Saturday, December 7, 2013

To the Stars

To the Stars
For centuries humanity has used technology to solve problems and help accomplish tasks.  Today’s scientists and engineers use the advances of the past to create new technologies.  In their essay, “Vampires Never Die”, Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan write, “Today as well, we stand at the rich uncertain dawn of a new level of scientific innovation” (324).  An innovation that has been pondered for some time is the ability to travel to the stars.  Contrary to the beliefs of some individuals travelling to the stars at non prohibitive speeds is possible, practical and inevitable and we will undoubtedly achieve it in the future.  Interstellar travel is possible because of constant human innovation and exploitation of space time to achieve relative speeds faster than light.
Human innovation has accomplished such feats as lofting objects and people into sky and space, allowing people to talk to one another miles apart with a device that could be lost in the crevices of a couch, and it has placed vast quantities of information at our fingertips.  Many of the innovations that produced these capabilities were created within the past century and people in the previous century likely couldn’t have imagined such technology.  The cutting edge of innovation and science in the present could include such things as discoveries in physics, new prosthesis that can enhance the capabilities of our bodies and advances in fusion technology.
The first item that will be discussed is the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle.  The Higgs Boson particle was proven to exist last year by scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the Higgs Boson particle is an essential piece of the Standard Model and its discovery places scientists closer to discovering a unified theory of how the universe works (Landau).  Theoretical physicist Brian Greene says that the Higgs Boson particle is the reason that matter has mass (Landau).  The two scientists, Francois Englert and Peter Higgs, who predicted its existence have received the Nobel Prize in physics (Brumfield).
The second innovation is new prosthesis and bionic enhancements in general.  The author of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, Ramez Naam, writes that 220,000 people possess cochlear implants, devices that send sound waves converted into electrical impulses directly to the auditory nerve and tens of thousands of people possess deep brain stimulators that control Parkinson’s Disease, Naam believes that we’re in a bionic revolution (Naam).
The third item that has vast potential is that of nuclear fusion.  Professor Steven Cowley, who is the director of the Culham Center for Fusion Energy, writes that researchers at Joint European Torus have successfully generated sixteen megawatts of power with only a couple of seconds of fusion despite the two hundred million degree temperatures, ten times the temperature of the sun, needed to produce fusion (Cowley).  Cowley adds that fusion doesn’t produce radiation, pollution or any toxic materials (Cowley).  With such innovations and discoveries it is hard to say humanity will never amass enough scientific and technological ability to achieve interstellar travel, however what some may consider the largest obstacle to interstellar travel is the vast distances between stars and the relatively miniscule speed of our space craft.  The next topic that will be discussed is possible methods of achieving dramatically increased speeds.
In his article, “The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity,” Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre explains that:
It is shown how, within the framework of general relativity and without the introduction of wormholes, it is possible to modify a space time in a way that allows a spaceship to travel with an arbitrarily large speed.  By a purely local expansion of spacetime behind the spaceship and an opposite contraction in front of it, motion faster than the speed of light as seen by observers outside the disturbed region is possible.  The resulting distortion is reminiscent of the “warp drive” of science fiction (1).
In his article “Warp Field Mechanics 101” Doctor Harold White, who works at Johnson Space Center’s Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory, writes that a spaceship equipped with warp drive could achieve a relative velocity ten times the speed of light and could reach Alpha Centauri in .43 years (5).  White later states that challenges remain to be solved before practical warp drive can be a reality (9).
Finally the greatest pieces of evidence for the eventual perfection of warp drive are the innovations of the past and present such as the discovery of the Higgs Boson, the successful generation of nuclear fusion, a clean, effective and renewable power source, and the development of prosthesis with its accompanying robotics and software.  Humanity has learned so much and accomplished so many feats of science and technology in the past that the idea of warp drive being impossible seems itself impossible, if humanity has solved so many problems and learned so much in the past one hundred years then why would the challenges of interstellar travel stop us now?  It seems inevitable that the engineering problems presented by warp drive, nuclear fusion and other technologies can be solved and science fiction will one day become science fact.  The current generation may even live to see it.  Contrary to the beliefs of some individuals travelling to the stars at non prohibitive speeds is possible, practical and inevitable and we will undoubtedly achieve it in the future.
Works Cited
Alcubierre, M. “The warp drive: hyper-fast travel within general relativity,” Classical and Quantum
Gravity 11, L73-L77 (1994). Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
Brumfield, Ben. “‘God Particle’ Theorists Receive Nobel Prize in Physics.” Cable News
Network, 8 Oct. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
Cowley, Steven. “Nuclear Fusion is the ‘Perfect Energy Source’” Cable News Network,
12 Mar. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
Kennedy, X., D. Kennedy, and Jane Aaron, eds. The Brief Bedford Reader. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martin’s, 2012. Print.
Landau, Elizabeth. “Scientists more certain that particle is Higgs Boson.” Cable News
Network, 16 Mar. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
Naam, Ramez. “Are Bionic Superhumans on the Horizon?” Cable News Network, 25
Apr. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
White, Harold. Warp Field Mechanics 101. 30 Sep. 2011. NASA Technical Reports Server. Web. 1
Dec. 2013.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Nanotechnology is the technology of manipulating matter at the scale between the every day world--the big, visible stuff--and the world of the quantum--the teeny, tiny. "A nanometer is about the width of a strand of DNA," says Discover magazine, July/August, 2010, issue. Nanometer, abbreviated nm, is a name derived from the Greek word for midget, nano. Each nanometer is only three to five atoms wide, 40,000 times smaller than the width of the human hair. Nanoparticles contain tens of thousands of atoms and straddle the world of Newton and the world of quantum mechanics.But nanotechnology is not new.

Human beings have used nanotechnology in sunscreen and ink-jet printers. But medieval stained glass nanotechnologists have probably created the most amazingly beautiful nano-tech products to date: stained glass colored with gold. The medieval art of making stained glass reached its peak in the years between 1100 and 1500.

Most of what we know about medieval stained glass was recorded by a monk who called himself, Theophilus, in his book titled On Diverse Arts. He wrote that powdered metals such gold, copper and silver were used to color molten glass. Gold particles were simple spheres about 25 nanometers in diameter. At such a small size, gold no longer glitters. The beautiful red of stained glass was created when gold chloride, a compound of gold and chlorine, which was prepared by passing chlorine gas over gold powder, was mixed with molten glass turning gold into tiny spheres that sloshed in unison and absorbed blue and yellow light while allowing the longer wavelength, red, to shine in a rich ruby hue. To achieve a bright yellow hue, nanoparticles of silver were used. Change the size of the gold nanoparticles and a different color is achieved. With today's more sophisticated tools, nanotechnologists can make particles of many different shapes and sizes. Larger gold spheres create green and orange hues. Small silver ones make blue. Changing the size and shape of a gold or silver nanoparticle can produce every color of the spectrum.

