Friday, August 28, 2015

Missing the Bat

Gospel singer and songwriter Gloria Gaither tells a story of her son Benji when he was young. He was four, I think, and they were having a party at the park. Benji was playing ball with his grandpa, and as Gloria walked toward her son, she saw him furiously throw down his plastic bat and scream, "You're missing my bat, Grandpa!" That's how the whole day went for Benji, she said. Nothing went right for him. Finally the day was over, and as she watched her exhausted son sleep, she thought about how we aren't very different from Benji. We stand there
with our needs out and scream at the world, "You're missing our needs!"

Bear with me. Every path leads to a destination.
It's been a long, hard year for me so far. Health difficulties, job anxiety, and money problems have occupied my time and mind. And this time around, writing hasn't stepped in to save me. Used to be, I could count on my myriad fantasy worlds to divert me, to fill my imagination so full that darkness couldn't even creep in around the edges. But I'm empty now. Just me in a huge echoing place that stretches to the dark horizons. Creepy.

Can't really blame writing for this. Writing has always been dependent on my ego. No, seriously, it is. Somewhere there is -- or was -- a voice inside me that said I could write as good as anyone else if I tried and worked at it. I don't know where that voice has gone. I can't hear it anymore. I think it tired of the responsibility. And without that certainty, that stubborn knowledge that I could do whatever I started out to do come hell or high water, I'm stalled.

I doubt now. I doubt everything now.

It could be I'm just tired. I don't get enough sleep. I don't seem able to get enough sleep. Or maybe it's only depression, the black dog, sapping my energy, stealing my willpower, pushing my face into the mud.

I wish I could get angry. I wish I had something to push against. A defeatable evil that I could righteously hurl myself against. I told my friend Gail today that I go around in a state of exhausted outrage.

I should be angry about health care, medical bills, dangerous additives in our food, the sorry stage of our justice system, and the fact that 32,000 people -- most of them children -- starve to death each day. I should be furious because capitalism has become another name for unbridled greed and because our elected officials whom we elected to protect our interests take bribes, gifts, trips, stocks, bonds, donations, and more from lobbyists who would sacrifice their mothers on the altar of their special interests.

Instead, I'm tired. I don't want to watch the news. Can't listen to NPR or FOX anymore. If I could retreat from the world, I would. I'd shut my door, take up my tent, go to the mountains, ship to a deserted island, and never return. The thing is, wherever I go, I'll still be taking me along.

***

It's the next day. I've read this back over, wondering if the whole point is simply a long drawn-out boring whine: "Life isn't treating me right. No one loves me. Poor, pitiful me." Whine, whine, whine. Whining isn't attractive in children and is downright annoying in adults.
I didn't sleep well last night. A flare of the IBD. Woohoo. In all the uncertainty in my life, I can always count on my stomach to punish me. I'm just not sure what I'm being punished for.
Somewhere inside me ... sometimes I feel that there is something inside me that wants out. It's fighting for freedom. It's trying to claw its way into the light. It's tearing away vast chucks of me, and I'm bleeding everywhere. Whatever it is, it's frantic. It's gasping for breath. It wants to leap into the sky, but it's held back, wings crippled, head forced down. But it's fighting for that glimpse of blue, that vastness which lies beyond what we're allowed to see.

Does this make any sense?

I've toyed with deleting the whole post. I've done that many times before: Wrote things I thought were too revealing so I delete or save for my private journal. It seems pointless to share a struggle with people who have their own burdens to bear. Why should they divert resources from their battles to aid me in mine?

We're funny creatures, though. Peculiar creatures. Halfway between the angels and the apes. Tangled in the webs of our problems, trashing around, occasionally throwing out a hand to pull ourselves up or to catch another before he or she falls into the depths. Lord only knows why we do it, why we sacrifice ourselves for others. It's in our nature -- the angel in us.

***

It's the next evening now. I haven't made up my mind to post this or not. Of course, if you're reading it, then you know the answer. If you're not reading it, only I know there was ever any question about posting it.

The thing about drifting is you're still going some place. Maybe slowly. Maybe too slowly to be defined as movement by anyone watching. Maybe too slowly to be felt even by you, but you're going somewhere. Every path leads to a destination.

Ah, but the rub is, the crux of the matter, the core of your personal life apple is this: Where you end up, can you live with it? Can you survive it? Is it where you wanted to go? If you had known where your path would lead, would you have followed it?

The easy thing is to not decide. To drift. To pretend drifting isn't a decision. To abdicate your responsibility for your life. But in the end, you will have to live with your decision to not decide. Every decision leads to a destination, that's more correct.

And life is happening whether or not we are ready for it or not. I'm glad to know you and to have you along with me on this journey. And someday we will rise to see light dawning across the indigo sky.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Write Your Own

I don't have anything witty or funny to say. Please fill this space with your witty comment. Why should I have to do all the work?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Of Humor and Halibuts

Been sick, been having computer problems, haven't been on my computer. But I got told tonight that when I don't post, it worries people. So I'm posting so you won't worry. I'm only thinking of you. What a considerate guy I am. Just a saint or something like a saint but with none of that inconvenient goodness and morality.

Recently someone asked me how I consistently came up with these hilarious, intelligent, wise, heart-warming, inspiring, cheery and witty posts. (I'm quoting. No. Really.) I will tell you right now that I am simply gifted. If you buy that, then I will also sell you some expired lottery tickets.

Truthfully I suspect my output is connected to the warped way I look at the world. My mind is given to literal fantasies, if you can follow that, but if not, don't give up. An example follows so calm down.

For instance, suppose someone tells me that his heart raced like mad. For most people, that would simply mean that the person speaking was excited. But my mind instantly imagines a heart riding on a horse, the reins held by its little veins and arteries as it spurs its horse to the finish line. Then I have to wonder what it's wearing its spurs on. And what weirdo would make the spurs for a heart, anyway? And spurs need boots ...

I can while away hours doing this, hours that I should be spending losing weight, cleaning my car, stalking Lucy Lawless, cataloging my ear wax collection, etc., all the fairly normal activities of someone who was dropped on his head just a few too many times when he was a baby by his jealous siblings, but that is another story.

Another factor is that I like language, particularly funny words. Like halibut. I think I've mentioned that before, but halibut is simply a funny word. Say it over and over. But not in crowd unless you just enjoy strange looks from strangers, and no one appreciates it at a funeral.

