Saturday, January 03, 2009


I've enjoyed what I've read of Michael Montaigne's essays, but the one I read last night was disturbing. He wrote about three kinds of relationships: friends, women and literature. The disturbing part came when I read that he believed women were out of their depth as intellectuals and should stick to what they do best -- provide ornamentation. He wrote that it goes against a woman's nature to put herself in the midst of intellectual discussions and that logic should be avoided. A woman is beautiful and provides a man with what he needs most -- calm, relaxation and romance. I doubt Montaigne would have appreciate the women of today who speak their minds and consider them the equal of men. He would, however, appreciate women who live for fashion and beauty and concern themselves with pleasing men. He was, after all, a man of his time.

I can see some of his point and it's one that I have mentioned before. The woman's liberation movement has removed a vital part of the feminine arsenal by competing with men as equals. That is not to say that women and men aren't equal -- in some respects -- but that we all are equipped with abilities and skills that, until recently, were specific to gender. That was before women's lib and the feminization of the male species by increasing amounts of chemicals that raise estrogen levels. You mean you haven't heard about this?

In the animal kingdom -- yes, Virginia, humans are animals, too (biologically speaking) -- more and more species are becoming either hermaphroditic or more female than male. With frogs that's not such a bad deal because when the frog population dwindles, males become females and begin laying eggs. It was a fact that Michael Crichton used in Jurassic Park to explain why all the dinosaur species they bred as males were able to lay eggs; they used frog DNA to fill the breaks in the retrieved dinosaur DNA. The influx of chemicals into the environment that either mimic estrogen or raise estrogen production has produced generations of males with smaller penises, undescended testes and feminine characteristics -- and it's happening among the human species as well.

I doubt, however, that the feminization of the male half of homo sapiens will change the rampant testosterone poisoning that fuels wars and corporate pissing contests any time soon, but it may have a long lasting impact on our continuation as a species. Males may become as rare as hen's teeth and females will have to compete for their sperm.

Did I mention that male births are down? Once upon a time, males outnumbered females 2:1. Not so long ago, the ratio was 1:1 and now it is falling the other way. It doesn't take as many males as females to produce the next generation, but higher ratios of males ensure that homo sapiens does not end up in a genetic cul de sac.

Considering how Montaigne felt about preserving the differences between males and females, I'm sure he would have been appalled at the recent increase in females who should think more about beautifying the world and the dwindling numbers of males to carry the logical and intellectual burdens that fuel civilization's growth. If this trend continues, and we follow Montaigne's advice, society will become more beautiful and less able to think it's way past the obstacles to restoring the male-female balance.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Wallowing in pork

No, not the bacon or ham kind that is served each morning or during holidays, but political pork.

In books, when an author shovels on what he considers atmosphere it's usually in the form of adjectives and adverbs, most of which are there to disguise the fact that there's no story. There's nothing like painting a literary picture with so many words the picture gets lost. It's sort of like allowing a child or a demented adult to throw buckets of paint and mud on Heironymous Bosch's intricate peopled canvases. The picture is lost. Adverbs and adjectives in moderation are fine but anything else is parody and literary insanity. It's no wonder so many people refuse to read books. They fear the consequences. Unfortunately, Americans have become so complacent they look the other way when Congress goes on a pork diet.

It's too bad there's no real pork in all that pork because we could rid ourselves of the most pernicious and self-serving part of our population. Nothing like getting rid of the worst elements in government.

What purpose does pork serve? In the original automakers' bailout, the bill was 3-4 pages long. By the time everybody added their post Xmas wishes, the bill was over 700 pages long. Didn't anyone notice? Where does Congress think that money is coming from? Not out of their pockets, I can assure you, but out of your pockets and mine. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of paying for the lavish lifestyles of the rich and infamous. I don't remember anything on the Schoolhouse Rock episode of how a bill becomes a bill that included anything about entitlements and it was so simple to understand.

A need is seen, like bailing out the automotive industry because they've fallen on hard times, fueled in part by the United Auto Workers' greed-fueled blackmailing of their employers and by the automakers' stupidity in continuing to turn out gas guzzling SUVs when they should have been turning out plug-in hybrids, electric and flex-fuel vehicles that would help us rid us of our polluting and ruinous addiction to oil. A committee puts together a proposal that is accepted -- or rejected -- by the congressmen and senators duly elected by the American people. When everyone adds their stamp of approval, the proposal becomes a bill. What really happens is the self-serving members of Congress decide that the pie isn't big enough, that they need more money to fund their pet projects, like funding a business that will garner a hefty raise for a spouse or political backer and will eventually put the money in their own pockets. The automakers get your money and mine to keep doing what they've been doing all along -- ruining the economy and the environment -- and Congress gets to feast on USDA grade A pork.

