Saturday, June 22, 2013

This Monkey can Swim on His Own

I'm not a huge poetry fan, but I heard one this week that speaks to me.  It certainly has fueled my thinking and provided me with imagery for my Twitter feed and how I've been handling myself in life.  I invite you to read it now, since it will help to get what I'm writing about today: 
When I first heard it, lying in bed as the radio came on, trying to gather the courage to face another long day at work, I felt this intellectual spark.  I immediately decided that I like the poem.  That it was speaking to me in some way.  There was some humor to it, true, but there was something about it.  I got out of bed, a bit more eagerly than I had in recent weeks, and tried to fit myself into the poem somehow.  It took me a couple of tries, but I finally got it.  
I am the monkey.  The monkey is me.  And the guy with the rifle, doing all he can to "help" me cross the river?  He was all the people I was pissed at.  
Let's set the people aside for a moment and move on to something else...
I like TED Talk.  They are those 18 minute talks on science, technology and culture that the Sapling Foundation organizes.  I have listened to several of them and found them all to be fascinating.  
I saw a link on someone's Twitter feed to a "banned" TED Talk.  The idea of a TED Talk being banned seemed a contradiction to me, so I immediately knew I had to view it: 
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist by training and profession.  In his talk, he described the "Dogmas of Science," and how it was these dogmas, things which he said form the basis of the scientific world view, were interfering with intellectual inquiry.  The term, "banned" turned out to be an overstatement.  TED decided, on the recommendation of their scientific board, decided to not post the talk on their website, though it was available on YouTube.  After a debate through the TED website, the video was eventually reinstated and can now be found there.  
Like all the previous TED talks I've viewed, I found this one to be stimulating, particularly from my standpoint as a science fiction writer.  The most interesting concept was that of the "Laws of Nature" being not so much laws as "habits," conditions that persisted due to what Sheldrake termed, "morphic resonance."  A giraffe embryo, Dr. Sheldrake said, becomes a baby giraffe because of its connection with all the giraffes that have gone before it.  
In such a universe, if Dr. Sheldrake is correct, then the constants of nature are not constant.  They could, in fact, fluctuate as the universe itself evolves.  He cited a time period where measurements on the speed of light, around the late 1940's, actually showed that the speed of light slowing down.  The scientists that study universal constants, they are called "metrologists" told him that it was an "embarrassing error" in the history of their field.  Dr. Sheldrake wondered if instead of a being a mistake, that it might have been an era when the speed of light actually slowed, but because everyone "Knows" that the speed of light is constant, everyone assumed it to be a mistake and never investigated it.  If we ever did discover that "constants" change over time or under certain conditions, science magazines might one date post, like a stock market chart, the current values and trends for the speed of light and the gravitational constant.  We might one day need to consult metrologists about the state of the universe the way we watch the reports of meteorologists about the state of the weather.  
"Today, the gravitational constant is down by point-zero-two percent.  This will cause a noticeable increase in light speed close to planetary bodies, so anyone boosting to Alpha Centauri for that Labor Day vacation should watch out for speeding transports..."  
The idea of change and evolution made me think about work, and what's being going on there.  
There has been a lot of pressure on me since the start of the year.  Due to my department's success last year, the company raised the standards I'm supposed to meet this year by a considerable amount.  Long hours, restructuring, hiring new people, buying new stuff from computers to big expensive printers to chairs and drawer units.  Lots of stuff going on.  For most of the time, it's felt like work had turned into this long, hard slug through the mud that was never, never, never, EVER going to end.  
I kept remembering quotes like that of Henry James about life: "Life is a slow and steady advance into enemy territory."  And I would tell people lessons that showed us the true nature of the universe, like that of the lobster.  
The lobster, if you don't know it, is cellularly immortal.  That doesn't mean lobsters have really good smartphone plans.  It means that, if left to themselves, and if they did not get sick or injured, a lobster would live forever.  Most animals have mechanisms in the their cells and genes that limit how long they can live.  The theoretical maximum for humans is around 150 years.  Lobsters, though, have no such limits.  
