Bobbing Around

Volume Four, Number Four
December, 2004

Bob Rich's rave
email me
bobswriting.com/  anxietyanddepression-help.com/  mudsmith.net/  other issues

 
*About Bobbing Around
  subscribe/unsubscribe.
  guidelines for contributions.
*Iraq: a prediction come true.
*Philosophy: The blowfly
*ADHD: a response from Cheryl O'Brien
*Freebies and last minute gifts:
  News from my friends
*The alphabet
*Comma-tease
*Make Description Work Hard by D. L. Nelson
*Book reviews
  Anikó, reviwed by Michael Larocca
  City of the Golden Sun
  The Earth Garden Water Book
  Sea Change
*The Corporation
  a film review by John Gorman
*17th recipient of the LiFE Award
*feeling good...
*A well-deserved win
*The Hooterville Trench Mortar:
  Have a laugh with James Choron.
*A thank you.
*The contest run by Monthly Short Stories now has a 3000 word limit.

   In the last issue, I reviewed Beyond Trauma, edited by Victor Volkman, who is also a publisher. As always when reading, I did an automatic line edit, and sent him a private list of suggestions for change.

   The result has been a new relationship. Victor has retained me to edit all books published by Loving Healing Press. Already, I have edited a couple of books and several shorter works for him. He has written, 'A superb job at an economical rate -- you may quote me on that and feel free to call on me for any referral that might be helpful. A brief acknowledgement will go into the 2nd Ed [of Beyond Trauma] as well. Thanks much!'


   Bobbing Around is COPYRIGHTED. No part of it may be reproduced in any form, at any venue, without the express permission of the publisher (ME!) and the author if that is another person. You may forward the entire magazine to anyone else.

   I am responsible for anything I have written. However, where I reproduce contributions from other people, I do not necessarily endorse their opinions. I may or may not agree with them, but give them the courtesy of a forum.

Prophecy has come true

   In 'Bobbing Around' volume 3 number 3, published in September 2003, John Gorman made a set of predictions about Iraq. His words have proved so accurate that I have reproduced them here. Compare what he forecast with what you see on the news.

 

   While t-shirts emblazoned with "Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam" have yet to appear, another parallel suggests itself even more strongly to anyone familiar with less recent history: America is enmeshed in a re-enactment of France in 1941, with the Americans playing the German occupiers and the Iraqi fighters cast as the French Resistance.

 In 1940, France's military defences had collapsed in the face of the German Blitzkrieg. The enemy paraded in triumph through Paris, as France seemed utterly and irrevocably defeated. Having dictated an armistice, the invaders proceeded to set up a puppet government in Vichy and rule by proxy, as France was incorporated into The New World Order under the Third Reich.

   By the following year, however, a resistance movement was under way, striking first at the conquerors and then at their collaborators. Attacks at first were small and casualties were light, but, as the Resistance grew more organized and could draw on outside help, it went from a nuisance to a menace. Railroads, tunnels, bridges, highways, pipelines and canals were under constant assault. Even when off duty, German officers and noncoms were ordered to wear their sidearms, and enlisted men were told to take their bayonets along when they left the barracks. Nowhere did the conquerors feel safe.

   When military measures failed to suppress the uprising, the Germans resorted to wholesale arrests, torture, hostage taking, summary executions and other war crimes. They also recruited the Milice, a paramilitary force of French sympathizers, to hunt down members of the Resistance for their Nazi masters. Reprisals against the civilian population culminated in the massacre of an entire village in 1944. Nonetheless, the Resistance was not crushed and played a vital role in keeping substantial German forces occupied far from the front lines during the days following the Normandy invasion.

   Just as in 1940 France, the Iraqi military collapsed in the face of the American and British Blitzkrieg, and American troops paraded in triumph through the nation's capital. The bloody reign of Saddam Hussein was over, and a new democratic Iraq would not be long in coming, the world was assured.

   Somehow, much of that message got lost in translation. While most Iraqis were delighted to be rid of Saddam Hussein, very few were ready to support an indefinite occupation of their homeland by foreign infidels. Once again, the invaders and their collaborators have become the targets of small but unnerving attacks, as the occupation becomes ever more dangerous.

   The Americans, like their German counterparts, have attempted to set up a puppet government. But the Arab League has refused to recognize this regime, and it will probably find itself in the position of Vichy France, despised throughout the world, with no friends other than the allies of its conquerors.

   While the occupation forces have not yet resorted to reprisals against the civilian population, other heavy-handed tactics and the refusal to set a timetable for departure have done much to alienate any sympathizers they might have had and turn the resistance from a last ditch fight by Saddam's diehards into a war of national liberation, a conflict no colonial power has won in our time.

   Like the French Milice, a New Iraqi Army is to be recruited with the primary task of hunting down and killing other Iraqis who reject American rule. As with the Milice, recruits are unlikely to be of high caliber. Nor will it be safe to be a family member or friend of these collaborators, especially when the Americans finally leave, and the "night of the long knives" comes.

   In the meantime, it is not hard to see how some Arab countries could view the struggle in Iraq as an opportunity to strike a vicarious blow against The Great Satan and be ready to provide covert aid, much as the United States did for the Taliban in Afghanistan. With such help, larger and more destructive attacks will become the order of the day, as America's commitment grows deeper and the casualty list longer.

   It may be that the current administration will find these losses an acceptable price for its new oil rich colony in the Middle East and be prepared to occupy Iraq forever. The American people, however, have shown no stomach for sacrificing their loved ones in endless colonial wars in the past and are unlikely to change their minds any time soon. More likely will be a call to the once scorned United Nations to supervise a withdrawal and keep reprisals to a minimum, as Americans and their servants make a humiliating exit reminiscent of the scene on the roof of the United States Embassy in Saigon, when South Vietnam disintegrated.


