of the incompetent” — Isaac Asimov

Many things these days remind me of Asimov’s observation. He first said it through a character in his original Foundation series, but he endorsed the sentiment personally in a couple of biographies, and I’m told by those who met him, in person. For what it’s worth, Asimov remains my favorite science fiction author. But it is his observation on violence which I discuss at the moment.

Domestically, consider our response to any sort of criminal activity. It’s violent, isn’t it? Deadly force as a first choice is advocated in Facebook posts by a neighbor of mine from time to time. Deadly force is pretty violent, and, according to Dr. Asimov, putting it first on your list of responses to an attack makes you, you know, incompetent. And it’s true that there are many ways one can deal with an assault that do not involve killing the assailant. Especially a black kid in a hoodie eating Cheetos, if you get my drift. That incident truly did demonstrate incompetence. Maybe they let him off out of pity? And the thing in Ferguson is just as bad. I see apologists talking about how black people assault white people and nobody in the press says a thing. Well, yeah, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that an armed, paramilitary man shot an unarmed kid six or more times as the kid was trying to surrender. We pay cops to act better than that, but hey, we also instill in them the attitude that deadly force is an appropriate response to a threat. Or, put Asimov’s way, we train them to be incompetent. A competent (read well-trained) cop would take a minute to think about the situation before he pulled the trigger. Six times. Against an unarmed kid. With his hands up. Here in Vegas, Metro (what we call “the police”) has gone from killing unarmed handicapped kids to being cited as a model of restraint in that regard. They still would a lot of people, but they don’t kill very many any more, and when they do it’s usually pretty clear that they weren’t given a choice. And that’s the crux of the argument: if you have a choice other than deadly force, use it first. Deadly force is your last resort. There are countless examples here at home of violent attitudes, but I’m actually moving on a foreign relations target. You know, ISIL, which for some reason we call ISIS.

As someone pointed out on Facebook, ISIS is the moronic organization to which the character ARCHER belongs. Maybe that explains it.

But to get to my point, that group is baiting us with videos, chopping off a few heads, that sort of thing. They are good a social media, and the Arab states are stupid enough to try to censor the Internet. China censors the Internet, which is why there are new dummy sites every day from which someone in China can get to any site he chooses. China, and the Arab states, could use the Internet, but that would require more flexibility and creativity than a government can generally whip up, so they don’t. The worst thing about ISIS baiting us, though, is that we are rising to the bait. A competent people would assess the situation and use whatever alternatives were available before resorting to deadly force against a bunch of what are, on the world scale, petty criminals. But, as usual, being manipulated by media is what we do best, so our first response to a threat is, you guessed it, violence. Thus ISIS gets to laugh at us and, quite rightly in the eyes of the world, call us a bunch of incompetents. Swell!

Oh, well, that’s my post for today. Hope you enjoyed it. Do me a favor, and try something besides violence as a first resort against a threat sometime. It won’t kill you.

If You Comment

I get an incredible amount of spam comments. Virtually all of them have effusive praise of the site. Of course, they fail to mention a single item of which I wrote. So, I may delete a genuine comment once in a while. If you comment and want it to be retained (anything not seriously unkind will be published) you should be sure to mention the specific post, the title perhaps and quote a word or two, or at least refer to a word or two. That way I won’t ditch your comment as spam along with all the others.

Thanks. As you were.

A Chance to Help a Route 66 Icon


Get Your Kicks . . .

Get Your Kicks . . .

Amongst other old time diners along the Mother Road is Cindy’s on Colorado Boulevard in LA. Yes, fans, even the evil Los Angeles is a Route 66 town! After all, it goes from Chicago to, where? Right! The new owners have a Kickstarter campaign to save the googie sign that’s been there since the ’40s. If you’d like to learn more, then click right here and watch the video and read a bit of the history. You can help save a piece of 20th Century American history!

(For $250 you can have a menu item named after you! How ’bout ‘dat?)

My Apologies

I see posts on Facebook quite often that point out how various social institutions (think colleges, government, police, etc.) are not doing what they are supposedly designed to do. This is most certainly true. There is no reason to dress in combat gear and shoot a kid six times because, well, whyever the person who shot him did that.

Short aside — if you would like to see an hilarious take on the tragedy in Ferguson that is also quite sad and maybe a bit frightening, check out Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO.

