I Love Violence

                     From the early days of black and white TV where cowboys shot each other all the time, to the iconic cool of Cool Hand Luke, the machine guns of Elliot Ness and The Untouchables, on to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, I was fixed to the screen. Many books I have read contain violence: Dune Trilogy, the Wheel of Time series, the works of Terry Brooks, also Terry Goodkind, the Godfather, et al.

Violence 3 - PixabyI won’t pursue any possible connection between TV, movies, and book violence, to reality. I’ll leave that to the experts. Our society, no matter where you might look has a background of violence, fear, and a struggle for survival. The bedtime stories we tell our children are often laced with darkness and fear. Our heroes are most times men and women who had fought, probably killed—thought portrayed as self-defense—and survived.

Of course that is the story of our past, and it might someday be muted by voices screaming for an end to violence, but, I deeply believe, we have some ways to go before such stories are forgotten. Mankind must first make a shift in its view of what path humanity must take, and then truly embrace a great change. And I even believe such change is happening, even on a global scale. I get that we are bombarded by violence from all over the world; the media splashes it in our faces with the force of Niagara Falls while we stand at the bottom looking up. Yet, I also believe there is a groundswell of change, folks who are looking for connection, compassion, a better way to live. That is not to say it will all happen tomorrow. Far from it; we have a long way to go. It is a mistake to take the changes that have happened in technology and make the assumption that the psyche of human kind should turn on the same cycle. It is a long way back to when the troglodyte when looking for a new cave; it will be a long time before we have cast off the shell of that fear and violence that marked our survival and evolution.

Does that mean that we should stop making violence the focal point of our entertainment? No! Why? Because it’s not going away soon. I read somewhere along the way that the best way to change an organization is to join it and change it from the inside. This is one of those instances where such action might ring true.

I write Fantasy. I have just finished my third book, and it ends the short series. Each book has a story of its own, and yes each one contains violence. But I was careful to not present violence in a gratuitous manner. I ensured that the consequences of violence where felt by the hero and the antagonist alike; I blurred the lines further where the hero might do bad, and the antagonist might do good. The story was of course the central purpose, yet I feel I give reason to pause for many readers who might sit and ponder about violence, while I hope they also find my stories entertaining and engaging.

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Romance

Lavender

I love my internet. I love my computer and my cell phone. But none of them have any soul, any ambiance, any spirit. Yes, I know that’s a lot to ask a cell phone, yet, a candle is very capable of delivering just that.

Our world, for all it offers, has become cold and distant; and of course I get the irony of global warming and overpopulation. We seem afraid to be romantic, as if being hard and distance will serve to protect us. I don’t mean fall in love romantic; there is lots of that, though I scarce use the word romantic.

I love fireplaces. They are of course inefficient for heating purposes, and I’ve seen many jammed shut with a stove poked in its innards, not a thing of beauty any more, not something I would have. I would rather cut three rooms from my house than go without a fireplace.

All lighting in a home should be yellow, so should the lightening in a business for that matter. It is so much more inviting and comfortable. Plus the shadows cast by yellow light give depth and texture to furniture and fixtures, pictures and paintings. No shadow is what deserts are all about; you can see forever there but there is nothing to look at.

Spirit and soul is much about smell. It doesn’t need to be aromatherapy.  Lavender oil is one of my favorites. Sandalwood and Jasmine mix well with other oils to create incredible fragrances. Citrus and mint have distinctive characteristics, while juniper and rosemary are subtle and know well how to infuse a room. And Eucalyptus is in a class all of its own. The combination and degree of subtly for these oils and herbs is endless; and the misters available to deliver the aromas to the surroundings are inexpensive yet extremely effective.

Everyone knows that the kitchen is the heart if the house. You can always tell if folks are enjoying each other’s company. If so they are in the kitchen. I firmly believe food being cooked receives the energy of those present, the more celebration, the greater the taste. Every kitchen should have candles. Once the food is ready for cooking, the lights should be dimmed and the candles allowed to dance in the heat and aromas from the preparation.

