Friday, December 23, 2016

Guest Post: The Mystery of Christmas by Michael G. Davis

   Jesus came to us like we all come 
to our parents in a particular place;
and nothing can erase the reality
that he came to us from the Jewish race,
   Even if it made a difference to Some.

   It's suppose to happen this way
according to the old prophetic sages;
so, searching the Scriptures was the 
way of knowing a truth known from Ages.
   At least, that's what Church folks say

  It's really a Mystery how Jesus came to be
the incarnation of God a fully Human person
and fully divine.  Jesus give a fully human
face to God. That's hard to believe and reason;
  But, a transcendent Spirit takes us to Thee. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

‘A Series of Lies’: A Review of Seymour M. Hersh’s The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

“High-level lying nevertheless remains the modus operandi of US policy, along with secret prisons, drone attacks, Special Forces night raids, bypassing the chain of command, and cutting out those who might say no.” This is the thesis of Seymour M. Hersh’s The Killing of Osama Bin Laden. Strong words about President Barak Obama. At first glance this seems a politicized attack against Obama, but Hersh delivers a barrage of facts derived from multiple sources, some named and some not, with journalistic density.

Hersh is a veteran critic of government action, with impressive credentials, including a Pulitzer-prize-winning exposé of the Mai Lai massacre in Viet Nam. A cover blurb from Guardian calls him “The most feared investigative reporter in Washington.”

The Killing of Osama Bin Laden is a 124-page compilation from articles written by Hersh for the London Review of Books. In it, he addresses the raid on the Bin Laden compound in which Bin Laden was killed, the intelligence actions leading up to it, and the allegedly fabricated cover story that was disseminated afterward. The remainder of the book deals with Obama policies regarding Syria, alleging they are helping more than hurting extremists in the war-torn country. Hersh makes some rather grave predictions about the future of terrorism if these policies continue. Quoting a scholar who served in the defense department, he says that if the Assad government fails (as Obama intends), terrorists sent to Syria from China, Russia, and India will “turn their eyes toward the home front to continue jihad, supported by a new and well-sourced Syrian operating base in the heart of the Middle East.

Hersh’s style is that of a seasoned journalist, a series of quotes and facts tied together by cold assessments. For anyone interested in policy and intelligence, it is a quick read. 

The Obama administration has denied Hersh’s claims about the killing of Bin Laden, calling them “baseless.” And despite Hersh’s credentials, some have criticized his use of anonymous sources. This may be valid, as much of the Bin Laden material comes from an unnamed retired intelligence official. But Hersh also quotes named sources, including the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pakistani Generals. It is understandable that sources still tied to government might not want to be quoted by name. The story is compelling, and worth an open-minded read as balance to the administration’s official story. It also is relevant, as the issue of Syria is still very much in play.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Harper Lee's Controversial Swan Song

             
Lee awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom,
November 5, 2007, The White House (Photo by Eric Draper)
 Sixty years after it was written, Go Set a Watchman was published amid controversy over whether its author, Harper Lee, approaching age ninety, had desired its publication or had been taken advantage of by her attorney.[1] Her only other novel is the now-classic To Kill a Mockingbird, which was written after Watchman.
               Harper Lee’s work is typical of New South authors such as William Faulkner, addressing the issue of race head-on. In this story, the young woman Jean Louise Finch returns to her home town in Alabama to discover her family and friends are part of a society determined to slow down the progress of racial equality. Her father, uncle and would-be fiancée attempt to explain to her the subtleties of New South sociology, leaving Jean Louise questioning her own identity and place in the only real home she has ever known.
               Structurally, Go Set a Watchman has some serious flaws. The time frame skips from the main timeline to Scout’s (Jean Louise’s) early childhood, back to the main, then to her awkward adolescence, and back again. This kind of flashback style is certainly acceptable when it brings the pieces together at some point, but that is not the case here. Also, the speaker shifts without warning, making some sections confusing. The early childhood sections became the setting for To Kill a Mockingbird, which worked nicely, childhood clarity bringing a power to the narrative, especially the vicious actions of some adults. But there is something about Watchman that I think is missing in Mockingbird.
               The “subtleties” I mentioned earlier are a catalyst to thinking about race in the New South. Not in the stark way that is presented in To Kill a Mockingbird, with an innocent black man being pursued by a mob of white supremacists and defended by an elite hero. No, there is a gray-ness about the town of Maycomb presented in Go Set a Watchman. Jean Louise is aware of a backwardness in the black population around Maycomb. The only appearance of blacks in the novel, apart from servants, is a bunch of joyriding kids making a lot of noise.
There is an appreciation of the history of the Southern people since The War, and a rarely-seen perspective. Atticus, his sister Alexandra, and their brother John, are aging, in their seventies. Signs of wisdom to a student of narrative such as Lee. They present the fact that the people who fought the War were not slave owners and most had never seen one. There was a different principle at issue for these men. Reconstruction came, then more wars, and now a change has come from the U.S. Supreme Court, most likely the one in Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka and subsequent related desegregation cases.[2] In the opinion of Lee’s sages, this could usher in a new Reconstruction, with blacks in charge instead of Yankees.
Vague? Gray? Perhaps not in our twenty-first century minds. We want to sympathize with the outraged Jean Louise. But there is an attractive spirit of independence in the attitudes of her ancestors just one generation removed. Though the idea of keeping a whole race in submission is not attractive at all, the idea of keeping an entire region—all races included—in submission, in effect rendering all slaves, is deplorable. Has this happened, or do we still retain the freedom of self-determination? Upon this topic, I think much thought and discussion is warranted. And Go Set a Watchman does as good a job of stimulating it as any 1950’s Southern novel could.




