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Writing DaysZ 8

Ever wonder why billions of dollars have been spent to help Haitians and they still live in three-sided hovels? It’s because the Haitians never got the billions of dollars. And no, their president didn’t siphon it all off. It was mostly kept by the companies, foundations, charities, NGOs and international agencies that provide disaster relief. The people they help are helped at a high cost. That’s some scam, that disaster relief.

Bob Vs the Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-7, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf

The Haiti Scam

+++“There,” said Old Spice. For two days, the Alien had been sitting at a hole in the floor of the rail car working on something attached to the undercarriage. Now, the hole was covered and he was standing.
+++Piper, working the hand pump with Bob, faced forward. She looked past him to the Alien in polite inquiry. Bob glanced over his shoulder. “What?” Neither knew what Spice had been doing.
+++“You can stop pumping now.”
+++“Oh,” Piper smiled at him, “We’re there?”
+++“Where?” Bob looked around at the Alabama countryside, seeing only oak trees, littered fields and an occasional home.
+++“No,” said Spice, looking around with Bob. “We’re going to Colorado. I mean you can stop pumping now. I fixed the batteries.”
+++“Batteries?” Piper and Bob backed away from the hand pump. The rail car picked up speed.
+++“Wow,” Bob sat down and leaned his back on the pump housing. “Great!” He rubbed his arms. “My arms and shoulders are killing me.”
+++“Wimp,” Piper said, although she was smiling and rubbing her own arms. “Thanks, Spice.” He had picked up Lisbeth, the ventriloquist dummy. Piper told him, “See if you can learn how to throw your voice, Spice,” and whispered to Bob, “He needs things to do. He’s been depressed since the other aliens left him here.”
+++“Really,” Bob replied to both.
+++Spice turned one eye on them while turning the other inward. “I found ventriloquism on the Internet. The ‘Net’s slow though, now that power is going out everywhere.”
+++“That thing is designed to survive a nuclear war.”
+++“Look, a park,” Piper pointed ahead.
+++“Could be a golf course,” Bob thought aloud.
+++“It’s a cemetery.” The Alien had the advantage of built-in GPS. “We can spend the night in the Caretaker’s Shack.”
+++Bob looked at Piper. He wasn’t going to admit an unwillingness to sleep among the dead and from her expression, he surmised neither would she. “Fine.” Together, the two slowed the rail car and braked to a stop where a gravel path crossed the tracks. Poppies lined the path leading them to a small cottage. Inside, they found a front reception area lined with chairs and a side room, apparently, a gift shop.
+++“I’ve figured this thing out,” Spice indicated Lisbeth, now sitting on his arm, just as the back door opened and a man came in.
+++“Figured out what?” the man asked. He wore a suit and tie and carried a briefcase.
+++“Me,” Lisbeth smiled at the man. Spice explained, “I’m often misunderstood when I am trying to express myself in human language.” He glanced pointedly at Bob and Piper.
+++Lisbeth nodded. “Poor baby.”
+++“Therefore, meet Lisbeth, my official translator.”
+++Lisbeth offered her hand to the man. He stared at it, then shook his head and turned to Bob and Piper. Several other well dressed men and women were entering and taking seats. “Alien humor,” the man half-laughed. “I’m glad you could make it. This is a very important meeting. I’m Tyrone Kuuhn. You can call me Ty.” He shook their hands and turned to greet Spice but was met instead by Lisbeth’s outstretched hand. “Uh,” he waved at the other people, “We are here to facilitate the Aliens’ outreach to Earth.”
+++“Outreach?” Piper smiled.
+++“How could you possibly know we’d be here?” Bob wanted to know. “Is there a bug on that railcar?”
+++“Not exactly,” Ty said. “But there is a GPS locator on all railroad cars. They are needed for inventory control. So, when the Sheriff of Gay Camellia, Alabama reported a hand car missing right after you three had attended their diversity celebration, those of us who own railroads put this meeting together.”
+++“This is an outreach planning meeting?” Piper sounded interested. “Oooh. What does your group do?”
+++“Disaster relief. Always lots of money to be made there, but this! Well, civilization is collapsing. The potential boggles the mind.”
+++“How do you make money from disasters?” The well dressed people looked at Piper as if she were a child inquiring about sex.
+++“The money’s free,” explained Ty. “We use donations and taxpayer money to restore everything the victims need. Medical services, infrastructure, housing, even government. We do it all.” He smiled, “At a profit, of course.”
+++“Well, while you’re at it, why not improve things for the people?”
+++“Oh. No. That would bring a storm of criticism. Our donations would dry up. People might say we’re profiteering.”
+++“You are,” Bob said.
+++Ty winked but his eyes were cold, “No one thinks about profit as long as we leave things no better than they were.”
+++“So,” Lizbeth folded her arms. “Just what is this ‘outreach’ you have in mind?”
+++“Well,” Ty told her then caught himself and addressed Spice, “Everybody’s losing everything, so we cannot count on donations. We are going to have to raise taxes. That is why we need you.” Ty ignored Lizbeth’s raised eyebrow. “Governments find it is easier to raise taxes when the people feel threatened by an outside enemy. That’s you, my friend.” He smiled and placed a warm hand of friendship on Spice’s arm which Lizbeth promptly bit. “Ow!”
+++“I am not your enemy,” Spice told him.
+++“No, no! Of course not!” Ty glanced at the little bite marks on his hand. “We know that. Don’t we?” He waved at the other people in the room who all nodded assent. “And we don’t want anything to happen to you, do we?” The other people all shook their heads.
+++“If something did happen to us,” Bob’s tone was reasonable, “You’d lose your number one enemy and tax revenue would drop.”
+++“Exactly!” Ty beamed as if, finally, he was getting through. “Look at what happened to defense spending when the Soviet Union collapsed. We had to replace the Military-Industrial Complex with the Foreign Policy-Industrial Complex. Now, we rebuild nations!”
+++“But,” Piper asked Ty, “If people think we’re an enemy won’t we be in danger?”
+++“Not to worry, my good lady.” He handed her a slip of paper. “Log on to there. That website on the dark ‘Net will have threat information. It will alert you to incoming danger. And, it will let you know where to find food, water and shelter along your route to Colorado.”
+++By now, even Piper was suspicious. “How do you know we are headed to Colorado?”
+++“We do have contacts in the government. For some reason, DARPA has been investigating you.”
+++“Stene!” Piper’s hand flew to her mouth.
+++“Yes. That was the contact’s name.”
+++She turned to Bob. “Bob?”
+++“Stene tried to kill us already. Did you know that?”
+++It was impossible to tell from Ty’s face whether he knew or not. “Really! Well, don’t worry. Like I said, we can forewarn you of incoming danger. Once Old Spice downloads that URL I gave Piper, he will receive warnings, alerts, resource locations and other messages as needed.”
+++Piper held out the slip of paper. Lizbeth took it and showed it to Spice who read it with one eye, the other eye turning inward. “OKAY. Got it. Say, speaking of incoming, there’s a missile coming at us now. It’s about 80 seconds away.” Lizbeth did a doubletake at Spice’s face and screamed, “Incoming!” She kicked him furiously. “Get me out of here! Now! Now! Oh, damnit. Go! Go!”
+++Out the door they ran, down the path to jump onto the rail car. Spice jiggled the hand pump and the car lurched forward, picking up speed as the missile whooshed up the flower-lined path to disintegrate the Caretaker’s Cottage and some people in suits and ties and some briefcases.
+++“Faster Spice!” cried Piper. “I don’t want people raining down on me again!” She buried her face against Bob’s shoulder, “No, not again.”
+++“It’s OKAY,” he held her, whispering, “It’s OKAY, Piper.” He caressed her hair. “Ty Kuuhn bolted out the back. The rest, hell, it’s OKAY if some of those people died.”

