Interview - Vlad the Impaler: Son of Dracul.
Later additions - podcast versions: iHeart + iTunes + Stitcher + TuneIn.
Benches for oldsters.
Dear National Forest Service:
Why were the benches removed from the trails at Lost Dutchman State Park? I contacted park officials, and they said you had jurisdiction over their trail benches...
Many thanks - ACB
>>Dear Mr. Baird
The Tonto National Forest asked Lost Dutchman State Park to remove the wooden benches that are along the trails on National Forest System land for several reasons:
1) We received complaints from the public that the benches were in poor condition, and giving them splinters,
2) The Forest Service is not able to maintain the benches, and
3) The benches were out of character for the designated Semi-Primitive area. Per Forest Service guidelines, Semi-Primitive areas are characterized by a predominantly natural or natural appearing environment. Any constructed features shall be primarily for site protection. Because the metal benches are also out of character for this area, the Forest Service will be working with Lost Dutchman State Park to relocate these benches to other areas of the State Park.
Sincerely - NFS
>>Dear National Forest Service:
Now that the benches are gone, old people like me won't be able to hike the trails. Those benches were lifesavers, and they were well worth putting up with a few splinters in my butt.
Yours truly - ACB
L'esprit de l'escalator.
I used to live about a half-block away from a shopping mall. The mall was smack-dab between me and the nearest post office, so on Saturdays, I would often walk the mile or so through the mall to check my PO box. About halfway through the mall, there was a fancy escalator with plexiglas sides and a narrow metal ledge that ran from the first floor up to the second. That ledge was a magnet for kids. They loved to stand on the smooth metal, while holding onto the moving rubberized handrails. They would let the handrails drag them up a few feet on the outside of the escalator, before jumping off. Most of them didn't dare to hold on all the way up to the second floor, because that's where the ledge and rubberized handrails stopped. If you didn't execute a quick vault over the handrail to the moving stairway inside, the escalator would peel you off and send you plummeting to the marble floor, thirty feet below.
I knew it was a potential death-trap, and I was surprised that the mall didn't redesign it, to include some basic safety features. There was a small warning sticker, but kids don't pay any attention to warning stickers.
So one Saturday morning, I was walking through the mall on my way to the PO box when I saw a little boy, about three or four, playing on the outside of the escalator. He stood on the metal ledge, and let the rubberized handrail drag him up a few feet, then loosened his grip and slid back down to safety. He did it several times, with no problem. But as I neared the escalator, I could see there was something terribly wrong with his latest attempt, even though he was facing away from me. He was getting too far up, outside his comfort zone, and he panicked, grabbing tightly onto the handrail when he should have been loosening his grip. He certainly wasn't old enough to execute the quick vault at the top of the moving stairway that would save him from a thirty-foot fall onto the marble below.
I didn't even break stride. It was as if my walk through the mall had been precisely timed, so that I could reach up seven or eight feet, grab the back of his belt, yell "Let go," and haul him back down to safety. His parents, standing about thirty feet away, gave me a strange look, but I just kept walking.
I'm no hero. I'm sure if you had been there, you would have done the exact same thing. But I suspect the parents never did figure out what a close call that really was.
I just returned from northern Arizona, where I learned three new things:
1) Never turn your back on a herd of deer - they'll untie your shoes and leave the laces covered in deer spit.
2) If you put your head over the Wupatki Blowhole on a scorching day, be prepared for an icy blast of air from Yaponcha, the wind god.
3) Do not try to keep up with a 5-year-old and an 11-year-old.
They generate 1.21 jigawatts of energy.
Perseids In Joshua Tree.
It was one of the early years of this millennium, and my Hungarian wife's adult kids were visiting our home in Los Angeles from Budapest. In mid-August, we took them up to the California high desert near Twentynine Palms, and showed them some Joshua trees. They loved 'em. Then we checked into a local motel, and I told everybody to get to sleep early, and be ready for a knock on their door at 1am. I'm sure they suspected it was just the ravings of a crazy American. Anikó even dismissed it as the babbling of her nutso foreign hoozhband.
So we all went to sleep, and when my alarm went off at 1am, Anikó sat up and looked at me in disbelief, with bleary eyes. I hustled her out of bed, and we knocked on the kids' door, telling them: "Get dressed, and grab the comforters off your beds!" They probably thought it was some sort of emergency drill.
