Profiling? Oh, yeah.

I was keen to attend a lecture by author Raymond Szymanski who’d just written a book called, “Fifty Shades of Greys,” referring to the pesky big-eyed aliens commonly known for abducting humans. He was speaking at the local UFO meeting, so I thought I’d stop by and at least check out his book. Having witnessed UFO’s with my own eyes, this is a topic I find intriguing.

I arrived early and sat in my car checking email for a few minute when I noticed a parade of characters in my rearview mirror – over 60, balding, bearded, in faded plaid, worn tennis shoes, and windbreakers. It occurred to me that subject matter attracted a particular demographic. Perhaps the type that spent their nights wearing headphones connected to parabolic devices,  one eye glued to a high-powered telescope from the roof of their octogenarian mother’s house.

In my lavender pants and pink, green, and white floral bag, I would stick out like a church lady in a biker bar.

When the Uni-bomber dude – black hoodie, black jeans, black shoes and matching backpack passed behind me, I decided that perhaps I was a tad over-dressed for the event. (Did he think the greys couldn’t see black with their huge black eyes?)

And what if I was the only female? What if they wanted an email address for future notifications? What if they wanted to (gulp) engage with me?

Hey, I just wanted to hear the speaker, his findings, and research data. I didn’t want to become FB friends or subscribe to some conspiracy theory newsletter or be interrogated by a bunch of former military guys.

Honestly, I think I’d have felt more comfortable in a room sitting next to this guy instead of Mr. Uni-bomber.

Image result for images of ufo chasers

Was I stereotyping? Profiling? Absolutely. Just like the little grey guys do when they select their specimens for experimentation.

Now, I may well have had a fantastic time, learned some new things, made a couple new friends with a common interest . . .  Then again, if the truth is out there, it can probably be found on Amazon!

Mr. Szymanski, forgive my absence. I don’t always boldly go where I don’t comfortably blend.

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Weird Word of the Week Series

:Image result for images of sleeping on a train

Since I wrapped my last novel, I’ve been riding The Lazy Train when it comes to writing. Four years on a project is a long time! I need to do some shorter stuff that will help me ease from the steps into the deep end of the pool. Inspired by a tattoo artist who was advised to draw like crazy to develop a portfolio before she ever picked up an ink gun, I am trying a similar move with words. (And I know Julie Powell did this with cooking a few years back which started as a blog, then turned into a book, then a movie. You just never know the possibilities.)

Image result for images of Julie & Julia

I will scour various sources for words that I consider weird and will post short thoughts about them. Who knows what will come out? I’ll keep it brief. Then I will crown the Weird Word of the Week.  I’d considered doing this daily, because I like the idea of a regimen, but wasn’t sure how many weird words I would encounter. And, let’s face it, Word of the Day has been done to death.

Alpha helix is weird, and two words. Defined, a spatial configuration of many protein molecules in which . . . I stopped reading because unless I were writing about a scientist, I would never have an opportunity to use such a word, much less understand it. (I would have to call my sister, the physics teacher.)

My husband has had the word nosegay in this pocket since the 7th grade. It is a small bouquet of flowers. In this century sounds like a slur, or a pharmaceutical.

Alright . . .

Is alright weird? It might be apropos. See how I’m easing in? Okay, it’s a rubber life raft that’s almost as large as the pool. If you stay with me, it will get better.

I do think it is odd to either be alright or all right. The shorter alright is used mainly in dialogue and considered incorrect in formal writing. Whereas all right is higher brow and scholarly. My writing critique group has landed on me more than a couple of times about that.

Many folks are waking up this New Year’s morning to say, “Alright. Today I start the __________ (diet, workout, regimen, project, new attitude toward humanity).”

Me? I’m adding Weird Word of the Week to my already odd repertoire. You know if it’s strange and unusual I’ve got to move closer to it.

Alright?

Enjoy the final day of your holiday.

 

Mr. “Alright. Alright. Alright.”

Image result for images of matthew mcconaughey alright alright alright

 

 

 

Do Your Beliefs Define You?

No god but God (Updated Edition): The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and host of Ovation’s Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, brought up a new idea when she asked him, “What is belief?” He answered, “Identity.”

I’ve spent my life sifting through various religions and philosophies in search of what I truly believe. From the time I was introduced to the Catholic Church, I’ve been trying to determine what is real for me. It didn’t do me much good to sit through a mass delivered in Latin if I didn’t understand the language. My high school didn’t even teach Latin. I only knew a deity that demanded obedience or else. No matter how well behaved I was I didn’t experience enlightenment.

I was born on Native American soil while being of European lineage. I got in trouble if I asked the priests or nuns about the differences in belief systems. Who was right? Like most people, I was in search of “the truth.”

If belief is identity, I didn’t know who I was for most of my life. I know now (or think I do), but what if you don’t? Are you void of identity if you don’t know what you really believe? I don’t think so. You just don’t know how to define it with clarity. Doesn’t mean that you don’t know your own mind.

When you ask a Jewish person “who” or “what” they are, they will generally respond with their religion instead of a nationality. “I’m a Jew.” I’m not sure any other group of people does this with as much conviction. Ask an Irishman the same question and he will identify regionally. I’ve always been a blend of several varieties like table wine. I’m not comfortable with labeling my belief system as any one thing. If I had to, I’d call it Open. Open to all systems of belief, understanding that even through our differences we share common ground.

