Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Earthmen and Other Aliens now available

On Amazon (Kindle) and Smashwords (various formats). Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, etc. should follow during the coming weeks, as Smashwords distributes to them. I’ve also submitted a PDF version to Google for their e-book store. That’s my first attempt at getting a book included there. If that one’s okay, I’ll start putting all of my others on Google, as well.

Links for ordering, the cover image, and a bit of info:

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Story of the Very, Very Earnest Black Swan

Black Swan is a very, very earnest movie about a very, very good but very, very mentally messed-up ballerina, played very, very earnestly by the usually very, very good Natalie Portman, who unfortunately isn’t quite on her toes for this one.

Portman’s character is given a chance at a career-making role, dancing both the white (very, very good) swan and the black (very, very bad) swan in an odd-sounding version of Swan Lake created by an egomaniacal choreographer (is that redundant?). Who is also very, very sleazy. And slimy.

However, she’s very, very repressed, so while she can dance the white swan with technical proficiency, she can’t let her inner black swan come out and be all evil and seductive on the stage. She also has to contend with a very, very domineering mother (well and creepily played by Barbara Hershey) and a very, very (very, very, very) hot rival (well and deliciously played by the very, very (very, very, very) hot Mila Kunis).

The rival has black wings tattooed on her back. Look! A symbol!

Portman’s character is a sick puppy. She has bizarre hallucinations, can’t separate dreams and fantasies from reality, scratches herself till she bleeds, and thinks there’s a real black swan inside her that, from time to time, comes out – e.g., black feathers poking out through the deep scratches she has inflicted on herself, her neck lengthening into a swan’s neck, black wings growing from her back. She wants to destroy the black swan inside her. She wants to liberate and become the black swan inside her. Everything ends messily.

This is psychodrama as filmed by very, very earnest young film students. The movie works so hard at being arty that it fails at being art. Or entertaining.

There is a fair amount of dancing. Unfortunately, it’s almost all scenes of Portman dancing. She’s a fine actress but only an amateur dancer.

There’s a lesbian sex scene, less than convincing, as is usual in movies, but elevated to hotness because Mila Kunis is in it. (Kunis has one of the few good lines in the movie, and she delivers it with verve.)

Don’t waste your time. If you want to see an entertaining dance movie, rent the delightful movie Center Stage, which starred actual professional dancers who turned out to be excellent actors. I think I need to watch that one again to wash away the black taste of swan crap.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Shrieking Zanies on My Screen

Shrieking zanies on my screen
Make this viewer want to scream,
Make this viewer want some booze.
Endless sports on the nightly news.

How they obsess over injuries.
Mangled elbows, damaged knees,
A ruined back or a shattered hip.
“These could cost us the championship!”

Other news is second rate
When compared to our team’s fate.
Wars and floods and all the rest
Matter not if our team’s best.

Skip the news. The weather, too.
Our team’s coach said something new!
Something stupid, something dumb.
There are no depths he cannot plumb.

Shrieking zanies want to claim
Insight into next week’s game.
Coach’s tactics, players plans,
Braindead mouthings from the fans.

I don’t learn the vital stuff.
Will the drive to work be tough?
Will the roads be wet or icy,
And the drive home tense and dicey?

Did the Dow Jones take a dive?
Is democracy still alive?
Has the Middle East exploded?
Have our rights still more eroded?

Might as well just change the name.
“Mindless babble about every game
“Every night on every station
“And that’s it for information!”

Sure, a title that is snappy
Makes a TV exec happy.
In any case, the fact remains:
Sportscast zombies want your brains.

Oh, if I were but in charge
The solid news I would enlarge
The sports “reporters” quickly fire
And proper journalists I’d hire.

No pretty faces mouthing fluff
Smirking at you, all that guff,
Endless babble, wasting time,
While repeating right-wing slime.

They’d all have brains and be well read,
With politics from pink to red.
They’d read the news and analyze.
They’d be Democracy’s prying eyes.

They’d tell the truth and pay no heed
To plutocrats and all their greed,
Their lawyers and their paid-for tools,
Their Limbaugh pigs and Coulter ghouls.

We’d know what’s what,
Who sold, who’s bought,
What deals were made,
What rights in trade.

All that would show
Upon your screen
In this sweet world
Of might-have-been.

But cash controls the info flows
And plutocrats know what to ban.
Once tumbrels rolled. Aristo knows
The danger of the thinking man.

And so they hire pretty critters
A stupid hunk, a vapid fox,
Who, sitting on their well-toned sitters,
Grin vainly from the idiot box.

Their voices loud, of dumbness proud,
They flirt and smirk and pose and preen.
And we are left of news bereft
With shrieking zanies on the screen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Age, relative and absolute

By which I don’t mean “you’re as young as you feel” but rather how one perceives the ages of other people.

When I was somewhere around ten or eleven, I attended some sort of social gathering with people of all ages – most likely some Jewish community event. There was a group of young people there, all in their early twenties, gathered in a group and speaking in their secret generational language and flirting with each other.

I watched them in awe. They were so smooth, so sophisticated, so glamorous, so self-possessed, so in control of themselves and the world. I couldn’t wait to be in my early twenties so that I could be as smooth, etc. as they were!

I’m 67 and I’m still waiting, but never mind that. Now, of course, when I look at young people in their early twenties, I see just barely no longer kids, often trying awkwardly to be smooth, etc. It’s possible that young people in their early twenties now are dramatically different from young people in their early twenties 55+ years ago, but it’s much more likely that the change is in me.

