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Take my short tour of the “Endless Dese


Take my short tour of the “Endless Desert of the Mind.” And let me know if you agree. At: http://wp.me/1z7F0

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Behold, The Endless Desert of the Mind!


Television in the desertWhen I was just a boy (really showing my age here) our television brought three channels into our home:  CBS, NBC and ABC. (I’m not going to comment on whether any of those shows were in color!)
Today, we literally have hundreds of channels to choose from. Cable television’s potential is enormous; the reality, however, is something else again.
Fire up your TV and what do you get? You can shop for tchotchkes from the comfort of your living room; watch fat people compete at growing thin; snicker as beautiful, shallow women throw themselves at equally handsome, equally shallow men. You can catch yet another History2 pseudo-history, pseudo-science exploration of  “ancient aliens,” or watch Harry Reid impersonate a mortician on C-SPAN. With 24 of Kippling’s “waking hours” to fill each day, what do cable news channels do? They run recasts, repeats and retreads of the same people reporting on the same stories, over and over again; then, on Sundays the talking heads take over to discuss modern political minutiae: who made a fool out of himself this week?; who’s not playing ball?; whose negative campaign ad deserves a raspberry? We may as well be listening to medieval pundits theorizing about how many angels they can squeeze onto the head of a pin!
With all the problems America faces: Runaway debt, depression-era unemployment levels, Wallstreet Banksters roaming free … and gambling away billions more on casino-banking bets; the first spooky signs of global warming; mounting poverty and inequality, the rise of the American police state, and much, much more — what won’t you find on television? Shockingly, you won’t find a single program, in a single time slot, that’s devoted to honestly, seriously and creatively examining — or even acknowledging — the real challenges we face as a nation. And you won’t find anyone bringing informed intelligent people together to brainstorm fresh, new solutions!
In this endless desert of the mind that we have created, no one is bathing in an oasis of fresh ideas. No one is doing the hard work, and the creative thinking, that could lead to progress. Instead, we are expected to trudge along through this oppressively hot, dry expanse as those responsible for creating Cable’s content line up to throw fistfuls of sand at us!
The problem is, we take it. No one complains about the enormous waste of intellectual resources. No one reaches for the phone to complain when network anchors continuously under report our real unemployment rate (now hovering at about 22 percent, rather than 8.2 percent), or when our policy leaders (Dems and Reps alike) keep dragging out the same old, debunked, thread-bare ideas of trickle-down riches (really?!) and “quantitative easing,” when what we really need are bold, dynamic “take no prisoners” ideas — like an enforced, maximum 32-hour work week that would instantly create new job openings for many in our idled workforce; or changes to our tax codes that would allow individuals to depreciate their intellectual capital (education investments) the way businesses currently depreciate job-killing investments in equipment; or a call to restore the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that wisely excluded commercial banks from all the high-risk activities that caused economic ruin in 1929 — and our latest global economic crisis. Glass-Steagall kept Wall Street — and Main Street — safe for 60 years until the Banking Lobby convinced Congress and President Clinton to overturn it in 1994. Now, look where we are!
If we want television programmers to start focusing on creating shows that help solve our problems rather than mindlessly supporting our leaders’ efforts to hide the facts, we must to act. Pick up your phone and call CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, etc., etc. and demand that they up their games.

Remember, that mirage we see glistening on the desert horizon is as bone-dry as the scorching hot sands under our feet. If we continue to live a lie and bury our heads in the sand, thinking our problems will somehow fix themselves, while we settle for cheap cable tv diversions, we will be in for a sobering surprise.

Get real … and make them get real, too. Then, happier days could be ahead.  Your thoughts?

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Today We Remember the Nameless, Faceless Dead


A View of the Hall of Remembrance

A view of the Yad Vashem Hall of Remembrance

After Israeli agents captured Adolf Eichmann, in 1960, and charged him with crimes against humanity for his role in implementing Hitler’s Final Solution, the unrepentant former Nazi head of Jewish deportations shared several revealing anecdotes with his captors concerning events from those dark days.

One story eventually found its way into CIA files, only to resurface, after declassification, in a 2009 National Archives report about Nazi War Criminals, U.S. intelligence agencies and the Cold War. The story has special significance for all of us who pause today, on Yom Hashoah, to remember victims of The Holocaust. It also further refutes the efforts of the stubborn, hateful few, who despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, continue to insist that The Holocaust never happened.

