Birth of a Book – 2

As you can see, this may turn out to be a trashy novel. I’ve moved a few things around, since the original post, added a little more detail, and put Josepha into a situation that she does not want to be in at all. She was only trying to be nice to her mother.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The snow — exceptionally cold for the middle of October — the snow came down in heaps — by the shovelful. Josepha rounded he corner in her Saab, easing the breaks so she wouldn’t go into a skid. Last winter had been treacherous. This winter looked like it would be the beginning of the ice age.

“Global warming!” she snorted under her breath, wiping the mist from the windshield with her gloved hand. But since when did the sky and the sun and the wind read those supposed scientific predictions? They did what they were meant to do. As far as Josepha was concerned, the forces of nature could never really be predicted in a computer model, because there are far too many variables, and variables of variables to consider. The flutter of a butterfly’s wing on one side of the world, may at least figuratively lead to the tornado on the other side of the world. Well, perhaps it didn’t work quite like that, but she knew full well that small things can propel us into situations that later turn out to be great events.

“She slid the car into the driveway, turned off the windshield wipers and the heat and cut the engine.

She trudged up the walk, noting that she would have to be outside again, right after supper with a shovel. This was not the way she wanted to spend her evening. She huffed and puffed up the three flights of stairs to her apartment, turned on the heat and made herself a cup of tea, waiting for the heat to kick in before she took off her coat.

The coat was old, dating from the 1950s, a treasure she had found at a second hand shop. It was getting frayed around the edges, but it was still warmer than anything she had ever owned before.

Catastrophe came in from the bedroom and curled up at her feet. The cat had been part of a litter born in the downstairs neighbor’s apartment. As a kitten he had found his way up the stairs to her apartment, and decided he didn’t want to leave, even though Josepha had dutifully returned him to the home of his birth, several times before she was able to admit she had a pet.

She fixed herself a solitary supper — a cheese omelet with vegetables left from the day before, eating it while reading a science fiction book for company.

The heat began to blow in through the register, warming her back. Between that and her mug of hot tea, she very nearly dozed off, until the phone rang.

“Hello?” She hadn’t looked to see who was on the caller ID, and felt a pang of disappointment when she heard her mother’s voice.

“Josepha, I’m sorry to bother you like this, but I need you over here tonight.”

“I can’t, Mother. I have to be at work early in the morning.
“Look, sweetheart, it’s important, or I wouldn’t ask you to do this. I need you here for a seance.”

“For what?”

“No … There was an intruder last night. Someone broke the lock on the door and I heard all kinds of stuff going on downstairs. I don’t want to be in here alone tonight.”

“You called the locksmith about getting an alarm put on the house?”

“I did, but they won’t be able to come around till next week.”

“You want me to move in with you till then?”

“Not really, no. but would you come over tonight?”

Josepha sighed. “I’ll be there in an hour.” She hung up the phone, put her coat and boots on and headed out the door to make a stab at clearing the front walk. Half an hour later, her hands burning with cold, she put an extra portion of kibble in the bowl for Catastrophe, packed a night gown and a clean blouse in her carryall and headed over to her mother’s row house apartment on the other side of town.

Every time Josepha walked into that house, she felt as though she was walking intoa time warp. It had been built at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. Brownstone facing on the outside, identical with the brownstone facing on the rest of the row of houses going down the block, rather like an apartment building going from side to side, instead of up and down. Inside, her apartment was a tunnel of small, dark rooms, with dark paneling, wainscoting, that rose half way up the walls in all the rooms, including the kitchen. Over the years, her mother had furnished the place with antiques that would have been appropriate to the house when it was first built. She had even found a gas/coal stove for the kitchen, and had been tempted to have the heat converted back to coal, except it would have been far too expensive and messy, even for her mother who loved to dabble with old fashioned things.

Louise met her at the door, her head wrapped in a silk turban, with tassels dangling at the back of her neck. “Mother, that thing on your head. Isn’t that part of last year’s living room curtain? The one you said was too cruddy to use any more?”

“Yes it is, darling. But I couldn’t bare to throw it away. It’s just my colors — and so appropriate for a seance — don’t you think?”

“I thought you said there had been a break-in.”

“There was. Last night. I heard someone slip the door open.”

“You didn’t forget to lock it, did you?”

“Josepha, you know how I feel about locks.”

“Mom, I don’t know how you survived into the twenty-first century.”

“By being true to myself, dear.”

Josepha felt she could have said a lot to that one, but felt it would be better not to. “I’m nearly frozen, and something warm would be good. Shall I fix you something?”

“Oh, no. I’ve already eaten. Wait, there’s some left-over stew. I could warm that up for you.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

When the two of them were seated at the kitchen table, Josepha, breaking up chunks of vegetables with her spoon said, “All right. What is this business about a break-in and a seance?”

“Well, about the seance … Win Allen, from next door should be here in about fifteen minutes, and Loretta said she would come too.”

Josepha sighed. “The break-in?”

“Well, that is why I’m having a seance. You see there was this curious tapping and knocking around in the living room last night, and it kept getting colder and colder. I was mostly asleep, and thought I was dreaming — otherwise I would have come downstairs and found out what the fellow wanted.”

“Was anything missing when you got up this morning?”

“No. Just things moved around. Papers on my desk were not filed where I had put them — letters and things like that were pushed around. But as far as I know, everything was there.”

“I know how you are when you can’t find something — you sift through the contents of eery shelf and drawer, until you decide yo can’t find it, and maybe you’d better replace it.”

“This was nothing like that. He left a message.”

“Oh?”

“There was a note on the coffee table. I found it when I was putting things away. It was from Uncle Jack.”

“He’s been dead for years! Mom, someone is playing a prank on you.”

“No. I know his handwriting.”

“Let me see.”

Louise showed her the note. ‘Lou, I’m coming back. Jack.’ it looked to Josepha as though it could have been written any time — except last night. “Mom, the edge of that paper is singed as though it had been burned.” She held the note out for her mother.

“That? No. He tore it from this note pad. It just has a deckled edge.”

The doorbell rang and Josehpa got up to carry her bowl to the sink. “You go answer your door. I’ll take care of the dishes.”

Louise headed to the living room and Josepha peaked around the corner on her way to the kitchen, to see who had come. Win stood at the door, stamping the snow from his boots. “I’m glad you’ve come to your senses, Louise. You know, I’ve been telling you for years this place was haunted.”

Louise took his coat and hung it in the closet, then settled down on the couch with a flirtatious sigh. “You are so right.”

Josepha ground her teeth and filled the kettle with fresh water for tea. Three minutes later, she put the tea in the pot to steep and answered the door to Loretta’s timid knock.

Loretta was thin and always cold. Even on the warmest days in the summer, she would wear a heavy dress, stockings and a sweater. This evening, she did not want to take off her coat. “Oh, don’t bother with it. I’ll take it off when I get warm.” Louise invited them out to the dining room where Josepha had arranged the tea pot and a tray filled with cookies. They each filled their cups and sipped uncomfortably until Win got up, saying, “I’ll take over here. I know more about this sort of thing than any of you. Alistair used to be my neighbor, when I was a little boy. Oh, you may not believe me, but it’s true. He was my neighbor and I used to sit on his knee…”

Josepha wanted to throw something at him, but she refrained. Louise gathered up the tea things and took them to the kitchen. She brought back four long white tapers with candlesticks holders to the table. “Now, we’ll just light these and turn out the overhead, and then we’ll be ready to begin.”