Music has no less a role to play in making a home romantic and soulful. It doesn’t need to resound off the walls; that’s a party, not a romantic setting. It does need to fit the mood of those gathered and reflect their level of excitement and participation.

We all know that a house is nothing but boards and knickknacks arranged in intricate boxes with doors and windows.

A home is a whole other matter.

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Show me the Money

 

nickle

Pic Courtesy public Domain

The message

As sure as an empty whiskey bottle brings on the dread of a long night, so does a high interest rate on your credit card hint at some possible financial reckoning. And for that reason alone I love credit cards. That high interest rate does not lie. It says you have a financial problem.

It is one of the things I look for when taking on a new client. Few other things tell me more about the state of their financial affairs.

The culprit

The reason for a financial crisis is often more difficult to diagnose than it is to identify, and often it is a challenge to reverse. Most folks experience that easy slide down the consumption slope. I call it that, as we are now a culture that exists on 100% consumption: from the bread we eat, the mortgage payment that goes on forever, the car(s) payment that renews itself every five years or so (I won’t even mention the car lease that squeezes the tiny bit of equity you might think you have in a car to where the search for dark matter is a greater possibility), clothes, utilities, so on and so on. And the slide down is easy as the advertising whisper in our ear that all is well and we deserve everything. It will all pay for itself somehow.

We no longer actually provide anything for ourselves other than money. We are totally dependent on others. Every paycheck has a list of creditors to appease, and a waiting list of items that must be purchased. Any new anomaly to that equation and the darkness of financial distress commences. Once inside its grasp it is easy to assume that borrowing and staying power will turn things around. But the slide continues. The odds are strong that once begun, the ride will not stop. How do I know? One, I’ve been there, done that. Two, for forty years I have witnessed the pattern with a litany of folks and circumstances.

The solution

First let me say that’s it’s not a good idea to try and dry your clothes when you are swimming as fast as you can to make it to the shore, and a shark is on your tail. So, stability is a mainstay to change. I know, an oxymoron of sorts. What I mean is that you need to have a plan, and part of that plan should include a job with some reasonable chance at its continuing. There are a few other factors but the steady job(s) has the biggest impact. And that’s it. You’re done. Congratulations!

To do’s

Ok, ok, here’s the easy part. We’ve all heard the expression, “living within our means.” It’s right, and yet it does not tell a story that has any use. Are my means something that a ten dollar bill can take care of? Is it based on some average standard of living? Is it based on 80% of my paycheck, and the other 20% going to savings? And so you can easily conclude, living within your means is one of those expressions that nicely inscribes a concern, without providing any reasonable answer as to its parameters.

This blog would go on for some time should I expound on an entire plan. So, I will move to central methodology that will make that high interest rate credit card go away—funds. Yes, funds. No, not as funds is often used to depict money; rather as it was meant to mean …  a holding place for money that is to be used for a prescribed purpose.  You need to sit down and create a chart. If you have Excel, then all the better; if not, a notebook will be fine. With thought and a little looking back you will easily trace where all of your money goes: mortgage, car payment, food, clothes, eating out, vacation, credit card, savings, etc, etc..

When you are done you will then go back and mark each one as “set” “variable” “discretionary.” Next, you know when you get paid. Take each paycheck and deposit it into the fund such that there is enough there to meet the obligation when it becomes due. Each and every check will put something into each and every fund on a pro rata basis.

Yes, this will be a challenge at first. This is where you find out if your means can be satisfied by your paycheck. Some things might have to give. Maybe no eating-out for awhile, or maybe a second job, or maybe a bigger change—the house you are in is unaffordable.

The funds will tell you what is possible. It is simple and it works.

Are there other considerations? Yes, but I’ve seen the fund system change lives, take you away from being a slave to bills and the never ending spiral of worrying how to stretch a paycheck.

