Current Research: The Elephant’s Secret Sense by Caitlin O’Connell

The story of humans in the world is a sad tale of greed, ignorance and horrific abuse of the stewardship of the planet we have claimed as our birthright. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes inadvertently, but always with devastating agency, we have driven a number of species to extinction. The elephant, cursed with the ‘white gold’ of ivory, has been wantonly hunted and killed, as much for sport as for the valuable ivory in their tusks. Additionally, the modern drive of globalization of industrial development and the increases in human populations have encroached on the elephant’s natural habitats, driving the animals into deserts and reservations.

Caitilin O’Connell’s book leaves nothing out as she describes the personal odyssey that led to her discovery of the way these intelligent and sensitive creatures communicate with each other and maintain their societies. O’Connell is a human, who happens to be a scientist, and whose research allows her to meet and interact with the natural world of the African savannah. In the process she gleans, and shares with us, a profound insight into that world.

I enjoyed this book, not as a science report of an important discovery about elephant communication, which it so clearly is, but as an entertaining story of one woman’s African adventures.

Oh to be young again.

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Friday 45: BETHLEM STEELE – Hold On To Your Mind

Source: Friday 45: BETHLEM STEELE – Hold On To Your Mind

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The most significant initiative coming out of the Obama administration was led by the First Lady; I’m talking about her effort to change the eating habits of Americans. There was even some legislation passed in support.

The effort culminated in 2010 with the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which allowed the U.S. Agriculture Department to set new nutritional standards for all food sold in schools for the first time in more than 30 years. The new requirements called for increased servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in meals, as well as decreases in the amount of sodium and sugar and a ban on transfats.’ (Modern Healthcare – )

Pity her husband didn’t follow her lead.

I’ve never spoken to Lady Obama (okay, the title is imaginative but she deserves it, or something like it) so I don’t know whether she recognized her initiative as the necessary first step toward fixing what’s wrong with our so-called Health Care System.

That begins with food; good food must be made affordable.

The second item on my list is the environment. Clean Air and Water are essential to good health, not to forget the nasty things (like RoundUp which is sold in stores everywhere and used by people to treat the weeds in their lawns. It’s made by Monsanto so it gets a pass on public safety scrutiny. See here – that are pervasive and persistent.

Then comes Preventive Medicine (Dr. Andrew Weil was an advocate of this approach in the early days of the Obama Healthcare debate – they ejected him from the room pretty quickly).

Only then can we talk intelligently about access to expensive, life-prolonging medical technology. I’m talking here about things like organ transplants, bio-engineered body parts, and plastic surgery.

A healthy citizenry, well-fed and informed about best practices for maintaining health, will have little need of these wonderful hi-tech medical gadgets. In catastrophic accidents perhaps, but these will be few in the context of a fully functioning Health Care System.

I would like to see the Progressives get into the debate on the future of Healthcare in a more meaningful way but Sanders seems stuck in the Obama rut of Health Insurance Reform.

We need a Health Care Revolution.

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Working My Way Back

Not fun. Wish I could say that I’ve been away on vacation or off on a trip to some place I’ve not yet been but that’s not what happened. The truth is that I’m going through a bit of a rough spot; the economy has soured and my income is seriously diminished. I’ve had to turn my attention to solving that problem and the hiatus from this blog was the unfortunate consequence.

Not all bad. For one thing, though we’re not out of the financial woods yet, my partner and I have developed some options and are working on those. Things are looking brighter and I’m hopeful. For another, I took the time away from writing to develop my craft. My first book had the benefit of two professional reviews and both reviewers agreed that my writing was good but that it lacked a degree of professionalism. (I’m referring here to my first book, The Obeahman’s Dagger.) I realized that while I did know how to write, I had no knowledge of the craft of fiction writing. I read and wrote mostly non-fiction, expository prose. It was time to make a change. That meant finding a way to take those courses in Creative Writing that I somehow never took while I was an undergraduate at Brooklyn College.

