Living in Paradise

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A New Class of Writers

I see this morning that Author James Patterson has apologized for his recent remarks claiming that white male writers who struggle to find work are victims of “another form of racism.”

His apology was predictable. Anyone who makes a comment that implies that racism can’t be suffered by a white person is – in the mind of they – making a racist remark that will eventually have to be walked back.

These days, it’s hard to have the courage to say: “That’s what I said, and that’s what I meant.” Some comedians get by with it, but even they can be subject to verbal whiplash. It feels like apologies abound.

You would think that someone worth a reported $800 million would feel liberated to say whatever he thinks as long as it’s not hateful to others. Not the case. And to a successful writer, the thought of your books being verbally burned or your writing canceled or your publisher treating you like a pariah because of an off-hand remark must be pretty terrifying.

Still, as far as I’m concerned, there was no apology needed. Patterson was likely stating a fact. The focus on diversity and the emphasis on blackness and the LGBTQ community in the media, in entertainment and in America has probably put the talents of many white male writers, particularly older ones, on the back burner.

More than being a form of racism, I would call it supply and demand. The old sayings that you write what you know and that you can’t truly understand someone unless you have walked miles in their shoes seem to apply here.

Some might also say that in the vast universe we live in where the pendulum is always moving, it’s only fair that black, gay and transgender writers have their day in the sun. There is interest in their voices. For now, at least.

I happen to believe that there is room for everyone in the field of creativity. Even us older writers. And perhaps that is what James Patterson said or was trying to say. He and I don’t talk, so I don’t know.

Maybe the writer who is always out there promoting his new books also subscribes to the old saying: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Clever man.

Bring Back Real News

It feels like the news today is not about what’s happening but who’s reporting on it.

When Fox News decided not to show the January 6 prime time hearings on its news network, the cry from other media outlets could be heard around my newsfeed.

The last time I looked, Fox Business News, which carried the hearings with Brett Baier and Martha MacCallum as hosts, is a Fox news channel. It carries more relevant information than we often get from the “mainstream media.” I can say the same about CNBC. Those two channels are the only ones my man and I watch in the mornings.

The hue and cry about who covered what was all smoke and mirrors as far as I’m concerned.

I was primed to watch Season 6 of Peaky Blinders, so I had no intention of wasting my time with the hearings no matter who carried them. Sorry, but how can I take something as a serious threat to our Democracy when hearings on it don’t include Republicans selected by their party leadership — just two partisan appointees. What’s so democratic about that?

And I’m reasonably certain that the poor shop owners and residents of cities who saw their business and homes looted and burned in the 100 days of violence and destruction in 2020 would say that Democracy is being threatened by anarchists. But there haven’t been any hearings on that, have there?

I saw the Kavanaugh hearings and the so-called presidential impeachments, so I’m not interested in another circus. Thoughtful hearings, with no grandstanding, are always welcome but scarce these days. Likely because members of Congress think that the public is too stupid to make up their minds after hearing all the facts. The truth is that we all know what’s going on in Washington, and it’s not pretty or very democratic.

I was also amused this morning to see an article on the newsfeed about how a female reporter for The Washington Post was fired after complaining about the treatment of women in the paper’s newsroom. Her diatribe, which spilled onto social media, was started by a joke retweeted by one of her fellow journalists.

Do these people actually work as journalists digging out the news these days or is it all about them?

When I was a reporter, we spent plenty of time in the bars after work grouching about this or that editor or placement of a story or favored treatment for one reporter over another. But we kept our bitching in-house.

The female reporter for The Post was so busy building her brand she forgot the lesson learned from The Godfather – when Michael says to Fredo: “Don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever.”

And what a whiner this woman is. When I started in the business there were four women in the newsroom. Only one had a respectable beat to cover, although another was a damn fine editor. It wasn’t until the daughter of the publisher joined our ranks that we were allowed to wear pants, cover the police beat and given other tough assignments.

That was decades ago and everything has changed, I guess. But serious, responsible journalism is still a fine craft and indispensable to a free society. It’s time for today’s media to recognize their responsibility and quit trying to make themselves the center of attention.

