Friday, October 1, 2010

On being frenetic...

I have found myself on a bit of a tear since the Reunion. Flitting around at high emotional speed; writing long blogs about various sometimes interesting, but never particularly important things.

So now I believe - I feel - it’s time to slow down and just let things move as they might without trying so hard to push the river….

And this brings me around to the Reunion itself - the 45th Reunion of Huntington High School. Back long before the consolidation that closed the rivalry between Huntington East High and Huntington High and created one High School calling itself Huntington High, but using the team nickname from East High.

And this looping back made me - allowed me - to encounter people I hadn’t seen in decades, but also to crash right into emotions carefully packed away for most of those decades.

And my reflex - rational, but ill advised - was to flee those feelings as fast as I could!

And I did it on automatic - without knowing - at least not until after a few weeks of consideration and sage commentary from friends.

The closer an emotion - any emotion, pick your poison… - came to the surface, the more I became frenetic (or ‘frenic’ as I seem to want to say the word - and thus verbally representing the condition by dropping a couple of syllables!).

Now keep in mind that we humans perceive the world in any number of ways. Some of us are visual learners, some auditory or even kinesthetic.

But what I’m talking about goes deeper; toward how we engage the world.

One way is through thinking - through facts and sequences of logical processing.

Another way is to feel what is going on - to relate to the world not by asking, does it make sense, but does it feel right…?

Think Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy - thinking versus feeling.

— But is this actually true?

— Possibly… but it’s only necessary to accept it as a working hypothesis to make sense of what follows….

When confronted with a stressful situation we will fall back into the patterns of behavior that have worked in the past in the hope that if it worked once, by golly, it will work again!

And it does, but at a price.

My friend Ed (a feeling type I suspect…) observed it in me as hyperactivity so extreme that I truncated words and became mildly (I hope) incoherent and (probably) dyslexic.

There I was at the reunion speaking rapidly, dropping syllables, probably omitted entire words - likely even reversing word order so that a simple message of “it sure is hot,” might become “issue snot…” or some such nonsense.

When my brain couldn’t keep the gut reactions at bay, I became physically hyperactive rarely stopping my movement round and round the room. During the 4 hours of the Reunion I ate only a few carrots and had nothing to drink - even my appetite gave way to my quest to crush the ‘dangerous’ feelings that were trying to make my acquaintance…

Let me give you an example.

I was jabbering at someone and even managed to shut up for a few seconds to pretend to listen - er, rather, I did listen, but by that time I was sizzling too loud and could only hear my internal circuits frying….

And it seemed this person couldn’t comprehend me. I kept getting odd looks and blank expressions….

What was wrong with this person…?

Nothing, of course.

But the way my perceptions spun, I was barely present! I certainly wasn’t communicating. And, worse, I managed to project all my own faults onto the person I was talking to!

How nutty is that!

So, anyway, that’s why I have decided to slow down on the blogs. I will go to one per week or less, unless something really significant comes along - as in that series of really important blogs on Vampires….

… Or I become so frenetic I can’t stop….

First draft written 13 September 2010, completed 30 September….

Concerning vampires, Pt. 3 Reproduction and feeding

ALERT:  There are some unpleasant, perhaps even disgusting, images below which may move the blog into the PG-13 realm - consider what vampires are reputed to consume and proceed with due consideration....

— So, does the bite of the vampire create another vampire?

Vampires reproduce in one of two ways. The first is through normal (for vampires) sexual activity. This is rare, since most vampires are sterile. The second (and most common) method is the transferal of the key virus as a blood born pathogen.

— Virus? Sounds like AIDS…?

Yes, although the bite of the vampire (which is essentially painless and heals quickly) does not transfer this virus. The ‘victim’ must somehow ingest the contagion from the vampires bodily fluids.

— Ugh!

Indeed. Whether by accident or by deliberate intention, a human must imbibe this from the vampire.

— But you said in the last blog that humans aren’t turned into vampires.

Yes, I exaggerated…. But the process is rare and more often results in the death of the person who receives the virus. I understand that no more than 20% survive the first year. During this time an adult vampire will, if the ‘child’ is to survive, mentor and nurse the Not-Yet-Vampire until it can survive on it’s own. The maturation process takes decades and most do not survive to ‘adulthood’ - out of every 100 ‘children’ perhaps 4 make it to adulthood - and then of course the first few decades they likely find themselves in fierce competition for existing resources.

