Karl Marx and Adam Smith – Morning Thoughts – August 2, 2016

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When I was young and had an inquiring mind, I dug into many philosophies and ideals, religious and secular, popular and obscure.  Eventually I opted for a loose belief in Zen Buddhism, but today I thought I’d write a little about two of the many philosophers I read in the past  – Karl Marx and Adam Smith.

I have to admit that though I tried to read his ponderous “Das Kapital” I’ve no head for economics, I don’t read German and the translations have not always been the most faithful and accurate.  But basically – I’ve no head for economics.  I was more interested in seeing what influenced so many people back in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  So, I read the more emotional  “The Communist Manifesto” (and felt like a nun reading pornography at the time too), “The Selected Writings of Karl Marx” and “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”.

Karl Marx is one of the, if not the, bogey-men of capitalist society – especially American society, presumably because of the cold war and the conflict with the Russians (conflict still pretty hot if I’m not mistaken – only communism has disappeared).

Fact is that very few Americans have ever actually read what Marx had to say.  They often quote what they think Marx said – for example about religion being the opiate of the people – there was a context to that quote by the way:

“The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world…

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
― Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

“The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest essence for man – hence, with the categoric imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, abandoned, despicable essence, relations which cannot be better described than by the cry of a Frenchman when it was planned to introduce a tax on dogs: ‘Poor dogs! They want to treat you as human beings!”
― Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

In context there is a certain amount of good sense in what he says.  Although many of the believers of religions don’t see their religion in this light, history certainly teaches us that cynical leaders throughout the ages have used religion in precisely this fashion.

Over the years  I began to feel a little sorry for Karl Marx.  His great revolutionary vision and energy was built upon a belief that humanity – proletariat humanity in any case – was/is capable of making altruistic choices for the good of all mankind.  He felt that there would eventually be no class system once the bourgeoisie were eliminated – that the proletariat was the logical culmination of society.  His revolutionary theory is probably based on the then recent history of society – including the French revolution (good heavens that certainly was a terrible point to begin with) and with the birth and propagation of the “modern bourgeois society”.  He believed that eventually the majority of humanity would overcome the minority. However a lot of his work was couched in hate-speak and rancour (read his works to get the gist of this) which probably had as much to do with its future direction than one may think.

Here are some other quotes:

“The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.”

“The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors,’ and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, callous ‘cash payment.’ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.”
― Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

“And here it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an over-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state that it has to feed him instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie; in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.

The essential condition for the existence, and for the sway of the bourgeois class, is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labor. Wage-labor rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by their revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of modern industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”
Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

The goal set in the mind of Karl Marx was the creation of an egalitarian society – possible only if humanity is essentially altruistic and above all, honest:

“When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms, and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

In place of the old bourgeois society with its classes and class antagonisms we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”
Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

Of course he should have imagined the likes of Stalin and power struggles by people who felt they were the natural leaders of the revolution and its a shame he never could read George Orwell’s  Animal Farm … but then I’m sure each philosopher in the comfort (or discomfort) of his den imagines society in its most ideal form.  In his last days though this is what Marx wrote in a letter:

“If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist.
[In a letter about the peculiar ‘Marxism’ which arose in France 1882 to Eduard Bernstein] not long before his death.”

Here is what Bertrand Russell has to say about Marx:

Of course getting “into” Karl Marx is a little more complicated than a few quotes … but maybe one can try to stimulate a little interest in one of the most influential philosophers who has been used to mold the 20th century.

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One wonders how Adam Smith imagined a society based on “self-love” – for our Scottish philosopher and economist, Adam Smith was a “cynic” and not a little pessimistic in his vision of men and mankind. He’s considered the father of economics and of course capitalism and one wonders just how many of his “followers” have actually read what he wrote those many years ago:

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages”

“The interest of [businessmen] is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public … The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order … ought never to be adopted, till after having been long and carefully examined … with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men … who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public”
― Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol 1

Yet:

“In regards to the price of commodities, the rise of wages operates as simple interest does, the rise of profit operates like compound interest.

Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

“Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many. The affluence of the rich excites the indignation of the poor, who are often both driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his possessions.”

“Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog. Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that….But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of.”
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

“Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did and never can carry us beyond our own persons, and it is by the imagination only that we form any conception of what are his sensations…His agonies, when they are thus brought home to ourselves, when we have this adopted and made them our own, begin at last to affect us, and we then tremble and shudder at the thought of what he feels.”