Eichmann told his captors that while he was in Budapest “sometime” in the fall of 1944, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, ordered him to prepare a report about the exact number of Jews the Nazis had killed since taking power in 1933. Because he did not run the death camps or command the death squads in the field, a point Eichmann, no doubt, wished to impress upon his interrogators, he said he had to rely on estimates previously reported by concentration camp commandants and death-squad unit heads in order to prepare a proper report.

The number of murdered Jews Eichmann eventually reported to Himmler was six million. Of these, he said, two-thirds (or 4 million) had died in the camps while the remaining 2 million perished during special killing actions conducted near their homes in Poland and Russia.

Eichmann submitted his report and waited. Eventually, Himmler’s assistant, Hoettl, informed him that his boss was dissatisfied, claiming that the numbers had to be higher. Himmler then ordered Eichmann to forward a copy of the report to the head of his statistical office (apparently, so that he could review and revise it.)

Himmler, who had been closely involved in implementing the Final Solution, believed Eichmann had grossly underestimated the efficiency of the Nazi killing machine. Six million murdered Jews? The number, he insisted, was not even close.

The six-million dead included one million Jewish children, two million Jewish women and three million Jewish men, two-thirds of the estimated nine million Jews living in Europe prior to the war. They represented civilian deaths — unarmed people who the Nazis had singled out for slaughter, slavery and endless brutality strictly because of their familial and religious heritage.

The estimated number of dead may not have been sufficient to satisfy Himmler’s blood lust, but 6 million already is so large an amount that it is truly hard to fathom. How do we put it into perspective? If it took just three seconds to repeat each victim’s name aloud, a single person, reading the names of the dead non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a memorial service would need 208 and a third days — or nearly seven sleepless months — in which to complete the task. Of course, no single person’s voice or body could for long withstand the strain such a task would impose, so hundreds, perhaps thousands of individuals would, in actuality, be required to work, in tandem, to complete the vigil.

With each passing generation, The Holocaust’s profound loss of life compounds itself through the conspicuous absence of millions of victim descendants. The six-million Jews who perished under the Nazis represent unspeakable tragedy and pain, horrifying in its scope and impossible, even for the living, to comprehend fully.

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Look Here for Fantasy/Horror Author Interview Tomorrow


December 2, 2011 — Fantasy/Horror readers, get ready for tomorrow’s interview with author Todd Russell. You’ll find it right here at http://www.writeatyou.wordpress.com

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Review: Gather ‘Round The Campfire for a Howling Good Time … of Horror, Fear & Fantasy


Review: Gather ‘Round The Campfire for a Howling Good Time … of Horror, Fear & Fantasy.

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Review: Gather ‘Round The Campfire for a Howling Good Time … of Horror, Fear & Fantasy


Flash O'Lantern: 13+ Stories
Flash O’Lantern: 13+ Stories by Todd Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you loved sitting around a campfire, as a kid, and spinning quick yarns to scare the ‘bejeezus’ out of your friends, then you’ll really enjoy Flash O’Lantern: 13+ Stories, a collection of flash fiction tales by horror writer/novelist Todd Russell.

Flash O’Lantern presents 13 Flash horror stories interspersed with Russell’s own thematically-related commentaries about memorable October events and trivia. The stories deliver quick, light, entertaining reads, and the commentaries provide plenty of great water-cooler conversational grist. Together they make Flash O’Lantern particularly good reading for people on the go. Here are my four favorite flash fiction offerings from the book:

Brush is the creepy story of a homeless guy who, let’s say, bites off more than he can chew, when he hijacks a kid’s Halloween goody bag. ( I think the National Dental Associationshould purchase reprint rights to this one and distribute them in dental offices nationwide.)

Ghost?!

Graveyard Crazies offers a fun, yet spooky, take on working the mid-night (graveyard) shift in a supermarket. (Great atmospherics, and some well-done tension-relieving humor.)
Remdee Gate won me over immediately with the imaginative concept of the gate itself – an altogether new idea that I’ve never come across before in sci-fi/horror fantasy writing.
And finally, I found Rachel’s Number to be a quick, but haunting, story.

Todd is currently offering Flash O’Lanterns: 13+ Stories for FREE at Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/98723 . I’d quickly grab a copy before his mercenary tendencies take over!

Other Important Todd Russell Links:

Books:

Mental Shrillness – An earlier collection of Todd’s short stories

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/49957

Fresh Flesh – Todd’s debut psychological thriller, horror novel

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/92524

Blog:

Connect with Todd Russell Online

Official Website

http://toddrwrite.com/

Email

todd@toddrwrite.com

Facebook

http://facebook.com/booksbytoddrussell

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Todd_Russell

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Lost Souls, Byzantium and the Anti-Christ: Meet Author Athanasios Galanis


Athanasios Galanis

Athanasios Galanis, author of the Mad-Gods series.

If you believe there’s more to the world than meets the eye, and if you have a fondness for the occult, history, fantasy and horror, then the Mad-Gods series, by Athanasios Galanis, may be just what the doctor ordered. Athanasios is a Canadian born graphic designer/writer and perpetual student of life whose imagination occupies a multidimensional world that serves as a crossroads for ancient spirits and modern men. It’s a place where current and past events interact forming a living background for the ongoing struggle between the agents of good and evil, of prophecy, treachery, intrigue and divinity. I’m pleased to introduce you to the subject of today’s author interview: Athanasios Galanis.

1.       Athanasios, what got you started writing what I’m going to call historical/fantasy novels?

I haven’t written anything else.  So the singular would apply here and to be specific what I write is what I would read. The Predatory Ethics story that begins with Mad Gods is not intentionally cross genre but it is Occult/Thriller/Historical/Fantasy/Horror because those are the subjects that interest me.

2.       How would you define your genre, and what do you find most compelling and challenging about writing in it?

I define it as Occult/Thriller/Historical/Fantasy/Horror and the most compelling thing about writing it is seeing how the themes and subjects I explore really do affect my thinking in the same way as the separate subjects have affected me in the past. To me the best examples of those genres explain and illustrate life and reality as nothing else can. I try and do that with Predatory Ethics.  Hopefully it comes through.

Amazon link. Click to buy.

Amazon link. Click to buy.

My inspiration comes from everywhere.  Mostly from documentaries and books about religion, history, myths, psychology, and the subjects I stated earlier. My writing process is sitting down and writing out in a steno pad whatever comes into my head. It’s mostly stream of consciousness but I always have a rough outline to follow but not adhere to. That is my first draft that I end up typing into my computer as the second draft. Once that’s finished I print it out double-spaced and edit and revise what ends up being my third draft. I then update the computer version from the revised printed copy and that’s my process.

4.       When did you know you were going to be a writer? Was there a specific incident or triggering incident? And how did that knowledge make you feel?

I want to tell this story, I didn’t think about being a writer or not, the idea never entered my head.  I thought this was a really captivating idea. I want to transcend and make readers feel and think as I did, and still do when I read a great story.

5.       Balzac had a simple method for staying focused and churning out copy: He chained himself to his desk and consumed endless cups of coffee? What’s your technique?

No great technique, I “just do it,” with respect to Nike.  I’ve worked as a graphic artist for most of my adult life so I know that you’ve got to keep plugging and knowing that if you’re dedicated to something you keep doing it when you’re not inspired.  Inspiration makes the process easy, it’s doing it when it’s just not coming out and it feels like you’re fighting yourself that shows dedication to what you want to say.

6.       How long did it take you to write Mad-Gods? Is the book cycle (5 books) complete yet? If not, how many more volumes do you plan to write?

It took nearly 20 years from the first germs of the ideas inherent in the wider story arc. I don’t know if the book cycle is more or less than 5 books.

7.       What were the biggest challenges you faced in writing the Mad-Gods books?

The biggest challenges were and still are doing it in my spare time. I so hope and wish to be doing this as a full time endeavor that will keep me comfortable and happy.

8.       Since the books are set — at least in the beginning — in Constantinople/Istanbul — how did you research the area: it’s streets, there appearance, the traditions, history and language, etc.?

Some of it came from the myths and background stories I grew up with. My family was always talking about how we Greeks used to have a great empire called Byzantium and the golden capital of Kostadinoupoli.  Whatever I didn’t know I researched online. Thank the gods for Google.

9.       How much time, if any, did you actually spend there?

None.

10.     Do you have a favorite passage from your book? If so, would you share it with us here and tell us what is it about it that has such special significance for you?

Yes. It’s short and encapsulates my day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute thoughts that I finally wrote down and still shake my head at how on the mark it was about me. “Endurance is overrated. I wish I were weaker and able to endure far less.”

11.     What writers have influenced you the most in your writing career and in developing your writing style? What, specifically was it about them that captured your attention and imagination?

I don’t know if they’ve influenced my style but they did influence my desire to affect people the way they did me.  The first was Michael Moorcock and his Eternal Champion series.  It showed me how expansive imagination could be with the wonder and fantasy that was on every page. The next was Mary Renault who showed me that our own world, whether it was history or our own time could be and was as full of wonder, fantasy, danger and transcendence as in any fiction.

12.     Why did you choose to take the Indie route in publishing your books? How satisfying has it been so far? And what lessons have you learned about indie publishing that you’d like to share with others?