The Blowfly

   Having trouble coping? Do you wish fate had put you into a different place?

   Think of the poor blowfly.

   The overwhelming majority of blowflies die of starvation. A great many hatch, and eventually die without once having fed.

   They are gobbled up by frogs and lizards and birds -- and even dogs. They are slammed by horses' tails. People swat them, poison them and swear at them.

   But all of these insults combined are nothing when compared to the lack of food.

   When a blowfly finds something edible, it gorges, then mates. The female lays lots of eggs, or in same cases tiny maggots.

   Maggots immediately engage in a desperate contest. The more one eats before hatching, the bigger the eventual adult form. A bigger blowfly will survive to seek food for longer, and covers more distance during the search. So, like politicians competing for votes, maggots squirm and shove, doing anything and everything to grab for themselves.

   They also are food for others. In fact, they are at the bottom of several food chains, on the way to converting dead meat and droppings into animal life.

   And then the new generation of blowflies hatches. Always, there are thousands more than can find food, and desperately they buzz around, seeking, seeking.

   Even if something wonderful happens, such as a battle or natural disaster that kills many people and other large sources of meat, the end result is starvation for blowflies. Within a few days, all the available lumps of meat become skins-full of wriggling maggots, which hatch -- and then starve.

   Of course, this trouble blowflies face is because they have no brain to speak of. They are unable to plan, allocate resources, coordinate. Think how much better they could live by limiting their population to fit the available resources!

   But then, are we doing any better?


Cheryl O'Brien on ADHD

   Continuing the debate in the past two issues (4-2; 4-3), Cheryl writes about her son's early childhood.

   My son, Michael was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ODD (oppositional Defiance Disorder) and ED (Emotional Disorder) at age six. Before his sixth Birthday he had been suspended from school twice for assaulting staff, he had destroyed the school principal's office, seemingly vanished for two hours at school (he had hidden in the fire hydrant cupboard), climbed onto a school building roof and refused to come down for quite some time and all of this in his first year of school.

   Prior to school I had begged health professionals for help, heard suggestions that I was 'a touch too dramatic' about my son's welfare, was told that it was 'impossible to diagnose a child so young,' and heard that 'children learn violence from violent parents.' No one wanted to take my concerns seriously. The presumption was that since I was a single mother, my marriage having broken down irretrievably in my son's first year of life following a tragic accident two years prior to his birth, that I somehow deserved to have a child who was difficult to manage.

   There was no violence in my home other than that my son erupted with on his sisters and his pet dog and his sister's cat. There had been no violence in my marriage and although I had resorted to smacking my kids at times within the boundaries of only on the bottom and only if there was a danger to self or others involved, I did not feel his behaviour was a reflection of anything that was happening in our home. We did not even have a television for much of his infancy. There was no obvious 'reason' for his violent outbreaks.

   I did figure out quite early that he felt no empathy with others. He seemed to have no understanding that pulling handfuls of hair out of his sister's head was hurting her, even though she was screaming in agony. Nor did he understand that kicking his miniature dachsund against the fence was hurting the dog. In conversations with him I discovered that he knew it would hurt him if I or another did those things to him, but somehow he had no way of emotionally understanding the same was true for others.

   I despaired time and again and occasionally wonderd if I had given birth to the devil's child. It was almost a relief when he assaulted staff at the school and was referred on to health professionals.

   During the early stages of our journey down the 'health' path of finding a solution, my son was subjected to an IQ test and the person elected to carry out the test was an inexperienced university student who my son quickly figured out was trying to figure out how clever he was. I watched through a two way mirror as he watched the student carefully for responses and as the student set up a test, my son would watch carefully and then she would tell him to start and click the stopwatch. He would stare at the ceiling for a few seconds, look over his shoulder and then start to solve the puzzle. He would do all but the very last part of the puzzle, then he would stare wistfully around the room and finally he would complete the puzzle. I watched as he watched the student with the stopwatch and her clipboard and knew by experience that he was playing a game. Even with all the fooling around he couldn't help but show his intelligence and he scored 136 overall.

   This gave me some hope. If he was that intelligent, and I knew there was a fair chance that had he wanted to he would have scored far higher, I could at least work with his intelligence.

   The health professionals continued down the path of working with his emotional life and worked with social issues such as boundaries, acceptable behaviour etc. With the aid of regular doses of Dexamphetamine.

   I agreed to the use of dexamphetamine for a limited period of time, I set down the boundary of three years. If the health professionals and I could not turn things around in three years, it was not worth risking the potential side effects of continuing the medication, and if we could turn things around then he shouldn't need the medication.

   I attended counselling weekly, my son attended counselling weekly and the family attended counselling weekly. The family lived in at the infant and child psychitaric centre and submitted ourselves to continuous observations by staff for three weeks.

   We all worked very hard at working out how to turn things around. By the time Michael turned nine we had achieved the seeming impossible. Although he still did not feel empathy towards others, he understood intellectually that the things which caused him pain and suffering did the same for others. He had stopped pulling handfuls of hair out of his sister's head, he had stopped booting his dog against the fence.

   I had found his problem with school was not a lack of concentration but rather a lack of challenge. I placed him in a small country school and encouraged the teachers to try an experiment. He was told that once he finished the set class work he could have some work from high school to do. But he must complete the classwork in the manner that the teacher had set out for him, including the colouring in which he saw as useless and not important. He was so eager to get the high school work to do that he completed his class work in record time every time. This worked while he had a teacher willing to do this. In year five he was faced with an authoritarian male teacher who treated the boys in his class like little soldiers and the girls like princesses. He came home crying every day for a year in fifth class and as he was faced with the same teacher for sixth class I decided to home school him for that year.

