11 December 2010

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks 
were striking thirteen.
   - George Orwell, 1984

Two days ago, I received an email invitation from President Bill Clinton asking me for a donation of $5 or more to help pay off his wife's campaign debt. To sweeten the deal, Mr. Clinton said that for as little as a $5 contribution, I'd be entered in a drawing to win a free trip to New York City to spend the day with Mr. Clinton. He wrote, "I know you share my pride in Hillary's achievements, and I know how much your continued support means to her. That's why I want to offer you this special opportunity."

After I got over the shock of being asked to repay a rich woman's debt when I've been unable to find work for more than a year and am quickly running out of cash to repay my own debts, I sat down and wrote a reply, which I sent to Mrs. Clinton at the State Department.
Thank you, but no thank you. I won't be traveling anywhere in the near-term, and I won't be handing over $5 as a sign of approval for a person who apparently has less control over affairs of State and diplomatic protocol than the Department of Homeland Security. 
I'm very upset about what is going on with the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the TSA enforcement of ridiculous regulations this week against a member of India's diplomatic corps. This, coming less than a month after Mrs. Clinton joked about how she'd avoid the TSA pat-down if she could ("I mean, who wouldn't?"). The answer is obvious -- the TSA needs to be dismantled. Immediately. The DHS needs to be scaled back dramatically, and the focus for solving the problems of terrorist activity against our nation needs to move from being reactive to proactive, and from treating symptoms to treating root causes (believe it or not, exploding planes and buildings, or men wearing explosive materials in their shoes and underwear are symptoms, not causes). The goal of our activity should be to address the root causes, and stop this insane "Spy vs. Spy" escalation. 

We're training our entire country to be mistrustful of the person next door -- and frankly, that's a country in which I don't want to live. I was on the MBTA heading into Boston yesterday, and read an advertising placard. It said, "If you want to understand God, you must first strive to understand men." The ad went on to speak about the importance of communication, compassion, and treating others with simple human dignity. I was jarred when I read the sponsor -- the Islamic Society of Boston. So, I now live in a country where my government treats its citizens as enemies, and the people the government wants me to believe are my enemies greet me with friendship? There is something very, very disturbing and wrong about this. 

Manhandling diplomats who are here as the eyes, ears, and mouths of their sovereign nations speaks volumes about the USA's inability to control what is rapidly approaching a police state mentality in this country. That ignorant, ill-advised single bad act on the part of a TSA employee has done much to make the USA even more hated in the world than it already is, and possibly set the stage for retaliation against US citizens who travel abroad for either work or pleasure. It would not surprise me to learn that on Madame Secretary's next trip to India (or a sympathetic nation), she's greeted by blue-gloved people who take her away from her entourage for the purpose of strip-searching her. 

If Mr. Clinton and Secretary Clinton are serious about providing leadership to this country, then I suggest they worry less about fundraising, and more about protecting the U.S. Constitution, its amendments, and the Declaration of Independence, all of which contain the principles upon which this country was founded. The last I checked, what is contained in those founding documents is meant to exist for all citizens, at all times -- and not be checked away when I travel by public transportation. 

I still believe in those founding principles, and I intend to do whatever I can to protect them, until I can do nothing more. Do you, and will you? Until I have an answer, don't expect money or votes from me. 

Sincerely yours,
U.S. Citizen

I know my letter's probably headed for the circular file, but I don't care. I believe that President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and every person who lays eyes on the letter on its way to the trash needs to understand that I feel deeply about what has happened to my country, and what is going on right now. I believe in protecting my civil liberties and rights, and those of my fellow citizens. We're all in this together.

That's what compassion and simple human dignity are all about.

Apparently these things are in extremely short supply up on Capitol Hill.

Excuse me. I have to get back to my job search. Nobody's sending me unearned money to pay my debts.


27 October 2010

All power tends to corrupt,
and complete power tends to 
corrupt absolutely.
   - Lord Acton

Here's a later-breaking update of my last update. The comments are back up. As of right now, more than 1,900. I guess they can't decide which is worse; taking them down, or leaving them up.

