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Posts from the ‘Life in general’ Category

Those memories you have of national tragedies

My parents and grandparents never forgot where they were when they heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. People often use the phrase “we will never forget” when referring to such tragedies. One reason they remember is due to a so-called flashbulb memory, a term coined by Roger Brown and James Kulik in 1977 to describe the human tendency to remember quite vividly where they were, who they were with, and the details of what they heard when a horrible national or personal event occurred.

I only have two vivid flashbulb memories of national events: where I was when President Kennedy was shot and where I was when the 9/11 attacks occurred. I also have such memories about some family tragedies (outside my own household) occurred.

Why do they happen? There’s a lot of research and speculation. According to Brown and Kulik, “The principal two determinants appear to be a high level of surprise, a high level of consequentiality, or perhaps emotional arousal (assessed by both rating scales and ethnic group membership). If these two variables do not attain sufficiently high levels, no flashbulb memory occurs.”

Researchers have also studied the accuracy of such memories. It appears that while people have a high degree of confidence in such memories, the details fade over time so that–according to one study–ten years after the fact such memories may only be 60% correct. Studies often include memory reports sent out to those in the study group that are compared with earlier reports from each respondent. I have no idea whether much two vivid flashbulb memories are less accurate now than they were years ago. In many ways, those memories are curiosities now rather than vital to my life.

I tend to remember other events when I see pictures or read articles about them. Only then do I remember anything to speak of. No doubt, I would remember more about a terrorist attack or a school shooting if it happened in my town or involved friends and acquaintances. When I was younger, I envied people with so-called photographic memories. If they really have such memories, that would be a blessing and a curse. David Baldacci’s Memory Man series of thrillers about detective Amos Decker shows both sides of the equation: if a horrible emotional thing happens, you’re never rid of it and it’s just as strong today as it was when it happened; on the other hand, if you’re a detective or a reporter or a college student, it might serve you well.

With a true photographic memory–or a large mental database of flashbulb memories–I think it would be hard to remain sane. I, for one, don’t want to re-experience the worst moments of my life over and over with the same grief, sorrow, and anger as I did on the day they happened.

In spite of all the nastiness in the world, I hope that many of us have flashbulb memories (even if we don’t know a flashbulb is) of the better days of your lives. The day we met the man or woman who became our spouse, the day we got married, the days our children were born, the day we passed the bar exam or got our realtor’s licence or first drivers license.

As my wife will testify to, my general memory isn’t that good. Frankly, I don’t know how she remembers so much stuff. I would like to remember more than I do. But I don’t, so I don’t have as many flashbulb memories as a lot of my friends do. That’s okay, I can always Google things to see when they happened. Someday–a day I’m not looking forward to–security cameras and facial recognition software and other spyware will be able to tell me what I was doing when everything that happened happened.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s contemporary fantasy “The Sun Singer” is free on Kindle through June 12.

 

 

 

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Old slings and arrows: do they still bother you?

I was ready to work on my novel in progress this morning when I saw a post on Facebook about a beloved employer of many people who (I believe) totally screwed up my life with a bad decision. Instead of working on the novel, I found myself replaying the events of the distant past. I couldn’t say what he did on the Facebook page where he was mentioned, because it would: (a) not be received well, (b) open a can of worms, and (c) make people wonder how I could be this pissed off about the whole thing almost 50 years after it happened.

Memories are often like the sea, constantly shifting.

Some say that old men tend to do this. They (including me, I guess) are taught not to cry for most of their lives. Then, when they get old, they can no longer hold it in.

Do you do this? Do you happen to think about some unfairness out of the past and then, without warning, find yourself dwelling upon it as though it happened last week?

Or, is this just a disease saved for those of us who write novels?

I wish I could turn off such thoughts. They have no value unless I translate them into a novel, and they hurt me just as much in the present and they did when they happened. A psychologist would have a field day with this problem.

Then, too, when one thinks about such things logically, s/he can see that had things done the way one wanted them to in the past, a lot of wonderful things since then wouldn’t have happened. Well, there’s a guilt trip for you. This man’s actions cost me–through a domino effect of circumstances–the lady I was planning to marry. Had I done so, I would never have met my wife. Gosh, the old angst is not only a waste of time but a current-day guilt trip.

Most of the time, we can move on from those old slings and arrows, the people and jobs and lifestyles that “got away.” But from time to time, they rush back into our lives to haunt us. Really, I don’t need those ghosts in my life.

But they’re hard to get rid of. How do you handle such things?