On a programming note: Sad to say that Peaky Blinders was not on until tonight. I must have mis-read the promos so ended up watching another episode of The Staircase, which is riveting TV — unlike other things we are expected to watch and believe.

 

Known and Unknown

Sometimes you hear things first – or at least early – on our little island. I’m not talking about local gossip but potentially serious stuff that may or may not make you feel good.

Like this morning. I was headed to the post office to pick up our mail when I ran into a friend. I asked her about her Memorial Day, and she said she spent the weekend babysitting with her teenage grandchildren. We both laughed about how spending time with your children and grandchildren doesn’t mean you get to see much of them.

“They were holed up in their rooms the whole weekend. I was by the pool reading a good book,” she said.

She went on to explain that the reason she was babysitting is that her son-in-law had been called up to attend the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, for five weeks. He’s been in the Naval Reserves for 10 years, and this is the first time something like this has happened, she explained.

“That doesn’t sound good,” I responded.

She agreed but had no other information. So I left, mail in hand, to meet another friend for breakfast. She’s interesting but had nothing earthshaking to share.

Afterward, I was off to the grocery store and, again, an accidental meeting with a male friend in the parking lot. We were both leaving, and the noonday heat was building. No time for prolonged chit chat when the chicken in the trunk of your car is working on developing a good case of salmonella.

“Hey, have you heard anything about unusual activity at the Naval War College?” I inquired. Normally that wouldn’t be parking lot conversation, but it happens that my friend is a former Navy man and still heavily involved in all things military, including security concerns.

“I have a friend fishing in that area. I’ll check,” he yelled back at me.

I assumed the friend was also of the military persuasion. Sure enough, in about 10 minutes my phone notified me of a text.

“The short version of what’s going on in Newport is that this shooting war in Ukraine has gone very badly for Russia and yet could get worse … a wounded bear is dangerous,” he wrote.

His text didn’t provide much news but, on the other hand, it felt like it spoke volumes. Once the groceries were put away, I scanned the home page of the Naval War College. There is a lot going on there, as one would expect from a war college. None of it seemed out of the ordinary. But it’s not like anyone there would be publicly talking about heightened military planning and training in places like Newport. And maybe shouldn’t be.

President Biden take note.

Whether or not there is something going on — and maybe it’s good if there is — is all speculation and just between you and me, the woman in the post office and the man at the grocery store for now.

I’m Identifying As 35

The two workmen who showed up to replace our poorly installed blinds looked like Penn and Teller. I prayed that their work wasn’t as laughable as the last two comedians that dealt with our window treatment several months ago. The ones who mismeasured the blinds and ruined the woodwork.

I was chatting with Shorty – the smaller of the two – when he announced that he was 72 going on 18. He was a slight man with a weathered face. He smelled of cigarette smoke.

This is Florida, after all, where some 18-year-olds look like 72, and life is whatever you want to make of it. I was okay with Shorty feeling like he was still a teenager.

“Yep, I feel great,” he said, as he did a little dance for me while his partner examined the creases and holes in our new bedroom blind.

“I feel pretty good too,” I said. “And I’m thinking about telling people I’m 35.” He laughed and I laughed because we both knew that, under current appearance standards, I don’t look 35 just as he doesn’t look 18. It was all in fun.

When the pair left, I starting thinking about the conversation Shorty and I had.

I can be 35. Who’s stopping me?

I can insist that people think of me as 35 and treat me as if I am 35. I can demand that whoever likes to post my age on the Internet change it to 35. When my Facebook friends send me happy birthday wishes, I can expect them to include my age as 35.

The late comedian Jack Benny was perpetually 39. Everyone laughed about it at the time. That’s when people actually had a sense of humor. Benny died in 1974 at age 80. Oh wait, at age 39. He was ahead of his time in determining what he wanted to be and insisting that everyone else think of him in that way.

Since everybody today can have a say about their gender, pronouns and how they want to be viewed by the rest of society, I can, too. I want to be 35.

You can laugh at me all you want, but I’m deadly serious. Even though I am 35 I expect to continue receiving my pensions and my Medicare. I want all the advantages and privileges that come with my chronological age, even though I am identifying as a person of 35. I am still up for early bird specials at restaurants. I want my driver’s license to reflect my age as 35. What does it matter what year I was born? I don’t want to be called for jury duty just because I’m no longer in my 70s.