[1] Joe Nocera, “The Harper Lee ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Fraud,” The New York Times, July 24, 2015, accessed August 27, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/25/opinion/joe-nocera-the-watchman-fraud.html?_r=0
[2] Richard A. Schwartz, “1950’s Civil Rights Developments,” Florida International University, accessed August 27, 2016, http://comptalk.fiu.edu/1950s_civil_rights_developments.htm.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

Gratitude Haikude


Giving thanks is like
Knowing you are not alone
And telling your friend 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Forty-Two Haiku



Jackie Robinson
Clinton's library rest'rant
The Meaning of Life

Friday, November 11, 2016

Haiku #41 - Streetfight



Two foes in the street
Fists fly, words fly, trampling
Grass in the old cracks.


PHOTO: Springdale, Arkansas, September 25, 2016, by Davis Falk

Friday, November 4, 2016

Election Haiku


To choose or not choose
One of two is not the choice
No real choice at all

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016

Angry Hippo Haiku



I am three tons here
Soaking wet, proud, African
Commanding respect

PHOTO: San Diego Zoo, September 30, 2006, "DSCF2703" by Koles https://www.flickr.com/photos/27645828@N00/258882124
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Unported License.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Extraordinary Allegations, Extraordinary Evidence

The story of Lance Armstrong, who was awarded, then stripped of seven Tour de France wins for doping, is as compelling as it was when most of the world, including myself, was blissfully ignorant of his cheating, many of us inspired by his success and comeback. Perhaps now it is even more compelling. Unlike many celebrities whose falls from grace are merely revelations of humanity drawn in contrast to inhuman expectations, Armstrong is a singularly dark figure. Not because his public persona and the reality underneath stand in such great contrast, but because he so brutally persecuted those who tried to tell the truth about him. High on Armstrong’s blacklist was London’s Sunday Times reporter David Walsh.
In Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, Walsh tells of his travels in the world of cycling, from being a fan of fellow Irishman and prominent cyclist Sean Kelly, to riding in a car on the Tour de France route as a sports journalist. He met Lance early in Armstrong’s career, before his bout with cancer. But from 1999, when Lance took his first Tour title, Walsh knew something was amiss. He continued to write this theory in Sunday Times articles, and in books. In 2004 he published L.A. Confidentiel: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong in France, because British and American publishers feared libel suits from the same Armstrong legal team that once successfully sued the Sunday Times. Lance claimed another title that year and would go on to garner two more. In 2007 he published From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France. Armstrong, then in retirement, would return in 2009 to claim third place in the Tour, and again in 2010 for twenty-third. After years of sticking to his story, Walsh was finally vindicated when Armstrong was stripped of all seven of his Tour de France titles in October of 2012.
Riveting from the start to the page-423 finish, this book is a ride as captivating as the Tour de France itself. The reader follows the investigation Walsh conducted from 1999, when he had to convince his editor that the hero of the day, humanitarian, inspirer of millions, was dirty. Running in tandem is the drama that played out in the press conferences, media tents, courtrooms and elsewhere as Armstrong and his many supporters and hangers-on played havoc with the lives of Walsh and those few willing to open up to him about the real Lance Armstrong. It has kept me intrigued about this story, and sadly disillusioned not only about professional sports, almost all of which have seen doping scandals, but about amateur and quasi-professional sports as well. As I write this on August 12, 2016, three Olympic athletes in three different sports from three different countries have been sanctioned for doping.
Seven Deadly Sins has been made into the movie The Program, which distills the story marvelously into a feature-length drama, with Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) portraying the beleaguered David Walsh. Both the book and the movie are highly recommended.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book Review: Karen MacInerney's 'Murder on the Rocks'

