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Piers the handyman 2007
Jamboree 2013

I wrote a novelette-length fantasy story in Tweets for my Twitter site, titled “Forbidden Fruit,” about a 50 year old woman who discovers a strange fruit and plants it, and discovers it is magic. So she cuts her age in half, becoming luscious and adventurous, and seduces the neighbor young man, and then feels the magic expiring. Uh-oh. It goes on considerably from there as they visit the magic realm of Lusion. If you haven't yet tuned in to that site, http://twitter.com/PiersAnthony, you may do so in time to catch the opening of that story. As far as I know, I'm the only established writer to do serious stories in Tweets. Each 140 character (or less) Tweet is a chapter, presented one a day. So you'll have to have patience, for the next year and a half. It is surely good for you.


I continued to catch up on videos. I watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a wild farce with some nice flashes of bare breasts. Dirty old men like me like those flashes. How wild? At one point he is urinating in the toilet, then sees the body of a woman beside it. Shocked, he turns, forgetting what's he's doing, and pisses all over the body. I doubt the story line makes much sense, but it is fun. I watched a set I got at Kmart for $3, The Black Hole and Supernova, one 90 minutes, the other 172 minutes, quite a bargain for the price. Black Hole is a standard horrible threat, brave scientist, pretty assistant who's sweet on him, meat-headed military types, but well enough done. An experiment at a collider in St. Louis goes wrong and a small (as such things go) black hole forms and begins consuming the city. The military wants to A-bomb it, which of course would be as foolish as trying to put out an electrical fire with water bombs. Traffic jams impede the city evacuation; people will be annihilated by either Hole or Bomb. But Scientist realizes that the Hole is actually an access for an electrical monster who travels the power lines, feeding on energy; put that monster back into the hole and it should disappear. The devil is in the details. Supernova is a solid end of the world movie, wherein our sun is erupting and bombarding Earth with balls of plasma that wreak havoc, disrupting electronic communications and setting much of the globe on fire. Soon it will burst out in its full splendor, and consume the whole solar system. This is interwoven with several personal stories, and of course the unfeeling governments and military that just want to save key personnel, not ordinary folk like you and me. They have a point: if you can't save everyone, save what you need to replenish the world after the holocaust passes. But finally our protagonist discovers an error in his calculations, which means this is only a solar flare, not a nova, and that menace subsides. Actually this is realistic, because we are a lot more likely to survive a miscalculation than we are a nova, though Earth would have been saved even if he hadn't caught his error; no cause and effect here. So all ends reasonably happily, though there are several saddening deaths along the way. Thor, here presented as the reckless son of Odin, who gets banished to Earth, where he does indeed learn some humility, and meets a local girl he then has to leave. One nice threat is a huge robot who blasts things with heat beams. Sweeney Todd, subtitled The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. This is about as grim a movie as I've seen. It's an opera, mostly sung, the story of a barber with a pretty wife who was coveted by a powerful judge, so the man got framed and sent away to sea for 15 years. When he returns he means to have revenge, and he starts slitting throats. Talk of spilling blood! But if I understand it correctly, one of those throats was of his wife, whom he didn't recognize in time. He winds up killing friends, and getting killed himself. I suppose the moral is that a person should not allow vengeance to govern him blindly. And The Cabin in the Woods, wherein five young folk go to the cabin to have a good time, but are met with lethal horror, one by one. A slasher film, with a difference: technicians are watching their every move, making sure they can't escape. Then it gets worse, as the last two manage to find the way into the control warren and mess it up so that the monsters attack the technicians. It seems that the young folk have been offered up as a sacrifice to the powers below, so that the world will not end. And — the world ends.


I don't review everything I read; some is just for private comment for the authors. For example I read Losing Touch, by Christian A Larson, and wrote a Forward for it. That should be published in the middle of next year, by Post Mortem Press, so readers can't look it up now. Well, hell, I'll comment anyway. If you learn to phase out your living flesh and walk through inanimate substance, like walls, what happens to your shit? That's a waste product, inanimate, so it drops out of you. That makes phasing out messy. Meanwhile my wife gave me Fifty Shades of Grey for Christmas and I'm reading it. It starts as a standard Romance, Girl meeting interesting Man, yearning for him. There are a few errors; publishing standards are not what they used to be. What makes this a super bestseller? Well, he is into sadomasochism or a sort. Me Dominant, you Submissive. That makes her pause for reflection.


