Monday, May 31, 2010

Why I Write

I can't think of a more succinct statement of why I write. Once again, thank you, Mr. Vonnegut.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Civil War Within the Alphabet, A Cryptic Excerpt from "Christmas in Mecca"

T lived in contented comforts; he hardly gave a fleeting thought to Z. Yes, T had personally witnessed the demise of R and S, had watched time’s dispassionate march and unfeeling boot heals trample S and R into transience before his very eyes. And so somewhere deep, T held an unknown knowing that Z would come. Once, mired in a bout of self-reflection that had been conscripted by a small, transitory personal adversity, T thought back on compelling words attributed to D, a fabled letter of yore. The story of D had been passed through the ages in cryptic parables that reached T through a series of retellings and translations by F, G, H and J, tales of sacrifice and heroism where D, in final feat, proclaimed that D himself, chosen before all others, would triumph at the coming of Z and that Z was indeed only the perfected reflection and anointed realization of the “new D.” Millennia after D, L is purported to have claimed that he was the Way, that he had perfected and completed the original message of D and that L and only L was a sole path to Z.

T wasn’t so sure about anything. T pondered Z many times, often in fear. In his mind and heart, T often denounced Z as a crafty saboteur, a thief, a robber.

Somewhere a universe had been born and had died.

The sun rose in the east…

T pondered and searched and ritualized to no end, but he couldn’t seem to gather enough proof to embrace or repudiate D or L. Once, quiet by accident, T had come perilously close to the Truth about Z. But that moment of philosophical immersion shattered in the midst of an encroaching offense from S, an offense that prompted a necessary and violent response from T, a response that shaped the nature of U and was essentially a mathematically precise line regression to the self-preservationist impulses of the oceanic, gurgling existence of A and the grunted cave art of B, a response justified by the vengeful commandments of C and deaf to the forgiving restraints sermonized from the mount by L.

Time’s boot heals stomped left, then right, ashes and dust, and T’s eyelids now drooped and an insight unfolded from within…or was it a voice from outside?...that told T that Hitler and Gandhi are the same soul in different circumstances, so who can judge?

T’s eyes closed and he became the whole alphabet.

U’s eyes fluttered open with a cry.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Reader Feedback: The Beauty of Life

Readers often share thoughtful and interesting observations with me. Here's one:

The reader asks:

I like the way you put words together. It's pretty and also poetic. You seem to write about macabre and bothersome parts of life like war, religious strife, death.
Will you ever write about the beauty of life?


I responded:

Dear Sandy,

First off, thanks for the literary compliment! I work hard at the craft of writing. Sometimes I succeed. Many times I don’t.

Regarding my topical choices for writing - Life is a matrix of experiences. Literature is a fun-house mirror reflection of that matrix. It’s a mirror because ALL literature, no matter how speculative or outlandish, is SOMEHOW a manifestation and product of a human being’s/writer’s experience. The mirror’s a funhouse mirror because we writers contort and distort and reframe those life experiences into alternate images that are based on the original but modulated to fit the content and context of our particular piece of writing.

Adversity is the crucible in which our character is forged. As a child, I remember a soldier who came to our house in Kampala, Uganda while my father was at work and my mother was at home with my young brothers and me. The soldier made the point that we (Asian Indians) would soon have to leave Uganda and so my mother should let him inside so that he could take our belongings. Later than year, my family and relatives and many other Indians who had lived in Uganda for generations were deported to a refugee camp in Naples, Italy. We were there because of the color of our skin, our ethnicity.

Everyone’s character is created and tempered by their life experiences. When I sit to write, those seared impressions are the first to leap from my mind and into the blank computer screen. The world teems with “war, religious strife, death.” But yes, Sandy, it teems with beauty too.

Resolution 786 is a first novel. There will be more. As I write each successive work, perhaps I’ll have the good fortune of metabolizing the strife and discord that I’ve seen in the world. When all that is successfully exorcised through the cathartic cleanse of written expression, perhaps my last work will be the world’s greatest love story :). I hope it will.

Finally, I’m compelled to note that although Resolution 786 focuses primarily on themes of “love and war and God and lust and loss,” it is not completely void of beauty. When Becca indulges Adam by listening to his philosophical dirges, she does it not from topical interest, but rather, from love. When Lamech’s mother sends him an e-mail in Iraq assuring him that his room at home is the same as he left it, that it patiently awaits his safe return, she makes those statements from love. There is love in Resolution 786. And there is no greater beauty in life than the beauty of one being’s love and affection for another.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Your Writing, Yourself

Readers posed many interesting questions during my recent virtual book tour. Here's one that I went back to and re-read today. Is an author's fiction a reflection of her or his reality? You decide.

The Q & A -

Sasha asked:

I would really like to know how autobiographical the book [Resolution 786] really is! There are certain similarities between the writers personal life story (mentioned on the cover) and that of the main character, this is not by chance, is it?

Thanks again for a great book! enjoyed reading it...

Mohamed answered:


And my thanks to you for your kind assessment of the novel!

I can’t put a numerical value on how autobiographical this novel is, but qualitatively, the short answer’s “A lot.” Scene 1 has a physical description of Adam Hueghlomm. It’s pretty darn close to what I see in the mirror. Adam’s an Indian born in Africa. Same here. Adam’s an engineer working for the Army. You can guess who else is. And the list goes on and on….

For me, fiction is a form of catharsis for long-standing psychoses. Accepting that premise, it’s inevitable that the created is a reflection of the creator. I came to a realization recently while quietly composing at my writing desk in the early winter morning: the primary male characters in my second novel are projections of major archetypes that comprise my present being. These archetypes are the noble poet; the miserable wretch; orthodoxy’s interrogator; and the curious child. I think that all writers write from their personal experiences, from who and what they are at that moment of composition. That said, I don’t think that most writers indulge themselves as much as I do in making their central characters SO MUCH like themselves. That type of self-indulgence does have an admittedly narcissistic quality to it, and I don’t give myself a free pass. On page 42 of Resolution 786, in speaking about Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Becca asks, “What kind of egomaniac puts himself in his own writing.”

The lovely Becca Gowetski might be saying that, but the truth is, that’s me taking a well- deserved jab at myself.

Thanks for picking up on the autobiographical elements of the novel. No, it wasn’t by chance. It was by self-indulgence.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Peace Talks


My thanks to Omar Khan for his insightful review of Resolution 786 on Amazon! This review's especially unique in that this is the first time that a reader/reviewer shares an interpretation of the Islamic notion of the numbers 7-8-6.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Becca Gowetski's Ode to Adam Hueghlomm


Each passing
A miracle fades
To darkness.