Not bad at all. For the past two years, I’ve been casually exploring Coursera. For those who don’t recognize the name, it’s a web-based agglomeration of American Universities and Colleges that offers courses in a variety of subjects, from Aardvarks to Zylophones. Looking more closely, and seriously, at the available courses, I found a group of modules that together make up a Specialization in Creative Writing. These on-line modules deal with singular aspects of the craft: Character, Setting, Plot, and Style, and included a final module in which students would put it all together and write a complete short story. There were some teasers that the final module, the Capstone, would also cover tips on getting published.

Not a small thing, no sir. Making the switch from thinking in expository prose to the plebeian language of the Everyday, I mean, going from writing like a stiff, stuck-up bureaucrat to the living words of ordinary men and women, now that’s not easy but it’s necessary. The part of me that was made in the classist society in which I grew up still clung to old uncertainties about Literature and Art and the exclusion of merely popular stuff from the Art Valhalla. I can’t tell you what I was thinking but I can say that I’ve been writing privately for a number of years now, writing without attempting to publish anything or to undertake a major piece. Writing like a determined amateur.

Now, a game changer. So, these last weeks that I’ve spent away from my public desk have not been idle. I haven’t completed the Coursera thing on Creative Writing yet, but I’ve learned a lot. Time to put things into practice and carry my new Professionalism to the story I’m presently writing – The Body In the Sauna which I intend to be the first book in a series of stories about Mabel Reed, The Unlikely Detective.

Finally, an observation. I have to say that I’m unsettled by what’s going on in the country. I’m a naturalized citizen who did my obligatory service in the US Army – Vietnam era veteran with an honorable discharge (that means that I didn’t actually go to Nam, but served Stateside during the war). The observation is that I’m meeting a lot of non-native English speakers in my course, which comes out of Wesleyan University. I don’t know what this means; aren’t these people put off by the US President’s anti-immigrant hysteria? Don’t they hate America? What do they hope to gain by doing this course? For myself, I’m amazed by their intelligence; I used to think that I was a pretty smart guy. Probably MENSA material, at least. Now I see that there are a lot of young men and women far smarter than I. Brilliant people who think, speak and write at least two languages. I’m blown away by them and motivated to try harder. I’m working to deserve my gift.

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Creativity and Me

One percent inspiration and ninety-nine perspiration, that’s how my creativity works but a few days ago something happened that’s making me rethink how I approach my work. And it is work. I never sit down to write anything with the idea that this is going to be fun. Not in the sense that drinking a beer, or listening to Yo-Yo Ma play The Swan is fun. Work is usually satisfying; it’s the pleasure of accomplishment.

In work, there is no failure. You have an idea and you think about it (is think the right word?) and it takes shape in your mind. You write it down and the work begins. Then you work until you’re satisfied that it’s what you intended it to be; that every word is the right word; meaning, tone, colour, context, references, all must communicate exactly what you want to deliver. You power the project with your own energy. That’s how it usually goes for me except for my last project, which was itself a departure from my usual creative medium. I write stories for publication, poetry for practicing my writing chops, and songs for my own amusement.

I own a classical guitar and I have taken some lessons in playing it; I’m not a guitarist but I’m drawn to the sound of the instrument. A note, a single note played on a single string is for me a source of intense pleasure. It evokes an emotion that is guided in its development by the music in which that note is embedded. It can be a burst of rhythmic joy (Tico-Tico as played by Berta Rojas and Carlos Barbosa-Lima) or a sublime meditation (Julian Bream playing Bach’s Violin Sonata Fugue; Berta Rojas here) or anything in-between. Playing like that is beyond my poor ability but I can produce sounds that I enjoy. I indulge myself with occasionally writing songs in the pop genre, and have loads of fun playing and singing them.

These songs are not intended for a public audience; I do play them for my family and am satisfied with their praise and adulation. At home, I’m a rock star and that’s enough for me. Nevertheless, I take pains with their composition and it takes a while to get one of them done. So far I think that I have three or four that I’ve more or less completed.