In a New York Times article, titled, "Tiny is Beautiful: Translating 'Nano' Into Practical," Dr. Chad A. Mirkin, a director of Northwestern University's Institute for Nanotechnology, said "everything, regardless of what it is, has new properties" because of the changes made in quantum mechanical and thermodynamic properties at the nanometer scale. He added, this is "where a lot of the scientific interest is." Dr. A. Paul Alivisatos, a professor of chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, stated, "instead of changing composition, you can change size."  Dr. Alivisatos, founding scientist of Quantum Dot Corporation, works with nanoparticles, called "quantum dots" made of semiconductors and gallium arsenide. The size and shape of the quantum dots can be manipulated to fluoresce specific colors. In a medical application, current dyes used to light up proteins fade quickly, but quantum dots could allow tracking of biological reactions in living cells for days.

Kenneth Chang, author of the New York Times article mentioned above, wrote, "Other applications of nanoparticles take advantage of the fact that more surface area is exposed when material is broken down to smaller sizes. For magnetic nanoparticles, the lack of blemishes produces magnetic fields remarkably strong considering the size of the particles. Nanoparticles are also so small that in most of them, the atoms line up in perfect crystals without a single blemish"

Dr. David F. Kelley, a professor at the University of California, Merced, is researching the chemical, optical and electronic properties of semiconductor nanoparticles and electron transfer reactions involving inorganic dyes. He's interested in nanoparticles because of their possible applications in regenerative photocells, photocatalysis and in electroluminescent devices. He seeks to come to understand size-dependent spectroscopy and photophysics on a nanoparticle level. This research may be applied to create solar cells that would allow electrons to hop more easily between particles due to the flawless structure possible on a nanoparticle scale.

Dr. Yi Lu, a chemistry professor at the University of Illinois. He uses DNA as a building block for nanoscale components. His primary areas of research include: DNA mediated assembly and growth of nanoparticles, directed nanoscale self-assembly on a DNA scaffold and reversible cell-specific drug delivery with Apatamer-functional lipsomes. He takes advantage of the color changes that occur at the nanoparticle level to create a test for hazardous levels of lead. DNA molecules attached to gold nanoparticles, tangle with other specially designed pieces of DNA to make clumps that appear blue. Lead causes the connecting DNA to fall apart cutting loose the gold nanoparticles and changing the color to red.

Dr. Mirkin uses gold nanoparticles as a connecting point to build disease sensors. He attaches a gold particle to an antibody and adds snippets of DNA that act as bar codes. This approach has produced a test for Alzheimer's disease by measuring minuscule amounts of a protein in spinal fluid associated with the disease. His company, Nanosphere Inc. is working to bring this technology to market.

Dr. Naomi J. Halas, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University, has invented a type of particle she's dubbed "nanoshells," which are hollow gold or silver spheres wrapped around a filling of silica.These may be used to treat cancer by applying the ability of nanoparticle-sized hollow shape to increase gold's efficiency in absorbing light energy. When these nanoshells are injected into a tumor and infrared light is shined on them, they heat up and kill the tumor. Researchers in Dr. Halas's lab have demonstrated nanoshells unique ability by inserting nanoshells into uncooked chicken parts and then shining a near infrared laser at the chicken. Since water does not absorb much infrared light, the light passes through most of the meat without having any effect, but the nanoshells heat up, cook the chicken, then start smoking and catch on fire. In actual treatment, lower intensity of light would be used to avoid cooking the patient. See also Dr. Halas's associate's site: Nanospectra and Nanomedicine Targets Cancer.

Shrinking medication to nanoparticle size will improve effectiveness. Altair Nanotechnologies of Reno has developed a possible drug for kidney patients: nanoparticles of lanthanum dioxycarbonate. This chemical binds to phosphate which builds up in failing kidneys and prevents it from entering tissue. A small amount with each meal can have a huge beneficial effect.

Discover magazine article by Nayanah Siva titled Smart Bandages Nurse Your Wounds reported Toby Jenkins and colleagues of the University of Bath in England, are working on self-medicating bandages that promise to keep serious wounds free of infection using nanocapsules that release antimicrobials when bacterial toxins appear in a wound. Harmful bacteria will also cause the dressing to change color alerting care takers that a problem exists. This could be especially helpful for burn victims. Nearly 50% of all burn-related deaths are caused by infection. This new technology will allow fewer bandages to be used which will reduce scarring and speed healing.

Siva writes, "Cell biologist Paul Durham and his team from Missouri State University are working on a multitasking bandage layered with antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory agents for use on a variety of wounds, including deep cuts and punctures. In the initial prototype, a battery-powered time-release mechanism will dispense the medications, but ultimately the researchers hope to incorporate chemical sensors that will trigger drug release in response to changes in the wound."

In a January, 2000, issue, Wendy Marston reported in Discover online Future Tech article sub titled: Can we interest you in a suit that banishes dirt, sweat, and germs, sir? nano-tech mills could completely change how clothing is made. David Forrest, president of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, says that nano-mills will create custom fabrics assembled atom by atom using contraptions the size of photocopy machines. "Raw materials such as nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen will be put into a desk-size unit which will rearrange the elements and control the trajectories of all the molecules" in order to fabricate the material. He also plans to incorporate sensors to detect rips and tears which will alert parmecium-size robotic crews to fix the holes by means of atomic manipulation. Gain a few pounds? Electro-mechanically controlled molecules in the fibers could change the shape of a garment with the touch of a button. Nano-manufactured clothing might even launder itself using nano-sized, micro-maids to remove dirt to a collection area where it will be picked up. "Robotic devices similar to mites could periodically scour the fabric surfaces," says Forrest. Mico-maids would also handle the rinse cycle. "It may be extraordinarily difficult to do this," he says, "but there's no scientific barrier."

Nanobots that clean spaceships, nano-drug-delivery systems and nano-manufactured textiles, clothing and facsimile copies of documents identical to the originals from the molecular level up are features of the Over the Edge science fiction series. In one scene a character uses a nano-heart attack to assassinate a criminal. Nanobots clean spaceships and check them for hazardous particles or micro-organisms and out-of-place insects, threads or buttons and report their findings to ship's captains.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

First Few at NaNoWriMo

Before NaNoWriMo began this year, I read a few blogs. I liked what Victoria Grefer had to say about why not to try NaNoWriMo: Writing with the Crimson League and what Kristen Lamb said about going for it: Kristen Lamb's Blog
Here are a few thoughts about what’s happening. Many thanks to both bloggers sharing their experience and thoughtful advice.