Our love
For the miracles,
miracles now gone,
Our bittersweet longings
Bestow upon that darkness
A tactile grandeur,
an earthly vision,
making it a place:

< virgins, harps, clouds, saints, gates >

vision, be damned!
It is,
in the end,
the darkness.

And, in the end,
the stiff slap of loss
tells us
our miracles,
our precious
living, breathing, talking



"Waiting for Godot" - Samuel Beckett's Attempt to....What?

I just finished reading Samuel Beckett's play, Waiting for Godot. Is this an avant-garde tribute to the theatre of the absurd?...a morality play structured around the quintessential themes of existentialism? angry cry born from the suffering pangs of inconsequential human experience?...

Whatever it is or isn't, Beckett's work inspires me to continue to complete Christmas in Mecca.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

John Steinbeck’s Hitchcockian Moment

And here I thought that I was the only writer whose characters stand up, think on their own and talk back while you’re writing them into a scene. In the prologue to John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, a central character named Mack talks about what he’d say if he ever ran into “the guy” who wrote Cannery Row. Among other things, Mack says that he’d have told the writer to give the chapters titles rather than just numbers. Steinbeck dutifully follows Mack’s sage advice.
Thinking back on my blogs from last year, I remember promising myself a Hitchcockian moment in each of my novels, an instant in the story in which I, Mohamed Mughal, have a personal presence that somehow molds that small slice of narrative. As one would expect and as Steinbeck clearly demonstrates, what I call Hitchcockian moments are nothing new. Writers’ characters, in some form or another, have been interacting with their creators ever since that anonymous scribe put quill to parchment to etch out Epic of Gilgamesh.

A Poem, a Cubist Piece of the Novel, "Christmas in Mecca"

Sun Dials

Stoic beard
Gray, unbegotten
Forever – pacing –

Leaping \\
>> Lunging
Streaming <<
// Crashing

Open ocean
Washing beaches
Bigger than we
Can ever know

Friday, May 14, 2010

Engineering Boundary Conditions and the Outer Limits of Literary Permission

One of the problem solving techniques that we were taught in engineering school was that of setting boundary conditions. Before solving the core problem, you defined the system by either knowing or assuming its behavior at its outer boundaries. You can do the same when creating literature. Different writers are comfortable with different boundary conditions, different limits, different edges-of-the-envelope.

Two literary techniques that I use to push my writing’s boundary conditions are literary cubism and absurdism. Literary cubism gives me permission to explore the outer boundaries of literature along the dimension of structure. Rather than narrative, I’ve used e-mail messages, legal documents, handwritten notes and poems to advance the story and define characters. There’s nothing that keeps me from using the structure of a play, a haiku, a grocery list, or someone’s doodle to achieve the same ends…and, in fact, I do in my most recent works.

Absurdism gives me license to dip my toes into the outer boundaries of literature along the dimension of premise. Can humans capture the Lord Our God and put him on trial? Sure. Do extraterrestrial intelligences co-exist with us in dimensions that we don’t perceive and, hence, don’t experience and can all this be happening right next to us at the present moment? Yes.

I encourage my fellow writers to push to the edge in everything, most certainly in your literary efforts. Edges set the tone. Edges dictate what’s permissible and possible. Edges are the crucible of creation.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Virtual Book Tour, the Third (and Final) Q & A

I promised to post questions and answers from my recent virtual book tour. Here's the third and final installment on that promise. This Q & A comes from Austin Camacho’s blog, Another Writer’s Life, in Washington, D.C.

Libby asked:

Hey, speaking of your two new books what are they about? Your stuff's a bit weird and sometimes even strange but your book's people are like real people so sometimes I feel like you're telling me what happened to you today rather than I'm reading a book like the ones in English class. Do people ever think you're weird like your books?

Mohamed answered:

Dear Libby,

You’ve served me a well-basted roast of two queries and a side helping piled high with steaming commentary. Bon appetit.

Now to clear the plate.

Starting with your last question: Yes. Through these many years, quite a few people have commented that I sometimes come off as weird…introspective…sullen…isolated.

Are my books the same? Probably. They’re the intellectual progeny of my mind and, as such, they have a strong chance of inheriting my mental and emotional deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

Working backwards through your post, I’ll now address your comment about the “people” in my books. I’m elated to learn that you feel my characters are real. A novel’s “people” do not become well-written characters until they assume that third dimension of depth, that flawed and vulnerable humanity, that believable and recognizable voice. I’m fascinated that you think my books read like “I’m telling you what happened to me today.” That’s not entirely surprising. Vonnegut’s experiences as an American soldier in WWII are an anchor in the storyline of Slaughterhouse Five. Steinbeck’s experiences growing up in Salinas give generous contribution to the settings, images, characters and “feel” of his novels. Likewise, many of the scenes in Resolution 786 did happen to me, scenes like the debate regarding the meaning of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis while resting in bed; or the mysterious old man in a dusty Middle Eastern street grabbing onto people’s earlobes and handing them neon-green prayer beads (I still have the beads); and the beautiful and philosophically indulgent trek through the Utah desert leading to the Delicate Arch. So in all those instances, in a very real way, I actually AM telling you “what happened to me today.”

Now to your opening question: what are my two new books about?

Christmas in Mecca is a cubist novel about many things: the strategic tensions between the West and Islamic fundamentalism; our search for intelligent extraterrestrial life; the internal reconciliation of one character’s battered self-worth; the searing pangs of the unfulfilled quests in our lives and how we resolve to live with those disappointments as we journey between the womb and the grave.

Much of the book is traditional narrative. But the text also includes government memoranda, e-mail messages, and poems. Unlike the first novel, parts of the story in the second novel take the form of a play; others are dialogue structured in the form of a volley of instant messages. I don’t employ these alternate formats out of literary indulgence or as a gimmick. Chosen formats must fit and amplify the context and demonstrative power of the scene. In the case of the instant messages, I had come to a point in the narrative where two characters have a philosophically and personally revealing exchange of thought and perspective. Each character is introverted. Each is intelligent. Each is comfortable with and drawn to the written word. How best to frame such a dialogue, a discussion between two reclusive, bookish characters? I decided on instant messaging. This form of interpersonal communication preserves the informational and revelatory content of the dialogue. It also sets the conversation in a context that reveals the introverted nature of the characters, two people who prefer to exchange ideas while sitting alone in the privacy of a closed room.

That’s plenty on the first new book.

