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

Advertisements

I’m finding satire harder to write these days

“We’re not a respectable network. We’re a whorehouse network, and we have to take whatever we can get.” – “Network.” 1976

I’ve been writing satirical news stories since the Nixon administration, poking fun at government stupidities that seemed so inane that the public should have run for the hills, escaped over the border into Canada, or gone flat nuts.

My wife and I watched “Network” a few nights ago. We don’t think it works now as well as it did when was released because in our view, all of the networks are whorehouse networks. That is to say, they all seem biased for or against President Trump.

I introduced my old-style reporter character Jock Stewart in my in 2011 in Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire after using the character in blogs as my alter-ego for poking fun at the major political parties for years.  “He” has appeared on this and other blogs since then as well as in several Kindle books of short stories.

The problem seems to be this: everything I read in the national news already seems to be satire. At some point, Peter Sellers and/or Oscar Wilde took over the world and everything has gone crazy. Since both of them are dead, you can see that the problem must be tangled up with karma and reincarnation.

The challenge for those of us who enjoy writing satire is this: People don’t think it’s funny because they think it’s true.

The Howard Beale character in “Network” said: “So, you listen to me. Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television’s a god-damned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business. So if you want the Truth, go to God! Go to your gurus.” If the movie were made today, Beale would include the Internet.

Yes, I know, “Saturday Night Live” and “The Onion” are still out there. But when I see them, they look like the real news, the stuff we’ve been told is fake news. Gosh, when real journalism is in the toilet, satirists have no place to go. In order to save satire, we first have to return journalism to the world of objectivity. Easier said than done.

But if we lose satire as an art form, civilization is done for.

Malcolm

 

Congress Imposes Word Limits on Members

Washington, D.C. January 19, 2018, Star-Gazer News Service–Angry about the looming government shutdown, Congress passed a wordy new law that imposed strict limits on the number of words Representatives and Senators are allowed to use each year.

Called the “Sit Down and Shut the Hell Up Law” by supporters, the bill restricts all members of Congress to 10,000 words per year, with 5,000-word bonuses for each co-sponsored bill that actually becomes a law instead of getting “bogged down in squabbling.”

“This is a results-oriented law,” said Senator John Doe (Whig-Florida), “because it forces people who are not popes to stop pontificating at taxpayer expense.”

According to informed sources, Congress passed the legislation in a snit over years of gridlock and now they’re stuck with it.

“Most Senators are playing a ‘mum’s the word’ game with reporters because the new law was unclear about which words count and which don’t count in the annual tallies,” said John Doe’s chief of staff Sally Doe since her words are not limited by the law.

A whitepaper released by Acme, a Washington, D. C. think tank that emerged after ten years of thoughtlessness, said that a longitudinal study of lawmakers’ words and deeds showed that most Senators and Representatives “obfuscated the issues by talking out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.”

“The general public is paying high salaries with lavish benefits packages to these clowns (AKA Senators and Representatives) to help govern the nation, not to talk about governing the nation,” said Acme CEO Bill Smith. “We will have a safer, more-effectively managed country by issuing sticks and stones to lawmakers rather than providing a forum for endless ‘pick a little, talk a little’ debate.”

Word-counts will be posted daily in the Congressional Record, including the sources of the words, that is, speeches on the floor, committee debates, quotes given to reporters, leaks of all kinds, and notes scribbled on bar napkins.

Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

 

 

 

New Year, New Look, New URL

For the new year, I’ve changed the WordPress Theme for this blog’s look and feel as well as the URL:  https://malcolmsroundtable.com/

I used the previous theme for quite a few years and was especially fond of it. Who knows, maybe I’ll return to it some day. But for now, a clean slate for 2018.

The picture is all about magic, though I can’t promise my novels or blog posts will float in the air in a cloud of blue smoke. Being more consistent than usual, I’m using the same picture here as I do on my Conjure Woman’s Cat website.

The magic on this blog comes from my novels, at present the Florida Folk Magic series published by Thomas-Jacob Publishing in Florida. Already released are Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. I’ve promised my publisher the third book in the series by Spring.

You’ll also find magic in posts here that relate to life itself, the idea being that we’re all on a hero’s journey or a heroine’s journey in an attempt to become the best that we can be. Life transforms us. There’s a synchronicity to it that tends to put in our path the very things we need whether they’re experiences, people, epiphanies about the cosmos, the environment and our stewardship of it, or even books, music and songs.

As an author, I can’t help but talk about books, writing techniques, and publishing. Sometimes you’ll find a review of a book I enjoyed, or a tip about making stories and novels better, or an occasional feature called “Book Bits” that lists links to reviews, author interviews, and publishing news.

