Category Archives: Speculative

My Cretaceous Birthday by Michael Ajax

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Normally, I hated rolling out of bed. Getting up for school really isn’t my thing and waking up early on the weekend never happens. Ever. Except today.

For my birthday, my mom somehow snagged a family pass to the hottest ticket in town—Cretaceous Park. One website she showed me said the park was sold out for the next two years. I was psyched! I couldn’t believe this day had finally arrived.

At first, however, I felt a bit skeptical about the whole thing. Weren’t dinosaurs extinct? But the photos on their website were incredible. Amazing even.

My mother, dressed in a bright yellow top, led us to the car. Hours later, we followed a rough road into a shady looking place with old boards propped up against leaning fences. Faded circus trailers were parked in a row. A bad feeling came over me when I saw a misspelling on the main sign—Cretaceouss Park. It had an extra ‘S’ on the end.

Two guys in red and green clown suits, wearing enormous blue shoes, showed us where to park.

“This is going to be special,” my mom said.

My dad’s eyes twinkled. “A day to remember.”

With spooky clowns around, I wouldn’t be able to forget it.

As we walked toward the main gate, I heard a loud roar. It sounded just like the T-rex I had heard in a movie. Goosebumps ran up and down my arms.

“This way to our Cretaceous experience,” one clown said. “The Welcome Center is straight ahead.”

The employees there were unusually dressed. Some sported blue tights with long, maroon feathers. Our guide wore a cherry red coat and white pants. On his head sat a black top hat. He introduced himself as Ralph.

Our tour was the second group to be called. They showed us to a nice room with pale blue walls. Paper plates and plastic sporks sat next to a table with a huge salad bowl in the middle.

“To begin your experience,” Ralph waited for the others to stop speaking, “we first ask that you get a taste for the plants of the Cretaceous time. Countless new varieties grew during this period. Some were toxic while others spicy. Combining the good with the delicious, our chefs created a feast to fuel your appetite. So while we wait for departure, please enjoy a salad, and some punch, on us.”

“A salad?” My stomach dropped. “I never eat greens.”

“Enjoy the full experience,” my mom suggested.

“Only if they have Brontosaur burgers with Hadrosaur hash browns on the side.”

My dad nudged me forward. “It’s healthy. Try some.”

Dread filled me as I picked up a plate. Eating some exotic plants from the Mesozoic Era probably won’t kill me. As I stepped closer to the salad bowl, all I saw was iceberg lettuce mixed with onions and green peppers. I took a small portion. A little monkey in a tiny hat offered me some luminescent red punch. I passed.

Crunching their salad, my parents went on and on about how delicious the stuff was. They guzzled down cup after cup of punch.

After the salad, Ralph led us to the petting zoo. My excitement started again. Some kids might think they are too old to enjoy petting a dinosaur, but not me. I was ready.

After sanitizing our hands, the nice people dressed in full-bodied, pink tights told us to gently pet the dinosaurs. The first tank had three big land turtles. Although they seemed healthy, they moved pretty slow. In the second tank, a bearded lady in a tight leather jumper held a bearded dragon. In the third tank, a fat woman pointed to a sleepy iguana. Reaching the final tank, I found a bunch of skinks with blue tails. My heart sank. Am I the only one who knows that turtles and lizards aren’t dinosaurs?

I turned to my dad. “Do you notice something missing here?”

“Didn’t you like Dreadnought the Dragon?”

“He was cool. But dad. Dinosaurs are what we came to see. Remember?”

“Not to worry, Matt. Mr. Ralph told me these were just a warm up to the big safari. They can’t let people really touch dinosaurs. Lots of laws prohibit it.”

Really? Although I was disappointed, following the rules made sense. I nodded.

Ralph called for everyone to follow him. He led us to some oversized blue and white jeeps. “These luxurious vehicles will take us on a safari deep into Cretaceous Park. Sit back and enjoy the time travel ride of your life.”

I walked up to Mr. Ralph. “Wait. You said time travel? For real?”

He smiled. “These fine vehicles will take us on a special safari to see creatures that have not walked the earth for millions of years.” He offered me a cup. “Here have some punch. It takes the edge off the trip.”

My excited grew. Perhaps time travel was their special secret to getting dinosaurs. They must have discovered a wormhole to the past. Tossing out the punch, I climbed into the jeep.

The wheels rolled. I held tight and waited for the time shift to occur. Tall gates appeared in front of us. As we approached, they swung inward. Entering a dark tunnel, blinding lights flashed all around. Loud screeching pierced my ears. As we drove out of the tunnel, everyone, including me, clapped.

