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Piers Anthony, August, 2021

Jamboree 2022

HI-

This the month when folk are huddling out of the cold, so for the ogres it’s jamboree time. They love the weather normal people hate. As my fans know, I adopted the ogre persona when I was accused of being an ogre at fan conventions, when I had never ever been to one. So I made an ogre the hero of the next novel I wrote, Ogre, Ogre, and that became my first national bestseller. Ogres are justifiably proud of their stupidity, as is surely evident in these HiPiers columns. No, the ogresses are not forgotten; they are proud of their ugliness. The smile of an ogress can curdle milk. Once there was an actress who was assigned to play the role of an ogress. That was a challenge, but she rose to it. She was a good actress. A very good actress. A very, very good actress. Her smile could curdle water.

I took a break between novels, something I don’t like to do, and caught up on the myriad back issues of the magazines I subscribe to. I also caught up on backlogged letters I owed. MaryLee and I started watching TV series and movies. Yes, even those had been squeezed out, along with my book reading. We’ve been busy. Two years after my wife Carol's death we're still figuring matters out, because she handled things like email and accounts. I can find it challenging. For example, last month I got a notice that my email storage was full. I figured it was fake news, because I don’t store email, I sort it, ditch the myriad ads, and answer the legitimate mail. Then my email stopped. As far as I can ascertain, while the bleeping program was refusing to send me my email, it piled up in storage until it started bouncing letters back to the senders. There would have been no problem if it had just not interfered with normal transmission. My HiPiers column was delayed, again, until our geek came and found a way to clean out the stacked storage. Then at last service was restored. I don’t know how Carol handled such stunts, but it’s learning curve for me that I think will result in my changing my system to one that actually performs as it’s supposed to. I am tired of having my email server pick and choose which of my letters it will send or receive. I don’t like having to bypass it by asking my wife to use her smartphone to relay important news to my agent. I feel that I should be the one who decides. Yes, I come from another century and don’t properly understand all the ways of this one. Maybe natives of this century are more tolerant of self-willed technology than I am. So be it. I write about independent minded robots in my science fiction, but don’t want them in my computer.

MaryLee and I watched the first two episodes of The Wheel of Time. I have to say that while it has beautiful background scenery and lots of violence, the main story line seems yet to have taken hold. For me, the story is what counts. We’ll match more, in due course, hoping for the best. Meanwhile we watched a movie, The Little Prince. I remember the book from my childhood, a marvelous story of childhood wonder. Remember how the boy drew a terrifying picture of a boa constrictor who had swallowed an elephant? But to others it just looked like a hat. Adults can be marvels of unimagination. I tried to hold on to mine when I grew up, as perhaps my career shows. The movie puts it into a larger story and I think does a wonderful job. This is animation, and the characters are obviously mocked up in their faces, with no attempt to make them look real. But the bodies are more realistic, with the men being lean sometimes to the point of emaciation, and one woman, the little girl’s mother, having a marvelously shapely and sexy figure, especially when she is walking away from the camera. The larger story is how The Little Girl – if she is named, I didn't catch it – needs to be prepared for the demanding real world, and her mother is determined to get her there by hook or crook. But the child is more interested in being a child. A friendly neighbor man, a former aviator, takes her to the fantasy world where she meets The Little Prince. They both run afoul of sometimes cruel adults, and have trouble figuring things out. It does make you wonder why adults are so determined to make children become as hidebound as they are. It also reminds me of a plaque I bought to share with MaryLee, personalized to us: “It doesn’t matter/ where you go in life.../ what you do.../ or how much you have.../ it’s who you have beside you.” Oh, my, yes!

We watched Sing, an animated movie MaryLee gave me for my birthday several months ago. Did I mention how we got behind on things? Buster Moon sets up for a great singing competition, the winning prize being $1,000 that oops gets typoed as $100,000. Naturally it brings in many entrants. Knowing he can't pay the prize they expect, Buster arranges to have the theater wash out, literally, and returns to his day job, washing cars. But the dream has taken hold, and he and the contestants manage to assemble a temporary theater. The characters are parodies of many animals, but the singing is real, and individual performers rise to the occasion. For example, one is an elephant girl who longs to sing but gets obliterating stage fright in public. Buster persuades her to tune out the world and sing for herself, and when she does she soon carries the whole audience with her. The show is a wonderful success, and an investor buys it and it will be a regular thing. Sure, this is formula, but formulas exist because they work, and this works. it’s a lot of fun, and I recommend it.