Josepha sat down between Win, who might have learned something from Alistair, whoever he was, and Loretta. Her mother completed the circle. It had been a long day for Josepha. She worked as a legal secretary in a private practice. She saw plenty going on in that office. Her boss was in trouble. Maybe he was winning too many law-suits. Crazy things did happen in a criminal law office. But she didn’t want to think about those things tonight. The flickering candles, coupled with Win Allen’s droning voice, repeating over and over again something about calling the spirits to communicate with them that night, made her feel heavy with sleep. She tried to stay awake, but she could not keep her eyes open. Win’s voice continued to drone, and spirals of smoke from the candles circled around the room. The next thing she knew, the lights were turned back on and her mother was beaming at her. “Josepha, I never knew!”

Josepha stretched her legs and looked around. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep like that.”

Win stood up, grasped her hand in both of his and deposited a sloppy kiss on her fingers. Josepha couldn’t wait for him to let her go, so she could head to the bathroom to wash her hands.

“You, you are … I have never seen anyone like you.” Loretta held Josepha’s other hand and wept, dripping tears on her.

Josepha tried to stand up, saying, “I think I need to get home to bed.”

Louise put her arm around Josepha’s shoulders. “No, dear. After what you have been through, you are going to spend the night right here. I’ll fix up the guest room for you.”

The guest room wasn’t quite as creepy as the rest of the house. The bed wasn’t more than a hundred years old, and it did have a new mattress — at least it wasn’t original to the bed. She really was tired, so she permitted herself to be lead off by her mother, while Win Allen and Loretta James let themselves out the door.

What does Josepha want?

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Frustration of the One Person Office Manager

Frustration builds up as I look at all my failed strategies for getting free advertising. One thing sticks in my mind, however, as I sit here grinding my teeth, and that is the dictum that potential clients must see your ads at least five times before they decide to call you up or send an email. That means that having a presence, not only online in at least a dozen places, but also in person, at social and civic gatherings, is a must. It takes patience and continuous effort, much like writing a book does. And writing books is what I do, so I should definitely be familiar with the concepts of patience and perseverance. Not so. Results have to come now. This minute, or — or — I’ll have to pay for my ads. Brrr.

They say one needs to be work continuously in order to make a living as a writer. There is truth to that. However it needs to be balanced. It is also a must – a necessity — to put that pen away after a couple of hours to avoid burn-out. I must have the energy to pick up again where I left off the day before. It means pacing myself. Runners and athletes know what that is about. It means not expending all your energy in one burst, so that you have the stamina to get to the end of the track.

And round it goes again. I need that advertising up and running. One of these days I really will get it together to be able to keep all my balls in the air at once — projects out on time, ads constantly running and a steady stream of people knocking at my door with projects they need to have written. Dream on. Dream on, kid. When the projects are due I work on those, and let the ads ride. Then at the end of the project, I’m scrambling for more ads. That’s the way it is for all of us working alone.

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Tired of the Foolishness, or, Do Lists Make You Feel Safe?


I am part of the Baby Boomer generation. In my youth I was definitely on the side of those fighting for a peaceful, reasonable world. We did fight for that, and I suppose it could be said that we almost won. But, almost doesn’t cut it, and never did. We got side-tracked with the new age brand of consciousness raising and meditation shticks. We stopped demanding that our government clean itself up and that our corporations begin to value people over money.

It has also been said that we lost interest in that fight. You could argue that family responsibilities overtook us. Now, our children and grandchildren sit, high on prescription drugs so that they can sit still in school long enough to do the busy-work the school departments insist they must do, while the rest of us zone out in front of our televisions and computers. The more I read, the more obvious it is that our world is ruled by a crew of sociopaths, people utterly lacking conscience and whose only goal in life is to amass more money and power.

Then I read of the laws enacted by the money junkies’ lackeys, the U.S. Congress. The most recent one that raised my ire is a full frontal attack on free speech, though most people either do not know it exists, or they are laughing about how absurd this law is. Let me explain. The Department of Homeland Security, otherwise known as the DHS have decided in their wisdom, and their sense of protecting the government and corporate heads, that the vocabulary we use on the internet is worthy of study. Their desire is to weed out anyone who might possibly think, or want to talk about problems in our world, along with ideas and ways to fix those problems. They have published a list of words and said that anyone who uses any of the words on this list, and there are 377 of them, folks, is worthy of being watched as a potential terrorist.

Here is that list of words. Read it and laugh.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ~ Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) ~ Coast Guard (USCG) ~ Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) ~ Border Patrol ~ Secret Service (USSS)~ National Operations Center (Noc) ~ Homeland Defense ~ Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) ~ Agent [yes, you’ve got it, it is no longer safe to mention the word ‘agent’ on the internet] ~ Task Force ~ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ~ Fusion Center ~ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) ~ Secure Border Initiative (SBI) ~ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ~ Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) ~ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) ~ Federal Air Marshal Services (FAMS) ~ Transportation Security Administration (TSA) ~ Air Marshal ~ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ~ National Guard ~ Red Cross ~ United Nations (UN) ~

The list becomes more ridiculous the farther you read: Assassination ~ Attack ~ Domestic security ~ [We can no longer safely talk and write about – ] Drill ~ Exercise ~ Cops ~ Law enforcement ~ Authorities ~ Disaster assistance ~ Disaster management ~ DNDO (Domestic Nuclear Detection Office) ~ National preparedness ~ Mitigation [And it is no longer safe to speak of problems being mitigated!] ~ Prevention ~ Response ~ Recovery ~ Dirty bomb ~

Domestic nuclear detection ~ Emergency management ~ Emergency response ~ First responder ~ Homeland security ~ Maritime domain awareness (MDA) ~ National preparedness initiative ~ Militia Shooting ~ Shots fired ~ Evacuation ~ Deaths ~ Hostage ~ Explosion (explosive) ~ Police ~ Disaster medical assistance team (DMAT)

Organized crime ~ Gangs ~ National security ~ State of emergency ~ Security ~ Breach ~ Threat ~ Standoff ~ SWAT ~ Screening ~ Lockdown ~ Bomb (squad or threat) ~

Crash ~ Riot ~ Emergency ~ Landing ~ pipe bomb ~ Incident ~ Facility ~ Hazmat ~ Nuclear [it might be possible to use this word if you misspell it the way Bush II was famous for – nuculer] ~ Chemical spill ~ Suspicious package/device ~ Toxic ~ National laboratory ~ Nuclear facility ~ Nuclear threat ~ Cloud [What are we supposed to call those big white things that float in the sky anyway?] ~ Plume ~ Radiation ~ Radioactive ~ Leak ~

Biological infection (or event) ~ Chemical [Chemicals are pretty common things, but we can’t even mention them any more.] ~ Chemical burn ~ Biological ~ Epidemic ~ Hazardous ~ Hazardous material incident ~ Industrial spill [I know our industries never make mistakes. Nothing ever gets spilled that shouldn’t - so I guess that’s why it’s no longer safe to even mention that sort of thing.] ~ Infection ~ Powder (white) Gas ~ Spillover ~ Anthrax ~ Blister agent ~ Chemical agent ~

Exposure ~ Burn ~ Sarin ~ North Korea ~ Outbreak ~ Contamination ~ Exposure [again? This must be a very significant word.] ~ Virus ~ Evacuation ~ Bacteria ~ Recall ~ Ebola ~ Food Poisoning ~ Foot and Mouth (FMD) ~H5N1 ~ Avian ~ Flu ~ Salmonella ~ Small Pox ~ Plague ~ Human to human ~ Human to Animal ~ Influenza ~ Center for Disease Control (CDC) ~ Drug Administration (FDA) ~ Public Health ~ Toxic Agro [Toxic Agro - Think about it, that’s their term for the food we buy in our grocery stores] ~ Terror Tuberculosis (TB) [TB used to mean simply tuberculosis. This term, terror tuberculosis makes it sound as though there is an underground lab somewhere, where they are turning TB into a weapon of mass destruction.]

