Friday, September 25, 2020

Flintridge Bookstore Promotes "Prostate" Memoir

 See? Look!

What fine, noble booksellers! Help a store keep their head above water. If you're afoot in the hills above LA, then stop in. Or visit their website. You may not choose to purchase my book, but do buy something and help stop Amazon from notching another bookstore on their belt.  

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Book Review: The Fall of Paris 1870 - 71


The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71 by Alistair Horne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the late 19th century, a torpid, decadent France chose to boost its sagging prestige by declaring war on Prussia. Germany of the day was a loose federation of kingdoms led by Prussia's Kaiser Wilhem under the guidance of Bismarck. The Second Empire under Napoleon III assumed the conflict would be short and victorious.

However the French army was routed and the city of Paris besieged. The Second Empire fell, giving way to a republican government. Relying on accounts of those inside the city, Horne tells a tale of hope and patriotic bombast that gave way to starvation, eventual defeat, and the brief bloody rise of a predominately leftist government of Jacobins, Marxists, and other anti-Bonapartists. They were known as the Commune.

Following acceptance of Prussian peace terms, the republican government was forced to flee to Versaillies to escape the Commune's wrath. From there, the French government counter-attacked. With the support of the army, they now besieged Paris once again. The Commune dissolved into squabbling factions. Armed workers defended their neighborhoods as the military attempted to regain control over the fractious capital.

Hornes use of contemporaneous accounts allows the reader insights into what the inhabitants of Paris thought, ate—or didn't eat—felt, and desired. There's a great deal on the French use of balloons during the Prussian siege to communicate with unoccupied France and the rest of Europe. Less may've been more. The same goes for Horne's regular inclusion of French sentences minus translations. But the book tells the story well and notes the historical echoes that reverberated from the twin events of war and Commune.

Given the harsh peace treaty, the Franco-Prussian War planted the seeds for future, more devastating conflicts that saw France invaded in 1914 and invaded and conquered twenty-six years later. In addition, the lessons of the Commune were keenly absorbed by the Bolshevik Lenin. Fearing feckless factionalism, Lenin outmaneuvered and crushed his allies and ruthlessly butchered his foes. As Horne writes, "How much of the ferocious brutality with which the Russian Reds fought for survival was attributable to the ever-present memory of May 1871 . . . . (The date the Commune fell.)

"Fall" is part of a hat trick written by Horne on the Franco-German wars from the late 19th to the mid 20th century. He touches on the First World War in his chronicle of the 1916 battle of Verdun. The Second World War is covered in an account of France's rapid collapse in 1940.

History buffs will enjoy this.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 11, 2020

9/11 Recalled 2020


K called from Florida, "Planes crashed into the World Trade Center and one of the towers just fell." Unemployed in Los Angeles and half asleep at 7:30 AM, I shuffled downstairs to the TV, past Joy as she prepared for work. At first, all I saw was a dirty cloud obscuring southern Manhattan. Then a stunned announcer said the second tower had just collapsed. Joy joined me, work forgotten as we learned of the attack.

Other friends phoned throughout the day. Paul Rugg speculated about the pilots of the doomed aircraft, certain they weren't Americans forced to crash. TJ, a Vietnam vet, was incensed at the footage of jubilant Palestinians with their candy and AK-47s. He wished he could gift them with a nice buttering of napalm. In a grim mood, I agreed.

Watching TV and power-chewing Nicorette, I mostly felt numb — except when the subject was jumpers. Then I felt horror. Go to work, sip coffee, joke with your pals, then decide whether you'll suffocate, burn alive, or leap a quarter mile to certain death. Questions of etiquette arise: jump solo or hold hands with a co-worker? Perhaps several of you link arms and form a chain, finding courage in numbers. Or do you clutch a table cloth and step into the air, desperately hoping it slows your fall?

The journey takes ten seconds.

Air velocity rips away your shoes.

You explode on impact.

I will always be haunted by the jumpers of 9/11.

