Michaeldgriffiths's Blog
One's man Chaos is another person's Entertainment

Jul
03

I am sure I will turn a few heads and tick some people off by giving The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald only 4 stars. It is probably due to me being a spoiled attention deficit reader who is used to authors and movie directors trying to grab my attention tightly so I will not let go, but this moved a little slow for me. I know the general message Fitzgerald intended to convey, but to me this novel centered around the petty problems of the rich elite of his age and focused mostly on them having long conversations complaining about this or that while continuing with their selfish lifestyles.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Genre:  Literary

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Released:  1925

Stars:  4 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

I am sure I will turn a few heads and tick some people off by giving The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald only 4 stars. It is probably due to me being a spoiled attention deficit reader who is used to authors and movie directors trying to grab my attention tightly so I will not let go, but this moved a little slow for me. I know the general message Fitzgerald intended to convey, but to me this novel centered around the petty problems of the rich elite of his age and focused mostly on them having long conversations complaining about this or that while continuing with their selfish lifestyles.

I also know the reader is supposed to learn from these older novels by placing themselves within a different time full of ideas and paradigms unfamiliar to our current culture and principles. Fitzgerald wrote this novel to take a deeper look into the American Dream. Can one go from rags to riches and get all the material goods they desire, but still not reach their true needs? Does the drive for capital and the success of obtaining it spill over into being a winner in all the other aspects of life we prize? Can a man work hard, do everything right, and become rich, yet still be a loser in life? As the Beatles said 40 years later, “Money can’t buy you love.”

This is the story of the Great Gatsby who worked for years to have the capital to impress his lost love who was already married to another. He felt he had earned his big house and his hard work meant he also deserved to possess the person he wanted. Hard work builds character, and you might be able to buy a new car, but you cannot buy the life you may wish to lead. In the end money is just paper and not much help if you feel miserable and alone. Who is the real winner in life, the rich man whose kids refuse to talk to him or the poor man who is beloved by his family and community?

The American Dream might help you have a better house, but there is no guarantee it can buy you a better life.

Again, this is a fine book and a quick read. Insight into the lifestyles of Americans during the roaring 20s is also interesting, even if we only follow the threads of the elite. I am not sure it has the impact on the reader it once held, however. I know Fitzgerald is ten times the author I could ever be and the book drives home some interesting points, but it still would not be the first American Classic I would recommend for a youngster to read.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald
Jul
01

Long before I owned a computer or there was even a hint of there being an internet, I published a small underground Zine called C.H.A.O.S Collected Humans Against Outdated Systems. The year was 1992 and I was working with my friend Sasha who would go on to become a college professor who currently teaches at the Keene State. Sasha and I didn’t always agree on everything but when it came to politics and protecting the environment, we were on pretty much the same page.

40 years ago, we each made some predictions about the future. Maybe someone should start a religion about us, because unfortunately most of our predictions have come true or are certainly heading that way.

One of Dr. Davis’ articles which has stuck with me for 40 years was An Alternative, which I have mentioned before. This is the idea humans need to preserve as much of our natural environment as possible with the assumption the human machine will one day grind to a halt. Then, with at least some of our biosphere in one piece, it will be easier for it to jump back to where it was 10,000 years ago.

My prediction was equally dark and involved the creation of new anti-terrorist laws (hmm did this happen in 2001, I think I nailed that one). Once created, these laws would be expanded to include monkey wrenchers and environmentalists which take a more extreme stance toward protecting the environment (This has happened as well). These laws will set up a system where the people in power can call anyone a terrorist and lock them up without due process.

This is all being done in preparation for The Last War.

The Last War: The Last War will be the final battle for the Earth which will take place between people who place comfort and capital over life and the continued ability for the planet’s ecosphere to survive as we know it and the people who support all life and the ability for it to continue to exist in its current forms.

If you don’t think this battle is coming, I’m sorry to say you will be proven wrong because it has already begun.

The quality of life in the USA and other areas is already declining and has been for a while. Villains such as tRump are being elected because people don’t have the same opportunities and capital their parents and grandparents enjoyed. Let me ask you to ponder this, if people are already steaming mad because they can’t buy a home or have a job which pays half as much as their father and their money stretches half as far, how are they going to feel when they can’t afford to drive their car? Are the folks who are willing to vote for a racist rapist when they still have a job, going to be against digging for oil in the middle of the Grand Canyon if it will help them afford a gallon of gas? I think you know the answer to that one.

What will The Last War be?

In my opinion, The Last War was started by the rich who will do anything to maintain their wealth, and the corruptible masses will support them. If you think they won’t you must have been in a coma since 2015. Let me toss out the headlines from an election in the future.

  • The Left: We have a hard fight ahead of us and to do right by our country we are going to have to tighten our belts and make sacrifices for the general good.
  • The Right: The Left are trying to tax gasoline until the price is so high people can’t afford to drive to work or take their children to school and now they want to force us all to drive electric cars. I don’t know about you, but I always thought America was the land of the free and we deserve a choice. Vote for me and I’ll bring back the prosperity of the past and…

Most people take the easy answer over the idea of having less, or when they are asked to do things in a harder manner. Also, in 20 years, more people will have less than their parents and grandparents and they could feel like they have been screwed over and deserve what others had and will be spitting mad about it. Which way do you think they’ll vote?

We may have other hot button issues in 2022. Things like gay marriage and abortion may be lost. Schools will probably start giving every kid a handgun and a concealed firearm permit when they graduate high school, but I’m going to make a new prediction.

They say it’s all about the economy stupid. However, most of the economy comes from the Earth in one manner or another. Minerals, food, oil, natural gas and almost every product we consume comes from our planet. What’s going to happen when there is less to mine, eat, and use to make jet skis? The CEOs aren’t going to want to stop their cash flows and their supporters want cheeseburgers and cheap gas. So what’s going to happen if we let it? The corporations are going to go after the last 10% of the natural earth we have left. Some people are going to try to stop them, and we will enter The Last War.