Agriculture [Most of the family farms are gone. I guess talking about it makes us dangerous.] ~ Listeria ~ Symptoms ~ Mutation ~ Resistant ~ Antiviral ~ Wave ~ Pandemic ~ Water/air borne ~ Sick [The entire list is sick, if you ask me.] ~ Swine ~ Pork [Now it’s gone from something Jews and Muslims could not eat, to something nobody can even speak of!] ~ Strain ~ Quarantine ~ H1N1 ~ Vaccine ~ Tamiflu ~ Norvo Virus ~ Epidemic ~ World Health Organization (Who)(and components) ~ Viral Hemorrhagic Fever ~ E. Coli ~ Infrastructure Security ~

Airport ~ CIKR (Critical Infrastructure & Key Resources) ~ AMTRAK [Our trains are vastly inferior to the trains in Europe. Maybe it’s just putting Amtrak all in capital letters that is dangerous!] ~ Collapse ~ Computer infrastructure ~ Communications infrastructure ~ Telecommunications ~ Critical infrastructure ~ National infrasturcture ~ Metro ~ WMATA ~ Airplane (and derivatives) ~ Chemical fire ~ Subway ~ BART ~ MARTA ~ Port Authority ~ NBIC (National Biosurveillanxce Integration Center) ~ Transportation security ~

Grid ~ Power ~ Smart ~ Body scanner ~ Electric ~ Failure or outage ~ Black out ~ Brown out ~ Port ~ Dock ~ Bridge ~ Delays ~ Service disruption ~ Power lines ~ Drug cartel ~

Violence ~ Gang ~ Drug ~ Narcotics ~ Heroin ~ Border ~ Mexico ~ Cartel ~ Southwest ~ Juarez ~ Sinaloa ~ Tijuana ~ Torreon ~ Yuma ~ Tucson ~ Decapitated [Now we can’t mention it if it loses it’s head.] ~

U.S. Consulate ~ Consular ~ El Paso ~ Fort Hancock ~ San Diego ~ Ciudad Juarez ~ Nogales ~ Sonora ~ Columbia ~ Mara Salvatrucha ~ MS13 or MS-13 ~ Drug war [For years there’s been this so-called war on drugs, and now we’re not even supposed to mention it!] ~ Mexican army ~

Methamphetamine ~ Cartel de Golfo ~ Gulf Cartel ~ La Familia ~ Reynosa ~ Nuevo Leon ~ Narcos ~ Narco banners (Spanish equivalents) ~ Los Zetas ~

Shootout ~ Execution ~ Gunfight ~ Trafficking ~ Kidnap ~ Calderon ~ Reyosa ~ Bust ~ Tamaulipas ~ Meth Lab ~ Drug Trade ~ Illegal immigrants ~

Smuggling (smugglers) ~ Matamoros ~ Michoacana ~ Guzman ~ Arellano-Felix ~ Beltran-Leyva ~ Barrio Azteca ~ Artistic Assassins ~ Mexicles ~ New Federation ~ Terrorism ~ Al Qaeda (all spellings) ~

Terror ~ Attack ~ Iraq ~ Afghanistan ~ Iran ~ Pakistan ~ Agro ~ Environmental terrorist ~ Eco Terrorism ~ Conventional weapon ~ Target ~ Weapons grade ~ Dirty bomb ~ Enriched ~ Nuclear ~ Chemical Weapon ~ Biological weapon ~ Ammonium nitrate ~ Improvised explosive device ~ IED (Improvized Explosive Device) ~

Abu Sayyaf ~ Hamas ~ Farc (Armed Revolutionary Forces Columbia) ~ IRA (Irish Republican Army) ~ ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna) ~ Basque Separatists ~ Hezbollah ~ Tamil Tigers ~ PLF (Palestine Liberation Front) ~ PLO (Palistine Liberation Organization) ~

Car bomb ~ Jihad ~ Taliban ~ Weapons cache ~ Suicide bomber ~ Suicide attack ~ Suspicious substance ~ AQAP (Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula) ~ AQIM (Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb) ~ TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) ~ Yemen ~
Pirates [Now, which pirates is it that we should not mention any more?] ~ Extremism ~ Somalia ~ Nigeria ~ Radicals ~ Al-Shabaab ~ Home grown ~ Plot ~ Nationalist ~ Fundamentalism ~ Islamist ~

Emergency [Now we aren’t even supposed to speak of the weather!] ~ Hurricane ~ Tornado ~ Twister ~ Tsunami ~ Earthquake ~ Tremor ~ Flood ~ Storm ~ Crest ~ Temblor ~ Extreme weather ~

Forest fire ~ Brush fire ~ Ice ~ Stranded/Stuck ~ Help [So, if we ask for help, or offer to give any, we’re terrorists?] ~ Hail ~ Wildfire ~ Tsunami Warning Center ~ Magnitude ~ Avalanche ~ Typhoon ~ Shelter-in-place ~ Disaster ~ Snow ~ Blizzard ~ Sleet ~ Mud slide or Mudslide ~ Erosion ~ Power outage ~ Brown out ~ Lightening ~ Aid ~ Relief ~ Closure ~ Interstate ~ Burst ~

Emergency Broadcast System ~ Cyber security ~ Botnet ~ DDOS (dedicated denial of service) ~ Denial of service ~ Malware ~ Virus ~ Trojan ~ Keylogger ~ Cyber Command ~ 2600 ~ Spammer ~ Phishing ~ Rootkit ~ Phreaking ~ Cain and abel ~ Brute forcing ~ Mysql injection ~ Cyber attack ~ Cyber terror ~ Hacker ~ China ~ Conficker ~ Worm ~ Scammers ~ Social media [And anything having to do with our computers is off limits?]

Essentially what is happening is; now that everything we post and everything we send through the email is monitored, when we speak or write of the topics in this list, we will be considered to be potential terrorists. We will be considered to be people worth watching. We may perhaps even considered for indefinite detention. In case you haven’t figured it out, our government is no longer by and for the people, it is by and for the corporations, and it deserves to be undermined in whatever ways we can think to do that.

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Book Review ~ Caleb’s Crossing and Mrs. Tomb Thumb

Mrs. Tom Thumb; Melanie Benjamin; Delacorte Press; New York 2011

Caleb’s Crossing; Geraldine Brooks; Penguin Group; New York: 2012

Both these books deal with guilt, the part that religion plays in augmenting it, and how people come to terms with it in their lives. By guilt, I refer to that grave sense of responsibility towards our families and the communities around us, that we have very little control over.

Melanie Benjamin wrote a story of what the wife of the Tom Thumb of PT Barnum fame may have been like as a person. For the historical novelist, piecing together from the known data, based on the historical record, and what we know of the mores, as they existed, is a painstaking task. The novelist must then balance his research against everything he understands of the human experience. When the job is done skillfully, the reader has a novel that can bring a world alive that is distant in both space and time.