Victoria Grefer tells us about not signing onto NaNo if we are too hard on ourselves or too worried about competing. I took her advice to heart and decided to continue anyway. The biggest hurdle for me in writing has been hating early drafts. My work seems so lousy in the beginning and I itch to go back and have a great first chapter, even if I don’t finish the work. Slowly, I have overcome this need to revise, but Victoria’s advice stuck with me in a positive way. I thought that maybe I could use NaNo to finally overcome this quirk and train myself to draft then re-draft at a later time and edit only as much as is critical to the plot and chapters moving forward.
Victoria’s final word of advice is about feeling superior to others who don’t win. I loved this point, not because I am tempted to feel superior, but because NaNo is one of very few arenas where there are multiple winners and no real losers. If you go for it you essential win in your world. What I really appreciated is that Victoria cares about her writing world and the lives of those writers. She inherently knows that feeling superior is bad for all of us.

Kristen Lamb gives the other side. She compares NaNoWriMo to fitness camp for writers. What I particularly liked were her comments on endurance and mental fitness. Especially for some of us with limited schedules we must consider writing enough of a priority to move a few tasks around then we keep on writing. Thirty days has a limit, but it is long enough to keep us in the trenches so to speak. Eugene Peterson quotes Nietzsche in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. This book about the Psalms of ascent looks at the discipline of living day to day as a Christian. In quoting Friedrich Nietzsche Petersen likens our lives to a beloved path and not a series of flighty missteps. I think Kristen says much the same thing about the discipline of writing. The short little burst of any discipline does not train inspire or endure and ceases to be discipline. She counsels us to us NaNo to train ourselves as writers to be the best we can be.

I have taken other advice. I’ve picked a time and stuck to it so far, aided greatly by daylight savings time. Also, I make myself stay at the computer even when my jumpy mind wants to go play with the dogs, make more coffee, or switch to taptiles (current game obsession.) Those are all treats for later as the daily word count hits 750, then 1200, and finally 2,000. Finally I refuse to be annoyed with myself for not being perfect.

Finally, where do those necessary re-writes fit in my schedule? I couldn't lose them altogether. I stumbled upon this option to edit my daily writing in the evening, with a glass of wine, a short nice relaxing read and time to think. This is much better than rewriting as I go. It sets up the next morning's work and helps make the horrid first draft not quite so drafty. I make notes on a big board of chapter outlines and character growth. We will see. If I like this method I plan to employ it for a few more books.

As always, thanks for reading.
More Later
Joy to you BEV
also posted at Just One Beggar

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On Racism

All over the news there are constant accusations of racism, sexism, prejudice, homophobia, ladeedadeeda, etc. but why?! We live in a new age! Black slavery is no longer just decades in the past, it's centuries past. Our dark skinned Americans have prevalent places in society, the presidency, sports, teachers. Not just blacks, not just whites. Every race, sex, and color is represented somewhere in your hometown, and VERY rarely does anyone dislike another by the color of their skin.

Still, though...when a white man murders a black man the media immediately cries "RACIST!!!"

As a progressive society, this is something we need to change. It doesn't go away until we stop talking about it. Imagine: What if the media treated the next interracial killing like any other? Analyzes it for an underlying motive. What if it's revenge? Prestige?! Simply a guy who said he'd kill the next guy who walks through that door?! That changes things. It's no longer racist, it's just crime as it should be. The guy goes to trial, gets convicted, spends life in prison/electric chair. Wouldn't that be great?

What if we treated homosexuality the same way? Give gays their right to marriage. Why not? They're people in love they should enjoy the same rights as husband and husband as a husband and wife. It's not wrong it's equal opportunity.

Yes. I am Christian. Yes. I'm for gay/interracial rights. One of the fundamental vertebra of our country is freedom of religion, it is not my place to force my ideals on everyone.

But enough about my thoughts, what are yours?

Logging off,
The Trickster

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Book Review: GJ Meyer's "The Borgias: The Hidden History"

The Borgias are hot on TV right now, but according to G. J. Meyer, the characters portrayed on the small screen are even more a fiction than most of us realized. Turns out, the Borgias weren't half the villains many historians have thought they were.

 Meyer's book is more about Italian history, pre-Renaissance and during the Renaissance, than about anything else. The Catholic church figures prominently as a player on the Italian stage along with the mafia-like families who controlled many of the small city states.

The Borgias were Spaniards who made it good in the Catholic hierarchy when Alfons Borgia was chosen to serve as pope taking the name Calixtus III. The Cardinals chose him because he was an honest, able administrator, in poor health and seemed to have no ambition. Turns out, he did have ambition: retrieve the cities which were supposed to belong to the Vatican from the thugs who were running them and defeat the Turks before they over-ran Italy.

Calixtus III didn't get very far in achieving his objectives, though he struggled mightily and overcame obstacles that had defeated earlier popes. As was the policy of the day, he selected relatives to serve in the church and chose his nephew, Rodrigo Borgia, to serve as Vice Chancellor--an administrative post handling papal correspondence and the like.

Meyer describes Rodrigo as charming, cheerful, intelligent and good at his job--but could find no recorded evidence from his peers that he had ever broken his vow of celibacy or did anything, which at the time, would have been judged corrupt. Rodrigo became Pope Alexander VI and made his nephew, Cesare Borgia a Cardinal and commander of the papal fortress in Rome. Cesare became one of the youngest Cardinals ever chosen and the first to resign from that position.

Cesare was considered the most handsome man in Italy and at one time the most feared (by the corrupt thugs running the city states) and best military commander of the time. He resigned his position as Cardinal, but retained command of the papal military forces. With his uncle's help and an alliance with the French king, attempted to depose the thugs that had been in charge of papal city states for generations. Most of the city states he conquered appreciated his just dealings after centuries of corruption and capricious viciousness. He was largely successful in unifying much of Italy and might have finally solidified that unity, but both he and Alexander VI fell ill with fever at the same time. The pope died and though Cesare recovered, he was a changed man who could no longer maintain his famous control over his emotions and make the surprising, but astute decisions that had characterized his career up to that time. Cesare's peers recorded that he had mistresses everywhere and suffered from syphilis, but unlike most commanders of the day, his soldiers were paid on time and the cities he conquered enjoyed more liberty and economic prosperity under his just rule.

Alexander VI showed an astonishing indifference to the negative gossip that circulated while he lived, seldom refuting any of it, yet those closest to him or those who had actual dealings with him found him to be affable, amiable, honest and devout. Italians had a natural dislike for any person of a different nationality having power in their country, thus, in the absence of personal contact, they tended to believe the worst about this Spanish pope. Not long after Alexander VI died, his primary rival and nemesis, a corrupt French Cardinal, became pope and corroborated the evil gossip as truth. He encouraged others to elaborate on the evil Borgia myth. And so, to this day, most people think the Borgias were libertines.

