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Piers Anthony, Aug. 1, 2020
Piers Anthony, Aug. 1, 2020

Apull 2021

HI-

Mannison Press published, as of Apull 7, a neat booklet containing a trio of stories I wrote for them: "Walk the Walk," wherein a lonely little girl rescues a little walking skeleton boy and acquires a friend; "Ride the Ride," with a man and his inner child are terrified of a fearsome amusement park ride and are saved by a woman who turns out to be a ghost; and "Fly the Fly," where the little girl and skeleton boy get lost by a mean will-o-wisp are are rescued by an odd boy -- the inner child, and his new stepmother, the ghost who helps children. The booklet is titled Read the Read, with Three Tiny Tales by yours truly. We'll have an ad for it on this site, if we can manage to post it properly. You should enjoy it, if you like children and ghosts. Check it anyway; Mannison has other mini-books that may interest you.

I read Cursive Love, which is the first part of Veilfall, by Adron J Smitley. The full book is 650 densely filled pages, and I am a slow reader, with a number of other books waiting, so I had to compromise by reading just this much at this time. Banzu is a master swordslinger and a Soothsayer, who has the power to greatly accelerate his animation, making an opponent seem to be standing still. That's deadly. But there is a kind of curse on Soothsayers, that if they indulge the Power too much they may get locked into it, then go on a berserker type rampage killing foe and friend alike. His uncle Jericho is the only other surviving Soothsayer, and they know that eventually one of them will have to kill the other. Into this picture comes the lovely woman Melora, a Spellbinder with special powers of her own. She needs Jericho's help, but that's not necessarily something he can afford to give. He takes off on a mission of his own, leaving Melora with Banzu, whom she treats with contempt, not knowing he is another Soothsayer. It proceeds from there as they gradually get to know each other and start falling in love. Then it gets savagely ugly. The narrative is effective, but the language is a bit odd, with words not quite correctly used; my advice is to tune out that aspect and go for the story, which is as hard-hitting as they come. Combat, death, and worse, proceeding without letup. This is the beginning of a mighty story.

I have been slowly orienting on my big project for 2021, my geothermal novel Deep Well. Geo as in the earth, Thermal as in heat. My hope is to make it so compelling that readers will be converted to the appreciation of this form of energy, and start demanding that it be seriously utilized, thus sparing our planet further air pollution and the resultant global warming that is a significant side effect of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. Yes, electric power is nonpolluting, but its generation may be another matter. Nuclear power is dangerous because accidents can possibly melt a hole in the crust of the earth, or terrorists could steal nuclear materials to fashion a bomb to blow up a city, and even at best the spent fuel is dangerously radioactive. Nuclear fusion, in contrast to nuclear fission, is much safer, but also more complicated and expensive to develop. Solar power is free and nonpolluting, but works only when the sun shines. Wind is erratic; much of the time the air is still. Hydropower dams up rivers, messing up nature. The tidal variant, harnessing the power of waves and ocean currents, seems good, but what if the currents change? So fusion looks good, maybe int five to ten years. But the heat of the deep earth is universal, effectively limitless, everywhere, nonpolluting, free, and will endure as long as the world lasts, literally. All we have to do is tap into it. Hence the deep well, drilling down as far as five miles, though in some areas it is close to the surface and a five foot deep well might do it. This what I am studying, hoping in due course to do my bit to help save the world from the folly of fossil fuel. Yes, this is only one of the ways that humanity is destroying the world as we know it, perhaps not the most critical one; the destruction of the environment occasioned by the meat industry is another, and sheer overpopulation is another. So I am a vegetarian verging on vegan, and limited my family to two children, one of which survives. I can't tell others what to eat or how many children to have, but maybe I can help show the way to alleviating global warming, if anyone will pay attention. The latest sports scores seem more important to most folk than saving the world.