We watched Mrs. Doubtfire, wherein Robin Williams goes drag in order to be with his children. He loves his three children and they love him, but insensitive judges separate them when his wife files for divorce. Naturally things go wrong, such as his (her) blouse catching fire and unavoidable schedule conflicts. Hilarious misadventures, but all ends halfway well when the pretty wife, Sally Field, relents and lets him have daily time with them. The thing is, way back when as correspondents, MaryLee and I discussed movies and it seemed that our tastes were opposite. So we started exchanging movies to see if there was any overlap in the center, like maybe ten or fifteen percent. There turned out to be more than that, more like eighty five to ninety percent. Our acquaintance grew. So now we like to watch movies side by side, as in a manner they brought us together. Romantic, no? Yes we hold hands and cuddle. How else should a movie be appreciated? Sure, I looked more closely at Sally Field and MaryLee looked at Pierce Brosman, a former James Bond, who played Sally's new boyfriend, that Robin did his best to torpedo. Overall, a fun movie, with some serious undercurrents.

MaryLee and I had a quiet Christmas day alone together. We’ve been married 20 months, but this is still romantic, apart from trying to avoid the siege of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. We exchanged gifts and had a pizza for dinner, not bothering with the usual holiday accessories. As the plaque put it, it’s who you have beside you. I will mention two gifts I got myself. One is a gaudy watch/stopwatch made by Smith & Wesson. Yes, the gun maker. Maybe that's what intrigued me about it. Will watch makers start making guns now? I haven't yet figured out all its settings – 21st century tech, you know – but it’s fun. Which is really the point, no? Fun foolishness. I also got a couple of those bent nail puzzles. The trick is to get the nails apart, not nearly as easy as it might look. One I was familiar with and solved, but while I worked the other several times, I had yet to figure out exactly how I did it. Each time I was trying random moves, and suddenly discovered I had done it, but was unable to reverse course to return it to its original state. I wonder whether that is an analogy of life? However, on the last day of the year I finally managed to truly solve it; now I can get those nails apart or together in seconds, anytime. That's a great satisfaction.

I had a spot of face surgery. No, not to conceal it, as critics might suppose. There was a brownish patch on my left cheek that seemed to be expanding. I am nervous about expanding patches ever since my daughter Penelope had one that led to her death from melanoma in 2009. So the doctor removed it, and the biopsy showed it was harmless, so I'm home free, as it were. Sorry, critics. The stitches are out and my face is minus a blemish.

I finally caught up on those 50 back magazines. I won't go into every detail of all of them, but will share the highlights with you, in imperfect order. FREE INQUIRY for August / September 2021 has an op-ed by editor Tom Flynn “Will World Population Drop Far Enough, Fast Enough?” He says that the optimum may be something like the numbers we passed around 1950: a world population of about 2.5 billion, which is 40 percent of the present 6.4 billion, and a US population of 150 million, instead of the present 293 millon. Others feel that even this is too high. I agree emphatically. There is indication that fertility decline will be obvious by 2050, but do we have that much time? One estimate is that by 2100 three in four people will face the threat of dying from heat unless greenhouse emissions are sharply curtailed. Yes. That's one reason my novel Deep Well pushes nonpolluting geothermal power to replace fossil fuels. That's hardly the only threat to the world as we know it, but it’s a good starting point. Also in that issue is an article by Brian Bolton titled “Jefferson, Jesus, and Slavery.” I learned to my surprise that Jesus never condemned or even criticized slavery, thus tacitly endorsing the practice. He even recommended whipping disobedient slaves. Paul and Peter also endorsed it. President Jefferson has been criticized for admiring Jesus's morals while holding slaves himself, but it seems he was consistent with his times and Jesus's times. And an article titled “Go to Hell,” by Gary Shugar, which suggests that when someone tells you to go to Hell, thank him. If you displease God and get sent to Hell, Satan will probably be nice to you, just to piss God off. If you had stayed in Heaven you would have been committed to asceticism, to contemplating the glory of God. Maybe okay for an hour, but for eternity? You would find Hell a lot more interesting. There you can pig out on chocolate, gambling, alcohol, sex, whatever. The thing about sin is that it’s fun. Then in the October / November 2021 issue I learned that editor Tom Flynn had abruptly died. They ran his final editorial. He was 66. What did he die of? They don’t say. We tried to research it on the Internet but got no answer. Could it have been Covid-19? He surely went to Hell, as he was an outstanding independent thinker and an atheist; God isn't into that kind. I suspect Tom brought a fire extinguisher with him, but didn't need it, being naturally immune to the folly of believing he had to be punished for common sense.