We’ve all experienced this. Throughout most of our lives, “young” is anyone more than a few years, say 5 years, younger than ourselves, and “old” is anyone more than a similar number of years older than ourselves. Look at the photos in your high-school yearbook (You kids today do still have those, don’t you? Why, when I was a lad … ) and you’re astonished at how young and immature those kids look. You don’t remember them that way at all!

Nothing new there. But here’s the thing that’s changed for me. I don’t know when this happened, fairly recently I think, but lately that relative perception of age has given way to a more absolute one. The young aren’t getting younger as I grow older. They’re staying about the same. And “old” doesn’t mean X years older than me. “Old” is a category I’ve moved into myself. Or, on my more denial-of-reality days, am just about to start moving into myself.

I used to be aware of old people referring to themselves and their peers as old people, but that never struck me as odd because to me they were all old people. Now that I’m one myself, officially a senior citizen (What a silly phrase! What if I’d never become naturalized? Would I be a senior resident alien?), I’m speaking the same way.

It seems natural. Although when I think about it, it also seems strange, a bit unsettling.

Rather suddenly, people no longer occupy various positions along a spectrum from very young to very old, with “normal” referring to a narrow band of about 10 years width in the middle of which is yours truly. Now the world is divided into the young and the old, and I know quite well which of those two I’m in.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Earthmen and Other Aliens

Years ago, an editor suggested that I put together a collection of my short stories. I thought it would be a rather skimpy collection, so I put the idea on hold.

This weekend, I decided to take a break from putting off writing Chains and see what stories I have. There are a few that have been published and a few more that should have been published. So, given that I’ve already leaped into the brave, new, revolutionary, world-changing environment of self-published e-books, which means that there’s no agent or editor to dump me if my sales numbers are disappointing, I’ve started putting together a short-story collection.

The title is Earthmen and Other Aliens, which is (almost) a line in one of the stories. I had originally thought to title it The Eye at the Back of the Moon, the title of one of the stories. I decided against that, but it did give me a cover idea.

It’s taking time because some of the stories were written on a (gasp!) manual (gasp!) typewriter and now have to be scanned in, and then the scanner’s OCR output has to be corrected. In the case of my first published story, I don’t even have a clean typed copy, only photocopied pages from the magazine. The scanner has been having a fun time making up words to match the marks on those faded pages.

There’s also one story I’ve been wanting to write for a while. I was waiting for a suitable market to appear, so that I could write the story, submit it, be rejected, and feel sorry for myself. I can skip some of those steps and just write the story. Which of course is the way it should work, aahtistically speaking. But that will take some time.

I hope to have the book up on Smashwords and Amazon in a week or two Or three. At most. I hope. Other outlets (B&N, Apple, Sony, etc.) will then follow as Smashwords distributes to them.

And I have a cover for it already:

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

David Dvorkin, cover designer

I created a page to show all of the covers I’ve created for my e-books, my wife’s e-books, and a friend’s e-books.

Zowie! They look even spiffier when they’re all together like that.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Liberated Writer

Four years ago, I started this blog with a post explaining why I chose the name A Blister to My Eye. I said the function of the blog would be to pressure me to complete the time-travel novel, Time and the Soldier, that I had been fiddling with for ten years.

This evening, Leonore reread that original post and suggested that I post something about what’s happened with that novel and with my attitude toward my writing career.

I finished the novel a while ago. Two years ago, I think. All excited, and convinced that it was the book that would revive my professional writing career, I set about querying agents. I got an agent, a big name with a very big agency. He loved the book and sent it out to a number of editors. There were some rejections and a lot of non-decisions. And then he decided to leave the agenting business and become an editor at a major publishing house.

Realistically, that meant that Time and the Soldier was dead. Reputable agents aren’t interested in representing a book that has already been rejected by some of the editors they would want to send it to. The editors who hadn’t made a decision would be possibilities, but still the pool of possible editors would be too reduced.

So I stewed for a while and felt (very, very, very) sorry for myself for a while. Then I got fitfully to work on the next novel, Chains. I’d finish that, use it to get an agent, and then ask my new agent to rep Time and the Soldier as well. My professional writing career would be revived! Woo hoo!

I worked fitfully on Chains, hampered by self-pity, which was in turn increased by my being laid off in May 2009 and by my realization that there were no jobs to be had and I might never have a dependable pay check again.

While I was laid off, I spent some of my time reissuing my and Leonore’s previously published books as e-books. I found that I really enjoyed designing the covers for them. I had thought that would be a chore because I’ve never had an artistic eye or an eye for design, but thanks to Gimp and then Photoshop, I discovered that I did.

Well, that was fine for the old books, which would otherwise be unseen by the human eye. But Time and the Soldier was a new book and deserved real publication – i.e., a print edition, from a major publisher, that would show up in bookstores and on racks in supermarkets everywhere.

And then, quite recently, I realized that my attitude had changed. I was going to write, in this post, about how that evolution in my attitude happened, but the truth is that I don’t really know quite how it came about. After depression, and then anger, I suddenly came to feel detached from the industry at whose doors I had been hammering for decades.

For a brief time, early in my career, in the 1970s and early 1980s, those doors seemed to have opened for me. I seemed to be inside the room, albeit still standing near the door and looking at the happy crowd at the buffet table near the opposite wall. But some invisible barrier still blocked my way, and then a sinister and ineluctable force reopened the doors behind me and pushed me back out and locked the doors in my face. I.e., my career tanked.

So I was back to hammering at the doors, but the sound of my knocking couldn’t be heard within because of the loud voices of the happy crowd at the buffet table. Extend that metaphor if you really want to.

And then I stopped hammering.

