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Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011 Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011. Photo by Jane McConnell.
FeBlueberry 2017
HI-

For those who like to read my books as well as these columns—I trust there are some—there are two sales in FeBlueberry. Xanth #40 Isis Orb, the one originated by a ten year old girl, will be on sale on the 6th through Early Bird Books, downpriced to $1.99 for that day only. Then on the 26th my collection Alien Plot will be available for .99 via Early Bird for that day only. Be there.

I read the third Vampire Love novel, Forever and Always, by H T Night. The first put Josiah, a mixed martial artist, into an association with vampires after he saves one of theirs from gang rape. The second, The Werewolf Whisperer, saw Josiah help his friend and roommate survive as a werewolf. In this third one, while Josiah is away for a month getting special training, his girlfriend Lena and friend Tommy start getting feelings for each other. Uh-oh. But there's another intriguing woman who has her eye on Josiah, so who knows what will happen? Things complicate, and at the end Lena must choose between the two of them and a third man. Meanwhile Josiah is becoming the foretold leader who will save the vampires from destruction. These are all action-packed fairly wild adventures, with new things constantly appearing. Vampire and werewolf fans should like them, as well a martial arts fans.

I watched Indecent Desires, a 1968 B/W movie. A man finds a cute doll in the trash, maybe 12 inches tall. He strokes her—and a shapely (we see her nude) neighborhood blonde feels the touches and thinks she's going crazy. It is evidently a voodoo doll tuned to her. He sees the real woman on the street and imagines making love to her. But she's not for him, and that makes him angry, and he starts torturing the doll by poking a lighted cigarette at her face—which she also feels. Then we see a man making love to the blonde's brunette friend. Later the first man takes a belt to the doll, beating her up, and the woman feels it. He undresses the doll, and the blonde's clothing comes off. She refuses to talk to her friends. Then, jealous, he rips the doll's dead off, which kills the blonde. End of movie. The blurb says it's one of the most bizarre ones ever made. I think it's merely inadequate. Who dumped the doll in the trash? Who hexed it to connect to the blonde? Why was an innocent woman brutally killed? There's no rationale, no proper resolution. There could have been a real story here, in competent hands. As it is, it's a nice series of lovely nude girl sequences and not much else.

The second movie on the disc is My Brother's Wife, from 1966, B/W. The actors are obviously reading their lines. A young man, Frankie. visits his older brother Bob who has gotten married in the two years they've been apart. Mary, the wife, is an attractive brunette. They are interested in each other from the start. Her husband doesn't pay her much attention, but Frankie does. Frankie has a girlfriend of his own, but that doesn't even slow him down. He happily has sex with both of them, and promises both to go away with each, the moment he gets two thousand dollars, because he's broke. He's a real heel. Mary is about to get the money for him, stealing it from her husband, when she discovers a letter to him from the other woman and catches on. She kills herself. End of movie. Why did I bother?

I watched The Last Woman on Earth, a 1960 movie, one of a set of two I got for two dollars. You get what you pay for; maybe some day I'll learn that. It's in color, but the colors are washed out. The acting is clumsy. Two men and a woman, Harold, Martin, and Harold's pretty wife Evelyn, go diving off Puerto Rico, then come up to find everyone on the island dead. Something had deleted the oxygen from the air, while they were underwater, but it is returning, so they can survive. But they're alone. Thus Ev is the last living woman. She takes a shine to Martin. This is of course additional mischief. They run away together; Harold comes after them, they fight, Martin dies, so it's just the two of them. End. Again, I fault it for being inadequate. No explanation of the sudden oxygen lapse, no clarification of the extent of it. Is it limited to the island, or is it global? A cosmic accident, or malign alien act? Will it happen again? As it is, it's just a love triangle of no distinction.

I watched Invasion of the Bee Girls, the other movie on the disc. This one is better. For one thing, it has sexy nude women in it. Men are suddenly dying from sexual overexertion. Some cosmic force is turning some women into queen bees, in that they keep the men at it until they expire. A warning goes out, but many men foolishly refuse to heed it and go right on having sex. Par for that course. There is a video on the nature of bees, especially the queens, interspersed with an extended seduction sequence by an attractive lady doctor who has bees in her laboratory. Then we see what's she's up to: radiating and treating young women with special honey so that they become queens too. Julie is assisting an investigator, when they catch her and are in the process of converting her when he catches on and rescues her. They are making ordinary love as the movie ends with music borrowed from Star Trek. It says this is a cult classic. I can see why: sexy nudes and sex.