The second new book is my first shot at book-length non-fiction. It’s titled Creating Fiction: A Hands-on, Practitioner's Guide and it summarizes my literary lessons and techniques, the experiential by-products gleaned from the task of creating two cubist, absurdist novels.

Thank you for sharing your thoughtful observations of my writing and of my nature as a writer. There are many hardships to writing, things like self-doubt and finding the time. There are also many rewards. The greatest reward is to have readers like you, Libby.

Keep reading,


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I promised to post questions and answers from my recent virtual book tour. Here's the second installment on that promise. The Q & A came from Imran Ahmad’s blog, Not-quite-a-blog, in London, England.

Curious 1 asked:

I saw so many reflections of Christ in the circumstances of Adam Hueghlomm's life. I saw him, like Christ, overcome the three temptations in the desert and even the stations of the cross near the end of the novel. Was that intentional on your part or is it just circumstantial that I saw that?

Mohamed answered:

Dear Curious 1,

I see you’ve followed the tour from Berlin to London. Do I have a groupie? If so, I love it! :)

You use the term “Christ,” an English adaptation, I believe, of the Greek “Khristos,” or “anointed one.” I don’t believe I ever use that term in Resolution 786. I do, however, create a strong thematic and symbolic association between my character, Adam, and the storied events of Jesus of Nazareth. Yes, when Adam and Becca trek through the powdered deserts of Utah, I did invoke a reflection of the three temptations that Jesus was subjected to in the deserts of Palestine: hunger, to tempt the Lord, all the kingdoms of the world.

Having personally walked the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem, I couldn’t help but structure the final scenes of Resolution 786 as a progression through that sequenced series of events (it was done subtly, I thought, so I’m surprised that you picked up on it).

But there’s more.

The novel’s sub-title is written on the front cover so that the words form the shape of a crucifix. Adam leaves for Iraq and is due “to return” on Easter Sunday. Jesus is invoked during Adam’s encounter with the old man, Mohammed, in the dusty streets of Baghdad. The soldier, Lee, sees a crucifix appear over the shattered remains of a destroyed weapons warehouse during night-time combat operations. That same soldier concocts a “story” in a fit of angst in the soldiers’ Recreation Room, a story that, although told in vulgar expressions, is remarkably similar to the Passion Play.

Yes, Jesus “appears” in numerous instances and in numerous ways in the same novel that indicts the God of Abraham for Crimes Against Humanity.

What does it mean?

I’ve found that Jesus is somehow something different to different people. In the spirit of relativistic thought, I will let each individual reader decide the “meaning” of Jesus’ appearance in each instance. And remember, in Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, there are no privileged frames of reference. In the sense of relativity that you will apply to deduce the meaning of Jesus’ appearance in Resolution 786, there also are no privileged frames of reference. Your answer will be right for you.

And that is profoundly OK.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Winter, 2010

Looking out the Window

Icy Scenes

Dug Out of the House...Finally!

Howling for the Snow to Stop

The End

About a year ago I mulled my use of “The End” following final text in my stories and novels. I decided that that phrase limits the contextual residence of my writing; it implies that an isolated universe is created within each piece of prose and that that world is immutable, irrefutable and final. It isn’t. I realized this when the draft of my second novel, Christmas in Mecca, evolved into both a sequel and a prequel to my first novel. Nothing ends.

My stories and novels depict fragments of experience that occur within the moment, but that are also nested within a dynamic sea of future and past. A focused lens into the past can provide valuable, revelatory insights into and about the present; a retrospective gaze from the realized future can redefine and more precisely account the broader implications of that same present. In the infinite plate tectonics of the cosmos, nothing stands alone, absolute, stoic and stone.

I am no longer comfortable using “The End” when I finish novels and stories…but what then to use, if anything?

I thought of “etc.” Etcetera. A literal translation from Latin is “and the rest.” Common meanings include “and so forth” or “and other things.” I think this better captures my sense of my writing…and the rest…and so forth…and other things.

Hereon in, my stories and novels will not end with “The End.” They’ll end with “etc.”

Virtual Book Tour, One Q & A

I promised to post questions and answers from my recent virtual book tour. Here's a first installment on that promise. The Q & A came from Inna Selipanov's blog, Onions and Tea.

Anonymous asked...

Hello Inna! I'm excited to be the first poster. :-) I'm a chemist and I believe that Mohamed has studied chemistry, as well. I was wondering how his background as a chemical engineer influences his writing, if at all.

Mohamed answered...

I have to start by saying that I absolutely LOVE your question. I’ve never really thought about it explicitly, but the truth is that my academic training in chemical engineering does indeed influence my creative writing.

I think I’ll answer your question along two dimensions. The first is structural. The second is topical detail.

Structural: My training as a chemical engineer entailed problem-solving through the use of linear thinking around the notion of processes and repeatable, predictable reactions. In that sense, I can see that in my creative writing, I tend to organize my themes and thoughts (and hence, my prose and plot) in ways that are consistent, integrated and logically cohesive. If you read Resolution 786 closely, you’ll see that many scenes, especially at the minute (molecular?) level, have an integrated set of details. For example, if someone cites an event or characterization in an e-mail message, many scenes later, a detail of description or dialogue will support that previous citation. An interesting permutation of my detail-oriented linear thought process is the fact that I use literary cubism as my overall architecture for telling stories, so data and storylines and narrative exposition are offered through multiple written venues such as e-mails, poems, dialogue, and legal documents and may appear, at times, to be non-linear. Still, despite what might at first glance appear to be an unorthodox amalgam of cubist writing, in the final analysis, as applied by me, becomes an integrated, internally consistent system of systems that, if successful, weaves an understandable story that has a unified theme and is told through the motives and experiences of consistent and believable characters.

The second way in which my training as a chemical engineer influences my writing is along the dimension of topical detail. Yes, my first novel and the partially completed draft of my second novel both deal heavily in themes of theology. But looking back through the prism of your question, I now see that topical details revolve around my training and experiences as a chemical engineer. Adam Hueghlomm is in Iraq to collect data to test the efficacy of a new mine-detecting technology; he carries a research notebook with him. Hueghlomm’s intense reverence for logic and literal interpretations is the basis for the legal indictment of the Lord in that first novel. Euclidian geometry and the mathematically infinite nature of pi are invoked in the title of the final chapter of the novel, a tip of the hat to my engineering training in mathematics. Moving from my first novel and into the second, here’s how a minor but frequent character in that novel is introduced:

Oh he loved his own kind, clinging to them in a square dance of loose bonds. His rotund torso held up two punctuation marks, small appendages that poked into the world in a dissolving, soft clutch, an ever open 104.5 degree arc of welcome. Aetch, as he often called himself, had been born in the early twilights, above a gurgling, empty ocean, on the tip of a crackling electrical discharge that shot from nothing to nowhere. He was a quite witness to the endless turn of wheels, the cycling infinity of death and rebirth. ‘Each one of them is a retold pun in a never-ending cosmic comedy,’ Aetch-to-oh often told himself, a gargled giggle.
Oh, the people he’d known. Oh, the places he’d been. Oh, the things he’d seen.”

