TODD WALTON: Know Your Audience


Of Water and Melons

Chapbook Of Water and Melons

Under The Table Books

“Truth is a great flirt.” Franz Liszt

A few decades ago a short novel came out in America that became a huge bestseller. I won’t name the novel because I think it is a bad book, poorly written, and with a terrible message; but because tens of millions of people loved the book, I don’t want to sully anybody’s happy memories of that novel. Because I am a fiction writer, several people urged me to read this novel, and three people gave me copies. I soldiered through the first few pages, skimmed the rest, and despaired for humanity.

A year after that very popular novel came out I read an article summarizing a study about that novel conducted by scholars at a well-known university. The study documented that the vast majority of people who bought and read this popular book believed it was not a novel, but an absolutely true story, though the book was marketed as a work of fiction, and nowhere on or in the book did the publisher or author claim the story was true. The study further reported that when people who loved this book were informed that the story was not true, they reacted with either tremendous anger or enormous disappointment, or both.

“The truth is not ashamed of appearing contrived.” Isaac Bashevis Singer

I became aware of this phenomenon—people believing fiction is true—some years before this mass delusion about a popular novel swept the nation. In those long ago days, I frequently gave public readings of my fiction; and it was during the mid-1980s that more and more people began to experience my stories as true rather than as fiction. In response to this phenomenon, I would preface my reading of each story by declaring that the tale was not autobiographical, not inspired by supposedly true events, and was most definitely a work of fiction.

Even with this disclaimer, many people in my audiences continued to assume my stories were recollections of things that had really happened to me, regardless of how preposterous that possibility.

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Irma, Harvey, and the impact of climate change…



Rob Reiner Helps Launch Committee to Investigate Russia…



Director Rob Reiner has joined a new group called the Committee to Investigate Russia, to highlight what is known about the Russian threat to interfere with American elections and other institutions.

The committee went live today with a website at, as well as a video featuring Morgan Freeman. Reiner and David Frum of The Atlantic announced the launch of the group.

The committee’s advisory board members include Reiner; James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence; Charlie Sykes, the conservative political commentator; Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

The non-partisan committee features explanatory material on its website, as well as a social media campaign, daily newsletter, and breaking news updates. The announcement did not mention Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference and whether there were any connections to the campaign of Donald Trump.

According to an announcement, one of the reasons for forming the group is that, in contrast to the days of the Cold War, “it’s a lot harder to recognize today’s cyber attacks and espionage from Russia, but the goal is the same — to undermine our country. This isn’t about politics. This is about ensuring the Russians cannot wage war on us without Americans knowing it and making sure our elected leaders do something about it.”

Frum was special assistant to President George W. Bush. He is not an advisory board member, but has written extensively on Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign.

Reiner and his wife Michele were founding members of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which challenged California’s Proposition 8 in federal court. The state initiative was overturned, clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California and a prelude to marriage equality nationwide.


The Case for Psychedelics…


Disclaimer: In this piece we are offering a broad-brush advocacy for therapeutic psychedelic use coupled with rigorous scientific research. However we are research psychologists, not medical practitioners and we are not offering tailored medical or mental health advice. Furthermore, outside of narrow religious and research use, any psychedelic use is illegal in the U.S., and we do not recommend breaking the law.

From Quilette

Imagine a substance so powerful that, when used in the correct context, it could permanently change your personality in the direction of greater openness and inspire flow states of heightened creativity. It could help treat the depression or mood disorder that you’ve had to endure despite countless ineffective therapies. Indeed, although the substance is technically a drug, it could help you break addictions to other drugs. Finally, this substance could give you some of the most meaningful experiences of your life, including mystical ones imbued with an unrivaled sense of clarity, unity with your surroundings, and profound knowledge experienced at an intuitive level. If you were a religious sort, it could deeply strengthen your religious beliefs and spiritual connection.