GeoVision -- Harnessing the Heat Beneath Our Feet is a government report from the Department of Energy, DOE. Some sample quotes may suffice. "Geothermal energy is secure, reliable, flexible, and constant. It offers the United States a renewable source for power generation as well as heating and cooling of homes and businesses." "Energy is the heartbeat of America. It touches everything we do every day -- from life at home, to work and communication; to critical infrastructure that saves lives in hospitals, strengthens our natural security, and transports us to new places." "The use of geothermal energy also offers important benefits to the nation, including grid stability, greater diversity in the portfolio of affordable energy options, efficient heating, and reduction of air pollution." But at present geothermal power, free as the source may be, is more expensive than other forms, so there is work to be done. Just simplifying regulation could help considerably. About half the cost is the drilling of the wells, and of course deeper wells will cost more. Near Yellowstone National Park shallow wells will do; in Florida where I live, deep wells will be needed. Basically, cold water is pumped down via an injection well, and hot water is pumped up via a production well. The hot water is used as it is in other types of conversion, running turbines to generate electricity which can then be used for whatever is needed. Details can get complicated, but this is the essence.

I also read two children's books on the subject. No, I am not frivoling away my time; at my age, time is my most precious commodity. It is that if you want to research a new subject, a children's book is relatively simple, making the basics easier to understand. Then with that grounding you can proceed to the more challenging concepts. One book is Geothermal Energy -- Alternative Energy, by Laurie Brearley. On the cover it says "Lava from eruptions at Mount Etna can reach a temperature of up to 2,102 degrees Fahrenheit (1,150 degrees Celsius)!" Yes, lava is hot, and that is what the deep wells drill down to. The back cover says that Earth's inner core can reach temperatures of 12,600 degrees Fahrenheit (7,000 degrees Celsius.) Inside it makes the point that geothermal energy does not have to be turned into electricity to be useful; it can also heat buildings, whether a school, an office, or a home. It tells how about 95 percent of the buildings of Reykjavik, Iceland, are geothermal heated. The volume is profusely illustrated. The other book is Geothermal Energy -- Harnessing the Power of Earth's Heat, by Mariel Bard. This, too is mostly colorful pictures. "Earth is made of layers. People live on the outermost layer, called the crust." It also has a caution about how some methods or power production are comparable to fracking and can cause earthquakes. So watch it.

I also paged through a book I was given, on a different subject, though it might be said to generate its own form of heat.

Sensual Erotica 100 Best Photos, by David Dubnitskiy, a photographer in Ukraine. The pictures are all of young women in various stages of undress, none of them pornographic, the centerpieces of implied stories. For example one is titled "Choosing of a summer scarf," showing the svelte woman holding the almost transparent material in front of her, her lovely nude body barely (sorry) concealed. Another, "Sophisticated purity" shows the clothed woman leaning forward to pick up a pan of material, her evocative breasts showing as her decolletage dips. "Please help me to open, you are a specialist!" shows a woman lifting her skirt to show her chastity belt with a padlock, as the locksmith tries to figure it out. A naughty one, "Fishing," shows one woman casting her line, but the back fling of the hook has taught the hem of her companion's dress, hauling it up so that her bottom is exposed, to her horror. Perhaps the naughtiest is two poses. In the first, "Let's play strip games?" the well endowed seated woman is looking at her cards. In the second she is bare. "I lost. What next?" seeming not at all afraid of the answer. In my judgment, the young women of Ukraine are as appealing as any women anywhere.