Curiouser and curiouser.

# # #
Here's a late-breaking update.
As of 7:00 PM (-5:00 GMT), there were in excess of 1,300 comments on marie claire's Maura Kelly post about the "fatties." As of 8:30 PM, there are none.

However, the post and the lame apology still exist. Don't bother visiting the website. I'm telling you -- sometimes the only recourse is to redirect all the attention away from bigots and bullies in order to drain their power. But you can decide that for yourself, right?

So long, Maura. Have a great life. Don't forget to turn out the lights when the magazine folds, okay?

Excuse me. I'm going back to my book. Try one. You might like it.


Maura Kelly is a very provocative 
blogger. She was an anorexic herself 
and this is a subject she feels very 
strongly about.
   - Joanna Coles, marie claire Editor-In-Chief

Plenty of people are up in arms across the Internet today over the blog posting Maura Kelly wrote for her editor Kate Schweitzer at MarieClaire.com. Tempers are frayed, hot accusations are being hurled, and howls are reaching the heavens of cyberspace.

I'm repulsed by the content and intent of Kelly's post, and by her editors' audacity in permitting the post, titled Should Fatties Get a Room (Even On TV)?, to remain live for more than two full days in the face of copious and condemning comments--more than 950 as of this morning. For this reason, I have no intention of encouraging anyone to go to the marie claire website to read the offending material, or of providing you with any links to the article. Every time anyone lands on the page, a counter gets bumped, and it makes advertisers believe that the magazine's readership is increasing. If you're so inclined, you can read excerpts of the article on plenty of other websites and still get the gist of Kelly's puerile, cruel assessment of people who are obese--she finds them disgusting.

Kelly's irresponsible editors, from Schweitzer all the way up to Editor-In-Chief Joanna Coles, seem to think that anything that draws attention and links can't be a bad thing. I'm of a different opinion. I believe that writers have a responsibility to their readers, editors have a responsibility to their writers, and publishers have a responsibility to not inflict damage on the societies they serve. Having written such an ill-conceived, ill-bred essay, Maura Kelly has revealed herself as lacking manners, good judgment, and compassion toward her employer's readership. Having permitted this atrocious post to appear on the website and then remain there, Kate Schweitzer has revealed her indifference toward journalistic integrity and good writing. Having now publicly expressed her support of Maura Kelly's blog, Joanna Coles has revealed herself as irresponsible toward her employer's best interests.

Personally, I think the lot of them should be fired. However, in the likelihood that firing isn't going to happen, I'd like to suggest something else: express your disapproval through shunning. Ignore them completely. Behave as if they don't exist.

How, you ask? Simple. Stop reading Maura Kelly's writing, wherever and whenever you find it. Stop visiting Kate Schweitzer's marie claire website. Stop watching Project Runway, which marie claire sponsors. Don't invest your time and money in the products promoted by marie claire, and cancel your subscription to the magazine with a nice letter explaining why you are taking the action. Stop linking to their articles, and starve them of the attention they desire.

If you do this, you'll be making a clear statement to the parent organization, Hearst Magazines, that you're not going to tolerate bullying and bigotry. Not now, not ever.

Believe me, there are better things we can be reading than mocking, self-serving sneers about any segment of our society.

Excuse me. I'm off to visit the library, where none of the books are bullies.


24 October 2010

"Where love rules, there is no will to power, 
and where power predominates, love is lacking. 
The one is the shadow of the other."
   - C.G. Jung

A man in my town murdered his mother-in-law, his wife, and his two children (son aged 4, daughter aged 2) this summer. After his rampage ended, he stayed overnight in the house. He used his laptop to create and print more than one version of his confession, and also wrote another confession by hand that he left in the kitchen. Before he left the house, he called his son's private pre-school to say the boy wouldn't be coming that day, and answered a call on his wife's cell phone from her sister, telling her that his wife wouldn't be able to answer her call "for a while." He drove off in his SUV, heading north to who knows where, carrying the cell phones. He threw his wife's cell phone away after it ran out of power. A motorist recognized him from news alerts and facilitated the murderer's capture and return. He offered no resistance as he was taken into custody.

