Back to School

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In case you aren’t aware, I am the author of Shadow Ballet, a novel I wrote many years ago.  I took three years to complete the manuscript, another two decades to finally see it in print.  After being rejected by what seems like every publisher on the planet I bit the bullet and self published.  Those who have read the novel have been very complimentary, but I, like so many others, have learned that self publishing is a way to spend a lot of money without earning profits.

I continue to work on other stories because I love to write, to tell stories, to express myself through the characters I create.  On the other hand, after so many years of not earning a living by writing, I have begun to learn how to write profitably.

Through the years of my careers, I have found myself being tasked with writing for the people who employed me, often being paid for my efforts, but usually in conjunction with other duties for which I was hired.  Unfortunately, that sort of writing is not what can be counted on the pay the bills, so I set out to investigate what kind of writing would keep the rent paid.

It took a while, there being a thousand ways to choose the wrong road to follow, my diligence has paid dividends and I am now enrolled in a course of study and applying the elbow grease needed to complete the courses of study.  The homework is not easy, but that is a good thing.  If it was easy it would have little true value.  I look forward to being able to spend my days doing what I love: writing.

Oh yeah, my granddaughter has written a book, available at Amazon just like mine.  Check out The Forces That Connect Us by R. Beverly.

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Paying Tribute

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I am disturbed by the on going surrender of our institutions and way of life to the believers and followers of Islam.  I am tired of my nation, a nation founded on religious tolerance, giving quarter to the religious intolerant who migrate here from the nations of Islam.  Islam is not a religion of peace, as some have labeled it, but a religion of dominance and intolerance.  It is not a religion of equality and human rights, but one of subjugation and slaughter of all non-believers and even of those who follow meekly in its path.

I am not averse to anyone peacefully observing and practicing their religious beliefs, but I am opposed to all who would force their beliefs upon anyone under penalty of death.  Islam, as written in the Kuran prescribes death for all who do not accept and adhere to the teachings of Islam.  Believe or die.  Such is the command of the Kuran.

Our nation has lost sight of our history with the practitioners of Islam and the actions which led the newly born United States of America into combat during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson.  The Barbary Coast pirates of north Africa had been draining the funds of our newborn nation for years before Jefferson dispatched the Navy and the Marines to make it known we would not have our merchant shipping and citizens held for ransom and we would not pay tribute for their safety in the Mediterranean Sea.  (Google “Thomas Jefferson vs. The Muslim World” for detailed history)

Jefferson, who had co-authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, was deeply disturbed by a religion which demanded violent reprisals against non-believers.  Fundamentalist Islam returning to threaten the United States was perhaps his greatest fear, for he recognized the dangers of permitting its followers even a tiny toe hold in our nation.

Robert Goodloe Harper, in 1816, stated “Millions for defense, but not one penny for tribute”, reflecting the attitude of Jefferson.  While this is reflected in the position “we do not negotiate with terrorists”, what seems to be lost is recognition of what defines terrorism.  We have been surrendering our national identity and pride with each step we have taken to avoid offending the radical followers of Islam by banning Piggy Banks from work places, by banning all other religions from sitting on juries where Muslim defendants are being tried, by removing pulled pork from school menus, and list goes on ad nauseum. Yes, nauseum, enough to make you ill, at the surrender of our culture to avoid offending those who have migrated here for the obvious purpose of tearing down the freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

We are a nation of laws.  Those who choose to join our nation of laws are welcome to become contributing members of our society, free to observe their religion and culture as they deem appropriate, provided so doing does not violate the sanctions of our laws.  It is their obligation to observe and obey the laws of our nation, not our obligation to bend our laws to suit them.  I have friends who are practicing Muslims, good people who are good neighbors, good citizens, who recognize and respect the beliefs of others.  I am happy to count them friends.  I am equally willing to count the radical followers of Islam among my personal enemies and the enemies of the nation whose Constitution I swore to protect and defend with my life.  I refuse to pay tribute in any manner to avoid offending their belief that women are chattel, non believers are to be killed, and that the United States is to become ruled by Sharia law.  I politely invite them to return from whence they came.

The Eve of Destruction

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There is an adage that says “those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it”.  The popular music of the 1960’s and 70’s often protested the dissatisfaction of the youth with the world.  The problems weren’t new, but nonetheless true.  Historically, music has always been a used as a vehicle to profess societal wrongs, imbalances, and frustrations.  Consider the lyrics written by Barry McGuire and recorded by The Grass Roots and others.