Sitting next to the driver, Ralph smiled. “Thank the heavens we all made the time jump safely. Look around. We have reached the Mesozoic Era—the time of the dinosaurs. Due to the delicate nature of being here, we can only remain for a limited time. And never leave the vehicle because dangerous creatures sometimes lurk. Now, on to our first attraction.”

Carefully checking our surroundings, I noticed the plants and trees looked suspiciously like the ones we just left. Did we even time travel?

“Ahead, we have some of the oldest known dinosaurs that began in the Triassic Period,” Ralph continued. “Dangerous and deadly, these creatures are always a crowd favorite.” The jeep stopped beside a fenced section of grass. “Behold the mighty Desmatosuchus. But our staff lovingly refers to them as ‘Legless Lizards’.”

The others in the vehicle cheered. Some high-fived each other. They all snapped pictures.

Remaining unimpressed, I poked my dad. “Those aren’t legless lizard—they’re snakes.”

My dad appeared puzzled. The jeep rolled on.

Approaching the next attraction, with high red and white fences, Ralph turned to face us. “From here, we travel forward to the Jurrassic Period. This is when super-sized dinosaurs walked the earth.”

I leaned forward in anticipation. I couldn’t miss this exhibit.

Ralph’s face gleamed. “We are pleased to present you . . . our own special giant . . . Gladius . . . the last of the brachiosaurs.”

Each passenger pushed to the right side of the vehicle to get a glimpse of Gladius. Cameras were poised to shoot. The jeep eased closer, barley moving as the wide barriers blocked our view. The suspense was palatable.

Finally, we could see. Yet inside the large fenced area only green grass grew. Other than that, the pen was empty.

Ralph’s smile disappeared. He called out. “Our customers expect Gladius. Show us Gladius.”

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From the far side of the attraction, a man in a blue jumpsuit ran out. He whispered in Ralph’s ear then handed him a large envelope. Turning to us, Ralph held up a picture of a huge brachiosaurs. Gladius was printed across the bottom. “I am the bearer of tragic, tragic, news. As of a few moments ago, Gladius is no longer with us. Our old friend has passed on. Could we all observe a moment of silence?”

The heavy woman with two girls in front of me wept. Someone else blew their nose. I too was touched by the untimely loss. My heart felt miserable.

Ralph, his cheeks somber, turned to us. He handed out pictures of Gladius. “With this terrible turn of events, we must sadly cut today’s safari short. If it is agreeable, we will make one final stop before returning to our current time.”

The jeep’s motor roared as the driver sped forward. I heard the two girls repeat the name Gladius over and over between their sobs.

The vehicle slowed as we reached a small enclosure that resembled an above ground pool. Something swam inside.

Ralph leaned close. “Our last attraction is exceptional . . . and dangerous. Although not true dinosaurs, these aquatic monsters nevertheless grew to exceptional sizes. Some fossils have been measured at over thirty meters long. These creatures remain the undisputed Kings-of-the Sea. I give you—Megalodon!”

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Two small creatures, with fins on their backs, swam past us. Cameras flashed. People clapped and giggled.

Somehow I had expected bigger creatures. These two were puny. Runts, even. I called to Ralph. “Aren’t they a little small for Megalodons?”

He flashed me a crooked grin. “These two are micro-Megalodons. Quite rare, actually. We’re lucky to have them.”

The others buzzed with excitement, yet I did not. Gazing at my parents, I shook my head. “They’re not micro anything, they’re just baby sharks. This whole safari’s a scam.”

My mother frowned. “No, Matt, this time travel is incredible. Soak it all up before these creatures have forever vanished. Like Gladius.”

My dad held up the picture. “Yes. Poor, old Gladius. Extinct forever.”

We reached the dark tunnel a few minutes later. While the others poured over their sightings on the safari, I sat back, depressed. Was I the only one who believed these guys were fakers?

Entering the time tunnel to return, lights flashed as deafening guitars sounded. On the other side, everyone unloaded. I was glad to be done with the safari.

Ralph pointed. “After time traveling, you may feel disoriented or woozy. Please don’t drive for at least an hour. And while waiting for your head to clear, please stop by our gift shop and donate to the Gladius memorial fund.”

As the others walked away, I stared at Ralph.

“So what was your favorite attraction?” he asked. “Let me guess—the micro-Megalodons?”

“No.” I glared at him. “Your safari sucked.”

“So you didn’t drink any punch? Too bad, you would have loved our park.”

“How can you tell I didn’t have any?”

He nodded. “I have loads of experience with young men like you. But what you’re actually upset about is Gladius’s death. Your passionate words show it. Realizing that we are all players in this circle of life is the first step to acceptance. Go in good health.”