It also helps that we live in a funny world. Well, peculiar is probably the word I should use there. You can find humor in most things non-Republican, and even Republicans have been known to crack a smile when an endangered species finally croaks. I find that you have to laugh at some things, or you will spend all your time weeping and wailing. Frankly, sackcloth itches, and ashes only get in your eyes, and you can quote me if you are so inclined and wish to send me money since this post is copyrighted 2015.

As for the number of ideas, those come because I read a lot and am interested in almost everything that you can legally be interested in.

I am also somewhat a klutz in the way that President Clinton was somewhat a liar. I can trip over lint in the carpet and have even stumbled due to the pressure of air molecules. This leads to those  experiences that make great stories afterwards -- remember the time I fell on the large nun who has holding her pet cat and she threw it in the midst of all those preschoolers who were eating chocolate ice cream? -- but are painful when they happen.
 
I also have the rare talent of being able to insert both of my feet in my mouth and occasionally have needed to borrow the feet of passing strangers to fill up that cavernous space that persists in embarrassing me.

Finally, it helps that my family is made up of such strongly individualistic people. Not only do we march to a different drummer, but we have often marched to an entirely different band than the rest of the world, a band made up of flutes, kazoos, tubas, and perhaps a halibut or two.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From Floozy Comes Back.)

Friday, August 14, 2015

True Confessions of a Sushi Sissy

I confess freely I’m a sushi sissy. I can’t handle the raw fish, but the cooked sushi? I love delicious spicy shrimp wrapped with sticky rice and seaweed, shrimp tails on rice logs, and crab and avocado also wrapped with rice and seaweed. Yummy! No, really, it is. Don't make that face.

However, I know a hardcore sushi fanatic. She can clear a sushi platter with the greatest of ease and obvious enjoyment. And she likes this particular sauce — wasabi — on her sushi. Lots of wasabi. What I didn’t realize was that her taste buds had been surgically removed many years ago after a freak flame swallowing accident. Now she could drink boiling battery acid and say it had just a bit of fire.

Anyway, recently I bought a sushi platter for me and my roomie and decided that I’d try wasabi. How hot could it be? I would soon learn.

Wasabi is a chalky green. That should have been my first clue, but hey, she liked it so obviously it was good. Never trust women.

So I took a piece of spicy shrimp sushi and ladled the green sauce on. If only I had noticed the plastic spoon was melting, you wouldn’t be reading this, but I didn’t until much later.

Without a pause – which goes to show that my overwhelming brilliance does not extend to survival instincts – I popped the sushi piece into my mouth.

I chewed.

Once.

The world went white.

I couldn’t breathe. My entire body shuddered. My tongue actually attempted to tear itself out of my mouth.

You know that little thing that hangs down at the back of your throat? Mine caught fire.

Then I made the mistake of gasping. The wasabi fumes rolled up my nostrils and down into my lungs. My sinuses responded to this assault by producing a flood of snot. My eyes wept like they haven’t wept since Old Yeller died.

My face turned a shade of red that is only appropriate for the butts of lusting baboons.

Meanwhile, the bite of wasabied sushi was traveling down my throat leaving a line of fire. My stomach tried to dodge, but it wasn’t quick enough. It received the food with much grumbling.

After I recovered, I turned to my roomie and with my voice as steady as I could manage, I croaked, “Hey, this is really good. You should try it.”

For some reason, he didn’t believe me. People just don’t trust other people anymore. It’s quite sad, I think

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All reserved. Excerpted from Floozy And Other Stories by Stephen B. Bagley.)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pentecostals, Baptists & Wrestling

My siblings and I were raised in church. That is an understatement along the lines of “Hey, that President Clinton fibs every now and then.” If the doors to the church were open, we were there. I’d like to say we were there willingly – and mostly we were – but there were a few times that we struggled with the concept of going to church when a particularly good program was on TV. This struggle was usually resolved by my father and occasionally Mr. Belt – who never came down on the side of TV.

This is not to say any television show was more exciting than when the Holy Spirit moved and Brothers and Sisters began to dance and holler and generally shout Heaven down. When I was about eleven or so, I invited a friend to our very Pentecostal church, and we had an exciting service with much noise and activity. He turned to me, his eyes wide, and said, “This is better than Championship Wrestling!” It doesn’t get any better than that.

Some people don’t like their churches that active. I’ve been to a couple of churches where nurses wander up and down the aisles checking for pulses and occasionally administering CPR if needed. Personally, I prefer knowing my pewmate is alive and kicking – and in the case of true Pentecostals – running and whooping, too.

And singing. I mustn’t forget that. Pentecostals can sing the Heaven out of song. Don’t worry if they don’t get it right the first time. They will the second or third or maybe 20th time. I’ve seen song services that have taken over the Sunday morning service, moved right on into the evening service, and have started making eyes at Monday morning. Listen, if you want a Pentecostal to stop singing a song over and over and over, the best thing to do is to sing loudly and clap vigorously. They won’t stop, of course, but you will be participating and getting exercise to boot.

Having been raised in such exciting churches, I had never thought much about it until I went to college and met Baptists who regarded the Pentecostals as primitives, along the lines of natives dancing around bonfires. If I had told them we made burnt offerings each Sunday, they would not have been surprised.

These young Baptists were fascinated by stories of our “rites” and would talk nervously about donning pith helmets and venturing to the nearest Pentecostal church. “Is there any night better for speaking in tongues?” they would ask, apparently not wishing to risk their lives for a quiet night. I can only remember one of my college Baptist friends who was brave enough to attend a service with me. He did fine. Last I heard, he is still a Pentecostal missionary preaching the Gospel to cannibals (former, we hope) in South America.

I don’t mean to imply Baptists are stoic and don’t show emotion. I attend a Baptist church and have seen displays of outright emotion that would certainly fit in any moderately Pentecostal church on a very slow night in the dead of winter during a blizzard where only two or three people show up. Just last week, I actually saw a deacon with a tear in his eyes. Of course, he was immediately ushered outside, but it was still emotion.

All kidding aside, we are all children of God, and I try to not get hung up on whose denomination is more correct. While mine is obviously more right than that of other folks, they have the right to get to God as best they can, poor ignorant souls. You can only hope  whatever misguided church they attend at least offers decent church dinners.

Ah, church dinners. A definite advantage to being raised in church is you get to attend many good church dinners. And by good, I mean tons of delicious food and fine company. Strong tea and fried chicken. Homemade pies and cobblers. Children running around. People laughing and talking as fast as they can. Folks gathered around a piano singing favorite hymns and old standards. Through all of that, if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of angel wings. It’s not Heaven, I know, but it’s close.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From Floozy & Other Stories, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, BooksAMillion, and other retailers.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sex & the Single Novelist

A fantasy novel I’m working on is as much a love story as an adventure story. My characters have a couple of scenes where they indulge in a bit of kissing and hugging. I wanted the scenes to seem romantic and charming. I do neither of those well in my writing (I do them fine in real life, thank you for asking) so I thought research was needed.