Some things we know about Mrs. Tom thumb, or Vinnie Bump. We know that she was a perfectly proportioned dwarf, who as an adult stood little more than two feet high. We know that she had a younger sister, Minnie, who was also a perfectly proportioned dwarf, somewhat smaller than she was. We know about the publicity surrounding these two people, and Charles Stratton, the original Tom Thumb. We know bits and pieces of the back story of their lives, enough to be able to piece some tantalizing things together, and surmise how those people felt about their lives, and what it may have been like for them.

Geraldine Brooks started with even flimsier material than did Melanie Benjamin. All she had was the name of a young man, Cheeshahteeaumauk, who was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. He was born in 1646, and when he entered college, his instructors and fellow students knew him as Caleb. He died, soon after his graduation, of consumption. Those are the facts. That is all we know of him. Ms. Brooks used everything she could glean of society, both white and Indian to create a lucid story.

Both these authors dealt with times and places when religion shaped what we thought and felt of the world in ways most of us would find not only foreign but stultifying. For generations, adults in the US paid very little attention to religion. We looked to religion for peace during times of sorrow and ease from traumatic events, but most of us did not permit it to rule our lives. Most of us never knew what it means to permit religion to decide for us what we should feel guilty about.

Vinnie Bumb, and her younger sister Minnie, had been born to a farm family, and because of their diminutive size, their family wanted to protect them from the rest of the world, in a state of perpetual, helpless childhood. Vinnie had no desire to put up with that. She wrote a letter to PT Barnum, essentially saying, here I am if you want me for your show. He was enthralled with her, and within a few months he introduced her to General Tom Thumb. The two little people gave shows all over the world, and were married in a ceremony that rivaled the weddings of any royal personages of that time.

Back at home, Minnie missed her sister tremendously, and decided to leave the cocoon her family had made for her, to travel the world with Mrs. Tom Thumb. During that time, she met and married a man, and got pregnant. Minnie Bumb died in childbirth. Standing just over two feet tall — slightly shorter than her older sister Vinnie — she was surely not built to carry a full sized infant to term. In the 1860s, Caesarean sections were practically unknown. She absolutely refused to have an abortion, preferring to sacrifice herself so that her baby might live.

Vinnie blamed herself for having taken her sister out into the world, where she would meet and fall in love with a man. And she blamed herself for never having talked with her sister about what makes babies and what the birth process would involve.

Vinnie was never a highly religious person, however a fatalistic brand of Christianity was part of the culture. For her, there was no such thing as mitigating circumstances. She was guilty of her sister’s death. She saw herself as the cause, and her family treated her as though she had outright killed her sister.

The main character in Geraldine Brooks’ story is Bethia, a name that her father tells her means servant. It is his fervent wish that she grow up to be a good servant. Her father is minister to a small settlement on Great Harbor Island, in the early 1600s. Her friendship with the Indian boy who became Caleb, was the beginning of her overriding sense of guilt. She went out wandering in the hills, against her father’s orders. The boy and the girl meet, and teach each other their languages. She shows him what it is to read. He is an intelligent youth. By the time Bethia’s father met him, he has learned to speak English and read a little Latin. Her father believes it would be wonderful if he could tutor the boy so that he could enter Harvard College, which at that time did have a building and dormitory built specifically for Indian students, if any could be persuaded to go there.

However, as far as Bethia is concerned, if she had not befriended him, he would not have been drawn to leave his family and his culture and he would never have felt compelled to enter Harvard College to study to be a minister.

The society the real Caleb lived in was exceedingly prejudiced against Indians. They were clean and free, as compared with white society at that time, and therefore immoral. Religion, especially the Christian religion, has so often been used as a standard by which to denigrate foreign societies and foreign ways of understanding the world. The guilt-laden lives of the Christians who settled this country during those early years have been described in many books, and by many authors. Ms. Brooks treats the characters in her story tenderly, against the backdrop of what we know happened — that white society, right or wrong, inevitably overpowered everything around it.

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My Disaffection with Medicine

My sister is a Christian Scientist. This is a religion that I personally would not want to have to follow. This religion does not fit my world view, and it does not give me a sense of spiritual wholeness. However, after reading the many ways Big Pharma has subverted the practice of medicine to the point that I can see many positive things about turning my back on anything promoted by the AMA.

Iatrogenic, or physician caused death in this country is among the foremost causes of death. Before the 1960s, when the push to find a cure for cancer began to be promoted at increasing rates, death from that ailment stood at 1:225. One out of 225 people in our population were dying of it. Now, after years of study and money being poured into it from many sources, the ratio is one out of three people dying of cancer related illnesses.

Yes, put the hype aside concerning global warming and it becomes obvious that we really do need to clean up our environment. Industrial pollutants in our air and water kill off not only us but the wildlife as well and many of them do cause cancer. When we read any articles on food and nutrition, it becomes obvious that the food sold in our grocery stores is not safe to eat. We are aging faster than our parents and grand parents did. All you have to do to see that is to compare photographs of yourself with photos of your parents, and if you can find any, your grandparents, taken at the same age. Almost invariably, they appear to be healthier than we do.

Back to cancer. Chemotherapy, the standard cure permitted for the typical cancer patient in the US, kills. It stops all cell growth. If the patient is lucky, it may stop the growth of the cancer cells. But while it does that, it kills the patient’s immune system, thus making it impossible for that patient to fight off other illnesses. This wholesale destruction of the immune system encourages cancer cells to spread throughout the body. The next item in the medical arsenal is radiation therapy. Now any semi-literate person in our society knows that radiation causes cancer. The use of concentrated blasts of radiation, strong enough to kill a horse — well, the logic of this goes beyond me.

What prevents cancer in the first place. Being healthy. Cancer growths are a sign that the body is dying. Anoxia, or the lack of oxygen in the cells, is necessary for tumor growth. Experiments have shown that when the cells are perfused with oxygen, tumors do not grow.

At this point, my desire is to learn all I can about diet and herbal medicine in order to help promote a healthier life style for everyone close to me. Is the brand of positive thinking promoted by Christian Science helpful? At least it won’t hurt.

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Children of Divorce

Much has been written about the children of divorce — the pain they feel — the utter sense of loss they experience when they know they can only live with one or the other parent. So many of us wonder for years what our lives would have been like, if we had lived instead with the parent who left. Most of all, we wonder how our lives would have been if our parents had been able to work through their differences and stay together. The pain we have experienced when the dominant parent told us that the parent who left deserted us because he/she did not care about us. Whether or not those things were true, we believed them because that was all we were told, over and over by the one person we should have been able to trust most of all.

The pain the other parent experiences, knowing that his children are being taught lies, and knowing there is nothing they can do to show them how much they always do care is not spoken of as much. There are as many reasons for marriage relationships to fail as there are marriages. The sudden lack of money spells doom for countless middle class marriages. When we live one paycheck away from losing our homes, our emotional lives suffer incredibly from the stress.

These days, young men are choosing not to marry. They have no reason to, when the dating culture permits them to sleep with anyone they want. Men are hard wired to desire casual sex, while women would like to have something much more dependable than that. However, when most men can get all the sex they want, along with a little bit of companionship, now and then, marriage presents nothing but a trap and a financial drain. Unfortunately, children are left in the lurch.

I experienced both traumas. First, when I was a child my father left, and I did not see him again for many years. Would it have been easier to process if he had died, instead of merely leaving? I missed him, and I wanted to continue to send letters to him, which my mother would not permit.

