About Malcolm R. Campbell

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of "Sarabande," "The Sun Singer," "At Sea," "Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire," and "Conjure Woman's Cat."

Sunday Flatterings: a smorgasboard from radicchio to Muriel Spark

I don’t normally flatter people because some of them, and some who see me doing it, think that flattering is the same as sucking up to. I’m of two minds about that assessment: (1) So what? (2) I don’t care.

  • Thank you to one of my psychologist friends on Facebook who posted a video about the stigma people face who need psychiatric medications. I won’t mention her name, but you can find more on the subject at The Mighty.
  • The Olympics and the dedication of the competitors have been an wonderful respite this week from the more distressing news and the polarized political machinations resulting from that news. Many hours of enjoyment here even with sports I don’t usually follow.
  • My novel Eulalie and Washerwoman has been on sale for 99 cents throughout the weekend thanks to the efforts of my publisher Thomas-Jacob’s promotion of books by every one of its authors this past week. You can learn more about our upcoming sales and new releases by signing up for our newsletter here.
  • As a writer and a reader, I enjoy the reviews on BookerTalk, the most recent being a look at Muriel Spark’s first novel The Comforters: “She went on to write a further 21, gaining a reputation for blending wit and humour within darker themes of evil and suffering.”
  • The local tire store for patching and remounting a tire that picked up a nail. The tire was one of four I bought from them within the last six months, but without the expensive hazard insurance.
  • To the local Publix store that tossed a head of radicchio into my grocery sack for free when neither the cashier nor her supervisor could find it on the cash register display even after I spelled it out.
  • The pair of eagles at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, who have once again presented the community with a pair of brand new eaglets.
  • My ophthalmologist for using a YAG laser capsulotomy procedure to fix the blurry vision in my left eye on Wednesday. The blurriness occurs within a small percentage of those who’ve previously had successful cataract surgery. Now my vision is almost as good as an eagle’s vision. <g>

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of all kinds of stuff.

 

Our kids are dying to tell us we need to fix the shooter problem

“If people can’t purchase marijuana or alcohol at the age of 18, why should they be given access to guns? I have had this conversation with my friends too many times. We shouldn’t have to talk about this. This country needs stricter laws to help prevent other kids, like me and my classmates, from ever having to experience this. Words mean nothing. Actions do.”  

— Lyliah Skinner, junior, in These young survivors of the Parkland shooting give voice to a nation’s outrage

“These social pathologies are something like strange and gruesome new strains of disease infecting the body social. America has always been a pioneer — only today, it is host not just to problems not just rarely seen in healthy societies — it is pioneering novel social pathologies have never been seen in the modern world outside present-day America, period.”

— Umair Haque in Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse

After every school shooting, we hear about the nation’s outrage. Yet, as the most cynical remind is, after each school shooting, there are no substantive changes. The grim satire in “The Onion” three years ago focuses on where we are in solving this problem: “At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as ‘helpless.'”

March on Washington for Gun Control in January 2013 – Wikipedia

People have argued for years that the environment in which they are raised is a contributory factor to the actions of criminals and the actions of mentally ill people. Umair Haque’s article suggests that much of the negative stuff we see going on in society today arises out of what might be called a pathological mental health plague. Whether this is true or not, I cannot say. It’s well worth looking into even though the results of “fixing it” will take years and most Americans want quicker solutions.

As I write this, I know that even a “perfect guns and mental health fix” doesn’t address the pattern of shootings, as John Finnegan, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota sees them. Any “fix” is little more than a Band-Ade.

According to Finnegan, as quoted in The Christian Science Monitor, “The response that these young men choose is heavily influenced by our culture. That means we have to focus on creating a culture of abundance and not one of scarcity, where we are trying to keep people away, trying to be exclusive and bully and harass people. It is in that kind of culture where people who do have these mental health challenges may very well find a way, using firearms, to feel that they have some kind of agency in this world.”

