Wednesday, July 16, 2014



Music of the Spheres. . . well. I had to call it something. Music has always been a part of my life and is something that I used as a conduit to another place. I hear that a lot and I get that; stuff about how one is "transported," or "forgets their problems," and it's a lot of bullshit. Maybe it is so for other people, but I'm not talking about that kind of transportation. I'm a musician and was born one. Something that I just knew, like a lot of stuff we just know, in an unconscious, visceral way, although when I knew it, I was too young to articulate all of that. It's an atavistic knowing, like an animal knows it must migrate along with its fellow beings. It can either be a blessing or a goddamned werewolf, or both, but it has to be answered and lived up to, even when life has other ideas. Even when you're mentally ill, like Bederich Smetana and so many other composers and players and you're not always sure you have anything like a half-assed grasp on reality, because you've seen and felt and done and experienced things that you know are true, even if the rest of the world remains either unconvinced, or worse yet, clueless, because it takes insight, guts, heart and the willingness to step off of that cliff, knowing that a convergence of faith and scientific knowledge will see you through, to do what is absolutely the right thing. Both morally and universally and I mean that both literally and figuratively. If you stick with me and have some patience, as I de-construct my tale, I promise you, it will be worth it.

The philosopher, Frederic Nietzsche once said, or is said to have said, or maybe thought it—I tend to get fuzzy on details, although the larger picture is accurate—that "Life without music would be a mistake". I absolutely believe that to be true, and not in an "oops" kind of way, but in a cataclysmic destroyer-of-worlds-Shiva kind of way. And it's not only because I yearn, cry and laugh when I hear music, but I also mourn, feel pain, rage, and dread. In short, the entire panoply of human emotions are writ large, in music, and I along with a majority of the human race get that. If you don't believe me, just listen to Beethoven's 3rd Symphony.

It is every emotion I just mentioned, plus a smattering of syncopation, that sounds suspiciously jazzy. When other artists in other disciplines are asked what they consider they highest form of art to be, it is natural that musicians say "music is the highest form of expression of the arts," but then, someone like Nic Cage comes along and says the very same thing. This from a man who can do and become literally anything on film. That is high praise for an art, indeed. I recognize and understand what he is saying, because I turn the analogy on it's head this way: Boxing is the highest form of sport and sportsmanship, because of its artistry and brutality; it is truly the Sweet Science.

In no other sport is there the complexity of thought, physicality, rhythm, discipline, harmony and timing. I have run into other musicians at boxing matches and it's noteworthy that at first we're surprised, embarrassed to be caught out, and then. . . not so much. Because we all recognize the same thing in the fighters. So, I understood Nic Cage when I first started watching his movies; my fascination with him lay not in his acting, but in his performance as an artist. I think at one time, we all shared that fascination with creating music and the inherent instincts or feelings that have been there from birth, not just as babies, but as a civilization, remain and will never become vestigial.

Tchaikovsky is one of the hardest of composers for me to listen to when I am in a depressed state. Black unto black, I could not listen at all to his 6th symphony for almost a year after my father died. The last movement of that piece, written not long before his death is completely without hope. What a horrible, horrible emotion to experience, and even more terrible for the fact that he was able to articulate it so thoroughly through his composing, and understood his own pain. It is monumental in it's suffering and truly beautiful, but if you're having a bad day, month, year, or decade, it's best to avoid his 6th Symphony; the beautiful third movement waltz in 5/4 time and all. Skip the whole thing and go zone out to that famous bubble-gum composer's greatest hits: Mozart. Ick.

But, if it took Tchaikovsky to break my heart, it took Mahler to steal it away and then, lose it in a way I could never retrieve it. Not because of the dark magic and nature of his music, but because he shows such a human side and such a hopeful one, in the face of withering and horrible circumstances. He, being a Bohemian composer, has the odd, folk-music way of playing what seems to be happy-go-lucky tunes in a Major key, while underlying all, is a minor underpinning. Mahler "got it" through his music, which is so human and heartfelt as to be terrifying, but not in his life, which is far different than Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and all the more tragic for his not knowing, or understanding how black his life would become.

Married to the beautiful Alma, he forebore her infidelities, and was to have said, just 2 weeks before his death, from myocarditis, at age 51, "Ah, Alma, we will live forever!" In his 1st symphony, he has a funeral march, that is of an animal, buried by animals, they periodically break out into the hellishness of a gypsy-klezmer group gone completely off the rails, before once again regaining their composure and fall back into their dirge-like procession, as they bear the corpse to it's final repose. The music seems to ask at the end, "Can I not linger, just a while longer? I'm having such a good time. . .” These are my impressions, my feelings; that's another great thing about music. Although we're hard-wired to accept basic fundamentals as fact, say, Major versus minor keys, music is entirely subjective. Musicology bedamned; I am sure Musicologists imparted some greater meaning to that passage, but I hear a simple plea to hang around for a bit more of the fun.