Except this: The universe, along with giving the power to live forever made it one of the tastiest things in the ocean, so that most of the other creatures that live there, and us on the shore, want to kill it and eat it.  This is what the universe does.  This is how things work.  
This week, though, it felt like something had...  Changed.  The constant, universally constant, feeling that this was how things were going to be, now and forever, started to fade away.  I started to see in the tiny universe of my department the faint outlines of the department I had been wanting to see for weeks.  
Or perhaps, as Dr. Sheldrake believes, the image in my head, projected through my eyes on to the objects and people around me, was changing the morphic resonance of the universe in which I live in such a way that a new resonance was being created.  
Changing things is hard.  That's a given.  A constant, if you will.  It is harder when it feels like everyone and everything is out to get you, to prevent you from reaching the other side of the river.  Especially when "they" think they're trying to help you, by shooting into the river behind you to keep you moving along.  
You need to keep paddling.  I guess that's all there is to it.  And if they poke their fingers through the bars of the cage to get you to smile?  I say, go ahead and bite off a joint of that finger.  
Sometimes, to do what's right you just have to do what's wrong.  
From a little monkey that's learning on to swim on its own, thank you very much. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Story Seed from a Dangerous Fantasy

I killed someone the other day.  
But it's OK.  It happened in another world.  
I was in Old Town the other day, taking a late night walk.  I took my nerdy "campaign hat," with the camouflage pattern and the flap in the back that keeps off the wind and sun.  I had my laptop and notebooks, pens and other stuff that I "just might need" in my laptop, "just in case."
I was painting a pretty nerdy picture.  Most of the time, I'm OK with that.  Sometimes, though, I am reminded that the rest of the world doesn't appreciate the "uniqueness" my kind bring into the world.  Like this night...  
I'm in my nerdy attire, approaching the corner of Colorado and Fair Oaks.  The intersection has a three way light, where traffic passes both ways, then the pedestrians cross whichever way they want to go.  I'm approaching the intersection with all the lights red and the walk sign green when it switches to its red count down.  "15...  14...  13... 12..."  
I start to run to beat the light.  I'm about halfway across, passing some guys going the other way, when I hear someone behind me yell out...
"Run, Forrest, Run!"  
I stagger, then immediately get pissed at myself for doing so.  It was that group of young guys I passed.  The tall, blonde one who was leading the way.  The one who knows how cool he is and who recognized just how much of a nerd I am.  
I continue across the street, but inside I'm fuming.  I'm back in Jr. High School.  "Hey, Melton the Monster!"  In case you don't know, "Milton the Monster" was a Saturday morning cartoon that airing when I was a kid.  It was my misfortune to have a name similar to his AND to be the type of person people liked to tease.  
And I'm fuming.  Just the way I did back then.  The same feeling of being incapable crawling through me.  Incapable of doing anything about it.  Incapable of letting it go.  This leaves me with the same outlet I used back then.  
I fantasize my revenge.  
It's a different world.  One inside my head.  A different Me running across the street.  Backpack jumping about the same way breasts of big-bodied women do when they run.  The same taunting call, "Run, Forrest, Run!"  The same stumbling to a halt.  
But I'm someone different.  Someone the tall, blonde, cool guy shouldn't be fucking with.  I'm some Psycho.  I'm a complete sociopath.  I'm someone who is dangerous just because of how unpredictable I am.  I'm also armed.  
Psychopath Me turns around in the street.  I walk back the way I came.  Cool Guy sees me and nudges his friends.  He waits for me with this confident smirk.  As I get within earshot, I hear him say to his buddies, "What does this old fart think he's gonna do?"
"This," I answer.  As I step up on to the curb, I'm also pulling out this big ass, Bowie knife.  With the same step that gets up out of the street, I'm driving it into the middle of his gut with the force of a someone swinging a baseball bat.  