As a disclaimer here, I must tell you that I am a pacifist and military conscientious objector and believe that the armed populace that has arisen out of the United States’ culture is a mistake. I do not agree with the prevailing legal interpretation of the Second Amendment. Yet, that is what we have. So I think we must find ways to responsibly limit guns without those limitations causing gun owners to think we are en route to repudiating the Second Amendment.

And, we must stop de-funding other measures that some say will reduce the number of shootings:

  • Why is school security funding always on the chopping block? Would the Parkland shooter have gotten in the school if there were one access door with a TSA-style security system?
  • Why is community mental health always on the chopping block? Yes, the shooter in this case had access to care, but he stopped going. Shouldn’t this have raised a red flag? Shouldn’t this have put him into a “can’t buy” gun database?

In the wake of the Parkland shooting in Florida, some have pointed out that if every rule in popularly proposed gun control legislation had been in place, it would not have stopped this shooting. That’s a sobering idea.

Gun control scares all of the legal gun owners in the country because many of them think that every control will chip away at their Constitutional rights until–in time–those rights will disappear. I wish those who advocate gun control (in one form or another) would “reach out” to legal gun owners and to the NRA and say that we must work together to fix this problem. If we don’t, you will ultimately lose all of your rights. Much better to participate in a sane solution.

Gun control comes down to many technical matters, including semi-automatic vs. automatic, velocity of the round, magazine size, stopping power of the round, rate of fire and other issues. The first step seems to be coming to an agreement about which, if any, of these: (a) increase the efficiency of a shooter, and (b) do not substantially impact the legal use of the weapon.

We must agree on terminology. The AR-15 is not an assault rifle even though its design and ammunition have similar technology to the updated versions of the military’s M16. Sure, it looks like the kind of weapon the bad guys are carrying in the latest military thriller movie, but it isn’t used by the military. Perhaps we should talk less about getting rid of the AR-15 and more about reducing magazine capacity and the velocity of the round.

And, perhaps we should talk more about what one must do to purchase such a weapon, including those available at gun shows where standards seem to make them easier to purchase than from a dealer at his store.

I don’t have the answers for this, but I think it’s going to take a coalition of law makers, law enforcement, mental health agencies, and the NRA to arrive at a solution we can live with. What are we waiting for? Polarized debates are not fixing the problem. Sure, we need to look at prospective environmental factors and so-called psychological factors over the long term. Short term, we shouldn’t need another Parkland to start working together instead of making this a liberal vs. conservative debate that leads, once again, to nothing happening.

–Malcolm

 

 

Love is a lot of little things

“I say this is a wild dream—but it is this dream I want to realize. Life and literature combined, love the dynamo, you with your chameleon’s soul giving me a thousand loves, being anchored always in no matter what storm, home wherever we are. In the mornings, continuing where we left off. Resurrection after resurrection. You asserting yourself, getting the rich varied life you desire; and the more you assert yourself the more you want me, need me. Your voice getting hoarser, deeper, your eyes blacker, your blood thicker, your body fuller. A voluptuous servility and tyrannical necessity. More cruel now than before—consciously, wilfully cruel. The insatiable delight of experience.” – From a love letter of Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin

Valentine’s Day has come and gone this year with (fortunately) nobody sending a Facebook message or a Tweet saying, “Happy VD, Malcolm.”

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a smoking hot letter like the one quoted above from Henry to Anaïs. As a shy, retiring writer, I don’t think I could cope with that.

On Valentine’s Day, I was at the local hospital’s surgical center for a laser procedure called YAG that removes a cloudy film from one’s eyes that sometimes occurs after cataract surgery. It’s painless, takes only a few minutes, and then one goes home. The Center requires a driver, so my wife got up at 4:30 a.m. to drive me to my 6:00 a.m. appointment.

While several Facebook friends commented about eye surgery on Valentine’s Day, having your spouse drive you to the hospital while it’s still dark in the morning is more what love is than “A voluptuous servility and tyrannical necessity.”

In a series of e-mails with my publisher, I wished her a happy Valentine’s Day. She said that after 25 years of marriage, she and her husband don’t make a big deal out of February 14th. She said that her husband “re-routed the washer hose out through the dryer vent until we get the septic tank replaced so we can still do laundry. If that doesn’t say love, I don’t know what does.”

