Author Archives: Tyson Wright

Winging It

So, I’m just winging it here, there’s this guy.  Let’s call him Bob.

Bob’s not anti-social, just shy, thoughtful, nerdy, you know what I’m talking about.  Maybe a scientist, or a mechanical engineer.  No, wait, I got it: he’s a database administrator.  (Actually, his job isn’t really relevant.)

So, anyway, he sees this girl, I don’t know, not at a party (I don’t think he goes to parties very often).  Somewhere in public.  At the grocery store.  Yes.

So, he sees her, she’s trying to buy something, pears, yeah, but doesn’t know how to pick them.  Bob prides himself on his mad pear-selection skillz, so he helps her out.  They talk a little, joke around, it’s all good.  He’s a nerd, but he’s old enough to be able to fake some social skills.

Crap, I forgot to mention: she’s hot.  Like, smoking.  And smart, witty, fun, smells good, you name it, she got it.  I think her name starts with ‘J’, but I can’t remember it right now.  I don’t think that really matters to this story, anyway.  Total babe, though.

So, yeah, she gets her pears.  Bob then epically fails to even ask for her phone number, or to suggest that they should get together, hang out, get married and move to the suburbs.  He just smiles and says “See ya!” as she walks away.  In all fairness, his brain is so overwhelmed with random synaptic discharges that’s it’s pretty impressive that he can even get that much out without drooling or stuttering. Still, though, Bob.  You gotta at least try!

So, anyway, back to the story,  Bob goes home and cries himself to sleep.

The End.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

What? I never said it was going to be a happy story!

Toad

The little toad, made of stone, would sell his soul to be real.  To jump away from this shelf.  To be able to hop and catch flies and swim.  To find a fine looking lady toad and settle down on a lily pad.

Unfortunately, being made of stone means he has no soul to sell, and no buyers.

So there he sits, motionless, gathering dust, and dreaming.

Individual Human Freedom

My main political motivation is individual human freedom.

Individual human: I don’t care, at all, about states rights or corporations’ rights. I don’t accept the legal fiction that corporations are people in all respects (sorry, Mitt!), and don’t care much about them (I understand that they are a useful economic tool, but don’t believe that treating them as human in all respects is helpful or even rational).

Freedom: means you can live your life as you want, as long as you don’t keep me from doing the same. Do things that I don’t approve of! Just don’t try to stop me from doing the same.

Now, this is where people ask, “Isn’t that what Libertarians believe?”

Nope.

Libertarianism (the political philosophy) is based on the ‘non-aggression principle’ – it’s never morally acceptable to initiate violence.  One results of this is that they don’t believe in taxation, because trying enforce taxes against someone’s will would necessitate the initiation of violence, thus violating the NAP. The Libertarian Party tends to simplify this into “government: bad”.

But I can’t see that a person mired in poverty is particularly free. I think a sick person who can’t obtain healthcare isn’t free. I think allowing businesses to discriminate against minorities is bad for freedom. As is allowing a corporation to destroy the air we breathe. Libertarianism overlooks the harsh reality that we don’t all have equal initial conditions – and for some people, the initial conditions they are given preclude many freedoms that others of us take for granted.  The government can play an important role in bringing freedom into these and other situations.

So, unlike libertarians (both little ‘l’ and big ‘L’), I am not specifically anti-government. I realize that governments are often the enemy of freedom, but so are corporations, so are plutocrats and aristocrats, so are other social institutions.  And frankly, I’m okay with initiating aggression against someone who is benefiting from the system, but doesn’t want to contribute their fair share.  I want to use government as a servant of freedom, all the while acknowledging and guarding against the ways it can also be a danger to freedom.

So when I write or talk about politics, when I decide how to vote, when I post political stuff on Facebook, this is the underlying political philosophy for me: increasing the total amount of individual human freedom, as defined above, is the main good I seek from politics.

InsideVoices2

Inside Voices

So, she’s leaving her husband. She’s blonde and her name is Beth. No, scratch that, it’s Victoria?

Victoria. Yes. (Still blonde, though.)