Perhaps you’ll have heard it here first. I’ll give it another 20 years before we are in the foxholes either metaphorically, or certainly for some it will be literally.

Good luck gentle reader. We’re going to need it.

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On a totally different note, you can grab some of my Cyberpunk fiction here.

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hry peck

Jun
25

Hello and welcome to this week’s WildernessPunk. I’m going to endeavor to get a new one of these out every weekend this summer. Aren’t you excited? Is doing this a positive accomplishment, or do you dread what sort of depressing negativity I might scrape off the crusted, overused bong our planet is becoming?

I’m not writing today to go into the positives and negatives affecting you and your world. Instead, I seek to discuss the opposing methods which could be used to improve our planet’s current declining condition.

If you are reading this, I assume you care about the health of our world and wish for things to improve, yet what’s the best path for us to pursue to make this happen? I’ve read many articles and books (I’m reading one currently) where the author runs off a laundry list of all the horrible things humans have done to our earth and the reasons why things are just going to get worse in the future.

Is painting the grim picture the best thing we can do to affect a positive change within ourselves and our culture? Sort of a drug rehab philosophy; You must hit rock bottom before you realize you have no further to go and only then can the true healing begin. I’ve worked in drug rehabilitation units, and I can say by personal experience I think this concept is bullshit. The idea that things must get worse before they can get better is false.

Let me give you an addiction analogy. Joe drinks too much. He just lost his job and things are going downhill for him. By AA logic it will somehow help him to lose his housing too and only when he becomes homeless will he be ready for change.

I disagree. Following this AA scenario through, Joe will go to recovery for 28 days and then walk out sober and homeless. He will have to get a job, hold it for three months (at least) while crashing in his car/friend’s sofa/park bench to have a chance to rent a new place. Hmmm, do you think this will be easy? Will Joe feel like a loser and become depressed? Maybe he’ll need a way to relax or just get bored sleeping in his car. Just a sip and he could forget for one night though…

But what if Joe decided to get his act together, or his friends and family helped him, before he reached rock bottom.

  • Joe doesn’t lose all his things and waste his money starting all over.
  • Joe will have other methods to entertain himself instead of drinking such as a television, computer, music, books etc.
  • Joe will have a much easier time finding a new job and keeping it if he has clean clothes and can take a shower each day.
  • Joe will feel more relaxed and have a better sense of self worth than if he was sleeping outside and this sense of self worth will help give him the strength to know his life just might be worth the effort he’s putting into it.

This is less true when it comes to our environment. Do we need to hit rock bottom before we struggle to improve? Perhaps people will be more interested in making a change by then, but will cutting down all the rain forests before we wake up help us in any way? I’m going to say no. Our goal should be to keep as much alive as possible before we enact change, so we’ll have more left worth saving. If all we have left are cities, corporate farms, and animal factories, personally I’d be inclined to say why bother.

So do we get there with scare tactics (negativity) or with the hope that our motivations and innovations will win the day eventually (positivity).

Let’s break it down.

Negativity: +

  • Proving the severity of the situation could force people to act.
  • Scientists can show us what we shouldn’t be doing to our planet.

Negativity: –

  • When a problem seems insurmountable some might wonder if there is any reason to try.
  • Depression can lead to stagnation and apathy instead of action.

Positivity: +

  • Believing we can create a better world leads people to discover how we can make this better world occur.
  • Having the confidence that we can make a difference helps motivate us to do so and create new innovations which can help save our globe.

Positivity: –

  • If people think scientists will discover some new tech which will save us all in the end, why worry about our behaviors now?
  • People could get false virtue flags while they are driving 50 miles a day, eating more meat, and killing all the native plants in their yard but they have earned it because they recycle 15% of their waste.

In the end it will probably be a mix of both camps which will save us. I, however, would prefer to stand with the positivity camp. The more we change, adapt, and innovate the better our chances of survival are. I hate to stand on the shoulders of the myth technology will save us, but still, other than a human ending plague, I think technology and new innovations are this globe’s only chance.

Here are some new ideas on the horizon and in some places some of these have already started to happen.

  • Biodegradable machines, such as cars can be made from plant fibers.
  • Meat can be grown/cloned in huge vats and then distributed to grocery stores. (Side note: I did write a novel about this in my Skinjumper series, I guess I should get the William Gibson award for 2013)
  • We could design a bacterium which could eat all the extra carbon in the oceans.
  • Governments could use tax money to help fund science instead of making billionaires richer and supporting the military industrial war machine.

So let’s get positive people. Remember, worst case scenario, we die off and in a 100 million years from now our house cats will have evolved into bipedal hominids and can give civilization another go. Wait, cats? Maybe we should try mice instead.

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You can grab a little of my fiction here

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Jun
19

No, it isn’t a typo. Invironment is a new term to encapsulate a few different ideas you’ve probably heard before and perhaps a few you haven’t. The concept goes something like this, “Nature and culture have grown less distinct and are now part of the same whole. Our species has arrived at a point in human evolution we are close to only letting nature exist where we allow it to do so.”

Some aspects of this theory can strike one as negative or disheartening, such as thinking of national forests as just larger Central Parks surrounded by urbanization and highways. Other aspects might spur on ideas for betterment and hope, such as rooftop gardens and replacing vacant lots with small areas where some wildlife can still exist.

But is the concept a useful one?

If it helps people wrap their heads around humans, other animals, and plants all belonging to the same interrelated system which needs to cooperate to keep our planet healthy, I believe it is. The theory points out that long gone are the days when people can pretend there is a huge world out there and we can barely scratch the surface of the endless wilderness existing beyond our cities. Yes, those days are indeed gone, very long gone. One could easily point out the effect over-harvesting their farmlands by the Sumerians had upon the hundred generations which followed them. Some archaeologists speculate their poor farming practices caused salt to leech into the fields and rendered them lifeless over 5,000 years ago. Currently, the Sumerians, who invented agriculture and the use of wheat, have left their ancestors required to import 1.4 billion dollars of wheat into their country because of this ecological disaster which happened thousands of years before the founding of Athens.