Meyer warns up front that his book covers a lot of territory very quickly and does not delve into much detail. He also admits that among the documents created while Alexander VI and Cesare lived, there is actually very little written about their personal lives. Their genealogy is confused because names were reused and a family branch, the Lonzols attached Borgia to their surname due to the prestige of being associated with a pope. Meyer presents an alternative genealogy which he supports with the extensive scholarship of a man who collected six or more volumes of Borgia documents and historical records but was never able to take the work to a cohesive finish--hence he has been ignored by most historians who find digging through the vast quantity of information quite vexing and tedious.

For a fast history of Italy and how the church played a role in the development of that nation, G. J. Meyer's book is an excellent source. It gives the reader a window into a different era, one that becomes increasingly alien, yet also terrifyingly familiar in our modern day. Fiction writers do well to study history as those who figure in it do the most astonishing and outrageous things. A student of history is a student of human nature and that is, after all, our primary subject matter.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Story Ends Here

Comments for Writing Rogues on:
Dysfunctional Narratives: or: “Mistakes were Made”
The first essay in Burning Down the House, by Charles Baxter, 1997 Greywolf Press

Baxter frames his examination of passive narrative in critique of the politically conservative. He points to Nixon’s use of plausible deniability as a catalyst for a cultural shift. Baxter states: “The greatest influence on American fiction for the last twenty years may have been the author of RN, not the writing but in the public character. He is the inventor, for our purposes and for our time, of the concept of deniability... they (public figures claiming deniability) create a climate in which social narratives are designed to be deliberately incoherent and misleading. Such narratives humiliate the act of storytelling.”

Putting aside the essay’s political framework, Baxter’s point surfaces in this last sentence. Storytelling suffers without clear villains. Without discernment or its coarse cousin, judgement, an author seldom delivers on plot or even character. Often I’ve heard writers, including myself, exclaim that our fiction is character driven when what we mean is; ‘I don’t have much of a plot and I really don’t want to offend anyone, least of all my characters.’ This failure to act coupled with paralysis of thought, limits the story and removes the reader. Protagonists and antagonists lose punch. Weak and fungible, these two character roles fade and a victim emerges. The victim has been put upon by a gathering of nebulous villainy without a face. A soft fuzzy glow surrounds the pedantry of the non-protagonist. Blug. According to Baxter, eventually blame is assigned and the story ends. What story?

Most of us writer types have been eviscerated for using passive voice in our work, so we remove it and grumble. Surely passive voice leads to deniability, but Baxter speaks of an umbrella passivity; a monster cumulonimbus pouring–scratch that. Way too active. A damp, tepid blanket of a plot coupled to moist, rotting fibers of character. The book may or may not use passive voice, but it employs deniability as its overall failsafe; as if we’re saying, “you won’t catch this author having an opinion. Un-huh. I’m as much a dupe as my lackluster story.”

Perpetual victims make for tedious tales. Baxter cites C.K. Williams’ discussion of narrative dysfunction as the process by which we lose track of the story, stating, “one of the signs of a dysfunctional narrative is that we cannot leave it behind, and we cannot put it to rest, because, it does not, finally, give us the explanation we need to enclose it... Stories about being put upon almost literally do not know what to look at. The visual details are muddled or indifferently described or excessively specific in nonpertinent situations.”

In a passive book, characters don’t make mistakes and muhaha-bad-guys don’t exist. Villainy gives a character and a book “largeness, a sense of scale.” Without accountability, villains don’t color the landscape of the story. The plot fails and the characters float in a hopeless sea, unmoored and hapless. The characters remain sketches unaided by mistakes or flaws without direction. Quoting Baxter, “There is such a thing as the poetry of mistake, and when you say, “mistakes were made,” you deprive an action of its poetry, and you sound like a weasel... And I suppose I am nostalgic–as a writer, of course–for stories with mindful villainy, villainy with clear motives that an adult would understand, bad behavior with a sense of scale that would give back to us our imaginative grip on the despicable and the admirable and our capacity to have some opinions about the two.”

Baxter defines the novel employing dysfunctional narrative as an emerging artform in America. I would add, “but not a story.” In using what Baxter calls dysfunctional narrative, an author sketches a poignant scene, cleans his brushes then leaves the work unfinished. As my mother would say, “poor pitiful Pearl, just so forlorn,” after a doll from the 1950's (great blog And forlorn describes this artwork. Another word which recalls the original meaning of forlorn is Godforsaken.

Taking a tiny punch at Calvinism and later Protestantism, Baxter argues predetermination. I don’t argue that predestination, poorly constructed, accurately describes this artform, entirely managed and without recourse. I will argue that Calvin and Arminius were strong proponents of accountability in the form of confession, contrition and reconciliation, all of which make for wonderfully flawed characters and Tolkien’s famous story type, eucatastrophe. Baxter notes that the characters are fated in passive books, “all personal decisions have been made meaningless, deniable. It is a life of fate, like a character disorder.” Call it a book disorder?

The passive novel is a new concept for me and a delightful way to describe a type of book. Thank you Charles Baxter.

Enough for now. BEV
Also posted on Just One Beggar

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Thoughts on Microsoft/Sony conferences at E3:

Hello Writing Rogues!!!

I don't know how many of you guys are gamers but I know Isaac and I are, so here's my review of the 2 conferences I was most looking forward to, Microsoft and Sony at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Microsoft came out swinging with a Metal Gear Solid V trailer, showing that, yes, the Xbox One is still about the games, taking what was traditionally a Sony based IP and showing it off on their stage. They continued to crank out game after game, Forza 5, Dark Souls II, Project Spark, The Witcher 3, all of which were visually stunning and looked wildly entertaining and games across both the current and next generation. As a fan of The Witcher, I was glad to see that an open world game was in the works, and I look forward, greatly, to  playing it. Project Spark showed that it wasn't just shooters and dark fantasy for the console with a world creator like a three dimensional Little Big Planet with it's creation and sharing aspects in the Xbox Live community. Naturally, Halo made a very brief appearance on the screen, because everyone loves it and 343 Industries carries Bungie's legacy into the next gen. After the reveal several weeks ago, it was good to see actual games this time around, and eased some of my fear that this was just going to become an "entertainment" box.

One of my favorite, and in my opinion, most intriguing things in the Microsoft conference was the cloud computing features on Xbox. Your gaming patterns being taken and an avatar of yourself being up in the cloud is amazing. Being able to play against your friends even when they're not there, also really cool. If you didn't like anything else about the conference, that feature was worth the watch.