Some time during the last year, the publishing industry became an alien thing to me, a noisy undertaking over there, a crowd of people standing in a field, waving their hands and shouting at each other and pushing and shoving, filled with desperation, trampling each other underfoot. Irrelevant, pointless, foolish, distasteful.

So I published Time and the Soldier as an e-book. I was pleased by my own lack of regret. The book that, for so many years, I had thought of as my ticket back into that room and maybe all the way to the buffet table would now float out there in the ether and be read by … a few dozen people, with luck. I liked that idea!

Then I realized that I was thinking of Chains not as the book that would be ubiquitous in a print edition and would revive my professional writing career but instead as my next e-book. It, too, would be read by a few dozen people if I was lucky. But what mattered was that my change in attitude about publishing changed my attitude toward how I was writing Chains.

I’m writing it exactly the way I want to write it. It may end up being very long. Or not. It will have a lot of dialog about many different subjects not related to the main plot. It will be discursive and recursive. It will have many points of view and will jump about between them. It will have characters ranting about this and that – political, social, and literary rants that will of course reflect my own attitudes. I’m already enjoying writing Chains more than I’ve enjoyed writing a book in a long time. It’s a wonderful feeling of artistic liberation.

I’ve already created the cover for Chains, and it’s pretty damned zowie, if I do say so myself, and I do. There’ll be other books after Chains, all of them with zowie covers. There’ll be a collection of short stories, a horror novel, a fantasy novel, and, and, and ...

I’m a writer again! And it feels great.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The perfect job!

I just got this in e-mail. Name of supposed sender has been replaced by XXX just in case it’s a real person.

Who could resist this offer?

For ,

I'm XXX. I am personnel managr of our Company.
Our department noticed your CV on Jo.b site ,
Our department sure u're fit for the position
of Financial manager.

For more info concerning available j.ob.

This may be the perfect complement to your current

If u're want to start, contact me for the next step
of the process.

With respect

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time and the Soldier e-book

Did I not post about this here? Apparently not. What a shocking oversight!

After much sturm und drang and up and down and elation and depression and … you get the picture. After months and years of all of that, I came to a writing-career decision that, for me, was very, very major. Namely, no more with the agents and editors and publishing companies. Embrace the e-book revolution, I told myself. So I published Time and the Soldier as an e-book, putting aside all thoughts of seeing it published physically, let alone seeing it on the racks in the local supermarket.

Which is also to say, I self-published it. Better than having it gather virtual dust on my hard drive, unread by anyone else. It may only be read by a few other people, but that’s still a few more than would read it if it never left my PC. And it will be around and available for purchase forever, or at least for a very long time.

And it has a very spiffy cover, which I created myself via the magic of Photoshop.

Details, including links to buy it in Kindle and various other formats, here:

Too bad I’m not a famous blogger. The book would be virtually flying off the virtual shelves within seconds after I post this.

Monday, October 04, 2010

How We Became Breast Cancer Thrivers

This is a new free ebook. It’s a collection of essays by breast cancer survivors who have a positive attitude about their experience with the disease. Leonore is one of the contributors; her piece is on pages 73-70.

The book was edited by Beverly Vote, who publishes The Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine. You can read about the book on our Web site or on the magazine’s site. If you go to the magazine’s site, click on the link titled “Download E-Book” in small print to the right of the cover image. That opens the PDF version of the book, which is much easier to read than the digital version that the “View Now” link takes you to.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sniffle, sniffle

I just saw the following announcement of a short story sale. Names disguised to protect them. And possibly me.

Xxx has a narrative poem, “xxx,” in Xxxxx, an anthology of stories around why women are blamed for everything. The book is edited by Xxx and available on Amazon and other venues.

Monday, August 30, 2010

As We Know It

“If we don’t act now, civilization, AS WE KNOW IT, will be destroyed.”

“If we don’t stop this asteroid, it will mean the end of LIFE AS WE KNOW IT"!”

But civilization/life as we don’t know it will be fine?

I really hate that kind of meaningless, reflexive verbiage. It gets added to proclamations, I think because the speaker has heard it so often that he thinks it’s necessary, even though it adds nothing to his statement. Or else because he’s a kneejerk twit.

There are other examples. After Nixon used the phrase “at this point in time”, perhaps during the Watergate crisis, everyone started saying “at this point in time” when they meant “now". Now, damn it, now!

Nixon was the first person I heard say, “I misspoke myself,” instead of, “I was mistaken,” or “I am a pile-of-shit, amoral, soulless, lying crook.” After that, other speakers started using that phrase. Which is okay if you’re a pile-of-shit, amoral, soulless, lying crook. If not, you should probably avoid it and just say something like, “Sorry, I spoke carelessly.”

The first person I heard say “with all due respect” was Jimmy Carter. It was during one of the presidential debates, either in 1976 when he was debating the silly but not evil Gerald Ford or in 1980 when he was debating the Good-God-what-an-evil-pile-of-stupid-shit Ronald Reagan. If I weren’t so old and if I hadn’t drunk so much bourbon, perhaps I’d remember which it was. Not that it matters. Silly but not evil on one hand. Evil pile of stupid shit on the other. Or Republican presidential nominee, for brevity’s sake.

(I think it was 1976, and I think it was in response to Ford clumsily misspeaking himself at that point in time about how East Germans or Poles saw themselves in relation to the Soviet Union. As we knew it.)

I remember being astonished at Carter’s using that phrase. Respect? I thought. For that gray space on the podium? Are you kidding? What respect could you, a highly intelligent, technically educated, well spoken man possibly have for that creature? Why did Carter say it? Was he trying, kindly, to soften the blow before demonstrating how brain dead the Republican was?