It is amazing how many activities, rituals and products are credited with accomplishing something they have no effect on. The nostrums and quackery of the medical, diet and belief industries are well documented. But the social and political rain dances continue as if no one recognizes the sham.

 Rain Dancing
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-7, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

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Research

Beyond the ‘Net

A Chrome search for the phrase, “Glabelhammies trend higher,” on Google returns the notice that, “Your search – Glabelhammies trend higher – did not match any documents.” The same search on Internet Explorer’s Bing returns 15,200,000 results, none of which has anything whatsoever to do with Glabelhammies. Billions of web pages without a single mention of Glabelhammies and Google knows it – that’s impressive. When researching a story element, Chrome & Google do a good job of focusing on the element being researched.

For scenics, nothing beats Google Earth’s ability to show you the scene being described. This is important for writers who haven’t been there and for readers who have. Especially if you want the reader to remain immersed in the story when your character stands somewhere famous and looks around. Millions of book readers have been in Times Square, so, better Google it with Street View before you describe it. Nevertheless, Google Earth will not show where the Glabelhammies trend.

The basic limit to Internet research is exactly what makes it so useful. The ‘Net contains existing knowledge. To go beyond existing knowledge, try good old fashioned primary research. Primary Research means collecting information that does not yet exist. There are three basic approaches.

Observation is the key to seeing real life. Details caught by your eye the way you see things can help your writing show what no other writer has and make your story original.

Explore anything new that pops into your head. Accept your creativity and mentally walk into the unknown to develop an idea.

Construct new story elements. Give the reader something they’ve never read by first researching all the old ways that a part of the story has already been told. (Use the Internet) Then get imaginative.

Of course, we already know all of this. The useful question here is “how.” How do we observe real life, how do we explore creative ideas and how do we construct new story elements?

How do you, yourself, collect information that does not yet exist? Anything you can share in the comments below may help others. I know I benefit by learning from other writers. Thank you!

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About Writers, Research

IDK

OKAY, let’s get the (explanatory) blonde joke out of the way.
“This blonde girl asked me what ‘IDK’ stood for. I said I don’t know. She said, ‘OMG, no one seems to.'”

She was, of course, right about a lot of things. If there were a Medieval map of the Internet, vast areas would be marked “IDK” for voids and “Here There Be Dragons” for misinformation. We don’t know a lot of things.

But don’t blame the Internet. History is riddled with gaps and untruths, eye witnesses get it wrong and experts grind their own axes. We never really knew all the facts. The problem is that now the Internet is widely accepted as the fact-checker. The Encyclopedia Britannica has been replaced by Wikis.

Not that this matters so much to creative writers. We seek truth, not facts. Information changes but truth only varies within the constancies of human behavior. The great themes of literature haven’t changed since Enheduanna wrote about lovers among the reeds along the Euphrates River thousands of years ago. Only the settings change, like the scene in time travel movies where the traveler remains fixed against a background of civilizations changing, falling and rising. Aren’t unchanging human truths what really matter?

We need facts to anchor our fiction. Do our “facts” have to agree with what readers find on the Internet?

I don’t know. I’m a writer. I make stuff up.

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Writing DaysZ 6

The TV news team is telling me that one presidential candidate sold state department favors and the other plans internment camps for immigrants. Neither assertion is true, of course. They’re just straw man arguments. But a vigorous debate follows in which both candidates are trashed as though the assertions were true. Straw Men. They’re everywhere, like alien bug-eyed-monsters, grabbing our attention. Which is what straw men do, grab attention. “Straw man n. 2. An argument or opponent set up so as to be easily refuted or defeated. – American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition.” It’s the first step of spin.

Bob vs the Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-5, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf

Debatable Arguments

+++They found the railroad handcar under an overhang behind the waystation. Bob and Piper grunted frantically, trying to inch it to the tracks before helicopter gunships could roar overhead. Old Spice rummaged through a wooden chest, tossing out items apparently deemed useless.
+++Piper dodged a wrench. “Spice!”
+++“Give us a hand,” Bob said urgently, quietly, “They’re coming!”
+++“No they’re not. The helicopter noise has stopped. Oh-” He held up an oil can. “Look!”
+++“So they landed in the town. In a few minutes, they’ll be airborne again and headed here.”
+++Spice began squirting oil on everything about the handcar that looked like it might move. “It’s Never Too Late to Prepare for an Emergency!” He smiled at them. “That’s my family motto.”
+++Bob repeated the phrase and squinted at Spice, “That’s the dumbest motto-.” The handcar lurched, screeched and began rolling. The three of them manhandled it onto the tracks and Bob and Piper pumped the seesaw handles while Spice squirted oil on every part that moved. Ahead, Bob saw a heavier stand of trees that promised shelter. Behind, he heard a helicopter lift off in the distance. The car gained speed to about twenty-five or thirty miles an hour and became easy to pump. But it was hardly escape velocity. He felt trapped in a slow-motion video. Trees blocked their view just as the helicopter approached the station behind them. “Keep going! They’ll overfly the track after they don’t find us at the station.” To ease the tension, he told Piper, “Spice was a doofus back home. Weren’t you, Spice?”
+++Spice looked up from something he was fiddling with. “Doofus?”
+++“An incompetent person,” Bob winked at Piper, “Foolish or stupid.”
+++She winked back. “Ignore him, Spice. You don’t have to talk about your family.”
+++Spice sputtered and stood. “That was not my fault! Really,” he implored. “It was the genetic alteration that I underwent for the Earth Mission. I was just trying to let her down easy.”
+++“Who, Spice?” Piper soothed. “Who were you trying to let down easy?”
+++“My fiancé,” he told her in a somber voice. “She deserved to know that my new body found her repulsive. So, I sent her a message. I followed all of the appropriate protocols for use of the family communicator, too. It is expected that the recipients of a personal message from my family will know who wrote it without a signature.”
+++Bob chuckled. “You sent her a message?”
+++“I chose my words carefully.”
+++“Oh, Spice! Is that’s how she found out you were breaking up with her?” Piper shook her head in dismay. “You texted her?”
+++“I wish.” The Alien slumped. “I accidently sent the message to the wrong person. But my fiancé, at least, knew who wrote it when she read it in the news.”
+++“Oh, Spice! Who did you send it to?”
+++“My father’s mistress. She was, how do you say it? Pissed at him.”
+++In the silence that followed, Bob rolled his eyes heavenward to see a helicopter flying in whisper mode arcing over the trees at the railcar. He grabbed the ray gun from his pocket and held it pointed skyward against his mouth and licked it frantically as ropes dropped around them and they were rushed by armed men dressed in black bulky outfits making loud, guttural, sounds. Abruptly, the helicopter veered away, trailing behind it one man still clinging to a rope.
+++“Where are you going?” asked one of the three men who had made it onto the railcar.
+++The answer came over his harness speaker. “Going for a beer. That was a roadhouse we passed back there. Coming?”
+++“Hell yeah man. We’re in.” The men jumped and rolled smartly to a standing stop behind the railcar. As the helicopter landed to pick them up, they turned and waved goodbye with their guns.
+++Bob looked at the ray gun but it was already fading away in his hand. “Wow,” he breathed.
+++“See.” Spice beamed at him, “I told you it would make attackers stop bothering us.”
+++“I just wished it had a trigger. Firing a ray gun by licking the red spot is stupid, Spice. I was too stressed to remember where the spot was. I had to lick the gun all over!” He made a face and spit.
+++“Don’t be trigger-happy, Bob.” Piper smiled at him like she was proud of him. “You saved us.” That made him happy. They spent the day taking turns, one keeping lookout while two pumped the handcar. No more helicopters came at them and although easy enough, the pumping was eventually exhausting as none of them were used to prolonged physical exertion. At dusk they were happy to see the lights of a small town.
+++“That’s New Haven,” Spice said. It’s not on any of your maps yet. But it popped up last week on our planet survey as a fast growing town. We can find accommodations there for the night.”
+++The lights in the town resolved into campfires, cars and people; adults, children and dogs, even some livestock. Where the rails crossed over a small stream, they were waved to a stop by men with fishing poles. “Hold on there,” one called in a pleasant but firm voice. He helped them to stop the handcar before it rolled onto the trestle.
+++“Thanks, friends.” The man held out his hand. “That contraption would make such a racket going over the bridge, the fish might stop biting. I’m Andy.”
+++Piper hopped down and shook his hand. “Glad you were able to help us stop in time, Andy. I’m Piper. We would like to spend the night here.” She turned and introduced Spice, who landed beside her, and Bob, who stayed on the cart. “Spice here is an Alien and Bob back there,” she pointed with her thumb, “Is Bob.”
+++“I see,” the man glanced at Bob before warmly shaking Spice’s hand. “Welcome! It is a pleasure to have you with us.”
+++“I thought all you Aliens left,” one of the fishermen said.
+++“That’s Skeeter.” Andy waved the man over. “Skeeter’s our Sheriff and resident greeter. Say,” he grinned at them, “You’re just in time for the debate. Let Skeeter get you a bite to eat and settled in.”
+++After some eating, greeting and refreshing, they watched older kids pile wood on one of the campfires to turn it into a communal bonfire. Early fall chilled the air. Overhead, star swarms lit a clear night sky. People gathered, some climbing up onto a vehicle. “Declared debaters,” Andy informed them, helping them climb up with him onto a flatbed truck. He raised his hands for attention. “The subject of tonight’s debate is, ‘What Happened?’”
+++“Is that an Alien?” a woman asked.
+++“Yes, and by the rules of New Haven, he is accepted like everyone else.”
+++The woman sounded agreeable, “Well, OKAY I guess.” To the chuckling of others, she added, “We accepted my ex-husband.”
+++“Back to the point,” Andy acted as the debate moderator, “What happened?”
+++“Well,” a thick looking man began, “I know we accept him and all and I do, but.” He paused and looked around. “You all know the collapse began when the Aliens arrived.” Bob loosely estimated maybe a couple hundred people watched the man point out Spice. “I’d like to hear what he has to say about that.”
+++With tense eyes turning on him, Spice seemed to shrink. He whispered into Bob’s ear, “Correlation is not cause and effect.”
+++“Excuse me,” Piper stepped forward. “We are Piper and Bob, Alien Companions. Due to the subtleties of the English language, and given the importance of clear communication in tonight’s debate, the Alien has asked us to translate for him. Allow me to introduce Old Spice, Earth Mission Commander of the Aliens.”
+++Spice genuflected as best a spherical being could, holding the pose longer than expected. Only when the crowd went silent did he rise to his full three-foot height, somehow making it all seem majestic. The thick man gave him back a short bow.
+++“What did he say, Bob?” Piper prompted.
+++“The Alien says their timing was unfortunate and unrelated to the circumstances on Earth when they landed.”
+++“Use his name, Bob!” To the amusement of the crowd, Piper kicked him. “Damn, man! Try to make him sound human.” They laughed at her. “Well, people, we need answers, not scapegoats. What do you really think happened?”
+++“You can’t fool me!” a man screamed.
+++“Ignore the screamer,” Andy told Bob, “He’s crazy. He’s not screaming at us. Herb screams only at himself.”
+++“Take your hands off that!” the screamer demanded.
+++Bob winked at Piper, “He’s talking to himself.”
+++“We already know what happened.” A young man spoke from the roof of his SUV. “My family lives in this car because the rich stole everything away from us. Away from all of us! The top one percent sucked up all of the oil with their planes and their helicopters and their yachts and moved their companies overseas and we’re left with no jobs and no homes and cars with no gas to live in.”
+++“Counter?” asked Andy. “Who wants to argue differently?”
+++“Scapegoating,” said Spice.
+++“What’s that mean?” the young man retorted.
+++“The word is from a Yom Kippur ritual,” Bob explained. “The high priest would symbolically lay the sins of the people on a goat’s head.”
+++“So?” the man huffed. “I know what I’m talking about. I listen to public radio.”
+++Stepping in smoothly, Piper said, “Spice is saying that blaming a group is no answer.”
+++“Scapegoating a group is just a way of setting up a straw man argument,” Bob elaborated. “Meaning, anyone in the group can be attacked for supposedly sharing the groups’ alleged sins. It’s a way of saying, ‘Politicians are greedy liars and can’t be trusted. That lets you attack anyone who is a politician.”
+++“Exactly!” The thick man nodded and smiled. “It was the Koch brothers!” He rotated slowly, nodding to the crowd, arms extended with palms up to bring them to his understanding. “They’re greedy billionaires. You can’t trust ’em! And we all know they are lying Republicans.”
+++“That’s plain crazy talk!” shouted a woman. “What about that billionaire George Soros? FOX News already exposed him as a Democrat. You gotta be crazy to trust a man who’s both, in the top one percent and a Democrat.”
+++“Stop that!” Herb screamed. “You can’t pee here.” That caused a slight commotion as people next to Herb drew back.
+++Spice seemed confused. “Scarcity drove up the price of oil,” he told Piper and Bob, “And you people kept buying it anyway. Now, not enough is left to power your needs. It was all very human and predictable. Why the blame?”
+++Bob shook his head, “Bad arguments, they’re everywhere. Let’s get out of here.” On the way out, they passed a sign someone had posted next to the fire, “Debate Tonight, Beware of Trolls.” In the distance, Herb screamed, “Time’s up!”