Malcolm

Goodbye to Herman Wouk, etc.

Wikipedia Photo

Several years ago, I was surprised to hear that Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, The Winds of War) was still around. According to the news, he died in his sleep today. I think most of us hope to go that way when we’re about 103. I could do without that hat or the beard, but ar 103, I would no longer be runaway material.

I grew up reading this man’s books. I remember seeing The Winds of War minseries in 1983 with Robert Mitchum. My wife and I thought it was an interesting series, but laughingly commented how convenient it was that the Robert Mitchum character seemed to show up whenever anything historic was happening.

I suppose his novels are no longer studied in school. If not, that’s a shame.

My publisher Melinda Clayton (Thomas-Jacob Publishing) writes dark novels. So I had to tell her about Redemption Road (2017) by John Hart. I’m reading it now and have to say that this is one well-written, twisted, dark thriller, and one of the best books in this genre that I’ve read in a long time. It’s called a thriller even though it feels more like Southern gothic. I’ve read 75% of it and wonder if anyone will be left alive or even sane by the end of the novel.

I told Melinda that I thought there’s enough darkness to cause an eclipse of the sun.

Thomas-Jacob has redone the cover of my novel Sarabande to make it consistent with the updated cover of The Sun Singer. Sarabande is the sequel to The Sun Singer and was, I think, the most difficult of all my novels to write. Writing from the point of view of the main character, Sarabande, is difficult for a male author, considering the fact that she goes through two assaults in this book.

I’m not sure it’s really possible for men and women to properly and totally understand their opposite genders in the “real world,” much less in fiction where they are compelled to talk about a character’s thoughts as well as his/her actions. Telling the story was an interesting experience, and I hope I learned from it.

Meanwhile, Amazon is still not displaying the cover pictures for the hardback editions of Eulalie and Washerwoman and Lena. I complained to Amazon about it today, noting that Barnes & Noble is displaying the covers.

Thanks to those of you who checked on me here, via e-mail, and on Facebook about yesterday’s biopsy. As I told Montucky, the pre-op visit to the hospital and the paperwork before and after the biopsy took more time than the biopsy. I have some pain killers but really haven’t needed them. The hospital staff was great. Now we’re in a waiting mode for the results which the doctor said would take a week. Reminds me of the Navy’s “hurry up and wait.”

Now, for those of you addicted to “Survivor: Edge of Extinction,” this year’s series has now run its course and you can go back to your normal lives without having to worry about who will be voted off the show during tribal council.

As my alterego Jock Stewart has suggested on more than one occasion, Congress needs to operate with a “tribal council system” in which each month the House or Senate gets together and votes somebody out of office. That would help clean house, so to speak. We need to get rid of the deadwood, the inept, and the insane. That certainly includes the lawmakers of Alabama after they voted in a heartbeat abortion law that shows the men there still consider the woman there as property.

Malcolm

 

 

Hello Withdrawal, My Old Friend

When I began smoking cigarettes, they relieved stress. They probably kept me from getting fat. They also made me smell like a campfire, but in those days smelling like a campfire was acceptable.

According to what I’ve read, a nicotine dependency is about as bad as a cocaine or a heroin dependency, though supposedly nicotine withdrawal is easier than the hard stuff. People using marijuana doesn’t have as or high a dependency as strong a withdrawal problem as cigarette smokers, so I’m among those who wonder why marijuana–even for health uses–is still generally illegal.

I haven’t smoked a cigarette for 25 years. However, if I see people smoking or think about smoking, my withdrawal returns at almost the same intensity as it did the first time I tried to quit smoking. It took numerous attempts to quit. But I’m not free of it. If my wife weren’t hideously allergic to cigarette smoke, it would be easy to start again.

My smoking began as a “cure” for a failed romance and then as a crutch for military service. That doesn’t mean that I blame either the lady or the navy. Smoking was a conscious choice, one that seemed to work. I don’t think I was smoking because it was supposedly cool or badass.

Like many people, I didn’t plan to get addicted. I thought I’d smoke a few cigarettes a day and quit whenever I wanted to. I ended up smoking three packs a day 25 years later with the distinct impression that I’d never be able to quit. The addiction was so bad, I smoked when I had the flu or a cold and once walked to the store in a snowstorm when I was out of cigarettes and my car was snowbound in the driveway.

As I write this, I want to light a cigarette. That’s how invasive nicotine is. I’m happy that there appear to be fewer people smoking these days than there were in the 1960s. The health risks are bad enough, but the withdrawal is a constant companion long after all the ashtrays have been thrown away.

