Announcement, Links, and Supplementary Rant

Announcement: Some clients find it hard to understand the concept of writers having real lives. I just told somebody I’d be available to add a link to an article today. Somebody went ahead and put in the request for a change yesterday, when I’d said I wouldn’t be online. So when I came online the system had automatically deleted the request. Sigh. I had planned to work in that link today, instead of spending time drawing out haters and encouraging fellow introverts at a teen-oriented web site. I will not be online sixty hours a week this week. Sorry.

It doesn’t mean I don’t liiike youall any more. It doesn’t even mean I don’t need some payments for some existing writing that have become past due. It just means that, in order to move, as planned, to a location nearer home where I should eventually be more available online, I have to spend some time moving objects around in the real world. And I can’t even commit to a schedule; this all depends very much on weather.

Categories: Food (Yum), Poems, Social Problems. (Without the rant about Social Problems this post would be too short. With the rant it’s too long. Well, you’re free to go directly to the link and ignore the rant.)

Food (Yum) 

This web site likes bush beans, and, when we buy beans in tins, we also like Bush beans.


From Elizabeth Barrette:

Social Problems 

I actually think this article offers some good suggestions…if it’s read with a mature understanding. The story I shared, encouraging said mature understanding, triggered all sorts of displays of hostility and conceitedness from extroverts. Go on and out yourselves, haters. I’m concerned solely with sending empathy vibrations to all the wonderful young introverts out there. Yes, I’m seeing evidence that youall are reading my web site; thank you (for reading), and you’re welcome (to continue reading).

And, if any extroverts are reading this…yes, I did say that self-accepting introverts learn to love youall, if we do, more in the way we love dogs than in the way we love our close friends. Try not to take it to heart (she says, feeling really chuffed by the hatespews from people who might otherwise have gone on representing themselves to Christian students as friends and mentors, and who are So. Not. Helping.). You do, as a matter of scientific fact, have different and in some ways inferior brains. But most introverts I know love our dogs (and our friends’ dogs).

What appeared to be the site’s official resident troll called my comment racist. Because I identified the annoying person in the story as a White girl? Well, she was…and there are reasons why that fact sticks in my memory: (a) I’m legally White myself, so entitled to mention other people’s Whiteness if I feel like it; (b) I am in fact biracial, and at that school, where all but two of the other summer kids appeared to be either White or Black, I was constantly and excruciatingly conscious of it; (c) the precise way in which she was considered funny-looking is an irrelevant detail that should probably have been left out, but it was a White way, and (d) I was especially aware of this on that day because I’d already been overtly harassed by one of the Black teen-trolls. That’s a different story, so there was no need to specify that this was the attack by the White girl, but that’s how I remember it and how I wrote it. I was tired at the time.

A better thing to call the adolescent Priscilla in the anecdote would have been “clumsy” or “adolescent,” which of course I was…only a year or two ahead of the dateless girl. However, where my anecdote failed was that people who didn’t go to church schools apparently didn’t get the picture. That child was not interested in actually being kind to me. This was not just “My date didn’t show up either, so would you mind very much sitting next to me while what I have in the way of friends snog and I try not to cry from self-pity”; it was a gambit that sucked me in because I mistook it for that innocent, “My date didn’t show up either” type of thing. She was interested in trying to boost her own social status, from which extroverts get their self-esteem, at my expense. And yes, as distinct from things like my brother’s recent death, which made me feel primarily sad, and the culture’s sick attitudes toward young women, which made me feel primarily righteous, this petty little incident where I walked into a social trap did make me feel exclusively, unrighteously, helplessly and childishly angry, at the time.

I wanted to share that–with strangers? yes, y’see introverts are not necessarily shy–because I’m quite sure that the arrogance of “I don’t actually like you, but I’m donating a little attention to you as an act of charity because you’re such a pathetic loser” would paint a target on the back of anybody who takes that approach to an incipient homicidal maniac.

Actually being friends with the ordinary, nonviolent, non-psychotic, harmlessly lonely young people who are out of step–gifted/backward, tall/short, fat/skinny, mature/baby-faced, rich/poor, pimply, clumsy, sickly, dealing with an unusual amount of emotional anguish at an emotional-anguish-ridden stage of life–is of course a good thing. It may be what some of them need to stay off drugs, and to grow up to be the wonderful human beings nature intended.

It cannot be faked…I’m feeling frustrated, at the moment, because I am all in favor of actually appreciating people who are likely to be “less popular” in college. Before working overtime to become “Queen Bee of a Popular Clique” I was one. And so were the friends who made up that group, which was what made it such an awesome experience for us and so infuriating for the extroverts who were welcome to hang with us but just didn’t fit in. Instead of any “Wonderful Me, Pathetic You” garbage, or even our previous year’s “I had a friend I really liked but s/he’s not around this year, waaail,” about a dozen people reached across the demographics and found enough in common to be friends. Which happened to include that we were earning our own money and could therefore afford to have enough fun to make the children of rich, indulgent parents realize that they weren’t the only Popular Clique in town.