It was a bad marriage – upper middle class (he thought they were kinda rich, she thought they were just plain middle class and why don’t you work harder or maybe ask the boss for a raise we have two kids now and we’re not even keeping up with inflation and I thought you were a go-getter when I agreed to marry you but apparently your go-get has gone), two kids, no pets (thank God, she knew he liked dogs, but, please, a dog around the house is a disaster), a nice house on Jasper IV, and a small family spaceship that they kept meaning to use for vacations but never got around to.

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Metal

Metal

It starts with a sound like steel shattering. Then the low roar of an earthquake, the kind where the ground rises up to slap you in the face.

The next thing you know, you’re engulfed in the chaotic center of Armageddon. Nothing about this is random or undisciplined – this ultimate fury is expressed with military precision. This is fury, yes, but fury practiced, directed, controlled, perfected.

When the screaming, long awaited, finally begins, the anticipation realized does not release your tension, it reignites it. Dreams, fears, expectations, nightmares: reformed, rebuilt, redirected. Remember what it means to fear darkness, beasts, strangers.

Remember your infant fear of loud noises, loud voices – turn, and the fear is gone – but the loud noises, loud voices remain.

These speak to you – the words may not matter, the way words in a dream may not matter. It’s the tone, the texture, the intention interacting with parts of your brain that don’t have language. The broadest emotions – love, hope, joy – all people know them, they can be expressed in any language.

But fear and hunger – all living things know what these are, with or without language.

So this moment touches a generality within you – beyond individual, tribe, nation, people, species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, domain – it touches life.

Three Words

The Brick Elephant ate the whole fig tree in one shot. (Yup, and then he started right in on another one!)

The Stainless Steel Elephant looked disdainful. There’s simply no justification for gluttony like that – it’s undignified. She sniffed over the sad state of youth today. (Maybe she is older than Brick, but he’s fully growed up. Snooty old hag!)

The Plastic Elephant looked impressed. He knew his limitations, and if he tried to eat a whole fig tree at once he’d just be sick. He probably wouldn’t be able to finish it, anyway. (That Brick, though, he doesn’t even think twice about it – there’s not much as slows him down!)

The Flesh-and-Blood Elephant looked determined. She was sweet on Brick, and found her own fig tree and set to, trying to impress her hero. (She kept glancing over at him – you could tell that hussy was hoping he’d notice her. As if!)

The Helium Elephant didn’t look like anything much at all, and floated off, unnoticed. (Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. And don’t come back round here, neither!)

The Wooden Elephant looked shocked. Shocked! In conflicts between pachyderms and forest, she doesn’t know who to support. (”Can’t we all just get along?” No, we can’t, so shut up already!)

And, finally, the Force-Field Elephant looked thoughtful. He then transformed himself into a fig tree – not so much to change sides as to gain perspective. (He’d change back right quick if Brick headed his way, though – you can bet on that!)

The Brick Elephant, completely oblivious to all this fuss, finished his second fig tree and calmly moved on to the third. (That’s old Brick for you!)

Imagine This With a Smoky Sax Solo

When this dame walked through my office door, all I saw was trouble. Trouble, and the longest pair of legs in California. By that point in the morning I was having trouble telling whether there was one or two of her. Didn’t matter – they both looked good, but they both looked bad, too.

However, I had bills to pay. And since I hadn’t been sapped, stabbed, or shot at in at least a week, I was getting restless. I downed the shot, put the desk bottle back where it belonged, and listened to an improbable story about her runaway husband.

All of that is prelude to me being on top of a parking garage the next morning, being shot at by the improbable husband, instead of sitting in my stuffy apartment reading philosophy and sipping the best bourbon I can afford.

Which is usually the exact same thing as the cheapest bourbon I can find.

I didn’t want to have to kill this bum – that brings down more heat than it’s worth. Besides, wives who pay for you to bring their husbands back usually want them to still be warm and fully functional and mostly unpunctured.

I would have appreciated him pausing the gunfire long enough for me to explain myself. “Hey, your wife asked me to…”

A couple more rounds hit the concrete wall above me. He screamed, “My wife? Don’t talk to me about my wife! She was a saint!”

