Friday, August 19, 2016

Scooby Doo Haiku

Photo by Michael Davis January 1983
Ruh roh there, Shaggy
What have you been doing here?
The snacks are all gone
 
Photo: by Michael Davis, January 1983, Fayetteville, TN

Friday, August 12, 2016

Haiku #37 - The Sea

The sea is so wide
My compass is ever true
Destination sure
 
Photo: Taken by Michael Davis, 1989-1991, probably in the Persian Gulf

Friday, August 5, 2016

Little Boy, Big Girl, Gray World: A Review of William Faulkner's The Reivers

   

  When in the course of a boy’s life it becomes necessary to encounter an adult version of integrity or the lack thereof, said boy is nearly always at a disadvantage. None of the teachers, parents, or pastors he has had in his life can anticipate such a thing, or if they can, they certainly cannot know when it will occur and when it is appropriate to prepare the boy for it. And perhaps there is no preparing for it, and all any boy can expect to have at his disposal is his education for handling the child version of integrity, which is really the mere distinction between right and wrong. It is wrong to lie always, and to steal and to cheat. Adults take such concepts and twist them into Gordian knots that take seventy years of wisdom, or eighty if strong, to unravel. In short, the world is gray. But being deficient of such years, said boy is deficient of the information he needs to make the right decision. In fact, by the time he realizes there is a decision to make, and the gravity of it, the time when deciding is efficacious may have passed. Faulkner’s Lucius is that boy.
     The story is told as seen through the eyes of eleven-year-old Lucius Priest. However, the speaker is actually the decades-older Lucius, spinning a tale of his youth for his grandson. This older speaker is able to use the benefit of wisdom to comment on his early encounters with mature decisions:
When grown people speak of the innocence of children, they dont [sic] really know what they mean. Pressed, they will go a step further and say, Well, ignorance then. The child is neither. There is no crime which a boy of eleven had not envisaged long ago. His only innocence is, he may not yet be old enough to desire the fruits of it, which is not innocence but appetite; his ignorance is, he does not know how to commit it, which is not ignorance but size.[1]
It is easy to forget the maturity of the speaker, until one encounters in the narrative, comparisons of early twentieth century events with the technology of modernity, a proliferation of automobiles and airplanes flying in formation, which bring us back to the timeframe of the older speaker. Fiction writers often favor child speakers because of their clarity, the lack of knots in their sense of integrity. Though we can remember significant events of youth in detail, the perspective of childhood is immediately lost. This is why history is written, and does not simply exist in factual data. In this story, we have the benefit of seeing events through Lucius’s young eyes, while hearing the voice of a deeper experience.
     Lucius is what Faulkner, in a letter to his publisher, called “a normal boy”[2]. This is important in its contrast with the two other main characters, Boon Hogganbeck and Ned McCaslin. He is normal in the sense that Faulkner’s readers identify with him. He is intelligent and educated. Boon is mentally challenged, Ned suffers from all of the cultural disadvantages of being a black man in the early twentieth century, including a lack of formal education, and though he is perhaps the wisest of the three, he tends to use his wisdom for iniquitous ends. Boon and Ned have the advantage of experience in adult integrity. This contrast provides a significant portion of the humor in the story.
     Faulkner stands up Lucius, then proceeds to throw all manner of sinfulness at him. Lying to his relatives, stealing a car, the crooked mule driver, the brothel that becomes his temporary home, corrupt lawmen, gambling, and a knife fight, --Memphis!--all in the space of a few days. His only age-appropriate companion, Otis, is no more “normal” than any of the adults sharing Lucius’s adventure. He never has a chance. In such a whirlwind, the only thing a decent boy can do is sail with said wind until he can hold on to something against it.
What priorities does Lucius have? What virtues are most important to stand up for in the whirlwind of vice that befalls this Mississippi boy unbridled in Tennessee? There seem to be two. One is defense of those who are good, but vulnerable and trod upon. The “big girl,” Everbe, named perhaps for her perseverance in the face of hard knocks, is the victim he must stand up for. Her bigness means that small things don’t matter as much, and also that she, or what she represents, is important. Lucius's defense of her, as much as an eleven-year-old could muster against bigger, more experienced men with their version of the law on their side, is decisive. The other virtue is fortitude to finish what one starts. Lucius rode the horse Lightning (Coppermine) with great skill and obedience, and made some people a great deal of money, but the money was of no concern. He was driven to finish his job. And once he had stepped over a moral line by lying his way into a stolen car, there was no turning back until he had completed his task, even though he had no idea he was going to be a jockey when he left Jefferson, Mississippi, nor did anyone else. But that was how events came about.
Faulkner was no stranger to vice. He lied about his military service in World War I, and was a hard drinker when he was not writing. But he had a place in his heart for the vulnerable and trod upon, particularly blacks. In The Reivers, their race is perhaps represented by Everbe more than by Ned or any of the other black characters. For her whole existence in this story, her demeanor is that of one bothered by the lack of consideration, even from Boon, who just knows he wants her, whether it is as a whore or a wife. It does not seem to make a difference to him until he is forced to decide. She is used by her Madame, Reba, for financial gain. She does not seem to have a say in what happens to her, and carries a heavy burden in the person of the infamous boy Otis. What better stand-in for people of color? Meanwhile, blacks and whites mix thoroughly in Faulkner’s world, not unlike they do in the real South. All are participants in the story, participants in life together. To set one race apart would be like eliminating the letters, or the page beneath them, from the book. Half of the world would be gone. So Everbe, ever existing, is the oppressed. Ever is she present, not taking anything away from the hilarious journey of Lucius, Boon, and Ned.