I read Captain Arnold & Other Tales of the Abnormal, by Arthur M. Doweyko, whose prior books I reviewed here before. This is an illustrated collection of 17 pieces, mostly stories or fragments, and one essay. The first is "Captain Arnold and the Zantharian Invasion," featuring nine year old Arnold, who has some sort of condition that twists his back, makes his breathing difficult, and makes him a klutz. He is cruelly teased by other children. His nurse, Nina, is a literal robot. She is very supportive, playing games with him without looking down on him. He falls asleep and dreams he is Captain Arnold, with a fine muscular body, the last hope of Earth to defeat the invading Zantharians. His first officer is Nina, now human. His dreams are better than his reality. Other stories have odd time travel, space travel, and weird happenings. Reality is seldom what it seems. In one story a human brain is grown in the laboratory, but it lacks the experience of living folk. In another a man travels back in time to change things, but it doesn't work out as expected. In another, folk are on a seeming death march, but which march is it? In another a boy invents a translator that enables him to read the thoughts of his dog--and other people. Others don't believe him, except for one girl who abruptly expresses her love for him. As I read I began to wonder about my own reality. In "Guardian Angel" it is literal; she really is guarding him, in her fashion. At the end she appears to him as a lovely woman. She may be about to tell him the whole story. The concluding essay, "Five Reasons to Wonder," presents thoughts on the Universe, the Nature of Matter and Consciousness, the Origin of Life, Existence, and Awareness. Is the Universe aware of itself? Now I wonder. I can't say I properly understand these stories, but that may be the point: they are meant to make you wonder, to question what is real, and not just safely in the volume. To jolt you out of your cocoon of normalcy.

I read Quantumly Yours! And Other Journeys from Afar, by Jacob William Watters. I reviewed this author's Curbside Assistance and An Eye of Another Color in prior years. This is another collection of poems. I don't claim to understand poetry, especially not free verse or blank verse, so I may be missing some points here, but I do try to pick up on the essence if I can. This volume did not move me especially, until it came to poems of grief. Then it registered, because I remain in grief for my wife Carol, nicknamed Cam for her initials, who died in 2019. Yes, I have remarried, and am getting on with my life, but the hole in my soul has not yet healed. So it is apparent that poetry, like humor, does best when targeted to the reader. Of special interest is the introduction, which describes how the author experienced horrendous complications from a car wreck in 1997, and how widely his emotional states differed. "For approximately 18 months I lived in a strange and beautiful place maintained by organic juicing, 2-3 hours of yoga daily, and meditating between 3 and 8 hours a day." In that time he never slept. Then he got the mercury dental amalgams removed from his teeth and his body detoxified at an ever increasing rate, leading to burnout. He also survived over a dozen surgeries on his head, from the car wreck, which devastated his life. So the poems emerged from a troubled existence. What follows is some sampling, interspersed with some of the thoughts the poems triggered in me. I suspect that other readers will have different thoughts.

"Particles" draws a parallel between quantum particles and people, the one no more individual than the other. "Riverfront" draws another parallel between us and a river. "...And in us all the river flows." I have to agree; I regard a river as a process, and life as a process. "Somatosensory," which starts "Within the touch of a single finger resides a tiny eternity/ Complete as any universe,/ As intricate as the cosmos." This seems true to me, albeit a bit mind stretching. "The Quasar" warns "Space farers be wary!" Indeed, you don't want to mess with a quasar. "Mathematically Speaking" makes the point that infinity can occur in small places. "Subtle Motion" starts "Life is a subtle motion," Indeed. "Alight With Life and Glow" relates to a friend and how this brings "Something wonderfully out of nothing." "How Halsey Haunts me" reflects on how his musical friend inspires him as he feels the need to keep a part of her heart. "Little Pup" is thoughts on a little puppy on the day of mutual discovery. "Far From the Web" has a thought that made me pause. "Why do we focus almost exclusively on thinking/ When it seems we think so poorly?" "I am reminded" has another thought: the sight of an empty swing saddens his heart as he remembers losing his child. Yes, eleven years after her death I have daily reminders of my elder daughter Penny. The following poem "Unfulfilling Harboring" follows up on that. "Grievous Misdeeds" remarks on the damage done to the body by mercury fillings, becoming savage, concluding that Jesus says to forgive them, but Jesus didn't suffer this. "To the Wife I Never Had" "You are the lover to whom I never lied," sad about loving a phantom who could never be his wife. The final section of the book has poems written earlier in his life, such as in college. "I still Don't Know" wondering whether creativity sets off a potential bomb of insanity. I, as a creative writer, have wondered similarly uneasily about the link between genius and madness. I try to get as close to the first without straying into the second. But suppose they are the same? "Ants" may have tiny brains, yet outsmart the housekeeper who tries to abolish them. "As If We Were Children" is expressed in paragraph form, in the manner of an essay, concluding "So when it comes to love, love one another as if we were children." "Dusk is She" personifies dusk, somewhat like a phantom lover. "Jelly Belly Kisses" is paean to the feminine figure. "Lover's Reunion" follows up. "I miss your touch,/ So much I ache from the absence." Sometimes I wonder if the distaff side feels similarly about the male touch. And "Seven Wonders of the World" concludes that more can be seen in a single girl than all those Wonders. "The Forever Distance" considers the self. He wonders where the sun went, and his companion says it just set, but the moon's up. "'Oh...' did the black hole of my depression suck away the sun?" "...never a dull moment in my mind/ Never a peaceful instant to myself" "Is there anything that could close the distance of forever?" "Yes... just for Her to reach out, to want to seek/ but I don't know if she even realizes her own desires.../ I had to lose my sanity to find mine..." "'Oh-no...' her voice resounds so dreadfully,/ that even her tears begin to cry!" As I said, I don't properly understand poetry, but these thoughts resonate.