Boomers are currently running the country. Perhaps the world but I don’t know about that. In this country (and other first-world nations) the generation that resulted from the pent up horniness after World War II is firmly in control. I’m one of those boomers myself, born in 1949. Thanks for the Medicare, by the way. I’m not retired but I do get great insurance, thanks to you youngsters slaving away. Damn nice of you, I must say! Which illustrates what I’m trying to get at. Boomers were raised by a generation that had, for goodness’ sake, engaged in a great war to save civilization. And they won! They taxed themselves as high as 89 percent at the margin in order to ensure that their children, the boomers, wanted for absolutely nothing. A couple of examples will show what I mean. In California in the 1960s and 1970s the in-state tuition at State owned universities and colleges was exactly $0.00. That’s right, if you were a resident, your college was free. Lots of boomers took advantage of that, too. My first semester at BGSU (Go Falcons!?) cost me $186.00. That was 1967. With inflation that amounts to about $2000 to $2500 dollars, which tells you that tuition was highly subsidized in Ohio, too. Besides cheap and easily available education, we also had access to a plethora of public works paid for the depression-era programs such as the Works Progress Administration, that not only gave many young people meaningful work, but also provided a legacy of top-notch public facilities in the form of stadiums, developed parks, trails and other infrastructure that made it a joy to be a kid. And then there is the Interstate Highway System, which most boomers never had to drive without. I honestly think it is the greatest system of roads ever built, and boomers have enjoyed it all of their lives.

While all of these things were being built, developed, and implemented, boomers were not paying much, if anything, in taxes. Not that we were dodging taxes, mind you, but people with low incomes, which describes almost everybody in their youth, paid almost nothing in income tax. (The average, by the way, was 13%, with rich people paying, as I’ve pointed out, some outrageously high rates.) So, essentially, boomers grew up with all of these wonderful things existing, so far as they could tell, absolutely for free! After all, no boomer ever paid a dime to cut a trail in a national park. Or to build a high-school stadium. Or even to put up the stairways at, for instance, Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis where I once lived. Things are, and of a right ought to be, free! Well, NOT!

People are free to choose their path in life. Or should be, anyway. But things are not free. Today we see boomers railing against socialism and welfare while sopping up Medicare, which really is excellent insurance at very low cost by the way, and Social Security (the name actually says “socialism”) and other government programs. Many of us also believe that taxes are a terrible evil. Seriously, a man like Rand Paul can get a hearing on a national level? Our parents spent billions of dollars to make us comfortable, but we begrudge some poor mom working at Burger King the food stamps she needs to feed her family? Why, yes, we do, as a matter of fact. Hell, it’s easy being young and poor! We remember!

Maybe if boomers weren’t so introspective as a generation they’d be able to see their own role in the current national condition more clearly. The truth is, “the answer lies within” is true only if the question is something like “where can I find ten meters of slimy intestines?” I can’t do anything about the boomers. I wish I could, but I gave up on them a long time ago. There was an angry demonstration, about what I don’t know, in Bowling Green. The organizer was named Charlie. A friend of mine asked the demonstrators where Charlie was. The answer: “Charlie can’t be here. He’d get busted!” I’d been thinking less and less highly of my generation anyway, but that tore it. Getting busted is the whole point, if you’re serious about social change. I mean, sheesh! I imagine that Charlie went on to be a accountant at AIG or something.

So, I apologize to all of you non-boomers who may read this. I’d like to say “I didn’t do it” but in fact I’m sure I contributed. If only by getting a low-cost degree, sitting in my high-school’s stadium, and visiting some wonderful national parks, all without paying significant amounts of tax. Even though I’m a boomer, I can see that our parents were serious about sacrifice on behalf of future generations. Apparently, though, boomers are the last generation of the future. Here’s a hint: if you’re worried about your grandchildren’s world, how about coughing up the cash to make it better? See? Not a peep!

So, I truly am sorry. Fortunately for us, thanks to immigration, Social Security and Medicare probably will not run out of funds, and boomers (like other idealist generations before them) are really more concerned with comfort and playtime than money, so probably it will all work out. Still, it would have been nice for you guys if somebody had paid your way through school, wouldn’t it? But, here’s my word of advice. When you have kids, don’t overindulge them, and don’t overprotect them. The world keeps changing, so make sure they’re ready for that. There will be more generations like the boomers in the future, but if you do it right, maybe they’ll be a tad less obnoxious about things. At least, give it a try, okay?

Rules to Sell Your Writing By

I’m not listing rules here. Sorry. But I am commenting on how hard it is to sell something you’ve written. How should you go about it? Get an agent? Skip the agent and query an editor? Skip them both and put it out in e-format and market the hell out of it? Well, sure. I’ve heard stories of each of those methods working really well. And the sale of a book, like the sale of anything else, depends upon some hard and fast rules. Unfortunately, those rules are not logical in the sense that you can parse them using a Ben Franklin Close (look that up if you want; it’s a real thing) or other hard, logical means. Like any sale, the rules of selling something you’ve written are perfectly logical, but they are emotionally logical. And the greatest story out there can be rejected a thousand times just because nobody reviewing it for possible publication felt like buying it at the time! That doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with it: there’s a famous story about somebody who changed the names in Casablanca and shopped it around Hollywood, where it was rejected by every single mover and shaker in that town! It’s even a true story, I’m pretty sure, and it illustrates my point very well.

Even if it isn’t a movie, there’s a lot of expense involved in publishing a book. You can check it out for yourself, if you want to. Just see how much a printer would charge you for five thousand copies of a three-hundred page book, library bound and with decent paper. But, e-publishing is different, you say. No books to print, or bind, or store or anything. Yep, that’s an advantage, and feel free to go ahead and publish your work. Like a speaker I heard recently pointed out, however, there are tens of millions of books on Amazon, but only those in the “top 200,000 in sales” actually are selling any. All those others? Well, as you might have been thinking, they didn’t cost much, did they? If you think about it, an e-book still needs layout, good cover art, and marketing. Lots and lots of marketing. You can opt to do that yourself, if you have any marketing talent. But it’s going to take more graphic talent than is evidenced by the average Garage Sale sign for your efforts to be successful. You’ll have to actually know how to do graphic design (or pay someone to do that for you.) You’ll have to know how to get people to want to read your book, even if it’s a great one. Ask your self what you think of television commercials (adverts if you’re a Brit.) Marketing people generally like them, so long as they’re well done. Thirty seconds of time in a second tier market will cost you thousands of dollars. Now how do you feel about them?

Selling comes down to appealing to potential buyers on an emotional level. Sad, but true. If you write fiction, then maybe you have a leg-up in sales, because presumably you can get inside your characters’ heads and figure out what they want. Maybe, if you can do that with real people, you have a chance at selling your own work. If you can’t do it with living beings, you can hire someone to do it for you. Which brings you smack dab back to needing a publisher. Aaaargh!

I think of my own moods. One day I may really like something, but the next day I think it’s really stupid. I’m not unusual in that. Maybe the second day I’m tired, or hungry, or I twisted my ankle in a pothole on my morning jog, or my kid got caught stealing from the candy store. Or any one of a million other variables that you, as the writer, can’t possibly anticipate or do anything about even if you could know about them. The only thing you can do, and this is the truth, is make your query absolutely irresistible. That way, even if the editor is having a terrible day, she may put it aside and read it later, when she knows she’ll feel more like doing so. An ordinary query, well, it’s just a part of a pile of work that’s interfering with thinking about being tired, or hungry, or, you know. And that’s a “maybe” only. Maybe she’ll just get frustrated and reject the whole pile just because it clears her schedule. Maybe. There’s no way to know, and no law says she ever has to tell you why she didn’t buy what you were selling.

Which brings up some more emotional rules. Such as “Don’t bug the agent/editor.” “Don’t be clever with them.” “Remember you will need to get rejected a lot before you actually sell anything.” It’s true. In sales there’s a rule that you make twenty contacts to get one prospect, and twenty prospects will yield you one sale. That’s 400 contacts to sell one item! Because, for some reason, the other 399 people just weren’t emotionally ready to buy what you were selling. In this case, they just didn’t feel like risking a lot of work on your book. It isn’t personal, it’s just the way it is.

So, I guess I do have a rule or two. Rule #1 is to be persistent. Keep learning, keep submitting, keep writing. You haven’t failed until you’ve quit. And rule #2 is be ready for tons of rejection, because that’s what you’re going to see. If Sony wouldn’t touch one of the greatest movies of all time, and Decca wouldn’t hire the Beatles (and they wouldn’t,) you must know that it isn’t personal, it’s just tough. When it feels really tough, just re-read rule #1, and keep on plugging.

Plantar Fasc, uh, what?

I’ve been letting plantar fasciitis dictate my running, or lack of running, long enough. Today I will receive a pair of the shoes that are top rated for use with PF, and tomorrow I start with a bit of a walk, then a bit of a jog the next day. I’d rather run and limp in the evening than keep not running! And, as an inducement to keep me going, I’ve decided to run the Twin Cities Marathon in 2015. It’s the first weekend in October, so that not only gives me lots of time to get ready, it means that I’ll get to do some long runs in the heat of next summer as I train. What could possibly be wrong with that? I plan to blog about it starting in April, so check back under these categories at that time if you’re just thrilled to read about an old guy and his training schedule. I’ve completed four marathons, so I’m not worried, although after some months of not running I feel pretty blobby and fat. I am looking forward to the return to better physical condition, to say the least. And the desert tortoise, the one legged man with a bum ankle, and I look forward to competing on the prettiest marathon course you could ever imagine, and all down hill, too!

I lived in Minneapolis when the first edition of the race was run, and promised myself that I’d run it someday. Someday is, uh, not now, but, you know, coming up!



The Ash Fork Inn

Get Your Kicks . . .

Get Your Kicks . . .

This story starts when the electricity in our weekend place outside of Ash Fork went screwy. I know now what happened but that isn’t important. It should be fixed within the next couple of weeks. But, that did mean that we were without water in the place, since the water is pressurized by an electric pump, which isn’t working due to electrical problems. So that left us with the difficulty of finding a place to sleep and shower. We stayed one night at the Day’s Inn in Williams, and ate at the new restaurant in town, “Kicks on 66,” which I’ll no doubt review sooner or later. The next morning we went back to the house and did some painting and other things that one can do without running water, but when we wanted to go home, we were hot, grimy and without any way to wash. Try that sometime. So we stopped at the Ash Fork Inn, on the West end of town. If you look you’ll see various reviews, including one I just posted. Some people have complained about the place as if it were the Hilton Inn in Dallas or something. What it is, is cheap, $29 plus tax, and it’s also clean, the water is hot, they have soap, and DirecTV. I’m pretty sure that the negative reviews (which are outnumbered by the positive ones) are from people who don’t like to be in touch with reality too much. Heck, I like a $250 room better, too, but for the price, this is a heckuva bargain. Particularly for students, business people, or tourists interested in seeing what life was like back in the heyday of the Mother Road. It is authentic, and I’d recommend it, so long as you don’t insist on champagne treatment on a beer budget, as it were.

Top Gear On The Mother Road

Get Your Kicks . . .

Get Your Kicks . . .

Top Gear is a BBC car review show. Sort of. It is easily seen in America as it is also on BBC America, which is not owned by the BBC but still carries a slew of British programmes. See what I did there? Programmes? The three men who star on and review the cars have done some remarkable trips in their time. The first one I saw was a trip across equatorial Africa that nearly destroyed their automobiles. But, none of them had to use the VW Beetle which followed them and had no trouble. (Moral: in a tough situation, use a VW Beetle.) But now they’ve gone and travelled the whole way from Chicago to LA; more than two-thousand miles along the way. Yowsa! The Mother Road, Main Street of America, The one, The only, Route 66! They took seven days to do it, and kept a photographic journal of the trip. Here is a link to the photos from Day One.  From there you can easily find days 2 through 7, plus a link to Top Gear Magazine Adventures Issue, which has a longer story about the trip. I just hope that they put it on the telly!

Super Summer Theater

Over the weekend we went to see “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park’s Super Summer Theater. I was going to review a reviewer of that production, who shall go nameless, because the reviewer complained about anachronisms and other things that are easily explained by the fact that It’s A Comedy, Fool!

But then I decided to review the Super Summer Theater instead. Heck, I’ve been to one whole production, so I’m qualified, right? What’s that? You want my review of “A Funny . . .?” Okay, it’s funny as hell and you should go see it. Now, on to business.

This is the thirty-ninth year for Super Summer Theater, which would surely surprise those who say that Las Vegas is nothing but commercial and crass. It costs just under $13 to get in. We had a genuinely handicapped person with us, so we got to park less than a quarter mile from the meadow where they present, but even if you have to walk the quarter mile, it’s a great time.

They have a concession stand. Hot dogs, ice cream novelties, candy, you know. And on weekends they sell sandwiches from Honey Baked Ham, including a veggie number for those so inclined. The bad part is that parking and seating are first-come, first-served, so it behooves anyone wanting a decent seat to get there pretty early. We arrived at about six for an 8 PM show, and got good seats. It’s bring your own seat or blanket, by the way, or you can rent a chair for a buck. The rental chairs didn’t look all that great to sit in for four hours (two before, two during the show) so we were glad we brought our own. Half the meadow is chair seating, and they have a pattern of lines drawn to help patrons set up in neat rows. It works. Prior to the show I partook of a ham sandwich along with some fruit and cookies that we’d brought along (you can bring in any food you wish, apparently.) The grass got damp as the evening progressed, so I’d say if you use the blanket on the lawn option, make it waterproof, if you can.

The show started promptly on time. The players ranged from good to expert (in a couple of cases) and the production was smooth and easy to enjoy. (Not reviewing the play here, just the theater.) Next month they’re playing “Shrek the Musical” and in September “Arsenic and Old Lace,” one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen and I can’t wait to see the play.

What you need to do now is visit their website, which you can do by clicking this link.  Now, seriously, you’re still reading this? Click the darned link, will you?

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