I read This Book Will Blow Your Mind, by the contributors to my favorite magazine, NEW SCIENTIST, edited by Frank Swain. It was given to me last Christmas by MaryLee, whom I later married, but I was so busy reading novels for others that I didn't get to it until now. Portions of it are indeed mind blowing, if you have the mind for it. I like to own the books I read, so I can mark them, so as to be able to find things I may want to reread, and my check marks are all along it. The first section tells of seventeen impossible things before breakfast, such as that lightning should not be possible, considering the laws of physics, teleportation is possible for small enough things, the infusion of young blood might cure aging—hm, that interests me as I approach age 86, for some obscure reason—someone hopes to transplant human heads, and five mythical animals turned out to be real, like the duck-billed platypus and colossal squid. The second section is titled “You Are Not Who You Think You Are.” For one thing your body consists of about ten times as many bacteria as functioning cells, so you are really a bag of bacteria. Do you think you are saner, smarter, and better looking than the average? So does everyone else. Since this is impossible, we are delusional. But you are a member of a species that is the greatest runner on Earth. Chances are that if you train for it, you can outrun any other earth creature. Think you're an atheist? We have evolved to believe in the supernatural. Fortunately I escape that, being an agnostic, but it still makes me nervous; my fingers are crossed. It concludes with current experiments in treating mental illness with hallucinatory drugs like LSD and Magic Mushroom: not only do they seem to work, a single dose can last for months. And so on; this book is packed with obscure significance, all the way up to the nature of the universe, which shouldn't exist. So are we all imaginary? Not exactly. I recommend it for anyone with a mind, knowing that eliminates maybe ninety percent of folk, but most readers of this column should be in the upper ten percent of sanity, smarts, and appearance, yes?
I also read a novelette-length collection, “Lavender Fables” by Clayton. I omit the last name because I understand internet trolls go after anyone who has any original thoughts or unconventional viewpoints. These are little stories mostly concerned with lesbianism, supportive rather than condemnatory, urging tolerance. They are mostly phrased as talking animal stories, but the concerns are human. One of the shortest is how one female asks another female if she would like to go to her den for a tryst, and the other says certainly not; her own den is much closer. Perhaps the longest concerns a princess who will marry the one who obtains a fabulous pearl for her. But it is in a giant oyster in a difficult place under the sea, and the men who try it fail. Until finally a woman tries it, and her gentle touch enables her to get the pearl, and she is the one who gets to marry the princess, who in turn is quite satisfied. My own attitude toward the gays and lesbians is that I am firmly heterosexual, loving the look and feel of women, and no way am I going to change. I assume that the gays are as locked into their orientation as I am to mine, so I follow the golden rule and let them be, as I prefer they do with me. We can work together, be friends, just not romantic partners.
I mentioned last month how we bought a Kawasaki Mule ATV, then didn't use it because of a bear scare. We are still wary of a possible bear, but are now driving the Mule out to pick up the morning newspaper, a 1.6 mile round trip. In due course we'll drive it around the tree farm, the bear permitting; it is after all an off-road vehicle. On my exercise walking days MaryLee now follows me in the car, just to make sure I don't get into an argument with the bear. She is being wifely, keeping me out of trouble.
The sunken garden has now been planted with all the potted flower plants we got. MaryLee's favorite color is purple, so Cheryl bought her a slew of purple flowers, few of which I had heard of. So I made a chart showing where I planted them, and marked the ones from the tags. Four plumeria rubra, subtypes Inca Gold, Jubilee, Bliss, and Rhapsody; the first three may become small trees, the fourth is a miniature, though at present the largest. Two blue Skyflowers, one subtitled Sapphire Showers. One Sallyfun Deep Ocean Salvia. Two Graffiti Mix Pentos, one light purple in color, the other straight purple. One Salvia Splendens, color blue purple. Six little purple Mexican Heathers. One hydrangia MaryLee gave, me, one calla lily our friend Charles gave MaryLee. One pink hibiscus that grew last year from a broken off branch, ironically the only new hibiscus to survive, because it was isolated from the unseen caterpillars that denuded the others at night. One potted passionflower, and one volunteer passonflower. Three cherry tomato plants, two from the hydroponic Aerogarden they outgrew, one from friend Julie Brady. Maybe one mango tree I planted from the seed in a store-bought fruit. Two avocados, similarly from fruit. At the edge a volunteer beautyberry. I have now replanted the AeroGarden with six Romaine lettuce pods, which I will move to the sunken garden when they outgrow the indoor one. My guess is that the next year will transform the sunken garden as the plants all grow and vie for space. This project is just beginning. No, no intelligent alien planet plants from other galaxies. Yet. But stay tuned.