   One interesting thing about him is that he has always had since infancy is his need for a big sleep. Initially it was once a month. These days at age fourteen it is about three or four times a year. He goes to bed at four or five one afternoon and sleeps through until three or four the next afternoon. When he wakes he is still tired and goes off to bed at his regular time and back to sleep quickly. If he is left to sleep as he needs to during his big sleep, his behaviour is much improved afterwards. If he is interupted during his big sleep, he responds angrily to everything around him. He seems to need this sleep.


Announcements

   With the silly season upon us, you may be looking for a few gifts, and what could be better than books? These announcements point you to good buys, and even some free stuff. Well, some of that may be a gift for yourself.

Michael Larocca: new book
Brandon Wilson: free story
Betty Sullivan La Pierre: something free, something for sale
D. L. Nelson -- W3 magazine for writers
Marilyn Peake: new book
Rita Toews: audio version of book
Cheryl Wright: free contest
Anita Bloom Ornoff: Memoirs
Lori Soard: All Star Scribes and lipstick
Cynthia Clay: Poetry contest

Michael Larocca

   You can't eat grits with chopsticks! My latest book, WHO MOVED MY RICE? is now available from Books Unbound. Back after a three-year hiatus from writing, with proof that an American redneck teaching English in China isn't exactly sane. Watch me, fresh off the boat, stumble and bumble my way around Hangzhou for two years before I finally start getting the hang of living in China. You can read the first two chapters, free, at http://www.booksunbound.com/bsmr.html.


Brandon Wilson

   In the last issue, I printed a fascinating essay by Brandon, entitled Simple Truths. It was about a walk from Canterbury, England to Rome. He also had an announcement about Yak Butter Blues, his adventure in Tibet. Now, he has sent me an account of a third journey: a walk across Norway. It is fascinating reading, with beautiful photos, but too long for Bobbing Around. He has promised to put the article as a PDF file up on his web site Yak Butter Blues. It is for people interested in "traveling outside--while traveling within."


Betty Sullivan La Pierre

1. Chapter Four of “THE DEADLY THORN”, the story of an abused woman, is now up and ready for your reading pleasure. Don't fret if you missed the first three chapters, they're also available on the site. Go to: Betty Sullivan La Pierre Myster.

   (If you haven't already read the poem "THUNDER"-- be sure and do so ...it sets the mood.) I hope this story is piquing your interest. :-) Drop me a line in my guest book, would love to hear from you.

2. Get a good start on shopping!! A "CHRISTMAS SPECIAL" is taking place on Betty Sullivan La Pierre's site. Purchase a print copy of one of her Mystery/Suspense books and receive a FREE PDF download of your choice, saving you $6.00. When the order comes in, I'll contact you about which download you want and send it immediately. If you prefer to order through my publisher, SnergEbooks, Amazon or Booksurge, I will also honor those purchases, if you send a copy of your receipt to bzna93a@aol.com (eliminate your personal information). Just remember, the only place you can get your FREE DOWNLOAD is from Betty.

   So, go to my site at Betty Sullivan La Pierre Myster and enjoy your shopping spree. Have a wonderful Holiday Season & get those gifts .. :-) Please feel free to forward this announcement to your friends and family.


D. L. Nelson

   Each almost monthly issue of W3 e-zine treats some aspect of writing. Many topics are the result of readers' suggestions. If you want a particular subject covered, email me at wisewordsonwriting@hotmail.com. Two future topics will include more on a look at university writing programs, and writing groups as a way to advance your writing.

   If anyone is/was/ involved in a university writing program and would like to share their experiences please contact me.

   New subscribers may find earlier W3 issues at www.wisewordsonwriting.com.

   Please share W3 with your writing friends. Teachers: use anything from W3. If you quote us please give our website.

   W3 will list your announcements on a first come basis, free of charge, based on space available. To subscribe or unsubscribe send an email to wisewordsonwriting@hotmail.com with the word subscribe or unsubscribe in the title.

   Note that I have reproduced an article from W3 (with permission of course). Read about the use of description.


Marilyn Peake

   THE CITY OF THE GOLDEN SUN by Marilyn Peake is now published in electronic formats by Double Dragon Publishing http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com. This is the sequel to the well-received children's fantasy adventure novel, THE FISHERMAN'S SON.

   There's something new at Double Dragon Publishing called "Dragon Hoard"! This means: an instant 15% off all new releases, PLUS 10% of your purchase price (on orders $4 or greater) is placed into your own personal "Dragon Hoard" for use toward future purchases of Double Dragon books! Visit http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com for further details.

   Gift items featuring the DDP book covers for both THE FISHERMAN'S SON and THE CITY OF THE GOLDEN SUN are now available at: http://www.cafepress.com/DDPINC.


Rita Toews

Hi!

   Just to let you know that our novel The Price of Freedom is now available as an audio book from Blackstone Audio. It's listed under the Blackstone Bestsellers tab on the left-hand side of the page at: www.blackstoneaudio.com.

   The Price of Freedom is the memoirs of my writing partner, Alex Domokos. The book documents his capture by the Russian during WWII, his six years as a slave labourer, his deportation from Hungary and his escape in 1956. It's a love story, a war story, and an action adventure story all rolled into one.

