How are you feeling?





Those of us who aren’t old enough to remember the fear and uncertainty, the rationing, and all the shortages and economic changes during World War II, will probably see the COVID-19 pandemic as the nation’s greatest crisis. The last U. S. figures I saw showed 277,205 cases and 6,593 deaths. We are told that these numbers don’t include cases and deaths we don’t know about and that they’ll go higher. We’re also told that a vaccine is probably at least a year away.

Historians are comparing this pandemic with the 1918 influenza pandemic that impacted 500 million people throughout the world, 50 million deaths worldwide, including 675,000 deaths in the U.S. That’s not reassuring even though it sounds long ago and far away with no one alive with personal memories of it.

I’m reminded of the polio scare in the 1950s, with 57,628 cases in 1952. The Salk and Sabin vaccines generally put an end to the outbreaks, but prior to that, there was a fair amount of fear and unease about the safety of one’s children. (My younger brother had a mild case.)

Whether they’re joking about it or trying to deny the real danger to themselves, my sense from news reports and social media is we’re seeing off-the-scale unease, uncertainly, and frustration that exceeds the 1950s polio scare, one that has captured the country’s consciousness like the national efforts to mobilize on the homefront for World War.

Cases and deaths are spreading across the country for a disease with no cure but to try to simply lessen one’s chances of getting it and to endure it if one does get it. The economy is, of course, a resulting tragedy as stores and other venues close, travel is restricted, and employees are furloughed, and businesses facing bankruptcy. The pandemic seems like a sword with multiple sharp edges.

The Internet is filled with ideas for things to do while quarantined. These ideas probably help, but I doubt they’re a real substitute for unemployment, disruptions in products and services, and concerns about any flu-like symptoms one has had. It’s nice to see news stories about people pulling together: they offset some of the stories about the political squabbling as well as the crazy people who ignore guidelines and/or purposefully try to infect others.

My younger brother and his wife were planning a European trip. My wife and I were planning a trip to Maryland to see my daughter, her husband, and my two granddaughters. These trips have been cancelled. Thousands of people are probably having similar experiences.

Day to day, I’m impacted by news stories and the latest lockdown style regulations and lack of many grocery items in the stores. I try, though, to focus more on the book I’m writing, the TV shows we watch, our two cats, and life around the house rather than becoming obsessed with the pandemic.

How about you? How are you feeling and how are you coping?





Be careful where you say you’re from on Facebook

I no longer list Berkeley, California as the place where I’m from on Facebook because in “debates,” people say, “well, of course, Malcolm would say that, look where he’s from. We don’t need him telling people in Georgia what to think.”

I was born at Alta Bates Hospital, but don’t tell anyone.

My family is basically from California, with my late relatives living in Berkeley, Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and Palo Alto. I think I was in high school (in Florida) when my father told me he could never go back because the farms and orchards had all been ploughed up and turned into developments, the places Pete Seeger said were houses like little boxes all made of ticky tacky and just the same.

I can’t go back either. For one thing, I can’t afford it. For another, I think the state has lost its connection to reality, a connection that always was fairly tenous on a good day.  Sorry, folks, but I really can’t support a state that says illegal immigrants should have a right to vote.

So, in these Facebook “debates,” I suppose people thought I support all the lunacy associated with California these days. During the Vietnam War protest era, I was part of that lunacy because (a) I hated the war, and (b) had an apartment in San Francisco’s Mission District while my ship was in port across the Bay and had trouble anywhere I went in a Navy uniform.

When I was told on Facebook that “they” (the people in the thread) didn’t need a person from a crazy state telling people in the South that he (meaning me) thought the state and federal governments had no right to legislate or otherwise mess up women’s health care, including the right to an abortion, I said, “ladies, I’ve lived in the South longer than anyone else commenting on this thread.”

Huh? I said that I grew up in Florida from the first grade to college and now live in Georgia where my wife was born. We live on a farm that’s been in her family for five generations. They were surprised. They were happy to see that I had changed the town where I’m from to Tallahassee, Florida, and appreciated the fact that I like boiled peanuts, collard greens, mullet, grits, and cathead biscuits.

