Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Real History and Real Masculinity

 If you'd like to see some real history, try the TimeLine channel on YouTube. They've got a great assortment of  content... notably including the masterful British archaeology series, Time Team

Another thing that recently piqued my interest here was a series of documentaries about the "Devil's Brigade". Composed of US and Canadian troops, this was the first group of elite special forces, requested by Churchill during WW2 and trained by the US Army. They were the fore-runners of the Green Berets, the Army Rangers, the Navy Seals, et. al

TimeLine airs a series of documentaries where modern recruits go through the same training, with the same equipment, as their WWII counterparts. Unsurprisingly (to me at least) even modern Rangers and Seals are daunted by the training.

Among these documentaries are interviews with actual surviving members of the Devil's Brigade. And it's in these conversations that you get a brief glimpse of what today's world is finding so hard to produce. 

Real. actual, men.

We hear so much of "toxic masculinity" that many people just take it for granted that masculinity is toxic... bad... to be avoided. They have no idea what masculinity is. They don't have clear examples in front of them. As one who did have that example in the form of my stepfather -- a Marine who served in WWII -- I feel very sad for the fatherless, mal-adjusted, mal-educated people who don't understand it.

But as I said, in these documentaries, you get a glimpse. You hear from actual men who liberated Anzio from Nazi tyranny. Real Nazi tyranny, not the pretended labels forced on people you simply disagree with. These men climbed sheer mountain faces with no safety equipment, carrying sixty pounds of munitions on their backs. Without armor, they braved flat, featureless fields of grass defended by Nazi machine guns... and they won the battle. And in the words of one member of the Devil's Brigade, "We did it for the women." 

No, they didn't do it to get laid. Rather, they laid down their lives so that their wives and daughters would not be faced with the horrors of war at home. They did it to liberate European women who most of the men would never see again. 

If you truly think that masculinity is toxic, unless and until you give me solid reasons otherwise (and thus far I've never met anyone anywhere who did) the most believable reason is that you have never met or spent time with an actual man. You've certainly never raised one.

It's horrifying to see women who so misunderstand what drives men that they actually view the prevalence of  men in the infantry as some sort of insult or slight. These men rate women so highly that they will literally sacrifice themselves for them. It's one of the greatest tragedies of our age that many of the women they would die for simply don't deserve it.

Marxists and Socialists were the great enemies of civilization in the 20th century. They remain the great enemies today. Their tactics remain as George Orwell described them... to re-define the language: to turn up to down; black to white; inside to outside; virtue to sin, etc. Being the one most effective bulwark against rampant totalitarianism, Masculinity is redefined as "toxic". And the sheer stupidity of believing these tactics is touted as wisdom. Well, calling it wisdom doesn't make it so. The teaching of lies is not education. And the facts of history are still facts, immune to re-interpretation.

None of these Leftist tactics are new. Hans Christian Andersen published The Emperor's New Clothes om 1837. Fortunately, there are still people who recognize a naked Emperor when they see one.

The members of the Devil's Brigade certainly could. That goes for the rest of the Greatest Generation, including my stepfather, Clifford Terrel Cribbe, who until his dying day remained a Marine, never an ex-Marine. Decades after the fact, when he still woke in the middle of some nights with flop-sweat, he knew what he fought for, and he knew it was worth it.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Rand is Right: Fauci is False

As millions of others did, I watched with interest the recent exchange between Senator Rand Paul and Anthony Fauci. Although the Left has been cheerleading Fauci's accusation that Paul doesn't know what he's talking about, the clear takeaway is that the opposite is true.

Fauci has a few problems, not the least of which is hubris. He has set himself up as the ultimate expert, repeatedly using phrases like "not even I..." to describe the origins of COVID-19. Sadly, his hubris has caused his intelligence to get away from him. During the exchange with Paul, Fauci focused on his own perception that Paul was implying that Fauci was responsible for COVID-19, even though Paul repeated corrected him. And this is where Fauci gets the argument completely wrong.

Gain of function research is illegal. And what that means is it's illegal whether or not it had anything to do with COVID. Either way, it's illegal. And funneling money offshore to do illegal research is just as illegal. Fauci frames this as a medical issue when he says Rand doesn't know what he's talking about. But Fauci is wrong. It's a legal issue.