I forgot to mention that I also want to be viewed as a person who is Size 4. I expect everyone who looks at me to think of me as a Size 4 and to acknowledge my petiteness … without commenting on it. Because everyone knows that it’s not appropriate to comment on people’s weight these days, including complementing them if it appears they have lost a few pounds.

As I told my man, who was rebuked for telling someone they appeared to be “fading away and looked marvelous,” it’s just not the thing to talk about.

So now that I’m a Size 4, I expect all the labels on my clothes to reflect that number and for stores to carry Size 4s that fit my body.

I’m thinking about announcing my preferences in the form of a press release or something that will get the attention of the people who put out my newsfeed. Because I know everyone will want to know that I am identifying as a Size 4, 35-year-old.

I may have other changes coming. I’ll let you know.

A Book by Any Other Name

I just saw that President Trump is writing a book about the 2020 election.

Listen, I’m writing a book – not about the election – but a fun-filled mystery set on an island in southwest Florida. I’m actually writing it – my fourth novel in fact – as versus what I’m guessing the former president and many celebrities do these days. That is, hire someone else to pen their prose.

I wanted to read more about the Trump book. Not so much because I’m interested in what he has to say, but rather to see if he will talk about the writing process. How is he gathering data to support his assertions? How many times does he edit a chapter before he declares it finished?

The problem was that the news of the Trump book reached my email account as a teaser – no further information – to get me to subscribe to The Epoch Times. I didn’t bite. I don’t subscribe to any newspapers these days even though I was a reporter for nearly 30 years. My brother is a former major in the Air Force. He doesn’t fly anymore.

So, what does that tell you about the newspaper and airline industries from our perspectives?

Without reading any further details, I’m reasonably sure that Trump is not sitting at his desk, typing away on his computer. But then I wouldn’t want to slander a former president. He may be doing that very thing.

Was he able to get a publisher or is he self-publishing? Will he be doing book tours? Will he buy ads on television promoting his latest book as James Patterson often does? (Does James Patterson even write his own books these days?) I’m just curious.

I know he’s had several books published. Art of the Deal is the one that comes to mind. They call it Trump’s book but also credit journalist Tony Schwartz. Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Tony wrote it after speaking with the entrepreneur. You can bank on that. At least he gets partial credit.

I worked for some very smart people, and I wrote their speeches, their thought papers, their company policies on a variety of issues. If they didn’t like what I wrote, and if I wasn’t thinking correctly, they’d have me change it.

I remember one of my employees being dumbfounded when he was asked to write a paper for the head of the company foundation without even a sit-down discussion beforehand.

“You mean, I’m supposed to decide what company policy is on these important issues?” he asked.

“Yes, and if she doesn’t like your ideas, she’ll let you know before introducing them as her own.”

And so it went.

Many smart people aren’t willing to devote hours each day to the writing process and, frankly, wouldn’t know how to begin. Maybe that’s why they are smart. They wouldn’t settle for the average writer’s profit margin. After Amazon and your self-publishing company squeeze out every penny they think they deserve, all you have left to show for your hard work is a measly $50 check now and then.

I think I’ve whined about this before.

Even more irritating than Trump’s latest book are the ones that are written by celebrities and TV commentators. I’m reasonably confident that everyone on Fox News has written some kind of book that immediately shoots to No. 1 on someone’s best-seller list. That’s after endless hours of self-promotion and free advertising by these so-called authors.

“That’s the news for today. Don’t forget to buy my latest book, folks.”

Remember Bill O’Reilly and his Killing books? He may be one of the few TV journalists capable of writing his own books. When he was on Fox his self promotions were endless. But even he had help from a fellow named Martin Dugard, his “co-author.”

It feels like everyone who worked in the Trump White House also wrote a tell-all book. Maybe some of them actually penned it themselves. I couldn’t say, but in my opinion there’s nothing more disgusting that an individual that takes a paycheck from you and then stabs you in the back … in hopes of making more money by writing about you.