So I agree that the clumsy geek in your class may be the richest and best looking person at your class reunions, and if you like him, you may live to be glad that you became his friend before he was cool. Which is a valid reason to become his friend, if you get the chance.

If somebody is just hanging onto life while the post-traumatic stress of past bullying fades (the way I was in middle school), that person may not want a friend–yet–even if that person likes you later on. If somebody is out of step because he or she genuinely is different from you–maybe the one musician in a crowd of tin-eared scientists as in The 400 Eels of Sigmund Freud, etc.–then that person may feel obliged to be kind to you, but not accept you as a friend. Even if that person eats lunch with you, s/he will be continually reminded that you are at best a nice associate, but not a real friend. And if somebody just feels like an adolescent social misfit, “here’s a crumb of attention from Wonderful Me to Pathetic You” is guaranteed to exacerbate that feeling…and if the person receives the wrong kind of “help” and develops a violent psychosis next year, guess who’s likely to play a leading role in his or her pseudomemories.011

Book Review: Race to Victory Lane

A Fair Trade Book (?)

Title: Race to Victory Lane

Author: Crystal Earnhardt

Date: 2003

Publisher: Review & Herald

ISBN: 0-8280-1775-1

Length: 75 pages

Quote: “John, I want you to meet Dale Earnhardt…your ancestors had a lot more in common than just a family tree!”

Race to Victory Lane is not a biography of the NASCAR superstar. It’s a biography of his relative, John Earnhardt, who became an evangelist, written by John’s wife and dedicated to their children. Nevertheless, the blurb promises race fans that “Some say they feel close to Dale through” John Earnhardt.

Though never each other’s very closest friends, Dale and John Earnhardt were close to the same age; they went to school, worked, and raced together as teenagers and saw each other regularly as each climbed his career ladder. Dale Earnhardt’s fans find enough about the racer in this book that they’ll probably be willing to overlook its Sunday-School-story narrative tone.

Although a Christian, Dale Earnhardt was not known as one of NASCAR’s more overtly religious drivers, nor did he join the church where John preached. Looks, temperament, and publicity built up his image as anything but a possible hero for Sunday School books. He was easily typecast as the rough, burly, blue-collar challenger to nice-guy Richard Petty. Like any man who weighs over 200 pounds and isn’t fat, he looked dangerous—and his “Intimidator” racing style was a very dangerous game.

However, what impressed fans were the showmanship, the precision, and the control of “The Intimidator.” There was no room for recklessness or bad temper in an act like that one. Even for Earnhardt and his series of incredible cars, everything had to be exactly right for Earnhardt’s “rough” racing style to work. In some intuitive way Dale Earnhardt was a physicist.

He was in control off the track, too. If he’d been challenging a driver whose lock on the nice-guy role was less solid than Petty’s, Earnhardt could probably have cast himself as a nice guy; his son has. A little yelling and swearing at autograph hounds fitted The Intimidator’s image, but Earnhardt fans remembered how, when a normal-sized driver actually swung at him, Earnhardt calmly held the smaller man at his own arm’s length until the other man calmed down.

He also had a gift for turning the trivia of a race into human-interest stories. When young, handsome, overtly Christian Davey Allison died in a helicopter crash, Earnhardt shed a few manly tears, but he was also reported to have said wistfully that it was too bad the accident hadn’t happened during a race. While some Earnhardt fans disliked “challenger” Jeff Gordon intensely (and a few still do), Earnhardt had quietly recognized Gordon’s potential fan appeal and taken him on as a business partner.

As Earnhardt’s challenge to Petty’s record built NASCAR into a million-dollar sport, publicity—and the IRS!—pushed Earnhardt into displays of generosity that would have threatened his redneck-chic image if they’d been publicized. America’s richest redneck began quietly making donations to schools, churches, and charities. There were reports of mild self-indulgence, the big house and the vacations, but no orgies. NASCAR racers have to have stamina to survive.

And in 2003, after his accidental death, John Earnhardt outed Dale Earnhardt as having waited to receive a printed Bible verse from a prayer partner before he’d attempt his act.

Not that John Earnhardt’s purpose is here, or ever was, to detract from what Earnhardt’s act was always all about. It was what Dave Barry would have gleefully called a Guy Thing. It was about driving extremely fast, and banging extremely large and expensive pieces of metal together, and bouncing out of a smoldering heap to wave to thousands of screaming fans, and the possibility that one day you or one of your friends might not be able to bounce out of the wreck. Although a minister, John is still a guy, and he does appreciate these things.

But the stories Crystal and John Earnhardt have a right to tell middle school readers in this book are, mostly, stories about John’s middle school years. He had to drive his parents home when they’d been drinking. He shot a squirrel—good ol’ boys will recognize this as a feat of marksmanship, but he’s not bragging—and felt sorry for the poor little animal. He went along with schoolmates when they robbed a store, but apologized humbly enough that the storekeeper let the kids go. He aimed his gun at a man, once, but decided at the last minute not to shoot, and has always been glad.

