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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

My love/hate with horror

My friend Berthold Gimbrel mentioned in his review of Human Sacrifices that it has elements of horror, and it does. but I have always avoided horror movies and fiction. With me it's cognitive dissonance.
When I was growing up my brother loved to watch shows on TV like Hitchcock and Suspense Theater. Most of the time they didn't bother me, but I remember to this day an episode named Room 13. I was about eight years old at the time.
The 30 minute story involved an archeologist checking into a hotel in Italy. He was in room 14 and noticed there wasn't a room 13, the manager explained they didn't use the number 13 as it was bad luck.
The manger knowing the guest's reputation asked him to look and a metal box he unearthed. In the box was a metal conical helmet and a skull. The archeologist told him this was a form of execution for treason in ancient Rome. The victim had the helmet placed on his head while it was red hot and after he died was decapitated. His body was burned and they buried his head in the metal box so he couldn't travel to the underworld. The manager leaves and the guest goes to bed. In the middle of the night there is this unworldly screaming going on waking everyone up. It was a musical scream of "I want my head back." Outside on a wall there's a shadow of a figure wavering back and forth. The archeologist goes into the hallway where other guests are wondering what's going and when he looks the room where the noise if coming from is Room number 13.
The show broke for a commercial and I freaked. My brother wanted to see the rest of the show and I left the room, but the sound of that scream when the show came back on made me freak again and my mother took me next door to an elderly couple that was always nice to us and I stayed with them until the show was over. I don't know how the story ended and don't want to. It scared the hell out of me and at that age wasn't a good thing. What scared me was the sound, not anything visual.
Not many other tv shows or movies imprinted on my mind like acid as that one show did. I mostly avoided watching them.
The only other time I was disturbed by a movie was when my then wife and I went to see Bambi. Stop laughing. Imagine you're in small town Texas at the only theater for twenty miles and it is filled with children. The lights darken and the previews of coming movies start to roll. A man walks up to a chainsaw and starts it up. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It showed a man popping out bushes and slicing into a man, then it jumps to a woman being picked up and camera does a close up of a meat hook. I wonder how many parents were awake that night with screaming kids because they took them to see Bambi?
I didn't have kids at that time, What I had to do that night was go to work. I was a security guard at the Jimmy Dean Meat Packing company in Plainview, Tx. From 11 at night to 7 in the morning. The clean-up crew left at midnight and I was all by my lonesome until around 6am. Every hour I made a trip with a time clock walking through the area of meat grinders, meat hooks, weird noises going off at all time from the various refrigeration machines, out the back to a storage shed to check on a water gauge, then past the hog pens with ghastly noises of the soon to be sausage and back to my guard shack. Each round took about ten minutes leaving me 50 minutes to study. Perfect job for a college student, until that night. A week later I switched to the 3 to 11 shift.
What bothered me the most about that movie, was the title. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was living in Texas.
I've never had nightmares over something I've read. I'm not interested in most horror stories. I started reading Edgar Allen Poe in 7th grade. When I was teaching 7th grade English I was disturbed that I had to translate every other word to my students, and they found him boring. I've never been a fan of Stephen King. I watch Carrie when it first came out and thought it was silly even having to resort to the gotcha false scare of a hand coming out of the grave. Until reading Berthold's blog I never even heard of H.P. Lovecraft.
When I was going through my divorce, a wonderful lady named Gwen Shultz opened up a book store across the park where I walked my dog named Trespasser's William. She sold children's books and Sci-fi. I'd been reading 1000 or more pages of theology a week and was suddenly no longer a student. She turned me on to Harlan Ellison. The first book I read was called Death Bird Stories. It comes with warning that the subject matter is too intense to read in one setting. It's a short story collection and the first story The whimper of Whipped Dogs. Stops you cold. Mal, the trees in my novel Human Sacrifices was inspired from this story. The amazing thing about these stories are that they're not horror so much as they are depressive. Amazingly being in a very deep depression as the life as I knew just exploded. These story's were cathartic. By the time I finished the book I felt better. One story' title says it all: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Ellison got a Hugo award for that one. I became an avid reader of just about everything he's written. I can't recommend to anyone who reads this blog how much it would benefit you to read his works. Many of them are out of print and are collector's items. Not many are e-books and they're not cheap.
Well enough rambling about what went bump in the night for me.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Human Sacrifices