Why bother? If you don’t respect the other guy’s opinion, don’t bother with the empty phrase “with all due respect”. If you’re predicting the end of the world, then predict it; don’t add excess words like “as we know it”. If you’re a Democratic candidate debating your opponent, just say, “You’re an astonishingly stupid pile of evil shit, and the policies you propose would destroy civilization. You need to be shut away in a loony bin right now. Jerk.”

Sunday, August 22, 2010

David’s Definitions for October 2010


An adjective describing platitudes, trite sayings, clichés. A person who constantly utters such stuff can also be called bromidic. This describes a lot of politicians and speakers at graduations. In the great musical "South Pacific," Nellie Forbush describes herself as bromidic - boring, ordinary, and "a cliché coming true." The adjective bromidic comes from the noun bromide, which refers to such platitudes and clichés. A person who tends to utter bromides can also be called a bromide. In turn, bromide comes from chemistry. Yes, chemistry! Not because chemistry is a cliche, but because a bromide is a compound of the element bromine and some other element, and 100 years ago, certain bromides, in particular potassium bromide, also called bromide of potassium, were commonly used as sedatives. Hence bromide came to mean something that puts you to sleep - like the typical graduation speech. Interestingly, the element bromine, where all of this started, has a very pungent smell, and the name bromine comes from a Greek word that refers to the stench of billy goats, which is not something that any of us would consider bromidic.

(Will be published in the October 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)

The Scrabble word score of bromidic is 15.
You can find that out here:

I'm collecting all of these at:

Fascinating Word Facts

Did you know that:

The words "race car" spelled backwards still spell "race car"?

"Eat" is the only word that, if you take the first letter and move it to the last, spells its past tense, "ate."

And if you rearrange the letters in "Tea Party Republicans," and add just a few more letters, it spells: "Shut the fuck up, you free-loading, progress-blocking, benefit-grabbing, resource-sucking, violent, hypocritical douche bags, and deal with the fact that you nearly wrecked the country under Bush and that our President is black, so get used to it."

Isn't that interesting?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

David’s Definitions for September 2010


Nowadays, we use this word to mean old and infirm, weak from old age. This usage dates from the mid-19th century. Originally, the word just meant having to do with old age. It comes from a Latin word meaning old. Other words that derive from the same Latin root are senior, senescent (growing old, characteristic of being old), and the Spanish title señor. The medieval English word seneschal, a senior servant, comes from the same root combined with a Germanic word, skalk, for servant. I haven't been able to find out if skalk has any connection to our word skulk, which can mean to evade work. Presumably, one of the duties of the seneschal was to make sure that the lower-level servants didn't skulk.

(Will be published in the September 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)

The Scrabble word score of senile is 6.
You can find that out here:

I'm collecting all of these at:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

David’s Definitions for August 2010


Laughable, but in a negative sense. You wouldn't call a comedian's jokes risible if you liked them. If he was a painfully bad comedian, you could say that his attempt at comedy was risible. This is not a common word in modern English. It usually only shows up in pompously written book or movie reviews or political essays - the sort of thing written by people who can't see that their stuffy prose isn't admirable but is instead risible. The word appeared in English in the 1500s. Back then, it meant able to laugh, capable of laughing. By the 1700s, it had come to mean evoking laughter, laughable, but it didn't have a negative connotation yet. That's more modern. The root is the Latin word ridere, to laugh. Our word "deride" comes from the Latin combination de (down) combined with ridere. Someone who uses "risible" in ordinary speech is likely to encounter derision.

(Will be published in the August 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)

I'm collecting all of these at:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

But doctors urge caution blah blah alcohol blah blah

Last night, TV news carried yet another story about the benefits of alcohol. This one concerned the new Dutch report of a correlation between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of several types of arthritis.

After the teaser for that news item, I said to Leonore, “I bet they’ll quote doctors warning people solemnly about the dangers of alcohol.” Of course I was right. Doctors caution against blah blah blah. Because of course if they didn’t give us those warnings, we’d all rush out and drink ourselves into the gutter and divorce and bank robbery and liver failure.

I’ve seen articles about the benefits of tea and coffee, and those lacked solemn warnings against taking up tea and coffee drinking. Yet historically tea and coffee houses have led to far more revolution than alcohol ever did. Possibly to more social unrest and planning of bank robberies, too, but I lack solid data regarding those.

Only when it concerns alcohol does the medical establishment – or maybe it’s the medical journalism establishment – feel the need to moralize, the conviction that without their stewardship we’d all go to Hell. Twits.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Great review of Dawn Crescent

The book was published a few years ago, but this review seems to have just shown up on the Joe Bob Briggs Web site.

I’ve just reissued the book as an e-book via Smashwords, so I hope this will do some good.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Forgive my indignation

Latest version of the Nigerian scam came in e-mail today:

Compliments of the season

Forgive my indignation if this message comes to you as a surprise and may offend your personality for contacting you without your prior consent and writing through this channel. When I was searching for a foreign reliable partner I assured of your capability and reliability to champion this business opportunity. I Request you to partner with me in order to finish a transaction worth 18,500.000.00 USD and transfer from here to your country. Your share would be 30% of the mentioned amount above. If you are interested, then reply me with your Full Names,Address,Age,Occupation,Phone,fax/nofor instructions :

Monday, June 07, 2010

Interview version of the school dream

I have a phone interview scheduled for this afternoon. Last night, I dreamed that I had decided to call it off. No idea why; it’s one of those things that make sense inside the dream.