Who is Aetch-to-oh? He’s a water molecule who has been floating about the earth since the early twilights of creation. That’s right. A water molecule is a character in “Christmas in Mecca.” I believe this, too, is an observable manifestation of my training as a chemical engineer. Who else might include a water molecule (complete with his 104.5 degree molecular geometry) as a character in a novel?

Apologies for the rather long answer. Here’s the short version:

Yes, my training as a chemical engineer influences my fiction. It forces me to have a logical and internally consistent storyline despite my seemingly unorthodox literary style of cubist writing. It also provides me background material that helps me create the details of scenes, settings, characters and chapter titles in my fiction.

Resolution 786, Reviews on Goodreads

Want to get a variety of perspectives on Resolution 786? Goodreads has an interesting set of reviews.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blog Post Got Picked Up

Looks like one of my blog posts got picked up. Glad to see that someone finds at least some of my content useful :).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Resolution 786, "The Meaning" - from YouTube

Resolution 786, "The Meaning" - from YouTube

Salamano's Dog

Who says that the antiseptic observations of a consummate existentialist anti-hero can’t inform our deepest emotions?

I recently took mental inventory of the wonderful people in my life, souls who selflessly provide me care, companionship, affection, security, joy and unwavering support. “I am blessed,” I thought, and remembered old man Salamano, Meursault’s neighbor in Camus’ The Stranger. Salamano has an old dog who he mistreats consistently and persistently over eight years. Finally, during an outing at a fair, Salamano stops at a booth to watch a short skit titled The King of the Escape Artists. In the midst of Salamano’s distraction, the dog runs away and the old man is left alone. Salamano looks for the dog in angered frustration. He doesn’t find him. That night, Mersault listens to Salamano pacing in the adjacent apartment. The bed creeks. Salamano is crying.

For whom are the circumstances more tragic: Salamano or the dog? Beyond this simple, binary question lies a larger truth, the truth that both have suffered and that both have accrued irretrievable losses from the circumstances, for who among us would chose to be Salamano and who among us would chose to be Salamano’s dog?

And so the dispassionate existential exposition of these circumstances, just as much as any canonical literature, teaches us to be patient, to be caring, and to be grateful for those special souls in our lives before, through the rush of unstoppable fate, they are no longer in our lives.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Want to see another dimension of my life as a writer? Visit my writer's page on Facebook.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Virtual Book Tour, Resolution 786, March 2010

I participated in an international virtual book tour this March. The tour focused on Resolution 786 and on my approach to writing. I had stops in Berlin, Germany; London, England; and Washington, D.C. This being my first virtual book tour, I didn’t quite know what to expect.

Guess what?

It was great!

Not only did I have the privilege of direct interactions with readers world-wide, but the depth, complexity, relevance and humor of the questions contributed to a number of compelling personal and literary revelations.

Interested in seeing the tour’s Q&As?

Visit Inna Selipanov’s blog, Onions and Tea, in Berlin, Germany;

Imran Ahmad’s blog, Not-quite-a-blog, in London, England;

and finally, Austin Camacho’s blog, Another Writer’s Life, in Washington, D.C.

Would I do another virtual book tour? Absolutely! Didn’t you see how much fun we had in the Q&A sessions above? A virtual book tour is a perfect vehicle through which to enjoy the benefits and revelations of a real-time, deep conversation with readers and literature enthusiasts the world over.


The County Rooster – All American News for All American Folks

Bethany, Montana, March 19, 2003 - As our nation prepares to go to war against Saddam Hussein, a new batch of Nostradamus quatrains is making the rounds through the global community garnering distinction as the most downloaded news story this week. Nostradamus, a 16th century seer who some claim foresaw space flight, world wars, the Kennedy assassinations and 9/11, collected his original quatrains in Les Propheties, published in three installments from 1555 through 1568. Nine hundred and forty two quatrains or four line stanzas survive.

Nostradamus scholars are studying the new set of eleven quatrains, attempting to authenticate their veracity. When asked about his initial impressions, Ibin Qayam, a renowned Nostradamous researcher, said, “The syntax, diction, word choice and abstract imagery of the quatrains are consistent with Nostradamus’ other work. It’s uncanny…inexplicable. Inshallah, we will soon know whether this work comes from Nostradamous’ hand or if it can be disregarded as a clever forgery.”

The public’s keen interest in the quatrains seeped into the White House Press Room yesterday morning when Alexander Mashburn of Politics Network asked the President’s spokesperson if the obscure stanzas could portend outcomes of the imminent war with Iraq. Amid a rumble of polite laughter, the President’s spokesperson deadpanned, “It means the name “Hussein” will never figure into American politics again.”


Omega begotten
At the third month, twenty and three
Drunkard, dullard is the Eagle’s head - Bish
Lies for War, black gold

In the New World
Year of the Cross
Twenty and Twelve
Shall arise the Persian Dagger

Mohamedan, Viral
Falling the Eternal City
In Days, Forty and One
Solstice laments

Pride, Conceit, Arrogant Display
Once a Street-Sweep, Sits upon the Throne
Wracked from David, the sculpture in ruins
Wicked Sphinx — vengeance, crimson bath

New alliances, Sacred Ox
At century’s close, the Twelve Tribes
Will defeat seven sitting Kings
Morning clouds, amber tides

Throes of locusts, frogs, fish descend
Rain the Old and New Cities alike
Mongrels abound
Babylon, thou words are dead!

Message from nails and timber
Golgotha, voice anew, speaks
Astray, Persians and West!
Third sunrise, Golgotha alive

Plague, pestilence, eels and lice
When the Sun bows five times
To twenty-one, thirty-nine
So shall the Last Empire

Popes, priests, poets alike
Tribute to twenty-four, forty; Thirty-one, thirty-five
Hoof beats in the East
As a zebra, but a horse

Wolf, doppelganger
His word goes out
In lightning, rivers
Coursing, buried veins of glass

Caesar weeps, Pontius’ folly
Now! Now shall Constantine’s Empire
Surrender to Cyrus
Marauder, vagabond, scoundrel, skull


The Lord's Indictment

For those of you interested in reading the Lord's Indictment from Resolution 786...