Does he really believe that lawmakers don't know what they outlawed? Rand made it clear: taking a virus that isn't transmissible to humans and making it so is illegal. Fauci admitted outright that this is exactly what happened in Wuhan; but he insists that this is not "gain of function". As "evidence" he states that it went up and down the chain in his organization and was deemed not to be "gain of function". This is the most stupid defense a supposedly intelligent person can make. 

Let's look at a close analogy. A man is arrested for robbery, and is now testifying:

Prosecutor: You've been caught on camera committing the robbery of Mrs. Smith.

Defendant: That wasn't a robbery.

P: Yes it was.

D: I ran it by every member of my gang, from the getaway driver to my most trusted lieutenant, and they all agree that it wasn't robbery. 

P: You threatened Mrs. Smith with a weapon.

D: Yes.

P: You demanded her money.

D: Yes.

P: That's the exact legal definition of robbery.

D: No it isn't. You don't know what you're talking about. We're professionals, we know better than you.

As a defendant in a case, you don't get to define the terms of a law simply because it's convenient to you that you not be prosecuted and face punishment, including jail time. But Fauci's argument is exactly that. He appears to want to dictate (not just determine) the meaning of a law he didn't pass. Rand did vote on it, and is in a much better position of authority than Fauci.

Secondly, Rand is right that it's a crime to lie to Congress. More than one person testifying over the years has done jail time for no crime other than this [1]. And Fauci's definition of "gain of function" is unique to Fauci alone. It's well documented that others in the chain of money and research have said that it was in fact gain of function. Fauci knows this. He cannot possibly work with others in the industry and not know that the common definition aligns exactly with what Rand is saying [2]. If, in fact, he does not know it, he's flatly incompetent and doesn't need to be in charge of a damned thing.

Senator Rand has called out the lies. And now Senator Rand is taking steps [3] to ensure that Fauci faces the music.

Fauci has no conception of the depth of the shit he's placed himself in.

My personal opinion: Fauci needs to spend a lot less time talking to his cronies and a lot more time talking to his lawyers.

UPDATE: Here's Rand Paul's take on the exchange. As for Fauci's take, it's all over the news.



[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/5-people-who-lied-congress-what-happened-them-n941936

[2] https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/biosafety-expert-explains-why-faucis-nih-gain-of-function-testimony-was-demonstrably-false/ar-BB1gHnko 

[3] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21014466-rand-paul-letter-to-doj 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021



For years now, I've displayed the "Junk Science" badge for "science" assertions that are ridiculous and unscientific. I have a new logo to display: "Junk History". And its first awardee is a surprising one to me... it's the CrashCourse YouTube channel, which on July 10, 2021 posted a disgraceful array of misinformation regarding the Constitution of the United States.

The episode focuses on two clauses of the Constitution... the 3/5 Compromise and the Slave Trade clause. But before we discuss those, let's have a look at the introduction.


The narrator (Clint Smith) begins with an analogy that I would not disagree with. In fact, I'd use it myself. However, he uses in a context that has very little to do with historical facts and motivations. The analogy is the difference between wanting to be a wrestler and actually being one. "Sometimes in life, who we say we want to be is not necessarily who we are in that moment." Fair enough, and it does apply to the Constitution at our nation's founding, one hundred percent. And stating that "for millions of people, the aspirations espoused in that document didn't apply to them" is true. But then it runs off the rails slightly more than one minute into the video, with this: "And not only did it not apply to them, but it further entrenched the racial caste system that was already in place." This last part is pure misinformation, as the Constitution did exactly, precisely the opposite with those two aforementioned clauses. But we're not there yet. Let's keep watching. He concludes the intro with "Who America says it is and who America has actually been have not always been neatly aligned." 


We're still less than two minutes into a 10 minute video when we're told that "there were millions of people who called the United States home who, in many ways, became even less free following the ratification of the Constitution." Again this is misinformation. You don't get less free than abject slavery, and the Constitution did nothing to make anyone less free.

Smith notes that "The Constitution was intended to solidify the legal principles of a nation." He goes on to state that in the Constitution the founders "failed to do away with slavery." This isn't exactly misinformation, but it's so horribly incomplete that even the narrator himself appears to be woefully ignorant of the actual purpose of the two clauses he's about to examine. 

Slavery is a shameful institution wherever it exists. And, as noted in the video, the words "slavery" and "slave" don't appear in the Constitution. This isn't because it's just being swept under the rug out of embarrassment; but for two other reasons. 