I watched The Last Unicorn, musical animation with fixed backgrounds. I read the book way back when it came out, and found it okay but not spectacular, and hardly remember it now. When it comes to unicorns I think I did more of a job in my Adept series, where there are herds of them, they play music on their horns, each horn with the sound of a different orchestral instrument, and can change shape. There was going to be a movie, but it never materialized. That's always been my luck. But let's see what they did with this one. The white filly unicorn learns that she may be the last of her kind. She is captured and put in a fake monster show with a fake horn plastered on her forehead, as the real one can't be seen. So she's another pretend monster, ironically. A young wizard, Mandrake, with real magic but poor control, frees her and the other animals. They go to find the Red Bull, who had driven off all the other unicorns. But the fiery Red Bull is determined to wipe her out. The wizard changes her into the human Lady Amalthea to escape the bull. And the king's son, Prince Lir, gets interested in her, thinking her human, but can't seem to win her love by his great deeds. And we learn that the king had the Red Bull drive all the other unicorns into the sea, because only possession of them all makes him happy. And she will soon join them, unless the right elements come together to enable her to defeat the king. And they do; she becomes the unicorn again, fights back against the Red Bull and drives him into the sea, and all the unicorns are freed. It is one rousing climax. She too is freed, but her destiny is not with the prince or with the other unicorns, but it seems to be back in her forest where things don't die. It's a great movie.

I watched RPG, the letters standing for Real Playing Game. My novel Killobyte featured a virtual reality game that tries to kill the players, so this is in my territory. My novel was going to be a movie, but they fouled it up and it never appeared. Had they only been willing to follow my novel, instead of change it, when each change just took it farther away from feasibility—but that wasn't my call. Movie makers can strike me as halfway crazy; you can verify this by asking any other writer who has been passed over for a movie, or had his novel fouled up by them. RPG sets up a contest of ten old people, for a day, in young attractive bodies in an unfamiliar location, only one of whom will survive. They will be killing each other, but they need to know the true identity of whom they kill, or the killer loses when he/she touches the hologram of the supposed deceased. There has to be one death every hour. So each wants to learn his/her own identity, but not have it known to others. There is a circular building in the forest with a charged wall. They start pairing off, male/female, female/female, having sex, enjoying their young bodies while they have them. One woman suspects another is a man, and pushes her into the wall, where the charge kills her. One down. The killer lies about her involvement. The deceased girl turns out to have been a man. A boy tortures and kills a girl, who turns out to have been a singer. A girl tries to kill a boy, but dies herself. A girl attacks a girl. A boy kills a girl. No one can be trusted. It gets easier to guess as the number of survivors diminishes. At last there is one survivor, our protagonist. He pays his entire fortune to get to keep the young body. But it was all pretense, the other players mere actors; his body soon turns old, and they have his fortune. A good taut movie, but with questions, such as why didn't the rich old man do due diligence before trusting these shysters with his millions? If it was all a charade for the benefit of the one client, why did they have things going on that he couldn't see? So could they have made a better one from my novel? The potential was there, but given their apparent ineptitude, probably not. Movie makers, like novelists, vary widely in competence, as I trust my reviews show.

I watched The Exotic Time Machine, which turned out to be soft porn, breasts and female genitals shown, actual penetration not. Mostly sex to music, with a thin story line connecting the erotic sequences like beads on a string. It's a genre, the object being to show lovely flesh in action, repeatedly. Leon and Daria make out on a space station, run afoul of a time portal and suddenly he is in the past, seeing Marie Antoinette, with breasts like balloons, in the boudoir making out with Mimi, her maid. Marie is annoyed because the king sends all her lovers to the guillotine. So she quickly seduces Leon, the king catches them and sends Lean to the Bastille. Daria, trying to rescue him, finds herself in Arabia, in the Sultan's harem, where the other women set up her action. Aladdin shows up and makes out with one of the girls. Then they are taken to the sultan, where Shahrazad dances for him. Speaking as one who collects the Arabian Nights tales and adapted one for a novel, Hasan, I can report that this is sadly garbled. But that's hardly the point; bare breasts and butts are the point. Meanwhile back at the Bastille Mimi rescues Leon and makes out with him. Then Daria finds them and conjures them back to the future, Mimi too. Where fascists are in charge; it seems they have changed history. Mimi must be returned, though she may now be pregnant with Leon's child. Hmm. As these things go, it's okay.