I went to my local library, waited until right before closing, and then checked out 10 modern romance novels, including several historical romances. I explained to the clerk I was only doing research. She cleverly concealed her avid interest in what I was saying by yawning widely.
I took the books home and opened one. I was pretty sure I’d know the plots of the book: girl meets boy, he treats her badly, they fight the whole book, and then they fall into bed as the last page is turned.

Man, I’m out of date. They fall into bed a lot sooner and more often these days. Many times. The rest of the plot is still the same, but they’re doing the naughty and doing it with a lot of detail. A lot of detail. Of course, they don’t use clinical terms to describe the sex – apparently that would kill the mood – instead we are treated to phrases (and I didn’t make up any of these) like “his throbbing man-shaft of pleasure iron,” “her snow white, silky soft nursing mounds,” and one that I had to read twice to fully appreciate its complete awfulness: “her undulating cavern of velvet passion.”

CAVERN?! My gosh, is her last name Carlsbad? And that undulating couldn’t be good. She needs to see a doctor and fast.

And the way they talk during sex. Something like this: “She spread her arms wide and cried out, ‘I cannot wait! Take me now. Fill my senses with your savage love. Let me fly among the heavens. Let us soar to the stars above, my love, and we will shine among the hosts.’” Look, lady, he’s not the space shuttle.

But instead of running away from this weirdo, he draws closer and says, “Yes, my love! We will outshine the stars! We will blaze like a fiery comet on its journey to the illuminating sun!”
Later on, she would awaken to discover he had stayed awake all night staring at her “pure alabaster body softly gleaming in the moonlight.” Rather than being creeped out, she felt all warm and fuzzy to know he had watched her drool and snore all night.

The historical novels followed the same plot, although they had more pirates and sword fights. The women are all cold and haughty, but hiding a burning passion. They only need a handsome rogue for their passion to be finally released. Luckily enough, the men are handsome rogues, but need the love of a good woman to realize that they always wanted to live in the suburbs and have several children who will carry on their family name (since they are actually the wayward sons of dukes or princes, but not accountants or lawyers).

This is not to say that they were badly written books. At least three of the books kept me reading as the writer cleverly found ways to tweak the conventions that confine a romance novelist. And two of the books were even intentionally funny. Don’t think I’m picking on romance novels.

But I was shocked by the graphic nature of the books. As I read them over and over and over, I kept wondering what’s this world coming to? And these were at the public library. Not in a brown paper wrapper or anything.

Still, reading those books was informative and helpful. I learned what phrases I will NOT be using in my book. In fact, I think the characters in my fantasy novel will have to content themselves with shaking hands and exchanging meaningful glances. Any more than that could cause undulating, and none of us want that. I don’t think we do. Do we?

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From Floozy & Other Stories, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, BooksAMillion, and other retailers.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Visit To A Naughty Planet

If an alien landed on this planet – his first mistake – and started studying us, he would have to think that sex was a pretty silly way to reproduce and that we spent too much time attempting to have sex even when we’re not trying to reproduce. All in all, he’d conclude, humans are simply crazy.

Then he would attempt to get off this planet ASAAP (As Soon As Alienly Possible), but too late! The Air Force shoots down his spacecraft, and he must flee from the Men in Black (not rappers, the government). He will be aided only by a beautiful newscaster with whom he will eventually mate and create a new race of alien-human hybrids who will naturally want to conquer the world as they don’t enjoy Scrabble and there’s nothing on TV.

The poor alien wouldn’t understand we have a whole society based on sex. Our books, movies, music, art, our lives revolve around it. You can’t turn on a TV without seeing some ad that says if you use their product, you’ll be surrounded by willing males, females, and tax accountants all wanting to enjoy your hot monkey love.

The Internet is partly to blame. Never in the course of human history have so many pictures of unattractive naked people been available to so many people. People no longer streak in real life; they streak online for a much larger audience. Truthfully, clothes are a blessing, and more people should remember that they do not resemble Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie in any way other than being a member of the same species, and that’s not always certain.

Magazines abound and abounce with pictures of barely clad women. Sports Illustrated (un)clothes supermodels in nothing more than drops of water these days, and is making millions selling videos of “The Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue,” “The Making of the Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue,” and “Revealed: The Secrets of the Making of the Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.” We have more information available about the Swimsuit Issue than we do about the Iraq War.

Let’s not forget TV’s role in this. I mean, it would be nice if we could, but we can’t. In the broadcasters’ rush to give us what we apparently want, they have pushed the envelope so far that they climbed right out of it and are stealing the stamp as they go. It’s bad enough to even make the Democrats blush – and they would if they could except their cheeks are simply exhausted (Blush Burnout) after the Clinton years and haven’t recovered.

And there’s no rest for the elderly, either. As soon as Bob Dole appeared in that ad for a “male potency enhancer,” I realized that the Apocalypse was upon us and not a moment too soon. Unfortunately, the Four Horsemen are trapped on a tropical island with a bunch of whiny people from a plane wreck.

I’m frankly tired of this over-emphasis on sex. Isn’t it possible that a person could live a happy, productive life without doing the naughty? OF COURSE NOT! I’m surprised you’d even think that I’d think that. Are you unAmerican? We have to have sex all the time every day for hours and hours or we will die! Well, maybe not die, but be seriously unhappy and become Republicans.

And if we can’t have sex, we need to be talking, talking, talking about it. We need to examine it exhaustively – to the point that we forget to eat. We need to treat it with the care and concentration required to make nuclear weapons. Use this simple equation that Einstein wished he had thought of: sex = happy.

I see no signs of this sexual frenzy abating. Our only hope is that the alien-human hybrids will take over the world soon. But I’m afraid they’ll take a long look at our problems and then head for Mars. That’s what I would do.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From "Floozy And Other Stories" available at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, BooksAMillion, and other online retailers.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

PTM: It's Monday.

