Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Top 10 of 2012

My friend Wally Conger used to have a “Top 10 of the Year” list. It wasn’t the Top 10 songs or the Top 10 movies, it was just the 10 top things he encountered each year. Seems like a good idea, so, in no particular order:

Folks, this ain’t normal. Joel Salatin believes the world is turned upside down. People have lost touch with where their food comes from. Government food safety agents are the biggest barrier to safe, locally produced and healthy food. In the quest for a clean and even sterile environment, we’ve made ourselves sick. This remarkable book changed the way I think, and it’ll do the same for you if you dare.

John Carter. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a series of books 100 years ago that has influenced many many people, a number of whom went on to become scientists and science fiction creators. A century later, this film is one of the best science fiction movies ever made, and the second-best science fiction movie made in the 21st century. Watching it re-ignited my sense of wonder.

Marvel’s The Avengers. Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed the best science fiction film made in the 21st century (Serenity), this year wrote and directed the best comic-book movie ever made. Full of character, good humor and of course loud bangs and crashes, this was the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in recent memory. (Caveat: I didn't see John Carter in the theater.)

A new home. Red and I have been a team for a decade and a half, and this year our partnership led to construction of a beautiful little house not far from the shores of Green Bay. The project occupied most of the year and is not quite finished, but by August it was finished enough. Love built this home, and I love it.

The Self-Publishing Podcast. This quirky weekly visit with authors Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David W. Wright is irreverant, informative and a heck of a lot of fun. I’ve begun to look forward to their weekly romp through what sometimes seems to be a stream of consciousness but always leaves me knowing a little bit more about writing, innovation, design and moving forward.

Scrivener. The SPP boys kept saying this software is the best tool out there for writers, and they offer a 30-day free trial so I figured, what the heck. By the 15th day I gave in and just bought the thing. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s every bit the great tool they said it is.

The Imaginary Revolution. I lost two of my surrogate mentors this year bookending the creation of my new science-fiction novel. Ray Bradbury showed me how to write and inspired me with his enthusiasm, and when he died I realized I’d been beating around the bush too long. A few days after I completed the novel, Zig Ziglar died, the guy who taught me not to get cooked in the squat. Between the house and the novel, this has been one of the most fulfilling years of creativity I’ve ever experienced. I hope Ray and Zig would be proud.

Men in Black 3. I found the first two MIB films with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones immensely entertaining, but you know, I only ever watched either of them once. They entertained me but didn’t make me care enough to come back. This installment made me want to go back to the beginning and pay closer attention, and I definitely want to see this one again and again.

Nancy. The comic strip that Ernie Bushmiller made famous has always been one of my guilty pleasures. It always was sweet and charming and a little goofy, but Guy Gilchrist has injected something more, by making Aunt Fritzi a music-loving child of the Sixties like, well, me. With the recent re-introduction of her old flame Phil Fumble, it looks like Gilchrist is poised to take the strip to a whole new level.

That’s Why God Made the Radio. The Beach Boys album of new songs marking their 50th anniversary of recording is better than it has any right to be. The harmonies are as crisp and supple as ever, the tunes linger the way their best stuff always has, and the project is a fitting finish if it does, in fact, turn out to be the core group’s last effort together. An endless summer, indeed.

Bubbling under the Top 10:

Christmas with the Annie Moses Band. You have to hear this band.

How to Be Legendary by Johnny B. Truant. Common sense advice about being as great as you can.

Thick As A Brick 2 by Ian Anderson. My first reaction upon hearing about this release was “Oh no!” But on actually hearing it, the reaction was “Oh yes!”

The Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. I asked for it for Christmas based on a brief mention in Folks, this ain’t normal, and after 20 pages I can’t wait to start gardening.

I know I’ll think of a half-dozen other cool things I encountered during 2012, but these are the ones that rose in my consciousness this evening. If the year ahead has half as many treasures as this year offered, it’ll be lovely indeed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thoughts on the end of the world

There’s a blizzard warning where I am. Right now it’s just pretty – a firm but so-far gentle snow blanketing the ground with a layer of white. The wind is blowing hard enough that there are spots where greenish and brown vegetation still shows through. But the people who know about such things insist the layer will be at least a foot deep in a few hours.

Tomorrow the world ends in a blaze of fire, according to some folks who have drawn conclusions based on an ancient civilization’s calendar. As one explanation I saw noted, the world did not end when we got to the end of the 2011 calendar, and so it’s likely that the day after the end of the Mayan calendar, life will go on for most of us. And if there are Mayans left among us, they’ll mark the first day of a new epoch.

Everything and everyone does end, of course, although probably not all at once. I’m approaching the end of my sixth decade here, and I’ve seen my share of confused and frightened people who were absolutely positive that the world was going to end on such and such a date.

