Monday, December 25, 2017

A Big Send-Off to 2017...And Hope For A Better 2018

Another massively challenging week has ended, and I am glad. It was really getting to me. BIG time.  

On Thursday, I published my second novel. Getting this one out the door was, for reasons I cannot explain, harder than the first one. But it's done. Sorta. the Kindle version is up, and the paperback will follow in a week or so. So, let me tell you about LINGUA GALACTICA

This is science fiction. It was written because Ziggy dared me to write a book better than the one he had just read.  The story was not bad, but the writing was terrible. Ten days later, I handed him a manuscript. Later that night...or more like the next morning, I woke up because the bed was cold. Figuring he fell asleep on the couch, I went in search of the bed-warmer and found him sitting at the kitchen table, like 5 empty Coke cans in a row, and an overflowing ashtray. He looked up from about three-quarters of the way through the stack of pages, and said, 'I hate your guts."

I just smiled and clapped, "Hey! He likes it!" and trotted back to bed.

For years we had another name for the book...which I won't mention here...but after we worked on an initial set of edits, mostly technology stuff, I set the book aside because it was, after all, kinda a gag gift. I never had any intention of publishing it. But sometimes stuff happens even when you don't pay attention. See, a friend had asked to read it on ZIggy's recommendation, so I sent a PDF. and without my knowledge, that PDF got passed around. 

After DREAM DANCER came out, a few people took me aside to encourage me to prep JEWS IN SPACE....okay, that's what we called it, only when we said it, we said it like the announcer on the MUPPET SHOW....happy now? Anyway, I never intended for that one to see the light of day, but it turned out it already had a following. Seriously. For a book no one was supposed to read, all these people are telling me they read it and it has to be next. Honestly, I was amazed. So I picked it up, got some people I actually trusted to read it, and with some excellent input and advice, began the slog of editing and rewriting the damn thing. 

A couple of interesting things happened along the way. First, We, the People elected a moron to be our Feckless Leader. And in the landslide of garbage that came down the pike with him, "Me, Too" happened. Second, my ambivalence toward the protagonist dissipated with the re-writes and I found I liked her a whole lot better. 

For good or for bad, I had to closely examine the relationship between two of my characters for any specter of inappropriate behavior. That scared the shit outta me. It was like editing for censors. Two people whom I had come to admire and respect suddenly were under a microscope the likes of which I never imagined. I had to make absolutely certain there was no hint of victimization or intimidation between them. I hated searching through an incipient romance with the eye of this new, unhappy lens. 

And that made me go back to DREAM DANCER and read it for the first time in over a year. Yes, the relationship between those two characters is commenced through the lens of what would be acceptable in his society, and how that does not translate outside his world. And it is addressed in the book, too. Quite directly. But is it enough for some people? The rules of that game have changed since the late 80s when the story takes place. One has to recognize that some behaviors were acceptable in some time periods and people acted accordingly. I really dislike anachronisms. Denying history is revisionist. You can't pretend stuff didn't happen. We read stories about other periods and we expect them to be, if not completely historically accurate, at least honest about societal norms. Ignoring how things were does no one any good. 

Remember what I said last week about artistic expression? This reminds me of what my cousins told me about artists in the Soviet Union and how they could only produce works that were acceptable to the Party. Is this the direction we are headed? I don't know. But I know as I start editing work on the next book, I'm already considering "Me, Too," revisions.  And, as a writer, this is uncomfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, 
You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.

Meanwhile, DREAM DANCER and LINGUA GALACTICA are already out there for your reading enjoyment. The protagonists of the two books could not be more different: one is an anthropologist trained to observe, the other is a fleet officer trained in communications and defense. Each has a unique approach to problem-solving. Only one of them I would want to meet in a dark alley. Please read....and please review on Amazon. Love it, hate it, it sucks, whatever. If you don't tell me, I don't know. And anyone who know me knows I hate not knowing. 

So there.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year! May 2018 bring only good things.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
The midterm elections are coming. Time to get busy.

Monday, December 18, 2017

How Deep the Morass?

Eve-Ray-Forever by Bruce Conner
I was wandering around the Milwaukee Art Museum with the senior son the other day, and came across an interesting video installation with a "R" rating posted outside...for mature audiences. It's by Bruce Conner, 1965/2006, and is called Eve-Ray-Forever. It's installed seemingly all over the place, including the Whitney Museum in New York.