Since humans control how the world is divided and destroyed, we also need to accept the responsibility of managing the Earth and its resources, unless you want to ask a giraffe to do it.

Invironmentalism also asks us to act now, today, and more next weekend. Instead of thinking a politician or scientist will somehow come up with a plan to fix everything, the rain forests will regrow themselves, and cities will magically shrink and create new wetlands, humans should be working with what we have and what we could have in the future.

This might involve hard choices and rethinking your own personal environment. Should you rake up all those leaves which will decompose and provide nutrients to future plants, homes to insects, and replace a natural ground cover with a lawn? I guess it’s okay if you want to go to sleep knowing you did your part to make the earth just a little more dead. We all need to look in the mirror and say to ourselves, “Am I even really trying to be an environmentalist or am I just another criminal putting my needs, social standing, and comfort above the health of my planet and future generations?”

A lot of people claim to be Environmentalists, and I’m certainly not there myself, but the only true Environmentalists I see are the homeless. They might not be perfect, but they are certainly better than you and I. I’m going to toss up a quick list, more to get the point across more than to provide a complete spectrum of non-environmental practices. This is more of a ‘get you to double think,’ your lifestyle.

If you do/have any of these things, you really don’t care about the environment more than yourself and aren’t an environmentalist.

  • Drive when you could have walked or ridden a bike
  • Fail to make a garden in your yard if you can do so
  • Have a lawn on your yard
  • Order from Amazon more than once a month
  • Fail to make a compost pile
  • Order delivery more than twice a month
  • Throw more than 10% of your food into the landfill
  • Remove native plants from your yard

The list could obviously continue, but I’m sure you get the idea. Environmental choices aren’t easy and might not make you popular. Things like letting your ‘weeds’ grow might not make your neighbor happy but is ten times better for the environment than his gravel covered, dead yard, which does its fair share to increase global warming. The important thing about Invironment is the concept that, even though things are tough, we humans, animals, plants are in this all together. If technology has given us the ability to destroy so much of what is precious on our planet it’s time to use technology to save animals.

Can we recycle junk which would have produced greenhouse gases in a landfill and instead use it for bird houses? Will my compost pile help some of the little mammals and insects survive in the food desert of my expanding city? We need to embrace the idea of helping animals and plants survive within our cities and industrial areas, because when 2 billion more people are going to be city dwellers by 2050, we’re going to have cities covering a lot more of our planet.

Lastly, our modern farms are really another example of food deserts. We removed all other forms of plants, drained the earth of almost all its nutrients and must replace it with industrial fertilizer. Animals have a hard time surviving on this monolithic landscape and when things like insects try to eat a little of the growth because we have destroyed everything else in the area they used to eat, their reward is being poisoned by the insecticide we spray over the crops.

Again, I’ll end on a positive note. Think of things not as a disaster but as an opportunity for you to be a great citizen of the earth every day. How can you grow your own food? Can you convert an empty lot or the ground around abandoned buildings into community gardens? Can you use something to build homes for urban animals instead of tossing it into the landfill? Will you fix your gear, recycle it, or scavenge supplies instead of buying them new? And overall, the best thing you can do to help is consume less and dispose of as little of your waste as possible.

Maybe one more thing. The next time your see a homeless person thank him or her for being ten times the environmentalist you will ever be.

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Jun
11

Hello, welcome back if this isn’t your first time, and let me quickly state, I’m not usually like most writers. During the pandemic lock down, some took time to finish novels and brought their writing to a new level. Pah, why be so predictable. Me, I wrote less and spent more time with my kids, but since the pandemic is over(ish) I guess it is time to pick up my pen and laptop and dive into the meat of these seriously messed up times we are living in. Where to start right? But instead of reviewing subjects which have been reviewed a thousand times before, I will endeavor to focus on one concept at a time and here goes.

Recently, I was having a conversation with a gentleman, and I causally brought up the issue of overpopulation. He told me there is no overpopulation and bringing it up was racist. Let’s break this down to his two points 1. There is no overpopulation of humans. 2, To mention there is overpopulation is a racist thing to do.

Overpopulation

What would too many humans on the planet look like?

  • Resources are being used more quickly than they can be replenished.
  • Animals are being overharvested for food and going extinct due to the destruction of their environment.
  • Humans are occupying more than their fair share of the planet we share with millions of animals and a multitude of plant life.
  • The quality of human life is decreasing.

There are obviously more issues which could be discussed but this isn’t a term paper.

Resources:

Humans began to irreversibly change our environment long before the current era. Before the raise of Rome, much of what we now consider the Middle East was overgrazed by human’s nomadic herd animals and turned grasslands, which once sported a wide variety of animals, into near lifeless deserts which have only grown over the past four thousand years. While traveling through Tunisia in North Africa, I was told by a local guide that the country had killed off almost all the non-domesticated animals which once lived there three thousand years in the past.

Between 2002 and 2012 the Earth lost 880,000 square miles of forest (High Resolution Maps of the 21st Century Forest Cover Change. Science 15 November 2013) Our planet’s wilderness areas have dropped from covering 100% percent of the Earth to merely 22% percent. Also, only 11% of our photosynthesis takes place in these wild areas. (Erle Ellis and Navin Ramankutty, “Putting  people in the map: anthropogenic biomes of the world.” 2009)

Lastly the amount of land required to exclusively feed all of humanity, which remember was once zero, had grown from nothing to – in our lifetimes.

In my opinion, does humanities growing use of resources indicate our species has an overpopulation problem?