Tragically, some of them were right in a way, as they decided to end their own lives on or before that date. It was indeed the end of the world for them. For the rest of us, the world went on.

You do need to wrap your mind around the certainty that your stay on this world is finite. It’s not a bad or a good thing, this dying stuff, it’s just the way it is. Understanding that lends a certain degree of urgency to doing whatever it is you believe it’s important to do.

It’s a source of freedom, actually; if you knew you were going to die soon, how would you choose to live your life? Well, sooner or later you ARE going to die, so why not live that way now? Go ahead and write that novel or build that house or preserve that marsh or do those good deeds you always wanted to get done. Start building your legacy today, and you’ll have that much more time to build a big and solid one.

I’m guessing that the world will not end in a blaze of fire tomorrow, and so later today I’ll head out with the snowblower. My bet is that the snow will not melt in a firestorm in the morning, and I will get to keep working and fulfilling my purpose. And so will you. Someday the world will end for both of us, but probably not today or tomorrow.

Monday, December 17, 2012

‘We’ can’t solve this, but we can

When something horrible happens, a clamor arises that "we" should do something to prevent something like it from ever happening again. And so it is with the unspeakable events in Newtown, Conn., where a disturbed individual killed 27 people including 20 young children and then himself.

The horror has been compounded by the decision by too many people to attempt making political points at a time like this. A great many have argued that “we” need new laws restricting non-police access to the kind of weapon used in this crime; a great many others have argued that “we” need new laws to allow schools and teachers to carry weapons to defend themselves.

This is what people have come to mean by “we should do something”: By “we,” they mean the government. By “something,” they mean new laws.

I would like to make the perhaps controversial suggestion that now – with emotions running high – is not the time to be passing new laws. The government has more than enough power, thank you, and “we” have more than enough laws to prevent the law-abiding citizen from committing an atrocity.

Besides, we don’t need new laws. And notice I took the quotations marks off, because now I’m talking about what we can do, as opposed to asking the government to do it for us.

What we need to do is pay attention to some old laws. I mean laws like “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The person whose birth we celebrate at this time of year proclaimed that the most important law of all, and yet we tend to disobey that law on a daily basis.

I mean laws like “Treat other people the way you would like to be treated.” This so-called Golden Rule exists in just about every world religion, I’m told, and yet each day we do unpleasant and even unspeakable things to others that would hurt badly if someone did them to us. Certainly, none of us wishes violence to be done to ourselves or our families, so a decision not to commit aggression against others would be a good first step.

Evil exists among us; it reared its ugly head again Friday in Connecticut. I’m not so naive as to believe that if we simply loved one another, evil would go away.

But we each carry the power to love and to hate within us, the power to reason and the power of violence. I dare say a new law or regulation passed by government will not defeat evil, but an old law observed by each of us could – if we make the decision to interact with love.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Imaginary Revolution is here.

On Dec. 15, 1791, the folks who were in the process of establishing a new government ratified a list of prohibitions intended to prevent that government from violating the innate rights of free individuals. It was a bold experiment.

Today, Dec. 15, 2012, in honor of that bold experiment, I formally introduce The Imaginary Revolution, a novel about individuals and governments and violence and nonviolence.

I’m not so vain as to think this little novel about an Earth colony that throws off its shackles is as important a contribution as that list of 10 statements. No, this is just my contribution to the idea that power flows from the individual to the state, not the reverse.

It is my contention that a loving individual committed to nonviolence wields more power to change a world for the good than any state, any use of force, any expression of hatred or revenge.

All 10 tenets of the Bill of Rights are under attack in 2012. All 10 are routinely ignored by the state, and in fact most efforts by the state to restrain the individual are met with cheers and applause. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to be secure in one’s person, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures – read the list and you will be able to think of circumstances where the state violates these prohibitions every day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I got words

People are angry. And violence is sweeping the globe.

They couch it in noble language: Arab Spring. Defending the middle class. Protecting our rights. Even defending liberty.

But it’s still plain old senseless violence: Beating someone about the head, or killing them, in the belief that will convince others your cause is right and just.

All too often all that is accomplished is continuing the ancient cycle of violence – an eye for an eye, or replacing one violent tyrannical regime with a new violent tyrannical regime. The success of such revolutions is imaginary and temporary.

Through the years some have tried to show a better way – men like Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus of Nazareth – changing the world through civil disobedience, nonviolence, noncooperation. A way that does not meet violence with hatred and more violence.