“How many people ruin themselves by laying out money on trinkets of frivolous utility? What pleases these lovers of toys is not so much the utility, as the aptness of the machines which are fitted to promote it. All their pockets are stuffed with little conveniences. They contrive new pockets, unknown in the clothes of other people, in order to carry a greater number. They walk about loaded with a multitude of baubles, in weight and sometimes in value not inferior to an ordinary Jew’s-box, some of which may sometimes be of some little use, but all of which might at all times be very well spared, and of which the whole utility is certainly not worth the fatigue of bearing the burden.”
― Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

I think that like with Marx few have actually read anything by Adam Smith … so this video might be interesting for those who know nothing about him except how he’s been painted by modern idealists.  Here’s the pdf form of Alan Macfarlane’s talk.

One can’t deny that the protestant sentiments of the 1700s proffered by Adam Smith were pretty on the mark, far more than our  Prussian offspring of the 1800s Karl Marx.  The point though if we look carefully is that they’re both saying something similar.  The big difference is that Marx would like to fight against what he sees – Smith explains it and makes moral statements.

Basically though, have a completely different position in the understanding of what philosophy and a philosopher is:

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.
[These words are  inscribed upon Marx’s  gravestone along with Workers Of All Lands Unite]”

 

How Barb Taub Crashed a Wedding – Meet the Author – April 12, 2016

Hello Everyone … a couple of weeks ago one of my favourite writers and friend, Barb Taub announced she was going to publish the third book of her series Null City and wrote a brief post about it promising that I’d have something more to say about her work  the next day.  Well, the best laid plans as they say … between one thing and another I never got around to that second post … but I was able to get a letter off at last to Barb asking her to be my guest over here at the Library and I also challenged her to write a haiku … here’s her reply!

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Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today, Georgia! Of course, you know that I’m a huge fan of your poetry, but most especially your haiku. But when you challenged me to write one, I panicked. How could something so spare and elegant be so difficult?

Here it is. My very first haiku ever, because I crashed a wedding my first night back in India.

we are such old friends,

watching strangers dance. they smile,

reaching. we whirl with new friends.


So, yes, I crashed a wedding my first night in India.

It all started because my friend Janine and I decided to push our luck. Having actually managed to meet up with our old University roommate Jaya in the middle of India the year before, we just had to see if lightning could strike again. This time, Janine and I were meeting first at the Mumbai Airport. Only, because of this tragic annual event we have up north (winter), both our flights were delayed. I’d been travelling from Scotland for over eighteen hours, much of that time spent sitting on the ground as the plane was repeatedly de-iced.

One thing about international flights is that they feed you. This is not necessarily a good thing. Shortly after our flight took off, the attendants began distributing the meal. I think they had approximately two meals that were vegetarian, but by the time they reached my section back in steerage, they were offering passengers a choice of beef stew. (The choice was to take it or to leave it.) They repeated the meal offer two more times over the course of the flight, but the menu didn’t vary. By the third pass, the attendants didn’t even pretend to hand out the trays. A woman across the aisle from me had brought along one of those big discount bags of gummy candy, and when she passed it around, she got a standing ovation.

We were all tired and hungry when the flight landed in Mumbai. Luckily, I’d been to India before so I knew how to line up before passport control. Or, more precisely, how not to line up. There is, of course, nothing remotely resembling an actual line. You just get in the middle of the crowd and eventually you’re pushed up to the front. As American voices behind me protested bitterly that people were not waiting their turn and it was so not fair, I blindly held out my paperwork to the agent, agreed that yes, Madam’s passport was very full and yes, Madam did go lots of places, and no, Madam didn’t know that they would need several pristine pages for their stampage, and yes, Madam would most certainly see that she had more pages next time. Behind me, the other Americans were still looking for lines to wait in, and still complaining about it. Lots. I wondered if I could convince anyone that I was Canadian.

The Mumbai Airport is in two very separate locations (Domestic and International), which have to be navigated Indian style. The usual soldier with the usual honking huge gun waved me toward signs for Domestic transfers, and at last I ended up at a roped-off group of chairs randomly placed in the middle of the airport terminal. Eventually, a young woman in a quasi sari/uniform outfit came over and told the group gathered there to follow her for the buses to the Domestic terminal. In the UK, that would work perfectly. Baby ducklings following their mother couldn’t fall into queue more precisely. Even in the US, travellers would lope along in a rough follow-the-leader line.