The eastern world, it is exploding
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’

But you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
Of destruction.

Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to say
Can’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away
There’ll be no one to save, with the world in a grave
[Take a look around ya boy, it’s bound to scare ya boy]

And you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
Of destruction.

Yeah, my blood’s so mad feels like coagulatin’
I’m sitting here just contemplatin’
I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation.
Handful of senators don’t pass legislation
And marches alone can’t bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin’
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’

And you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
Of destruction.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
You may leave here for 4 days in space
But when you return, it’s the same old place

The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace
Hate your next-door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace
And… tell me over and over and over and over again, my friend
You don’t believe
We’re on the eve
Of destruction
Mm, no no, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
Of destruction.

The words speak of the social battles of the sixties, but think how easy it is to insert today’s trouble spots into the lyrics.  Five decades have passed, but racial tensions remain, China remains a military threat, and Israel is still struggling to survive amidst a sea of Islam.  Perhaps Bob Dylan was right when he wrote:

The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

 

Freedom of Speech and Press

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In framing our nation’s Constitution, it is apparent where our founders believed the core of our rights as citizens to express ourselves should stand.  The first amendment in the Bill of Rights provides for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  Congress is prohibited for making any law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, meaning we are free to say or write whatever we please; false, factual, real, or imagined, and suffer no legal redress for doing so.

This is a marvelous liberty until someone yells “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or incites people to riot and destroy the property or lives of others.  In other words, it is wise to remember that actions always have consequences and sometimes the consequences are less than ideal or of a nature never intended.

In today’s world, we no longer have the freedom to act or speak in confidence of privacy.  Cell phones capture actions and words of moments we would prefer remain anonymous and instantly broadcast them for the world to view on U-tube, Facebook, Twitter, and a vast array of other social media.  Misspeak, misbehave, stumble, trip, fall, have a momentary lapse of judgement, cough, sneeze, split your pants, embarrass yourself in some manner and prepare to have your faux pas published for the world to share.

Yes, our Constitution gives us the right to abuse our fellow man in this manner, much like the paparazzi in pursuit of celebrities, but there remains a question of common courtesy.  A matter of respect for those who share our society.  We all do things that are humorous or embarrassing from time to time, suffering the snickers and laughter of friends or acquaintances at the time.  Having such incidents broadcast to the world has proven to have some serious results.  Young people have committed suicide as a result of this sort of cyber bullying, people have lost their jobs, businesses have lost patronage.  Meanwhile, the anonymous author of the damaging broadcast scampers away free of responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Regardless the Constitutional right to speak or print whatever we choose, it is important to recognize the human right to be treated with civility and courtesy.  A simply measurement of proper behavior is found in every major religion.  Simply treat others as you wish to be treated.

 

What has been lost

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I have had the sad opportunity to observe our educational system slide from being one of the best in the world to a point where students are no longer provided the basic tools for communication, computation, or knowledge of our past.  The three R’s were once the foundation of instruction, basic skills of Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic.

Educators have been removed from control of classrooms, removed from the concept of setting high standards for their students, and removed from guiding the discipline of education.  By definition, discipline: activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill, training.  Students are offered low expectations due to impairments of culture, disenfranchisement, or another excuse for not demanding the performance of which they are capable.  I believe students will rise to the level of the instructor’s expectations, whether the instructor is a parent, teacher, drill instructor, or employer.  It is ludicrous to believe a person’s intellect is contingent upon the color of skin, color of eyes, or any other convenient, non existent excuse.

We became the most advanced, most successful, most envied, most respected, and yes, the most feared nation on the planet not by making excuses, but by excelling at what we did as individuals whose education was founded on the three R’s.  We put men on the moon without personal computers.  Apollo 13 was safely returned from in flight disaster by a crew who computed their course with a pencil and paper.  Newspapers and magazines were diligent in their efforts to spell correctly and use correct sentence structure.  Today, students are not taught the basic rules of Arithmetic, but instead are expected to understand what is called core math.  Spelling and usage of correct verbiage is lost in news articles, not to mention tweets, blogs, and comments found on the internet.  I am embarrassed when I see lead in place of led.  Sure, they sound the same, but one is an essential element on the periodic table, the other a verb expressing being moved in a direction.