Had he just dismissed my heartfelt comment with an old circle-of-life cliché? I was stunned. My clueless parents thanked him for his considerate nature then walked to the gift shop.

But I wasn’t finished. “This whole place is a hoax. And you’re a liar. There were never any dinosaurs.”

Ralph’s friendly smile faded. “We delivered just what our name says.”

His words confused me. “But it is Cretaceous Park, right?”

“We started off as a struggling circus, but that all changed when my wife wanted to open an amusement park. So we did and nearly lost our shirts. Nobody wanted to see old, fat, circus animals. But after we changed the park’s name, and started passing out free punch, everything blossomed. People wanted dinosaurs, so that’s what we gave ‘em—but with our own special twist. Just like our name promises.”

Ralph pointed to the overhead sign. “My wife’s middle name is Cretaceous so we call our place—Cretaceous’s Park.”

Feeling low, with tears welling in my eyes, I headed to the gift shop. My fifth birthday, my Cretaceous birthday, was a total bust. Perhaps next year, when I reached the first grade, this could be one of those stories I look back on and laugh about.

 

***

 

Michael’s novel, Tomb of the Triceratops, follows three high school friends to the Badlands of Montana where they search for a paleontologist that claimed to have discovered a portal to another dimension were dinosaurs escaped to. What’s your favorite dinosaur?

Check out Michael’s website at www.michaelajax.com and get a look at his book on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/tombtriceratops

When in Doubt, Make a Fool of Yourself By Joyce Elferdink

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“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.”
– Cynthia Heimel, writer and columnist

I have struggled in all my careers to follow others’ rules. To envision ways of doing things or solving problems that deviate from the norm is risky, but for some of us it must be tried. For example, during the time I was an economic director in Indiana, one of my board members had ideas for improving the local K-12 school system. His suggestions were a direct response to the issues of the time. Surveying parents and community leaders assured him of the feasibility of implementing these changes. But another board member answered to the school’s superintendent. As with so many in positions of power in our larger institutions, the superintendent would not consider ideas he had not initiated, ideas that could have transformed that school system from mediocre to extraordinary. But the changes did not come with a money-back guarantee and the superintendent preferred the ways he knew and believed he could control.

I supported the board member who wanted a better learning environment for the students. That “leap” across the thin line between creativity and idiocy, between supporting inventive methods instead of the broken status quo, cost me my job. Did I make a fool of myself? There are those who would say yes, but others believe with me that complacency in the midst of turmoil is the true foolishness.

Our world is desperate for visionaries who will show us how to bridge the chasms between people and between our dreams and experiences. Are you willing to make a fool of yourself by stepping into the unfamiliar and enduring–though opposed–or will you be lost in the crowds who dismiss or oppose everything they can’t rationally prove?

Rationalists, wearing square hats,
Think, in square rooms,
Looking at the floor,
Looking at the ceiling,
They confine themselves
To right-angled triangles.
If they tried rhomboids,
Cones, waving lines, ellipses—
As, for example, the ellipse of the half moon—
Rationalists would wear sombreros.

Stevens, Wallace. “Six Significant Landscapes.” (1969, p. 183)

 

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Joyce Elferdink has finally come close to achieving her goal implanted long ago after reading Gift from the Sea: to live a balanced life, where each day includes time for self, for relationships, for nature, and for meaningful, creative work. She has never forgotten what Ann Morrow Lindbergh wrote about individuals “often trying, like me, to evolve another rhythm with more creative pauses in it, more adjustment to their individual needs, and new and more alive relationships to themselves as well as others.”

THE HARDEST WORD —  By Bryan Murphy

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To write science fiction, even the dystopian kind, is to express optimism, for inherent in all science fiction is the claim that there will actually be a future.

The future in whose existence we can have most confidence is of course the near future, which has been shaped mostly by us old-timers. Because it is likely in many ways to be a dark future, today’s young people deserve an apology from us. So here comes one: “Sorry!” On behalf of my whole generation.

From my generation of Brits, it has to be even more heartfelt, because we had things so much easier than most people elsewhere, and therefore have more to answer for. We were born after the Second World War had ended; we had the National Health Service but no National Service; our politicians declined to send us to kill and die in Vietnam; we were nurtured on free school milk, given grants to study and found jobs if we wanted them. Naturally, we wanted more, though for everyone, not just ourselves. Indeed, we got more, but mostly for ourselves.

The end of those days of plenty was foreshadowed when a Minister of Education stopped milk being offered to the nation’s children and thereby earned herself the nickname “The Milk Snatcher” to rhyme with her surname: Thatcher, a word no longer connected with roofing so much as with a longing to return to feudal levels of inequality, a phenomenon that tends to favor the older generation, at least while pensions still exist.

