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.



Briefly noted: ‘Anticancer Living’

During my final visit with the oncologist, he prescribed this book along with an on-line group called Cancer Navigators. Both present a wealth of information for people who have survived cancer as well as people who are ageing into the period of their life when cancer becomes more likely. Most of us ignore the statistics about the percentages of men and women who will get cancer in their lifetimes until a family member, a close friend of colleague gets it–or until we get it.

There are changes each of us can make in our lives from diet to exercise to weight to attitude that will promote the kind of wellness in our lives that will make cancer less likely. This book goes a long way in outlining how we achieve our best possible chances of never getting cancer or of surviving it with a viable and meaningful lifestyle if we do get it.

From the Publisher:

“The scientific data on the link between lifestyle, environmental factors, and cancer risk has been accumulating at an accelerated rate over the past decade: Every week we learn something more that we can do as individuals to decrease the risk of can­cer and improve the likelihood of long-term survival. Many of us—patients and doctors included—do not realize that changes in our daily choices and habits can improve quality of life, increase the chances of survival, and aid in the healing process for those with a diagnosis. These ideas were pioneered in David Servan-Schreiber’s Anticancer: A New Way of Life, and became the basis for a research study developed by Lorenzo Cohen and Servan-Schreiber at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“Introducing the concept of the “Mix of Six,” Cohen and Alison Jefferies make an informed case that building social and emotional support; manag­ing stress; improving sleep, exercise, and diet; and minimizing exposure to environmental toxins work together to promote an optimal environment for health and well-being. While each plays an inde­pendent role, the synergy created by all six factors can radically transform health; delay or prevent many cancers; support conventional treatments; and significantly improve quality of life—as many testi­monies and stories of those in the anticancer com­munity eloquently show.

“Anticancer Living provides an accessible, pre­scriptive guide to wellness based on the latest scien­tific findings and clinical trials, and it showcases the community of doctors, researchers, caregivers, and patients who have been inspired to create change.”

Highly Recommended

I won’t know until sometime in January whether the radiation and hormone therapy zapped by prostate cancer. If so, I’m a survivor twice over since surgery took care of my kidney cancer several years ago. According to current thinking, all men get prostate cancer if they live long enough, so I doubt that had if started reading this book after the kidney cancer surgery, I could have avoided the prostate cancer. But who knows?

Suffice it to say, avoiding cancer is better than getting it, and yet so many people–including me–are averse to doing the obvious kinds of things that lead to a healthy body, brain, and mind. I don’t know if that’s laziness or the false idea that cancer is random no matter how healthy one is. I think we’re overly influenced when healthy people get cancer and when people who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day never get it.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and, for goodness sakes, take care of yourselves.




OMG, the in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving

Here’s what that means:

  1. The guest bedroom/sewing room looks more like an attic where people have stored crap for years.
  2. The guest bathroom still has the bar of soap they used the last time they were here–need I say anything more?
  3. Food, don’t ask. The in-laws eat the kind of food that you see on the Food Network program “Chopped.” That not only means it’s weird but that it isn’t stocked in normal grocery stores.

Okay, I’ve rented a backhoe and have been using it to clean out all the stuff that needs to be cleaned out. I found Jimmy Hoffa in the bathtub and put him out to pasture with the cows. I’ve called the Food Network and asked them to ship in mass quantities of goat testicles, squid ink, and haggis so we’ll have enough food on hand for the week.

The sheets and towels for the front bedroom and bathroom are going through the washer. The cat’s claws have been clipped. Most of the hairballs have been located and thrown into the backyard. We plan to vacuum the living room at the last minute so it can’t get screwed up again before they arrive on Tuesday.

My wife and sister-in-law will do a special shopping on Wednesday to make sure all the food materials are under control to the extent that that’s possible. No doubt, the cats will be on their worst behavior while that’s happening because they simply don’t care what they do and when they do it.

So, how about you? Are you ready for whoever’s coming to dinner?



Veterans, I think, suffer more than the dead


“Thank you for your service.” Veterans appreciate hearing that.

Some people mix up Veterans Day and Memorial Day. I know this because official ceremonies for November 11 often occur in or near cemeteries. Photographs often feature gravestones. While well-intentioned through their inadvertent odes to the dead, these mixed-up commemorations are a faux pas because–to the cynical viewers like me–they show that people are too busy shopping and otherwise enjoying a holiday to get the reason behind the holiday right.