A few days ago I found out that a friend’s mother had died. This friend has known about my song writing efforts for a long time and has been very encouraging even asking me once to write a song about our mothers. I never forgot that. My mother died many years ago and though I tried several times to write a song about motherhood, nothing came to me until I heard that his mother had died.

I had not been particularly close with her though we’d been neighbours for a time, long ago, and I’d come to know her well. We were friends but we moved in different circles. Her passing moved me to a surprising extent. I thought about her, remembering what I could of her manner, her way of smiling, of carrying an atmosphere of happiness that you could feel whenever you moved in her ambit. Now that she was dead, I wanted to write a song for my friend, and for her, and for my own mother. And then it happened.

Suddenly, my creative process was short circuited and a song, fully formed, appeared in my mind, my heart and soul. I thought of her late husband and I felt connected with him and his music (he had been a musician, a composer of genius) and a song just poured out of me. A dirge that expressed what I was feeling; sadness that was tinged with a kind of pleasure that resembled the pleasure of work. I felt that she had done it right, that she had lived a life that was well lived. I wanted to mourn and simultaneously, to celebrate her victory over whatever evil there is in the world that pulls us into the living death that imprisons so many of us. It was a tribute to her, and to the family that had been her life.

What a woman she was.

In her death she has grown to magnificence.

She lives.

I’m sorry. This was supposed to be a post about my creative process and it is, right there in that last paragraph but I can’t go into that right now. I’m going to play the song one more time and get back to my daily routine of sweating for the bread. Happy times remembered in tranquility energize and sustain me. I’m fortunate to know and to have known much love from people like the Blackman family. Thank you all, my friends.

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Movie Review

Look Who’s Back

A Review

Did Donald Trump watch this movie? It’s an uncannily prescient German film that was shot in 2015 and was based on a best-selling satirical novel, Er ist Wieder da (Look Who’s Back), by Timur Vermes. The book was published in 2012, the film was released in 2015 and was a huge success in Germany. It’s currently streaming on Netflix and the book is available in English translation on Amazon.

It’s clear that Vermes did not have Donald Trump or the United States of America in mind when he wrote his book yet the storyline will seem to viewers close enough to the Trump nightmare to seem prescient. In the film, Adolf Hitler did not die in the bunker in 1945; Vermes imagines him magically transported to the year 2014, waking up confused about where he is and what has happened to him. He soon manages to get his bearings and embarks on a revival of his political career, spouting his brand of virulent fascist dogma, replete with racist, anti-immigrant hate speech; intelligent Germans find him hugely amusing, laughing at his zany antics and the crazy pronouncements, convinced that no one could ever take him seriously. That is a huge miscalculation.

Campaigning on the slogan ‘Make Germany Great Again’, the time-travelling Adolf Hitler taps in to the average German’s discontent with politics as usual. The people are frustrated with politicians who refuse to address their concerns; too many immigrants; too much political correctness; the erosion of democracy; the erosion of racial power. There’s no one voicing their grievances. On his comedy show, and in guest appearances across the viewing spectrum, Hitler openly declares his beliefs and outlines his agenda. Still, people choose to be amused by the spectacle and the media, while recognizing that Hitler is not good for Germany, continue to give him a platform to spread his propaganda because it’s good for their bottom line. Bullshit talks if it pays. In the end of the movie, Hitler is poised to establish a Fourth Reich in Germany, saying of the German alt-right, “I can work with that.” He tells his defeated opponent, “You can’t get rid of me; I am in you. I am Germany.”

Stylistically, this film is destined to become a classic for Film Studies classes; it’s a brilliant movie that mixes documentary clips with scripted studio footage, actors with ordinary people in the street. The blend is perfectly balanced, introducing the right touch of realism that tinges the early comedy with the horror and tragedy that eventually overtakes the story.

Especially today, and especially for the United States of America in the throes of its own ‘Great Movement’, this movie is required viewing.