I watched the Discover video Evolve: Size. Ants are small, elephants are large, but the total mass of ants outweighs that of elephants on Earth by a huge amount. There were pygmy elephants, one tenth the weight of the big ones. They were on an island off California, until mankind arrived and ate them. Why so small? With diminishing resources, the small one were more agile and better able to forage. There once were dragonflies with a wingspan of three feet, when there was more oxygen in the atmosphere. Insects are limited because their surface air tubes can service only so much flesh. But bacteria stayed small for three and a half billion years. Gravity is limiting; size can grow in the water. The blue whale is the largest creature who ever lived. Whales started out on land, then moved to the water. About six million years ago whales grew large; scientists are not sure why. My guess is to avoid being shark bait. Blue whales eat krill, 800 feet below the surface. The biggest land creatures were vegetarian sauropods like Brachiosaurus, 30 tons. They had much longer necks than giraffes, with with lighter bones, 60% filled with air, but strong. When the asteroid struck 65 million years ago, the big creatures died while the small mammals survived. My theory is that the mammals were also mostly deep in caves, shielded from the firestorm that was the surface. They were protected by the temperature shielding the deep rock provided. Then they emerged and took over the vacated surface. And grew larger. But carnivores were limited by the underlying predatory ratios; Tyrannosaurus Rex was probably as large as a predator could get and still find enough to eat. Human beings are governed too; the taller the man, the more children he has, while women do better petite. Sexual selection. But we are smaller now than we were 50,000 years ago. How come? They ran out of food. They had to turn to the plants growing out of the garbage mounds. Today with a better food supply, we are growing again. How big can we get? It's complicated, but probably not much more than six foot two, and five eight for women.

I watched Monster Island. Josh wins a vacation on a jungle island in the Bermuda Triangle, and invites his high school friends along, hoping to win back his girlfriend, but that seems unlikely. During a show a giant wasp attacks and carries off a girl, Carmen Electra, who Josh was starting to get interested in. So the boat leaves with most of them, but Josh stays to try to rescue Carmen, along with seven others. They encounter a giant praying mantis. Then a manlike green water monster, the piranha man. They are rescued by an older man from the Department of atomic energy who seems crazy. He says the island will soon sink. They continue with their rescue mission, losing members to a praying mantis, a giant spider, giant ant; then are joined by Atomic Energy man, who changed his mind. Human slaves serve the big Queen Ant; they get them to revolt and attack the ant. They finally are rescued by a helicopter as the volcano blows. Josh, proving his courage and constancy, while others tend to fold or cheat when the going gets rough, finally wins back his girlfriend. It's a wild, largely nonsensical, but fun movie. The monster insects are a bit too mechanical to be completely convincing. However, Carmen Electra plays herself, and it's fun watching her sing and dance. Sort of like getting a free show along with the movie.

I read Astro City #11 Private Lives. In my day Donald Duck comics were 52 pages in full color for a dime but needless to say, that day is long gone. This is 176 full color pages for around fifteen dollars, part of a series I seem to be reading in random order. This one concerns the private lives of those associated with the super heroes, a look behind the scenery as it were. The first story concerns Kim, the Silver Adept, champion of the light, the savior of myriad living souls across countless realities. Only it's from the perspective of her office manager, an ordinary woman who has to scramble constantly to keep things on schedule when Kim oversleeps, as she often does. And in another story, Ellie, who loves machines and constantly repairs and befriends them, even killer machines, so when things go wrong they return to her. The ordinary folk, out of the limelight, who do the work. It's an interesting take on the superhero business, and probably accurate.