But this was India. The rest of the people in the chair circle leaped to their feet and surged for the doors at a dead run. Uniform Lady made a good show of trying to keep up with them, but somehow I lost her in the general melee. Men in suits, grandmothers in saris, mothers in embroidered salwar kameez (holding babies and clutching children’s hands), and one severely jet-lagged old American lady—we all trotted through the terminal, along corridors, down stairs, out the doors and over to the bus at the curb.

The Mumbai Domestic Terminal, including a lit up guy holding a giant tire. Of course.

The Mumbai Domestic Terminal, including a lit-up guy holding a giant tire. Of course.

People tossed their suitcases into the luggage section under the bus and pushed aboard, sweeping me with them. When it became obvious that there were not enough seats for the entire crowd, Uniform Lady reappeared and began ordering people off the bus. This caused delays as they remonstrated with her. (Since I’ve seen entire Indian families travelling on one motor bike, and witnessed many trucks so full of people that those hanging onto the back were only being kept from certain death by the grip of the inside passengers, I could understand why people were shocked at being asked to give up their perfectly safe bus aisle perches. But Uniform Lady was adamant, so we all waited through even further delays as all the luggage was removed from the under-bus compartments so the refugees could retrieve their luggage and put it on the next bus, already waiting just behind. Uniform Lady walked our bus aisle, evicting two other passengers pretending to have seats at the rear, and at last waved us away.

When we arrived at the Domestic Terminal, there was no sign of our flight to Vadodara (a small airport relatively near Jaya’s home in Gujarat). There was also no sign of my friend Janine, whose plane was supposed to be there well before mine. She’d left for the Washington DC airport more than thirty hours earlier, just ahead of the blizzard closing airports across the east coast.

It’s safe to say that we were not the two sharpest knives in the travel drawer that night. But we didn’t have to be, because we know exactly how to find each other in foreign countries in the middle of the night. I went to the only open coffee bar and ordered for two. [NOTE: for you amateurs out there, do NOT try this at home. You’ll need someone you’ve known for the better part of four decades, so that you know exactly how they will think.] Janine arrived at the Domestic terminal and headed straight for the coffee bar.

But we still had a problem. The crowd was nervously watching the departure gates, and when they finally put up the sign for the Vadodara flight, all surged forward, waiting for the gate to open. And waiting. And waiting. A woman in front of us cautioned that all the people pushing in from the sides would attempt to cut us off, and suggested that we form our own blockade. We waited some more. Eventually, the Vadodara sign was taken down, and the blockade strategist wandered off. Still we waited.

Finally, the sign went back up and the departure gate attendant asked everyone to present ticket and passport. It was the last word he got in before the crowd surged through the gates en masse. The attendant shrugged and turned away. Our passenger group rushed the doors only to find…more buses. Although there were several airplanes next to the terminal, apparently getting to our plane would require transportation. After people filled the bus, extra passengers were removed, and the driver was satisfied that all had seats, the bus finally moved away from the terminal. First it drove for some distance straight out, then circled a roundabout to drive for several blocks back, passing the airport terminal where we had boarded the bus, and continuing on in the opposite direction. At another roundabout, it turned around again and headed back to the airport terminal.

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We still don’t know why we were on this bus.

As we slowed to a stop before a plane parked right outside the terminal, Janine whispered to me, “This is where we got on, isn’t it?”

Of course it was. We boarded the plane parked just across from the departure gate. As far as we could tell, we had just taken half an hour to board, ride, and depart from buses that took us across the street.

The flight itself was only about half an hour, but the crew served a full meal. Racing down the aisle, attendants dealt each passenger a tray with a speed that a Las Vegas dealer would envy. Each tray held a surprisingly delicious breakfast that was not even a little bit beef stew. But before even the fastest eater could have finished, they were back to collect the trays, tell us to fasten seat-belts, and prepare for landing.

Neither Janine nor I could figure out how long we’d been travelling at this point. But it didn’t matter because at the open end of the tiny airport, we saw Jaya waving. We were back in India and that could only mean one thing. It was time to eat. After a huge and blessedly beef-stewless meal, we headed out for a walk in the nearby town park. We weren’t sure if we were hallucinating from the sleep deprivation and jet-lag, but we saw what looked like Cinderella’s carriage (if Cindy had been REALLY into neon). Gorgeously dressed guests, beautiful horses, a full marching band, and women with gigantic light fixtures were all milling around.

“Wedding,” Jaya said. Sure enough, a young man dressed like a prince was soon seated in the carriage and it was drawn slowly through the streets, the band playing, and the women with the giant light fixtures now balanced on their heads leading the way. They didn’t get far before a tune that everyone seemed to know started up.