Yes

Overharvesting

It is clear the oceans are being overharvested. The number of fishing vessels increased from less than a million to 4,000,000 since 1970 yet even with this increase the yield of fish has dropped two thirds. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome 2012) One might argue if we plant crops how can we be overharvesting them? However, human crops are now covering over 40% of the Earth’s surface (James Owen, Farming Claims Almost Half Earth’s Land,” Published December 8, 2005). How many resources are being using for just one species and the animals we’ve domesticated for our uses? 200 years ago humans and our animals were 1 percent of the biomass of mammals on this planet, but currently we are over 90% (Christian Schwagerl “The Anthropocene,” 2014). Personally, I think if we must clear cut forests and destroy hundreds of animals and their homes forever, this counts as overharvesting. If you don’t think ruining the planet for other life forms so you can have a cheeseburger is not a system of overharvesting, I think we should have a long talk.

Are Humans overharvesting the Earth?

Yes

Human Occupation

10,000 years ago 100% of the Earth remained in its natural environment, today only 22% of the Earth’s land has retained its natural environment. We are approaching having over 50% of this planet’s lands covered in human farms. I think this sums it up, moving on.

Is the increase in the lands humans occupy a sign over Overpopulation?

Yes

Quality of Human Life

This is a tougher one because look, we have a computer in our pocket now and door dash and… five roommates. Yes, in many ways the quality of human life has improved. There is less poverty than ever before and over all human’s life expectancy is increasing, (except in the USA).

However, is living in a city better than the country? This is hard to gauge, but as rent and real estate costs roars through the roof, for many, the dream of having their own place is just that… a dream. For others, they can only afford to live in tiny apartments with extra roommates and family. They are the lucky ones compared to the growing numbers of homeless and with rentals the way they are, coming up with 3000$ to move into a new place while you are living in a car or park might be one level below impossible. Some people, myself included, have been ‘blacklisted’ (if this term has its roots in some racist BS please forgive me) by the corporations which own most of the rentals currently and will refuse to rent to people who might not have settled some old debt with a landlord who evicted them years ago. These people, myself included, remain unable to rent a place no matter how much cash they have in their wallet.

I guess it comes down what improves the quality of a person’s life. Are younger folks spending time on their phones because it is better than hiking, or because the hiking trail was paved over, and they can’t afford a car to drive to a different one? Would a couple like to observe animals in the wild, but they can now only see them on YouTube, so they stay home and relax on the sofa. Another couple dreamed of moving into the country, but they are required to stay in the city because their whole family lives with them.

In the end, quality of life is more ambiguous. Who had it better, a settler who had forty acres to spread over but dies at 51, or the dude who works at JiffyLube but enjoys his cable package up into his 80s?

Out of the 4 measures I used to determine whether overpopulation was real, 3 were a strong yes and the last might be considered a tie at best. So given this, I’m going to conclude overpopulation is a real issue and it certainly wouldn’t be out of hand to state we are in an overpopulation crisis. However, we still have another claim to investigate.

Is Claiming there is an Overpopulation Problem Racist?

I see where this concept is probably coming from. “Oh no, the brown people are overpopulating their countries, using up all their resources, and now trying to come here and take ours.” Yep, that would be racist. Or if we take more of a fascist view, “Those other type of people are having too many babies.”

Part of me wonders if this is some shield, used by the left, to help them avoid the root causes of almost all our troubles we currently face on this planet. “Wow, overpopulation, that’s a problem almost impossible to solve, but if I just think racists are concerned with it, I can just ignore it, because to admit it is an issue would make me a racist.”

Many on the Right tend to ignore any problem which would decrease their cash flow and profit remains more important than nature, so we shouldn’t expect much help from them on this issue. They may complain about it and perhaps it can dip into racist rhetoric, but is the Left going to do any better steering their policies away from confronting the negative effects of overpopulation and shying away from this reality by categorizing overpopulation discussions as a boogie man which will associate themselves with a racist paradigm?

Is being concerned about our oceans being overfished racist? Is demanding lumbering companies attempt to replant the forests they cut down racist? Is trying to eat a healthy diet and create less waste racist? Is trying our best to think of ways plants, animals, and humans can continue to live on this planet safely racist?

Neither the Left or the Right has any excuse not to do everything in their power to make this planet better for their grandchildren and preserve every form of life we can. And I wish to end on a positive note for people who have made it this far. I’m not trying to be a gloomer/doomer, I want things to improve and if you want to help here are the 3 top things you can do without too much effort to help our planet.

  • Attempt to limit your food waste as much as possible. Discarded food is the leading cause of unnecessary pollution in the USA.
  • Create a compost, grow a garden as big as possible, and recycle water as much as you can.
  • Consume less.

Thanks again for making it this far and welcome back to WildernessPunk. You’ll be seeing more of me.

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Grab a little of my fiction here

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Jun
05

Here’s a piece of flash fiction I entered into a contest. Warning it is a little Woo, but is something which I experienced around August 5 2016.

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Placing down his pack with a sigh, Danial looked at his deflated tent with little enthusiasm. His hurried flight from his former home left him missing many of the supplies which would have helped him survive in the autumn forest. Tent poles proved to be the foremost on this list.

Opening a can of ale, Danial gazed to the west. The sun had already dropped behind the swaying juniper and darkness ebbed over the forest surrounding Walnut Canyon.

He rubbed the bridge of his nose and tried to stop reliving his day.

Then he moved back with an unexpected jerk.

Ahead of him a grey haze formed. Starting small, it stretched into an undulating circle wider than he stood tall. This remained strange enough, but a feeling of dread built within him unbidden. Fear crept into Danial with icy hooks, like a physical wave, it hit. It left him almost unable to move but he did force his hand toward the slip knife which hung from his belt.

He felt his eyes grow wide when a moving, handless, arm began to form and attach itself to a torso. It appeared humanoid if you didn’t count it missing a head and most of a body.

It thrashed its one arm like a punker in a mosh pit. Whatever it could be, it appeared aggressive and continued to solidify. A cold terror owned him, and Danial prepared himself.

And then it left.

Like a flipped coin, the image loomed before him, and a second later it vanished. His building dread also melted into an unexpected wave of acceptance.