Imagine what you could do with a substance like that in the interest of bettering yourself and the world, from helping you design incredible architecture like Machu Picchu or amazing technology like the iPhone, to easing suffering by providing people with a sense of meaning and peace with their own mortality. And imagine that this substance is incredibly inexpensive and easy to use. One might view this substance as a gift from heaven.

Well, the reality is that this substance—in fact, many forms of it—do exist. It has been used by humans around the world for millennia. It is known most commonly under the umbrella term of psychedelics although other terms like entheogens or hallucinogens are used. Classical psychedelics are those that bind with the Serotonin 2A receptor in critical regions of the brain for example psilocybin, DMT, mescaline, and LSD.

Starting my path down Stoicism…


From Reddit

After years of exploring philosophy and coming from a dogmatic religious background, I have decided to follow stoicism for my own reasons. Started with “Letters of a Stoic” by Seneca. Anything I should expect on my journey? Anything you wish someone would’ve told you?

heelcake says…

Seneca is a great place to start, as is Marcus Aurelius. Here are a few tips.

  • Do the practices. Practice as often as possible. There are a number of routines to choose from. This is a good summary of what’s available to you.
  • Seek discomfort. When it comes to how you practice, don’t just do the easy things. Make yourself uncomfortable. Where you hesitate to go is exactly where you should aim.
  • Identify your role models. It is easy to deceive yourself, so you should regularly compare your behavior with that of your role models.
  • Question every impulse, every emotion, and assumption. Things are often not what they seem to be. It is your task to determine good from bad, vice from virtue.
  • Be your own cheerleader. Don’t expect anyone else to understand or care about your progress. As Seneca says in “On the Healing Power of the Mind”: “Be your own spectator; seek your own applause.”
  • Identify your vices and get to work immediately. Some will be easier than others to curb. What is it about yourself that you know to be destructive? Start on the simple ones – food is, for example, a good place to start – and work your way up.
  • Be prepared for setbacks. You will fail often. If you recognize your failures, however, you are doing it right.
  • Remain steadfast in your wish to be free. At times you will become disillusioned with the practice, thinking it a waste of time. In truth, no pursuit is more worthy of your time than freeing yourself from the slavery of stupidity and vice.
  • Do not proselytize. You are doing this first for yourself. Do not engage in “spiritual materialism,” as Chogyam Trungpa put it. Virtue is not another possession for you to parade around. By proselytizing, you can easily slip into self-aggrandizing behavior.
  • Rid yourself of toxic people. Their behavior is contagious.

The Great Forgetting: You Probably Haven’t Heard about It But It Completely Affects Your Life…


The Great Forgetting: You Probably Haven't Heard about It But It Completely Affects Your Life

This article summarizes the ideas of Daniel Quinn, first written about in The Story of B, which was a sequel to Ishmael. The longer, original essay can be read here, and comes highly recommended, especially if you find yourself disagreeing with the summary below. Most disagreements we’ve read about have turned out to be misunderstandings, so please check the original before coming to conclusions. 

The Great Forgetting refers to the wealth of knowledge that our culture lost when we adopted our new civilized lifestyle. The knowledge that allowed indigenous cultures to survive, the knowledge that we had once also been tribal and the understanding that we were but one mere culture of thousands. All of this disappeared in a few short generations.

The Great Forgetting accounts for an enormous cultural collapse as once tribal people found themselves in a new and strange mass centralized society. New beliefs, new ways of life rushed into this cultural vacuum to fill the void. But without being tested by natural selection over thousands of years this new culture was evolutionarily unstable.

It is only recently that the Great Forgetting has been exposed. Understanding it holds the key to making sense of our destructive culture. And remembering what it is that was forgotten holds the key to our future.

How The Great Forgetting Took Place

Philosophy of Living as a Nomad…


Not all who wander are lost…

Bob Wells

Randy Vining


This Peruvian Farmer Grows Over 400 Varieties of Potatoes…