Cool Guy never saw the blow, but he feels it.  The blood has left his face and is now streaming out of his stomach.  His eyes are wide.  Cheeks puffed up like he's going to throw up.  
As he goes down to his knees, I step behind him.  I grab him by the back of his collar to keep him from falling down.  I reach around and use the knife to slice his throat down to the spine.  I let him go, then.  Falling face forward into the gutter.  His blood is running like a river along the curb.  Psychopath Me remembers making paper boats and chasing after them when he sees a crumbled up wrapper riding the current of Cool Guy's life down the street.  
I turn to Cool Guy's buddies.  Their faces display the horror that Psychopath Me simply doesn't feel.  
"Guess he's the one who should have run, huh?"  I give them an elaborate shrug.  Then I tilt my head to one side and smile at them.  I feel no humor.  It's what I know will make the biggest impact on them.  "Maybe you should, too."  
They both turn and run, knocking and shoving people out of the way as they try to escape.  
Shifting gears now...
I watched A TED talk online this week.  It was given by a writer named Daniel Suarez.  It was about the direction the development drones are taking toward greater autonomy in the battlefield.  Today, whenever one of our drones fires a missile, the decision is made by the operator to do so.  But battlefield conditions are pushing designers to build robots that can make that decision without human interaction, as a part of their programming.  I heard a new term in the presentation: 
Lethal Autonomy: The ability of a robot to identify, track and kill a human target without a human making the decision in an unscripted environment.  
For those interested, you can listen to Mr. Suarez yourself here: 
One point Mr. Suarez presented that I have been mulling around the most is that how the manner we resolve conflicts has a direct impact on the nature of our society.  In the feudal ages, the power to enforce one's will on the battlefield was concentrated in the hands of a few.  A few knights in shinning armor on horseback could impose their will upon a much larger number of peasants.  With changes in technology, such as the invention of gunpowder, such power was spread out.  Society became democratized because that much larger number of peasants became valuable as soldiers to impose the nation's will on others.  
The trend to increase the lethal autonomy of military drones, Mr. Suarez believes, will reverse that trend.  Basically, if fewer humans go to war, due to being replaced by lethally autonomous robots, then the power to resolve conflicts will once again be concentrated in the hands of a few.  
This is similar to a thought I've been having myself.  Forget the battlefield.  Increasingly, we are living in a society where automation is replacing human workers.  ATMs and online banking have taken jobs away from tellers.  Most heavy manufacturing is done by robots.  Expert systems will even one day replace professionals like doctors and lawyers.  No one's job is safe.  When robots take over all the work, what will the rest of us do?  The only people who'll have means will be those who own and run the robots.  
Add to that the ability to control robots with a thought, something already in development for paraplegics and the like, how far removed will a thought be from an action.  
Shifting gears, again.   
I worry about the future.  About retirement specifically.  I have a 401k through my job.  I am hoping Social Security will be around in some form for me to make use of, but there is a part of me afraid that I may have to rely on whatever I can set aside for my future.  
I've reached the point where I think I'll never retire.  "Retirement," where a person stops working and lives a life of varying degrees of leisure, will prove to be an aberration of the twentieth century.  Going forward, the majority of people in society, those not wealthy enough to be able to afford to do nothing, will have to find a way to scrape a living as best they can up until they don't have to earn a living any more.  
And if robots are doing all the jobs that can be done, what does that mean?  Doing something for them that own the robots.  
Not a shift, but a start: 
Karlo Mendeley looked down at the body of his jester, Adaline.  Though her chest was pressing against the reflective surface of the marbleline floor, her face was facing the ceiling.  Eyes startled.  Mouth open.  He'd seen that expression a thousand times just before she'd left forth one of her spearing jests.  
