Tag Archives: writers

Book Review – Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by.

If any of you are bored, or maybe a bit ashamed hearing yourselves parrot to one another how much you hate Muslims, or Arabs, or one of the numerous other epithets you apply to people of Semitic ancestry without knowing a damned thing about them, you might find this a cleansing read.  [Long sentence, eh?]

I found it in a ‘free’ box in a thrift store held together by rubber bands, but there’s probably another read left in this copy.  If any of you can’t find a copy and want this one I’ll send it to you, rubber bands and all.

Lawrence was a young Englishman assigned early in WWI to go into the desert and try raising a rebellion among the Beduins against the Turkish Empire.  The allies were having an awful time with those Turks, getting themselves made monkeys of, their cannon-fodder reduced to cannon-fodder without seeing any positive results.  Someone got the idea a revolt in the background might help.

So young Lawrence found himself a camel and headed out to make friends of the tribes, to try arranging dissatisfaction among them.  To offer money, weapons, military advisors, explosives to weaken the back door to pesky Turkey.

Lawrence lived among them several years.  Became trusted by them, successfully stirred them into revolt, led them, came to respect and understand them.  Earned their trust, I should have said, to the extent any representative of a European power could be trusted.  And trusted them in a more-or-less realistic way.

These are his memoirs, his exploits, his observations about the people.  The events that came to be important as an influence on the future running right to the present.  And changed his entire perspective about loyalties, betrayals, patriotism and individual responsibility.

In some ways what happened to Lawrence is reminescent of what the Templars were accused of and slaughtered for by the European powers.  Becoming too familiar, dangerously understanding of the fabled, demonized enemy.

Lawrence could probably offer an Eighth Pillar of Wisdom if he’d survived until today and had a chance to offer his thoughts about what he’d see around him.

A worthy read, worth the rubber bands holding it together.  655 pages with introduction and remarks by his friend, George Bernard Shaw.

Old Jules

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Beating Dead Horses – Lynching Poor Old Ayn Rand Again

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

I gather from the email forwards that someone’s not satisfied Ayn Rand has been accepted as pathetic enough, wrong enough, dead enough to be left alone.  Subject lines by non-psychiatrists, non-psychologists are taking the trouble to declare her a lunatic.

Poor, sad, bitter woman trapped inside a self yearning for men to be hairier chested, more muscled-up, more knock-em-around, slap-em-down and screw ’em.  More like the good old days, taking what they want from anyone too weak to keep them from it.

I wonder why they don’t just leave her the hell alone.  The 20th Century had no shortage of miserable, confused people, plenty of them writers, submerged in bitterness and misplaced notions of how it could be better.

In some ways every time Ayn Rand and her wishes come up I find myself thinking of Sylvia Plath, similar in so many ways, but with a different slant on the sort of man Rand longed for:

Daddy   
by Sylvia Plath 

 
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time–
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You–

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two–
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.
12 October 1962
 

But nobody ever bothers dragging Plath up out of the grave and horsewhipping her.  What the hell.

Old Jules

Crazy Anger

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

I overslept, which almost never happens to me.  Thoroughly pissed-off the chickens [their protests finally woke me] and the felines.  Appropriate enough, I suppose, because I came out of sleep seething with anger.  An anger that’s been simmering inside me for a few days, but I somehow was ignoring.

One of my favorite authors, Sir Terence David JohnTerryPratchett[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Pratchett], Jeanne told me, has himself a case of Alzheimer’s.  Hell, evidently he announced it to the public in 2007 and everyone in the world but my humble self knew it.  Not that my knowing of it would have made any difference, except maybe if I’d been digesting the fact I’d have reacted in a more rational way than I did having it come as a surprise.

Found, I did, that I’d almost been thinking of Pratchett almost as a family member or close friend gradually over the years, which also caught me by surprise.  The guy has a mind works so similarly to my own that when I read his books I sometimes found myself sort of juxtaposed, me creating his character, his dialogue, his plot, laughing as I did it.

So, time to go root hog or die back into my anger management rituals, I reckons.  Time to bring discipline and routine back into the gratitude and forgiveness affirmations.

Forgiving old Terry for maybe dying before I do.  Forgiving myself for being the flawed bastard I am, falling off the wagon, letting anger seep into my head.  Forgiving the Universe for tossing a challenge of the sort Alzheimer’s brings into our lives which seem plenty challenging enough already, everything else being equal.

I’m surely going to miss knowing Terry Pratchett’s out there doing what I ain’t doing better than I could have done it.

Old Jules

The Illusion of Survival

Several years ago during that pesky time when the publishing house had accepted Desert Emergency Survival Basics for publication, but I hadn’t yet seen the contract they were proposing, the editor was asking for re-writes and a number of changes in the final draft. We discussed it on the phone a number of times and I was pecking away at it, but holding back until I’d seen what they were bringing to the table. 

But before I got too far along I got a call from him because of a news event.  A family in Oregon, or Washington had taken a back road in the National Forest, gotten snowed in, and died because they didn’t apply some of the basics suggested in the Survival Book.

Him:  The scope of the book is broader than the name suggests.  It shouldn’t require a lot of work to make it a general survival manual.

Me: A lot of work’s already gone into it.  And I’ve already re-written it the way you suggest earlier.  You’ve got it in front of you.  Before I do any more work on it you and I need to talk about money.  Every time I’ve asked about what you’re offering as an advance you’ve hedged.  Said you needed to discuss it with the boss.

Him:  We don’t usually offer much in the way of advances.  We’re not that big, even though we offer a lot of titles.

Me:  Then you and I probably don’t have much to talk about.  You know and I know I’m never going to see a penny beyond the advance.  I have a fair idea what’s contained in your standard contract.  I’m not going to lift another finger on this book until I see an advance, and if it’s not enough to pay for my time already, hearing you’re going to be flexible about changing the contract details.