What if a big-time hotel developer threatened to take over a small-time innkeeper’s quaint New England island, and wound up dead, with the innkeeper left as the prime suspect? This is the subject of Murder on the Rocks (Midnight Ink, 2006, $13.95 paperback) by Karen MacInerney.
Natalie Barnes spent everything she had to move from Austin, Texas to Cranberry Island, Maine and open a bed and breakfast. But just as she was getting settled, Bernard Katz came in with a plan to build a monstrous resort right next to her inn, the Gray Whale. When he turned up dead, the police had every reason to suspect Natalie. With a lazy sergeant in charge of the case, it is up to Nat to find the real killer and prove her innocence. And what will become of her Inn? She gets help from her ruggedly-handsome tenant John, her young and beautiful niece Gwen, and the colorful cast of island native fishermen and merchants. But she has enemies as well, and someone wants her off the island enough to put her in harm’s way. A superb baker and now an amateur sleuth, Natalie must pull all of the pieces together to save herself from prison and the Gray Whale Inn from ruin. And while she’s doing all that, she makes sure her intriguing guests get delicious breakfast treats every morning before weaving their ways in and out of the case.

As befits a cozy mystery, Murder on the Rocks begins and ends with food. The text is filled with sensual descriptions of tasty delights, most of them made in Nat’s warmly-decorated kitchen. The details of the case are discussed over tea and scones, and cookies, and – fill in your favorite baked snack. It turns out even the hunky artist next door can cook! MacInerney’s description of the island almost makes the reader shiver, with its gray seas, rain, and craggy landscapes. Nat is a bit daring, willing to take risks to find out who the killer is. And there are plenty of viable suspects even the police do not know about, enough to keep the reader guessing until the end. And in the end—well I guess you’ll have to read it yourself to find out!

Karen MacInerney is an Austin-based writer who has produced a series of six ‘Gray Whale Inn’ mysteries, of which Murder on the Rocks is the first. She has also written seven other novels, including a shapeshifter romance trilogy and two other cozy mystery series, each of which has two books as of this writing.
I almost forgot…there are recipes in the back of the book!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Pick 'Em Up Truck Luck Haiku

 
Lord loves a trucker
I have luck with my pickup
Pick 'em up real good
 
PHOTO: by Davis Falk, Mission Beach, CA, c.1992

Friday, September 23, 2016

OSS #28 - Death by Writing

Author Simms Worthington could not get the vicious girl with the knife out of his mind, which is how she killed him by stabbing him from within.

What is an OSS? Click here to find out.

Friday, September 16, 2016

OSS #27 - Memoir


I had lived there all my life, or someone had, until we died.


What is an OSS? Click here to find out.

PHOTO: by Davis Falk, January 2002. View of the Potomac River from Alexandria, VA. My aunt and uncle have lived there for over 30 years.

Friday, September 9, 2016

OSS #26 - Techno Thriller

Hackers were transferring millions per second from the Federal Reserve, when suddenly the power went out and the sound of commandos repelling down the sides of the moving truck trailer killed their hopes of escaping.


What is an OSS? Click here to find out.

PHOTO: by Davis Falk, 2002, Westborough, MA. A collection of computers in my loft, mostly used to contribute processing cycles to the seti@home project.

Friday, September 2, 2016

OSS #25: The Case of the Murdered Runner


A shadowy figure loomed as the runner approached, the early morning fog on the bridge obscuring the face, but not the form of the woman who would be his killer.




What is an OSS? Click here to find out.

Photo: Davis Falk, August 2016, University of Arkansas Campus, Fayetteville, AR

Friday, August 26, 2016

OSS #24: Grammatically Incorrect

Into the storm walked a man he was finally clean.


What is an OSS? Click here to find out.

PHOTO: by Davis Falk, Little Rock, AR, May 2015.