Keep in mind my original note about the predator population. As a predator - an essentially solitary predator - the vampire finds little value in creating another vampire, who will most likely become a rival for the existing food in the area. One of the reasons, besides sterility, that we rarely see true vampire children is that feral males tend to kill the children. The mother will fight to protect the child, but she cannot be present 24/7 and the childhood of a ‘normally’ reproduced vampire is even longer than the viral infected proto-vampire - several decades as an apparent child. Indeed from this have evolved the legends that child vampires never age. While a human child may survive more or less alone after 15 or 16 years (sometimes younger…), a vampire child remains physically, emotionally and intellectually dependent upon its mother (or a small extended family) for as many as 30 years.

This accounts for vampire mothers going into extended retreat/ hiding after the birth of a child. Sometimes the father - or a surrogate father - goes with her. More often she goes with another female. But most often this exile is solitary - only the mother and child surreptitiously integrating themselves into a human community.

— But doesn’t the vampire drain and kill its victim? And the danger is death after the bite. In fact, isn’t one character in Dracula cured by the death of a vampire?

You should signal a spoiler alert here! But, yes, that is exactly what Bram Stoker’s Dracula says.

Unfortunately, he is wrong about this, just as he is wrong about what hurts a vampire (all that garlic, crucifixes and holy water business), the immortality of the vampire and even how to kill a vampire. Bram Stoker probably never met a vampire and most likely merely interviewed people who did and then manufactured a story from the tales he heard.

In fact, what a vampire consumes seems to vary from one authority to another. In V, vampires cannot digest food and in one memorable scene a vampire eats with apparent relish food prepared by a human, but then must regurgitate as soon as possible. No peristalsis. No digestive enzymes. No digestion. If the food remains in the body it simply rots….

That is one extreme. The Gates suggests another vision, where the vampire eats and drinks just as a human (or at least appears to do so). They don’t eat or drink much, but seem able to consume something other than blood. In this show, the vampire has access to artificial blood (we find this common in 21st century considerations of the vampire), but still craves ‘the real stuff.’

— So perhaps the virus makes the vampire crave blood.

Certainly the vampire does not seem to actually consume much of anything. In both The Vampyre by Polidori and Camilla the vampires seem more to wallow in blood than to consume it. Both stories discuss the opening of coffins only to discover an uncorrupted creature in a bed of blood.

— That’s really disgusting!

I agree and we shall move on….

From the earliest extant reports a thick overlay of superstitious myth has helped to cover the continued existence of vampires among us. Many of the longest lived vampires have turned from hunting to ‘herding’ or to synergistic companionships in which they develop relationships with one or more humans and feed without destroying them.

We find conflicting reports about this modern tendency. One scholar goes so far as to say that the feeding of a vampire has caused AIDS, but the evidence for that is weak and I do not agree - V even suggests the opposite - that vampires are on the cutting edge of AIDS research (having a vested interest in the continued purity of human blood supply…). On the other hand, one sees in this the notion that the vampire-human relationship is in fact weirdly synergistic.

In actual human-vampire relationships (where they exist…) the human may enjoy increased health, energy and even longevity. The logic of this idea cannot be argued (why otherwise would such relations last decades?), but the evidence remains indeterminate.

Perhaps the next century or two will allow us to determine the answers to some of the remaining questions.

— But did we really determine what a vampire eats? Besides blood, I mean.

And yet we must return to blood. The vampire requires ‘life energy’ - hence the direct consumption of meat (they simply can’t seem to process vegetables) and perhaps this is the reason for the craving for blood. But a well fed (and reasonably sane) vampire can control the craving - or direct it toward a human ‘companion.’

What I’m suggesting is that the ‘blood drinking’ vampire is a bit of a myth. The vampire has a virus that gradually removes melatonin from the body (as well as other things) and reduces the metabolism while increasing maximum life span at the expense of energy and creativity and creates a craving for blood. In addition, many vampires seem emotionally ‘unstable’ - let me be blunt here - many are utter nutters. They are (or have become) total whack jobs that have no way to relate to the human race other that as predator to prey.

These psychopaths (and they go beyond any ‘simple’ sociopath into true madness) do indeed treat the human race… well… they treat us the way we treat cattle or chickens. But as we are cattle/ chickens with a fondness for projectile weapons and violence and vampires are solitary hunters, we have avoided being herded into corporate farms.

So far….

Friday, September 10, 2010

10 Concerning Vampires, Pt. 2 Longevity and hunting

Vampires are predators and differ from werewolves in that they are not pack hunters. The distinction is important.

Within any given environment only a finite number of predators may hunt with success. Once the predator population reaches a certain level the prey begin to dwindle and the number of predators reduces until the prey increase and the cycle continues. A kind of fragile homeostasis exists where environmental factors come into play. A bitter harsh winter finds the deer population reduced in the spring and by autumn the critters that feed on the deer have either departed, died or switched to other prey.