“She wants you to come home! That’s all I’m here for!”

The car window above me exploded from his next shot. “Who are you? How did you find me? My wife died two years ago!”

I thought this one might get weird. Still, it beat spending the morning getting quietly drunk and brooding.

Or so I thought then.

Dinosaur

The head paleontologist had the work crew haul the brontosaurus into one of the back rooms.  “Thanks guys.  Can you give us a few minutes here?”

As the crew filed out the dinosaur waited, and watched the scientist.  Once they were alone she asked, “What’s going on, Doc?”

He cleared his throat. “I don’t know how to say this…you are a mistake.  We classified you incorrectly, and made some wrong guesses about your skull.  New research shows that you didn’t really exist.”  He looked away, embarrassed.  “I’m sorry.”

The brontosaurus told herself to be cool.  Be cool.  She tried to take a deep breath, but that doesn’t work when you’re just a collection of fossilized bones and a few bits of wire.  No lungs.

“So, Doc, that just means you’ll revise me, make a few tweaks based on the new findings, right?” Be cool.

He sighed and took off his glasses.  “I’m afraid that this is bigger than that.  Brontosaurus is being written out of the books.  You’re all really just Apatosauruses.  It’s not just a simple adjustment.”

“Doc, I’m not just a dinosaur!  I’m THE dinosaur!  I represent the whole superorder in the public mind!” Her voice was beginning to sound frantic.

He smiled sadly.  “Well, actually, I think that Tyrannosaurus Rex is what…”

“No! When people see a T-rex they say ‘Ooo, a T-rex’.  Same thing for Stegosaurus.”  She was panicking now.  “But when people see me they say, ‘Ooo, a dinosaur!’.  When kids draw a dinosaur, they draw me!  When…”

He interrupted her, “I’m sorry.  It’s out of my hands.”  The work crew started coming back into the room.  “There won’t be any pain.  Goodbye.”  He turned and left.

He was wrong.  There was pain, but thankfully it was brief.

Oblivion doesn’t hurt.

See swordfighting! Raise money for the library! At the same time!

The Duke of Urbino

The Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro, and his son Guidobaldo, attributed to Pedro Berruguete. Picture credit

Galeazzo used to say that without books, nobody can truly be a Master or student in this art. I, Fiore, agree with this: there is so much to this art that even the man with the keenest memory in the world will be unable to learn more than a fourth of it without books. And a fourth of this art is not enough to make someone a Master.
-Fiore De’ Liberi’s Fior Di Battaglia (Flower of Battle), 1409, translated by Tom Leoni

My school, the Sacramento Sword School, is teaming up with the Sacramento Frei Fechter to put on a fundraiser tournament for the Sacramento Public Library. We want books on Western Martial Arts at the library, so we decided that the best approach was to raise the money and buy them ourselves and donate them.

Remember the swordfight from The Princess Bride? I hope you do – it’s the greatest swordfight in movie history. As The Man in Black fights and talks with Inigo Montoya, they drop several names – among them are Capoferro and Agrippa. Surprise – these are real people who wrote important books about swordfighting. English translations of these books are on the list of things we want to buy for the library.

So, if you want to see what swordfighting really looks like, or if you want to help us buy books for the Sac Library, come to the Sacramento HEMA Open on August 17, 2014. It’s free for spectators (but we’d be really happy to have you contribute to the book buying fund!). There will be a sidesword/rapier tournament starting at 9:00 AM, and we will have a longsword tournament in the afternoon.

It’s at the Sacramento Turn Verein Gymnasium:

3349 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95816
Note that parking and gym entrance are on I Street between 33rd and 35th

If you practice Western Martial Arts and want to compete, see this post on SFI for details.

We hope to see you there!

Gunther

1. Philosophy

As he waited, Gunther reflected, not for the first time, that only a pantheist can rationally employ violence without a trace of anger.

He’d watched many of his colleagues spiral into madness over the years – killing lots of people in cold blood can be rough on the psyche.  Other people would work themselves up into a rage just to do the job, but Gunther disdained this approach as amateurish – rage makes you sloppy, and sloppy makes you dead. Continue reading