"The damage to the neck was the cause of death," Dugan, his security-bot intoned behind him.  Karlo could imagine the joke Adaline would have made for such an obvious observation.  "The breaks to her arms and legs..."  
Karlo eyes went to Adaline's limbs.  The impossible turns, making her look like a gigantic pinwheel. 
"Were inflicted postmortem."  
That brought Karlo's head up and around.  He looked back at Dugan.  His upper torso was humanoid in appearance.  The lower half, with the wheels, were meant to make him obviously mechanical, in compliance with current regulations.  Karlo had made several changes to Dugan over the years as upgrades advanced and regulations, which changed as often as fashions at time, shifted.  
"By one of our service bots?"  
"Why, yes, Mr. Mendeley?  How did you become aware of that?"  Before Dugan could answer Karlo's question, his eyes flashed.  "Incoming message.  The police are at the front entrance.  They are asking to see you."  
"They have no authority here."  Karlo turned around and looked past Dugan's shoulder toward where the entrance to he estate would be located.  "This is on private property.  Adaline was contracted to me directly."  
"Ms. Adaline's relatives reported the crime."  Dugan tilted his head to one side, an indication he was correlating data.  "The savings plan provided to Ms. Adaline listed these family members as her beneficiaries.  They've contracted with the local public law enforcement office to protect their interests."  
"See them to the east library," Karlo commanded.  "Tell them I'll be there shortly."  
"As instructed."  Dugan bowed, his eyes glowing bright with what was supposed to be the fervor of obedience.  When he lifted his head back up, though, he asked, "How was it you surmised that the police were here due to Ms. Adaline's demise?  I ask to study your logical processes for my heuristic programming."  
"What else could it be?"  Then, before Dugan could inquire more.  "See to the police."  
Dugan bowed, turned and rolled away.  Karlo turned back toward Adaline's body.  As he looked down, he asked Dugan's questions to himself.  How he had know it was a service-bot that had done the deed?  How did he know the police had come so quickly due to her murder.  
"Because," he thought to himself.  "I imagined it.  The night before.  And somehow, it came true."  
Karlo pulled himself straight, tugged his coat into place, then turned to make his way to his library and face the authorities.  

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Directions to an Unknown Location

I joined the Twenty-First Century, communication-ally speaking, that is.  I, finally I guess you could say, bought a smartphone.  
It took me a long time to get one, even though I wanted one the first time I saw one.  It was at Comic-Con one year, about the time they first came out.  I'd made arrangements to meet an artist I had been in contact with online after find out we'd both be attending.  We started talking.  Friends of hers showed up, and then some friends of those friends.  It was getting late and eventually we decided, all twelve of us, to eat dinner together.  
We made the rounds of asking each other what we wanted or could eat.  After a few minutes of talking it came to do us needing to find a Mexican restaurant that served vegetarian food that was within walking distance from where we stood (about four blocks, on account of someone's hip) that didn't need reservations for a party or size.  
Hearing that, I started looking around to see if there was a burger place I could grab something at while they found such a place.  I didn't swivel my head more than twenty degrees when my artist friend said, "Found one!"  
She had one of them newfangled iPhones.  There was a Mexican place that had a vegetarian menu three blocks up and two over.  By the time I craned my head over her shoulder to take a look, she had a map with directions on it.  We followed them.  After a twenty minute wait we were seated and ordering our phone.  
I remember thinking how cool that was.  A Star Trek moment.  Only if Lt. Uhura's voice could be heard coming over the speaker giving us directions would it have been cooler.  I'm willing to bet, by this time, there's an app for that.  
But I still didn't get one, for various sundry reasons.  They were expensive.  Plus the plans the services sold you with them were also rather pricey.  And, I kept asking myself, did I really NEED one?  As time went on, and other people had them, there would be other people in whatever group I was with that had one.  They would be the designated navigator and "thing-looker-upper."  Stick close to that person, and I had all the benefit of having one.  
