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Moved [Jan. 30th, 2017|01:45 am]
Josh Fredman
Phew! I am depleted. That was the most physically exhausting day I think I have had since...I don't even know. And I did it on less than four hours of sleep.

But it is done. My lovely little storage unit of six-and-a-half years is mine no more. Instead, my new home is absolutely bursting to the rafters with my old stuff. Some downsizing is going to be on order. Still, I am delighted to have my stuff back.

It's gonna be a few days of physical rest and recovery before I can even begin to sort it, though. I was so loopy by the end of it.

Pictures later. For now, unwind, shower, sleep.

Shout out to Zach! I would not have been able to do this without help.
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Storage Liberation Day! [Jan. 27th, 2017|02:38 am]
Josh Fredman

Today was Liberation Day! I drove down to Seattle and filled the Discovery with loose bits and various items from my storage unit--not only lots of the stuff I brought with me from Texas, but lots of the stuff I put in the unit originally, six-and-a-half years ago. It was very tiring work, and Lord Reekris did these things ever get filthy! But I was very excited and even somewhat euphoric at this first step of reuniting with my long-sequestered material life. Some of the things I brought back include virtually all of my art collection, my original computer (which I could theoretically try turning on right now), my vital documents (hopefully including my birth certificate, my Heat Dish, a new can of glop for the opilions (the first can lasted all this time!), my liquor cabinet, Trafalgar, and three lamps!

The lamps are important because my new home is incredibly dark: There are only three built-in lights in the living room area, two of which are a closet light and the stovetop light, and the colors and crevices of this place virtually eat light, so it has been incredibly dark here. While I don't do well in bright outdoor daylight, I absolutely thrive on indoor light, and getting my Personal Relaxation Lamp back was the thing I was most looking forward to ahead of my trip down there.

As it turned out I couldn't find my Personal Relaxation Lamp, but I did get three lamps (!!!) back from the Old Days, with which I immediately more than doubled the amount of light in the living room as soon as I got back and finished bringing everything in. It was nostalgic to turn the first of the three lamps on: That little fluorescent bulb took a second or so before lighting up at all, then flickered for another second, before finally settling into its incipient, thin glow: the first time it had been powered on since 2010! Now it is glowing radiantly right next to me, and I can see my keyboard at nighttime for the first time since I arrived here! And just like that, those three extra lights make this place feel quite different, and a lot more like home.

The day was exhausting, and I'm pretty sure I absorbed, like, three plagues and a hanta. Right now my heart is all quivery, which happens sometimes (thankfully seldom), so I'm going to go easy on myself for the rest of the night and probably tomorrow.

The big move, with the truck and the sticks of furniture, is hopefully going to be on Sunday. My friend Rob--one of my only friends in the Seattle area--isn't going to be able to help me that day, and I was gnashing my teeth for a while at the thought of hauling all that stuff on my own or paying huge bucks to hire someone to help, before I learned that my friend and former coworker Zach is still in Seattle. So I'm going to get some help after all!

Due to the cramped quarters of my new home and the state of filth all of my stored belongings are in, I anticipate it will take a serious amount of work to finally settle into this place. Currently it's a royal mess.

Also: It's damn impressive how much you can stuff into a full-size sedan. I wish I had photographed my trip from California to Washington because that was some Level 10 Tetris right there. But today was pretty impressive too: at least a Level 7.

As a side benefit: I didn't turn on my computer this morning, so I didn't get to read any news all day long (till just a little while ago). Thus I didn't have to have the latest Republican carnage in mind. It was nice. I'll be wanting to do that sometimes, I think.
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On America [Jan. 24th, 2017|03:49 am]
Josh Fredman
Interesting news from the Jolly Old: I just watched the livecast of the UK Supreme Court ruling against the government on Brexit, requiring a vote by parliament (and specifically the UK parliament alone, and not in association with, say, the devolved Scottish parliament) to enable the Brexit to occur. Brexit opponents now therefore have an opportunity to lobby the parliament to significantly blunt the extent of the Brexit or conceivably scrap it altogether.

What it really amounts to, I think, is a huge pot of pea soup. Brexit just got a lot messier. Europe is not likely to grant the UK a self-interestedly cherry-picked severance from the Union, while the parliament seems unlikely to scrap Brexit altogether.

I wish something like Brexit were the worst of my national concerns. What I wouldn't give to stand on the precipice of mere financial isolation and economic stagnation, instead of the far more harrowing brink of a government that puts on the airs of third-world dictators and fully intends, and has the legal authority, to undermine this country's institutional integrity and cultural cohesion perhaps beyond the point of no return, even as its citizens gleefully resolve the same.

It may be hard for many to perceive due to the slowness of such things relative to the human awareness, but it feels to me like the country is disintegrating. Each successive presidential administration since my memory begins has fomented greater resistance from the opposing side than the one before it. Now we seem to be at the point where, every time the government changes hands from one party to the other, one set of policies is going to be abolished and another enacted, and vice versa, while an angry, ignorant, and disaffected population looks on with dystopian glee at the prospect of the dissolution of our bureaucracy.

That's what I've wanted to say about these solidarity marches but couldn't bring myself to do, at least until a few days had passed, lest I rain on their noble endeavor: These marches are not healing anything. Few conservatives are participating in them, particularly among those who voted for Trump. There is little apparent cultural exchange across what is becoming a thicker and thicker political divide. Meanwhile, our new government openly lies and doesn't care about being caught; in their view the opposition has no legitimacy. In return, that is our view of the government as well. And while everyone argues about petty things like the size of crowds, the government prepares to systematically exterminate much of the apparatus of science, environmental stewardship, public welfare, and civil liberty that has sustained this nation so profitably.