Wedding-Crashers-Rule76-T-ShirtsA group of gorgeously dressed women—wedding guests and bridal party—all began to dance in an expanding circle. “It’s called the garba,” Jaya explained. “Here in Gujarat, you can’t help dancing it.” Even as we watched, women approached me and asked me to join them. Ignoring my protests, they pulled me in. Somehow, only hours into our India trip, I’d crashed a wedding.

Luckily, the movie Wedding Crashers had been in the oldie selections on the plane coming over. I’d watched it in between refusing beef stew, so I already knew the rules of wedding crashing (as listed here).

But for those of you who might have missed the movie, here’s how I applied those rules:


DNWHiPNote: If you’d like to hear more about our travels through India, please check out Do Not Wash Hands in Plates, the story of three women eating our way across India in search of adventure, elephants, temples, palaces, western toilets, monkeys, the perfect paratha…and the kindness of Indian strangers..


 

And for urban fantasy fans, my new book Round Trip Fare is now available.

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[click on image for preview and reviews from Amazon]

Warden Carey Parker’s to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.

And then there is… him. For the past two months, a dark stranger has persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids. Well, whatever trouble he’s selling, Carey Parker is not buying.

Carey knows superpowers suck, her own included. From childhood she’s only had two options. She can take the Metro train to Null City and a normal life. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hell-hounds become poodles. Demons settle down, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. Or she can master the powers of her warrior gift and fight a war she can’t win, in a world where she never learned how to lose.

Round Trip Fare RWA Contest Finalist 2015

She just has a few details to work out first. Her parents have been killed, her brother and sister targeted, and the newest leader of the angels trying to destroy Null City might be the one person she loves most in the world. And her sexy new partner’s gift lets him predict deaths. Hers.

It just would have been nice if someone told her the angels were all on the other side.


  • TITLE: Round Trip Fare
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy (okay and there is humour, romance, a sentient train, a great dog, and bunch of other stuff—but Amazon only gives you a couple of words to pick genre, so…)
  • Series: Null City [NOTE: prequel One Way Fare is now available FREE from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, and the Amazon UK kindle version directly from Barb) but this book works as standalone.
  • Release date: 7 April, 2016

Contact & Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Blog | Facebook | Twitter: @barbtaub | Goodreads


 

Barb pix 300 dpiBarb Taub:

In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb wrote a humour column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them travelling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.

I’d like to thank Barb for the great post which I hope you’ve all enjoyed as much as I have … and if you haven’t done so yet, this is the time to pick up one of her books … take it from me, they’re a great read!  Ciao, Bastet.

 

V for Vendetta – Thoughts – April 3, 2016

Vforvendettamov.jpg

The other evening I decided to watch “V for Vendetta” and admit that I was more enchanted once again by the exquisite use of the English language used by our hero, V rather than with the story of the movie (based on the 1988 Vertigo Comics limited series of the same name by Alan Moore and David Lloyd) Here is just one of his first soliloquies,his introduction of himself to Evey.

Here is the extract of this first introductory speech given by V to Evey:

Evey: Who are you?
V. : Who? Who is but the form following the function of what and what I am is a man in a mask.
Evey: Well I can see that.
V. : Of course you can, I’m not questioning your powers of observation, I’m merely remarking upon the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.
Evey: Oh, right.
V. : But on this most auspicious of nights, permit me then, in lieu of the more commonplace soubriquet, to suggest the character of this dramatis persona. Voila! In view humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the “vox populi” now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin, van guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.
The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.
Verily this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honour to meet you and you may call me V.
Evey: Are you like a crazy person?
V. : I’m quite sure they will say so.

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I know of no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…

I’ve watched this film several times, and though I admit I’d not want to take up arms as V or Evey have done, I wonder;   in the face of the tyranny described in the world in the story … would it be right to sit back and allow freedom to be trampled upon so that we might feel safe. I don’t think it likely we’ll have to face quite a dictatorship again (oh so very Hitleriana). I’m more inclined to think we’ll find ourselves in a Huxleyan distopia or one of its variations as we are manipulated by social networks into a virtual corner … but one never knows. One thing we may be sure of though is, that history has shown us, time and again, that tyranny is the most common form of human government. I’ve seen nothing to reassure me that that has changed so sooner or later it will be so again and what will we do?

Round Trip Fare – A New Release by Barb Taub – March 23, 2016

Hello World!

For all of you Barb Taub fans I’ve got news!  A new sequel to her Null City urban fantasy series is scheduled for release on April 7th 2016!