I finally did get one, though.  The fifth generation of that first iPhone.  My company gives me a cell phone allowance that helps pay for the plan, which have gone down in recent years now that the technology has matured.  I've been using it for the past couple weeks now.  And while there has been more than enough verbiage about the smartphone phenomena, I felt like putting my two cents in.  
First off, I want to apology to all those people I made fun of who I've watched walking around with their faces bent toward their phone's screens.  I've become one of you.  To an extent.  I kept it in my pocket while I driving to avoid the temptation of texting or talking.  I do what to get a bracket for it to put it on my dashboard.  The Maps app has this cool GPS direction feature...  I mean just the other day I was walking from my apartment and it told me I was right on the corner of Del Mar and Marengo and when I looked up I was, like, RIGHT THERE...
Anyway.  It does draw your attention.  I keep taking it out and...  Checking.  It has all the alarms and signals and bells and whistles you could want to tell you when you got a call, message, Facebook request, new Tweet.  I mean, this thing has reminders that remind you at a certain time, but when you're at a certain place.  I tried it.  I created a reminder to look for my tape measure when I got home, and sure enough, right when I pulled into the driveway of my apartment building, the reminder chime went off.  
Of course, I was thinking about looking for the tape measure the entire drive home, waiting to see if it would work or not.  So I didn't really need the reminder.  
Which is the come to the conclusion I've reached: I don't really need it.
I'm not saying disappointed.  Far from it.  I enjoy having and using it as much as any device I've every owned.  I've talked to my folks about twice as much as usual, though that is admittedly more a function of the unlimited calls I now have with the new plan.  Texting is a lot easier on this phone.  The other day, after telling her I didn't have cable to watch the College World Series, my mom kept texting me stats about the Fullerton vs. UCLA game the rest of the evening.  
"Can I games tied 3-3 into extra innings."
"damn 5 to 3 UCLA.  Titans at bat."
"Titans have one man on 1st and 2nd one out."  
"2 out to men on base."  
"UCLA won"
Except for the "damns" she did about as good a Vin Scully.  
I've been looking at all this empty app space I have, trying to figure out how to fill it.  I've already got a Kanji dictionary and a Japanese-English dictionary.  And a Japanese flash card app.  A PDF reader.  iBooks.  
Facebook is so much better on a smartphone.  It's actually interesting now.  
I got an app for my local movie theater.  I went to movies last week, but saw this huge line.  Did that stop me?  Of course not!  I bought tickets with my app, swiped the phone over the reader, and I was inside like THAT (use the finger-snap app on your phone if you have one)!
I've heard about this app made by a South Korean programmer.  With it, you can visit the DMZ between North and South Korea, look at it through your smart phone's camera, and it will erase all the barbed wire and defenses so you can see what the terrain would look like if the countries were unified.  
I've also heard about a suite of apps used by DIY healthcare fanatics.  Apps to turn your phone into a stethoscope, see how many calories you're burning, even do an EKG on you.  During the NPR news article I was listening, they even had someone who diagnosed himself with Crone's Syndrome before his doctor did.  Not sure where he stuck his phone or what app he used.  Not sure I want to know, come to think of it.  
All in all, though, it seems to me that these apps are things we put on these smart phones to give us reasons to use them.  To justify to desire to...  Check.  
I remember having a similar feeling when I got my first computer, way back in 1976.  It was a Mac Plus.  I got it once I decided that I wanted to be a professional writer and publish the stories I was writing.  About the time I got the computer I read a magazine article that described computers as "solutions looking for problems."  I could feel the truth in that statement.  
We've gone way past that point and are firmly ensconced in our digital lifestyle, but I think there is to it still.  It's the reason why I keep checking my phone when there are no messages or voice mails from anyone.  
These devices are our modern oracles.  We're looking to them to tell us something we don't know.  Something that will make a difference.  If not from the voice from some God or Prophet, then from the collective wisdom (such as it is) from our peers.  