For years the conservative faction in this country has been so far gone that I have not even bothered to spend real energy on them. I instead have spent more and more energy on attuning and refining the left to the ways of virtue, yet the left is in a dirty place, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, babbling about corn syrup, sewing the seeds of internal dissension through identity politics, insinuating that we should live a mean quality of life for the sake of environmental protection, openly denying the reality of countless foreign threats such as that of Islamic extremism, and worse.

Now that we've had some of the most well-attended protest marches in the nation's history, what fruits of action are going to be born? I remember the protests of Occupy Wall Street. I remember the protests against the Iraq War. They didn't do a damn thing. There is nothing we can say or do, nor any amount of popular support we can show, that will move the Republicans in our government on these crucial issues of welfare and freedom soon to face us. I understand the value of marching in solidarity--and I am heartwarmed that people I know, who have scarcely if ever attended a political event in their lives, turned out to march. But at what point of inaction does that become an act of denial? Where is the vow to win the elections of 2018 and 2020 at any cost? Politically, that's all that matters right now: winning those elections. That, and holding state and local governments accountable, whenever interactive governments still exist. Conservatives are right about one thing: Liberal perspectives dominate the media. We've received favorable reporting on our protest movements for slightly over a decade, ever sense the tenor of the Iraq War turned against Bush. For once I would like to see one of our glorified progressive protest rallies actually translate to winning elections.

Where are the people who didn't vote last November? And how many of them, I wonder, turned out to these marches? Are there enough activists to sustain lasting action and momentum? And what will it look like as Trump’s presidency evolves?

I foolishly and stupidly declared last year that the 2016 election was not, in fact, one of the most momentous in our lifetimes, as many people were claiming. That's because I thought there was no way we could lose. It never entered into my mind to postulate "If the Republicans win big, this country will be in more existential danger than it has faced since the 1930s, perhaps even since the Civil War." Our nation is divided, between well-intentioned but ineffectual progressives, infuriatingly stupid "moderates," and about seventy million straight-up Nazis, who, if it were politically safe to do so, would call for genocides, genocides with an S, plural.

I know the dangers of judging the magnitude of political developments based on the echo chamber of mass media and pop culture, and maybe, just maybe, my concerns are overblown and enough Americans think this is all some game, and will remain neighbors to one another no matter how odious their Internet comments are. But I really honestly think that America is dissolving. With Brexit, all Britons will have to face are pricier goods, fewer and worse-paying jobs, and international shame. But us...what are we facing? People on my side are debating whether it's right to commit acts of violence--whether it's okay to "punch Nazis." Sure it is...in the movies. In real life, the Nazis have fists and guns and they're going to punch back. Is that what America is heading toward? Yet at the same time, can we really just sit back and allow them to do whatever they want, in the hope that it won't be as bad? There’s no good course of action here. Every option is a bad one.

As a writer of stories involving radical political change, and as a citizen versed at least passably well in history, I have an insight that many people perhaps do not: This shit gets ugly, fast. While it's possible that we're still "the country that elected both Barack Obama and Donald Trump"--that is, a quirky nation of conflicting values but shared good intentions and a shared love of outsiders--it's also possible that we're on the cusp of something incredibly violent, or anything in between. It's a lot easier for me to understand today than it was in high school why World War I started with such little actual provocation. Imagine if political assassinations began happening in America. What would come of that?

There's something else most people don't understand, especially on the left: When it comes to violent conflict, there are a lot of people who are in it to win. You can't half-ass it, and nowadays the left is full of people who don't have the vinegar for a full-on fight. We're tougher than our detractors claim of us, but we're not tough enough to beat them in a brawl, because they're willing to be brutal murderous psychopaths, while we have a sense of proportion. Liberals tend to lose violent confrontations, for the very nature of liberalism is to eschew war and violence and absolute destruction, whereas conservatism embraces it as a sort of nirvana. Remember what happened in Syria? In the Ukraine? The handful of fighting liberals were immediately drowned out of the conflicts. In both of those countries the wars became about one group of conservatives versus another group of conservatives.

We need to do three things, in increasing order of severity:

1) We need to win the 2018 and 2020 elections on a massive scale, and de-gerrymander the House of Representatives, so that extreme partisanship is not rewarded in government. Right now, that is more important even than defending healthcare, reproductive rights, net neutrality, and all the rest of it. (We're mostly going to lose those battles anyway: Elections have consequences, and we lost "big league.") If we can win in this way, and isolate the extreme right-wing radicals, then we stand the best chance of a return to normalcy.

2) We need to reach out and connect with or preserve our bonds with conservatives. If we can maintain a human connection with them, then, through that connection, we might hold them back from the precipice they would pull us all over. I think many of those who marched in solidarity gained a sense of numerical superiority, but lost in that view is the reality that progressivism, pop culture, and the media are completely cut off from this huge swath of pseudo-fascist America. In a sense, we’re living in a delusion just like they are, because both of our sides think that we have the majority of America with us, yet the majority of America is just picking its nose and doesn’t even think about these things. Donald Trump is not the problem. The fact that we elected him is the problem. That's where we're at: His supporters want to blow up the system, and not far behind that they want the blood of their enemies. Our solidarity amongst ourselves is only the beginning of the imperative to answer such a challenge. Nazis are not homogeneous superhuman villains. They are human beings with the same frailties and diverse personal concerns as anyone. It might not be possible to reason with them, but we can potentially moderate their extremism if we build solidarity with them...if, somehow, we can convert the premise of "we're neighbors" into the premise of "don't vote to kill your neighbors."