My writing suffered when I quit smoking because I always lit a cigarette when I sat down to write. Fortunately, I can write now without lighting up a Marlboro. I am also capable of answering the phone or walking into a bar without lighting up a Marlboro. The trouble is, I really want to light up a Marlboro. Daily, I make a conscious choice not to do that.

It’s better if one just doesn’t get started. That seems so obvious now. But, in 1968 when I started smoking, we didn’t trust anyone over 30 and those were the people who said you’ll be sorry you ever got started. Hell, the bastards were right.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena” in which one of the characters chews tobacco and one of the characters smokes. 

 

 

Rainy days and/or Mondays

Very heavy rain all day today, starting our week off with a flash flood watch. This “lake” in the pasture below the house is normally a narrow creek. Now it’s probably up over the road. I already got wet doing grocery shopping this morning, so I’m not going to walk down there and see what the road looks like.

Lena

Thank you to the 800+ entrants in my GoodReads giveaway for the third novel in my Florida Folk Magic series. I wish I could afford to send all of you a copy. Alas, only one copy is available and it will go out in tomorrow morning’s mail to the winner who lives in Kansas.

Cancer Scare #2

Those of you who’ve read this blog for a while, know that I had successful surgery for kidney cancer several years ago. The cancer was caught by a fluke, an ultrasound taken when I went into the hospital or an appendectomy. It was caught early enough for the surgery to work. The scary thing about kidney cancer is that there are no symptoms until it’s too late to do anything about it. My surgeron told me that the inflamed appendix was the bellyache that saved my life.

Several weeks ago, one of the seemingly endless tests I keep having suggested that I might have cancer again–or, an inflammation. I was optimistic–with random periods of worry and depression–because this cancer has early symptoms. Fortunately, the antibiotic is working and the test numbers are looking better. I’m one of these people who doesn’t get along with antibiotics, but they beat the alternative.

Upcoming Ghost Story Collection

In finished another story for my upcoming collection of ghost stories–coming soon from Thomas-Jacob Publishing. This one takes place in an old opera house that was about twenty miles away from where I grew up in the Florida Panhandle. I drove by it many times and, since it was closed down, always thought it was an abandoned factory. The people in the state’s ghost hunter business claimed the old theater was haunted.

Fortunately, it was saved from the wrecking ball by a string of preservation grants and is now being used to stage regional theater productions. What a perfect place for a story on a dark and stormy night. The story helped distract me from Cancer Scare #2. My wife’s going to proofread the story before I send the collection off to the publisher. There are one or two books in the queue ahead of this one, so I have no idea when it will be released. (I’ll let you know.)

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m looking forward to seeing my daughter and her family, including my two granddaughters next week. We’re all doing a little sightseeing as well. The last time we went to their house, we were all snowed in and did well to walk as far as the sledding hill. We’re going earlier in the winter months this time!

Malcolm

 

 

A trip to the dentist

Went to the dentist today. She asked where my teeth were. I took them out of my special carrying case and she was really impressed with hour sparkling clean they were.

I told her that in Florida, we scrubbed our campers’ trying pans with sand and Spanish moss and that from long experience, I’d found this combination does a good job on teeth. I told her I used to use Brillo, but didn’t like the taste of that blue soap.

She said Brillo, along with Sani-Flush, was “overkill” when it came to caring for teeth.

My mother had a problem with plaque. I inherited it without inheriting her auburn hair. That means lots of scraping at the dentist’s office. Fortunately, they use semi-automated equipment these days rather than the old fashioned chisels and sandpaper.

She remarked, as I was opening the suitcase of hundred-dollar bills I always take to doctors’ and dentists’ offices, that, “Red wine is hell on the teeth.” I said, “Look, I gave up smoking 20 or so years ago and have cut back on the coffee, but the red wine is medication.”

She offered me a complimentary glass of red Zinfandel that I didn’t turn down even though the cops are out this week looking for drunks and speeders.

So now, I hear that I’m supposed to use a soft tooth brush rather than a hardy toothbrush. I can’t keep up with the changing rules. I’m supposed to brush for twenty minutes several times a day and floss on the hour even if I’m driving. That’s worse than texting or having sex while driving, isn’t it?

Since it’s as boring in fiction as it is in “real life,” I never describe my characters bathroom habits, including brushing their teeth, in my books. That’s all TMI as far as I’m concerned. However, for the kids reading this blog (yeah, right), I want to state categorically that I’m in favor of brushing one’s teeth and having daily baths or showers. I just don’t write about that stuff in my fiction.