I chose indie because there was no other avenue. I’ve gotten nothing but rejections from agents and publishers. It’s been critically satisfying but little else. The only lesson I’ve learned was learned a long time before my indie publishing, keep trying and do anything and everything to make your work reach paying readers.

13.     What book marketing efforts have you found to be most effective?

Do whatever crosses your path. Everything.  Plenty of time to be discriminating once you’ve gotten SOME recognition.

14.     What valuable lessons have you learned about self-publishing that you’d care to share with other writers?

Fake it till you make it.

15.     What is it that you want most readers to get out of reading your books? What do they tell you about their experience?

I would like readers to think about reality and what life is. Lofty goals I know but that’s not my specific intent, I just hope that the story will do that.

16.     What other books have you currently got “in development?”

I just finished Commitment, the second part of Predatory Ethics.  It’s being edited and I hope to have it up by Halloween. I’ve started In Who To Trust, the third part. I don’t know where that will lead me, but I’m excited to find out.

Thanks, Athanasios, for giving our readers a deeper insight into your books, your character and your thoughts!

Links to:

Website: www.mad-gods.com

Blog: www.mad-gods.com/blog

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pu2O4StE8DQ


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How to Get the U.S. Economy Humming Again Without More Deficit Spending


“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”  — Abraham Lincoln

Today, Wall Street breathed a collective sigh of relief. The July employment numbers came out, and they exceeded expectations. Instead of generating 85,000 new jobs, businesses managed to fill 117,000 new positions. The added jobs brought the ‘official’ unemployment rate down to 9.1 percent and signaled that we might yet avoid a second economic contraction. The economy has stabilized, and that’s something. But we still have a long way to go. (It takes 120,000 net new jobs each month, experts say, just to keep up with our ever-growing workforce.)

So, three years and nine months into this economic morass, we’re still stuck in neutral. What, if anything, you may ask, will it finally take to get us back in gear, zipping down the road to recovery? In my opinion, it will take two things: honesty from our public officials and a single brief, but decisive, piece of workplace reform legislation.

First, our elected officials need to level with us about the true nature of the economic mess we’re in. They could start by acknowledging that the ‘Great Recession‘ is, in actuality, a depression. (Since our difficulties began, back in December of 2007, the U.S. Gross Domestic Product has shrunk by more than 10 percent — a key determiner of a depression. Second, our real unemployment rate is approximately 22 percent — or 2.5 times the ‘officially’ acknowledged rate of 9.1 percent. The government’s severe under reporting stems from its insistence on using an inaccurate unemployment measure, known as U3. U3’s formula accurately estimates unemployment rates in mild recessions, but it does a poor job during longer, deeper economic contractions, such as this one.

Once the government acknowledges the true depth and breadth of our economic problems, the need for decisive political action will become clear. With one in five Americans either unemployed or seriously under-employed and the rest worried that a shaky recovery could fall apart and put their own jobs at risk, it’s no wonder that consumer confidence has remained so low, for so long. Consumers will not start spending again and lifting us out of this depression until we put them back to work in secure, stable, good-paying jobs.

One sad irony of major economic downturns like this one is that businesses learn, out of necessity, to operate far leaner at the outset, when the deepest economic contractions occur. Afterwards, when the major danger has passed, many of them no longer feel compelled to expand their payrolls. It happened during the Great Depression and it’s happening now. Only today, we have computers and powerful software apps multiplying the employment dampening effects of our productivity gains. We also have tax code capital-depreciation incentives acting as accelerants.

The combination of a constricted economy and sharp productivity gains has produced a severe oversupply of workers. The solution — and it’s an elegant one — is to limit the amount of time anyone can work, by adopting a 4-day, 32-hour work week for all Americans — hourly and salaried workers alike. An employer who asks anyone to work longer hours would need to pay double-time.  And the law should have teeth: stiff fines and even prison terms for employers who violate it. We also should roll it out in stages over a period of months.

Numerous researchers already have shown that a 32-hour work week actually increases worker productivity. And the additional day of leisure time would allow people to pursue extra career training,  spend more quality time with their families or get back into the habit of spending money as economy-stimulating consumers.

Before you dismiss the idea of a shorter work week out of hand, consider this: The five-day, 40-hour work week has only been with us since the end of World War II. During the first half of the 20th century most Americans worked 8 hours a day, six days a week. In the 19th century workdays of 10, 14  even 16 hours were common. Shorter work weeks have been recognized, repeatedly, as a civilizing benefit of heightened workplace productivity.

Both Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt tried to institute 30-hour work weeks to promote employment during the Great Depression, but their independent efforts failed to pass Congress. But with democrats and republicans now firmly committed to reducing the national debt, this might be the ideal time for them to pass such a measure.

America’s cash-rich businesses can clearly afford it. After all, aren’t they collectively sitting on an estimated $2.5 trillion dollars in cash? This is probably the best investment they could make in restoring the national economy and growing their domestic markets.

All we need to do now is get our elected officials to champion this simple measure and demonstrate their willingness to serve the people, advance economic recovery and secure prosperity for all Americans. Are you with me?

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Have They Turned Prez Obama into another Oval Office ‘Bubble Boy?’


Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

Image via Wikipedia

On May 22, 2011, I went to the official White House website (http://whitehouse.gov) and dropped President Obama a line. I sent an email congratulating him on some of his more courageous actions to date and urged him to criminally prosecute the Wall Street investment bankers who brought the U.S. and global economies to their knees. I suggested that, should he fail to do so, future historians might construe that as  ‘proof’ of the moral bankruptcy of his administration. I then checked off the box at the bottom of the web page requesting a reply. That was more than nine weeks ago, and I’m still waiting to hear something. (At this point, even an acknowledgement of receipt would be nice!)

All of this  makes me wonder: “Has Obama remained ‘approachable’ and ‘accessible’ to the people — one of his stated goals as a newly elected President — or has he allowed his coterie of ‘handlers’, many of whom are now former Wall Street insiders, to do what handlers do:  Have they cut him off from the people? Do they now tightly control, and filter, his exposure to the public? Furthermore, could they be doing this for their own benefit or for the benefit of their friends and former associates?  Has Chief of Staff William Daley succeeded in reducing President Obama to just one more Oval Office ‘Bubble Boy?’

The answer depends on who William Daley is and where his true allegiances may lie. A member of Chicago’s Daley clan, William is heir to one of our nation’s most powerful Democratic political machines. But he’s also a former vice chairman at JPMorgan Chase, America’s second largest bank, in terms of total assets. Mr. Daley ran the bank’s Corporate Responsibility division, which managed its relationships with lobbyists and government officials. He was still in that position, last January, when President Obama appointed him White House chief of staff.

Let’s not forget who we’re dealing with here. Daley worked with bank lobbyists, the same people who, in recent years, pursued greed-inspired policies that ravaged American consumers. It was the bank lobbyists, operating at the directives of people like Daley, who convinced Congress to “reform” (translation:” eviscerate”) personal bankruptcy laws. They also got elected officials to:

  • Sanction usurious credit-card interest rates
  • Bless unfair, one-sided credit-card contracts and predatory banking fee structures
  • Remove virtually all consumer protections and operational constraints on banks
  • Leave the emerging derivative and credit-default-swap markets unregulated — an omission that lead directly to the global economic collapse.

At the time of his appointment, Daley owned $7.2 million in JPMorgan Chase stock. His Wall Street background and stock holdings raised concerns. In January, 2011, Simon Johnson, a professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management and a former economist with the International Monetary Fund, told the Huffington Post that the bank’s financial tentacles extended into “anything and everything.” He said it was therefore “essential” that Daley sell his interest in the company, if he wanted to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. Johnson warned, “Bill Daley now controls how information is presented to, and decisions are made by, the President.”

Should the President ever see my email and then decide to act on it, bank share prices certainly might fall, but Mr. Daley’s person stock — as a negotiator and fixer — could plummet.  His former Wall Street brethren would know that he had failed to rein in federal prosecutors  on his watch as White House chief of staff.

As I thought about this, I imagined some White House staffer dutifully pressing “delete” and sending my email slipping into cyber oblivion, along with thousands of other anti-Wall Street missives directed to the President. Is it possible that what President Obama now believes to be the ‘authentic’ voice of the people expresses only those thoughts acceptable to the men and women who surround him?

If you were Bill Daley, and you had the power to filter what the President saw, what would you do?  That, my friends, is the nature of the problem we may now face.

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Book Bloggers: Share Your Review Preferences with Indie Authors


Books about survey research and survey design.

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Save time. Avoid needless headaches. Take our short, 9-question survey and let Indie authors know the kind of books you want to review and the format you want your review copies in! We will post your results on Write@You!, a blog about fiction, indie publishing, politics and the ‘writing life.’

Just follow this link to the survey form!

This survey is currently open to the first 100 book bloggers to respond.

© Jonathan S. Reisfeld and Write @ You!, 2011. (See full statement in footer.)

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