3) We need to prepare for the possibility that we will need to protect and defend our left-wing ideals using right-wing methods. It's time to admit to ourselves that moral relativism is an unabashed failure (as exemplified both by its radical perversion on the right and its cacophonous factionalizing power on the left). We must muster the courage to say that present-day American conservatism is wrong, and we're right. It's time to protect our peace and our way of life by preparing for war. It's seriously time to do what the right has been doing this whole time: arm ourselves, form militias, and hound and harangue the government. And, critically, we need to attack the right-wing propaganda machine, through every legal means possible--discredit it, defund it, disrupt it. And if, in the end, our efforts at outreach and unity with conservatives fail, and if our efforts at defeating the enemy's war machine fail, then we will need to decide whether to surrender or fight. I can tell you, right now, if it happened tomorrow the left would surrender. So it is time to think about what your red lines are, and how much you're willing to lay on the line to protect the convictions you have placed on the home side of that line.

If all amity failed, then I, for one, as a unionist, would be willing to sacrifice my unionism in such a scenario, and agree to and work toward secession, so as to protect our way of life for as many people as possible. Conversely, if we had the means, I would support forcibly occupying the enemy's homeland--much like the Civil War of old and its aftermath--so as to preserve the Union for all people.

And if the fundamental rights of females and minorities are ever decisively attacked or outlawed, or if lifesaving public welfare is widely curtailed, to me that would be a literal act of war: That is a "You're killing us and we have the fundamental right to use whatever means we can to defend ourselves" kind of scenario.

I certainly hope it'll never come to that, that, instead, five years or ten from now, we can all sit back and laugh and give Josh a hearty clap on the back for his zany political imagination. But I'm telling you, though the metaphor is cliched, that most people have the heart of a sheep. They don't understand power; they are only victims to its abusers. In times of conflict around the world, we sit back and ask ourselves "Why don't civilians and bystanders do something about this? If nothing else, why don't they simply flee?" But I've met the people who embody the answer to such questions. It turns out that, for most people, the sphere of "earn a living, take care of your family, and have some fun on your days off" encompasses their whole world. They don't have the vision to comprehend politics in the abstract. They cannot think in terms of broader society. They can only ever be at the mercy of their environment.

Unprecedented things are happening in our country. Political norms are going out the window. The factions are intensifying their internal identities while thickening the divides between one another. Welfare and freedoms decades old lie on the chopping block. Conservatives are rigging the system so that it becomes less and less plausible to ever defeat them in a fair election. And now the government is literally headed by a delusional narcissistic egomaniac. Literature could not have painted a better president for the occasion: a person who is not the architect of our demise, but the iconic personification of it. In Trump's flaws lie our own failures as a nation: We are inconsiderate, unaware, ignorant, petty, vain, greedy, petulant, short-tempered, unreasonable, and we demand instant gratification. And we're proud of all of it, and we're never, ever wrong about anything.

I know. That's some mighty fine alarmist rhetoric. And I sincerely hope I'm wrong. I would rather be wrong and lose whatever amount of credibility as a political thinker. I sincerely hope this all blows over, or that the true reality of our situation isn't as dire as I perceive it to be. I have absolutely no real-world desire for violent conflict or the tyranny that would accompany it. I don't have the courage, hardiness, or willingness for sacrifice--I don't have the honor--that some of the characters in my stories do. If pressed I could probably develop such qualities...but I never want it to come to that. I do not want to live in that world. I love peace. I want the best for everyone, the conservatives included. I want this to end with 50 United States and affordable healthcare for everybody.

But, that said, y'all better think about what you stand for, because history may be about to force you to take a stand--a real stand, not a rhetorical one.

I may not have gone to the solidarity march, but I support its principle, and I stand in solidarity with all those who seek to preserve our way of life. This year, I'm gonna be over here, keeping my head more or less down and working on my career. I'm quite discouraged about politics right now, and I think someone as concerned as I am about our political plight probably shouldn't be a part of the prevailing political dialogue anyway. But I'll be here if you need me.
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What Curious Tale Features Would You Like to See in 2017? [Jan. 23rd, 2017|01:04 pm]
Josh Fredman
Here is a poll about my Curious Tale content for the year! I would love if you took a moment to answer.

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Marches [Jan. 21st, 2017|01:43 pm]
Josh Fredman
There were "women's marches" of solidarity around the country today, including a big one in Seattle and a smaller one right here in Bellingham. A significant number of my friends and acquaintances attended these events in their own regions, nationwide, from coast to coast and across the heartland!

I considered going to the one in Bellingham, because, you know, solidarity. But I decided against it. To be honest there's no bold reason. I could say that big rallies have never been my personal mode of expression, and that's true. I could say that I'm gratified to see political action from so many people who in the past haven't felt the obligation to speak out politically, and that thus I don't feel the disproportionate need to attend myself, and that's also true. I could say that I'm occupied today finish a long overdue letter, and that's true as well. But the real reason I didn't attend is, one, that I've always had a hard time going out into the social world by myself--I don't really have a problem once I'm There, doing The Thing, but it's hard to get out there in the first place--and, two, because the prospect did not have much appeal to me. I expect no friendship or succor from our federal government whatsoever until we retake either the Congress or the White House, and meanwhile I don't need to be reminded of the solidarity of civil, progressive society. If people had acted with such alacrity in November we wouldn't be in this mess now.