Odd notes: Comics: “Zits” has Mother loving a song, so she sings along. Picture shows her with a chicken neck and head OOHEEOOOEEEOO. That does suggest the sound. A column by Alexandra Petri on what she terms straw feminism, such as a Fox News piece by Suzanne Venker on “The War on Men” has a lovely turn of phrase: “Venker's image of feminism is the nightmarish menace that marches fulminatingly in the dark streets, illuminated only by the fitful light of a burning bra.” Not that I'm partial to extreme feminism. If I met a disciple, I would ask “Are you the kind of feminist who regards sex as a conspiracy to degrade women?” But I endorse feminism that seeks to gain equal pay for equal work, and correct other sexist wrongs.


The TAMPA BAY TIMES Floridian section had a feature on Gretchen M, a local woman who suffered from an awkward malady. Some hidden switch in her body when she was 23 put her into chronic sexual arousal. Sounds like fun? It wasn't. She was physically turned on, not emotionally, and she had other things to do in her life. But it wouldn't stop. It's called persistent genital arousal disorder. The male equivalent is priapism, an erection that won't subside. The only way to abate it was masturbation to orgasm, which she abhorred, and that didn't last long; soon the urge was back. She had to do it repeatedly, eight to fifty times in succession, and even so the relief was temporary. There's a treatment, but it costs $68,000. Could she get it via disability compensation? The judge said no, that she was seeking disability for pecuniary gain. So she was stuck with it. She committed suicide. She was 39. I can't help wishing that that insensitive judge would come down with something similar, and be similarly denied. Maybe when he gets to Hell.


Article in NEW SCIENTIST half a year ago says that through much of human history people lived for a maximum of 35 years, and most pair-bonds ended with one partner dying. So about half of mating alliances would have ended within 15 years. That's close to the current global median for marriage, 11 years. Today US divorce has surpassed death as the major cause of marital breakup. That is especially hard on the children. It seems that evolution set us up with lust to promote mating with any appropriate partner, romantic attraction makes us choose and prefer a particular partner, and attachment enables pairs to cooperate and stay together until parental duties are complete. The hormone oxytocin facilitates such bonding, but that doesn't seem to remain long. So what of those of us who remain married after our sell-by date runs out? We are, it seems, flukes. Perhaps related: THE WEEK had an article about humanoid and animaloid robots serving as pet-like companions for the disabled or elderly, and some folk do prefer them. That's not all robots can do, as my novella To Be A Woman demonstrates. If living folk are fickle, robots can be loyal, and some make excellent sex partners.


I'm in the sucker list for some wild periodicals. I was once invited to buy into a forthcoming island nation on a ship to escape the crash of civilization. I didn't. A couple years ago one warned that destructive deflation was starting and would wipe out our economy. It never happened. Now one says the FED is secretly poised to devalue our dollars almost overnight, launching hyperinflation that will destroy our financial security. It shows a tombstone with the words R.I.P. US DOLLAR 1792-2013. It mentions that Obama declares war on the rich. But subscribe to this newsletter and you can survive. Thanks, but no thanks. I will watch with interest.


There is much ado about panties in Xanth, how they freak men out. Well, in Dismember a short video was released that showed a man and a woman disrobing as they strolled through central Stockholm, until they appeared completely nude — except that the naughty parts were pixilated. It's part of a campaign by a Swedish underwear brand Bjorn Borg to promote Pixel Pants, underwear that looks like a nude body only with strategic pixel patches. Oh, I hope that catches on in America! “You can pixilate me anytime, honey,” she says as she disrobes.