Today is for those who came back, not those who didn’t.

In my fiction about war, I have said that the dead are often the lucky ones, for those who come home to be thanked for their service once a year often have physical and mental wounds that will never heal. They often live under bridges, suffer through years of PTSD, lose sleep for the nightmares of war that cannot be erased from their memories, create dysfunctional families when they cannot re-acclimate into civilian life, and–if they fought in a war after WWII and Korea–they will hear that nobody wanted what they fought for and that it would have been better for them if they’ never come home.

Personally, I would rather my family see my name on the Vietnam War Memorial than on any list of heroes or in any photographs of soldiers receiving awards. Why? The survivors pay too much for having served. Death is so much better, so much more peaceful, and so much more blessed than being condemned by fate to become a living casualty whose dreams remind him/her of the worst human being can do to each other.

I salute the veterans who have triumphed over their memories of war, memories that will never be fixed by the words, “Thank you for your service.” They are braver and stronger than I am.

On this day, we support our troops, the ones who came home who will forever hear the sounds of artillery and rifle file in their nightmares and who will forever see the dead in the field in their mind’s eye. The dead in the field are, in my view, luckier than those who came home with memories of what they saw and what they heard in the war.

In spite of my anti-war cynicism, I’m glad the country steps aside from the more mundane moments of life long enough to celebrate a Memorial Day and a Veterans Day. These days remind us of the sacrifices of the living and the dead.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the anti-war novel “At Sea”






I need a twelve-step program to keep me from saying things on Facebook

You’ve heard of Facebook, right? It’s part of the so-called social media. It’s social as long as you are posting humorous pictures of cats, celestial pictures of oceans and sunsets, and cartoons about stupid people getting their just desserts. It’s less social when one person makes a political comment and another person politely takes issue with that comment.

You’d think I’d know better, but yesterday I suggested that plans for soaking the rich were unlikely to either pay for our many underfunded social programs or get rid of the national deficit. I based this on (a) the fact that the rich pay more taxes already than large segments of the population, and (b) that a study a year or so ago said that if the government took all of the rich’s money, it would hardly make a dent in our nation’s shortfalls

My point, in part, was that one way to balance the budget was controlling spending, especially what I characterized as an obscenely large military budget.

While I was away from that conversation, many people stopped by to attack me with defamatory statements which were easier to think up than any real fact-based arguments. Several years ago, I was shocked to hear that many intelligent people only listen to the commentators they agree with. That is, they don’t allow themselves access to balanced news reporting or any commentary that includes ideas from multiple sources.

Facebook, for all its lovely cat pictures and sentimental graphics, proves to me that it’s hard to compete with ignorance. One meme recently suggested disbelief that a regular person could be so vain as to think that s/he knew more about a scientist’s subject than the scientist. There were a lot of LIKES on this one. Yet the same people didn’t seem to feel that way about anything else. Saying anything they don’t like–but cannot prove one way or the other–is like poking a fire hill with a stick. It’s best not to do it.

Yet, I’m a volatile person of Scot’s ancestry and, as everyone knows, we’re best described by opinions defined by sex, drinking, and fighting. This means we’re likely to say anything about anything. Soaking the rich is apparently the Panacea that will solve all of our problems. Whenever somebody says that my first thought is, “How stupid can you get?”

So, I left a casual comment on the soaking the rich thread on Facebook and came back hours later to discover most people in the thread thought I was the anti-Christ. They had no facts to prove it or to prove why whey they disagreed. So, of course, character assassination was the easiest route the could take.

There was no point in arguing with them, so I simply deleted my comment. Since all of their comments were linked to mine, everything they said disappeared as well. I won’t be going back to that person’s profile because he had ample opportunity to keep the discussion on track rather than allowing it to degenerate into a childish grade school argument.

I see this approach everywhere, even amongst our so-called national leaders. It’s a sad thing, I believe, when they can’t stick to the facts in a debate and choose to find real or imagined dirt on those they’re debating.