What we know is that this man had recently returned to full-time work after being jobless for over a year, that his wife was employed in a good job, that they lived in his mother-in-law's house in a toney Boston suburb. We know that the murderer's parents had been in town that day, babysitting their grandchildren. We know that the murderer's wife angrily confronted him about a bounced tax payment he'd made -- his parents later told police he'd remained calm and suggested that they could later discuss the matter privately and that the dinner table wasn't an appropriate time or place. We know that the murderer's parents left the house shortly after the dinner. We know that the murderer's mother-in-law had a telephone conversation around 9:00 that evening.

We know that somewhere between 9:00 PM and 7:00 AM, four people died by his hand.

The District Attorney proclaimed the scene as "horrific." The mother-in-law's body was in the entry hallway, covered by an area rug that had been dragged over her. The wife and son's bodies were also downstairs. The daughter's body was discovered upstairs in her crib. The reports suggest that she was the last to die. The information released to the public indicated that the murderer stabbed the victims repeatedly with "sharp objects." Because it was a stabbing rather than a shooting, the attacks were up close and very, very personal.

The murderer's assembled notes on his actions refer to his having "chickened out." We can only guess that he refers to the fact that he didn't kill himself, too. The police say there was evidence of "failed suicide attempts" at the crime scene. His notes say that his children are "better off" now, as their suffering is over, and they are "in a better place."

This family annihilator, this murderer who in a single night managed to wipe out three generations of a family, has entered a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity." While I do believe that at the time he was stabbing into his victims he was in a deranged state, I'm not entirely convinced that he was insane during his rampage.

I think that at the moment the attacks began, probably with his wife as the first victim, the murderer was desperate to recover his sense of well-being and self-confidence. After the murder, the thought of his children's accusing eyes on him and their disappointment in him was just more than he could bear, so they had to die, too.

As the son of a successful man, he must have burned with shame at being denounced by his wife as a "loser" in front of his parents and children. She was angry about the bounced check, and in the heat of her anger, no doubt had a few choice words for him. Her harsh words may have caused his shame to boil quickly over into homicidal rage, held tenuously in check until his parents left. That evening, after his parents were gone, he took swift, sure steps to regain control of his situation -- thus ensuring she'd never be able to humiliate him again.

All three of his confessional notes, written while sitting in the presence of the four bloody bodies, attempted to explain and justify his actions, and to in some way control what those who discovered his crimes would think about him. The notes didn't contain apologies -- only rationalizations and excuses.

Narcissism is a terrible pathological disorder that we've woven into the fabric of our society, courtesy of our pervasive collective and individual sense of entitlement. Narcissists have a pathological need to control everything in their lives, and they truly believe everything that occurs is all about them. When things go right, they demand praise, and when they don't, they refuse to accept any blame. Tbe sad truth is, we're probably going to see more of these cases in coming years, not fewer. Arrogant, cruel, controlling, selfish people hide behind the diagnosis as a way to justify the entitlement they feel and the anti-social acting out they do.

Excuse me. I'm off to break every mirror in my house.


22 September 2010

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
    - "Yip" Harburg, lyrics and Jay Gorney, composer

Even though our government is trying to make us believe that the economy's again on an upswing, I find that really hard to believe. The national Bureau of Labor Statistics provides compiled statistics that completely undermine the Administration's efforts to rally and cheer us. As of the end of August, 2010, the unemployment rate is stagnant at 9.6%, Payroll employment is down by 54,000, employment cost is up, and productivity is down by 1.8% in the second quarter of the year. What does that tell you? Not much, if you don't have a working knowledge of economics.