Looking back, John compares where he was with where Dale was and feels that, though less wealthy, he’s had the better life, or the better “victory.” He’s certainly had the longer one. He once challenged Dale to a foot race, which he thought he could win, and he lost. He seems to be trying to compete with his rich, famous, deceased relative again, in this book, but exactly where the track or the finish line is remains unclear.

Race to Victory Lane is recommended to all race fans, especially to those who remember Dale or Ralph Earnhardt and those who now root for Dale Junior.

Neither Crystal nor John Earnhardt is easy to find on the Internet. The names are not unique; a Crystal Earnhardt died in 2010, but her obituary doesn’t mention a husband called John. John Earnhardt does seem to be alive, and this is his story, anyway. Let’s call this one a Fair Trade Book. The usual terms: $5 per book + $5 per package, from which $1 per book goes to the Earnhardts or a charity of their choice; if you want twenty copies, which would probably fit into one package, you’d send $105 to either of the address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen and I’d send the Earnhardts or their charity $20.

This NASCAR race snapshot, courtesy of Southernfried at , was taken after Dale Earnhardt’s time…


Book Review: Through My Eyes

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Through My Eyes

Author: Ruby Bridges

Author’s organization’s Facebook page:

Date: 1999

Publisher: Scholastic Press

ISBN: 0-590-18923-9

Length: 64 pages

Illustrations: many photos

Quote: “History pushed in and swept me up in a whirlwind.”

At the end of the spring school term in 1960, a small select group of African-American students in New Orleans kindergartens were given special tests. The students had not been prepared to pass the tests. Most apparently didn’t. The Bridges family, however, received follow-up contact from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, urging the parents to send little Ruby to the formerly all-White William Frantz Public School. “They said it was a better school and closer to my home…They said I had the right to go to the closest school in my district. They pressured my parents and made a lot of promises.”

When little Ruby was escorted into the William Frantz school building by four federal marshals, she was not admitted to an actual class but spent the first day in the principal’s office, watching other children’s parents as “they ran into classrooms and dragged their children out of the school.” When she left the building, again chauffeured by marshals, “seeing a [B]lack doll in a coffin…frightened me more than anything else.”

On the second day, a Northern-born teacher was appointed to tutor Ruby Bridges, and the two spent the whole day in an otherwise empty classroom. “I wasn’t allowed to have lunch in the cafeteria or go outside for recess,” Bridges recalls. “If I had to go to the bathroom, the marshals walked me down the hall.”

Outside, protesters were picketing the school. The hate was not really aimed at a little girl who had been chosen for her role in history partly because she looked helpless and harmless, “the littlest…girl you ever saw.” The women who “came to scream at” Ruby Bridges also screamed “at the few White children who crossed the picket lines and went to school,” and their foul language shocked even the earthy novelist John Steinbeck, who would later be scolded for recording some of the ugliness in a book. For the whole first term, while seventeen White children were also dodging eggs and rocks as they entered and left the building,  little Ruby was so thoroughly segregated from what should have been her classmates that she didn’t even realize they were there.

The men who hated enforced integration turned their hate on adults. Crosses were burned. A voodoo doll was made to represent Judge Skelly Wright, who had ordered the integration of William Frantz Public School. Abon Bridges, Ruby’s father, was dismissed from his job; rather than extending credit to the now wageless Bridges family, their neighbors banned them from the corner store.

By the next year, when the sky hadn’t fallen, the protesters resigned themselves to their defeat. Ruby Bridges spent grade two in a regular classroom, with a local teacher who scolded her for having picked up traces of her first grade teacher’s Northern accent. She stayed in New Orleans. Eventually she used her fame to set up a foundation to benefit inner city schools, including Frantz. She admits that “I was tempted to feel bitter about the school integration experience, not understanding why I had to go through it…alone. Now I know it was meant to be that way.”

Note: “was meant to,” rather than, say, “had to.” Why was so much hate aimed at little children? Historically, the desegregation of the New Orleans school system was yet another episode where the democratic alternative was ignored in a conflict between two dictatorial approaches to a problem. Segregationists were demanding that Big Government subsidize segregated schools; integrationists were demanding that Big Government force people to change the system their grandparents had worked out. Ruby Bridges was caught in the crossfire between the two totalitarian camps. Virtually no attention was given to the fact that school desegregation had been begun by private individuals approximately 120 years before the federal government was allowed to step in—and in Kentucky it had worked remarkably well.

Berea College hadn’t even been the only school where students and teachers agreed to try racial integration. Berea was the only college that made desegregation a requirement. Dozens if not hundreds of schools had been racially integrated before totalitarian segregation policies had been marketed as a Southern Thing. School segregation had been burdensome. Hundreds if not thousands of schools reintegrated themselves in 1954, when the Supreme Court lifted what had become the requirement that cities and counties maintain two or more separate buildings, and people had known for a long time that one would have been more cost-effective.

