Sunday’s hodgepodge

  1. I’m currently reading Richard Powers’ The Overstory, the 2019 Pulitzer Prize winner about trees and the people who love and defend them. Unique theme and plot. I’m enjoying the book, but have a strong feeling it’s not for everyone. The Pulitzer Prize comment for this book states that it is “An ingeniously structured narrative that branches and canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them.”
  2. While progress on my novel is slow and unsteady, I was happy to hear that my publisher Thomas-Jacob has some other offerings in the works.
  3. Since the homepage of my website features a picture of Florida’s Apalachicola River, it seemed only fitting to write a short post about it in the website’s blog The Depot Cafe. The river is featured in my Florida Folk Magic Series.
  4. I’m surprised that Robbie, the stray cat that adopted us has been spending so much time outside during the day in spite of the cooler temperatures. He does come inside during the devening for food (of course) and a warm place to sleep. He’s getting along better than I expected with our two 18-year-old female cats, Katy and Marlo. Even though Marlo is a shrimp compared to the other two cats, she’s the one who stands up to Robbie if there’s a differerence of opinion about who’s supposed to be eating out of which bowl.
  5. Here we go again as another station (WXIA in Atlanta) is having a standoff with DISH network about fees. This means that we’re not seeing any of our regular NBC programs such as “Chicago Fire” and “New Amsterdam.” Naturally, we don’t get a refund for having one less channel than usual. This kind of thing happens randomly, and the viewer is always the one who loses out. Fortunately, the World Series wasn’t being carried by NBC this year. And the Braves won for the first time in about 25 years!
  6. Chattanooga Airport

    We’re planning on doing some air travel later this year. Since the handy airline is American, we’ve been watching the news about all their staff and weather problems. We don’t want to get standed on the other wisde of the country. But perhaps theres hope. I saw in today’s news that the airline is planning to triple pay its flight attendants during peak periods of make sure they keep the planes flying.

  7. It took me an hour to reset all the clocks in the house, so that hour I “saved” actually ran me at a net loss, time-wise.

Malcolm 

Save on the Florida Folk Magic Series with this four-book set:

I’m tired of springing forward and falling back

If I were king of the United States, I’d get rid of daylight savings time and mandate standard time for everyone all year. I’m trying to sail against the wind on this, I know, as more states are shifting to permanent daylight savings time.

I guess that means people are more willing to put up with dark mornings than dark afternoons.

Every darn thing in the house has a clock on it. Other than the phone and the TV, that means wasting a  lot of time changing everything forward and back. As for the car, forget it since (on our cars) there’s no “set clock” function, so we have to push various unrelated buttons on the radio to change the time.

I know some of you are thinking that time is an illusion anyway, so who cares? A lot of people care, apparently, since DST is apparently more popular than standard time.  I guess if we actually left our houses for after-work shopping, we’d want that “extra” daylight to be after work. But, we’re all shopping online these days, so we don’t need more after-hours sunshine.

Since more people are quitting their jobs these days, they can go shopping whenever they want.

And, no matter what time we’re using, most people are late anyway.

Life would be much easier if we embraced the darkness.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of novels based on magic.

In the old days. . .

. . .we said we were killing commies for Christ because in many ways we were. Before that  we were killing heathens for Christ and now I suppose we’re killing Jihadists for Christ.

Dark sarcasm summed up the way many of us felt when the “Killing Commies” phrase was popular, though just as politically incorrect as it is now.

In reality, it’s easier to fund and justify war if you don’t mention that you’re killing people. It’s also easier if you leave Christ out of it since He was never really in it in spite of what some people thought.

Around the world, bloggers are blogging for peace today. I didn’t sign up at blog4peace so this is an unauthorized post.

Peace comes from within, I think. That’s where it starts. You have to feel it and know in your heart and soul that war (or killing anyone for any reason) is a violation of universal tenets. War comes from the ego’s fear. Peace comes from the soul’s love.

I really don’t know any other way to say it.

Malcolm

DOJ files an antitrust suit to block the purchase of S&S by Penguin Random House

“The U.S. Department of Justice has sued to block Penguin Random House parent company Bertelsmann’s proposed acquisition of Viacom CBS subsidiary Simon & Schuster, arguing that it “would result in substantial harm to authors.” The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on November 2. With it, the DoJ alleges that the proposed acquisition would “enable Penguin Random House, which is already the largest book publisher in the world, to exert outsized influence over which books are published in the United States and how much authors are paid for their work.” (Penguin Random House is the world’s third largest publisher, but its largest trade publisher.) The full lawsuit can be read here.” – Publishers Weekly

I wish things were as simple as the 15th century Gutenberg letter press shown in the graphic.