I watched Battledogs, which I got for two dollars. It starts out with a bang: a young woman at an airport feels discomfited and goes to a rest room stall, where we see her badly scratched arm. Then she shifts into a wolf and charges out to kill people. And there are many wolves wreaking havoc, leaving a trail of mutilated bodies. The police try to contain the damage. In due course she reverts to her human form. The authorities seem to know about the condition, and mean to treat it. A bite infects a victim, who becomes a werewolf. It seems they have to keep the victims' heart rates down, keep them calm so they won't transform. One major, Brian, is trying to handle the problem amicably, understanding and treating the wolves. But it seems that a general has different ideas; he wants a ruckus so that the military will get more funding. Also, he wants a weapon: wolves with the minds of men. The young woman is the focus; both sides want her, for good or ill, respectively. This intransigence makes the good guys get hunted while the wolves invade the city. If they get out of the city before the authorities bomb the bridges, the world is doomed. So it's wolves vs machine guns. But the good guys do find the cure, and maybe romance at the end. This is one taut action film, probably not too sensible if thought about, but well worth the money.

I watched Shock Treatment, a musical “sequel” -- the quotes are theirs—to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. So you know from the outset it will be wild. The protagonists are Brad and Janet, the staid couple who ran afoul of the demented happenings in Rocky. Denton, where they live, is a completely normal town; everyone knows that and you'd better believe it. Maybe Brad doesn't quite believe it, so they have him committed to Dentonvale, the local loony bin—I mean, hospital. Actually Denton is one giant TV studio, with the citizens watching every nuance from their grandstand seats ad cheering on the event in the manner of a football game. They put him in a cage in a straight jacket, gagged, and work on Janet, to talk her into being more sexy. The hospital personnel are reminiscent of horror movies, including a sexy nurse whose short skirt often shows off her panties. Soon Janet is in a slinky black outfit, and she's not bad; she can sing and slink with the best of them. Maybe too well; the crowd starts demanding more Janet instead of the other stars, who may be getting a trifle jealous. She's stealing the show! There's a little song and dance at every stage, and of course it's all a stage. So does it match the original? Not really.

I read Vampires Vs. Werewolves by H T Night, the fourth in the Vampire Love series. Lena finally clarifies that it is Josiah she loves, and they are happy for a while; in fact she gets pregnant with twins. Then he gets involved in a combat deal to save his friend Tommy, and doesn't tell Lena because, well, she may still have feelings for Tommy. When she finds out she feels betrayed, and departs. And disappears. It turns out that the bad promoter has captured her, and will kill her if Josiah and Tommy don't perform, such as in a final big match where one must kill the other. That annoys them both, and they wind up rescuing Lena and going after the bad guy. Along the way is an encounter with The Deity, a godlike lady who helps Josiah get his mind straight. Also a phenomenal series of mixed martial arts matches featuring the Seven Deadly Sins. For example Tommy has to fight to the death against Lust, the shapeliest immortal female ever. He doesn't want to kill her, but. They finally manage to unify the warring vampires and werewolves against a common enemy. So there is plenty here for fans of supernatural martial arts.

I watched Dark Streets. This is a blues movie, not my genre, but the description mentioned “the most seductive music ever created,” and I was curious. For four dollars it was worth a look. Chaz has it all: a hot nightclub, two glamorous singers, sexy dancers, and that seductive music. Then his father dies, apparently murdered, and others close to him are getting killed. There are financial problems. A cop brings a friend of his, Madelaine, and she's lovely and a top singer, but is she also a spy? Meanwhile there keep being city blackouts that darken the streets and interfere with the nightclub. Are they connected? As it turns out, yes, and poor Chaz, betrayed at every turn, is the ultimate victim, dead. This is indeed a dark street. As for the seductive music, I found it sad instead. But it's an interesting movie.

I read Armistice, the Inlari Sagas, by four authors: M J Kelley, Dana Leipold, Wolf Dietcich, and Elaine Chao. This is a kind of sequel to Interspecies, which I reviewed here last year. Both relate to the presence on Earth of the inlari, humanoid aliens with horns, who have been chased from world to word by relentless enemies. At first they are welcomed to Earth, and their technology brings advantages, but later relations are mixed, and the two species go to internecine war. These are twenty stories along the way, positive neutral, negative, showing the different personal interactions. What strikes me is its seeming reflection on existing situations on Earth. Such as the experience of the Jews as global exiles, the American Indians as displaced inhabitants, the African Americans as enslaved immigrants, or the gay/lesbian community as it comes out of the shadows. Some are treated well; some not well; some are brutally slaughtered. There are atrocities on both sides, and woe betide those on either side who show compassion for the other. This seems to be inevitable when differing cultures mix, unfortunately. I read this with appreciation but not much pleasure, because of its painful truths.