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

Friday, July 1, 2016

Ode To A Piece of Cloth


Shot full of holes, ragged and frayed
Red parts vibrant, its white parts grayed
Starfield faded, its stars can’t be counted
Ropes worn to threads from each battle mounted
What new was starch now flies away dust
What shone bright metal, now oxidized rust
Always moving, winds east and west
South wind silent, North winds at rest
Flying half high for a random assortment
Of enemies fighting to save their comportment
Pledged to by millions, hearts covered with hands
Deaf to the words, not one understands
Still for a moment, it rests as wind shifts
Still with a purpose known, battered it lifts
Until taken down, mended and bleached
And returned to service, its summit yet reached.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Introducing Davis Falk

Ever try to find a needle in a haystack? Of course you haven't. Me neither. The idea is preposterous. No one would do that. Stupid question, sorry I asked it. How about this one:

Have you ever tried to find out something about John Smith in an internet search? Google returns seventeen million results. Bing returns seven million. And if you look for ol' John as an author on Amazon, you'll get 12,702 results. What's my point?

While I am not John Smith, I suffer from the same problem, getting lost in the proverbial pile of fermenting cattle food (no offense, other Michael Davises). According to HowManyofMe.com, there are over sixteen thousand people in the United States with the name Michael Davis.

I prefer my focus to be on writing, not marketing. But I do want people to read my work, so I need to market it. It is difficult to stand out in a crowd of people with the same name. So I have decided to start using a pen name.

Pen names have been used throughout history for various reasons. Voltaire, Mark Twain, and Lewis Carroll are all pen names. There is even a rumor that William Shakespeare was a pen name. Some more recent ones include Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, and Lee Child.

My new pen name is Davis Falk. It should be obvious how I chose the first name, but in addition to its relation to my real name, it is said to be a popular Southern name. Falk is adapted from William Faulkner, one of my favorite authors. I will start using this name with the release of my new short story, "The Spaceport Was Empty" of which you can read a sample in a post in a few weeks.

What does this mean for readers? There will be a new blog at DavisFalk.com. It will be this one. The old web address will continue to work. But the name will change. Hopefully this will all be seamless and the only difference you will see will be the title of the blog. But at least now you are warned! Thanks for your patience and understanding with this change. And thanks for reading!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Movie Review: Barn Burning


Barn Burning is a forty-minute television adaptation of William Faulkner's 1939 story by the same name. It was broadcast in 1980, and stars Tommy Lee Jones as Abner "Abe" Snopes. Jimmy Faulkner, nephew of the author, also appeared as Major de Spain in this, his only acting role. The house used in the film as Major de Spain's house is historic Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi, which was Faulkner's home for more than thirty years, and is now a museum in his honor, maintained by The University of Mississippi.

Barn Burning is a dark tale of a man with no hope, only malice. Abe Snopes is a tenant farmer who, with his family, is almost constantly on the move because he likes to burn the barns of his landlords. The family members are dragged along, apparently believing, as Abe tells the boy Colonel Sartoris Snopes (the narrator) that "You stick to your own blood." Abe has a twisted sense of justice, and though he sees himself as the lowest of humans, he does not accept his own evaluation, lashing out at his betters and provoking them to even worse treatment of him. He ultimately comes to the end he seems to have been seeking as an escape from his miserable existence.

Faulkner's story focuses on a singular personification of evil in a man with no recourse, no hope of change or any goodness in his life. He is doomed from start to finish. Colonel Sartoris, "Sarty," represents the observant reader with a sense of balance. He both identifies with Abe, and sees Abe's misanthropy with objectivity. The family around the two hint vaguely at a better past and a worse future. But Abe seems to be evil from beginning to end.

Thirty-five-year-old Tommy Lee Jones is excellent in his portrayal of this very flat character, and his performance is the highlight of the film. Interestingly, this is not the only time he has played a pyromaniac. He also played a bomber opposite Jeff Bridges in the 1994 film Blown Away, which I consider to be an excellent film as well.

Barn Burning has been called boring, but its starkness left me wanting more, and if you are in my camp, it may be an excellent lead-in to The Snopes Trilogy, for which it is a prequel.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Book Review: Lee Child's Persuader

Now that I have read several books in the Jack Reacher series, it is hard to believe I have yet to review one. But it's true! This series is immensely popular, but I had never heard of Lee Child until I caught my mom reading one of his books. Then I got a bunch of them free from my aunt!