I was disappointed, however, that Microsoft didn't address the current allegations about required online check-ins, inability to share games freely, and very limited offline gaming features. These are huge issues, and have been blown out of proportions by the community at large. The price tag of the Xbox One was also $499. Looks to me that they might be pulling a last gen Sony, with an excellent piece of hard/software but the pricing is going to turn off the gamers that are already worried about an always on Kinect spying on their family and the limited offline features.

Sony's conference later that night was stunning. They, too, showed gamers that they weren't abandoning their current platforms and even made the PS Vita an integral part of the Playstation 4 experience. They briefly reviewed the the games they showed at their reveal back in February, they showed off new games both blockbusters and indie titles, they touched on the fact that they too are an entertainment console and have Sony films and music partnered with their computer entertainment division this time around for a more complete experience. Bungie made their appearance with a gameplay look at Destiny, which looks like a beautiful social shooter experience with a taste for group events and solo/small group missions.

They revealed the box. A sleek, angular console with beautiful lines and modern design. The Playstation 4 will look good, even though you don't even need to see it.

Playstation Plus features, I was glad to discover, carried over and will be available across all of Sony's Playstation platforms with all it's features. But! unfortunately with the coming generation Playstation Plus will be required to play games online. Many PS consumers will definitely be turned off, but we will still be able to use all of Playstation's other online features free from the extra charge.

My biggest disappointment was Sony's departure from free online play, one of the biggest selling points of the current gen. I was very glad that Sony addressed the concerns of online check ins and game trading/sharing that Microsoft had us so worried about. There will be no required online to play games and no limits on trading or sharing or reselling used games. That alone may have won the conference. Also, the price tag being set at $399 won't hurt sales.

Both electronic superpowers released some great info about their upcoming consoles and I look forward to finding out more. Microsoft still needs to address the rumors of online requirements and limited sharing, and the fact that they haven't worries me. If Sony keeps going in the direction they're headed, they will be the console to beat in this generation.

Enough of my thoughts, though! What do you think? Comment below.

Logging off!
The Trickster

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Brief Summary of My Fictional Realm

The world I have created for my writing is a vast and mysterious place. Either that, or an incredibly small and mysterious place. Feel free to pick one as you read on.

Imagine a grand archipelago, resting upon a bed of merciless ocean, filled with strange creatures and swelling tempests. Lurid jungles permeate the islands, all of them teeming with life and swarming with death. Great volcanoes spew superheated magma across the face of the keys, leaving scars of ash and dust in their wake. Even stranger still, are the great machines and structures that dot the landscape. This is a land of mystery, where death is quick to silence you, and life is quick to remind you that your turn is almost done.
Deep underground, seven thousand people awake, and find themselves with no memory of their past. They have are their names, a common language, and unique skills and talents. To survive in this harsh archipelago, these people band together, and form a civilization that would endure the savage forces pitted against them for the centuries to come.
The key to their survival lay in the machines they would come to discover. These machines gave them quick access to technologies that would otherwise be beyond them. Water purifiers, anti-gravitational field emitters, and other such marvels quickly propelled this people into a society that hybridizes medieval and modern cultures. Taking heed of the word written on many of these great machines, this people came to call themselves, the Septem.

This is merely a small taste of the world I have created, one written to help familiarize all of you with the setting that will drive my upcoming submissions. I will attempt to submit more detailed explanations of my world and its history to this blog, in the hopes that it will increase your interest and understand in and of my works.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Eric Metaxas and the Golden Fish or How an Author and a Book can Change the World

Take a young man (Eric Metaxas) born into a nominally Greek Orthodox family where religion is a cultural thing and God is the center piece of the culture rather than a belief system fixed on a True and Loving Being Who Wants Relationship, throw in a solid education and intellectual tendencies and you have a young man who ends up at a university (Yale) which was once founded on Christian principles by Christians to educate Americans to represent Christ in the earth. (Recognize this university has forgotten why it was founded and moved into secularism and finally into hostility to Christ, as much of American culture seems to be doing lately--why we Christians let whoever has done this to do it, I don't know.) Graduate this young man, send him on errands of fruitless futility seeking what he thinks he wants most in life, but not finding it. And finally, when his parents say, "Please, just get a job," put him in a boring, low-level position proof-reading chemical manuals. Now this young man is finally in a place where God can touch him. This place is called "the bottom." Unfortunately, many of us have to go there before we will listen to God. Bring in a charismatic (charismatic in the sense that he is filled by the Holy Spirit) artist who thinks outside the box (including the secular box) who prays for him and helps the Holy Spirit nudge him and...well, here's Eric Metaxas's testimony in his own words where he meets IXTHYS, the Golden Fish, in a dream.

In August 2011 Eric Metaxas' book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy was released. Since then he has been on a practically nonstop "book tour" to promote this book about a man who resisted Hitler with the primary purpose of waking up American Christians to stand against the forces that have accelerated our cultural slide into the emptiness of secularism with its inane mantras and vile sacraments (abortion to name one)--the forces that call evil good and good evil. Essentially, using Bonhoeffer as his mentor, Eric Metaxas is calling all Christians to rise up and take ground for the Kingdom of God.

The hour is late, let us heed the call.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Laissez-Faire and Capitalism

Recently I finished and essay for school that was due about a month ago, but thanks to the sad state of American High Schools these days I can turn it in late.

I was assigned to discuss the concepts of Laissez-Faire and Capitalism.

According to Wikipedia (don't bother telling me Wikipedia is a bad source; it's as good as anything you can find on the internet), Laissez-Faire means "let [them] do," but broadly it implies, "let it be," "let them do as they will," or "leave it alone." Meaning less government regulation and more private decision making. It works because a relatively small group of government bureaucrats in Washington don't know as much about the complicated facets of the various professions as the professionals who specialize in those professions do.

It's really pretty arrogant and thoughtless of government officials, or those who would prefer a command economy, to believe that government bureaucrats know how to run your business better than you do.

Which leads into Capitalism. Capitalism means that private citizens own the means of production. These private citizens employ those means to create a profit. Of course there is competition and in order to defeat the competition, your company has to be better than the other company. How do you make it better? You innovate, you come up with new methods and new technologies that give your company an edge. But it doesn't stop there, the other company isn't out of business yet so he not only adapts your innovations (if he can), he also discovers further innovations to help him defeat your company. They cycle goes on and on driving the bar ever higher. The company and all of its employees innovate because they want more money. Call it greed or call it the profit motive, same difference. Capitalism and Laissez-Faire harness greed, a desire commonly considered bad, to raise society to ever loftier heights. The profit motive and its connection to innovation is one of multiple reasons why excessively taxing the rich is a bad idea. If the government takes half your profits, would you go to the same lengths to get new profits?