The December 2021 / January 2022 issue of FREE INQUIRY has an Op-Ed by Ophelia Benson titled “Is there a Future?” Because the heat of Hell is coming to Earth in the form of global warming. She wished we had a backup planet we could summon. My question is why, when we would just burn that one up too? Millions will die, maybe hundreds of millions. She wishes that she could feel even a little bit confident that the governments and political parties would get their acts together in time to avoid the worst calamities, but she can't. The airline industry won't let them, the cruise industry won't, the automobile industry won't, and on down the list of industries that keep pumping those fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere. I agree. Again, my novel Deep Well presents an answer, but there's no certainty that the world will heed it. We may be doomed, despite a clearly feasible solution. Mankind, like a mob, is less intelligent than any of its participants.

Shorter shrift to the remaining raft of FREE INQUIRY issues from late 2020 to the present. Every issue has thoughtful material, but I know that not all my readers are into this kind of contemplation. February / March 2021 has an article by Robert Cirillo titled “Homo Religiosus to Homo Sapiens: Approaching Religion as Clinical Delusion.” It says that many believe that religion is a mental disorder, a form of delusion comparable to superstition and belief in conspiracy theories. What does it offer? People are afraid of death, so it promises an afterlife. People can't understand the origin and destiny of the universe, so it provides an explanation. You know: God made it in a week. Religion also helps scare people into submission. The April / May 2020 issue mentions how the original Hebrew referred to “young woman” instead of “virgin,” but sloppy translations changed it and church authoritios were of course too dull to catch on. The August / September issue mentions how a new supreme court ruling decimates church-state separation. Yes the religionists are determined to subvert America and make it Christian rather than secular. The April / May 2021 issue has an article by Henry Grynnsten titled “How to build a Conscious Robot.” That's one of my buttons; I do believe that machine consciousness is possible. This says that there need to be senses that can be bound together in the brain. Probably also a body. Would turning off such a robot be murder? This is getting into difficult philosophy. I feel that one key to machine consciousness is feeling. What is the point in existing of you don’t care? That may be a subject for another day.