[1] William Faulkner, The Reivers (New York: Vintage International, 1999), 46-47.
[2] Ibid., 95.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer Haiku: Blues and Greens

 

 Photo by Davis Falk


So fragile and small
How do such flowers not fall
In the summer heat

Friday, July 22, 2016

Release Announcement: New eBook The Spaceport Was Empty Comes Out Today!

I am proud to announce the release of my new short story The Spaceport Was Empty, now available for immediate download or online viewing at Amazon.com.


Sis is a nine-year-old girl. She is going on a journey with her mother, brother Sim and Old Dev. It starts out as a routine trip to Louisville but soon takes a galactic turn. In the course of the journey, Sis learns that her mother has secrets. Her mother discovers a wild secret about her old flame. Will they ever get to Louisville? Will these characters manage to survive a trip in close company with each other? Click to find out. This is a humorous story in which old country ways mix with futuristic fantasy. It is mostly about the characters, though, and you'll find yourself immersed in their fears, secrets, wonderment, and comical conflict as you follow them from home to another planet and through all of the twists and turns in between.

Friday, July 15, 2016

My New eBook: The Spaceport Was Empty

I am preparing my next eBook for publication and I wanted to give you a preview of it. Here is a sneak peek of this short story. It is my first attempt at Southern literary style. It is told from the point of view of a nine-year-old girl and is suitable for anyone aged 9 and over. I hope you enjoy it.

 An Excerpt from The Spaceport Was Empty

 
“Are we there?” I said, hardly believing it was possible.

“We’re somewhere,” said Old Dev, looking out the tiny window, his eyes darting back and forth. “But it ain’t Louisville, and it ain’t home.” I never quite knew what Old Dev meant when he said things like that. Telling me where we ain’t, instead of telling me where are. Just then Mother walked by fast and furious, like a bat out of Hell. “Oh-oh,” Old Dev said, his hands on the armrests, trying to decide whether he needed to get up. Suddenly we heard shouting, coming from the direction of the cockpit. Mother and the Captain were at it again, even louder than before. When he heard the commotion in the cockpit, Old Dev got up and squeezed past me. I looked around. Some of the passengers were fanning themselves, though it wasn’t hot. Some were asleep with blankets over them. Kids were playing games and reading books. These people had no idea what was going on and neither did Sim, who was staring straight ahead like an old heifer chewing her cud in the middle of the dang day. But they didn’t care either. Maybe they knew something I didn’t know. Maybe it had something to do with the powder room. Whatever it was, Old Dev didn’t know either, because he was up front with Mother and The Captain doing something.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Not for Dummies

The consistency in the Dummies series has a lot more to do with formatting than textual content. From the beginning of the series in 1991,1 different authors and editors have been used for different books. And now that there are gazillions of titles offering instruction in everything from fishing to Einstein, such consistency would be near impossible. So you never know just what you're going to get. The reviewed version is written by Joe Duarte, author of a number of trading books, For Dummies and otherwise. It was published last year, an update of the 2008 original by George Fontanills.

The reason this book is not for dummies is that the subject is so complex. Only one page is needed to explain the different types of options, but how to use them, and when to use them take more than a cursory look. For the math-averse, it is even more difficult. With that in mind, the book does give a good description of these concepts. It is more of a reference than a how-to book.

I have two complaints about the book. One is that it covers much more than options. Many pages are devoted to stock trading and technical analysis. My second negative is the graphs. Though they are explained adequately by the text, the lack of color (common to the Dummies series) makes them very difficult to read, and impossible to decipher without the description in the body of the text.

I became interested in trading options while watching the Tasty Trade network. I have used them in a limited fashion to reduce the cost of my stock trades. This isn't really trading as I would define it, but it works for what I am trying to do. For this reason I think anyone who actively manages his own investments should consider the most basic of option strategies. Trading options as a stand-alone method of making money requires a lot of attention, at least thirty minutes each day. Because the subject is so complex, even professional option traders generally stick to one or two strategies that they get to know well. For the time being, I am not willing to devote such time to the task. One surprising fact I have learned is that options trading takes less capital as an initial investment. So individual "retail" investors are not excluded from trading, and in fact may have an advantage over large institutions, because the size of their trades can affect prices and even the direction of underlying stock price movement.

If you are all about options trading, this would be a nice addition to your library. But it is not for the faint of heart. Be ready to put on your thinking cap and whip out your calculator.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Dummies