It’s good to read that, as a middle-aged woman, Ms. Bridges has been able to integrate her appalling childhood experience into a life dedicated to helping others…but her experience was so unnecessary. If government had consistently backed the alternative of school choice, children like Ruby Bridges and her White counterpart, Yolanda Gabrielle, could have gone to schools that had never been segregated. Both children were bright enough, and well enough brought up, to have succeeded in a system that distracted attention from racial differences toward achievement.

Through My Eyes is a Fair Trade Book. Though Ruby Bridges has not chosen to remain a public figure online, this book explains which charity should receive 10% of the cost of its resale, and why. If you buy this book online here, sending $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, I’ll send $1 per copy to the Ruby Bridges Foundation. It’s a long, thin book; you could fit at least a half-dozen copies into one package for a total of $35, or fit in other Fair Trade Books.

Official Morguefile Book Review Cat:

blogjob cat


Link Log for October 8

Categories: Books, Christian, Communication, Funny, Pictures, Politics, Race, What?.


If you liked The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, pre-order now…

Congratulations are in order to historian/dramatist Svetlana Alexievich:

The funniest thing about this comparison of gender references in different novels is that, in Chesterton, I don’t mind. He lived in a Victorian gender-segregated world, and wrote about men living in that sort of world, with only an occasional passing reference to Father Brown hearing an occasional female confession. That we don’t have equally good novels by and exclusively about women (Alison Bechdel is not, in my judgment, equally good) indicates an imbalance, although anybody might correct it any day. That all the characters in Chesterton’s novels are male, and/or that all the novels are more about human activity than about human personality, tells me something about Chesterton, and it makes some of the novels less enjoyable than others, but it doesn’t offend me.


As a professional hack writer I usually mention what I’m writing for paying customers, at this web site, only when there’s a possibility (however remote) that a piece might be appropriated without payment. Hack writers’ contributions to magazines, newspapers, blogs, and web sites are traditionally anonymous, subject to such massive revisions that what’s published may in fact be the work of a client who’s taken our ideas and research as a suggestion for his or her own. But I have to note a personal milestone: After ten years of full-time writing, during which at most I’ve been paid pennies for mentioning Christian writing or speech, I’ve finally been commissioned to contribute an anonymous page to a devotional. The text is 2 Corinthians 1:4–an encouraging opportunity to write about encouragement. Before running on further, I’d prefer to read yourall’s thoughts:


Uh-oh. I don’t text often, and when I do it’s usually to people at least as old as I am, so I doubt this has become a problem. However. For the record. I am a writer. I think in complete sentences. If those sentences don’t end in question marks or exclamation marks, they end in periods. (Online, they may also end in smileys, winkies, or frownies.) When I add a period in a text message, the meaning is “Yes, I finished what I was saying before pressing ‘send’ and/or starting another sentence.” I don’t think text messages are good ways to express emotions, but if I were to send a ticked-off text, the expressions of anger would be ALL CAPS and/or exclamation marks and/or frownies and/or expletives (e.g. “dang”) identifying what I’m most angry about.

* “I m here. WHERE R U?”

* “We never buy anything from sales pests. Don t call here again!!!”

* “GBP still has blasted pneumonia :-(”

And if I don’t see a period at the end of your message, the interpretations that come to mind are (1) “I was running out of space,” (2) “I either haven’t found the punctuation characters on my phone keypad or didn’t want to take the time to type one,” or (3) “I hit ‘send’ before I finished the message.” If I texted with someone younger or foreign, the absence of a period might suggest “I didn’t learn the rules of English punctuation.”


Thanks to Natalief for sharing:


More hide-and-seek graphics: The Language Log captured this photo of William Campbell’s paintings of pathogenic microorganisms. The actual story is at Reuters but, when I read the story, I don’t see the photo.


If there are any circumstances under which you’d vote for Ted Cruz (my reservations are based on (1) the “birther” faction and (2) my Carson/Paul preference), you might want to take this survey.

President Obama made another serious mistake…and it’s possible that somebody at has finally got the point; for the first time in years I was actually able to read a story there, online, firsthand.


It’s not racism as such…it’s just the way Caucasian-types do think (in spite of good intentions) unless, and until, they’ve lived in places where Whiteness is not the norm. (And sometimes it’s the way militant spokesmen for other ethnic groups have told us to write, draw, and stage, as well–the assumption that we wouldn’t know how a major character who wasn’t White would think. Shakespeare could imagine a Black man in Italy because he could count on any non-British members of his audience to be quiet if Othello seemed too easy for Brits to relate to.) I spent a long time in the non-federal parts of Washington, D.C., where the default assumption is that Blackness is the norm, so I believe that simply taking it as understood that all the interesting characters are going to look like you is a human imperfection rather than an act of hate. (When I write fiction that’s set in a place like Washington, if a character’s physical look is not specified, you may visualize the character as you like.) But in a story about a modern U.S. city, if the story goes on very long or has more than two or three characters, making them all the same color is a way a story loses credibility. At school, at work, in an apartment building, there’d be a mix.