So in case you are like I was, here's the skinny. Jack Reacher is a drifting ex-army MP who goes around finding trouble and setting things right. He usually leaves a trail of busted-up bad guys and not a small number of bodies in his wake. He makes his own rules, but he does have rules.

Persuader is the seventh book in the series, and was first published in 2003. I found it more interesting than the other two I have read. They were set in the plains states, this one is set in New England. Jack gets involved in a DEA operation in order to settle an old score against a soldier-gone-bad who killed Jack's partner. He infiltrates a bad guy's household, which contains even badder guys, and others whose badness Jack has to determine in the course of the story. It's an operation gone bad, and gets worse.

Jack's character is fairly easy to understand. He likes to keep things simple. He's confident. He doesn't use bad language, because he doesn't have to. That's something that is particularly refreshing to see in a novel.

This story will keep you on the edge of your seat to the very end, which is exactly the thrill I got from Worth Dying For, the fifteenth book in the series. You don't know what the bad guys are doing or who is in charge. And you don't really know if Jack will achieve his goal and get the bad guys. Only one thing is certain. When it's all over, Jack is moving on, and you won't know where he's going until you read the next book.

Lee Child is a Brit who lives in New York, which is conveniently close to his publisher, Dell/Random House. They must find it difficult to keep the presses running fast enough. He has written twenty-one Jack Reacher books in nineteen years, and contributed short stories to several others. He writes faster than I can read!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Book Review: The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham



Sometimes one book leads to another, for a reader as well as a writer. I had seen this book on bookstore shelves, but did not decide to read it until I saw it recommended in Jack Canfield's The Principles of Success, which I have reviewed here also.

Like last week's book Way of the Peaceful Warrior, this one also uses what I call a teaching myth. It claims to be a true story, and there are YouTube videos that attest to that fact, but this is the type of claim that is impossible to prove, and faith in the story itself is not really necessary to benefit from its contents.

The lesson is about attraction, the concept that if we envision and concentrate our thinking on some thing, person, attribute, or life event, we send out signals that cause others to act and things to be placed such that the subject of our thoughts makes its way to us. If we focus on riches, we will become rich. If we focus on a mate, we will find that mate. But like many good things, there is a dark side. If we focus on robbery or sadness or poverty, we attract these things with the same force. It is important to envision what we want and believe it, and even feel the emotions associated with having it. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the attraction, and the faster it will come. You may have heard that you can make sure you get a good parking space by picking it out ahead of time, before you get to the parking lot. This is the same concept. Also, if you have ever experienced something going wrong early in the day, followed by a series of things going wrong, this is the law of attraction at work.

This concept of attraction is another time-tested success strategy. It is used by athletes who focus on successful completion of their events. I have found this focus to be useful in many ways, even in getting my contact lens (yes, I use only one!) in and out. It was also featured in the wildly successful film, DVD, and book The Secret.

So The Law of Attraction is a good way to learn about the concept of attraction. Stuff gets weird from the start, though. You may have noticed the subtitle: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham. I thought this might have something to do with the biblical character, founder of the nation of Israel. And though I am not exactly an Old Testament scholar, I don't remember anything about these concepts in the Bible stories. Abraham is the name the authors, Esther and Jerry Hicks, gave to the spiritual entity that taught them the concepts described in the book. The story is formulated as a dialogue between Jerry and Abraham, who is channeled through his wife Esther.

I like the book because it describes the law of attraction well. However, like Way of the Peaceful Warrior, I could do without the teaching myth. Perhaps it will be useful to other readers.

That's the review. I would like to take a few words here to shamelessly plug the various links in this blog. I especially want to thank everyone who has purchased my eBook The Philosophy of Suicide, or read it in a Kindle Unlimited subscription. I am pleasantly surprised that sales continue month after month. But I also want you to know that if you want to buy any of the books or movies I review here, you can help me by going to Amazon.com through the links provided here. The price is the same, but I get a little income from each purchase that is made on Amazon thereafter. In fact, no matter what you buy, I will benefit from your starting here before you go to Amazon. I don't expect I will ever be a full-time writer, but the income I get from these clicks and purchases helps keep me writing as a part-time job. Okay, the advertisement is over. I now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dante Haiku

Faithful guide and true
Take me farther through the depths
Those I fear and dread

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Book Review: Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1932073205/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1932073205&linkCode=as2&tag=everytmichae-20&linkId=OP2MUKQWSLV22LWO


Originally published in 1980, this revised edition came out in 2000. A movie adaptation with Nick Nolte as "Socrates" was released in 2006. Though it sounds odd for a writer to admit (except for screenwriters), sometimes the movie is better than the book. My fiction writing is more influenced by the movies I have seen than the books I have read. It's like describing the movie that is playing in my head.

