interested in disputing this argument than in noting the pervasiveness of it in the world of art today. If, as Ruskin seems ready to argue, the industrial world has abandoned art, in favor of infinite replicability, then it seems as predictable as night following day that the art world would abandon industry. Thus the demand for absolute novelty and uselessness in the art world, to the point where Modern art today is really anti-Art: a pose and a hustle, the creation of the maximum of bewilderment and absurdity with the minimum of effort, papered over with post-modernist bafflegab and self-congratulatory obscurantism. This is not accident, it is intentional. The modern artist can only be an artist by running from the world.

“Notes on Ruskin: Modern Art is Anti-Art”, Content Blues

Yet perhaps not. It can be a case of “yes, and”. The young artistic type yearns to make Art. He does so with a certain degree of isolation, for only in isolation can Art be made. He gradually absorbs, without it being directly taught him, that Muh True Art stands against Muh Status Quo. This is exactly what his teachers believe, exactly what the universities have long accepted, as they grow their endowments on the stock market. Give us New Things to Sell, the Bourgeoisie command. So is the Hip Rebel transmuted into Establishment and vice versa.

In other words, it’s all a Hustle. And you have two ways to escape: find something Grand to subsume yourself into, or retreat into the tiny redoubt of yourself. Which has his education prepared the young artist to do?

Shallow & Pedantic 15 – Teenage Dungeon Vampire Space Pirates

This may be the nerdiest thing we’ve ever done, which is why it’s the longest.

The topic is Tabletop RPG’s, and we hit it hard. One of the more interesting things we discuss is why RPG’s keep getting updated, when other kinds of tabletop games don’t. That’s the YouTube Channel above,

Caligula Gets Reviews

Behold, snippets.

While it isn’t all the way factual, it does provide you with enough historical detail to satisfy pretty much all interested parties. There is plenty of name dropping to keep it interesting

A look at the life of Caligula, maybe… -mint tea

The meditations of Cauis Caligula is a short book written in a poetic style of literature

 short historical book -S.J. Main

I thought that, based on what I already knew, it was extremely accurate and I really enjoyed getting to read this book.

 Such an enjoyable book -Jesse Pesgraves

It did not really feel like a story of redemption, at least not to me, and not even justification. The author kind of leaves that to the reader, which I think makes sense. 

 I liked it -Jose Popoff

Andrew J Patrick is able to recreate the infamous emperor and offer variations on themes of how Caligula related to Rome and Rome to him. It makes for a fascinating and entertaining – and thought provoking – book. Highly recommended for history lovers.

‘What every ruler of note ought to do: offer himself to his people” – revisiting Roman history -Grady Harp

That’s a pretty round collection of impressed readers, all of whom – sight unseen – grasped the main points of what I was trying to do. This is a tonic to the creative soul. If I can turn it into an effective ad, I’ll be getting somewhere.

If you haven’t read it, the link’s in the sidebar. Support me as I out-do Gore Vidal. Or click here.