Second, when my marriage broke up, I lost my children to my X-husband, and I have only seen them a few times since. They are grown up and on their own now, and they are terribly angry that I was not with them when they needed me, and that I did not fight hard enough to be able to keep them. Circumstances can tie our hands in ways that our children are in no position to be able to understand. They do not know how I did fight, the money spent on lawyers who did not help. All I can do now is tell them I love them, and that feels like the most inadequate thing there is to say or do.

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Is It Global Warming?

There was something about Al Gore’s smarmy attitude in his famous film, An Inconvenient Truth that I found extraordinarily difficult to swallow. When I first saw the movie, I thought, yeah, there might be a problem, but what he is saying sounds exaggerated. And yes, it would be an excellent idea to thoroughly explore other forms of energy, but how badly do we want companies like Enron® and The Koch Brothers to spear-head such initiatives? As far as I am concerned, the answer is absolutely not.

The top corporations in this country are ruled by greed. No matter how deeply you dig, you will not find an idealistic desire to serve humanity on any of their boards. Their interest is first, foremost and always to make money. It is against the law for a corporation not to make money for its stockholders. So, why would I want to trust an initiative that comes from a suite of multinational corporations? Corporations that have made a tradition of making environmental messes, and leaving those messes for everyone else to clean up?

Now, Al Gore, who is profiting mightily from his ties to multinational corporations, is promoting the idea that the world we know will be destroyed by us, because we breathe, creating carbon dioxide, and fart creating methane gas, two of the most well known greenhouse gasses. The fact is; the moneys collected from us in the name of global warming make his corporations wealthier, and that feels like a scam.
My first thought about CO2 is that if it is really such a problem, we should be madly planting trees. We should be putting trees and other plants in any soil that can possibly support them. We should be planting gardens on city street corners. In case anyone has forgotten, plants thrive on CO2.

Carbon dioxide does not lead temperature fluctuations, it follows them by as much as 800 years. The periodic melting and freezing of the Arctic and Ant-arctic ice floes is caused by the sun’s activities. The polar regions on every other planet in our solar system expand and contract in time with ours, proving that it is the sun that causes these changes.

CO2 follows rather than leads temperature rise and falls. The loss of the Gulf Stream due to the Gulf Oil spill has caused greater changes in the earth’s temperature than any atmospheric gasses we may be emitting. The Gulf Stream used to travel up our east coast, across the North Atlantic to the eastern coast of Europe, south around
Africa [check map] and across the Pacific, down to our west coast, carrying warm water all the way. This helped ensure that the bulk of the earth had a temperate climate, by raising the temperature of the winds blowing in from the ocean.

Now, due to the disruption caused by the Gulf Oil Spill, which has never been cleaned up because more leaks are being found, that warm water is pooling off our east coast. It no longer makes its global circuit. That is why Europe suffered such intensely cold winters this year and last year and why we, along the East Coast never had a killing frost for the fall of 2011, and such a mild winter. That was not global warming — that was regional warming, warming of a small area of land, overbalanced by large regions of the globe freezing more than they had for many years.

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Grammar Woes

I never thought of myself as being a grammar priss. Grammar was among those things that I learned at my mother’s knee. In truth, if you hear good English spoken at home, you’ll always know what it’s supposed to sound like. Unfortunately, if you do not hear it as a young child, then you have to learn it later. Most people who need to learn good, standard English for their work and for their daily lives, will do so. We do many things because we must, in order to reach our goals.

I clearly recall sitting through endless hours in English class listening to the teacher talk ad nauseum about the agreement of nouns and verbs and the use of adverbs and adjectives. The lessons in comma usage tended to result in deep coma, not to be relieved until the bell rang for the next class. I felt strongly that the continuous drill stifled creativity. Rules were being shoved at us, whether we appreciated them or not. Those rules always came with a long list of exceptions, so that I could never trust them. From that experience, I learned not to trust any other rules. What made it even more difficult was that our teachers never lost a chance to tell us that the way we had learned to talk was wrong. Our parents had not taught us correct English. They had the gall to imply that our parents had taught us wrong.

This tactic has always been an excellent way to fill class after class of high school students with a life long sense of degradation. If they don’t talk right, and their parents don’t talk right, then they really can’t do anything right. Surely there must be a better way to teach English than that. English used to be a rich and powerful language, until newspaper editors set the standard, decreeing that no words more than five letters long should ever be used. Our dictionaries are smaller than they were, even in the 1930s.

Now, we have college graduates have numerous letters after their names and who spent untold thousands of dollars to get what they thought would be a good education. Yet, these graduates do not know how to compose a meaningful string of sentences.
It is a depressing state of affairs, to say the least. When you read the work of a person who lacks the skill and the no-how to write clearly and choose their words with care. Because of this, it is far too easy to distrust what they have to say. This inability is now so widespread, I wonder if it is not due, at least in part, to the chemicals in the water, such as the fluoride, which we know lowers IQ in children. All I can say is, if you are unsure of what is good, standard usage and what is not, do not be afraid to look things up, and keep on reading and writing.

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Another Rant


The news coming in over the internet is depressing, with the bankers pushing the world inexorably towards a full blow-out world war. Most of the people in this country appear to expect that the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, along with our vastly over-stretched troops will be a defense against nearly every other country in the world. And I read that our troops are no longer fighting for the people of the United States, but to support the dictates of the United Nations. I also read that our policemen and our troops are being trained to bring the war home to US citizens living within the continental United States, even if other countries are not able to ship their bombs over to obliterate us as we obliterate them. Our government is doing such a grand job of promoting fear that there are terrorists in our midst.

I look at the people around me — a good two thirds of whom have minds numbed by anti-psychotics. It is a known fact that everyone alive can be given a diagnosis within moments of walking into a psychiatrists office. A diagnosis that can presumably be ‘fixed’ by a dozen or more pills that are now on the market. The population of this country now consumes about eighty percent of the anti-psychotics produced in the entire world. Do these pills make us emotionally healthier and more capable of dealing with the problems of daily living? I would hardly expect so, when the pills most highly prescribed are associated with high rates of suicide. People who don’t go so far as to commit suicide find that their ability to think, reason and create has been dampened. They also find that it is not an easy matter to simply stop taking those drug, as their brain function has been altered.

When we admittedly know so little about the brain’s chemistry and what we do know is clouded by the hard-selling techniques of the drug industry. “Are you off your game? Ask your doctor about ___, you name it – any of a dozen candy colored pills. He will happily prescribe one or all of them for you. Our corporations have substituted high pressure sales techniques for establishing a bond of trust with their clientele, proving that nothing they produce and sell can be trusted. Not only that, it is now illegal for private citizens to sue a drug company for false advertising. Only another corporation can do that. Generally such law-suits between corporations are along the lines of; “Well, you can’t tell those lies about your product, because we’re already telling those lies about our product.” This is supposed to ensure fair advertising. Then the corporations end their differences by agreeing to buy each other out.

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Daylight Savings

I never did like the change of time, back and forth, from Winter to Summer. Jumping ahead an hour from the time that fits most readily into my circadian rhythms every spring becomes more of an imposition each year. Most years, I have not managed to adjust to the time change till the end of the summer. Those people who must be up early will be up. For those people who are lucky enough to not have to be up early, or who work through the night and sleep during the day, moving the time on the clock back or forwards an hour changes little of their day. To insist to the rest of the world that they must get up early as well is inhumane as well as unsafe. Think of the number of near-miss accidents you encounter every day as you drive to and from work, and then recall that when Daylight Savings time arrives at the end of winter, everyone out on that road is at least an hour short of sleep time. It’s enough to give you nightmares.

