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Piers the handyman 2007
Marsh 2012
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We live in the forest, and are surrounded by wild creatures: deer, gopher tortoises, dragonflies, rabbits, rattlesnakes, squirrels and all. We like them, and try to live in peace with them. But we don't like it when the rats come in and chew up our car wiring; we have had more than one several-hundred dollar repair. Or when raccoon or opossum dig out our buried kitchen garbage, which we are trying to compost. So we tried a repellent, Shot-Gun Repels All. Sigh. It doesn't work. Not on our raiders, even when they have to nose through a solid disk of it. So I have had to return to the only thing that does work: chicken wire, weighted down with logs.

 

I watched Tom & Thomas, wherein twin boys are separated and don't know of each other's existence, except that they suffer occasional telepathic connections. One has been adopted, the other is in a nasty Boy's home. Then at age nine they meet, and sometimes wind up in each other's places. There is a plot to abduct boys and ship them away for illegal adoptions, which they manage to foil in a close call. A fun movie, not deep but enjoyable.

 

I watched The Dept, a thriller about an abduction of a Nazi war criminal for trial in Israel. One novel aspect: the young woman is getting a gynecological examination, when suddenly she wraps her bare legs about the doctor's head and stabs him with a sedative. What a way to go! But he manages to escape, so they say they killed him, knowing he won't tell. Then 30 years later he is found again and the woman, Rachel, now about 55, has to go after him again. Lovely remark in passing “Truth is a luxury.” These people are torn by the conflict between their mission and their ethics. She does get him, though I think dies in the effort. A thoughtful, ugly story.

 

I read The Folk of the Fringe, by Orson Scott Card. I have not read a lot of Card's work, but I have seen struck my by its similarity to mine. No, no one is copying anyone; it's that his style is compatible with mine, and he's not afraid to have some substance along with the entertainment. Readers of my works would probably also like his works. This book is a collection of stories formed into a larger story featuring Mormon characters and custom. My reading was coincidental to the present political scene, where a Mormon is running for president, but it did provide insights. The setting is post World War Three or equivalent, with mankind in remnants. Some hang on in cities; others are the “mobbers” who prey on anyone caught in the unprotected countryside. It begins with a loner deciding to guide a group of Mormons west toward Utah, where an organized community exists. He winds up marrying one of them. Other stories cover other aspects, concluding with the unlikely liaison between a fifteen year old boy and a 42 year old native woman, to generate the savior of the Mayas. I found the Authors Note especially interesting, in part because I am known for my Author's Notes, which critics generally hate and readers generally love. Now I could see how it looks from an independent perspective. And I liked it; the details of the author's activities as he struggled to write the stories are interesting. I saw that he attended writer's story-critique gatherings much like the Milford Writer's Conference I attended in 1966. There I gave an accurate critique of the abysmal piece by celebrated writer and critic James Blish and thereby destroyed my own standing in that group. It seemed they were not so much interested in accuracy as in-groupism, though I'm sure that statement would infuriate them. So would my observation that the way to get nominated for an award is to participate in such events, because activists nominate what they read and they seem not to read much; thus the awards process is degraded and less meaningful than it appears. My contempt may have showed. I am a serious writer, not a social writer. It's not entirely chance that I went on to become a loner and a bestseller, while few of them did. Card flirted with similar interactions, but is more polite about it.

 

I attended the 2012 Citrus County Festival of Books. I was the featured guest last year; this year the featured author was Nancy Kennedy, author of inspirational books, who interviewed me last year, and I merely dropped in for half an hour. There are many published authors here, and there were many books on display. I talked with science fiction author Dick Hrebik and bought his novel The Warrior Among Us, published by Windy City, www.windycitypublishers.com. The protagonist is Deke, who comes from the planet Sarnificus, which was destroyed in warfare. Deke wants to make sure Earth does not do the same. This, ironically, means participating in a fair amount of warfare on Earth, to eliminate those who would destroy it. Much of what we of Earth see as the past seventy years of history is actually the struggle to eliminate the malign force that will otherwise doom Earth. Unfortunately the book reads more like an extended summary than a novel. The author, a retired Marine, certainly knows his weapons and settings, but lacks the sense of immediacy necessary for effective fiction. Read this for an interesting take on recent world history, not as a thriller.

 

I read Metatron The Angel Has Risen, by Laurence St. John, published by Imajin Books, www.imajinbooks.com/. Tyler is a 12 year old boy in Las Vegas who wishes he has super powers, so he could change the past, when his father was killed in an accident, and get back at his tyrannical babysitter Rebekka, and win the game Metro Assault. A reasonably typical boy, in essence. Then it complicates. Tyler falls into a cesspool and swallows some green gunk that might be poisonous. Then he develops super powers. It goes on from there. The new powers are wonderful but erratic, failing him when he needs them most, but he manages to recover them and go on to a hazardous adventure. This is a wild wish-fulfillment juvenile romp that should be great fun for 12 year olds of any age.