To my eyes, today’s young people are showing amazing creativity, coupled with a superior resistance to bullshit, so maybe we can claim their education as our one success. Will that creativity and perspicacity be enough to guarantee them a future? Frankly, I doubt it. Our problem as a species, in my view, is that our technological evolution has far outpaced our social evolution. Nihilists who see the continued existence of human life as an optional irrelevance, from the left-behind “Neo-Cons” of yesterday to today’s “Islamic State”, are more than happy to use the former to forestall the latter, and their successors will have an even better chance of finishing the job.

So, probably, no future for anyone. That means that today’s science fiction is sheer fantasy. Dammit, I never set out to write Fantasy. To paraphrase Oliver Hardy: “This is a fine mess we’ve got you into”. Joking apart, to the youngsters, once again, sorry.

 

You can find ancient British author Bryan Murphy’s dark futures and other writings here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts as well as at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other major booksellers.

What’s Next by Fran Lewis

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Imagine walking into work one day and being told that you are no longer needed. That your job does not require a human to handle it and although you might be an auto mechanic, electrician, painter or even a teacher you have been replaced by a computer, drone or even a robot. What would you do if you had to start all over again? What would you do if you had to do something else with your life?

You are told that your position no longer exists and that many others have also been phased out due to budget cuts. Computers can do your job faster and younger people have more drive and energy. Your boss states that if you wish to remain in the company you will have to take a pay cut and a demotion in position. A corporate lawyer who is not a partner is offered a job as a paralegal. A Registered Nurse is offered a job as an aide. But, what if the decision was in your hands and you could decide on any career you wanted–even though you are older: what would you do? Where would you look and how would you go about beating out others who might be younger but do not have your knowledge and experience?

Thinking about it, if I had to start over again I guess I might consider going into another field other than education. The way things are going you never know if teachers are going to remain in the classroom or if children might learn more online, from online teachers and or from some form of artificial intelligence. You just never know when you might have to start your life again. Your company, as companies have done in the past, may outsource to other countries, leaving workers here unemployed. Some might even find that their jobs are no longer needed, that others can do more than one task, forcing you to have to move to another area, another company or apply for unemployment.

Forget that I retired early because my mom had Alzheimer’s. Forget that I decided to go into another career as an author, interviewer and editor of a magazine. Before choosing another career I might have to be trained in the new field as well as research the requirements, job availability and age requirements, if there are any. Of course, working for someone much younger might prove uncomfortable as you try to fit into a company where most people are under 40. It might create situations that at times alienate (for example, during times when workers socialize before and after working hour)s. As an educator I worked with people of all ages and found that in some cases the younger teachers were in their own group and the older, middle range not as much. So, what would I do right now if I decided that I wanted another career, had to go back to work in order to make ends meet or just because I wanted to do something other than review books, do radio or my magazine? Good question! I was recently told that I have a great memory for facts and information by an author who I was interviewing who said I recalled more facts about his book and understood the deeper meaning. I would love to do research for a medical company. I would love to learn more about forensic science. Starting over again would be hard for anyone, depending on the reasons. What about if you are forced to move to another state or country for health reasons or because your job insists you work in another area of your company?

Think about this the next time you go to work and realize that things are changing. Maybe people are being forced into early retirement. There might be talk of a company take-over or, worse, the company is going under. What would you do if you had to start over again? What obstacles do you think you would face? How would you overcome them?

Bio:

Fran Lewis: Fran worked in the NYC Public Schools as the Reading and Writing Staff Developer for over 36 years. She has three masters Degrees and a PD in Supervision and Administration. Currently, she is a member of Who’s Who of America’s Teachers and Who’s Who of America’s Executives from Cambridge. In addition, she is the author of three children’s books and a fourth that has just been published on Alzheimer’s disease in order to honor her mom and help create more awareness for a cure. The titles of her new books are Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey; Ruth’s story and Sharp as a Tack and Scrambled Eggs, Which Describes Your Brain? Fran is the author of 11 titles. Her 12th title: In Her Own Words is in final edits.

She was the musical director for shows in her school and ran the school’s newspaper. Fran writes reviews for authors upon request and for several other sites. You can read some of her reviews on Ezine.com and on ijustfinished.com under the name Gabina. Here is the link to her radio show www.blogtalkradio.com, Fran is a member of Who’s Who of America’s Educators and Professionals and is the editor of MJ Magazine.