We drove ten miles, up into Joshua Tree National Park, and parked beside the road. There was no traffic at that time of night, and I told everybody to spread out their comforters in the sand, near each other. They looked at me like I was certifiably insane. I have to admit that I was a little uncertain about this whole plan, because I had never tried anything like it before. But I knew theoretically that if everything worked out well, it could be a memorable night.
The light pollution in that part of the world was almost non-existent, and after a few minutes, when their eyes adjusted, I pointed out the ribbon of stars stretching across the sky - our galaxy, the Milky Way. They all liked that. It's not something you can see from Budapest, or even Los Angeles. Then the real fun began.
As the first Perseid meteor flashed across the sky, there were three amazed gasps. The second shooting star followed soon after, and they all wanted to know what was happening. "It's the best meteor shower of the year," I said. They asked for more details, so I lectured a bit, telling them what little I knew of the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle and the space rubble it leaves in its wake. The informal lesson was punctuated by whispered cries of "Look!" and "Over there!" and "That was a loooooong one!"
We watched for at least a couple of hours, because every time I suggested going back to the motel, they wanted to stay "just a little longer." How can you say no to that?!
Even now, a dozen years later, the subject inevitably comes up when we all get together. That's when everybody discusses, with hushed reverence, The Night Of The Meteors.
Perseid Meteor Shower Peak Thrills Skywatchers: How You Can Still Watch
Two hillbillies walk into a restaurant and have a bite to eat. Suddenly, a woman eating a sandwich at a nearby table begins to cough. After a minute or so, one of the hillbillies looks at her and says, "Kin ya swallar?" The woman shakes her head no. Then he asks, "Kin ya breathe?" The woman shakes her head no, and begins to turn blue.
The hillbilly walks over to the woman, lifts up her dress, yanks down her panties, and quickly gives her right butt cheek a lick with his tongue. The woman is so shocked that she has a violent spasm, and the obstruction flies out of her mouth. As she begins to breathe again, the hillbilly walks back to his table.
His partner says, "Ya know, I've heerd of that there 'Hind Lick Maneuver' but I ain't never seed nobody do it!"
Independence Day is hot dogs, beer, barbecues, Bill Pullman...
...and a revolutionary document signed by a few very brave men...
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
— John Hancock
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
Image of the Declaration at the Library of Congress.
The Ring of Brodgar.
A full Scottish breakfast is a thing to behold: meats, eggs, tomatoes, fruit, the works. I had downed a full Scottish breakfast on the morning of May 17, then we hopped on a ferry headed for Orkney. The waves were... well, let's say... quite noticeable, and my stomach sloshed around energetically.
When we arrived on the island, we hopped in the car and visited several sites, including the Ring of Brodgar, a 341-foot-diameter Neolithic stone circle and henge.
Halfway around the Ring, I came to the horrifying realization that my Scottish breakfast was about to make an explosive exit, one way or another.
Anikó was very helpful, standing guard whilst I dumped a substantial load on the shores of a local loch.
I bought a t-shirt to commemorate the experience.
Four of the Amazon reviews on Vlad are 5-star!
But I felt compelled to comment on the other two:
>>1 out of 5 stars By Danusia Workiewycz on January 31, 2016: Amateurish effort, author should stick to something other than writing. A complete waste of my time!
>>MY COMMENT: Most Romanians hate this book. It tells the truth about Vlad.
>>1 out of 5 stars By Amazon Customer on May 3, 2016: Bloody, disgusting, humiliating, just nasty. I could only read about a third of the book and had to quit, too many other stories that I could read and enjoy, not this book. I would not recommend it.
>>MY COMMENT: You were warned. Twice. The words "graphic transgressive violence" appear both on this page, and at the beginning of the book itself.
The Most Terrifying Single-Track Road In The Entire F*cking World.
We visited some of the Scottish islands last week, and one (or two?) of them were in the Outer Hebrides. Lewis and Harris is just a 90-minute ferry ride across The Minch from Skye and we stayed in a wonderful B&B in Tarbert, on the south (Harris) part of Lewis and Harris. The next day, my lovely wife wanted to visit a 16th-century church in Rodel, which is only 17 miles away on the map provided by our GPS.
However, the reality of driving to Rodel turned out to be a lot more challenging than it looked on the GPS screen. For one thing, this was only my second day of driving on the "wrong" side of the road and I was still a bit shaky. Plus, the road chosen by the GPS was along the east coast of Harris, which is full of small but steep hills. But the kicker was the single-track road, which had sharp drop-offs on both sides. Even though there were many places to pull over and let oncoming cars pass (the Scots call them, logically enough, "Passing Places"), the steep and hilly nature of the road meant that we had to drive over the top of many single-lane hills with absolutely no idea if there was any oncoming traffic. No wonder Lewis and Harris has a reputation as a super-religious island. We are not churchgoing people, but we found ourselves doing a sh*tload of praying on the steep uphills of that hair-raising road.