Is it magic? No, it’s a solution that’s based on logic and common sense. And it works.

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How to pick an author

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image22414277

           Yes, I think it’s fair to ponder what the author of your book is made up of. Is he or she made up of the same things you are? It’s a relevant question. You look for certain expectations in a friend, a love mate, a roommate, a leader. Of course we entertain the possibility of the opposite to ourselves, but that is not so much a complete opposite as it is someone with different attributes and aspirations—we will not ever be happy sitting down to eat with someone who only enjoys devouring sewer rats, while we have a craving for chewing on ants dipped in honey. No, I did not ponder that distinction for very long.

Once I read a book, I draw conclusions as to what I have experienced, and I make a decision if I want to follow this author. Yes, the style of writing has much to do with it; as does the pace, the twists in plot, the development of characters and how they interact. But most important for me is the world that was created: the values, the morality, the love, the hate, the needs, the expectations, and the issues which define who they all are. I don’t want to be in a world where the depraved are the heroes. I don’t want to find myself crying for all the characters who have been tossed aside by the author’s pen just so I am forced to spew up some emotional loss that is planted to cover the failure of the plot to carry me along.

I get it that a good story involves loss, involves the possibility of total loss even. I don’t get it that the plot must end in dread and dire remorse. That’s not a story worth reading; that’s a tale too already fulfilled by the stress of real life and circumstance. I want a story to deliver a promise of a better future, a fuller life, a possibility for growth and redemption.

So, yes I write that way. My first book The Druid and the Flower is very much about love and growth, flawed heroes who must fight even greater odds. And I make sure the lines are blurred even as the obstacles increase. There is no better judge of character than the one who is under pressure. Nor do I spare the good to be saintly or the bad to be the spawn of the devil, for that is also a fallacy. Good people do bad things, and bad people do good things. In the end we must leave it to the gods to decide who in more worthy to dine with the Devine.

In my second book, Ashima, I go one step further. There I take the idea of parental love and lock it into what is more important, survival or freedom? I take the idea of lost and evil and move it to a place where it might be good, and I take power and love to the fire of impossibility where it must choose a path.

I have lived long enough to realize decisions are not always logical, and not all logical decisions are rational.

In my final book of the series, Dawn of Magic, I present a possibility that even now as a race we might have an ability to correct a most perplexing mistake: technology versus the spiritual, what is the best fit?

Come read the first two books. The last will be out in a few months; it is complete, awaiting the final edit. I give away nothing when I promise you that as an author I carry an optimistic outlook for mankind.

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The Emperor’s Clothes

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

George Orwell

Sunset

I have a quick tongue which, thank the gods, tends to sway to the side of humor, and in no way results from any pretense of hubris on my part. I have forever considered myself the Jester.

Yet, even there I might now and again make an utterance that misses it mark as humor. And of course there are many who might judge my idea of humor as delusional, if not crass. Once again in my defense it is never my intention to be either. No matter, there will be someone who takes exception.

So, I’ve bared my soul as to my own deficiencies. I try very hard to understand what other folks are attempting to say; in a face to face conversation that is easily accomplished with a question or two and some elaboration on both sides as to intended and understood. There is a civility to good conversation. There should be smiles and laughter, moments of pause, time to digest what is being said and what is to be injected into the conversation. The art of conversation must allow views to be stated without condemnation or vile ineptitudes. Unconscious sputtering argument is not conversation.

Everyone attempting to make a buck is vying for our attention. They will stoop to any tactic which might entice that last dollar from our pocket. They are also aware that the issues which might grab our attention are the best places to poke and prod the coals until there is a raging inferno. It is no longer the message. It’s the ability of the message to grab our attention and sell us. To talk of hyperbole would be to understate tragically what is happening. We as the recipients of all this have become as debases as our teachers. All too fast it has become acceptable to name call, swear, dismiss people with willful contempt while branding them idiots, fools, delusional, stupid, lost, brainless, et al. And that was on one tread I noticed not so long ago on Facebook.