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I started this blog in 2015 to document and share my experiences as a self-published writer. I hope that readers can benefit from these pages as I continue to learn, and to write. With the collapse of my Challenge to myself, to write a novel in one month, I’m rethinking my process. I’ve gained some new insights into the process and understanding of my writerly self.

When I wrote ‘The Obeahman’s Dagger’ more than a year ago, I had a good idea of what I wanted from the book and a very clear understanding of why I was writing it. I was already over sixty (sixty-six) and this was going to be my first book, the first of the six or seven I wanted to write before making my final exit from life’s stage. Till then, I felt that I’d been one of those poor players the bard of Avon wrote about,

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Staring down my death, I wanted my life to mean something, especially to my children and what better way to do that, I thought, than to write a book that would convey some of the ideas that were important to me. I didn’t want to write an autobiography but I wanted them to have some understanding of the ideas, that were important to me. That would take several books and writing them would be how I would spend the rest of my life. But nothing in life is ever that easy. We decide things, we want this or that but it’s complicated, no?

Well I gave the matter a lot of thought and decided that I’d write ‘Dagger’, market it assiduously, and make enough money to finance the writing and publishing of the rest. After all, I thought, ‘Dagger’ won’t require a lot of research; it was to be about Trinidad and Carnival and Obeah and Religion and I knew, first hand, about all those things. I thought. Well I was wrong.

Yes, I had experienced a few strange, mysterious events; I was a witness to things you wouldn’t believe if I were to tell you. Yes, I had read a bit of the historical record on Carnival and Stickfighting and I had grown up Roman Catholic in Trinidad, surrounded by miracles, magic and the mix of vestigial African traditions and religions with Christianity that characterized the belief system of Trinidadian Obeah. But as I started to write and to call on my supposed knowledge I found that it lacked depth in some places and I was forced to go back to the library and read,; additionally, I searched out people who could answer some of my questions and provide more detailed information.

In the end, ‘The Obehaman’s Dagger’ turned out to be a colorful excursion into the Carnival of life in Trinidad and Tobago. It was a reminder, to natives, of the better times of the past and an admonishment, with its understanding of the heavy responsibilities of the present. It was an intriguing, tantalizing glimpse of the pleasures that await visitors in the paradise that Columbus stumbled into centuries ago. It warned all that things have changed significantly. In all its characterizations and story-telling, it kept it real. I was happy with what I’d done but what happened next was completely unexpected.

Before I started to write the book I decided to self-publish. I felt that this was a rational decision, based on my assessment that the book would not appeal to the mass market and would therefore not find a traditional publisher willing to invest in it. I read as much as I could on this new trend in book publishing and felt that I was up to the task of writing, designing, publishing, and marketing my book. I understood (or thought I did) that Marketing was a major part of the whole process. The notion that book sales depended on Marketing was very clear to me. I developed a Marketing Plan that would distribute my book widely. I researched Indie bookstores, even visiting a few to see for myself what the terrain was like out in the wider world. Before the first draft was done, my Marketing Plan was ready to go.

Sadly, it never went. ‘Twixt cup and lip something slipped. No Marketing was done and more than a year later, ‘The Obeahman’s Dagger’ remained stuck in the virtual limbo of self-published books that nobody reads.

You should know that I’m not a quitter. I’m a lifelong casual runner with a couple four-hour marathons to my credit. I wasn’t ready to give up on my writing goals so I decided to write a sequel to ‘Dagger’, turning the story into a serial, as so many writers have done. I’d do a better job with the Marketing, I told myself, and sales of the second book would draw the first out of oblivion and into the marketplace. With the record of my failure in my mind, I began a refresher course in Marketing and a few days ago I found a book by Tim Grahl that gave me a whole new insight into the business of publishing.

The book is titled ‘Book Launch Blueprint: the step by step guide to launching a bestseller’ and it is exactly as described in the title and more. Much, much more.

Grahl begins by identifying two things that get in the way of marketing your book, one a limiting belief that you must release and the other an essential belief that you must acquire. There is nothing new in this idea. What he’s saying is that you’ve got to let go of your tendency to be negative and affirm your conviction in what you’re doing but in placing these ideas so centrally, and articulating them so clearly and convincingly, Grahl has done something new and important to anyone interested in self-publishing.