THE O’CONCHOBHAIR BANSHEE By T.R. Heinan

For TR Sept 24 banshee-public-domain

  My great uncle had just celebrated his eighty-second birthday but he was dressed in his old police uniform, resting in the kitchen of his house on Chicago’s south side.  Until my sister lifted me, all I could see was a fair allowance of flowers and his nose sticking up past the rim of his coffin.  I recall thinking that old people sure had a lot of hair in their noses. It was that night, at his wake, after the grown-ups offered fifty-thee “Hail Mary’s” and more than a few toasts from some bottles of Jameson’s, that I first heard the word “banshee”.   The deceased was from the Walsh side of the family, a common surname indicating that some ancestor had once emigrated from Wales to Ireland.

The Walsh brothers, and one sister, my grandmother, traveled one by one from Ballylongford in County Kerry to Chicago, the lads each joining the Windy City’s constabulary soon after stepping off the train from New York.  The last to arrive, in 1889, was little Mary Ellen.  Twenty-three years later, that girl with the black pin curls and Irish brogue became my mother’s mother after marrying Edward Conners, an Episcopalian member of the Ó Conchobhair clan. She liked to say that she had rescued him from several generations of Orangemen who had so “miserably butchered” the family name.  According to my aunts, Catholicism was Grandma’s gift to Edward and the O’Conchobhair (O’Connor) banshee was his gift to her. Grandpa could be forgiven for saying there was too much superstition among the Catholics.  Too often, that was true. Being devout was not the same as being well instructed. On the other hand, it was his family that claimed to have a banshee.

Given the times and the Troubles, my grandparents seem to have done a remarkable job of removing bigotry, resentment, and prejudice from their lives.  Edward, a bridge tender for the railroad, admired the dedication that his wife’s Catholic brothers put into keeping the peace.  When Prohibition arrived, they all had enough rank to make sure you could still even have a drink in peace. They may have been guilty of accepting some “gratuities” but they weren’t afraid to put their lives on the line. One of them died in the line of duty trying to rescue a young girl who was being attacked in an alley.  Grandma shared her husband’s religious tolerance.  She admired the pioneering spirit of Grandpa’s family and would at least allow that the outhouses in England probably didn’t smell any worse than the ones in Ireland.

Grandma was not altogether unfamiliar with Protestants even in a Catholic village as small as Ballylongford.  She grew up only a few doors away from the childhood home of Horatio Herbert Kitchener, First Earl of Khartoum, and Great Britain’s Secretary of State for War. While city folk might dismiss Ballylongford as merely a wide spot on a road that followed the estuary of the River Shannon, our family knew it was home to Earl Kitchener, home to the former Jesuit writer Malachi Martin, and home to Grandmother Mary Ellen Walsh Conners.   It was also the first village in Ireland to have a refrigerator for their pub.  Nobody from Cork or Dublin or Derry could claim any of that!

Some of this might have been part of the conversation the night of my great uncle’s wake.  I only remember bits and pieces, scenes frozen forever in my mind, snippets of conversation.  I was a child, and had the scene not seemed so very peculiar to me, I might have forgotten it entirely.  Perhaps the only reason I remember any of it was that I was quite sure we never ever kept a dead guy in the kitchen at our house.

“Did he hear the banshee?” my mother asked.  No doubt, some of the retired cops in the room smiled, perhaps even smirked at the question.  I don’t recall.  What I do remember is my Aunt Harriet saying, “She means was he prepared.”   At the time I couldn’t begin to imagine how one prepares to recline and remain motionless in a wooden box while dozens of folks cry, laugh, pray and talk about you.

The Walsh brothers may have scoffed at the notion, but to my mother, the banshee was very real, a family spirit that came to help you prepare for death.  Apparently there is no Walsh family banshee, but the tradition of the O’Conchobhair Banshee has been passed on for centuries.  The O’Briens, the O’Neills and the O’Gradys each had their family banshee.  The Fitzgeralds, I was told, were not allowed to have one.  I don’t know if that was a blessing or a curse. Often in literature and film, a banshee is a terrifying creature. To some Irish families, a banshee is a fairy-like being. To others it is a frightful female spirit that sounds like the mournful keeners at an Irish funeral.  Our family banshee was always portrayed as an angelic spirit who came with a beautiful song to remind you to repent, to forgive, and to let go of earthly attachments.  My grandmother claimed to hear the banshee shortly before she died.

The tradition of the banshee goes well past the shores of Ireland.  It can be found in Scotland and Wales and some Vikings even carried tales of the banshees back to Norway.  Once out of Ireland, banshees appear to no longer tie themselves to clans or families.

According to my mother, Grandma Conners attended Mass every Sunday before praying the rosary.  After that, it was her tradition to sing as she prepared Sunday brunch for her husband, son, and five daughters.  The song she sang was always the same, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”.  “I never heard that song in Ireland,” she would say, “but I think it’s so beautiful.  If ever I hear the banshee, I pray she will sing something beautiful like that.”