The novel The Imaginary Revolution, which officially debuts tomorrow, is set on a planet light years away. But I mean to say something about the here and now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

We're all gonna die

I repeat myself – but these thoughts are still relevant, still part of my book Refuse to be Afraid, and relevant to the new book, The Imaginary Revolution. And so I repeat myself:

My eye was caught at the antique store by a thick, well-worn book titled "Modern Medical Counselor." By its condition it was clear the book was anything but modern, and the price ($2) was right, so, figuring it would be an interesting excursion into the past, I brought it home.

What actually caught my attention was the section that I casually opened to, even before I brought the book home: "Survival in Atomic Bombing." The copyright date of the book is 1951, so browsing through this book will be a traipse through an era where communism and nuclear death were our greatest fears.

With the knowledge of what was to happen in the next 60 years, we know the fears were largely unfounded. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still the only cities ever destroyed by atomic bombs. Although the great communist bogeyman reared his ugly head many times over the years, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics fell apart under the weight of its totalitarian follies and China has decided to try burying us the good old American way, by establishing government-subsidized monopolies.

In other words, the fear that was used as an excuse to impose on our liberties never came true. Communism and nuclear catastrophe did not destroy us.

Today, the fear is of small groups of terrorists (and "rogue nations") with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The fear is that an influenza virus that kills birds will find a way to migrate into humans and cause a pandemic. The fear is that standing too close to a person smoking a cigarette will give you cancer. We can let those fears control us, we can let others use those fears to justify locking us into cages, or we can refuse to be afraid and live our lives as free men and women.

Here is the fear that lurks behind all of these fears: We are afraid to die. We are especially afraid to die before we experience a ripe old age.

Here is the truth: We all will die, some of us "before our time." The real choice we all have: We can live and die as slaves, or we can live and die as free men and women.

Most of our lives we exist in the gray area between freedom and slavery, convincing ourselves that we are making our choices freely: When we hand the chains to our government and our bosses and our creditors, we rationalize that we are making a free decision to enslave ourselves. And it usually is a freely made choice — in the beginning.

Like Jacob Marley's ghost, we accumulate shackles as we progress through life, usually out of fear — fear of poverty, fear of going hungry, fear of not having a reliable car. And the biggest fear of them all is the fear of death.

Accepting that you will die is the beginning of freedom. The title of the song "Live Like You're Dying"  is its message.

These thoughts, especially as I relate them in a political context, could be misconstrued as advocating violent resistance against the slave masters. Nothing could be further from the truth. The revolution I advocate is an internal one:

Refuse to be afraid. Resist the impulse to yield to the fear and let someone strip your liberty in the name of security and protection. Live like you were dying — because you are dying, someday, so better to live free than in chains.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Think you can!

If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Those words attributed to Henry Ford speak to the power of your mind.

Decide that you can do what you’re setting out to do, and it will be like the powers of God and the universe align to help you get it done. Your desire to make it happen will give you the enthusiasm, and your belief that you CAN make it happen will be infectious.

Decide that you can’t do what you’re setting out to do, and you will quit worrying about it. The only risk you take is that for the rest of your life, you’ll have a little bug behind your ear, whispering, making you wonder: Maybe you COULD have done it. But you won’t – because you think you can’t.

So what’s it going to be? Do you think you can? I’m on your side – I think you’re right. I know you can do it.

Just remember your biggest enemy is that little nugget of doubt that wonders if you REALLY can. Keep that little nugget in a cage, or else it will grow. If it grows too much, it can stop you in your tracks.

Because if you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Tiny Dot

"A situation too weird for 99.999% of people to adequately explain."

For anyone who wonders if the principle of noncooperation in The Imaginary Revolution seems too "unrealistic."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gorram it, 1984 does not have a happy ending

… it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

You know about Big Brother – not the reality TV show, the world leader who infused his regime with the principles “War is peace,” “Freedom is slavery,” and “Ignorance is strength.”

In George Orwell’s prophetic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith is a guy who works for the Ministry of Truth changing the news. If a certain public figure has fallen out of favor with The Powers That Be, Winston is one of the clerks who goes into past editions of the newspaper and changes anything that might tend to show that figure in a positive life. If he has become an “unperson,” the figure is removed from the public record entirely.

(I always thought that was a little unrealistic – surely someone, somewhere, would still have a copy of the old newspapers with the original record. Or later, surely someone, somewhere would have preserved the original record on his hard drive. But as we move our information farther and farther onto a paperless cloud, the idea of being able to manipulate all past records seems more feasible.)

Winston has a small problem of conscience: He remembers. He knows that the unpersons once existed. He recalls that even though today the government is at war with Eurasia and has always been at war with Eurasia, there was a time when we were at war with Eastasia and had always been at war with Eastasia.

