Category Archives: Uncategorized

Let’s Get Personal

My son Marty, more than a few weeks ago.

I think that picture was taken in Minnesota. Maybe.

By personal I mean that this won’t have anything to do with writing, at least not per se. I was blessed with a hiatal hernia for my entire life. I was a colicky baby, and that’s why. It means that your stomach sticks up through your diaphragm, so you get a lot of heartburn. It used to be very expensive to correct it, and insurance wouldn’t cover it. Well, now I have really good insurance, thanks to Medicare and Medicare Supplement insurance, I get any outpatient surgery for free. And, guess what can be corrected with outpatient surgery? Wowie, huh?

Well, yes, actually, but there have been some unexpected side effects. My microbiome has been shifted, and it ain’t going back. Most of us, including me now, have alkaline environments in our mouth and esophagus.  If you’re blessed with what I had, it’s actually acidic. In order to not suffer sleeplessness due to heartburn, I took a lot of proton pump inhibitor, over many years, so my stomach was less acidic than most. Now, I’m normal, acidicly speaking. So, the tooth where my dentist missed a small root when doing my root canal had a small infection in it that suddenly bloomed. And those little buggers managed to get all the way to my lower digestive tract, and, well, it wasn’t pleasant. But I got that tooth fixed, and once my regular dentist puts another crown where the temporary filling is, that problem will be gone forever. Then there’s the athlete’s foot. You wouldn’t associate athlete’s foot with stomach surgery, but it sure has popped up, and for the first time in my life I have athlete’s foot badly enough that it is bothersome. It’s responding to treatment, but it’s bothersome to have to treat, you know?

So, first world problems, I know. In fact, if you live in the first world and suffer from persistent heartburn doe to hiatal hernia, you should check out getting it corrected. But be prepared for some weirdness as you go.

S.

** I had to do liquid diet for two weeks, semi-solid for two more, and not lift more than 20 pounds for five weeks. But, it turns out that if you hold chocolate in your mouth, it liquifies! **

The Creative and Artistic Type

A PAINTING BY AN ARTISTIC GUY (A print of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh)

I wanted to be a writer for a long time. Since maybe second grade or somewhere in there. For one reason or another, I haven’t yet finished the Great American Novel. Well, for some good reasons, actually. See, I’ve lived a privileged life, and that’s not the best thing for creativity.

To be creative, one must be somewhat marginal in one’s society. That’s easy to understand because people who are more central in society like things fine the way they are. Can’t be helped that if you’re making out fine the way things are, you don’t have any reason to dream up anything different. If you’re on the margin somewhere, then you’re not all that happy with the way things are going, and you’ll be goosed by your own circumstances to invent new ways of looking at he world. There’s actually quite a bit of biological and psychological theory behind this idea, but life is too short for me to go into it all now. But it’s true. Van Gogh, besides making a lot of really lovely paintings that showed the world as nobody else ever has, was anxious, insecure, probably suffered from a painful condition in one ear (really, no joke there) and was, as anyone can see by looking at the above picture, incredibly creative. *

You know who are the most creative people in the USA these days (and for a lot of days previously, too?) How about those whose ancestors were slaves? Or those being called vile names just because their grandparents were born in Asia? Or, for Pete’s sake, how about the descendants of the people who met my white forefathers at the boat? I’ve met a bunch of indigenous folks, and love their sense of humor! They, and the other groups I’ve mentioned, are truly creative. The lucky bastards!

Me? Well, I had cousins at Jamestown. My earliest direct ancestor in America was living in Philly in 1729. In 1730 he married a girl from New Jersey. They had thirteen sons, twelve of which fought in the revolution, including a direct ancestor of mine. Hell’s Bells, I’m a genuine W.A.S.P.! If there has ever been a more   privileged group in the history of this planet, I’d like to meet some of them and compare notes. Moving along, my great-grandfather fought for the Union in the Civil War. Our side won, which is only now being discovered by a certain segment of society. Sorry, losers! Other ancestral branches include Wales, Ireland, France, Germany,  Switzerland, and a trace of Scandinavia. Oh pauvre moi, huh? All of which means that

I’M NOT THE BEST GUY TO ASK TO PRODUCE GREAT ART!

My deprivation? Well, mom wouldn’t always buy me what I wanted. That was tough. I was in my forties when I first tasted caviar 🙁 ! And, although I got to be not bad with a six-string guitar I never got to be a guitar player hero, and of course, I can’t ever sing the blues! I mean, sure, my eyes are blue, maybe some of my blood, but sing the blues? That ain’t gonna happen, is it? All I’ve got going for me is lame comedy. Lame, because of course it is.

So, my only complaint is that I have nothing to complain about, and also I’ll never write a great novel, or compose a great song, or paint a great painting. (I’m lucky to be able to paint a wall, frankly.) I know that my story is tugging at your heartstrings, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for my GoFundMe campaign. Donate generously! It’ll take your mind off of your own many troubles when you contribute to my one and only!

Later . . .

 

 

  • Those cypress trees really do look like that, even if you don’t believe me because you’ve never seen them.

What’s Happening?

Just a Sample. I Could Have Picked Others

I’m an old Anglo, born in the Midwest in the middle of the twentieth century, and I shared that picture on my Facebook timeline. WTF, huh? And that’s just a small sample of the sort of things happening these days, isn’t it? I mean, here we are, sniping at each other for wearing or not wearing a mask in WalMart, hunkering down at home instead of commuting to that job we probably don’t have anymore anyway, learning to cook whether we want to or not, and I could go on listing strange things about this year for quite a while. It’s easy to be pessimistic about things, but, overall, I’m not. In fact, I think that a whole lot of good things are happening right not, while we’re all distracted by COVID-19 and our President’s strange behavior. These good things are what this post is actually about.

The possible actual crumbling of the bogus edifice that is White Supremacy is probably the best thing I’m seeing these days, which is why I used that picture to head this post. It has a lot of components. Those statues of traitors being taken down is an excellent thing. In how many wars have the losers been allowed to glorify their rebellion? Take your time, I’ll wait. <crickets> That’s right! Only that one. I know, some argue for taking down statues of, for example, George Washington, because he owned slaves. You’ll have to take down every one up to and including Lincoln, who successfully defended slave owners in court if you go that route. They were a long way from what we wish they’d been, but they did found the country. And, I believe in this country. It really can be great, although not in the way the MAGA crowd would like. Those days are gone, gone, gone, along with all those statues in Richmond. We should definitely remember that conflict. A National Civil War Museum that told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is a great idea, and those statues can be a part of it, as it appears that the Civil War is only just now coming to an end.

I’ve never liked the “establishment,” consisting as it does primarily of old, pasty white dudes who have always seemed to me to be disconnected from the reality we live in. I’m blessed with ADHD. Among the many benefits of that condition is virtually always knowing when you’re being lied to. I’ve known that the whole idea of “race,” and one “race” being superior to another is bogus since, so far as I can tell, forever. It is only in recent years that I’ve learned the truth. (Recent being maybe twenty or so.) It took a while. Knowing you’re being lied to and knowing the truth are two very different things. The first is upsetting, the second empowering. Being thus empowered, I question old friends when they post irrelevant distractions instead of confronting institutional racism. I do have some family cred, though not ancestral. My Uncle, Louis Wood, was a lifer starting in World War Two. He and Aunt Evie met Ras Ta once, as a part of his duties guarding the US Embassy in Addis Ababa. (They never smoked ganja, however.) After he retired from the army, he bought a pallet making company in Bartow, Florida. I visited when I was nine. At that time Jim Crow was still in full effect, with separate restrooms, drinking fountains, etc. His crew was mixed race, and his foreman was African-American. He said, and this is close to an exact quote, “If somebody doesn’t like it, they’ll just have to work someplace else.” There should be a statue of Uncle Louis somewhere.

About “race” again, you’ll note that I refer to myself as “An Old Anglo.” That is an indisputable fact, with a lot less baggage than “White.”

But wait! That’s not all! What if I told you that a more humane society seems to be in the works? Oh, really? People seeking asylum have their families ripped apart by INS, and that’s more humane? Of course not! But is that a good thing? Almost all Americans say it is not. And health care? Have you seen the job that countries with some form of universal health care have done with COVID-19? Have you seen the job we’ve done with unregulated capitalism? Quite the contrast, isn’t it? And the environment is going to get a lot more benign attention, which you might not think by looking at the current administration’s attitude, but it’s true. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (yes, it still exists) recently ordered a Texas pipeline company to pay a Tribe $165,000,000.00 because the company has trespassed on tribal lands without permission from the tribe. That’s the BIA, an agency famous for screwing over Native Americans, and a blow for the environment at the same time! The Keystone Pipeline is on hold pending a never done Environmental Impact Study, also. And, again, almost all Americans are closer to agreeing with Greta Thunberg than with the current administration on environmental issues.

Roughly every eighty years a crisis emerges that threatens to be “The End of The World as We Know It.” The last one was the depression and World War Two. COVID-19 is ours. I’ll give you a hint, here. Any Millennial reading this will say, “Well, duh.” Those pasty old white dudes, probably not. But, those guys are seeing their world crumble, and the Millennials are about to take over. If you want to help, there’s an election next November that you can vote in. I’m an optimist because I’ve always known the lies, if not the truth, and also because those paying attention to how history unfolds have seen this moment coming for a long time. There will be plenty of mistakes made, but I have hope that the big one that’s been haunting this country since before we were a country is about to be shattered. As I said above, good things are happening. Join in!

Paradigms

Just this Once, an Illustration that Goes With The Title!

What? You thought it was pronounced “paradigims?”

A paradigm, pronounced just like what is pictured above (for non-north americans, those coins are worth ten cents, and are called “dimes.” There are two of them — a pair) is an excellent example of something, and that something can be a football league, or how a society is organized and operates. As it happens, every so often (about once in everybody’s lifetime, in fact) a free society needs to reorganize and develop new paradigms to live by. Prior to the depression/World War Two, nobody liked the idea of consumerism, moving to the suburbs, commuting to work. After those events, that’s how we’ve lived for the past 80 years or more. It worked great for a while. Some of the other paradigms we’ve lived by include the idea that, to a “good” person, minority citizens need help; to a “bad” citizen, minority citizens are inherently inferior. Also, growth is good for its own sake. Bigger is better, and so is faster and further. Moving around a lot is the way to live is another. There are oodles of paradigms by which we all attempt to make our way through life. But the paradigms that work so damned well when they’re first developed turn into big negatives when they’re used past their expiration date, so to speak. And that’s where we are.

The conservative among us can see this perfectly well. And it frightens them. That’s why they say that they want to “Make America Great Again.” After all, when America was truly ruling the world, those paradigms were how we were living. Makes sense that they’d work again, if we can only get back to them. But, there is a problem with that idea.

It won’t work.

Commuting is a major cause of ill health, in more ways than one. The car ads present a world that cannot exist. No matter what you do, you will never be able to cheerfully park right in front of the country club and leisurely stroll in. You will never have the twisty mountain road to yourself. You will never be able to do a damned thing to avoid that nasty-ass commute you’re stuck with every damned day.

Those minorities are not minorities any more. There are more “non-white” children in the US than “white” kids. Nothing can be done to reverse that. In some places, such as where I live, “white” people are no longer a majority of the population. (This causes, um, nothing, actually, except that you need to be polite to everybody regardless of how they look.)

And our use of burning fuels to power all of our stuff is resulting in a shift in worldwide climate that will make continuing to use the old paradigms impossible in the first place. These are examples; there are plenty of other things that aren’t working properly anymore, but these should be enough to show what I mean. Short story is that it’s time for new paradigms, new approaches to how we live and relate to each other. I have a feeling that one of the new paradigms (for the US, not for most of the advanced world) will be that health care is a right. (No arguments in this forum, please. That’s what Twitter is for, after all, and I’m just stating what I think will happen, not registering an opinion.) For another, we will need to find alternate sources of energy that don’t involve burning things. (Again, no arguments here, please.) And we will no doubt learn to live in an actual multi-cultural country, not just one that pays lip service to the concept. And there will be more, much more, that I can’t begin to see from where we are today.

The new paradigms will seem to create a world that is ever so much better than the one that came before. There will be what you might call “Nouveau Archie Bunkers” who pine for the mid-twentieth century, but most people will be happier. Until, in a few decades, whatever these new paradigms are start to malfunction for reasons I couldn’t begin to guess, and we end up back at the end of the world as we know it.

That is exactly where we are today, and, in the words of Michael Stipes, I Feel Fine!

Now What?

It’s ME, in an ugly sweater. Photo by Holly Ecker

There is more to that picture, of course, but I don’t reveal everything. When I way “Now, What?” I refer to how confusing some thing have become lately. Not politics, nothing from Washington has surprised me lately, but with the way life as a writer and a resident of my neighborhood has been churning.

I received the email notifying me that it’s time to renew my RWA membership this week. I can’t do it until they demonstrate that they’ve once again become a stable platform for advocacy and promotion of people writing romance. (Please don’t call them ‘bodice rippers,’ although there is this subgenre of erotica that, ahem.) They were always seemingly a rock of stability in an ever evolving world of publishing, but various developments have shaken that view considerably. For a more comprehensive view of how things developed in the organization, I invite you to read Nora Roberts’ Blog Post on the matter. I am still a member of SCBWI, but now each time I see something from them I flash onto the RWA scandal, and even though SCBWI doesn’t deserve it, I’m sorta off on the idea of large writers’ groups. Sorry, world. I’ll get better, I’m sure.

In my neighborhood we have been plagued the past six months or so with waves of homeless people sleeping in the wash (Flamingo Wash, the one that goes through the parking garage of that hotel you’ve heard about) and, in some cases, contributing to thefts, vandalism, noise, and of course, that stuff all humans make that most of us flush away. I’m not Pollyannaish enough to think that a neighborhood should all be clean and “nice.” In fact, I kind of dislike the concept of “nice,” especially when applied to language. But, that said, even though our house is fairly secure, a lot of neighbors are rather upset because their house isn’t so much secure, or they are Pollyanna enough to think nobody is going to drive off with their car if they warm it up out front, or both. (There is no need to warm up a car built since the mid-1970s, if not earlier. When I  lived in Minnesota, you’d take off as soon as you could get that sucker into gear.) While my sympathies vary somewhat with the circumstances surrounding each incident, I do not appreciate having my neighbors all upset over what is in fact a wide-spread social issue. Which means that action must be taken on local, county, state, and national levels if we want a peaceful neighborhood into the future.

There is a neighborhood group working with the county and Metro (the Las Vegas Police Department, headed by our elected Sheriff) to come up with solutions. And I’m pretty sure that there are solutions, but they all involve changes in behaviors and attitude not just amongst the homeless, but amongst the neighbors as well. Sigh.

Now What?

I guess I have only to wait to find out, huh?

It’s 2019. Let’s Compromise.

Be Upset By This, I Dare You!

Let’s Compromise. Seriously. That’s treated as if it were a dirty word, or has been in recent years at least. But it isn’t a dirty word at all. It’s how a democracy functions. Here’s a hard truth for many: You are never going to get everything you want. In fact, you are going to have to give up some of what you want so that other people get something of what they want so that they’ll be okay with you getting some of what you want. That’s a compromise, and that’s how democracy works. Think of it as a rough consensus, if that helps.

Other groups aren’t responsible for everything that’s wrong. MAGA didn’t cause the problem. Neither did Libtards, or Republicans, or Democrats, or Trumpists, or Socialists. Not even those idiot neighbors down the street are responsible for the problems in your world. You may be a part of your own problems, but, you know what? You’re not responsible for the trouble, either. Sometimes, things just don’t go your way. That’s life. The way to solve the problems is to talk with the Libtards, MAGA, Democrats, Socialists Conservatives, crazy neighbors, and whomever is involved to work out a way that you can each get a piece of what you want out of the situation. But, take note, it will never be “those people” going away and never bothering you again. Whomever they are, they’re here, and you need to deal with that. Nothing can change what is. Not earnest belief, not carrying torches, nothing at all. You and your group are going to have to work with them and their groups until you come to some sort of rough consensus, you know, a compromise, where each of your groups, and each of their groups, gets something of what it wants, but where nobody gets everything that they want, and where nobody is completely happy with the result, but everybody is willing to live with the result. And so we move on.

I know this is not fair. Nothing in life is fair. What this is, though, is the way human beings get along with other human beings. By talking with each other, and listening to each other. It’s 2019! Maybe it’s time we gave it a try.

Holidays

This tree was in our yard in Centennial Colorado for Christmas 2001.

That’s one down. Luckily for me, one we don’t celebrate. But some of my cousins do, and some of my friends do (and yes, I could name them, but not here, okay?) And a few more to come. The biggie, the Federal Holiday, is Christmas, of course. Never mind that the Feast of Christ (or Christ’s Mass) was originally in the Spring. As a writer of lies (look up the word “fiction”) it is important to know the truth. So, to me, it doesn’t matter what we call the winter solstice holiday. My pagan ancestors called it Jule, or Yule, and the celebration isn’t all that different today. Less official first-time sex for the kiddies, of course, but mostly it’s very similar. The song Deck the Halls is an old pre-Christian Yule song. Not a Christmas song, but popular anyway.

The truth is, Christmas is a war on Yule, and Saturnalia. The non-Christians didn’t declare the war. The Christians did. Somehow they believed that calling the holiday by a Christian name (can’t get closer than “Christmas” after all) would cause people to forget the old holidays. Just like some latter-day people believed that outlawing alcohol would stop people from drinking. Same with outlawing Marijuana, which has not become more readily available since it’s been legal, just easier to get due to not having to sneak around. The marijuana people, alcohol people, and Christians all suffered from the same delusion: that human nature is subject to legislation. Oh, my, there’s fodder for a whole mess of novels in that attitude, isn’t there? I may even have read a book or two that touched on that theme. Let me think . . .

Oh, thinking is too much trouble, obviously. But you see my point: you can call a solstice celebration anything you want, but it ends up being a celebration of the fact that it ain’t gonna get any darker this year, and the sun is gonna come back after all! That’s why we light fires, string lights all over our houses, drink, eat, and party in defiance of the darkness that has just been vanquished. I don’t know about you, but I like it. And, if you want to call it Christmas, what do I care? It’s a good thing, any way you look at it.

And if it takes me until Valentine’s Day to lose the extra weight? Bah, Humbug on it! Gimmie some more cookies!

My Turn at the RWA National Conference

It Was Requested of Me to Pose Here. I Declined

I reposted Barbara Oneal’s take on the conference in Denver. Please read it. You can just go to the immediate previous post from this page, or click here. Just close the page when you’re done, if you choose that option.  This was not my first RWA conference, and I’ll get to some reasons why I recommend one below. First, though, I also noticed the almost obsessive attention to diversity in the organization. I have to say, it is about time. Lest you think that a man at that conference was unwelcome, I assure you that such was not the case. My career was as respected as anyone’s. I was a peer, and treated as such. I got to talk frankly with more African Americans than perhaps I ever have before, and that was excellent. I wish those who see “others” everywhere could do something similar, because, in the end, there are no “others.” We’re all stuck with each other.

Yeah, at times that sucks, but it’s true. Humans are the worst species on the planet, except all of the others, and that’s a fact. You think that beavers ever have second thoughts about their destructive ways? 

Thanks to millennia of stupid thinking, the sort of activism seen everywhere in America these days is necessary. Too bad that’s true, but it’s true. There are those who take it farther than necessary, for sure. (Wendy, the new take on Peter Pan, seems unnecessary. When I read the book, Wendy already seemed to be a strong female lead, but maybe that’s just me. And, anyway, if it sells, who am I to say it nay?) But maybe taking it beyond the end point is the only way to get to the end point. That point, for me, is simply when I can quit worrying about being diverse and simply write stories about people. I may not live that long, but I do believe that the current political climate is hurrying us toward that day.

Whew! Now, on to the conference.

My wife has been a member of RWA for decades. And for decades she has been telling me how useful RWA conferences are. Finally, at a conference in New York three years ago, I found out that she is correct. Here is a sample page of a few hours of programming in Denver last Friday:

See what I mean? There are practical workshops (my favorites) on topics like how to price your books, how to use Scrivener, Research help, as well as book signings (by the actual authors, of course) and a chance to meet one-on-one with various publishers, editors, agents, and so on. At that luncheon, seating is mostly open, meaning that you may well end up having lunch with a famous author (it’s happened) or an editor (ditto) or an agent you’ve been wanting to meet (also ditto.) This goes on for four days. The price includes two luncheons, the first being on Thursday, when the awards for best as yet unpublished books are given out. Not surprisingly, being nominated for one of those awards (called the Golden Heart) is an excellent way to exit that unpublished status.

Or, of course, you can publish your own darned book, which is what a lot of the workshops aimed at helping one do. As the previous post says, publishing is a lot different these days. Bomb in the traditional market and you’re a pariah. Bomb today, and oh, heck, try another one. Maybe they’ll appreciate the first one after you’ve wowed them with the second. (This also happens.)

I have written one, count it, one Young Adult romance novel. Heck it has everything: romance, violence, threats of violence, a couple of people who we don’t know die, all sorts of good stuff, and, most important of all, the ending is so happy that it’ll bring tears to your eyes. Watch for it, because you will see it for sale. I’ve written all sorts of other stuff. Chapter books, mostly, which never include romance per se, but which do have happy endings, if not the HEA (Happily Ever After) required of the romance genre. Which is to say, you would (I assume you’re a writer) find this conference useful even if romance writing isn’t really your thing. Sure, romance characters may be a tad overdrawn. Huh. Is Hamlet a tad overdrawn? Is MacBeth? Why, yes, yes they are. You can learn a lot about drawing good characters by simply overdrawing a few.

So, next years conference is in New York City. I probably won’t attend, because, frankly, New York in July is uncomfortable, much as I love that city. But you could go. To learn more about RWA, just click here. Trust me, you could do worse! (A tinge of New York Yiddish humor there.)