The connection between Capitalism and innovation is one of the reasons why the Soviets had to copy large quantities of their technology from the West, with an economy without competition and private profit motive there was no innovation.

Daniel Lathrop

Friday, May 24, 2013

On the fact that I had a well thought out post in regards to independent musicians, but failed to write it down at the time resulting in the planning slipping from my memory and writing a post on something else entirely with the inclusion of an overly long title:

Hello Writing Rogues!

So independent musicians... I like them. More often than not, I will buy an independently produced album over one produced commercially by Universal, Sony, etc. simply because I know that the money I'm putting towards their music is actually going towards them making more and not just into some fat cat's pocket. Musicians like Feather Oars, Aestus Symphonia, and Telekinesis!, I feel like I have a personal connection to (and in the case of Aestus I actually do) because they are my musicians and no one else's. I do share them, though. Every chance I get.

The quality of an independent artist can range from "this garbage should have never left the instrument/vocal chords" to "this should be the anthem of our generation" and in the higher end of the spectrum is often produced with quality to match Fat Cat Music and is much better written and played simply because they're not just playing for money. They play for fun and out of desperation and this drives their music to new levels that, frankly, Justin Beiber will never see. He didn't have to sleep in his car going from gig to gig just to pay for gas and strings. He doesn't know that balance between hopelessness and hopefulness that drives a song like "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows" by Brand New.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a hipster, despite my indie tendencies. I love it when an unknown artist suddenly pops up into the public eye, I just don't like it if their musical quality drops when they go mainstream, when what made them unique is replaced by pop culture (I'm looking at you Weezer). If Aestus Symphonia hits the big time, though, I'll be first in line (or on Ticketmaster) to buy tickets for their world tour.

So my point is, I guess, I love indie music. Whether it's rock, metal, electronic, if it's good music, it deserves my attention. I'll follow this with a post script of some of my favorite indie/relatively unknown artists along with their genre, some of them have gotten popular since, but they'll always be indie in my mind.

Sidenote: I need a callsign of some sort...and a sign off...I kinda wish "Stay classy, San Diego" wasn't already taken. Alas! That is not of importance to this brief article, but I will give a callsign a shot.

Logging off! (after the PS)
The Trickster (if you get the reference in conjunction with our blog name, I'll give you a high five upon seeing you)

PS (as promised):
Aestus Symphonia (metal)
Modest Mouse (rock)
Telekinesis! (rock)
Generationals (rock)
Streetlight Manifesto (ska)
Bad Rabbits (hip hop/funk)
Feather Oars (rock)
Royal Bangs (rock)
Mazarin (rock)
Temple Veil (worship)

And I'm sure there are plenty of others that I missed. Comment with your favorites! I'm always looking for more.

EDIT: A nice web comic by The Oatmeal that describes the music industry pretty well, as well as my feelings as to where it should go here.

EDIT: Linked most (but not all) bands to respective band pages on the Facebook to listen to tunes and such.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In Defense of the Optimistc Film Enthusiast

Tom and Jerry walked out of the theater, each presenting their opinions on the movie with increasing enthusiasm. Tom started off the loudest.
"Jerry, that movie was phenomenal! It had great action, it was funny, and it had my favorite actors!" Jerry shook his head with a sarcastic grin.
"Come on Tom, you actually liked that disaster of a movie? My favorite part was watching the trailers for heaven's sake!" Tom wore an expression halfway between shock and disgust.
"What's wrong with you?" He managed to say despite how utterly at a loss for words he was. "It was completely entertaining! I mean, it's not like it had a brilliant and original plot, but it was a solid movie! How could you not like that?" Jerry looked Tom straight in the eye.
"Because I have standards."

I swear, I have had this conversation about a dozen times, and I am almost always Tom. And since I know that most of my friends are the Jerry in this situation, I would like to explain why I am the way I am.
You see, I am an optimist when it comes to movies. Really, I am just an optimist in general. I hate wasting my time, so when I feel like my time is being threatened, I try to make whatever endangering experience there is more enjoyable by changing my perspective. In summation, I basically try to find a way to like EVERYTHING. The interesting thing is, I usually don't have to try very hard. Especially when it comes to movies.
Why? Because movies are actually extraordinarily well made. Virtually all of the ones we see are fantastic in the way they entertain. Want proof? Think back to when you first saw Star Wars: A New Hope. It was freaking awesome! In fact, it was probably one of the coolest things ever. Now, do me a favor and pretend that instead of seeing A New Hope as a kid, you saw The Phantom Menace. You know... that movie that just sucks so much, right?
I think by this point, you have begun to see my point. Looking back on it now, I can honestly say that the A New Hope isn't very well made by today's standards. The pacing is slow, the dialogue is cheesy, and the special effects leave much to be desired. If a movie came out today with those same qualities, it would bomb so hard we would all be screaming at North Korea. But somehow, I still love it, just like any of the other hundreds of thousands of Star Wars fans. 
In summation, I like movies because they are entertaining. They have funny quotes, memorable characters, attractive women, and more explosions than I could ever hope for being the right-wing hedonistic American that I am. I understand why other people hate so many of the movies we see in theaters, and I can live with that. This is merely a post trying to help you live with my opinions, however unrefined and unsophisticated they may be. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"The Richard Burton Diaries" edited by Chris Williams

The hard copy of this book is abridged. The editor, Chris Williams, devotes several pages to the editing process, the changes he made, correcting certain things and including extensive footnotes and pages and pages of bibliography. He explained that he would indicate repetitive material not included in the hard copy with [...]. For the full version one must go electronic.

If you know Richard Burton at all you probably know him from his movies. My favorites are The Taming of the Shrew and Where Eagles Dare. (If you're viewing this blog in Explorer, you won't be able to see the videos posted below--get Chrome or Firefox--something besides Explorer!)

Richard Burton was born in 1925. He grew up in the Welsh coal mining country where the men worked hard and drank heavily. He always respected a hard working sort of person, though he didn't seem to care much for the "bourgeois." "Bourgeois" literally means "town dwellers," but these days it refers to the boring, socioeconomic group of people called "the middle class."

He was a diligent student memorizing great swaths of classic poetry only English students read now, poets like Yeats, Pound, Wordsworth and Shakespeare. He spoke Welsh and English as a youth and continued learning languages most of his life, French, Italian, Spanish and Serbo-Croat--or whatever it was they spoke in Yugoslavia when that place was a country and in his last years of life, German. For Richard Burton, a good pastime aboard a plane was to study with a Spanish grammar on his lap. He could memorize a script in minutes. He peppered his speech with quotes from literature, popular and literary. He did crossword puzzles for fun and rated the puzzles from the various newspapers based on their complexity. He loved to play Yahtzee and as a young man, Monopoly. He loved rugby. If he had chosen to go that route, he might have gone pro. He thought soccer was boring. He regularly played table tennis and loved to swim and sunbathe with a good book in his hands. For awhile he took up bicycling.