He begins to notice that people are miserable, he sees that life is pretty dreary with Big Brother Watching You all the time, and he begins to believe that freedom would be better served if Big Brother is overthrown. But he also knows that citizens are being tortured and killed for believing that – or at least he is able to make a correlation between their beliefs and their eventual disappearance.

By the end of the book, Winston has come to the realization that he was wrong, that Big Brother really has a benevolent spirit and Big Brother really will take care of him for the rest of his life.

Just one tiny problem.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Are you ready for a little revolution?

It's only a matter of days before the novel The Imaginary Revolution will be published. I have prepared a sampling of chapters from the novel to whet your appetite for the real thing.

The story of how Sirius 4 threw off its shackles will be available for public consumption starting Dec. 15, 2012 – Bill of Rights Day – in both ebook form and a handsome, hardcover print edition. This is your opportunity to get a taste of it so you can decide whether to put it on your Christmas list.

The link below (click on the colorful green button with the blue whale) will lead you to a place where you can download a .zip file containing the Imaginary Revolution sampler in .pdf, .epub and .mobi forms. Enjoy! And consider coming back on Dec. 15.

Click here to download your free sampler of chapters from the novel The Imaginary Revolution, scheduled for release on Dec. 15, 2012.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Give up the zombie lifestyle

Are you tired of shuffling around, shambling through life not especially aware of where you are and where you're going, except that you have a gnawing desire to eat brains?

You're not alone – well, maybe except for the brain-eating part – and you may find a way toward a more focused life by reading my little book A Scream of Consciousness.

Have you ever stopped what you're doing with a sudden sense of awareness and frustration and said, "There's more to life than this!"?

That's a scream of consciousness.

Have you ever opened your eyes and realized with a peace beyond understanding that the world around you is overflowing with beauty and possibilities?

That's a scream of consciousness.

Have you ever felt a surge of energy when you realized exactly where you needed to be and what you needed to be doing to have the life you were born to have?

That's a scream of consciousness.

Now, how do you maintain that sense of joy and purpose moment by moment, every hour of every day?

That's the purpose of my little book A Scream of Consciousness.

It's a quick read; you should be able to zip through it in an hour or so, and then come back for a reminder of how to Be Here Now and stay aware of the moment.

If you're not convinced this is a book you need to read, my friend Wally Conger and I spent some time talking about the concepts in the book – and overcoming the zombie lifestyle – in this podcast interview. Give it a listen and then come back here to buy the book.

And if that doesn't do the trick, here are three sample chapters.

A Scream of Consciousness: Wake Up and Embrace the Present Moment is designed to help you experience life in its fullest, every moment. Thanks for reading this far, and if you'd like more, you know what to do.

Monday, April 2, 2012

'The definition of a peaceful revolution'

(This is the introductory essay to my newly published edition to Resistance to Civil Government a k a On the Duty of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau. Always feel free to order one or more handsome dead-tree copies of this edition at this link.)
- - - - - - - - - - -
Even a cursory reading of Henry David Thoreau’s immortal essay about civil disobedience reveals echoes in contemporary discussions of individual rights and the limits of government in a free society.

Its themes resonate into the 21st century. Faced with a federal government that condoned the institution of slavery and was waging a war of questionable origin in Mexico, Thoreau pushed his readers to consider the responsibility of an individual with conscience.

What Thoreau said about Mexico could have been said yesterday about whatever foreign adventure the current U.S. president has sent the military on (and I refrain from naming a specific president or adventure because this has been happening for several administrations, “right” and “left,” as of this writing – witness Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya ...):
“when ... a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize.

“What makes this duty the more urgent is that fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army.”
Thoreau wrote about slavery as the ultimate violation of the individual, and although it may have been revolutionary to think of a slave as an individual, his context provides insights into what it means to be an individual as well.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Uncle Warren's Attic #73 - Swinging into April

Click here to listen to/download Uncle Warren's Attic #73.

Sometimes you just have to let the music take over - and that's what this show is all about.

Get Happy - Raymond Scott
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter - "Scat Man" Crothers
At Last - Glenn Miller
Got a Date with An Angel - Hal Kemp
Frenesi - Artie Shaw
When You Dance - The Turbans
I Got Rhythm - "Scat Man" Crothers
Chattanooga Choo Choo - Glenn Miller

Click here to listen to/download Uncle Warren's Attic #73.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Doing some spring cleaning and assessment, and I have come to the conclusion that the Myke Phoenix emagazine has not been successful enough to continue for the time being. Therefore the release of Myke #4 is postponed indefinitely.

The good news is that lessons learned in developing this project can be applied to my various other projects. And I am too fond of Paul Phillips, Dana Dunsmore, Hi Dawson and their host of evil adversaries to let them sit in limbo forever.