It's like going to a gypsy to have your fortune told. The gypsy, seeing an easy mark, agrees to tell your fortune if you cross her palm with silver. Then the gypsy explains that you are cursed and in order to remove the curse you must cross her palm with even more silver to get rid of the curse, which will inevitably end up being something disgusting and possibly demeaning. After all, the gypsy needs a laugh at your expense while she's removing the contents of your pockets to line her own. The only thing you're cursed with is stupidity and gullibility. In other words, you don't have the sense god gave a goose and will believe anything anyone tells you.

Now, I enjoy a good ham dinner and I like bacon and pork chops and pork roast and pulled pork, but when I eat pork in any form I also add a healthy serving of vegetables and fruit to balance out the meal. I don't enjoy a meal of nothing but pork. I would make a lousy politician. No wonder the Jews and Muslims avoid pork. It'll kill you.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Diamonds in the dust

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."

I woke at six this morning with but one thought in mind -- to go back to sleep. I did. The phone rang but I ignored it from the haze of sleep, but for some reason my curiosity made me get up and check to see who called. It was Lynn and talking to her is always interesting and often makes me laugh, so I called back and got what I came for -- good conversation and laughter. That's the thing about friends, they may be irritating when they call and I'm tied up with work or sleep, but talking to them is always worth while.

Having spent the rest of the morning putting together schedules and deadlines and making notations in my brand new 2009 desk calendar that arrived two days after I purchased it on line, I decided to spend the rest of the day watching movies and goofing off, perfecting, as Carol would say, the art of being lazy. However, my mind is never lazy and was busy with plans and schedules and ideas for the final phase of editing on the two books that I need to get finished before I send them to the publisher this month, especially since new book ideas and characters are beginning to make themselves known and are almost at the stage in their development when they will transfer from the corridors of my mind to the page. It looks as though this year may well be as prolific and busy as the last two have been and that's never a bad thing.

My new desk calendar is from Bylines and has some interesting quotes, like the one about comparing oneself to other writers. It's a mixed bag and sometimes gets ugly, especially when comparing oneself to a writer that the red-suited demon on the left shoulder says the other writer is better. That breeds contempt and envy and neither are good for a writer's soul. Of course, that is not to say that one writer is better than another or that one writer cannot learn from another; that would be untrue. And there are some writers who are worth reading and learning from, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily better or worse or that it's wrong to dislike another writer's work; that's all part of the mystery and difference of being human. To dislike another writer's work is purely subjective, although sometimes it's also an accurate evaluation. What one person likes another may dislike with impunity and without envy. It's all a matter of taste.

For instance, I recently read a review of Stephanie Meyer's vampire series that hit on what makes the series so successful. It's not the writing, but the way people respond to the themes and emotions in the book. That first flush of love and romance in a teenage girl's life and the primal urges that nearly overwhelm a girl when she falls in love for the first time, perched on the edge between innocence and sexual awakening. In that respect, Meyer has touched on something. Technically, the writing is amateurish and -- in at least a few editors' and agents' and reviewers' estimation -- bad. One thing I have learned is that a book or story can fail technically and still retain a spark of magic in the characters and the story line that resonate. I've read enough amateur memoirs to enjoy the story while I cringed at the grammar and lack of technical ability. Even a madman's tale can hit on the truth now and then if you can bear to slog through the inanities heaped on all sides. It's sort of like finding a perfect diamond in the midst of a compost heap.

I hope readers will find a few gems scattered among the dust and compost in my posts and stories and novels. When you get right down to it, it depends on how many people are willing to take a chance and look -- and then tell their friends and relatives and anyone else who will listen. That is the secret to success -- putting the gems as close to the surface as possible.

Monday, December 29, 2008

News flash

I just finished writing the last review for Authorlink for 2008 and decided to count up how many reviews I've written for them this year, which does not include the reviews I've done for other sites or authors. I read and reviewed 69 books this year. That is a new high for me.

The reviews include everything from nonfiction to fiction in every single genre. Not bad for someone started six years ago as a horror reviewer for Authorlink.

This has been a banner year in many respects, not the least of which is seeing stories in six anthologies hit the bookstores, selling one novel to be published in July 2009 and then selling two more novels to be published in the fall of 2009. My best male friend apologized and decided he did want me in his life and, although things have been difficult at times, it looks like this time he's going to stick around for good. I've reconnected with old friends and made a few new ones, but the best part of all of this has been getting closer to the good friends that have always been there.

John told me today that instead of looking at the end of the year and heaving a big sigh that it's over, we should look at each day as a gift and be grateful for it. Then he said he'd been spending too much time with me because he was beginning to sound like me. Imagine that. I've begun to rub off on him.

With all of its ups and downs, I'm sure everyone can find a few things to be grateful for in 2008. I know I can -- and have. The best is yet to come. Each and every morning is a blank sheet just waiting to be filled. I know how I'm going to fill mine. How about you?

I don't believe in making new year's resolutions because they never last, but it's always a good idea to find one thing you have the power to change. Mine is spending more time writing because I need to put more books out. What is yours?

On, one last thing. I made egg nog for the first time and it turned out great -- even without the bourbon and brandy. That's one more thing to add to the list of accomplishments. A small accomplishment to be sure, but one should never under estimate the power of egg nog.