Actually, for many things posted at , about all there is to say is “What?” (Or, in my idiolect, “Whaaat?”) So “What?” is the category for posts like this one (mostly shorter):

Book Review: Dixie Dobie

Title: Dixie Dobie

Author: Margaret S. Johnson and Helen Lossing Johnson

Date: 1945

Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company

ISBN: none, but click here to view it on Amazon

Length: 90 pages

Illustrations: several pencil drawings

Quote: “The most important animals on Sable Island are wild ponies.”

On Sable Island off Nova Scotia, as on Chincoteague, harsh conditions have caused an abandoned herd of horses to evolve into a breed of sturdy “ponies.” These ponies were sometimes rounded up and sold to people on the mainland. Dixie Dobie is the story of a Sable Island pony.

Written for grades two through four, this is a simple be-kind-to-animals story that will appeal to even younger children if they are precocious readers or if the story is read aloud to them. Sophisticated fourth grade readers might pronounce it dull. There’s no suspense, no surprise.

The pony’s first purchasers, a family called Dobie, expect “Dixie” to behave like a well trained farm horse and are predictably disappointed. Her next human family, the Bradfords, add “Dobie” to her name, take the time to make friends with Dixie Dobie, and are able to benefit from her toughness and good sense.

If it’s not the straight facts, Dixie Dobie is certainly true in essence, and predictable as it can be. There are no distracting subplots or characterizations. Like the drawings of horses, people, and landscapes that break up the text, this story is meant to communicate information clearly, not to entertain anyone with flights of imagination.

As a first book about How to Care for Your Pony, Dixie Dobie might disappoint children who imagine that the bonding process will be as quick in real life as it sounds in the story. Adults reading this story to children who are going to be living with any kind of animal may want to emphasize that, although Johnson didn’t expect anyone to sit around and read about each day, the Bradfords would have spent months making friends with their feral, independent pet.

People who seriously intend to adopt a feral horse will need more informative books than Dixie Dobie. In fact, they’ll probably need a support group. Nevertheless, Dixie Dobie is a nice first book for those people to give to young children as a pre-introduction to their new friend.

Wild pony photo from Thelesleyshow at


The Zombie Apocalypse of Priscilla King

How do some people get into some messes? If I’d anticipated writing horror fiction, I certainly would not have chosen a screen name that happens to sound like the name of the, er um, absolute monarch of horror fiction…

Earlier this fall I was commissioned to write some zombie apocalypse stories. I hadn’t read any, and still wouldn’t call myself familiar with the rules of a genre that deals mainly in gross-outs. But I have read most of Stephen King‘s novels (I don’t recommend them unless you’re a fast reader; I am). I’m not related to him and wouldn’t even list him as a favorite author but he is very, very good at what he does. I have a lot of respect for his thoughts on the writing process. I set myself to the task of writing a short story sequence that wouldn’t totally disgrace Big Steve’s family name. Terror, horror, gross-outs, and the occasional sick joke.

Well, zombies are about as un-auntly as a topic can be. “Priscilla King” is the official, registered business name of an auntly writer. And I have to admit I’m on unfamiliar and unsteady ground. The important thing about an action story is that the action needs to work; if it’s fiction, and the writer doesn’t reality-test the action sequence s/he creates, it’s always possible for a writer to envision and write–however well–an action scene that would not work in real life. Even if a writer can call a friend and have fun wrestling around and blocking out a fight scene (and fight scenes were stipulated in the contract), what’s possible for friends having fun might not work in a real life-and-death fight.

Due to the virus going around, our aging and vulnerability, and the timeline for publication, I wrote and submitted a couple of zombie stories without even wrestling through the fight scenes. The client terminated the contract, as allowed under its terms, without explaining whether that was because he didn’t believe the fights, because he missed Bob and Ray (no worries, they’ll be back), or just because my zombie apocalypse vision was shaping up differently from his.

One of my rules is that if I write something for payment, and the client who requested it doesn’t use it, I have to publish it somewhere to protect my copyright. Another of my rules is that my Blogspot and Blogjob sites are family-friendly for all ages–absolutely no zombies. So, the zombies have to go on Live Journal, on a separate, family-filtered LJ account.

The first two installments of my zombie apocalypse have been published in another’zine. The second two have been written but not (yet) published. Others, enough to make a novel-in-freestanding-stories, have been loosely outlined but not written; whether they’re written or not depends on how readers react to the first two.

