Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two Percent

If you have followed my blog from the beginning, you may remember that I have blogged previously about the American Civil War.  Recently, I have started to read a book called This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust.  Being a mild history buff, specifically in the Civil War, I knew that the death toll during the war was high, but I never quite realized the true depth until starting this book.  One of the first things that Faust lays out is the true size of the death toll.  According to Faust, "The number of soldiers who died between 1861 and 1865, an estimated 620,000, is approximately equal to the total American fatalities in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined."*  To put that into further perspective, that was 2% of the American population at the time.  Imagine if we were to lose 2% of the population of our country today.  That would be roughly 6 million people.  That is a number that is unfathomable to me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Book Review and Giveaway!!

Check out a new review of my latest book, BLACK and WHITE and DEAD ALL OVER.  Sage is a book blogger who was gracious enough to read and review my book.  She is also giving away two paperback copies this week.  Check out the review and register to win a book at: My Name Is: Sage.

Which Millionaire Should Be Elected?

I don't typically like to blog about politics. It is a topic that has such great potential to become a volatile topic. For me, it is always a topic that I would much prefer to avoid all together. However, I heard an interesting statement the other day that really made me think.
I was listening to NPR last week and the person speaking (whose name I have completely failed to remember) was discussing the upcoming presidential election. When discussing the choice between the two candidates, she said that voters will need to "decide which millionaire they want to vote for". I found that statement to be very thought provoking.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Help Design The Cover For My New Book

I decided to take a short break from writing my new book Deadlines to play around with a few cover ideas.  I've been tinkering around with a few different color schemes and layouts.  I would love to have your feedback on what you think of the designs.  Tell me what you like, and what you don't like, as well as what you might suggest that I do differently.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fifteen Years ... We're Just Getting Started

Today is October 11th, a very important day for me.  On this day in 1997, I married Diane Bailey in Morgantown, West Virginia.  I don't believe either of us had any clue of the roller coaster on which we were about to embarked.  Together, we have lived in three different cities, gone through numerous jobs, survived breast cancer, have seen nieces and nephews born, family members pass away, survived a shattered knee cap, gained weight, lost weight, gained weight again, lost hair, and brought two dogs into our home.

The past fifteen years have not been easy.  It has taken a lot of patience (which Diane still doesn't think I have), perseverance, faith, hard work, and love.  But, in the end, the smiles, frowns, sweat, tears, pain, and joy have been worth every minute.  I can't imagine going through the past fifteen years with anyone other than her.

The other day, we were sitting at the dinner table, allowing our meal to digest.  We started talking about the past fifteen years and how the time has flown by.  If I was completely honest, I sometimes have difficulty remembering the first five years.  My memory isn't quite as good as it once was.  That doesn't mean that those five years weren't important.  But, I remember enough to know that Diane makes me whole.  Without her, I would be just a shell of the man that I am.  She completes me.  Before Diane, I was nothing more than a jigsaw puzzle with half of the pieces missing.  Diane brought the rest of the pieces with her, and God took those pieces and completed the puzzle.

Fifteen years is not enough time to love someone.  I'm going to need a lifetime to truly love Diane the way that she deserves to be loved.  I love my wife deeply.

Diane, I love you.

I'd like to end this with a few lines from the song that I wrote and sang at our wedding.  Those words are still true today.

With this ring I thee wed
And I make this vow to you
I will be by your side
No matter what we go through
I will fight for our love
To you I will be true
To your heart I've been led
With this ring I thee wed

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Political Advertising ... Enough is enough!!!

We've reached the season that I despise with all of my heart.  I can't think of a time of the year that I hate more than now.  It is time for elections.  I HATE THIS TIME OF THE YEAR!!!  Can I make it any more clear how I feel?

This is the time of the year when every other commercial on television is a political ad.  Although I have a high level of disdain for politicians in general, I think it is the ads that I hate the most.  Having been in broadcasting for several years, I think I might know a thing or two about advertising.  The point of advertising is to talk about how great your product is.  You tell people about all of the great things that your product can do.  You tell viewers or listeners how your product is great at cleaning the floor, or how well it holds up to being filled to the brim, or how it can eliminate odors, or how good it tastes.

Political ads, on the other hand, are different.  They talk trash about the political opponent and then tell you not to vote for him or her.  Over the years, political ads have become more and more negative.  Both Obama and Romney air commercials that bash their opponent's record for 55 seconds, then, in the remaining 5 seconds of the commercial, tell you to vote for them.  

We've all seen them.  They start by saying "Candidate A voted to do a bad thing.  And candidate A said a bad word thirty five years ago when he was in college.  Then candidate A bought a foreign car instead of buying American.  And finally, candidate A wears ugly ties.  Vote for candidate B."  This kind of ad tells me nothing about candidate B's cars, or his ties.  It tells me nothing about how candidate B differs from candidate A.

One of the things that I particularly hate about these commercials is the fact that both campaigns seem to throw so called "facts" around that would be almost impossible for me to validate.  They expect me to just take their word for it and believe everything they say.  I can't think of anything that is dumber than to believe what a politician says.  That's like believing that a rattlesnake isn't going to bite you when you stick your hand into its nest.  