My mind wanders yon & hither; any little thing can set it off exploring devious pathways. Here's an example. MaryLee mentioned an old song with the words "Casey would dance with the strawberry blonde, and the band played on ... He married the girl with the strawberry curl, and the band played on." That song never meant much to me, but this time I wondered, is that all that matters about a woman, the color of her hair? If she had been a dishwater blonde, would Casey never have noticed her? What about character? Intelligence? Dancing ability? But of course from across the room appearance is most of what there is to judge by; the other aspects can be learned as the acquaintance develops. Who was Casey? What did he have to recommend him to any blonde? Could he have been Casey at the Bat, the baseball player who struck out, ruining the joy in Mudville? "And now the pitcher holds the ball,/ and now he lets it go/ And now the air is shattered/ By the force of Casey's blow." Alas he missed the ball, and the game was lost. In that culture winning was all that counted. He must have sunk into a mottled funk for days. Until a friend urged him to divert himself by going to a dance. Reluctantly, he agreed. And there without a partner was this gorgeous Strawberry Blonde. She recognized him, of course, Mudville's former hero, but had never had the temerity to approach him. She did not blame him for striking out; she had had her own misfortunes. She supported him when others were still condemning him. So they hit it off, and they married, and in due course had a little girl. But he remained blue from the memory of his failure. So the child was not a strawberry blonde, but a blueberry blonde. Or maybe he was Casey Jones, the notorious locomotive engineer who died in a phenomenal crash, leaving his strawberry blonde wife blue. And what about the band? Was it related to the one that went down with the ship, bravely playing on as the Titanic sank? So many stories out there in the ether, waiting their chances to be told. MaryLee played me the song, as it was sung in the TV series Chicago Hope. What an intricate melody!

Which in turn reminds me of her Smart Phone. I am, as I have said, before, from another century, not yet quite caught up with all the technology so familiar to natives of this century. In my day telephones hung on the wall, the receiver attached by a cord, and you dialed the number on a sort of rotating disk after you heard the dial tone. For a few years I had a phone phobia; the devices did not work well for me. Long distance calls required an operator, who would tell you how much money to put in for a timed call, and it could be hard to get one. My roommate at high school got fed up with my hesitancy, so he decided to show me how to do it right. So we jammed into a phone booth and waited for the dial tone. After twenty silent minutes he gave it up in frustration. He never chided me on that score again; I had demonstrate my jinx. Now I have a cell phone, where I can punch out the number and verify it on the screen before making the call, no operator needed. That pretty much ended my jinx. I remember a naughty cartoon showing a man jamming his finger into the pay phone's coin return slot, goosing it, and the distant operator jolting out of her chair. But my cell phone is primitive compared to what MaryLee has. She can play music on it, shine a light from it, look up words in its dictionary, fetch and send text messages, play a TV show, pay her bills, snap pictures, check the weather, get the news, explore the fabulous Twitter realms, write story text; I think she can even make and receive phone calls. Who knows; the day may even come when I get my own Smart Phone, if I can afford the monthly fee. But I'm not sure how I feel about having a device that is smarter than I am. I already have enough trouble convincing my computer that I, not it, is the master of my house.