You can speed the day toward their return – or catch up on what you've been missing – by taking a look at Myke #1, Myke #2 and Myke #3 or even Myke Phoenix Quarterly #1, and then sharing your enthusiasm with the world.

As for my other projects, they include the Uncle Warren's Attic podcast, a growing stable of ebooks and a slew of paperbacks that are worth reading.

Thanks for checking out Myke Phoenix over the years, and please know this is just a detour, not the end of the road.

Friday, March 9, 2012

You can do it

The will to do springs from the knowledge that we can do. Doubt and fear are the great enemies of knowledge, and he who encourages them, who does not slay them, thwarts himself at every step.

He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure. His every thought is allied with power, and all difficulties are bravely met and wisely overcome. His purposes are seasonably planted, and they bloom and bring forth fruit, which does not fall prematurely to the ground.

Thought allied fearlessly to purpose becomes creative force: he who knows this is ready to become something higher and stronger than a mere bundle of wavering thoughts and fluctuating sensations; he who does this has become the conscious and intelligent wielder of his mental powers.

James Allen
As A Man Thinketh

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We are all creators

You must get rid of the thought of competition. You are to create, not to compete for what is already created.

You do not have to take anything away from any one.

You do not have to drive sharp bargains.

You do not have to cheat, or to take advantage. You do not need to let any man work for you for less than he earns.

You do not have to covet the property of others, or to look at it with wishful eyes; no man has anything of which you cannot have the like, and that without taking what he has away from him.

You are to become a creator, not a competitor; you are going to get what you want, but in such a way that when you get it every other man will have more than he has now.

Wallace D. Wattles

Monday, March 5, 2012

'Are you Willow?'

"Are you Willow?"

Red and I had sat one last time with our old golden retriever, Onyah, as her gentle life passed out of that beautiful furry frame the day after Easter 2009. And Red insisted that it would be a long time before she was ready to bring another pet home. I suspected differently, but I nodded and agreed with her.

Sure enough, a little more than two weeks later, she looked over the newspaper at me and said, "Do you think we should get a puppy?"

I made a show of saying no, you wanted to take time to grieve, but we both knew that we would soon be welcoming a new member to the family. As wonderful a companion as Onyah had been, I did not object when Red declared it would be another golden retriever.

After we set a date to visit a breeder, we sat across a table one night throwing possible names back and forth. What would be a suitable name for a golden retriever?

Roberta. Isabella. Mozarella. Ziva. Toni. McGee. Abby. Kaylee. Zoe. River. No, no, no, maybe, no ...

Angel, Buffy, Willow – Willow.

Willow? What a beautiful name for a lovely red-haired puppy girl. Willow it was.

The breeder had only 5-week-old one golden left from the litter that would be ready to go home in mid-May. Before we arrived she brought out the little fluff ball and left her alone in the waiting cage.

When we entered she was sitting in that awkward way that puppies sit and looked up at us with curiosity. The breeder plucked her out of the cage and eased her into my hands.

While Red carried on a conversation with the breeder, I held her to my chest and looked down at the little puppy eyes. I completely lost track of what the two women were saying.

"Are you Willow?"

The only response was to knead my chest and snuggle into me. Something melted inside me.

I became aware that the breeder was offering to show us puppies from a younger litter if we weren't sure about this one. "No," I said perhaps a little too firmly.

Willow joined our family a couple of weeks later on May 16, 2009. I only remember two dates connected with family dogs – Feb. 7, 1959, when my parents surprised us with Lady, and May 16, 2009, when we brought Willow home.

Willow fit her name. But that's a story for another day.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Best Dog There Is

Signs you love your dog: You drive up at lunchtime and your spirits immediately lift knowing she's waiting inside.

Signs your dog loves you: You fall on your tush in the snow and she runs from the other side of the yard, jumps on you and licks your face.

It seems clear to me now, after all of these blog posts and books, that what I really should have been writing about all along was my puppy.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Launch: 'Resistance to Civil Government' by Henry David Thoreau

I am pleased to announce the latest addition to my little stable of books and ebooks, a new and easy-to-read edition of Resistance to Civil Government, also known as On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.

Even a cursory reading of Henry David Thoreau’s immortal 1849 essay reveals echoes in contemporary discussions of individual rights and the limits of government in a free society.

Its themes resonate into the 21st century. Faced with a federal government that condoned the institution of slavery and was waging a war of questionable origin in Mexico, Thoreau pushed his readers to consider the responsibility of an individual with conscience.

This new edition includes “The definition of a peaceable revolution,” an introductory essay by yours truly.