“You have to believe”, he writes, “in the deepest part of your soul, that it is a good thing for readers to buy and read your book. If that idea doesn’t ring true for you, then your book launch is going to suffer. I can give you all the proven frameworks, strategies, and tactics I’ve ever used, but until you come round to believe this one thing, you will constantly circumvent or undermine your own success”.

Book Launch Blueprint’ goes on from there to take you, step by deliberate, convincing step, through the development and implementation of a book launch and marketing initiative.

Grahl’s method is to identify and define, with amazing clarity, the problems a self-publishing writer will face. Then he describes the solutions, again, in clear and simple terms. He demystifies the process with prescriptions that are firmly grounded in the real world and that are derived from practice. He is an advocate for making decisions only on the basis of verified data and throughout the book practices what he preaches. All his advice and recommendations are tested and verified in the real world; all his recipes are tested and tasted in the kitchen and they all taste of success. This is a well written book that delivers what it promises.

So I intend to put those ideas into practice and attempt to apply Grahl’s principles and method to a new marketing initiative for The Obeahman’s Dagger. We’ll see how it goes.

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The Challenge: Progress Report (and more)

It goes on, evolving and continuing. The original Challenge was to complete a novel in one month, January. That was a failure; I was only able to get a little over 20K words done by January 31st. I got off to a good start but two weeks into the Challenge, Life intruded and I was unable to set aside any time for writing. My brain was still actively composing and the novel continued to grow in my imagination. Yesterday I resumed writing, though I’m still on a compromised schedule.

By compromised I mean that I’m still unable to devote myself fully to writing. I may be able to set aside a couple of days each week but we’re still working out the details of a plan. By we I mean my wife and kids. The homeschool responsibilities are pretty demanding, as is the time for making a living (in our home-based business).

In the meantime, I’m making some interesting discoveries. These have come from people around me who’ve been opening up and sharing some of their experiences with animals, whenever I mention that I’m interested in the ways that humans communicate with cats (the subject of my current novel, ‘The Body In the Sauna’). My friend Rich Fustino (Mr Rich to his guitar students at Matt’s Music) emailed me a bit about his dog and another musician recently related some interesting stories about her experiences with cats, dogs and, believe it or not, fish. Lots of people tell me that, like the protagonist of ‘The Body in the Sauna’, they often talk with their pets and that the communication is two-way. The pets are talking back to them.

I’ve asked Rich’s permission to share his story with you and he was okay with the idea, so here it is.

There are a few things about my dog Spirit that may interest you. Spirit was a rescue dog from Niagara Falls from a troubled home. Spirit is a very loving dog; he is very protective however. He is a black beagle with a white mouth area. His full name is Spirit Star. A very small dog, a beagle chihuahua. His nick name given to him by the grand kids is “butt brain.” Spirit was the father to five puppies born to the late beagle Alexandria. Spirit was going to be called Prancer because that is what he looks like when is he gets excited. Jumping all over the place.
He sleeps in my bed at night and during the day you can find him either in the upright chair in the living room, on the couch or in the kitchen in his new bed. Spirit has tried to bite it and take the stuffing out of it but I scolded him and put decorated gold duck tape on it. He is now leaving it alone for the time being and curling up in it. Such a cutie. Sometimes he will climb up into the laundry basket in the kitchen and arrange the clean clothing just right for snuggling.
He likes to play with a tennis ball he found one day on our daily walks. He also loves ropes and will tear them apart and works on them until they are just string. Spirit knows when I bring home a new rope in a tops or dollar store bag as he just sniffs them out. He loves when I throw them and will bring it back to me but not too willing to give them up. He will even put it on my arm to get me to play with him. He has to have one of them in my bed when he goes to sleep also his tennis ball. That is his favorite toy. He even catches it in the air. No matter how far or short I throw it he brings it back to me but won’t give it up too easy.
He will sleep on the end of my bed on top of the covers but his favorite position is under the covers right up next to me. He will let me know this when he puts his nose and lifts the comforter on my bed. When I turn around or shift to get comfortable so does he and usually likes to put his head on my knee when I am lying on my side or in the bend of my knees. I let him know when I am going to bed by talking to him and saying “Spirit lets go to bed.” In the morning he will climb up on my chest and start to lick my lips to wake me up. Then he will go and lay on my feet until I am fully awake.