As a nation we have failed to teach our students how to speak, write, or even how to appreciate the printed word.  Young people enter the business world without knowing how to make, let alone count back change.  Without a computer to tell them the correct amount they are lost.  Simple arithmetic, an everyday event, but no longer apparently taught.  How can they be expected to understand basic business principles like profit, mark-up, margin, or taxes if they do not even know how to make change for a dollar?

 

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With spring upon the calendar I find myself reflecting on my life and what led me to actually begin work on my lifetime dream of being a writer of fiction.  I find it interesting how many people don’t read fiction because they don’t consider it to be ‘serious’ writing.  Composing fiction, while an exercise in imagination and flights of fancy, requires a great deal of research and personal introspection.

Shadow Ballet, my first novel, is the first in a series of stories based where I grew up, and is a tribute to the department where my father served as a detective.  It is also a tribute to my second wife, a talented artist who lost her battle with cancer and an expression of my journey through the minefields of grief in search of life.  A fictional story based on the facts of a real life, real people, and real emotions.

In my various careers, where my abilities earned me the nickname ‘wordsmith’, I have written thousands of pages of non-fiction.  Carefully crafted to clearly and accurately express details, facts, circumstances, situations, and results, my words were used to win court cases, sell products and services, and as technical texts for others to follow.  Enjoyable as this might have been, it lacked the emotion, the psychology, the empathy, and satisfaction of drawing characters and characteristics from people I have known and placing them in situations to be resolved.

In the serious vein of putting words on a page in a fictional setting is not to sway, convince, or educate in a specific direction.  Fiction is about offering the reader the opportunity to experience emotions and spur the imagination into territory not previously visited, found only in the depths of the reader’s soul.

Saying Goodbye

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Death is our most constant companion, a threat, a fate, an inevitability we dodge, cheat, avoid, and dance with on a daily basis. The ancient Greeks believed in a group they called the fates, three women who decided the length of our lives on the day of our birth. As we travel the tortuous path of our life we each see the lives of friends, family and acquaintances come to a close. Sometimes accidental, sometimes disease, sometimes acts of violence, sometimes aging, sometimes a combination of several causes, but always bringing us to the point of finding a way to say goodbye.

It is rare to have the opportunity to bid farewell while the recipient of the blessing is aware of our comment. In the course of nature’s way, we find ourselves with a painful hole in our emotions where a dear person once dwelt. A few decades ago my father told me one of the worst things about growing older was seeing the circle of friends shrink as the years passed. I have observed the truth of this observation, and along the way have developed an understanding of why so many senior citizens seem to carry a burden of sadness; a burden shadowing their smiles and laughter. We enter the world to be greeted by the warmth and love of our mother and father, but we leave the world alone, venturing into the unknown on our own.

The belief in a life after death is a common thread in human history, regardless of race, religion, or creed. While each of us has our own reasons for believing or not believing, the hope that something good awaits us can be a comfort when we are saying goodbye to someone dear to us. My father is 96 years old and in failing health. I remember when he came home from the Korean War with a medical discharge, and a prognosis of 6 months to live. Obviously he proved the doctors wrong, and survived kidney disease (one removed), heart disease (multiple bypass), and a few more additional scrapes to live a full life of hunting, fishing, and working as a detective. He has led an active life, including acting as care giver to my mother as she spent almost two decades sinking beneath the sad tides of Alzheimer’s until she at last surrendered.

It is difficult to see the slow decline as my father has lost the use of his hands, his sight, and his ability to walk. It is painful to see him unable to take care of himself, yet unable to find his way to that final slumber he prays for each day. A long productive life is a blessing beyond measure, but a long life which offers only pain and suffering, both physical and emotional, is heart wrenching. I grew up in the knowledge that my father might not be there at any time; prepared to scatter his ashes over the land and water he loved. Our paths have separated us for most of my adult life, my careers taking me on my own journey, making our time together limited to a few days each year, and each of those visits ending in tears for us both, knowing it might be our last parting. I have said goodbye many times, but I know how much it will hurt when my brother, who is caring for my father, calls to tell me he has begun his journey into the unknown that awaits us all.

As I plan my next visit, I can’t help wondering if it will be our last; wondering if he will still be there when I arrive. It weighs heavy on my heart, even after a lifetime of preparation; one more member of my circle of friends who will no longer be with me when I say my last goodbye to him.