At the end of the first week with my new phone, I was laying on the couch late at night trying out some of its features.  I was asking Siri questions to see how well she did.  I now know where the fifteen closest pizza parlors are to my apartment.  
The questions started getting silly.  And rude.  Siri's programers anticipated some of them.  Those she'd answer, "Now, now, Erick."  
Right about the time I was thinking it was time to get to bed, I mumbled my last question to her.  "Siri...  Show me where I...  Where I can find...  True happiness."  Or something like that.  
I was expecting what I'd come to learn was her pat answer, "I don't know what...," fill in the blank, in this case, "True happiness," "...Is.  Would you like me to look it up for you?"  
Instead, she cleared my screen and said, "Providing directions..."  A map appeared.  It drew a blue line from my apartment in Pasadena, CA to...
A spot in the Atlantic Ocean, in the Gulf of Guinea, about five hundred miles south-southwest of Lagos, Nigeria.  Seriously.  I've shown people.  
I sat up on the couch and looked at the screen in the dark of my room.  "How do I get there?"
"I do not have directions to this Unknown Location," Siri replied.  Teasing bitch.
"Now, now, Erick."  
I've tried to repeat it, but it hasn't come up again.  And I found out while writing this that the spot has been cleared from my recent searches.  Too bad.  This is the type of thing we want our computers and smart phones to tell us, besides where all the cute cat pictures are located.  It's why we keep checking.  We're hoping our digital oracles can show us how to be smarter or more daring than we think ourselves to be.  
Or something in the app store that will do the trick.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Tracking Down The Music

I spent the afternoon today trying to track down The Music.  I came close to capturing it.  So very close...
It started after I came home working on a Saturday.  The week felt a lot longer than the calendar claimed it was due to the "month-end push."  I had skipped the gym for two days in a row and I was making myself go after coming home from the office because I knew going three days in a row could very easily turn into a week.  
On the way to the gym I looked down Madison avenue toward Colorado Boulevard and saw a tent.  A big yellow tent in the middle of the street.  And I could hear amplified voices... 
Music.  It was someone singing.  Singing...  Music.  
I love music.  All sorts of music.  I've kept an iPod in my pocket since they first came out.  "A Soundtrack for your Life."  That was the tag-line in the original commercial.  That's what hooked me.  The chance to have a soundtrack for my life.  
I have playlists entitled "Washing Dishes."  These are songs I listen to when it's time to wash my dishes.  And I believe heavy metal is the best music to play when it's time to clean my apartment.  Too bad playing that type of music will disturb the neighbors.  It kinda explains the normal state of my home. 
I heard this music and saw this tent and thought something was up.  After I was done with my workout, I made a point of taking a detour down Madison to see what was up.  
It was a concert.  In the parking lot of the Pasadena Playhouse, a well know stage theater in town.  A band was playing some weird, electrified techno-pop music.  I had never heard the song or band before, but I found myself bopping to the beat.  Trying it out for size, the way you'd try on a shirt before buying it at the clothing store.  Seeing if it had...  The Music.  
I spotted a couple of people in a booth by themselves and asked them what was going on.  They told me it was a city-wide music festival.  Make Music Pasadena 2013.  They had stages all over the city where bands were playing all day long.  
It was the first I heard of it.  It's the way it happens here in Pasadena. You can be walking down the sidewalk and find yourself stepping into art or culture the way people in other cities step into doggie-poop.  
They offered me a map.  I took it.  The map showed what looked like 20 or 30 venues all around downtown and Old Town Pasadena where music was being played.  
One of the venues was a three block walk from my apartment building.  When I got home, I flipped the map around and looked on the back where the schedule was to see what sort of music was playing there.  
The lead act was called the "Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere."  They were opening the venue in fifteen minutes.  
I had to go.  I mean, with a name like "Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere," it might be my ONLY opportunity to see them play live, right?  I dropped my gym bag, grabbed my phone and headed out.  