Here’s what I can say about the zombie apocalypse stories-or-novel. It’s not “supernatural”; in the zombie genre, I learned, “zombie apocalypse” does not involve any questions of belief about either the afterlife or the Final Apocalypse; these stories are about a hypothetical pandemic disease that may or may not kill enough humans to destroy civilization-as-we-know-it. The genre makes up for that loss of terror (while leaving room for emotional terror about bad things happening to good characters) in gross-outs. Lots of medical information, along with the medical speculation; to make any story into a movie would take buckets of fake blood.

Emotional trauma was a requirement for the original contract, and all aunts know more about that than we normally inflict on other people. Lots of bad things happen to good people. Lots of cross-gender violence (fight scenes probably tested by a heterosexual couple, after all). Children, animals, and grandparents may be involved (although there won’t be zombie animals, because nothing can be added to Pet Sematary). Heroes from one story may become victims in another story. In what’s been published so far we’ve had an elderly church lady zombifying while her husband, her best friend, and a doctor have been trying to help her, and killing her husband; we’ve had a man having to kill a woman on whom he’s had a crush. In what will soon be published we have an old lady accidentally killing a ratbag relative before she finds out that that’s been possible only because he’d become a zombie (so now she has to kill his wife too), and a truly great-grandfather who may or may not survive killing a zombie.

It won’t get warmer or fuzzier. A zombie apocalypse is by definition about a different kind of zombies than Piers Anthony’s magically animated, tragically ugly but mostly nice characters (as in Zombie Lover). They need killing, if they have any human consciousness left they want killing, and the only way to kill them is to reduce them to small pieces and destroy the pieces. Try to be nice to them and die–horribly. If you want to be grandiose and literary you can say they represent evil misbeliefs more than people, but they’re embodied as characters that used to be people. In real life I don’t believe there are many situations where it’s really necessary to destroy a human body in order to overcome evil. In zombie fiction that’s how it’s done.

Triggers: if the whole novel ever gets written, probably all triggers I’ve ever heard of. Squick level: maximum. Family-filter activation: I see no need to type out every vulgar word or linger over descriptions of every wound, and zombies are by definition nonsexual, but that doesn’t mean that body parts I don’t normally mention may not be featured in stories–torn out, flung about, eaten…Totally un-auntly, and not recommended to The Nephews even when they’re fifty years old, because I’m not interested in provoking them to competing gross-outs. In real life I do try to limit our gross-out fests to discussions of spiders, bugs, and snakes.

Redeeming social value: All these stories were meant to accomplish was a small part of funding the infrastructure to keep my web sites afloat, which costs about $150 a month (mostly for Internet connection maintenance). However, they do incorporate what I know about survival and emergency prepared-ness, and I’ve survived a fair amount. If you don’t enjoy horror fiction you certainly don’t need to read it for that information, but the information is in the fiction.

Cost: The first two stories have been published and paid for. The second two will be published via an unfortunately complicated crowdfunding process (they’ll be online, but people will have to pay, using the Paypal button on your left, to read them until they’ve reached their funding goal). Others will be published as they are funded, like most of Elizabeth Barrette‘s speculative-fiction narrative poems; unfortunately, because they don’t fit Blogjob and Google Adsense family-filtering rules, these stories will not be available on Blogjob.

I’m hoping to make a nice, wholesome piece of speculative fiction, with life lessons and family-friendly romance, available at another Blogjob site. To make that happen, and (if you’re a really dedicated blogger) maybe even get paid for your own blogging and blog reading, click here:


Book Review: Une Semaine Agitee

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Une Semaine Agitée

Author: Georges Kolebka

Date: 1983

Publisher: Bayard Presse

ISBN: 2-7009-0081-2

Length: 34 pages

Illustrations: color drawings

Quote: “J’ai cueilli pour vous / des bouquets d’images…”

During “one agitated week,” Carapate the cartoon turtle decides to see the world and make new friends. Her adventures are a whimsical mix of things real turtles don’t do (like housekeeping) and things real turtles can do (like turning over on her back and being unable to get up again without help). Along the way, the book is also padded out with little rhymes and quizzes.

This book is easy enough for high school students taking first-year French, but may be too juvenile to entertain them. It’s really aimed at French-speaking five-year-olds.

Carapate is presumably not a close relative of our box turtles (, but a European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis, scientific name; tortue boueuse, common name).

File:Emys orbicularis 2009 G1.jpgThis Ukrainian specimen, photographed by George Chernilevsky, might be a distant relative of Carapate. Very distant. Pond terrapins are not great travellers. Adventurous individuals like Carapate might get as far as a kilometer from their home ponds, but females lay their eggs at home. Males are smaller and lighter, can travel further, and have occasionally been found four kilometers from home. Nevertheless, scientists believe pond terrapins can be traced to their home neighborhood by DNA tests. Individuals usually live about fifty years; a few have lived eighty or a hundred years.