By no means is this to say I oppose the marches. On the contrary I wholeheartedly support them! People are rightly scared of what the new government is going to do, and when you're scared it helps to see thousands of people by your side. And, honestly, we're on our own for the next few years. Those of us who have progressive local or state governments will get some relief from those quarters, but nevertheless we're going to lose a lot. People are going to die from the healthcare thing. The disparity between rich and poor--one of the main destabilizing factors in civilization--is going to get worse. Children will be born to mothers who do not want them, in far greater number than is already happening. Our inaction on regulating our greenhouse emissions will continue. Net neutrality will fall; Trump has already announced the appointment of the person who will make it happen. So, yeah. Let's march.

Beyond the soothing of nerves, may it lead also to an awakening of civic commitment and action.

Separately, regarding the violent anarchist protests that happened yesterday: I respect that people are gonna protest in their own way, and I won't say they shouldn't do what they're doing, but I would never support it. To me untargeted violence just hurts working people: Who gets to pick up those overturned garbage bins and clean up those vandalized shops? This kind of shit gives the enemy easy talking points and helps them sell their crackdowns to the broader public. Targeted violence with clear goals is one thing, but running around in costumes being a menace to everybody has always struck me as testosterone-fueled cowardice. I've had conversations about this before with people who support it; inevitably the justification for it is either that ordinary people need to be shaken out of their complacency so that there can be a great civil awakening, or that destroying the system is worth some collateral damage. Regarding the former, that never works as intended, ever, and any wars or revolutions or insurgencies that do occur tend to be brutal and themselves rarely have good outcomes. Regarding the latter, I have more respect for people who are willing to risk their own lives rather than the lives of bystanders.
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Inaguration Day [Jan. 20th, 2017|01:59 am]
Josh Fredman

This entry was originally posted on Facebook. I am copying it here for my journal readers to see, and so that it may be recorded for ever.

In 2009, when Barack Obama came into office, I was recently single, out of work, and living alone in my beautiful apartment in Seattle. The Draft 10 era had yet to begin, and instead I was building friendships with people on the Chrono Compendium that would bear fruit for many years to come--some to this very day. I had lived my whole life on the West Coast, had only just begun seriously balding, and was optimistic that I could find a way to make everything work out the way I wanted it to.

In the years since, I'd gotten accustomed to having a president whom I trusted and respected, after the eight long years of Bush and his Republican cronies in Congress. Now it'll be even worse than before.

A fascinating milestone: My adult life more or less has been encompassed by two presidencies; back in 2001 when Bush came into office the world was a different place; I was in college to get my degree to build space elevators. I was living in the first of several paradises in my lifetime, and the purest one to date. I knew nothing of requited love, and the ATH novelization had only just begun. I had yet to taste the power of being an editor, or a fleet admiral. I had yet to work as a corporate cog. I knew nothing of the Corries.

I have plans for this year, including the plan to make more plans, but I have no real idea what the coming eight years will bring. Other than health I only really want two things: financial self-sufficiency, and a mate (and kid). Everything else will be gravy.

Who knows? Maybe I won't even be alive in eight years. Maybe, in the scariest of the Trump scenarios, none of us will be. But more likely, I'll still be here kicking around, and so will you.

I've spent weeks thinking about how I want to regard President Trump. It's tempting to say "Not my president!" as so many others are doing, but that act of defiance is meaningless unless one is also prepared to subvert the law and oppose the system with consequential actions...and, frankly, I feel like sitting this one out. I've done a lot of political activism in my lifetime, but this time I'd rather work on my stories and my career and let others do their bit for king and country. So, "Not my president!"? No...he'll be my president, for as long as he's in office, unless he does something so heinous that I'm willing to personally risk death or imprisonment. And as far as my politics go, I'll use this time to tackle the ramifications of the conclusion I drew from November, that the results were self-invalidating of our electoral system--that the present-day American public is not fit to elect its own leaders.

Who knows? Maybe he'll be a better president than we all expect. I mean, if nuclear war is a possibility, so too is some bizarre universe where Republicans lap themselves and end up passing a number of populist policies because their base has become so ultraconservative that it's actually decalibrated from the spectrum. More likely we'll witness the greatly accelerated decline of America as a global power, but we deserve no better.

Sixteen years, tho. Wow. Tempus fugit. I'm closer now to the age my dad was when he had me than I am to the age when I first went to college.

But there are some things that have held fast: I've always been sure of who I am. Apparently some people struggle with that for a long time, or for their whole lives. I never have. And Silence has been with me, all these years. I don't know if it's to be treasured or pitied that, if you were to press me on words I don't typically use in describing my personal universe, like loyalty or steadfastness, I'd say she has excelled everybody--that a fictional creation of mine has been more reliable, present, and inspiring than anyone in real life. Perhaps some of both.

And there are several things that are better today than they were in 2001, and 2009: My vocabulary is actually the first that comes to mind. I'm a better writer. I have stronger and much fuller philosophy. I have more friends than I did in the beginning. My insatiable zealous ambition has given way to my endless abounding worldview of love and poignance. And I have discovered my animism. Part of me misses those days of unbridled fire, but there is nothing from era that can surpass days such as that day on the Mountain when I conceived of "Into the Winds of Glarough," or the day I took four laps on the Ring Road in the windy fog while "Cruel Brother" played along with me...the latter being probably one of the finest days of my life.

I wish I could turn out work more quickly, and more consistently. I've gotten better, but I don't think I'll ever get it to a point where I'm satisfied. But I really have gotten better. I'm a published novelist now, with another on the way.