Oops, a day late blogging for peace

“Ending the scourge of violence in the United States and across the planet requires more than suppressing violence. Lasting peace requires its active and systematized cultivation at every level of government and society. The U.S. Department of Peace will coordinate and spur the efforts we need to make our country and the world a safer place. Nothing short of broad-scale investment and government reorientation can truly turn things around.” – Marianne Williamson

While I doubt that Marianne Williamson will be elected President or, if she were, that her proposed cabinet-level Department of Peace would ever be established, I like her ideas about this. I hope that whoever becomes President will seriously consider the idea that constantly spending and preparing for war is an obsolete response to world crises.

So many of our policies are confrontational that they tend to lead toward fighting words, as though the world is an old-style western movie where everyone carried a gun and people shot first and asked questions later.

In my view, every list of New Year’s resolutions should begin with:  I will never take another life in anger.

If I were to add a second proposed resolution, it would be: I will work within my community to get rid of police units that are more heavily armed than SEAL teams and push for departmental policies that require that police officers must always shoot to kill if they have to draw their weapons.

The reasons for police department policies for lethal force are well known. Yet, I believe they are misguided if they are the default approach to firing a weapon. In my view, in a police officer is so bad a shot that he cannot disarm or disable a perpetrator without killing the individual, then s/he isn’t qualified to carry a gun.

Internationally, most of the wars that we’ve been involved in since Korea were none of our business. These wars have not been declared wars, but ongoing police actions or quick-strike actions based on the sacred words “national security.” We did not need to be involved in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, and multiple other world hot spots. Our troops are dying for what, exactly? Foreign oil? The dispute between rival branches of Islam? Fighting drug cartels in foreign countries?

Our young men and women are dying for such things. I always support our troops, but seldom support what they’re ordered to do. Frankly, I think they should stay at home and that our military budget should be greatly reduced.

I wonder what percentage of the population believes that for all of our military interventions and threats our world is safer not than it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. I don’t think it is. It’s not just increased terrorism and hot spot areas, but the constant talk about an ever-looming World War III.

The United States has the power to defuse the world’s tensions without parking an aircraft carrier off another nation’s coast or overflying another country with B-52 bombers. We can do better than that. Doing better won’t be easy because so many people are “programmed” to see conflicts as military matters rather than diplomacy matters,

It’s a cultural thing, I think. “Kill people because that will teach them a lesson.” Nobody has ever told me what that lesson is.



Buying Christmas Gifts for My Granddaughters

My granddaughters live in Maryland and my wife and I live in Georgia, so we need to order Christmas gifts early in November so there’s time for my wife to wrap them (my gift wrapping is a joke), box them up, and mail them. Fortunately, my daughter helps by sending a long list. We don’t see Feya and Beatrice as often as we wish (my cancer kept us from having a springtime visit this year), so we need a little help. We share the list with my sister in law after we check off what we’ve chosen.

On the wish list.

This year, Freya wants a book on learning Japanese and Beatrice wants a book on learning French. I had no luck learning either language, but far be it from me to say anything negative about the family gene pool when it comes to languages. Freya, who loves ballet, also loves to draw. Beatrice had a slew of books on her list. Okay, I’m happy to see this, so the gene pool isn’t entirely bankrupt.

The girls watch a lot of kids’ movies on Netflix. That and their interactions with other kids at school introduce them to fads and pastimes that I don’t know anything about. Looking at these gift ideas is an education. Manga and Anime drawing–I have no idea what that is even though I’ve been to Japan.

When we were at Disney World last year and had just left the Japanese pavilion (where I sampled the sake), I saw something cute and inadvertently said, “Kawaii!!!!!!.” My granddaughters whirled around. “How to do you know that, Grandpa?” “From watching you,” I said, though I believe they were sceptical.

My daughter and her husband have been giving their daughters a culture-rich life of museums and parks and plays. I highly approve. So, their wish lists for Christmas and birthdays don’t include guns and cherry bombs and acid rock music. Whew.