I think one of the reasons I like music as much as I do is similar to the reason I'm such a baseball fan.  Because when I tried these activities as a younger person, I pretty much failed at them, fairly completely.  
I'm not tone deaf or anything like that.  And I have pretty good rhythm.  I performed in dance shows when I was a student, and my ballroom teacher had me dance for her in a tango demonstration when I was older.  It's making the sounds that I've never been good at.  
During my acting career I auditioned for one musical.  I was cast in the only non-singing role in the play.  Take that as a clue.  
I got to the venue and people were spilling out the entrance.  They had the doors open so people standing on the sidewalk could hear.  I never would have thought here were this many ukulele fans in all of Los Angeles, but here they were.  I stood with them.  I listened.  
It was fun.  Eventually some people left, and I was able to find a spot inside where I could hear better.  It wasn't what I expected.  No songs with "Aloha" in them.  No Hawaiian print shirts.  It was different.  When it comes to music, I tend to like different.  
For instance they did these medleys that were interesting.  Combining "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz with "Across the Universe" by the Beatles.  Or "Major Tom" with this song by Radiohead about going somewhere far away.  My favorite song they did was a cover of "Dream On," by Aerosmith.  Hearing it played by a dozen ukuleles made me realize how much I enjoyed the song.  And how much the lyrics said something to me.
Every time when I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn
Dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Dream until your dreams come true.
After listening to there set, I ran back home to grab the map I'd left there, and began walking all over downtown Pasadena.  I wanted to get to as many venues as I could.  I was trying to track down The Music.  
I listened to a band called Shadow Play that covered 80's big hair band music.  They looked like little children.  Like they were auditioning for School of Rock 2.  But they could play.  The lead singer, a skinny, dark-skinned kid with slicked back hair, was no David Lee Roth, but he did his best to show everyone he wasn't talkin' 'bout love either.  
In Memorial Park, I listened to a band called Haunted Summer.  I caught the last of their set.  A song about saving bees from extinction.  Very environmentally oriented.  I lay in the grass and looked up at the skin as they played.  Very So Cal.  
I was hoping to find something.  The Music.  Not just "music."  But "The Music."  The beat of the heart within the life.  The hiss of breath behind the words.
The closest I ever came to finding "The Music" by putting sounds together myself was with the program Garage Band.  It's a program by Apple that lets you string together music clips to create melodies.  You could record your own music and use it as a very basic mixing software.  It came with one the flat panel iMac I bought.  
I opened it out of curiosity the Sunday after setting up my iMac.  I ended up spending the entire day sitting in front of my computer.  I  created a theme song for a comic book story I was working on called Time Venturer.  It is a story about a warrior from a Celtic-like alternate universe being transported to the future.  When I was done, I had a two and a half minute song that came as close as I could imagine a bit of music could to capturing what I was feeling when I wrote the scripts for the story.  That bit of music still stands as one of my proudest creations.  
I have not opened Garage Band since then.  Not once.  It's like I had an affair with Marilyn Monroe.  Why try to top it?  
But that is what Music is.  It's a moment like that where you get stirred in such a way that...  You get stirred.  It's the reason why some songs get played over and over and over and over again and never get old.  
There was a moment that hinted at that today.  
I was walking past one of the venues.  It was down this alley off of Union Street.  It was so packed with people that they were nearly spilling into the street in front of the cars driving past.  
Looking at the crowd, I turned away, thinking I'd find another venue to try out.  I was halfway back the way I came from when I heard this sound.  A song.  It echoed off the enclosing buildings like the call of something alone in the wilderness.  It made me turn around.  I walked back.  I stood across the street.  I listened to this, I guess you'd call it a power-ballad.  When it was done, I applauded, then checked the schedule.  
The band was called The Lonely Wild.  I'm going to look them up.  If they have a song that can call me back like that, then they know about The Music too.  
For those interested, here are some photos of my song safari: Make Music Pasadena 2013.