Oceans of paper were blasted from the towers, filling the New York sky like the Devil's ticker tape. Invoices and wedding invitations floated down to gray sidewalks.

My friend Cathy, who worked in D.C., reported chaos as the government sent everyone home at once following the Pentagon attack. One jammed intersection turned scary as a man leaped out of an SUV brandishing a pistol and attempting to direct traffic.

Being murdered is not a heroic act, though it can be. Flight 93 passengers fought back and died, saving many more in their sacrifice. North Tower Port Authority employees rescued over 70 people before perishing.

There were many heroes that day.

My sister Mary Pat and I had dinner at a coffee shop. She was passing through town, leaving a job in Mountain View, CA to return to Phoenix. Depressed by the day's events, our meal was not jolly.

Later, Joy tried to give blood, but the hospital was overwhelmed with donations and refused.

Vulnerability, grief, dismay, anger.

Such a beautiful morning with a sky so blue.

(Photos from: Little Green Footballs.)

Repost: Sept. 11, 2008

Update: Strange to reread this. TJ died in 2009 and K passed away just over a year ago. My wife, Joy, and I are doing well, as is Paul Rugg who now rides the train

Repost: Sept. 11, 2013

Update: I had cancer surgery last year, but recovered. My wife is doing well and my sister battles her own health woes. I have not heard from my friend Cathy in a few years.  Paul Rugg continues riding the train in addition to being a voice over machine.

Repost: Sept. 11, 2015

Update: Paul Rugg's daughter was not quite two years old on 9/11/01. Now she is a freshmen in college. I have retired from TV animation writing, though, as stated elsewhere, I find retirement to be indistinguishable from unemployment. (Save for a small annuity.) And very soon, I shall ride the train to see my sister. (Explanatory post t/k.)

Repost: Sept. 11, 2017

Update: Ten years have passed since I composed this post, 17 years since the incident. Alas, the greatest hit to our nation continues to be a colossal security apparatus that can't seem to function without monitoring everyone's communications, then lying about it. I'd rather not comment on airport theater. Still, my wife remains gainfully employed and I'm racing to complete a dystopian thriller by Christmas. Amidst the great events, the little things carry us forward.

Repost: Sept. 11, 2018

Update: About to publish a softcover version of my prostate book. Meanwhile the Afghanistan Forever War continues. I refuse to believe that for almost 20 years, there's been no better way of fighting the Taliban than sending billions to Pakistan to provide hiding places for them while they infiltrate Afghan government forces and assassinate our advisors. The Byzantine Empire lasted over a thousand years battling multiple enemies on different fronts, employing a combination of diplomacy military prowess, and strategic alliances. With the entrenched, consequence-proof dimwits we have infesting Washington D.C., we'll probably end up surrendering to the Taliban.

Repost: Sept. 11, 2019

Update: How odd to stand on the threshold of twenty years. Given the riots and chaos of the pandemic, the blithering repose of local government re. small-business-killing lockdowns, the event is passing with barely a mention. If I hadn't spotted a NatGeo special on the Twin Towers, I might've forgotten myself. Interesting health issue, with cataract surgery, an upcoming new crown—for a tooth—and the results of a biopsy for skin cancer. Paul Rugg works on a Henson TV show, and his daughter nears the end of her undergrad studies. My sister continues on with NPR in the unburned portion of the Pacific Northwest. I will publish a book of my short stories by Christmas. Joy's work will soon restore her full pay, slashed during the lockdowns. Since South Dakota never locked down at all, shouldn't their population be deader than the Sioux at Wounded Knee? Not all experts are experts.  

Thursday, September 10, 2020

John Steinbeck Writing Hacks

Fallen from currency as of late, John Steinbeck's books occupied much of my sophomore English classes. (Grapes of Wrath, of course, as well as the lesser known Winter of Our Discontent.) In the below prompts, Steinbeck suggests the busy man's goal of a page a day. I suppose that would be single-spaced. Depending on how much dialogue, I reach such a mark in anywhere from under an hour to an hour and twenty minutes. In any case, given revisions and all, you should have a novel in a year. Wouldn't that be grand?