What do I know, but I’m not sure that a Trump book on the 2020 election will be a bestseller. We are familiar with the plot and the ending. I can’t imagine there will be any surprises or mysterious deaths. This isn’t a Clinton book.

Now my book … I’m 12 chapters into my new novel and have already killed off two people. Just me in my little office writing. Stay tuned, folks.

Hating Christianity?

A friend of mine was telling me the other day that her daughter hates Christianity. If she walks into a restaurant and sees a cross on the wall, she will leave.

I thought back to the scene on the Omen, an old horror movie, where a couple tries to take their child, Damien, to church and he reacts so violently that his parents, totally mortified, remove him quickly from the holy structure. Turns out he is the spawn of the devil, which made for a fun movie and a valid reason for him not wanting to be dragged into a place where his enemy was being worshipped.

I’m reasonably sure that my friend’s daughter is not the offspring of Lucifer. No Rosemary’s Baby there. And my friend insists there was never an incident in a church or with a religious figure to fuel her daughter’s antagonism.

So, I ask myself, why would someone have such strong feelings against Christianity? And why does it feel like more and more people are portraying Christians as evil people – kooks who support wild conspiracy theories and practice unspeakable acts on others.

Even if you don’t believe every single word in the Bible, which was written 2000-plus years ago in a different era, by men. And even if you have questions about the story of Jesus rising from the dead and also bringing others back to life, Christianity is a pretty cool belief system.

A friend of mine called it a roadmap for a good life.

First it teaches tolerance. Love thy neighbor as thyself. It doesn’t say love thy white neighbor or love thy black neighbor as thyself, it basically says we should love everyone. That’s a tall order, given the way some people act these days. But that’s the message. It doesn’t include these words, but they are part of the package: treat everyone with respect and dignity and in a manner in which you would want to be treated.

It says don’t commit murder, steal or desire what belongs to another. It says don’t lie. All reasonable moral requests.

Buddhism also has five basic precepts: refrain from taking life, stealing, acting unchastely, speaking falsely and drinking intoxicants. Except for the part about alcohol consumption, I’m sensing a familiar refrain here.

In the Islamic belief, Muslims donate a fixed portion of their income to community members in need. And during Ramadan they share the hunger and thirst of the needy as a reminder of their religious duty to help those less fortunate.

With these standard bearers, why would anyone be opposed to Christianity or any religion that had concern for others as a principal tenet?

At our little island church, kindness toward others is a hallmark. We raise money for the needy. We help out each other in desperate times.

My guess is that it’s not religion that’s the problem, but the people who abuse its tenants for their own bad ends – not for the benefit of others. That could have turned off many people to the word “Christianity.”

Commentator Tucker Carlson has another theory as to why Christianity seems to be getting a bad rap these days. His may make more sense than mine.

He says that Christianity has become an object of hate for liberals, in particularly, not “because it’s repressive but because they are.” A kind of religious whipping boy for the power hungry, as it were.

Tucker says that “Christianity describes a universal brotherhood of man, [in which] every person [is] created in God’s image and therefore, for that reason, morally equal. That is gravely disempowering for the left. If all people are morally equal, you can’t really divide your population by skin color. You can’t really set one group against the other. You can’t tell one group you’re better than that group, you’re worse than that group. That’s not allowed. So, in order to allow it, you have to erase Christianity, and they’ve been working on it for a long time.”

So, I asked my friend about her daughter.

“She always likes being in charge and acts like she knows more than the rest of us,” the woman told me.

“That explains it,” I told my friend. “It’s not that she’s anti-Christian. It’s that she’s a liberal.”

The No-See-Um Battle

The pleasant lady who is helping us build a house in a continuous care retirement community in Sarasota called with the bad news today: “I’m sorry, but THEY won’t allow you to have no-see-um screen on your patio.”

“Are you kidding me?” I shot back. “That means I won’t be sitting outside in the summer.”

I could see my man starting to sweat. He knows that when I feel strongly about something, I am not shy about expressing my feelings and my displeasure. No-see-ums is definitely an issue worth going to war over.

For you non-Floridians, no-seem-ums are the nearly invisible little insects that come out when the temps heat up and the humidity soars. Other states have them, but they thrive in the Sunshine State.