I got more out of Music History for time and place, than I did in Music Theory for ear-training (I have perfect pitch, and thus, am lazy, so I did a lot of coasting in music school) and why humans are drawn to certain tones; we all “agree” on the basic language. Interesting enough and if this be true, and I believe it to be so, what else is drawn to these tones; these chords. Because I do not for one second believe that we are the only sentient beings in the universe. You see, the universe has a tone, a note, a key, if you will. A note that we all contribute to. Some say it's E flat, some say F or F sharp. I think it's all of those and more, because the universe is ever-changing and is not an entropic thing. In a way it's like the "you'll change history if you go back in time and step on a butterfly," but not really, Because we change courses everyday, just as we change our note. It is a sonic, universal symphony.

Victor Hugo referred to it in his masterpiece “Hunchback of Notre Dame”, in his description of Easter or Pentecost in Paris in the fifteenth century:

. . . beneath the rising sun of Easter or of Pentecost--climb upon some elevated point, whence you command the entire capital; and be present at the wakening of the chimes. Behold, at a signal given from heaven, for it is the sun which gives it, all those churches quiver simultaneously. First come scattered strokes, running from one church to another, as when musicians give warning that they are about to begin. Then, all at once, behold!--for it seems at times, as though the ear also possessed a sight of its own,--behold, rising from each bell tower, something like a column of sound, a cloud of harmony. First, the vibration of each bell mounts straight upwards, pure and, so to speak, isolated from the others, into the splendid morning sky; then, little by little, as they swell they melt together, mingle, are lost in each other, and amalgamate in a magnificent concert. It is no longer anything but a mass of sonorous vibrations incessantly sent forth from the numerous belfries; floats, undulates, bounds, whirls over the city, and prolongs far beyond the horizon the deafening circle of its oscillations.

Nevertheless, this sea of harmony is not a chaos; great and profound as it is, it has not lost its transparency; you behold the windings of each group of notes which escapes from the belfries. You can follow the dialogue, by turns grave and shrill, of the treble and the bass; you can see the octaves leap from one tower to another; you watch them spring forth, winged, light, and whistling, from the silver bell, to fall, broken and limping from the bell of wood; you admire in their midst the rich gamut which incessantly ascends and re-ascends the seven bells of Saint-Eustache; you see light and rapid notes running across it, executing three or four luminous zigzags, and vanishing like flashes of lightning. Yonder is the Abbey of Saint-Martin, a shrill, cracked singer; here the gruff and gloomy voice of the Bastille; at the other end, the great tower of the Louvre, with its bass. The royal chime of the palace scatters on all sides, and without relaxation, resplendent trills, upon which fall, at regular intervals, the heavy strokes from the belfry of Notre-Dame, which makes them sparkle like the anvil under the hammer. At intervals you behold the passage of sounds of all forms which come from the triple peal of Saint-Germaine des Prés. Then, again, from time to time, this mass of sublime noises opens and gives passage to the beats of the Ave Maria, which bursts forth and sparkles like an aigrette of stars. Below, in the very depths of the concert, you confusedly distinguish the interior chanting of the churches, which exhales through the vibrating pores of their vaulted roofs.”

I sure as HELL am no Victor Hugo, but then, I'm no Jascha Heifetz and I got along just swell on the viola; maybe I can pull off the same trick in telling my story. I used to scuba-dive off the coast of California in Monterey. Too young and stupid to know better, I and a cohort dove off the pier and went towards the edge of the Continental Shelf. The Continental Shelf is defined as "a submerged border of a continent that slopes gradually and extends to a point of steeper descent to the ocean bottom". The gradual sloping part varies, however, and we knew the particular spot where the drop was precipitous and sharp. The Pacific Ocean is cold and we were both wearing full wet suits.

After clawing our way through the kelp beds and swimming off shore for a while, the water rapidly deepened, as the drop-off of the shelf came up swiftly. The water there is inky black, and seems almost viscous. We slowed as we approached and held our breaths. As I recall, we were down about 60 or 70 feet; this would not be a decompression dive. When we stuck our heads out over the shelf and took a peek, the water, no, the space, was so much blacker; stygian, more viscous-like; almost gelatinous, inky and beyond cold. So very cold, that the contrast between the warmth of my wet suit and the upwelling water was instantly felt, but the thing I remember most as we hung our heads out over this. . . thing that seemed almost alive, and, that we later found out was the sea bed, that went from 60 or 70 feet to over 2000 feet or more, was the sound it made.

The Continental Shelf makes a sound, much like the sound you hear when you put your ear up to a garden hose and listen, when the water isn't running. It's a hollow, spooky sound. It thrums and changes and seems to echo and it's all around you. You can feel it in your bones, your ears; your heart. It is deep; probably too deep a note for the human ear to discern, were one on land, but here, you are submerged in it. Not in the heart of it, but more near the top. I remember thinking that to be at the heart of this great sound would be eerie indeed, and I might not survive such an encounter. It was terrible and gorgeous in its significance and weight. It too, has its own note and changes in pitch and frequency, I am sure, with the changing of the tides, seasons and pollution and man-made structures that come and go over the centuries. Now, apply that to the universe. That, my friends, is the "Music of the Spheres".