Next to my bed there is a step stool that is black and was used to paint the bathroom and has a white spot of paint on it. Spirit has a glass of water on it and that is where I put his treats. He usually leaves them there during the day but at night before bed will jump down off the bed to get a treat and jump back up to have his midnight snack. Spirit also has a water glass in the living room on the table where my music books and hole punch is. I call it his daddy water glass. That started when he was sick and I had to get him to drink water. I also put treats or dog food there for him. He also has his dog dish and water bowl in the kitchen near the bed and laundry basket.

He loves to go on what I call bye bye rides. Spirit can’t even wait for me to put on my shoes to go outside. He will run up and down the back stairs to get his leash put on. When I take him outside he will run right up to my car and as I open my car door he will jump right up inside and sit in the passenger seat. I put the seat belt through the handle on his walking leash. He will bark at anyone walking or any motorcycle or bike. He hates people on bikes. He tries to sit in the middle on the console sometimes too. When I am parked at Tops (supermarket) if anyone comes near the car he will bark.
Spirit Star loves to take walks around the block, several if the weather is nice. Now during the winter we put a dog sweater on him. He gets so excited when I ask him”Do you want to go outside?” He jumps up and down and won’t even let me put my shoes on. He loves to chase the squirrels and rabbits as soon as he see them. He will chase the squirrel right up the tree. I always put his leash around my wrist because he takes off in a flash. He likes to meet other dogs and will usually be good. He has two good dog friends on our street. One is called Choppers. If he sees a dog across the street he will bark loudly.
He has a keen sense of hearing and can hear the mailman when he comes to door. If he is in bed Spirit will jump out of bed and run to the door and bark. He will try to bite the mail and bark at it. And will run out when you open the door. One day when the UPS truck delivered a package I went outside to retrieve it and he ran out the door and chased the truck down the street barking. Thank goodness no cars were coming. I yelled as I was running after him in my bare feet “Get back here” and slowly he turned around and crawled back on the grass with his head down because he knew he was in trouble. We were so lucky that day and I was crying because I thought someone would hit him.He is not too friendly with the Amazon delivery also.
Spirit and his TV watching habits are really intriguing. He will sit on the chair in the living room and watch movies like a grown up. If it’s a Western he will bark at the horses and jump down off the chair and go right up to the TV set near couch and prop his from legs up and put his nose right up close to the TV. He will bark until I turn the channel off or stop the movie. He will run into the other bedroom to check if the horse is on the TV there. And then he will run back into the living room and jump right back up to where he was.

Well there’s more about my dog who is really a good caring dog but Spirit Star, a legal beagle, what I call him, lying on my crossed feet on my bed, is now tired and so am I. Nite for now for a new adventure to start tomorrow with my Spirit.

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Wordplay: Respect

Words are the widgets of my business, the business of writing, of communicating ideas and stimulating thought in readers. These days, writers can also expect to initiate dialogue, though even with enabled comments, readers are slow to respond directly. Still, you assume that having read the words, some readers will eventually respond. So from time to time I will use this forum to discuss my thoughts and feelings about the way our language is evolving and the effects the words we use might have on the way we think and act. Reader response is invited.

Languages will change as their speakers evolve; this is necessary and natural. Consider the word ‘Respect’. Everyone has a definition of that word and much conflict has ensued. My dictionary (New Oxford American of 2010) asserts that the word entails deep admiration for someone’s abilities or achievements but in common usage the depth of the word seems to have been lost.