Because Leonore and I were planning to go for a walk, and because the company was located near our house (in the dream, not in the real world), I said let’s just walk over there and I’ll cancel the interview and not bother calling or e-mailing to do it. We left the house with me wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and flip-flops with white socks. Yes, the socks made that uncomfortable. Leonore said, “Maybe you should wear business clothes, just in case someone there wants to talk to you.” I said, “Nah, I’ll just tell the receptionist.”

The actual company is small and headquartered here. The dream version was a minor branch of an international giant. Fancy waiting room full of suited people filling out application forms. I identified myself to the receptionist, who immediately pulled out a bunch of forms for me to fill in and said that as long as I was there, they’d just do the interview in person.

Cowed, I said nothing, went to a seat between two men in suits and ties, and started filling out the application form. Leonore was right, I thought. I should have worn business clothes.

It was really cold in there, too.

And then the dream ended. I bet I got an F in the course.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

David’s Definitions for July 2010

Effect, Affect

A reader asked me to define these two words and explain how to use them. They're closely related words, very similarly spelled and pronounced, so it's easy to see why people get them confused. Affect is the verb, the action word. "The tragic story affected him deeply." Effect is the result. It's the noun, the thing. "The tragic story had a powerful effect on him." Perhaps it would help to think of the word effective. Something is effective if it has an effect. Unfortunately, and to make things more confusing, there are a couple of cases where the situation is reversed.  Effect does have one use as a verb: to bring something about, to cause something to happen. "The prisoner effected his escape by jumping from the police car." And affect has one use as a noun, meaning one's mental state. Fortunately, both of these uses are rare in ordinary English. Affect can also be used as a verb in the sense of "pretend": "He affected an air of cynicism." I think that use is rather old fashioned, though. I hope the effect of all of this is to leave you less confused, rather than more.

(Will be published in the July 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)

I'm collecting all of these at:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I think vile is becoming one of my favorite words.

It so perfectly describes the moral foundation of certain movies – e.g., The English Patient, Like Water for Chocolate – and political movements like the Tea Bagger idiots and the contemporary Republican Party.

Then there are the Promise Keepers and the Dominionists. Vile.

The National Rifle Association. Vile.

Free Republic. Vile.

No doubt the list could be a lot longer.

And of course the word is an anagram for evil. Coincidence? Yeah, right.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Second Smashwords book

Business Secrets from the Stars, which is currently available in trade paperback and hardcover from Norilana Press, but not in e-book form. I’ve put it up on SW:

I’m really pleased with the cover I created. Click on the image for a big version.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pit Planet Smashworded

I put one of my old novels on Smashwords as an e-book. This one didn’t take long to do. I guess I’m getting faster at this. Formatted the text, designed the cover, zippity zip. It’s here:

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I like saying that. Smashwords. Smashwords!

We just issued Leonore’s novel, Apart from You, in e-book format via Smashwords. (Smashwords!) The link is:

Smashwords! Or did I already say that?

I’m going to start getting all of my old books out as e-books the same way. Namely, via Smashwords. (Smashwords!) I’m thinking of completing my vampire series as e-books. Two were published in mass-market paperback, eons ago, but I had plans for two more, which I’ll probably write, this time around. Similarly, my one real mystery novel was supposed to be first of three novels featuring the same (somewhat anti-)hero, so maybe I’ll do that complete series now.

Via (all together now) Smashwords!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gloob died today

It was an incalculable loss to mankind. He was the last of his people, the Gleb, and the last speaker of their language, Glebbish. Gloob leaves behind a cultural and spiritual void of immeasurable dimensions. At their peak, the Gleb spread across two square miles of virgin rainforest. Their language contained at least 24 distinct nouns describing the shape of the leaves of the Wakawaka tree, and each of those nouns had its own declension. With Gloob, not only did that unique linguistic heritage die, but so too did the the deep, spiritual relationship between the Gleb and the Wakawaka tree. A special way of seeing Wakawaka leaves has vanished. Our planet is impoverished by his passing.

And so on and so forth, blah blah fuckety blah. How many times have you seen this shit? The last speaker of a very minor language dies, the last repository of a very minor and very primitive culture dies, and a certain portion of the human race goes into paroxysms of grief and pontification.

Did you know Gloob? Were you affected by his death? Was anyone you know affected by his death? Has the vast engine of industrial civilization paused for the slightest fraction of a second to acknowledge it?

Did you know anything about the 24 (at least!) distinct Gloob nouns for the shape of the leaves of the Wakawaka tree, and their 24 (at least!) different declensions? Has their loss impoverished your usage of English? Do you give a shit? Other than linguists, does anyone who didn’t know Gloob care?

Gloob may have been a wonderful chap. His death may be a lasting sorrow to those who knew him. But in spite of the leaves of the Wakawaka tree, the effects of his death don’t extend beyond his immediate circle. Or perhaps Gloob was a rotten son of a bitch and everyone who ever came in contact with him is celebrating his death. The pontifications will be the same in either case.

There’s a good chance that while you were reading this a very good man died somewhere, causing lasting grief to those who loved him. Let’s call him John. Unless John was a major world leader, odds are you’ll never know about him or his death or the sorrow it caused. John’s death will have no effect beyond his immediate circle. Most likely, John was a speaker of English or Mandarin or Spanish or Arabic. His death will have no effect on those languages or world culture or our relationship to the Wakawaka tree. The only difference between John and Gloob is that no self-important bloviators will pontificate about how John’s death diminishes us all.