While I’ll often mention other books and authors from Thomas-Jacob Publishing, I don’t review my colleague’s books here or on Amazon or GoodReads because doing so just doesn’t look right. They don’t review my books either. But all of us talk a lot about the books we like for the same reason a NASCAR driver talks about a new engine: we can’t help it.

One thing you won’t find here very often is politics because, as I see on the news and on Facebook, that’s hard to discuss without getting into a shouting match. I don’t think those shouting matches make things better. Nonetheless, my old-school reporter character Jock Stewart (from my novel Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire) will occasionally contribute a satirical news story post about real or imagined events that probably have political overtones. (Authors really don’t have as much control over their characters as readers believe, so I’m innocent here when Jock writes what he writes.)

I really don’t think the New Year gives us a clean slate any more than any other day, but this seemed like a good moment for some shameless self-promotion about this blog and its new look. As always, I appreciate all of you who stop by and read my posts and hope that your journey through 2018 is everything you desire.

–Malcolm

 

 

Go to hell and have a nice trip

Mama always said, “If you’re going to insult somebody, do it with a smile on your face.” (Mama always talked in bold face.)

That admonition has served me well for years.

Daddy always said, “You can take the sting out of profanity by putting it in quotes.”

As I noticed on Facebook, the Internet’s great forum for esoteric and learned debate, there’s a world of difference between saying, Bob, you’re really screwed up AND Bob, you’re really “screwed up.”

People think you love them when you add a smile and quotation marks even if you have to raise your hands and extend two fingers on each. Extending one finger on each doesn’t smooth things over.

I miss this magazine because it taught me everything I needed to know.

People become used to humorous insults. That’s why Don Rickles got so many laughs. When he made fun of people, they thought he loved them. Most of my friends think of me as “Mister Warmth.” They knew I grew up with the commandment, “Mama don’t allow no swearing ’round here.” So, when I tell them to go to hell, they think it’s satire or love, sweet love.

It takes many years of practice to get people to laugh when you’re dead serious about the “sanity” of their families, the “beauty” of their daughters, the “honor” of their sons, and the “stunning” breakfast of burnt grits they prepared for you.

It’s become clear that a well-publicized “wacky” belief system goes a long way in getting away with stuff. The people who know I believe in reincarnation and not hell, think that when I say “Go to hell,” I’m talking about Michigan.

Actress Barbara Stanwyck purportedly told Fred MacMurray that the secret of acting is truthfulness. “Just be truthful – and if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Faked sincerity covers almost as many “sins” as a “wacky” belief system. If you sound sincere, people want to go to hell and want to be screwed up.

Sometimes when people learn that I’m a writer (which is just as handy as a “wacky” belief system), they say, “OMG, will you put me in your book?”

My response is usually something like, “You’re already in my book. I just changed your name to keep your spouse from divorcing you.” 

“Aw, shucks,” they say, genuinely proud of themselves.

My friends variously think that I’m joking, being wacky, being satirical, and being a writer even when I’m not. Their kind thoughts in such matters have kept me from having to censor myself very often.

–Malcolm

I’m a lot more like my Jock Stewart character in “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire” than most people suspect!

 

Cool, an error screen instead of a book piracy listing

After going through several e-mail addresses, my persistent publisher (Thomas-Jacob) has gotten a pirated copy of my novel Eulalie and Washerwoman removed from one of those sign-up for free downloads sites. We have no idea how they got a PDF file: we’ve never released the book in that format. Did they create it from the Kindle edition, use conjure, break into my house while I was having a late-afternoon glass of wine? We may never know. But, the error screen is a welcome sight when we click on the link.

Florida Folk Magic Stories: Speaking of conjure, your response to Eulalie and Washerwoman and Conjure Woman’s Cat has been wonderful. Thanks for your support. I said I wasn’t going to write another conjure book because it was time to move on. But people kept asking when I was going to have it ready. Er, well, I dunno, maybe later.

Novel in Progress: Okay, I’ve changed my mind and have gotten started on the third book which will be called Lena. I know how it begins: things don’t look good for Eulalie. I have no idea how it ends. Finding out is just as much fun for an author as it is for a reader.

Review: My colleagues and I at Thomas-Jacob Publishing don’t review each other’s books on our blogs, Amazon or GoodReads because, quite frankly, it wouldn’t look good. I think it’s okay for me to include the link of a review of one of those books written by an impartial (and sometimes, hard to please) reviewer: Big Al’s Books & Pals.

Big Al didn’t see the ending coming. I have to admit it: neither did I.

Satire: For those of you who missed the last post, it’s another one of my “Jock Stewart” satires: Feds Bust Sneezeweed Resisistance Movement Scam. The headline alone tells you this is solid news reporting.

For Writers: For actual solid news reporting, check out Melinda Clayton’s How to Set Up an eBook Ad with Amazon Marketing Services at IndiesUnlimited. If you’ve looked into Amazon book ads and found that the setup resembles a Greek tragedy written in Greek, this handy post will help your sort it out.