He was a boy when his family broke into pieces upon his mother's death. He went to live with his older sister and her husband, a boorish jerk. In the diaries from his teen years, he writes of attending church on Sundays all day, though he doesn't mentioned his denomination. Whatever denomination it was and whoever were the preachers and teachers, he didn't find Jesus. As an adult he rejected God, though in his diaries he slips up and says, "Thank God," or makes pleading prayers to God as so many of us thoughtlessly do, even those of us who should know better. Sometimes he catches himself and jokes about how absurd it is to evoke God when one doesn't believe in Him. He quoted hymns, once in praise to God and another time in grief. Chris Williams, the editor, explained that when Burton died he was buried in the Protestant cemetery in Celigny, Switzerland. Two days later a memorial service was held at the Bethel Baptist Chapel in Burton's hometown, Pontrhydfyen, Wales.

He was born Richard Jenkins, but when his drama teacher, Philip Burton became his guardian he adopted the name "Burton." Phil Burton helped launch him in the theater and was his first acting coach. Richard Burton had natural talent and presence, though he thought of himself as not particularly gifted at chatting. He lived large and wide. He dined with royalty, partied with the big names of the 60's, 70's and 80's. He often wrote brief and fascinating descriptions of many of the celebrities he was acquainted with in his diary.

From July 1970:
E (Elizabeth Taylor) made me as jealous as vengeance earlier on by saying that she'd called Marlon (Marlon Brando) on the phone and that they had talked for an hour and that he was very solicitous about me. He really is a smugly pompous little bastard and is cavalier about everybody except the Black Panthers and Indians. 'He's been keeping tabs on you,' said E. That infuriated me even more. That sober self-indulgent obese fart being solicitous about me. You can't get any of those surrounded-by-sycophants one-time-winners on the phone unless they want something from you. Sinatra is the same. Gods in their own mirrors. Distorted mirrors.
From May 1970:
 Lucille a monster of staggering charmlessness and monumental lack of humour.
For a time he was on a campaign to stop drinking and kept a record of what he drank in his diary, highlighting a day without drink by typing the heading in red. He noted that quitting drinking was good for his health, but the reader recognizes that his relationships with others also improved since he was a grouchy, mean drunk. No way of knowing, but if he hadn't started drinking again when his brother died, he and Elizabeth might not have divorced.

He loved food and described many of his meals. He also mentioned his efforts at dieting. He enjoyed living aboard the yacht he and Elizabeth Taylor purchased as it afforded them privacy when the paparazzi wanted to mob them. (He includes an interesting story of how the name "paparazzi" came into existence.) When they worked in Europe, the yacht was a handy base of operations. He bought the world's most stunning jewels for Elizabeth. (You can view some of them here: Elizabeth Taylor's Collection ) Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor purchased jets and Bentleys and homes in Mexico, Switzerland and elsewhere. He gave generously to family and friends and to charity.

Burton bought hundreds of books at a time. When he had a chance, he would read three or four books a day. Everything from paperback detective stories to works devoted to world history to entire encyclopedias. One of his most treasured gifts was an Oxford English Dictionary--unabridged--set in micro-print so that it took up less room complete with a magnifying glass in a built-in pocket. When traveling or working away from one of his homes, he viewed books as a necessary, like clothes or shampoo and would buy armloads of them to take on a trip. No home or yacht was complete without a library. He dreamed of writing a book. He did write articles from time to time and other short works of prose, but never the long works he fantasized about. His idea of an ideal day was to read for hours in his library with Elizabeth Taylor by his side, go for a walk at some point in a quiet countryside with one of his dogs, have some tea and a nice meal and read some more. This ideal never changed, though Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor divorced in the 1970's.

From November 1968:
I am reading two books at once: a political biography of de Gaulle and another of Pierre Laval. So far there seems little to choose between them, except height. Scheming, conniving, disloyal monomaniacal monsters, both protesting their love of la belle France. Of the two de Gaulle seems to be the bigger liar. But in politics all men are liars. The squalor of the latest Election campaign in the States has to be read to be disbelieved.
I especially like the part about the "squalor of the latest Election in the States," it's still applicable.

His older brother, Ivor, was the rock in his life. When Ivor fell, hit his head and was paralyzed Burton blamed himself. Later, he wrote that he wished Ivor would die because he suffered so much and was so depressed in his infirmity, but when Ivor actually did die, Burton disintegrated. His marriage to Elizabeth went asunder and his career down the tubes. He never really recovered.

Chris Williams includes several pages devoted to the historical setting for Richard (Jenkins) Burton's life, a perspective on Wales during World War II I hadn't read about before. He also addresses the question, "Why write a diary?" I hadn't thought about that question at all. I'd only thought of a diary as a record of daily life for those who like to record those things, possibly to be passed down to children. Williams points out that a writer writes either for an existing audience or for an anticipated audience. Who is the audience for a diary or a journal? One's self? Burton mentions in his diaries that one day he would write a memoir and that may have been his underlying purpose, but as Williams points out, the things he leaves out of his diaries are as important as the things he includes.

If one reads one's own account of a particular day, it's not necessary to include all the bits, just a few hints and one can remember the rest. And for the sake of a future memoir that may be enough, but it is still interesting what a person chooses to record.

Burton might say that he had a row with someone, but he seldom specified what the argument was about. Normally he berated himself for blow outs and dust ups more than anyone else. He might critique Elizabeth's appearance, but he was always kinder to her than he was to himself, describing his face as "pockmarked." He called himself, "idiotically listenable." He did not include his thoughts on certain key events in his life, even if he were keeping the diary at the time, such as when Ivor died or how he felt about a marriage disintegrating--he simply ceased keeping the diary shortly after such incidents. (There were gaps when he was working hard, however, but in those cases, he would resume as soon as he had time again.)

Burton's teen diaries stop just as he finished school. The years while he was married to his first wife, Sybil, he wrote not a word. His diaries pick up again after he and Elizabeth's relationship is well established and stop at Ivor's death to be resumed shortly before he remarried Elizabeth and stopped again during the last year of his life.

Several entries in the diary just before he and Elizabeth remarry are simply one word: Booze.

He wrote about plans around his various film projects, things that went on during production, rated other actors' performances and wrote about the business of acting. He seemed to have a love/hate relationship with acting. In the later years, when he did more live performances, he might say something to the effect, "Well, we won't know if the director knew what he was talking about until the audience weighs in."