This is the first draft of the prologue to my novel I wrote for #NaNoWriMo in 2013. Any constructive criticism would be much appreciated, since I have never done anything like this before. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I love doing these cover reveals and interviews for my favorite authors and all-around wonderful friends that I've met in the two-plus years that I have been blogging. As a rule, you all are a generous bunch and fun to be around and last April, when we were doing the A-to-Z Challenge, I had the great good fortune to run into several new and zany friends! As is my wont, I offered my website as a place for you and this is a standing rule, to do cover reveals, host interviews with your characters, allow me to ask you questions; in short, anything that will help you sell an extra book or three. I enjoy doing this and I always find new things to read. So! With that in mind, today, we're hosting the COVER REVEAL of Crystal Collier's new book, "Soulless". This looks like a marvelous book and Crystal is a marvelous lady, who loves cheese. We bonded immediately when I found this out during an A-to-Z chat. Anyway, with no further verbiage, here is Ms. Collier's COVER REVEAL!

Have you met the Soulless and Passionate? In the world of 1770 where supernatural beings mix with humanity, Alexia is playing a deadly game.

SOULLESS, Book 2 in the Maiden of Time trilogy

Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she's forced to unleash her true power.

And risk losing everything.

What people are saying about this series: 

"With a completely unique plot that keeps you guessing and interested, it brings you close to the characters, sympathizing with them and understanding their trials and tribulations." --SC, Amazon reviewer

"It's clean, classy and supernaturally packed with suspense, longing, intrigue and magic." --Jill Jennings, TX

"SWOON." --Sherlyn, Mermaid with a Book Reviewer

Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and “friend†(a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

COMING October 13, 2014

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I've gone back and finished “Under the Dome” by Stephen King, and I cannot say that it was my favorite King book ever, or even up there in the 50 percentile. I don't really know why this is, but as time has passed and books like “The Stand”, “Salem's Lot”, “Dead Zone” and even “The Shining” come up on their 30th plus years' anniversaries, they look more like books written by someone who was truly serious about literature in general and in horror specifically. One of his finest books, “Different Seasons” produced three exemplary novellas; an extremely difficult form to master, and they were rich in language and satisfying, even in their brevity. “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”, “Apt Pupil”, and “The Body” each left behind the supernatural and horror genres King was famous for at the time and they were resoundingly wonderful to read.


There is a television show of the same name. I got through about 14 minutes of it and had to turn off the tee vee. I understand it's been renewed.

But, it seemed to me, that after the publishing of “It”, King had hit a wall, or gotten into a rut. I'm not saying his writing became formulaic, although, after so many books, some of the characters do take on a sameness. What bothers me specifically is that his writing voice has become artificial. It becomes harder and harder, with exceptions to buy into whatever his characters' scrapes, situations, life-and-death perils and choices are about and I find myself dwelling more and more on the voice that is telling the tale, and to me it is not ringing true.

Maybe all wildly successful authors go through this; they hit their stride and they find just the right note with an audience, and subconsciously, they begin writing TO that audience, rather than just spinning out their tales. One of my favorite authors, Aldrea Alien, says in her bio “Since discovering the love of writing at the age of twelve, she hasn't found an ounce of peace from the characters plaguing her mind.” I love that; she puts her stories out there and they are hum-dingers. She's writing currently about a race of lizard-people and there are all sorts of things afoot. Being totally rational, and given to reading history books, I was a bit skeptical at first, but she makes it so damned REAL, that her world is easy to buy into. Her worlds are spectacular and her plots are action-filled. Lizard-people, huh. Who'da thunk it? Her characters are fully-fleshed and their actions spring organically, from their previous experiences and lives.


"The Rogue King" Available on Again, as one who reads crime fiction, or history books, I became instantly captivated with Aldrea's Koral and his struggles and the world he lives in.
Back to the “Dome”, and King's writing; a quick synopsis can be found here. Some of King's characters make this kind of organic sense, most notably, Dale Barbara, the protagonist of the book. As a veteran of Dubya's mis-informed incursion into Iraq, Barbara is familiar with the techniques of torture and humiliation that were de rigueur as a part of an occupying unit in the Army, but that was not who he was, and ultimately, his decency and humanity win out. After a brief stint in Chester Mill's jail, which sees his life threatened by Junior Rennie, who conveniently has a brain tumor, which is causing him to be not just evil like his father, but overtly batshit, Barbara is freed, to lead the good faction, that eventually wins out.


"Big" Jim Rennie, as portrayed by the awesome Dean Norris, late of "Breaking Bad". This man can do good and evil equally well, and it's too bad King didn't have him for a template in the book. As it is, he is infinitely creepier in the show (so I've heard and can believe) than what King originally wrote.

The problem for me is the antagonist, Big Jim Rennie, used car salesman and 2nd town Selectman, who is just pure evil, through and through and of such a cartoonish quality, I find it hard to buy into ANYTHING he is selling, whether it be a car, or his own home-spun philosophy, regarding who should run the town after the Dome has fallen. No reason is given, as to his badness; did he wet the bed as a kid? Were his parents dysfunctional? Who the hell knows and I really was well-nigh fed up with him and his stupid dialogue.


Dale Barbara is played by actor Mike Vogel in the series; he seems to have made little impression on me, as I registered him as a cipher. He also seems to be a bit younger than your average Iraqi war vet, but hey, that's tee vee!