Monday, September 07, 2020

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Is Your Dwelling Sexist?

 An inspection may be necessary to determine if your living space meets current anti-sexist standards.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Story Du Jour #23

All Story Du Jour tales are available online and free! A small offering in these trying times.

Hike Up Mission Peak

Approx. 1k words

A slog with old friends seeks that which is past but lies between.

Here's a sample of the writing:

"Rocks crunch like breakfast cereal beneath Zac’s boots, and the sound transports him to the butcher block table of his childhood home. There’s a half gallon of milk, a box of Lucky Charms. A Christmas wish book between him and his brother. And there’s music, his mother feeling out a soft, sad number on the upright in the den. It’s a bit lachrymose, this halting tune, the product of a few lessons she’d splurged on in the fall, but it becomes more familiar as she goes. 

 The Michael Stanley Band. 

 Not really, although Zac can’t help imagining it. He turns the thin, vivid pages of the wish book, full of board games, action figures, and race car sets. In the other room, his mother’s fingers plink like rain, figuring it out as she goes. The chords rise through the house, into the winter air and straight up the charts. When Gary turns to him with a smile, Zac lets go of the pictures of dreamed-for toys so his heart can sled across the snow-smooth melody."

Note: Perhaps its time to swap out Du Jour with the French phrase for 'week or two' since that seems to be the publishing time frame. But nothing endures like the temporary. 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

My Eyes are Red Hot, Your Eyes Ain't Doodly Squat


Not to slag your vision, but I'm fresh from cataract surgery and still overwhelmed by the whole experience. Last week in the unlooted portion of Beverly Hills, starting Monday, it was left eye surgery, a woozy ride home courtesy of My Darling Wife—MDW—followed by a check-up on Tuesday. Because my pupils were so dilated, I was given massive, all-encompassing sunglasses that made me appear enroute to observe a thermonuclear blast. 

Wednesday ushered in surgery on my right eye, a second woozy ride home and erosion of vision for small print. On Thursday, there was another check-up with the fast-healing left eye, with the right eye blurry, but gradually sharpening in quality. 

I asked the doctor why I suddenly noticed more blues and whites in the light. Apparently, my yellowish cataracts blocked those bands of the spectrum. Still, its off putting to walk outside and see gradations of light others can't. I feel like an 80-year-old on LSD. 

If you followed my last major surgery, you can probably guess that my anxiety levels were in the red. I was surprised how smooth the procedure was. For the moment, I must take, what feels like, a bucket of eye drops a day. But its small change compared to the bitching mid-to-long range vision I now enjoy.  

An Apology re. the Comment Section


Like the self-centered person that I am, I've neglected reader comments. I stink. Google changed the interface. Where I used to be emailed when there was a comment to check, that is no longer so. Out of inbox, out of mind. 

And so I apologize, especially to Authors 4 Characters who has been tireless in observations and annotations. 

Over the coming weeks, I will respond to the bulk of the remarks.

Henceforth, I vow to be a more thoughtful blog lord.

Unless Google messes again with the algorithms. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Cataract Surgery: The Eyes Have It


The New Daily

Well, here we go again. A new decade, a new operation. This time my cataracts are turning the world into a soft milky blur. The eye surgeon gave me two choices: Medicare Eyes, in which a popular government program would pay for most everything. My opaqueness would be removed, but I'd still need glasses, etc. 

Or the Cadillac Eyes. In this case, extra special lens are placed in my eyes eliminating my far sightedness save for reading glasses. Of course, that costs out-of-pocket. But, as my wife pointed out, they can only go in and muck about with your eyes one time. So, we'll pony up for the cool orbs and that will be that. 

Keep me in your prayers this Monday and Wednesday. I'll update soon. 

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