Looking west there remained no sign or hint the event had occurred.

Running his fingers through his hair, he thought about all his stress and wondered if it could have brought on his experience. Then his mind went in a different direction.

Where he prepared to camp lay only a couple of miles from the Walnut Canyon cliff dwellings, and it stayed illegal to be where he was year-round. No evidence of camping occurred anywhere near his tent.

Camping here remained rare, yet here he stood, and despite his horrid day at least something had accepted him.

If you’d like to explore one of my novels, you can do so here.

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Jun
01

The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins is a scientific achievement of epic proportions. Dawkins, in a personable and informative manner, guides the reader back through time. We stop at each Rendezvous Point where we meet up with a wider spread of ancestors as he continues backwards through the evolution of life on this planet. This is all done with an insight which not only informs but amazes the reader throughout.

Genre:  Evolutionary Biology   

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company

Released:  2004

Stars:  5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

As we travel through the species we share our cells and globe with, Dawkins illuminates his vast knowledge of biology bringing up novel facts and the amazing attributes animals have evolved through the millennia. After hearing some theists using the human eye as proof of an intelligent designer, for me to learn the eye has evolved from sightlessness in forty different manners proved astonishing and shot that tired argument off the landscape for me.

The book is over 600 pages and would be hard to do justice to in a short review. However, despite Dawkin’s narrative charm, it is a dense book. One might turn two pages and learn something so interesting and unexpected the reader could need to walk away and ponder it for a while. It is an intense journey so you might need to buckle up and get yourself into college mode before you decide to take this one on.

If you read one book on evolution, this would be a great choice. Many of us go through our lives thinking we know what evolution is. We do not; or not enough anyway. If you are a firm believer in evolution, this book will cement the idea and inform your belief. If you think evolution is nonsense, I dare you to read this one and when you get to page 614, please drop me a line and tell me what you think.

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Grab my Cyberpunk novel here. Dak has been hired to chase down the Skinjumper clones, he biggest problem, he’s dating one.

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May
16

Darkness Wakes by Tim Waggoner is a horror novel set in the Midwest. I had someone recommend Waggoner to me, so I grabbed one of his older books at a used bookstore (Bookmans) on the cheap. The story revolves around Aaron who is a veterinarian going through a midlife crisis. With his kids growing into teens and shutting him out, to his wife who has become more of a roommate than a lover, Aaron is finding little which thrills him as one day limps into the next.

Genre:  Horror 

Publisher: Leisure Books

Released:  2006

Stars:  3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

This begins to change when something as simple as returning movies (yeah, it’s an older book) allows him to spy his attractive neighbor leading a stranger through an unlabeled door in the strip mall. A series of random events sees Aaron becoming more involved with his neighbor, Caroline, until she seduces him and leads him to the hedonistic club which lurks behind the mysterious door called Penumbra.

Inside the party goers fuel themselves on a steady diet of booze and lust, but there is something darker in the second room. Beyond the second door lurks a dark shadowy figure which exchanges life for pleasure beyond measure. Aaron is initially seduced by the spirit until he discovers the club is sacrificing humans to get an even greater high.

Aaron tries to remove himself from the situation, but it has already become too late and soon both he and his family might pay the ultimate price for his transgressions.

This book did not thrill me as much as I had hoped. The author develops some characters but leaves the others feeling flat. I should also include a trigger warning of sorts, for if anyone does not want their horror to dip into pornography, you might want to steer clear of this one. Darkness Wakes is easily the most erotic novel I have read in the last five years. I was going to give it just 3 Stars, but the author rallied in the last fifty pages and the end proved to be better.

This is probably the type of book publishers think sixteen-year-old boys want to read. I do not mind a bit of hanky and some panky but this got a little gross, I would not let anyone under eighteen read it, but if naughty horror is your thing this one should satisfy you.

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Grab my Cyberpunk novel here. Dak has been hired to chase down the Skinjumper clones, he biggest problem, he’s dating one.

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May
13

She gazed into the brass mirror. For a moment her eyes lingered on the five dragons encircling the edge of the reflective surface. A gift from her adopted father. Beautiful, yes, but she often wondered if he gave it to her as a continuous reminder of half of her heritage and… eternal debt.

She allowed different versions of herself to fill the mirror. Blondes and brunettes reflected back at her. Maidens and matrons mixed with red horned devils and long fanged temptresses. By accident she paused, as a young woman with a face full of delicate green scales stared at her.

An angered cry escaped from her lips and she quickly turned her back to the mirror while transforming herself into a short-horned beauty in a close-fitting scarlet dress.

Storming away from her wing, she felt the familiar waves of anger building over her. Advisors told Vista her true father remained cold, careful, and calculating.

She wondered if her first desire would be to kill him if they ever met.

Her pointed heels clicked over the iron corridors of the Infernal city of Dis. She had, long ago, ceased to let the glowing red-hot floors bother her.

Part of her, perhaps the human part, still felt like the twenty-year-old girl she often appeared to be, although her age was nearly five times that.

My nintieth birth– no she couldn’t really call it a birthday, since a birth isn’t the same thing as being torn out of your mother’s dead womb. Gritting her fangs, she allowed her train of thought to continue. I’ve been alive for ninety years and still I’ve rarely set claw out of Dis and have never left the endless fires of Hell.

Thinking back to her summons she contemplated, but perhaps this is all about to change.

*         *         *

She entered the Room of the Boiling Throne. She knew her adoptive father had several throne rooms scattered about his black tower in the center of Dis, but this remained one of her favorites.

The room stretched to heights which allowed its upper reaches to stay lost in the bellowing pewter smoke and clinging ash created from the five bowls of boiling lead. She imagined creatures such as humans wouldn’t last a minute within the room and this suited her fine. She had pledged herself to bring about the destruction of the creatures which owned a fourth of her blood.