You can read Resistance to Civil Government online or download the ebook at this link ...

or you can purchase a durable and permanent copy complete with this lovely cover, made from the finest of dead trees, by following THIS LINK.

Free yourself first

If thou would'st right the world,
And banish all its evils and its woes,
Make its wild places bloom,
And its drear deserts blossom as the rose,
Then right thyself.

If thou would'st turn the world
From its long, lone captivity in sin,
Restore all broken hearts,
Slay grief, and let sweet consolation in,
Turn thou thyself.

If thou would'st cure the world
Of its long sickness, end its grief and pain;
Bring in all-healing joy,
And give to the afflicted rest again,
Then cure thyself.

If thou would'st wake the world
Out of its dream of death and dark'ning strife,
Bring it to Love and Peace,
And Light and brightness of immortal Life,
Wake thou thyself.

James Allen
The Path of Prosperity

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The one in which I reveal I needed my books most

I know how you feel. That's the whole point.

Dirty little secret?

I wrote Refuse to be Afraid because I was tired of being stuck because of fear. Same old, same old, and I knew it was because I was afraid – afraid of stepping forward, afraid of rejection, afraid of consequences, afraid of this goofy economy, afraid of losing freedom – and I needed a pep talk.

In the midst of writing out those fears and trying to cope with them, I found – just like a cliff I fell off as a child – that the things I feared weren't nearly as formidable as they seemed. When you control your fear instead of letting the fear control you – when you refuse to be afraid – the rewards can be enormous, especially in terms of peace of mind.

I wrote A Scream of Consciousness because I was tired of living aimlessly, watching brainless TV shows that I immediately forgot – or surfing the Internet. I told myself I was educating myself, but I rarely took action about what I learned.

An exuberant aging folkie named Barry McGuire and a 350-year-old book by a Jesuit priest taught me concepts about living in the moment that I had to share.

Funny thing – when I put my little self-pep talks out to the world to share, I discovered I wasn't the only one who needed to hear those messages. When a friend tells me how Refuse to be Afraid served as a reminder to stay calm during tough times, I realize we all face moments when fear threatens to immobilize us, and we all let our consciousness drift.

What's keeping you from going forward? Maybe the first thing you need to do is write yourself a pep talk. Don't worry about building an audience – or even if anyone will ever read it – just write what you need to hear. You may find – as I did – that you're not alone.

(And if you want to buy my books as examples of what I'm talking about, I certainly won't object.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jedi mind tricks and A Scream of Consciousness

Rather than wander off to the movie theater to see the new 3-D rendition of Star Wars I: A Phantom Menace, Red and I ripped open a bag of Doritos and the DVD last night. It was a pleasant enough experience.

I was intrigued right away by the advice sage Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn gives to his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, in the opening scene as they await a potentially confrontational moment ...
Don't center on your anxiety, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration here and now where it belongs.

Master Yoda says I should be mindful of the future...

...but not at the expense of the moment. Be mindful of the living Force, my young Padawan.
It's as if the Jedi had adopted A Scream of Consciousness as one of their textbooks. I couldn't have summarized my book's themes better. Read more here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The joy of punctuation

I've got nothing to say, but it's OK. Good morning! Good morning! Good morning!

Meaning: I have nothing to say, but that's alright. It's a good morning anyway.

I've got nothing to say but it's OK. Good morning! Good Morning! Good morning!

Meaning: The only thing I have to say is that it's OK. And that's good!

Commas rule.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I choose whimsy

I see and hear the cranky and dyspeptic political tones, philosophical arguments dressed up as a battle between good and evil, and I have seen and heard enough.

"There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys, there's only you and me and we just disagree," the poet sang.

And yet the demagogues behind the curtains conjure images of battlegrounds. We don't just disagree; you are the embodiment of evil walking on Earth. If your kind keeps/retains power, then the rest of us die.

Hogwash. I say again, hogwash. Pay no attention to the demagogues behind the curtains.

My freedom is not dependent upon someone holding or being ejected from office, and neither is yours. Human beings are born to freedom, not granted liberty by benevolent rulers. What part of "endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights" is so hard to understand?

We have a choice to stew in our own bile – or in bile provided for us by willing political toadies – or to live our lives freely, joyfully and in celebration.

You may follow the path to fear and loathing and the infestation of imaginary hobgoblins. I choose whimsy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ramping up the politics of fear

Here we go again.

Four years ago I wrote:
Towards the climax of the great movie about violence and the state V for Vendetta, megalomanical leader Adam Sutler declares the time has come for the rulers of totalitarian England to remind the peasantry "why they need us." What follows is a montage of news reports clearly intended to cow the citizenry into a state of fear, reminding them that the government is the only thing standing between their security and utter chaos.