The Good Guys vs. the Bad Guys

My April 2010 talk at the Cedarhurst Unitarian Church as been postponed to later this summer. I'll post the new date as soon as it's set.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Resolution 786, Book Review, Inna Selipanov

Inna Selipanov posted an insightful review of Resolution 786 on her book blog, Onions and Tea. Inna’s an intelligent and thoughtful literature enthusiast in Berlin, Germany. I think you’ll be impressed with the depth, candor and analysis she puts into her book reviews and so I encourage you to read her other posts as well. On my part, I can’t wait to read the novel she’s working on. Thank you, Inna, for giving us the privilege of seeing the keen observations of your beautiful mind!

Creative Writing is Born From Personal Experience

Personal experience is the mother of creative expression. In that way, all fiction is a muted form of autobiography. The keen reader pierces the veil of fabrication and sees the heart underneath. It's frightening when you realize that writing fiction is a form of self-exposure. But a moment's reflection brings you face-to-face with the conclusion that that can't be helped. Vonnegut's experiences as an American soldier in WWII are an anchor in the storyline of Slaughterhouse Five. Steinbeck's experiences growing up in Salinas give generous contribution to the settings, images, characters and "feel" of his novels.

If the opening thesis of this post is correct, that all fiction is in some form or another a plagiarism of life, then a life rich in experience is an excellent (essential?) foundation for creating fiction. A theory is a theory is a theory; does empirical observation support this theory? Yes: Fitzgerald lived the excesses and indulgences of the Roaring 20s before he wrote his great American novel; Jack London watched more than one dog make a life in the Alaskan tundra before capturing their habits and lives in print; Melville was kidnapped and held on an island by cannibals while serving on the whaler, Acushnet, before he began writing of sea captains and whales and sailing; Vonnegut served in the infantry in WWII before creating his masterpieces about war; Camus lived in the hot sun of Algiers long before the final draft of his short and powerful novel, The get the point. If you want to write, get out and live.

I'm not suggesting that you spend the winter in a tundra, move to Algiers or get kidnapped by cannibals. What I am saying is that the time you spend living, working, loving and breathing is just as essential to writing as the time you spend sitting at your keyboard or couch stringing words together. The time you spend living, the experiential cache of your life, is what gives richness to your writing.

People-watch, gaze the sun set, listen to the ocean's song, follow the movement of animals, smell the autumn air, hear the bustle of stars on a dark winter night, fix your eyes on your lover's face while in the passions of lovemaking. It's all part of your life's experiences, all details in the glorious panorama of human existence, details that will breathe a third dimension into the characters and scenes of your writing. These details, when properly chosen and applied, will give your readers a memorable sense of experience when they read your work. A passionate life is the best source material for passionate writing.

Absurdism: An Approach to Writing Meaningful Fiction

I've had readers accuse me of being an absurdist. "Putting God on trial is an absurd premise," they say. "Having your characters debate whether the afterlife grants us virgins or whores is absurd," they say. "It's absurd to make your central character a Jewish Muslim," they say. Oh, well. These illustrative fragments of absurd experience are part of a larger existence teeming with the absurd. After all, how can we find meaning in a world where national leaders adopt a policy of pre-emptive strike while publicly professing eternal allegiance to the teachings of a philosopher who implored us to turn the other cheek?

And so I accept the designation. Picture my face filling the entire screen of your living room TV. Now hear me tell you: "My name's Mohamed Mughal and I am an absurdist." The fact is that I don't feel the slightest compulsion to deny the charge. After all, absurdism is a badge of literary courage worn by Kafka, Camus, Vonnegut and, more recently, Douglas Adams.

But absurdism isn't an invocation of the absurd for the sole sake of absurdity. Absurdism's absurdity is a reflection of truth. Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five has many elements of the absurd. One of my favorites is the fate of poor old Edgar Derby. In the bloody transgressions of a world war that killed 50 to 70 million people and in the immediate aftermath of the Allied bombing of Dresden, a bombing that killed tens of thousands of civilians in a strategically unimportant city of museums and churches, an American soldier named Edgar Derby is caught taking a teapot that isn't his. Poor old Edgar Derby is arrested, tried and shot for this transgression. Absurd? Vonnegut maintains that someone he knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that didn't belong to him. And therein lies the truth that informs absurdism. In his Amazon review of Resolution 786, Charles Ashbacher cites a point of absurdity in the story where a senior military officer warns soldiers in his command about the unauthorized use of personal money to buy toilet paper that supports a Federal government mission. Folks...this really happened.

Absurdism is not a slapstick skit.

Absurdism is truth offered on a tray of humor, truth that is pushed to almost nihilist limits when the most brutish and narrow-minded character in Resolution 786 falls into an inexplicable trance and issues the robotic monologue: "The things we say, the things we do, night and day - they're all contradictions. Life is an unending stream of contradictions held together by some improbable matrix of beautiful, savage accidents. We struggle and contrive to assign some meaning, any meaning, to our accidents. Then we realize that our assigned meaning is merely our own interpretation and projection, surely bearing no semblance to the meaning. We begrudgingly concede that that which is observed is solely contingent to the observer. In laughable and final defeat, we confess that to be alive itself seems an ill-intentioned anomaly in a largely inert and dead cosmos."

"Meaning" in a relativistic universe void of absolutes?



Poor old Edgar Derby.

Write What You Know? No, Don't (With Full Apologies to the Literary Orthodoxy)

I'm not going to flatly disagree with the age-old, well-worn adage to write what you know. I do, however, want to go out on a thin limb and offer a slight spin on it. We'll call the spin Mughal's Amendment, which states: "Extrapolate and interpolate from what you know."

If I had limited my writing to the original adage of writing what I know, I could not have had a key character in my first novel go through a detailed experience of death. After all, I haven't died so I don't "know" the experience. I've never met a being from outside of earth (as far as I know), but extraterrestrials play a significant role in my second novel. Again, I couldn't create a physical description or the psyche of these characters from what I know.

So what did I do to create these components of my fiction? In the case of a character experiencing death, I extrapolated and interpolated from what I'd read and heard about near death experiences. I coupled these anecdotal data with my understanding of several world religions. To create aliens, I used scientific conjectures regarding extraterrestrials while simultaneously pressing the boundaries of the basic theories of physics, biology, quantum mechanics, astronomy and special and general relativity.

My apologies to the literary orthodoxy for not binding my fiction to the strictures of "write what you know." Indeed, writing fiction is most enjoyable when I'm not writing what I know but when I'm writing from what I know, projecting into new syntheses, those enticing and unproven conjectures that lie both beyond and in between known facts.

To access data beyond known facts, extrapolate.

To access data in between known facts, interpolate.

Hence the amendment: "Extrapolate and interpolate from what you know." The between and the beyond are each an abode of our most interesting intellectual suppositions. And if it's nothing else, your writing must at least be interesting.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Author Interview, "Ed Akehurst Interviews Harford Writer Mohamed Mughal"

My hat's off to Ed Akehurst for doing one heck of an author interview. He wasn't afraid to ask the hard questions, he kept flexible as our topical foci moved from one end of the globe to the other and he wasn't hesitant to probe deeper when needed. Most of all, he did it all in the most personable way imaginable. Thanks, Ed, for a great interview!

Virtual Book Tour, Resolution 786

My recent virtual book tour for Resolution 786 went extremely well! I enjoyed interesting and enlightening interactions with readers the world over. I'll slowly import some of the most thought-provoking questions and answers from the tour into this blog in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Resolution 786, Laura Strathman Hulka's Book Review

I’m both humbled and intrigued by Laura Strathman Hulka’s review of Resolution 786. I’m humbled that Ms. Hulka found the novel insightful and with “so much essence and substance.” I’m intrigued that she found some of its topical content “uncomfortable and personally disturbing.” Ms. Hulka, I have a confession: the first draft of my second novel is shaping into more of the same. Thank you, Laura Strathman Hulka, for your honest and thoughtful book review!

Literary Cubism

Want to know more about my approach to writing? Click on one of my recent articles on literary cubism.

Hitchcockian Moments

Remember how Alfred Hitchcock seemed to manage a cameo in many of his movies? I call those spots Hitchcockian moments. There’s a scene in Resolution 786 where the soldiers of Platoon 110 destroy a warehouse full of enemy explosives. One of the soldiers directed to “Put your grenade launchers on the warehouse” (reference page 84) is Mughal. That’s my Hitchcockian moment in Resolution 786. After writing it, I promised myself a cameo in each successive novel.

Last night, the evolving and creatively tortured draft of Christmas in Mecca finally got its cameo: Becca Gowetski is milling about in Alan Weinstein’s astronomical observatory, a recurring setting named the Octopus. She sees a loose stack of journal articles strewn across Weinstein’s many working tables. One of the articles, sitting wrinkled and ajar, winks its title and author in conservative, bold black font – “Biological Terrorism: Practical Response Strategies, by Mohamed Mughal.” Becca lifts the sloppily stapled sheets before her face, scrunches her small nose and carelessly tosses them back to the table muttering, “Oh, the pathetic way some men make a living.”

My second novel’s Hitchcockian moment is set and in place. Now to finish the damn book!

The 2010 Cybershoe

Inspired by the George Bush shoe-throwing incident, unveiling the 2010 cybershoe: /__! (a forward-slash, two underlines and an exclamation mark);

Recommended use: to be thrown at cyber-idiots.

Headless Buddhas and White Power

I had the privilege of spending a week in Niagara Falls last September. Nature’s majesty and power were on full display in the thundering waters surrounded by peaceful Fall foliage and colorful, pristine gardens. Evening fell and I walked the misty periphery of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls alongside an assortment of international visitors and tourists. I turned, walking uphill for about a quarter mile, away from the falls and towards the hotels and casinos. I curved right at Fallsview Blvd. The street grew quieter, bustle slowly left the air. A patch of copper colored streetlight fell across the neon glow of a closed tattoo parlor. The road ended and a new one, perpendicular to the first, began. A young man was cattycorner from me across the intersection. He was wiry with a wispy beard, in his late 20s; he was doing jumping jacks, counting each jump. He suddenly jerked his head to one side with a loud shout, grunted and broke into a run towards me. Passing, he shouted “White power!” and then stomped off, lost into the street’s quiet shadows.

I continued my tourist’s taste of the falls the next morning. Arriving at the White Water Walk, I was surprised to see a Buddhist Temple across the street. For reasons I don’t know, I’ve never been able to resist going into houses of worship. Rather than stroll to the White Water Walk, I ambled into the temple grounds. Rows of seated Buddhas graced the sculpture garden outside the temple entrance. Strangely, the Buddhas in one row were headless, cut clean and flat at the neck. The image was striking, drilling a set of curious questions and assumptions into my mind: maybe the Buddhas in this row have ascended to heaven and that’s where their heads reside; this row symbolizes an unthoughtful life; these Buddhas represent man’s eternal quest to achieve spiritual completeness.

I moved from the sculpture garden, through the large wooden doors and into the temple itself, onto the clean wood floors. Hundreds of brass Buddhas graced the shelves along the back wall and a serene and light scent of incense and sandalwood kissed the air. A tall, thin man with a shaved head sat quietly at a long folding table close to what looked to be a centered alter area. I walked by him; he held a loop of wooden prayer beads in a relaxed palm, his thumb slowly nudging from one bead to the next, a distracted look on his face. He smiled as I walked by and I couldn’t help but respond to his subdued greeting with a question: “There’s a row of headless Buddhas in the sculpture garden outside. What do they symbolize?”

“Actually,” he replied, “A group of drunks went through here one night and knocked all their heads off.”

I stood mortified, still.

I was incensed.

I told him that I was very sorry to hear that; I slid a folded bill into the donation box.

I left having learned that even here, in the midst of nature’s grandeur and limitless beauty, we humans can’t help but succumb to our frailties and neuroses –

White power…

Headless Buddhas…

We have a long way to go.

Will we get there?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Christmas in Mecca

My second novel, Christmas in Mecca, has been slow-going these last few months. I'm eager to get it finished in 2010. Like the first novel, the storyline has a cubist structure that mixes multiple media of written text. Here's a memo that contributes to the plot; it also highlights one of the thematic tensions of the novel.

As always, I'm open to any commentary or electronic rotten tomatoes that you might want to throw this way :)

The fictional memo:

MEMORANDUM FOR: The United States Secretary of Defense

Subject: A Malthusian Paradox and its Implications to Long-Term American Strategic Defense Policy


Almost twenty-five percent of all human beings are Muslims. Many live in the world’s underdeveloped regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia, areas with relatively high total fertility rates that range from 3 to 5.5.

By contrast, only about five percent of all human beings are American. We have a fertility rate of 2.

There are many more of them than there are of us. Given relative birth rates, the disparity will widen significantly in our lifetimes. This demographic certainty will induce a global transformation in the coming four decades that will result in a re-creation of humanity’s profile, a new reality that will have enormous implications to the lives of our children and their children.

Further Data-Driven Comparisons of “Us” vs. “Them”

As the world moves into the near future of the 2020s, the U.S. is graying. The percent of our population aged 65 and over will rise from 12% to 18%. They (in the context of this paper, “they” refers to the world’s Muslim population in total) will see a resurgence of youth in the same decade. The increase of those aged 15-24 in Algeria is projected at 32%, in Libya it is 29% and in Iran it is 30%. They are growing and they are getting younger. We are effectively shrinking and we are getting older. These effects have already begun and will continue to manifest in our immediate future.

A Conclusion, a Safe Assumption, the Million Dollar Question

The author concludes that, in the long run, we cannot beat them physically, one-against-one, head-to-head. Given the relative certainty of population demographics, we can safely assume that they will not go away. Our question now becomes: might we?

A Recommendation

Accepting the mathematics of demographic trends and accepting the associated conclusion, assumption and question in the preceding discussion, it is in the best interest of our nation to find a means to exist in peaceful stasis with the world of youth and vigor that is growing around our aging populous. Our short-term military skirmishes fail to create long-term solutions. They soak our dwindling fiscal resources and create the irretrievable loss of American lives. They exacerbate our relationship with a growing and youth-full enemy and they provide the enemy a windfall of facts and images that feed their sophisticated networks and outlets of propaganda. Given these facts, the U.S. should refrain from expeditionary military exploits while retaining adequate military defenses for protecting our homeland. We must simultaneously and surreptitiously use a wide range of non-military means in the long-term to transform the growing youth of the enemy.

Transformation Options

Transformation will be a long-term, multi-generational task involving multiple prongs of consistently applied effort. Islam will continue to grow no matter what we do. Rather than fight its inevitable growth, we must work to transform that growth in ways that serve American security and interests. Our primary objective must be to work to establish and legitimize a liberal or reform branch of Islam that is packaged in the appealing iconography of Western popular culture. This packaging will have maximum appeal to the growing youth populations in majority-Muslim countries in the 2020s. They, the youth of those populations, the inheritors of their cultures, can be transformed into citizens who are more tolerant of and more apt to peacefully co-exist with our America.

Although wary of dichotomous thinking that espouses black-and-white options and conclusions, the author believes that our choice with regard to these growing youth populations is binary: fight them or transform them. It is a certainty that our one nation of fewer elderly cannot successfully wage long term and successful warfare against many nations of many youth. Accepting that , our choice is made: we cannot fight them; we must transform them.

Mechanics of Implementation

The U.S. Government must establish one surreptitious and well-funded office that will publically operate as part of the State Department’s existing global outreach infrastructure. In fact, this office will be led by the Director of the Psychological Operations Unit of the Office of Civilian Support to Military Operations in the Department of Defense. The office will have the primary and long-term objectives to:

1. Introduce the iconography of the West’s popular culture into majority Muslim regions with a target focus on the youth in those regions.
2. Create and maintain globally available broad-based media outlets so that those images and iconography may continue to flow to those targeted populations in a steady, easily accessible and uninterrupted stream.
3. Create and promulgate a branch of liberal Islam that blunts aggressive or oppressive elements of the original theology and that accepts and perhaps even embraces and uses the iconography of the West’s popular culture. This branch of “reform Islam” must include philosophies and precepts for maximum appeal to persons in the 15-24 age range. Youth-appealing components include tolerance and acceptance of all forms of creative, social and sexual expression.

In order for this strategy to be effective, this office must be established immediately and must operate uninterrupted and with the above three stated objectives through at least 2050.

Next Step

Request that the Secretary of Defense provide interim approval of this strategy. Upon receipt of interim approval, this office will develop detailed plans for implementation of the policies recommended herein.

Sun-Tzu offered martial wisdom in his chapter on offensive strategy in The Art of War. He noted that standing victorious in one hundred battles is not the apex of strategic skill. The apex of strategic skill is to subdue your enemy without engaging in battle. The strategy outlined herein is consistent with Sun-Tzu’s long-true axiom.

Respectfully Submitted,

Harold R. Hawkins, PhD
Senior Analyst
Office of the Director, Psychological Operations Unit
Office of Civilian Support to Military Operations
Department of Defense


Cyrus Cahaba
Director, Psychological Operations Unit, Office of Civilian Support to Military Operations

A Pointer on Dialogue or "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

To a person, writers of fiction want their dialogue to be sharp, interesting, snappy and true. Nuanced dialogue is a cornerstone of character construction (think Steinbeck’s common man or Fitzgerald’s Gatsby spouting “Old Sport” when speaking to friends and colleagues). The old fashioned and highly effective way of creating dialogue is to listen to the world around you and to read other writers who’ve honed the skill of putting truth into the mouths of their characters.

But reading and listening might not be the only way to learn to create great dialogue. I read Edward Albee’s play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” this week. I found it powerful, emotionally provocative and difficult to put down. In finishing the text, I realized that I’d stumbled upon another source of instruction for creating strong, compelling dialogue: read and/or watch plays. Think about it; a play is built around one primary superstructure: dialogue. Dialogue creates the characters and is the sole written vehicle for moving the story forward. And so dialogue has to be superb in the best plays.

Do you want another source of inspiration and instruction for creating great dialogue? Get thee to the local library and check out a handful of plays. Some suggestions to get started:

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Edward Albee

“Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller

“The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams

Don’t forget that the selection above is an expression of what appeals to Mohamed Mughal…and he’s an emotional, sentimental fellow with a philosophical bent and the academic background of a rationalist. Apply your own tastes and leanings to create a personalized list of plays to read. If your fiction falls into the genres of crime, romance, horror or comedy, you’ll definitely modulate your selections to reflect those dispositions.

A Karass, Synchronicity and that Elusive Sophomore Novel

I jabbed a stiff period onto that suffering pad of yellow paper. I had achingly scribbled out the latest handwritten installment to my second novel. And then I sat nestled in the arms of my old couch and I thought about the passages that had just been born…

The aliens have explained how consciousness creates the physical universe and how the initial phantoms of three dimensional reality achieve final solidity through the communed considerations of multiple consciousnesses, a process called collective conscious, a perpetual cosmic machination governed by the equation:

E = mC2 = Con3

where E is energy, m is mass, C is the speed of light and Con is consciousness.

…which all suggests that synchronicity should not surprise us.