I’m only writing about all this now because nothing more exciting came to mind for a post.

However, I will note that if you’ve just noticed that personal hygiene is good for you and makes those around you happier, that a pressure washer isn’t recommended for use in the bathroom. Please don’t ask me to elaborate.

–Malcolm

Sunday potpourri (not to be confused with SPAM)

I’m not quite sure how to spend my time this weekend because it’s usually raining. But this weekend it isn’t, even though rain was predicted.  I blame both weather.com and accuweather.com for my feelings of chaos.

  1. According to USA Today, J. J. Rowling will release her fourth Cormoran Strike mystery this fall. She told USA Today she could easily write ten more. I don’t understand writers who have that many story ideas backed up inside their heads. But, I’m happy for her, I promise. I like the series for the same reason I liked the available detective stories that were popular when I was growing up. That is, they were Agatha Christie-style books in which (usually) one guy was trying to solve a crime rather than some high-tech firm with all kinds of illegal hacking software.
  2. Yesterday, the LeafFilter people were out here installing coverings on our gutters. They took pictures of the gutters before they cleaned them out. What a mess. We had flip screens at the old house, but stuff got under them and the wind blew them up and warped them in all kinds of ways to they wouldn’t cover the gutters properly anymore. I hope this system works. It didn’t help my mood on Saturday to have all the noise, but then I was in a bad mood already when Serena Williams lost her match in the Wimbledon final. So now, we’re protected against leaves.
  3. My hearing is crap and even with my Audibel hearing aids, I have a lot of trouble hearing human speech and need to use the closed captioning when I watch TV. So now I’m looking for something better. If you have hearing aids, are you happy with them? Can you hear your spouse asking you to take out the garbage or extinguish the stove-top grease fire? If so, tell me your stories. I looked at the online reviews and found that one site said brand XYZ was the best and then saw it had a lot of bad customer reviews. As always, I wonder if can I trust those, or is it simply that the people who are ticked off are the only ones who post anything?
  4. Maybe it’s just me, but seeing faux pas news stories and rants about Trump not bowing to the Queen of England tick me off. They are both heads of state and neither one should bow to the other. Yes, I know, the Queen is an old lady with 100000 years of tradition behind her, but we fought a war about bowing to the English monarch and I think we won it and no longer owe that monarch our allegiance. A friendly smile ought to be enough. (End of rant.)
  5. I’m starting to wish my publisher and I had scheduled the release date for Lena a little sooner than August 1. We had some trouble with the printing of the cover, and decided not to rush the release for fear something else would go wrong. (In this business, one has to assume that something will always go wrong.) However, now that the cover is squared away, I’m feeling a bit at loose ends waiting for the release date.
  6. I would like to start writing more “Jock Stewart” satire, but the real news is so crazy it’s hard to write anything outlandish. That is, reality is already enough of a satire about the left vs. right situation, so it’s hard to make up something worse.

–Malcolm

Mother Nature Must be on Pot

Mother Nature is acting stoned. Must be too much grass or perhaps it’s weed cut with oregano.

Otherwise, what’s with Florida-style rain storms every other day? We have about three acres of grass (not pot) to cut, but Mother Nature is making that hard to keep them mowed.

Pick a day, any day. Okay, Monday, then.

  • The grass is high, but too wet to mow. I decide, after all, tomorrow’s another day.
  • That night, a monsoon parks on top of the ancient oaks in the front yard. As God is my witness, I’ll never be dry again.
  • Two days later, the grass is dry (sort of) so I mow some of it. It’s slow going because it’s higher than the house. How fickle is Mother Nature?
  • The following day it (the sky, the clouds, evil spirits) rains because we’ve seen clouds from all sides now.
  • We mow for 20 minutes before lighting hits the riding mower. We decide to go inside where the cats are hiding under the bed.  Great balls of fire. Don’t bother me anymore, Mother Nature, and don’t call me sugar.
  • A guy with a hay bailer stops at the front door to ask if we need help. I ask if he bails hay (weed, pot, fescue) into rectangular bails bound with bailing wire. He says nobody does that anymore. Here’s the thing, I say. I can’t pick those hay rolls up without a tractor. He says he’ll bring a tractor and take them away for $100 a roll. To hell with that.
  • More rain.
  • Finally, we cut some of the grass (not pot) but due to its height, we have to move the deck of the mower as high as it will go. This means that as soon as we’re done, it looks like it’s time to cut the grass again. Unfortunately, we’ve been mowing in the dark using the mower’s headlights and we really do need some sleep. Frankly, says, Mother Nature, I don’t give a damn.
  • If we could smoke this stuff, we wouldn’t care.
  • Okay, now we’re back to square one. The grass is high, but too wet to mow. I decide tomorrow is another day.