I read Pallitine Lost, by Roderick Davidson., sequel to Pallitine Rising, which I reviewed in 2013. In the prior novel, the girl Taryn had dubious beginnings but straightened out in due course and came of age, thanks to the generosity of her Pallitine sponsor. Now after his death she becomes a Pallitine herself, and is immediately immersed in serious adventure. A plague is spreading; at first the authorities didn't take it too seriously, but suddenly it became monstrous and voracious and they have to find its cause and deal with it before it wipes out everything. It turns out to be spread by the mixing of blood, somewhat in the manner of rabies. Taryn gets wounded and blooded, as it were, and is infected. They manage to save her, but the mischief is not entirely gone, and it seems she will inevitably become one of the zombie-like damned. So she hurries to accomplish her mission before that happens. But an evil sorcerer is working to spread it, and he is no easy case; he can do remarkable and deadly magic, and seems to have no conscience. It gets ugly before the conclusion, and that is only a partial victory; the battle has not yet been won. The action is hard hitting and the outcome uncertain. No romance; perhaps that remains to be seen. There's another novel coming.

I watched Bermuda Tentacles, science fantasy adventure. My kind of junk. The USA president is down in the Bermuda Triangle, so our crack navy team is sent to rescue him. They encounter giant metallic tube worms that tower above the ships, a hundred feet over the water, and attack. They dive toward the capsule that contains the president, avoiding the tube worms. The worms turn out to be the projections from a much bigger underwater creature of extraterrestrial origin. The crew finds itself inside an alien city that is inside the monster. They land in it and search for the president's pod. There's a lot of old equipment here, collected over the centuries. Small tentacles attack from the water, picking off individuals. Flying metal globes attack from the air. They reach the president just before his air runs out, but have to fight their way out. Tentacles galore! They make it to their craft with the president and power out past the tentacles. But the monster follows, rising into the air like an enormous starfish, and starts lasering ships. They decide on the nuclear option, though this may wipe out many people including themselves. But maybe they can fly the bomb into the monster and have it implode. They have to wait for it to attack another target, because only then is it briefly vulnerable. That means serious losses, but it works. There's even a tiny bit of a hint of possible romance at the end. This turned out to be less junky and more exciting than I expected.

Last Column I discussed my travails on the Adult Trike. They continue. The tilt in the drive is not that much, but my reflexes steer me off regardless. It reminds me of something at a fun-house when I was a child. There was a huge man shape with stairs inside it, so people could enter at the foot and exit at the head. There was a continuous line of people going through. I think it was the entrance to the horror house. Every so often it would wiggle a little, and there would be a chorus of girlish screams. Then it would chortle HO HO HO! I wondered why such a little wiggle caused such alarm. Now, about 75 years later, I finally understand. It was like a trike tilt. That sensation of falling is maddeningly compelling. Your logic tells you there's no real danger, but your body dates from fifty million years back (sorry, anti-evolutionists; I am not one of you) when it was dangerous to fall out of a tree, and any indication a fall was starting brought an immediate defensive reaction. Those who lacked that reaction died, and have no descendants. Now you know. I continued to fight it. One time I slowed almost to a stop, maybe a tenth of a mile an hour, and did make it nervously through without swerving. Another time I tried hugging the right side, to avoid the worst of the tilts, but my right hind wheel go caught in the brush and I had to get off and extract it. Another time I tried to swerve left before the worst of the tilt, went zooming out of control across the center and screeched to a stop on the left side as the trike tumbled over. I got scratches on my left hand and a nasty little gouge on my left forearm. (Pause here for the monster's HO HO HO!) So yes, I succeeded in falling on my tricycle. How was it possible in the space of about three feet? Well, the tilt made me over-react, and then I overreached again as I seemed about to sail into the trees, and that threw my weight against the side hard enough to tumble the trike over. If I hadn't reacted I'd have been okay. Sigh. I'll keep trying; brace yourselves for future reports of the old man on his trike.