This was Millman's second book. It launched his writing career and perhaps is still the most popular of his works. I greatly enjoyed and learned from his book on writing, The Creative Compass, which I reviewed here a few months ago. His writing has greatly improved.

The book is a philosophical work wrapped in a teaching myth. Ostensibly a novel, it tells a somewhat typical tale of a mentor, "Socrates", and his new protégé Dan, a representation of the author. It is semi-autobiographical in that the story is influenced by Millman's college years and speedily covers a few years thereafter as well. The typical aspect is that many words are spent as Socrates tears down Dan so the young student can be rebuilt.

I recall exactly when I began to understand Millman's philosophy. Page 161. So for me, the book only needed to be 47 pages long. Then again, I wasn't reading it in 1980, so perhaps I should give this author the benefit of the doubt. The Karate Kid had not yet been produced.

In The Creative Compass, Millman wrote about how Way of the Peaceful Warrior came to be. He had been writing articles for sports publications while working as a college gymnastics coach and physical education professor. He was trying to combine his articles into a book, and it evolved into the more philosophical version that was published.

This book suggests that humans can do superhuman things. It is inspirational in that way, but it also teaches a way to find happiness in an outwardly simple life, by purifying one's inner life. It is worth reading for athletes and philosophers, and anyone who hasn't yet seen The Karate Kid. You could also just watch the movie. Or skip to page 161. Actually, my recommendation would be this: Watch The Karate Kid, since you definitely need to see that. Then get Way of the Peaceful Warrior and start reading on page 161. That would be the best use of available time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Prayer, Politics, and Love

A friend recently turned me on to Richard Rohr's daily meditation emails. So far they have been good, though my friend feels they may be too intellectual for some. I am catching up, and read one today from a few days ago. But they don't seem to be limited by a time frame, so that's okay!

The topic for this week is "Action and Contemplation" which is what Fr. Rohr named his organization, the Center for Action and Contemplation. This meditation has things to say about politics which I think are very helpful. I will just provide you the link so you can read it for yourself:

https://cac.org/the-contemplative-mind-2016-05-08/

As often happens when I am learning a new life concept, I have been put in situations recently that help illustrate this concept. There were two particular times when I heard a group of folks, one who would call themselves liberals, and one who would call themselves conservative. I do not identify with either group, and for the most part choose to be silent in these discussions except with people I know well. And in both cases, these conversations were inappropriate for the venue. I only say this to show that when I am open to change and improvement in my life, situations present themselves that allow me to do this.

My experience is similar to Fr. Rohr's, though he has certainly enlightened me as to the reasons. I confess I have at times felt the same way about my own convictions. It impresses upon me the need for an inner life, an appreciation and experience of love. Love embodies good, in relation to God, to ourselves, and to others. The absence of it is something akin to evil, which has no life of its own. Many of us live in this emptiness in at least a part of our lives.

Love requires a commitment, even if the commitment is only for a day. But would you rather be a day laborer, or a long-term employee? With every commitment comes benefits. I think what Rohr is trying to say, is that we need this long-term commitment to ourselves. This is the foundation of love on which any action, political or otherwise, must be based, if it is to be full, and not empty.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pretty Much the Only Success Manual You'll Ever Need

The true principles of success are not new. Most of the ideas in this book and the many others that fill the self-help shelves of bookstores have been around for decades and even centuries. What Jack Canfield has done, going all the way back to his first Chicken Soup for the Soul book, which spawned a franchise that has sold over half a billion books, is to bring these ideas together in meaningful ways. His books act as portals, to use a web analogy, collecting and presenting the ideas of others.

Many of the principles that are given a single-chapter treatment in this updated version are detailed and broadened in separate books, such as Jack Canfield's Key to Living the Law of Attraction: A Simple Guide to Creating the Life of Your Dreams. But in The Success Principles, he gives a description of all of the principles in one volume. It is like an encyclopedia of success concepts, with sixty-seven entries.