Another magazine is THE PROGRESSIVE. It says it champions peace, civil liberties, equality, and justice. I find it sad that these worthy ideals are under constant attack. The August / September 2021 issue says that the magazine is suing Google, taking it to court over its monopolistic ad sales practices, which work to the detriment of small publishers like them. That could get interesting. An article by Amber Perry titled “The Case for Decriminalizing Sex Work.” A sex worker is defined as a person whose work involves sexually explicit behavior. That includes stripping, prostitution, escort services, phone sex, pornography, and webcam modeling. The legality varies from state to state. There are an estimated one to two million sex workers in the United States, and more that forty million worldwide. What do I think of this? I favor decriminalization. When you have a toothache you get the service of a dentist. If your need is lower down, you should be able to go to a sex worker. The police and courts should focus on dealing with criminals who hurt or impoverish people, not those who have a normal interest in sex. Why is it otherwise? Because of the influence of religion, that wants to control your private business. That should stop, The December 2020 / January 2021 issue has an article on the graying of mass incarceration with a graph showing the U. S. prison population aged fifty five and older. In 1993 it was 26,300. in 2000 it was 44,200. 2003 was 58,300. 2005 was 66,500. 2010 was 124,900. 2013 was 131,500. 2018 was 185,110. Are old folk really turning criminal so explosively? Or does the law foolishly condemn things like marijuana for effective pain relief? That worries me. In the February / March 2021 issue a Comment by the Reverend William J. Barber: “There are, after all, real costs to maintaining a vastly unequal economy. Every year we lose $1 trillion to child poverty costs and $2.6 trillion in lost earnings from gender and racial wage gaps; we have lost $1.3 trillion in government revenue by lowering the corporate tax rate in 2017 and $6.4 trillion in endless wars; inaction on climate change may cost close to $3.3 trillion annually, and 250,000 people die from poverty and inequality every year. The cumulative financial costs of the pandemic are estimated to be $16 trillion.” The April / May issue has an article by Melissa Ryan titled “The Enemy Within” saying “State and local Republican parties have been taken over by white supremacists, conspiracy mongers, and insurrectionists.” As you can see, this magazine doesn’t mince words.

I still get IG LIVING, (the IG stands for Immune Globulin) which my first wife Carol subscribed to, as she had peripheral neuropathy, one of the ailments this magazine addresses. Yes, memories of her keep returning, with the nostalgia of a life forever gone, and I have no interest in forgetting her. You might think that a magazine devoted to illness would have little interest for folk who are well, apart from sentimental. Not so. For example, the April-May (Yes, that's not marked the same as the prior / dates, but I am following the way it is put on the specific magazines. As is said, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. How little is your mind?) has an article by Meredith Whitmore titled “Fighting the Loneliness of Chronic Illness.” It starts “It is safe to say this past year has been difficult for the entire globe. For many, the pandemic's extended lockdown has resulted in loneliness. The problem is humans are hardwired to be naturally social.” Amen. At least I had the wit to get remarried early in the lockdown, which countered the isolation. The article goes on to say that loneliness is a health risk. It increases a person's risk of death by 26 percent. It is as bad for one's health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. High blood pressure increases, coronary heart disease, severe depression, and cognitive decline and dementia. So how should you counter it, apart from catching a new spouse? Learn something new, re-frame your thinking, be grateful for what you have, make friends virtually, volunteer, take pictures, get a pet, find a group with common interests, and other things like exercise and sleeping right. The October-November 2021 issue has another article by Meredith Whitmore – I wonder whether she ever gets teased about not being Whitless? – titled “Why Women Are More Susceptible to Autoimmune Diseases Than Men.” That interests me because my wife Carol had CIDP, Chronic Inflammatory, Demylinating Polyneuropathy, wherein her own immune system saw the fatty myelin sheathing around her nerves as foreign and attacked it. The effect was like stripping away the insulation from the wires of an electric gadget so that she shorted out, and she lost control of her peripheral parts, like hands and feet. Fortunately a monthly treatment mitigated that. But I never suffered from anything like that. How come? Well, men and women react differently to some ailments. For example, the common cold and flu can be more severe for us men. But it is opposite for autoimmune illnesses. Having an extra X chromosome helps women live longer than men, but can affect the immune system. Men have testosterone, which suppresses something called B-cell activating factor, BAFF, and that helps them here. Now we know. The December-January 2022 issue has an article by Erika Lawrence titled “Tips for Improving Your Sex Life.” Naturally that got my attention. I may be old, but I am far from dead, and I still love the look and feel of women. It tackles several myths about sex. Such as that sex means intercourse and orgasm. No, there are many additional ways to explore your sexuality and experience pleasure with your partner. Another myth is that sex should always be mind-blowing. No, it varies. 5 to 15 percent is mediocre. That's still better than nothing. Another myth is that sex should always be spontaneous. No, long-term couples plan for sex, just as they plan for meals, chores, and social visits. Another myth is that if your partner is not in the mood, he/she is not attracted to you. No, there are times when sex is not an option, such as maybe when flying an airplane or deep sea diving or interviewing for a new job. You merely save your passion for the appropriate occasion. Another myth is that if you fantasize or need toys, you or your partner are not enough. No, such things can enhance the experience, if both parties are interested. Just as the same food can become dull after a while, so can the same sex. Variety really is the spice of life. So there you have examples of interest in a supposedly dull periodical. Never judge too quickly.