The favorite tool? Fear of course.

I remember as a child and Kennedy was steering a course for Cuba. I was ten years old at the time and it was my first touch of fear that I thought might shatter my entire world, even as I lived far, far away in eastern Newfoundland. Now, I understand and allow that fear is a good tool as it serves a valuable purpose. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the physiology of fear other than to say it gives you a boost in alertness should you need to react. That’s great in your immediate world, dealing with what is close and immediate to your well being. That world no longer exists for most of us. We are adrift in an ocean of information, each wave, someone’s intent that we read their message first. It used to be a sexy model; that no longer works. Fear does work and it is a master at its intent.

This is a short missive so I will not attempt to be detailed about how we are bombarded by the use of fear, and indeed a mass of other tricks of a distorted trade. I am more concerned about how we the people have bought into it. We now spout the woven messages of the day with the same fear in which it is presented to us by the puppet masters, hence my comment above about Facebook.

Perhaps even the notion of civility can no longer save us. It brings to mind the book Lord of the Flies; except this time it is happening to the adults. Fear gives us nowhere to hide; no lock on the door; no gun under the bed will make it go away. But the solution is simple. We must merely look to the source and cry out that it’s just another case of “the emperor having no clothes.”

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Sunset

SunsetAll was lost. What work on possibility he thought necessary had been spent. Even the ocean appeared tired. Not a wave rolled, not a ripple showed all the way back out to where the sun was lowering herself below the horizon—perhaps, she too was tired. Small gurgles of water barely touched against the rocks, retreating even before an effort was made to climb over them. Nor was there a seagull in the air. They too refused to sail on such a listless evening. Best wait for a change in the weather.

Some things happen with intent. One hoped in life that all things  come with intent, and if not, then whatever unfolded would be of a positive nature. A neglected mind assumed such things; a feeble mind hoped for such things; a mind that ran with the tides and sailed on the winds knew well that life was an exactor of pay for the time given. And so the irony of the sultry ending to the day was not lost on him.

The colors of a color fascinated him, had always done so, none more so than the differing shades of orange that draped in over the ocean to where he sat. A more informed eye might see many colors, and describe them as such: orange, yellow, red, and multitude of other possibilities, like a sommelier describing some wine. He cared not to think about the many colors possible, only the one with hues that needed no naming, only the drinking in of its nature and purpose. She was still so bright he had to squint, or cast his eyes down a bit. That would go quickly to where he could look where she had gone.

Other things were not so simple. How was it possible to lose something, have it disappear and then find it was all that filled the mind? Whatever happened to “out of sight out of mind”? Of course it had not happened yet. But it would. It no longer mattered as to when. He reached out, almost expecting her to be there. That touch so special, one lass kiss. What a silly notion. She had offered both. He had taken neither.

When he returned in the morning, she would be gone.

He could look directly at the setting sun now. A small cloud had drifted in to cover her as she put on her night dress. A chill hit his soul. Where it came from he could not tell. As she dipped to a full goodnight the band across the expanse dimmed.

She would be gone by morning. That was what they had agreed. He had not really agreed, more he nodded and walked away. The rocks and the water were becoming the same color. The sun dipped totally away from the day. He disappeared into the darkness.  

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Interesting Life Moments

Piper

I was thinking of some of the more interesting things I have done along the way; by interesting I mean frightening. As a child I was ship-wrecked on a costal boat in Newfoundland. The boat was named the Northern Ranger and she was one of the few ways to get about in Newfoundland in the fifties. That was an interesting night that I still remember even though I was only seven or eight. Of course children have lots of things to be afraid of, so I looked more to my adult years.