Preaching to myself: So it's Monday. Sun is traveling across the sky. What positive things have you done? That you've seen? That you've enjoyed? If there is no positive in your life, time to create one. Doesn't have to be large. Little things add up in the sum of life. Hey, here's one: I think you are a good person that God loves. He's in your corner along with your friends.
Feel the ground shaking,
Feel the wind blowing,
See the clouds voyage
across the endless sky.
There is everything in life--
even hope and finally joy.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Religion Versus Science

Over at a friend's blog some time back, an atheist wandered by and engaged the group in a discussion. After a hundred or so comments, I was inclined to join it. Here is what I wrote:

As I understand it, (the atheist) is asking Christians to prove there is a God of some sort. That question cuts both ways: (the atheist) could be asked to prove there isn't one. Either way, the answer is the same. You cannot prove the existence or non-existence of God in a concrete, scientific fashion. Many intangibles fall into this category. And since they can't be proved, it is certainly within rational limits to decide for yourself that they don't exist. I don't agree with that decision, but I can understand the reasoning behind it.

Let's not fault science in this. Science isn't meant to prove or disprove matters of faith. This recent incursion into the religious arena is only because religion decided to insert itself into science. The scientists have responded in depressingly like fashion to the attacks that zealots have inflicted on their ranks. This is not to say that science is blameless. Many scientists' obvious contempt for religion only infuriates their opponents. I well remember my college biology profession telling my entire class that "Evolution proves there is no God." Why, no, that's not what evolution proves. That's not what it was meant to prove. You can use it in that way, but it demeans the science involved. Science is supposed to be about facts, not beliefs. But science is done by people, and every person carries a burden of beliefs. Those beliefs influence science. Science, however, tries to be -- and mostly is -- a self-correcting process. New knowledge informs previous theories, and the theories are adjusted. Sometimes this adjustment takes years because scientists like to hold on to cherished beliefs as much as the next person, but the process is unrelenting, unforgiving, and uncaring in its progress. Eventually a new, better theory results.

Frankly, the battle between science and religion is a poor use of time for both sides. People will believe what they choose to believe and then find the reasons to justify that belief, despite all evidence to the contrary. Humans have always been that way, and I don't see us changing any time soon. All that really happens when science and religion clash is that a lot of rhetoric is generated; both sides get to score dubious points; the worst among us insult people of differing beliefs; etc. That doesn't mean that people can't or shouldn't share how they view the world, but as soon as voices are raised and potshots are hurled, it's simply not productive. There are people who make it their hobby to generate noise and fury. I generally find them to be a waste of breath and often think their bodies should be painfully recycled into the earth.

As most of you know, I love science and the church equally. I am a cantankerous Christian, a Southern Baptist with Pentecostal roots with a toe in Buddhism. I am also a rational Christian, if you can fit your mind around that concept. How this translates into behavior is as follows: To pray for healing and to use doctors. To believe God created the heavens and to accept the latest findings about how the cosmos formed. To acknowledge the limits of faith as well the boundaries of science. To remain grateful for the gift of intellect and the gift of life in which to use it. To believe that life is too precious to waste since we will be dead infinitely longer than we will be alive, and while we know there is an afterlife, we also know that we won't be here on earth to help those around us.

I am quite sure this all sounds too depressingly adult. It's much more fun to wave our arms around wildly and claim the earth is 6,000 years old or that the dinosaurs were killed by the Flood or that string theory proves the nonexistence -- or existence -- of God or that God is merely a higher dimensional being (as per Flatland) or that cargo cults are a good analogy for all religious behavior, and so on and so on.

For me, it comes down to this: I know that God exists. He loves me. He sent His Son to die for me. Amazingly and wonderfully, He found me worthy of such a sacrifice. I wish and pray more people had that belief. I think they would be happier if they did. But they have the right not to, and I will not gainsay that. I only require that they grant me the same indulgence as I grant them.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

That Whining Sound You Hear

It’s time for the sounds and smells of summer: barbecue, people splashing in pools, coconut suntan lotion, happy laughter, freshly-mown lawns, all is happy, happy, happy as people rejoice in the sunlight—except for me, of course, since I’ve been hiding in my darkened house as soon as the flocks of mosquitoes started returning from whatever nightmarish place they spent the winter at.

Yes, I know that supposedly they lay eggs that somehow survive the winter’s cold, and those eggs hatch into larva, which grow up to suck blood and lay more eggs to survive the winter, but I don’t believe it. Have you ever seen a mosquito nest? Me, neither. What really happens is they follow the sun to torment South Americans. Mosquitoes live many years, and all of them speak fondly of me, their Promised Land of white, soft skin that conceals the most delicious and nourishing liquid.

Not all of the mosquitoes hunt me, of course. Half of the mosquitoes are male, which only feed on nectar and Big Macs. The blood suckers are all deadly, single-minded females. (They are called Hillarys by biologists.)

Even though I’ve purchased enough insecticide to permanently alter the DNA of my entire town and my downwind neighbors are threatening to file an EPA suit, the mosquitoes remain.
It was perfect weather for them critters last night. No wind, lots of moisture in the stream near my house. They're breeding like ... well, something that breeds real fast. Mormons, for instance. And those little vampires find me mighty tasty.

In fact, I am the mosquito equivalent of French food. My blood tastes rich, creamy, and delicious. When they bite me, they have such a blissful expression on their little insect faces. You can tell they're thinking, "Yes, oh, yes, this is what I've been searching for my whole life!" Sometimes they break into song: "Oh sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you ..." Then I squash them because they can't sing worth a dime even though the orchestra sounds good.

They die happy, though. They had a taste of me. In a very creepy sort of skin-crawling way, it's sweet, even romantic, although if you truly believe that, please stay away from me.

We burn those insect repellent candles outside, but they don't seem to do much, other than help put the females mosquitoes in a more romantic mood. The male mosquitoes would like me to play some Barry White music, too, but even though the males don't drink blood, I still think they're creepy, and I'm not going to help them get their insect groove on.

Naturally I started looking for solutions, including some home remedies, such as these:

1. Wipe yourself dry after your shower with a fabric softener sheet. This doesn’t seem to do anything, but I do smell Ocean Breeze Fresh.

2. Avon Skin So Soft. Many people swear by—and at—this lotion that supposedly functions as a safe insect repellent. Only result for me was that the mosquitoes would tell their friends, “There’s a strange seasoning on him, but underneath is pure scarlet goodness.”

3. Drink a lot of whiskey. My friend Renaldo uses this and was telling me that it works. I stared at him and noticed his arms were covered by bites. I pointed that out, and he said, “I know, but I don’t care.” Later he would collapse from blood loss, but not before hundreds of mosquitoes were unable to fly in a straight line.