This is another thing about King that drives me batshit. In “The Stand”, people, including Randall Flagg, acted and talked like normal people; you could buy into Flagg's brand of Evil, because it was so subtle; so seductive. But with Big Jim, I find it hard to believe that he could hoodwink an entire town and run a successful methamphetamine lab out of the Christers' radio station WCIK and people NOT know about it; the guy is as subtle as a lead balloon. The kind of lead balloon that has a gondola and people would ride in, not a kid's balloon; he's that obvious and non-creepy. Everyone's a "cotton-picker" and/or a "Son of a Buck" which wears thin, and that falsity of his language piles onto the falseness of his character. If we're meant to believe that he is a Town Selectman (one out of three, who all seem reasonably sane, although one of them has a drug addiction, which she manages to kick, 40 seconds before her gruesome death at a town gathering; very King-esque) then, we must assume the rest of the town doesn't give two hoots and a holler, or they're all on meth, which turns out not to be the case.


Julia Shumway, played by Rachelle Lefevre, on the show "Under the Dome". In the book, Julia is the town's sole editor of the newspaper and is several years older than Dale Barbara, but that doesn't usually play well in tee vee land. In the book, Julia goes to the Space Kids and makes a lone plea for mercy to be let free. It works, but the ending feels tacked on, rushed and there's no sense of resolution.

The ending didn't work for me either; it was more Star Trek (to quote Wikipedia) in the “Can't we all just get along” school of reasoning by Julia Shumway, than anything else. The idea that Space Kids were looking at these people under a Dome from a jillion miles and observing their goings-on, much in the way kids have looked at ant farms is not a new one, nor is the idea of sequestering a bunch of individuals – people, pigs, cows, whatever – as in “Lord of the Flies” to see what they do in the absence of authority. But most certainly, Julia's little heart-felt plea at the very end of the book, resulting in the presto! change-o! lifting of the Dome, to sweet, sweet fresh air and then, bam! The End. Well, it just all seemed rather hastily written to me, and didn't resonate as a satisfying ending.

In reading over some other critiques before writing this, I do admire King's antipathy for the Bush-Cheney administration and understand why he chose Dale Barbara as a vet of the War in Iraq, as his protagonist, and why he touches so often on the idea of wanton and casual torture; not as a means to an end, or because people are callous and cruel necessarily. It can be as simple as something to ease boredom, which is a hugely frightening thought. 

This is an un-retouched, un-Photo-Shopped picture. You can just see the evil dripping off this man. I have a short, short list of people I would dearly love to see underground; he's on it. I make no excuse for my lack of acceptance, tolerance, or forgiveness for those particular individuals, nor do I think that how I feel is a bad thing; at least I'm honest.

The metaphor and/or idea of raging little kids not being able to do anything but lash out at an unseen enemy when it was demonstrably clear that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 would seem preposterous, were it not for the fact that the Bush Administration proceeded to go ahead and do just that: invade Iraq, after the invasion of Afghanistan, and months of gleeful trumpeting about hidden WMDs in Iraq, which never existed, nor could they. Anyone paying two minutes of attention to current affairs in the 80s, 90s and 00s would know this; Iraq had not the infrastructure, nor the will after having their asses kicked in the Iran-Iraq conflict that was only ended, when a brokered peace eight years into the war, brought about a re-establishment of the pre-war borders. Iraq then went on to fail miserably in the invasion of Kuwait and subsequent ass-kicking from the U.S., so they were not really inclined to start up a new conflict. We saw a weakened country; a corrupt and teetering tyranny and took full advantage of it. But, I digress.

I was agreeing with King's assessment of the Bush-Cheney administration, although, King saw Cheney as Jim Rennie and Bush as Andy Sanders, the do-nothing selectman, who discovers the joys of becoming a tweaker. That part may be true; I've always had my suspicions about Bush. But, Cheney? Rennie is no where near as evil as that man. Enough said. Also let me add this; parts of the book were written a long time ago, and parts are new. Much of it is allegorical and I have to be honest. I have seldom read an allegorical book that worked, with the sole exception being C. S. Lewis and his “Chronicles of Narnia”. It's just always so painfully obvious to me, what the writer is trying to convey and it usually falls flat.


Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis

Anyway, I had to force myself to finish the book, which is something unusual for me. I would love to read King's “November 22, 1963”, and see if that doesn't have a more adult tone about it. I didn't post earlier this week, as I just started a Clinical Trial, was gone all day, and stupidly didn't have a post ready for Wednesday. I will be hosting a cover reveal for a friend tomorrow, and can't wait! Anyway, happy rowing, fellow ROWers and more to come!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


I always look forward to seeing my neurologist. She's a wonderful doctor; a kind, caring and compassionate soul and is a mean wit, although I'm not really sure if she's aware of that fact. Since I was diagnosed with e. t. a year ago, visits to her have been more along the lines of a coffee klatsch, minus the coffee, and some witty and very astute observations from her regarding life. Today we critiqued Samuel Beckett plays, and “new music,” some of the forms of Art that I liken to “The Emperor's New Clothes” School of Whatever. This can also apply to Public Art, the sort that is put up in public squares and in open spaces, to guarantee maximum viewage and eye damage to as many viewers as possible.