Malcolm

“Lena” will be released in 27 days.

 

This and that, including a cover reveal

  1. When out-of-town people threaten to stop by for a visit, we clean up the house. I just spent an hour cleaning the hall bathroom. Now, it smells like Clorox, Formula 409, Windex, and Lysol. If all that doesn’t give out an inviting aura of cleanliness, I don’t know what does.
  2.  One of the guests, and I won’t mention her name, drinks some kind of fru-fru white wine that can only be purchased in this area at Publix. Frankly, I think the stuff tastes like Kool-aid. But, I drove a hundred miles to the Publix to make sure we have the stuff in stock.
  3. My publisher and I are waiting for the printer’s proof copy of the paperback for Lena so we can figure out when the release date will be. Lena is the third novel in the Florida Folk Magic Series. The artist who did the covers for the first two books wasn’t available for this one. So, we’re quite pleased that our new artist was able to capture the look and feel of the series.
  4. We have fun watching the TV series “Who Do You Think You Are” that involves well-known people tracking down their ancestors. The TV show plus their fame gets these people access to archivists and historians around the world, and that makes us a bit jealous. What’s amusing is that the genealogist always starts the person out with a search on Ancestry.com, something the person seemingly could have done at home before they came on the show. That part ain’t that difficult.
  5. My last post on this blog taught me one thing. Nobody wants to read about James Joyce, much less Finnegans Wake. Okay, I guess I won’t be talking about that any more. <g>
  6. Anyone else here reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series about a wizard who runs a big city detective agency? In a way, once you’ve read one, you’ve read all of them. Nonetheless, they’re addictive: thrills, chills, gore, and humor.
  7. I look forward to the day when real-life politics stops sounding like satire. Jock Stewart, my alter-ego who satirizes politics from time to time on this blog has nothing to write about because “he” can’t come up with anything more outlandish than what the two major parties are saying and doing.

On that note, I think I’ll go back to cleaning up the house.

Malcolm

Sunday Shatterings -Stormy, Stevie, CNN, Tropical Fish, &c.

You will be happy to know that I’m running out of relevant titles for posts that rhyme with natterings and clatterings and will soon think up better titles.

I’m wondering today when you lost your innocence. (That’s a rhetorical question.) I don’t necessarily mean in the backseat of a car at a drive-in theater while a Godzilla movie was playing on a screen that was barely visible through the fogged up windows. I’m talking about larger issues.

  • Wikipedia art work.

    Since today is Mother’s Day, perhaps it’s fair to say that my world was shattered when I learned that my mother didn’t know everything. She came up to me one time when I was home for a visit from college and said, “Malcolm, I don’t know why you decided to start smoking.” The world moved. How could she not know? I thought she would know before I knew.

  • Many years earlier, I was reading one of those books most of us hide under the mattress and discovered that people had sex pretty much the same way the tropical fish in my aquariums had sex. Okay, well, it doesn’t usually happen while swimming, but otherwise. . . (I’d been told that God simply sent people a baby when he thought they were ready.)
  • On any given day, many newsworthy events happen. My faith in the news media is shattered when–instead of reporting that news–they’re showing panels of talking, and biased “experts” who are telling us what some news event from weeks ago actually means. Frankly (for example), I don’t care about Stormy Daniels and don’t know why she’s getting so much air time. Okay, of course I know why: ratings.
  • Since I ran out of fresh reading material, I picked up a romance novel that has been on our shelves for 32 years. I don’t know where it came from, but I’d never read it. It’s called Through a Glass Darkly. Everyone in the book is obsessed with sex. How boring is that?!
  • Every issue of AARP Magazine ends with the pictures of five or six well known people who are still attractive, busy and successful in spite of being old. Gosh, Stevie Nicks is 70 and Mich Albom and Michelle Pfeiffer are 60. How do these things happen?
  • In other news, I made a pot roast this week that came out okay, my wife and I mowed the yard, and I am getting near the ending of Lena, the third novel in my Florida Folk Magic Series. CNN didn’t cover any of this because they were still talking about Stormy Daniels.

Malcolm