Blogger friend, Berthold Gambrell, wrote a review of Human Sacrifices. You can find it here.
I asked him as a quid pro quo for the review of his book The Directorate. He gave me some valuable insights. I wanted to get a fresh set of eyes on the story. I published it on Kindle in 2012 and it's due for a rewrite.
Most of the story gives my thoughts on the three things that should never be discussed at Thanksgiving and Christmas family dinners and parties: Sex, politics and religion.

When I was writing this story I posted each chapter on a different blog. I got feedback from a number of blogger friends. That when the blogger universe was much bigger than today. I came to a natural ending after Jan conquered her demon, but many of the writers wanted me to continue the story. I inserted an interview, but it doesn't fit. The woman in the story is based on a teacher that I knew. She was the assistant to Georgia O'Keefe before the artist died. The gal was looney tunes. I think now on the rewrite I'll delete that, maybe turn it into a separate story.

When I left off on HS, Obama was president and politically I thought things had stabilized. Now with the moral mafia having elected Trump there's a lot more I can add to it.

Ruined Chapel said that my female characters were "sex-crazed." That's a bad thing? Just kidding.

Since I wrote this I touched on marital rape, as that was in the news at the time. Since then much has come up about "rape culture" and recently with an Alabama candidate for the senate--pedophilia sanctioned supposedly by God. I'll expound upon that.

In today's world Sex, politics and religion have merged into a toxic brew. It is my desire to enlighten my readers to help them understand what's happening.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Directorate

Longtime blogger friend, and about the only one I have left, Berthold Gambrel https://ruinedchapel.com/ has released an e-book on Kindle. I've always enjoyed his writings and he's graciously expressed his gratitude on his blog concerning my suggestions in his acknowledgments sections.
The Directorate is a plausible science fiction story set in the 23rd century when humanity has expanded to colonies on Luna, Mars and are building a space station connected by a space elevator on the moon Ceres. There is plenty of time between now and then for technology to reach this potential. The conflict between the three planets is also probable as rivalries would naturally exist between the three entities. (I know the moon isn't a planet, but it's easier to describe this way)
The setting is that after an interplanetary war The Directorate was created to preserved the peace and form a central government. A security force  was created comprising members from all three planets. They reason that integrating all the planets soldiers this will ease the tensions brought about by the previous war. There's also a mega corporation that invented most of the technology making space travel and colonization possible that has become the controlling voice in the Directorate.
The protagonist is Lieutenant Gannon from Mars. She is in the guard in what is supposed to be a time of peace, but a faction known as Earth Firsters begin making trouble. They want Planet Rights!
At first there are small terrorist attacks that escalate to an attack on Mars. There are traitors that subvert the security from within, a bumbling bureaucracy slow to respond to an existential threat, a too big to fail corporation controlling the economy, and government, plus a kick ass hero.
The story is plausible because Berthold shows an understanding of human nature, knowledge of corporate greed, as well as engrained fossilized government stupidity.
To make the story work there is a lot of backstory to set the stage, but he breaks this up throughout the story so it's not like reading a history book. Berthold is not breaking new ground on the science as the technology is pre-Star Trek. This makes it more believable. It's fast paced and reaches a satisfying ending.
Now for the teacher in me to give advice. Ruined Chapel, accept it or reject it, but it is offered in the spirit of helping your writing to improve. You've grown over the past few years tremendously and this book is by far the culmination of your hard work on the craft. It will only get better.
Here goes:
1. Your villain and the terrorists. By telling the story from only Gannon's point of view, or that of narrator on the backstory the reader only gets a glimpse of why they are revolting. They're point of view needs to be given throughout the story. By the time the villain tries to recruit Gannon its too late. I think you realized this when you have him voice why he hasn't killed her. His answer is a bit lame. But if when they were on Mars and she was under his orders you switched to him and gave us his thoughts concerning her and wanting her on his side, maybe even a romantic interest he needed to suppress for the mission... Get my drift?
2. If your going to extrapolate from States Rights to Planet Rights you need to tell why they feel the Directorate has wronged them. You could include collusion with Luna and Mars instead of making it just spoiled grapes on the part of Earth. Even have Luna and Mars units in the revolt, which would make the villain's attempt at converting Gannon to the cause more plausible. You don't have to mention the students at this time.
3. The villain's answer to the students was to kill them. He explains what's happening. The theme here is great. By taking away Literature and history the Directorate is trying to make human robots. There's a reason why those two subjects are called the humanities. The all work and no play aspect could be expanded. After the battle on the space station you could have Gannon, knowing what the directorate is doing and wanting to change this in different way than extermination she could expound on how she plans to instill humanity into all the students.
4. By taking the student she's befriended to her home on Mars before reporting to Luna with her report. This is Gannon's first break with discipline and duty. After the surviving students are moved to Luna and her friend has learned more of what it's like to be human instead of programmed science geek, she can be the virus to enlighten the other students. Wow that's a whole new book. I hope I haven't jumped the gun if that's what you're already planning.