 

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The title of the book is Round Trip Fare:

Is it wrong that shooting people is just so much easier than making decisions? Carey wonders— and not for the first time. But the Agency claims this will be an easy one. A quick pickup of a missing teen and she won’t even have to shoot anybody. Probably. 

Carey knows superpowers suck, her own included. From childhood she’s only had two options. She can take the Metro train to Null City and a normal life. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. Or she can master the powers of her warrior gift and fight a war she can’t win, in a world where she never learned how to lose. 

And then there is… him. For the past two months, a dark stranger has persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids. Well, whatever trouble he’s selling, Carey Parker is not buying. Her to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.

She just has a few details to work out first. Her parents have been killed, her brother and sister targeted, and the newest leader of the angels trying to destroy Null City might be the one person she loves most in the world. And her sexy new partner’s gift lets him predict deaths. Hers.

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More about my favourite author tomorrow but in the meantime, why not take peek at her blog … if you really need a pick me up, that’s the place to go!  Here’s just a taste of why I love her … An American learns to eat in England!

 

 

On Quitting Smoking – January 19, 2016

Chart showing the side effects of nicotine

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on my body and my life.  The first step has been to stop smoking.  You can do a lot of things to stop smoking but basically you have just stop.  The problem is you have to understand what you’re actually up against, and what you’re up against is an addiction to nicotine.

The thing that many people don’t understand when you say that a smoker is a nicotine addict it that we’re talking about the same sort of phenomenon as a person addicted to alcohol, cocaine or an opiate.  Here are a few symptoms taken from an article on Medical News Today (click the link for the full list):

“Signs and symptoms of substance addiction may include:

  • The person takes the substance and cannot stop – in many cases, such as nicotine, alcohol or drug dependence, at least one serious attempt was made to give up, but unsuccessfully.
  • Withdrawal symptoms – when body levels of that substance go below a certain level the patient has physical and mood-related symptoms. There are cravings, bouts of moodiness, bad temper, poor focus, a feeling of being depressed and empty, frustration, anger, bitterness and resentment.
  • There may suddenly be increased appetite. Insomnia is a common symptom of withdrawal. In some cases the individual may have constipation or diarrhea. With some substances, withdrawal can trigger violence, trembling, seizures, hallucinations, and sweats.
  • Addiction continues despite health problem awareness – the individual continues taking the substance regularly, even though they have developed illnesses linked to it. For example, a smoker may continue smoking even after a lung or heart condition develops.
  • Social and/or recreational sacrifices – some activities are given up because of an addiction to something. For example, an alcoholic may turn down an invitation to go camping or spend a day out on a boat if no alcohol is available, a smoker may decide not to meet up with friends in a smoke-free pub or restaurant.
  • Maintaining a good supply – people who are addicted to a substance will always make sure they have a good supply of it, even if they do not have much money. Sacrifices may be made in the house budget to make sure the substance is as plentiful as possible. …

And what causes addiction, here I’m talking about nicotine addiction, but it’s no different for someone who becomes addicted to alcohol or other substance.

My personal idea on the subject is that, once one becomes aware that one is dealing with an addiction and not just a “bad habit”, one can begin to face the problem for what it is and make life changes which will help one to stop smoking. So, I gave up caffeinated coffee, cut out the alcohol (both of these tend to call nicotine cravings), regulated my diet to avoid sugar compensation … another substance that is pretty addictive and triggers dopamine and I’ve been trying to increase my exercise. I actually had mild withdrawal symptoms compared so some of the things other people have had to go through – the most bothersome was (and sometimes still is) lack of concentration plus I had problems sleeping at night, I felt irritable, but living alone, there was no one to be irritable with, a little melancholic at one moment a little hyper the next and very very lazy.  Giving up caffeinated coffee wiped out the insomnia, but replaced it with a couple of days of constant drowsiness – where I could fall asleep typing!

Fortunately, over the years I’d restricted my smoking to two areas of the house, the terrace or the loggia.  I usually smoked alone, rarely in public (most places one can’t smoke anyway) and I smoked around 6 cigarettes a day.  Unfortunately, sometimes I’d interrupt my writing to go for a cigarette and this has created a few problems.

If there is one thing though that I know about addiction problems is that even one encounter with the substance (in this case a single encounter with nicotine) will set the symptoms off again and a relapse is guaranteed. This is the basic law of Addiction and you can’t break that law and stay clean, ask any alcoholic. So this would be true if my substance were alcohol, heroin or cocaine.  Once an addiction has been wired into your brain, there’s no taking down the system, it’s yours for life.