David’s Definitions for June 2010


Hard work, especially painful or extremely unpleasant work. It used to also refer to the painful experience of giving birth. It comes from the old French word travailler, which could mean to work hard or to torture. In turn, that came from the Latin word trepaliare, to torture. In case you care, that Latin word came from the Latin word tripalium, a three-pronged instrument of torture, which in turn came from the Latin tri, three, and palus, stake. We get our world pole from that last Latin word. Think of all of this when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning. By the way, you might suspect that our word travel also comes from the French word travailler, because they look so similar. Indeed it does. Travel showed up in English in the 1300s, a time when traveling was a pretty arduous and dangerous undertaking. At least they didn't have alarm clocks, although some of those old English travelers must have fantasized about torturing the roosters that woke them up.

(Will be published in the June 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)

I'm collecting all of these at:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

David’s Definitions for May 2010


In modern usage, this almost always means a person who controls the flight of an airplane. We also use it as a verb: To pilot a plane. The word first appeared in English in the early 1500s, and originally it referred to the person who controls the direction of a ship. In the 1800s, it came to mean the person who controls a balloon. It didn't take on the airplane meaning until the early 20th century. It stems from a Greek word, pedon, meaning "steering oar." That word is related to the Greek word pous, "a foot." So pilot is distantly related to octopus ("eight-footed") and podiatrist (someone who treats ailments of the feet). At one time, podiatrists treated ailments of the hands as well and were called chiropodists, from the Greek word for hand, chiro, combined with the Greek word for foot. A related word is chiropractor, combining the Greek word for hand and the Greek word praktikos, "practical." Which brings us back to pilot, because after you spend a few hours crammed into a modern airline seat, you need a chiropractor to straighten you out again.

(Will be published in the May 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)

I'm collecting all of these at:

Monday, March 15, 2010

I don’t have a criminal record

Sometimes, waiting for a response to job applications, I have this irrational fear that some guy with the same name as me has a criminal record, which shows up when potential employers do a routine check. But I'll never know. So I should think about other things and not let myself go crazy. That's what the giant, fanged rabbit keeps telling me. He says I should worry instead about the coming end of the world.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Coffee Party

I just went to a local Coffee Party meeting and left before it ended. Too weak, too diluted, too much emphasis on holding hands and playing nice and working together. It's not left or right, Republican or Democratic, not an answer to the Tea Party. It's just lots of good intentions and optimism.

Also, despite the lip service to the organization being grass roots and bottom up, the whole event was predetermined and dominated by the moderator and his script, which parroted what's on the Coffee Party Web site.

I want an organization that will tap into and represent the anger of the left. I don't know if such an organization would have a political impact, but I don't think the Coffee Party will, either.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Ghastly executions and cheering crowds

But not in movies. For some reason, with the occasional exception of Westerns, Hollywood likes to portray the crowds attending grisly public executions as being horrified by what they’re watching and filled with sympathy for the prisoner.

I’m pretty sure I remember the protracted, gruesome execution of William Wallace being depicted that way in the terrible Mel Gibson movie (or is that redundant?) Braveheart. I’m quite sure I remember the execution of Guy Fawkes being depicted that way in the movie V for Vendetta.

I suspect that in reality, in both cases the crowd was cheering on the executioners. After all, the crowd knew what to expect in such executions, and if they found the drawn-out torture and death of a prisoner so repulsive, they probably wouldn’t have attended. It’s my understanding that public executions in England, and probably elsewhere, were considered wonderful spectacles, and people went there to be entertained by the awful suffering and exposed viscera of the condemned.

Moreover, Wallace was not a hero to the English. In their eyes, he was “an outlaw, a murderer, the perpetrator of atrocities and a traitor” – an accurate view, given his violent, destructive raids into (civilian!) England. Nor was Fawkes a champion of liberty and opponent of royal tyranny as implied by that entertaining but fundamentally silly movie. Had the Gunpowder Plot succeeded, many innocent people would have died along with the targeted ruling class, and the country would have been plunged into chaos. That chaos, the plotters hoped, would have been followed by the institution of a Catholic monarchy that would have been far more repressive than the rule of James I. So the crowd was probably very happy to see Fawkes being slowly dispatched.

In fact, I suspect that there were many older people in the crowd who were disgusted. I can imagine one of them saying, “These executioners, they’re going to make that fellow die too quickly. He’s not going to suffer anywhere near enough. Why, when I was a lad, torturers and executioners really knew their business. They could draw it out for days, I’m telling you. Ah, well, what can you expect? These are evil and declining days, and the country’s going to the dogs. Dogs! Did I ever tell you about the time I saw a man torn apart by a pack of hungry dogs? That was back in the good old days.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Enlarged prostate

That’s the sort of thing one thinks about more often, as one gets older. At least, if one is a oner and not a oness.

A few years ago, I read that 50% of men aged 50 have an enlarged prostate. (How enlarged? The article didn’t say.) Or benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH, which sounds so much less scary. Or possibly more.

The same article said that the rate increases to 60% at age 60. And 70% at age 70. It’s linear!

Surely those numbers were rounded off. My father is almost 101, so I have some hopes of living at least that long myself. Does that mean that I can be 100% sure of having BPH at age 100?

And what happens after that? If every man age 100 or over has BPH, then in order for that line on the graph to continue upward linearly (which of course it has to do because that’s the way it worked in the old science fiction stories I read as a kid, and those are the source for my understanding of the workings of the Universe), then old women would have to start getting BPH, too, which is of course impossible.

Perhaps after age 100, the line suddenly turns downward. If you make it past 100, your prostate starts to shrink again! (I could ask my father, but I hate to give him another reason to talk to me about his prostate gland.)

