Quote of the day

Belloc
“I can pay no attention at all to those who regard the cherishing of the past as an arresting, or a cramping; a check. On the contrary, it seems to me the privilege of a lively mind . . . . There is a sort of tradition which is not a form, nor a ritual, nor a name, but a surviving influence.” Hilaire Belloc

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Charlotte Observer Limerick Contest

Limerick

The Charlotte Observer hosts a limerick competition every year that runs from Saint Patrick’s Day to April 1st. They call it their “Politics & Public Policy Limericks Contest.” This year the paper encouraged entries lampooning the presidential campaign, but the current campaign is so bizarre and depressing, I just couldn’t imagine making a humorous rhyme about it. So instead, I decided to write limericks about local disasters.

The editors published my limerick on Charlotte’s I-77 toll lanes controversy. The public hates the idea of paying tolls, but there’s the added sting of a Spanish company (?!?) building the lanes and keeping all the profits they generate. Weird, huh? But so ripe for ridicule! From the Charlotte Observer editorial page:

It wasn’t all presidential politics, though. Give Mike Tuggle bonus degree-of-difficulty points for rhyming the word ‘criteria’ and going the foreign language route to finish his piece about the Interstate 77 toll lanes:

I can’t understand the criteria

That mandate toll lanes from Iberia.

The gain from those lanes

Stays mainly in Spain.

It’s Charlotte’s camino mysteria.

Stay tuned for future satirical entries in the coming weeks. Yes, I live in a target-rich environment.

Aztec Midnight now in paperback!

Aztec Midnight paperback

What are the Alebrijes so excited about? Their favorite novella, Aztec Midnight, is now available in paperback from Novel Fox. Of course, the Kindle version is cool, and it’s nice to be able to carry a library in your reader or iPhone, but there’s nothing quite like the feel of a real book in your hands. That cover is truly a thing of beauty.

Now, about the Alebrijes: They’re fantastic monsters folk artists in Oaxaca carve from copal, a wood Oaxacans believe is magical. Some, such as the lizard monster center right, are made of papier-mâché. They were “discovered” by the traditional art world when a gallery owner from Cuernavaca (where much of the action in Aztec Midnight takes place) started buying them in the 1930s. Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo found inspiration in them and helped further popularize them.

The magical creatures shown above are from my wife’s collection.

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper Versus Cthulhu!

Portal to Hell!

This evening, The Charlotte Film Society featured two shorts and a full-length film. My wife and I agreed the main film, Nina Forever, was an unfocused hot mess. However, the short Portal to Hell!!! was a blast.

Ex-pro wrestler Roddy Piper plays Jack, a patient, over-worked, and under-appreciated building super. Jack’s so stressed by his job that he ignores a lady who’s obviously interested in him. One day, while checking out a power loss in the old building’s creepy basement, he discovers that two elderly male tenants dressed in tighty whities have invoked none other than the dreaded Cthulhu from his undersea hideout in R’lyeh. Jack just wants to do his job, but he’s pretty sure the men’s actions violate their lease, and doesn’t hesitate to tell them.

The Old One, being who he is, strikes out from his portal and kills everyone in his reach, then wraps a tentacle around Jack and s-l-o-w-l-y drags our hero toward certain doom. But the lady who has a secret crush on Jack finds the book the old men used to summon Cthulhu. Will she find the correct spell in time? And is that spell permanent or just a temporary fix?

Great special effects, great acting, lots of laughs, and plenty of hidden treasures for Lovecraft fans.

One sad note: Roddy Piper passed away shortly before the film was nominated for the Toronto International Film Festival.

Through Wendell Berry’s Looking Glass

Berryphoto via http://www.theseerfilm.com

Laura Dunn’s new documentary of Wendell Berry lets us meet a true American original. Produced by Robert Redford and Nick Offerman (Parks and Rec), The Seer introduces viewers to the work and thought of Berry, whose writing grapples with the question of how we can remain human in an increasingly flattened, urbanized, and technological world.

From a review by Gracy Olmstead:

Berry is a Kentucky-born farmer and philosopher, essayist and poet, environmental activist and localist. He’s written fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and has been the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, the National Humanities Medal, and the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. Those familiar with Berry’s work know that he is an outspoken advocate for “flyover country”—for towns and communities, farmers and farms neglected or even maltreated by modern politics and culture. His nonfiction work lauds a loyalty to place, to family, and to community that we’ve largely forgotten. His poetry exudes a reverence for the created world, for the glory of quotidian rituals and objects. His novels combine both these things in characters that love their towns and land. Through this immense body of work, Berry has appealed to a wide range of readers, transcending political and personal biases.

What makes Wendell Berry so refreshingly different as a social critic is that his starting point is not some pre-packaged, other-worldly ideology. Instead, Berry lives and writes within a close-knit community of people making their living on family farms. As Olmstead points out, Berry’s independent point of view has “angered people on both left and right—but it’s also enabled him to bridge ideological barriers and appeal to a large set of people. He’s tapped into a yearning that lies in the heart of so many: a love of home, of place, of traditions that are worth preserving and communities that are worth celebrating.”

We live in an artificial world where the use of anti-depressants is “skyrocketing.” Wendell Berry’s battle cry for reclaiming human connections may be just what we need.

The Clincher

The Clincher

The Flash Fiction Press has published my story The Clincher, now available online.

The idea for this story came to me while reading William Lind’s introduction to Fourth Generation Warfare. Lind predicts that future battles will hinge on public perceptions of the combatants:

Fourth generation adversaries will be adept at manipulating the media to alter domestic and world opinion to the point where skillful use of psychological operations will sometimes preclude the commitment of combat forces. A major target will be the enemy population’s support of its government and the war.

Propaganda has long served as a “Fifth Column” for invading armies. During the 1968 Prague Spring uprisings against the Soviet Union, Czech communists assured their restless population that Soviet troops entering Prague weren’t really invading — they were just dropping by to preserve order and stop “counter-revolutionaries,” thereby ensuring Czechoslovakia’s peace and prosperity.

Prague Spring“We’re from Moscow, and we’re here to help.”

Lind argues that in future conflicts, warring groups will clash over narrative even more than over territory, making the control of public opinion “the dominant operational and strategic weapon.” It occurred to me that 4GW will weaponize the advertising industry. That made me think about Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and the other rapacious but fascinating characters from Mad Men. I wondered how they’d react if space aliens asked them to handle a PR campaign to prepare the Earth for invasion.

Yeah, they’d take that account.

Please leave comments at The Flash Fiction Press. Thanks!