That sounds like a lot and it is. This is a thick, five-hundred-page book and it is all about success. So it is a bit difficult to take all at once. Although I read the entire book, I had to take breaks and read other things as my interest waned from time to time. That is not to say it isn't well-written. Far from it. I was motivated and inspired by the text. But this is more of a reference work than an inspirational monograph. I look forward to revisiting chapters, looking up referenced books and websites, returning to it for smaller bites of useful instruction and self-improvement tips from time to time.

The Success Principles covers the gamut of areas for personal improvement: financial, occupational, physical, psychological. There is a spiritual aspect to it, but one that is not tied to any religious tradition.

I think this book belongs on the shelf of anyone who is serious about doing real work to achieve his or her goals.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

One Sentence Story #23 - The Gates of Hell

Her wait finally over, she walked the black gravel path toward the gates, and met her eternal doom.

Friday, April 8, 2016

One Sentence Story #22 - Bob Went to Town

Bob went to town, not knowing what he would find, and he never returned, for he found love.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Winslow Haiku

In the Boston Mountains
There is an Arkansas town
It's called Winslow.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ghostwriting 101

I am a writer. Which can mean a lot of things. Some writers write only novels. Some write only news articles, or technical manuals, or product labels. There as many kinds of writers as there are types of writing. One of the types of writing that I do is called ghostwriting. Since I started last January, I have been surprised at the number of people who tell me they did not know about this type of work or that it even existed.

A ghost writer is someone who writes something for which someone else gets credit. Some books are written this way, both nonfiction and fiction, and even short stories. One of the most well known ghostwriting situations is when a famous person hires a professional writer to write their biography, and then publishes the work as an autobiography. DerekLewis.com claims that a number of famous authors used ghostwriters, including Tom Clancy and Alexander Dumas (notice that I am giving Derek credit here!)

When a book is published with the credit "as told to" or "with" and an author's name, technically it is not ghostwritten, but co-written. Often the main author is a famous person and the co-author is a professional writer. Hiring a ghostwriter is not plagiarism, which is taking credit for someone else's work without his permission. Plagiarism can also have a broader definition, especially in academic settings, in which any work submitted must be the student's own, and any quotes or referenced work must be cited in a particular way. Securing legal permission does not excuse academic plagiarism.

Why would a writer give permission for his work to be used without credit? The objective is usually financial. Writing does not generally pay very well, and even best-selling authors often do not make a living wage, especially if they are not able to turn out a fast-moving stream of best-selling books. Ghostwriters generally get paid when the book is written, not when it is published or sold. We also do not have to worry about agents, publishers, public appearances, and all of the mostly unpaid and non-writing work that is necessary in traditional publishing.

The use of ghostwriters is a time-honored practice. In the Internet Age, it can be quite anonymous, and you don't need to be rich and famous to do it. I have just finished my first ghostwritten book and I have already been paid for it, which is very nice, because as far as I know, it has not been published yet. I am working on a second book and I get paid every 10,000 words or so as the work is completed. This allows me to have regular income on a project that will take two to three months to complete. It is also helpful to get payments early in the process, so I know I can trust the anonymous person who hired me.

I am currently looking for work that will start later this month (April 2016). I write fiction and nonfiction books. You can hire me by going to Outsource.com and posting a job there. Outsource.com and similar sites provide escrow service as well as connecting writers with clients. You can click here to view my profile and get started.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

One Sentence Story #21 - Biblical

It came to pass that
Mary begat Jesus Christ
Right at Christmas time.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Bar-B-Haiku

Heinz makes a sauce but
It is not a Memphis sauce
Though they call it that.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Real Haiku #2

Late at night there are
Drifts of snow blowing to
Keep us warm inside.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Real Haiku

Early morning rain.
Finishes on its own time.
Thus we learn patience.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One Sentence Story #20 - Financial Thriller

Biggie looked over the reports of the last decade, and came to the undeniable conclusion that his boss had sold the company out.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Kalamazoo Haiku

Twenty-five miles from
The Cereal Capital
Twenty from the lake

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Kazoo Haiku

Humming Hummingbird
Twitching tissue on a comb
Where is my shotgun?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

True Haiku

"What's truth?" said Pilate
Winter yields to autumn breeze
There's truth in fiction

Friday, March 18, 2016

Moog Haiku

Oh weee! bop bop bop
Glissando 'lectronica
Analog rules it

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bali Haiku

If you hear a call
It's an island paradise
Your own special one

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Roux Haiku 2

Stir up the butter
Sift in flour to thicken it
Then mix in the soup

Monday, March 14, 2016

Roux Haiku

Some say gumbo has
The roux of all evil in
A breezy kitchen

Sunday, March 13, 2016

One Sentence Story #18 - The Secret

She held a belief in her heart until it inevitably came true one dark and stormy night -- she had a flat tire.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pooh Haiku

"Oh bother!" said Pooh
As he read the new haiku
"It's only Wednesday!"