 

Is Jamboree I wrote the 28,000 word novella To Be A Woman, which will be duly published on Kindle. These days I don't worry much about traditional publishing; it is dying, and I always did feel shackled by its constraints. Now I am relatively free to do it my way. In FeBlueberry I wrote the 31,000 word novella Shepherd, a kind of sequel. That is, I thought it was a separate piece, but when I needed a character for a particular role, one of the characters in Woman, not the robot, volunteered, and made such a good case that I had to accept her. So it became a sequel, though it's a different story. It's about a young man who gets into a student exchange program, only this exchange is to another planet. It would take 20 years to travel there, so instead the exchange is of minds, and he is in the body of a local man. He intends to study local culture, as his major is planetary administration, but he gets co-opted by a small flock of sheep to be their shepherd for a difficult journey. He is not pleased, but these sheep are telepathic and precognitive, as well as being dangerous when crossed, and he is obliged to do it though he knows nothing about sheep or shepherding. They also recruit a vulture, a python, and an Elf girl, actually human, just of slightly smaller stature. Thus commences a remarkable excursion. By the time it is done he is in love with the elf girl, and marries her. Then his exchange semester ends and he transfers back to Earth. His wife also exchanges, and that's where I needed a host on Earth for her, and Mona of Woman did it despite knowing that she would find herself in the body of a woman five months pregnant, while her Earth body will be sexually used by the husband. Mona's a pretty feisty woman in her own right; she wants to study practical precognition, and this is the way. And they discover that their mission for the sheep is not yet over. These are incidental points; this story has remarkable elements that might not have gotten by traditional publishers. One example may suffice: when man and elf have a serious disagreement about procedure, she challenges him to physical combat to settle it. She's only half his mass, and not muscular, but more than his match, because it is a holddown, as in judo or wrestling, but of a special nature: she puts him in her, and he must escape without leaving anything in her, if you get my meaning. The moment he tries, she clamps down evocatively, putting him near the brink. It's like a pain hold, only the opposite. Maybe old writers are supposed to cantankerously fade away, but such involuntary retirement can't be forced on me and I'm sure as hell not going. And there are enough loose ends so that I may have to do a third novella. Could you let practical day-to-day precognition just hang there unfinished?

 

We were a two car family, with the small Prius for routine things and the larger Town & Country van for larger chores. Then things came together, and we sold the van and traded in our 2005 Prius for a 2012 Prius V, the same car in a larger size. We're still getting used to it, and to the spot problems of becoming a one-car family, but it seems to be working out. It's a nice car.

 

Age is a Female Dog Department: things mess up that didn't have the nerve to mess up before. I drink a lot of water, to prevent another kidney stone like the one I had in 1992—one of those is way more than enough—so I have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night as the water clears my system. So in the darkness this pile of books my wife has read—she's the reader in our family—reaches out and stubs my toe. I get a bruise and 50 books tumble down across the floor. O joy. Then there was the cap for my flash backup drive; I heard it fall off my desk and land somewhere, but it was nowhere to be found. Frustrating. Days later it showed up—hiding behind my keyboard. It hadn't made it to the floor but dodged to the side where I never thought to look for it. Then there was the salsa dish: Picante salsa is too liquid to stay in a lump on the plate, so I used two little plastic cups to hold it for our burritos. I dropped the two cups into the dishwater, but only one came out. I drained the sink and looked everywhere, and so did my wife: no cup. How was that possible? Next day it turned up under a regular milk-drinking cup. It had hidden inside the other cup, held by water surface tension. Sigh. So what of the things that mysteriously disappear and never show up again? I lost a pair of hand clippers that way, and once even a book contract. They are there, and then they are not there. It's the perversity of the inanimate, constantly probing for weak points as I age. I'm sure other old fogies will confirm the experience.

 

Bizarro cartoon: a Muppet mother has just given birth. “Congratulations,” the doctor says. “It's a hand!” That must have been one hell of a feel for that hand. Mark Trail comic about dragonflies, some of which fly thousands of miles across the sea from southern India to Africa in their annual migration, then back again, a round trip of over 11,000 miles. Wow. So what about the common wisdom that a dragonfly lives only 24 hours? Either it's a hell of a fast flier, or that common wisdom is nonsense. I believe our local dragonflies live about two months. Yet you see that 24 hour business all over the place. Nobody fact checks?

 

Sunday feature on Charles Dickens, called a rock star writer in his day. I note that his early years were happy, but when he was 12 his father was arrested for debts and went to prison. “The boy who had hoped to go to Cambridge University found himself pasting labels on shoe polish bottles” in a boot-blacking factory. He was humiliated. Here, yet again, I note the common thread of successful writers: that unhappy interim in childhood. I attune because that was my case too. Happy children do not seem to grow up to be writers. So if I could travel back in time and change my childhood so as never to be unhappy, would I do it, knowing that I would forfeit my later career as a writer? I suspect I would not. I like being different and ornery, and my writing career has spanned 50 years, while my difficult childhood was more like 10 years.