Here’s a quote from a well-meaning post that nevertheless subscribes to the weakened definition of the word, that we’ve all come to accept.

Due regard means paying attention to another person’s beliefs. To regard something is to look at it. The Latin origin of the word respect also means Languages will change as their speakers evolve; this is necessary and natural. “to look back.” Respect is just observation. To respect a belief is to observe it — to acknowledge its existence.

So the word respect doesn’t actually pack a lot of punch. It really just means looking at another person’s beliefs. You don’t have to like those beliefs. You may even think they’re stupid. But you can still respect someone’s beliefs merely by acknowledging that such beliefs exist. That a pretty low bar, wouldn’t you say? [sic]

June 12, 2014 by Steve Pavlina

This loss of meaning, this reduction in the power and reach of the word, is the kind of thing George Orwell wrote about so eloquently and the harm that it does is something that I witnessed over and over again in the schools I’ve worked in.

The particular example, ‘Respect’, that I’ve chosen to focus on in this piece is one that’s common and commonly dangerous to young people. A fight was often the result of confusion over the way ‘Respect’ was accorded or denied in the interactions among students; out on the streets these fights sometimes involved weapons and fatalities.

Like Orwell, I see language as both expressive and formative. The ‘locker-room talk’ of adolescent boys is for many the source of the misguided ideas they take into adulthood. The insulting language of the jokes that we snigger over in private passes slowly into the mainstream current of our culture. It’s intellectual poison.

Americans don’t like being told how to behave or talk. The venerated idea of Free Speech is rightly a principle of American Freedom and Democracy. But confusing Free Speech with ignorant twaddle is going to do us all a lot of harm, destroying America’s Greatness with an efficiency that no Terrorist could hope to achieve. Those who would make America Great again need to recognize that common respect involves more than simple recognition of the right of the other to exist.

We have to remember and re-learn how to be excellent to each other.


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Living with the Fear

It’s said that many of the Great Explorers of the new World, back in the fifteenth century, were hunting for mythical cities where a Fountain of Youth and the Mines of King Solomon were said to be exist. Several hundred years have passed and while the world has changed in many important ways, what with mass-marketing, social media, computers, cell phones, moon landings, nuclear weapons and GPS navigation, we have not. We’re still obsessed with personal security, youth and longevity, Americans more than most. These obsessions are irrational and now we’ve acquired a leader, a president, whose close identification with those fundamental insecurities is the basis of his popularity.

When we put engines on the horse carts we reversed the roles of horse and cart. The cart took the horse to the glue factory and horsepower became one word, that had nothing to do with horses. Mass production produced a new way of life. The train left the station that day and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand how mass marketing and its agents in the advertising industry have influenced American values since then. Truth was the first casualty (Somewhere in a dusty corner of somebody’s Law Library is an old tome on Truth In Advertising ).

Now politicians lie, routinely. They are expected to lie. That’s what they do to win elections and we should understand that.


I think there was a time in this country when honor meant something. When we showed respect for our ancestors and for each other. If we want to Make America Great Again then we need to go back to the great values the country once stood for.

Oh I know that it was never quite like that, I know that it was really a dream, an ideal. I’ve read enough American history to understand that, but that’s just it, you see. It was the Dream, the Ideal, and we all aspired to its attainment.

Now it’s every man for himself. Women if they’re sexy and children if they’re mine. More than ever, we fear the future and our personal extinction. We’re sold on our helplessness, our victimhood, our nothingness. We’re sold on our essential worthlessness, redeemable only if we can make more money than the next man, buy more, drive the latest, be hip, be cool, be sexy. And it’s all fueled by the fear with no name that’s pushed into our consciousness by the Advertisers and Propagandists.

We forget ourselves, our people, our ancestors. We never stop to think of who we are, why we’re here, or how fortunate we are to have life.

It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not; whether you’re Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, or Agnostic. You’re alive, with me, on this glorious planet. Look at the sun; feel the snow on your skin. Love somebody.

Tomorrow you can be afraid, but today, today is a good day to die.



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