I know your baby is out in the world and it's hard to leave it and go on to another project. The beauty of e-publishing is that you can revise and correct if you're so inclined. My suggestions may help with future writings. I want to say again this a is a really really really good book. Well Done.

PS, I've submitted a review on Amazon, but it might not show up. You mentioned me in the book and when one of my reviewers I mentioned in another book his review of Optimus was removed. Amazon is getting picky on reviews.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Some books I found and like

Here's a few authors I've discovered on Kindle that I've liked and recommend to my few remaining readers.
1. Tony Roberts:
A. Best author I've come across since Harlan Ellison. He's continuing the Casca: The Eternal Mercenary series. He puts out one a year and takes about a day to read. His historical settings are accurate and descriptions of battles interesting.
B. His Chronicles of Kastania series, (now up to book 5) is his crown in glory. I don't know how he has a fictional empire with enemies on all sides and traitors within and can make every character from diverse backgrounds unique and come alive. He has a race of witches that I find most intriguing. I dub them sexual amazons. I devour these books and long for the next one. Just as Isaac Asimov used the Roman Empire as the basis for his Foundation series of books. Roberts is recreating and in many cases explaining everything that went on in the Byzantine Empire. An absolute don't miss series of books.
C. Chronicles of Faerowyn series. This one is more like Tolkien. It has light elves and dark elves, humans, trolls, monsters etc. It's now on its third book and immensely enjoyable. The main character is Faerowyn, a half dark elf and human on a quest to find her father trailing his bread crumbs to take over the clan and reclaim the crown of the dark elven kingdom. It sound rather simple, but like all great quest stories the journey is filled with lots of excitement. This is the best pure fantasy series of books I've read in a long long time.
D. Siren Series. So far 2 books, but number three is in the works. This series caught me by surprise. It's so totally different. It's about an actual British rock band and tells their story from inception to the lead singer's collapse and near death. The third book is eagerly anticipated to find out what else happens.
I don't know how he does it, but he's churning out four books a year and all are first rate. I hate to admit it, but though the quality of his Casca books is not an issue, but with nearly 50 books in the entire series and he's written nearly half of them, they all pale in comparison to his other works. It's not the writer just the Casca series is becoming dated.

2. Olan Thorensen: He's come up with a series of books adding elements of Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, James Clavell's Shogun, and Barry Sadler's Casca: The Eternal Mercenary. Which is quite an accomplishment.
The main character is Joseph Colsco, who is on a plane to give a speech on chemical engineering. A vessel from mysterious alien's called watchers collide with his jumbo jet and he's the sole survivor. They patch him up, using nanotechnology, and since he can't go home as he knows too much they maroon him on a planet in another galaxy. The watchers tell him that another alien race have over the centuries relocated humans to this planet so he won't be lonely. The technology on the planet in around the 1700's making his knowledge of technology a useful way of surviving, just so long as he doesn't run afoul of their religion and get burned as a witch.
He placed on an island being invaded by an evil empire from the nearest continent and I don't want to spoil the rest of the story. There are four books so far. They're well written and kept my heart pounding on numerous pages.

