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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Problem with Religion

This is the world's number one problem, and it’s not Climate Change or Terrorism or Hillary Clinton-- it’s organized religion. Radical Islamic fundamentalism, like Christianity in the Middle Ages, is demonstrating once again why religious fundamentalism remains both the most egregious form of human thinking ever devised, and the most difficult to eradicate. Religiosity is not faith, but rather faithlessness. 

Trained religious beliefs are nothing more than opinionated dogma, wherein one becomes emotionally engaged with mantra and ends up "believing in belief". Organized religion in all forms, Christian and Muslim, must be afforded no respect. If we can somehow endeavor to turn away from religion and instead toward each other, perhaps then we will find our God. 

I agree with the philosophy attributed to Jesus in the gospels---you find God in the suffering of others. "When you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me." 

Don't go to church and support organized superstition; instead, spend that time lending someone a hand.

It's easy to receive; everyone wants to receive; but it's in the "giving" we find the tougher duty. 


Friday, December 25, 2015

Climate Change and Population Growth

     Planet Earth has too many people.

     Climate Change is real. It's been with us since the birth of the planet. In fact, its what made the planet. 

     As the earth warms and cools, the climate changes. The Sahara Dessert, millions of years ago, was a vast area of verdant growth, forests and abundant rainfall. Now, it's sand and heat. Millions of years ago, Kansas was under an ocean. Six hundred thousand years ago, the area around Topeka and Lawrence was under an icecap five hundred feet thick. The earth's climate has changed and the planet has warmed and cooled thousands of times, mostly during periods when there were no people and no fossil fuel industry.

    Demonizing a single industry as cause is nothing short of ludicrous. Fossil fuels help billions stay warm and provide for themselves.

    If climate change is caused by fossil fuels, if climate change will wreck havoc on worldwide coastal cities and crops by 2100, then Big Government had better start planning evacuations and food storage, because curtailing fossil fuels is never going to happen in time. China and India and other less developed countries are pumping carbons at historic levels, building coal plants and burning oil like never before. They have to; their populations are exploding. And they use old technology. They have no choice. When the planet grows from one billion people in the year 1800, to seven billion people today, there is necessarily going to be massive usage of every kind of fuel and energy source imaginable.

    By 2030 global population will have grown to 8.5 billion people. The birth rate worldwide exceeds the death rate by 1.4 million people per day! 

    And, we are running out of drinkable water, not because of pollution, but because there are too many people for the planet to absorb. 

    We must therefore advocate for population controls---for abortion on demand, and a one-child policy worldwide. We have no alternative. 


Monday, June 3, 2013

Literary Fiction

I enjoy reading "literary fiction," loosely defined as a novel that is more character driven than plot driven and where the reader is expected to do a little work, read between the lines and be engaged in something more than simply "who done it." In literary fiction, readers are asked to discern hidden meanings and nuance while experiencing both the external and internal lives of main characters. Every word counts in literary fiction. Authors are careful about such things as foreshadowing, word choice, metaphor, atmosphere and internal conflict.

To me, there is little surprise any longer in commercial 'thriller' fiction, stories in which we are presented with a plot puzzle as to who committed the murder and/or how the culprit can be brought to justice. I really don't care anymore.

Of course, the author will attempt to surprise us and lead us in the wrong direction. This, to me, is formulaic, and offers little surprise regardless of the outcome. We understand that we will know the answer by the end. These novels all read about the same to me. Read one of these and you've read them all. I can't remember one from the other after little more than a week.

Give me Olive Kitteridge, The English Patient, Love in the Time of Cholera, Suttree, All the Pretty Horses, Affliction, The Human Stain etc etc. If you want a murder in your story try, "We Need to Talk about Kevin."

There is a reason crime novelists can crank em out by the dozens. Once they have the formula, they just plug in different scenarios and voila, another generic novel gets published. It's up to us readers to demand better than pablum. Let's read literary fiction and kill dumbed down writing.

...and then there is 50 Shades of Grey and its sequels...writing doesn't get much worse than as exhibited in those novels. Even steamy sex can be hard to enjoy with writing this bad. Certainly, these books have garnered huge success, which speaks volumes about the degree to which horrible writing is accepted by the reading public these days. Surely we, as writers, can demand higher standards, standards created by the authors of literary fiction.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Craft of Writing

I began to write fiction in 2010. As a retired trial lawyer with three decades of experience, I knew how to write. Didn't I? Legal arguments, opening and closing statements for trial, correspondence, memorandums, briefs and on and on. How hard could it be to write good fiction?

Turns out, I had no idea how difficult writing fiction would be. I bought the books. I tried my hand at a few stories, concocted some scenes. Even wrote a poem or two. Stuff you can't throw away fast enough for fear someone might read it.

When I look back at that early writing--the stuff I forgot to delete--I am aghast at the poor quality. Embarrassing stuff, filled with adverbs and telling, point of view all over the place, misplaced modifiers and overwritten passages that did little else but call attention to itself.

After three years of study and effort, I am still deleting some but saving some. I have reached the conclusion that writing fiction is beyond mastery for anyone, the greats included. Which is why writing is such a wonderful thing. You can never become good enough at it to quit. You can never say, with honesty, that you have mastered the craft of writing, not wholly, literally, utterly. Can't be done. They say golf is hard to master. I've played golf. It's not even close.

The muses, after all, are quite fickle maidens. You just keep working, editing and rewriting, with the hope that eventually something will sing.