We get constantly deluged with solicitations, mostly for money. If we answered them all we'd go broke; each is an insatiable black hole. The thing about it is that they are all for good causes. Did you ever hear of a solicitation for a bad cause? Yes, the hungry children of the world do need feeding. The American Constitution does need defending. The old school does need money to operate on. We'd like to help them all, but we can't, so we have become quite choosy, while feeling constantly guilty. One thing I note is that each cause seems to think it is the only one doing the job, when there may be hundreds in that specialty, plus whole governments trying to help. I feel that's a form of dishonesty. They should admit that they are one cause of a number of that type, then argue why they deserve your money more than the others do. At such time, if ever, I see that kind of honesty, I'll really have a problem turning them down.

For those of you who didn't notice: our email server was down for about three days, and nothing got through to us. Finally they fixed it, but we're not sure they told the senders that their notes were not getting through. Anyone who tried to contact me and got no bounce and no response, that's probably why. I hope not too many million dollar movie offers got lost. Speaking of which the Xanth TV option expired in NoRemember, a fitting month, but then was restored in Dismember, then lost again. Then it sprouted again in Jamboree. Maybe this time it will hold. Readers keep asking my why I don't have a Xanth movie, as if I could wave my little finger and it would happen. I've been trying for twenty years to get a movie, but the billionaires who finance such things are not noted for their common sense and don't realize what a potential market there is for Xanth. Yet.

I set aside the time I used to use for archery practice for Chores I wouldn't otherwise get around to. I quit archery because I was losing too many arrows, when they went where they chose instead of where I aimed them. It's been a good trade-off; I have accomplished many good things. This time I used the time to properly define and list and shelve the new books I acquired the past two years. You'd think this would be an easy routine. Ha! It's not as bad as tilting on the trike, but it is a challenge. First I have to figure out their Library of Congress alphanumerical designation. It should be in the book, behind the title page, but usually isn't, so I have to work it out for myself. There's the challenge. One was Ancient Ice Mummies, that my wife gave me for Christmas two years ago. Remember Otzi, the Ice Man of 5,000 years age? I have him as a character in my GEODYSSEY series. He may be the world's oldest murder mystery. He was shot in the back and left to be hidden by a passing glacier. His daughter was bereft. (I know more about my characters than the archaeologists do.) So how is this book to be defined? I finally decided GL for prehistoric archaeology and worked out the rest of the coding; that's where it goes on my library shelf. There there was a little book and disc on King Tut; that's in the DT section. Then Female Nude. That's under N, no not for Nude, for Art. But how can I just define it and put it away on the shelf? I had to page through it again. You wonder who actually looks at such pictures? I do. Once you've seen one breast, you've seen them all? I want to see them all! Bad Girls Need Love Too, the collection of provocative covers from the 1960s. Talk about sexy! That goes under PN, and yes it needs another page by page examination. Then there's Dirty Minds, about how our brains influence love, sex, and relationships. That's the one where the lady author got into an fMRI imager and masturbated to climax so they could record her brain in the process. Feisty girl! She remarks on how epileptic seizures may inspire intense religious devotion. Interesting insight, no? Maybe my problem with religion is that I'm not epileptic. And He's a Stud, She's a Slut. Many insights there. So this was no rapid processing, but it had its rewards. I'd be more efficient if I could turn off my mind and feeling, as others do. To me, that's life.

I like words, maybe because I do use them in my business of writing fiction. The right word in the right place is vital to me, and I can spend considerable time getting it right. Any serious writer will understand. I have a considerable vocabulary, for all that in my looming dotage I often can't remember a word I use constantly; I mentioned in a prior column how my wife needed to come up with a word I'd lost, “pizza.” So it surprises me when I encounter one I've never heard of. In the past month there were two: kakistocracy and anhedonia. The first means government by the worst people in society; the HIGHTOWER LOWDOWN used it when pondering the recent election. The second is a lack of pleasure or the capacity to experience it, which state some of us liberals may find ourselves in as a result of that election. Columnist David Brooks used it to describe Donald Trump. I have paid more attention to Brooks' columns since reading his sociology book, phrased as a novel, The Social Animal, one of the best I've read recently. Then there's the description columnist Leonard Pitts quoted, where a West Virginia bureaucrat called First Lady Michelle Obama “an ape in heels.” Now that's an interesting word in such a context, ape. The bureaucrat denied this was racist. Well, I remember the old saying about defining a duck: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. I'm inclined to call this one Donald, as we head into the Duck Dynasty.

