New Blog Theme – No Longer Contains Subliminal Messages

No, I’m not turning over a new leaf with this new blog theme, nor launching a series of books that knocks James Patterson off the bestseller list. I get bored with themes fairly quickly. When products come out with new packaging, they write something like “NEW LOOK” on the packaging often followed by “SAME GREAT STUFF.”

Makes me wonder why the new look. Perhaps the manufacturer removed something bad from the product. If so, they can’t really say, “No longer with traces of mercury.” Or, “No longer infringes on patents of three competing products.” Maybe they just wanted to attract the younger generation.

Years ago, we worried about subliminal messages, primarily at movie theaters when we learned that some theaters were flashing messages on the screen so quickly that the eye couldn’t register them, stuff like “BUY POPCORN.” I can’t remember how effective those messages were. People took a dim view of them because behind the fairly harmless urge to rush out to the concession stand, there lurked darker possibilities.

Those were the days of the BIG RED SCARE. Or, as the McCarthy hearings thought: “There’s a communist in every pot.” Or maybe it was a chicken. Whatever McCarthy thought was in the pot–and I don’t mean marijuana cut with oregano–it all led back to Stalin, Lenin, Marx, spying, and other nefarious stuff that might be hidden in those subliminal messages.

Even today, hidden code lurks amongst the pixels of the graphics in the PR and ADS we get via e-mail. They mainly tell the sender whether you opened the e-mail or not. That seems a bit intrusive to me, but I’m not worrying about it unless the code in the graphics is telling me to buy popcorn, join the communist party, or cheat in Angry Birds games.

If I stooped that low, I’d say “BUY MY BOOKS” and you would have a sudden urge to buy hardcover editions of all of my novels. Or, possibly, “SEND MALCOLM $1000000 TO LEARN THE SECRET OF LIFE.” There are endless options here.

I do suspect the major political parties of using subliminal messages, and they sure as hell aren’t “BUY POPCORN.” There’s a lot of weird stuff happening these days that can’t possibly be attributed to fate, rogue conjure women, or haints. But that’s a subject for another post, and possibly somebody else’s blog.

I just wanted to set your mind at ease that there’s no hidden agenda behind this blog’s new look. Of course, if there were, I’d say there wasn’t.

Malcolm

Feds Advise Getting Drunk Until Everything Blows Over

Washington, D. C, Star-Gazer News Service, March 31, 2021–The Department of Homeland Security, still reeling over the fact that most Americans don’t think it’s necessary, suggested at this morning’s briefing that true patriots should go out and get drunk until the “shit stops hitting the fan.”

Sub-deputy Fibber McGee said, “Most people calling our helpline tell us they don’t feel very secure because the right hand of government doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. One day it’s wear your masks, the next day it’s don’t wear your masks. One day, it’s everything’s fine at the border, the next day it’s nothing’s fine at the border.”

“T’ain’t funny, McGee!” said Molly, office secretary

“I’m coming out of the closet, which ain’t easy, to tell you a lot of stuff here at Feds-Are-Us is busted. The media and the GOP people and the nutcases won’t give us a moment’s peace. We need six months of drunken citizens who don’t know shit from Shinola so we can get our act together.”

According to informed sources, the department will soon dispense a five-gallon supply of spirits to cover the cost of getting drunk along with a get-out-of-jail-free card for those who get drunk in all the wrong places.

“Fibber won’t lie to you like most Feds,” said Molly. “This here situation with the nation’s so-called ‘brain trust’ is looking more and more like a no-brainer because our critics keep saying we don’t know our ‘you know what’ from a hole in the ground.”

A whitepaper produced by the FBI says that “more people than ever” are pissed off at the federal government for “talking out of both sides of its mouth.”

“That’s why public drunkenness is so essential during these hopeless times,” the report concluded.

– 30 –

Story filed by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

 

 

Teens kill Uber Eats Driver

So far, news stories about two teens, 13 and 15, who botched an apparent carjacking attempt  Washington, D.C. near the Naval Yard are unclear. The story I read said they attacked 66-year-old Mohammad Anwar with a stun gun and then said they attacked him with a taser. (Which was it? They aren’t the same thing.) There is video available, but I won’t watch it.

UbereatsThe family of the driver describe him in their fund raising campaign as a hard-working Pakistani immigrant working for Uber Eats. At present, the campaign appears to have pledges for over $900,000. Needless to say, that money won’t replace the man.

We know nothing about the suspects. They are underage and that means their names are generally withheld. We know that neither one is old enough to legally drive a car. Did they have a motive other than joyriding? We may never know. We can hardly say they “were just kids having fun.” Maybe that’s what they thought it was, but subduing a man with a stun gun goes past the harmless prank usually referred to by “kids having fun.”