 Can you imagine sitting in the office with this giant blue bear? What in the hell were these people thinking. . . or smoking. . . or shooting up, when they came up with this doozy? Oh, and I just noticed the upside-down red and white church. WTF? Same goes for the melted blue car in the upper left.

 A giant, metal, paper airplane. People get paid wheelbarrows of dough to come up with this insipid dreck.

Eyesores abounded in Ann Arbor, Michigan; there was one with a group of mannequins climbing a very tall steel ladder and crammed up along the top, as if they had all run into an invisible ceiling. Ant-like, the ones below were just a-climbin' up into the ones stuck at the top, creating a sort of wedge-shaped grouping of arms, legs and bald heads. The title referred to something nihilistic or inane, like “The Futility of the Worker's Plight”. To me, it just looked like a bunch of dummies on a ladder. Somebody paid good money for that and someone else laughed all the way to the bank. On the next block over was the giant metal cube, that was affixed to the pavement on one of it's corners. It would spin easily if you pushed it. I never did so, because I was afraid the monstrous thing would break off it's pinnings and crush me and 17 onlookers. Public Art can be dangerous!

Somehow, during the appointment, during the can-you-touch-my-finger-then-touch-your-nose-really-really-fast test, in which I always, always spazz out and touch my leg, or her ear, or some shit, the subject of Samuel Beckett came up. I had lived through “Waiting for Godot”, coming out on the other end of that play with a general what-the-fuck-was-that? sort of feeling, but at age eighteen, I was pretty much in a sea of what-the-fuck. I still am, but it's more a sort of confuse-a-what, brought on by my brain's own general demand for everything being made crystal-clear IMMEDIATELY and when, as so often happens in the course of life, that demand goes unrequited, my brain supplies its own answer and it's usually no where near anything close to reality on this planet. Maybe Neptune, from which I believe I'm commuting to and from daily, but not of Earth. This just only enriches my life in untold many and manifest ways and I've come to grips with it. But, I digress.


These ladies don't look like the bag-lady, hobos that I saw when I saw this at Stanford, but better clothing doesn't make it any more comprehensible. Maybe I'm just dim-mish.

I started telling my doctor about this OTHER Samuel Beckett play, or vignette, “Come and Go” I sat through at Stanford University once, and it consisted of three hobo-ish looking sorts who sat on a plain, wooden bench and said virtually nothing for about 3 or 4 hours, or so it seemed. These three bag ladies, named Flo, Vi and Ru were holding hands in an interlocking style – I didn't know this at the time, I just saw the thing cold – and spout what seem to be meaningless inanities for a total of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Lots of pregnant pauses, and pretending to be statuary. Finally, Vi, or Ru, or Flo, I cannot remember which says “I can feel the rings”. Finis. Play over. I had to go back and read the script and see if this still felt as out-of-touch for me as it did, when I saw it in my 'teens. Yep; no clearer. Beckett was odd. So, I'm telling my doctor all of this and about the hobo women, or vagabonds, or whatever, and she blurts out, while she was scribbling out some notes, “Hmmmm, sounds like “Waiting for Godot” meets Arlo Guthrie”.” I don't think she knows how funny she is sometimes, but I sure agree with her assessment.

Anyway, after our little chin-wag, I got my Primodone refills and I'm solid for 6 months. Graduated from e. t. boot camp. But, I certainly look forward to our visits; she's a keeper.

The '60s and 1968, in particular were a time that saw the United States of America turned on it's head and for the first time, we began to question those we had put in power. After LBJ and his Great Society, which gave us a safety net on top of what Franklin Delano Roosevelt had started during his Presidency, it began to look like there might be some true equality and hope for people in the lower income strata, who had had none. But, 1968 changed that, quite a bit. We discovered we had been lied to about the true state of the war in Viet Nam.

Robert MacNamara, General Westmoreland (deputy commander of Military Assistance Command, VietNam, or MACV) had been providing LBJ and the oversight committees in Congress and the Senate with falsified reports on the number of casualties of both the North Vietnamese and our own troops. We had been told that we were winning this war, and it was only a matter of time before we penetrated the North, took Hanoi, and unseated Ho Chi Minh, the titular President of North Viet Nam.

In March of 1968, during the Vietnamese New Year, that myth was busted wide open. A carefully laid plan, up and down the length of Viet Nam saw the uprising of North Vietnamese, especially in the South and in Saigon; the Tet Offensive. We took heavy, heavy casualties and for the first time, we really started to look at what we were doing in a country that as Muhammad Ali would say, we “ain't got no quarrel with them boys”. While this was not the undoing of the Johnson Administration, it was responsible for his decision to not run for a second full term, thus we elected Richard M. Nixon, who turned out to be no better, and in many ways worse for Southeast Asia; he claimed he wanted no wider war, but then expanded it to bombing parts of Cambodia and Laos, thus further destabilizing the region, and paving the way for Pol Pot, one of the 20th Century's true monsters and a crackerjack mass-murderer, when it came to genocide. Within a decade two-fifths of the 5 million people in Cambodia had died in re-education camps or been summarily executed and buried in mass graves.