3. William D'Arand: If you're into gaming, this may be a good series for you. I'm not much of a gamer other than exercising with Wii.
1. He has an Otherlife series. I've read the first book and it was intriguing. Kind of like Tron, and the holograms of Star Trek series, Runner, the main character, is on long voyage and the crew get trapped in their game. He has no memory and he has to rise in class to get some of them back. He's able to access a portal that gives him his status and then fights various elements to gain points. He's the only officer left on the vessel and his quest is to rise enough in levels to regain the password to control the game and save the ship. I read the first book and am willing to read the others, but they aren't available on KDP for free. A number of authors do this, they tease you with the first book and then expect you to pay for the others. It has to be a super duper great read really waning me to read more before I'll do that, and this series doesn't fit that bill.
2. Super Sales on Super Heroes: This isn't about gaming, but the pup up windows with different abilities is similar. Here abilities are bought with points accumulated in various ways.
The society has super heroes and villains. A super villain has taken over a city and has destroyed most of the heroes. Most vices are legalized and slavery is legal.
The main character is Felix, who has a small ability of being able to change objects. He's managing a fast food restaurant and wants to rise up so he tries to buy something he can change into gold. He buys a near corpse of for super hero. His ability lets him restore the hero to life, and then he goes out and buys more. It gets really interesting when he buys and restores a beastkin that's a werewolf that can transform into numerous incarnations. Fortunately the second book was KDP and it gets even better. Waiting for the third one.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Martin Luther part 4 -- 95 Theses

After learning what Tetzel was doing to milk the people out of their money and giving only a worthless piece of paper in return; he was angry and needed to speak out. He wrote out 95 questions he wanted answered concerning the church's biblical support for indulgences. At this point he was only wanting to correct what he saw as error and mistakenly believed that the church could be persuaded to change this policy.
 Tetzel responded in writing refuting Luther's theses. His basic argument was that what he was doing was at under the authority of the Pope and he was only answerable to Him, and to question the Pope was to question God.
Luther responded that this wasn't an adequate argument. He insisted that the church show him from the bible that he was wrong. A number of other defenders of the pope rose up to denounce Luther.  The first of these was Sylvester Mazzolini of Prierio. They exchanged numerous letters with Pierio asserting the power of the Pope to be the only who interprets the bible. Luther maintained the power to interpret the bible belonged to the individual. Pierio went so far as to maintain relying on ecclesiastical law: "Although the Pope should make the whole world go with him to hell, he could be neither condemned nor deposed."
When Luther continued to quote the bible, especially on justification by faith, James Hochstraten, the inquisitor of Cologne, called for Luther's death. Luther responded by calling Hochstraten a raving murderer, blood thirsty man, and enemy of the truth.
His strongest adversary was a Johann Maier Von Eck. Doctor Eck and Luther debated at Augsburg. This was the first time Luther was required to travel and answer for  his writings. There was much haggling over a safe conduct. Frederick of Saxony guaranteed his safety. Politically Leo X needed Frederick to be on his side at first to keep Charles of Spain becoming the emperor and once he was emperor to keep Charles in check. Leo wouldn't do anything to damage the trust between them for a mere monk.
Eck was a master debater winning on points instead knowledge. This confrontation the church saw as a victory thinking that Eck defeated Luther by snide remarks, disdain and the point that hurt, comparing Luther to Huss. Many in the Empire had bad memories of the war caused by Huss. A number of the electors took sides against Luther. The general population saw things differently and became strong supporters of Luther. The scholars who were present became followers of Luther, many leaving their homes and traveling to Wittenberg to become students and attend Luther's lectures.
Luther's fame spread, his writings were changing thoughts across Europe, but the Saxon monk tried desperately to end the dispute. He wrote a letter to Leo X, declaring his loyalty to the church. The pope ignored it.

Next post will deal with the ultimate showdown between Luther and the Emperor Charles V.