These truths inform and influence conversations and experiences throughout the novel’s restaurant scene, a vignette of synchronized convergence where all of the major characters of the story cross paths at an eatery. One of the characters is a water molecule…Aetch-to-oh…a character born during my recent trip to Niagara Falls…he’s in a glass of water, listening.

What a karass of characters I’ve burdened myself with!


Don’t forget: simplicity is a powerful and important element of your writing style. More than one reader of my first drafts has accused me of purple prose. An intimate partner who isn't a writer once gave me advice after reading a page of freshly typed scenes. It’s one of the best critiques that I’ve ever gotten and I keep it scribbled on a little yellow sticky note plopped up on the printer next to my keyboard: “One word will do.”

The argument I’m making is one for simplicity. Yes, your writing is crisp and profound; it sings and its song enlightens and haunts your readers’ minds long after they’ve put down your work and moved on into their respective lives. Yes. But don’t discount the power and the contextual appropriateness of that occasional, riveting simple sentence.

My favorite sentence in my first novel is on its last page. It’s: “He smiled.” Nothing in my mind could be a better or a more right sentence at that moment in that story.

Embrace simplicity. It can and will serve you well.


As a writer, words are my most basic units of construction. Like any diligent artisan, I often give thought to these fundamental units of my craft.

I spend a good part of my fall weekends collecting, cutting and storing firewood for the coming winter. My dogs and I scout around in the woods surrounding our home, sifting through the fallen leaves, picking up broken branches and the occasional fallen tree. Watching the dogs run about last fall, I was once again struck by the depth and honesty of their playfulness. They’re pure beings, both of them, steadfast in love, loyalty and faithfulness.

I can’t say why, but out there in the woods and the ginger December sun, the word “bitch” clicked into my rambling thoughts; it came along with all its colloquial connotations. I pondered how “bitch” evolved into a negative sense. From my experience, a bitch is a steadfast, authentic and caring friend, a being who exists with a seemingly sole purpose: to love and to be loved. What could be closer to Eden? With the meaning of the word modulated to its truer connotation, I confess that I’ll do my best to be a bitch. I only wish that more people were true-blue bitches.

Dr. Mohamed

I created a comic strip titled Dr. Mohamed in early 2006. The strip's focus and central character was an American Muslim engineer with a philosophical disposition, a bi-sexual Jewish girlfriend and a dog named Buck. The satire included themes of social and religious commentary with side helpings of quantum physics and special relativity.

I completed 24 episodes, then set the project aside. What's interesting is that many of the strip's punchlines found a home in the scenes, dialogue and circumstances of my first novel.

I suppose Dr. Mohamed wasn't a net loss. I might even get back to it after finishing Christmas in Mecca.

Albert Camus, "The Stranger"

More than anyone, I think it’s Camus who inspires me to bring philosophy into my writing. One of my favorite works of his is the short novel, The Stranger. The Stuart Gilbert translation that many of us read in high school was good. I think the more recent Matthew Ward translation is much better.

Matthew Ward's translation provides a richer reading experience than Stuart Gilbert's; nuances, subtleties and other details of character and dialogue are mixed and seasoned better into the broth of the story, a story about Meursault, a man alone but not lonely, who views with dispassion the alternating streams of tenderness and brutality that form human experience. His earthly incarnation seems only a vehicle through which to observe, to keenly catch fine points of gesture and expression in a context of non-judgment. And so he can view with equal dissociation the brutal mistreatment of an intimate partner and the play of the setting sunlight on street scenes below his apartment window. For Meursault, each is a series of fascinating images created by the impersonal, moving physicality of the universe.

I enjoyed the novel and have enormous respect for Camus' talent in translating sharp observations into stimulating prose. But in my own writing I chose an abrupt departure from one aspect of Camus' character: likeability. Meursault, though fascinating, interesting, and intellectually engaging, doesn't feel, doesn't empathize, doesn't cry, and so I'm challenged to truly like him. Despite this, Camus has given us a readable, instructive, engaging and provocative novel that forms a literary nexus between fiction and philosophy. I read it twice.

Art and Social Transformation OR Listening to “Blueberry Hill” in the Car

I had the pleasure of listening to Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill while driving around town a couple of nights ago. The captivating beat; the warm honey voice; the love-struck sentiments of a heartstring’s first pluck: an amalgam of sonic glory and youthful passions. Engrossed in the beautiful moonlighted images and the emotive innocence of the lyrics, I was struck by the social context of the song. In this wonderful ditty from the America of 1956, a 28 year old Black man sings accurately to the longings of white teenagers’ hearts. And, horror of horrors, they gleefully listened!

1956: an America of Jim Crow laws, segregated schools and white-only drinking fountains.

Despite these coarse truths….

Rock-and-roll, creative expression, and art merged to become more powerful than the prevailing social boundaries of the time and, as such, they hastened the societal transformations that helped us collectively overcome the prejudices of that era.

Can creative expression help us overcome the prejudices of today?

Literary Cubism: Liberation from Stricture

It was bound to happen; after all, literary cubism eschews convention, rejects stricture.

Deep in the creative fog of writing Christmas in Mecca, I stumbled into another form of expressive structure that serves to tell the story: instant messaging. I had come to the point in the narrative where two characters have a philosophically and personally revealing exchange of thought and perspective. Each character is introverted. Each is intelligent. Each is comfortable with and drawn to the written word. How best to frame such a dialogue, a discussion between two reclusive, bookish characters? I decided on instant messaging. This form of interpersonal communication preserves the informational and revelatory content of the dialogue. It also sets the conversation in a context that reveals the introverted nature of the characters, two people who prefer to exchange ideas while sitting alone in the privacy of a closed room.

And so now I have a vignette written solely in a series of instant messages. Gosh, I love literary cubism! :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Adding Degrees of Freedom to Albert Einstein’s Thought Experiments

Albert Einstein’s thought experiments worked well for deducing special and general relativity. I was thinking about them laying in bed on Thursday. Those experiments had an intrinsic limitation in the sense that in each one, Dr. Einstein retained the experiential perspective of a human. Would he have deduced more and “further” had he increased the analyses’ degrees of freedom by placing himself into the hypothetical scenarios as something other than a human?

“What would the world look like if I was sitting on the leading edge of a beam of light?” I believe he asked himself before unraveling the implications of special relativity.


What would the world look like if I was sitting on the leading edge of a beam of light and I was a creature who “sees” only electromagnetism and the gravitationally induced curves of space…nested within omni-present, non-linear time that isn’t fractured into an artificially assigned past and present separated by that infinitesimal, fleeting gossamer membrane that humans call the present?

That’s a thought experiment!

Now we see more than special relativity. We see…we see…

We see…