I don’t know if Grandma really heard a banshee.  I don’t know if they are the stuff of fairy tales or actual manifestations of heavenly spirits.  What I suspect is that in a society where we tend to avoid thinking or discussing preparation for death, the song of the O’Conchobhair banshee might just be worth hearing.  The simple fact is that sooner or later we all die. I suspect that no matter what we believe, or even if we believe in nothing at all, we would probably have a better death if first we forgive others and let go of our resentments and earthly attachments.  Like it or not, the day of the banshee is seldom as distant as we want to believe.  My own hope is that some spirit will remind me of all that before I get stuffed into a wooden box, be it in a Chicago kitchen or elsewhere.

T.R. Heinan is the author of L’immortalité: Madam Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen, a reflection on justice and compassion set in the historical context of a haunting 19th century New Orleans legend.http://www.amazon.com/LImmortalite-Madame-Lalaurie-Voodoo-Queen/dp/0615634710

TWO THEORIES OF HISTORY by BryanMurphy

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 Have you read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine? If you are in the USA, you may have seen the Public Service TV series called Commanding Heights, which was based on it. It’s a marvellous book, I’ve just finished it, one that shows you things that were in front of your eyes but you had not noticed, or had noticed but not paid due attention to. It is about the rise of market fundamentalism and the disasters which that has unleashed upon the world since 1973, the date of the violent overthrow of democracy in Chile, which, by coincidence, is also the year in which my novel-in-progress opens.

When I lived in Africa in the 1980s, the crimes of the international financial institutions on that continent were no secret: basically forcing countries in debt to sacrifice their children by denying them health and education so that bankers could sleep easily at night secure in the knowledge that the bad loans they had made would be repaid at any cost. That, it seemed to me, was in the nature of bankers; what seemed more scandalous was how little anyone outside Africa was bothered. People in Europe would care very deeply when famine hit Africa, and fork out enormous sums to alleviate the suffering it caused, but were oblivious to the suffering meted out by human institutions. Well, as you know, what went round came round, and since 2008, when many of the less rich countries in Western Europe got into trouble over their finances, international financial institutions have been forcing market fundamentalism on them in return for debt relief. And guess what? The people in those countries do not like it.

Now, I live in one of the affected countries, and boy, do people moan. About the loss of their jobs, their children’s future, decaying public services, you name it. Quite right, too. But they do not actually do very much, here in Italy. Klein’s book was published in 2007, before “disaster capitalism” turned its attention to Western Europe, but she would accurately have predicted people’s initial reaction here: they were shocked into inactivity. Klein details how, in Latin America, it took over 20 years before governments started to stop taking the medicine that was killing them. People in Europe, with more hindsight available to them, may swallow less before they say “We’re not going to take it!” I hope I live to see that day.

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One useful way of seeing history is that it offers us two main theories for why things go awry (Murphy’s Law, no relation): the balls-up theory and the conspiracy theory. The latter says that things go wrong because tightly-knit groups of politically or economically motivated men cause them to do so for their own ends. The former says that people would like things to work to everyone’s benefit, but we are just too incompetent to make that happen. Klein is clearly in the conspiracy camp; I’ve always been in the balls-up camp, which is a hard place to be in Italy, where mafias and politicians traditionally feed off each other out of public sight. I had thought that Italy was exceptional, in this as in so many other ways. Maybe it is not.

It is irresistible for a science fiction writer to imagine where market fundamentalism will lead us, if it manages to continue its current dominance unchecked. Unfortunately, I think we have already seen the answer, in the cult classic film Zardoz, in which the rich live a genteel life inside a high-tech bubble which physically excludes the poor, whom the rich continually urge to renounce sex and kill each other. It is the ultimate gated community, although in the real thing the bubble will have to be opaque, because transparency helps people to see not just into fundamentalism, but through it.

 

Bryan Murphy is a British writer who lives in Turin, Italy. He is currently working on the second draft of a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. You can find his e-books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts. His individual blog is at: http://bit.ly/1cq1yus . Bryan also welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu .

A Day That Will Live in Infamy: December 7, 1941

The day: calm and sunny. The people: going about their daily routines. The event: a pivotal moment in America’s history.

It was sunny, clear to partly cloudy skies, no different than most any other day with a calmness that rests on a Sunday. The view looking upward resembled a pastel canvas with patches of white scattered about reflective of someone dropping a paintbrush. Unbeknownst to the early risers or those still sleeping in their beds, the brightness of the morning was soon to be reduced to ashes of grey.