However, according to their assessment, a California birth certificate meant that even if you left the state at an early age, you were more or less the devil’s spawn and couldn’t possibly go to enough church services to get even with the Lord. If not that, then I was probably dropped on my head in the hospital.

So there it was. Clearly, my identification with California was an albatross around my neck. In the old days (whatever that means) people said Florida really wasn’t truly Southern. My response was that North Florida was/is about as Southern as you can get and that unlike other states in the Confederacy, “we” weren’t conquered by the North during the Civil War. Okay, so we’re overrun by snowbirds every year and from Live Oak to Miami, the state’s been pretty much ruined by developers who’ve paved over everything there that used to be good and created endless sprawl.

But, I digress.

On the minus side, now that I’ve changed my Facebook hometown to Tallahassee, everyone thinks I’m a racist. When they push that view too hard, I mention that the biggest race riots in the country all happened outside the South.

Is there a safe place out there I can claim as my hometown?


Malcolm R. Campbell has written a bunch of novels set in the South, or partly in the South, including the Florida Folk Magic Trilogy.



‘Catch Me if You Can’

I don’t think I lead a sheltered life, but every once in awhile I seem to “wake up” and hear about something that’s been in the news for years. I wonder, have I had amnesia, been in a coma, or simply had too much Scotch.

So last night we watched the movie “Catch Me if You Can” about a check forger (Leonardo DiCaprio) being chased (sort of like the movie “The Fugitive”) by an FBI agent (Tom Hanks) that came out in 2002. It’s based on the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. who wrote a book about his experiences in 1980 after having appeared on the quiz show “To Tell the Truth” three years earlier.

According to the movie, Abagnale was so good at forgery, he ultimately worked for the FBI in a check fraud unit and designed anti-fraud procedures used in today’s banking system. The movie kept our attention even though I was a little preoccupied about how this story could have been in the national consciousness for some 43 years without my being aware of it.

Sometimes I feel like one of those people in a TV movie who’s been in a coma for 25 years and wakes up to find the world has completely changed. Yet, I have supposedly been awake between 1977 and 2002 and logic tells me I should have been aware of at some bits and pieces of this story.

Either that or the movie studio spent a lot of money just to play a practical joke on me.



Today’s stunning Potpourri of stuff

In no particular order. . .

  • I listened to Trump’s speech this morning. It was more low key and measured than I expected. Having said that, I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and read that we bombed something in Iran. I hope we don’t.
  • I tend to agree with Melinda’s comment on yesterday’s post about writer weblogs. She thought people tended to visit after buying a little-known author’s book (or hearing about them) just to learn something more about them rather than to buy a book. I haven’t cancelled my website yet, but I did get rid of a pricey add-on that I really don’t need.
  • My ex-wife and I haven’t spoken (or written) for years, but we both hear about each other via our daughter. I learned yesterday that my ex-wife’s older brother died two days ago. I messaged my daughter that I was sorry to hear the news. That’s all I can do since leaving a message on his Facebook profile or any of his family members’ profiles would probably be seen as a very unwelcome intrusion. He was a great guy.
  • Homemade chilli is simmering in the Dutch oven. Maybe some of it will be around later in the week when the bad weather hits the Southeast. Right now, our low temps here in north Georgia are in the high 20s.
  • I’m currently reading and enjoying Dora Goss’ The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl. It’s the third in her Athena Club series. The club looks into mysteries and other weird stuff. Club members are reading the manuscript as it unfolds, so we frequently have comments and dissenting opinions about the way the story is being handled.
  • It’s been fun watching the special “Jeopardy” competition this week between three all-time winners. Even when we know the answers, the champs say them before we do.


Recent Spam Has Been Low-Quality Stuff.

Do you ever wonder who writes SPAM? Is there a college course or maybe even a degree program (sort of like an MFA) that teaches effective SPAM techniques that will maximize your time, your words, and your income? If the recent SPAM in my queue here is any indication, it appears that border-line illiteracy is the primary entry mode into a SPAM-writing career.