Her father sat on the boiling throne as though it was covered with pillows and not a churning of spattering iron. Despite its undulating surface, the boiling steel of Dispater’s throne never left the slightest stain on his regal rust colored robe.

With him stood only two other figures; even guards appeared to be absent. Titivilus caught her attention at once. Although the goat legged and scowling Devil had remained a Dispater loyal second for millennia, she would not need an additional hand to count how many times she’d seen them in this room together. Dispater kept Titivilus too busy to linger in his master’s throne rooms.

The Devil gave his head the slightest of bows toward her as his split tongue worried over one of his three-inch fangs.

As casual as Titivilus was reverent, Allethel’s beauty felt out of place in the stark iron clad chamber. A more recently fallen angel, the mere centuries of her banishment did little to mar her perfect face and body.

Vista hated her for it.

Long waves of amber locks tumbled over her alabaster shoulders leaving her looking more like the finest sculptor’s attempt to make the archetype of the height of female exquisiteness, instead of a living breathing being. Yet unlike Vista, who allowed half of her feminine assets be on display, Allethal was a creature of war and her slim but voluptuous body stayed obscured by her full set of ebony plate mail.

She didn’t bother to nod but locked eyes with Vista as if she read her soul and found it lacking.

Despite the powers radiating from his servants, no one could compete with the majestic presence of her adoptive father, Dispater, and she bowed without hesitation. Her father dressed in royal robes of the finest silks woven by spider slaves he had stolen from the Queen of the Demon Web Pits. Without his small horns he could have been a bearded king like any other, but when he leaned forward to regard her, enough of his robe moved to reveal one of his cloven hoofs.

“Vista, dear daughter, welcome. You of course know Titivilus and I believe you are acquainted with Allethel.”

“We have meet, father.” She shot the fallen angel a look, but the Erinyes remain aloof and acted like the meeting burdened her.

“I have brought you here, Vista, for it is time.”

“Time for what?” she asked slowly.

“Your training is complete, or at least the training we shall provide you at this time. The outer world shall provide the rest.”

“What are you saying father?’

He paused and regarded her with a silence which stretched far too long. “Everyone has a place and your place was never meant to be here in Dis. You are a creature of the mortal coil and to the place of man you shall return.”

“But father I-”

“I shall allow no debate on these matters. Everything in the multiverse has a place and tasks to perform and you are no different. You have learned much and honed your skills while living within these walls, but your time for palace intrigue and decadence is passed. You, my daughter, will now be granted your destiny.”

“But father I’m in the middle of many complex plans and half-finished goals.”

“These will seem like ashes escaping a fire, once you are presented with your true missions. You are not complete Vista, but soon… you shall be.”

His words filled her with trepidation. For decades she had longed to return to earth and explore the place of her origin, but now as the day drew upon her, she knew fear.

“But what is the mission or missions of which you speak father?”

“Allethel will explain the finer details to you, but Vista one thing.” His eyes glowed with a red fire as he addressed her. “You have waited long for your vengeance and you will regret it if you gulp it down too quickly. Ours is not the way of the mindless Demon. No, we savor our victory and delight, why slaughter an adversary in a single night when we could torment them for months or even years slowly breaking off pieces of their lives and happiness until they are helpless and shattered.”

“You speak of The Virgin, the one who killed my mother.”

“Yes, and you will be allowed your vengeance, but for the moment she might remain a useful pawn in our battle against the Abyss.”

“In what way father? She represents all that we loathe. She fights for both light and Chaos.”

“True, but enemies are often the most useful individuals to use. More will be explained to you by Allethel for she will accompany you back to the plane of mortals and will remain there with you as your advisor, mentor and guard.”

Vista exchanged another look with the tall armored woman, but this time Allethel allowed herself the slightest of grins.

“But father there are questions I need to ask you and-”

“As I have already stated, your learning here is complete. My final words of advice to you are these: remember to rain in your anger child and do not let it rule you. Patience, thoughtfulness, and plotting will take you further than the spell and the sword. Control your emotions or they will control you and you will become no better than the swine we fight.”

“Farewell, dear daughter.”

She opened her mouth to protest, but was already gone.

*         *         *

Vista had never met the old woman who had torn her out of her dead mother’s body. It played tricks with her perceptions and made her head hurt when she kept reminding herself, for Ein Nessa, she had only removed Vista as a dying baby ninety days ago instead of the ninety years Vista had already experienced.

Ein Nessa seemed old, although Vista had already lived more years than her. Humans are so strange and weak. Death has already half claimed the old witch.

Ein Nessa wore the black hooded robes of a priest and in her own way worshiped her father, Dispater, which she also saw as a concept difficult to absorb. I’d want to hide my wrinkles too. And that face, if I looked half as ugly, I would have killed myself decades prior.

Moving with a bent gait, Ein Nessa looked over her shoulder at Vista while their feet continued down the narrow stone corridor. “I wasn’t expecting you back so soon, my princess.” She let out a nervous laugh. “It was less than a hundred day for me that you were a tiny baby in my arms. So small, I could have held you in one hand.”

“Best to put such thoughts out of your head,” Vista started, “I am leagues removed from such things with years of wizard and combat training. I shall become the ruler of these lands shortly.” Her voice took a darker edge as her eyes bore into the brown orbs of the old witch. “No one needs to be made aware of such things.”

“Yes, your grace,” Ein Nessa replied and also lost her jovial tone.

Vista wondered if the old woman had been cowed or if the Nessa’s affect had been contrived since her arrival.

At the end of their painfully short walk, Ein Nessa stopped and opened a wooden door. Its recent creation was evident by its rich pine scent and the visual traces of sap running in thin strings down its length.

“This can be your quarters my grace. I apologize and we will endeavor to improve your comfort, but for now, it is the best we can offer.’

Looking past her, Vista took in the haggard room. A bed unfit for a foot soldier jutted away from the cold stone wall. Everything felt damp and dripping with small pools of condensation lining the walls and the percaline chamber pot. A small desk and chair appeared to be recent additions to the room as well as the sad attempt at a floral arrangement near the arrow slit of a window,

“This will not do, I wouldn’t force my lowest servant to live in such a place. Where is your room?”