My wife and I watched the pairs figure stating via NBC’s Olympics coverage. Then we fed the cats and had a snack. These everyday moments seem more like love to me than Resurrection after resurrection.

Some couples go out to a restaurant for a $100 dinner with a another $100 for champagne. Then there’s dancing or, let’s say, the opera or a play. At my age, I must confess that all of that’s way too much trouble, something out of romance novels that seems overly orchestrated in real life. Can’t we just splurge with a $15.00 bottle of wine and a Stouffer’s TV dinner and exchange silly cards in red envelopes?

You know I love you because I cleaned up the last hair ball one of the cats left of the carpet. Or, because I stopped by CVS for your prescription. Or, because all your clothes went through the washer and dryer and ended up neatly folded in your dresser drawer. Seriously, playing out a steamy scene from a romance novel would probably kill both of us.

Perhaps you have also discovered this truth about Valentine’s Day even though love remains a many splendoured thing.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

I’m not psychic enough to know what people want to read

If I were a super psychic, every one of my posts on this blog would have thousands of views and, better yet, people clicking through to look at my Amazon author’s page, my website, and the books mentioned at the ends of the posts.

Alas, as a blogger, I don’t have a clue.

No, this is not me. It’s clip art from Vital Images, Ltd.

I started this blog in 2008 after having been on Blogger and other sites for a while. In ten years, nothing stands out as a niche. I asked people on my Facebook friends list a week ago if anything had been on the news about the herb called Holy Ghost Root because a post I wrote about that was suddenly getting lots of hits. Nobody was sure why.

Naturally, some of the posts I spend the most time researching and writing often get the fewest hits and no comments. I believe in whatever Murphy’s law applies.

About ten of my posts have received over a thousand views. My home page has almost 24,000 views. Surprising to me, here are the top two posts since 2008:

  • The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale – 14,540 views. Frankly, I thought few people would read this and remain surprised that it continues to come in first every week in activitiy.
  • Heave Out and Trice Up – -5,010 views – I’m less surprised about this because the title is a bit of Navy slang that makes no sense to people who haven’t been in the Navy. A lot of people probably search on the terms I listed in the post.

Other posts get readers while an event is in the news. For example, my post about several books written by survivors of Florida’s Dozier School (The White House Boys) kept getting hits while the state investigation was ongoing.

Overall, I’m happy with readers’ response to my posts and appreciate every one of you who stops to read one of them. I don’t have a niche, because I don’t like being confined to a narrow area of subjects. And, I make no attempt to compete with the top writing and publishing sites even though you will see writing ideas here. (Yes, I know, those posts are probably a “who needs it” for non-writers.

When it comes down to it, I’m just shooting the breeze.

Malcolm

 

 

Free Amazon Kindle Book – ‘Mountain Song’

My Kindle novel Mountain Song will be free on Amazon February 12 through February 14, 2018. Let’s call it a special for Valentine’s Day.

DescriptionDavid Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?

Summer romances get a lot of attention in fiction. Our parents, teachers and those who’ve been swept up in them before used to warn us about them. Naturally, we didn’t listen because we thought that if we got involved with somebody, nobody would get hurt. Especially us.

Almost everyone I knew who worked at a summer resort hotel during the two years I spent at Glacier National Park fell into the clutches of a summer romance. A few ended up marrying each other and having wonderful long-term relationships. Most of us didn’t. This story didn’t happen the way I told it because we’re supposed to be discrete about such things. But she knows the real story.

I hope you enjoy the book and consider it a warning.

Malcolm

 

 

Planning an outdoor wedding? Expect rain.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
Another flood watch is heading our way.

My friend Jock Stewart was supposed to write this post, but he’s pre-drinking for the weekend.

However, he scribbled a note on the back of a bar napkin: “Malcolm, 99% of the people in the world can be divided into two groups, cynics and fools.The other 1% know the power of bribery and magic.”