MaryLee and I like to watch TV and movies together, and yes we hug and hold hands as if on a date. We have yet to have our first real date; the coronavirus squelched that part of our courtship. We have time for them mainly in the evening, so I don't have blow by blow reviews as I did int the past. We watched season of Westworld before, but it became increasingly violent and nonsensical. Now we have seen several episodes of the second Doctor Who series, sent by Robert Katayama, wherein the Doctor is a woman, and they're fun. No, they aren't played for sex appeal; no intimate flesh shows and there's nothing suggestive; the lead is personable female, is all. The Fifth Element, which I would have to watch again to make much sense of it; mainly I remember a marvelously sinuous blue plastic singer. We watched the first three The Fast and The Furious movies, which feature car racing and fairly intense human interactions; the best of those is #3 Tokyo Drift, featuring the way they throw their cars into controlled skids on the turns; that's hell on the tires, but fascinating to watch. Beauty and the Beast, a remake I haven't seen before, well done. Now MaryLee and I find we relate to the roles, she being Beauty, I the Beast, but no, I don't seek an enchantment to make me young and handsome. Dante's Peak, wherein a resort town is near a dormant volcano that revives to terrorize the natives. Yes, there are scary sequences, the kind that make couples draw closer for mutual support, which we like. As I may have mentioned, we seem more like teenagers than senior citizens, at least in this respect. And the first The Expendables movie, which we found to be what we consider violence porn, where Man A hits Man B, who hits him back, and back and forth in ten minute sequences. The monotony is broken by some appearances of a nice figured woman; I'd settle for less grit and more girl. We don't expect to watch the sequels.
Somehow there was a mix-up and I got put on the mailing list for Trump Supporters, which I really am not. They think my name is Roland Westlie, and are desperate for me to contribute $35 to the Trump re-election campaign. “We are up against an unhinged left-wing mob, a Democratic party that has embraced radical socialism, and the FAKE NEWS media that will NEVER tell the truth about all of our accomplishments.” Alas, I am disappointing them. I wonder whether the real Roland wonders why the Trump campaign is suddenly neglecting him? I hope he gets over the hurt.
I am back to writing, having halted the deluge of outside novels to read and comment on. One I declined to read at this time is 700,000 words, another only 400,000. They are surely worthy pieces, but for me not writing is like not breathing, and I had to claw back my time. I had four projects on hold for two months. One collaboration was summarily ended by the other party; then there were three. First I wrote a chapter in the collaboration MaryLee and I are doing, The Alien Cleaners. (We have another, The Dying and the Light, to be published in due course.) Then I wrote a chapter in Xanth #47 Apoca Lips. Apoca is a woman with a devastating kiss, as you might imagine. Yes, there will be a pundemic in it, though in real life I am not at all amused by the virus. In AwGhost I should proceed further on both projects. I do coincidentally have a ghost character in the Xanth novel, Ghorgeous Ghost, introduced in the prior novel. The fourth project is Deep Well, likely to be my next significant novel, in contrast to my entertainments. Critics like to pretend that I don't do any serious writing, while carefully ignoring my serious work like Macroscope, Tarot, Tatham Mound, or the GEODYSSEY historical series. Critics, as I like to define them, can be works of art finely fashioned from fecal matter. Ask any other writer to get confirmation.