Regards,
Rita Toews
www.thebullybook.com


Cheryl Wright

   The new Writer2Writer contest has begun! There is no fee to enter, but you must be subscribed to our *free* ezine "Writer to Writer". If you're not already subscribed, you can sign up on the website or send a blank email to: writertowriter-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.au.

   Take a look at the photograph shown here: http://www.writer2writer.com/contest.htm. Your assignment is to write the opening line and one paragraph (maximum 135 words) plus a snazzy title. (Title will not be included in the word count). It can be the beginning of a short story or novel, or if you'd rather, may be a complete story.

   Entries will be judged solely on creativity. There are absolutely no limitations on genre; write whatever the photograph portrays to you.

   Closing date for entries: 12 midnight, 30th January 2005(wherever in the world you live).

   Full details and rules can be found on the contest page: http://www.writer2writer.com/contest.htm. Please check these carefully, as they will change for each contest. Entries that do not comply will be disqualified without notification.

   If you have any questions after checking the guidelines, feel free to contact Cheryl Wright.

   Under no circumstances will attachments be opened.

   Please note: Contests are ongoing; check back often.


Anita Bloom Ornoff

   I am 83 years young and at the age of 21 I became paralyzed. My memoir "Beyond Dancing" covers the nine years that I fought the US government to obtain my veteran's benefits. It also covers my determination "to live" despite my handicap. I felt that it had to be written, to inspire people who have gone through a trauma to keep a positive attitude.

   "Anita Bloom Ornoff's memoir is an inspiring page turner."

Published by Bartleby Press
ISBN 0-910155-50-X
Web site www.beyonddancing.com


Lori Soard

1. ALL STAR SCRIBES is now open. Come visit us during our grand opening for chances to win a star and a diamond, chat with our authors, and earn great door prizes. allstarscribes.com.

2. For anyone who has ever had a BEST FRIEND; for anyone who has ever worried over FAMILY; for anyone who loves a great LAUGH--you'll want to read Lori Soard's latest novel "The Lipstick Diaries." Available now at Amazon.com and B&N. Want to book a Lipstick Diaries or Lipgloss (for teens and children) Diaries party? Visit www.lorisoard.com for details or email diaryParty@lorisoard.com.


Cynthia Clay

The Oestara Anthology of Pagan Poetry Contest

   To celebrate its inaugural year, Oestara Publishing LLC is holding The Oestara Anthology of Pagan Poetry Contest to create an anthology of approximately 200 Pagan poems in honor of Pagan spirituality. Contributors included in the anthology will be paid one paperback and one e-book of The Oestara Anthology of Pagan Poetry.

   A first place $100 USD prize, second place $50 prize, and third place $25 prize winner will be chosen for: 1)sonnet; 2)villanelle, rondeau or other traditional forms; 3) linked haiku; 4)free verse; 5) and dreamed/trance received verse. Criteria for judging will be skill in execution of the poetic form (35%), eloquence of Pagan expression (35%) correctness of grammar, spelling, and mechanics (30%). Contest registration is $5.00(USD) for one to five poems, electronic submissions only. The submission deadline is Oestara (March 21st) 2005. Winners will be announced Midsummer (June 21st) 2005.

   Visit www.oestarapublishing.com/news.html for more information.


Ergonomics:

The Alphabet

   The genius of long ago who designed our alphabet should have studied ergonomics. About all you can say for our system is that it's not as bad as others. The Cyrillic script is so difficult to learn that Russian children manage reading and writing at 8 to 9 years of age.

   For a start, why do we need three entirely separate systems? There may be some use in having capital and lower case letters, but why also in cursive? As far as I can see, the only reason is to allow people to qualify for the medical profession through illegible writing (I should have been one of them, but then decided to be a real doctor instead).

   Especially when combined with the ten digits, our alphabet almost seems designed to lead to universal dyslexia. The surprising thing is that most of us manage our p-s and q-s -- and d-s and b-s, e-s and o-s, u-s and v-s.

   And that's not all. The letter a exists in two completely different lower case forms, as does r.

   Upper case letters have their own problems, especially when we take the digits into account. Zero and the letter O are the same symbol. The most common form of one is the same as the letter I -- and also lower case l. A little bit of smudge will convert an F and an E into each other. Same is true for C and G, B, R and 8, D and O and Q.

   I won't go on. What's the point? I've designed the perfect alphabet, but you lot won't bother to change.

   I know. I am going back in time and get in first.


Comma-tease

   Many people find the comma an intractable beast. It sneaks in where it has no place to be, and refuses to appear where it should.

   The reason is that, superficially, entirely different syntactic forms appear to be similar.

   One example is the difficulty caused by an interpolated clause. When you have a clause embedded within a sentence, it needs a comma before and after. I'ts like this:

   'Her hands, tied behind her naked back, opened and closed as she obviously strained against her bonds.' Don't get all excited about the content, just look at the syntax. There is a sentence, and within it a few words that qualify 'hands'. The reader needs to be informed that these few words are not part of the sentence, but an addition. So, a comma goes both at the beginning and end.

   You can get some very odd claims if you leave such commas out. '"This meeting is useless, there is no way we can achieve anything," protested George, the short-tempered treasurer right at the start of the meeting.' Presumably, by the end of the meeting, George either stopped being the treasurer, or his temper had cooled down. The sentence appears to limit his description to the start of the meeting. I don't think that's what the writer intended. Put a comma after 'treasurer', the last word of the interpolation, and the sentence now makes sense.

   Why is this a problem? Because there is another form that looks almost the same, where the comma has no business to be.