I have zero tolerance form crimes like this. In fact, I don’t quite know what to make of this crime because, while I know there are a lot of streetwise homeless kids who commit various crimes in order to survive, killing a man to swipe his car is so much more than “mere survival.” One report–which I can no longer find–said one of the kids was more concerned about getting her phone out of the car that showing concern for the victim.

The fact that two teens would even consider doing this bothers me. Is their crime a symptom of an expanding souless society, and entitlement society, bad or missing parenting, or something else? Whatever it was, I’m tired of hearing excuses and other justifications because none of those bring back those who die or help those who mourn or stop the runaway lawlessness.

Perhaps such crimes have always happened and escaped our notice before we had 24/7 news. If so, the situation is no less sad.

–Malcolm

Oops, I’ve already read this one

I read two kinds of fiction, dime-a-dozen thriller and police/black ops books from the grocery store and literary fiction by established authors. The major books I remember, the grocery store novels I occasionally buy a second time without realizing I’ve already read them.

Some people keep yearly reading lists. If I did that, I would never again sit down with a “new” novel and 15-20 pages and realize I’ve been here before. I’m not organized enough to log in every novel I read into a spreadsheet.

Years ago, my wife and others who read romance novels used to complain about authors/publishers re-issuing old novels under new names. The authors I read don’t do that; it’s just that in spite of the over-the-top James-Bond kind of action, the plots and action don’t vary that much. So, the descriptions on the backs of the books don’t provide me with enough information for me to make sure I haven’t already read the book.

In general, I write better when I’m reading. So I go through dozens of books a year. Some I enjoy re-reading, but not the grocery store black ops stuff. Unlike Amazon, Publix and Food Lion don’t display a message with each book on the shelf that tells me when and if I purchased it in the past.

My reading is always in a state of chaos and it’s too late now to get it under control. Does anyone else find themselves buying the same books more than once, though not intentionally? As William Bendix often said on the old TV series “The Life of Riley,” “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

Malcolm

A shortlist of stuff

  • Today’s bad weather in Georgia came and went between dawn and noon. No tornados. Blowing rain and river flooding.
  • Just wondering why I didn’t write Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A comment from the character Miss Harty about Billy Sunday sets the tone for the novel: “There was great excitement. Mr. Sunday got up and declared at the top of his voice that Savannah was ‘the wickedest city in the world!’ Well, of course, we all thought that was perfectly marvelous.”
  • Regardless of which side of the political divide we live on, I think all of us are tired of the crap at the Mexican border. We don’t need to mistreat people, nor do we need to be emotionally brainwashed into letting everyone in. This isn’t rocket science.
  • I guess I’ve led a sheltered life. I’ve been vaccinated against mostly everything and haven’t given it a second thought. Now with COVID, I’m learning there are people whose distrust of vaccines is (for them) like holy writ. I don’t understand that. But it does raise the question about whether or not forced vaccinations and vaccination cards are too much government. I see this as rather like the Brits mandating blackout curtains during the blitz: it makes us all safer as long as the cops don’t hassle us on the street asking to see “our papers.”
  • The ninth book in Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series Go Tell The Bees That I’m Gone will be published this year (I think). I’ve read all the primary novels in the series, but few of those based on secondary characters. Who knew when this storyline began that reading it would be a lifetime pursuit? But I’ll probably get a copy after we get out of the expensive hardcover phase of book releases. I’m a Scot. I’m cheap even though I met Diana years ago in Atlanta.
  • A friend of mine will probably have to drive several states away from her home to look after her aging parents again. Her last visit was more dear than she expected and yet she wonders why none of her siblings will lend a hand. She’s just as busy as her siblings, but they have unending excuses for not helping. Elderly parents often make decisions that make life harder for their children, and usually, the difficulties are left to the oldest daughter to solve.
  • The Glacier Park employees’ reunion will take place this summer at Many Glacier Hotel. They happen from time to time but are too far away for me to attend. Everyone was worried about access to the east side of the park, but the Blackfeet Reservation has announced it will be open for travelers going to the park (unlike last summer). I will miss it more than I can say.

–Malcolm

I’ve written several novels set in the park.

We don’t need no more tornados

“Parts of the South that endured severe weather outbreaks in consecutive weeks won’t be able to catch a break in the near future. AccuWeather forecasters say more volatile weather will arrive as soon as this weekend, and stormy weather could be unrelenting even into next week.” – Yahoo  

Look, if we wanted to play tag with dozens of nasty tornados, we’d move to Tornado Alley.

Thursday was a noisy weather day here in north Georgia: continuous rain, severe thunderstorms. The tornados occurred primarily in Alabama except for the one that devastated the Atlanta suburb of Newnan. We were on the edge of the tornado watch and will be again before the weekend is over.

We’re still under a flood warning from the last batch of rain. Now this, according to weather.com:

So, if you know Mother Nature, please let her know we don’t need no more tornados.

Malcolm

Potpourri, lightly scented

Some folks prefer their potpourri to carry a factory-fresh scent out of a lab rather than the actual smell of dried weeds. This post is for you.