I got my pilot’s license somewhere in the eighties. I commenced my flying out of Nashua, NH with a young instructor who was very much a “hands off” type guy; meaning he wanted you to fly, and him be there only if HIS ass needed saving. He also had another special trait; he told a story that back during the Second World War, pilots were expected to solo after ten hours of air training. That is not a lot of time, as the first five hours is getting over him telling you a dozen things to do while explaining the idea of aviate, navigate, communicate as a means of staying aloft. I did most of those hours in daylight, with him there to save against any of my abnormalities.

One late autumn day at about five, when the hours in my log said ten, he had me land, taxi to the terminal; he got out, and said, “Take her up, around, and land. See you back here.” He shut the door and walked away.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He had put me through my paces, both in the air and on the ground. He was no slouch. He knew his stuff, and he made sure I did. But, I was now alone.

“Nashua, this is (I forget my real tail number) November, Echo, Charlie, 1775. Permission to taxi from the main terminal to the active 32, for takeoff.”

“NEC1775, permission granted. Proceed to the active and hold.”

Now, what the hell do I need to do? A little power and left ruder and I taxi towards the active.

“Nashua tower, this is NEC1775”

“Roger, Nec1775.”

“It is my intention to stay in the pattern and land immediately.”

“Roger, NEC1775, take a right turn on takeoff and announce your attention again.”

“Roger, tower.”

Okay, what next? I look out as the runway lights pop on. Oh dear God, it’s getting dark. I’m screwed. No, no, lights will be good. I’ve done this before. The lights make it easy to see, and lineup. Ya, I’m good.

I move the single-engine Piper Cherokee into position and hold. I have already done my run up.

“Nashua Tower. NEC1775 in position for takeoff and holding.”

“NEC1775, you are cleared for takeoff. Right turn on takeoff; rise and maintain 1500 feet.”

“Roger NEC1775. Right turn, climb to 1500 feet.”

I start the roll down the mile long runway, lots of room; at take off speed I pull the nose up and I’m air born. Straight ahead until 1500 and I make my right turn.

On the right turn I make contact. “Tower, NEC1775, requesting right turn downwind and permission to enter on the 45(degree), and land on the active 32.”

I’m all set to get my ass on the ground, and go have at least two cold beers.”

“Negative, NEC1775. We have an inbound. Please leave pattern. Turn left, climb to 2000; contact us when you are on the inbound.”

What the hell just happened? I leave the pattern and go to 2000, wondering where I will go, or how I will find my way back. In the pattern I was safe: right turn on the downwind, fly parallel to the runway; take a right when pass the runway, another right, and straight in, on the lights; even I could do it.

But now I’m 2000 feet up, moving off to the left, towards Manchester, where I do not want to go; my little airport is being left behind me. I need a visual. This is not a planned flight where I could use my instruments to navigate. I was supposed to be going nowhere, and here I am moving off onto the evening.

Aviate, aviate, aviate. Okay, I’m level at 2000, I not going to hit anything.

Navigate, navigate, navigate. The airport’s behind me. What’s ahead? Oh yes, Anheuser Bush Brewery. It would be lit up like a Christmas tree. Where is it, where is it. There, off to my left. So I was only a few miles from my airport and more important I knew how to line up with my landing run way.

I navigated north, west a bit, up over the Brewery and then made a long turn and head back the way I came. I wave (I like to imagine I did. I’m positive I did not) as I pass over the plant, not because I like the beer, but it has saved my ass. The last thing I wanted to do was have the tower vector me in like a lost puppy.

What seemed like hours had only been minutes. I maintain 2000, move on pass the plant and then the air strip off to my right comes into view.

A few miles out I make my turn and I contact the tower. “Nashua Tower, NEC1775.”

“Go ahead NEC1775.”

“NEC1775 is five miles out on the 45, requesting permission to land on the active 32.

“Permission granted NEC1775. Cleared to land.”

I landed and made my way back to my instructor. He is holding a hand set where he had listened to everything. His only comment is, “I guess you want me to tie her down while you go clean your pants.”

Mission accomplished.

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