I have this thing for alliteration, can you tell?

This Space Is Occupied

From the comfort of my rural exercise ball, I have been avidly watching livestream and youtube coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. As a GenXer, I’m amazed that there are so many Americans who can leave the comfort of their homes and go stand in the public square for something. I make no secrets that, given my hobby for studying the Diesel era, I do see a lot of parallels between the here and now, and the turn of the 20th century, and I know I’m not the only one. Many of the wonders of the Diesel era, without which it would not be possible to enjoy the wonders of today, were the direct results of New Deal programs and efforts.

But as a fiction writer, the Occupy Wall Street movement is truly something amazing to behold. Especially if you write speculative fiction. As writers, we specialize in tumultuous times and earth-shaking events, and as those go, Occupy definitely ranks up there. Nothing is better for a writer than to bear witness to exactly what plays out when large groups of people motivated towards change are put into action. We express truths in our stories about the way we believe the human experience to work, given a certain situation and distinct personalities. But a writer is still only one person with a set of assumptions about worldview that result in simply not being able to fully envision every possible truth or every possible outcome without experiencing some of that potentiality.

That’s why we should watch (and/or participate–there’s nothing like experience). Because our world and its people will continue to surprise us. The moment you think you know it all, that’s when you lose something precious.

Comes By It Honestly

If you’ve ever come into a room and found crayon (or sharpie marker) some place where it ought not to be (walls, furniture) and a budding artist swelling with pride at his or her accomplishments, take heart. You’ve just participated in a ritual of the habitual that’s over 100,000 years old.

The Blombos cave in South Africa is home to a recently-unearthed painting kit that is the oldest known paint kit yet discovered. It contains sea shells for mixing, stone and bone tools for crushing and preparing paints, and ochre pigments in red and yellow for painting on hides, walls, and yes, even faces. Kind of like my living room one time a few years back when I turned my back for five minutes.

In addition to confirming that my kids’ artistic aspirations come by them honestly and from a long and storied tradition, the paint-making kit is the first known evidence that early man was totally into chemistry, busting through previous scientific assumptions that said early man was heavy on the instincts and that we discovered smart.

Thanks, presumably, to some prehistoric mother who didn’t clean off her walls and send the kids to their rooms, we know that our ancient ancestors weren’t as dumb as we think they are.

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