Then there were the sheep, which roam freely over much of the island. Since they have the right of way, we had many stops for meandering sheep. At one of the Passing Places, we came upon a female sheep standing in the middle of the road with her hind legs stiffly outstretched. At first, I thought she had some sort of leg deformity, but then I noticed the steaming puddle forming underneath her crotch. From then on, we couldn't read a "Passing Place" sign correctly - the words automatically became "Pissing Place" in our minds.
The trip lasted only about an hour and a half, but it seemed *much* longer, and the stress probably chopped two or three years off our lifespans. The tension was also taking its toll on my driving speed, so Anikó The Navigator eventually noticed that the GPS was estimating an arrival time that kept getting later and later, the closer we got. It felt like Zeno was driving.
Is Erin Burnett really Scottish?
I just found this 2014 CNN video ("Erin Burnett traces her roots to remote Scottish island") on YouTube:
I was naturally interested, since I spent several days in Scotland last year. The CNN crew took a ferry (@4:02), so I wondered what exotic, remote island they were visiting. The island turned out to be Skye, which is a lovely and exotic place, but it's not really remote. In fact, it's only 500 meters off the Scottish mainland! I know, because I drove to Skye last year, over this bridge:
, which opened in 1995. The cost of Erin's ferry was £18.80 ($27.13) for each car, plus £5.60 ($8.08) for each person in the car. Crossing the bridge is free.
All of this unnecessary expense makes me question whether Erin Burnett is really Scottish.
Erudite. Three syllables. Not four.
While channel surfing yesterday, I happened to watch a few minutes of a tween movie in the Detergent series. Or was it Divergent? Who knows. Who cares?
Well, I do. A little bit. You see, the actors were giving their teeny-bop audience a horrible lesson in the pronunciation of the word "erudite," which means "having or showing knowledge that is learned by studying." Or maybe they were making fun of the correct pronunciation, to show how un-erudite they actually were.
It seems that Erudite was the name of a group, or gang, in the film. And the actors were all saying AIR-ee-yuh-dyte. This is a common error in everyday speaking, but you would think they'd take the trouble to get it right in a movie about Erudites, fergawdsake.
Moral: it doesn't matter if you favor the pronunciation that the Brits say we use (AIR-yuh-dyte) or our own "preferred" pronunciation (AIR-uh-dyte), but please don't put four syllables in the damn word.
Onychocryptosis (toenail detail).
In the early 1980s, I accidentally kicked a desk, which pulled the nail up from my right big toe at a 45-degree angle. Yeah, it was horrifying. You remember when George Clooney got his fingernails pulled out in Syriana? It was like that. Only different. I pushed the nail back down, in the vain hope that I could somehow make things better, but the situation just deteriorated from there. The nail eventually turned black and fell off. However, our bodies are amazingly adept at healing themselves, and a new nail grew back, during the next year or so. It was weird and thick and funky-looking, but at least it was a nail.
Flash forward to late February, 2016, when I made a painful discovery. Over the years, my toenail has become as hard as titanium, and now requires specialized tools just to survive the monthly toenail-cutting ritual, Plus, the side of the nail has been insidiously invading the skin of my toe. Evidently, that nail does not wish to endure a repeat of the desk-kicking-toenail-detaching incident, so it's been growing a firm anchor into my flesh. Doctors call this an "ingrown toenail," but it felt like a jagged rock had lodged itself inside my toe. My wife, bless her heart, attempted some minor surgery, Poor Anikó never thought "in sickness and in health" would include this kind of sh*t. She really went above and beyond the call of duty, and for awhile, I thought she had fixed it. Then I limped around in pain for a month, hoping against hope that my body would again heal itself, but no such luck.
So I finally broke down and made an appointment with a podiatrist. I was convinced that a massive spiky object was growing inside my toe, so I had him take x-rays. Nope, it was just a "simple" ingrown toenail. He prepared three needles to numb my toe, and after the first one, I said, "That's not too bad." He smiled an evil smile and replied, "Don't say anything yet. I'm not done." Sure enough, the second one was a killer. When his needle went all the way through the width of my toe, I yelped and cursed his entire lineage. He smiled again, and later accepted my apology. Evidently, this is standard procedure for these types of operations. The three needles were not enough to numb me completely, so he inserted three more, about ten minutes later. My toe was already partially anesthetized, so those were not quite so bad.
