Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Murdered Yachties and Genocide: The Fires of Hell Continue to Blaze in the Dark Heart of Humanity

The ageless, ever-present, dark heart of humanity has yet another a face and this guy sets a new standard.

“Our strength lies in our intensive attacks and our barbarity...After all, who today remembers the genocide of the Armenians?”  Adolf Hitler

“But with dogs, we do have “bad dog.” Bad dog exists. “Bad dog! Bad dog! Stole a biscuit, bad dog!” The dog is saying, “Who are you to judge me? You human beings who’ve had genocide, war against people of different creeds, colors, religions, and I stole a biscuit?! Is that a crime? People of the world!”

“Well, if you put it that way, I think you’ve got a point. Have another biscuit, sorry.””  Eddie Izzard

“What connects two thousand years of genocide? Too much power in too few hands.”
                                                                            Simon Wiesenthal

The horror of it all. The unspeakable dark heart of humanity has been recently running more amok than usual.  Of course it's been running amok for a while. I'd say, since evolution completed the rudimentary genetics that made it uncomfortable for those ape-like creatures to stay up in the trees. Minus our prehensile feet and tails, we thus became "human"-- you, me, Jesus, the Pope, Buddha, the Queen of England, John Lennon, Vladimir Lenin, and Groucho and Karl Marx--all of us. We came down from those branches, starting walking around and started looking for trouble--or, more likely, brought the trouble down with us.

But we're all still up there, really, up in those trees howling our savage song; we all carry dark-heart genes in us. They are bone deep and indelible and unexpungable. On good days, in good times, most of us keep them barely suppressed by the need to be civil enough to each other to live together. And you don't have to be the citizen of a third-world country to display the murderous heart. Push us a little too hard and even we comfortable American suburbanites can do things like shoot the other comfortable suburbanites that cut us off in traffic.

That's child play, though--bush league stuff. To get truly world class, we need muddle-brained dictators who hire assassins to slaughter their own people. Or how about skinny, semi-naked, child-pirates launching a grenade at an American warship and then shooting innocent Bible-slinging yachties at point-blank range? How about mass graves revealing the bulldozed remains of thousands of slaughtered innocents. And that's just this week.

Don't ask me for answers. I'm one of you. I have my own well-disguised, nicely suppressed, simmering rages working down deep in me somewhere, too. I can feel them sometimes and it's scary--very scary.

Well, all right, I'll try a suggestion because just complaining doesn't solve anything, and I'll keep it short. Obviously religion doesn't work, nor does the absence of religion help us control our murderous hearts. Here's what I think will work and it's a simple enough rule:

Parents must raise their children in a home free of racism, sexism, religous intolerance, violence, anger, and hostility, where thinking and questioning are encouraged, and where mutual respect and a gentle love for one another is expressed often and sincerely.

That's it. No big news. And it would seem to be not much to ask. Such a simple way to fix the worst of the humanity's ills, and yet.....

All four Americans on this lovely yacht were murdered this week. Staggering amounts of cold blood were needed to complete the task, this 'banality of evil."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Words, Big Words, Little Words, Funky Words: Writers Live and Die by Them and, for Some, Words are Part of the Infinite Jest

The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for."

                                                                                          Ludwig Wittgenstein

When I wear high heels I have a great vocabulary and I speak in paragraphs. I'm more eloquent. I plan to wear them more often.  Meg Ryan

I'm a writer, so it follows that I love words. But, for cryin' out loud, give me a break already. I mean, mesocrat? Ukase? Apocope? Rutilant?

These are just a few of the rare lexicological gems I've been running across in my reading lately. If I were tucking into a text on some odd philosophical branch of inquisition, I could understand not knowing the vocabulary. But these book are novels, supposedly for consumption by the general reading public. Specifically, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (more on this five pound, literary version of a joy-filled hell in a later blog), and Aunt Julia and the Script Writer by the recent Nobel prize winner, the Peruvian, Mario Vargas Llosa. (And this is a translation, apparently done by a person who, when he or she is translating, changes little Spanish words into big English words, and a brilliant writer's original prose into American cliches.)

So what's the problem then? I ought to be glad for the opportunity to improve my knowledge base, right? However, the reading process, in the particular case of this reader and these writers, involves reading a few paragraphs and then stumbling and fumbling on an unfamiliar word,  writing it down on a scrap of paper (see photo, above), going to my Droid, opening the dictionary app, and looking it up. In the case of Wallace, he sometimes uses words that my Droid dictionary could not find because of one misplaced letter and I suspect that the infinitely depressed Wallace, rest his pitiful soul, made up these words, or misspelled them as part of the endless jest.

In any event, stopping to look words up every few minute adds hours to the time it takes to get from page 1 to the THE END of the stack of books I have at me bedside. Here's another one, for example, from Infinite Jest: majisculed. Now, my Droid tells me that majisculed simply means "capitalized" as in capitalizing a word, so unless you are indeed sharing a practical joke with your reader, why would a writer use it instead of "capitalized?" Is it foolish for me to question the motives of a purported literary genius like Wallace? Of course it is.

Now, I've told you the meaning of majiscule but your on your own with rutilant, ukase, apocope, and mesocrat. Hey, I can't keep spoon feeding you this stuff or you'll grow up with a stunted drive to learn.

Note: HA! I just hit the spell check feature on this blog and it couldn't fine these words either. Good luck.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Headlines: Woman Dies In PA Hotel After Buttocks Injection; Egyption Revolution Continues to Smolder (Yawn?); Why Would We Even Want to Behave Without God?