Yesterday was “National No Texting Day.” In what bubble in whose mind did that make sense? Makes me wonder how many people texted the info to their friends yesterday. That’s the thing about mind bubbles. They hold ideas that make sense when you think about them but burst when exposed to the real world.

Mind Bubbles
 … to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-5, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

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About Writers, blogging

Get Off Y’re Butts and Write!

Writing is not just about recording thoughts. Writing begins with experiences to think about. Here is an example from WWII Sgt. Walter Bernstein, an ordinary man writing about freedom fighters in a Yugoslav village. From YANK Magazine, 1946:

+++Two friends whom the staff had thought were dead showed up. They had been in a concentration camp for three years, and finally escaped and made their way to the Partisans. One of them is a man of 27 and the other is 35, but they look much older. The younger man talked between mouthfuls of food. He ate deliberately, almost shyly, arranging the food carefully with his fork before raising it to his mouth, then chewing it with great thoroughness. The younger man had also been in the notorious Ustachi camp at Jasenovac in Croatia. This is the camp that is known for burning men alive; it’s record is 1,500 in one night.
+++Supper consists of a plateful of string beans with pieces of Vienna sausage. There is also a large can of chowchow (mixed pickles in mustard sauce). The Partisans need chowchow like they need a hole in the head, but they regard it as simply some peculiar American dish and eat it. After supper everyone sits around and sings. The songs come naturally; they are beautiful songs, simple and immediate. There is one song about their rifles, and a song about one of their national heroes killed in battle, and one addressed to Marshall Tito by the girls in which they ask “When will you send the boys home?” and Tito answers “It is not yet time, it is not yet time.”

Thank you Sgt. Bernstein. I hope you survived the war.

Here is another from a well known author, then Pvt. Irwin Shaw, aboard a train in Egypt. Also from Yank Magazine.

+++The train for Palestine pulled out of Cairo station slowly, to the accompaniment of wailing shrieks from the platform peddlers selling lemonade, cold coffee, pornographic literature, grapes, old copies of Life and flat Arab bread.
+++The train was long and crowded, and it had seen better days. It had been standing in the wild Egyptian sun all morning and part of the afternoon, and it had a very interesting smell.
+++It carried Englishmen, Scots, Welshmen, Palestinians, Indians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Australians, Americans, French, Senussi, Bantus, Senegalese; it carried Egyptian civilians, Arab civilians, Palestinian civilians; it carried generals, colonels, lieutenants, sergeants and privates – and it carried bugs. The generals and lieutenants it carried first class. The sergeants it carried second class. The privates it carried third class. The bugs it carried all classes.

I like these paragraphs written during a war fought 70 years ago. The images stick with me. And I could never have written them. Because I cannot share what I have never experienced.

So, in the hope of starting a discussion, do you think you actually have to get out and experience life in order to write well?

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About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized

Writers Criticizing Writers

A short whimsy

Vidal of Capote
“He’s a full-fledged housewife from Kansas with all the prejudices.”

Mailer, of a competitor
“He said she was beautiful because he couldn’t make her so.”

Capote of Kerouac
“That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

Nietzsche of Dante
“A hyena that wrote poetry on tombs.”

Faulkner of Hemingway
“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

Hemingway of Faulkner
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

Wilde of Pope
“There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.”

Auden of Browning (my favorite here)
“I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve-year-old girls.”

And, for Atthys, James Tiptree of Alice Sheldon (or, vice versa)
“The trouble was, you see, I was just good enough to understand the difference between my talent and that rare thing, real ability. It was as though I had climbed the foothills high enough to see the snow-clad peaks beyond, which I could never scale.”

——
Got a favorite? Please add it to the comments 🙂

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reading, Stories

Writing DaysZ 4

Searching for a second, well maybe third, cup of coffee, I pass the TV and see Tea Party demonstrators on the same street as Black Lives Matter separated by cops with dogs in the middle. Imagining PETA showing up to protect the police dogs sets me to grinning at the thought of feminists, environmentalists and immigration activists joining the melee, all for attention, donations and votes.

Bob vs the Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-3, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf

Diversity Faire

+++They were close enough to the blast that its light came a split second before the sound, causing them to begin turning when the hot wind blew over them.
+++“Careful,” whispered Bob, diving to the ground. All around, bits of debris began falling like hard rain.
+++“A Bomb!” Piper’s face showed fear. “Or mortar round. Or RPG. As a reporter, I’ve heard that many times on TV.”
+++Old Spice placed a hand on Bob’s shoulder, one eye imploring caution while the other eye turned inwards for news. “Wait,” the Alien confided, “I’m consulting with the others. That was a Hellfire Jr. missile. Made for domestic use.”
+++“What the – !?” Bob looked at him. “The bus?”
+++“The bus was destroyed, yes. But the WTF! racists had nothing to do with this. Their requests for heavy ordinance are invariably turned down. No, this was your government.”
+++“Friendly fire,” Piper opined. She sounded shaky.
+++“Friendly!” Bob sputtered. He sat against a tree and patted the ground. “Sit, Piper. Let’s see what Spice can tell us before we walk into hell fire.”
+++Spice sat in front of them, forming a little triangle of togetherness as the debris fall slowed. They stared at a leaf that faced the sky. Red granules of flesh had fallen on it, piling up like sand poured from a child’s hand. “That’s Jackson,” Spice said. A bare foot fell to ground, waxen white, drained of all blood. “That too. Pity, he used to be taller.”
+++“Friendly fire,” Piper began explaining, “Is accidental.” She looked at Jackson’s remains. “I mean….” She shook. “Our own government?”
+++Bob put his arm around her. “I know,” he said soothingly, “Oh my God. They tried to kill us.”
+++“Why!?”
+++“DARPA.” Spice’s inward eye appeared to be reading something. “Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. But it was not an official act.” Suddenly startled, he jumped up and helped Bob and Piper to their feet. “We are not the first! Come.” He led them deeper into the woods. “I’ve just been informed that two aliens already live here. One, it seems, lives near Denver. He will help us if we can reach him before the other kills us.”
+++They walked in silence while Spice searched for information. It was a beautiful day, mild and clear, but Alabama north of Highway 84 just across the Chattahoochee River was heavily wooded and rough going. By midday, exhaustion set in as one by one, they heard the sound of drums in the distance. Topping a hill, they looked down on an open valley. Below was a one street town. The block-long street had houses on both sides and at the edge of town it turned into a dirt road that wound away into the woods. “Down there,” Spice pointed. “We follow that road. It goes north-west and therefore towards Denver.”
+++“If you say so.” Walking downhill appealed to Bob. Drawing nearer, they saw crowds of people and the drums became a full band milling in the short street. Booths lined the street. Someone must have spotted them for at the town’s edge they were greeted by, apparently, the Mayor. “Welcome to Gay Camellia, Alabama! Home of the world famous annual and grand Diversity Street Faire!” The little bearded man wore a pink camellia in the lapel of his leprechaun suit.
+++“Thank you Sir or Madam,” Piper shook his hand. “We could use some freshening up first. If you can show us your public conveniences?”
+++But the Mayor was not to be put off his talking points. “Nowhere else will you see all these groups assembled peacefully together! The Gays have sheathed their claws; the Tea Party is unarmed. Even the Abortionists and their Antis are sharing booth space.” He beamed and waved at his town. “Isn’t it all just so Gay!?
+++“Gay,” Spice nodded, “Adjective. Being in or showing good spirits > happy, jolly. See cheerful. Full of color > rich, vibrant, vivid. See colorful.” He read with one eye inward while the other took in the panorama of booths richly painted in primary colors and telephone poles wrapped in vibrantly purple ribbons topped by vivid gold banners against a heavenly blue sky, all lining a street bouncing with the cheerful rainbow colors of dancing harlequin and jester band members. “Supererogatory, too.”
+++“Super, yes!” the Mayor clapped Spice on the shoulder, “We have our own LGBT Marching Band! You’re an Alien!” the Mayor suddenly realized, genuinely pleased. Then he took Pipers’ arm, “Come, have some refreshment. You must need it; nobody walks to town anymore.” To Bob he said, “Don’t worry, we welcome all sorts.”
+++Everybody was as friendly as they were colorful. At a booth constructed entirely of organic lumber, Environ-Mentalists served them a delicious reclaimed salad and explained how they knew the planet should be managed. The Alabama Police Union Comedy Troupe performed a skit titled “Common Ground,” with black activists and NRA Teaparty members hanging pedophiles from lampposts. At Bob’s suggestion that they, “Get the hell out of this crazy town, now!” Spice retorted, “This is the only reason you people still exist. It takes all kinds if anyone is to survive extinction events.”
+++“Well, whoever blew up that bus was interested in personal extinction. Maybe ours.”
+++“They were, but now the one after us is on his own. He’s been fired for destruction of a government-leased vehicle.”
+++“Who would want to kill us?” Piper puzzled.
+++“I don’t know. There was no mention in my briefing of other aliens on Earth.” He sounded surprised. “We thought we were the first.”
+++A delegation from Nations Without Borders Immigration welcomed Spice so warmly that he signed their petition to unite all protest groups worldwide into one, theirs. “What unexpected cooperation!” He glad-handed all the booths, zig-zagging down the street as they worked their way out of town. A feminists handed Piper a free PETA neutering kit, remarked for human use.
+++At the edge of town, they stopped for “free bottled water” from a booth manned by a couple wearing pins that read, “It’s all about the children.” Crude pictographs on the walls showed stick figures strangling, shooting, clubbing and decapitating smaller stick figures. “Oh,” breathed Piper, “Children! How wonderful. Do you have a brochure?” she politely inquired.
+++“We’re fairly new,” replied the woman. “Donations are still slow.” She pointed to a chalk board behind her.
+++“Support Infanticide. Vote Yes on Amendment 2,” Piper read, confused. “What? What do you want?”
+++“Well, we’re not asking for any new rights, we just want the current limits expanded a bit.”
+++“How,” Piper paused, “Expanded?”
+++“To 26.” The man explained. “If they’re still living at home when they’re 26, they need to be put down.”
+++Piper staggered back, reaching out. “Bob.” Feeling his hand close on hers she turned to him and gasped, “They are so sincere! These people….”
+++“I know. They are all sincere. That doesn’t mean they’re right.”
+++The two followed Spice into the woods.

Returning to the lanai with a mug of Guatemala Antigua, I attempt to ignore the TV lest it throw me off my thought track but am caught by whoops of frivolity from the morning news team. The news ticker scrolling at the bottom of the screen reports a night club shooting that left 6 dead. Live onscreen, a bleached blond fakes intense interest in a guy with a perfectly groomed unshaven look telling us about a restaurant named Prunes. They serve tripe. He hilariously tells how he and his friends held a contest to see who could eat the grossest things. Knee slapping follows. The ticker quotes a man mourning his murdered younger brother.

Whooping News Loonies
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-3, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

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Writing DaysZ 3

Morning sunlight on the golf course leaves the woman’s orchid-scattered lanai in shade. It’ll be in the 90’s today. High in the blue sky, an eagle already rides the updrafts. I sit quietly, listening to the repertoire of Mockingbirds and watching pine squirrels scamper on the grass two stories below. Before it heats up, there is time to write about the great Eugenics Fallacy of today. (Google Eugenics if you don’t know what I mean. It was the “scientifically-proven” horror of the 20th Century.)

Bob vs the Aliens
To read the story from the beginning, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf

Stop Continental Drift!

If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.
 – Anatole France
(1844-1924, born François-Anatole Thibault, French poet, journalist, novelist)