Couple of reader feedbacks promote further discussion. D E Evans said that regardless what THE HUMANIST magazine says, there is no need to throw Jesus away, while doubting the credibility of the Resurrection. He provided a link to an article by Neil Carter, titled “An Atheist's Defense of the Historicity of Jesus.” I'm agnostic rather than atheist, but this is close to home. Two selected quotes make the point: “The existence of two or three professionals within the study of antiquity claiming that Jesus never existed does not signal a sea change in that field.” “But the many contradictions and variations we encounter within the gospels (and noncanonical books) point to the unreliability of the sources, but not necessarily to the complete nonexistence of their central figure.” This relates to a point I have made, that most issues are not either/or, but along a broad spectrum in between. Jesus may not have existed as a God, but also, may not never have existed, ungrammatical as that may seem. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The author suspects that the truth is indeed in between, and that there may be “layers of legend” over a kernel of original history. I can see it; there could have been a wandering preacher who was later considerably enhanced and divinitized by those eager to believe. It has happened elsewhere.

And guns. I received a savage condemnation on “smart” guns. “The so-called 'smart' gun is not smart at all, it's quite possibly the dumbest, most useless, and most dangerous invention in history. In the first place, it would mean no one can use anyone else's weapon, which is its intent, but which would cripple our ability to train with weapons that we do not own. It would also mean much more expensive weapons that poor people can't afford.” And on for another page. Obviously I had little understanding of the philosophy of my reader, and he has I think even less of mine. But to address just what I have quoted: I do not agree that the smart gun is stupid or evil, but if I did, I think something like poison gas would be worse. What I have objected to is the NRA's (that's the National Rifle Association, which purports to represents hunters and such) resistance to a smart gun even being put on sale; that severely limits my own right to buy a gun, as the smart gun may be the only kind I would want. I think the NRA is hypocritical here. Making the smart gun available is hardly the same as banning all other guns, and I suspect only a nut would think so. I would want a gun that could not be stolen and used against me, or somehow gotten hold of by a child and dangerously fired. Such a gun is hardly dumb, useless, or dangerous compared to regular guns. As for training—why not train with your own gun? But if you want to train with other guns, then do so; they are pretty freely available elsewhere, and training centers surely have many you can borrow or rent for the occasion. Then, fully trained, you might elect to buy a smart gun of the type you prefer. How can any rational person oppose that? Why does the NRA? I conjecture that the NRA's real mission is not freedom of arms so much as the profit to be made from unrestricted gun sales, and the money of criminals and idiots is just as good as that of responsible folk. The carnage following such sales is not their concern, right? Even so, their denial of the smart gun makes no sense to me. Do they really want to guarantee that there is no safe gun available? That's nuts, and I use that term in the sense of crazy. If you don't want a smart gun, don't get one; don't try to enforce your foible on others. I would welcome any rational response, as I got with my Jesus comment.

Book review in THE HUMANIST of the book His Porn, Her Pain, by Marty Klein. Intriguing title, and I saw a picture of her looking over his shoulder with utter horror. Now that pornography, that is, sexual expression, is freely available via the internet, has the world really gone to hell? Does porn really lead to violence, mental illness, and community dysfunction, as the anti-pornists assert? The answer becomes vague, but seems to be no. The antis resort to misinformation, which alone suggests that they know their cause is lost. It seems that religion is the main opposition, which makes me wonder why this should be a religious obsession. I may have commented before on how in the old days the Israeli authorities were losing devotees to neighboring cults that offered sex with luscious priestesses as an inducement, so they tried to make sex itself sinful. This had nothing really to do with morality, and everything to do with competition for members and their money. That attitude spread to Christianity, I think via the apostle Paul, and persists today. Maybe not coincidentally, religious observance is fading today. I don't see that as necessarily a bad thing.