4. Eat several cloves of raw garlic a day. This might work. It does keep people away from you, so maybe it will insects.

5. Catnip. Tuck a several twigs of catnip in your pockets and in your collar. This works. You have to run from the crazed cats, and the mosquitoes can’t keep up. Except in my case, I run from one flock of mosquitoes into another. So this doesn’t work; besides, I hate running. God wouldn’t have given us cars if He wanted us to run.

6. The Native Americans used to rub a combination of mud and rancid animal fat on their bodies. Alligator, raccoon, opossum, or bear fat was preferred. Let us know how this works out for you, okay?

7. Mix six drops each of the essential oils of catnip, citronella, lavender, neem, and black pepper into organic soy oil during the waning moon with a spoon made of willow—oh forget it.

Anyway, think of me as I wave at you from behind the sliding glass doors of my house. I may be as pale as the underbelly of a frog from the lack of sun, but come the first frost of fall, I’ll be back.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the forthcoming book Floozy Comes Back.)

Friday, August 07, 2015

Bad Advice

Been told several times that I shouldn't be so discouraged by Congress and all the posturing and fighting by our ridiculous politicians. That's like telling a drowning man he shouldn't be bothered by all that water.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Junk Food

"Catamount" is another name for a mountain lion or a cougar. Bet you didn't know that. Catamounts also are an occasional predator of humans. Mind you, this is mostly caused because the catamount population is increasing due to conservation efforts after years of decline. (If only the conservation groups had attempted to save the last few honest Congressmen, we might have a few left today.)

It's not that the big cats seek us out or lure us to their den with offers of Twinkies and beer. No, it's that they're hungry and we're convenient and look tasty--it's the same situation that a cheerleader confronts when she attends a frat party, although not as risky.

Certainly we humans are the only species that considers ourselves a delicacy. Apparently, after one taste of human flesh, the consumer of said flesh desires nothing else, be that consumer an animal or a man. Notice how many movies show humans as the equivalent to potato chips: Jaws, Grizzly, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Sound of Music, The Hills Have Eyes, Silence of the Lambs, etc. "You can't eat just one." I'm surprised Lays doesn't offer a human flavor; Hannibal Lector would be the spokesperson, of course.

Considering how many chemicals and medicines we consume, we're not health food. Definitely not organic and probably not free range. We should make other species aware of this. When we're walking in the woods and we hear a sound that could be made by a hungry bear or a ravenous sparrow, we should say, "I just had a soft drink that contained large amounts of Red Dye #1 and carcinogenic preservatives. I eat prepackaged foods all the time that are loaded with trans-fats." Naturally, a health-minded animal will turn away, and we will be assured of our continued well being until our arteries explode.

Many people think sharks love to eat humans, but scientists say that isn't true. Sharks are actually shy, retiring, intelligent beasts that would rather stay home and watch Public Television, especially during Festival when they show all the wonderful programs that you don't see the rest of the year. Sharks don’t even like the taste of humans. (Does anyone besides me wonder how they conducted the experiments to learn that? Kind of creepy, eh?) Sharks usually take only one or two bites – maybe three if they’re feeling peckish – and that’s all they can stomach (according to shark researchers Lefty Jones and Shorty Smith). Of course, the problem is those bites are rather large.

Of course, no one is going to make a shark into a pet, but people have attempted that with the large cats. I read a horrible news story the other day where this lady named Constance raised a cougar from birth, and it was as "gentle as an lamb," but then it turned on her savagely, stole her identify, destroyed her credit, and then ran off to Africa with the family dog. The lady was heartbroken, but it's her own fault.

Constance forgot the first rule of pet ownership: Don't let them know your financial information. I'm careful to make sure my fish never get any more information than they need to conduct their business affairs. At the very least, you shouldn't let catamounts drink and drive. Show some responsibility. And don't sprinkle yourself with seasoning before you venture into the forest. That's just asking for trouble.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the forthcoming book Floozy Comes Back.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

PTM: The Only Way

Preaching To Myself: I wish I knew an easier way to do whatever you want to do: write a book, run a marathon, rekindle your relationship with your spouse, achieve your dream ... but the only way I know is by work. Working unceasing and giving up that which doesn't advance your goals.

Life is about choices, and each choice we make closes the door on another choice. It's regrettable, it's hard, it makes me want to howl at times, but in the end, you have to believe that the sacrifice is worth it -- even if you fail.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Burden of Beauty

I just had a sudden insight that I’m sure may have escaped your attention. Well, don’t feel bad. After all, I’m a genius, and you’re not. But you have a sweet spirit and will probably be spared when I conquer the earth. But that’s not a promise. Stop being so needy.

 Anyway, my insight was about The Burden of Beauty. The capitals on The Burden of Beauty should clue you in that this will be our topic. Or really my topic. I’m writing, and you’re reading. It’s good to keep those roles straight.

 Yes, it’s true that beautiful people get the best jobs, make the most money, get better care in emergency rooms and hospitals, receive more respect from their peers and loved ones, and live longer. These statements are all supported by statistics, and not ones I made up, either.

 Naturally, you might think this would mean everyone would want to be beautiful or handsome as their gender may be, but let’s take a closer look at these beautiful people—and I don’t mean by hacking into the webcam on their computer or lurking outside their house at 3 a.m. until they call the police and get a protective order. I miss you, Dolly Parton.

 But imagine, if you can, that you are a beautiful person. You have always been beautiful. In school, you were the football captain or head cheerleader, as your gender may be. You married another handsome and/or beautiful person, and you both have beautiful jobs. Naturally you have two or three beautiful children. You attend a beautiful church and play golf and/or tennis at the beautiful country club. Your life is just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And then you die beautifully and go to beautiful heaven... No, wait, that wasn’t where I was going with this.

 It’s the mirror that trips you up. Around forty, you look in the mirror and discover to your horror that your face looks like a National Geographic relief map of the Grand Canyon. How did that happen? Just yesterday you were crushing some poor ugly person’s heart at the prom as you let him or her down gently.

 Now you look ... old ... older ... not as young as you once did. Let’s just say somewhat less young and be done with it.

 If you’re a woman—and some men— you hightail it to a plastic surgeon who pulls the skin on your face so tight that even mannequins look at you with horror. And you have other body parts tucked, bobbed, lipo-sucked, fat-vacuumed, and generally lifted until your knees are floating around your chest. You sigh in relief—which is the only noise you can make until your face relaxes.

 The bad news is this is all temporary. Well, it’s good news for your plastic surgeon because he needs to keep up those alimony payments to his first through fourth wives. But the bad news for you is that gravity is relentless as is time, and baby, they’re coming for you no matter where you hide.