People who have nothing else to do with themselves in the evening except turn ot the lights and go to bed will almost inevitably wake up early. The rest of us have umpteen dozen things to do in order to prepare for the next day of work. And the more tired we are when we set out to do those chores, the longer they take to do, creating a vicious circle of staying up later at night and needing to sleep in later during the morning. This creates annoying and even dangerous situations in the work place.

This year, daylight savings is an even more difficult adjustment, as I find myself sleeping in even later than I would otherwise. Old age? Perhaps. So, when I would have been up at six thirty in the morning, before the time changed, I am now up at eight thirty, which with the clocks turned ahead is nine thirty, and my entire day is spent trying to get all my assignments out, and still go to bed at a reasonable time. This is not always possible, when I have a late evening meeting to attend.

Oh, there are times I wish I did not have to sleep at all, and just work and play round the clock. But, that would be tiresome, wouldn’t it.

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Advertising Your Presence

If I were a street merchant calling out my wares, I would be in the town square with my cart filled with packages of vellum and bottles of inks that I had made according to recipes that I would insist were secrets handed down for untold generations. My carefully sharpened quills would be lined up in trays and drawers, ready to be used, and I would be calling, “Letters, memoirs, speeches, books copied,” until my voice was hoarse. For that is the way people once sold what they had to offer.

Who knows, after the next nuclear war, we may be back to doing that sort of thing. In the meantime, I am scrambling to figure out how to get word out to those great hordes, just itching to plunk a few dollars down to have their stories written. Yes, there are all kinds of places on the internet where it is possible to advertise — places that no one has ever heard of. It’s sort of like putting up a sign behind a high fence where no one will be able to see it, and paying for the privilege to leave it there.

Then there are things like Google adwords that work for a few weeks. But you have to be savvy enough to change your key words often so that your ad continues to run at the top of the list. These ads cost money, and it often feels like Google charges you even if no one ever goes to your website.

And, there is that great market place, Craigslist. It is good in that shoppers know about it. If your ad stands out in some way, and you are able to keep it running fairly steadily, it’s not a bad place to advertise. However, Craigslist changes its rules. Now, they only permit people to advertise within their local areas. This is a shame, as some of the best customers I have picked up on Craigslist were across the country from where I conduct my business.

This leaves building up your website in order to improve your search engine ratings. Then when you have fixed your website and fixed your website, the SEO gurus tell you to build up your presence on the networking sites, such as Facebook and Linked in. I discovered that I could easily spend hours on these sites, presenting my business to other business men who would not be likely to be my customers.

Those websites where you could post articles to be shared with other websites, in order to create backlinks to your website largely discredited by Google, though Manta is at the top of many of the ratings, so I am giving them a try.

So, what are some good ways to get your name out there? Newspaper articles get it out on a local level. Paid ads in a newspaper don’t tend to work as well. In order to get a new srelease printed, you have to onvince an editor that you have a story that is interesting for his paper. It takes courage to do that, but it can be done. I need to make a note to myself to call the newspaper office about that. Then there is the job of creating back links. Some of those supposed back-link creators are simply bots that crawl over the web, leaving canned messages on people’s blogs. You can tell when your blog has been invaded by one of those bots, as there is something wrong with every one of their messages. Usually it’s a misspelled word. That leaves writing guest articles on other people’s blogs and websties. So, every day I leave a post on someone’s blog. Maybe, this work will pay off.

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Women and Math

I’ve been tutoring mathematics intensely for the past three years, both person-to-person and over the phone, mostly with college or high school students.

What I’ve noticed is that, of the students who used my services, more were women than men. Most of my students are in school and college. I didn’t notice any difference in mathematical ability when comparing the women and men. Both men and women had trouble with similar material. For example, even at the college level, many students have trouble with fractions. And, of the those who ask for tutors, the women seemed to be more interested in a personal connection. They were more likely to provide their names, and to include little pieces of information about their situation. But, again, mathematically, I didn’t see a difference between the men and the women.

B’Shalom,
David
www.grinsteintutoring.com

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A Guide to the Three Basic Points of View

I read a lot of books. Reading is part of my job. I read to know and understand the sorts of things that have sold well and the sorts of things that are selling well. I read analytically to see how different writers handle problems within their narratives. Through all this reading, I have found that a lot of new writers have only a clumsy understanding of the three basic points of view.

Each of these points of view, First, Second and Third person, has both possibilities and limitations that the others do not.

First person is as though either the main character, or one who is observing the action is telling the story. This narrator cannot tell what he did not actually see, unless someone has told him about it, or he has surmised what happened, when he was somewhere else and the characters he speaks of were busy pushing the story forward. In both cases, the narrator has to tell the reader where he got the information.

This form of story telling is immediate and it is as old as time. When done well, It is as though the main character, or at least someone who knew him well, were sitting in front of you and telling you everything that happened. He can tell you what he was thinking and feeling, and he can tell you everything he knows about the other characters. He can tell you everything that goes on in his own mind, but he can only guess at what the other characters are thinking and feeling. First person brings an intimate and informal feeling into the story you are writing, and it is interesting to play with, to see how you can express your story through one character’s insight.

Second person is a less intimate, more formal approach. The narrator still limits his observations to one character, but he does not speak through that specific character’s mouth. It is as though he is the observing angel, telling the story through a specific character’s point of view.

Third person, or third person omniscient is perhaps the most popular way to tell a story. Here the writer speaks as the all powerful creator, delving into all his character’s minds and souls. He may choose to devote a scene to each of his main characters, or switch from one to another as the action in the narrative suggests. This method offers the most freedom and for that reason, may take longer for the neophyte writer to develop. It is still a less intimate way to tell a story than first person. However as the omniscient god of his characters, he can insert observations and direct his readers’ attention to certain conclusions in ways that first person cannot. This is perhaps the most sophisticated way to tell your story.

These are merely the basics of a certain aspect of writing. But no matter how you choose to tell your story, perhaps the most important piece of advice I could give you is to have fun with it. When it is not enjoyable for you, your readers will get turned off to what you have to say.

Happy writing!

V=

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Taking the Blame


The son of a good friend of mine killed himself. She came to synagogue that first Shabbat after the police had told her of his death and, of course, she was utterly devastated.

She sat and wept throughout the service, overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, and she was upset and angry with herself for never having found the words that would have reached her son to reassure him that his life was not worthless and that he did have good things to live for. “I should have been the one to die — not my son!” A circle of women surrounded her, hugged her, held her hand and brought Kleenex for her to use.

Every woman who has ever had a horrific argument with one of her children can imagine what my friend experienced. Every woman in there who has ever been estranged from any of her children knows what she was going through. His death was not her fault. At least she had done everything she knew to prevent his death. And yet, he stayed home from work one day, shut himself up in his apartment and shot himself.

I have often quipped that God put mothers on this earth in order to carry the blame for all the pain their children experience throughout their lives. Due to many things, including the fact that I could not be with them when they were growing up, two of my sons will not speak to me. Each of them has his own reasons for this — fear, anger, the belief that their mother never did love them enough. And there is no way I could convince them otherwise.

Life does throw some pretty shitty bricks our way and, I suppose, it does make it easier if we can blame our parents, especially our mothers, for all the pain we have to endure. I have certainly done my share of blaming my mother.