I have a pile of clippings as usual, and am already well beyond the length I prefer for these columns, so will give them short shrift. George Will remarks on how today at some educational institutions anything over a score of 70% is a grade A, and students take correction as an insult and violently resist learning. Thus we seem to be heading into an age of proud ignorance. That explains a lot, politically. NEW SCIENTIST reviews a book, The Myth Gap, that says too much information today is shrouded it obscure terminology, and what is needed is to tell it instead in stories of passion. Amen! They should hire fiction writers to translate technical information to human terms. Bizarro cartoon that made me laugh: engineers looking at a large dam from downstream, and one says “I'm cool with putting a mural on a dam. It's the subject matter that's creeping me out.” The mural is a realistic depiction of cracks leading into a gap in the wall, with water surging out. A new edition of Adolf Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf, banned for 70 years in Germany, is now a bestseller there. They are really interested in seeing how that warped mind lead to the horrors of the Nazis. I read it in high school—it wasn't banned in America—and was morbidly impressed myself. Hitler wanted to be a architect, but didn't make the grade, so became a politician instead. Parallels can be drawn to today's politics around the world. It's scary. Another newspaper article “Can home remedies curb cold?” says Vitamin C can shorten the duration of a cold by about ten percent. This is yet another example of the promotion of ignorance. They have tested Vitamin C only in relatively low doses, so that it has only marginal effect. That's like giving a man dying of thirst a thimbleful of water, and saying water has only slight effect. I tell you yet again: take one gram an hour, and Vitamin C may stifle your cold entirely. I have not had a cold get out of hand in decades. That's a lot of C, so don't do it unless actually fighting a cold, and do be prepared for some indigestion. Why don't they do a real double blind test? Because the big pharmaceutical companies that make their riches on the equivalent of snake oil would lose a huge amount of money if folk could so readily avoid colds and not need snake oil. News item: the eight richest men have as much money as over half the world's poorest population. They're still hungry for more. Another item: we truly are stardust; key elements of our bodies were made in supernovae. Conservatives really are better looking than average. It seems that personal attractiveness leads to better jobs and more money, and thus they want to maintain the status quo. How then, to account for my own liberalism? Well, I didn't do it by being attractive, I did it by getting lucky after getting screwed by the status quo. Now you know. Locally an outfit called Food Not Bombs was feeding the hungry, and got arrested for it. What? Turned out that they were more interested in confrontation than in getting along, so did not cooperate with the system or the police. When a lady police officer tried to reason with them, they shouted slogans to drown her out. They were actually more about bombs than food. And an article about Snopes, the online fact checker: it is getting attacked itself, apparently by those who don't want facts replacing misinformation. Sad commentary, no?

So meanwhile what have I been doing, apart from reading books, viewing old movies, and opinionating on the state of the world? In Jamboree I wrote several chapters of the collaborative novel with J R Rain, The Journey, plus a couple of stories. Writing is mainly what I do. Next month I'll catch up on more reading and viewing, write another story, then get serious about Xanth #43 Jest Right, about the comedienne no one takes seriously. That will surely shorten the next few HiPiers columns. Are you relieved? Our TV tower malfunctioned; it no longer rotates, and the serviceman said that the pre-amp atop it is probably shot, but he doesn't climb towers any more. No one does. So we're stuck with essentially one station, the closest one, from Ocala. We're not thrilled, but haven't figured out what to do. I don't pay a lot of attention to the TV, but my wife does. Sigh. And one night I couldn't sleep, as happens on occasion, so went to the study to read, so as not to disturb my wife and because reading puts me to sleep. I soon nodded off, so turned out the light, then set out to make my way in darkness back to the bedroom. And got lost in my own study. I groped for the hall to the bedroom, and couldn't find it. I felt for a wall, but found no wall. Where was I? I finally blundered into the bathroom, turned on the light, and discovered that I had gotten oriented so that I was facing east when I thought I was facing north. No wonder the terrain was unfamiliar. I could have tumbled down the stairs. In future I will turn on a light ahead before I turn off the light behind; better wasting a few steps than getting lost. Yes, I see my critics nodding; they are surprised only that it took me so long to discover that I am a moron. But with luck my true readers who think I am smart will have fallen asleep before they reach this part. Okay, until next time--


PIERS
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