Once in awhile Burton delves into accounting--talking about what it cost to be Burton-Taylor. Expenditures to maintain their entourage, security details (often traveling with the most expensive and admired jewels in the world), desired accommodations and other requirements. Occasionally he comments on ordinary folk, usually with empathy. He often wrote about his children--he included Elizabeth's children as his own. He worried about their schooling, their friendships, their characters and their futures in the world. He mentioned his father only once and other siblings besides Ivor seldom. One sibling was interviewed for a biography which irritated Burton. He commented that the biographies were all bunk.

Sometimes, when I least expected it, Burton would exhibit flashes of great writing.
I love my wife. I love her dearly. Honest. Talk about the beauty, silent, bare.... Sitting on the Thames with the river imitating a blue-grey ghost. My God the very houses seem asleep. And all that mighty heart is lying still.
Never take the sea for granted. She can change from the sweetest smoothest lady into a mad termagant in two minutes 
Burton played Yugoslavian dictator, Tito, in a biographical movie, "The Battle of Sutjeska,"1973. Helicopters took the actors and crew up to a mountain peak for filming. Burton and a handful of others were returning to their abodes for the night when without warning they were engulfed in a cloud. They had no visibility whatsoever.
On top of this it began to rain torrentially and the windscreen wipers whipped back and fore like insane crickets sharpening their legs.
He mentioned the longest town name in Wales--which I'm not sure I could remember even if I were Welsh! (Below is a humorous video about that name.)

Three things I learned from reading Richard Burton's diaries. First, be kind to your spouse, even if you don't feel like it. Forgive! Overlook flaws. There were times in the portions written during the late 60's and early 70's when I wanted to reach back through time and grab Burton by the throat and say, "If you can't be kind to Elizabeth, keep your mouth shut! Can't you see you love her?"

Second, the old cliche, "Money can't buy happiness," is actually true. I also wanted to shout at Burton, "Stop looking at what's wrong and look at what's good and right for crying out loud!" Once he stopped drinking up until Ivor's death, he largely ceased being such a grouchy jerk and seemed to enjoy life more. His diary entries from his second wedding to Elizabeth until that marriage fell apart are filled with anxiety, as if he worried that it was too good to be true and would soon end. Which it did. Made me wonder if it were a self-fulfilling anxiety and a hold-over of grief from Ivor's death--a sort of, end-the-marriage-before-it-crashes-and-hurts-too-much-to-bear sort of attitude. He seemed so frantic!

The third lesson: There's no time like the present. At one point Burton recorded that his longing to write a book was so acute it was practically physically debilitating, but he couldn't seem to budge himself to do it. I can identify with that.

All the way through the book I was impressed with the man's vast talent, intellect and appetite for words, languages and learning. However, at one point he says that his mind was too "muscular" to believe in God and I felt incredibly sorry for him in that moment. His reading of human nature: history, literature and reference works was vast, but there is no mention of reading time devoted to answering the question, "Does God exist?" It is the great cosmic question upon which eternity rests and one a person should not even pretend to answer without serious research!

The last thing I learned from this book is a thing I already knew, but saw portrayed on a large scale in the life of this man, one of the first movie superstars in history, who could buy anything he wanted, associate with the glittering personalities of his time and travel anywhere in the world: one cannot base one's life on career, no matter how successful because it's temporary. One cannot base one's life on glamorous things; on wealth or any human being, no matter how marvelous, not even one's self. Things give pleasure in the moment; wealth cannot buy health or love and a human being will inevitably fail you, if only by dying and leaving you bereft if not by betraying or failing you utterly while alive. And a career, what does it matter if the work does not produce eternal results? When it's all finished up and the coffin is shut, only a life lived for the glory of God, whether bourgeois or not, will stand into eternity.

Marilyn W Lathrop

BBC News: Richard Burton Diaries Reveal Actor's Passion and Shame

John Simon review of "The Richard Burton Diaries" for the NY Times 

David Thomson Review of the Richard Burton Diaries for the New Republic

Friday, April 26, 2013

Why Spelling Matters

The following was posted on Facebook:

"So I have been talking about my job a little bit... but here is a little more about it. I work for cutco, its a high quality kitchen cutlery. and the best part is I get paid just to give the demonstration! so if any of you would bare with me for just about an hour I would greatly appreciate it! and you are not obligated to buy anything!"

Besides failing to capitalize a proper name, Cutco, which isn't that big of a deal, this person made a huge, whopping, serious spelling mistake. Did you catch it? Yep, "bare." "...if any of you would bare with me..." I don't think I'll do that. To "bare" with him/her would mean removing clothing and I'm just not going there, especially when this person is showing me a set of knives!

The photo below portrays a classic spelling blunder:

photo credit

Marilyn W Lathrop

The Glorious Thing That is the Magic Spreadsheet.

Hello, Writing Rogues!

During the course of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference I learned of a wonderful little tool called the Magic Spreadsheet which, after a week has kept me writing every day. It starts at level one with a word count goal of 250 and as you meet your goal each day it gives you points for chains and exceeding your word count, allowing you to level up accordingly. It's become a fun way for me to push myself forward and write more consistently.

Should you be an aspiring writer and want to give it a go, you can find the spreadsheet itself here, as it's moved to a new Google Doc since it's original posting.

Good luck and happy hunting!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Hello Writing Rogues.
I have a prayer that was an assignment.
King's Cross by Timothy J. Keller (Big thumbs up)
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Jury is still out)

Shouting Rocks and Brittle Bones

When I finally put away my thoughts of how to reach You and reach,
When I stop trying to pray correctly and pray,
When I let my mouth curl up instead of down,
You meet me.
You are always there.
Just on the other side of self-absorption.
Augustine writes, Late have I loved You.
I could write, seldom have I loved You.
Yet, this day, again Eternal, again Sovereign, again Grace, again Love, again wholly Sufficient for my sins and for those brittle bones of all Your children,
Thanksgiving Father,
May I commit this day to You.
For my husband and our son, thank You.
May they know You today and love You today.
May Your peace and blessing fall effortlessly on them,
But mostly, may Your path be our path.
For the Church, Father thank You.
For You when I struggle, thank You.
For this world, Father where we see dimly
For its rancor and Peace,
Its filth and Beauty
Its apathy and Joy.
That Your truth is not
bits of confusion strung out in tiny crumbs of rigor,
sinew and nerves that never quicken,
Even the rocks shout Your name.
Thank You.
That I may know You Lord,
That I may I tend forgiveness for myself and others.
I do love You.
Bind me to You that I may not stray.
May I love You more. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013