There’s the old “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” line. But being spiritual is not the same as believing in a deity. In my view, I am a spirit living in a human body. Being human is the perspective from which I view the world. As much as I can identify with other species, I am human and cannot view life from any other perspective. Just as the humans who penned all the religious texts on the planet. They identified their beliefs in human terminology, including their gods. Does this perspective define me? Of course it does. What I believe about everything defines me: business, politics, art, morality, etc. Stir all those things into a pot and you have a souffle as unique as the human who made it.

At last week’s RiverRun Film Festival, the film Heavenly Nomadic told the story of a dying culture of horse people who, when the leader of the clan died, killed his horse to go with him to the next life. Talk about a defining belief system. Indigenous people honor elements in nature, especially animals.

I adored this film by the way.

I envy Aslan’s ability to clearly articulate my own understanding. If you are as fascinated by belief systems and other world views as I am, check out his books as well as the series Oprah Winfrey produced last year called Belief, and Morgan Freeman’s current series running on the National Geographic channel, The Story of God.

Cover artBelief

The Story of God with Morgan Freeman logo.png

 

 

Should Unfinished Works by Deceased Artists be Completed?

In the wake of the passing of the legendary writer Jim Harrison I ask: Should his unfinished works be completed by another writer? Or be released unfinished?

Jim Harrison in February 2008.  Jim Harrison

I lost a fellow writer in my circle who’d left several unfinished works behind. Family members made mention of finishing them and seeking publication. To my knowledge, nothing came of this. And I wasn’t sure how I would have felt about seeing his work altered or added to by someone else. Would it still be his?

I saw a television piece on Unfinished Works by authors Charles Dickens, Ian Fleming, and Jane Austen. When passersby were polled, they responded that they’d rather have the unfinished piece of work than seeing it completed by someone other than the original artist. And I agree.

 

   Charles Dickens

 

Ian Fleming

Jane Austen

This is not to be confused with the co-writing of mainstream authors with others such as James Patterson and Janet Evanovich. Those authors are hands-on, with final say over the finished works. That is also not the same as when a copyright expires and the work becomes public domain. Ian Fleming’s James Bond continues to live through the pens of other authors, but they must meet the strict requirements of the agent of Fleming’s estate to maintain the integrity of the character.

Did you know that the face of George Washington on U.S. One Dollar note was an unfinished work?

But I think the important portion was already completed by the artist. It wouldn’t matter if someone else filled in the coat and backdrop.

I think unfinished work should remain that way if the artist has left the building. I wouldn’t want anyone finishing mine.

Thoughts?

For more on Jim Harrison: http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/27/entertainment/author-jim-harrison-obit-legends-fall-feat/index.html

 

What did I find in The Book of Life?

Book of LIfe

The completion of the Deborah Harkness trilogy was a must-read for those who fell under the spell of The Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night.

Let me preface this by admitting that I have never been a fan of vampire stories. I read Twilight in attempt to ascertain why it was so popular. Girl falls for boy who is really bad for her. The plot had a universal theme set in Vampville. I get it. Did I like it enough to read the rest of the series? No. Maybe it was all the annoying whispering. I didn’t see the movies either.

Then I tried Charlaine Harris’s True Blood series. That wasn’t any more endearing. I suppose I just couldn’t buy the whole situation.

Yet The Discovery of Witches sucked me in, no pun intended. I had trouble with parts, but not enough to abandon it. I appreciated the history and liked the characters well enough to see it all the way through. I even found some of it tedious. And after having invested the time it took to read nearly a thousand pages of the first two volumes, the more than five hundred pages of its finale should have been as delectable as a holiday meal after two years of strict dieting. I wish I could say that I didn’t want it to end. Instead, I counted the pages until I ferreted out the answers to the main question of what secret lay inside Ashmole 782.

Sadly, I found this volume so cluttered with secondary characters that I lost count, and eventually, interest. On the flipside, I couldn’t get enough of the dastardly antagonist, and just when I was getting into that plot line, the story took a turn down Mundane Street and hung a left, leaving me bored and in search of the main thoroughfare. Three quarters of the way in, I felt the author was pulling obstacles out of the air in attempt to hold the suspense for as long as possible. The heroine’s face-off with her nemesis from the first book was handled like a politician, with kid gloves. And when I finally reached the resolution, I said out loud, “That’s it?” Then I reread the passage just to be sure.

Plausible? Yes. Satisfactory? Almost. Even the showdown with the antagonist lacked punch.

I really, really wanted to love this book. The finale of a trilogy should be the best of the three. Although this volume had plenty of lovely sentiment and some well-crafted scenes, they weren’t quite in the places I’d anticipated. All told, I found this piece to be convoluted and disappointing. Perhaps my expectations were too high. Just like Twilight, I have no doubt that I’m one of five people on the planet who did not adore this book.

Harkness spoke at our local book festival last year. I enjoyed her openness and behind-the-story anecdotes very much. I became a genuine fan – of her. I just wish I could say the same for her fiction. But hey, she’s the one laughing all the way from the NY Times bestseller list to the bank.