This always happens.

But with vampires we have something else to consider, their alleged immortality. How will that, if true, effect the hunter-prey balance?

But first let me tell you a story.

Europeans stumbled upon the islands east and south of North America a bit over over 500 years ago and a soon began to visit Isle de Florida (they believed Florida was an island) and in the north founded the military base that soon became St. Augustine. What we seem to forget, ignore or perhaps just shovel aside are the people who lived there before the Europeans came to visit and stayed.

The Europeans found Florida hot, humid and prone to autumnal visits from hurricanes. But they also employed steel armor and woolen clothing - and a lot of it. The locals probably assumed these new folk nutters. We can’t be sure, since none of the locals survived, but given the ease with which the Europeans (Spanish, French, English, Dutch, Portuguese and the occasional Italian) seized the coast of North America the locals treated these new visitors as guests and not as invaders - the indigenous people could have tossed most of the first wave of Europeans without any particular difficulty (muskets might make a loud bang, but once one realized it takes 5 or 6 minutes to reload… well, let us just say that a good bowman could place a dozen or more arrows into a musketeer in a minute or so…. Rate of fire makes a difference!).

But I digress. A community of locals lived around St. Augustine when the first Europeans arrived. Described as tall peaceful fisherman and farmers (as were most of the coastal dwellers at that time), they also had a reputation for, if not immortality, then at least extreme longevity. The average Spaniard at that time lived some 40 years. If one of the native people lived to 80 and was born in the year of the first visitors, then by the time she died, the grandchildren of the guests might have already died…. One might credit this extreme difference in life expectancy as the original source of Ponce de Leon’s spring of regeneration or fountain of youth. But it probably was not water quality (although good clean water might have helped…) but a combination of good diet, good genetics and a peaceful, contented lifestyle that brought about the differences.

— So, do vampires live forever (if not actually killed by one contrivance or another)? Or does it just seem so from our limited perspective?

Another story…. Years ago I read somewhere that a researcher decided to estimate how long an immortal might survive. He established a couple of perimeters. Death could not occur through illness or other ‘natural’ occurrence. The creature could only die through accident or deliberate destruction by self or other - by suicide or murder. To determine this the researcher tracked the ‘lifespan’ of a batch of water glasses.

Remember that water glasses are essentially immortal - if it doesn’t break it won’t spontaneously ‘die.’

At some point (and sooner than you might think!) we reach the 50% point - the moment when only half of the original water glasses/ vampires still exist; then a quarter remain and finally, some day, only one.

Anne Rice implies this in her novel Blood and Gold. The ‘hero’ Marius is not the oldest vampire - and in Anne’s world the vampires are definitely immortal - but few of those he knew some 2000 years earlier still exist. Over the centuries most have been destroyed.

My own researches suggest that vampires have at best only a quasi-immortality. They are resistant to most diseases (no heart disease, no cancer no - or glacially slow - deterioration from aging), but it becomes clear that age related changes do occur. There is the translucent quality of the skin that Anne Rice and others mention - a quality that some mistake for a vapid paleness - and an indifferent lethargy that seems to occur as the centuries pass - these are the symptoms one sees most often. The series V goes so far as to suggest that damage (from the sun usually) that occurs to a vampire never heals. And so a slow, almost inevitably deterioration progresses. But they do not die. And so we reach the horrid notion of a 2000 year old vampire existing in a quasi-living state, always in agony and without hope of release….

— But, still, do vampires die?

Yes, all the sources suggest that the vampire can die.

— Can the vampire commit suicide?

Most likely, although this seems never (or rarely) to occur. For whatever reason the drive for continued existence seems strong in vampires. But one must always allow for the glamorization of the vampire in the 20th century.

— How does a vampire die?

The power of religious icons seems weak - although if the vampire herself believes in the power of the icon it might create fear. Vampires simply dislike (and are burned by) garlic. There is no evidence that garlic is necessary. Cutting the head off works, but then so does a stake (or a .44 magnum bullet - wooden or otherwise) through the heart. These things work because the utterly destroy key organs (brain and heart). Keep in mind that if vampires can heal they heal slowly but effectively, by which I mean that vampires seem to be able to survive with damage to (but not total destruction of) vital organs - kidneys, liver, stomach, intestines. These organs regenerate if not destroyed.

Vampires are strong, quick and have a vigorous metabolic system. Blow out a vampires liver and he will still likely escape into the night! But how long will he survive without his liver? Not long….

— But, OK, hold on a minute, a vampire isn’t alive….

I didn’t say that. They are in fact proto-human predators. Most likely we share many biological and even genetic characteristics with vampires.

— So, hmm, does the bite of the vampire create another vampire?

Ah, here we have the beginning of another topic which we will consider another day….

Jim FitzPatrick 2010 09-10

Thursday, September 9, 2010

9 Concerning vampires, Pt. 1 Sunlight

Misinformation abounds regarding vampires. I propose to go back to some of the principle sources of our current information, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Camilla by Sheridan Le Fanu and The Vampyre by John William Polidori as well as a few of the more recent and reliable, although unfortunately most of the more recent work is derivative….

Today I wish to consider the impact of light upon the vampire.

That the vampire is sensitive to the sun no one doubts, but as to how sensitive or to what particular element of the sun… well that does not seem clear.

But first let us consider our texts and try to sort out fact from fiction. Most people consider all three of these sources as fiction but yet we have reason to believe all derive from something real. Dracula purports to be a series of journals written by the various major players in the adventure. But critics have pointed out how unlikely that a person in the middle of a vampire attack would note the many details as these people. Mina Harker seems to have a bizarre ability to specify accurate detail while experiencing extreme situations - a good woman to have at your back in a fight! But it seems likely that the details come from the additions added by Bram Stoker rather than the validity of the originals.

Camilla does not claim to be a journal nor a first person narrative, but it does portray the vampire with such accuracy that I can only imagine that Le Fanu had some degree of direct contact with one or more vampires. The Vampyre is by far the oldest of the three tales and appears based upon real events experienced  (or observed) by the author.

— But can a vampire go out in the sun or not?

In many recent accounts, vampires immediately explode into flame and disintegrate to dust upon entering the sun. These further propose that the vampire will burn upon entering light coming through a glass window. In the otherwise quite good movie, Let the Right One In, we have vampires exploding into flames when exposed to light filtered through a glass window. If true, imagine how ‘simple’ to create a ‘vampire zapper’ that works much the same as a bug zapper - pull the trigger of a hand held UV emitting device and ZAP! no more vampire….

But glass filters out a good bit of UV (ultraviolet) radiation from the light entering from outside and we must consider how sensitive the vampire really is to UV radiation. Even if they explode on direct contact with the sun, the process should be less violent through a window. But if sun through a window has the same impact as direct sunlight, we have to suspect light itself is the culprit not UV radiation.

So, if the vampire is sensitive to light itself and not primarily to the UV radiation, then to what is it sensitive? What makes it explode into a ball of flame in the light of day? If not UV then why would not the vampire at least smolder in the presence of a bright full spectrum light bulb?

There can be little doubt that most recent tales - both written and on DVD - are inaccurate about the impact of the sun, though Buffy, the Vampire Slayer came pretty close with its image of Spike running through sunlight with his trench coat over his head (although he does have smoke beginning to swirl around him as he sprints…) and yet he stands in the shadows of a bright day with complete comfort. Nor can I remember Spike being much concerned with light from a window - but then not much concerned Spike!

A few of the more recent works have also tried to think this through. The Gates, a recent American TV program, has the vampires wearing sun screen - but then makes the egregious error of having them go without UV shielded sunglasses - in which case we would anticipate they would explode/ burn from the inside as the UV radiation entered their retinas if they had such a hyper reaction to sun. The show also has the vampires being burned by sun filtered by a glass window. Yet the vampire’s belief in the efficacy of their sunscreen seems complete. So, perhaps the burns shown to occur from window light are a dramatic exaggeration and they fear not so much exploding in the sun, but the damage inherent in hyper-sensitivity to the sun.

Camilla seems to ‘get it right.’ The vampire is sun sensitive in the way people with really pale skins may be - but to an extreme degree, having zero melatonin. They will always ‘burn’ in the sun. And healing from sun damage seems slow and not always complete. The vampire goes into the sun at extreme risk. But a few seconds, even a few minutes will likely do no horrid harm. They will not explode into flames - although, again we must consider the slow and incomplete nature of healing of sun damage that plagues the vampire. No rational vampire will risk accumulated damage by the sun.

A little sun exposure here, a bit more there and pretty soon the vampire has debilitating skin (and perhaps organ!) damage that may take, not days (as with a human sun burn) but years to repair itself. Imagine a sunburn that lasted a decade!

As reference to this fact, I refer you to the semi-documentary series called V and produced by the BBC a few years ago. It’s not entirely correct, in that it overemphasizes (again for dramatic effect?) the impact of sunlight through a window, but in many ways it is among the best work done in years (and not unlike Camilla I have to wonder if the writers/ creators have had direct experience with the vampire community?). I certainly recommend this series to the serious researcher.