I hope the merger is successfully blocked because consolidation reduces competition and is generally viewed as harmful to authors and readers. Among other things, media conglomerates (books, news, films) reduce options, a negative scenario in any era but especially bad at a time when public sentiment is leaning toward diversity in both news coverage as well as entertainment. And,  of course, the corporate home of the proposed company remains Bertelsmann, placing more U.S. media assets under the control of a multinational German corporation.

Franklin Foer, writing in The Atlantic, believes that “as book publishing consolidates, the author tends to lose—and, therefore, so does the life of the mind. With diminished competition to sign writers, the size of advances is likely to shrink, making it harder for authors to justify the time required to produce a lengthy work. In becoming a leviathan, the business becomes ever more corporate. Publishing may lose its sense of higher purpose. The bean counters who rule over sprawling businesses will tend to treat books as just another commodity.”

The big five already control 80% of U.S. book sales. If the DOJ suit fails, we’ll have the big four and, some say, we’ll lose a few more small presses and a few more publishing jobs.

Foer believes that the real problem in the mix is Amazon, and I agree. But that’s a discussion for another post other than to say that publishing conglomerates believe size will make then less vulnerable to Amazon control.

Writing for the New Republic (Pretty Soon There’ll Be Just One Big Big Book Publisher Left),  Alex Shephard says, “Further consolidation won’t just lead to layoffs, it will also likely put authors in a worse position, as they have fewer potential buyers to negotiate with. Though it is not solely responsible, the bottom has fallen out of the market for midlist books over the last decade, creating a system in which bestselling authors are making millions, while publishing’s middle class has been decimated. The conglomerate publishing industry’s increasing obsession with bestsellers has also left many more adventurous projects to wallow.”

I’m not sure who to blame for this mess.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’

One of the more interesting books on my shelf is The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence. The first edition, which came after the manuscript was lost multiple times, was privately published in 1926. My copy, from Doubleday, was published in 1935 and fortunately looks better than the copy shown in the picture.

The book, was used as a resource for the 1962 film “Lawrence of Arabia,” winner of seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. This is my favorite film.

The book is an autobiographical account of Colonel T. E. Lawrence’s work as an military advisor to the Bedouin forces during the Arabs’ revolt against the Turkish Empire between 1916 and 1918.

Penguin describes its edition of the book as follows: “In his classic book, T.E. Lawrence—forever known as Lawrence of Arabia—recounts his role in the origin of the modern Arab world. At first a shy Oxford scholar and archaeologist with a facility for languages, he joined and went on to lead the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks while the rest of the world was enmeshed in World War I. With its richly detailed evocation of the land and the people Lawrence passionately believed in, its incisive portraits of key players, from Faisal ibn Hussein, the future Hashemite king of Syria and Iraq, to General Sir Edmund Allenby and other members of the British imperial forces, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is an indispensible primary historical source. It helps us to understand today’s Middle East, while giving us thrilling accounts of military exploits (including the  liberation of Aqaba and Damascus), clandestine activities, and human foibles.”

Lawrence of arabia ver3 xxlg.jpgLike others, I’ve been fascinated by Lawrence’s introductory poem which may have been focused on the region or on an individual (nobody seems to know):

I loved you, so I drew these tides of
Men into my hands
And wrote my will across the
Sky in stars
To earn you freedom, the seven
Pillared worthy house,
That your eyes might be
Shining for me
When I came

Death seemed my servant on the
Road, ’til we were near
And saw you waiting:
When you smiled and in sorrowful
Envy he outran me
And took you apart:
Into his quietness

Love, the way-weary, groped to your body,
Our brief wage
Ours for the moment
Before Earth’s soft hand explored your shape
And the blind
Worms grew fat upon
Your substance

Men prayed me that I set our work,
The inviolate house,
As a memory of you
But for fit monument I shattered it,
Unfinished: and now
The little things creep out to patch
Themselves hovels
In the marred shadow

Of your gift.

Since Lawrence kept extensive notes about the revolt against the Turks, this book is probably the definitive resource about the military action. According to Wikipedia, Sir Winston Churchille said, “It ranks with the greatest books ever written in the English language. As a narrative of war and adventure it is unsurpassable.”

Lawrence refused his knighthood because the British government renegged on its promise to create an autonomous Arab state once the Ottoman Emptire collapsed. In this book, we see the seeds of many problems that occured later in the region.

Malcolm

Florida Folk Magic Stories: Novels 1-4 by [Malcolm R. Campbell]Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of multiple novels, including the four-book Florida Folk Magic Series. You can save money by purchasing the novels in a group as shown here.