 

Assorted newspaper items: on how they are on the verge of growing meat in the laboratory. So would I eat a test-tube hamburger that did not hurt or kill an animal? Philosophically I could, but in practice I suspect I would not. On John F Kennedy's sexual dalliances. He was the first president I voted for, when I got my US citizenship, and I always liked him, but it seems he was a rake in private life. Another illusion bites the dust. A wild Mystery Monkey has been hiding out in Tampa Bay, avoiding capture. Now it turns out he has a retreat, dropping in on an old St. Petersburg couple who feed him Oreo cookies. They're sort of his family, and they aren't turning him in. I guess he's smart enough to know whom he can trust. Remarkable local obit on a 94 year old woman: “She is survived by her son, 'A.J.' who loved and cared for her; Daughter 'Ninfa' who betrayed her; and Son 'Peter' who broke her heart.” Families do have quarrels, and not all end at death. More on Nothing: the total energy of the universe might actually be zero. Makes sense to me. Just as 4+5 = 10-1 cancels out to zero, existing only when unresolved, so the universe may be a complicated equation that when solved is nothing. Thus we do not have something from nothing, we have an unfinished process, and completion would be doom. Article in SCIENCE NEWS on consciousness: “You and I are mirages that perceive themselves.” In other words, Nothing, again. And from THE WEEK, quoting Steven Pearlstein in THE WASHINGTON POST on a modest proposal for elections: let the big money interests openly bribe the voters. By legalizing bribery we can finally bring “the magic of the free market to the electoral process.” We do seem to be well on the way there.

 

Paul Krugman, the liberal commentator whom conservatives hate because he makes so much sense, points out that the most conservative states receive more of their income in government transfers than the most liberal states. Also, 44% of Social Security recipients and 43% of those receiving unemployment benefits and 40% of those on Medicare say they have not used a government program. These voters send severe conservatives to Washington. “But those voters would be both shocked and angry if such politicians actually imposed their small government agenda.” And of course by the time those idiots realized their folly, it would be too late to undo it. Once you let the evil genie out of the bottle...

 

Interesting item on the Catholic Church's position on vasectomy. They oppose any interference in the generative process, so are consistent when they ban abortions, contraception, and most other means of having sex without having babies. But here's my take in it: their position, if honored, leads inevitably to further ruinous overpopulation and thus the earlier destruction of the world we know. Unless what they really mean is that folk should not have sex. And maybe that is their real agenda. I think of how a painting of Mary nursing Jesus got banned. If they believe in natural motherhood they should like that painting. But if they are so anti-sex that they can't stand to have even a nursing breast exposed, then they are consistent in that negative way. There was a Catholic Bishop Robert S Lynch of Tampa Bay who wrote an open letter on Why Obama Is Wrong to require Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage including contraception. Well, that got some pretty emphatic responses. Roy Peter Clark, a local Catholic, asks what moral authority remains to the Catholic Church after the sexual abuse scandal within its own ranks? He says nowhere in the holy lessons does he see “Blessed are the Babymakers, for they shall avoid contraception.” He asks where was Catholic activism when a Republican president led us into a senseless war? “Your moral silence during the previous administration was deafening.” And columnist Robyn Blumner says “Since it is unconstitutional for government to fund the practice of religion, Catholic hospitals and universities must be claiming to be doing something other than that to qualify for billions of dollars in public money.” In sum, if the Catholic Church accepts government money to do public services, it must honor public policy; it can't try to impose religious restraints. If it insists on those restraints, all it has to do is give back the money. In THE WEEK there is a summary saying the bishops seem to care about only one thing: sex, and to stop women from engaging in it. Why don't they ever go to war with Republican politicians who ignore its teachings on the death penalty, war, or aiding the poor? Good questions, which I think remain unanswered. I would say to the Catholic hierarchy “First remove the beam from thine own eye...”

 

Which brings me to Mormonism. Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and I support his right to run for the presidency. But I regard his faith as based on fantasy and a pirated historical novel, with a history of racism and polygamy. Since there should be no religious bar to holding public office, that hardly matters. But for those who do vote their religion, and claim the Mormons are not Christian, hogwash. The very title gives that the lie: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Mormon shows Jesus coming to America and haranguing the natives. Column by David S Reynolds suggests that the real reason many evangelicals oppose Mormonism is that it is poaching on their territory; they don't like the competition. There are 14 million members globally and it is rapidly growing. And no, I am not anti-Mormon any more that I am anti-Catholic; Mormonism today is a far cry from its dubious origins, is no longer racist or polygamous, and has solid redeeming qualities.

 

I received an email from eXcessica, a daring electronic publisher with which I have done business, asking me to contribute a blog about the virtues of erotica. Okay. I have always defended freedom of expression, and erotica tends to be a focal point for censorship. If there are folk who don't like sexual fiction, let them read something else; the moment they try to prevent its publication, they are indulging in a power play, trying to make their preferences govern others. That's a no-no in a free country. I like sexy fiction, and I have written a fair amount of it. I think that like any fiction it can help educate the ignorant and entertain the cognizant; it can liberalize the bigoted and amuse the interested. To the extent it serves as a lightning rod for censorship, it also serves as a warner to whoso would be warned: after they abolish erotica, they may come after your own favorite fiction. What other fingers will they cut off next, if they get away with it here? So even if you don't like erotica, it surely behooves you to defend its right to be published.

PIERS
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