Him:  I’ll talk to the boss.  But that book needs to be published.  That family might have survived if they’d read it.

Me:  I’ve got some survival issues of my own here.  Hypothetical people who might die won’t pay my rent.  I’ve already done the work.  But if you’re proposing to print that book and give it away so neither of us makes anything on it what you’re saying might make sense.  Appeal to my better nature.

Him:  I can’t do that.  We’re in business.

Ultimately they sent me the standard contract and offered a token advance.  The willingness to alter the details of the contract didn’t include changes that would have allowed me to eventually get paid for my labor by eliminating provisions for them to squirm out of paying.

I’ve thought about that a lot over the years and eventually concluded the entire concept of survival and survival books qualifies as a cruel hoax.  An ironic illusion.  Because human beings are going to experience death inevitably as a means of exiting the vehicle.  Some are going to die getting lost in the woods.  If they survive getting lost it’s almost certainly going to be luck, instinct, or common sense.

As an example, somewhere earlier on this blog I described a snowstorm Keith and I got caught in on Santa Rita mesa, and how the GPS seemed to be lying about where the truck was.  How we believed the GPS instead of what we knew to be true, and more-or-less quickly found the truck.

That same snowstorm, not too far away, a kid was lost.  The news was full of it, Search and Rescue eventually was ready to give him up for dead.  But the kid, clothed in a light jacket, used his brain, sheltered under a rock ledge, and made it out after five unlikely days.

Which isn’t at all the same as saying the kid survived.  He won’t.  Neither will anyone else.

Old Jules

Old Sol’s Moodiness and Being a Character In a Book

In case you’re one of those people who hasn’t been staring at the sun, here’s a brief update before I tell you about an interesting tidbit in my life:  Finding myself a character in a ‘memoir’ [actually a novel] written by my step-brother published as non-fiction.  But important things first:

From http://spaceweather.com/

Here he is November 28:

As you can see, the south pole stuff’s maintaining itself, still doing what it was doing when I last mentioned it.

Here’s today.

Still something going on down there, but the grandstanding is still north of the equator.

Strangeness

SINUOUS SUNSPOTS: A line of sunspots stretching across the sun’s northern hemisphere appears to be an independent sequence of dark cores. A telescope tuned to the red glow of solar hydrogen, however, reveals something different. The sunspots are connected by sinuous filaments of magnetism:

“These sunspots writhe and squirm energetically as they rotate away from us!” says John Nassr, who took the picture on Nov. 28th from his backyard observatory in Baguio, the Philippines.

The connections suggest an interesting possibility. While each sunspot individually poses little threat for strong solar flares, an instability in one could start a chain reaction involving all, leading to a widespread eruption. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.

I could write a lot about this but none of it would necessarily be true, so I’m doing my best not to have an opinion while keeping my foot in the door for afterward saying “I told you so,” if I can get by with it.

Okay.  Now for the main thrust of this post.  Before beginning the post I visited the Bobby Jack Nelson Forum on Amazon to see what was being said about him: http://tinyurl.com/7zj2la3

A while back I got an email on an old email address I rarely check anymore from a lady who wanted to discuss my step-brother, Bobby Jack Nelson.  She explained he’d offed himself in a nursing home in San Saba, Texas, and that she’d had a long-term relationship with him. 

But Bob had told her a lot of things she’d begun to think were lies.  She just wanted to bounce some of them off me because she knew he and I had associated considerably during the 1980s and early 1990s when he was writing Keepers – A Memoir. http://tinyurl.com/d82tcsk.

 To be honest the whole thing qualified as strange enough to keep life worth living.  Bob and I saw quite a bit of one another during those years, and I knew he was writing a novel about, among other things, his childhood in Portales, New Mexico.  I considered him a friend.

 But one day in the late-1990s [as soon as the novel had been accepted by a publishing house, I later discovered] while I was living in Socorro, New Mexico, I got a call from Bob.  He didn’t mention the novel, but he said he was going off to South America and wouldn’t be returning to the US, so I wouldn’t be hearing any more from him.

I got reports from various mutual acquaintances they’d seen him in Texas here and there, so I figured he just wanted to break off our association, which was puzzling, but okay by me.  Then I got a call from a Dallas reporter asking what I thought of the book, which I hadn’t been aware was published.

 Naturally, I bought and read a copy.  Suddenly it was clear to me why the reporter had called me, but also why Bob had suddenly taken a powder.  My first reaction to reading it would have been to trip up to that mountain town he was staying in while writing it and beat hell out of him.

I was honestly dumbfounded the man could bring himself to publish such a pack of lies as non-fiction.  But a person would have had to have been there, or remembered what he’d said back earlier had happened, to recognize there was barely a grain of truth in any of it.

Gradually I cooled down and just forgot about Bob until the lady contacted me to tell me he was dead, and how he’d died.

We exchanged a lot of emails over several months, and it was a journey of mutual discovery.  But the discoveries came in the form of Bob being an even worse liar than I’d have thought possible knowing already he was an accomplished liar.  And for her, not knowing he was a liar at all, I suppose it provided her some closure to find the man she loved, somewhat idolized, was in awe of, was not the person she’d believed him to be.

 Oddly enough, I think Bob tried to warn me a number of times about himself.  Several times he told me over the years that he was a liar, but I didn’t grasp the extent of what he was saying.  Other times he told me he wasn’t what I thought he was, and I shrugged that off, too.

But what came as a shock to me, first with the book, and later with what the lady told me, was that Bob absolutely despised me.  That, I’d have never guessed during the years I wasted pieces of my life associating with him in what seemed a mutually warm, friendly relationship.

Live and learn.

Old Jules