Where did the blog title come from? Check here.
What about the picture of the dog? Check here.
Wry humor with a message? Try here.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Stern Agony--The Premise

      In sum, Stern Agony is a story of a man's life, a man who begins this journey as a precocious teen, living in wealth and privilege, but also mired in alcoholism, drug addiction and abuse. What will become of Shaw Pence and his beloved Hollows Ranch?

    The premise of my novel demonstrates that life is indeed just a game and nothing more--and everything more--that whatever happens in life is simply what happens. It's in how we move forward that we find significance. 

     Stern Agony demonstrates that what ‘will happen’ is key to a fully lived life, and what 'will happen' is entirely dependent on us. The main character of our lives is us; we are cause and effect for everything--the good, the bad, the random. What didn't happen, what could have happened, or might have, or should have, or did, are simply old stories we tell ourselves, barren landscapes littered with useless objects best ignored, twice told tales of failure, of acclaim, of excuse. Our past is not prologue; our past is dead to us.

The world is, in fact, but a stage; the things in it are givens. Our intention is our through-line, and the point of it all is change and understanding. Without change there can be no depth, no progress, no understanding, and we remain forever and always at the shallow end in a pool of excuses. Without purpose and intention, without challenge and change, we may as well be stalled boats on a pond, and when the water dries up, dead trees. 

     It's what we intend to do, will do, actually do, that's important. Just having understanding, and nothing more, no desire, no purpose, no movement, is like having a fervent desire to do something never done--and then never doing it. We must keep our sails furled, harnessing the wind, our ship sailing toward shore, because someday the lake bed will shrivel and crack. 

Just ask Shaw Pence.

1. The poem Thanatopsis, by William Cullen Bryant serves as a source for the novel's title, Stern Agony.
Following are the relevant passages, as alluded to on page 102 of the novel, wherein the poem serves as a clue to Gramp's hidden treasure:

"To him who in the love of Nature holds   
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks   
A various language; for his gayer hours   
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile   
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides   
Into his darker musings, with a mild   
And healing sympathy, that steals away   
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts   
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight   
Over thy spirit, and sad images   
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,   
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,   
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—   
Go forth, under the open sky, and list   
To Nature’s teachings, while from all around— 
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air— 
Comes a still voice—"...

2. The co-progatongist's name, Cassie (short for Cassandra) was chosen purposely from the ancient greek Myth of Cassandra, alluded to in Homer's Iliad and elsewhere in literature. The myth is mentioned by Gramp and it would behoove readers to familiarize with the Myth:

Cassandra was a daughter of King Priam and of Queen Hecuba of Troy in Greek mythology. In modern usage her name is employed as a rhetorical device to indicate someone whose accurate prophecies are not believed by those around them.
In an effort to seduce her, Apollo gave Cassandra the power of prophecy: when she refused him, he spat into her mouth to inflict a curse that nobody would ever believe her prophecies, despite their complete accuracy. She falls asleep in a temple, and snakes lick inside her ears so that she can hear the future.
Cassandra is a literary figure in epic tradition and tragedy.

3. Legend of sacred Native American burial grounds.  Indigenous peoples thrive on traditions of merging with the land, physically and spiritually. After death, restless spirits can be trespassed and wronged. Native Americans are more present and powerful in their burial and sacred places, because they have merged their essence with the land itself and the land spirits there. And when the land is damaged, disturbed, built on...the spirits, the land, nature, revolts. The average American feels that when they die, they go to heaven or hell, or somewhere else. The traditional Native American may have an idea of a distant "happy hunting ground" but also that some part of their spirit is fused within the land, especially where they are buried. Stern Agony explores this idea when Shaw and Zella unearth artifacts in a cave on Hollows Ranch, unleashing the Myth of the Wet Man

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, climate change, extended periods of warming and cooling, made the planet. 

    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 provide for themselves. Fossil fuels have done more to help the masses than any single thing.

    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. Again, 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 250,000 people per day! That's right; by this time tomorrow, there'll be another 250,000 mouths to feed, a quarter million more humans to muddy the water, dirty the air while finding a place to squeeze in.

    Soon, there will be too many people for our planet to absorb. 

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