   'The trees seemed to compete for light, while ferns and other ground cover, spread out their broad fronds and branches to capture the few gleams that percolated through.' This is an excellent piece of description, but what is the second comma doing there? Let's condense the sentence to its basics: subject, verb, object: 'Plants spread their branches.' Would you put a comma anywhere in there? What for?

   It's just that with all the bits and bobs added on, the sentence has become rather long, so the writer tried to break it up. That's a good idea, but the way to do it is to divide different thoughts into separate sentences. Either the whole thing should roll through without the second comma, or it should be replaced by something like 'The trees seemed to compete for light. Under them, ferns and other ground cover spread out their broad fronds and branches to capture the few gleams that percolated through.'

   Think of a comma as a signpost that there is a change in how the next word is to be processed. It is a little like the road sign 'Changed Conditions Ahead'. For example, every time you have an apellation (a name or a pronoun indicating that a speaker is addressing someone), you need a comma to delimit it. 'Do you want to tell me a little more about this Frank?' is ambiguous. The speaker might be asking the other person to divulge information about some third party called Frank. But if the listener is Frank, and the speaker is addressing him, then we need 'Do you want to tell me a little more about this, Frank?'

   The same reasoning applies every time you tack on a word or a phrase. This could be 'of course', 'however', 'in a manner of speaking', or any other of those little additions that direct traffic within prose.

   One final situation gets people confused. This time, however, the reason is that the writing world follows an illogical convention. And note how 'however' was delimited here.

   Suppose you are quoting conversation, and the sentence goes on after the end of the quote. The natural way to do it would be to consider the punctuation that goes within the quote to be part of what is being quoted: '"You did well, Gardel." he shouted.' After all, what is quoted is a complete sentence, and a sentence ends with a period, right?

   Wrong. In this instance, the sentence ends with a comma: '"You did well, Gardel," he shouted.'

   Don't ask me why. I think it's like the British holding the fork with the convex side upward. If you do it the other, logical, way, it proves that you are either ignorant, or a foreigner, or both.


Make Description Work Hard

by D. L. Nelson

   If dialogue moves the plot forward, then description should flesh out scenes. Description puts readers into your story while engaging their senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, feel).

   Victorian writers over-described scenes, giving credence to the statement, "That's more than I needed to know." However, the selective use of details (See earlier W3 www.wisewordsonwriting.com/newsletter-0202.html) adds to the description.

   The most common things writers describe are: character's physical appearance, clothing, neighborhoods, housing, furniture, scenery, weather.

   New writers often break into the story creating author intrusion, especially when describing people. The reader is subjected to a litany of details about height, weight, hair color, etc. Slightly more experienced writers use the overworked mirror trick, letting the character herself describe how she looks -- She watches herself in the mirror as she brushes her "long black shiny hair and puts a touch of pink lipstick to her full lips, etc.

   Showing not telling is a better way to introduce appearance. Shortness could be shown when a character has to stand on a chair to reach the middle cabinets in a kitchen. Overweight can be shown by struggling into an outfit that refuses to zip, a man can rest his hand on the stomach that overhangs his trousers.

   My pet peeve is the statement "she didn't look 45," which I've read in any number of books. I am not sure what 45 looks like nor 32 or 55 for that matter. At a high school reunion my classmates had aged at such different rates that there could have been 20 years between us instead of the real 12 months. Perhaps a better way to describe someone appearing younger than their years might be -- Her face was unlined and she moved with the energy of a young woman. Then he looked at her hands and saw raised veins and age spots. By adding the details the author makes the reader do the work instead of having to figure out what X number of years look like. We also get the reaction of the observer assuming he is a major character. Or if the woman is a major character she could hide her hands as a tell-tale sign of her age if she were ashamed of it, or flaunt them if she were not. How we manipulate our description changes the story we are telling.

   Likewise when describing a room, make the description work -- The cracked red leather was molded to his shape from countless hours of watching the boob tube. Although there was standing room only at the mandatory after-funeral feed, no one dared sit in Pop's spot, even though he would never sit there again. Instead they stood crowded together with their plates piled with baloney sandwiches and potato chips. My brother watched from the sidelines. Then he walked over and sat down in the chair. Everyone stared. The king is dead, long live the king, I thought.

   That description tells a lot more about Pop, the son, the economic class of the family and the speaker than it does about the room.

   The same goes for exterior description. A playground with brightly colored and innovative equipment built by a committee of parents is different from a playground with a netless basket rim, cracked cement and a broken swing. Each fleshes out the economic status and condition of far different neighborhoods without giving the professions and incomes of the people who live there.

   Personal perspective makes scenery more than scenery. In Switzerland I love looking up at the mountains and feel they are opening to eternity, but they mentally imprison a Swiss friend. They are the same mountains: an Alp is an Alp is an Alp. Which way a character reacts makes scenery work hard for your story. Does the person love the sea? Is it frightening because of an accident that killed a relative? Does sailing a boat through a storm represent a (wo)man vs. nature challenge?

   Weather gives chances for all types of descriptions, but it shouldn't always rain at funerals or when characters are in bad moods. Describe cold to give readers a feeling of temperature without saying it is below freezing -- Jenna's cheeks were bright red as she unwove the long hand-knitted scarf, unzipped her coat. The smell of cold rose from the wool as she tossed it on the chair nearest the fire. "Thank God, you lit it," she said holding her aching hands out to the flames.

   Noises and smells in a neighborhood can flesh out a story -- the cock from the other side of the village went off about five minutes before her neighbor's alarm gave a ping ping ping that floated up from the window below. The street cleaner's broom scraped the pavement, followed by the village's new street washing machine that chugged and released a water scented with so much lemon that she wanted to vomit.