There was no warning…

What happened at 7:55 AM on December 7, 1941 pierced the calmness, deafening the scene with what can only be described as dastardly. Can you imagine the sound of alarms ripping through the air so earsplitting no earplug ever invented could dull the noise? What about the inability to dodge exploding bombs and incessant gunfire as fragments and bullets riveted anything, everything in sight? Can you see yourself heeding the call to abandon ship only to find you are clinging to a life preserver in the midst of burning oil with the last sounds you hear being your own screams as your eyes literally disintegrate in their sockets?

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Caption: USS Arizona (BB-39) during the attack
Source: www.en.wikipedia.org

It was premeditated. There was no warning…

Imagine a scene of people running, screaming, turning this way, turning that way totally confused, completely panic stricken for no visible clue led the way of which way to turn for there was no way, no apparent way to escape the terror. Buildings offered no hope of safety for the walls were rapidly crumbling burying beneath their weight men, women, even children. For some, what began as a leisurely Sunday morning drive ended…just like that, their life ENDED! Without regard toward any living thing – plant, animal, human – life was consumed in an instance within flames of pure hell.

PearlHarborCasualty

Caption: AP Photo/US Navy

Do you get the picture? There was no warning…

The Japanese shocked the world with the unthinkable leaving behind close to 2,400 Americans dead with another 1,100+ wounded. Recorded story after story fills page after page of book after book in an effort to preserve the memory of the lives lost, sacrificed at Pearl Harbor. A pivotal moment in America’s history led not to annihilation but to an awakening…the undaunted strength of America. Audio playbacks capture the sounds, video and film reproduce the sights but only those who survived can recall the smells. Those who survived will never forget the sights, the sounds, or the smells of the horror inflicted at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Yet, it wasn’t the end as the Japanese had planned but the beginning of retaliation. The day after the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his famous Infamy Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, calling for a formal declaration of war on the Empire of Japan.

Awakening the Sleeping Giant: WWII

In hopes of crippling the United States Pacific Fleet, the Combined Japanese Fleet received orders to attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and surrounding military targets. We never saw it coming nor did they in America’s retaliation.

The element of surprise
Was the enemy’s plan
While watches were changing
Destiny played its hand

How could this be possible?
We were center stage
Our ships were mighty forceful
Our men—strong and brave

But there was no warning…

An infamous airborne assault
Secretly designed to destroy on sight
Left a peaceful but great, nation
Awakened amid a horrible plight

Ships sank in their moorings
Capsized or were beached
Hundreds helped to save lives
Thousands were never reached

But there was no warning…

—Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 1941

Incredibly four years later
A decision was made
Retaliation was certain
Time to lift our façade

We called for surrender
Hoping peace could be made
Threat of destruction
Was the first hand played

Ignoring the ultimatum
Commanded air raid
Two acute nuclear bombings
Lifted our façade

We gave no warning…

—Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 1945

Hundreds of thousands succumbed
Leaving a country in pain
Six days after the bombing
Surrender finally came

If they had only heeded our warning…

“Fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
—Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (1884–1943)

Excepted from Awakenings from Then ’til Now ( http://goo.gl/Xtj1c) by Sharla Lee Shults. Sharla’s passion for writing is poetry: Historical and inspirational. Become acquainted with her writing by visiting http://sharlashults.com/ where links are accessible to her books and blogs. Sharla previously shared A Woodsy Morning here at The Write Room: http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=1060

The Evolving Communal Mind by Martha Love

Martha LoveWe may hear some people complain that our propensity toward using social networking and cell phones, particularly when we are in a public or social situation, are signs that we modern humans are a bunch of disassociated people who don’t know how to sit in the same room together and relate to each other anymore. But wouldn’t it be a calming thought to think of this behavior as also being indicative of a new human skill we are fervently developing through the use of such devices—the ability to bond with others from a distance—as taking baby steps toward telepathy and intuitional intelligence that could bring us all even closer together than we currently imagine. Let’s explore this!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I happened on a discussion on my Facebook feed among some of my “friends”—one of which is a prominent author—who were all rather puzzled at the fact that they had so many feelings for “internet friends” they had known for a couple of years but never actually met in person and how they felt sad with a heavy feeling of loss because one of them had deceased. It was a virtual communication cluster of humans who had never met in physical form but were sharing an actual experience of mourning, grief, and were comforting each other over the loss of another someone they also had never met in physical form. Something very important around bonding from a distance had been learned by these friends. As far as social scientists know or have recorded, this type of skill in relating with intimacy from a distance is a fairly new species behavior in modern human history that is growing globally in occurrence with our advances in telecommunications and social networking. To a social scientist like myself, it is worthy of noting and speculating upon where it could take us and how it could affect our human condition.