The first is that it is not a legal principle of this new nation, and never was. It was, however, a legal reality. If it was at all possible to eradicate slavery with the sweep of a pen, many of the Founders would have chosen to do so. But it wasn't possible. Remember, the independence they were fighting for was independence from British rule, and it is this that joined the Colonies into one nation. But they were divided on many other things, thus becoming a rather fragile alliance. 

What's also completely glossed over in the Crash Course is that this fragility was not just suspected, but well known. The Constitutional Convention wasn't our first attempt at unification. It was preceded by the Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781. Rather than a truly United States, the Articles established a "league of friendship", but remained independent bodies. Effectively, each colony was a separate country, similar to the situation we see in the European Union today. It is in this context that the word "States" applies. These were independent States joined by what was effectively a treaty. They weren't truly united yet, despite the name. And this was the situation until 1789.

What the delegates to the Constitutional Convention knew was that this fragile alliance was not good enough. It was of paramount importance to create a new nation, united despite their glaring differences. It is exceedingly naive to suppose they could do that without compromise. It's literally impossible as they found out. 

People of modern sensibilities want change, not now, but yesterday, and a hundred years before that. Every crisis is immediate. They don't have a long-term vision of the future. And they have even less vision of the past, being incapable of noticing when the policies of one administration are identical to the previous one. That's not how change happens, especially in the 18th century. Compromises would have to be made with the understanding that the principles espoused for the new nation would come to fruition in the future. And that's where the two clauses come in.

It is true that almost seventy years after the Constitution was written, an abolitionist (William Lloyd Garrison) expressed disgust with the compromises that had to be made. Well guess what? The people who made them didn't like them either. But it was the best they could accomplish. 

To call back to the Smith's analogy: 

wanting to be a wrestler may not make you one, 

but training, hard work and time can.

Smith naively states, "It didn't have to be this way. The Founders could have used this as an opportunity to say, hey, look. Let's start this experiment fresh. You know what, team, we inherited slavery from the British, we just fought a war of independence, and that probably means we should make everyone independent." 

The problem with this is that it's exactly this sentiment that was expressed by the Northern states at the Constitutional Convention. And, as with being a wrestler, saying it doesn't make it so. Without compromise, the Southern States would not agree to join the Union.

Remember... at this time there was. no. union. Each of the Colonies had their own laws and were far more independent than today.  To attempt what Smith suggests would have been to go directly from a War of Independence to another war. And it would not have been a "Civil War" either... there was no single nation. It would have been a war between nascent independent nations. This simply would not have happened.

But what would?

Let's indulge in a little Alternate History speculation. One of two things might have happened if the Constitutional Convention failed. The first is the separate States would remain separate. We wouldn't have a United States, but another Europe broken up into squabbling factions. The European Union is a recent phenomenon... just look at the history of warfare on that continent. The second is that we may have had two unions formed from the Colonies... one with slaves, one without. And in the South they may well have continued slavery to the present day. Without unity, the separate States would be more prone to invasion; and without the United States, the history of the entire world would have suffered greatly. The Founders knew nothing of the future, but they did know their vulnerabilities. We know this because the Constitution wasn't created in a vacuum. We have other documents, including the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, detailing the arguments that were made regarding every little clause. And these arguments are ignored by CrashCourse. It's not a matter of skipping over the unimportant parts. Rather, they're skipping the most important ones.

That leads to the second reason the word "slavery" doesn't appear in the Constitution. The need for unity. The Southern states would not ratify a Constitution that outlawed slavery, while the Northern states wouldn't ratify one that included it. So it isn't mentioned, except indirectly, as the implied opposite of "free persons".

Now let's talk about those two clauses, and especially the motivations for including them.

The Three-Fifths Clause

Smith, with the aid of an mis-infographic, states "The Three-Fifths Compromise: A clause in the Constitution that defined enslaved individuals as 3/5 of a human." This is completely untrue.

Nowhere does the Constitution even imply that a slave is three-fifths of a person. Rather, it states that for the purposes of representation in the House of Representatives, three fifths of non-free people (i.e. slaves) would be counted. That's three-fifths of a number of whole persons. Not that each slave was three-fifths of a person. 

The narrator himself notes that his own interpretation is absurd, but that doesn't stop him from saying it. The Founders didn't put nonsensical clauses in the Constitution. They meant three-fifths of the total, and that's exactly what they wrote. Saying otherwise is misinformation, plain and simple. 

The actual purpose of that clause was to restrict the influence of the wealthy Southern slave owners. Otherwise they would be overly represented in Congress. Remember that there wasn't a single slave that these slave owners truly represented. Rather, they represented their own interests. To pretend that it was to restrict the representation of Black slaves is to pretend that these slaves had any representation at all, and this is a most egregious lie. And on declaring independence, one of the charges levied against King George III was taxation without representation. To have slave owners wield the power of unrepresented persons didn't sit well at all with the Northern delegates.

Further, CrashCourse portrays this as a Northern attempt to restrict representation of Blacks in the South rather than slave owners. This -- honest to God, there's no other way to say this -- is a shameful, despicable, deliberate twisting of the truth. Had this clause not be included, all new territories would have become slave states. The clause was to curb the influence of slave owners and restrict the spread of slavery, plain and simple.

Everything else said about this clause in CrashCourse is based on their lie, and is complete nonsense, such as this:

"Even though the South would have loved for Black people to fully count for political purposes, this legislative compromise, which turned Black people into fractions, came to serve as a larger metaphor for the way that Black people were seen by many as less than human."

It is astonishing to me that CrashCourse found a Black narrator ignorant enough to make that statement. If the South would have loved for Black people to fully count for political purposes, they would have given them the vote. Here he is explicitly siding with Southern White supremacist slaveholders rather than those in the North who opposed slavery in its entirety. With a straight face and a steady voice Smith sides with White supremacists. You usually have to read Orwell to witness that level of twisted, perverted logic.

Smith continues with more nonsense. As for the election of 1800, he claims that "many historians argue" that Thomas Jefferson would not have won without the 3/5 compromise, even though the states that went for Jefferson would not have changed their votes. He already had the support of the Southern states with the compromise, and there is no historical evidence whatsoever that the outcome he actually achieved would have changed had there been even more Southern Whites in the Electoral College. 

Let's repeat: SLAVES HAD NO REPRESENTATION IN GOVERNMENT. Why would any in the abolitionist North be in favor of handing power to their oppressors? The North was against it, not because they thought Blacks were "fractions" of a person, but because they opposed slavery. So they pushed for as good a compromise as they could at the time. Work it out. Do the math. Then ask yourself, what part of what Smith asserts is not completely stupid? Be prepared to back it up, though quite frankly, you'll find that level of preparation impossible to achieve.

The Slave Trade Clause. 

Spoiler: he doesn't do any better here.

The text of the Constitution says, 

"The Migration of Importation of such Persons [meaning slaves] as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars per person."

Smith explains, "This is basically a really fancy way of saying that the Federal government can not limit how many individuals were imported to the United States." 

More accurately, it's a really plain way of saying that the Southern states had until 1808 to end the practice. And that's exactly how it panned out. In 1807 Congress passed a law abolishing the importation of slaves. This took effect in 1808, at the earliest possible moment allowed by the Constitution. Again, not so much as one Black took part in that vote. Were the Founders as racist as depicted, it could not have passed. At all. Ever.

Also If CrashCourse's interpretation was correct, you'd expect a last-minute flood of imported slaves. In actuality, between 1525 and 1866, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. In all that time -- a span of 341 years -- how many were shipped to North America? 

Answer: 388 thousand. Three percent spread over 400 years. (To put this in perspective the Mali emperor, Mansa Musa, took 12,000 slaves with him on a single trip to Mecca. Trading slaves in Africa had a long history among Africans long before Europeans became customers. And some Africans enslave others even to this day.)

388 thousand still too many kidnappings for my taste no matter how long it was spread out, and no matter whether it was imposed or not. But historically, the US slave trade was domestic. Except for that three percent, the rest of the slaves were born and raised here.

So why is that number important? Because Smith states that it "allowed for slavery to exist in the South where it directly sustained the economy, and allowed slavery to remain illegal at the local level where it had already been abolished." 

This is nonsense. Again, slavery by this time was a domestic enterprise. It didn't need that three percent to allow it to exist. Nevertheless, kidnapping human beings from their homeland and transporting them across the Atlantic was abominable, and the Constitution put a date on the end of that practice. CrashCourse's assertion that Southern states relied on the transatlantic slave trade to replenish high death rates is again nonsensical. The numbers simply don't support it. Who did support the Slave trade were the bigoted slave owners, but their excuses for doing so were specious at best. Rather than call them out based on the economic facts, CrashCourse again takes the White supremacists' arguments at face value. 

In his conclusion, Smith continues, speaking of the Founders: "It's important to understand who was and who wasn't included in their vision for this new nation: who would be the beneficiaries of this promise of Democracy, and whose bodies would be used and cast aside in pursuit of them."

Indeed. And it's as important to know that the Founders had a road map for that. It was an actual vision. They limited the influence of slaveholders from Day One. They put a limit on the transatlantic slave trade. And their grandchildren died by the hundreds of thousands to free Black slaves when many of them from the North had never even seen a Black person in their lives. 

In recent years, Black people in this country are taught to embrace victimhood, with arguably reasonable cause. Many of their ancestors were born and bred in captivity. That is not an excuse to do as CrashCourse does and brush aside those who had a vision for a better future as well as those who argued and literally fought and died to make it happen simply because it's convenient to paint everyone, North and South, racist or not, as racists. And it's certainly no excuse for espousing supremacist arguments under the pretense of educating.

This CrashCourse is race-baiting and supports White supremacist arguments. It ascribes the wrong motivations to the wrong people, and misrepresents historical facts. So for blatant historical malfeasance, the CrashCourse channel gets my first "Junk History" badge. 

May they wear it with pride. They've earned it.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Juneteenth is for Everyone

"Juneteenth" is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

But let's be clear: Juneteenth isn't a "Black Holiday". It's an American holiday, in which everyone has just reason to celebrate.  Let's list a few:

1. African Americans have reason to celebrate because this is the day celebrating the emancipation of slaves. That's right up front and center. And it gives us pause to consider the accomplishments of Blacks when they choose to embrace their freedom and act according to their own will. 

2. Liberty-loving Americans of all races have reason to celebrate, particularly those descendants of Civil War soldiers who fought, killed, and died to gain the freedom of those Black slaves. Let's be clear... slaves in America did not free themselves alone. While nearly 200,000 Blacks served in the Army during this conflict, White soldiers paid for the freedom of Blacks with their blood, tears, limbs, lives, and families. 620,000 dead. 476,000 wounded. 400,000 missing. This date is also a triumph of the perseverance and moral fortitude of all who served.

3. Constitution-loving Americans have reason to celebrate, as this date commemorates the realization of the dreams of the Founding Fathers. If compromise were not written into the Constitution, there would be no United States of America that included the slave states, and this day might not have come. But the Founders included a path to eventual equality in the Constitution: the slave trade is given a term limit, and the power of slave-owners was curbed by the "3/5 compromise" that limited their representation of people who were not allowed to speak on their own behalves. Both of these clauses were instrumental in bringing about the eventual abolition of slavery.

4. Descendants of Confederate soldiers have reason to celebrate. When the Civil War ended, Confederate soldiers were, by act of Congress, classed as United States Veterans. This wasn't some racially motivated move. Rather, it was adult move, in that we had are disagreements, we fought a bloody war, and now it was time to once again stand united as a nation. It was an act of unity vs. division, and one of the primary reasons that America could go on to be a "melting pot" of cultures (or "Mulligan stew" if you prefer).

5. Those who have been swept up in Critical Race Theory (CRT) have reason to celebrate, as this holiday provides a reason to re-examine the lies that they have been taught by mis-educated academics and adopt instead a proper understanding of the founding, history, and aftermath of slavery in this nation. Their fallacies are self-evident. If all Whites are racist, there could have been no Civil War. There could have been no Emanicpation. There could have been no abolition of the slave trade, and and no curb of the influence of slavers. Although there are still individual racists, God help us, it isn't "racism" merely to note that people have cultures. However, it is racist to be a supremacist, even if you believe in the supremacy of someone else. But if systemic racism in modern times were actually what is taught, there could be no Oprah. There could be no Denzel Washington, no Morgan Freeman, no Thomas Sowell, no Clarence Thomas, no Booker T. Washington, no James Earl Jones, no Beyonce, and no Barack Obama. The purveyors of CRT should take these lessons to heart and excise their own racism before casting their eyes on others.


Much of what I've just written may fly in the face of what some of you have been taught. Nevertheless, what I've written is true. Reparations were paid in blood when Whites took up arms against Whites and gave their lives to free people they had never met... some of those Union soldiers had never even seen a Black person. The Constitution did contain a roadmap of eventual equality. Just read the Federalist Papers. The importation of slaves was outlawed at the earliest possible date. The "3/5 compromise" was not about discounting the value of Black lives... it was about curbing the power and influence of their slavers. And unity is more important than division. It is unity that leads to equality.

I'm half Jewish and half Native American. I grew up in a predominately Black school system. I will tell you flat-out that people are people, however they look and wherever they're from. To demonize one group is to diminish yourself. And it doesn't matter who you demonize. There is no "acceptable" racism. Anyone -- and I mean anyone -- who tells you there is is a goddamned liar.

I relish this holiday. It marks the beginning of the culmination of this nation's ideals. It's a glorious thing to know that though every area on Earth has engaged in slavery -- and some still do -- this country was one of those that lead the charge, in the most dramatic way possible, to end it. ALL Americans have reason to be proud of that. And all have reason to encourage others to exercise the often untapped power that their freedom gives them. Of all the injustices that remain, the most pressing is that so many people are taught to believe that someone is holding them down when they choose not to stand up. If 3.2 million immigrants can come into this country and start their own businesses, you can, too. 

Enjoy the holiday. And whoever you are, enjoy your freedoms. Use them for unity. Use them for betterment. Use them for peace.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Freedom of Speech


It's been a while since I've posted anything, mainly because I've been writing a book while at the same time battling cancer. But I would like to take time to post a couple of thoughts:

Censorship is evil. If you can't handle free speech, then YOU are evil. It's your reality. Live with it, or change for the better.

If you simply can't handle the thought that someone might express an opinion with which you disagree, you're not a liberal: you're a totalitarian. You're not a socialist: you're anti-social. 

The only way to test an idea is to pit it against another. If your thoughts are so fragile that you cannot under any circumstances allow that to happen, preferring to label competing ideas as "hate speech", defined as that which is at odds with your own beliefs despite your clear attempts to disguise that, then your own beliefs are too weak to defend. You have already lost the argument.

Again, it's your reality. 

 Live with it, or change for the better.

Monday, November 23, 2020

How (and Why) I Wrote a Novel

 I haven't posted anything here for a long while, and that's because I've been busy writing my first novel. It's not published (yet), but I finished it, and it's in the hands of some readers who will give me feedback. I may change things when it comes back. But my original goal... simply writing a story of novel length... is done. Now that I've set the pen down (for the moment) I thought I might jot down some of my thoughts about the motivation, the process, and the mechanics of it.

The Motivations

There are several:

  1. Very simply put, I hadn't written one before. I've been a professional painter, a software developer, a songwriter, a game designer, an actor, a short story writer... but I've never written a novel. I wanted to see if I had one in me. 
  2. A friend of mine, of similar background, wrote a novel. I participated in the process as a beta reader, and even wrote a song depicting a scene of the book. The song was written into a later draft. And now my name is used as a character in his next book. It looked like fun. In fact, the bit about including the song was so much fun that I wrote one of my songs into my own book. I think it an interesting idea that books can have signature songs, just like movies. If I write more novels I'll try to make it a habit.
  3. For a couple of years now I've been hanging out in a writers forum. These are published authors, many of them successful, and quite frankly I don't know how I was invited. But having been there without a book to my name, I developed some built-up guilt.
  4. I had a story. This was more important than the guilt or anything else. You can want to write a novel all day long, but if you don't have a story, you don't have a book. Over several years I've had characters, I've had situations, I've built worlds, but I didn't have a story that could use any of that. One day I woke up with a narrative that didn't use any of the things I'd been working on before. None of that was necessary. The only thing that's really important is the tale. 
The Process

I've heard so much advice about how to write that I can only conclude it's a personal experience for which there's no 'correct' process. Some people outline and plan meticulously, and some people just jump in. I can't tell you how to do it. I can only tell you how I did it.

Message and Audience

I started with a specific message. It wasn't a full outline of what would happen. In fact, if I had tried it that way, I'd have never gotten started. I started by just having something to say about a specific thing for a specific audience. The message is about relationships between men and women. The audience is my children. I have three boys, all of adult age, out of school, but recently so. 

Now that's a weird demographic. It's not technically Young Adult, and it's definitely not for children; but it is an audience to whom I'm passing on a message. Technically, it's called New Adult. In this case, a Contemporary Romance aimed at young men. A book for this audience might not even be marketable. I don't really care. If all three of my sons read it, then I've hit my target.

The message was simple: a relationship CANNOT be 50/50. That's doomed to failure. Each partner must give 100% over to the other. So in this book I set out to depict a family in which that's the case. My male protagonist ("Danny") comes from that background (because that's the one I know). The female protagonist ("Melody") comes from a family where that hasn't been the case. My goal was to get Danny and Melody to a point where they can not only coexist, but embrace that philosophy.


At first, I was going to write this as a Sweet Romance. However, I'd never read one. I'd need to research the genre. So I asked some folds for good examples, and I read some. I also read "How to Write a Swoon-Worthy Sweet Romance Novel" by Victorine E. Lieske (which I highly recommend). But as a result of all this reading and research, I decided that that's not exactly what I could write. Neither could I write a "salty" romance. I was aiming squarely between them.  This is because in writing a book for my sons, I chose to use my mother's voice for the narrator.

I had the kind of mother who would share risque jokes with me. But they were never "dirty". She used innuendo and implication, but never foul or coarse language. Nevertheless, they were jokes about things that must be avoided in Sweet Romance. Salty Romance requires a bit less tact. 

I'll give you a paraphrased example from my book that illustrates the tone I went for. Danny, being a healthy young man with healthy young urges, is having some "difficulty" when around attractive young women. His mother advises him behave as if he were always accompanied by an "unruly dog" that must be kept on a tight leash. That becomes a running gag in the book. When Danny's thoughts chant "unruly dog. unruly dog" then he needs a cold shower, if you know what I mean. Later in the book he complains that the mantra doesn't always work, and is told, "sometimes you just have to pet the dog." It's funny, but it's not sweet or salty romance. In a Sweet Romance, you'd never mention masturbation. In a Salty Romance, you'd do it justice. I was looking for the wink and a smile.

I knew that there must be stuff out there in-between, but ferreting it out and reading examples just so I could conform to somebody else's classification started to feel like procrastination. So I decided to say "to hell with genre" and write what I wanted to. As a movie, this is maybe PG, maybe R, depending on how it's shot. Maybe I could fix it in the edit. But maybe somebody else wants to read that kind of book. In any case, that's the voice I wanted to hear, so it was enough to motivate me to move forward.

Getting Started

I started with a scene. It's a scene (as it turned out) in the middle of the book. I didn't know how I was going to get there. I didn't know what would happen after. All I knew was that the scene had to be in the book. Then I had another scene, and the situation was similar. It had to be in the book, but I didn't know how. 

I just wrote the scenes. Since I knew I'd be jostling these things around, I didn't use a word processor. Instead I used note-taking software with an outline. I started with KeepNote, but later in the process moved it to Manuskript, which I highly recommend.

Just getting something down -- putting it on the screen -- helped me understand the characters "in their native habitat" as it were. I didn't know everything about them. I'd learn that as I wrote more. And if that affected what I'd already written, then so what? I'm writing on a computer, not a granite slab. I could not have written detailed character descriptions and backgrounds for them at the start, because I didn't know what happened to them until I wrote it.

Eventually I understood where they came from and had a pretty good outline for the beginning of the story. There were a few chapters where I knew something had to happen, but didn't know how to express it. I didn't let that stop me. I just created a note for the chapter that described what had to happen in the scene, and moved on. Something like "Melody throws a party and it gets out of hand", or "Danny gets in a fight". Then I moved on to the things I could write.

Doing it that way, I never got stuck. There were a few months where I didn't write because I was mourning the death of a close friend, but I was never stuck because of the story itself. 

The other thing that kept me from getting stuck is writing crappy scenes. No fooling. If I knew the scene was crappy, I wrote it anyway. Then I went back later and fixed it. Sometimes I scrapped it. I kept a folder called "Cutting Room Floor", and would drag entire scenes into it when they just didn't work. Sometimes they didn't work because I got mired in detail, or deviated from using my Mother's voice, or because I didn't think they'd fit in the outline. I didn't delete them entirely, though. Many of those scenes came back from the Cutting Room as I found better ways to express them, or found a place in the plot for them.

In this way... scenes that suggested plot lines that suggested more scenes... I got through the process. The last two chapters to be written were one near the front of the book (Chapter 2) and one near the end (Chapter 16). The final epilogue was written long before I knew how the story would end.

Dealing With Change

Part of the way through this process I realized that the story wasn't working. I was getting my message down on the page, but I realized that it wasn't enough to convey that message to the readers. It has to be conveyed to the proper characters, so they can react to it and grow. And there were places where the characters were simply at the wrong place, and in the wrong company. The wrong characters were getting the message. So I stopped, took a deep breath, and decided to do what was necessary and start heavily revising. A lot of stuff went on the Cutting Room Floor. But once I decided how to resolve the issue a lot of that stuff came back out... sometimes with almost no revisions. And this solution is how my Contemporary Romance turned into a Fantasy Romance that doesn't quite fit into the Paranormal Romance genre.

The point here is, shit  happened. I hit a spot where things just weren't working, and it wasn't because of the plot I'd already worked out. I think I fixed it, but only because I didn't make the mistake of falling in love with what I had originally planned. The story had other ideas. I decided to listen to the story. Since it came from me, it meant I was the one who had other ideas.

By the time I got to those last two difficult chapters (at the beginning and the end, remember) I knew exactly how they should pan out.

Reading it

Having written it, I read it as a reader would, end-to-end. I found places (especially in the beginning) where I rushed into the story, forgetting that an author must "show, not tell". So I cut exposition and replaced it with new scenes interspersed where appropriate. I found where I'd violated the principle of Chekhov's Gun and failed to deliver on a promise. I edited and delivered. For instance, I implied that there would be a duet. I wrote the song. 

The very last thing I did was re-write the first chapters to take out all of the things I show later in the book. I had to write them to have the vision, but once the vision was realized, I didn't need to explain them... they work better if the reader discovers them naturally.

Now that I'm not writing, I'll be arranging and recording the song. As I said, I think books should have theme songs. Especially one with "Melody" in the title. It's only now that I think it's done. Mostly done. My son and I are working on designing a cover.

Final Thoughts

Having gotten through the process, I've put it in the hands of some beta-readers, who will hopefully give me unrestrained yet well-argued criticism. I will either act upon or ignore individual points of critique once I've given them a fair listen. If it's fairly well received, I may publish it. But I don't know if I can find a publisher for this one. These days you can go direct to the public with Kindle. If I have to, that's what I'll do. I'm not looking to quit my day job.

This is my first novel. It could be crap. I can't tell you it's not. For that matter, no artist is qualified to evaluate their own work. The purpose of art, no matter the medium -- be it drama, dance, painting, sculpture, song, poetry or prose -- is to deliberately communicate specific emotions to another human being through the chosen medium. Even with the greatest of intentions, if the audience ain't feeling it, it ain't art. At least not in their eyes. The best thing we can do is express ourselves and hope that someone else out there gets it. Not everyone will. And that's OK. There's plenty of other stuff out there for those folks. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

The Paradox of Intolerance

I had to chuckle at this study by Skeptic Research Center. They call it "The Paradox of Intolerance". They're puzzled that people they deem "intolerant" are significantly more likely than people they deem "tolerant" to agree with the following four statements:

1. "The United States government should provide financial support to people in other countries who are in need"

2. "The United States government should do more to provide opportunities for American citizens that are women and ethnic minorities"

3. "The United States government should open its borders to all immigrants in need"

4. "Political conflict between liberals and conservatives is a major threat to society"

They do not stop to consider whether it's their definition of "tolerance" that is the source of this supposed paradox. According to "Dave's Dictionary", tolerance has nothing to do with agreement with particular views; rather, it's about TOLERATING views you disagree with. It's right there in the name.

They also don't consider the fact that tolerance is actual work. It requires rest and recuperation. Thus, while you may tolerate other's right to have their opinions even when you know that they're completely misguided, you don't want to have to work at it 24/7. This requires a place of retreat and relaxation. You should be able to create that space by exercising maximum control over your own personal environment: your home life, where you choose to work, which friends you hang out with. However, it's exactly this desire for such a retreat that they have defined as intolerance.

It's no puzzle to me why the "intolerant" people are generally NOT out looting, rioting, shooting up the place and otherwise engaging in socially destructive behavior; and why it's the people who think they are "tolerant" ARE.