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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

George Fishbeck a remembrance

George Fishbeck passed away. I met him once when I was young. Brother and I were outside the V.A. hospital with our cockerpoo puppy while Mom was visiting Dad at the time. He and his wife walked by and asked what kind of dog she was (damn can't remember her name, have to ask Mom). When we told him he shook his head and laughed. Mom knew his wife from a club she belonged to at the time and when they met told her how thrilled we were to meet him.
He taught (at and with) Albuquerque Public Schools for 23 years. This was way way back in the day. Our local station for PBS was started as a joint project with UNM and APS. When I was in elementary school every Thursday the teacher would wheel a TV in the room and we would watch George teach science. It was a wonderful way to reach all the students in the city at once. He was funny, entertaining and I still remember some of the experiments he performed. The one that comes to mind right now was taking swabs of different things around his science lab and the next week showing us the cultures. The most disgusting was the one from his mouth. I was in fifth grade and all of us thought French kissing would be gross. Our own local Mr. Wizard or Bill Nigh the Science Guy. He would always sign off on the show by swishing his mustache and saying, "Adios muchachos and muchachas."
 On Tuesdays (it's been over 50 years so I may have the day of week wrong) a lady (can't remember her name) would do music over the TV. She was pretty and would lead us in songs kind of Mich Miller style, but if was from her I learned songs like "O' Susanna," "Down in the Valley," "Shenandoah," and other American ballads.
Once upon a time New Mexico and America did value education by building schools for the Baby Boom generation and finding ways to educate instead of drill and test. Learning is so much more than cram and mental enema.
KNME ended these programs and George went on to be a local weather man. He was the first person I remember who was announced as a meteorologist and true to his roots he made weather fun, entertaining and educational. Sadly as I was graduating high school a TV station in California lured him away for bigger bucks and he remembered more for what he did there on the national level. It is amazing how fondly he is still remembered here by all of us old foggies, but he was a hard man to forget.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Atlas Shrugged Revisited



I wasn't a teenager when I read Atlas Shrugged. I was teaching English in high school. What drew me into the story was the character Francisco D'Anconia. He was sarcastic, but in one of his rants gave one of the best definitions of money I read up to that time. It rang true. Money is a tool. The root of money is production. Money has to be made before it can be spent.
I didn't like the equation that churches and religion were "Mooching Mystics." I also can't understand the Moral Mafia preaching Atlas Shrugged and the Bible at the same time. Holy Cognitive Dissonance, Batman!
Lately Rand's become popular with the Tea Party and numerous libertarian politicians. They even ponied up the money for a movie, part one with supposedly two more to come. It was ghastly. Talk about stupid, they left our D'Anconia's diatribe on capitalism, the theme and major plot point of the the first part of the book. Without the definition of money the whole movie was meaningless!
I've also seen the movie on Ayn Rand's life portrayed by Hellen Mirren, well as an author I can tell you that trying to tie a novel into the author's life is rather silly. Her real life did not live up to her ideals, yes she took social security in her old age, so what.
 No real life person can live up to a fantasy. For the same reason basing monetary theory and the inner workings of macro-economics on a novel is just plain insane!
Communism didn't play out like Karl Marx envisioned, and there's never been a true Capitalism that followed Adam Smith to the letter and at least they were philosophical treatises not fiction.

Recently I've come across this statement used by Paul Krugman in his blog and as a sign on Facebook which just about sums up the stupidity of those trying to run the country along Randian policy:
 “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” — [Kung Fu Monkey — Ephemera, blog post, March 19, 2009] ― John Rogers 

Rand Paul's is one of Rand's devotees and says D'Anconia's diatribe is what inspired him as he proposed his budget for 2012 in 2011 his first year in the Senate: copied from Wikipedia
...cut $500 billion from federal spending in one year. This proposal included cutting the Department of Education by 83 percent and the Department of Homeland Security by 43 percent, as well as folding the Department of Energy into the Department of Defense and eliminating the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Seven independent agencies would be eliminated and food stamps would be cut by 30 percent. Under Paul's proposal, defense spending would be reduced by 6.5 percent and international aid would be eliminated. He later proposed a five-year budget plan intended to balance the budget.
 Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out that his math in balancing the budget is seriously flawed and all he says to refute criticism is "Trust me." How many people would die if this was actually passed and signed into law? But then like Scrooge in Dicken's A Christmas Carol: "Let them die and decrease the surplus population." How Christian of them.