I get FOREST NEWS, partly because I have a small tree farm so as to grow wood as fast as my books use it up, but mainly because I do believe that the preservation of the world lies in its natural state. This is the newsletter of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, FSEEE. Policies come and go in the national forest service, as different parties control the government, but there needs to be some consistency and care for nature. A forest is a wonderful thing, and should not be clear-cut to make way for a miles-wide parking lot or to enable a billionaire to double his fortune and to hell with the deer, bears, and flowers, or a giant bonfire to toast marshmallows. So the FSEEE fights for the forest, suing if necessary, and is not very popular in some quarters. The magazines are filled with lovely pictures of natural scenes. An article in the Fall 2021 issue tells how climate fueled fires threaten the sequoias, the world's largest trees. To minimize the damage they wrapped the bases of the trees in aluminum foil and dropped water on the trees. Giant sequoia trees have withstood fires for millennia, but one recent fire was so bad it killed 31-42% of the trees it caught. The Winter 2021 issue tells of the effort to preserve a keystone species, the whitebark pine. A keystone species is one that others depend on; remove it, and the chain reaction may destroy a much wider number of species. Its pine cones yield seeds rich in fat and protein and serve as a food source for more than 100 animal species, including grizzly bears, squirrels, and birds. The bark beetle is wiping out 95 percent of the large trees in the greater yellowstone ecosystem. Warmer temperatures facilitate the beetles. The trees used to live 1,000 years or more; now they're in trouble. One more reason global warming has to be stopped.

And THE HUMANIST, the magazine of the American Humanist Association. I'm not much of a joiner, but I am a humanist, and that defines my world view as well as anything does. The March/April 2020 issue has a letter by Kathleen Stipek saying “don’t think for a moment that protections for unbelievers, which we've worked for long and hard, will last if the GOP has its way.” As an unbeliever I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, other than figuratively, and I never belonged to any political party, but it seems to me that if Satan made a move to take over America, he would start with the Republican party. it’s already halfway there, defined largely by rampant greed and fake religious support. A column by Joan Reisman-Brill discusses a humanist dilemma: donate to the most downtrodden, or to what you love? Help a starving man, or support the arts? it’s difficult. The man might later kill someone. The art might turn out to be finely molded human feces. I believe in the arts; I think they distinguish man from animal. But I don’t think I could let a man starve when I could prevent it. The answer the column gives is “Each of us should give to whatever makes us feel good, knowing that what goes around comes around—often in remarkable and unimaginable ways that don’t show up in any data analysis.” And a cartoon showing drivers in two cars on a highway, one with donkeys, the other with elephants. The lane signs indicate FAR LEFT -- CENTER LANE – ROAD TO HELL. The center is subtitled “common sense ahead” while the left and right turns each lead to suicidal drop-offs. The drivers are muttering “Decisions – Decisions” obviously having trouble making them. The September/October issue has an editorial by Jennifer Bardi, wearing a mask, remarking on the apparent whiteness of conservative Christians, who believe that Jesus was white. She says “Okay, not all humanists are even sure Jesus existed, but we all know that as a Jew from the Middle East, there's no way he was a flaxon-haired blue-eyed white guy.” Yes, I suspect that Jesus was the personification of a set of ideals, the kind of figure meant to animate a particular philosophy. As a novelist I understand this process; it can transform a lecture that will turn off readers into something they will follow and maybe appreciate. So I think Jesus existed, but as a metaphor, and his color is whatever believers choose to imagine. Conservative religion's notions of him I think would have appalled him. Making war in the name of Jesus? Condemning the poor? Praying in public? Collecting money in his name? Sending people to Hell because they worship Jesus in a different sect? Jesus is surely better off as a metaphorical image, whatever his color. The November/December 2020 issue has an editorial by Jennifer Bardi remarking on preclearance, which was a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that prohibited jurisdictions that had previously engaged in racial discrimination in voting from making any future changes to voting laws or practices without first getting permission from the federal government. It pretty well stifled further discrimination. Seven years ago that was thrown out. Justice Ginsburg wrote in a dissenting opinion “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” Since then, Bardi says, voting rights there have gotten drenched, with thousands of polling stations in predominantly Black counties closed, early voting curbed, voter rolls purged, and voter ID laws implemented. My comment? This is an indication of the damage that can be done by a preponderance of “conservative” justices in the Supreme Court. They won't say so directly, but it is evident that they want blacks and liberals excluded. A note by Karen Ann Gajewski on another subject later in the issue says “In 2019 a UN report warned that nearly one million animal species are now threatened with extinction. Less reported is the fact that scientists believe two fifths of all plant species—including 723 used for medicine—are also at risk.” Maybe God should have issued a preclearance directive to stop mankind from destroying other species? The Winter 2021 issue – it went quarterly – has a graph showing that the 2020 Nonreligious vote went 72% for Biden and 26% for Trump. That's a growing demographic. Yes, I am in it, and I voted for Biden. He was not my first choice, but he is good enough.

This catches up the magazine backlog. But I checked, and discovered more, older magazines squirreled away in different crannies of the house. I took one at random, and it’s FREE INQUIRY for June/July 2013. There shouldn't be much of interest in such ancient pages, right? Wrong. Start with a letter from Howard Grimwood relating to the meaning of life and death. He comments on a prior editorial that suggested that if heaven destroys our individuality, it is not a reward but another form of death and therefor can't make mortal life meaningful. Alternatively, if we survive eternally as ourselves, we will inevitably become bored. Ouch! I am not a believer, but if I were, that would make me question my belief. The next letter, by Peter Janangelo Jr., addresses the same editorial, remarking on its statement that if one removes the reference to an afterlife, this assertion could easily be made about any totalitarian dictator. Yes; God as portrayed in religions references comes across to me as a dictator who craves nothing but power and praise. Article by Hector F. Sierra titled “Beware of mental traps” starts with a quote from William F. Gibson “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” I like that. The article says that many people are convinced that the end of the world is nigh, despite the failure of predictions. I am one of them, but I think not in the same way. I fear that atmospheric pollution, global warming, and human overpopulation are relentlessly driving the world as we know it toward the precipice of extinction, unless we act immediately to reverse course. But the special interests may block any necessary reforms until it is too late. This article, as I understand it, is saying much the same thing. Some sample quotes from it should make the point: “...plenty of evidence shows that humans systematically strive not for the truth but for arguments that justify their beliefs or their actions.” “...people with a low tolerance for ambiguity and complexity and a preference for simple answers are easy prey to fundamentalists and demagogues (and pundits).” “...not much can (or should) be done to limit freedom of speech, even if it is nonsense.” “...we should stop being impulsive buyers and learn to be savvy consumers not only of material goods but also of ideas and information.” “To paraphrase H. L. Mencken, for every problem there is a solution that is simple, clean, and wrong.” “...start collaborating with their fellow citizens to solve the gigantic problems we all face. If not, we should keep trying until we get it right. Our lives may depend on it.” And an essay phrased as a story, by Fritz Williams. “Dear Lottie” It seems that Tucker Beckdk rather than die had his mind uploaded to a computer system. Now he is writing his wife email letters from that other side. She answers them similarly. This seems like a nice idea to me, as they explore the new realities. His emotions are really not the same as they were when he had living flesh with hormones, but he still loves her. I think this shows the challenges of such an “afterlife”; it really can't be the same without a physical body as life was before. I commend the magazine for running it. Every issue is a powerhouse of thought. I will surely be picking up other neglected issues in the future.