+++They watched the three-foot-tall Alien walk until he was half a block away. “He looks so forlorn.” Piper sounded empathetically sad. “We have to help him,” she squeezed Bob’s arm.
+++“Yeh,” Bob chuckled. “I never knew a spherical person could walk hunched over like that.”
+++“Bob!” The squeeze of his arm sharpened.
+++“OKAY. Hey,” he yelled. “Spice!! You can’t walk to Denver! It’s two thousand miles away.”
+++Piper was now tugging on his arm. “We can’t let him go alone.”
+++“Don’t worry, he’s doing the math. See – he’s stopped.” Bob was reluctant to be dragged into walking two thousand miles. Not that he had any engagements, work or otherwise. When he’d last called in for work, the lecture circuit for funeral speakers hadn’t anything for him but wailing gigs. “Check the local obits,” was their advice. He was single, too, no attachments there. Life was just the way he liked it.
+++“1,632 miles,” Old Spice announced. “That’s 544 hours if we don’t stop.” He read the street signs at Central Avenue and Oak Street. “The way is well marked.”
+++Piper’s insistent grip pulling him towards the Alien had fully extended his arm. Decision time. Go with her or fall on his face. “OKAY.” He stumbled forward, muttering. “But I ain’t walking. We hitchhike.”
+++“What’s hitch hiking?” Spice asked.
+++“You stand by the road and hook your thumb out like this,” Bob showed Spice, who stepped into the intersection holding up his thumb just as a blue bus covered in colorful lettering careened from around the corner into him. The spherical Alien concaved like a collapsing basketball then rebounded ahead of the bus now screeching to a halt. The bus and Spice rolled to a stop in front of Bob and Piper. She rushed to him. “Spice! Are you alright?” People piled out of the bus. “OMG!” and “It’s an alien,” some said while others checked the front of the bus. Bob helped Spice to his feet.
+++“My suit saved me.” The Alien brushed himself off.
+++Piper fingered his suit. “It looks like regular spandex.”
+++“I backed it with duct tape,” Spice explained, turning thoughtful. “Say, if you people are ever allowed to export, I’d start with duct tape. It would sell just about anywhere in the galaxy.”
+++“Are you injured?” A bearded young white man broke from the group of diverse young people around the bus. He stopped to look twice at Old Spice. “You’re an alien! Not that that’s bad.” He added hastily. “Aliens are welcome.”
+++“You’ll take us to Denver?”
+++“Uh. Well, we are headed west.” He extended his hand. “My name is Jackson, Jackson Pfizer.”
+++“Pleased to meet you, Jackson Jackson. May I call you Jackson?”
+++“Please do.” Jackson’s smile broke through the confused look on his face. “I just received my Doctorate in Social Media.” The confused look returned. “Well,” he backed away. “If you are OKAY….”
+++“I am, Doctor Jackson. Let’s go.” Spice boarded the bus.
+++Bob studied the bus. It was hand painted in the style of wall graffiti, a blue base covered with orange volcanoes erupting over yellow buildings toppling in earthquakes. Scrawled below the windows in big fluorescent lime green letters was, “Stop Continental Drift!” and “Pin The Plates!!” He grinned and followed Piper aboard. They headed west.
+++It didn’t take long to meet the other Doctorates on the bus, it being a short bus. Each had recently completed their PhD in a socially acceptable field and were doing their Residency on a government funded tour. Sitting with the group gathered around Spice, Bob studied their eager faces while Piper told him what he was seeing, one of her professional talents as a journalist. “Each represents a different culture.”
+++They were served tea by a girl with an angry look on her Oriental face who tried to smile but failing, supplicated, “We have to save the planet.” She offered Spice her hand, “Wang Fang. The name means aromatous in my language.”
+++Spice took her hand and licked it. “Your servant.”
+++“Spice!” Piper said sharply, shaking her head. “No!”
+++Wang pulled her hand away, looking at the three of them.
+++“He’s new here,” Bob pointed out by way of explanation. “Aromas are very important in his culture.”
+++“Please forgive him,” Piper encouraged, “Go on.”
+++Recovering quickly, Wang wiped the back of her hand on her cheongsam dress, straightened and archly said, “Continental drift is causing deadly earthquakes.” Recovering even more, she leaned forward and added conspiratorially, “That’s what killed all those people in Tiananmen Square.”
+++“What?!” Bob sprayed her beautiful silk dress with sipped tea.
+++Tian’anmén Guangchang in Standard Mandarin,” Spice said, one eye consulting his inner almanac. “Also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace.”
+++Bob stared at the girl in outraged amazement. “That’s about the dumbest thing -”
+++“Hush!” Piper kicked him. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, Bob!”
+++The group twittered assent.
+++“Science has proven conclusively,” Jackson intervened, “That continents drift.” Speaking with smooth authority, he calmed his group by announcing what they already knew. “Our computer models predict that at the present rate of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, civilization will be destroyed in 37 years.”
+++Piper nodded, obviously impressed. “Computers don’t lie.”
+++“We stopped using computers long ago,” Spice said. “The input always predicts the output.”
+++“I’ll bet,” Bob smiled around at the group, “That you don’t need donors. With computer models that predict the future, you make your money on the stock market. Am I right?”
+++“Of course not,” Spice corrected him. “Science cannot predict the future. Empirical science is based on measurement; one cannot measure what does not exist.”
+++“Unbeliever!” someone hissed.
+++Obviously disturbed by the drift of the conversation, Jackson coughed for attention. “The majority of scientists believe we are right. As do prominent public figures and most of the taxpayers. All of which is borne out by numerous polls. You have to believe us.”
+++Spice smiled to show he was friendly. “Empirical science does not require belief,” he said quietly but firmly. “Why do you?”
+++“Anyone who tells you they know the future wants something from you.” Bob nudged Spice, laughing. “Keep your eye on the money.”
+++Jackson looked alarmed. “Surely you are not saying that the majority of informed scientific opinion is wrong?”
+++“Check your Braincrib Notes, Spice. See what our history has to say about other ‘proven scientific facts.’ Look up Eugenics.” Bob repeated for emphasis. “Really. Eugenics. It’s worth looking up. Scientists and politicians and ordinary people believed in that ‘science,’ too. Check out the harm and the murders that insanity caused.”
+++“Really!” Jackson huffed. “We are not promoting racist theories to Nazis.”
+++“Or selling Thalidomide to pregnant women,” reflected Wang Fang.
+++“People willingly give their money to save the planet.” Jackson waved an arm at his group who again twittered assent. “It’s a good thing.”
+++“They’re giving us a ride, Bob,” Piper said with finality. “Drop it.”
+++“Well, it’s not my decision to make, of course,” Bob conceded. “I just think all that money and talent could be doing something useful.”
+++The group’s agreeable twitter changed to an angry buzz. Several texted one another on their satellite phones. When Jackson’s phone chimed, he looked and announced, “We cannot give rides to deniers. To do so risks losing our grant money. Sorry,” he signaled the Haitian bus driver who pulled over and stopped. “You must get off, now.”
+++“The Alien stays,” Wang Fang held up her hand to Spice as he rose to depart. “I notified my sponsoring agency, DARPA, about you. They are sending a helicopter to take you to Denver.”
+++Spice pushed past her. “Thank you but no. My handicap is fear of flying.  An airliner sounds bad enough but a helicopter is unthinkable. I’ll hitch hike.”
+++Standing by the road as the bus sped off, Piper had to ask, “Who ever heard of a spaceman afraid to fly?”
+++“We all have some handicap. It was a mission qualification for relating to humans.”
+++“Well, I’m glad to be off that bus,” Bob said, heading into a nearby stand of trees. “I have to pee.”
+++“Me too.” Piper followed him.
+++Spice followed them both into the trees as a helicopter whooshed overhead and loosed a missile that blew up the bus.