However to defend Ayn somewhat, something that D'Anconia says in his diatribe rings true, but it applies more to her disciples than the "Looters" she was condemning.

When you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors -- when you see men that got richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you from them, but protect them from you. When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming self-sacrifice -- you may know your society is doomed. -- Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged.

Just think back to the banking crisis of 2007-8. Wall Street doesn't deal in production it deals in gambling and when they lost the gamble on housing they got richer by graft and pull (too big to fail) and our laws protected them against the people who were losing their homes and livelihoods. Isn't it amazing those who espouse Objectivism and deify Ayn Rand are the real looters? 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Going Slow

I've finally after seven years picked up the sequel to Optimus: Praetorian Guard. I always intended to have my title character on the Island of Patmos with the Apostle Paul as his scribe while writing the Book of Revelation. When Optimus was released I was doing book signings and spending a lot of money buying them from Publish America making very little after I gave away most of the books to friends and family.




When I retired and started spending more time writing and learning the beauty of e-publishing I turned a short story I wrote to develop female characters into the novel Human Sacrifices.
 
Then I pulled my first novel, Vander's Magic Carpet out of the moth balls and published it. I wrote it in the 1990's and submitted it the Ted Turner Tomorrow Awards. I updated it for the war on terrorism which would be problematic for flying cars.


I came across a horrible movie about Yellowstone exploding and all the damage it would do, but it got me thinking about how could we stop a natural disaster like this from wiping out most of mankind. And for the next two years I worked on my Fan Plan trilogy of Meteor Strike: can't prepare for something like this without a time schedule so I use a meteor strike to act as a catalyst and get the clock ticking. Second book was Preparation and the final book Countdown.

Then I was sidetracked by writing the Fletcher Family Battles short stories. They were fun and got me back into historical research. I still plan to write more battle stories, but finally I've decided to pick up Ancient Rome and revisit Optimus on Patmos, Stephanus his eldest son as a freedman in the palace of Domitian and Sextus the youngest son as a pilum in Legio I Minerva along the German frontier as they try to make Flavius Domitianus; the nephew of Domitian the first Christian emperor of Rome.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Revival and Other Stories

A blogger friend published his first book. I bought it at Amazon for my kindle. It's only 60 pages with six short stories and a final poem. I promised him a review, which I post at Amazon and now a more detailed critique.
As a writer I want people to tell me what they think of my writing, but all I get is superlatives because they are afraid to either tell me they didn't read it or don't want to hurt my feelings.
A fellow blogger, no longer blogging did a bang up review of my first book right after it was published and it is still deeply appreciated. I wish I could get some for my other novels as even if the words hurt, they make the writer stop and think about how to improve his/her work. With that said, here goes:

Of the six short stories the first five have a good premise, and offer suspense, but little beyond that. If Gambrel is shooting for horror he's a little short of the mark, not that the stories couldn't be revised to instill a better sense of dread, creepiness and even fright. The beauty of e-books is that you have do-overs. I've published a number of my stories and after a little time do a quick re-read, find mistakes, correct them and republish. Can't do that with the printed word.
Here's my thoughts:
Gambrel states in his blog that he found criticizing others work is much easier than trying to write it himself. Good self realization and with an open mind he'll become a fine author as the plots of the stories are solid. I'm going to speak about the first short story as the problems in it are reflected in the next four.
They are the skeleton of the story. Its bones are there (plot), but blood (dialogue), flesh (description) and skin (polish) are missing. In short he tells the story instead shows the story. In Griffinfield Cemetery two boys go into a mausoleum and find a tunnel which leads to a house where they witness something horrible that haunts them the rest of their lives. A good premise, but by using only narration in first person the story is flat. Two boys daring each other to do something creepy would be talking their heads off. It needs dialogue. The tunnel is described as creepy (don't want to give away too much), what's missing is touch, taste, smell, the senses that get the reader to feel the story other than what the narrator is seeing. The two boys in their dialogue could provide this. When they raise the trap door and see what's happening only their reaction is told, not what they see. Gambrel led the reader up to this point and without giving the reader a clear picture of what scares them and haunts them the rest of their lives makes the story pointless. (Sorry if that's a little harsh). As they're being chased down the hall there needs to be more drama, nearly being caught, having shirts ripped off, stumbling something to draw in the reader giving a sense of danger and panic. Mystery Man I hope this is helpful.
The other four stories suffer from the same problem of telling, not showing. Good skeletons with a little work will make fine stories and when fully fleshed could become novellas or even novels by the time they're done.
The last short story: The Quarry is a prime example of what I've been talking about. It has dialogue, it shows more than tells. It's very well done, maybe a little more of the senses like smell and taste, but otherwise a really good story.
The poem is well done, one piece of advice on poetry: Center it instead of using full page. The eye recognizes it as a poem and you pick up meter and cadence easier.