Two-fifths of a nation of five million, or rather two million people died under the rule of Pol Pot. While we were not directly responsible for his rise to power, we had a huge part in destabilizing Cambodia, which had declared itself neutral, under the regime of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. America widened the bombing to include the mountains and the Mekong Delta, claiming that North Vietnamese were infiltrating the region. The truth? The Montagnards in the area were fiercely anti-communist and separatist, to boot.

So, where am I going with all of this? Back in the early 60s, we helped to prop up a corrupt leader in Saigon, because there was no one suitable, and rather than see the entire country become communist, we would have crawled in bed with Satan himself, in order to keep this from happening. In a similar fashion, we aided the Taliban in the early 80s, because they were fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. When the Vietnamese President Ngo Dien Dimh rigged a vote in the South, and won by an astonishing 98.2 percent, including 133 percent in Saigon, the country became “unified” in 1955. Although we did not have troops in the field then, we had “advisors”, most likely CIA operatives, due to the number of assassinations of key North Vietnamese politicians and players who were eliminated. The “advisors” were there to try and assist in establishing a democracy in Viet Nam, which Dimh had no intention of ever doing.

As these things go, it began to escalate; we were backing the wrong horse, and Ho Chi Minh, a true patriot, not just a communist, wanted Viet Nam for, well. . . the Vietnamese. We should have been backing no horse. Not too much to ask for. We all know the terrible ending of this conflagration. Millions of innocent Vietnamese died. We got our asses kicked, and for the FIRST time, we began to question what in the Hell we were doing in this little back water country, that the French (Dien Bien Phu, 1955) couldn't hang onto in the first place.

Now, we've come to this: Afghanistan is once more looking like some kind of quagmire. Despite the quote “Graveyard of Empires” a quick gander through Afghanistan's history, shows that conquering armies do have some success. The problem is as Alexander the Great has put it “It's easy to march into, tough to march out of”. So, we've split our forces there. We're in the 13th year of a who-knows-how-many-years run, despite assurances from the Obama administration, that we will leave some day.

My main bitch, whine, whinge, whatever you want to call it is that now we have a fairly well-organized islamic group called ISIS, which uses very sophisticated tactics in re-claiming territory in Iraq. Take Tirkut, recently. Not one shot fired; the whole operation was one of propaganda, much like Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany, but that kind of entrenchment goes a long way towards promoting goodwill among the citizens in comparison with the U. S. invasion. Again, we have backed the wrong horse; some guy, who looks more like a used-car salesman, than someone who would be leader of a great country in the Middle East.

Admittedly, I detest Dubya and think he's a tool of Dick Cheney's and stupid, to boot. I highly doubt that they would have approved of anyone who would think independently, or for the common good of his country. It may be fallacious thinking, but Talabani, just by his association with the Bush administration, can not possibly have his country's best interests at heart.

Elections, schmelections; we helped to groom and primp this guy, this Jalal Talabani, fluff him, pat him dry and make him look good, but underneath is the same old corruption and bad politics. Iraq's constitutional government is loosely based on our own, and he is limited to two 4-year terms. But, how great is it when you have still have corruption at every level from the police on up to the highest offices in the Military? By the end of the U. S.'s stay in South Viet Nam, we had propped up a revolving-door bunch of characters; a total of 13 guys in all. I think some of them had a second go at screwing up the country even more than it was already screwed up. All with our help, of course.

I started typing out all these names and then remembered the ole' cut-and-snip thingy. You can imagine what kind of hell it mush have been like in Saigon, during the last 10 years. I think a few of these guys ended up running 7-11s in east Los Angeles.

And we're doing it again; we're sending U. S. “advisors”, along with 250 military boots on the ground are in Iraq, or are headed back there to Baghdad. That means that we will be in a position to. . . do what? Just what are we trying to accomplish there, because I hear nothing coherent coming out of our State Department or from President Obama. It's time to cut the apron strings, the umbilical cord, let that bitch sail and if she sails over a cliff, so be it.

Damn! What a fine looking flag! My Lenin bobblehead and my copy of the USSR or CCCP Men's Chorus singing the Internationale await. Break out the vodka, black bread, cucumbers and sour cream! Naz Strovya!

I never said a word about Ukraine and Russia because I understand both cultures and people involved. Yeah, it's sad that Ukraine is being bullied by Russia, but the fact is there are ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine near the Russian border and in the Crimea, who probably do feel threatened by the ethnic Ukrainians; that's what happens when you go from being the conqueror, to being just the guy living next door. It's human nature. It's also within Russia's weltenschauung and very typically Russian, that the ground the ethnic Ukrainians are living on once belonged to them. They have typically been part of the Russian empire and within her sphere of influence since the Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War II, Stalin demanded the states of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tadjikistan as a buffer between Western Europe and Russia. I could be wrong about Azerbaijan and the -stans, but am too lazy to look it up.

Russians are extremely territorial in a way we cannot even begin to comprehend. I counted once, and between the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and World War II, when the Nazis invaded on June 22, 1941, Russia was invaded FIVE times, by enemy forces. The United States has NEVER been invaded; It's not hard to figure out the dynamics there, nor their reasons for behaving the way they do on both sides. I'd give my eye-teeth to be there now, but I can watch from a distance and it's going about the way I thought it would.