Since my book Widely Scattered Ghosts is dedicated to my granddaughters, I sent two, signed copies to my daughter a year ago. I said it’s too soon for either Freya or Beatrice to have a copy of this. But when the time is right, they can see them. It’s still too soon. But whenever the time is right, I hope they enjoy grandpa’s stories.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”




Happy Hallowe’en (or else)

I remember the Hallowe’en of my childhood when most people remembered that it’s a contraction for hallowed evening and left the apostrophe where it belongs. Kids, except for the very youngest, went around the neighborhood alone or in groups rather than going from street to street in a parent’s car (that would creep along while the kids rang doorbells). I remember when Hallowe’en was always celebrated on the 31st rather than being moved by law or proclamation by the city council to the nearest weekend day. And, I remember when a lot of kids saw it as a night to go out trickin’, which meant throwing eggs, tossing toilet paper up in the trees and messing up windows and screen by drawing on them with bars of soap.

I suppose when you’re my age (you’ll know it when you get there), you’ll remember Hallowe’en as it is now instead of what it will probably turn into: banned or structured into Hallowe’en walks through selected parts of the town. It’s sad, I guess that progress has been forced to focus more and more on the predators that appear on the streets every year. Hell, you can go to jail if you allow your kid to walk or ride a bike to school.

When I was a kid, we’d have a hundred or maybe a hundred and fifty trick-or-treaters a night–often more. When we lived in a small town on the other side of Georgia, we were surprised if we had fifty–that, in spite of the pickup trucks bring in kids from neighborhoods far away. Now we live on a rural road and haven’t seen a trick-or-treater for five years.

When I was a kid, I thought Hallowe’en was fun. I suppose it was the candy and, to some extent, the costumes. As I got older, I hated it because I had better things to do than jump up from whatever I was doing every five to ten minutes to answer the doorbell and hand out candy. But, that was only fair since I rang a lot of doorbells and disrupted the evenings of a lot of adults when I was little.

I liked the little kids best since they were shy or joyful. I disliked the teenagers who thought they were entitled to all the candy in my basket and to hell with whoever came to my door after they left. I was proud of the African American and Korean [Korean is Georgia’s second language] parents who were brave enough to bring their children to a predominantly white neighborhood. I tended to be somewhat cranky with people who thought it was okay to ring my doorbell after 10 p.m.

And that reminds me, why is it now a standard to remove the periods from the “p. m.”? More lazy English, I think. But I refuse to change. I’m going to keep putting those periods there for the same reason I keep putting the hyphen in co-operation. (That hyphen had a purpose: it told you that “coop” wasn’t pronounced like a chicken coop but as two syllables.)

But, I digress.





The ruler of discontent

My middle school teacher, Mrs. G, attacked the problem of spitballs, note passing, whispering, and other infractions by asking whoever she caught to hold out his/her hands (palms down) so that she could slap them with a ruler.

I never had any problems with Mrs. G until she looked out from her desk, saw a fair portion of her class in disorder, and promptly sentenced everyone in the room to one slap with her trusty ruler. Those who had been slapped said she hit them hard enough to raise a welt, so I planned non-co-operation when she approached my desk.

My hands were out. When she brought down the ruler with great force, I pulled them back. She missed. I was surprised that the ruler didn’t break when it hit the desktop with a loud thwack.

“Let’s try again,” she said, face flushed.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Definitely,” she said, aware that the rest of the class was whispering about her.

I held out my hands again. However, I was faster than she was. When she tried to teach me a lesson, I snatched the ruler out of her hands. I don’t think that had ever happened before.

“Give it back,” she yelled.

“I’m not that stupid,” I said.

When we got to the principal’s office, the principal asked if I’d taken Mrs. G’s ruler. I said that I took it in self-defense. When asked to explain, I said that Mrs. G was hitting everyone in the room with the ruler because she couldn’t figure out who caused the disruption. The principal said that sometimes that’s the only way to achieve classroom discipline.

My response was that inasmuch as she had no probable cause, she would have been guilty of assault and battery if she had successfully struck my hand.

My mother was called. When she appeared, she wasn’t happy. Had I been guilty of anything, I don’t know what she would have said. What she did say was that hitting every student in the classroom with a ruler was unacceptable and that she was going on record by forbidding any so-called punishment directed against me in the future.

Mother always stood up for me, and I loved her for it. Naturally, I wasn’t allowed to keep Mrs. G’s ruler. In future weeks, she used it liberally to measure how punishment to the guilty and innocent alike. Whenever she did this, she glared at me as though I was the spawn of Satan. The feeling was mutual.