Friday, April 30, 2010

Genuine Evil, Yes, Indeed

In light of the horrible oil spill threatening the Gulf Coast of the USA, I'm going to re-post one of my recent essays. Fuck the industrialists of the USA. They're monsters, one and all.

Yes, (West) Virginia, there is True Evil.

For a long time I've resisted using the words "good" and "evil" in the context of philosophical discussions. This is because what one man finds "evil" I may very well find not objectionable at all. And what someone may think of as "good" I may personally find revolting.

But I've come to the conclusion that, for me at least, there is a good and there is an evil. I've discussed this before, both online and in conversations with friends and acquaintances. And my bottom line has always been that the closest definition I could come to the term of evil was an overwhelming sense of selfishness (generally in conjunction with ignorance) . After all, I've always felt that Mankind's rise to a point of civilization was due, in great part, on a massive capacity for compassion.

However, of late, I've decided that there is great evil afoot in this world. It comes in various forms, but which I've boiled down to just a few fellow traveling companions. I'm not sure just yet where these companions fit in my pantheon of evil, but they seem to always stride side by side, with one generally leading the way and the others being used as sword bearers.

Since I must mention one first, I'll go ahead and do so. That would have to be rampant industrialization. This, in turn, is heated and served by uncontrolled capitalism. I have to say up front that I have no problem with capitalism at it base. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with having ambition and making a profit. However, the unbridled capitalism at work on Earth today which results in the wholesale destruction of our very planet is undeniably evil. We sit and witness the tearing down of mountains, the poisoning of our atmosphere, the rending of the system of life that supports us and all of our fellow beings. This is evil on a level that is insane and intolerable. Something must be done to stop it, up to and including the killing of those responsible for this wholesale destruction.

Walking hand in hand with this major evil are the world's religions. Yes, I'm talking about your religion. I don't care which one it is, it's evil. Any system of religion that not only tolerates but generally encourages and defends the rampant laissez-faire capitalism that is wrecking our world is certainly no good, and is actually evil. I can speak most comfortably about the various monotheistic religions around which I've been raised, and can say without a doubt that each of these pernicious monstrosities should be made extinct.

Religions are used to cow the general populace and keep them in as close to total ignorance and fear as is possible. With the masses wallowing in superstitious ignorance and hatred of anything deemed dangerous by their religious leaders, nothing can ever be done to stop the creep of the concrete and metal and chemical blight that is searing our planet. Religion is of no real value and is, in fact, about as harmful as anything of which I could possibly conceive. They were all born out of fear and ignorance and hatred, and it is that in which they squirm and for those purposes for which they are kept alive.

Nationalism and its loathsome partner, patriotism are evil. These are at the base of the various tribalism and racism and xenophobia that is like a virus on the populations of our nations. Humans are the same, wherever they are and from whence they came. This artificial zoning of people is there to break down humans into tiny enclaves where the despots of industrialization and religion can keep them as livestock. It is a crime. These concepts are utilized daily to force people to contribute to warfare and to enable our corporate masters to siphon off the wealth of each of these nations into their own pockets. Never in the history of Mankind have so few been so monumentally wealthy. This wealth concentrated into the ownership of so few is an obscenity that must not be tolerated any longer.

There is evil in this world. I see it at its work every day.

For my part, I can see no real way of fighting this kind of evil. Its adherents and its supporters and its recipients are deserving of violent death. But I can no more hand out that kind of punishment than an ant can take down a B2 bomber. All I can do is live out my life and try not to give in to the anguish that I feel when I witness the insanities going on each and every day. The coal companies will carve down West Virginia's mountains and there's nothing I can do. The oil companies will gouge out the plains of Canada to get at the filthy tar sands and there's nothing I can do. The last Siberian tiger will take a final breath so that some goddamned rich Chinaman can eat its gall bladder, and there's not one fucking thing I can do to stop it.

All I can do is try to go out and see the last of this world's great places before they are dead and barren. That's all I can do.

Yeah, that's pretty fucking pathetic. But what the hell.

Someone actually willing to do something to make things right.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Back Yard

Carole's dad put a lot of thought and energy into his back yard. Old Frank's been gone a good many years, now (almost two decades), but the flowers and trees he planted are still here. Occasionally we have to dig up one of the old azaleas that has bloomed its last; and we've set out many more to replace the older ones. But by and large the plants he put in place are all still there, still growing, still blooming. In early Spring the Henderson yard is a very special place.

Sitting area. Carole's mom spends a lot of time here.

Looking across the yard toward a neighbor's place.

From about halfway back toward the rear property line looking toward the house.

One of the azalea beds we need to work on. We took out the half where most of the azaleas had died off, but we haven't replanted, yet.

They were pretty much in full bloom the day we left for Florida.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Racist Arizona

Arizona has recently enacted a racist law. I'm not going to go into particulars. If it goose-steps like a Nazi and screams like a Klansman, it's racist.

Some people are calling for a boycott of Arizona.

Let's go them one better. Visit Arizona. But don't drive there. Walk there. Hike into the National Forests with your backpack and food and camping equipment (that you bought somewhere else). Sleep in our Arizona National Forests. You can generally use back country campsites for free. Don't even buy water. Take a water filter and purify your own water. Enjoy the beautiful sights of Arizona parklands. Buy nothing. Piss on their ground. Shit in their forests. Purchase nada while you're there, but leave some turds behind (responsibly buried away from streams and other water sources, of course).

Give them what they deserve: crap.

Visit Beautiful Arizona, and shit on 'em.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Inn at Wakulla Springs

On our visit to the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, we made sure to go inside the Inn there. It was built at great expense by one Edward Ball, part of the du Pont family and quite an impressive investor. He was also a jackass sack of shit, but that's one for the history books. If you judge a man merely by his ability to make money (as most do judge here in the good old US of A), then he was a fantastic individual, leaving assets numbered in the billions by the time he died.

One of the things he did was buy the deepest fresh water spring on Earth: Wakulla Springs. He also bought the 4,000 acres around it. Then he set about building a 27-room fine inn where folk with lots of money could come to vacation. Once he'd completed the place (which included dynamiting part of the river so that guests could access the inn from downstream), he built a cast iron fence across that river to keep out those who couldn't afford to stay there. The spring and its environs were to be enjoyed only by the rich.

Eventually, as with most of the great springs of Florida, the property ended up in the hands of the state where it can now be enjoyed by everyone with four bucks to pay for admission. The facilities can now be enjoyed by just about everyone. In addition, since the land had remained as a resort for so many years, there are lots of old growth trees on the property and the forests are impressive, as is the wildlife.

Now that Carole and I have seen the inn and enjoyed the outdoor activities there, we want to go back to stay at the inn. The rates are reasonable for rooms filled with marble, hand carved features, and antique period furnishings.

The Inn at Wakulla Springs. Built by Edward Ball. Now owned by the state of Florida, and opened to the public.

The front entrance.

The soda counter. That's a single piece of marble. Complete with teenage bimbos at the far end. There's no bend in it, that being a photostitch anomaly.

The main lobby.

The cypress ceilings with hand-painted designs by German artisans.

Sitting area inside the Inn.

Fireplace in the lobby.

The dining room. Very, very nice!

This big guy was kind of like the local mascot at the Inn. But in 1966 some asswipe found his way onto the grounds and killed him. The gator had never bothered anyone, according to the plaque. But he was killed just the same. Well over 11 feet in length--he was a large alligator.

A taste of the forests outside in the 4,000 acres around the Inn.

The main springs and the swimming facilities.

A side hallway off the main lobby. Yeah, I know what you're thinking...I thought the same thing as soon as I stood there and looked down that way:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ensconced Scudded Across My Fancies

When I had only been writing seriously for about a year, mainly in the short story form, my work was indeed very serious: seriously awful.

My fiction contained all the attributes of the work of a neophyte. Despite my youth, the ideas were tired, the style was petrified, and the plots ancient. Like the work of almost everyone else who first turn their hands to fiction, my prose totally sucked stinking chimpanzee ass.

After I'd been at it for some time I decided to send a story directly to Karl Edward Wagner. The story that I sent to him had never been published, so there was really no reason for him to see it. After all, the main public work for the late Dr. Wagner was as the editor of his excellent YEAR'S BEST HORROR that he produced annually for DAW Books. I can't even recall the title of the story that I sent to Karl Wagner, but I do remember that it was a ghost story. He responded in short order, telling me that I showed some talent but that I needed to weed out some of the worst pulp fiction elements of my work. I'd apparently been reading too much Robert Ervin Howard at the time and tended to utilize words like "thews".

"Fuck that", Karl told me. Just say 'muscles'.

Later on, I sent him another story. Like the first one, it had never been published, so I was way the hell out of line sending it to him. (Oh. I got his address because an editor at Warner Books forwarded a fan letter I'd sent to him in their care and he replied by post--with his return address intact. Thus my rude self felt welcome to send lousy stories for him to read.) The second story is also one that is mercifully lost to history. I'm not even sure there's a copy left in the stacks of boxes of papers from those days. It's possible, I suspect, but I have no reason to dig it out. I'm not that cruel.

With the second story Karl Wagner was once more his friendly, helpful self. He told me yet again that I showed talent, that I knew how to tell an effective story. But in the case of this second one--a ghost story--well...I'll quote him. I've not forgotten it and I get a lot of laughs when I tell about it.

"Well, Bob. Not bad story-telling. But the idea here has been done.

To death.

By many other authors.

Long, long, long, long before you wrote this version."

Even then I got a chuckle out of his response. When it comes to criticism of my work, I have always had a very thick skin. I don't mind criticism and I don't worry about editors having me retool my fiction. I generally appreciate the help and accept it as such.

Recently I was reading a novel by a mystery writer who is far less famous than he deserves to be. Toward the end of the book he was describing a thunderstorm and mentioned that "the clouds scudded across the sky". Now, I know what "scudded" means. Everyone I know generally recognizes the term when they see it. The trouble is, the only time I ever see this word is when it sits precisely in the same order this author used it: "The clouds scudded across the sky". That's the only way anyone seems to use the word "scudded". I never use it in conversation and I don't know anyone who does use it. It's apparently an Old English word that just lingered, mainly in books where someone wanted to describe clouds fucking scudding across the fucking sky.

Truth to be told, I've used it in just the same way. Every freaking writer I know has done it. It's even older than fiction from the 20s and 30s pulp era. But it's the kind of thing that we need to shed when delivering a novel or short story.

A second such word that my writer friends (and I) have used to extreme is "ensconced". Again, I don't know anyone who says that in day to day conversation. I suppose there are some folk who might blurt it out as they babble on, but I don't know anyone who does. Some years back I used that very word in one of my critically praised short stories ("NUMHED"). Describing a fellow sitting in a McDonald's Restaurant I wrote that his "ass was ensconced in plastic". It seemed clever at the time, but I regretted it almost as soon as I saw it in print. I've never, to my knowledge, used the word in conversation and it wasn't right to use it that way in a work of fiction.

Basically, using tired words and terms like "scudded" and "ensconced" is dishonest. There's no truth to them. One breaks the illusion of the fiction when such terms are included within a story or novel. I don't like encountering that kind of thing from other writers, and I work hard to try to keep these things from popping up in my own fiction.

In fiction, in criticism, and in life, honesty seems to always be the best policy.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

1000 Photos

I took just under 1000 photos and video clips while we were on vacation. We're home, relaxing, taking it easy for a couple of days before we have to head back to work.

The 75-foot waterfall.

On the boardwalk leading down into the sinkhole.

Looking down into the cylindrical void of the limestone sinkhole. (Nope, you're not allowed down in there.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ponce De Leon Springs and Falling Waters

Well, we're off for home! Seven days in Florida was glorious, but it's time to head back for North Carolina! I'll post some detailed material when I get back. Until then, here's a brief bit of some of the amazing places we saw today.

I'll bet you didn't know that Florida had a 75-foot waterfall! It does! Single drop, too! None of this sissy cascade stuff! It vanishes into a 100-foot deep cylindrical sinkhole. No one knows where the water ends up. In Falling Waters State Park.

Ponce De Leon Springs! We had it all to ourselves for about two hours! Amazing!

Carole snapped this one of me sitting on a set of cypress knees in Ponce De Leon Springs.

Yep! It's me! I was jumping in over the main vent where 14 million gallons of 68-degree crystal pure fresh water wells up each and every day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Birds Etc.

I'm sorry I don't have a better camera. We're planning on buying a nice SLR camera, but it's not in the budget until next month. So I had to make due with the little Canon we've had for several months. It's fine on most things, but telephoto shots come out really grainy. Thus, the quality of some of my photos are pretty lousy. But I did my best.

Click to embiggen

The headsprings of Wakulla Spring. In the background on the far left you can see the diving platform where I did my jumps. The water in the center background is over 300 feet deep, making this the deepest known first magnitude freshwater spring on Earth.

The first thing we saw as we approached the spring was this Suwannee Cooter laying eggs in a patch of sand. There's nothing there to gauge size, but this turtle was enormous. Over two feet long, easily.

These birds were the most common on the spring run. This one didn't seem to like our proximity and was letting us know it. Basically, they quack like a duck.

A tri-colored heron who was fishing in a patch of vegetation.

Plenty of turtles.

Another one of those common birds. They seemed to be everywhere we looked.

An anhinga who was perched on a snag high above in a dead cypress. By the time we leave for Yellowstone, I hope to have a good SLR camera with a good telephoto lens.

This bird turned its head just as I snapped the shot. Not very cooperative!

Some kind of duck or drake?

This was the biggest alligator we saw all day. It was HUGE! And look at those teeth!

I took this for one reason: Two Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies were filmed here. They say this was his favorite tree to climb on and jump from. I don't think it's alive anymore, but it was in his day. Yeah, yeah. Make yer penis jokes.

A brown snake in a wax myrtle as we floated past.

Take my word for it...this was an enormous gar. Probably six feet long, at least.

Mrs. Cooter lays her eggie-weggs.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Mighty Wakulla Springs

Wakulla Springs was everything I'd expected it to be. Like most first magnitude springs that have not been developed to Hell, it was packed to the limit with wildlife. We saw everything from minnows to ten-foot gators. Once again, I am in awe of the bird life that claims Florida as their home. If you like bird watching, I can think of no better location than Florida.

We went swimming, of course. I was a little anxious about the water temperature. It was not a hot day--about 80 degrees, so jumping into water that stays year-round 68 degrees could have been a shock to my system. I decided to do it right, all at once, and I accomplished this by climbing to the top of the 15-foot diving tower on the edge of the spring. The water at the bottom of the tower is anywhere from 15 to 30 feet deep, depending on how far out you jump. Jump far enough, I suppose, and you'd be leaping into a spring more than 300 feet deep!

The water was nowhere near as shockingly cold as I had expected, and I made the leap from the tower about....oh, thirty times or so. I planned long ago on never growing up. After 52 years, so far, so good.

(Carole was in one of her I-don't-want-to-take-your-picture moods, so I shot all of the following with the tripod and the self-timer.)

Wait for it...

Man overboard!

Don't fergit to hold yer nose!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taking it Easy

There are several things that's it's almost hopeless to attempt when I'm on vacation.

One: Dieting. Screw that. Too many temptations and too much idle time on my hands. Yes I can go swimming, canoeing, hiking, etc. But there's always the charcoal grill and a cooler filled with beef and beer. Shit.

Two: Work. This was supposed to be a working vacation. I've added maybe a thousand words to the novel since we left home. I should have known better. Oh, well.

I was hiking through some tall brush. I looked down and saw the end of a shed snakeskin. I bent down to examine it closer and kept following it. It was so impressive I carefully picked it out of the grasses and took it back to the picnic area. What kind of snake? I have no freaking idea. I don't like to think I was thrashing about in the bushes where six-foot canebrake rattlesnakes reside, but I probably was.

Today, we're off to the world's deepest first magnitude freshwater spring. Catch you guys later!