Their initial bites are bad enough and get worse as time progresses. If I am bitten, I deal with large red welts on my legs for weeks … torturous itching, especially in the middle of the night … marks that last for an entire season.

“I guess you didn’t attend the luncheon where this topic came up,” the pleasant lady said. “Someone asked the question, and THEY told the audience that it wouldn’t be possible. Something about the ventilation.”

I laughed. “You’re telling me that they don’t want to put in these screens because they think old people sitting on their porches will die from lack of oxygen?” The pleasant lady didn’t seem to have an answer, but I could tell that she was still concerned about breezes being stopped by tiny wire mesh.

I have heard no-see-um stories that will make your skin cringe. Apparently, she has not. My former neighbor in Indianapolis was on a small-boat cruise and had to cut it short after one night in a bed that was invested with the little buggers. She suffered for months.

My man’s son came to visit us from London one summer. After an early evening walk, he and his girlfriend announced they didn’t need a ride home in the golf cart because they would be sitting on the beach and watching the sunset.

“I don’t think you want to do that,” I cautioned. “The no-see-ums will eat you alive.”

“In situations like that,” the young man responded, “you don’t let the venom take control of your body. If you ignore it, you won’t feel it.”

Good luck with that, I thought.

The next morning, he approached me sheepishly to announce that he had awakened at 3 a.m. with his “legs on fire. You were right,” he said for probably the first and last time.

In regard to the retirement community, I gave the pleasant lady some free public relations advice:

“Send out a letter to all the people who attended the luncheon. Tell them that the issue of no-see-um screens in Florida and their use at the facility has been researched. The screens will not affect ventilation but will protect people who are particularly sensitive to the insect bites. Therefore, we have reviewed our policy and are now allowing the screens for an additional charge of … whatever.”

It’s a winning move, I told her. “Everyone will embrace the change as a sign that you are a sensible organization and not prone to foolish statements like suggesting that people who use smaller screens won’t be able to breath properly.”

She might not have appreciated my sarcasm, but she remained pleasant and, likely, steadfast. I’m figuring that once policy has been made at the facility, getting it changed will be tough. Let’s see if THEY are really interested in taking care of us old folks, or if they just want us to follow THEIR rules – no matter how ill-conceived.

Let the no-see-um battle begin.

Bette Still Barking On Twitter

I used to be amused, perhaps even flattered, when people told me I looked like Bette Midler. They would hasten to add, “And she’s so pretty.” Pretty is not a word I would ever use to describe myself – and I’m not being modest, just a realist. And, certainly, there is nothing attractive about the mouthy Ms. Midler these days.

She came to mind recently as an example of why Elon Musk – or someone – had to take control of Twitter. Not because he will shut down her outrageous comments. But because no one better typifies the hypocrisy that has been Twitter than the aging singer and actress.

If we all thought former President Trump was Twitter cringeworthy, he hardly held a candle to the caustic Ms. Midler. Despite a plethora of outrageous comments, she remains on the platform to this day with two million followers.

Meanwhile, people like my mild-mannered housecleaner have been kicked off social media by the hundreds of thousands. I don’t know about the others – I’m sure there were plenty of outrageous things said – but she posted something that shouldn’t have caused a ripple of consternation in the scope of things.

Let’s take a minute to recall highlights of some of Ms. Midler’s previous performances in the Twitter theater.

When Melania Trump was a speaker at the Republican National Convention in 2020, Midler tweeted: “Oh, God. She still can’t speak English.”

That same year, she called on authorities to arrest former President Donald Trump for trying to infect Joe Biden with Covid. She tweeted: “He tried to infect & kill #Joe Biden at the debate; by turning up too late to be tested, knowing full well he was positive; then screeched, sputtered, spit and foamed at the mouth, hoping to infect Joe. He IS the devil.”

Against Senator Rand Paul, who was attacked by his neighbor while working in his yard in Kentucky, Ms. Midler tweeted: “I DO NOT promote violence … but Rand Paul says that the Kurds are being ‘ingrates’ for taking their frustrations out on US troops. Which is a good reminder for all of us to be more grateful for the neighbor who beat the shit out of Rand Paul.”