A civil war drags on in the former United States. Water shortages are reported and predicted because of a lack of sufficient rain for two years. Police arrest nine suspects who were hoarding vaccine against the deadly avian flu. Twenty-seven people have died in the wake of the discovery of a new airborne disease. New evidence links the terrorist V to an attack on London 14 years earlier - reminding them of the attack that made citizens turn to the government for protection in the first place. A skeptical bar patron says out loud: "Can you believe this shit?" Of course we can't, and we shouldn't.

The truth revealed by the movie is that the state is the source of the chaos. The titular character V, either a freedom fighter or a terrorist depending upon point of view, helps detective Finch uncover the reality that the central terrorist attack of his age was staged by government forces seeking control of citizens' lives under the cover of providing more security. V himself is the product of secret government medical research gone awry.

A central theme of the movie is the same as mine: Refuse to be afraid. The standard political script has been unchanged for decades now: Remind people about something they fear. Offer yourself as the solution to that which they fear. Once elected, strip people of freedom in the name of fighting that which they fear. Rule with an iron fist or a velvet glove, but rule; do not let people live for themselves in freedom.
Thursday night I surfed around the Web and found: Israel could attack Iran in April, May or June. James Cameron has bought a farm in New Zealand and speculation is it's to ensure his family is safe if America collapses. President Obama says his religious faith leads him to seize wealth and redistribute it among the masses, citing the Gospel of Luke. A new flesh-eating virus is spread by sneezes.

Can you believe this shit?

The politics of fear is being ramped up again. Think through your fear; don't let the demagogues control you. Don't be conned into surrendering your freedom in the name of protection from imaginary hobgoblins.

Adam Sutler is revealed in the end of the film to be a ineffectual, frightened little man who know no solution but violence. You don't need the Adam Sutlers of the world. Think for yourself. Refuse to be Afraid. Free yourself. Follow your dreams.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What controls your attention controls your life

Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success magazine, offers a practical application of the theories in James Allen's As A Man Thinketh in an article titled "Is Wolf Blitzer Hurting America?" Well worth the read.

Where your attention goes, energy flows and so goes your life. When I interviewed racecar-driving legend Mario Andretti, I asked him for the No. 1 success tip to racecar driving. His answer, “Don’t look at the wall.” He explained, “Your car goes where your eyes go.” If you are a tightrope walker, what’s the one thing you never do? Right, look down. Why? Your body will follow your eyes. Your body (your life) also follows your eyes (your attention). If you point your eyes at Constant Negative News (there’s an acronym for that), your life will also go in that direction.

Your mind is like an empty glass. It will hold anything you put into it. You put in sensational news, salacious headlines and talk show rants and you are pouring dirty water into your glass. If you’ve got dark, dismal, worrisome water in your glass, everything you create will be filtered through that muddy mess, because that’s what you’ll be thinking about. Garbage in, garbage out.
Check out the entire article here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Letters to the Citizens of the United States

Here's my edition of Thomas Paine's Letters to the Citizens of the United States, now available for free download or reading online. You can also purchase a non-electronic permanent copy of this edition on fine paper by clicking here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

If statists ran Major League Baseball

Prince Fielder has just signed a nine-year, $214 million with the Detroit Tigers, an average of almost $24 million a year.

Obviously the gap between the richest and poorest baseball players is growing. Fielder's deal amounts to more than 55 times the minimum baseball salary of $414,000.

Why should an elite few get mega-contracts while the average player struggles along on about $3 million a year? Justice demands that these fat cats be required to share a major portion of their wealth with their teammates and league mates.

Some would argue that Fielder earned his high salary through hard work and talent. This is a selfish viewpoint that ignores the victories he gained at the expense of other players. All I'm suggesting is that Fielder pay his fair share.

UPDATE: Edited to fix faulty math.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dance of the butterflies

Riffing and moving on from the brief Pink Floyd reference of the other day:

You say the hill's too steep to climb? Climb it.

You say you're not sure where to start? Get started.

You say you don't know what to do? Do something.

They say the road is blocked? Drive it.

They say the economy's too tough? Go for it.

They say it's been tried before? Try it.

They say it can't be done? Do it.

Of course you're anxious. Of course you're scared. Every new venture, every step outside of your comfort zone, causes a little anxiety. A now-familiar motivational quote sums it up: It's all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.

We all get butterflies when we attempt something worth doing, something we believe in. The beautiful part is that when it works – and it will! – the butterflies don't actually fly in formation, military-style.

The butterflies dance.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Launch: A new free monthly e-adventure

Click here to download Myke Phoenix #1
The year was 1990, more or less. The cold war was over, people were still allowed to smoke on the job, 9/11 was still six years off, and local radio stations had local personalities on the air almost 24/7.