“This was my room, your Grace. Perhaps you remember warriors of Bak Dannis destroyed the building which used to hold the elite residing at the Hidden Bridge.”

“Bak Dannis?”

“The name Amethyst changed Uttman to, my Princess.”

“I should just level that place.”

Ein Nessa eyed her. Vista saw a glint of intellect there.

Perhaps I should ensure I don’t underestimate this one.

Ein Nessa spoke with a slow intention. “I doubt your mother believed such young fools would bring about her end. Tread with care when fighting people who believe they are heroes.”

“How many troops do we have?”

Ein Nessa laughed. “We have eight warriors loyal to our Lord who used to serve your mother. Them and some forty goblins, mostly run aways your father is gracious enough to ignore. Mostly likely ignored so he can hold it over us later.”

“My father…? Wait, you mean the dr- Rattle Jik is not my father,”

“As you wish, my grace,” Ein Nessa bowed but met Vista eyes as she did so.

“I’ll take the room for now, but if you people can’t prepare a decent room, I’ll do it myself.”

*         *         *

She inspected the grounds: A guard shack, a goblin hovel, an empty slave pen, and a boring stone square housing everything else. She had already grown tired of the most handsome of her mother’s guard and didn’t so much as give him the rest of the day off after they shared a bed.

A light rain left the forest damp and promised of a cold to come. She wanted to curse herself for it, but the scents and colors of this lush lands awakened feelings within her. Half of the blood flowing threw her veins were from her forest dragon linage. She felt a new energy moving through her.

I might be stronger here.

But even as she felt those words, she cursed herself for them. She was a Devil, a Princess of Hell, not some giant lizard. She let her illusion fade from her hand and took in the soft green scales which covered her skin, twirled her long fingers a moment, and then renewed the form she’d been using.

Everything is so alive. Life is exploding out of the ground. I never saw a patch of green grass my entire life and now it would take me a week just to clear a space for the size of a castle worthy of me.

She spied an odd figure approaching her. He wore leather armor and a swagger, A crossbow hung from his belt but he kept his hands as empty as her dreams.

Nearing her, he stopped five paces away, bowed, and then let loose with a smile so greasy if would have made a Devil proud.

“Hello my lady, I thought I should introduce myself to you personally. I, as you have undoubtedly guessed am, Sin Loch, the most powerful spell caster to survive the destruction of our first attempt at a castle.”

“So you were there when my mother died but didn’t prevent it?”

His smile fell. “I…I assure you I fought until we were overrun. I was holding the wall against their infantry. I killed dozens but we were swarmed. I wasn’t near your mother when she dueled The Virgin.”

“The Virgin. You’re sure it was her?”

“Yes, but she also has a core group of very loyal adventure types, you know the kind. I’ve fought them more than once. I wouldn’t go after them alone.”

“Good so you’ll be the first I enlist.”

He turned pale. Then his eyes lit up. “I know of something else. Amethyst has a magical stone of immense power. She is using it to build walls around Bak Dannis. She has already crafted miles and miles of walls. Perhaps instead of striking at her we could try to steal her stone and anything else she might have laying around.”

“Just because I have been sent to this mortal coil doesn’t mean I have to degrade myself to the level of thief the first week I arrive.”

“Wait, wait,”

She stared.

“Oh yes, your lady. I mean my lady. I’ve seen her use it. The thing is, the stone is huge, bigger than an orc’s head. We could wait until she is off having a drink at the tavern with those chaos lovers, grab the stone, and then a powerful sorceress like yourself could build yourself a huge castle in a few tenday.”

“It does sound tempting, but I’m not going to leave this to chance. I have certain allies.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I’ve heard about the white winged Fallen One some of the guards have seen flying into Marble Canyon.”

She felt her brow tense. “Speaking of our Fallen One, let’s keep this plan to ourselves. I have other allies… let’s just say, they can pass through walls.”

“That should help.”

“And also leave you free to watch my back.”

“Why, what are we doing?”

“I’m going to catch a glance of this…Virgin.”

“Not good.”

“I never am.”

*         *         *

Vista waved her hand casually, like she owned the primitive fort her small team found themselves in. Near the cusp of trees where they spoke, soldiers and peasants went about their tasks well past sunset. Wagons moved and the sound of horses echoed through the small village which had grown up around the north gate of Bak Dannis.

Her spies, two Succubae, each one with a preferred gender, looked at her with their beautiful yet bottomless eyes. Dollie’s slim body moved like liquid sex. Her ‘brother’ Andayose stood in a more reserved manner but eyed Vista like a delicacy he’d like to savor.

“The Virgin and her allies have headed to the Misty Corners Tavern, my mistress,” Dollie hissed through her fangs as she leaned over the tree like a lustful cat.

“Superb, You two go and steal the Earth Stone,” They turned to go, but she held them, “and kill someone she cares about while you’re there, like a beloved servant or a family member.”

It appeared her smile disturbed even the fiends for without another word they winked out of sight.

Sin Loch looked her way. “Are you sure you want to do this?” then he quickly added, “My Lady.”

“So nervous; aren’t you a powerful spell thrower, dear Sinny?”

“Um, sure. I might have the skills to get me out of there alive.”

“Can you not smell the power here? I want to feed on it, but not all tonight. I want to savor my hunt and allow my prey to learn the full length of her doom before I pounce, but tonight, tonight, little warlock, I just want to see. See the face of the girl who murdered my mother.”

“By Hell’s unholy bells, I fear this will be a long night.”

*         *         *

So young she looked like little more than a girl. Where Dollie’s face screamed sex and desire, Amethyst’s had a calming peace to her gestures. Her smile reminded one of the love of creation and why…why I hate you so MUCH.

Vista cast a whirling ball of fire twenty feet wide into the tavern and centered it on the Virgin.