Martin Luther part 3: Pre-reformers

Before I get into Luther's 95 Thesis, the book I'm reviewing mentions several men who made what Luther accomplish possible.

 Johannes Gutenberg: Without the printing press Luther's words and his challenge would have been only a local matter. Everything that Luther wrote and said was published and distributed through all of Europe. This was the major ingredient in the perfect storm of splitting the Church apart.

Desiderius Erasmus: Erasmus was a humanist, but his writings and work set the stage for the Reformation. He wrote against the excesses of the Church, but careful about getting too far under the Pope's skin. He compiled as many biblical manuscripts as he could find and buy and used them to compile a New Testament. It was these documents that Luther, and the King James scholars used to translate the bible into the vernacular (common language).

John Huss lived in Bohemia, modern day Czech Republic. He was a follower of John Wycliff of England. The Catholic Church of this day was divided between two Popes, the one in Rome and the other in Avignon, France. Alexander V in Rome controlled Bohemia.. Huss preached from Wycliff's writings and fought against Indulgences.
When the Church brought charges against Huss, he was given a Safe Conduct to attend his hearing. After he was condemned the safe conduct was revoked and he was burned at the stake.
His major crime was wanting to translate the New Testament into the Czech language.
Bohemia rose up in revolt and the Pope launched a crusade. A war was fought and the area was allowed to continue to follow the teachings of Huss. The teachings of Huss and the manner of his death would play a significant role in Luther's life and the Reformation.

Girolamo Savonarola lived in Italy and became significant in the city of Florence during the Renaissance. I used to tell my students that every party has an equal and opposite party pooper. The De Medici's ruled Florence and were patrons of the arts to some of the greatest artists of all time. There was money to lavish on splendid mansions and to decorate it with fine art. Quite a party. Then came the pooper: Savonarola was a monk who condemned the Medici's and the Pope for it's corruption and the sin of usury. The common people flocked to his sermons and rioted against the Medici's forcing them to flee for a short time. Condemning the sin of vanity by displaying artwork considered sinful countless masterpieces were piled in the plaza and burned in what he called "The bonfire of the vanities." He also burned people. After a while Alexander VI had enough of him and he was burned.

When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses, the last thing on his mind was defying the pope or breaking away from the church. The pope looked upon this attack on indulgences as a personal attack on his authority, which as the church taught was derived by God and the only the pope speaks for Jesus. Savonarola and Huss were prominent examples of how far Rome would go to preserve it's authority.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The issue--indulgences

Enter stage left the villain: John Diez or Tetzel. He was given the commission by the Church of Rome to raise money in the Holy Roman Empire with indulgences. The purpose was to rebuilt the Basilica of Saint Peter. Tetzel was a con-man of the first mark. He had a traveling troop with guards, wagons of tables, chairs and other props, and casks to be filled with coin. In each village or town he would set up shop in the square and on a pedestal preach that for only a few coins all the people's sins could be forgiven in the past, present and future. He then preached about the pain and agony of their deceased loved ones suffering in Purgatory and if they really loved them they would buy an indulgence for them too.
Here is an example of an indulgence:

May the Lord Jesus Christ have pity on thee ___________ and absolve thee by the merits of His holy passion! And I by virtue of the Apostolical power that has been confided to me, absolve thee from all ecclesiastical censures, judgements and penalties which thou mayst have incurred; moreover, from all excesses, sins, and crimes that thou mayst have committed, however great and enourmous they may be, and whatsoever cause, were even reserved for our most holy father the pope and apostolic see. I blot out all the stains of inability and all the marks of infamy that thou mayst have drawn upon thyself on this occasion. I remit the penalties that thou mayst have drawn upon thyself on this occasion. I restore thee anew to participate in the sacraments of the Church. I incorporate thee afresh in the communion of saints , and re-establish thee in the purity and innocence which thou hadst at thy baptism. So that in the hour of death, the gate by which sinners enter the place of torments and punishments shall be closed to thee, and, on the contrary, the gate leading to paradise of joy shall be open. And if thou shoulst not die for long years, this grace will remain unalterable until thy last hour shall arrive,
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Friar John Tetzel, commissary, has signed this with his own hand.