–Malcolm

Feds Bust Sneezeweed Resisistance Movement Scam

Junction City, Texas, April 29, 2017, Star-Gazer News Service–Agents from multiple alphabet-soup agencies within the Department of Homeland Insecurity swooped down like a coven of witches on their brooms and arrested Bob and Sarah Smith for allegedly failing to deliver free snuff samples to the “down-trodden widows and orphans” who donated their life’s savings to “get rid of the haints infesting Congress” in the widely publicized RESIST WITH SNEEZEWEED crowdfunding affort.

Sneezeweed

According to the warrant, Bob and Sarah Smith “shamelessly and expediently” solicited $100000000000 from a large crowd to build a snuff factory that would purportedly convert dried sneezeweed leaves into enough snuff to force Congress to sneeze all the “treacherous haints and malevolent spirits” out of its system.

Weed enforcement tsar Mary Warner told reporters that while sneezeweed snuff probably causes cancer, the United States is not currently engaged in a war on snuff.

“Thing is,” she said, “if you take people’s money to build a snuff factory, promise to send them a free sample of your best stuff, and then ship the remainder to Congress, you gotta do it. The Smiths didn’t do squat except spend the money living high on the hog instead of bringing home the bacon.”

Congressman Amos “Grandpappy” McCoy (R-TX), best known for his campaign to change the Texas state flower from “something named after a brand of margarine” to the yellow rose, said that as far as he knew, the only evil spirits in Congress were the “bottom-shelf whiskeys sucked up by Democrats and other vermin.”

Smith, speaking through his lawyer like a ventriloquist with a dummy, reminded reporters that his RESIST WITH SNEEZEWEED plan was still in the planning stages because “you just don’t go into your kitchen and whip of a batch of snuff in a Crock-Pot.”

“Plus, who knew you can’t build a snuff factory on an EPA hazmat site?” he asked, more or less rhetorically.

“The irony is that had Smith bided his time, the EPA and its hazmat sites would have been phased out and the factory could have turned out enough snuff for every man, woman and child in the country with no federal interference,” McCoy said.

Informed sources believe that the feds tracked down the Smiths after a church bible study group member “ratted out” Sarah for saying, “We know resistance is futile, but getting people to spend their time and money on meaningless petitions and marches helps them cope. Like we’re really going to send snuff to Congress–puh-leeze!”

“Truth be told,” said Warner, “I hated arresting these folks because clearing the evil spirits out of Congress really was an admirable goal.”

–Story filed by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

 

 

 

Man with multiple lovers gets screwed on Valentines Day shopping trip

Junction City, TX, Star-Gazer News Service, February 13, 2016–A local man trying to juggle gifts and cards for multiple lovers arrived at Lost Horizon Hospital & Mortuary near death here today after simultaneously confronting Bambi, Monique, Caroline, and a woman calling herself “The Dark Lady” on aisle three between the beef jerky and the pet treats.

Darcy
Darcy is currently indisposed.

When Dan Darcy, of 148 Bonnie Meadow Road, arrived at the emergency room during the hospital’s 12th “code black” of the year, doctors took one look at him and assumed he lost the race at Pamplona.

“How many hooves do all the bulls in Pamplona have?” asked Dr. Grey, rhetorically as she attempted to  intubate a mouth that turned out to have run into multiple fists.

Using sign language, Darcy said, “Watch out for The Dark Lady.”

“Everyone assumed he was hallucinating,” said attending physician “Bill Smith” who refused to give his real name due to “malpractice issues.”

“Screw The Dark Lady,” Smith reportedly added.

“Your place or mine?”

“Oops, no offense intended, m’am.”

According to first responders, the four women showed up at Walgreens where they shouted “hi lover” in unison before realizing they were a choir.

“Try as he might, he couldn’t preach to us once we caught him with a Valentines Day card for each of us. Inside, he scrawled ‘HAPPY VD’ in a hurry because he probably had to hurry home to his wife, AKA ‘Clueless in Abilene,'” said Bambi, speaking in secret after being assured her name would not be used in the newspaper.

Monique told reporters that “an honest philanderer would go to another town to buy gifts for his paramours so this kind of awkwardness doesn’t happen. I mean, golly, The Dark Lady is my mother. I always thought she was out delivering meals on wheels.”

Hospital spokesmen who were laughing too hard to keep their priorities straight, refused to confirm or deny that a woman that staff believed to be “Clueless in Abilene” begged the hospital to let Mr. Darcy go on to his great reward as soon as she filled out a fast-track DNR form.

“I just want my friends and family to know that I’m not the ‘Caroline’ they know but a different ‘Caroline’ from another planet or maybe from some God forsaken place such as Tulsa,” said Caroline.

