Monthly Archives: November 2012

November 25, 2012 – 26 Days Until Baktun 12

Survivalist Tip:  You won’t be able to operate that battery-powered generator without any batteries.  Therefore – and this should be as obvious as 2+2 = 4 – you need to stockpile as many batteries as possible.  There are literally hundreds of different types of batteries.  The ones for your generator and vehicle are the most expensive and cumbersome, but you need to get more than one.  Keep all your batteries in enclosed containers to keep them from getting wet and rusted or consumed by small children or animals.  As I’ve stated repeatedly, we just don’t know how long power and utility companies will be off-line, which will be a small slice of Heaven amidst the chaos of the “New Universe.”  Thus, like any good survivalist, you have to prepare for the worst.

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Queasy Words

Just as the long Thanksgiving holiday comes to a close here in the U.S., I present this list 10 words to describe bodily functions.  As a writer, I’m always perusing the dictionary and thesaurus for new terms.  I used to go overboard, just for the sake of being unique and colorful.  But, any creative writing instructor will advise the opposite – choose the simplest, most easily recognizable words for your story.  Not everyone loves reaching for the dictionary like we do.  But, I challenge my fellow writers to interject these linguistic mouthfuls into a sentence somewhere.  Go ahead.  It’ll be deliciously fun!

1. Borborygmus – rumbling: “What I thought was the rumbling of a truck was only a bout of borborygmus in my stomach.”

2. Emesis – vomiting: “I turned away in disgust from the vile rhetorical emesis of the racist orator.”

3. Eructation – belching: “The smokestacks engaged in endless eructation.”

4. Ingurgitation – guzzling: “We gazed in disbelief at the rampant ingurgitation occurring among the frat boys arrayed around the keg.”

5. Mastication – chewing: “The students, engrossed in the mental mastication required of the assignment, failed to notice my entrance.”

6. Micturation – urinating: “They’re micturating over all that we honor and respect.”

7. Osculation – kissing: “The odious osculation that takes place between politics and big business will never cease.”

8. Peristalsis – swallowing: “They accepted the lies with peristaltic enthusiasm — hook, line, and sinker.”

9. Sternutation – sneezing: “His incessant explosions of sternutation were unsettling.”

10. Tussis – coughing: “John produced gratuitous tussis to signal his extreme skepticism.”

Courtesy of Daily Writing Tips.

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La Jamais Contente – the First Hot Rod

 

Introduced in 1899, La Jamais Contente (“The Never Satisfied”) was the first vehicle to exceed 100 kilometers per hour, or 62 mph.  Designed by Camille Jenatzy and manufactured by Compagnie Internationale des transports automobiles électriques, it was an electric vehicle with a light alloy body.  The aerodynamics of its unique torpedo shape was compromised by the positioning of the driver and the vehicle’s chassis.  When you consider that electric vehicle are just now making a comeback and the speed limit in most parts of the U.S. is 55 mph, La Jamais Contente was essentially a space vehicle, far ahead of its time.

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Middle East Morass

Here we go again – more violence in the Middle East.  In case you’ve been in a coma, or preoccupied by Dancing with the Stars, Egypt is in another uproar; this time because President Mohammed Morsi has issued a mandate that grants him more political power.  This comes less than two years after Egyptian liberation activists forced Hosni Mubarak to resign, following a nearly three-decade reign.  Then, the “Arab Spring” erupted, as one country after another in the region started demanding truly democratic states; free speech, free elections, the freedom to walk down the street and not be hit by a car bomb.  But, just as things seemed to settle down – and they always just seem to settle down – Israel and Palestine have begun fighting once more.  Yawn – so what’s new?

Years ago, when I worked for a bank in downtown Dallas, I’d set my VCR to record the CBS Evening News.  I often made it home, as the VCR was recording, so I’d just lay down for a quick nap.  But, whenever news of the day’s events came to the Middle East, I’d just fast-forward the tape.  I didn’t want to hear – again – what crap was ablaze in that part of the world.  And, that part of the world is always ablaze.  If news reports of the region don’t show scattered body parts and ambulances swinging around street corners, I tend to think the end of the world has come and I didn’t check my email in time.