 Think of what a burden it must be for a beautiful person to always have to fight to be beautiful or handsome as their gender may be. They never get any rest. They have to constantly worry about maintaining their looks. It’s a hard life. Of course, I know. Oh, how I know.

 But you, you happy hideous thing, will never suffer as I have. I would almost trade lives with you. Oh, who am I kidding? No, I wouldn’t.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the forthcoming book Floozy Comes Back.)

Monday, August 03, 2015

PTM: The Burden of Free Will

Preaching to myself: You can't save everyone, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. There will always those who choose to drown, who seek sorrow even as they say they're only seeking happiness. Yes, it's a tragedy, but it's the burden of free will. Some people will choose evil. You can do nothing for those people other than make sure that they know there is another way. You cannot choose for them, and no matter how much you love them, you can't save them unless they want to be saved.

Sometimes you have to walk away. Not without regrets. Not without the accumulated sorrows that come from any failure, but you still put one foot in front of another and walk away.

If you truly tried, then you have done your part. You have used your free will in the best possible way. That is all that is required of you. Sometimes people walk beside you toward the dawning light. Sometimes they don't. That doesn't change the light.

John 16:22 (KJV)  "And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." 

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Rebirth

Was discussing religion and life with a good friend, and he asked, "What makes Christianity so attractive? Why has it lasted?"

Lots of answers to that, I suspect, but for me, it's the rebirth. Not after we're dead, but the new life now. It's the only religion that I know of that says you can be reborn in this life, that you can change by becoming a new person right now. For all the terrible things we've done in its name, it's still offering change, still offering a chance for us to do better, to be better.

It's a reminder that every day is new. Yeah, I guess it sounds naive ... childish ... simple ... but it beats the sad sophistication and empty cynicism that we humans have elevated to an art form.

I make mistakes. I make plenty of them. It's comforting to know that my past mistakes do not define my future, that I am forgiven, that each day I am renewed. And one day we will rise to see the dawning light over the horizon.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Joys Of Getting Older & Other Lies

I celebrated my 54th birthday in July. Well, not really celebrated. Mourned might be the better word. Not that I minded getting older. In fact, other than cold sweats, weeping, wailing, sudden fits, and gnashing of teeth, I was quite calm about it.

Just think: the world has endured -- enjoyed 54 years of me. This does explain a few things, doesn’t it? Global warming, environmental degradation, those CD cases that are impossible to get into without a cutting torch -- I had nothing to do with any of those so why are you blaming me?

What really annoys me about getting older is how my body is wearing out. You’d figure after all this work I’ve done in avoiding work in any fashion, I’d be in better shape. I mean, why would my body be wearing out? It hasn’t had to do anything in years!

But my eyes are going bad, my back wants to fold up like a Republican’s conscience, my waist is expanding faster than a Democrat’s budget, my hair is departing my scalp and moving into my ears, and my brain is forgetting things I didn’t even know I knew.

Speaking of my brain, the other day someone asked me some question and I was trying to remember something when someone else came by and maybe asked the same question and I told another someone about how that first someone was always asking something about something, if you know what I mean.

I’m not saying I’m over the hill, but the view is awesome from where I’m at. I can see for miles and miles and miles, or I could if I could find my glasses. Oh, they’re on top of my head. Who put them there? Someone’s been sneaking in and moving things around my house. Probably those pesky Methodists again.

I blame my siblings for my advancing age: my older sister gets older and she pulls my older brother along, and he pulls me along, and my younger sister pushes me from behind! It’s no wonder I’m not as young as I used to be! If my older sister would just stop, this senseless aging would be over. I’m sure my other siblings wouldn't mind. But she has up a head of steam, and if I know my older sister -- and I do, despite her claims that she’s never heard of me -- she’s not going to stop until we all reach our 90s. Or older.

Well, there are worse things than being only 34. Shut up. No one needs your math.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the forthcoming book Floozy Comes Back.)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Buy "Blackbirds Second Flight" now!

Enjoy these dark fantasies:
A writer challenges her murderous muse.
Dragons and riders stage a daring rescue.
Gangsters face off over the world's fate.
Warriors duel to their deaths in the sky.
A dad battles ghosts to save his daughter.
The sidhe never forget nor forgive.
It's Malone's way, or the fur will fly.
A shaman invades Tulsa on a killing hunt.
And much more!

Kindle version!
Print versions!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Taking The Day Off

I am taking the day off. Carry on. Talk among yourselves.

Your regularly scheduled program(s) will return tomorrow.

See you then.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

True power of the smilies

I never truly understood the true power of smilies until recently. If you’re not familiar with smilies, they’re little typographical symbols used in online communications to give an indication of the tone of the message. Like if you tell a joke or think something’s funny, you type :-) or :) which looks like a smiling face if you look at them sideways. You can even wink by typing ;-). The period after ;-) is not part of the smilie, but you probably knew that, and if not, the rest of this is not going to make much sense. Just know that it’s terribly funny. And wise. :-)

When smilies are turned into little pictures, then they are called emoticons, which really should be related to the Decepticons, but aren't as far as I know.

I use smilies, of course, but recently I learned their amazing ability to negate the most terrible things ever written. Here’s an example: Your opinions stink. Your politics stink. Your parents stink. Your children stink. Your spouse stinks. You are the most stinky person of all the stinky persons to ever walk this earth. In other words, you stink. :-) Sounds insulting, doesn’t it? But apparently that smilie at the end negates all the power of the insult. It’s a gentle jest between close friends. Ha ha!And that’s a good thing, because I’ve seen online exchanges that would have led to undying hatred and multi-generational feuds in years past.

Of course, people behave badly on the Net. They say things to other people that they would never dare say to their face. The anonymity and the distance make people much braver than good sense should allow them to be. That’s one of the reasons I don’t have Facebook friends that I don’t know personally. I want to be able to drive to their house and say to their frightened and pale faces, “Now, what were you saying about my parentage?”

Psychologists say smilies are another example of “passive-aggressive” behavior in today’s society, i.e. nice to your face, mean when your back is turned. A dog that engages in passive-aggressive behavior is known as a fear-biter. (The next time your neighbor’s rat dog attacks your ankle, you can tell it, “Little dog, you’re being passive aggressive,” just before you kick its yapping behind over the fence.) A passive-aggressive human known as a Congressman or lawyer.

Southern folk use something like smilies in regular conversation. They use the phrase “bless her/his heart” as their negating clause. For instance, Aunt Lydia Jo will say, “I wish Bessy Dawn wouldn’t wear yellow. She looks like she was pushed in the ugly river and downright drowned twice, bless her heart.”