  • Last night, all hell broke loose in Georgia as we got hit for the second time in the last week or so by a night of noisy thunderstorms, flash floods, and random tornados. So far, the Atlanta suburb of Newnan appears to have been the hardest-hit populated area outside of Alabama. We had enough lightning and thunder to tick off the cats, but nothing worse other than flooding in low-lying areas. Our house is on a hill.
  • After fighting some writer’s block, I am finally back at work on my Montana novel Weeping Wall. So, today I can feel somewhat virtuous at making some progress.
  • A good friend of mine watched the promo trailer for the upcoming audiobook edition of Fate’s Arrows and was so hypnotized by the narrator that she’s thinking of buying her first audiobook. And she’s already read the novel in paperback. You can see the promo here: https://youtu.be/QsD2Pt93AiY (It might take a few weeks for Audible to publish it.)
  • Today’s quote: “We’re not at all like the rest of Georgia. We have a saying: If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, ‘What’s your business?’ In Macon, they ask, ‘Where do you go to church?’ In Augusta, they ask your grandmother’s maiden name. But in Savannah, the first question people ask you is ‘What would you like to drink?” – John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
  • In my in-basket: “We’re happy to announce that we’re back for another year of the Cow Creek Chapbook Prize. The contest is sponsored by Emerald City and Pittsburg State University. ” Looks like an interesting competition for fiction and non-fiction. I’m tempted.

I hope last night’s bad weather missed your neighborhood.

Malcolm

We’re all at risk

There are so many shootings we can hardly keep track of them. They seem random, and perhaps they are. If they are, any one of us could have been a victim. Or might still become one.

Wikipedia photo

On the morning of March 22 in Boulder, Colorado, the following people got up and began attending to the chores of the day that included a trip to the grocery store on Table Mesa Drive: Boulder police Officer Eric Talley, 51; King Soopers store manager Rikki Olds, 25; store employee Denny Stong, 20; store employee Teri Leiker, 51; Neven Stanisic, 23; Tralona “Lonna” Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.

They died at 2:30 p.m. because Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa killed them. His defense attorney says he might be crazy.

Where will some crazy guy strike next? We don’t know. Since we don’t know, any one of us might be “there” buying a pack of hotdogs, dancing, eating our first meal out in months, attending a concert. . .

Most of us assume the next shooting will happen somewhere else. I’m sure the victims at the King Soopers store on Table Mesa Drive thought that–until they were gone.

We continue to debate whether these shootings are caused by rampant hate, rampant insanity, or bored people with a lot of guns. As long as we do nothing but debate the “why” of all this, the answers will continue blowing in the wind.

–Malcolm

USPS to cut mail delivery times to be more competitive

Washington, D. C., Star-Gazer News Service, March 23, 2021–The postmaster general announced here today that the post office plans to become more competitive with alternative services by cutting office hours and taking longer to deliver the mail.

Informed spokesmen said that the proposed new slogan for the U.S. Postal Service will be: “When it absolutely doesn’t have to get there at all.”

According to Program Manager Bob Smith, “The expensive new processing equipment and other advanced technology aren’t expected to improve first-class mail or package delivery times as much as they will impress school children and others taking tours of postal facilities.

In a white paper released via PRNEWSWIRE, the watchdog group Just Waiting for the Mail said that the planned new uniforms will improve the “cuteness factor” for those thinking about making the USPS a number one career choice. The uniforms’ specifications include upgraded spud guns for controlling dogs, and possibly Democrats, that hassle delivery personnel.

Smith smiled when he said, “We are proud to embrace the term ‘snail mail,’ and promise to do our best to live up to that expectation of our services.”

A new mail slot in re-designed post offices will be named “Feeling Lucky.” Most mail inserted through that slot will fall into a trashcan while a “modest number” will be sent via priority mail even though such mail is no longer a priority.

Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

Beware of Chapter-by-Chapter Book Critiques | Jane Friedman

As an editor and coach, I’m frequently asked by writers when they should level up from free and low-cost feedback (critique groups, webinars, and classes) to more expensive forms of feedback (workshops, private editors, even MFA programs). Some are newbies who don’t understand the feedback landscape. Other writers have been burned by overly critical MFA programs, bad editing experiences, or critique group dramas—and they’ve learned that while some mistakes hit your pocketbook, the costliest ones can damage your manuscript.

Often these problems have one common cause: You’ve asked the right question of the wrong person.

Source: Beware of Chapter-by-Chapter Book Critiques | Jane Friedman

I tend to distrust critique groups, beta readers, and the more formal and often expensive bevy of “experts” who read and often influence the work of novelists. I want to ask: “Who’s writing this book anyway?” Or “Why do you need a staff to get this book completed?” Or, “Do you really need the pacifier of writing by committee.”

Having said that, if you think critiques are a positive thing, this article does a good job of separating the wheat from the chaff and exploring your best options.

–Malcolm