The self help books out on the market nearly always say that no matter how awful things may be in our lives, we always have choices as to what we will do and how we will deal with those difficult situations in our lives. This is true to a point. At one time, we were all at the mercy of our parents and of situations that were far beyond our control. We had no choice then but to learn how to put up with it and to roll with the punches. The problem was, we were too little to understand the dynamic of our parents’ relationship towards us, so we took their abuse personally, believing that we deserved it, and blaming ourselves for the way they treated us. We spend the rest of our lives learning what we can do and what we can not do, in order to make things better for ourselves and the people we care about.

So, how does this tie in with the guilt we carry as mothers and the guilt we heap on our mothers’ heads? It takes a long time to realize that learning how to fo9rgive and to understand our own strengths and limitations is part of becoming an adult. Learning how to deal with the blame heaped on our own heads as our children wrestle with the job of keeping their lives together is the second aspect of growing up. Telling your irate children that you did the best you could, with the knowledge and resources you had, apparently never satisfies them. But you can’t take it personally.

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To Vote or Not

We have all been taught that as citizens of this fair democracy, we are obligated to vote. It is our duty to do so. Furthermore we have been taught that not voting would be an insult to those many fair women who fought so hard to ensure that the right to vote would not be restricted by race or sex. They won that battle in 1920. But, over the years since then, we have all lost. The problem is, we sat back on our laurels, expecting that the world’s ills would soon heal, as women would not tend to vote for wars and unjust taxes and such things. If our great grandmothers, who went home to justly celebrate their victory of winning the vote, were to come back and see the political situation as it exists in the United States today, they would be utterly appalled.

Since the early 1900s, the ability of voters to affect public policy has diminished to the point of absurdity. The candidates running for national office all kowtow to the dictates of Israel and the major corporations. For us, the 99% of the population and presumably the people who voted them into office, they have only disdain.

In today’s twisted world, voting is merely placing our stamp of approval on the business of government running as usual. The people holding public office on the national are the power brokers of the major corporations, and their concerns are for the interests of those corporations.

Our constitution began to lose its clout as early as the mid 1860s, when that war, was fought to determine whether a class of people should be considered property or whether they should be considered citizens. However, the right to be considered citizens was taken away from all of us in the late 1900s, when the Supreme Court granted corporations the status of personhood, leaving the rest of us merely animals. Again in 1963, the needs of the population of these United States were shoved under the rug, when Israel established, and our congress permitted it, the most powerful lobby in Washington – AIPAC, in order to bribe/influence congressmen to vote in Israel’s favor, at the expense of the needs of the American people. It was then that our Constitution stopped meaning anything – at least where people are concerned. People in this country who openly claim they have rights under the Constitution are now considered to be terrorists. So, obviously, adding more clauses and addendums to this document, in hope of alleviating the situation for real people in this country, would be meaningless. Those clauses would only be applied to the multinational corporations.

I feel sorry for those students who have staked their futures on the Occupy movement, who would believe that adding another law, another clause to the once meaningful document that our Constitution is, would be applied to anything except the corporations.

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Book Review

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown; GP Putnam & Sons – 2011

Eleanor brown will have a following of enthusiastic readers, if she is able to sustain the momentum she started with her first published book.

She evokes a world that may or may not be very distant from the world in which she grew up. The father is described as being obsessively literate — a Shakespearean scholar who speaks primarily in lines from those beloved plays. When he is upset in any way, he uses such lines exclusively, and his wife and three daughters are left having to decipher what it is he is saying or writing, as his letters are often photocopies of pages from his favorite version of Shakespear — photocopies with lines and phrases highlighted and annotated, in order to make his meaning clear to anyone who understands his code.

As infants, lines from the Bard’s plays were among the first things his children heard. As they grew, the three girls were able to quote them nearly as easily as their father could.

Their mother is highly literate. She loves to read and garden and cook. But mostly she loves to read. She becomes absorbed in whatever book she is reading, and forgets that anything else exists, including dinner, merrily scorching on the stove. The girls grow up understanding that they cannot go anywhere — whether to a pub or a party, without bringing a good novel with them to while away the time. For them, life is full of time that is best spent reading. Eleanor Brown knows how to turn a phrase so well I get the impression that she spent many years of her life happily buried in books, much as her characters she describes so well.

The plot does not bear analysis. Three adult sister come back home, ostensibly to help take care of their mother, who is ill with cancer. In reality, they came home to lick their wounds, as the dreams they’d had for the way they should live their lives did not work out. Ultimately — within the year in fact — they do find careers that compliment their skills and talents, as well as the love of a good man — one for each of them.

But, as any lover of Shakespeare knows, it isn’t the plot that carries the story, it’s how that story is told. Are the characters so well developed that the readers can identify with each of them? The author’s insights on the lives women in our society are beautiful, expressed so as to leave you thinking. And that is the mark of good literature. It is essentially a feel-good story, wittily told and with enough insight into the human condition to leave her readers feeling satisfied.

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Let Us Occupy

The Occupy movement has spread nearly all across the country. Our young and idealistic see that something drastic has to change if we want American society, as we have been taught to cherish it, to survive another generation. They gathered together and camped out in the government and banking centers in most of the major cities across the country. In many cities, they are still there, even after strong-arm tactics from our police. People are joining them as they see that this is the way, if there is to be a battle between the common man and the major corporations, that such a battle will begin.

These kids may or may not be as sophisticated as the generation from the 1960s, my generation. We espoused the message, among many others, Turn on, tune in, drop out, as our way to fight the onslaught of the major corporation. Sure,. Psychedelics were part of that message, but turn on also meant; open your mind and spirit to the things that really matter.

Many people would say that these kids now, with their minor civil disobedience are far more innocent than we were then. We at least had the savvy to realize that there is no such thing as dialogue with a major corporation. Yet, that is precisely what this generation is asking for. They toss ideas for more laws and amendments to the constitution back and forth across the internet and in response, the upper so-called one percent laughs at them. You see, we have excellent laws, intended to reign in corporate greed, already on the books, but they are unenforceable. Our Constitution is a marvelous document. Some of the most discerning intellects of the 1780s hashed through all they understood of government, to create a plan that, if implemented, would be fair to most of the people living in the colonies, and would keep corporations out of the government. The document was not perfect. It ignored the status of the indigenous people who had been living on this continent for countless generations, and it kept another race of people in perpetual bondage. The one thing that document was truly intended to accomplish — and I reiterate — was to keep corporations out of the government. For a few years, the founders of this country succeeded at keeping their government free of corporate control.

Since then, our constitution has been trampled and twisted so many times by our governing officials that it is meaningless. That revered document now represents corporations and only corporations — ever since they were granted the status of person-hood and their money was granted the status of free speech. Our supposed elected officials have been bought several times over by the Israeli lobby. But first of all, they are key executives of the major corporations and they have plans in place to initiate a police state in this country.

I have been watching the news of the Occupy Movement, alternately cheering and weeping. Those kids have no idea of the fight that lies ahead, and when they claim that dialogue is what they are after, dialogue with the money junkies who really do not care who lives or dies, and would like to see large portions of the world’s population be systematically killed off — their innocence may be their death if they truly believe that dialogue will get anywhere. Though I suppose that is the way we must begin.

People accuse these youngsters of being anarchists. We forget that it was thanks to the likes of Emma Goldman, who was among Anarchy’s stoutest defenders, we did have a strong middle class for a few decades. Now, our middle class is dying. Our middle class is purposely being destroyed by those who have been dubbed Money Junkies It is not the fault of the workers who are struggling to earn a livelihood, that their jobs are being sent overseas by the thousands every month. Our corporate heads no longer want jobs that pay a living wage to exist in this country, as such jobs would promote a strong middle class, and a strong middle class would be able to fight back.
People toss around labels like Socialist, Communist, Anarchist, Fascist, Democracy, and others; forgetting that any form of government may be a good one, as long as its leaders are ruled by a social conscience. Once its leaders lose that sense of duty to the populations they serve, the government slides into being totalitarian, no matter how high its ideals were when it began, or which system its officials claim to follow.