The surgery involved cutting a quarter-inch-wide strip from the right side of my toenail. I was surprised that he had to remove the entire length of the nail, and I watched with fascination while he wiped the blood off the nearly-two-inch-long strip of nail, He showed me the tiny two-pronged dagger that was causing all the trouble, but then he went digging around inside my cuticle, too, He laughed and said, "This is where you want someone with experience." After rooting around in the blood for awhile, he ripped out a tiny piece of the nail root, with a triumphant exclamation: "Aha! This little baby can often cause a lot of trouble." That was when I decided that podiatrists are really just closet sadists.
No, no, no, that's not fair. Dr. Connell patiently took x-rays to soothe my concerns, even when he knew the images would show nothing. And his off-the-hook sense of humor helped me get through a nightmarish experience with some hearty laughs. Good guy. Good doctor.
Vlad the Impaler solves the homeless problem.
Free eBook [Warning: violent]
EXT. TÎRGOVISTE DINING HALL - NIGHT
Vlad stops outside the hall and confers with DRAGOMIR, the Captain of his guards:
VLAD: You have gathered together all the cripples, the poor, the sick, the vagrants and beggars of this land?
DRAGOMIR: Yes, Voivode. They're quite a smelly crowd, but they seem to be having a good time. It's lasted all day, and half the night.
Vlad nods, and walks inside the hall.
INT. TÎRGOVISTE DINING HALL - CONTINUOUS
Hundreds of wretched PEOPLE are enjoying a sumptuous feast. They stuff themselves with huge plates of food, and drink jugs of wine until they can drink no more. Things are getting pretty ROWDY, but everyone quiets down at the sight of Vlad.
VLAD: No one should go hungry in my land! What else do you need? Do you all want to be without cares... would you like to be poor no more?
VLAD: Then it shall be done!
He walks out.
EXT. TÎRGOVISTE DINING HALL - CONTINUOUS
Vlad addresses his Captain:
VLAD: Dragomir, all my subjects should work, and contribute to the common welfare. Let's make sure these parasites will present no further burden to others.
Dragomir nods, and signals to his MEN. They NAIL planks over the doors and windows, and set fire to the hall.
VLAD (continuing): Remember: no survivors.
Dragomir salutes, as Vlad walks away. The people inside the burning building begin to SCREAM.
That's right, woodchuck-chuckers...
Groundhog Day screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis (1992 Jan 07):
Groundhog Day screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis (1992 Jan 07):
Groundhog Day screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis (1992 Jan 07):
Today In Baird History.
90 years ago today, on January 26, 1926, John Logie Baird demonstrated the first successful television. Today's Google Doodle commemorates the man and his invention. Articles:
Who invented the television? How people reacted to John Logie Baird's creation 90 years ago (+2 videos):
Who invented the mechanical television? A Scot!:
Who invented the mechanical television? Five facts you need to know about John Logie Baird:
Back when Aaron Sorkin was starting to write The Social Network, he created a Facebook group as part of his research, and I was lucky enough to chat with him about JLB. Sorkin's play, The Farnsworth Invention, had just closed early on Broadway, and I scolded him for presenting Philo Taylor Farnsworth as the "inventor" of television. I said that John Logie Baird was always given that place of honor, in my family, even though we're probably not related to him. Sorkin replied with a line from his play:
DAVID SARNOFF: Now it’s 1921 and not a lot of people were thinking about electrons except the writers of comic books and the readers of comic books, one of whom was a kid from Indian Creek, Utah whose family had just moved to Rigby, Idaho to live on his uncle’s potato farm. If there are any Brits in the theatre they’re gonna start shouting John Logie Baird at me but they’re wrong. Baird didn’t have it. Neither did Nipkow or Ernst Alexanderson and neither did Vladimir Zworykin. I know they didn’t have it ‘cause I knew these men and Zworykin worked for me.
I graciously allowed him to prevail (mainly because it's practically impossible to win an argument with a master playwright like Aaron Sorkin), but I still think he's wrong. And that's why his little play failed. Nyah-nyah. ;-)
Advantages Of Being Elderly.
I recently turned 65, which is conventionally defined as the chronological age at which people are referred to as "elderly."
Other terms associated with this age: patriarch, golden-ager, senior citizen, retiree, pensioner, geriatric and old fart.
I have discovered there are a couple of advantages to being 65:
1) Senior discounts, which are graciously applied by pimply-faced workers at various fast-food joints. Emphasis on Graciously.
2) The "aggravated" enhancement for any class 2 felony. For example, if you had assaulted me last month, you'd have gotten 5 years in the slammer. But now, you'll get 12.5 years. Go ahead. Hit me.
It's coming up on a new year, get a new eBook... free!
Click a cover. Any cover.
Other formats: Vlad, Merlinsky & Virgins.
Amazon Best Sellers in Kindle Store (currently #1, #2 & #4): Top 100 Free Best Sellers in Performing Arts
A Christmas Miracle (minor, but WTH).
[Warning: humblebrag ahead] Amazon breaks down its Best Sellers rankings into many, many different categories. And those categories are broken down into many, many subcategories. And those subcategories are broken down into eBooks and Dead-Tree books, Paid and Free books, etc. When it comes right down to it, a good chunk of the authors with titles listed on Amazon have a decent shot at getting onto a Best Sellers list. But I'm still delighted that 3 of my free eBooks are currently #1, #2 and #6 on the following list. Merry Christmas!
You Shouldn't Have To Pay $0.99 For Sex.
Some of you may already know that I've been experimenting with publishing free eBooks. Smashwords was an excellent place to start, and they automatically distributed my eBooks to the Barnes & Noble (Nook) and Apple (iBook) stores, among several others. That was extremely helpful, because I wanted to reach as many readers as possible. However, Amazon (which controls approximately 74% of the eBook market) is really picky, so I had to create my own Kindle listings. And Amazon won't let you list your eBook for free ($0.99 minimum), unless you enroll in their KDP Select program:
which pays some money to a few hundred of their top authors, while the millions of other eBook authors earn nothing. Nada. Bupkes.
However, your eBook is not really free to potential readers, unless they subscribe to the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program:
for $9.99 a month. As you can see, this is an amazing deal - for Amazon. They pay out some of their profits to a minuscule percentage of their elite "KDP Select" authors, and let the rest of the unwashed author masses starve. Meanwhile Amazon collects... what?... millions of dollars in KU subscription fees?
I hated this idea. I wanted ALL my readers to have free access to my eBooks, and I finally found a way to get around Amazon's KDP-Select-KU scam:
When Smashwords finally gets my eBook listed at a price of $0.00 at 3 or 4 of the top eBook stores, I report the URLs to Amazon, and challenge them to match prices. They usually lower the price within a day or two - but only at the US Amazon store, not at the 12 other country-specific Amazon stores. Readers who shop at Amazon Japan or Amazon India, for example, have to pay the full 99 cents (or the equivalent in yen, or rupees).
My latest eBook was listed at Smashwords immediately:
, but it contains sexual situations and language, so the Smashwords team has to vet it, before they feel comfortable sending it out to other eBook stores. (BTW, the Smashwords site also offers Kindle, Nook and iBook versions of my eBooks.) So I decided to see if the Smashwords URL was enough to get Amazon to match prices, and received the following reply:
"From time to time, we may match prices elsewhere online, including free promotions. However, we retain discretion over our retail prices and cannot offer a price match in this case."
I thought the wording was pretty high-handed, considering that the AUTHOR sets the price of his/her eBook (as long as it's above the magic $0.99 figure).
So I guess we'll have to wait until the Smashwords team plows their way through my purple prose, and distributes the latest eBook to other stores, so I can club Amazon over the head with several $0.00 URLs. Meanwhile, please don't hesitate to pick up a FREE copy for your Kindle, Nook, iPad or iPhone at Smashwords!
12/24 Update: Amazon finally caved, although they seemed a bit grumpy about it: "While we retain discretion over our retail prices, I've passed your feedback on for consideration."
And yet another free eBook just released!
Download Eleven Thousand Virgins: Hildegard von Bingen's Last Chants for your Kindle, Nook, computer, tablet, phone, iBook, iPad, iPod, iWatch, microwave or toaster.
Did I mention that it's free?
Description: "Field of Dreams" with medieval chant music in place of baseball.
Synopsis: Alex Barnett has a comfortable life in Los Angeles and San Francisco; it's probably too comfortable, although he can't quite admit to himself that an extended separation from his wife Nicole eats at his soul. An unusual set of seemingly unrelated circumstances impels him to seek out a centuries-abandoned monastery in southwest Germany, where he confronts the animate image of Hildegard von Bingen, the legendary twelfth-century mystic, prophet, and composer of ravishing liturgical chants. Although his friend Lars believes it's a bona-fide vision, much like the visions that fueled Hildegard's own creativity, Alex cynically distrusts his deepest instincts and drives himself to search for a more acceptable answer. His quest guides him on the path toward self-awareness, through experiences both sacred and profane. One man's inner and outer pilgrimages take him to the depths of uncertainty, and, almost inexorably, to the peak of actualization.
Background: Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179 AD) composed many chants in honor of Saint Ursula (?-383 AD). According to legend, Ursula was a Romano-British princess who, at the request of her father, King Donaut of Dumnonia (SW England), set sail across the English Channel with 11,000 virginal handmaidens to join her future husband, the pagan Governor Conan Meriadoc of Armorica (Brittany). Before the princess could arrive, all the virgins were beheaded in a massacre, and Ursula was shot dead. Modern research suggests the phrase "XI. M. V." was misinterpreted as "eleven thousand (in Roman numerals) virgins" rather than "eleven martyred virgins."
Genre: Spiritual drama. Warning: sexual situations and language.
Semifinalist in: Writers Network competition.
Later: ISBN 9781522731795 or 1522731792. ASIN B019LWAW2I. EAN 2940152534696.
Star Wars Lasik.
Pic snapped by Doc Vader and his surgical team, in the middle of my double-eye Lasik procedure:
Re: Adding a Star Wars lightsaber to your Facebook profile (Time)
'Nother free eBook just released!
Download Merlinsky: The Sorcerer's Apprentice for your Kindle, Nook, computer, tablet, phone, iBook, iPad, iPod, iWatch, microwave or toaster.
Rated PG: suitable for kids, teens, young adults, midlife crisis adults, and senior coupon clippers.
Did I mention that it's free?
Description: Imagine the Lord of the Rings meets Harry Potter and they go back to the future. Based on the Arthurian legend and the ancient folklore myth of the sorcerer's apprentice.
Synopsis: The endless hordes of Hollywood tourists in the late 1940's are easy marks for a con-man magician like Harry Merlinsky. He knows how to sucker the rubes and flash the ol' hamster-outta-the-fedora every now and then, to baffle 'em and dazzle 'em. But he didn't expect a naive fan like Jake, who wants to learn Harry's Old Knowledge - "real" magic. Harry's archenemy obliterates Jake's girlfriend, forcing Jake to become a wizard, just to stay alive. Will Jake use his newfound powers for vengeance? The timeless myth of the Sorcerer's Apprentice unfolds against the backdrop of the Magic Castle and the Hollywoodland sign.
Lineage: 12th-century folklore myths begat The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which begat a tone poem by composer Paul Dukás, which begat Disney's Fantasia, which inspired Merlinsky, a magical action-adventure. [Completed before the Nicolas Cage film was released.]
Quarterfinalist in these competitions: American Zoetrope, Writers Network.
December 18 Update - Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#14 Top 100 Free in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Arts & Photography > Performing Arts
#59 Top 100 Free in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Time Travel
Smashwords, Amazon (US/UK/DE/AT/FR/ES/IT/NL/JP/BR/CA/MX/AU/IN), Barnes & Noble, Apple. Kobo, Scribd, Inktera, OverDrive, Oyster, Goodreads reviews.
ISBN 9781522731801 or 1522731806. ASIN B019AWDV3Q. EAN 2940152520880.
"We have met the enemy and he is us."
In June of 2013, my wife and I moved into a house on Lago Del Sol (Lake Of The Sun):
Or so we thought. The signs around the lake led us to believe that was true. The lake to the east featured signs which labeled it Lago Pogo (Lake Of Pogo). But, after a couple of years, I began to look at Leisure World maps, which said that we lived on Lago Pogo, and the lake to the east was unnamed.
So I wrote to The Powers That Be. Just because that's the way I roll. I enjoy irritating authority figures.
It's in my blood. I'm a sh*t-stirrer, as was my father before me. My father's father was, too, and I'm sure the line of sh*t-stirrers extends way back into the mists of time. Generations of proud sh*t-stirrers, if you will.
In the best-case scenario, The Powers That Be might re-label the maps, and my wife and I could happily live our lives on the Lake Of The Sun, instead of Swamp-Rat Lake. But I figured that was a long shot, and TPTB would probably ignore me.
Boy, was I wrong.
[TPTB had to move 4 signs. And on their maps, the lake to the east is still unnamed.]