If you notice carefully, there's a lot of back-pedaling and well, “maybe we want this, maybe we aren't sure”. This is oh, so typical in Eastern European politics. A lot of smoke and mirrors and hollering about having what they don't have, but once whatever it is they want is on the horizon, or knocking on the door, well, it doesn't look so good up close. Thus, the confusion over whom is doing what and who is for Russia and by extension, Putin and who isn't. Their Politburo (I refuse to call it a Duma or a Parliament, because it's not) took back their vote of confidence on what he's doing in Ukraine, on the eve of the rebels' victory. What does it all mean?

Who knows; somewhere I have a feeling a bunch of folks are digging out their hammer-and-sickle flags and Lenin bobble-head statues and wishing for the good old days. It never fails. But whatever it all means, or doesn't mean, I do believe this: we need to stay home and stop trying to be the world's policemen. We're terrible at it, and we're not exporting Truth, Justice, and the American Way. We're sowing greed, corrupting, and hatred, and as a people, we're not like that. We're a bunch of blind bullies, ignorant of the ways and mores of the people we think we are helping, or pretending to help. We don't need the oil. We don't need the hegemony; technology has put that “bullets and bayonets” mentality back in the closet. We need to start acting like members of the human race, not some self-proclaimed Overlords.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I was working on a really nasty trojan infestation at the time of my last post. What I thought was going to be a quick fix, turned out to be a giant hairy mess, with cooties. On an HP laptop, dual core, Windows 7 Premium, that my neighbor had bought for 200.00. Her niece had borrowed it and done some OOvOO and Skype and the usual kid stuff, WITHOUT benefit of the new Microsoft Security Essentials package (which right off the bat, has me asking a million damn questions, such as, doesn't MS already HAVE its own Defender and Firewall for Windows? If so, then why do they need this add-on? They do, don't they, but they don't work worth a SHIT, so MS came up with an app that is like malwarebytes or AVG, or Norton, or MacAfee). A note here, I know I'm in for a laff riot, when a user hands me a laptop with all of that installed and running, or trying to run. Pick two and stick with them, preferably malwarebytes (the free version is just fine) and AVG – BUY the licensed version. MacAfee and Norton are terrible and Norton is so horrible, I used to call it back in the day when it was “Disc Doctor”, “Kevorkian Disk Doctor” it's that horrid. It was known to cause instant suicide if even placed in the proximity of hard drives. MacAfee uses a weak algorithm; stay away from it.

Now that I'm through ripping on all the hideousnesss for a minute, let me tell you what you need to know if you come up with this little gem: Find the nearest cliff and jump off. Just kidding. If you run a pingback on that bastard, it's going to take you to a 404 error screen, along with your quickly evaporating store of patience, so GOOGLE this bastard: "" for this:

Bad juju. Anything east of the Iron Curtain is pretty much bad juju. Don't get me wrong. I do a lot of work with the Russians on SAT@home and they are my second largest readership, but for some reason, the majority of trojans and malware come from east of the ole' Iron Curtain. Anyway, this nasty little booger snuck in with our old friend JAVA, on my friend's laptop and is called an “exploit” because JAVA is designed to be “exploitable”. You can read that article here. JAVA is evil and should be killed, buried and drawn-and-quartered ASAP.

This guy helpfully supplied an ENTIRE copy of his what his O/S was trying to do and I isolated the 27 instances of the call commands to HOST or devices/servers outside of his laptop. I had more than 50 such instances on the laptop I was working on and by that time, very little space for any operations by the PC itself. Maddening.

All that aside, trying to run Restore after running malwarebytes on my friend's laptop didn't fix the problem, because the site, or non-site is set up to download a little number called tesch.b9 (a true reiterative trojan-high level threat), which causes that laptop to “call” or to try and open numerous browsers via ports, only it truncates that operation and never goes any farther than launching the svchost.dll32 file. Not once, not twice, but as many iterations as the computer will allow until the system is so bogged down, you cannot do anything. At. All. Needless to say, this threw me; I'd never seen it, and when I looked in Task Manager under “Processes” I saw 50 of these svchost.dll32 files and had not yet opened a browser although I was connected to the internet.

I rebooted into Safe Mode without the Internet and saw the various programs, which I removed via Control Program; Adobe Reader, Java, SpyWareBlaster(?), OovOO, but left Skype. I restarted and tried to start a normal session and got the same nonsense. Shit. I was left with nothing but the System Repair, as if the computer had just left the factory to fix it. I found this information from a website called “Tech Support Guy”, found here.

For John Holton, and a few others out there who asked, if you run the malware bytes and the system is behaving properly, but calling for new browser sessions, the best instructions in the world are to be found here and make tons of sense. For everyone else, if you're on a PC, and even if you have itunes, or whatever, you need to seriously reconsider whether you want to keep running JAVA. I haven't run JAVA since 2011, and I have 4 systems, and have not had to reload anything. But, it really sucks if you lose all of your data files, especially your pictures and your videos. Do yourself a huge favor and check out Dropbox and Synch; they're free for the first 5 gigs and you can safely store your LOLcats, recipes for onion dip and pictures of little Johnny dropping Gampy's dentures in the toilet.