We live with a government that cannot be fixed, certainly not with a little bit of dialogue. With dialogue, we wind up talking solely to each other — singing to the choir, so to speak. The ballot box won’t help either, as that was corrupted a long time ago. Dead people in this country have been marched from out of the cemeteries so they could vote, every year since the late 1800s. Now they are being brought out in force. No one expects them to prove that they are alive when they arrive at the polls. And everyone knows the problems we have had with electronic voting machines across the country. These machines are programmed to yield the vote that the corporations that had them manufactured want; not the vote the people thought they were punching into them. Our votes are being accidentally, or purposely lost, depending on who you believe. Votes are being counted in secret locations, and people are routinely denied the right to run for office, because the corporate world does not like them. Voting has become merely a sop — something to appease the masses, to make them believe their voices really do count. As Emma Goldman put it so succinctly back in the early years of the Twentieth Century, “If voting really changed anything, they would make it illegal.” Today that is even more true than it was when she first said it. We cannot fix it with attempts to confront our congressmen with our letters and petitions, as our congressmen are paid well by the corporations they work for, as CEOs and CFOs and lawyers so that they will ignore those things.

No, the only way to fix what we have is to begin again with something fresh. And that will mean a tremendous world-wide struggle that will unfortunately have to go far beyond the bounds of mere civil disobedience. Though what is happening now may be the best way to get people involved and thinking.

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A Grammar Rant

I grump and growl about the poor quality of education in the United States today. People who claim they have Masters degrees in any number of subjects are apparently unable to write simple sentences. It really isn’t their fault, and you the reader obviously do not fit within that category. Those people did what they had to in order to get through school, as there was little time or motivation to do anything else. And, unfortunately, they never had to learn the basics of written communication. These people prove how little they understand how the English language works, in nearly everything they write for the internet.

People in Mexico and Latin America tend to speak standard Spanish. People in Italy tend to speak and write a good, standard Italian. People in English speak a brand of English that is becoming another language, because what we speak in the US is deteriorating so rapidly.

I would advise Strunk and White’s little grammar on some of the finer points of English usage. However on re-reading it, I am not as impressed with it as I was several years ago, when I first discovered that classic. Perhaps a better guide to advise would be Eats Shoots and Leaves, by Lynne Truss. Ostensibly her book is about good punctuation. You cannot have meaningful punctuation, if you do not understand how English is constructed. Granted her point of view is Britoish, however she takes most of the differences between British and American punctuation into account and she describes clearly and with humor what works well and what does not. Believe me, punctuation is an important part of grammar and written usage. As Lynne Truss clarifies the use of commas and semicolons, she aptly describes the basics of English grammar.

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Being Jewish – And Loving It

I am Jewish. For me, my faith is both nurturing and stimulating. I study the Five Books of Moses on a critical level. What was the historical context in which those books were written, and what do they say to us today? The old saw that two Jews talking together may easily represent three or more points of view, where religion is concerned, has a grain of truth to it.

However, I cringe whenever I see fundamentalist Christians using verses from the Old Testament in order to justify some fairly inhumane activities. The old saying: Spare the rod, spoil the child, has been used so many times to defend the practice of beating ones children that it has lost all meaning. This phrase originates in Proverbs 13:24, and goes: He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. The thought being that children cannot be permitted to live as the selfish beasts they think they would like to be, as such behavior would only get them into trouble when they eventually leave home and are expected to know how to get along with others. However, as we know, that interpretation of the verse appears to justify child abuse. Passages from the Old Testament also appear to justify keeping slaves, as long as they are not Jewish slaves. The keeping of slaves has been justified by the misuse of the Old Testament for many years. They were used to justify keeping black slaves and they may well be used again for the keeping slaves of other ethnic origins.

I always considered it to be unfortunate that the rabbinical teachings and discourses were dropped from what became known as the Christian faith, in their attempt to be different from the Jews. Now, I hear of rabbis in Tel Avive and Jerusalem justifying the total elimination of the Palestinian people, based on words from the Torah. They are totally ignoring all the teachings and discourses that make the Jewish religion unique and worth studying. I am proud to be Jewish, but I die a little inside whenever I hear of Rabbis telling Jews we should destroy every native inhabitant of the promised land, as well as any reminder of such inhabitants, as those things would presumably be a thorn to the Jewish people, because this is what the Torah says.

How do we as Jews accept the atrocities perpetrated in Gaza and the Middle East, by a country that claims its Jewish origin as the reason for those atrocities? Do we continue to say it is all good, that the Jewish people need a country of their own, and this need justifies the destruction of another nation? I was always taught to believe that two wrongs do not make a right. The first wrong was the Second World War, and all the terrible things that happened as a result of it. The second wrong is taking land from Palestinians who had nothing to do with persecuting Jews, and then demonizing and eliminating those people when they try to defend their homes.

It has been argued that the Knesset is not me, and that I should not take what they do personally. That it is enough that I do not endorse the policies they enact. However, by association they are me. By the fact that they accuse any Jew who does not agree with their policies of hating himself and all other Jews, they claim to be me. No. I love the Jewish religion, and I love being a Jew. The people who advocate such policies do not deserve to be called Jews.

Posted in Political Rant | 22 Comments

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale

Bruno is a chimpanzee who grows up to be a man. At least, that is what this book purports to be about. This writer sees Benjamin Hale as describing his own experiences trying to be a man, and to quell, or at least come to terms with some of his more primitive instincts.

Chimpanzees in the wild have a far more sophisticated means of communication than most humans give them credit for having. They know how to communicate immanent danger, sorrow over the loss of a loved one, affection for their companions, as well as ostracism due to shame and, last, but never least, desire for sex. I am certain this list has barely brushed the surface of what chimpanzees are able to communicate to each other. With varying results, humans have attempted to teach sign language to these animals. It has been observed that female chimpanzees who have learned sign language in captivity will teach it to their young. But ultimately, either chimpanzees have no interest in philosophy, or their human keepers have no interest in talking with them about it — even when the animals in question are capable of using sign language to express not only what they want, but their emotions as well.

Which brings us back to Bruno Littlemore. The story is a fairytale, or fable on the meaning of what it means to be human. Bruno is described as being a veritable genius for a monkey, and definitely a monkey who wants to be human. He begins his life in a zoo — a rather poorly kept one at that. When he is only a few months old he is pulled out of that environment, away from his family and companions and put into a cold little cage in a laboratory. It is an adventure story — how Bruno learns to talk, to speak English, rising above any physiological speech impairments the monkey may have with amazing rapidity.

Not only does he learn to talk, but he decides he is sexually attracted to human women far more than he is to female chimpanzees. He learns to wear clothes and he learns to keep himself clean and to appreciate fine food. He even learns to read and appreciate poetry and philosophy. And finally, he manages to buy and pay for a nose job, so that he has a real, human-like nose on his face. Towards the end of the book, he loses all his hair. All these things cause the reader to question whether Bruno is a highly developed chimpanzee, or a man who never learned how to control his more destructive impulses. I am inclined to believe the author was expressing problems many men have, attempting to fit their raw emotional drives within the society around them.

Posted in Book Review | 9 Comments