And her friend Hester will reply, “Oh, I know, but her husband is no better. Why, his face looks like five miles of country road after a flood followed by a herd of diarrheic cattle, bless his heart.”

A variation of this -- "pray for him/her" -- allows Aunt Lydia Jo to negate the harmful effects of gossip. “I heard Mattie Mary’s niece on her husband’s side is running around town with the mailman’s second cousin’s son again, pray for her.” 

“Oh, I know,” Hester says. “That girl’s no better than she is, that’s for sure. Why, she wears less clothes than one of my Jacob’s hounds and has no more morals than a Senator at a money trough, pray for her.”

I’ve often wondered if the preacher’s call for unspoken prayer requests was to avoid scurrilous gossip masquerading as spiritual concern. Maybe he doesn’t understand the true power of those smilies. :-)

(From the forthcoming book Floozy Comes Back. Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Day To Be Thankful

It's a day when I need to remind myself to be thankful.

I'm thankful that I'm still here. That despite all the endless health problems, I'm still kicking. Maybe not as vigorously as I once did, but there's still a two-step or even a -- if I'm lucky -- pas de deux left in me.

I'm thankful that my problem is over-eating and not starvation. The grim fact is most of the world doesn't have enough food. I suffer from a lack of willpower and not a lack of substance.

I'm thankful that the good guys still outnumber the bad guys in the world, despite all the press coverage given to the villains. Each day millions of us get up and go to work and love each other and do the best we can. We keep the world working. We are the true heroes.

I'm thankful that Americans are the most generous people in the world. Yes, we're wealthy and certainly spoiled, but we give more money to the less fortunate than any other country in the world. We fight poverty, starvation, ignorance, and disease, and we pray and hope people find better lives and sometimes we stumble in our eagerness, but we try.

I'm thankful that books have always been a part of my life. I have spent most of my live in worlds that don't exist and living lives that could have never been mine. I'm thankful for all the wonderful authors who have touched my life: J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Stephen R. Donaldson, Mary Stewart, Holly Lisle, Glen Cook, Susanna Gregory, Jim Butcher, Jack McDevitt, James Rollins, Clive Cussler, Rita Mae Brown, C.S. Lewis, Neal Stephenson, Caroyln Hart, Tony Hillerman, Mary Brown, David Brin, Robert Jordan, Robert Asprin, Lindsey Davis, Arthur C. Clarke ... The list goes on and on.

I'm thankful that we can remember to laugh even when we don't feel like it. Humor is an uniquely human quality. I'm thankful for humorists, such as: Bob Hope, Dave Barry, Jean Kerr, Patrick McManus, Mark Twain, Ellen Degeneres, Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Don Knotts, Tim Conway, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Dawn French, and many others.

I'm thankful for my readers, those of this page and my books. Their feedback and support makes the writing flow easier. Many times I'm discouraged and think I should give up, but then I'll get an email or comment or someone buys a book, and I keep putting those words on paper.

I'm thankful for science. Admittedly, it has made horrible mistakes, but it has given us amazing things and opened the universe to us. It's humbling to look at all the things I don't know and exciting to think of all the things I can learn. We can use technology to make our lives and environment better. All things are possible, and science helps make those possibilities into realities.

I'm thankful for my family and friends. Without their love, I don't know what I'd be or where I'd be, but I suspect I wouldn't like it. They enrich, exasperate, excite, and exalt my life. I wouldn't have it any other way even if I could.

I'm thankful for my faith, my many blessings, and my connection with God. Life is good, despite its problems or maybe because of them. Life's ironies and surprises keep my interest as nothing else can. I hope I live a long time. I hope you live a long time, too. Let's grow old together, and be thankful for our long years.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"
-- Robert Browning

Monday, July 27, 2015

1234

In the old days when computers were still confined to a desk and cell phones had antennas and flipped open, you could use your mother’s maiden name as a password for America OnLine®, and it would be secure. But now your password needs to contain 20 characters, including numbers, special characters, at least one upper case letter, at least one lower case letter, a Greek symbol, your star sign, the secret coordinates of Alderaan (Princess Leia knows), and the feathers of a rare golden eagle. Even then, it will only take a computer hacker five minutes to break into your Facebook account and sell all your FarmVille animals as he charges several luxury cars to your Visa®.

Not that the average person makes it hard for hackers. Every year, various groups compile a list of the most common passwords. And when I say ‘most common,’ I mean millions of people use them even now. If your password is on this list, hang your head in shame—and go change your password immediately.

10 Most Common Passwords of 2014
List compiled by SplashData
 1. 123456 (Okay, this is just lazy.)
 2. password (You thought it was cute, eh? You and 40 million other people agree.)
 3. 12345 (Even lazier than #1.)
 4. 12345678 (Sigh. You’re not even trying. Why don’t you write us a check?)
 5. qwerty (Another sigh.)
 6. 123456789 (Yeah, adding the nine really made #4 secure.)
 7. 1234 (You deserve to be hacked.)
 8. letmein (Tryharderidiot.)
 9. abc123 (Seriously?)
10. 111111 (I want to slap you. Hard.)

According to security expects, hackers can get into more than half of the sites in the world just by using the top twenty passwords. You can find other lists on the Internet and generally gather the proof that humanity is doomed due to terminal stupidity if Congress hasn’t already convinced you.

The bad news is that you can’t secure your sites with even with a hard password. They have computer programs that will eventually brute force their way into your account if they’re really motivated. All you can do is make it harder for the hackers so that maybe they will move onto another victim. This is similar to out-running your companions when being chased by a bear or throwing A1 sauce onto the other missionaries when confronted by hungry cannibals. (There are few things more dangerous than a thin cannibal, and almost all of them are in Hollywood or Congress.)

Some websites have moved to a two-step authentication process where you use a password and answer a question or they text a code to your cell phone. Other sites are even using fingerprint scanners for the second step. This sounds complicated, but not to worry. Most people do not enable two-step authentication because they think it takes too much time, it’s too hard, they’re lazy, they want to lose all their money, or they fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.

Of course, if we lived in a better world, hackers wouldn’t be so common and our accounts and websites would be safe. I’d also like a dragon steed, a magic sword, and a castle on a beautiful island. All are equally likely.

You can use password managers, such as LastPass or RoboForm Desktop, to alleviate some of your security concerns. Those are programs that will supply you with long, long, long passwords that you can never remember and hopefully discourage hackers who like easier targets. The password manager keeps track of those hideously long passwords for you, and all you have to do is remember the  password for your manager. Have you tried 1234?