It's not just presidential candidates that do this.  Almost every politician runs negative ads about their opponent.  I wonder if they realize what this kind of behavior looks like to those of us that are not politicians.  Let's think about this for a second.  Parents always tell their kids to treat others with respect and don't say mean things about other people.  Yet, here are our two candidates for the most powerful position in the country, out there saying nasty and negative things about each other.  Nice example to set for the impressionable minds of the children of this country.

What I would love to see is a politician who can stand on his own strengths without having to tear down his opponent.  Here is my message to Obama, Romney, and all the other politicians out there.  Stop telling me how bad your opponent is, and start telling me how good you are.  I want to know what you have to offer this country, not what you think is wrong with the other guy.  Is there not a candidate out there who thinks that he is strong enough to stand on his own character and record without having to run negative ads that attack his or her opponent?  Politicians, tell me what you can do.  Can you clean the bathroom?  Great.  Tell me.  Can you pick up spills?  Great.  Let me know in a TV ad.  Tell me what good things you can do, and stop telling me what bad things your opponent has done.  Give me a reason to vote for you, not a reason to not vote for your opponent.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Sperm Whale: A Douglas Adams Commentary On Society

One of my all-time favorite books is The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams.  I mean the original book, not the mediocre Hollywood attempt at making a classic book into a movie.  If you have seen the movie, please don’t let it dissuade you from reading the book.  The movie pales in comparison to the book.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is actually a remarkable book that at first glance may sound like a silly science fiction book.  But, Douglas Adams had a way of making the most unusual things into commentaries on society.  I think that is what makes THGTTG such a classic book.  If you allow yourself to think through what you read, you find a deeper meaning to some of the most peculiar parts of the book.

One such part that has always fascinated me was the sperm whale scene.  Now, I won’t go into too much detail about the events that lead open to the sperm whale scene, mainly because it would just confuse those who haven’t read the book.  Suffice it to say that our heroes in the book do something that causes a sperm whale to suddenly materialize in orbit around an alien planet.  I’ll let Douglas Adams take it from here.

Another thing that no one made too mush fuss about was the fact that against all probability, a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence some miles above the surface of an alien planet.  And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it had to come to terms with suddenly not being a whale anymore.  This is what it thought as it fell.
  “Ah!  What’s happening?  Er, excuse me, who am I?  Hello?  Why am I here?  What’s my purpose in life?  What do I mean by who am I?  Calm down, get a grip now.  Oh, this is an interesting sensation in my ... my ... well I suppose I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let’s call it my stomach.  So ... a yawning tingling sensation in my stomach.  Good.  Ooooh, it’s getting quite strong.  And hey, what about this whistling roaring sound going past what I’m suddenly going to call my head?  Head, that sounds good, yeah, head, good solid ring to it ... and the whistling roaring sound, that can be wind ... is that a good name?  It’ll do ... perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I’ve found out what it’s for, because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it.  Hey, what’s this thing, this ... let’s call it a tail ... yeah, tail, hey I can really thrash it about pretty good can’t I?  Wow.  Wow.  Hey.  Doesn’t seem to achieve much but I’ll probably find out what it’s for later on.  Now - have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?  No.  Oh.  Hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I’m quite dizzy with anticipation ... or is it the wind?  Hey, there really is a lot of that now isn’t there?  And wow, what’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast?  Very very fast ... so big and flat and wide it needs a big wide sounding name ... like round ... round ... ground!  That’s it, ground!  I wonder if it will be friends with me?”
And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

I must admit that this is one of many favorite parts of the book.  It seems like an odd piece, but I think that it was meant to be something far deeper.  First, let’s think about its placement in the book.  This scene comes right between two important scenes in the book.  Yet, Douglas Adams halted all action to focus on an innocent bystander, the sperm whale, that was impacted by the action of the main characters of the book.  In most books, movies, and television shows, very little attention is focused on the bystanders of an event.  Let’s take the Bourne Identity as an example.  There are several scenes in that movie where a police car crashes during a automobile chase.  Yet, there is never any concern or regard for the individuals that were in the wrecked car.  Since they are simple bystanders, they are not important enough to have their well-being revealed during the movie.

Police procedural shows on television are similar.  An innocent bystander is shot or injured during some big scene, but there is never any concern for their well-being.  They may just be crossing the street, and they would get shot, regardless of what their own plans for the rest of the day might have been.

But, perhaps there is something even deeper about our society that Doulas Adams was trying to say.  Let’s look at real life for a minute.  A few months ago, there was a big shooting at a movie theater during the midnight screening of the latest Batman movie.  However, who did the media spend all of their time talking about?  The man who perpetrated that heinous deed.  The innocent bystanders may have gotten a brief mention, but the media’s focus was always on the perpetrator.  It happens every time that something like this happens.  In the school shooting at Columbine, the same thing happened.  The media’s focus was on the two boys , and not their victims.  Our society has a morbid tendency to hear every detail about someone who has committed a crime while ignoring those who suffered because of it.

By breaking away from the action of the main characters in his book to insert this brief look into the brief life of an innocent bystander, I think that Adams was trying to say that the innocent bystanders are just as important as those who make the headlines.  Those innocent people who did nothing more than be in the wrong place at the wrong time are just as important, perhaps even more important.  I wonder what the world would be like if, instead of focusing on the idiots who commit the horrible crimes, we, instead, focus on the innocent people.  Let’s stop making the guilty famous for their crimes, and instead make those who innocently suffered at their hands the celebrities.