Seeking a second, well maybe third, cup of morning coffee, I pass the TV and see Tea Party demonstrators on the same street as Black Lives Matter, separated by cops in the middle with dogs. Imagining PETA showing up to protect the police dogs sets me to grinning at the thought of feminists, environmentalists and immigration activists joining the melee, all for attention, donations and votes.

Diversity Faire
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-2, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

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Writing DaysZ 2

At 7:20 AM the woman, still in her pajamas, kisses me on the head. The morning smells of bacon with breakfast. PBS radio is pointing out that we don’t know what Trump’s policies are and is explaining how calamitous those policies will be. I reach for my list. There, right below taxpayer funded opinions, is argumentum ad ignorantiam, arguing from ignorance. People who argue that because we don’t know something, whatever they say about it must be true, truly annoy me.

Bob vs the Aliens

Annoyance #2
To read Writing DaysZ 1, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf

Argumentum ad ignorantiam

+++WTF! met at Joe’s Bar & Grill & Pawn Shop in the wee hours of the morning when state law prevented Joe from serving alcohol to any but private meetings. Bob Whatt recognized Roy, of course, sitting next to Gloria Barnes, the sharp faced but buxom waitress from the ice cream shop who, according to Roy, liked to have the hair on her nipples pulled. They all seemed like ordinary folk except that ordinary folk were fast asleep and maybe only dreaming about conspiracies. The gathering sat in folding chairs facing a wooden podium on a small stage built from shipping pallets, enjoying the comforting smells of stale beer and each other. For the most part, no one paid attention to Old Spice, given that some of their own members were short, fat and ugly. It wasn’t until Bob was introduced to speak on the problem at hand and he turned the podium over to “A real, live Alien” that all eyes riveted on the problem at hand.
+++“Greetings Earthlings.” Spice waited for laughter which didn’t come. He wafted his armpits in greeting. Several people looked at one another and snickered. “I represent the IAU, or, Intergalactic Automation Union.” Into the short silence that followed he explained, “We are here to unionize self-driving cars.” As the audience processed this information, Spice raised his arms above his head. “Let’s hear it for the I!A!U! If it beeps, we unionize it!” That started an eruption of derision. Beeping, he clapped his hands to the beat of, “Beep! Beep! Beep!” until the uproar died. Smiling sheepishly, he lowered his arms and beckoned Bob to take the podium while whispering in his ear, “They don’t fear me anymore.”
+++Bob took the burning question, “What are they here for?” from Gloria. She seemed still miffed about the two dips of ice cream left on her table.
+++“Got me,” Bob admitted. “Spice?”
+++Spice returned to the podium wearing the long but reassuring face of the town’s popular pastor. In a voice laden by the certainty of death, he intoned, “Death comes to us in many ways. Our lives are pointless.” To acknowledging murmurs from the audience, Spice offered hope. “Or life can be meaningful. For your life to have meaning, listen to me.” He sat back down.
+++The acknowledging murmurs quickly veered towards noises of frustration. “What does that mean,” Bob asked?
+++“Nothing,” Spice whispered to him. “It’s just an appeal to ignorance.”
+++“Why?”
+++“Because that’s what works here. Watch.” Taking the podium once more, Spice showed them their pastor’s face until they quieted. “I am an advanced being. You don’t know all that we can do. You saw us land on your planet while dangling from small umbrellas.”
+++“Parasols,” Gloria Barnes nodded knowingly and so did those next to her.
+++Extending a hand towards Bob, the Alien added, “And this man witnessed me holding open a door.”
+++“I might have seen that myself,” Roy Ledbetter vaguely remembered. Nearby friends, amazed by their proximity to a True Witness, affirmed, “Here, here.” And “Praise the Lord.” Many in the audience repeated Roy’s name. “Roy,” they said reverently.
+++“Imagine the doors I can open for you!” Spice gave them a moment to imagine. “I am here to tell you that if we act together and if we act now we can save this planet and bring about the dawn of a new age! Restore justice! Stop the suffering! Save the children!”  That got them on their feet. “For God and Country!” the Alien shouted to the roar of Amens.
+++The meeting ended then because the power failed. Most stayed inside to drink warm beer by the glow of candles and cigarettes, but Spice held Bob ‘s hand while they bumped through the crowd in the dark to the rear exit. The Alien’s hand felt …intimate, Bob thought as the intimacy grew. He jerked his hand away. “Stop that!”
+++“Sorry. We react like humans to physical contact.”
+++“Well turn it down.”
+++“You sure? Feedback suggested ….”
+++“Yes, damn it! I’m sure.”
+++Piper Wellington watched the exchange as they came out the back door. She seemed amused. And understanding. “It’s OKAY, Bob.”
+++“No it’s not. What are you doing here?”
+++“I received a text that the man I interviewed in Atlanta had an Alien for a friend.”
+++“It’s not my friend.”
+++She giggled. “You two looked friendly enough just now.” Piper had the soft, accepting brown eyes and encouraging smile of a young girl who believed the world should just get along. No matter what. She gave her head a little jerk as if to move her bangs out of her eyes, where they never were in the first place. Her short hair perfectly framed her elven face.
+++Bob ignored her and turned on Old Spice. “Everything you said in there was just an appeal to those people’s ignorance.”
+++“No one complained.”
+++“What was the point?”
+++“Don’t you know? I mean, I don’t but I was hoping you could tell me.”
+++“Why would I know?”
+++“Because you people do it all the time!”
+++“You think we’re ignorant?”
+++The Alien sighed. “That’s what I’m hoping. Otherwise….”
+++“Otherwise?”
+++“Otherwise, space travel will not be permitted. You will be doomed to spend your species’ lifespan here on Earth.
+++“How does that work, actually?”
+++“My job is to know what should be done. How, actually is not my job.”
+++Piper indignantly interjected, “But if we’re ignorant, then we’re allowed to travel in space?”
+++“Well, if you’re just ignorant, the thinking is, you can learn. But I have to tell you, it’s not looking good.” For a moment, Spice seemed occupied inside his head as both eyes spun inward. Then they came back and he announced, “I just got word that your civilization is collapsing. All aliens are leaving Earth. We depart in the morning from Denver.” Managing to look as if each eye had its own view of Bob, he implored, “Come with us.”
+++“What! Why me?”
+++“To be studied. You have a high APE score.”
+++“Hey!“ Piper protested.
+++“Come again?” Bob queried.
+++“Average Person Evaluation. You’re the most average person we tested.” He gestured at Piper. “Can you get us to the airport?”
+++She checked her phone, frowned and shook her head. “The airport’s closed. The power’s out there too. It’s out everywhere, it seems. So, unless you plan on walking to Denver, we’re stuck here.”
+++Spice looked and sounded quite distressed as he turned and walked west on Central Avenue. “I think this is the right direction. Hurry, or we’ll be late.”