Just like every U.S. president since Richard Nixon has longed to end America’s dependence on foreign oil, every U.S. president since Richard Nixon has sought peace in the Middle East.  In the waning days of their respective administrations, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush became determined to draw up peace treaties.  But, Jimmy Carter came closest of any Chief Executive with the Camp David Accords.  In 1978, he succeeded in bringing Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin together to discuss two plans of action:

(1) a framework for the conclusion of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and;

(2) a broader framework for achieving peace in the Middle East.

The first provided for a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Sinai Peninsula and that region’s full return to Egypt within three years of the signing of a formal peace treaty between the two countries.  It also guaranteed the right of passage for Israeli ships through the Suez Canal.  The second was a more general framework (with vague terms) for Israel to gradually grant self-government and/or autonomy to the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and to partially withdraw its forces from those areas in preparation for negotiations on their final status of autonomy after a period of three years.  The two countries had been in an almost perpetual state of conflict since the 1956 Suez War, which had ultimately led to the 1967 “Six Day War.”  Israel invaded Egypt in May 1967, after the latter had forced the United Nations to withdraw from the Suez region.  Israel believed Egypt was about to attack them, so it engaged in what is now called a preemptive strike.

That’s how it’s been ever since.  The history of the Middle East is long and complicated, as you might expect from one of the birth places of modern humanity.  Early Egyptians built one of the most advanced and complex societies in the ancient world; they created one of the earliest forms of writing.  The ancient Israelites had lived in the area for thousands of years.  But, scores of powerful societies – from the Babylonians to the Romans to the Ottoman Empire – gradually forced them out in different waves over extended periods of time.  The British were the last; leaving in 1948, as the new Israeli state took shape.

Thus, I hate to see that entire region engulfed in a continuing state of war.  It’s one of the most culturally and archeologically significant places in the world.  I was upset, in early 2001, when the Taliban destroyed some of the oldest pre-Islamic statues in Afghanistan, including a 2,000-year-old, 165-foot-tall Buddhist masterpiece.

Since its founding as a formal nation in 1948, Israel is always fighting someone.  But, it seems they have no choice; they’re surrounded by enemies.  And, Israel is a small country, both geographically and population-wise.  Like every other nation, it has a right to exist in peace.  Its people have endured plenty of suffering, too; bounced around like trash sometimes; forced to move from one place to the next, while trying to maintain their unique
cultural identify and personal dignity.  The Nazi Holocaust of World War II compelled many Jews to flee Europe and settle in the area generally known before 1948 as Palestine.  They sought to establish their own homeland.

I actually support Israel.  They are the only true democracy in the Middle East.  They have the highest standard of living in the region and one of the highest in the world.  They also have one of the best national policies: every one of their able-bodied, able-minded citizens must serve in one branch of their military.  I feel the U.S. should adopt the same strategy, although wealthy conservatives, bleeding heart liberals and angry feminists would throw a fit.

But, I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of this Middle East mess.  I’M REALLY TIRED OF IT!  Like presidential campaigns and Thanksgiving turkeys, it’s never-ending.  And, the entire world seems to stop and pay attention when a bomb goes off or a solider is kidnapped – which I’m sure is how Israel, Palestine and all the others like it.  At the start of the 2007 – 2009 Israel – Palestine conflict, even HLN’s Nancy Grace took time out from looking for missing White females to talk with Christiane Amanpour about the fighting.  I literally did a double take.  What the hell was Nancy Grace doing involved in that shit?!