Like any good art, it got me thinking. Some of it is very violent, some of it borders on pornographic, but it is all meant to shock. But it was the juxtaposition of female male nudity that I noticed...and the violence which immediately make me think "Me, too." Not meaning me as in myself, but the whole objectification-of-women piece about which we are finally hearing so much.

And that's where it all gets murky for me. 

Ashanti fertility fetish
If art glorifies the human body and shows it in a variety of states, does that instantaneously render those pictures to be now something other than art? And what, exactly, is the definition of art?

Venus Rising from the Sea  
Is the creation of a statue that is meant to be symbolic of fertility now to be deemed unacceptable? Does Botticelli's rendering of Venus arising from the scene become obscene because there is a nude woman in the picture? Or does the time and place of creation enter into the discussion about how this can be discussed? And what do we tell our granddaughters about these depictions? Aren't they all objectification of women?

Pedro Berruguete-16th century
I can hardly see deep south US not getting upset about a picture showing where Mary pops out a tit for her kid. This is shameful behavior. And last year, New Hampshire's GOP state senate guy Josh Moore said,
"Who doesn’t support a mother’s right to feed? Don’t give me the liberal talking points, Amanda. If it’s a woman’s natural inclination to pull her nipple out in public and you support that, then you should have no problem with a man’s inclination to stare at it and grab it. After all .. it’s ALL relative and natural, right?"
Really? If you are nursing in public, it's an invitation to grope? Whoa!

What about these? Picasso on the left and Matisse on the right. Anyone want to talk about objectification here? Georges Braque, André Derain, Picasso, Czobel, Othon Friesz, Herbin, Metzinger and Matisse's foray into Cubism were not without controversy. The Cubists all got slammed by boards and even the public. They were called shocking and obscene. Is there a proper to confront the paintings, drawings and sculptures so that they remain in the canon of art, or must be they excised? 

JonBenét Ramsey
If you want to change the culture, change the conversation, or even change the expectations for women in tandem with the behavior of me, can you keep some of this stuff or does the baby go out with the bathwater? And speaking of babies....what about this? What message do we send young girls who see this stuff on TV and think it's real? Yes, that's JonBenét Ramsey.We don't know who killed her or why. There are lots of theories. But the one I cannot shake is the one about how are males supposed to address her; as a child, as a proto-woman, as a painted object? I don't know. In the end, did that matter in her murder? Has anything changed in the last 21 years? Not really. Hell, we even had reality shows about little girls dressing up as whatever: TODDLERS AND TIARAS. 

But then there's art. How do you give up Bottecelli and Rubens, Houdon or even Picasso? Is there a line we should be drawing in the alabaster to say  anything before this date is okay. Anything after this date is not so okay?

Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828)
Diana the Huntress, 1776–95
Art may be universal, but criticism is not. What is beautiful, stately, and elegant can be someone else's butt ugly and inappropriate. There is no accounting for taste. And isn't that what it really is? A matter of taste?

If we want to change the social mores and change the question at the same time we have to figure out a way to allow our collective past to be our collective past. The social condition of the 18th century is vastly different from the social condition of 2018; those differences have to be recognized. Since you cannot change the past, you can't expect someone from 1776 to act like someone from 2017, either.

The "Me, Too," movement is already descending to a pathetic punchline. I don't want that to happen. I want the "Me, Too " movement to be at the head of a conversation that makes the new awareness the usable, functional, and practical. It's all well and good to say this is about sexual abuse, misconduct, assault, and objectification, but without a time-frame of parameter for judgment, what we become like Madame Defarge endlessly knitting while waiting for the guillotine to fall. Truth has nothing to do with it. 

Is that what we really want?

I don't like Madame Defarge. I don't like knitting. I like art. We, the People have way too much on the table right now to get derailed on this one issue. It's not going to go away any time soon.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you've not been to Kennedy Space Center at Port Canaveral, 
Go before the troglodytes dismantle it.
It's just that simple. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Due Process, Alternate Reality, and Who Cares?

I am sitting in my room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando. Let me just say that I am having a really good time. I loved Diagon Alley and all the shops come to life. Didn't buy a thing, although I confess I was really tempted to get a wand. However, everyone knows the wand chooses the wizard, and there didn't seem to be a wand that chose me. Alas.

I know it's the night before the highly anticipated Panorama in Alabama. I know, too, that tons of money have been pouring into Alabama for Mr. Jones. And I know this is going to be ugly no matter what happens. But I also know this is a bellweather election for these here United States, and that no matter who the people elect, they will own that choice. They have the right to send anyone they want to the Senate. 