Friday, March 11, 2016

Laundry Haiku

We can't go camping
In tents there are no machines
That can do washing

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Blues Haiku

Dawn with no clouds yet
Hope for good, sure in evil
Dusk is upon me

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tough Guy Haiku

Git outta my face
I'll break yours into pieces
Like cracked icicles.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Easter Haiku

Why easter bunnies?
Did Jesus like bunnies much?
Was he friends with them?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Midwinter Haiku

Flowers can't be seen
No snow slows going cars down
Sun burns though bare limbs

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

One Sentence Story #16 - Celebrity Tell-All

What if I had never tried not to be a woman trapped in a man's body, and instead became a normal freak?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Postgame Haiku

The grass is trampled
The Gatorade has been dumped
There's always next year

Sunday, February 7, 2016

One Sentence Story #15 - Super Bowl

The coach felt that his life was wasted until he finally took his team to the Super Bowl.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

One Sentence Story #14 - The Coastal Hill Runner

Sweat erupted, heart pounded as the runner eyed the approaching hill and dug in, step after step, until he crested the hill, the coolness and smell of Pacific Ocean air hitting him as he began his descent.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Zoo Haiku

Intense scents of life
Dripping from Noah's nose as
He shops at the zoo

Thursday, February 4, 2016

One Sentence Story #13 - Sports

The boxer's cat went on a rampage, eating every mouse in town, until the boxer reclaimed his title, so the cat could return to their mansion.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016

One Sentence Story #12

He knew he was too big, but he was still a boy, and what would I, his mother, tell him?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Onward Upward Celebrate

Someone gave me this quote today, I was thinking of Jonathan Livingston Seagull:

"The one sees farthest who flies the highest."

Thank you Richard Bach.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Uber Haiku

Why not call a friend?
It is raining in rush hour
Why not call a friend?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Alergy Haiku

Drifting seeds and spores
I cannot breathe through my nose
Benadryl save me

Thursday, January 28, 2016

McDonald's Wifi Haiku

The coffee is good
The goth next to me can't stop
Streaming her movie.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One Sentence Story #11 - Finance

The stock market is full of unavoidable risk, but if you learn enough, you can manage the risk and make money.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Snow Storm Haiku

It is not that strange
That soft white snow brings terror
It kills them softly

Monday, January 25, 2016

Goodreads - Free Books and Connections with Other Book Lovers

If you don't already know about Goodreads.com, you're about to be amazed. I learned about it as part of my continuing education as a writer. Since the site aggregates booklovers, it's a great place to have your book featured. One way to do that is to give one or more copies away. If you are a reader, this is a great way to get some free reading material. But everyone doesn't just get the free books, and it isn't first come first served either. The giveaways are really lotteries or drawings. But there is no entry fee. You just click a button to enter. The selection is not random like an actual drawing would be. Goodreads selects winners based on a number of factors, one of which is whether an entrant reviews books in the category of the one being given away. Another has to do with your shelves.

When you sign up on the site, you are prompted to start adding books. You build your presence by filling your "shelves" with the books you have read or want to read. You can rate and review the books you have read, and you can create new virtual shelves to put books on. So if you have a lot of romances on your shelves, you're more likely to win a giveaway of a romance.

Another feature of the Goodreads community is friends. You're friends can see what you are reading (even what page you are on, if you want to be meticulous), and what giveaways you have entered. You can see how this becomes a valuable promotion tool for publishers and writers. Of course, there are reviews you can read, just like on Amazon and elsewhere.

Many of the giveaways are of self-published books and lesser known authors, but the big publishers are definitely paying attention, and have entered the Goodreads arena. I am actually friends with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon & Schuster, and Harper. There are currently over 2600 giveaways running, which end at different times. Some of the more popular giveaways are a re-release of Stephen King's Misery, Nicholas Sparks' The Choice, and Arthur Conan Doyle's The Legend of Sherlock Holmes.

These are just a few of the fun ways you can spend time on Goodreads. Explore others yourself. And while you're there, friend me!