Let me end today not by invoking the dark cloud that now settles over our country, but with a few words of friendship, from the spark, as we say in Joshalonia:

Rachael: In my mind you're Boss from The Secret of Mana, all from that profile photo of yours way back. I know that's not who you are, what your life is about, or even what you look like, but it will remain a warm placeholder until the day we finally meet.

Katrina von Bombrod VII: You are the coolest person I know, bar none. Even cooler than ME, J Cool. (Only barely, tho, so don't let it go to your head.) I love you. Don't let shit get to you, get yer cat some HaLP, and come West soon. I made it back here; you can too! We belong in each other's spheres.

Caro: You're the other strong contender for being the coolest person I know. But you're the only person I know who inhabits a certain magnificent and fabulous star system in the aesthetic galaxy that MUST be inhabited. If I did not have you in my vision of what humanity could be, there would be no one, among all the people I have ever met, to light up that beautiful part of the shimmering night sky. You are irreplaceable.

Stephen: Among my flesh-and-blood friends, you are the most loyal and true. That's a strange thing for me to say, even to me, given that your strength is intellect (and assessing whisky and music systems, perhaps), but you're one of a very few people who has bothered to stay in touch over the years on your own initiative. Having said that, your philosophical conversation pleases me greatly, and I look forward to having you much more present in my life in the next two years than in any since the summer we met.

Joel: You were a rare find at the Compendium! I wanted to detest you the way I detested Daniel, but you were of a higher quality in both intellect and honor, and I ended up enjoying our conversations. I don't typically enjoy debating you--you're so resistant!, and I have to be careful how I spend my reserves of such energy, anymore, for gone are the endless wellsprings of my youth--but I greatly enjoy having a proper successor in you, someone to carry on the good fight in my stead on message forums and websites across the Internet, debating others, relentlessly and in full flower. You also did the most out of almost all of my friends when it came to reaching out to me with support and encouragement during my dark year.

These encomia are getting slowly longer, so let me try to tighten it up!

Wesley: I think we orbit around different stars. I have been pleased to enjoy your friendship over the years because I like being "believed in" by someone so far away. Your excitement for my creative work has been rare among my friends, and so for yours I am and have been truly appreciative.

Stephanie: If I were a more modest or humble person, I would say I don't deserve the respect you've given me from our brief time together--such is its magnitude! What I can say instead is that I'm so grateful for it. That was a time when I greatly needed day-to-day friendship, and you gave me such professionalism and camaraderie, despite going through a rough patch in your own life at the time. It always makes me feel good to make my friends feel good about others. Also, your painting rocks! Paint more!

Emily: You're one of the good weird ones, like Caro! We haven't spent much time together since high school, but the fact that there are people like you out there in the world makes me feel better, especially when evil, sickness, and suffering are in ascendancy.

Kendra: I think you are the finest person I have ever met. I would not trade a second of the time we've spent together over the years, and I hope to continue to have a place in your life till one of us croaks. And even though we didn't work out as a couple, those many years ago, you showed me that the people who I am looking for, really do exist. I've never had to doubt that, because I've known you.

Lee: One of the other finest days of my life came during high school, when we had that talk over instant messenger one evening, about Dyson spheres and Lilit DeLatia. Having never met you in person, I remain intensively curious to do so, and I hope our collaborations together are not all behind us.

Craig: I feel like a hand in your upbringing, giving you a stage to come of age as it were. Now the pupil has become the master, sequencing genes and living in a 97-room mansion with your own private yachts and dozens of cars and maybe I'm embellishing a little bit but golly am I proud of you for putting in the quiet German perseverance that I could not, to get through a zillion years of schooling. You are handsomely rewarded for it now. I have always enjoyed our chats, even if I haven't been good at initiating them in recent years. I miss the days when we were all on IM together.

Robert: Long in the background, you turned out to be one of my biggest supporters and champions! You probably know this, but an artist struggling to establish themselves enjoys such a boon from having some enthusiastic encouragement from the sidelines. And when we met in person, I found another sharp intellect--I was so glad that we got along so well so quickly--and I look forward to more conversations ahead.

Nat: You were my best friend in college and my first best friend ever. You were everything I wanted and hoped for in such a person. Those magical days at the UW were all the more powerful because we were able to share them. You're downright terrible at keeping in touch online, and at leaving Las Vegas to visit me, but I will make it down there to see you again, and I look forward to a long-overdue conversation.

Rickard: I barely agree with you on anything, but you are an honorable human being, and that counts for a lot. Your resilience and commitment to your family are a great inspiration for me, and like all the other ATH cast whom I have yet to meet, I can't wait to meet you in person someday.

Amanda: I see something of myself in you, something very special. It's so easy in life to be a victim, to give up, give in, to bow to external crises and pressures and frustrations, to say nothing of our inner menaces. But, perhaps--only perhaps--with the exception of my dark year of troubles, I've never even remotely wavered in my conviction to go on being me, and to succeed in my dreams. You've fought a much harder fight than I have, over the years. You've been thrown a lot more shit than I ever had to deal with. But you still have your dreams, if not perfectly immaculately intact then at least proud and pulsing and, if a bit dented and roughed up, still vibrantly alive. I want you to succeed. I want that so badly! We're meant to travel through this life together, and I am honored to call you one of my deepest friends.

Amy: You're never going to read this, you silly duck! I don't even need to bother tagging you; you'd just see the ping in your e-mail and frown. But it wouldn't be right not to include you in this tribute. You are awesome, still. I greatly enjoyed our time together, and I dearly miss the language we shared together, the rapport we had. You were one of my closest friends, and supporters, and I can never thank you enough for inviting me to the Mountain. Now, like rain on the mountain, I am gone from that world, and from you. What an incredible time it was, that curious age...