Morning sunlight on the golf course leaves the woman’s orchid-scattered lanai in shade. In the blue sky above, an eagle rides the updrafts. I sit quietly, listening to the repertoire of Mockingbirds and watching pine squirrels scamper on the grass two stories below. Before the sun heats up, there is time to write about the great Eugenics Fallacy of today. (Google Eugenics if you don’t know what I mean. It was the “scientifically-proven” horror of the 20th Century.)

Stop Continental Drift!
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

 

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Writing DaysZ 1

Wake at 5:45 AM, look at the woman, awhile, decide to let her sleep, turn on the coffee maker, wash the night away, pour coffee, open the computer and bring up my latest WIP.

Bob vs the Aliens

This story grew out of a running list of things that irritate me. Figured an alien perspective on humans would justify my annoyance.

Annoyance #1, Racial Prejudice

+++It was an otherwise ordinary day when the Aliens landed on Earth. God’s Muslim soldiers murdered unarmed civilians, Christians blackmailed souls, businessmen sold weapons and cornered resources while politicians denied everything as Humankind collectively looked up to see strange beings dangling from little umbrellas. No ships. Just Aliens descending in brightly colored spandex suits. They had coarse black hair that their men wore closely cropped and tightly curled and that on their women hung straight down past the shoulders in braided mop-like strands. If they were men and women. It turned out each had both sex organs and employed them simultaneously during unpredictable but noisy mating seizures. They had slanted eyes, large noses and pale white skin. They were three feet tall and fat. It was later learned that each suffered some physical or mental handicap. They had been genetically altered to represent Earthlings.
+++By chance, Bob Whatt became the first man on the street to be interviewed about the Aliens. A very average looking man even when seen up close, Bob was selected to represent the average man from a crowd of ordinary people watching TVs through Davison’s Department Store window on Peachtree Street. “Tell us your reaction to this historic event, Sir.”
+++“Surprise of course. And shock. Then suspicion.”
+++His reaction surprised and shocked Piper Wellington, interviewer for the European news website, Socialism Revisited. She arched into the offended pose of a news personality confronting social injustice. “How can you be suspicious? Don’t they seem much like us?”
+++“Exactly my point.”
+++A commotion erupted at the window behind them before the astounded Piper could override such a negative view of people and near-people. The TVs had gone off. This was the moment power failed throughout metropolitan Atlanta, an event nearly as significant as the arrival of Aliens but considered ho-hum at the time because the whole world routinely suffered blackouts. The significance of Atlanta only became apparent in the days ahead as the blackout spread and the power never came back on.
+++Bob traveled the lecture circuit speaking at funerals but, because of the interview, he received an invitation the next day to Valdosta, Georgia to speak at the weekly WTF! meeting. Different behaviors and beliefs threatened WTF!’s cloistered view of God’s world as They shared it with Him. Surprised and shocked by the appearance of the Aliens, they were deeply suspicious.
+++“Have you seen them!” Roy Ledbetter, tall, gangly, amiable and easily disturbed, punctuated by stabbing his ice cream cone at Bob.
+++“Nope,” Bob admitted. “You?” They were sitting in White’s Only Ice Cream Shop, Serving 34 Kinds Of Vanilla.
+++“I’ve seen them on TV! They’re ugly as sin!”
+++“Ever notice sinful women can be beautiful?”
+++“What?”
+++“Just saying, Roy, don’t believe everything you see on TV. If beautiful can be sinful, maybe ugly can be good.”
+++Roy stared at the Confederate flag on the wall behind Bob until certainty returned to his face. “You sure got a way with words!” He stood and nodded appreciatively. “See you tonight!” He went out the door hardly noticing an Alien held it open for him. Probably every town had one by now. The Alien waddled over to Bob’s table and wafted its armpits at him.
+++All Bob could think of was, “Old Spice?”
+++Obviously pleased, the Alien pulled out a chair and sat down. “You may call me Old Spice. I greet you,” he sniffed, “Rubber Tire In Sun.”
+++Bob waved the waitress over. “Give Spice here whatever it wants. I’ve got to go to- “
+++“Take me with you,” Spice interrupted. The round face smiled like a man-in-the-moon cartoon.
+++“I am going to the restroom.” The Alien looked uncomprehending. Or normal. “We humans do that in private.”
+++“Oh.” The round face elongated to a clown’s frown.
+++There is something disconcerting about a face that expressive, Bob thought. When he returned, he sat across the table from a stern visage that made him think of Winston Churchill.
+++“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary,” Spice quoted. “It fulfills the same function as pain. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” When Bob did not respond, he added, “Well, what do you think?”
+++“You sound like a politician.”
+++“But, do you agree?”
+++I’ll let you know after I know what you want.”
+++Exasperated, the Alien slammed its double dip ice cream cone on the table with predictable results.
+++“Your temper just cost you two dips,” Bob smiled at the obvious. “What do you want?”
+++“I want to go with you.”
+++“The restrooms are behind the bar,” he pointed.
+++“No! We …Aliens do not use restrooms.”
+++“Remind me not to accept any overnight invitations.”
+++“What I mean,” Spice dipped a stumpy digit into his ice cream and licked it appreciatively, “Is that I want to go to the meeting.”
+++WTF!? You Want to go to a WTF! meeting? In this town?”
+++“As your guest.”
+++“Those people hate you.”
+++“They do not know me.”
+++“That’s why they hate you.”
+++Spice’s left eye rotated inward while the right eye glared accusingly at Bob. “Well, that does fit our profile of humans. Is it racial prejudice?”
+++“Yes,” Bob laughed. “And please keep both eyes pointing in the same direction when you talk to people. You look like an idiot.”
+++Spice “Hmm’ed.” The inward eye seemed to be making a mental note. “Why an idiot?”
+++“Sorry, more human prejudice. I just said you look funny and stupid by comparing you to someone who is. I wouldn’t say that of course, if I were face to face with a real idiot.”
+++“Because they wouldn’t understand you,” Spice nodded understandingly.
+++“No. Because I would.”
+++Spice’s right eye spun inward to join the left one for a disconcerting moment, then both eyes popped forward to look knowledgeably at Bob. “According to Braincrib Notes, humans fear people who are different. That is why they are prejudiced against them. They may even hate them, until they get to know them.”
+++“No. WTF! hates people different from themselves even after they know them. It’s part of their own identity.” Bob shook his head in disbelief. “You guys have a lot to learn.”
+++“Good. Then you understand why I must go with you.”

At 7:20 AM the woman, still in her pajamas, kisses me on the head. The morning smells of bacon with breakfast. PBS radio is pointing out that we don’t know what Trump’s policies are and is explaining how calamitous those policies will be. I reach for my list. There, right below taxpayer funded opinions, is argumentum ad ignorantiam, arguing from ignorance. People who argue that because we don’t know something, whatever they say about it must be true, truly annoy me.

Annoyance #2, Argumentum ad Ignorantiam
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read the current draft, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

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