EXERCISE

   Go to a room, a café, airport and describe almost everything in it. Then select one item and make it a symbol for something else, just as the chair was a symbol of transfer of power from a dead father to a living son.


Book Reviews

Anikó: the stranger who loved me reviewed by Michael Larocca
City of the Golden Sun by Marilyn Peake
The Earth Garden Water Book edited by Alan Gray
Sea Change by Cindy Dowling

Anikó: The stranger who loved me
reviewed by Michael Larocca

   Michael is a talented editor and writer with multiple publications. He publishes a widely circulated e-zine Who Moved My Rice?.

ANIKO: THE STRANGER WHO LOVED ME
A biography by Dr. Bob Rich
EPPIE 2004 Winner
Reviewed by Michael LaRocca, author of RISING FROM THE ASHES

   "This book is a tribute to a remarkable woman who managed the impossible more than once. Her story is worth the telling." These words come from Dr. Bob Rich's prologue. And he is absolutely right.

   Aniko Stern was a Hungarian Jew. Through her story, we are transported to a time and place that may be no more to us than a few words in a history book. But that's only the beginning of ANIKO. The war only lasted a few years. It simply seems longer because of its aftermath.

   This book contains so much more than that. Real people faced with real decisions. An intelligent, determined woman who is able to do much more than struggle to survive, and who could never be content as a simple housewife. I've met and admired such women all my life. Bob has given me one more.

   When Aniko dares to love again, we see a side of single parenthood that I honestly wasn't aware existed, brought powerfully to life by the masterful writing of Dr. Bob Rich.

   I've read several of Bob's short story collections, so I already knew that he was a chameleon, adopting different personas, view-points and attitudes as his stories required. But it's even more amazing to see in the course of a single book, a story spanning decades and told through the eyes of a number of different people.

   Aniko's business acumen reminded me of my own mother. Very strong "people skills," which are equally useful in post-war Hungary or 1960s North Carolina. Or, in fact, anywhere at any time.

   That's something I really got from this book. As I said before, real people living real life. Things you can identify with, things you can learn from, things that will inspire you to think of things that the author may have never intended. Life is like that.

   In the predictable boilerplate "novel," you can only think in one direction while you read. It's the one the author leads you along by the nose. But a genuine author gives you literature. A recreation of life so real that five different readers can come from the experience with five different experiences, all equally valid.

   By that standard, ANIKO is definitely literature. I am grateful that Bob chose to share his mother's story with us, and it is a story that I will read again. That's the highest praise you can get out of me.


City of the Golden Sun
by Marilyn Peake

Published by Double Dragon E-books
E-book ISBN 1-55404-198-8
Paperback ISBN 1-55404-201-1

   A poor village boy has six guests: boys of varied ages, each with a distinct personality, acting like boys anywhere, any time. Only, these boys are from thousands of years ago, from a city destroyed by a giant meteorite.

   Magic mixed with reality: this story will grab the interest of any youngster.

   The language is clear and appropriate. Little lessons are plentiful but invisible, the way they should be.

   Although this book is the second in a series, it can be read, understood and enjoyed in its own right. It will make a great present for any child who enjoys working the modern magic of electronic books.


The Earth Garden Water Book
Edited by Alan Gray

Published by Earth Garden magazine
ISBN 0-9586397-2-8
RRP in Australia $19.95 inc. GST.

   There is only one thing wrong with this book. It refers to me as 'Earth Garden magazine's owner-building guru.' Now, I know that 'guru' means 'teacher' in (I think) Hindi, but it does have excess meaning. 'Rabbi' also means 'teacher', but they wouldn't call me a Rabbi, would they?

   Apart from this little glitch, the book is the usual mix of inspiration and information one expects from one of Alan's books. He has a genius for picking a highly topical issue; then finding contributors to the magazine with articles that fit the theme, a long time in advance; then assembling them into a whole that would please a patchwork quilt artist.

   Water conservation is one of the big issues in Australia at the moment. It's been in the news. And yet, Alan had requested my contribution over a year ago! How did he know?

   This comprehensive handbook will explain why you personally need to save water, and what the benefits for you are. It will inspire you to take action. And whether you live in the suburbs, the paddocks or the wild, it will tell you how to do it.

   There are also case studies of communties that have taken action, and spent money to save water -- and save money in the long run.

   In my case, of course, the book is a little late. Been there, done that, got the water tank. But if you haven't, what are you waiting for?


Sea Change: Australians in pursuit of the good life
by Cindy Dowling

Published by Exisle Publishing, Auckland, NZ.
ISBN 0-908988-26-5

   The first thing about this book is that it is very readable. Cindy Dowling's writing is clear, lucid and entertaining, even when she explains sociological theory or population statistics. This is a considerable achievement.

   She describes twenty families or individuals in detail. I have the honour of being the first, but that's not why I recommend this book as essential reading for everyone, not only Australians. Rather, the reason is that Sea Change documents a ground-swell of social change. This is the kind of change we need if we are to reverse the lunacy of our times.

   For a variety of reasons, the cases she describes have cut back on their work commitments, have downscaled their needs, moved to a materially less destructive lifestyle. Modern society is like the man who heats his house by burning components he has ripped out of the building -- sooner or later the house will fall down. People who, for whatever reason, find fuel elsewhere, or prefer not to have the house so hot, are buying time for all humanity.

   The case studies are preceded by an incisive, interesting and accurate analysis by the author. If her writing was boring and stodgy, it could take its place within a graduate texbook in one of the social sciences.

   This is a must-read for anyone, anywhere, who wants to find long-term contentment, put purpose and meaning back into life, and reduce personal contribution to species suicide.