I can imagine a conversation between an old guy and his doctor.

Doctor: Joe, I have good news and bad news for you.

Joe: What’s the bad news?

Doctor: Those problems you have urinating, it’s because you have BPH. (Explains what that is.) And it’s going to keep getting worse.

Joe: Well, that’s a pisser. Not. What’s the good news?

Doctor: You’re 90 years old. If you can make it for another ten years, your prostate is going to start shrinking again.

Joe: That’s good news? All I have to do is hang on for ten years, and I’ll be able to pee again?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

David’s Definitions for April 2010

At Loggerheads

When people are at loggerheads, they are in conflict and unable to agree. The origin of the phrase is apparently unclear. In 16th-century England, a loggerhead was a heavy block of wood to which horses were tethered to keep them from wandering away. In those days, loggerhead also meant a stupid person, a blockhead. In the next century, a certain kind of heavy iron tool was also called a loggerhead. The assumption is that people who were in conflict were said to be at loggerheads because the conflict makes one think of fighting with such dangerous items. The original meaning of loggerhead survives in the name of the loggerhead turtle, which is named that because of its unusually large head.

(Will be published in the April 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)

I'm collecting all of these (but I’m way behind) at:

Unclose shave at the Olympics

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post complaining about the stupid stubble look on men. Three-day whiskers. The absurd Miami Vice look, made popular by a TV show that’s probably unknown to the young men who are forgetting to shave in this century. Some older men, too, for God’s sake.

As is always the case, an incisive post on my blog somehow failed to change the world. And now, two years later, scraggly whiskers abound at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, an otherwise beautiful city. Okay, the female athletes are still beautiful. It’s the men who all look like Skid Row bums.

I tell ya, thanks to the overly flamboyant costumes, we can even see that some of the male figure skaters and ice dancers have more hair on their chins than their chests.

As for the skiers, someone ought to tell them that a clean shave might shave a hundredth of a second off their downhill times. I have no idea if that’s true, but someone ought to tell them that, anyway.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spam comments

What's with spam comments on blogs?

This blog gets a lot of commercial spam in the comments section. I also see generic comments that say something like "Thanks for the info. I'd like to read more about this topic." That one shows up on other blogs, as well. It's strange, and of course very annoying and cluttering.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Very Lucky Executive

There was this man named Hova. Jeremy. He was a remarkably lucky guy.

First, he was lucky enough to get a job in awful times. Second, despite lacking any ability, he was lucky enough to be promoted quickly, eventually becoming president of the company. That’s not unusual. It’s even fairly common. Some people just seem to make a good impression. But Jerry wasn’t particularly intelligent or good looking. He lacked charisma and, truth be told, was often unpleasant to be around. He was just lucky.

But all of that’s nothing compared to the run of luck Jerry had next.

Jerry chose a seaside location for his company’s new factory and the adjacent giant apartment complex housing the workers. He was warned that the site was on an active earthquake fault and next to an active volcano, but he brushed that aside. A year later, the factory was up and running and the apartment complex was filled with the workers and their families. Pats on the back from the Board of Directors for Jerry, plus a bonus. Then a massive earthquake struck. And a huge volcanic eruption. Followed by a tsunami. The factory was eliminated. Coincidentally, so were the workers and their families.

The Board met in emergency session to praise Jerry and beg him to save the company. Utterly irrational of them, of course, but I told you he was a lucky guy. The Board was convinced that what had happened was part of some large, brilliant plan of Jerry’s, and they were sure that they simply weren’t intelligent enough to understand what he was doing. It was best to let him press on and not interfere with him.

Jerry decided to shift the company’s emphasis to agribusiness. He had his eye on vast tracts of land in a third-world country that would be perfect. Unfortunately, the land was already occupied by some peasants who refused to move. So Jerry used corporate funds to set up and arm a fake rebel movement that drove the peasants away. Well, the few who survived were driven away. The others became involuntary fertilizer for the company’s new agricultural products. The Board applauded Jerry for his innovative thinking and awarded him another bonus. Crops were bountiful, and soon company-branded edibles were flooding markets in the developed world. Unfortunately, previously unknown deadly viruses and bacteria and parasites flooded in with them. Soon bodies filled the streets and highrises of London, Paris, New York, etc.

Once again, the Board met in emergency session to praise Jerry and beg him to save them. If anything, they admired the opacity of his brilliance all the more.

And so it went, year after year, decade after decade. Board members came and went, but Jerry stayed on, constantly making dreadful mistakes that cost huge numbers of lives, constantly being praised and rewarded for his work. It was a wonder that the company survived, and yet in fact it thrived. It became the largest, richest, most powerful corporation on Earth, possibly the most powerful entity of any kind. Jerry’s judgment and wisdom and foresight became the stuff of legends. Sometimes, one person or one small piece of equipment managed to survive one of these Jerry-induced disasters. This was seen as all the proof anyone needed of Jerry’s careful planning and deep compassion.

The next step was obvious: President of the World. Jerry’s making plans for that right now.

What a lucky guy! Wouldn’t you like to be as lucky as J. Hova?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

David’s Definitions for March 2010


When used to refer to an event, it means contrary to what's expected, in a striking or poignant or tragic way. It derives from a Greek word meaning "to lie" or "to be insincere." Here's an example of irony: "The speaker, who was famous for his command of the English language, clearly didn't know the difference between ironically and coincidentally." People do often confuse those two words. Here's an example of coincidence, with nothing ironic about it: "The speaker had a third cousin named Hepzibah. So did the man who introduced him." There's nothing about this coincidence that is strikingly contrary to what you expect, so it's not ironic.