What this means for Northwest Georgia tomorrow is this: If you’re planning an outdoor wedding reception complete with flower bowers and booze that cost you 20 grand, the thing’s going to be rained out. You should have bought “rain insurance” (I think Lloyd’s of London sells that) or paid off Mother Nature or asked the conjure woman down the road to do a weather spell. These spells are similar to Patton’s Weather Prayer except for the fact you’re planning for a marriage rather than a battle.

Of course, those are often the same thing.

Without doing your home work, the wedding will have to be moved into the garage or the attic, and neither place is likely to have the ambiance of your back yard garden.

It goes without saying, that cynics are more likely to expect rain, but to also expect bad luck no matter how many alternate venues are prepared. Fools hope for the best, and while they are the good people that bad things happen to, there’s less stress involved if things work out fine.

Since my wife and I are planning a short road trip tomorrow, we expected rain. So, we’re leaving the surrey with the fringe on top in the garage and taking the Buick. (Don’t make jokes about our Buick.) The Buick has a roof, windows that close, and a heater, along with the other necessary parts. I gassed it up at Mr, C’s Shell Station this morning, so it’s ready to go when the black clouds roll across the county in the morning.

My mother was the eternal optimist. She’d plan an outdoor even event if all the weathermen in the state were forecasting storms, and the thing would come off perfectly with nary a drop of rain. She believed in the law of attraction before anyone knew what it was or she knew more magic than I suspected.

Since I’m more of a Murphy’s Law kind of person, my wife and I will be driving in the rain tomorrow. As for you, I hope you weren’t planning to get married in the garden Saturday afternoon.

Malcolm

 

If you want to ‘Make em laugh,” you have to make them cringe first

In the musical “Singing in the Rain,” Donald O’Connor sings a song called “Make em Laugh” which features the advice from his dad who said he needed to be a comical actor.

I thought about this song while reading an interview with author David Swann on Daily Write. Swann said that he likes writing that’s similar to conversations at a funeral where laughter and tears form a strange mix. Swann mentions that “‘The writer Simon Brett says writers shouldn’t ask, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if A,B,C, D, happened?’ Instead, he says it’s better to ask: ‘Wouldn’t it be tragic if it weren’t funny if A,B,C,D happened?'”

The juxtaposition of laughter and tears has for centuries been a storytelling technique that makes em laugh. In a theater, or at a play or a reading, those in the audience want to laugh because they can’t help it, but they look around first to see if anyone else is laughing. When you have a book in your hands, you don’t have to check out the mood of the rest of the audience.

I can’t help but think of the scene in the movie “Cat Ballou” where the drunken gunslinger (Lee Marvin) stumbles into a funeral, blows out the candles, and sings “Happy Birthday” to the dearly departed.  Of course, the movie was a spoof just as “Blazing Saddles” was a spoof. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to think of the reactions of “every day people” to a drunk at a funeral. Maybe it’s gallows humor. Or, maybe some of us are flat nuts.

Writers, I think, are among those who see the tension of putting things together that “don’t belong together.” Laughter arises out of that tension. So do tears. And perhaps, so does a new way of looking at the world.

I enjoy watching movies or reading books where my sense of what I would do with the plot or the dialogue at one point or another lets me guess what the next line in the dialogue really needs to be. I’m disappointed when I’m wrong, but not because I like being right. I’m disappointed because I see that an opportunity was lost to drive a point home toward laughter or tears. The resolution to the tension of opposites that could have been there has been left out, rather like hearing the first part of the “shave and a haircut,” ditty without hearing the “two bits.”

Since people tend get very nervous when I say, “What’s the worst that could possibly happen?” or “What could possibly go wrong?” I say those things a lot because people are so superstitious about hearing them. As a writer, I have a license that allows me to scare people and watch their reactions. What I see, makes me a better writer.

I’m very superstitious, but not about those questions. So, I know how thin the line is between reality and fate, humor and fear, and belief and astonishment. Without shame, I exploit how thin that line is. Since I’m and old writer, I can tell you that’s an old writer’s trick that might help you when you’re trying to make em laugh.

Malcolm