If you don’t smoke, don’t start and if you do and want to stop, it’s possible, but in my opinion the only way to do it is to stop smoking, no shilly-shallying about it. If you have a group of friends to help, or if you can find a group like smokers anonymous, you’re very lucky indeed and so take full advantage of that opportunity.  However, substituting with nicotine inhalers is not a way to stop, it’s only prolonging the inevitable end of going through the symptoms of quitting.  If you do want to quit smoking but not give up nicotine, an idea I’d played with for a year, that can also be a solution – using inhalers (some are quite chic).  It all depends on what you want to do. I decided that I’d rather give up on nicotine, which is first and foremost a highly toxic natural insecticide. But if you want to know what nicotine is  read HERE.  Oh and I feel it’s a strike against another unethical multinational industry

My next discussion will be food and yes, I’m going to start addressing the obesity epidemic that is covering the globe and some of the crazies foisted onto the public as good nutrition. Ciao,  Bastet.

Stay by Me – unnamed invented form – January 12, 2016

lilac tree

stay by me
even as the dawn breaks
the sun gives way
to another cold day of rain
stay here between these silken sheets
stay by me

here we’re warm
we can play here ’til noon
we can talk too
listen to my story of trees
stay here between these silken sheets
here we’re warm

let’s sleep on
no reason to get up now
our bodies are warm
we have our spring in winter
stay here between these silken sheets
let’s sleep on

stay by me
here we’re warm
let’s sleep on
[goodbye my love]

G.s.k. ‘16

 

(5) Words: | REASON | BREAK | STAY | GIVE | RAIN |
The Secret Keeper: Weekly Writing Prompt #19

Tears in Rain – Blade Runner revisited – January 8, 2015

rain Wolfgang Suschitzky - Charing Cross Road, London, 1937

Rain by Wolfgang Suschitzky-Charing Cross Road, London, 1937

Reading various pieces today written by my fellow writers for Magpie Tales using the above photo as prompt, my mind kept returning to the famous scene from “Blade Runner” ‘Tears in the Rain’.  I still get tears in my eyes every time I watch that scene, though I can’t say how many times I’ve seen it. However, it  doesn’t affect me quite the same way though if I just read it.  A great write without a doubt, but without seeing Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty) save Harrison Ford (Deckard) just as Deckard’s hand gives way, the whole monologue loses it’s poignancy.

This scene grabs the listener, because here we feel and understand our own human need to pass the testimony of our life when life leaves us.  Throughout the film the Nexus replicants  give us a feeling of horror … they’re in a word creepy, inhuman objects that imitate humans too closely they’re soulless objects (not to mention they do some pretty dastardly dos).  At no time do we really sympathize, identify or understand them –  we’re prevented from doing so due to theirr destructive violent anger.  In fact except for the saving grace of the replicant Rachel, we might feel inclined to agree with inspector Harry Bryant that replicants are little more than “skinjobs” (- certainly inhuman robots).

Then, Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty) saves Harrison Ford (Deckard) demonstrating through his death monologue that he is as human as Deckard himself. That scene shows us that the replicants are the abused by-product of a soulless science born in a society incapable of understanding what the replicants, whom they live with in fear and horror, are.  Science here hasn’t imitated life, it’s created life – and Roy Batty has a soul, like it or not.

We might not have gotten the same impression if Rutger Hauer hadn’t decided to cut the original scene without consulting the screen-writer David Peoples or Ridley Scott the evening before shooting the, now famous, scene.

The original read:

“I have known adventures, seen places you people will never see, I’ve been Off-world and back…frontiers! I’ve stood on the back deck of a blinker bound for the Plutition Camps with sweat in my eyes watching the stars fight on the shoulder of Orion. I’ve felt wind in my hair, riding test boats off the black galaxies and seen an attack fleet burn like a match and disappear. I’ve seen it…felt it!”

Hauer felt that the lines were “opera talk” and “hi-tech speech” and didn’t represent his character and had little to do with the rest of the film.  So he, in his words; “put a knife in it” the night before filming.

In an interview with Dan Jolin, Hauer said that these final lines showed that Batty wanted to “make his mark on existence … the replicant in the final scene, by dying, shows Deckard what a real man is made of.”” (Wikipedia)

Both Scott and Peoples insist that the lines were written by Hauer himself but Hauer feels that he only did a little editing .. here are the final lines so we can decide for ourselves:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain. Time to die.