I'm still batting .1000 for fixes, but the trojans get nastier and meaner and I can only do so much after the fact. Someone needs to bring me a nice relational database problem, or something; this living on the edge has got to stop!

Speaking of living on the edge, Alex and I rode the bus recently; actually we ride it all the time, but every so often, you get lucky and something, or somebody note-worthy happens along. It was a Friday morning and already in the 90s and muggy. We were sitting in the bus shelter, on Nebraska Ave., 33605, waiting to ride uptown to some of the stores, when this gentleman appeared, and I use that term the way in which it was intended. This was a gentle soul. He had on sandals, nondescript pants and shirt and a cane. His long, flowing hair was blond and his eyes were blue. He had a long, long, well-kept beard; it was a patriarchal beard. His gaze appeared fixed on some other world. Alex was sitting across from me, and this gentlemen stood between us and a bit to the rear of the bus shelter, so that I could see Alex's eyes. He caught mine, and quickly looked at our gentle soul and said “Hallelujah!” just about the time I noticed that our gentleman was carrying, besides his cane, some kind of wooden stake with a point on the end.

Buddy Jesus wasn't riding the bus that day. I can just hear my  Ma; "You are SO going to Hell, Mary Louise!" and I can hear my Daddy laughing; I was the one who told the Episcopal Priest, who had been invited to Sunday Dinner in a fit of ecumenicism by my mother, "Hmmm, Catholic Lite, All the Ritual, Only Half the Guilt." That's not even my line, but I'd heard it somewhere; my mother spent that lunch with a hideous fixed grin on her face, but it didn't stop her from inviting starving protestant Pastors, Rabbis and various leaders of other faiths over for Sunday dinner. We probably had a snake-charmer or a Warlock, in the crowd somewhere.

I turned my head away from our gentle soul and hissed “I am so going to beat the shit out of you, Alex!” and spent the next seven minutes until the bus arrived trying not to look at anyone or anything. When the bus finally DID arrive, forty-three eternities later, Alex and I kindly let the gentle soul get on first. I burst out, “What is wrong with you? You were making fun of “Jesus, the Vampire Killer! I can't take you anywhere!” The last part of this was drowned out by the 'hood, which decided to drive by and share its music with us, at that precise moment. Yo! BOOM BOOM! Cracklezzz! Yo! BOOM BOOM! Cracklezzz! Yo! BOOM BOOM! Cracklezzz! Yo! BOOM BOOM! Cracklezzz! (The cracklezzz being the part of the sub-woofers that ripped itself in two and died a few years ago, I guess, back when our 'banger was livin' large.) All of this happenin' sound is crammed into a crappy little Toyota Corolla, the car of choice for 'bangers on the go, complete with doors and hood in different colors than the body. The rear sags on one end and the car is belching some ferocious smoke. The driver is either so short, all you can see is the top of his head, or the springs all broke in his driver's seat, OR, he's got the bitch leaned back in a nearly-prone position; he is the personification of phat. The traveling rap show leaves us, just as we get on the bus. Well, my day has just been made.

Everything else around here has been the ole' same-o same-o, minus the knife fights. We still have to pick Señor Cerveza up out of the street now and then, but he's a fixture; at least we know where he is. There's a new restaurant opening up, just to the west of us. At least I assume it's a restaurant; they're moving in tables for four and chairs to match. I can't tell from the décor what the cuisine will be; just so long as they're not serving cat. Just kidding.

Mama, doing the second-best thing that cats do. The first thing is eating.

This is enough of a “debut” for me on what is the eve of #ROW80 3RD QTR 2014. I am committing myself to posting EVERY DAY as I once did when I started #ROW80. I do love to write and getting back into the harness, I know, will make me a better writer and I hope, better equipped to dealing with editing “Music of the Spheres”. I've been trying this whole editing thing, and as one who has always slapped words down onto a page and STET, I don't have this whole patience thing down, nor do I have much of a filter; too much second-guessing.

I took a bit of time off from any social media, which I hope has not hurt me too much. It can be overwhelming, and dealing with home stuff has taken priority; JC's heart attack was a huge wake-up call for him and everything was thrown off-kilter. His health has been much better of late, but I am also a “lone-wolf” in the sense that I get burnt out on people; even online. Blame my Asperger and bipolar, but I always feel I get lost in the shuffle and that is more habitual thinking on my part, and I've been practicing self-affirmation, and asserting oneself. I did a lot of that when I was in the homeless shelter, but that's a whole other skill set, one in which you NEVER back down, even if, as von Clausewitz stated, “war is (or becomes) the continuation of politics”. Obviously, this is much different and besides, I have always been comfortable being alone. But, too much of it is not healthy; I don't want to end up like the weirdo cat-lady.

At any rate, I feel renewed and ready to join in the fun, conversation and camaraderie with other writers, and especially my pals at #ROW80. There's also #NaNoWriMo looming, and I have to figure out what in the hell I'm going to write for this; I hope I'm not a one-trick pony.