Monthly Archives: April 2013

Quotations and attributions Uncategorized

Literary quotations

“If you can make your failure tragical through courage, it will not differ from success.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

“The quality which makes man want to write and be read is essentially a desire for self-exposure and masochism. Like one of those guys who has a compulsion to take his thing out and show it on the street.”

-James Jones

“It is not enough to live together in peace with one race on its knees.”

-Daniel Wilson

“If the storm moves neither to the left nor the right, you are in its path.”

Frank Herbert

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

Aldus Huxley

“They are dull because they have been made dull and they are vicious because they are afraid of losing what they have.”

-Charles Bukowski




Flash Fiction SciFi short stories


Oxalates? Myron thought. What the hell are they?

At just that moment another intense jolt of searing pain wracked him. His abdomen felt as if it would explode. “Good God, can’t you speed it up a bit?” he managed to squeeze from between gritted teeth.

Myron Delpi was seated in the back of a Coach Cruiser on his way to hospital. The pain forced him to lie prone on the sofa-seat in an attempt to straighten out. For reasons he could not explain, he felt that lying flat would make the pain go away.

“Lo Siento, senor. I try my best,” said his rental navigator.

Two days ago, Myron had been working on his rock garden back home. The pain he’d felt in his lower back yesterday morning he had simply caulked up to over-exertion; until about half an hour ago. On his way to the final deal this morning in Buenos Aires, to buy his way in to a twenty percent share of Amalfi, Argentina’s largest investor bank, Myron had literally been brought to his knees in the middle of his hotel lobby as the first stabbing pain gripped him from just between his belly button and groin.

The current pain receded and Myron noticed that it came in fairly regular waves.If he was right, he had about four minutes until the next attack. In sync with his bio-rhythms, said the on-board digital doctor. The hotel concierge had summoned Delpi’s navigator and the man managed to assist him to the Coach Cruiser with orders from the concierge to override the auto-drive on his machine and make it double-time from Hotel Panamericanos to Hospital Britanico.

While waiting for the next wave of pain to hit, Myron listened again as the digital doctor described how he could have gotten kidney stones. “Kidney stones happen more often in hot locales due to the contributing factor of dehydration. They can be caused by oxalates, which prevent the body from absorbing both iron and calcium which are then processed out of the body in the kidneys. Foods high in iron or calcium and oxalates, such as broccoli and carrots should not be consumed in abundance for this reason”, continued the digital doctor.

Myron laughed. He loved broccoli but a sudden memory from his college Ancient History class resurfaced. Something about an American president who hated broccoli.Maybe he knew something we don’t, he thought.

The Coach Cruiser was riding higher than the automated traffic, up in the public service lane. This driver was doing everything he could to get Myron to the hospital quickly. Just at that moment, Myron fretted about his banking deal. They held no truck for delays, the Amalfi family. Still, Myron supposed, they would find this an acceptable excuse for his absence.

“How much longer?” Myron ventured, speaking up at the Coach Cruiser’s ceiling as he lay on his back.

Cinco minuti,” responded the man from the front seat.

“Shit,” spat Myron as he thought about the next wave of pain awaiting him.

I argue Minutae Uncategorized

Deus Ex Machina

Dues Ex Machina is a phrase that has been variously translated. Today, there are people who claim it is a sign of G-d’s hand invisibly moving in our lives; the mysterious god machine. Most people have heard of the album by the band The Police, “Ghost In The Machine”. Less well known in non-psychological circles is the 1949 book The Concept of Mind by Gilbert Ryle where this term made its debut in modern times. Ryle argues against the concept of Dualism first made famous by the philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes.


Dualism is the ancient concept that the mind and body are distinct entities. The notion of dualism is the reason we have different definitions for ‘mind’ and ‘brain’. We think of consciousness and self-awareness in terms of our mind’s ability to understand itself and the world around it, yet we say the mind works within the physical construct of the brain. Descartes expounded this theory in the 1600’s in multiple treatises, including De Homine. The average reader is aware of the assertion, “Cogito Ergo Sum,” or, “I think therefore I am.” This is the most famous quote of Descartes, though from another text, and a most famous expression of mind/body dualism.What Gilbert Ryle argues against in, The Concept of Mind is this very notion put forth by Descartes. Ryle asserts that there is no mysterious mechanism occurring in the mind from which magically springs forth consciousness. He famously said there is no, ‘deus ex machina’ or no “ghost in the machine”. No magic, no mystery. We are unitary and unified beings, self-contained.


Another author, Arthur Koestler, borrows Ryle’s term and publishes a book in 1967 entitled Ghost in the Machine in which he attempts to explain humanity’s self-destructive tendencies. For this exposition, Koestler expands upon the works of Behavioralist psychologists to argue that there is no mystical adjunct to humanity. For our purposes, the whole argument is really rather dry and unappealing to anyone not in the field of study in question. The practical upshot of his book however is that the term ‘ghost in the machine’ is brought forth to a wider audience: college students. That audience comes to understand that this term is derived from the works of Ryle, who was arguing with Descartes, who argued that the mind is distinct from the body; apart from it. This limited understanding allows one to form the opinion that the ‘ghost’ in the machine is our spirit or the holy.


When someone today claims that something is the ‘ghost in the machine’, they usually are claiming something along the lines that the whole is greater than the sum of its part. If someone decides to translate the ancient Greek more literally, they like to call it the ‘god machine’, the mysterious machinations that make our world make sense. This last translation is closer to the truth than anything put forth so far. In ancient Greek, ‘Dues ex Machina’ literally translates as “god from the machine”. That is, god FROM the machine.


Deus ex Machina is an expression most notably recounted in Poetics, by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. It is a term of theatre, not theology or philosophy. The ‘god from the machine’ is literally a device used by a playwright, a bad playwright in Aristotle’s estimation, to resolve all the loose ends at the end of a play. One of the Greek gods would literally descend from above the scenery via ropes, land amongst the actors, and resolve all the issues using his or her godly powers. Aristotle did not think much of this tactic. He argued that a good author should be able to resolve all the tensions and disputes internally within the structure of the play, logically, on his own. Aristotle thought is was a cheap trick to simply wave a magic wand over a mess that was created by a playwright for his characters in order to wrap things up nicely at the end. Aristotle often noted that Oedipus was the perfect tragedy for this very fact. The author made a fine mess of everything throughout the whole play but the fates that befall all the characters tie together with a satisfying closure that can be traced to their own actions within the play. There was no need to appeal to some supernatural force for things to work themselves out.


You may believe in mind/body Dualism or that there is no one else home but yourself. That is not important to me. Either we are all hard-wiring or we are more than the sum of our parts or maybe there is a third or fourth option to the above two. Whatever. What is important is that ‘deus ex machina’ is a term of art created by someone less than one hundred years ago. It is a term borrowed without concern for its original context nor concern for how it may sound to the uninitiated reader. Sending down a god into a work of fiction to fix poor writing is a long walk from claiming that the lord moves in mysterious ways.