People screamed while others died. Half the tavern was set ablaze and as windows exploded outward, bellows of black smoke followed the rain of glass. Vista felt a brief moment of supreme satisfaction. It lasted perhaps two seconds and then things began to happen quickly.

The first thing she noted was a jet of water putting out most of the fires which her spell had begun. The second was a brazen youth leaping through the half-shattered window. He led with a magic shield and hit the ground running. She could already make out his blue eyes before he crossed more than half the distance toward them. He wore little more than metal reinforced leather, but this let him move like no human she’d seen.

“Shit, crap. That’s Phants the major’s son!” Sin Loch let out a shout followed by a lightning bolt which hit the young warrior in the chest. He crashed back against the wall of the tavern, but even after being hit with both fire and lightning, Phants already struggled back onto his feet.

But she had other issues. Some kind of knight ran out the front door. “Foul creature of Ill. Hurting innocents, halting joy. there is no darker crime!”

She saw him cast a protection spell as he rushed toward her. Something exploded around her and she cried our as her flesh split and trickles of blood flowed from her torn skin. Taking a step back she saw Sin hadn’t taken any damage. He’s using his best spells to protect himself instead of attacking, the coward.

Brushing off the dust she said, “I think our little virgin has finally joined the game. I-” She cried out in pain as a magic arrow sunk into her left shoulder. She hadn’t noticed the two warriors which followed the knight out. The female had an enchanted bow which could pierce both her defenses and skin.

Amethyst

Her hatred filled yell tore into the night, “Amethyst, you killed my mother, I will be your destruction!” Vista cast a spell which should have torn apart their minds and left them half helpless. They screamed in agony, but most of them pushed through it growing only angrier.

Phants rushed in to her and brought his sword point up into her ribs. She gasped out as it sunk four inches into her chest. Withdrawing the blade, he dropped low and hacked a deep crescent into her leg.

Stumbling back she saw Sin Loch being pressed by the Knight, the wild maned warrior, and some rogue she only now saw.

She tried to regather herself and cast a new spell but was hit in the chest by a lightning bolt instead. “I ordered a mug of ale, not crazy,” Amethyst said, her face full of fury behind the streaks of soot.

She was far from dead. It would take much more than frying a ten-inch-wide weeping wound of burning pain to take her out of the fight but when she saw Sin Loch go down, she managed to get out, “I not going to make this easy on you. I’m going to savor your misery long before you draw your last breath, Amethyst.”

She just managed to hear Phants say, “I’m going to mount your head on the wall in my dog’s house,” before she teleported away.

Phants

*         *         *

She wasn’t leaving because she didn’t want to see Amethyst again. It would be difficult for me to care less about some backwoods bumpkin and her ratty band of braggarts. I have her Earth Stone already which is certainly the most valuable thing that pathetic little virgin has to offer.

Vista had enjoyed playing with the Earth Stone. Knowing where it came from added to the thrill, but something nagged at the back of her soul, a doubt not so easily ignored. I could gather a force and go back and destroy them all, of course I could. I could kill them one at a time in the dark, poison and shadow. It is my choice to let the battle continue. It is what my father said I should be doing, so I’m just following an immortal’s advice.

The Earth Stone could only be enacted an hour a day. Vista used it to make a large addition to her chambers, but drudgery was never something she could abide. So she allowed Ein Nessa to use the Earth Stone in the slim hope the Hidden Castle could become a livable and defensible estate.

My first on this life injected world.

Her mind told her she had unfinished business with the Virgin. She put this off by preparing to do the one task she dreaded almost as much. Setting out her finest scarlet dress, she set out to prepare to meet her father.

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If you liked this tale you can grab some of my SkinJumper-Punk fiction here.

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May
02

The Control of Nature by John McPhee is a non-fiction book which mixes a bit of science into the stories of people who, in simple terms, fight a potentially losing battle against the strong forces of nature. The author follows the individuals trying to protect humans lives and homes in three regions. In each of these areas humans seek to reverse the natural processes of nature with mixed results.

Genre:  Science  

Publisher: The Noonday Press

Released:  1989

Stars:  4 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

The first troubled region McPhee explores is the Mississippi delta where the river has threatened to overflow its banks which would destroy hundreds of homes and lives. A river, like the Mississippi, fills with silt, clogs up, and then breaks free to find an easier path to the sea. However, such an event would not only kill and uproot thousands of Americans but also grind the giant core of the shipping industry which takes place around the mouth of the Mississippi to a halt. McPhee explores the lives of the heroes on the ground and the scientists who are backing them up in an all out attempt to delay the inevitable.

Next, we fly over to Iceland where one of their most prosperous fishing villages, located on an island off the coast, is nearly enveloped by lava. Instead of letting the town go without a fight, they blast the walls of lava with firehoses full of ocean water around the clock.  

Lastly, we end up in California where the wealthy, who can escape the crime and smog of Los Angles by clinging to the south side of the San Gabriel Mountains, find themselves in greater peril when rivers of mud filled with boulders and vehicles comes crashing into their homes. People are constructing barriers and catchment areas, but they are often just putting off the inescapable dangers of building on the edge of an eroding mountain range.

This book is well written, and McPhee knows what he is doing. He comes off half anthropologist and half sensationalist reporter. He digs in deep with these three subjects leaving the reader well informed on the situation by the time they are done. Much of what is happening is exciting and often scary.

Some people would probably give this book the 5 stars it deserves but it did not grab me in a head lock of interest which I require for my 5-star books. The book is great, informative, and fun but I was not rushing to read the next page.

The battle between men and nature is a strange one. We appear to be winning more than not, but nature gets to have the final say. If you enjoy exploring the intensity of such conflicts this is a great book for you to grab or buy it for that retired engineering uncle, you have.

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Learn More Here

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Grab my Cyberpunk novel here. Dak has been hired to chase down the Skinjumper clones, he biggest problem, he’s dating one.