More about pond terrapins at Wikipedia:

If you go to Provence, in France, you can meet pond terrapins and other European chelonian species at a zoo that specializes in chelonians:

There’s more to say about my physical copy of the book than there is to say about its contents. I never intended to buy this book. It belonged to a library. I checked it out once, then lost it. Since it’s such a thin paperback that it could easily be lost between or inside bigger picture books, I didn’t even try to find it, in the library or at home, but just paid for it. A few years later it slipped out of a big coffee-table book that belonged to me. Well, so now did Une Semaine Agitee belong to me. Nobody particularly wanted to keep it, so out to the market it went. It’s a thin, flimsy picture book, well worn. I think I let a child take it free of charge.

Then I checked Amazon and realized that this little book for little people might be considered valuable. Note the Amazon information above…there’s a page for Kolebka, but this book isn’t on it. Am I the only bookseller in the United States who’s willing to resell Une Semaine Agitee? Amazon-France and Amazon-Canada list the title, but don’t show a current price. The other U.S. online booksellers don’t list the title.

Does anyone really want a copy of this book? Kolebka is a well respected author who has other novels and picture books in print. I’ve not seen any of them. If you’re collecting his work you probably already have a copy of Une Semaine Agitee.

It would, in any case, be a Fair Trade Book. Kolebka is around eighty years old, but might still be able to find a use for U.S. dollars.

So, if you want to encourage a writer by buying Une Semaine Agitee as a Fair Trade Book, let me know, and I’ll look up the current price and availability information.

Book Review: Bloom County Classics of Western Literature

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Classics of Western Literature: Bloom County 1986-1989

Author: Berke Breathed

Author’s web site:

Date: 1990

Publisher: Little Brown & Company

ISBN: 0-316-10754-9

Length: 250 pages

Illustrations: cartoons by the author

Quote: “[A]t seven I was scanning the ‘News Capsules’ section of the Los Angeles Times. Any head­line including the words FIRE or MURDER prom­ised something vital.”

And so Berke Breathed grew up to write a comic strip in which the characters were children and animals and the plots were headline news stories. For ten years he drew the cartoon daily. Toward the end of this book he announces the transition to drawing it weekly…in news-story mode: the plot line is that Donald Trump’s body has died, his brain has been implanted into the brain-dead body of Bill the Cat, and he’s “developing” Bloom County by firing all the other characters.

This Fair Trade Book was discussed on the Blogspot a few years ago (and, yes, it sold). In view of its timeliness, it’s reappearing here.

In this collection we watch Quiche dump Steve because he spends some time in a body brace, Opus jilt Lola because despite his lovableness he’s just another commitment-phobic 1980s youth at heart, Milquetoast the Cockroach test everybody’s commitment to nonviolence, Oliver blow his cool when asked what led up to the Big Bang, “Deathtongue” morph into “Billy and the Boingers” and expire, the other characters banish Opus from the boardinghouse after hearing a sermon about “penguin lust,” Rosebud admit that the character “he” always insisted was male is “played by” a female (who later gets pregnant), Steve sue Santa Claus for delivering violence-promoting toys, Zygort aliens convert Steve into a Sensitive New Age Guy, Opus try to become a smoker, the kids make (and give away) a fortune selling hair tonic made from Bill’s underarm sweat, Opus attempt to rescue his mother from the Mary Kay Cosmetics test lab, and Ronald-Ann lure Opus from reenacting “Star Trek” to sipping pretend tea with her headless doll. Newsmaking people (and products) are mentioned by name every five or six pages and by implication in almost every strip.

If you don’t remember the original news stories, will you still chortle over every page? Probably. If you don’t get a joke, you’re sure to find someone who can explain it. Real cats don’t have underarm sweat glands; real penguins don’t look like Opus, either. According to the stereotype of the 1980s, Vietnam veterans like John  (the most sensible man in Bloom County) were supposed to be the drugged-out wrecks; in Bloom County that social function is taken over by Bill. But Mary Kay cosmetics, which were marketed by and to church ladies, really were “tested” by torturing animals just like Revlon and Max Factor, and there really were religious conflicts, in some Protestant families, between women (stereotypically the daughters) who boycotted the cosmetics for that reason and women (stereotypically the mothers) who wanted to support fellow church ladies’ business. If he’d had a wife or a sister, Breathed might have been able to exploit the further irony that the real reason why girls like me didn’t buy Mary Kay was that smearing any “moist” stuff on our faces aggravated our acne…unfortunately this comedic element was missing even from the full sequence that was published as Night of the Mary Kay Commandos.

However, as with Pogo and Charlie Brown, the humor of these cartoons is so universal that missing a few topical points wouldn’t keep you from enjoying the book. Steve’s “sensitive” phase was part of a trend, but it’s funny because Steve’s only lovable quality is his complete ignorance of what True Love might be. Opus’s persecution reflects 1980s fear of the influence of the Religious Right, but it’s funny because the children and animals care about each other.

Most of the people who wanted this collection already have it, and now it’s possible to get the five-volume collection of Bloom County reprints here…

Classics of Western Literature is, however, a collector’s item and a Fair Trade Book, not to mention being a valuable source of pre-campaign jokes. To buy it online here, send $5 per book + $5 per copy to either address at the lower left-hand corner of the screen, and I’ll send $1 per book to Breathed or the charity of his choice.