NEW SCIENTIST has an article on a promising new food source for the modern world: our own waste. We can grow plants in it directly, or grow maggots in it, then grind them up for protein-rich powder for animal feed. Makes sense. I'm a vegetarian, so may pass it up, but you meat eaters should be fairly salivating, right? Of course in my novella Awares it is the space-faring maggots that eat the people, not vice versa.


SCIENCE NEWS article on premature puberty in girls. These days it can happen at age nine, and earlier for some, with breasts developing at age seven. Increasing body fat relates, and general pollution by certain evocative chemicals, and stress can cause earlier development. They're not sure if there are other reasons. I find this alarming. I did not hit puberty until age 18, and have always looked younger than my age, and continue healthier than most as I age; I fear that modern children may have less time as they live accelerated lives.


In Paraguay children are playing musical instruments made from junk. They are mining landfills for materials. I get the impression that there's nothing inferior about the sound; these are genuine instruments. More power to them.


Article in TAMPA BAY TIMES about how self driving electric cars may change our lives, even if they cost twice as much. Here's the thing: electricity is cheap, and if you make cars self-driving, as Google has been doing, you won't have to park your car all day at work. You can ride it to work, then it drives itself home so your wife can use it to take the children to their activities. At day's end it returns to pick you up. Thus one car will do the work of two. It can plug in to recharge between trips. Or, I should think, you could lease or rent a car, and it would be like a taxi. No huge initial expense, no bad fuel pollution. Makes sense to me.


They have located the biggest change in the history of life, and the most colossal extinction. It dates to about 2.4 billion years ago, when a microbe perfected photosynthesis, using the energy in sunlight to free oxygen from water and release oxygen. That oxygen was a poison to the prior life forms, and they were wiped out. So a billion years of life was rendered extinct, and the murderers took over the world, in time evolving into us. Makes you feel a bit guilty, no? We are poison people.


The gun homicide rate in Japan is close to zero per hundred thousand people, and about 0.1 in France, Britain and Australia. In Switzerland it's worse, 0.7 per 100,000. And in America, 3.2. Is it our wild west culture, our violent movies and TV? But other parts of the world have similar exposure to our movies, and they don't have nearly as many gun deaths. So why are we so much worse? The answer appears to be the availability of guns. In America any nut can get hold of a high-powered gun and blast away, and some do, and it's the innocent who suffer, like grade school children. It does seem past time to put some reasonable restrictions on guns, such as requiring training before you buy one, registering each weapon and the ammunition so that when anyone is shot they can tell who was responsible, and keeping the weapons the hell out of the hands of nuts. That is, responsible gun ownership. I understand that the National Rifle Association — NRA — has opposed any such restrictions, and that their real reason, as opposed to their stated ones, are that they are in hock to the gun manufacturers who stand to make less profit if fewer guns are sold. Their answer to a massacre is to sell more guns, somewhat the way Republicans' answer to economic malaise is to cut taxes, never mind the boom years with high taxes in the Clinton years. Enough already.