THE PSYCHOS AMONG US

A review of the movie 'The Corporation'
by John Gorman

   The Corporation at 165 minutes is a long film, but the time passes quickly, as its makers, Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, working from a script by lawyer and professor Joel Bakan, trace the evolution of the corporation from its beginnings in the early 19th Century on to the behemoth it has become today. As we learn from the film, corporations were originally set up to dispense charity or accomplish public works. Once the job was completed, the corporation was dissolved.

   After the Civil War, however, corporations took on the form we recognize today, as they built the railroads, mined the minerals and cut the forests of the newly opened West. The most important change, however, came in the 1870s, when court decisions gave the corporation, already recognized as a legal person, rights that had previously only been enjoyed by flesh and blood people.

   What Achbar and Abbott deliver, however, is more than just another expose of corporate wrong doing. They look for the source of that misbehavior and find it, not in the moral deficiencies of Ken Lay and others like him, but in the very "nature of the beast" that is the modern corporation. Since companies are now people, the film sets out with the aid of luminaries like philosopher Noam Chomsky, filmmaker Michael Moore and investigative journalist Edwin Black, author of Banking on Baghdad, to analyze corporations as though they were actual subjects in a case study. Interviews with unwary CEOs help flesh out the picture, as we are given quick courses in "guilt" marketing, union busting and corporate dirty tricks.

   The conclusions of the study are not encouraging. If we were confronted by a person who behaved like Enron, General Motors, Liz Claibourne, Gap, Bechtel and many others, we would move toward the inevitable conclusion that the subject was a psychopath, marked by ruthless self-interest, indifference to harm caused to people, animals or biosphere, refusal to accept responsibility, inability to feel remorse, etc. The list goes on and on.

   As the film promises, it goes beyond the moral shortcomings of individuals to examine the essential makeup of the corporation and remind us that the only legally enforceable obligation the directors have to the shareholders is to maximize their investment. With this mandate, violating the law or even common decency is hardly reprehensible, so long as profits increase. Any penalties these infractions might bring are merely another cost of doing business, so long as they don't seriously affect profits. Even if the penalties are severe, the ultimate message sent is not to improve corporate behavior but to be more careful to avoid detection in the future.

   Within this context, the efforts of General Motors, when exposed by Ralph Nader in his Unsafe at Any Speed, not to improve their products, but to try to silence Nader become entirely comprehensible. The persecution of whistleblowers also makes perfect sense, as the film shows the unhappy fate of two Fox Newscasters unwilling to kill a story connecting Monsanto's BST to cancer.

   The film ends on an apparently hopeful note with interviews with Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, the largest commercial carpet maker in the world, who has understood that his firm's current business model is simply unsustainable. Anderson goes into encouraging detail as he explains the changes he has made as a result of a personal "epiphany" in the mid-'80s, and there can be no doubt of his good intentions. Yet we are also reminded that his firm is essentially a family enterprise, and he is not answerable to stockholders. He is free to act ethically only because he has no overseers. If his corporation were organized in the usual way, it is virtually certain the firm's behavior would be indistinguishable from any other corporate villain's.

   As The Corporation ends, we are left with the assurance that corporate accountability will not come from within. We must demand it, day in and day out, until the essential structure of the corporation is changed and its power broken. Corporations, like everyday psychopaths, cannot grow a conscience.


17th Recipient of the LiFE Award

   The LiFE Award: Literature For Environment has gone to a poetry book for the first time. This is Painted Words by Cheryl B. Sellers.

   She writes about her book:

   A book of poetry that speaks to the soul of adults and children alike. The spirit moves with the flow of the written word. From the inspirational to the erotic love, nature's imagery is captured and shared. Memories of child hoods laughter's and pain are expressed, as well as family values.

   Truths in life are seldom sought after, but sometimes they can be found when a person least expects. I have written this book from my life's experience. Readers will find much of themselves in my writings. They might see love, family, nature in a whole new prospective. if this happens then they and I as a writer have increased their and my values. I will have contributed in my own small way to the world.

   This is a paperback, published through Publish America.
ISBN 1 4147-2148-6.


I feel good about this...

Bob,

   I'm leaving Zumaya as I've finally found an excellent agent and a small traditional publisher for my second and third books, but I want to thank you for your superb editing of Listen to the Mockingbird 2 years ago. You remain the absolute best editor I've ever had or expect to have. Unfortunately I never overcame the terrible POD barrier. I'm sure that will change eventually and hope Zumaya survives. I'd like to include you in the acknowlegements for the new book, which will be out in hardcover in April if that's OK.
--Penny Rudolph
Author, Listen to the Mockingbird: The Civil War, murder, a lost gold mine, and one woman's compelling secret. Visit www.pennyrudolph.com


A well deserved win

   My friend Michael Thal's entry 'The Lip Reader' won FIRST PLACE in the Inspirational category of the Writer's Digest 73rd Annual Competition. He got a first prize of $1000, $100 worth of Writer's Digest books, a manuscript critique and marketing advice.

   Michael is the convenor of the children's/young adults critique group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/critsinternational. He also has a 'Post a Mitzvah' web site, where he pays $25 to the best good deed posted (and I think this is out of his own pocket). Michael is a good writer, helpful critic and overall good bloke.