  • I read your blog every day and tell my friends about it and think about it while using the bathroom. Most bloggers don’t have the time to write gospel every day. Find out how a curated stream of lightly plagiarized and repurposed posts from the dark web will bring you more readers than you can shake a stick at.  We guarantee that only 3% is infected with malware.
  • When you cheat on your wife, do your paramours still say “this old man has still got it?” If not, you’re missing the best life has to offer. Contact Mister Pimp’s Generic Viagra and you’ll find that being over the hill doesn’t mean you’re dead in bed.
  • Having trouble writing New Year’s Resolutions? Tell us your worst sins and we’ll craft resolutions they might even get you arrested. Contact Sing Sing, Box 666, for details.
  • Want a college degree without doing the work? MFA, PhD, MD, THd: we cater to all needs. Plans include forged transcripts from the nation’s best universities. We promise, you probably won’t get caught. Contact:
  • Your a writer, rite? If you’l endorse are book piracy cite, we’ll cut you in on the prophets. Can’t beet that, rite? Simply display our stolen HTML code in the right-hand column of you’re blog, and we’ll cut you in. No harm, no fowl. Need more info:

You can thank your lucky stars that the WordPress SPAM catcher filters out 99.99% of this stuff so that you never see it. However, if you feel you’re missing out, let me know in a comment and I’ll give these SPAMMERS your e-mail address. Hope this helps.


The holidays make a nice scapegoat

I saw a graphic on Facebook several days ago that said, “Stop blaming the holidays, you were fat in August.”


Likewise, I suppose we can also say that we were behind on our chores in August, our letter writing, our hobbies, and a lot of other things that we’re now blaming on the holidays.

common scapegoat

Who believes our excuses anyway? Wouldn’t it be simpler to say, “I’m overweight because I eat too much” and never get any exercise rather than blaming those 75 extra pounds on Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Or, admitting that we’re short of funds because we spent too much of Black Friday due to a general lack of discipline rather than suggesting Black Friday came along and drained our bank accounts?

We’re all in this scapegoat business together, aren’t we? Let’s say you’re at a cookout and are just grabbing for your 5th beer when somebody says, “I really need to cut back but I don’t want to be rude.” Everyone joins in because, WTF, who wants to admit being rude. Likewise, granny invites us over for dinner. We don’t want to be rude, especially if we think it might cause granny to have a stroke, so we eat enough for three people and need to borrow granny’s walker to get out to the car.

In general, people seem to like ready excuses for why they got drunk, ate too much, or lost their jobs. These excuses are worth their weight in gold. After all, what sane person wants to accept responsibility for the insane habits they’ve spent a lifetime developing?

So, I’m here to tell you, if you’re eating or spending or drinking too much during the holiday season, it’s not your fault.


Had to mortgage the house to pay off the maxed out credit cards so I could do more shopping

When we were children, people we didn’t know came into our bedrooms at night and brainwashed us to believe in a deep state kind of way that it’s patriotic to overeat on Thanksgiving and overspend on Black Friday.

Wikipedia Photo

I don’t know what I bought today because I was on the run most of the time from rabid shoppers who kept trying to yank my latest deal out my hands before I got into the stolen armored car I was driving today. I seem to have a garage full of electronic equipment that will enrich my life along with the lives of the store owners and the corporate CEOs. It’s been a long day. It continues to be a long day because I’m writing this post from the lobby of a bank where I just cashed out a stack of I Bonds to make sure I had funds left for a stop at Quik Trip on the way home.

You probably have similar stories to tell, stories you’ll pass down to your children and grandchildren about the importance of buying lots of stuff. Nobody has even explained why we need the stuff, only that we need to buy it. If you leave it in the box it came in, your grandchildren can sell it for big bucks on Antiques Road Show 75 years from now. They (your grandchildren) will either think you were totally insane or the cat’s pajamas when they get the cash.

If the fates are with them (your grandchildren), that cash will be enough for ten or fifteen Black Friday’s worth of shopping to continue the tradition.  By then, people will probably be buying by rote without realizing how patriotic shopping was when the tradition started back in the 1950s.

I don’t mean to sound cynical about all this.