But, that proves how much attention the Middle East garners whenever things go awry – which is all the time.  It’s the same conflict – the same issues – the same level of anxiety – and the same results.  People die, and the streets are bloodied.  Israel holds up its hands, saying they had no alternative but to defend itself, and Palestine, Egypt, or whoever claims they’re fighting for their own self-preservation.  Nothing changes.  Yet, the U.S. keeps jumping in to save Israel and work towards elusive peace agreement.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next – aside from more bloodshed and name-calling – and I don’t know what can be done about it.  But, sometimes I wish the U.S. would just stay the hell out of it.  I know that won’t happen.  But, I have these wild dreams sometimes and I like to think they can actually come true, if people would just listen to me.

Image courtesy of Olle Johansson.

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November 24, 2012 – 27 Days Until Baktun 12

Survivalist Tip:  You can’t have water and air purifiers in your home if you don’t have a generator.  Remember, the utility companies will malfunction with the sudden shift in the Earth’s axes.  While that may be a good thing – since they’ll pretty much get what they deserve after years of screwing you with bloated rates and miscellaneous service charges – you’ll otherwise be out of luck.  But, that generator must be battery-powered.  A generator will keep some necessary appliances functioning smoothly, such as water purification units, floor fans, heaters and coffee machines.  Besides, the low-frequency humming sound a generator creates will keep away undesirable creatures, like insects, rats and anyone from the power company who survives the upheaval and hopes to collect on your electricity bill.

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Writer Philip Roth Is Frustrated – and Retires

After more than 6 decades of writing, Philip Roth has become weary of the frustrations and decided to stop.  “The struggle with writing is over,” he scribbled onto a Post-It note that he affixed to his computer.  Roth, who will turn 80 in March 2013, has penned some 31 books since 1959, when he published Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories.  Apparently, he’s had enough – whatever that’s supposed to mean to a writer.

Roth actually made the decision to retire 2 years ago, after completing Nemesis, about a polio epidemic that struck his hometown of Newark, New Jersey in 1944.

“I didn’t say anything about it because I wanted to be sure it was true,” he told The New York Times last week.  “I thought, ‘Wait a minute, don’t announce your retirement and then come out of it.’  I’m not Frank Sinatra.  So I didn’t say anything to anyone, just to see if it was so.”

As with many people, though, his health is an issue.  He had back surgery this past April continues to heal with regular exercise.  But, he apparently feels that could have a negative impact on his writing.  “I know I’m not going to write as well as I used to.  I no longer have the stamina to endure the frustration.  Writing is frustration — it’s daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It’s just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time.”

“I can’t face any more days when I write five pages and throw them away,” he added.  “I can’t do that anymore.”

Perhaps I shouldn’t be critical, since I haven’t published anything outside of this blog yet.  But, I can’t imagine retiring from writing.  Like politics, it seems to be something people can do forever.  Writing, of course, actually has a purpose.  My mother retired at age 70 from a half century in the insurance business.  My father was forcibly retired in 1994 from a printing company where he’d worked for more than 30 years.  Neither misses their jobs, even though it left both with bitter memories.  I don’t miss the engineering company that laid me off 2 years ago, in part because of the crap I had to put up with there at the end.  I don’t know anyone who’d miss, say, working at a sewage plant or a coal mine.  People may miss their coworkers or the camaraderie that comes from the friendships they develop.  But, no one really longs for the work itself.  The writing life is ideal for me.  Enjoying something while making money at it?  That’s not working!

But, Roth wants to clarify one thing.  “I do not believe the novel is dying.  I said the readership is dying out.  That’s a fact, and I’ve been saying it for 15 years.  I said the screen will kill the reader, and it has.  The movie screen in the beginning, the television screen and now the coup de grâce, the computer screen.”

In that regard, I couldn’t agree with him more.

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In Memoriam – Larry Hagman, 1931 – 2012

Actor Larry Hagman, best known for his roles on the TV series I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas died Friday morning, November 23.  He was 81.  He died after complications from throat cancer.  Born in Weatherford, Texas on September 21, 1931, Hagman was the son of actress Mary Martin who had a lengthy stage and film career.