Creatures: last spring a Chuck Will's Widow used to perch near the house and serenade MaryLee endlessly at night. Farther north there is Whippoorwill, but here it is Chuck, with a distinct Widow conclusion. Then it moved on and she missed it. Now it is back. She did spot research on her magic phone and learned that it is about a foot long, ugly, and eats things like hummingbirds. Ouch! The romance is gone. We have deer on our tree farm, which we don't allow to be hunted; one day three crossed our drive right in front of me as I puttered out on our Mule ATV. This morning I saw two. I am cautious about saying "Hi, Deer!" because I don't know how I would react if one said "Hi, Darling!" back. And just now, as I typed these paragraphs, (a few days ago), a squirrel ran through our bedroom, down the hall, and disappeared, freaking MaryLee out. Now we have nothing against squirrels, but we don't want them in the house. It's not their natural habitat. We don't want to hurt it, just get it out. But we can't find it, let alone catch it. I am thinking maybe a have-a-heart trap. MaryLee hopes the Chuck Will's Widow doesn't get into the house and fight with the squirrel. Now she and her correspondents are pondering what to name it. Rocky, as in Rocky and Bullwinkle? More anon, when. And now next day: I found squirrel droppings around the house, including my computer work area. Cheryl spied two squirrels in our Family Room, but couldn't get them out of the house. So later I saw one in the living room, I opened doors, and herded it into our sunken garden enclosure, then outside. I don't know whether I saw two squirrels or one several times, but I think they finally escaped to the outdoors. We hope so. I did see one go out the doorway. But odd noises still sound, suggesting that either one remains, or they have a secret access. Maybe the chimney, though that normally is reserved for the chimney swifts. This of course is what passes for adventure among seniles, I mean seniors like us.

Plants: We have been having 90F highs, and the plants are responding. We tried growing cherry tomatoes in an indoor aerogarden, but they soon outgrew it, so I transplanted them to the sunken garden, where they are doing well enough. When my collaborator Julie Brady visited last year, before the pandemic developed, she gave me a potted cherry tomato plant, and now it too is in the sunken garden. It is thriving, extending out over twelve feet, producing hundreds of flowers, and now starting to grow tomatoes. We may have more than we can eat, in due course. The wildflower seeds I planted did not come up, but we do have wild flowers that came in with the soil we used to fill the garden. One is growing six feet tall with multiple clusters of yellow flowers. Cheryl used her smart phone to snap a picture and ID it, as it is not in my Weed Book -- whatever I want tends not to be in supposedly comprehensive books -- and it turns out to be a Butter Weed. There is also a nice wild flower coming up around our front gate. Cheryl nailed that one too: Twiggy Verbiscum. The leaves radiate out on the ground, with a single stalk rising about four feet with pretty yellow flowers growing from it. Another I haven't identified yet has nice blue flowers. Nature is grand, if you take the trouble to meet it. Meanwhile our tame azalea has finished its spring flowering, and the Turk's Cap Hibiscus is declining; at its peak this season it had 120 flowers. We've had as many as 6 flowers a day on the Pink Hibiscus in the sunken garden, the one I rescued as a broken off branch; the caterpillars got the others, but this one, protected, is thriving. The season for Star Jasmine is just starting, with one or two or half a dozen flowers a day; last year it peaked at over 400 a day, and this year might be 500, if I can count them accurately.