It is important to always remember the vampire is a predator and historically has hunted at night. It’s predilection for nocturnal hunting probably relates to humans tending to be maximally active during the day while the shadows of darkness and reduced crowds at night (especially in the large cities favored by most vampires - Ann Rice gets this aspect correct) create an ideal hunting ground for the vampiric hunter. 

2000 years ago Rome was arguably the most densely populated city in the world - upwards of a million people lived there (the densest population in Europe for the next 1500 years!). This, most likely, allowed for the growth of a large hunting population - and not just of vampires…. It seems likely that many vampires hunted this city only to have to disperse as the city began to depopulate by the beginning of the 4th century.

Keep in mind that predators such as the vampire have hunting territories (often of a fixed nature) and for any one predator there must be sufficient prey for that predator to survive indefinitely.

But here I am drifting into tomorrow’s considerations: Concerning vampires, Pt. 2 Longevity and hunting.

Jim FitzPatrick, 2010 09-09

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


This is the eighth blog of September. 8 of 30. Only, somethings blocked me for the past 2 days! I need to get moving. The goal is a Blog a day for the entire month. Of course, I suppose I’ve been cheating some. I understand the ‘rules’ say I am to write the blog and post it the same day. I guess…. But no way I can manage that! If I can’t let what I write rest for a few days I will never feel comfortable that it isn’t pure drivel.

Of course, no matter how long I age the product, it may still stink like that pack of chicken in my ‘fridge after a month or so….


Let’s take a look at jazz…. As I write I’m listening to a John Coltrane piece with blazing runs that sound oddly off key. But I now know that John is playing the upper reaches of the chord - not that I have a clue what the chord is - my ear isn’t good enough….

Which reminds me of the girl next door. I had known her from Mr. Odgen’s level 300 evening English class. A most interesting class with a minister, the girl and me creating a strange harmony with our varying takes on the world - often dissonant, but always interesting. Well, OK, this was mostly the girl and the minister rifting, but I WAS there and I stuck my nose/ mouth into the excitement sometimes.

About half way through the term, Mr. O announced the required term paper topics and passed a paper around for everyone to sign up. He allowed space on the off chance someone might have an idea for something different. I put in for ‘something about John Dos P’ and my assignment came back the next week as: “Write something about John dos Passos.”

I have to say that felt good and I ended up collecting a 40+ page bibliography (really…!) and an essay on how JdP was neither a Socialist nor a Fascist and that his swing politically from the left to the right fitted the notion of an Anarchist. Who knows how close I came to truth, but I remember having a good time with it and I got an A, so there ya go….

But I was talking about the girl, who I will now refer to as the Girl (since I seem not to remember her name). Besides arguing with the preacher her major devotion was to jazz - specifically to John Coltrane’s music and soon after she moved in next door (between Nancy McCorkle’s home and mine) she invited me over to listen to JC and for the first time I heard the long convoluted solos that he created.

I had no idea what I was listening to. I had never heard jazz before - had no markers to guide me along.

The Girl tried to help. She explained the concept of chord changes and how one could play over and around them. How one could approach the music obliquely by playing in those upper reaches of a chord. How John Coltrane was pioneering this sound. I suppose I probably nodded, but I had no idea what she talked about.

However, not long afterward, I bought Live at the Village Vanguard with an aching solo off of My Favorite Things that seems to go on forever. I later learned that JC had already become ill with the disease that would kill him and supposed that this solo somehow reflected the state of his soul at the time. It never occurred to me that another performer had actually created the solo I admired and around which I had created such an tragic romantic scenario.

Several years passed and at the new Student Center - the new one replacing Sharkey - I stumbled onto a jazz group wailing away in one of the basement bistros only to recognize the tenor jazz player as the Girl. I had not particularly advanced in my knowledge of jazz and my ear was still tin, but what I heard sounded dreadfully off key.

More years passed…. And I learned a little more and my ear became a bit better - just a bit.

And I began to wonder if what she was doing back then was simply playing entire solos based on the upper reaches of a cycles of chords - all 9th, 11th, and 13th notes rather than what we might regard as ‘pretty’ notes matching the root, 3rd, 5th and (sometimes) the 4th of a chord. I suppose I could drone on about what all these numbers mean, but I won’t. They either mean something to you or they don’t.

No matter.

Because the point is really about good and bad, right and wrong, consonant and dissonant. Much of what we regard as good or right or consonant has to do with what we are familiar with - what fits within our comfort zone. Jazz players - the best at least - like to push into the Zone, to push into dissonance. Maybe life is like that. We get so comfortable and cosy we forget that it’s the roughness that becomes memorable.

I don’t know. Let’s just play….

Jim FitzPatrick 2010 09-08