The Hooterville Trench Mortar

A true story by James Choron

   My wife can attest to the fact that I have for years found the item of women's apparel called variously the "brazzier", the "bra", the "hooter hanger" and the "tit sling" to be a singularly offensive piece of clothing. I fail to see why any rational woman would torment herself with such a contraption unless there was a compelling reason to do so, such as being at a social function in a very sheer or low cut evening gown. It has always been my studied opinion that the things are implements of torture, designed by Torquemada and have no function other than to frustrate men, torture women and soak up an inordinate amount of money given the amount of material and workmanship needed to make one of the things. In the case of most women, the bra fits so "snugly" that if they bend over or take a deep breath, it is likely to (a) cut off circulation in the lower half of their body, or (b) cut them in half. The only thing that I can conceive of that could possibly be worse, from either a male or female perspective, is the Victorian Era corset, which was most definitely an implement of torture for both parties involved. The funny thing is, my wife, and just about every woman I've ever known, also concurs in my opinion.

   My point is, that for all practical purposes, certainly for the purposes that they were supposedly designed, bras are useless.

   However, when I was about 16 years old, I actually found a viable use for a woman's bra... Not any of those that the contraption was allegedly intended for... but... Here's the tale. It's the story of the "Hooterville Trench Mortar".

   In the summer of 1968, a friend of mine, named LaMoine Williams, bought himself an old '64 Ford stepside pick-up. He had gotten his driver's licence that year, and it was the first vehicle he had ever owned. He worked all summer, loading trucks on a watermelon farm to raise the $200.00 (US) that he paid for the old truck. Now, most everyone knows that a "stepside" truck has those square holes along the sides of the bed, with the front two right up next to the cab. They're intended to be mounts for an awning or cover, but are seldom used for that purpose. or for that matter, any purpose at all. But, like the bra, we found a use for them.

   Well...

   We split an eight foot long 2 x 4 board and put half of it in each of the forward two holes. At the top, we put an eye bolt in each one, and attached a 12 foot long piece of surgical rubber doubled over. You could still buy the stuff, then, in any drug store, without any trouble.

   LaMoine, my buddy, had an aunt who had really huge hooters. He stole one of her bras, and we used it to connect the two pieces of rubber. It was a 44DD.

   Anyway, we could sit on one street and lob rotten canteloups down on a house a full block over. We got pretty good at aiming. We had another friend named Charlie Emanis who was our "forward observer" and called range and hits to us over a pair of walkie talkies. It took both of us at the truck to pull the canteloup back and hold it while we aimed. We'd stretch it all the way back to the tailgate, and could litterally shoot about 200 yards in a very high arc, or about twice that in a flatter trajectory. It was more fun to shoot into a high arc, since the stuff would just drop down on the target from out of nowhere.

   Ammunition came from the dumpster behind A&P. Canteloups, Casabas, smallish Watermelons, big Zuchinis... all just solid enough to shoot, but soft enough to splatter on impact. We eventually figured out how to shoot a dozen rotten eggs, or half a dozen good sized rotten tomatoes at a time, by wrapping them in paper towels to put them in the cups.

   We actually dove the "Hooterville Trench Mortar" over to Carthage, Texas, our football rival, and shelled their football field from two blocks over. This was right in the middle of their homecoming pep rally in Fall of 69. We got about five rounds off, then moved and did it again, a total of about 15 rounds. All of a sudden it just started raining rotten eggs and spoiled fruit and vegetables on them.

   At that range, it wasn't really very accurate--that was about our maximum range. Still, with a good Forward Observer, which we had, and a pair of Army Surplus walkie talkies that were on some oddball frequency that nobody else could hear, we could hit a football field at that range.

   It's the only real functional use I've ever found for a bra.


Atlantic Bridge

   Atlantic Bridge is a small independent publisher specializing in high-quality books in a variety of genres. I have edited many of them, so I know.

   I distribute 'Bobbing Around' free of charge, via Atlantic Bridge's automated system, and would like to thank Linda Eberharter, the Publisher.

   Visit Atlantic Bridge publishers for a large selection of good reads.


Short story contest

   The excellent magazine Monthly Short Stories is running its first ever contest. Entry fee $US10. Prizes of $100, $75, $50 and $25. Please note that, by popular demand, the word limit has been increased from 1500 to 3000 words.

   Don't bother entering, I am going for the first prize :)


About Bobbing Around

   If you received a copy of Bobbing Around and don't want a repeat, it's simple. Drop me a line and I'll drop you from my list.

   You may know someone who would enjoy reading my rave. Bobbing Around is being archived at http://mudsmith.net/bobbing.html, or you can forward a copy to your friend. However, you are NOT ALLOWED to pass on parts of the newsletter, without express permission of the article's author and the Editor (hey, the second one is me.)

   If you are not a subscriber but want to be, email me. Subject should be 'subscribe Bobbing Around' (it will be if you click the link in this paragraph). In the body, please state your name, email address (get it right!), your country and something about yourself. I also want to know how you found your way to my newsletter. I hope we can become friends.

Contributions are welcome, although I reserve the right to decline anything, or to request changes before acceptance. Welcome are:

* Announcements, but note that publication date is neither fixed nor guaranteed;
* Brags of achievements that may be of general interest, for example publication of your book;
* Poems or very short stories and essays that fit the philosophy and style of Bobbing Around;
* Above all, responses to items in past issues. I will not reject or censor such comments, even if I disagree with them.

Submission Guidelines

   It is a FALSE RUMOUR that you need to buy one of my books before your submission is accepted. Not that I cry when someone does so.

   Above all, contributions should be brief. I may shorten them if necessary.

   Content should be non-discriminatory, polite and relevant. Announcements should be 100 to 200 words, shorter if possible. Book reviews, essays and stories should be at the very most 500 words, poems up to 30 lines.

   Author bios should be about 50 words, and if possible include a web address.