That's the beauty of democracy, and the curse. I don't know how much longer We, the People, will be able to preserve this union. The moorings and the underpinnings have taken a few severe hits in the last 6 or so months. We are no longer standing on such firm ground. And it breaks my heart.

And it breaks my heart that Senator Klobouchar betrayed the trust of the people of Minnesota by joining the warlock hunt demanding the resignation of Senator Franken. Senator Franken was denied due process despite his call for an ethics investigation. He was denied the right to answer their questions. 

And it breaks my heart that the Democrats of the Senate not only betrayed their own colleague, but they betrayed any woman who has suffered violence and serious trauma at the hands of a rapist. They have equated a fanny pat with full-blown, forced, violent, vicious sexual intercourse. Anyone who has experienced that violence knows there is a difference. A BIG, WHOPPING DIFFERENCE.

Funny thing, Senator Franken was castigated for saying:
Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.
But when Sarah Huckabee said,
As the president said himself, he thinks it's a good thing that women are coming forward, but he also feels strongly that a mere allegations shouldn't determine the course. And in this case, the president has denied many of these allegations....Look, the President has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations.
we were expected to take his word for it even though there's video tape where he brags about forcing himself on women. Okay. Why not? Lots of people also believe the Palestinians want peace. 

And y'know, none of it means squat. We are too far off the road for redemption. 

What matters is that I went on THE TRANSFORMERS ride at Universal Studios today and it was the best ride ever. Escape from Gingrott's was good, and RACE THROUGH NEW YORK was pretty exciting, but TRANSFORMERS RIDE was amazing.

Tomorrow, we start with Hogwarts, then later in the day we move to Cape Canaveral. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Coming soon to your in any day now.....

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dear Lou Dobbs

On December 2nd, you publicly stated:
I think U.S. Marshals should follow him, and any time he wants to go follow the president like he is, and behave… I mean, this is just bad manners. It’s boorish, it’s absurd, he doesn’t realize how foolish he looks. I mean, he should be brought back by the Marshals. Isn’t there some law that says presidents shouldn’t be attacking sitting presidents?
You are absolutely right. There is a law, and it's called The First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 
President Obama's statement, in case you didn't actually read it, which would be my guess because if you did you would not be sounding like the asinine blowhard you really are, not only does not mention Feckless Leader by name, it references Mrs. Obama. 

See, here's what happened. In Toronto, Mrs. Obama said:
...[it is] never a good idea” to put your first thought in the morning on social media, and  [never a good idea to] “tweet from bed…Then you need to edit and spell-check it.
As a journalist, Mr. Dobbs, how can you possibly think this is  bad advice?  President Obama was simply agreeing with his wife:
Michelle was giving the general idea . . . don’t say the first thing that pops in your head. Have a little bit of an edit function...Think before you speak, think before you tweet.
All indications to the contrary, this is not practiced consistently in the White House these days. Months later, no one is quite sure what covfefe means.

So, let me explain this to you in simple, everyday words you might be able to understand:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

This is called the Preamble to the Constitution and it starts by telling We, the People, that We, the People, are responsible for our own country. This is followed by the Constitution itself, which is then followed by 10 Amendments called The Bill Of Rights. The first Amendment is the one I mentioned above that contains the line:
Congress shall make no law respecting ...abridging the freedom of speech...
This freedom applies to We, ALL OF THE PEOPLE, not just some of the people. It is not only our right, it is our civic duty to comment, criticize, or condone the word, actions, and/or behavior of our elected officials. That right is not abridged when someone steps down from public office.

Your statement, on the other hand, suggesting that President Obama should be muzzled, is, therefore, unconstitutional. Not to mention stupid since neither President nor Mrs. Obama called Feckless out by name or reputation. They commented on the sagacity (common wisdom) of unconsidered, mindless, tweets...much like your statement. 

If anyone should be muzzled, Mr. Dobbs, it is you. You call for illegal actions, the overthrow of the constitution, and you tell lies. Just like Feckless, only yours are worse. You're supposed to be a trusted source of news. Instead, you are the assistant Pinocchio. You enable and abet a sociopath.

Please do a service to this nation and go away. Go to Moscow. They'll love you there. 

We, the People, however, have no desire to have a person in the public forum actively preaching treason and sedition. Oh, do I need to define sedition for you? Hmmm. Maybe you should just go away and leave it at that.
The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Turn off the news every so often.
Listen to a symphony or a Beatles album. Something original.
Just remember to be kind to your brain.