The Framers [of the Constitution] knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny.  Hugo Black

Those who hate most fervently must have once loved deeply; those who want to deny the world must have once embraced what they now set on fire.  Kurt Tucholsky

(Note: As I write this, I'm twelve floors up in a hotel on Washington D.C. listening to the desperate Doppler of sirens rushing past down below signaling the constant flood of human bad behavior/bad luck.)

As a one-time news reporter and broadcast journalist, I love weird headlines as much as the rest of you. After all, someone had to write them and writing involves contemplation, consideration, editing, and second guessing and I used to love all that.

So, it was easy for me to imagine the folks in the news room trying to decide how to phrase this poor young woman's tragedy. Seems she came all the way from England to a hotel at the Philadelphia airport to get her presumably unattractive, unlovable, flat bottom "enhanced" via injections of liquid silicone. Problem was, the risky procedure was performed by an allegedly unlicensed buttocks enhancing practitioner. End result? Doctors speculate that the liquid silicone got into her blood stream via the huge needle required for the injections, and thence to her heart, which did not need enhancement, just someone to love it more, hence the attempt at acquiring poochier glutes. It's all terribly sad, to be truthful, as is all extreme vanity and extreme greed.

This, of course, begs the question: if this is how people behave with God, can you imagine how they would behave without Him? Or why would we even both to try to behave unless we have the Big Hammer up there waiting to slam on us if we dare step out of the prescribed behavioral line?

For an answer to the eternal question of whether or not to have my butt enhanced on the cheap, so to speak, we turn to an interview with social scientist Carol Tavris on eSkeptic: Here's her answer to the question the religious are always asking the non-religious:

Skeptic: Without God, what would be the reason to be a moral person, or to try to improve the world?

Tavris: Helping people. Humanity in general. Bettering the world, if not in time for you, then for your kids. Justice. Kindness. Those are pretty good reasons. My parents believed that if you are working only for yourself it is not enough.

Good thinking, Carol. You hit the nail on the head with the Big Hammer of Reason, the nail being the assumption of Christian doctrine that people are, at bottom line, just awful. And that's no doubt due to Original Sin, but in any event, she implies that free thinkers and nonthiests have a more upbeat view of humanity than our religious brethren. My own take on this issue? Yes, people can be just awful and/or simply wonderful. But Big Hammers (in the hands of governments or gods), inevitably result in the awful bright fires of revolution. Best to proceed gently and trust in the better angels of our natures.

Meanwhile, is it possible for revolutions to get boring? It's been what, two weeks now since thousands of Egyptians gathered in the streets of Cairo demanding Hosni (another bad behavior poster boy) leave and real democracy be implemented?  (Resulting in a sewage problem, one would assume, of magnificent proportions) I can see those poor news folks in their news rooms trying to figure out when the great American public will grow weary of Arabic demonstrations and stop watching/reading about how, "today will be the day of decision" only to  have it pass without any certifiable climax. What to do? Look for buttock injection tragedies and give them top billing.

(Another note: Not ten minutes after I finished writing this, wouldn't you know it, Hosni resigned and the massive protest was instantly transformed into a massive celebration. Bully for the people of  Egypt--and bully for Facebook, Google, and Twitter, without which, it is said, the revolution would have been impossible.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ground Hog Day: Blood on the Streets, Snow on the Roads

                                                              Photo Credit: MSNBC

The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.
                                                                                                Che Guevara
This is insane. This cannot continue. The weather, the protests, the denials, the insidious rumors, the malicious insinuations the Mubarak-must-go implications and innuendos. And Toy Story 3 was way too violent, that's what gets me. The head-cracking violence in football, too. I can see it in computer-generated cartoon extravaganzas, but in football? And governor Moonbeam is back and he's kickin' ass and takin' names.

It's early here on the mid-Atlantic coast, early A.M. on Ground Hog Day, and I couldn't sleep, so I got up in the dark and came down here to my cave and turned on the news/talk/innuendo flat screen and put my laptop on my lap and my little digital camera next to me so I can take pictures from the comfort of my fat recliner and made a cup of tea and ate two Zone bars to juice me up. Morning Joe (photo credit! Thanks!) and his cohorts/thugs are up and on, on time, a blizzard is ripping a new one for the middle-part of our great country and Punxsutawney Phil is shivering his tail off in that fake stump. No, wait! This just in: he, Phil, did not see his shadow. Early Spring!

So, what's a writer to do to keep himself distracted from the distractions? Focus. Keep your head down and your feet moving. Collect all those wild thoughts and put them to good use. Organize them, incorporate them, sprinkle them in your prose like herbs and spices. Never thought of putting a a good bloody riot into that book? Maybe nows the time, while it's fresh and topical. How about a snow storm? It's been done? Do it again but better.

And try not to lose your traction on the slippery slope of lost routines. I just did and it doesn't feel good. Writers need routines to be productive and I broke mine this morning. A conference call with my webdesigner and in the middle of that, a call from an elderly family member with a medical emergency got me going out the wrong door, so to speak.

But, I'm back at it now. Here in my recliner, re-writing, yet again (10th time?) The Brothers of the Fire Star, my novel in progress. And my new website is almosts ready to "go live." I'll work for a couple of hours more. Maybe a nap?

                                                                                Photo Credit: MSNBC