If we are learning that we do not need to be in the same locality together, that we do not need a close proximity and physical relationship in order to feel close and to share thoughts and feelings, to comfort each other emotionally and feel intimate in that sense, and to feel accepted by and care for each other, then is this fundamentally changing us and our psychological competencies and functions as human beings? Of course it most likely is, even if it is a very slow, almost unrecognizable, transformation of our species. So perhaps we can speculate where it is taking us in the long run and just relax and enjoy the ride.

We could speculate that the internet and cell phones are our training wheels for learning to connect to the Noosophere and then develop telepathy in the further future as a species. And if so, will we one day develop telepathy through the use of something kin to implantable cell phones and/or eventually make structural adaptations more naturally by learning to use our higher faculties that are already within our potential consciousness? Professor Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University has recently announced that his lab has created in rats the first brain-to-brain internet communication called “organic“ computing as a precursor to telepathy. The potential of this discovery may all sound horrid to us now, cell phones in our heads and with telepathy we could be so transparent that people know everything that we think and feel. But many of us remember also when the idea of just having a cell phone seemed horrid—the idea that by carrying a cell phone and people could call you anytime anywhere you went, seemed for many of us like it would be a completely unwanted invasion of privacy (and I still leave mine home on peaceful walks to the park or beach).

To explore these questions of our telepathic future, we first need to look at how telepathy could be a progressive necessity for us as a species and what value it would have to us psychologically. It would surely alter the nature of human interactions and relationships as we know it today and, in fact, the leanings we have toward becoming telepathic appear to already be doing so.

Many of our families of origin have spread themselves all over the globe with a common scenario of grandma in Ohio and her children in Seattle, Tampa, and Houston, with her grandchildren now in Bangkok, New York City and Hawaii. We have scattered our seeds and diversified, stepping into new environments spread wide apart, surrounding the globe. We now have so much to hold together in relationships and it is so much work to stay connected as a family of origin, to keep in communication. We have needed to diversify our families and adopt more local extended family members in order to have immediate community to fill our human need for intimacy. And some of our adopted, extended family members are not local but are ones we have never actually meet in the flesh, only in virtual time through social networking.

We know through science that nature in its workings, including our human nature, is conservative, and it does not waste energy. Nature does not try an experiment or make a change in a species without a necessity or survival reason for an adaptation and without an underlying principle to follow. It has been my life work in psychology to explore the intelligence of our human nature, and in doing so I have discovered that we human beings have two instinctual needs—acceptance (intimacy, attention, security and containment) and freedom (control of our own responses to life) that we strive to keep in balance from moment-to-moment. If we accept that we have an innate striving toward the balance for our needs of acceptance and freedom, then we can view this new skill in bonding and intimacy at a distance as an attempt of our nature to bring ourselves into balance of these two needs. Working off this theory of inner needs, it would seem logical that we would have reason and motive to learn telepathic skills as an adaptation to the isolation of the social environment we have created, with families spread out in distance around the globe. Telepathy would undoubtedly increase our communications and intimacy with others and be one way we could balance our need for acceptance with the vast freedoms we have already taken or may take as a species in even further reaches interstellar.

Throughout history, a species, plant or animal life, will assure its continued existence and arrest its very extinction by biologically diversifying and by adaptation to the changing environment in which it inhabits. Seeds cast themselves into the wind to spread and diversify and must adapt to sometimes hitherto uninhabited territories. This causes necessary changes in the species. If you accept science, then the history of humankind shows we are no different than other animals in this adaptation process (although note that both our reasoning ability and spirituality distinguishes us), as we are not the same humans in our biological functioning abilities that we were thousands of years ago. Even if you agree with those scientists who view humans and Neanderthals as possibly two separate species, you can see that humans have adapted and changed in their communication skills and consciousness through the ages. Taking into account the need for this adaptation process, it is perhaps then no accident that we have created and embraced technology on all fronts to include the ensuring of the accessibility of international air travel and the use of computers and telephones to a point that we have widened our worldview to include all people. And we are still working on widening this worldview to include a more complete global consciousness.

Perhaps the growth of becoming more telepathic as a species is a necessary tool to help us break down the communication barriers on the path to our real Human destiny of truly becoming conscious of the fact that we are one Human Family. For now I leave you to think on this, but then if I am asking these questions then maybe the communal mind or Noosophere has communicated through the global electromagnetic field and you too are already pondering these possibilities.

“We reflect upon the vastness within us but like the outer universe, cannot know it’s parameters…”

Martha Char Love, author of “What’s Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective of the Intelligence of Human Nature and Gut Instinct”

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