This backfired on Tetzel once. A Saxon nobleman mentioned he wished to take revenge on someone and wondered if an indulgence would let him get away with it. For 30 pieces of silver he was given an indulgence. As Tetzel was leaving the city the nobleman and his retainers beat Tetzel and stole his chest of coin. When Tetzel took him to court the man pulled out his indulgence and was set free.

Numerous princes and electors in the empire were dismayed at the fleecing of their peasants and draining their economy dry, but felt powerless against the Church.

Enter stage right the hero: Marin Luther.
Wittenberg was only four miles from the border, so many of the people in the area bought indulgences. While hearing confessions Luther encountered a problem. After the person confessed he told the person they must stop what they were doing. 'Sin no more.' The person then replied, I don't have to I have an indulgence.
Luther was incensed at this immoral document which would allow people to commit crimes and go unpunished and led them to believe they would go to heaven purchased by a few coins.
This is what decided him to challenge the doctrine of indulgences. When he left the steps of Pilate's staircase (mentioned in previous post). He broke with penance and indulgences for salvation. For the just shall live by faith, became his focus of salvation.
He wrote down his 95 theses and nailed them to the doors at the cathedral of Wittenberg. All 95 articles attacked the doctrine of indulgences. That was his focus, he did not want to split the church. He did want to challenge the Pope's authority. He wished to debate the issue and hoped by this to end such an evil practice.

My next post will cover the different councils Luther attended on the issue. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

500 years ago, how the world changed

Recently I've read this commentary on Martin Luther. It's only partly biographical as the author expounds and embellishes on Luther's thoughts. It is insightful.
Over years of teaching World History and as the Reformation is a chapter in the book; mention is always made of Luther and his break with the church. Indulgences were mentioned as well as Tetsel who sold them which angered Luther leading to his 95 Thesis. How the Pope and Church reacted which started the Reformation. That's about all a high school text will say.
Being born and raised Baptist, Luther wasn't mentioned much in church or Sunday School. When I went to a Catholic church for my sister's husbands' Christening; I noticed that a number of Luther's hymns were in their hymnal. I still wonder if Leo X is rolling over in his grave.
I began reading this book out of curiosity and put it down a number of times. It was written in French of the year 1846. It's not easy to follow and the guy does ramble on and on about how God was guiding him and making miracles happen for Luther to live past childhood. He recovered from a sword wound where he nearly bled to death and different diseases. At first this was irritating. Once Luther begins his spiritual growth and his writing stirs up lethal opposition, his mentioning God's intervention makes more sense.
Here is a condensation of what enlightenment I've obtained from reading the book. Or what I learned.
1. Luther's road to reformation: while on his sick bed and an aged monk reassured him with the Apostle's Creed where it states "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." It was this simple, yet profound belief that flew in the face of The Churches teaching on penance to work sins out of your life. That got him questioning all he believed.
2. The scripture that was to define his whole theology: Romans 1:17 NASV For in it the righteousness of God revealed from a faith to faith it is written, But the righteous man shall live by faith. [Habakkuk 2:4] Luther's thoughts centered around this truth the rest of his life: The just shall live by faith.
3. Luther's first break with the Church occurred when he visited Rome. As many in his day who visited the city for the first time he was appalled at the wealth and the depravity the priests, bishops and cardinals. While there the Pope offered an indulgence to any who would on their knees go up Pilate's Staircase. While doing this penance to receive absolution from sin, the words: The just shall live by faith, kept repeating in his head. The just shall live by faith. He rose up and walked away leaving the superstition of the Church behind him.
4. Luther's doctrine. This is the condensed version of what he repeated many times: "I...confess this article, that faith alone without works justifies before God; and I declare that it shall stand and remain forever...This is the true and holy gospel, and the declaration of me, Doctor Luther, according to the Holy Ghost. There is no one who has died for our sins, if not Jesus Christ, the Son of God...it is He alone who taketh away our sins, it cannot be ourselves or our works. But good works follow redemption as the fruit grows on the tree. This is our doctrine."

My next post will deal with Luther's battle over indulgences.