Many calendars, limited walls

Every place there I’ve ever donated money sends me a free calendar. I don’t know where to put them, so most end up in a desk-top organizer since I don’t like throwing all those cool pictures away.

This week, I received a free copy of the National Park Foundation’s 2022 calendar. It came with a letter tht let me know I was their kind of people and, that being the case, I might want to join up or send them a donation. I support their work, but I can’t possibly send money to everyone who sends me a calendar.

Even though Facebook lists wall calendars among the archaic items nobody ever uses any more, we have two wall calendars in our house. The calendar next to my desk in the den always comes as part of my membership in the Montana Historical Society. The calendar next to the kitchen sink often comes from my brother Barry and his wife Mary, frequently a scenic from their latest travels. 

That’s it, unless we put up a calendar in the garage, the bathrooms, and the closets. That seems a bit crazy. So, if you’re part of the fundraising department of a nonprofit organization, there’s no need going to the expense of sending me a 2022 calendar in hopes that “gift” will shame me into send to $100000000000000. Not happening.

Malcolm

Florida Folk Magic Stories: Novels 1-4 by [Malcolm R. Campbell]You can save money by purchasing all four novels of my Florida Folk Magic Series in a set, These stories feature a conjure woman, her cat, and her friends in a battle against the KKK in the 1950s when the Klan was strong in the Sunshine State even though it wasn’t included in a list of our tourist attractions.

Books appear when I’m ready or so it seems

Daddy, where do books come from?

The stork brings them.

True or not, I must have had this two sentence exchange with my late father as I looked at his 10,000 books. Perhaps I asked my question when a college English teacher said, “Malcolm, for heaven’s sake, expand your reading. I challenge you to read and then tell me what you read after picking up a volume of  Saint-John Perse’s poetry. He won the Nobel Prize. You ought to know that before walking into my classroom.”

I’d never heard of him. There was nothing from him in the college bookstore. But then, there it was, Eloges and other Poems, on a shelf in the living room. We always wrote our names in our books along with the year we bought them. Mother wrote her name in this one the year I was born. Perse’s poems ended up having a great influence on me. Had I seen that book on the shelf a week or a month earlier, I would have ignored it. When I was ready, it was in plain sight.

Do you ever feel this way when you’re idly looking at your book shelves, take down a book you haven’t read, and wonder how it got there?

The Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryI’ve stopped wondering. I assume faerie people are responsible, if not always for the actual purchase, but leading me to buy it, to misplace it, and later to “discover” it on my shelves. This just happened with Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January. I could see the book from my desk chair, couldn’t remember reading it but assumed I must have read it and then moved on to books I did remember reading.

But I was desperate. I’d run out of factory fresh books to read. So I picked up this book, thinking, “What the hell is this anyway?” I started to read and kept reading. I guess I bought it and forgot it until several days ago. I know why. I’ve been thinking a lot about doors, thesholds, and other liminal places lately, so this book knew it was time and made itself known.

I no longer question the synchonicstic apperance of books. I fact, I rather expect it. “Something” always knows what I’m looking for often before I consciously know I’m looking for it. In my novel in progress, my main character was thinking about the view of  dusk as the hour between the dog and the wolf. (See my other blog.) At dusk, you can’t always tell what’s what because dusk is a threshold–like a doorway. Objects and entities transform, change like oneself when stepping thgrough certain doorways.

Once you launch a thought into the universe, the answer appears–rather like the old phrase “the teacher appears when the student is ready.” I thought that was bunk when I first heard it. A lifetime has proven it to be true.

Especially when it comes to the appearance of books on my shelf.

Malcolm

Are you ready for this yet?

 

Supply chain crunch leads to spam shortages

New York, NY, Star-Gazer News Service, October 25, 2021–As warnings about new shortages in grocery store items and potential supply problems in publishing float through Wall Street’s top-floor corner offices, analysts are noticing scattered shortages in spam, sources said here today.

While most prominent bloggers and e-mail newsletter outlet managers say spam still seems to be flowing freely throughout the Internet, small-scale operations believe spammers have targeted their operations 20% less than last year. Spam, some say, has become thinner, smaller, and less rich.

Spam concept illustration. hacking or advertising emails on computer. |  CanStockAccording to Maverick Jones, chairman and CEO of the All American Phishing and Spamming Association, “Higher production costs and the reduced availability of spurious content have led many practitioners to reduce the size and quality of their materials rather like candy bar companies that reduced the size of their products rather than raising prices.”

Wall Street analyst Algernon Moncrieff said that while readers detest spam and phishing, the practices are indicative of an economy’s health. “Deteriorating spam of reduced quality is a warning sign that the federal government is trying to micromanange private industry in the name of so-called ‘common good’ policies.”

As of press time, both major parties were blaming each other for the spam boondoggle while splinter parties said the whole problem was yet another “horror caused by Facebook.”

Blog readers such as Gwendolen Fairfax believe posts aren’t as much fun as they used to be without the sport of dodging spam. Dr Chasuble believes aggressive spam provides a learning experience for young adults. Cecily Cardew thinks the “creative lights have gone out all over the multiverse.”

Informed sources warn that hoarding spam will only lead to increased shortages and more intense supply chain disruptions from fake Viagra to ineffective vitamin supplements.

“Old people will be first to suffer,” said Jones, “followed by Congressmen and women.”

Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

The Universal Soldier

He is five feet two, and he’s six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He is all of thirty-one, and he’s only seventeen
He’s been a soldier for a thousand years
— Buffy Sainte Marie

Donovan sang the song well, probably had the largest audience for it, but I liked Buffy’s version of “The Universal Soldier” better. The Public Affairs Office (PAO) onboard the USS Ranger (CVA-61) played the Donovan version while on station off the coast of Vietnam during that waste of time, money, and life war. We loved the irony of that song aboard a warship.

The folk singers–Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Eric Bogle–have always told the truth straight about war and other injustices. We play their songs and sometimes we protest the war of the day, but I think we worship the Universal Soldier because s/he makes damn sure we are always fighting somewhere and extolling the patriotism and glory of it and keeping that defense budget high enough to create the expensive toys of war that war profitable and necessary for the economy to such a large extent that weall have blood on our hands.

Come you masters of war
You that build the big guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your mask”

–Bob Dylan

In a few days, a lot of folks will Blog4Peace like children going up against monsters with sticks and posters and songs. Will these bloggers defeat the military industrial establishment. I doubt it. Will they raise our consciouness and or belief that some day, somewhere we will find better ways of conflict resolution that break the chains typing us to the universal soldier. Yes. Meanwhile, how many lifetimes will it take until we know that too many people have died, until we seriously look around and ask where have all the flowers gone and why are the graveyards full to overflowing.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fir o’er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

–Eric Bogle

Those who march away, at once tin soldiers (canon fodder) and the best and the brightest (flowers of the forest) pay with their lives (and more) for the country’s love of the universal soldier. When it comes to fixing the problem, Presidents promise while allowing the cycle of war to turn again and again. They’re powerless, aren’t they? Our love of battle is our universal need even though it’s fool’s gold.

–Malcolm

New Post

Drop-Dead Gorgeous and other hideous word combinations

Drop Dead Gorgeous poster.jpgHow many times a year do you read the words “drop dead gorgeous” in a novel or short story? If the answer is zero, then I’m jealous. I just stumbled across the cliché again today in a book written by a writer who probably makes at least $100000000000000 a year and it pissed me off. For that kind of money he can do better than trotting out a lame cliche to describe (usually) a beauiful woman. Let’s stipulate here that the author wasn’t talking about the 1999 dark comedy. I wish he had been.

We can’t blame the film for the cliché. It showed up in the 1930s as a way of ramping up what you were talking about. The phrase is, then, considered an “intensifier.” It’s almost as bad as saying “the shrimp salad was to die for” (and not because the shrimp had gone bad, though in real life, that’s probably the case).

Frankly–and I know this is unsolicited advice–if you’re the kind of person whose blood pressure is so high that you’re likely to drop dead when you see a stunning woman/car/house/horse, then you need to see a doctor or start buying Lisinopril BP meds on the street.

So, to suggest a standard, when a phrase show up every which way but loose, then if you’re a writer, don’t use it. Or if you want other people you converse with to respect you in the morning, don’t use it. Don’t look at something bad and say “what goes around comes around.” Or tell a factory fresh widow “time heals all wounds” or “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Or tell people your spouse is “ugly as sin” or that your grandmother is “as old as the hills.”

My mother used to tell me that using profanity was a sign of a weak vocabulary or a weak mind. Actually, profanity is more fun than clichés, more versatile, perhaps, though it you start describing everyone you meet as “shit for brains,” you have gone too far. In fact, you’re out in left field.

Let’s just sum up this essay by saying that if, at the end of the day, you find yourself speaking/writing overused words, then you need to start thinking outside the box and get some fresh words that give you more bang for the buck.

Malcolm

Special Investigative Reporter by [Malcolm R. Campbell]Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Special Investigative Reporter,” a novel in which figures of speech are taken literally and clichés are seen as a way of life. Frankly, I hope you’ll laugh your ass off. Oops, I should have just said it’s drop-dead funny.