Newspaper item titled “We are meant to forget” by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger makes the point that while we strive to improve our memory, actually forgetting is vital. Forgetting enables us to focus on the important things, so as to see the forest rather than just the trees. Memories are not fixed recordings we read without changing; we call them up, ponder them, and re-remember them, sometimes with significant changes. I remember an experience I had about thirty years ago, when I saw the movie about the ape climbing the skyscraper — the title is fogged by forgetting — and at one point the ape ran off the edge of the ledge, glanced down, and exclaimed “Oh shit!” before dropping out of sight. Next day I watched it again, and this time the ape cried “Oh, sh-i-i-i-it!” as he fell. Quite a different rendition. The third time I watched it was in between, “Oh shit!” as he started to fall. It was as if he played the scene slightly differently each time, searching for the right balance. But this was not a play, but a movie; the scene was fixed. Therefore it was my memory that differed, and I retain this as evidence that my memory is indeed spongy. So this article is correct: memories are not fixed, however they may seem. But today, the article continues, we have constant reminders of the original scenes, via recordings and broadcasts, so our comfortable selective forgetting is compromised. Most of us gradually wash away the unpleasant memories and retain the positive ones, which I think accounts for our love of dear old college and high school days when things were purely wonderful. I receive regular reminders and solicitations from my high school, playing on that. But I am odd; my memory differs. I remember the bad along with the good, and it powerfully colors my reactions today. For example, when a high school classmate solicited my attendance at the 50th or 60th class reunion (I forget which one) I remembered our first encounter, back in 9th grade boarding school. I, coming from a backwoods farm with no electricity or running water, had to find other entertainments, one of which was searching out and collecting different bottle-tops others had discarded. So I continued this, picking up ones I saw, and I had about six neatly lined up on a counter in my room. This boy entered, saw them, cried “Pi-ers!Bottlecaps!” and hurled them one by one to the far corners of the room, greatly impressed by his own cleverness. For a time thereafter my nickname in the dorm was “Bottlecaps.” He was not a bad boy overall, but he was a bully, and I never liked him. So his appeal did not move me to attend, and I doubt he understood why. Similarly clear positive and negative school memories abound, with the balance mixed, which is why I never contributed to that school's frequent appeals for money. Auld lang syne be damned; time has not fogged my memories of good and evil. It was a good school, just not good enough, and I feel that if it wanted my patronage later in life, it should have treated me in a manner more conducive to a good impression. So maybe I'm an example of the unpleasantness that failing to forget can retain. I call it objectivity. As the article says “But it is naïve to think that if so directly reminded of earlier quarrels, we'll be able to put the revived memory aside.” Right on.


2012 was a productive year for me. I wrote seven and a half books, plus several Tweet stories — that is, stories and a novelette told entirely in 140 character or less Tweets, and other pieces. The books were five novellas, one and a half collaborations, and a 100,000 word Xanth novel, Board Stiff. The novellas were To Be A Woman, Shepherd, Odd Exam, Flytrap, and Awares, all around 30,000 words. The collaboration was Aladdin and the Flying Dutchman, with bestselling vampire housewife novelist J R Rain, and the half collaboration, because it will be finished early in 2013, Dragon Assassin. All available on Kindle and other e-platforms, as Parnassus (that is, traditional print publishing) was not interested. I remember things about Parnassus, too, such as getting blacklisted for protesting being cheated by a publisher; that is a major reason I tell it as it is in my ongoing survey of electronic publishers, and sue me if you dare. I also read 40 books and made an effort to gain on my backlog of science magazines, movie videos, and whatnot. There is just so much fascinating stuff to keep up with. In Jamboree or FeBlueberry I'll probably start writing “Aliena,” about a nice girlfriend who turns out to be truly alien.


So how was my Year 2012 personally, since it did not end at the misinterpreted Maya doomsday? I moved to a new computer, which is good, apart from a few annoying hangups. I graduated to the Penis Pump, an effective and far cheaper alternative to Viagra. We became a one-car family with the Toyota Prius V and it has served our needs nicely. My exercise program continues, though my runs have slowed and my archery scores remain abysmal. I had a good writing year because my long marriage remains stable, and neither my wife nor I suffered falls or other health complications, and we did not travel. I am nervously aware that it can't last forever; folk our age are dying. I made the decision to bypass Parnassus and go to self publishing for Xanth #28 Board Stiff. It will be available in stores in physical book form, and electronically on all platforms, perhaps simultaneously, and we'll either help forge a new age in publishing or fail to, in due course.


Meanwhile America stumbled over the Financial Cliff, no more devastating than the Mayan doom, but Global Warming continues, and that will be real mischief. The Higgs Boson was discovered, maybe. Barack Obama was reelected. Now you know.


One other personal note: my son in law the chemist sent me a bottle of imported Old Peculiar ale. I seldom if ever drink anything alcoholic these days, because my wife can't drink and I'm not inclined to do what she can't, but this is special stuff. Tastes okay, too. Odd brands tickle my funny bone. I remember a humorous brand of honey put in bottles that looked like whiskey; one was called Old Croak with a picture of a dead crow on the bottle. More fun.


I trust that all of you who deserved it had a decent holiday, or at least a fun one, depending on the state of your memory.

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