Overall this is a very good first try and I recommend my few other blogger friends check it out and post a review at Amazon to help Mystery Man out.

Monday, January 12, 2015

To Had or not to Had

When I first published Optimus: Praetorian Guard my wife proofread it and since she's an assistant editor of a state religious weekly paper and spent thirty years doing nothing but proofreading I was reasonably content with it being grammatically correct.
When I started attending writer's workshops I bought a book by one of the local authors entitled: Revising Fiction Making sense of the Madness. When Kirk Hickman was plugging his book and trying to get us to attend his workshop he offered one piece of free advice. "After you're through writing for the day go back over it and delete every 'had' that is not needed."
I was reading a book at the time which was really good except it read slow and  would get bogged down. I thought I was losing my ability to concentrate and was a little worried.
After hearing this advice a light bulb went off. Here are some examples from A Week in the Life of Corinth by Ben Witherington III with my corrections.
The captain had offered the morning sacrifice.
Niconor had seen enough sea voyages for a while. His poor stomach felt like it had swallowed half the Adriatic Sea, which he had just crossed on his way back from Roma. He had fallen (fell) into a pattern of only eating later in the day from the stock of dried fish he had brought with him from Roma.
That's just the first two paragraphs. Only in one sentence the use of past perfect tense didn't bog down the reader.
When I purchased the publishing rights to Optimus and started editing and revising it to release as an e-book the first thing I did was get rid of all those unneeded "had" this and "had" that.
I revised a number of my other novels, the beauty of e-publishing letting you repost after cleaning up your mistakes. I find myself after I had just finished writing something that I had thought was the best stuff I've ever written having to go going back and getting rid of the writer's form of space filler, the dreaded superfluous "had."
The point here is that grammatically those sentences are correct and editors of major publishing houses give author's the liberty of using this style, but if you want your work to read smoothly and easily take out the linguistic speed bumps.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Simple Dreams

I have always been a Linda Ronstadt fan. When I was fourteen and came down with strep throat I was stuck home for five days with nothing to do but listen to the local rock and roll station. The one song I remember to this day from that time was Different Drum. I still love listening to that song.
She held a concert in Albuquerque on a Halloween night and the newspaper writeup mentioned she came out dressed like a skeleton. I was recently married and money was tight and couldn't attend and she never came back to our little town.
I've listened to many of her albums over the years and now they're on my cell phone so I can hear them off the Bluetooth while driving to work, around ten hours total. I include her Trio albums. I really like her What's New with Nelson Riddle. Those songs bring her voice to life.
I just finished reading her biography on my Kindle and found it fascinating. It filled in some gaps for me. It seems after she recorded What's New and then Canciones de mi Padre it was like she disappeared at least off the radio. I didn't know she recorded two more albums with Nelson Riddle and two others in Spanish or toured with this music.
I enjoyed reading about her growing up in Tucson since that's where my eldest grandson lives and was reading this book while my daughter was driving as we picked him up and brought him back for Christmas. She mentions the Saguaro Cacti, but it was funny as we were driving through the Saguaro National Park that you couldn't see any. When we drove through there 12 years ago they were in the median and all over the place from Wilcox on, what happened to them? In the city I saw lots of them, but not off of I-10.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas to all my family and friends.

Went to Tucson to bring my eldest grandson to be with us. It's been two years since he was last here! He much taller and is getting along with the other two grandchildren. If we can only get his mother to let us have him over the summer like she's supposed too....
Last time we drove to Tucson was twelve years ago and I remember from Wilcox on there were a lot of saguaro cactus all over the vast expanses on both sides of the highway. This trip I didn't see one, not even in the Saguaro National Park. It wasn't until inside the Tucson that they were present usually in front of a business. What happened to all of them?
It's been fun having three rambunctious kids running and making lots of noise in the house, but after awhile it's nice when my son loads them up in the van to visit other people and we get a little peace and quiet.
Wife's off for two weeks while I'm here at the office and will return next week, things have flipped a little since I retired.

HERE'S WISHING EVERYONE A MERRY CHRISTMAS, OR WHATEVER YOU CELEBRATE, AND A JOYOUS NEW YEAR!