She also took on Senator Joe Manchin after he nixed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill. Manchin, she tweeted, “wants us all to be just like his state, West Virginia. Poor, illiterate and strung out.”

On April 24, she called Florida governor Ron DeSantis “a jackass.”

She and her ilk have gotten away with this kind of thing on Twitter for years, while parents attending school board meetings to exercise their right to petition for redress got surrounded by policeman and, in some cases, arrested. If, in the past, Twitter hasn’t silenced her mean-spirited, crass and xenophobic remarks that praise violence against a sitting senator, then how can it justify removing others?

Obviously not too happy about the Musk purchase of Twitter she re-tweeted a recent New York Times editorial that said that Elon Musk is a problem masquerading as a solution and added her commentary: SAD SAD SAD SAD SAD.

A friend of mine sent me an email today commenting on how a Twitter lawyer cried in an internal meeting when talking about the sale of her company.

My friend wrote that “it couldn’t happen to a more truly dangerous bunch.” He said these people “have regarded themselves as our self-appointed overlords…unaccountable and not to be questioned…For example, while getting a haircut yesterday, my barber (of all people) told me he got banned from Twitter for re-tweeting a tweet from Ron DeSantis. So as is demonstrated by that example alone, they have been aggressively suppressing political free speech.”

Maybe Ms. Midler should be grateful that Musk claims he will continue to support free speech. With some older folks, complaining and criticizing others is all they have left.

Ethanol and Bird Poop

I saw on my newsfeed that while President Biden was speaking the other day about increasing ethanol production a bird pooped on his lapel. I can sympathize. It’s happened to me twice; double the indignity.

I don’t remember much about the second fly-over, but the first is emblazoned in my memory even though it happened many years ago when I was a reporter for The Indianapolis Star.

It was a summer morning and I was wearing one of my new, lightweight dresses and walking toward the back entrance to the newspaper office. I was feeling on top of the world.

I saw it coming. A giant glob sailing through the air toward me. I tried to step out of its way, but it was a direct hit just below my waist. It felt wet when it struck. And it must have been a big bird, because it was a substantial in size.

By the time I got to the door and the building guard, I was laughing hysterically. I could tell he thought I was nuts until I explained that I had just been bombarded by bird poop. I pointed to the white and green mess on my dress.

“Oh my,” was all he could think to say. Then he laughed, too.

I went immediately to the ladies’ room and washed out the droppings, drying the flimsy dress material under the hand dryer. I chuckled about it the rest of the day, sharing the story with my co-workers and friends, some of whom I’m sure thought it couldn’t happen to a nicer person.

I had the same feeling when I read the Biden-ethanol and bird poop story. Sometimes the president deserves a little something nasty on his lapel for the ill-advised decisions he makes.

I may not be an expert on the pros and cons of ethanol, but I have always wondered why the U. S. thinks it’s okay to burn up 40 percent of the corn it grows in our gas tanks when we have so many other alternatives available. And is ethanol that much better for the environment than gasoline – or other forms of abundant energy in this country?

While traditionally we have allowed 10 percent of our gasoline to be ethanol, Biden wants to increase that number to 15 percent. Talk about your bad timing.

For starters, the war in the Ukraine is likely going to mess with two major harvests in that country this year: a large load of wheat starting in July, and an even larger load of corn starting in October.

According to Asia Times, the autumn corn crop was mostly intended to feed animals over the winter, so that it wasn’t going to affect food in supermarkets until 2023. The Times says that gives farmers time to adjust to the projected loss of Ukrainian corn, including simply planting more corn elsewhere. I’m not sure where that would be. Preferably not in the path of Russian tanks.

Biden must have no plans to ask our farmers to step up and fill in the dwindling corn supplies in those countries that get their grain from the Ukraine. And if he does, how much more can they produce when a large chunk of our fertilizer comes from Russia?

In 2021, the U. S. imported an estimated $10.3 billion worth of fertilizer for crops in 2021. Of that, $1.3 billion came from Russia, which is now off the market.

Less corn. Higher food prices. Shortages. Sidestepping our abundant energy sources to please the far left. All in all, I’d say the bird expressed my sentiments about what the president had to say the other day – and many days.