And there are others, whom I won't bother to tag lest a post of such length annoy you, but shouts out to Patrick and all the Working America crew, all the Ribs, Kendra's entire friggin' family, Kip, Miles, Zephyr, Benjamin, James, Anna, and more. And others who aren't on my Facebook friends list, not least the other Rob, Elske, Bucephalus, and Dad.

But lastly:

Josh: Yes! I am pinging myself! Why? Each of us has to find our own way in life. We have to make our own sense of the world--our very own reality, I dare say. And ultimately, we must rely on ourselves. We are, on some level, alone. If we let ourselves down, there is not much that can save us. How fortunate I am, then, to be me. Those of you on this list have not only provided external friendship over the years; you have enriched me--me myself, internally. I don't have a lot to admire: I'm dirt poor. I'm not social. I don't have connections. I don't have a college degree or a fancy career. I've struggled my whole life to explore the themes that are most important and compelling to me, but with relatively little to externally show for it. Yet, except for my dark year, I have never suffered for want of confidence, or determination, or conviction that my path is true. I have always been willing to pick myself up off the dirt. As the great David Solley once taught me, there will always be people who have had it worse than me: He made me get up and work--in the context of a vacation at his house!--when I was throwing up sick, and he said the soldiers of World War II had to not only get up, but go and march, and fight, and face death. How easy I have it, in spite of everything. What I know other people on this Earth have had to endure...what I know I put Silence through in the world of Relance...my life has been a breeze in comparison. But only because I have always known I can rely on myself. The Spark of Life, is life's most fulfilling possession. The inner light, the inner awe. I wish I could show you my life from the inside. I know I'm not the best friend, but I hope I can go on being a friend to virtually all of you--one of the good friends, one who makes you feel better about life and more astounded by the beauty and awe of the world around us.

The next eight years may bring anything, but we'll have--outdated meme alert!--AND MY AXE!!!
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Lateral Thoughts [Jan. 18th, 2017|02:30 am]
Josh Fredman

I am always going to notice left-handed people, and I am always, always, always going to notice left-handed ~female~ people.

I watched a western last night--"Dead Man's Burden," which turned out to be a surprisingly recent film--and the female lead was left-handed, and that's basically why I loved the film. The New Mexican vistas were sure lovely too, but...there you go.

It's important to embrace one's aesthetic centers, the forms whose sight in our eyes makes us feel as though all is right with the world. You know...some people love daffodils that way. Some people love waterfalls. Some people love the perfect cup of joe. Some love collecting old maps. Some love building trammels of Archimedes. Bob Ross had his happy clouds and happy trees. Mr. Rogers was the embodiment of neighborhood. Me? I love left-handed females. And I'm not talking about the people themselves, or the lives they lead. They delight and gratify me without any need for context or an external application or endgame, like sunshine glittering into the grove.

Master-level philosophy lies beyond the primitive analysis of arbitrary systems. Its practice, ironically, converges with the seemingly simple and elementary enjoyment of life; essentially it appears to be invisible, as though it were not there at all. I still analyze systems; there's much to be gained from doing so. (To that end I could exhaust myself "explaining" this post.) But the ~purpose~ of philosophy and its practical applications is not to say "this is formalism" and "this is ethnography" and "this is the behavioral school of thought," nor is it to adeptly recite and invoke the agreed-upon melodies of procedure in the various fields of discipline, nor anticipate their patterns (though that is impressive and perhaps indicative of a sharp mind). Rather, all of that, to the extent it has value, is to serve one's understanding of and appreciation of reality, inclusive of the inner landscape. (Unless, of course, you happen to be one for whom such analysis and methodological mastery and conformance is itself an aesthetic center.)

A year ago I lamented to a friend how tired I was of "having to make sense all the time." Amid my highly distressed and perhaps somewhat psychotic mental state at the time, that expressed itself in a series of colorful stories that read like Finnegan's Wake, meaning they would have been all but indecipherable to anyone but myself. Yet they said exactly what I wanted them to say, particularly the first two, when even the constraints of the "series" had not yet emerged to sully the purity of the stories' forms. Yet quite outside last year's psychological hardships, I've felt this way for a long time: It is difficult for me to have to channel my writing in a way that is going to make sense to other people, because, invariably for me, the amount of work it takes to compose a segment of text that retains my intentions while also delivering an acceptable percentage of that information to an acceptable percentage of readers...is very high, and the tradeoff is a marked lowering of those percentages.

I happen to have a left-handed female character of my own devising, whom I speak about sometimes, and she is a powerful lateral thinker whose difficult-to-follow lines of thought are allies to my own, but it occurs to me tonight that I've never told anyone--I've simply never thought to bother to--that her left-handedness is simply there to be enjoyed, because it is beautiful, and that any thematic significance thereupon is interesting, but ultimately outside that special aesthetic phenomenon. A "strong lateral thinker" would potentially be able to deduce as much; no one else would, I suspect.

And that's why, even though I'm speaking universally of philosophy, I'm not necessarily speaking prescriptively. You do you. There was a time when I wanted to bend others to my way of seeing things. Not anymore. Anymore, I simply cherish the occasional appearance of those who do already share in common a thread or two among my perceptual conceits, while yet retaining their own flavor and oddities.