And I had this idea about reviving the dime novel. OK, not the dime novel per se. What I had in mind was something about the length of a comic book, but in text.

My hero’s name was Myke Phoenix.

You can read more about it by clicking "Read more" — or just click on the caption under the cover art for your free e-magazine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thomas Paine and a new system of government

I am fascinated by the way the arguments that drove political thought at the beginning of the U.S. of A. continue to resonate today. That was why I self-published a collection of letters that Thomas Paine wrote for publication in three different newspapers between 1802 and 1805.

Having returned from abroad, Paine was troubled by what he saw as a growing central government led by a powerful president – that wasn't what he had signed up for back in 1775. So he wrote these still-relevant warnings to his fellow citizens. For example:
The independence of America would have added but little to her own happiness, and been of no benefit to the world, if her government had been formed on the corrupt models of the old world. It was the opportunity of beginning the world anew, as it were; and of bringing forward a new system of government in which the rights of all men should be preserved that gave value to independence.
Here is a new ebook edition of that book, which contains three essays I wrote for the Montag blog in addition to Paine's exhortations:

Download the ebook by clicking on this link. (UPDATE: Link fixed - sorry about that.)

I also still have the paperback version of Letters to the Citizens of the United States available for purchase, and a word about that: Thomas Paine wrote these words with pen and paper, and they have been preserved for two centuries through the use of reliable printing presses in a form that doesn’t need special software or devices and therefore cannot become obsolete. In a paperback book these words will still be accessible even if you lose electric power: 

Purchase the book at this link.

I'm currently tinkering with another historic essay that, even more so, continues to echo through the centuries to the present day – Henry David Thoreau's Resistance to Civil Government, more familiarly known as Civil Disobedience. I am startled by how much Thoreau framed arguments that are still being made about the rights of the individual, the responsibility not to condone or support government wrongheadedness, and the power of nonviolent resistance.

It'll be an edition similar to the Paine book, showcasing the historic essay with an introduction by yours truly. The ebook will be free for the taking, and you'll be able to buy a more permanent copy published using dead trees, a renewable resource.

More about Thoreau in coming days. Meanwhile, enjoy and be enlightened by Thomas Paine, a truly revolutionary thinker. Download it here and purchase the paperback here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Shut up and quit trying to scare me.

Friends, I gotta tell you, I've just about had it. I'm pretty much sick of politicians, pundits and reporters telling me the world will come to an end ...

- if Ron Paul becomes president;

- if Barack Obama remains president;

- if Newt Gingrich becomes president;

- if Scott Walker remains governor of Wisconsin;

- if unions grab power back from Walker;

- if Democrats take both the House and Senate;

- if Republicans take both the Senate and House;

- if the government doesn't help the economy;

- if the government attempts to help the economy;

- if billionaires spend money on campaign ads;

- if unions spend money on campaign ads;

- if the Occupiers have their way;

- if the tea partiers have their way; or

- if the Mayan calendar ends Dec. 21 for a good reason.

I am bone weary of being told how fearful I need to be. I'm exhausted from listening to people tell me that my peace of mind and safety are threatened by some hobgoblin or another.

I'm even tired of quoting the immortal H.L. Mencken, but he was right when he wrote it and he's righter than ever today: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

I refuse to be afraid! And I strongly suggest you do, too. Ask yourself why you're afraid of whichever scenario listed above makes you afraid. Who are you clamoring to lead you and the rest of us to safety? Has it occurred to you that they want you to be afraid for a reason – so you will entrust them with power that rightly belongs in your own hands?

Last election cycle I released a little book about overcoming fear. With all the mongering going on now, you might want to consider an inoculation against this disease called fear. You can buy Refuse to be Afraid by clicking on this sentence.

But more important, just read the title. Refuse to be Afraid. When somebody tells you how awful it would be if [insert scenario here], laugh at that somebody. Refuse to be Afraid. Repeat after me:

"Shut up and quit trying to scare me!"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The mantra of carpe diem

"I was reminded of this in a conversation with a friend named Joe White. Joe is perhaps best known for his message on the cross where he carries on his back a cross that would typically take six men to move.

"Joe has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and in a recent conversation he reminded me that he was more fortunate than I was. He was clear that today might be the last day he had to live. I could live under the delusion that today is just one day of many still to come.

"The gift of his cancer was the value of today. Perhaps in a way that few of us ever do, he engages each day fully committed to seize the divine moment. The mystery of those moments is that they look so ordinary from the sideline and only become extraordinary when we enter them."
Erwin Raphael McManus
Seizing Your Divine Moment