Every so often I check my Junk Mail category, because sometimes legitimate mail gets dumped there by the machine, while true junk mail gets put with the good stuff. Thus I found The Equedia Letter for July 19, 2020. This issue explores the COVID pandemic. It says that this letter isn't about Left or Right, it's about seeking the truth. It reprints an article by Beda M Stadler titled “Why Everyone Was Wrong,” originally published June 10, 2020. It says the media have been calling this virus novel, that is, unlike prior ones, and it isn't. Also wrong to claim that the population would not already have some immunity. “Thirdly, it was the crowning stupidity to claim that someone could have Covid-19 without any symptoms at all or even pass the disease along without showing any symptoms whatsoever.” It says that it is merely a seasonal cold virus that mutated and disappears in summer. “The virus is gone for now. It will probably come back in winter, but it won't be a second wave, but just a cold.” Okay, remember that this article was first published June 10. It follows the Republican position, that Covid-19 is Fake News. I call this faith-based medicine. So what happened in the following six weeks? Record cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Why? Because too many people believed false reassurances like this, ended their seclusion, mixed with the crowd, and caught the virus, often from those without visible symptoms. The heat of summer did nothing to slow the virus: it's not that kind. America was supposed to be the best prepared nation for handling a pandemic, but it turned out to be one of the worst. Because of this ignorant attitude. I wonder whether this outfit will ever run an article “Why Equedia Was So Wrong.” I'm not holding my breath; such folk don't like to admit their errors, however deadly they may be. They prefer to think that everyone else is So Wrong, regardless of the facts. The pandemic wasn't exactly a surprise; THE WEEK reports how THE WASHINGTON POST said that the United States spent years preparing for a pandemic, and had detailed plans to deal with it. But the Trump administration ignored the advice of health officials and failed catastrophically in its response. It even cut the budget of the health department responsible for dealing with such a crisis. Now we have 150,000 American deaths that could have been prevented, and the costly count continues. Ignorance is not necessarily bliss; it can be lethal. Florida, where I live, echoes the nation; when a man asked a local Publix Super Market store where he shopped why they were not enforcing mask use, they banned him from the store. We shop at Publix, and always regarded it as a fine outfit; I hope our local store is not like that. (I haven't been there recently; the lockdown, you know.)
We have a colony of air potato vines. These are invasive plants that have rather pretty heart shaped leaves and produce what look like small potatoes hanging from their vines, in the air. They like to climb trees, and can so cover trees with their foliage that the trees don't get enough light and suffer or even die. I tried to get rid of ours years ago by collecting and disposing of 600 potatoes, but next season the plants came up again undeterred. Our patch is about 120 feet square, and expanding. What to do? Big government to the rescue: they imported a predator from the home region of the plants and now are passing it out free. We released a jar of 50 bugs that look like narrow red ladybugs at the edge of our infestation. The bugs eat only air potato leaves, and should in due course seriously inhibit the plants. We can see the holes in the leaves where the bugs chew. The bugs will go dormant in the fall, but return when the plants resume in the spring. We shall see.
Shorter shrift: The July 2020 Hightower Lowdown says “Something Is Rotten at Big Meat, Inc.” I'm a vegetarian, so meat processing is not my forte, but this is appalling. The workers are required to sign wavers that void injuries, of which there are many, and can't quit without losing their unemployment coverage, so they are locked in. Conditions are crowded, and when the pandemic came it was discovered in one unit that 58% had the virus. I hope the Vegan surge soon drives such companies out of business, and not just for the sake of the slaughtered animals. A recently published book is titled Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, by Mary L. Trump, the president's niece. I suspect the title pretty well covers it. An open letter to Harper's magazine was signed by153 prominent writers, academics, and artists, speaking out against the rise of a culture marked by intolerance of opposing views, and a ferocious campaign of coerced conformity in America. Naturally the letter is being condemned by those coercers. I learned that Karen is more than a girl's name: it's a code word among restaurant servers for an overly demanding customer. I presume there are male Karens too. A warning from a teacher: don't rush to re-open schools. Yes, my niece is a teacher, and I was one myself, back in the day. Teachers are making out their wills and pondering whether to risk their lives or their livelihoods by refusing to go into that quagmire. Schools will close again soon enough as the virus explodes again, infecting the children's families, so it does seem better to wait. Teachers and children are not meat plant workers. Or are they? And a note that one estimate indicates that America adopting a Medicare-for-all program would save nearly 70,000 lives each year. Ah, but the special interests would lose a lot of money from the present Your Money Or Your Life system, so it won't happen.
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