How about this, then? The same agency reported in the same time frame, government employment fell when 114,000 census workers were laid off. They also say that the "long-term unemployed" ranks, the people who have been out of work for more than 27 weeks, make up 42% of the total number. What is the total number? 14.9 million. Does that tell you anything?

I thought so. I'd write more, but you can get the full effect of these numbers from the Feds at the BLS website. If you go to the site, you'll read how the number of "discouraged workers" has increased by 352,000 from a year earlier. "Discouraged workers" are the people who don't look for jobs because they don't think there are jobs they can get. If you weren't discouraged before, you should be by now.

In my chosen profession, writing, there's something new and terrible going on, and it's getting worse. More and more ads are being placed in "Services Offered" for the writing of term papers, dissertations, college application essays, and book reports. All the things that students are supposed to do for themselves, and all the things that if others do for them, reduces the value of the grading system. We're talking an order of magnitude worse than a parent "helping out" with a homework assignment--this is just wholesale academic dishonesty and fraud. Professional writers know this, but it now appears a good many of them are willing to forego ethics and authorial integrity in order to put an iPhone in the pocket or bread on the table. I personally don't care why they're doing it--it's disgraceful, in both the buying and the selling. It's plagiarism, pure and simple.

What to do about it? This is one time when I think a "zero tolerance" rule is applicable. If you buy a paper and you get caught, you get expelled from the class with an automatic "F." If you sell a paper to somebody who gets caught, your name appears in a "Writers' Wall of Shame" in local newspapers, and any academic credentials you possess get rescinded on the spot, no exceptions.

This would solve the problem, I think, and would also improve the likelihood that the people who actually do their own work get graded on an even playing field, rather than against professionals. It would also ensure that if a person isn't up to doing the job, they don't get moved along and matriculated--thereby lowering the overall value of the credentialing. Really, it's not rocket science.

Excuse me. I have to write some letters to area college deans, asking them to investigate this issue and take aggressive steps to end the practice of academic papers for hire.


09 September 2010

Treat everyone with politeness, 
even those who are rude to you--
not because they are nice, 
but because you are. 

When Steven Slater delivered his parting shot at the rude, annoying passenger and then slid down the emergency chute with a couple of bottles of beer in hand, he probably lived out many a flight attendant's darkest fantasy and provided them with a guilty, vicarious thrill, even though it's clear the airport, the police, and the JetBlue management are taking a decidedly dimmer view of his antics. Slater's become an Internet sensation for having allowed his temper to boil over at a passenger during what started out as a routine taxi across the tarmac.

By all accounts, the passenger Slater chewed out over the intercom system was indeed a problem--she'd been in an earlier altercation over overhead bin storage, she refused to stay seated until the plane stopped moving, she opened an overhead compartment and could have hurt others sitting nearby if the luggage she was after had shifted, and the coup de grace--she cursed at Slater after he tried to stop her and ended up cutting his head with a corner of the bag she she was trying to maneuver.

Irrespective of anything else--costs, safety considerations, security breaches, and the like--I'm just stunned by the overall incivility of the incident. When did air travelers decide that it's okay to treat the people paid to assist in ensuring their safety badly? I don't need to repeat what the passenger called Slater here, but had those four syllables been aimed at me, I'd have been enraged, too. Something inside Slater snapped. After more than two decades of flying with increasingly hostile, nasty, and unheeding passengers, he'd had enough, and dropped his smile and solicitous manner to strike back.

I've been on flights with people who are like the woman with the luggage. It's like they travel in some extra-dimensional space where nobody else exists. They're too busy making sure they're comfortable and have what they need to notice that there are other people around waiting for their seats, some overhead storage space, a cup of coffee, or a pillow. With these people, you can expect delays and aggravation at every step of the journey--they have difficulties checking in ("What do you mean, I have to pay extra for 200 pounds of luggage?" or "What do you mean, the plane is full and I can't change my seat assignment?"); they expect flight attendants to disregard the rules as they enter the plane ("This isn't really a carry-on bag--it's my makeup case!"); they cannot stow their gear and seat themselves in fewer than five minutes; they either chat during or ignore completely the pre-flight safety instructions; they behave like Mexican jumping beans hopping in and out of their seats all through the flight, even when flight attendants are pushing carts through the aisles; and when the flight ends, they jump up one final time and clog up the aisles for another five to ten minutes while people must wait for them to re-orient themselves to reality.

Worst of all, though, are the passengers who do all the above, and complain loudly to anyone who will listen (in a plane, it's a relatively captive audience) about the poor quality of everything, including the flight attendants. These passengers want everyone to know how special they are, and how deserving of better treatment.

JetBlue and Slater have parted ways. Passengers no longer have to worry about being chastised for being nasty.

Excuse me. I think I should call my broker and invest in rail, boat, and bus companies. Chances are pretty good that the skies won't be friendly any time soon.


17 June 2010

It is easier for a camel to go 
through the eye of a needle, 
than for a rich man to enter
into the kingdom of God.
   - Bible (Mark 10:25), King James version 

When it comes to the really, really rich, I guess there's no limit to the weirdness.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are now of the opinion that the world in general, and the human condition in particular, could be vastly improved if only billionaires would agree to give away 50% of their amassed wealth. They've been contacting billionaires around the country, holding secret dinners in New York City, and putting up simple, elegant web pages that state the main message--"let the money go." NPR ran the story, which is worth reading for the sheer audacity and chutzpah of the proposition.

Mr. Gates has come a very long way since the days when he was driven to crush his competitors through any possible means. He also built a 50,000 square foot fortress for himself up in Washington.
He was all about being Kublai Khan back then, and his "stately pleasure dome" now annually generates the county where he lives nearly $1,000,000 in property taxes. He surrounded himself with minions who tended to his every need, and he behaved as if for him, the rules didn't apply. And you know what? They didn't. People seem to have forgotten the early Gates, how he got his money, now that he's prepared to dole it out to the less fortunate.

I don't know about your current economic situation, but mine hovers just slightly above "dire" and "straits." Nobody's knocking my door down to offer me a job, and all the doors I've been knocking on hoping for an opening are locked tight. I'm daily reading foreclosure notices in my town's newspaper, and seeing young men in my neighborhood tending their yards on weekdays makes my stomach churn. They're doing that because they haven't got anything else to do with their time, and they're not yet ready to go crazy.

Something about the Gates/Buffett challenge to the billionaires feels fraudulent and self-congratulatory to me. If they really want to help, they need to make it easier for the grass-cutting young man to get a job that sustains him and his family. They need to put more emphasis on giving people the tools they need to survive in this world. And of course, they need probably need to do something that will prevent anyone from ever being able in the future to amass such fortunes as they have.

I don't have the inclination to feel either admiration or sympathy for the billionaires and this latest venture. Believe me, there are people and animals suffering up and down the Louisiana coast who need all the help they can get.

Excuse me. I need to go mail another check to the relief effort.


10 April 2010

Anger cannot be dishonest.
   - Marcus Aurelius, Stoic philosopher

Anger rises like bile in my throat as I am typing. The truth is, I'm at the mercy of yet another dishonest man who does the dirty work for his dishonest employer. He, like so many others just like him, uses my lack of mechanical expertise as a way to extract money from my pockets.

A few days ago, something in the exhaust system under my car gave way, and in the yielding, made the car, a small four-cylinder sports model, sound just like a monster truck. I have had enough experience of such things to know it's not a repair I can do myself--even if I could get the correct parts, I haven't a clue as to how to assemble them or weld them into the proper places.

I've had this work done over the years at Midas Muffler. You know them. They're the ones who tell you that your muffler is warranted for as long as the original purchaser of the muffler owns the car. Sounds like a good deal, right? Especially if, like me, you tend to hold onto your vehicles for decades. You think, Hey, if I pay this one-time fee, I can have free mufflers forever. Excellent.

Or so I thought.

I called Midas, explained my situation, and asked for an estimate. My car is now of an age when I am weighing repairs against the cost of replacement. I know that there is a point of diminished returns--you don't spend thousands in a year to repair what you can replace for hundreds. The manager told me I was looking at between $150 and $180, depending on the location of the problem, and of course, the muffler would be fully under warranty. I made the appointment and dropped the car off as scheduled at 8:00 a.m. this morning. The manager said he'd call me as soon as they looked at the car to let me know what to expect.

It was all very friendly and normal, and I expected him to tell me it would cost between $150 to $180.

A few minutes ago, he called. The pipes from the converter on have to be replaced, he said. The muffler, too, he said. It's going to cost between $420 and $450, he said. The muffler's under warranty, so that won't cost anything, he said. We took it apart, and it is what it is, he said.

It is what it is.

I am so shocked and angry, my fingers are shaking as I type.

Except what they don't warrant is likely to break your bank--"This warranty does not cover exhaust or tail pipes, hangers or other exhaust system components which may be required at the time of replacement. The Midas Muffler and Brake Shop must restore the exhaust system to its proper operation. If you do not authorize the installation of other needed parts, you will receive a non-installed and non-warranted muffler." These three sentences constitute their official license to rob you blind.

I took the time to look up online complaints against Midas franchises across the United States. Just like demons, they are legion--and the reports of the indignities and injustices qualify in my book as being completely evil.

Excuse me. I am going to call my travel agent, and see if I can't book these suckers some one-way trips to the Hell they so richly deserve.


16 March 2010

We the people of the United States, in order to form 
a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic 
tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the 
general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to 
ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this 
Constitution for the United States of America.

   - Preamble, United States Constitution

I received yet another circulating email this week that asks me to consider its message and send it along to 20 additional recipients. I get chain emails regularly, and my normal response to them is to trash them. I don't do bulk forwarding of jokes, virus alerts, political commentary, or PDF files full of soothing music and beautiful pictures. I figure people have better things to do with their lives than spend them on the typical trivia and minutiae contained in such missives. What somebody else thinks is hysterically funny often strikes me as having its roots in meanness, prejudice, and narrow-mindedness. I'm willing to bet that things I think are funny also strike others as wrong-headed, too, so I just don't do it.

However, that said, this last email was worth considering. The sender wanted my support for a proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution: "Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States." That single sentence is very appealing to me, as is the idea of enacting such an amendment, since I have at present a deep-rooted, dark suspicion that many of the people currently sitting in the seats of power in this country are there because they hope to derive personal gains and satisfy personal goals, rather than acting as representatives acting on behalf of their neighbors and communities and in the interest of the country's well-being.

Even so, I decided to ditch the email, rather than pass it along. Instead, I wrote a reply to the sender, stating my decision and how I reached it.
What I disagree with is a call to action based on something that doesn't exist, or isn't so. I am completely in favor of amending the Constitution if necessary, so that the people who create and enact our laws are also subject to them. Sending an email to everyone that says, "What happened to the 28th Amendment?" only increases the signal-to-noise ratio, and doesn't serve any purpose other than to stir an already boiling cauldron. 

I have already signed several petitions to deal with the issue of Congressional "special handling" and perquisites, but I haven't seen anything come of any of them. The ONLY way this is ever going to be resolved is when and if the American public wises up and decides that every elected official serves ONE TIME, and that at the end of the term, they're out. NO EXCEPTIONS. You have four years to make things better from the day you take office, the clock ticks from Day One, and on the final day, you're history. And if you do a bad job, I won't be voting any more people from your party in to carry on your "tradition." 

We have allowed our Congressional halls to reek of entitlement for too long, and we have created a class of people who seek mostly to enrich themselves and their friends at the taxpayers' expense. There shouldn't BE a "pension plan" for elective office holders--let them put money into a savings account, IRA, or CD, just like the rest of us slobs do--and there certainly shouldn't be a "health plan" just for them. The first step in creating a rational governance is to put people into it who understand that not only is the job a "community service" one (albeit on a larger scale), but it's only half a step above volunteerism, rather than a free ticket to plunder the Treasury and become part of the new noble class.

I'm not asking anyone to forward anything. I'm asking only that people understand they must decide for themselves if what they want from a government is what they're getting, and if it's not, to take direct, unambiguous personal action to change it. Each of us has a voice, and most of us have a vote.

Use them for the greater good.

Excuse me. I need to stop now, and write to the people who are sitting in the seats where my neighbors and I put them.


13 February 2010

Love makes the world go 'round.
   - anonymous

About love and intimacy with men.

I've been learning some lessons recently about this very thing from watching my son with his brand-new daughter. Shortly before she was born, he was agitated enough to ask me, "I've never been so happy in my life; before I was married, I was nowhere. What will happen if the baby comes, and she doesn't love me any more?" So here I was, facing his deepest fear directly. I was gentle with him, and explained that yes, the relationship with his wife would probably change because now there would be a baby to take care of, but if he'd welcome that change, it would provide them with the chance they'd end up with more love between them, not less. I said that love is additive, not subtractive, in nature and that as long as he trusted his darling's heart and listened to his own, they'd do just fine.

That was in September. His baby was born in mid-October. In early November I went to California to visit. I asked my son what he'd discovered about having a baby that surprised him. His answer was, "I think it's how protective and maternal I feel toward both of them." I watched his face every time he looked at his girls--the one he married and the one he made--and love was absolutely manifest in his expression toward both. I hope he never loses that feeling. I can see how love is going to shape his future--everything he desires and he's going to do with his life rests in the cocoon of what he feels right now toward his wife and child.

I believe that at the root of what fuels all the pain and suffering, the hunger, wars, and saber-shaking, is fear. Men who do not experience unconditional love in their lives or who lost unconditional love are always afraid that they'll be hurt or condemned as bad, so they act from the basis of their fears, to the detriment of everyone and everything around them. Worse, when women turn relationships with men into a quid pro quo, they demean themselves and devalue love entirely. That, in turn, reinforces the fear in men that something's going to be taken from them, and the whole cycle takes another dreadful downward spin.

Women have it in themselves to stop the vicious cycle. All that is really necessary to reshape the world is for women to move from the premise, "I will love you if..." to simply, "I love you." Intimacy is easy to achieve when it's not tainted by a desire for something one or the other has. It's always based on trust and lack of fear. Men must feel loved for who they are, rather than for what they can do, earn, own, or bestow. The sooner we understand and embrace that idea, the sooner things will change for the better. We can re-shape the world, one man at a time.

Power, money, and sex don't make the world go 'round, love does.

And in conclusion, I'd have to say that Shakespeare had it right and said it best when he wrote, "My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite." (from Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene V).

Excuse me. I have to send out my St. Valentine's Day greetings to the people I love.


09 February 2010

“Be what you would seem to be--or, if you'd 
like it put more simply--never imagine yourself not to 
be otherwise than what it might appear to others that 
what you were or might have been was not otherwise 
than what you had been would have appeared to them 
to be otherwise.”
   - Lewis Carroll

I occasionally look at the visitor statistics for this website. I know that there are many people who reach my pages because they're trying to figure out what "Curiosita" means. It's not South Park Cartman-speak for "curiosity," even though the correct pronunciation sounds an awful lot like Cartman's demands for "authoritah." I've borrowed my tiitle from the Italian word curiosità, derived from the Latin word curiositas, which loosely translates into English as having the attribute of inquisitiveness, snoopiness, nosiness, or a condition of being intensely curious. Since this word is in current usage, a good many Italian addresses show up in my statistics. What surprises me, though, is how after finding my site many come back for another look, thus embodying the very attribute about which they sought information in the first place. There aren't many more details than the IP address, the referring page, the duration of the visit, and which website pages are accessed, so nobody has to worry about privacy while reading. You can remain completely anonymous and access all the postings any time you want. But only a few readers have ever commented on anything they've read here, and I wonder now what stops them? Comments and feedback are always welcome. If you agree with what I've written, let me know. If you disagree, well, try to be civil and offer a dissenting opinion.

I received a newsletter this week that's really made an impression on me. In it, there is a haunting question. I paraphrase slightly, but the writer asked, "How does my work environment, my creative space, support my aspirations?" That single question made me take a serious, hard look at my work environment. I came to the conclusion that it is much better suited at present to completely kill any creative impulse that might rise in me than to cultivate it. I went right to work at correcting the situation and the space. I've sifted through piles of paper that should have been filed or flung long ago, filled bags and boxes with things I never use so I can sell or give them away, cleared my desktop, put my toys and gizmos into their proper drawers and containers, and refilled the shelves with the books I'd stacked all around on every flat surface within reach.

It feels better already, as if the energy can again circulate unblocked by all the false starts, failed finishes, and muddled-up memories. I've been working at this about an hour each day for the past three, and the results are far greater than I would have dreamed possible. The place looks better, I feel better about it, and I can actually sit at a desk and write without worrying about the unfiled papers and unpaid bills as I'm working.

If you're feeling blocked, you might give trick this a go. The full newsletter, written by writer and master weaver Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, contains other valuable tools and resources for creative types, and is available for free if you sign up at the Divining the Muse website. Go there. Sign up.

You'll never be sorry you did.

Excuse me. My work space beckons, and I'm curious about what I might find at the bottom of the last few piles.


27 January 2010

Introducing the new 7 Weeks Challenge 2010 
(back by popular demand), where we encourage each 
other to set wringing goals and meet them in the next 7 
weeks (our deadline is, conveniently, St. Patrick's Day).
   - Brian A. Klems, Newsletter Editor, 
     Writer's Digest Magazine

Another day, another rant. This week, I've received two emails that set my teeth on edge. The first arrived several days ago from a writer's organization that focuses entirely on memoir. Its purpose was to let me know that annual membership rates were on the rise, and if I wanted to save money, I should enroll before February 1st. The mail identified the membership benefits and perks, most of which are probably very nice. Monthy teleseminars, discounted rates on classes, access to the organization's blog, and so on. There was only one catch.

The "current rate of $127 per month." Yikes. At a time when the economy is in the toilet, people are scrambling to scratch up money for housing, car payments, utilities, health insurance and everything else, this is something they are expected to fork over a Franklin and change for? I couldn't believe it. I sent a terse reply, quoting their email. I asked in closing, "Are all your members rich?"

I'd gotten the email only because a friend recommended I have a look at the website. I'm a writer, so she figured I might enjoy keeping abreast of writing trends and hearing what others have to say about the state of the craft. But who these people were really, and what they could possibly be offering that warranted that monthly fee, I had to investigate more carefully.

I went to the website again, where on the home page was a similar announcement in bold lettering designed to catch the eye as what I'd received in my email, stating that this was the last chance to join at the old rate of $127 per year. Per year, not per month.

Within minutes of my discovery, I received a private email from the organization's secretary, who apologized profusely for the "typo," and assuring me the error would be quickly corrected. Sure enough, hard on this email's heels arrived another dispatch, this time to the entire mailing list, re-sending the invitation to join, with the amount corrected.

And today, my inbox contained the Writer's Digest newsletter from Brian Klem, which is quoted above. I'm wondering what a "wringing goal" is, but I'm surely not interested in any writing that involves being hanged out to dry.

Seriously, I'm wondering if there are writers gullible enough to buy services, instruction or goods from people who don't take the time to read what they're sending out into the world, yet profess significant expertise. What has happened to the concept of self-editing before sending? Perhaps that's what's been wrung out of the writing process after all.

Excuse me. My writing projects await my attention, with or without significant cash expenditures or torture.