Exercise: I still can't draw the bow right side in regular manner; my arm pains me, cutting it off. But I can do it with the bow braced against the door frame. I started last month doing three draws, moved to four at mid-month, and am now doing five. That may be where I stop. I think five should be enough to maintain my arm muscle, and that's the point. The maneuver is awkward, and is abrading the varnish off the frame, so there's no point in pushing it. The left side draws remain strong. I also use 8 and 20 pound hand weights, and I speed-walk. My doctor seems amazed by my health. All it takes is exercise, eating right, sleeping right, good company, and using my brain. Others could do it, if they had the discipline.

There is also Chore Hour, which took the place of my former archery sessions, twice a week. That's when I do the jobs that I never get to otherwise. This morning, it now being Thursday Apull 1th, as I amend and edit this column, I tackled two chores. The first was to clear out the debris that has accumulated before the unused fireplace, because that's where the remaining squirrel seemed to hide. I discovered five hardcover and trade paperback books that my wife Cam must have either read or planned to read, neglected because she is gone. Bleep! another surprise reminder of my grief. And a 1992 1600 page Sears catalog she will never order from now. Plus of course boxes of papers. The fireplace has a double guard, mesh and plastic, which was open. So I closed it. If the squirrel can climb up inside the chimney and escape, fine. If not, we'll have to try again to herd it outside. We are not in the business of killing squirrels. That fireplace was never used for a fire, because the flu had been improperly installed and could not be properly opened. For the last decade or so the chimney swifts have nested in the chimney every summer, and they are welcome. I believe they fly to South America in the winter, as it is summer there then. The second job was to iron a patch onto the elbow of my heavy shirt. I had sewn the tear, but it was jagged and tripartite and I could not do it well, and it re-tore. So this time a patch. I dug out ironing board, iron, and patch, read the instructions, and managed in due course to muddle along and do the repair. I am wearing that shirt now, and we'll see how long this lasts. What, you ask whether I don't have a woman in the house? Yes, my wife MaryLee. But I do my own repairs, as I do the main meal, supper, and the dishes; I did not bring her in as a maidservant.

I continue to research and make notes on my Deep Well project, but it's slow, because the material is complicated. I see the salvation of our planet as requiring action on several fronts; eliminating fossil fuel pollution is just the one I am focusing on at the moment. Geothermal energy will do it, if it can be instituted despite the idiocy of global politics. The other main candidate is Nuclear Fusion, which is a different creature from Nuclear Fission. Fission is splitting atoms; Fusion is merging them, in the manner of the sun and stars. They are working on it. One estimate is that if nothing is done, global warming will cause the sea level to rise over 500 feet, drowning the state of Florida. I live in Florida, but doubt I will see that, because I'll be long since in Heaven if my fans are to be believed, or in Hell if my critics govern, or Oblivion if my agnosticism prevails. So if any of you meet me, Above or Below, you may say "I told you so." I very much doubt that will happen.

Xanth #45, A Tryst of Fate, is set for publication this OctOgre. and naturally fate poked a finger in its eye. The copyedtor asked about the spelling of a name in the credits, Liegh Anne Harre. Should it be Leigh? I have it as the former, but I am adept at typos and could have gotten it wrong. It is an alternate spelling, but most are ei rather than ie. It is not incidental; she suggested the title. But that was in 2005, sixteen years ago; it took a while to use up other titles. I checked my back correspondence, delving into the moldy archives, but the two weeks surrounding her letter were missing, probably filed out of place. There are few things so lost as a misfiled paper. Par for my course. MaryLee checked the name with her magic phone, and it was spelled Leigh. But is it the same person? So if you are reading this, Ms Harre, please let me know. Or if someone else knows her, tell me. Meanwhile we are correcting it to Leigh, hoping for the best, or maybe the least worst. Fate will surely have its way.