All of which is to say, just as it is important to embrace one's aesthetic centers, so too is it important, more broadly, to be oneself. That's a cliche, but I ask you to ponder it unconventionally for a moment: What does it mean to be oneself, and why is that important?

Most of you have your own sense of master-level philosopher in you, at some level. I would be curious to hear your various answers in your own words, words that aren't necessarily constrained to make sense.
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Arrival Voyage [Jan. 4th, 2017|10:40 pm]
Josh Fredman

Captain’s Log,

I am excited tonight, genuinely excited! In the morning I will leave my Fortnight Paradise to drive the two hundred miles from the Aberdeen area up to the Bellingham area, passing through Seattle along the way, to see about renting a guesthouse on a farm. Going by the Craigslist ad, I love the look of the place. The rent is very affordable, as it includes an offset of a few hours a week of assistance on the farm. I cannot tell you how much I want this place to work out! With any luck, by dinnertime tomorrow I will have a place to live, at last, and the drive preceding it will be my voyage of arrival.

If it doesn’t work out, I have immediate-term contingency plans in place: I’ve identified nearby Starbucks for Internet access and various Airbnb and motel options, and if necessary I will conduct a rapid-fire, intensive apartment search. I also filled out an application for an apartment in Westport, back on the Olympic Coast.

And it may well not work out. I didn’t want to announce this on Facebook because I’ve learned that, until I have the key in hand, any prospective apartment is firmly in the “unlikely” camp. Nevertheless, my enthusiasm is not deterred.

I only slightly exaggerate when I say that my sojourn in Hoquiam has been paradisiacal. My private days here were remarkable…not because of anything special that happened, but simply for the living restoration of my ideal life, if only briefly. I settled right back into it, too—a testament to the completeness of my recovery. 2016 is done; it’s all engines ahead. I am very much looking forward these days.
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2016 Word of Reflection & 2017 Word of Direction [Dec. 31st, 2016|07:20 pm]
Josh Fredman

When last we spoke of such things, I was in the midst of the darkest period of my life—the Joshalonian Troubles. Today, a full year later, all of that has passed. In a few days, or weeks at the most, I will have a place all my own for the first time in years, and that will be the final piece of business put to rest.

2016 was the most unusual of years. The slings and arrows were legion: I faced a health problem of unprecedented magnitude, debilitating and scary and inexplicable, and I also had to put up with the inadvertent gaslighting of friends who told me it was just anxiety. I said what may well be the final goodbye to my father, due to my mother’s interference, and I disowned her once and for all. I returned to Seattle after six years away, the only city I’ve ever truly called my own, only to discover that it wasn’t mine anymore. I endured true homelessness for the first time, sleeping in my car for a week and living out of my car for many months. And I faced the loss of my creative abilities, first by internal circumstances and then external ones, for nearly the entire year. I witnessed firsthand the ignorance and partial malevolence of the American people as we voted the Republicans, led by Donald Trump, into a greater position of power than they’ve had in my whole lifetime. But of course the worst hardship I faced was to spend the first half of the year without my own greatest ally in life: my strong mental health. I was in a very rough place, and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

But it wasn’t altogether a bad year, either. My endless crises carried me along to many fortunes as well: I gained the Discovery, which is only the second car I’ve ever owned. I got to see Emily again. I got to experience the miracle of regaining my mental health in the span of about two hours…as though my mental operating system simply rebooted itself. I saw the Pacific Northwest again, came to dwell there again, a lonely and unsatisfying homecoming but a homecoming even so. I drank at Yunnie’s Bubble Tea again, toured the University of Washington again. I got a surprisingly and deeply gratifying job at Working America, and built up a bigger savings than I’ve ever had. I made new friends in people like Stephanie, Zach, and James. (Stephanie’s wonderful gift to me, a painting of the stars that she made herself, deserves a special mention—my best gift all year!) At work, I saw greatness in the rough in young up-and-comers like Tahira, and I saw wise leadership from a mortal mate in the form of my erstwhile boss Patrick. And I made a difference in the North Carolina gubernatorial election: As far as I’m concerned, our Greensboro office won that race singlehandedly. On the friendship front, I got to see tons of Amanda, one of my closest friends. I met Rob F. for the first time. I received much support, both emotional and financial, from numerous friends at numerous points, as well as messages of camaraderie from dear friends like Stephen. And, with the help of Marilyn’s correspondences with me and my own mental reconciliation process, I achieved closure, or close enough to it, on the loss of Amy. Of course, there was DENTAL PLAN. There was the coast. I saw Desert Bus. I got back into watching my favorite YouTubers. I ended the year with ten days of everything coming up Milhouse: peace and quiet, a private space to myself with lots of room and even a lit Christmas tree, and tons of rain. I had a date with an exciting and very plump person whom I plan to see again. And, like I said, I will soon have a place of my own once more.

And, of course, the best thing of all that happened to me this year was right here in December: the restoration of my creative work; the putting of pen to page. Earlier in December I wrote 307 words one day, at James’ place, the first such words after a long woe indeed. And then on December 22—literally the first day that such a thing could have happened—I sat down and wrote two thousand more. And then, all at once, my old life returned to me.

So while most people are bemoaning how horrible 2016 was, I find myself thinking that the year, though slogging through the lowest of lows until mid-May, steadily improved from there and ended on a very high note. I feel fortunate, to have recovered from such woe so quickly, and as relatively intactly as I have.