Tannhäuser Gate isn’t mentioned anywhere in the original script but thanks to this brief monologue it has been used in several Scifi sub-genre  stories.  I just read and though you might be interested in this reference to Tannhäuser Gate:

The name probably derives from Richard Wagner‘s operatic adaption of the legend of the medieval German knight and poet Tannhäuser. Joanne Taylor, in an article discussing film noir and its epistemology, remarks on the relation between Wagner’s opera and Batty’s reference, and suggests that Batty aligns himself with Wagner’s Tannhäuser, a character who has fallen from grace with men and with God. Both, she claims, are characters whose fate is beyond their own control.

Not bad for someone who just cut several lines and added “All those moments will be lost ….”  Rutger Hauer, in rewriting those lines, in my opinion,  gave a new perspective to the whole movie … before that scene the replicants were only cruel, senseless monsters.

The Haibun – Thoughts – December 30, 2015

I was “googling” today to see if I could find something particularly interesting to write about haibun, basically I was just interested in a “how to write a haibun” page but came up with a treasure trove,  this interesting article on Haibun TodayTransmissions of Haibun by David Cobb of Shalford, Esse, England in the September issue of 2013.

I found this a fascinating read about the transmission of haibun into Western society (and specifically to Britain ) … especially considering that haibun had/has become almost a dead letter until recently in its native Japan: “Toshinori (Nenten) Tsubouchi, began encouraging the genre these past few years in Japanese, partly under the stimulus of Hisashi Miyazaki, who in turn was influenced by SHG (Tito) and Ken Jones (both of Britain)*”.  Of course haibun was introduced to the west thanks to the translation of Nobuyuki Yuasa who translated Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Penguin Classics, 1966).

Before this wonderful translation though,  Jack Kerouac might be considered to be the first westerner to actually write a haibun of sorts:

“Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums and On the Road have certain resemblances to haibun, in attitude if not in execution. […] In The Dharma Bums, Kerouac’s alter ego, Japhy Ryder, is bitten with the same sense of mission: ‘This,’ he said (meaning The Dharma Bums) ‘is really a book about religious vagrants . . . rucksack wanderers . . . Zen lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason.’ We might accept this, right down to the present day, as not a bad description of what haibun means to a good number of those who are intoxicated by the form.” (article cited above)

I myself only discovered the haibun in August of 2013 through a blog called Ligo Haibun hosted by Hamish Gunn which is now closed I think.  One thing I’d noticed was that the haibun has often become a sort of flash fiction or short story with haiku interspersed in it or with a more classical haiku ending and sometimes they’re tales about inner journeys, but certainly they’re rarely a travel diary (which I admit  that I myself have written in all these forms) and quite frankly, haibun today seems to have little to do with Basho’s Oku-no-hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North) 

“Where might haibun stand in relation to these experimental forms? We seem to agree that haiku is a poem conceived (observed) in a flash; some also hold that it is also best recorded (written down) in a flash, though more of us—from Bashō onwards—demur that haiku should be crafted carefully over any length of time. Kerouac also, though we may associate his method with ‘action writing’ and ‘stream of consciousness’, is on record as saying ‘haiku is best reworked and revised.’ ‘Flash writing’ is not to be confused with ‘first thoughts, best thoughts’, better left untouched. The ‘flash’ is a loose measure of the time it takes to read a piece, but not the time it took to write it, or the time needed, after reading it, to absorb it. All this applies equally to haiku and haibun.

Of course, haibun is not ‘flash fiction’. From the point of view of subject matter, most haibun are ‘flash-faction’, an umbrella for sub-sets such as ‘flash history’, ‘flash legend’, ‘flash myth’, ‘flash memoir’, ‘flash essay’, ‘flash diary’, ‘flash journal’, ‘flash travelogue’, ‘flash prose poem’; though there are indeed examples that we might call ‘flash story’ and even ‘flash fairy tale’ and ‘flash science fiction’. Ken Jones has aimed to broaden his readership by calling some of his output ‘haiku stories’.

Interest in ‘short writing’ exists not least in creative writing courses—among students, and among tutors. It is for that reason it seemed to me timely to offer, in tandem, Marching with Tulips—a very varied collection of different types of haibun—and What Happens in Haibun—a study which tries to pinpoint whatever roles haiku may play when embedded in prose. (article cited above).

To be honest, unlike with haiku and other waka, I’d never really looked into what haibun is or isn’t nor of its evolution or history or even where it stands in the world of poets (Japanese and Western) today.  I found this article stimulating enough to want to go and do a little more research into this fascinating genre.

