Review of How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead

I just finished reading ‘How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead’ by Ariel Gore. It was a book I picked up off the shelf while wandering through the 808 section of the North Vancouver City library. The title is light and funny and a little outrageous. The book follows in that impression.
Reading this book I felt like I had happened across an interesting stranger in a coffee shop or brew pub, struck up a conversation, and had then found myself held captive by the stories, language, attitude and enthusiasm. Quite simply, this book is fun.
Ariel Gore has a sharp mind, and her wit and intellect come through on every page. She has a ‘can do’ attitude that creates an infectious energy in the reader. Sure it will be hard work to become a famous writer before you’re dead but here is how to get started. Come on, let’s go.
I saw some parallels to  A. L. Kennedy’s ‘On Writing’ essays. Both women have done stand up comedy work and that busy, active mind comes through in spades.
Funny, quirky even, the book is a bit of a thrill ride. Wait, slow down I think, I need to write this down. But then I realize it is a book, not a conversation, and I can go back at my leisure.
She finds she cannot get the reclusive Haruki Murakami to sit down for an interview. No problem, she will just imagine the conversation, thereby ‘Showing rather than Telling’ that imagination can overcome so many obstacles.
Short chapters keep it moving, and the real or imagined exercises give the reader great take aways.
Like most writers, I am a little shy and introverted. Whether I can put these directions into real action might be a stretch. But I think the plan and directions are solid.
Highly recommended.

Review of You are the Placebo

I rarely review books I didn’t like. On June 3 I suffered a serious spinal injury while mountain biking. Since then several friends have given me books to help with my recovery. ‘You are the Placebo’ by Dr. Joe Dispenza was one such book. I had just finished reading ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge so I had some understanding of neuroplasticity and the ideas that the body and brain can adapt. So I had high hopes.
The book begins with some interesting research on the placebo effect, and how mind over body is a real measurable phenomenon. Okay, I thought, this makes sense. But Doctor Dispenza veered off track and left me scratching my head. He gave a long anecdote on a research project where a subject was hypnotized to commit a crime. Interesting, I thought, but what does this have to do with the book subject? I think the author had an interesting story he needed to tell. His editor should have told him this isn’t the place.
But I persevered and continued reading. My analytical mind didn’t want to blow this off too quick.
But then he hit me with another caveat. He tells the readers that people with strong analytical minds may not be able to use this material as they are resistant to suggestibility. I think I am open to new thoughts and ideas and have read a number of ‘new age’ books that I have enjoyed and put into practice. I am currently working through Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’ and don’t have any resistance. (I will do a review when I complete the 12-week program). But to get halfway through a book and get this warning was irritating at best.
But the best was yet to come. I studied University physics. I learned a tiny bit about quantum mechanics. The probabilities of particles being in one place or state at any time is a difficult concept. That things move between states, not in a straight line, but jumping between levels in ‘quantum’ jumps takes some time to accept and understand. This is some hard stuff.
Dr. Dispenza suggests that these jumps can somehow be used by the human mind to communicate to the body and soul. This is pure bunk, and I nearly tossed the book at this point. But I was almost done and felt the need to finish. Mistake.
The final flaw of the book is the blatant way it is meant to goose up sales for the authors program of workshops and seminars. I kept having visions of a Tom Vu advertisement, ‘Take My Seminar’.
Take my advice. Give this book a pass.

Review of ‘Tilly and the Crazy Eights’

I have completed Monique Gray Smith’s ‘Tilly and the Crazy Eights’. This was a fun book to read and I think I learned a lot while reading it. Native/Aboriginal/Indian issues are in the Canadian mainstream right now so this book has found a fertile time to land.
It is a bit too sweet at times and definitely pulls on the heartstrings of the reader. If you don’t laugh and cry while reading it, you should probably get your heart checked. It is an entertaining read with an interesting ensemble of characters.
But, it is the characters with which I find the first weakness of this brave novel. I had trouble picturing these people in my mind’s eye. There is very little physical description of them and few quirks, habits or tells to queue the reader to them. The voices are not distinct between them so following dialog relied on Tilly said, Sarah said, etc. I think this was a flaw that made it harder for this reader to associate and empathize with the characters. I little more description and personalization of the characters would have gone a long way. I wondered what nation these people were from, but had to guess.
There was quite a bit of ‘Telling’ versus ‘Showing’. We are told Rose is gruff and cold, we are told Pancho as a good heart. These things ‘shown’ would have made a better novel.
And the choice of omniscient point of view is something I don’t much like. Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy pull it off, but I feel it keeps the reader from getting into the heart and mind of the characters. A good reason to read is to experience what the characters in the book are experiencing, without the risks involved. To fall in love, to watch a loved one die, to dance in a Pow Wow. This experiencing is best done with close third person where the reader becomes the character, immerses into their world experience. This wonderful spell is broken in omni, especially when the author jumps between points of view. I would be experiencing something from Tilly’s POV then suddenly head-hop to Pancho’s POV. The spell is broken.
There is some tough material covered in this book and I salute Gray Smith for taking it on. Truth and Reconciliation, Residential schools and the sixties-scoop, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Life on the rez.
The book led me to look up Pendleton blankets and to watch a You-tube video of the world Pow Pow in Albuquerque. I must try out fry bread. And like I said above, I did both laugh and cry. A good read that I recommend.

Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, Albuquerque NM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGAThB2D2T0

Personal Status to September 7, 2019

Hello all

Sept 7, 2019
Three-month update by Danny Aldham.
Progress is slow. My medical team tell me to judge progress in weeks, not days. And I do have a team. Three doctors: My GP, a Physiatrist, and the Neurologist. Two Physiotherapists, a Rehab assistant and an Occupational Therapist. I visit Lionsgate hospital three or four times a week.
My walking is pretty good, only a little wobble. My stamina sucks, I can barely make it around the block, and only once a day. My goal for next week is to make it twice. The dog would like that.
My hands have been slower to come back. I can feel hot and cold, but my sense of touch is very reduced. I am typing with two fingers. I try to touch type, but make too many spelling mistakes. I can’t hold a pen and write yet. The OT said we will start on that next week. Driving is out of the question.
I have good days and bad days. More good than bad. The pain is less, I have been off the hydromorphone for a while. Still taking a few other drugs.
I am in a bit of a weird spot with therapy. The protocols for how to treat my injuries are at odds. On the physical side they say I will improve by pushing hard, doing the exercises, working up a sweat. The old ‘no pain, no gain’ approach.
But on the concussion/neurological side, they do not want me to push. If I work too hard mentally I get physically ill. Getting to that point is counter-productive and delays my healing. Trying to be aware of that upper bound of mental activity is what I am working on.
It is frustrating. I have lots of free time, to the point of being bored, but I cannot read too long, or concentrate on new skills. I had thought I might learn Spanish with my time, but I can only do that for twenty or thirty minutes a day. I can’t multi-task at all, and my memory is shaky.
The doctors are all cagey about how long this should take. My GP said most people heal from this type of injury in five or six months. I said, ‘Well, that’s not too bad’. At which point he backpedaled and said not to get my hopes up, it might be longer.
For a Project Manager, used to having a schedule with time-lines and clear deliverables and dates, this drives me around the bend. Patience is not my strong suit. 🙂

Cheers

Danny

Review of D. H.Lawrence’s ‘The Rainbow’

I just completed re-reading D. H. Lawrence’s ‘The Rainbow.’
I first read it as a young man in my early twenties. Then I was struck by the relationship of Tom Brangwen and the older, more sophisticated Lydia Lenski. I thought I had forgotten the book, the characters and the story until I wrote a novel myself.
Mine is a story of a younger man falling in love with an older woman. I chose the name of my main female character (MFC) as based on the older sister of a friend when I was in High School. A crush. And then I wanted to explore, in my novel, the horrible experience of having been cheated on by a lover. I had gone through that. So I began reading old journal entries from over twenty-five years ago. Unfortunately, there was nothing there to help me with source material. I had simply stopped writing for six months when that happened.
Ah, but what a pleasant surprise I found. My notes and thoughts about the aforementioned Lydia Lenski. She is the only main character who we don’t get inside. She remained enigmatic, aloof, and so incredibly attractive. And, I began to question why and how I had chosen the name Lydia for my MFC. I would need to re-read ‘The Rainbow’. I am so glad I did.
It is considered Lawrence’s best work. I think so.
It follows the sweep of three generations of the Brangwen family at the turn of the twentieth century in the mid-lands of England. It begins with Tom and Lydia, follows their daughter Anna, and then Anna’s daughter Ursula. I won’t spoil the story or plot here. But the plot was not what makes this novel great.
It is the characters, the relationships, the deep introspective points of views that are unlike anything that I have ever read. The intensity of the feelings, thoughts, wants and fears are overwhelming at times. And Lawrence’s ear for the speech and actions of his characters puts a reader right there in the scene.
His descriptions of the farms and meadows, the animals, the smells, sights and sounds are immersing. The sounds of the rail cars and the descriptions of the miners trudging home from a shift at the pits, covered in black coal dust. But this isn’t a Dicken’s tale, railing on the Pit owners and romanticizing the workers. They are just decent hardworking men coming home for tea.
The countryside is a character as much as Tom and Anna are. It is easy to tell that Lawrence loved this country. It is in every word of his wonderful descriptions.
And the sex. It was a banned book when published. Today is to laugh. But sex and loving are always part of the relationships of the men and women. And there is a very close look at those thoughts and feelings. The physical, intellectual and emotional wants and needs. The love. The passions, the hurts, the hopes, the gentleness and the striking out.
It can be an emotional roller-coaster to read. As can any great love affair. But it is well worth the time and effort.

What Trump and the GOP Fear

Political pundits wonder aloud why does nobody in the Republican Party stand up to Donald Trump? A superficial analyst would say they fear him. If you cross Trump your political career is over. But this week Trump made a slip, and we saw what they all fear, President Trump included.

A Trump rally in North Carolina disgusted most decent people when the crowd whipped itself into a racist chant of ‘Send Her back! Send Her back!’ Echoes of ‘Sig Hiel’ and waving swastikas appeared in this former Confederate state. The next day worldwide condemnation had Trump backing down. He lied and said he had tried to cut them off. But then the tell.

Nobody accuses Trump of thinking four or five steps ahead. It’s not his forte. But he can think ahead to the next rally. And he knows those chants will come up again. The calls, the angry braying of the mob, the spittle and the hate flying in the air. ‘Send her back!’

And as Trump tried to position himself back in front of that angry mob we saw what they all fear. Hate now calls the shots in the Republican Party. And any sitting GOP member knows, crossing that angry mob will bring it’s focus on you.

Political parties of all stripes have their fringes. The kooks, the single issue fanatics, the crazy aunts we keep in the attic except when we need their donations or votes. We pay them lip-service, give them a nod, a wink or a dog-whistle to keep them on-side.

We don’t invite them into the wheelhouse and let them steer the ship. Except the Republicans have. It was a way to win. Pander to the White Nationalists, the Gun nuts and the Abortion Evangelicals. A core of single issue fanatics that have coalesced around a message of hate. A crowd stoked by cruel treatment of unfortunate refugees fleeing Central America. Cruelty is acceptable now. Anger and hate are ushered out of the shadows and celebrated in packed arenas and stadiums. The mob has over-run the GOP establishment and are asserting control.

Many are making the comparison to 1930s Germany. But I think that was different, in that Germany was lead by the fanatical true believers. This reminds me more of France after the Revolution in 1793 when a mob terror swept up everyone into a blood lust of retribution. A monster that nobody controlled.

Can you tell me that anyone controls that mob shrieking ‘Send Her Back’?

Updates from Danny July 17, 2019

All
An update on my last 6 weeks.
On June 3rd after work I went for a mountain bike ride on Mount Seymour. Good news was I got a free helicopter ride, link below. Bad news I crashed, went over the handle bars, landed on my head and damaged my spine. Didn’t break anything, but it is a serious injury and I will be off for a while. The doctors say most people with this injury make a full recovery. They just wont say how long.
I started walking after my first week, and did both stairs and a stationary bike over that weekend, so I am on the mend. I was wearing a neck collar 7×24 up to Friday July 12.
I spent the first 3 weeks on the 7th floor at Lion’s Gate Hospital, (the Critical Care unit) then 2 plus weeks on the 5th floor, The Rehab unit. They let me go home Friday July 12th.
I started out patient rehab on Tuesday July 16th. Typing is hard, as my hands are numb.

I have been told to set some goals by the Doctors, PT and OT teams. Skiing in… This Season? Is one.
Bike and hike again. Be able to travel. Not Nepal this year, but maybe Costa Rica again.
Drive a car. Make it to Lake Sakinaw this summer, and maybe fish.
And I have always wanted to write, so as my typing gets better, I am going to work on that. Check our http://writing.aldham.net.
Going back to work is not high on my list. This whole thing is causing me to reassess my priorities.

VIDEO: Injured mountain biker rescued from Mt. Seymour – Peace …
https://images.app.goo.gl/CJvZ4t3yqo5BnNsM7

North Shore link:
https://www.nsnews.com/news/mountain-biker-suffers-spinal-injury-in-seymour-fall-1.23844863

Bike route:
Check out my cycling activity on Garmin Connect. #beatyesterday
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3696542209

The Caravan and Thoughts of Charity

I was thinking about political correctness today. The right scoff at the ‘snowflakes’ and the left rail at the ‘facists’, and in between it has become impossible to have a decent conversation.

The caravan of Central American refugees, that the Republicans have made such as election issue of, has dropped from public view. But the entire debate was framed as a ‘Be tough, show resolve, defend the borders, build the wall, send the army’ conversation. The rebuttal was non-existent. It was politically impossible for anyone to show the kind of traditionally conservative Christian values I grew up with, and that is heartbreaking. What have we become?

I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve. If anything, I would call myself a ‘closet’ Christian. And I feel too many people who call themselves Christian seem to live in the Old Testament, forgetting the messages from Jesus in the New Testament. I remember Sunday School lessons about compassion and empathy for our fellow men. The good Samaritan, the Seven virtues, Kindness, Charity, Compassion and Mercy.

When one side frames the debate about who can be the toughest, the other side commits political suicide by admitting any of these virtues. How did this happen? When did the voices of all the good people cower in fear?

This is not who we are. Sure, we all get angry sometimes. Life can be tough. But we have it good compared to those people in Central America who are fleeing totalitarian dictators, civil wars, corruption and abject poverty.

We need to show a little empathy. Recognize that these people are fleeing a humanitarian disaster. And since the Americans have told the rest of the world to stay out of the Western hemisphere, via the Munro Doctrine, Americans have a responsibility to address this disaster.

Bob Hope once said that ‘A man with no Charity in his heart, suffers from the worst kind of heart problem.’

As the bumper stickers say ‘What would Jesus do?’

Close the #Trumpcamps

Over the last few days we have seen images of children being torn from their mothers. There are reports of camps being setup in Texas and children in cages. The similarities to concentraction camps is too easy to make.
And now Jeff Sessions and Sarah Sanders are holding up the bible to justify their heartless cruelty.
There is no empathy in this Administration. That Donald Trump was damaged as a child and is now a narcissistic socio-path incapable of seeing people as humans is a given. Trying to appeal to his heart is useless.
But he does care about something. His Name. How he is percieved by the public. His image on TV and Twitter. His brand.
Trump towers are supposed to be luxurious. Mara-Lago is better than Disney Land. Trump University, Trump steaks, Trump Casinos. He loves to see his name on everything. So let’s put his name on this. Let him own it. #Trumpcamps.
Every conversation, every story, every image of families being torn apart and people being thrown in jail for misdemeanor crimes and having the audacity to beg for asylum , needs to be tagged and branded as a trumpcamp story.
Right now it is a bargaining chip. Let it be more. Let him own it. Let it be Donald Trump’s legacy,his place in history. #Trumpcamps

The English Language as a Lesson in Resiliance

It has been beaten, invaded, subjugated, enslaved, driven underground, sneered at and crushed like a cockroach. Yet it has rebounded to become the world’s first Universal Language. English.
Around the time of Christ, Londinium was the furthest outpost of the Roman Empire. As the empire fell the Romans withdrew. The few Celtish tribes that still existed made themselves at home.
Until in AD499 the Germanic tribes invaded: Angles and Saxons, bringing with them their language that was to become German.
In AD597 a peaceful invasion happened, as St. Augustine brought Latin and Christianity to the Island of Albion. And the language of Celt, German and now Latin merged.
Next the Viking invaders came, raping, pillaging and speaking that mix of Danish, from which the locals again borrowed and stole words and phrases.
Alfred the Great brought together the English clans in AD793 and the basic English language became the common through the realm.
Until 1066 when the Normans defeated the English at Hasting, and imposed a French speaking aristocracy that lasted 300 years. Again the locals absorbed the words and grammar of their overlords, until the overlords were overrun by English, so that French became a second language to them too.
With the hundred year war, French fell out of style, and English was the language of the land.
So came onto the landscape Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1300s, and then Shakespeare in the late 1500s, followed by the King James bible in 1600 or so.
And the dye was cast. The language that would traverse the world with the British empire, take root in the new world, and spread to become the worlds first global language.
It holds a lesson. Bend but do not break. Adapt. Learn, hide if need be, absorb from others. But never surrender.