(Will be published in the March 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)

I'm collecting all of these (but I’m way behind) at:

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Avatar made me blue

Because I wasted time and money watching it.

Mind you, it’s not because of the movie’s pinko, liberal, anti-imperialist, fuzzy-minded, bleeding-heart, liberal, tree-hugger message. I’m a pinko, liberal, anti-imperialist, etc. myself. I’m part of this movie’s natural audience. And yet I hated it.

Basic story: Alien world has mineral Earth badly wants and needs. Human beings set about strip mining the place. World’s inhabitants, ten-foot tall blue aliens with tails, are upset. Humans create their own ten-foot tall blue aliens with tails, telepathically controlled by humans and called avatars, to deal with the aliens. Our hero, one of those telepathic controllers, ends up preferring being an alien, switches sides, and leads a successful alien revolt.

Not wanting to wear the special glasses, we decided to skip the 3-D version and watch it in 2-D. I accepted that it wouldn’t be as visually interesting in 2-D, but I didn’t expect all of the characters to be two-dimensional. I don’t think the special glasses would have helped with that. I don’t mind good guys vs. bad guys, and I always prefer it when the good guys end up winning. But it helps when both good and bad guys are also real people, with believable motivations and human characteristics.

Speaking of which, the Simpsons are more human and believable than Avatar’s CGI aliens and their world. Hell, the actors in rubber suits and the papier-mâché rocks on the original Star Trek TV show (the only real Star Trek TV show!) were more believable than Avatar’s aliens and their world. For all the high tech and big bucks, the blue aliens and their lush world are a cartoon from beginning to end. I never believed any of it.

Details bothered me. For instance, the aliens we see the most of live in a giant tree. But their feet are flat and inflexible, with short toes, just like ours. The movie makers didn’t think about what the aliens’ feet should have looked like. They just copied human feet. Big budget for CGI, but small budget for thinking.

Don’t assume that I’m an elitist snob who normally prefers serious movies that delve into the human condition and were made in France. I avoid such movies like the plague. I insist on escape. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, comedy, and preferably a few good explosions and shootouts – that’s what draws me to the theater. I was looking forward to escaping into the alien world of Avatar. I tried hard for the movie’s full 18 hours but never succeeded.

The plot is clichéd and predictable from one scene to the next. The action scenes are devoid of tension. Not only are they cartoonish, they’re dull cartoonish. Think of the absurdity of the truck-freeway-jet-fighter segment in the last Die Hard movie, and replace Bruce Willis and the truck and the freeway and the jet fighter with cartoon blue aliens and flying lizards and humans in armed flying machines. Character deaths are predictable and devoid of emotion, and character escapes from peril violate both physics and physiology.

The relationships are passionless. We are expected to believe in them, but the actors, whether human or CGId into aliens, give us no reason to do so.

The alien society is an awkward mix of generic tribal American Indian and generic tribal African. This is symbolism of shameless nakedness. It punches us in the mouth and orders us to feel guilty for the sins of European and American expansion.

The aliens’ embarrassingly silly Earth-mother religion is glossed over with a pretense of science that is as unconvincing as the aliens themselves. They are deeply in tune with their world (take that, you urbanized, industrialized EuroAmericans!), but that doesn’t stop them from murdering peaceful herbivores for food, even though they’re surrounded by a bountiful forest with plentiful and delicious fruit. Okay, so they say mystical garbage to the herbivores before they finish them off. Big deal. The herbivore, gasping in agony from the arrow our hero has shot into him in one scene, might be wondering why the blue chap is now sticking a humongous knife into him. “In the name of the earth mother,” the herbivore might be thinking, “why aren’t you a vegetarian?”

In the end, the good guys win and the bad guys lose. But the bad guys are the empire, with its vast resources and advanced technology, especially ways of blowing things up real good, whereas the good guys are just primitive blue aliens. In real history, empires often lose such first skirmishes due to underestimating the primitives and the terrain and the logistics. Empires learn from these failures and return with overwhelming force. That’s why I’m writing this in a Western language, using Western technology, while living in what used to be land occupied by non-Westerners.

So in reality, the blue aliens would lose in the long run. If they were lucky, they’d end up on reservations. If not, they’d be eliminated. Either way, the end result would be the strip mining of the planet.

Or perhaps the aliens will accept the inevitable and make a deal with the mining company. They’ll grant mining concessions to the humans, and in return they’ll be given human weapons, which they will use to conquer and enslave the other clans of aliens whom we glimpse at the end of the movie. We’ve already seen that these simple, gentle, loving, living-in-harmony-with-nature aliens have a warrior caste and a warrior ethos. Hmm. Where did those guys come from?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Mirror malfunctions

We’ve lived in this house for just over 38 years, and in general it’s held up fairly well. However, I’ve become increasingly aware that the mirrors are deteriorating. It’s not just the few remaining original mirrors either. There’s something in the house that seems to have damaged the newer ones, as well.

When we moved in, the mirrors showed me the man I expected to see. But increasingly, the degraded surfaces have distorted my image, giving me sagging jowls and wrinkled skin, and they seem unable to reflect my full head of hair.

I’m also becoming disenchanted with digital cameras. When we first switched to them, I thought they were a huge improvement over the old kind, with the bother of loading film and getting it developed and printed. But when I look at the pictures we took of me with those old gadgets and compare them to the pictures taken of me with our digital cameras, the difference is shocking. It’s a lot like the problem with the mirrors.

On the bright side, CGI keeps improving. Maybe that will provide the solution to both of these technological problems.