Usually in my life I have a sense of internally-driven forward momentum, but this year, right until the month of December, I didn’t feel that way at all. I felt powerless, tossed about on wave after wave of the storm. And the worst part is that I was so consumed, first by my mental illness and then by my external busyness, that I didn’t have a sense of petulant defiance against that feeling. Only a weary acknowledgement. The best way to put it is that, of ambition and zeal, I recognized these mainstays were absent from my life this year, and, instead of trying to restore them, I mostly didn’t bother thinking about them.

I worked hard this year, but until the end I didn’t feel like I was actually trying all that hard. I did my job because I had to. It didn’t really matter that I also enjoyed it. I did it because I had surrendered my agency to the forces of necessity and the inexorable march of events. And the same could be said of most everything else: Just about everything I did, up through the election, was not in the spirit of agency but with deadened acquiescence. (One of the few exceptions that comes to mind was how adamant I was, both to Amanda and myself, that, during my time in Greensboro, we take advantage of me being just an hour away from her. I spent almost all of my spare time with her. It was one of the only deliberate, empowering things I did over the course of the year (until after the election, that is), and I am supremely glad I did it: because I got to feel empowered, feel like I was living deliberately, and because I got to see a whole bunch of one of my best friends.) It isn’t lost on me that I didn’t escape my woes through sheer willpower. There were points this year when, had circumstance not saved me just as it had tormented me to begin with, I could well have fallen a lot lower than I did. Maybe I could even have been broken.

There is a humbleness that strikes Galavar, in the Prelude, when he realizes that, were it not for the strategic military genius of DeLatia, the Hero would probably have succeeded in his attack. For all of Gala’s disaster preparation and contingency planning, for all the excellence of its people and worthiness of its cause, Gala’s survival that day essentially came down to chance. For someone like him, and me, that is a troubling fact of life to face: In the real world, you can do everything right, you can possess all virtue, you can even be some form of the “Chosen One”…and still lose.

I’ve spent weeks thinking about my Word of Reflection for the year. Many different ideas came to mind, including some truly creative ones—even one that expressed my hardships positively. None of them satisfied me. Overall, my perception of not having the power of agency in the first part of the year, and then not having the will to use it in most of the second part of the year, is what stands out the strongest. Fatalistic, acquiescent, indeliberate…all negative words in my book. And, for all the good that happened, I think 2016 on the whole was negative for me. It would betray the incredible hardships I faced if I chose a word representing my victory over and escape from them. The message from this year was: Beware, O Emperor of the J, for I can make you small.

The purpose of the Word of Reflection is to allow Future Josh to look back on this year with a single, unified thought. For weeks, such a word eluded me, until finally the timer ran out and I was forced to come up with one in the course of writing this entry. Bringing my resolve to bear on the question now, here is my choice:

[2016 Word of Reflection]
Josh’s 2016 Word of Reflection


A sad word. A small word. A humbling and humiliating word. A word that conveys both the opportunity cost of wasted time and also the sense of being without agency in a world that nevertheless kept right on churning and carrying me along with it.

A lost year, and a year of being lost. A year in which I myself was lost, and in which I lost many things: not least another few grains of the armor of my spirit of invincibility and immortality. I’m a little more mortal at the end of this year than I was at the beginning. Such is the pathos of being alive.

But I also lost the negative things. Not a single one of the miseries, horrors, abuses, and predicaments facing me earlier in the year is still present. Only the shadow of my homelessness remains, and that will be resolved very shortly. I end the year with brightness in my eye, and the words upon my lips, “All is well. Steady as she goes.”

You could even say it has an extra bit of elegant meaning in the grand scheme, too. Last year, my Word of Reflection was Exodus, and, of course “the” Exodus itself was followed by a long period of being lost in the wilderness. But may this be the last word in that particular allegory. Unless, of course, we turn this duo into a trilogy by ending 2017 as the Jews ended their trek through the desert: with the Book of Joshua.

Looking ahead, the Word of Direction is much easier. I settled on it quite a while ago. It represents something unprecedented for me, and something I don’t intend to make a habit out of: I’m going to reuse last year’s.

[2017 Word of Direction]
Josh’s 2017 Word of Direction


2016 was to have been the Year of the Audience, the year I broke even from my professional work for the first time. I had built my platform in 2014 and 2015, from the glory of the Year of 32. I had built it, and now it was time for them to come. But, of course, for all those reasons, my plans in 2016 fell completely apart, and I knew better than to even try to pick at their bones.

Instead, calendar 2016 is ending on a perfect aesthetic note, and 2017 is beginning just ten days after my two-thousand-word tour de force heralding my triumphant return to writing. It’s a second chance. Normally I wouldn’t repeat something as important as a Word of Direction, because I don’t like the idea of dedicating an entire year to something I just spent an entire year failing to do, but I am completely at peace with making this particular exception.

In the weeks ahead, probably late in January, I will announce some marketing and audience-building initiatives that I’ll be inviting you to help me out with—mainly to do with participating on my social media and telling your friends and acquaintances that I exist. Please stay tuned for that. Join me in the greatest adventure of all: the year an artist gets to say, for the first time: “I earn my living from this.”

Thank you for your encouragement, consolation, levity, passion, correspondence, money, affection, and most of all your friendship, in 2016.
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Seeing Green [Dec. 27th, 2016|08:29 pm]
Josh Fredman
Let's hear your TV pitch.

It's Breaking Bad...except set in Seattle and the meth is green.

I love it! Go on.

That's all I had. But...um...the protagonist has a big beard and is an environmentalist hipster who thinks he's dying from MCS.

Love it love it love it.

He wants to leave a legacy of recreational drugs by and for the working class, but ends up becoming the very thing he hates due to a series of deals with the corporate devil.


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