Reportedly, my Darcy is resting in guarded condition beneath his wife’s thumb.

–Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

 

Men stage “cry in” for old ‘Playboy Magazine’

Junction City, Texas, Star Gazer News Service–The tear gas fired at protesters who refused to move out of the doorway of the Main Street Book Emporium was ineffective because the men protesting the loss of the “old version” of Playboy Magazine were already crying.

playboyThe protest began when Playboy Magazine collector Jerry Smith walked into the downtown Junction City bookstore for his monthly dose of nudity not categorized as pornography and discovered that the March issue of Playboy wasn’t “his daddy’s Playboy.”

“Has Hugh Hefner come down with Alzheimer’s, ” shouted Smith in front of the monthly meeting of the third Methodist Church’s reading club. “The fully nude chicks are gone. I’m calling out the troops.”

According to author Cane Molasses, who was working the cash register today, Smith called his friends and they “arrived on pickup trucks with large tires and demanded we sell the old Playboy.”

Jaimie McPheeters, who works at a local wagon store said, “My wife allows me to buy Playboy because she knows I’m reading it for the interview, fiction and the articles.  But no fully nude women, that’s just unAmerican.”

According to Playboy, the new version of the magazine–which still features scantily clad women–is “safe for work.” Yet both Smith and McPheeters believe the old version was safe for work and more “just fine” for today’s audience.

Informed sources who claim to have seen Hugh Hefner somewhere said “there’s a reason why General Motors isn’t selling ‘your father’s Buick.’ Playboy believes that men have evolved and that if they can’t find nude women anywhere else these days, they’re not fit to read the 2016 version of the magazine.

The men refused to leave until a representative for Bonnie’s Whorehouse invited the protesters out for a “free look and feel” day at the establishment.

“Men are wired differently than women, and praise the good Lord for that,” said Bonnie Jones (aka “Queen of the Concubines”). “They need a monthly dose of nudity in order to survive as fully functioning human beings.”

Spokesmen for the book store said that while they appreciate the men’s patronage, “Playboy Magazine no longer makes the world go ’round.”

–Story by Jock Stewart

 

New Presidential Candidate to out-trump Trump

Junction City, TX – Star-Gazer News Service – Local author Caine Molasses, whose recent bestseller Grits on the Half Shell has been banned from schools across the country, announced his candidacy for the Presidency today from an Albino County jail where he’s serving time for skipping 25 straight alimony payments to his former wife Sue “Sugar Beet” Hawkins who, with her sister Sadie, runs a dance studio on the other side of the tracks.

Sweeter than Grandma
Sweeter than Grandma

Warden Bill Smith, who introduced Molasses to the prison exercise yard news conference, said that since the author had been a model prisoner, he would make a wonderful President.

“My campaign is a blend of the worst ideas from this year’s crop of Presidential wannabees simply because those ideas get the most publicity,” Molasses said.

His campaign manager Bugsy Baker, formerly of Chicago, said “even the dead will want to vote early and often for this man.

According to his campaign literature, Molasses will promote the following:

  • Carve up all the nation’s great banks into the chaos of tiny inefficient banks they used to be prior to all the mergers. Inefficiency means more jobs and more jobs mean more prosperity.
  • Build a Berlin-style wall along the border with Mexico at Mexico’s expense, complete with machine guns and a “Checkpoint Carlos.” Strengthen the war on drugs by sentencing users to do their time south of the wall until America is so drug free, the cartels will go out of business. We’ll be crime free by 2023.
  • Promote the concealment of all e-mails, letters, diplomatic packets, phone calls and texts from the American public who really have no business spying on their own government during sensitive negotiations with rogue governments, unruly Senators and Representatives, or rich people who are willing to kick in a few bucks for better government considerations.
  • Unleash Wall Street so that it can truly become the Las Vegas of the east. Let them do what they do best under an investor beware philosophy. Don’t get in the game if you can’t afford to lose your shirt.
  • There are a lot of countries out there who only respect force. Force is good for our military industrial complex because it means jobs for the common man and woman who screw bolts on new tanks and it means a larger military which means jobs for people who would otherwise be in jail or on the county or hoping Uncle Sam will pay their college tuition. We need an invasion every year or so to stay on top of our game.

Molasses, who has been married fifteen times, says “my love life is evidence I can sweet-talk anybody into my bed. That’s the first duty of a great President.”

Baker told reporters that he knew Molasses fight to get noticed would be an uphill battle since the major candidates are saying so many outlandish things, “they already have CNN or FOX news in bed with them.”

“When elected President,” said Molasses, “I’ll guarantee that every man, woman and child will receive the minimum daily requirement of Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc along with 14.74 g of carbs and 1.213 kcal of energy from the department of agriculture. After all, that’s what I’m made of.”

JockTalksPoliticsStory filed by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter