Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Quick Note and a Call for SANITY and PEACE

A quick note and a call for SANITY and PEACE before Tuesday. I am appalled to hear that people end friendships and stop talking to family members because one is voting Republican (or Romney specifically) and the other Democrat (or Obama specifically).

Please look at the following list and you'll realize how much this election is NOT worth losing a friend or family member. Beyond this list, the men elected are part of a system which is monolithic and run by very powerful people who have been involved in the process for decades. Even the president has very limited power to change things. Stop putting so much on the president and start shifting some of the responsibility to yourself and your life choices (and your local elections).

After you read this list, take some deep breaths, then call up or hug the person (family member or friend) you think is your rival or enemy. The extreme opposition that has been created is merely a point of view, a fiction. You and those you disagree with (and Obama and Romney) have FAR more in common than in opposition. Only together, with open minds and courageous, compassionate hearts, does any real positive change happen. Love...

1. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both supported TARP.

2. Mitt Romney supported Barack Obama’s “economic stimulus” packages.

3. Mitt Romney says that Barack Obama’s bailout of the auto industry was actually his idea.

4. Neither candidate supports immediately balancing the federal budget.

5. They both believe in big government and they both have a track record of being big spenders while in office.

6. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both fully support the Federal Reserve.

7. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are both on record as saying that the president should not question the “independence” of the Federal Reserve.

8. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both said that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke did a good job during the last financial crisis.

9. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both felt that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke deserved to be renominated to a second term.

10. Both candidates oppose a full audit of the Federal Reserve.

11. Both candidates are on record as saying that U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has done a good job.

12. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both been big promoters of universal health care.

13. Mitt Romney was the one who developed the plan that Obamacare was later based upon.

14. Wall Street absolutely showers both candidates with campaign contributions.

15. Neither candidate wants to eliminate the income tax or the IRS.

16. Both candidates want to keep personal income tax rates at the exact same levels for the vast majority of Americans.

17. Both candidates are “open” to the idea of imposing a Value Added Tax on the American people.

18. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both believe that the TSA is doing a great job.

19. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both supported the NDAA.

20. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both supported the renewal of the Patriot Act.

21. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both believe that the federal government should be able to indefinitely detain American citizens that are considered to be terrorists.

22. Both candidates believe that American citizens suspected of being terrorists can be killed by the president without a trial.

23. Barack Obama has not closed Guantanamo Bay like he promised to do, and Mitt Romney actually wants to double the number of prisoners held there.

24. Both candidates support the practice of “extraordinary rendition”.

25. They both support the job-killing “free trade” agenda of the global elite.

26. They both accuse each other of shipping jobs out of the country and both of them are right.

27. Both candidates are extremely soft on illegal immigration.

28. Neither candidate has any military experience. This is the first time that this has happened in a U.S. election since 1944.

29. Both candidates earned a degree from Harvard University.

30. They both believe in the theory of man-made global warming.

31. Mitt Romney has said that he will support a “cap and trade” carbon tax scheme (like the one Barack Obama wants) as longas the entire globe goes along with it.

32. Both candidates have a very long record of supporting strict gun control measures.

33. Both candidates have been pro-abortion most of their careers. Mitt Romney’s “conversion” to the pro-life cause has been questioned by many. In fact, Mitt Romney has made millions on Bain Capital’s investment in a company called “Stericycle” that incinerates aborted babies collected from family planning clinics.

34. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both believe that the Boy Scout ban on openly gay troop leaders is wrong.

35. They both believe that a “two state solution” will bring lasting peace between the Palestinians and Israel.

36. Both candidates have a history of nominating extremely liberal judges.

37. Like Barack Obama, Mitt Romney also plans to add “signing statements” to bills when he signs them into law.

38. They both have a horrible record when it comes to job creation.

39. Both candidates believe that the president has the power to take the country to war without getting the approval of the U.S. Congress.

40. Both candidates plan to continue running up more government debt even though the U.S. government is already 16 trillion dollars in debt.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Problem with Public Education: Creativity and Divergent Thinking

Fascinating and insightful (and very easy to watch and understand). Especially if you have children, you should watch this. An introductory talk about the problems with our current mode of thinking with education. Far past time for a major change.

I hope things will change. It absolutely sucks to be a creative person or a divergent thinker in our society. We're treated with no respect or esteem unless we can create things that make wealth for the companies owned by the wealthy elite. I can envision a completely different society that would so transcend what we have now that it would be almost unrecognizable. A society of artists, scientists, philosophers, healers, teachers, growers, lovers, explorers (of inner and outer space). Life could be an incredible and much less lonely adventure for everyone.

So much time and resource is wasted learning how to make money for a few people to be needlessly rich and the rest to barely survive, paying for the right to inhabit a tiny piece of land or building and breathe the air owned by those same people (not to mention that so much of the profit is sustained by constant war). It is a horrible reality. I only hope to quietly create the greatest art that I can while I'm here before moving on to what is hopefully a more sublime reality. I hope it will be a better world for the children of this generation.

But the only way will be a cultural revolution of the mind, away from the old paradigm, no longer worshiping solely the analytical mode of consciousness and giving up the idea of solitary self-interest.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Fear of Women

Many men hate women because they fear the power they feel women have over them. The more they resist and give in to the fear, the more it grows and they are forced to build a false male ego-self, putting on a facade of strength to protect the fragile, frightened self within. By doing so, they cut themselves off from the power of their feminine half and go through life suffering and incomplete, needing more and more that which they have come to hate, and hating more and more that which they need.

The only way to become strong is to face your fear, humble yourself before what you do not understand and be willing to learn and grow. If you do, you sometimes find that which you thought was a demon trying to claw you to death is in fact an angel seeking to free you from the shell that hides an incredibly powerful being within.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Eternal Afternoon World

Yesterday, I went to that spot in Griffith Park where the fire road runs east and turns to the north and Glendale lies to the east below. There are a few very tall, lonely, windswept trees at the edge of the road where the cliff drops off for hundreds of feet. Walking up the road, which is at a slight incline, you see the sun-drenched road, the golden ground at the edge where the trees sway in the breeze and, over the road, the top of the San Gabriel Mountains rising filtered through a blue haze.

I stood there for almost twenty minutes, in an altered state of consciousness, feeling like I was lost in an eternal afternoon world. I felt as if the distant mountains were tugging at my soul, which created a delicious sense of longing almost akin to deja vu.

Go outdoors. Take your time. Keep your head up. Be quiet. Listen. More often than not, the universe will speak to you in a voice without language that goes straight to the core of your being. It took twenty minutes, but it lifted the anxiety I was feeling and changed my day. In the face of the eternal, the temporary becomes a ghostlike shadow.

This excellent photo is by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti. It was taken later in the afternoon than when I was there (which was closer to noon or just after). See more excellent photos by Lisa at

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Intelligent Lust Denied

I recently sent this email to the CEO of Psychology Today magazine. I encourage anyone who is as outraged by this persecution of free thought as I am to send an email as well. Here's the link to the contact page of the CEO:
Here's the general contact page if you want to contact someone else: 

Here's the letter I sent upon finding out that Stanley Seigel's excellent column, Intelligent Lust, was "retired" from the magazine. Siegel's column must have pissed off some of the thought police, because it was excellent and very popular.

And now, my letter to the CEO:

I was perplexed to not be able to find the excellent article "In Defense of Casual Sex" on the Psychology Today site. All I could find were negative response articles to it, which is lame. I finally found Siegel's own site and found out that his column was "retired" from your magazine.

It's sad to see that Psychology Today is so afraid of free discussions of certain topics which don't adhere to certain people's fragile belief systems that you have to "retire" one of the best columns you had. Almost makes me think some of the people at Psychology Today, I don't know, maybe need to see a therapist.

And maybe you should change the name of your magazine to "Psychology Yesterday." I won't bother reading any more of your articles.



Farewell, Ray Bradbury, Martian Chronicler

Ray Bradbury died last Tuesaday at the age of 91.

He left behind an incredible legacy for the world. He was a great man and a great American, with an incredible intellect and a compassionate poet's heart.

His books made me a better person and a better writer. I've longed to capture the beauty and nostalgia that he was able to evoke, most brilliantly in the Martian Chronicles. The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Fahrenheit 451 are my favorite Bradbury books, and, in my opinion, three of the greatest books ever written.

Every writer who's truly a writer longs to write something that really matters, something that moves people's hearts, changes their lives. But probably the only way to do that is not to try but to do what Ray did.

"Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for."

Well, I'd better get on with it. Ray would want me to be writing now, not spend time talking about him.

We will miss you, Ray. Thanks for all the great stories.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Creative Success and Financial Success: Very Fickle Friends

For a writer, creative success and financial success are very fickle friends.

Many well-known writers didn't make enough of a living while they were alive, including one of my heroes (gulp, bad sign), Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan. Now, he would be a millionaire. He died very poor at the end of the 1930's. Then there's Edgar Rice Burroughs at the other end of the spectrum, who was incredibly rich. Some talented writers, especially ones that are "ahead of their time," never make a decent living or are recognized for their gift. Most never become very wealthy. This is a bitter truth of life (or our culture). You have to decide what's more important: being creatively successful and actually contributing something valuable to the body of literary work, or, being financially successful with it. They often don't go together. Some who are vastly talented are not rewarded financially, and many who are rewarded financially are not vastly talented.

Being a fan of authors like Leiber and Howard (also Bradbury, who has been lucky enough to be recognized for his work, and Philip K. Dick, who was partially recognized, but again, would be a millionaire now), I've come to accept that even if I write at their level, and I hope I will be there in the next couple of years (I believe I have the talent), I may never see the proper financial reward. I'm here for a purpose and it's not to make money or be famous. Those things might be nice. Maybe they wouldn't. A decent living is my only desire in that area. Beyond a certain income point (about $40-$50K/year according to studies), happiness does not increase.

My joy and meaning in life come from the work, getting up each day and being able to write. My joy comes from following in the footsteps of great writers that made my life and the lives of millions of others, deeper, richer and more joyful. When I'm on my deathbed, that will give me peace. All the money in the world, without that, will not.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happiness Is Not Always the Appropriate Response to Life

I have a friend who's going through a rough time. Her friends are making her feel even worse by saying that she's "choosing" to feel unhappy. They're pushing the idea that "a person chooses to be happy or unhappy" down her throat. I guess that's what friends are for.

Okay. In a sense we are responsible for our own happiness. That idea empowers us and prevents us from blaming other people for our feelings. But that doesn't mean we're always in control of how we feel. Nobody is, not even the greatest Zen masters. We're human beings driven by unconscious impulses, despite how rational we like to believe that we are. (As evidence, in biological scientific terms, the human body transmits 11 million bits of information per second (bps) to the brain, but our conscious mind can only process up to 50 bps (Information Theory, Britannica Online)).

But there's another important issue here. Happiness is not always the appropriate response to your life's situation (any more than it is always the appropriate response to the situations of others). Sometimes, unhappiness is a very appropriate response to what's happening in your life. Being unhappy can motivate you to make changes that can lead to growth as an individual and create more meaning in your own life and contribute more meaning to the world. Happiness can do that too. Anger can do that. Sadness can do that. Emotions are not bad or good, they are responses to internal and external stimuli. What we do with the emotions is what is important.

Americans are obsessed with being happy. If you're not happy, people act like you're a loser or you have a mental illness. Happiness has become a competition. There's so much pressure to be happy that it makes people miserable. That expectation to be happy all the time is a lot of pressure. A better goal might be to be accepting of the way you feel and to have the confidence to know that you can move beyond those feelings or channel them in a creative or constructive way. Another better goal might be equanimity. Equanimity is a state of mental or emotional stability or composure arising from a deep awareness and acceptance of the present moment.

If you let go of the need to be happy all the time, and don't let others peer pressure you into feeling that way, you might find that happiness comes a bit easier when it comes and you won't be so worried that you'll "lose it." And when you're unhappy, you can accept that state without being miserable about the fact that you're unhappy, and hopefully find ways to work out of that state, or, be accepting and at peace as you wait for it to pass. Because it will pass. As will all your other emotions. They come and go, and they're all a part of being human.

And even if you are unhappy most of the time (as some great people in history were), you can still lead a meaningful life and be a loving person. And I think that's more important than being happy.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Delight of Seeing Saturn

I got to view Saturn through a telescope last night at Griffith Observatory. It looked like it had been cut out precisely from black paper and backlit from behind. I was astonished at the clarity of the planet and the rings. It was surreal and wonderful and it gave me an existential delight which is almost impossible to communicate with words. It made me feel like something wonderfully playful, mysterious and romantic is going on that transcends all of the suffering that we create for ourselves here on this planet. And someday, we'll all transcend that suffering and join in that mystery and delight.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Men Are More Irrational Than Women

Judging by the insanity of the world we live in, run predominantly by men, and even by my own contact with other men in my life, it seems to me that men are more irrational than women.

The idea or appearance that men are more rational comes from the fact that men think in black and white terms. But the reasons for their behavior come from irrational unconscious impulses. They justify these actions with black and white logic and reasoning after the fact that mistakenly makes them appear very rational. But it is only an appearance.

Women, who see things more in a gray area, seem irrational to men simply because they don't think or act like men. But they have a more developed sense of compassion, empathy and connection to their surroundings than men. Women act with this instinct, but are not interested in justifying their actions in the way a man would.

This is why I believe it would be much better if the world had far more women in leadership positions, where they would make good choices for society as a whole and then men would be very good at implementing those choices in a reasoned practical way. At present, we live in a hyper-masculine society that pretends to be rational and in control. Take a look at the world. It is obviously a reflection of an irrational mind hell-bent on forcing its irrational will on its surroundings in a systematic, practical fashion. The result, thus far, is very nearly, hell on Earth.

Time to let the women lead for awhile.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Important Victory for Free Speech and Writers

Exclusive: PayPal backtracks on obscene e-book policy

Fantastic News!! A victory for free speech and writers, especially independent writers, everywhere. Thanks to all who spoke out to protect our freedom of expression from control by financial institutions. Let us please stay vigilant.

Now, I can get back to writing!!!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Response To Joe Konrath's Post on the Paypal Erotica Ban

Joe Konrath recently chimed in on Paypal's selective ban (now becoming not so selective) on processing erotica books for indie distributors like Smashwords.

Here's my response:

I agree that the best way to circumvent oppressive institutions of this type is by creative solutions that bypass the need for these institutions. However, your solution is not a solution for people like me, who have a book that may end up being banned by someone like Paypal (for explicit sex, not for any of the so-far mentioned taboo subjects) but which I do not consider erotica and do not want to be sold alongside "Spank My Donkey." (I'm referring to my Jack & Dora stories, such as Jack & Dora Do L.A.)

It's good that most people are starting to see that this isn't about morality, it's about financial institutions having too much power.

But to say they're just private institutions and they can do whatever they want: Well, NO, they can't.
These huge financial institutions have become the primary controllers of the money flow.  Financial institutions were once actually regulated so that they didn't become too big and gain too much power over the economic system and our society in general. When they reach the level these companies have, there are few realistic alternatives to using their services, unless one wants to commit business suicide (or create a financial processing company yourself as you suggest). The Founding Fathers would be appalled at the size and power of these institutions.

The huge financial institutions that control (and stole) our money now want to dictate what we read. I think it's about time these financial institutions were broken apart into smaller entities.

And it's all fun and games to talk about Spank My Donkey and such (and yes, I do think it's funny and I laughed and thanks for that), but it's a bit misleading because it encourages people to think they're safe cause they don't write incestual donkey porn. It's NOT so funny when you read of Tess Harding's book recently being rejected for distribution for showing a very tame photo of a women with one breast exposed in the INSIDE of the book.

Like Tess, I can't laugh that off either. I think we should look into creative solutions as you suggest. But I also think we should refuse to give in to what is surely a minority of people trying to banish free thinkers to the Donkey Porn section of the online book world. I, for one, will not go gently into that gross night.


Sign the petition and tell the financial institution that you don't want them deciding what you read.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An Interview with Robert Szeles by Kris Wampler

An new interview with me about writing, publishing and my new novel Jack & Dora Do LA, on Kris Wampler's Blog

Woman's Book Denied Distribution Because of Nipple Photo

The Paypal ban is obviously not limited to just sexually extreme taboo subjects. This from author Tess Harding. Please pass this on:

I ought to laugh but I’m not sure I can…

I recently made a few changes to the text of Ali’s Art. I uploaded these to Kindle and also to Smashwords last weekend so the updated version was available for the read an eBook week.
I have now just received an email from Smashwords saying the book cannot be included in the extended distribution channel because it needs changing. The change they require is:
Please obscure/cover over the woman’s nipple and areola in the photo inside the front of your book. When you’re finished correcting your book, go to Dashboard: ‘upload new version’ to upload the new version. Thanks.
Here’s the image.
It seems the move by PayPal and the Credit Card companies is spreading it’s wings even wider. Now I can’t have a drawing of a woman who displays her nipples inside my book. This isn’t on the cover, it’s an interior image!
Scary, scary times for writers of erotica.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Call for Writers To Unite

The Paypal ban.

I think it's sad that this issue has become divisive amongst writers. Almost no writers are in favor of pedophilia, rape, etc. But these things happen and if you can't write about them, you're not stopping these things from happening, you're only stopping people from writing about them. I'm bothered as much as anyone about the homepage of Smashwords, with the sleazy, cheezy porn covers (I won't insult Erotica by calling them Erotica). I'm bothered more by the bad taste (bad writing, bad covers) than the subject matter.

But this isn't about that. It's about huge companies controlling our lives. If you're on the "Right" you supposedly don't want the government controlling you. If you're on the "Left" you don't want big corporations controlling you. Most people are a mix. I agree with both sides. I don't want either controlling our lives.

So, WE SHOULD BE UNITED ON THIS. If we all are disgusted by Smashwords homepage for instance, let's get together as writers and ask Mark Coker how these damn things end up there (and not, for instance, MY book! or YOURS!) and see if we can instead get something better. After all, in a way, it's OUR site (I think Mark Coker would agree in a sense). If we don't want crap on there, maybe we should all contribute time and volunteer to read new stuff (God knows there's enough of us) and create some kind of indie vetting system. That's just off the type of my head. I don't know the answers (there are probably many).

But having these big entities that have only profit in mind making such decisions for us is WRONG. It is wrong as Americans. It is wrong as authors. It is wrong as proponents of free speech. I can't think of any way it is right.

Banks Now Telling You What You Should Read

I'm disturbed by the number of writers I've seen who find no objection with, or even support, Paypal's decision.

Many people are obviously missing the issue. This isn't about morality, it's about financial institutions having too much power.

These huge financial institutions have become the primary controllers of the money flow. To say they're just private institutions and they can do whatever they want: Well, NO, they can't. Financial institutions were once actually regulated so that they didn't become too big and gain too much power over the economic system and our society in general. When they reach the level these companies have, there are few realistic alternatives to using their services, unless one wants to commit business suicide. The Founding Fathers would be appalled at the size and power of these institutions.

The huge financial institutions that control (and stole) our money now want to dictate what we read. I think it's about time these financial institutions were broken apart into smaller entities.

Go to the link above and take action. Make it known that we don't want financial institutions to control what we read.

Thanks for listening,

Paypal Censorship Update

I wanted to post this link for everyone with Mark Coker's (of Smashwords) latest update on the issue.
You can see, as he points out, that this act of censorship reveals itself to be not just an attack against these taboo subjects, but an attack on sexual expression in books in general by the fact that the ban is only against books in the Erotica category, not in mainstream fiction where these taboo subjects are also dealt with. Please go to the link and take action to stand against this attack on our freedom of expression.

Thanks for caring,

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Less Sex, More Violence: Moral Hypocrisy and Corporate Blackmail in Paypal Versus Smashwords

On Februray 27th, news came out that Paypal was demanding that many booksellers, including one of the largest independent distributors, Smashwords, remove certain types of erotic content.
Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, had no choice but to comply, since Paypal is one of their main financial processing companies. He contacted authors with material that might fit into the threatened category, all in the Erotica genre. He had this to say:

"We think our authors should be allowed to publish erotica. Erotica, despite the attacks it faces from moralists, is a category worthy of protection. Erotica allows readers to safely explore aspects of sexuality that they might never want to explore in the real world... Erotica authors are facing discrimination, plain and simple. Topics that are perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction are verboten in erotica. That's not fair. If you're going to push the limits, push the limits of great writing, not the limits of legality."

There was such a negative backlash to this news of corporate censorship (or corporate blackmail) that Paypal began to soften or at least, partially rethink its position.

As the author of the article, Nate Hoffelder, smartly points out:
"Why the revision? Well, over the weekend a number of people pointed out that Paypal’s ban would extend far beyond the reaches of this one genre. For example, it would include Woody Allen biography, history books, and even the Bible. There’s also a not so short list of works of literature which would fall under the banhammer as well (The Color Purple, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, just to name 2).
I’m not going to argue that Paypal’s actions are wrong; I did that in my last post. But I do want to point out what a slippery slope this was and how poorly conceived it was. Whoever initially came up with this ban didn’t look beyond their personal distaste for the topic."

So, you can’t censor erotica without censoring the Bible (which is full of rape, killing, mass murder, sex with paranormal entities, etc.). Well, I damn well don’t want to censor the Bible. And I don’t want to censor other books that may offend certain people’s sensibilities. And as an author, I don’t want to have to censor what I write. If what I’ve written has cultural worth, it will hopefully be read and appreciated by those who need or want to read it. If not, it will fade into oblivion (unfortunately, even the good works can).

The fear and repulsion toward the sex impulse in our culture that divides most people against themselves and creates so much guilt and shame can be traced, at least partially, to the stern, pleasure-hating, militant, Puritan ancestors that had influence in the founding of this country. This is the group that, as Gore Vidal points out, was kicked out of England not because they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs, but because they were not allowed to persecute others for their beliefs.

This strange moral hypocrisy lingers to this day. It's okay to be "entertained" by murder, torture, serial killing, war and other horrid violence, but sex is a "taboo" subject. That's what this is really about. A free sexual attitude threatens societal control and cuts down on productivity. And according to the twisted Puritan idea, sexual pleasure is, at best, a necessary evil. More likely, it is a tool of the Devil.
But those in control of our society need it to be pro-violence to make all of our military escapades not only acceptable, but heroic, whatever the real intent. Again, as Vidal once said: “The sexual attitudes of any given society are the result of political decisions.” (

I have a story, Sick Day, from The Romantic Adventures ofJack & Dora, where the husband ties up his wife, partly with sexual intent (I won’t say exactly why, as it would give away the plot). The public, that does much stranger things in private, needs to be protected from that? In fact, the people claiming to want to protect the public probably do stranger things in private than that. But reading about soldiers blowing people’s heads off and serial killers cutting out people’s organs and eating them with fava beans is just good entertainment?

The more you repress and push down a powerful, natural impulse (and sex is probably the big number one), the more it will grow in the underground and sprout up in a far more twisted, unhealthy form. Historically, in societies where sexuality was a much more open part of day-to-day life, there is almost no evidence of what we think of today as pornography.

If you're really interested in where the Western attitudes toward sex come from, see one of the best books ever written on this subject: Eros Denied. It was written in the 1960s by Wayland Young, a respected British Lord and member of the European Parliament, of the Western European Union, and a NATO Parliamentarian. This book will not only open your eyes about the source of our sexual attitudes, it will also take you on a fascinating journey through art and cultural history.

If you want to sign the petition, standing against Paypal’s demand for censorship, click here.

A final thought. Is Paypal’s decision motivated by some sense of morality? Is it motivated by a desire to protect the public? Or, is it motivated by a desire to protect their professional reputation in order to not lose bigger financially support (bigger than their profits from processing erotica)? The concern for commerce in our culture overrides all other concerns. In my next blog post, I will discuss the devastating affect this has on our lives, and our sex lives in particular.

Happy uncensored reading!

Robert Szeles
(pronounced saylesh)

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Promo Bullshit Is So Thick, I Can't Get Across the Publishing Pasture

I cannot believe the promo bullshit I see by some authors. "If you like Ray Bradbury, you'll love _________." I mean, come on. Really? If I LIKE Bradbury, I'll LOVE you? Because, of course, Bradbury tried his best, but you've kicked it up a notch. Bradbury is kind of like the watered down version of you. Bradbury is but the pupil, YOU are the master.

I mean, if I would dare to make such a comparison, in my case for instance, I would turn it around: "If you LOVE Gore Vidal, you'll LIKE Robert Szeles." I would probably even add, "you MIGHT like Robert Szeles."

I understand the desperation that comes with wanting to get attention for your book (especially if you think it's decent and had that validated by outside sources). But after awhile, all the phony 5 star reviews and exaggerated praise and complete lack of perspective turn even the valid claims into so much noise.

The bullshit's so thick I can't walk through the pasture. NONE of us can, anymore. And that's bad, because ALL THE GOOD BOOKS ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE!!!

Trying to deliver less bullshit and more good writing,
Robert Szeles
If You LOVE Gore Vidal, Terry Southern or Nicholson Baker, you MIGHT LIKE Robert Szeles.
Jack & Dora Do L.A. Paperback:
For Kindle:
All other ebook formats:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reading is Pleasure: Genre or Literary Fiction

We read fiction books because they give us pleasure. Our minds are caressed by the splendid use of language, delighted by clever dialogue, seduced by intriguing stories and ideas.

One can come up with all kinds of rational-minded, literary and intellectual reasons for why we like books. But in the end, it is because they make us feel good or they make us think in a certain way, which makes us feel good. Some people like to read a book that makes them feel bad or sad or scared, but they read the book because they want to feel that way. They believe they will derive some pleasure from going into those emotional states or they believe that eventually they will feel better from having experienced those states.

“Genre” fiction is often said to have less value than “literary” fiction because it is supposedly written more for entertainment than for literary achievement. Michael Chabon doesn’t believe this and defends genre fiction in his essay, “Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands” from his non-fiction collection, Maps and Legends. There’s an interesting interview with Michael Chabon on the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex site written a few years ago about this subject. As Chabon says, the majority of genre fiction is lowbrow crap, but the majority of literary fiction is highbrow crap.

Chabon was greatly influenced by many genre writers, as was I, and I feel a kinship to him. I have had a hard time categorizing my novel, Jack & Dora Do L.A., partly because it has fanciful elements (partly because it has explicit sex, something else that is prejudiced against, which I will discuss in an upcoming post), yet is mostly a romantic comedy drama perhaps in a similar catogory to Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Chabon has ventured into this allegedly questionable area of genre fiction with some of his own work, such as Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen's Union.

Chabon also talks about how reading puts us into a certain pleasurable state that’s connected with our mindset in childhood and early adolescence. I couldn’t agree more. Like Chabon, my interest is in good books, no matter what the genre, that will give me the sort of free, dreamy pleasure that I remember from childhood summers.

I understand the suspicion toward much genre literature, which is badly written, with more emphasis on surface thrills and often a lack of care for language, style and meaning. But I have equal suspicion for books that are heavy on style or overwritten, with little regard for the reader. No matter how important a work is supposed to be, I have no interest in reading it if I derive no pleasure from the experience.

On the genre side, this is why I so love Fritz Leiber, one of the greatest fantasists of all time. His fantasy series of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser is an incredibly imaginative series of tales with style, wit, humor and passion. I have derived countless hours of pleasure and joy from reading and re-reading them, and I would never consider them less important than any “literary” fiction. Another writer of incredible imagination, poetry and style was the science fiction writer Cordwainer Smith. Dashiell Hammett and Robert E. Howard were two of the most consummate storytellers to ever write. Within half a page, you are completely lost in the world and story they have created. The brilliance of their style was that you couldn’t detect any. There are, of course, many other great genre writers.

On the supposed “literary” side, Gore Vidal, Shirley Jackson, Michael Chabon and John Fowles come to mind as brilliant writers who entertain. And few novels are more readable than Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov. But some novels are very difficult to read, yet give much pleasure as well. A perfect example would be Justine by Lawrence Durrell. Again, there are many others great and entertaining “literary” writers.

What these writers all have in common is that they give us pleasure. They may also help us to find some comfort or meaning in our lives, make us feel less lonely, and perhaps help us better understand reality and our place in it. And that also gives us pleasure.

Robert Szeles
(pronounced saylesh)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why Books Shouldn't Be Free

My favorite authors are all professionals, meaning they get paid for their work, some more, some less. Some worked other jobs (most did at some point, and it's a valuable experience), some didn't.

I hear many authors (and other artists) say that they don't mind giving away their work because they don't do it for the money, they do it out of love for the work and because they want people to read what they've written. But the idea that someone doesn't need to be or should be paid because they're not doing it for the money doesn't hold up. Only artists are taken advantage of that way, and we let it happen by the false sense of competition created and the devaluing of our work ("You should just be happy someone's reading your story.")

"Hi, I'm a doctor. I don't do this for the money, it's because I love healing people. So, no, you don't have to pay me." 
"Hi, I'm an architect. I love what I do, and heck, think how many people are going to see my building. No charge for my services of course." 
"Hi, I'm an inventor. I love dabbling and creating new things, so sure, you can have my patent. I don't do it for the money." 
"Hi, I'm a scientist. Science is my passion and my life. Of course I don't expect to be paid for what I love to do. I'm happy to help society." 
"Hi, I'm a teacher. I love children and helping them learn and become better grown-ups. You don't have to pay me for what I do, I do it out of love." (oops, that's just about true for teachers, who are also screwed!) 

Our society values what we teach it to value by our choices. Some of those choices are difficult and require courage. I don't think every author should be paid a large amount of money for their work. I think those whose work has value should be compensated financially in a reasonable way because THAT is how our present society expresses cultural value. As soon as tech gear and rent and food, etc. is free, I'll be happy to give away all my stories.

We all shape our society by the decisions we make. Whatever yours are, as a person who creates or as a person who enjoys the creative work of others, realize you're affecting more than just yourself.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Stop Fighting and Start Creating

I've noticed an interesting phenomenon. People get caught up in causes that seem so dire and suddenly something changes: a scientific discovery, for instance, that makes the whole thing irrelevant.

For instance: stem cell research controversy. The "pro-life" crowd is up in arms about it and tries to stop it because they think there's some conspiracy to create abortion mills to harvest stem cells.

What's hilarious is many of these controversial subjects would be irrelevant if people put their focus on finding solutions instead of championing the cause of the day. Guess what? The issue will soon be irrelevant and these kind of people will have to find some other witch to hunt.

Same thing with eating meat. I totally get why people are against it. But now, they're growing edible meat from cow cells. So, you'll be able to have a steak without killing a cow. Issue over. Time to lay down the picket signs and find something else to do. If humans stopped putting their efforts into justifying themselves and demonizing others to make themselves feel righteous and put their energy towards solving our mutual problems together, all this bullshit would go away and we'd live in a fucking Star Trek-like utopia.

I get so irritated with people and their self-righteous causes. Instead of looking at "the other side" as demons intent on eating your children, look at the core problem, the core human need and try to address that. Use some of that energy towards creative problem solving instead of demonizing others and championing your self-righteous cause. That is, do that if you REALLY are interested in improving the human condition for everyone.

If not, just keep on doing what you're doing. Feed your ego and let the suffering continue. It's up to you.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Being Right Won't Make You Happy

Reading opposing comments on an online article lately, I was struck by how these two supposed sides (which don't really exist, most people have mixed feelings and viewpoints on a variety of issues, and those viewpoints change over time) demonize each other and are so blind to their own erroneous reasoning. I easily took the word "Liberal" as used in one of the posts and replaced it with "Conservative" to get a sentence that was equally true (or equally false):

The original user's comment was:
"Liberals are so hypocritic­al when it comes to choice. It is choice until they disagree with it and then its a federal mandate."

Changing the word makes it this:
"Conservatives are so hypocritic­al when it comes to choice. It is choice until they disagree with it and then its a federal mandate."

So, this statement could be considered true of people labeled as "Liberals." But, if so, it's equally true of people labeled "Conservatives." Conservatives say they want small government, but not if it's for issues they support. They're fine with a bloated military and having the Federal government raid state-approved medical marijuana facilities, etc. So many of these statements can have right/left or Liberal /Conservative interchanged. People are being blinded by their erroneous sense of self-rightness and the erroneous sense of wrongness of "the other side."

I would suggest everyone calm down, get off your high horse, realize we all want very similar things in life and try this ego-busting, enlightening exercise: take "the other sides" point of view and argue for their case. Do it SINCERELY. Even if it's just in the privacy of your thoughts.

No doubt the thought of doing so brings up feelings of fear or resentment. All the more reason to do so. At the very least, you might find "the other side" are not a bunch of stupid/evil/corrupt/irresponsible troublemakers. (They are human beings, your fellow human beings, and in this case, your fellow Americans. They  love their families as you do. They want peace and an abundant life as you do.) At the most, you might find your concrete views softened enough to allow for real dialogue and you will stop being the source of the problem (unceasing conflict) and part of the solution (creative, cooperative thinking and communication) . If we don't stop this violent verbal barrage and fake polarizing of the country, things are going to get worse and worse.

The answer is not for one of these fictional sides to win, the answer is for us to learn to live together respectfully (if not lovingly) and create a brilliant society for all with the incredible human resources we have at our disposal. This begins with open minds and respectful, open dialogue. It begins with caring more about everyone's wellbeing than your own point of view. It begins with letting go the idea that you have to be right. Being right won't make you happy. Loving and being loved will.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Something Wonderful Is Coming

Tonight, I awoke and lay in bed in the darkness with a delicious expectant feeling, as if the happy memories of a thousand lifetimes flirted at the edges of my mind. It was a wonderful, mysterious longing, wholly devoid of any melancholy, full of blissful expectation. Not just a feeling, but an abstract vision within my mind implying space, place and experience.

I closed my eyes and tried to be still, to hold at bay the mundane wakeful thoughts that I knew would chase this apprehension away. It flitted at the edge of my thoughts and emotions before finally being replaced with a curious, questioning calm.

I have experienced this several times before. It was like the unfocused memory of a dream that was far more real than the reality into which I was again awakening. But I knew without doubt that it was not the memory of a pleasant dream. It was, in fact, the opposite: an awakening into some truth about reality that I could only remember as a vague feeling in that state of consciousness that lies towards the end of that short period that lies just between waking and sleeping.

This experience (I can think of no better word for it) was the lingering presence of something hidden within me that holds the answer to everything in this life, or something that makes all our questions irrelevant. If it can be called an answer, it is one without words. And so, even this vague intimation of "the answer", expressed with words, can only yield this unsatisfactory recollection. As soon as I got out of bed and began writing, I could feel the words and myself already getting in the way.

Perhaps, I have tried too hard. Perhaps I should only say:

"My friends, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not despair...

Something wonderful is coming."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Female Romantic Archetypes of 1960's Television Shows, Part 3 of 3: Julie Newmar's Catwoman, Kitten With Claws

Julie Newmar was beautiful as Catwoman. But beautiful does not mean sexy. What is sexy is partly a subjective perception, but also, I believe, partly an inherently archetypal recognition of someone that is sexually desirable in a primal way that almost transcends culture.

Why, as a child, I was able to perceive Julie Newmar's Catwoman as a captivating feminine sex symbol is beyond my understanding. But the point is, it was not preconditioned by something else. I was too young to have seen much anything else. In my story, "Cat and Canary," from The Romantic Adventures of Jack & Dora, Jack reveals something about himself that I drew straight from my life, concerning his memories of watching Julie Newmar on the Batman TV show. It bears quoting.

"I think I had my first sexual stirrings from seeing her, possibly this very episode, as a child of six or seven. I actually remember sitting on the dark olive green carpet in the living room, or more specifically, lying on my stomach, face held in my hands with my elbows propping me up. I also remember the episode in color, but that's not right because we only had a black and white TV back then. Maybe it's partly an imagined memory, but mostly I think it's real. I don't remember specific feelings or thoughts, I just know that I was mesmerized by her, that there were stirrings. Mind you, they were very, very distant stirrings. Probably I was thinking,"I wish she was my mommy!”

If Mrs. Peel gave me an appreciation for strong women, Julie Newmar's Catwoman gave me an appreciation for seductive, crazy ones. Or maybe that appreciation came from somewhere else (my mother's own, occasionally, unpredictable, wild nature?). Either Catwoman embodied it or exacerbated it, or both. Catwoman goes beyond even Jeannie (from I Dream of Jeannie) as a completely moral-free character who promises a life free of society-created guilt and obligation.

Julie Newmar had a fresh, effortless, unpretentious sexiness that is rare. No other woman that has played the role has even come close to her performance. The honesty of both her passion and her callousness are well illustrated in perhaps the most wonderful scene of the series between Batman and Catwoman. Batman seems to finally be succumbing to Catwoman's charms. She suggests they go away together, just the two of them. Batman asks, "What about Robin?" Catwoman replies, completely without malice, "We'll kill him. Painlessly, of course."

One cannot call Catwoman evil or hate her for her cruelty any more than one can hate a cat that has caught a mouse. She is not evil. She is completely and totally self-interested. Somehow, this adds to her sexual allure. Perhaps it is the fact that she is completely undivided. She suffers no guilt. She knows completely who and what she is. We, with our guilt, mixed feelings, neuroses, fears and unfulfilled longings, envy such a state. I myself have stared at a cat, envying their self-sufficiency and self-completion.

Thus, even Catwoman's callousness makes her more attractive because it is naturally part of who she is. And that brings us back to the idea of what is sexy. Someone is sexy when they are self-assured, undivided, without malice, pretense, motive or intention, a being complete within themselves, sexual for the sake of being sexual, not even aware that they are sexy. Catwoman invites us into this undivided world of self-gratification, unhindered by the present mores of society or the psychological baggage of our past experience.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman represents uninhibited, uncomplicated, honest, passionate sexuality. Who doesn't want that?

She is the Puritan's nightmare. She was, and always will be, one of my heroes and one of my greatest desires.

Robert Szeles (saylesh)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Female Romantic Archetypes of 1960's Television Shows, Part 2 of 3: The Inimitable Emma Peel, Man's Best (Sexy) Friend

When the producers of The Avengers were looking for someone to replace the character of Cathy Gale, as played by the tough and lovely Honor Blackman  (who herself was a feminine icon, though the show was not yet popular anywhere but Britain), they knew they needed to find someone with Man Appeal. That's how they came up with the name of agent John Steed's new companion: Emma (M. for Man-A) Peel. They found Diana Rigg. And man appeal she had.

But Emma Peel was no sex kitten, no plaything for a man. Of course she had to be strong, since she was a British secret service agent. But they went far beyond that. Emma Peel was the equal of Steed in every way, if not his superior. She could match any man in brains, resourcefulness, charm, courage and even physical prowess. Many were the episodes when she was judo chopping, flipping or even tossing a man around a room. Yet, she did not forfeit her feminine charm, beauty and grace. For a time in the late sixties, every man wanted Emma Peel and every woman wanted to be her.

But in what way did every man want her? What, exactly, did Emma Peel represent?

Emma Peel was very much an archetype of the Goddess whose name was shared by the actress who played her: Diana. Emma was basically an Amazon. No doubt lesbian women found her as attractive as heterosexual men. But to either, she represented not only the female warrior, but also, the sexually unattainable woman (like the Goddess Diana).

They set her up at Mrs. Emma Peel and thereby solve the issue of her sexual availability. She is supposedly a widow, her husband lost in some unnamed (as far as I can remember) military campaign. She is thus free to flirt with John Steed or any other man, but it remains unspoken but implied that she is unavailable, perhaps because not enough time has passed since the loss of her husband, or even better, because he was not surely killed, but lost and assumed dead (SPOILER: This turns out to be the case, as her husband returns at the end of the last episode with Mrs. Peel.). Thus, she has the perfect set up to be sexually unattainable and morally admired for that, as she is honoring her husband's memory, or hoping for his return. She is also, therefore, free to be a completely independent woman, free of society's previous limitations upon women, yet not judged as immoral or unwanted because of her single status.

As a romantic archetype, she is the ultimate, equal companion for a man, admired, perhaps even desired, but never giving herself sexually to anyone. She remains not a sex object, but an object of admiration, a sexual ideal. Of course, this fits in perfectly with the British sensibility. Mrs. Peel and Mr. Steed flirt and there is double-talk and sexual innuendo going on between them, often done with an air of false naivete or modesty. This is the sexual human, fighting to break free, or at least cheating enough to not grant complete victory to, the inhuman Puritan sensibility.

On the positive side, Emma was a symbol of women's liberation and empowerment. I was quite young when I first watched The Avengers and I believe Emma Peel had a very positive influence on my young psyche that stayed with me. I grew to admire and be attracted to strong women. But even now, I do not feel sexual desire for the character as much as admiration and an indefinable romantic longing. One longs to be in love with Emma Peel. But one cannot even imagine fucking her. At least, I can't.

Next week, I'll talk someone whom I feel quite differently about. A character, played by the indescribably sensuous Julie Newmar, that drove me and still drives me mad with sexual desire. A character that makes even Barbara Eden's Jeannie seem controlled and proper by comparison. I'm talking about the ultimate femme fatale: Catwoman.

Robert Szeles (saylesh)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Female Romantic Archetypes of 1960's Television Shows, Part 1 of 3: Jeannie Out of the Bottle

Recently, I became curious about re-watching the 1960's T.V. show, I Dream of Jeannie, partly from nostalgia, partly because I love the imaginative romantic angle.

By the seven-minute mark of the pilot episode, I was getting choked up. Amazingly, by that point they already hint at the longing of love and possible loss between Jeannie and Major Nelson. This is accomplished by amazing performances by Hagman and Eden, a great story set up and an incredible musical score by Richard Wess. Within a few minutes, your emotions are moved as if you've already watched a full-length movie.
It was playful, erotic and hilarious; far better than I remembered it.

Strangely, it left me feeling forlorn. There was something I had suspected about myself and watching this show confirmed it. It may be true of you as well if you grew up anytime since the golden age of television.

My romantic notions of male/female relations were informed by certain shows I watched as a child. They may have helped form my ideal of female romantic figures. This wasn't only because I was young and impressionable. Not all shows had that effect. But some of the shows were very symbolically powerful and they were illustrating an archetype of romance that I believe already exists in the human unconscious mind.

I believe this was especially true of the shows from the 1960s. I will not try to explain why because I just don't know. There was something special about that time period in many ways. I don't think it is simply because I was a child then. I also saw reruns of shows from the 1950s as a child and was still at a very impressionable, formative age in the 1970s. I don't think the shows of those eras had the same power.

Of all the shows, the ones that had the strongest effect on me were I Dream of Jeannie, Batman, and The Avengers.

Barbara Eden as Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie was the most playful, warm, accessible feminine symbol. And her relationship with Larry Hagman's character Tony was also warm and playful. This show illustrated the idealized romantic version of the male/female archetype, though with delicious complications. There are complex dynamics going on between the two characters.

When Captain Tony Nelson's capsule crashes on a deserted island, he finds the bottle and inadvertently sets Jeanie free. She is bound by the law of the Djinn to become Tony's servant. After she uses her power to guide the rescue helicopter to the deserted island where Tony is stranded, Tony grants her freedom immediately. But Jeannie chooses to devote her life to him in return for the fact that he freed her from the bottle and freed her from slavery to him. She returns to the bottle and hides herself with Tony's belongings, going back with him to Florida where she turns his life upside-down.

Tony is constantly warring with his feelings toward Jeannie, trying to resist her but wanting her. He feels protective of her, which is brought out even more by her childlike personality. But if she is a child, she is one with almost unlimited powers, powers to permanently change Tony's life. But her real power in changing his life, the real threat to Tony's disciplined existence comes not from the fact that she is a genii but that she is an uncontrollable woman. Her powers merely magnify this threat.

Genii is mischievous, wanting to serve him, but crazy with jealousy and a desire to make him happy. He is sometimes comforted and other times threatened by her immense devotion and passion for him (At the beginning Tony is engaged to the general's daughter. With Jeannie on the scene, this quickly comes to an end). Half the time she is helping him, half the time she seems to be sabotaging his life, but sometimes that is due to her naivety of cultural norms.

Tony's reticence to become involved with her is understandable due to Jeannie's shortcomings and her sometimes-frightening supernatural nature. But after a time, one begins to question his resistance to this dream girl. Isn't this what every man is supposed to want? Isn't she just trying to make him happy? And it's clear that he loves her in some manner. But he just won't let down his emotional barriers and freely express his love to her. Is it because he doesn't really know what's good for him? Or maybe he feels he doesn't deserve it or hasn't worked hard enough to have her.

I believe the answer to these questions comes from the rogue element of Jeannie's power and personality. She is untamed and goes against society's mores and morays, of which Tony is a representative as an officer and astronaut of the United States Government — in fact, the military. So she is, in a way, trying to help free him from his own repression. At worst, she is a god of chaos and mischief, sabotaging his best-laid plans and threatening his false sense of control in an uncontrollable world. At best, she represents an escape from the joyless manmade world of duty, accomplishment and obligation into a world of pleasure and joyful abandon for life.

As the series progresses, you can see that Jeannie is bringing out Tony's true personality, helping him to become who he truly is by the nature of simply being who she truly is. This is an idealized notion of the romantic relationship when the right man and woman find each other.

Next week I will study another female symbol who is also uncontrollable, but very self-controlled. She represents the woman as equal partner in every way, the perfect comrade and friend. Her name is Emma Peel.