Other clippings and oddments: my late wife Carol has been dead for two years, but ads are still piling in to attract her attention, notably for shoes. This gives me small jolts of nostalgia. I wonder whether she wears shoes in Heaven? The Author's Guild put out a general notice calling for interested members to launch a national letter writing campaign to stop book banning. I heartily agree that it needs to be stopped. If you don’t like a book, don’t buy it or read it, but don’t try to stop your neighbor from reading it. That's interfering with freedom of speech, and if America loses that, we're doomed. Yes, it is a sensitivity of mine, because my novel Firefly was tacitly banned. Stores refused to put it on their shelves so that readers couldn't find it. Where it did go on sale it did well. The store owners were deciding what the public should be allowed to read. I received a notice that my Earthlink service was being disconnected unless I clicked their link immediately. But their link was to Ear1hL!nk, with a 1 replacing the “t” and an exclamation point in lieu of the “i.” Fake news. A catalog addressed to Jacob Piers, Northern Sun, had some interesting buttons, such as “don’t quit your day dream” and a gender symbol with male, female, and bisexual projections. Also a poster listing early warnings of fascism, such as powerful and continuing nationalism, disdain for human rights, and rampant sexism. I think we have been seeing that in America. A warning that American deer could become a Covid reservoir. Damn! We have deer on our tree farm, and value them. It seems that climate change is making birds shrink and develop long wings. Curious. A question whether we should boycott the Winter Olympics in China, to protest their human rights abuses. My feelings are mixed. The Olympics are supposed to be free of politics, but China is abusing the Uighurs among others. My protagonist in Steppe was a Uighur, and as far as I can tell, they remain good folk, many of them scholars. Does that government not like folk who know things? How long can human beings live? That interests me as I age. In the in 1860 it was 39 years; in 1920 53, and 78.8 in 2019. The reduction of infant mortality accounts for much of it but not all. By 2050 they figure there will be 3.7 million centenarians. I'll be one in 2034 if I make it. What about overpopulation, if folk don’t die normally? Such questions make me uncomfortable, as I feel that overpopulation is a significant threat to global health, but for some reason I'm not inclined to commit suicide to alleviate it. Newspaper article titled “What is going on at Blake High School?” That's in Tampa, Florida. It seems that girls are getting raped there, and if they complain, they get suspended. Whistle blowers are targeted for retaliation. Requests for records are ignored. This is America? Column by a life-long conservative Republican explains why he is leaving the party. “...Republican stalwarts continue to say 'Trump represents our values.' If so, we are indeed in big trouble. The Republican Party today – despite all denials – is massively invested in multiple forms of voter suppression, militarism, the primacy of one religion, serving the best interests of the wealthiest and perpetuating an in-your-face false patriotism that possesses a clear prediction for violence.” Yes, to me it smells like fascism, as the poster above warns, or worse. A letter in the local newspaper by George Pratt remarks on political correctness. He quotes Nelson Mandela: “Our world is not divided by race, color, gender or religion. Our world is divided into wise people and fools. And fools divide themselves by race, color, gender, or religion.” And one by Roger Cullen, who remarks how our Florida governor is doing everything he can to prolong the effects of the pandemic, penalizing those who would help stop the virus by getting vaccinated and wearing masks. “But he's not alone. Almost every Republican in every Republican-controlled state house is doing the same thing. They don’t want this pandemic to end, they want it to continue so they can blame President Biden for not ending it...” And an article on child trafficking states that 40 of 50 states received F grades for their efforts to combat this illicit industry. 10 received D grades. Only Florida received a C grade. Maybe the graders didn't hear about Blake High School.

Let's conclude with a more positive note. I get impatient waiting for my balky email server to connect, so I look at books in my adjacent shelves. Good books, every one, which is why they're there. One of them is The Ice Cream Connection, by Ralph Pomeroy, telling all about this tasty treat. On page 201 is a painting by Wayne Thiebaud titled “Girl With Ice Cream Cone.” Dull? She's a well formed creature in a tight bathing suit, sitting with her ice cream cone, and her bare legs spread wide toward the viewer, sexy as heaven. She could serve me a cone anytime. A recent newspaper item says that now there is non-dairy ice cream. I will look for that, as I continue to nudge toward a full vegan diet, even if it doesn’t come with a girl.

Best wishes to all for 2022. May the pandemic pass!

PIERS

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