I received a sample copy of THE EPOCH TIMES. This newspaper claims to be independent of any political party, free of bias. That interests me, as I like to know the truth, whatever it may be, and am turned off by the evident prejudice I see too often in the media. The headings of the articles are intriguing. "With Supreme Court's Non-Decision, Citizens Must Reform Electoral System." Indeed; the majority vote has been thwarted more than once in presidential elections, leading to incalculable mischief. "Cancel 'Cancel Culture' by Protecting 'Political Ideology' in Civil Rights Laws." Yes, as a registered small "i" independent for over 60 years I agree. "The Delusions of a Marxist Professor." And so on; provocative headlines. But there was a faint odor. So we checked it via Smartphone, and learned that this is actually a far rightist mouthpiece, posing as objective. Too bad; I had been tempted.

I used to read myself to sleep, but recent events, such as the loss of my wife and new marriage, changed that, and the bedside magazine I was reading languished. But now I can report on the November-December 2019 THE HUMANIST. I am a Humanist, as Humanism reflects my beliefs as accurately as any contemporary organization does. Some samples: "Philosophically speaking" by Brody Armstrong addresses the question of how can we be sure that the universe we know is not fake, a mere simulation? We can still live out the lives we find ourselves in as joyously as possible. His advice: "Carry on as we have been until it all goes black..." Thanks; I'll do that. "Humanism 101" by Roland A Duerksen mentions how religions have messed with basic human responsibility. "There is an alarming worldwide trend (as exemplified by Trumpism is the US) toward repression, ignorance, and crudely capitalistic selfishness" ... "To be a true humanist is to take on the challenge of choosing good over evil, not just in our personal lives but in empathizing and identifying with all people. Humanists must now take the lead in moving humanity to responsible action." A review by Ron Capshaw of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. It seems the hypocrisy practiced by the government in that novel has in the intervening fifteen years spread and become more homicidal. I think I'll skip that one. A review by Howard Schneider of Machines Like Me raises the question what is a human being? What about a robot virtually indistinguishable from a living man? My own fiction has conscious, feeling robots who are like another race of mankind and need to fight discrimination. I believe those machines are coming. Mark Dunbar reviews the nonfiction The Case Against Free Speech by P. E. Moskowitz. This is not a joke; there really is a case. With inequalities of power and wealth the rich can spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make their positions known, while those without power are harassed and surveilled by the police. We already censor speech in favor of other values, such as privacy, property rights, and economic efficiency. Suppose a neighbor breaks into your house to berate you endlessly about your religion, or lack of one, in the name of free speech? How can you regain your privacy without violating the First Amendment? Or in an example too recent for this issue of this magazine, suppose someone running for president claims, without evidence, the election was stolen and incites a mob to raid Congress with mayhem in mind? Isn't that free speech? I admit that this review makes me reconsider my ardent defense of free speech. Total free speech may be anarchy. But how can we safely limit it? All this and more, in just one old issue of one Humanist magazine. I suspect the world would become a better place if everyone became a Humanist.