This Morguefile book review cat is much cleverer than Bill…

blogjob cat

Jobs, Health, Miscellaneous Wailing

Grandma Bonnie Peters, my partner in Webstuff, has pneumonia. Like most healthy seniors she’s had the most difficulty realizing that she’s ill–alternately exaggerating symptoms when she admits she’s having them, and ignoring risks until the symptoms do get scary. For a singer who’s been invited to lead a section in another church’s choir because she does such an inspiring job in her own, “no singing and no church” has been a blow. GBP likes Seventh-Day Adventists, likes Presbyterians, and really misses church.

Then there’s not being able to walk a mile or two a day with her best same-age buddy, whose memory is generally pretty good, but who did forget, on Monday, why GBP had asked her not to come over to check on GBP and invite her out for a walk. I looked up from the computer, saw (with my astigmatism) a stooped little person with white hair in the door, thought “When did GBP get up?”, and then focussed clearly enough to notice…short white hair? GBP’s hair is still long enough to pin up…Of course, this friend has keys to this house and GBP has keys to hers. Go away, please, don’t let us breathe on you, I thought. The friend had come to report that yet another healthy senior neighbor had been hospitalized with MRSA. Apparently that news had shaken the idea that she should avoid GBP and me out of her mind, but at least she had remembered not to walk to the hospital and visit him.

From time to time I have to remind myself and others that I’m not twenty-five any more…actually, the feeling of energy being drained, by the virus and by concern about GBP, is similar to the way I normally felt when I was twenty-five and was draining my own energy by eating wheat products. Plus, at twenty-five, I planned on being too anemic to do physical work or be around sick people for approximately forty days out of the year, as so many young women do. So I felt this bad most of the time, and often felt worse, when I was twenty-five.

For active, healthy women, midlife is very liberating. Within limits. I see GBP and her friend positively seething with frustration that they, or anyone they know who’s not an invalid, need to think seriously about a mere staph infection.

Last week I never came down with any obvious symptoms, but a summary of what people are saying about baby strollers took as much time and effort as I’d planned to spend recopying and polishing fifty pieces of Bad Poetry, or might have spent, some other week, cranking out six similar product reviews, plus book reviews, an editorial rant, a phenology post, and Link Logs. Everything felt like “Eight Mile Road.” This is the way I usually experience life when virus infections are going around.

Can anything be learned from this wail? Yes, of course. I’m not always a fast worker–in fact, when I have to think about a task, I’m slow–but I am an energetic, focussed, borderline workaholic, and here I am, looking exactly like a lazy person. The difference is not always easy to see. Even when it’s possible to see a consistent difference, over time, between lazy and industrious people, laziness may originate in some kind of minor illness or disability. Even if the person has learned lazy habits or failed to develop efficient ones, or even lost the ability to do a job, those things are likely to be complications from a physical illness or disability. So we should be charitable about people we perceive as lazy, if not necessarily tolerant of lazy habits on a job.

Image released into the public domain by WackoJacko at Wikipedia:

Book Review: American Patchwork Quilts

Title: American Patchwork Quilts

Author: Lenice Ingram Bacon

Date: 1973

Publisher: Bonanza / Crown / Morrow

ISBN: 0-517-30940-8

Length: 190 pages

Illustrations: many full-page photos

Quote: “In that section of Tennessee where I grew up in the early part of the twentieth century, quilts still served…We had a goodly supply for ‘everyday wear,’ but they were not made at home. They were made by the Witt sisters.”

Lenice Ingram Bacon has collected stories of individual quilts and quilters to flesh out, and sometimes debunk, familiar stereotypes. I could wish she’d debunked the stereotype of “the areas of Appalachia”—a fine and scenic town, but too small to occupy many “areas.” However, Bacon was concentrating on quilts rather than general history, and her book is full of interesting anecdotes about European as well as American textiles.

Both typical and unusual quilts have been documented in this book. There’s a lovely, patchwork-appliqued, finely stitched “Pineapple Quilt” made in China, by order of a rich American, in 1791; an unfinished “crazy quilt” looking crazy indeed after a hundred years of wear and tear; a bizarre applique piece in which the figures represent scenes from history and the Bible, but few could be recognized without a page of written explanations, which was fortunately preserved in the same museum.

Anecdotes from quilting history make this book an entertaining read, and large, colorful photos make it an inspiring collection for quilters who feel confident enough to make their own templates. So it can be recommended to anyone interested in quilts.

Lenice Ingram Bacon is remembered in the Quilters’ Hall of Fame ( Since she is no longer living, American Patchwork Quilts is not a Fair Trade Book. You may still buy it online here for $5 per book + $5 per package, payable to either of the addresses in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.

Quilt graphic courtesy of Morguefile: