Saturday, February 28, 2015

Unearthly Entities Haunt Starbucks Part 2

Last time I wrote about an oversize photo print on the wall at Starbucks that "attempted to communicate" with me ("Unearthly Entities Haunt Starbucks").

When a seemingly inanimate object "attempts communication," its desire is to bring attention to itself for its own reasons, which I find difficult to decipher.

But the motivation of an animate entity in the cafe is the opposite. It attempts to evade communication and avoid attracting attention.

For the sake of discussion, the "animate entity" could be an android, an alien from another world, a ghost, a demon, an angel, or a being I call a manikin, for lack of a better term, which I'll discuss here.

A manikin attempts to mimic the appearance and behavior of a human, often with great success. It wants the others in the cafe to think it is just another person, the same as them, and nothing out of the ordinary. Its goal is to fool people, because it isn't one of them, but wants them to believe it is.

The inner workings of a manikin are unknown to me. It could be a robot, an android, or a living creature from another planet.

Unlike an inanimate object, a manikin doesn't seek to "warn" anyone of anything. It strives to contribute to an atmosphere of normalcy and complacency. Lulling us into a false sense of security?

What does a manikin hope to accomplish by venturing out into the public and pretending to be a typical human being? The possibilities seem endless, especially without knowing exactly what it is, and where it came from. It could be gathering information, probing weaknesses, seeking potential human targets, stalking someone, or confirming that it indeed can interact with people without attracting notice.

The others in the cafe are unaware of the presence of a manikin. I seem to be the only person who can tell the difference. I can detect the disparity, especially in the glassy eyes and the mechanical jaw which moves a bit straight up and down like a ventriloquist's dummy, rather than in accord with the movement of a real person's mouth. Somehow, no one else notices. The others in the cafe drink their coffee, peck at their laptop keyboards, or chat about little nothings with each other while a manikin sits in the midst of them.

That's a recurring theme I see every day at the cafe. Others remain oblivious to the crucialities that never cease to capture my attention.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Unearthly Entities Haunt Starbucks

A few times while drinking coffee in Starbucks, I've been struck by the odd feeling that something or someone was attempting to communicate with me. And that something or someone wasn't a fellow human being.

Most of the Starbucks I frequent include artwork on the walls. These are oversize photo prints illustrating scenes from the coffee industry. It isn't always clear where or what the photos depict, as there are no explanatory cards accompanying these framed photos.

One photo in particular has made what I can only describe as "attempts at communication" with me, as if it isn't simply an inanimate object on the wall, but a living entity. I look up at the photo at those times as if it is a person, as if it understands me and is trying to speak with me. But I find its mind impenetrable.

The "Haunted" Photo in Starbucks

This photo on the wall in Starbucks is a scene from what appears to be a lush green coffee bean farm, with 5 female workers wearing yellow straw hats and carrying rounded oblong yellow baskets while treading along a pathway up the mountain.

The 2 main points of this photo are the dominant green color of the coffee plants in the fields, and the yellow walkway extending diagonally from the lower left of the photo all the way to the upper right, slicing the photo in half, as it were.

The pathway is the most dramatic element in the picture. I suspect the photo “uses” that eye-catching feature to draw closer attention to it, and alert the viewer it is attempting “communication." In some indefinable way, the photo becomes more than a photo, the green fields become something other than a farm and the picture acts as a silent "siren," as if it wants to warn me of something. It is no longer a photo. It is something that demands attention--for something other than the scene it depicts. Something personal to me, not some faraway coffee farm.

The photo at rare times gives off this strange air of existing as something other than just a photo, as if it is alive in some way and it is pretending to be mere artwork. As if it is trying to communicate with psychic nonverbal communication with nothing more than the scene it depicts--not with words or gestures. It's just a photo on a wall, it can’t move or change. It is exactly as it is, so its communication must be by transmitting its intentions through its scene, somehow drawing the attention of me, the viewer, in ways not involving any movement or changes of its depicted image.

The photo doesn't pretend to be human, it pretends or appears or perhaps I could even say it reveals itself to be a living entity of some sort, and not the inanimate object one would assume.

The "attempt at communication" is brief and rare. That's why I've concluded it happens only under those singular circumstances when "something is going on” that is unknown to me but I need to be made aware of it, in its eyes. The picture knows what that something is, but I don’t.

I think back on the several times this has happened and struggle to figure out what may have transpired after I was alerted. But I have no answer. Nothing happened that I could see. Can I conclude then, that it isn't acting as a warning for me as I had thought?

But if not a warning, then what? A danger unknown to me is the reason for the alert, but I sense it isn't the sort of danger you would think of normally—a criminal bursting through the door with a gun or a bomb about to explode. It’s something else, perhaps something I can’t even understand.

I'm not saying Starbucks is haunted. I wouldn't go there if it was. I've felt this sort of thing outside far away from any cafe as well. There's much more to this story than the "living" photo that I'll discuss next time, including "pretend" people.

Apparently I'm the only person who sees or recognizes these phenomena, as everyone else in the café is blissfully oblivious to all of it. No matter the café, or the other people inside, no one but me sees through the outward façade presented by these nonhuman entities. It's another indication most people go through their lives oblivious to the crucialities all around them.

Having arrived at the end of this narrative I find myself condemned to a familiar place: no resolution, unanswered questions, dubious theories, and the truth remains inaccessible.

For more, see "Unearthly Entities Haunt Starbucks Part 2"

Take a look at my books:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Does Anyone Respect Literary Prizes and Book Awards?

The Nobel Prize for Literature has always had its critics, and with good reason. Many forgettable writers have won, while some of the superstars of the 20th century—James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov among them—left the world empty-handed.

Winners are chosen more for “political” reasons rather than literary merit. I don’t think I need to hedge that statement any.

I see so many of today’s books claiming to be “award winning.” I’m convinced every book ever published qualifies for an award of some kind. With only a handful of exceptions, I've never heard of any of the boasted awards. Imagine the thousands of people employed in this award-bestowing industry. Can’t I invent my own award and bestow it on my own book? Bet it’s been done aplenty.

And how do legitimate award bestowers make their decisions? In the world of poetry, it seems ugly, if this article ("What's Really Wrong With Poetry Book Contests") is accurate. We’re back in the territory of politics, and “play to play” only with poems, not songs.

To me, it isn't a selling point when I’m informed by the cover of a book that it has won some award. Not even the Pulitzer Prize. Even the biggest awards seem based on politics, social activism, or who you know.

Are you the sort of person who is persuaded to buy a book because it says it won an award you never heard of? I’m trying to picture in my mind the face of someone who will see that a book won an unheard-of award and decide to buy it based on that fact. I can sympathize if it was the Pulitzer or the author won the Nobel, because there are people who still believe those awards are honestly bestowed.

What Is A “Best-Selling” Book?

And just what is a “best-selling” book, anyway? What is the sales threshold for that? If my book is in the top 1,000 in its category for 1 day, does that mean I can advertise it as a “best-seller?”

With the recent advent of online self-publishing, so many authors are scribbling manuscripts and so much glut has accumulated in the marketplace, it's tough to stand out and garner any attention at all. Therefore, “Best-selling!” and “Award Winning!” You see it everywhere!

How does one tell a good book from a bad one without reading it? I’m leading up to the reviews and the “integrity” of many of them, which I think is lacking. For example, this New York Times story, "The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy." I can see honesty in the hundreds or thousands of reviews for legitimate best-sellers by famous wordsmiths, but otherwise, the system is being played, isn't it? But it's played because buyers respond to reviews and if you have a bunch of them, buyers will jump on the bandwagon and click that button on the upper right corner of the Amazon book page. The economics dictate the system will be gamed.

Take a look at my books:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Last Great Novelist-Poet

With rare exceptions, you are one or the other: a novelist or a poet. Many great poets have written a novel or two, and towering novelists such as Faulkner and Hemingway wrote poetry, but it didn't measure up to their prose. In most cases, an author's oeuvre is composed of a fat slice of poetry or fiction and a narrow sliver of the other, and the dominant format is often superior to the subordinate.

The list of top-drawer writers who were equally adept at both poetry and prose is short. Among the famous names bandied about: D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Edgar Allan Poe, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Graves, G.K.Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling.

By my reckoning, the last great ambidextrous author seems to have been John Updike (d. 2009). And a poet backs me up, at least as of 1985.

British poet Gavin Ewart wrote in the pages of the New York Times in 1985 that good novelists who also wrote good poetry were rare, but included Updike among them. Ewart's list of the greats from the 20th century included Nabokov, Kingsley Amis, Thomas Disch, and James Dickey.

Foreign language writers are tough to rate, without fluency in their native tongue. Nabokov continued writing poetry in English after coming to America but felt his verse had lost some of the richness it carried in Russian. I notice Ewart includes Nabokov but ignores Jorge Luis Borges. I assume because Borges didn't write poetry in English, so one would need Spanish fluency to rate him (and can you accurately judge a writer through a translation?).

It seems fewer novelists write any poetry at all these days, as there is neither money nor glory in it. You write up a novel or a book of verse, you receive praise and encouragement and a publishing contract, or academic tenure, and so, with good reason, you continue down that one path, and you ignore the other, which becomes the road not taken. Isn't that how it works?

The next novelist-poet may well write in a language other than English, someone like Jorge Luis Borges, or the Chinese equivalent. What languages are the world's most popular? Odds are, it is from that language which will emerge the next great novelist-poet. Mandarin? English? Spanish?

I consulted a list from 2010 and the winner is Mandarin, with about a billion speakers. Spanish is second with 400 million and English, despite its title as the world’s most "influential" language, places only third with 360 million. If these numbers are anything to go by, Mandarin in overdue for a great novelist-poet (if there isn’t one already). But then how many Chinese write novels, one wonders.

John Updike famous novel, Rabbit Run

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Day Poetry Reached Its Zenith in the United States

January 20, 1961.

At the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, Robert Frost read a poem. It was a large moment at the time. Frost had long been a famous person, and he had a history with Kennedy.

In 1959, Frost had predicted Kennedy would be the next president, and his statement made headlines in the New York Times and Washington Post. Kennedy went on to thank Frost for helping him with his campaign. Frost kept repeating his prediction at speaking events and Kennedy started quoting from "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening."

January 20, 1961. And that, I suggest, is the last time a poet impacted the United States in any remarkable and positive manner. Poetry itself seems to have fallen from great heights to the place where it resides in the national consciousness today.

In the 1960s, poets such as Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, and Anne Sexton emerged, crafting their emotionally searing verses. The dark side held poetry in its grip. All 3 of them eventually committed suicide. Imagine Plath reciting one of her poems at the inauguration of a president where the expected tone is one of optimism!

The 60s were a turning point in many ways. Persuasive arguments have been made that the mainstream media gradually switched from politically conservative to liberal, where it has remained to this day, after the assassination of JFK.

Today, it's unthinkable that any poet could have any sort of appreciable impact on a presidential election. Ask any presidential candidate of any party to name a great living poet, and odds are he or she couldn't come up with the name of any poet, good or bad, not even that of the current Poet Laureate. The same could be said for the general public. A TV reporter asking passersby in Times Square for the name of a current living poet wouldn't likely receive an accurate answer.

Frost was the first poet ever to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. Since then, presidents Clinton and Obama invited poets twice, for a grand total of 5 poets reciting their work at inaugurations.

It was thought poets, with their superior wordsmithing skills, might outshine the speech of the president, usurping his glorious moment. Surely that is no longer a concern, considering the poems delivered at Obama's festivities? I should think the question now is finding a poet with the ability to rise to the occasion. That's if future presidents even give any thought at all to including a poet, and if they do, that would mean it has become something considered necessary for a well-rounded event. And what man or woman capable of winning a national election doesn't want a poem written in his or her honor?

I've heard it said there is more poetry produced today than ever before. And that makes sense, since poetry is bound tightly to the academic world, and academics must "publish or perish." Most poetry is written in the service of an academic career and poems are composed to impress an academic, rather than a general, audience. Poets read it; the average person doesn't. Modern poetry is for specialists of the trade.

It could be a new Frost or Emily Dickinson is out there somewhere writing verses but has been lost amid the surfeit of mediocrity. But without evidence of such an imaginary person, that possibility seems as remote as a modern-day Bach, Beethoven or Mozart emerging in classical music. The mere thought is laughable.

Here is a link to Robert Frost's Author Page on Amazon.


Read my collection of short stories, "Queen of the Chess Cult and Other Stories"

Authorship of 'Lost' Sherlock Holmes Story Questioned

UPDATE 3/2/15: The BBC reports: 2nd Book of 'Lost' Sherlock Holmes Story Found, Signed By Conan Doyle.

With Conan Doyle's signature on one of the books containing the 'lost' story, it seems likely he wrote it, despite the reservations of Sherlockians.


Last week I wrote about an unknown Sherlock Holmes story that has been found after all these years ("Unknown Sherlock Holmes Story from 1903 Found").

The authorship of the story has been challenged by experts. The Los Angeles Times reports the opinion of Les Klinger, author of "The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories," who feels it is likely the product of someone other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The UK Mirror quotes "Swedish Sherlock Holmes expert" Mattias Bostrom as saying nowhere in the booklet is Conan Doyle advertised as the author. And there is that strange referenced to Holmes' house on "Sloan Street," rather than his famous Baker Street address.

But Conan Doyle did attend the fundraising bazaar, so it would seem odd that someone would write a Sherlock Holmes story when the author was there as well.

These are questions that hopefully will be answered to the satisfaction of all in due course.


Take a look at my own mystery novel, "Murder at the Library Conference"

Unknown Sherlock Holmes Story from 1903 Found

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle apparently wrote a short story clocking in at only 1,300 words, starring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in 1903 on the occasion of raising money for a bridge near Scotland that was washed away by a great flood in 1902.

The story is titled "Discovering the Border Burghs, and By Deduction, the Brig Bazaar." The full-text can be found here.

The short, somewhat self-parodic story has Sherlock Holmes explaining how it is he knows Dr. Watson is going near Scotland in aid of a bridge when he hadn't been told anything about the upcoming journey.

Anything new from the world's most beloved detective is a treat, a pity it isn't longer.

UPDATE: The authorship of this story is questioned by some experts. See my post "Authorship of 'Lost' Sherlock Holmes Story Questioned."

There are many collections of Sherlock Holmes stories available on Amazon, here is one of the more popular ones:

The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Illustrated)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Essential Items For Writing In A Cafe

A café writer doesn't need much in the way of equipment.


  • A laptop or smartphone
  • a program to input your words
  • a keyboard 

In the photo above, notice the napkins under my cup. I lean my iPhone against the cup while I type and the napkins keep it from sliding off.

If you’re totally offline, as William Faulkner said, all a writer needs is some paper and a pencil. Anything more than the essentials is gravy and we’re tramping in the territory of luxuries.

Offline Essentials:

  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil

Non-Essential But Perhaps Desirable:

  • a soft cushion on your chair.
  • an upholstered footstool.
  • arm rests for your weary typing hands.
  • a soft pillow for those times when you've written so much you can’t help but fall asleep for just a few moments and then pick up where you left off.
  • a sweater in case you are near the door on a cold day, or if you are in a drafty section of the café and need to avoid getting a chill.
  • Your lucky hat, which you need to write as well as you can, otherwise, without it, you worry your prose stinks like a can of literary garbage.
  • Food and drink, but I’m assuming your café is equipped to adequately handle your needs.
  • A restroom to keep yourself fresh—but that’s essential for some writers, depending on your bladder and your personal circumstances at the moment you enter the café and how much time you have budgeted for café writing.
  • A car or public transportation to take you home or to the next café, if you are doing a relay requiring attendance at several cafes. 

For some writers, these items are luxuries; for others, necessities. Each person is different. There is no “one size fits all.” Only you know the table of contents of your master list of essentials.

And I’m sure some writers have their own secret, wild list of luxuries they want to have with them wherever they write, if possible.

The photo above I snapped at the original Starbucks cafe in Seattle.

Wild Luxuries That May Cause Comment:

  • A parrot on your shoulder? But pets aren't allowed in most cafes, thankfully—that’s a good topic for next time. 
  • Sunglasses to protect your tender eyes? But who wears these indoors except spies and celebrities?
  • Binoculars to spot a pretty girl across the street? But won't the others see what you're doing and brand you a stalking pervert?
  • A small framed portrait of a loved one, who you dearly miss, and can’t be with you in the café for whatever reason. 
  • Portable cubicle walls to set up around your table to avoid any distractions.
  • Your own special lamp that emits your own special light that helps you write your own special best.
  • An hourglass. When the sand runs out, you must stop and leave.

These are nothing more than my speculations. I don’t really know any writer who brings these things into a cafe, although it wouldn't surprise me in the least if one day I opened the “Writer’s Times” newspaper and saw an article about such curious folk.

Buy my short story collection I mostly wrote in cafes: Queen of the Chess Cult and Other Stories

Buy my novel, written mostly in cafes: Murder at the Library Conference:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

5 Ways To Spot A Fellow Writer In A Cafe

I call one of my favorite cafes the "Starbucks Writers Colony" because I see several fellow writers every time I'm there. I haven't actually talked to any of them, and I've never seen what they type on their laptops or compose in their notebooks in longhand with their pens, but I have no doubt they are writers.

Most customers I see in any Starbucks aren't writing books or stories on their computers but instead are surfing the internet, writing quick emails, or watching videos. But some are in the midst of writing projects. I can identify a writer from no more than a few moments of observation. Writers at the keyboard behave differently than net surfers in a number of ways.

Here are 5 ways you can spot a writer in a cafe:
  1. Writers sit alone. I don't often see someone typing like a madman while another person sits opposite them trying to have a conversation, or simply ignoring the writer while reading a paper or fiddling with their phone.
  2. Sustained typing longer than needed to input a URL. An email message is only a one-time sustained effort for the duration of a minute or two. Unlike literary composition, it doesn't last.
  3. Sustained typing followed by some moments of reflection, then more sustained typing followed by more reflection, and this cycle is repeated many times.
  4. Intermittent with the typing is the brief checking of web pages--most likely dictionaries and thesauri--to find le mot juste. So, the mouse is clicked a few times, the screen is stared at, pecked on the keyboard are just a few letters adding up to one word, the mouse clicked again, then the writer stares at the screen to find the correct word to use from the selection offered. Then, once the staring is finished, another mouse click and more sustained typing.
  5. Writers betray a more thoughtful expression on their faces than those who merely play around on the internet. You can tell just by looking at their faces for a moment that they are deep within a thought process, thinking of words, composing the next scene, inhabiting a character to understand what he would say or do. Non-writers never form those kinds of expressions on their faces. 

Read the novel I wrote mostly in cafes: Murder at the Library Conference

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why Writers Should Write in a Cafe

This essay is for those of you who write in cafes, or those of you who think you might like to write in cafes, or if the idea of writing in a cafe appeals to you though you've never done it, or if you're wondering if writing in a cafe might prove beneficial to you in some way, or if you just want to learn what it is writers do in cafes, how writers write in cafes, and what it is they write about in cafes. This essay is for the preceding kinds of individuals.

My café writing time is amazingly productive, all things considered. Almost every day I spend some time writing in cafes. I've noticed I accomplish much of my best writing while sitting in a café with a cup of coffee and people around me coming and going.

I surprise myself with how much I get done. Ideas appear to me in cafes that I don’t perceive anywhere else. I’m able to pick up and continue narratives I had stopped when writing them in other places long ago. The format doesn't matter; it could be nonfiction, a novel, short story, or poem. And the noise level doesn't matter. That's something I've grown accustomed to because writing in noisy environments is a necessity of modern urban life. 

Something indefinable exists within the air in cafes that promotes quality writing in huge quantities. Like a household spray that removes bad odors, the café air removes internal roadblocks and allows me to write my best.

Writing in a cafe removes you from your usual writing habitat, likely your own home. An alternative physical location can inject new ideas into your mind and enhance your creativity. I suppose that is part of the appeal of a writers' colony. For me, my colony isn't out in Vermont but right in the big city with dozens of people entering and exiting a cafe within the space-time of a couple hours.

I see writers on the internet asking for remedies to writer's block and how to put words on a blank sheet of paper or words on a blank new document in a word processing program. My advice: go to a café and write there! Works for me.


My most recent book, a collection of short stories:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Vladimir Putin, Drunken Lecher

A documentary aired on German TV called "Putin the Man" and was quite uncomplimentary to one of the most powerful people on the planet.

Among Putin's weaknesses:
  • A 'drunken letch' during his time as a KGB spy
  • Was prepared to shoot unarmed protesters in Eastern Germany in 1989
  • Underwent a secret facelift in 2010
  • Travels with a personal chef because he is paranoid about being poisoned
  • Is 'terrified' of growing old
  • He has survived 5 assassination attempts in recent years
  • As head of the Dresden office, he was lazy and a drunk
  • He was fond of hard liquor
  • He wanted to run his own spy network but his bosses thought he was too immature
  • He beat his former wife
  • His gym is filled with expensive American sports equipment

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sherlock Holmes Invades Barnes and Noble

I hadn't visited a brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble bookstore lately, but found myself near one this weekend so I stopped in to peruse the fiction section and discover what titles they chose to promote and display prominently.

In the Mystery section, what struck me immediately, from a quick glance of the covers of the books on the shelves, was the prominence of the name "Sherlock Holmes."

Might be a slight exaggeration, but it seemed half the books on the shelves included his name on the cover, or others associated with the famous detective, such as Moriarty. I opened a few with covers that seemed to have been produced by the same artist. They came from the same publisher, Titan Books, which seems to publish a lot of these Sherlock Holmes novels, as if a literary factory assembly line for that purpose (another exaggeration).

They seem to sell well, as far as I can tell. Sherlock Holmes is a marketable brand name and mystery fans want more than Conan Doyle left us.

Apparently anyone can write a Sherlock Holmes novel, as the courts recently declared the fictional character to be in the public domain. I don't mean to disparage the authors of these books. I'm sure there is some excellent writing and plots.

Readers tend to latch onto famous brand names. Sherlock Holmes isn't the only fictional character still going strong from a now deceased author. Jason Bourne, the product of Robert Ludlum's imagination, springs to mind. Bourne is a staple of both new fiction titles and Hollywood movies.

It makes me wonder what other imaginary characters will dominate the bookshelves once they are adjudged to be in the public domain at some point in the future, and authors have free rein to write about them however they want.

Buy my short story collection I mostly wrote in cafes: Queen of the Chess Cult and Other Stories

Buy my novel, written mostly in cafes: Murder at the Library Conference:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Top 10 Reasons to Not Play Chess

  1. It overheats the cerebellum, inducing brainsickness.
  2. Ever heard of a rich chessplayer?
  3. You have to memorize the first 20 moves of every opening, or you're just wasting your time.
  4. You have to memorize strategies of all endings, or you'll just throw away your win.
  5. Cheaters use computers to beat superior opponents all the time, so it doesn't really matter how good you are, you're still going to lose.
  6. You have to buy a tournament-quality chess set, clock, books, opening database program, online website membership fees, and national association dues allowing you the right to play in tournaments. And that's before you pay tournament registration fees plus hotel and travel costs.
  7. Only a few players in any tournament win prize money. Most go home empty-handed, having spent hundreds of dollars for nothing.
  8. It's not like someone will see chess on your LinkedIn bio and offer you a job.
  9. How many girls on Tinder say they want a chessplayer?
  10. Even if you win, so what?
Buy my short story collection focusing on chess: Queen of the Chess Cult and Other Stories

Buy my novel, written mostly in cafes: Murder at the Library Conference:

Top 10 Reasons to Play Chess

  1. It's considered an almost honorable way to waste time.
  2. People assume you must be brainy--even if you're not.
  3. Try playing checkers without people snickering at you.
  4. You'll lose weight by not eating, since chess demands an obsession to it to the exclusion of everything else.
  5. You can add it to your LinkedIn profile and watch the job offers roll in.
  6. You can't possibly lose as much money as playing poker.
  7. You'll gain self-confidence by beating homeless people in the park.
  8. Chess is popular in jail, so you'll be ready if you go.
  9. Chess gives your brain a thorough workout, since you'll be memorizing thousands of openings, middlegames, and endgames.
  10. Girls admire guys who play chess, even though they hate the game.

Buy my short story collection focused on chess: Queen of the Chess Cult and Other Stories

Buy my novel, written mostly in cafes: Murder at the Library Conference:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Stephen Hawking's Unfounded Fear of Extraterrestrials

In the news recently: The folks at Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have a plan to broadcast "powerful" radio messages out into the cosmos in an attempt to communicate with alien creatures on other planets.

This is news because SETI has always passively searched for evidence of life on other planets and this would represent their first active attempt to seek out aliens with their own messages.

Influential scientists are worried. If alien creatures find out about us here on Earth, they may want to invade and make us their slaves--or their sandwiches. In other words, the learned scientists see a threat similar to that portrayed in the Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man."

Those scientists include Stephen Hawking, who said:

"The outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans."
Once again, Hawking is wrong. He was wrong about "spontaneous creation" as the source of the universe, which is the argument of  a desperate scientist trying to match Einstein but can't. How to get something (the universe) from nothing without God? Spontaneous creation from nothing. He's not one of my favorite scientists with that kind of logic.

Hawking and the other scientists worry about aliens and suspect they are way ahead of us and any interaction would be to their benefit, not ours.

But I already argued last month in "The Reason UFOs Avoid Earth" that those advanced aliens aren't as dumb as Hawking and SETI think. They already know we're here! They don't need SETI's radio broadcasts to enlighten them.

They avoid us because (among other things):
  1. We have nothing of interest to offer them.
  2. Despite what Hawking thinks, they have good reasons to avoid any "clash of civilizations" with us and have their own reasons to fear us, Columbus and the Native Americans notwithstanding.
We are a dangerous ghetto to them, otherwise they would have been here by now, as, it is only logical to assume, they are not clueless to our existence.

Friday, February 06, 2015

The Fraud of Fake News

Brian Williams is a liar. And as the anchor for NBC Nightly News, he is the poster boy for a lying news media.

It isn't just Williams and his takes of a helicopter ride hit by rocket-propelled grenade fire in Iraq, or seeing a body float past his hotel in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. It is just Williams and Dan Rather.

Fake news by fake newsmen on fake news channels. Media empires built and sustained on fraud.

The entire medium of TV news is a fraud since it relies primarily on image, ratings, and physical appearance, rather than informational substance. It's not about what you say but how you look. Brian Williams knows he doesn't need to tell the truth. He only needs to exaggerate and spin fantasies, because that is what TV gives its audience--surface appeal, rather than any substance. TV doesn't rely on the truth. It relies on appearances and salacious bits of detail, such as those invented by Brian Williams.

TV is entertainment. TV is all about gaining attention any way you can and that is a powerful motivator for guys like Brian Williams, who salivates at those all-important ratings in comparison with his supposed rivals on the other networks. How do you draw attention to yourself on TV? “I saw a body float by my hotel!” “My helicopter was shot at with an RPG!”

What about “the news”? What about “the facts”? They aren't so important. Image is everything. "Fake but accurate" is the motto.

It's not just Brian Williams. It's Dan Rather and all the others. They aren't above staging events to further their political agendas. CNN and its planted questioners at Republican presidential debates. Everything is scripted and the liberal news media is writing the words and suggesting the correct way to cast your vote.

Ratings determine morals and ethics on TV. What pulls in the biggest audience is defined as “the truth.” Ratings and politics.

Beneath it all is a contempt fore the audience, which few seem to have noticed or taken offense. Viewers are like robots waiting to be programmed. This candidate, certainly not that one. Voters exist to be programmed.

How many more lies are out there that we don’t yet know about? How many scripted "news" events portrayed as "the real thing"? Tons. Plenty, and from all quarters.

And then we have the newspapers. Newspapers rely not on facts but on "explanations" of facts. What supposedly happened and what does it mean? It's not about facts or truth, but spin, and most newspapers spin in the direction of left-wing ideas and Democratic Party issues. Spin demands a spinning direction, and the direction of the news media is Left. And as time passes, the print media moves further and further Left in its slanting and spinning of current events.

There is no "journalism" being practiced today in the sense of objective news coverage because that isn't the goal of those practicing it.

Journalists lie all the time and invent facts to further their stories and careers. Or steal the words of other writers. Jayson Blair and Michael Finkel of the New York Times.

Headlines are crafted to make the President of the United States appear brilliant or idiotic depending on whether he is of the same political persuasion as the newspaper.
Every day, current events are "explained" in one direction or another, based on the political viewpoint of the media organization. The Obama Prayer Breakfast comments against Christianity, for example.

Editorial pages are beneath my contempt and no one reads them anyway so I’ll refrain from comment for now.

The average person reads the New York Times and thinks he's getting "the news," but what it gives is a biased explanation of what happened that day that the newspaper deemed important and what the reader should think about it. The "facts" will fall in line with that social-political agenda behind it all.

Hard to believe many people think the New York Times and Washington Post are unbiased and play it down the middle. Low-information citizens and voters.

The goal of the news media isn't an honest unbiased presentation of the news. An agenda lurks behind everything you see on TV and read in the newspapers.

For MSNBC and others, it isn't ratings they’re after (obviously) but promoting a liberal, leftist, Democratic Party agenda. The “news” will be shaped and sculpted to fit that agenda and the predetermined result.

And the bias increases over time. Look at what has happened to CNN in just the past 5 years or so. They are heading into MSNBC radical territory. The same can be said for the other prominent media outlets. Everyone rushes away from the center and toward the fringes. Because that's where the action is. And screaming radically is how you get heard and how you win friends and influence people.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Did Saudi Arabia Fund the 9/11 Terror Attack?

Rumors have always swirled around Saudi Arabia's funding of al Qaeda and the 9/11 terror attacks.

It seems entirely believable. The Saudis have exported their radical ideology in the form of mosques and preachers to many western nations, courtesy of oil revenue from US and European car drivers.

The rumors just won't go away. Now al Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui has given testimony that members of the Saudi royal family funded al Qaeda and the attacks on New York and Washington.

Not only did they fund al Qaeda, he claims he discussed shooting down Air Force One with a Stinger missile with staff at the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC.

Moussaoui isn't considered the most reliable witness but I'm not hearing him say anything that the world should simply dismiss out of hand. It all sounds not just believable, but highly likely.

I'll note here there is a reason the Saudi flag has a sword on it.

This flare-up of Saudi involvement in 9/11 has shed new light on the classified section of the investigation by congressional committees into the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. That classified section is 28 pages and describes support given the hijackers.

Victims' families have tried to declassify that section without success. Now, at least one Member of Congress wants the world to see what it says:
“I think it is the right thing to do,” said Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts and an author of a bipartisan resolution encouraging President Obama to declassify the section. “Let’s put it out there.”
Are we over-protecting the Saudis due to their oil reserves as well as their strategic position in the Middle East? Doesn't every American citizen deserve to know what's in that classified report? What needs to be hidden?

Obama Downplays ISIS Atrocities at Prayer Breakfast

Obama stood up for Islam at the National Prayer Breakfast today, an event attended by thousands of Christians.

With the world aghast at Islamic State jihadists burning a man alive, Obama said Christians have done evil things as well, all in the name of Jesus Christ:
“Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Obama said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
The point behind his words is to not condemn Islam or ISIS, because Christians have done bad things in the past as well. I don't see any other motivation for Obama's words except to come to the defense of Islam.

Obama took this opportunity to praise the self-admitted Marxist Dalai Lama as a "good friend."

In attendance, a Sudanese official of a government accused of genocide. Imagine his prayers!

No word yet on what all the Christians in attendance thought of Obama's slight to Christianity at this moment in history dominated by the inhuman practices of ISIS.

Obama apparently did not make note that Saudi Arabia's punishments for "crimes" are almost identical to those of ISIS.

Is Christianity a problem today in any way similar to Islam? Is Islam no different than Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Judaism in Obama's mind? Islam is waging wars around the entire world and killing innocent people in countless nations. No word on whether Obama offered any prayers for those affected.

Why does Obama go to such extreme lengths, and with such dubious logic, to mitigate crimes against humanity perpetrated against the world by Islam? What motives someone handed the job of President of the United States to do that? And why is Obama hyper-sensitive to criticism of Islam?

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Russia's Intelligence War Against Fracking

Fracking is responsible for much of Russia's current economic troubles.

From Investors Business Daily:
Russia's economy is almost entirely reliant on oil and gas earnings. The fracking revolution, which has led to a 30% increase in U.S. oil and gas output, is responsible for the recent sharp decline in global energy prices. This has left oil-dependent economies like Russia in desperate straits.
Therefore, Vladimir Putin has a powerful motive for demonizing fracking and turning western countries away from it, thereby increasing world reliance on Russian oil.

No less a figure than NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen has accused Russia's intelligence agencies of working with environmental groups to fund anti-fracking campaigns.

Said Rasmussen:
"I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations - environmental organisations working against shale gas - to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas. That is my interpretation."
An example of Russia's ability to rally protesters recently in Bulgaria:
Pointing to a mysteriously well-financed and well-organized campaign of protest, Romanian officials including the prime minister say that the struggle over fracking in Europe does feature a Goliath, but it is the Russian company Gazprom...This belief that Russia is fueling the protests, shared by officials in Lithuania, where Chevron also ran into a wave of unusually fervent protests and then decided to pull out, has not yet been backed up by any clear proof.
Several European countries have similar stories to tell:
In Ukraine, for example, anti-fracking movements became more organized and better funded just as the government worked to finalize shale gas deals with Western energy firms, officials there say. In Lithuania, "exactly the same thing is happening," said a government official, who described the mushrooming of anti-shale billboards and websites there as "an integrated, strategic communications campaign." 
According to the National Review, Russian intelligence has implemented a 3-pronged strategy:
  • First, Russia has ramped up covert payments to environmental groups in the West.
  • Second, the Russian SVR (CIA equivalent) has directed its spies to gather intelligence on the American energy industry.
  • Third, Russian intelligence’s biggest cover operation — its RT “news” outlet — is undertaking a massive propaganda campaign against fracking.