After a stint in the U.S. Air Force, Hagman moved to New York and landed a role on the daytime drama The Edge of Night.  But, his popularity soared when he landed the role of an astronaut who discovers a genie in a bottle on I Dream of Jeannie in 1965.  Barbara Eden portrayed the genie.  Hagman rejuvenated his fame as the villainous oilman J.R. Ewing with Dallas, a prime time soap opera that premiered on CBS in 1978.

Hagman’s off-screen persona was even more eccentric.  In 1967, rock musician David Crosby turned him on to LSD, which Hagman said took away his fear of death, and Jack Nicholson introduced him to marijuana because Nicholson thought he was drinking too much.  When he first met actress Lauren Bacall, he licked her arm because he had been told she did not like to be touched and he was known for leading parades on the Malibu beach and showing up at a grocery store in a gorilla suit.  Above his Malibu home Hagman flew a flag with the statement “Vita Celebratio Est (Life Is a Celebration).”

By the 1990s, however, Hagman’s hard lifestyle caught up with him.  He developed liver cancer and cirrhosis.  He says he began drinking alcohol as a teenager and didn’t stop until 1992, when a doctor informed him he had cirrhosis.  He also claimed he drunk up to 4 bottles of champagne daily for more than a decade, including during his stint on Dallas.

In July 1995, he was diagnosed with liver cancer, which led him to quit smoking, and a month later he underwent a liver transplant.
After giving up his vices, Hagman said he did not lose his zest for life.  “It’s the same old Larry Hagman,” he told a reporter.  “He’s just a littler sober-er.”

In his later years, Hagman became an advocate for organ transplants and campaigned against smoking.  Hagman told the New York Times that, after his death, he wanted his remains to be “spread over a field and have marijuana and wheat planted and harvest it in a couple of years and then have a big marijuana cake, enough for 200 to 300 people.  People would eat a little of Larry.”

I have my own personal Larry Hagman story.  I met him and actress Linda Gray on the set of a Dallas episode in 1987.  I was an extra, appearing as a waiter in a banquet scene where a man professing to be “J.R. Ewing’s” father suddenly appeared to announced he was still alive after being presumed dead.  I held a platter of caviar, while standing near a table where Hagman and Gray were seated.  Gray asked me how long I’d been holding the platter.  “Well, they should be about ready to hatch,” I replied.  She and Hagman burst into laughter.  They were both actually very polite – and much taller than I’d imagined either to be.  That’s when I thought of being an actor, but decided writing was more important.

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November 23, 2012 – 28 Days Until Baktun 12

Survivalist Tip:  I’ve stated repeatedly throughout this year that the start of the new Baktun will be accompanied by a switch in the Earth’s axes.  Among many things, this will cause an abrupt disruption in the atmosphere, and the air will become filled with impurities.  We don’t know how long this will last, so you must have an air purifier in your home.  Cleaning up the air within your home will help to prevent such easily-transmittable ailments as tuberculosis, measles, influenza and gingivitis.  It’s a somewhat expensive investment, but priceless considering it could be a life saver.  Good air will also give you enough strength to ward off any politicians or rap stars who might have survived and will try to break into your home for the air quality.

Image.

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Malicious Mesquite Mall Melee

Here’s yet another reason why “Black Friday” shopping is for the mentally-impaired.  A fight broke out at Town East Mall in Mesquite, Texas this morning.  What some people thought was a gunshot was actually a trash can slamming into the floor.  Stores need to invest in Xanax dispensers.  In fact, I think I just found a great business idea: I’ll drive down to México in mid-November and purchase as much Xanax as I possibly can; then, sell it to people waiting in line for “Black Friday” deals.  Oh my God!  I think I can pay off my student loans in a day!

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Black Friday Ops

I once worked with a woman who was excited at the thought of waking early on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving and going to Wal-Mart.  I told her she needed psychiatric help and lit a candle for her salvation when I got home that evening.

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