Clippings: Volkswagen will change its name to Voltswagen for US. Oh? We were enthusiastic VW Bug supporters, circa 1955-75, but they stopped selling it an the USA and we discovered the Toyota Prius. Then came the scandal of faked emissions. But if they get a good electric car we'll consider it. Meanwhile this smells like a joke and later turned out to be one. The price in lives and dollars of the pandemic in America has outstripped WWII. We could have avoided it had we not had a Fake News president in office. Huge changes are needed to keep nature and Earth okay, a report says. Indeed, but I fear we are doomed by idiot politics across the world. Column by Eugene Robinson 3-14-21 is headed "Waiting for the GOP to come to its senses is a mistake." Yes, I suspect that only the extinction of the GOP will suffice, in the manner of the Whig party of yore. Disney is trying to enforce pandemic safety rules, but workers get yelled at, pushed, and spit on. My feelings about Disney are mixed, but this is disgusting. They are being condemned for trying to do the right thing? What is the matter with their visitors? Don't they know that this is America, where folk try to cooperate for the common good? That there is a brutal pandemic? Apparently not. Just as ogres are justifiably proud of their stupidity, these folk seem proud of their ignorance. Column by Nicholas Goldberg titled "Can I lose my landline yet?" He says it has been calculated that in 2020 there were 45,866,949,500 (that's 45 billion) robocalls made to US households. "I swear most of them came to me." Another item says that in February Americans received more than 4.6 billion robocalls, up 15% from January. So it is still getting worse. Today a majority of American households have a cellphone, but no landline. Among younger adults that figure is 76.5 percent. So he plans to cancel his landline. It does seem that robocalling will drive the landline out of business. I say again, the authorities could stop it, if they wanted to. Why don't they want to? Ditching the landline won't stop it; I am starting to get nuisance calls on my cell phone. Article in NEW SCIENTIST by Adam Vaughan says that hydrogen has long been a candidate for a clean fuel revolution. Can it finally make the grade? Maybe, but it does have problems such as transporting it to where it is to be used, as it is voluminous and leaky. But we'll see. Another NEW SCIENTIST article by Michael Le Page says that a while back, actually 680 million years, it was cold. They call in Snowball Earth, as the planet was mostly covered in ice. Even the seas around the equator mostly froze. It seems that tiny photosynthetic bacteria encountered a bottleneck and had to mutate to get out of it. They succeeded, fortunately for us. Article by Graham Lawton says that when the future looks back on the century from 1950 to 2050 they will see a great acceleration of rapacious, unrestrained plundering of Earth's natural support systems. but with luck there will also come the era of the Great Restoration, where humanity learns how to live sustainably and in harmony with nature. I certainly hope so, as we are presently destroying the world we live in. One in THE WEEK says scientists are learning to talk with lucid dreamers. That's when you are asleep, and dreaming, and you know you're dreaming and you can change it. The trick is to talk to the dreamers and get answers back. So far only a minority succeed, but who knows where this will lead as it develops? Maybe instead of watching a TV set we'll be able to got to sleep and dream and truly be in the story. THE WEEK also reran a piece from the Washington Post indicating that tens of thousands of Americans look for support as their family members disappear down the QAnon conspiracy-theory rabbit hole. Not that I want to be uncharitable, but maybe we're better off without those nuts. Article in a local magazine titled "When Route 66 Ran Through Citrus County." I live in Citrus County, Florida, and I used to enjoy the TV series Route 66, so this interests me. It seems that the TV version of Highway 66 could extend to any locale they wanted, and Episode 87 had them in Citrus County, visiting the Weeki Wachee mermaid show just south of here. One mermaid had an abnormally large lung capacity and they wondered if she could be a real mermaid faking it as a pretend mermaid. I suspect that large lung capacity translated to a big bosom. Article in SCIENCE NEWS wonders if the mid ocean upwellings are pushing continues apart. Well duh! That has been obvious for decades. And THE WEEK again remarks on America's falling fertility rate. It seems the pandemic is causing a baby bust. They have discovered a sea slug that self decapitates, ditching its head, which then grows a new body. The conjecture is that this is their way of getting rid of parasites. Could that be what QAnon is trying to do? Citrus County Sheriff Prendergast saw a man throw trash on the road at an intersection, so he pulled him over and made him pick it up. Now we could just do that with all trashers. PARADE for 3-28-21 has a feature on actress Sharon Stone. I'm not much into actresses, no pun, but I notice her because she was in Total Recall, the Schwarzenegger movie which I novelized, circa 1990. She made her fame two years later, crossing her bare legs in Basic Instinct. I liked that sequence. Now I learn that she has had troubled history, with a strained childhood, a stroke in 2001 that for a while cost her her ability to speak and seven years recovery, and of course some time out of Hollywood. But she's back now, and raising millions for charities. More power to her, even if she puts on panties and never crosses her legs again.

PIERS

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