*Some background about the British haibun tradition – Icebox

What Happens in Haibun

On David Cobb’s Marching with Tulips

Icebox a blog dedicated to haiku and haibun that began publishing in 2008

**I found the photo of this panel on Art and Life in an interesting post entitled: “Haibunga!”

Quote of the Day – Virginia Woolf – October 15, 2015

Quote

Today I was preparing my weekly English conversation lesson, I chose to talk about Virginia Woolf and this lovely quote popped up from her essay “A Room of One’s Own” which really impressed me a lot .

For a Pdf copy of the essay follow this LINK

Woody Allen and “Midnight in Paris” – October 5, 2015

For a long time I avoided Woody Allen films … they just seemed so boring to me – perhaps that was to be expected since I’d been raised on Disney and science fiction.

The first Woody Allen I saw was: “Bananas” … and I thereby decided I could do without Woody Allen (I saw it again years later and enjoyed it very much).  The second was “Manhattan” – I was on an Alitalia flight doing the Atlantic crossing from New York to Rome … and fell asleep.

It wasn’t until I saw “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985) that I “discovered” Woody Allen.  Since then I’ve seen quite a few of his films which I’ve really enjoyed especially, the aforementioned  “The Purple Rose of Cairo”, “Zelig”, “Radio Days” and now “Midnight in Paris”.

What’s the common denominator of these films … I’d say nostalgia and wanting to be “elsewhere” or someone else.

Midnight in Paris is the story of a Californian screenwriter, Gil Pender who has a prospering career in Hollywood and a beautiful fiancée Inez.  He and his future wife are vacationing in Paris, a trip paid for by Inez’s wealthy conservative parents, who are also accompanying the young people.

We immediately get the impression that he’s doesn’t feel creatively fulfilled with his successful career and would, like many writers, like to publish his first “novel” (the story he’s written is about a man fascinated with memorabilia – which he’s completed but is unsure whether to present it for publication). He keeps throwing around the idea of moving permanently to Paris and write rather in the more stimulating atmosphere of that city rather than return to the Malibu  But Inez who is very materialistic and attached to her way of life, categorically refuses to even consider giving up her comfy life in the U.S. to share the Bohemian existence of a “starving writer’s” life.

The character of Gil Pender is a figure we’ve met often in Woody Allen films (both in female roles as well as roles Allan has interpreted): the shy, insecure intelligent person with a vague ambition of “going somewhere” … without exactly knowing where.  Gil Pender in particular would like to have lived in the glorious past of the roaring twenties.  One evening, Gil while at a party with Inez and her pedantic friend Paul (whom Inez admires very much) and Paul’s wife, drinks too much wine. While the other three decide to go dancing, he decides to go for a quiet walk alone.  During his evening promenade he is approached by a Peugeot Type 176 car whose occupants invite him to come with them to a party and finds himself rubbing elbows with his literary heroes in the Paris of the twenties.

As a point of interest, Allen wrote the screenplay employing a reverse approach – he started with his title “Midnight in Paris” and went from there.  He’d conceived  Gil Pender as a New England intellectual (a Woody Allen alter-ego), until he began taking into consideration Owen Wilson for the part: “I thought Owen would be charming and funny but my fear was that he was not so eastern at all in his persona,” says Allen. Rewriting the scenes he wrote Gil Pender as a Californian, which worked very well.  A. O. Scott of The New York Times commented on Owen Wilson’s success at playing the Woody Allen persona stating that the film is “marvellously romantic” and credibly blends “whimsy and wisdom”.

This was Allen’s first film completely shot on location in Paris … from the first clips of the film, three and a half minutes of “post card” shots of Paris, with that historical great musical piece  “Si tu vois ma mère” by Sidney Bechet  – we know we’re in for magic. And what about the magical aspect of”Midnight in Paris” compared to “The Purple Rose of Cairo”.  The magical events of both films is never explained but are just accepted as being somehow part of reality. David Edelstein, New York, commended this approach, since “the sci-fi wheels and pulleys … tend to suck up so much screen time in time-travel movies.” Edelstein goes on to applaud the film stating that, “this supernatural comedy isn’t just Allen’s best film in more than a decade; it’s the only one that manages to rise above its tidy parable structure and be easy, graceful, and glancingly funny, as if buoyed by its befuddled hero’s enchantment.” (Edelstein, D. “It’s a Good Woody Allen Movie”, New York. Retrieved October 2, 2011.)

© G.s.k. ‘15