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. From the forthcoming book Floozy Returns.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"How Great Thou Art"

After "Amazing Grace," my next favorite hymn is "How Great Thou Art." I like it simple, just a singer and quiet music celebrating the grandeur of God's many creations and infinite mercies. What's your favorite hymn?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Few Peeves to Pet

I am beginning to think that English should be taught to the American people as a second language. We’re not doing well with it being taught as our first. I know many foreign people who can speak English better than your average high school senior. For that matter, I’ve heard of a couple of trained apes and an African Gray Parrot that can, too. My point is that grammar and spelling are not language arts these days; they’re lost arts.

After making the above statement, I realize I open myself up to critics who will gleefully catch every grammar and spelling mistake I make and who will call and write to point the mistakes out. To them I can only say with the utmost sincerity, “Get a life.”

Don’t think I’m a ruler-on-the-knuckles strict grammarian, either. In fact, I am baffled constantly by commas (what Elena has just slipped into on All My Children), colons (long, squishy things in our bodies), and semi-colons (long, squishy things in the bodies of truckers), and I spell only with the aid of several dictionaries and any nearby person who I can ask when I’m unable to look the word up because I can’t even begin to spell it. I am not an English maven. So if the average person is writing and speaking worse than me, then it’s easy to see our language has deteriorated.

One of my biggest peeves is people writing “it’s” for the possessive of “it.” The possessive of “it” is “its”; “it’s” is the contraction for “it is.” In other words, it’s “its” for when “it” is possessive, and it’s “it’s” for “it is.” Got it?

And while we’re correcting things, “their” is the possessive of “they.” “They’re” is the contraction for “they are.” When people confuse them, I think they’re losing their minds.

People who freely interchange “ideal” and “idea” also bother me. “Ideal” is a perfect condition; “idea” is a thought, a notion. I think it would be an ideal world if people would get the idea to watch their usage of “ideal” and “idea.” (I’m told that, in Boston, it’s pronounced “idear.” Why?)

You know, another peeve I have is with people who, you know, say, “You know” all the time. If I already know it, why tell me again? Of course, I don’t find “you know” half as annoying as people who pepper their speech with “like” an inordinate amount of times. Some horrible day I’m going to meet a person who will say, “Like, the trip, you know, it was, like, really cool, you know.” And I will kill him on the spot.

I’m also tired of the amount of obscenity in movies lately. I don’t know if it’s because screenwriters lack a large vocabulary or they think we do. I do have a theory, though. I think they’re getting paid by the word. For example, I recently watched a movie in which the following was an actual speech: “If you obscenity1 obscenity2 think I’m obscenity1 going to obscenity2 give that obscenity3 obscenity4 obscenity5 Franklin the obscenity1 obscenity2 book, you’re obscenity1 crazy, you obscenity3 obscenity5!” If you cut the obscenities, you only have 13 words; with the obscenities, you have 25. The math is obvious.

Of course, there are people in the world who do use a lot of obscenities. I worked in a brick-yard one summer between college semesters and discovered a variety of new words and ways to use to them. I thought my education in foul language was over, but then I became involved in the theater and discovered a new level of language. And when I thought I couldn’t learn any more, I became involved in politics and discovered true obscenity. However, unless a movie is about brick-yards, theater folk, or politicians, the screenwriters should be able to leave out most of the foul language and still be fairly true to life.

Another benefit of cutting back on the obscenities would be they could be saved for situations that truly call for them. In the above movie, the main character got out of bed, stubbed his toe, and said, “Obscenity1 it to obscenity2 obscenity6.” Later in the movie, he learned his wife and children had been killed by mobsters who had blown up his house, the CIA wanted him dead, he had a heart condition that could cause him to drop dead at any moment, and his dog had died. He said, “Obscenity1 it to obscenity2 obscenity6.” I immediately wondered what he had hit his foot on.

Another problem I currently have really isn’t a sign of sliding language; it’s a sign of changing times. Basically, I remain confused about Miss, Mrs., and Ms. I often write to editors that I don’t know well. About half of them are women. What is their proper address? (And their phone numbers; I’m lonely.) For men, the sign of respect is to use Mr., which works even with the editors who have owed me money for a couple of years (Dear Mr. Scumbag). And it used to be that you could use Miss with any woman and let her correct you if she wished. Ms. came along, and everything’s changed.

A lot of women feel that Miss and Mrs. is a method by which men keep them as second-class citizen, denoting that their marriage status is more important than them as people. They prefer Ms. Another group of women feel that Ms. is used only by strident feminists who wish to destroy the American family; they prefer Miss or Mrs. What I think is that women should get together and vote: Ms. or Miss and Mrs.

At present, I have only two options: call the editor’s secretary and ask if the editor prefers Mrs. or Miss or Ms. (which I don’t like doing ever since I called one secretary who frostily told me that her boss was happily married and didn’t need me hitting on her) or use her full name as in Dear Jane Smith (which is what I do even though it bothers me because I feel I’m not showing proper respect to a person who could buy my book and make me rich and famous if I am properly subservient and fawn a lot).

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve proved my point. Remember my point? You weren’t paying attention, were you? Daydreaming again? How would you like a ruler across your knuckles? Answer me! And you there, raise your hand when you want to ask a question!

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the book Floozy and Other Stories, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BooksAMillion, and other online retailers.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Vitamin C?

Apparently -- and this will probably shock you as much as it did me -- coffee is not the C in Vitamin C. In fact, coffee isn't even a vitamin. Does that seem right?

Sometimes the world just doesn't make any sense.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Post Person, Look and See ...

So I have a cell phone, a home phone with four cordless receivers, a digital answering machine with four mailboxes, email with several different accounts, four blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and a shoe phone. Okay, that’s not true. I only have three blogs. My point is that I’m connected to a ridiculous degree. The CIA isn’t as well connected as I am.

And I’m not sure I want to be that connected. There’s a lot to be said for being disconnected. I was thinking about that while on vacation a few years back because my office called and emailed me several times a day. If the only way they could reach me was by regular mail, they might have attempted to solve those little problems themselves instead of whining to me. Like I can do anything about the building being on fire. Or would want to after having paid the arsonist all that money.

I’ve always liked letters. They seem more special than email or a phone call. You know the sender put some effort into a letter. And money, too. If USPS keeps raising the cost of stamps, they will eventually price themselves out of the market. You’d think this would cut down on the amount of junk mail we receive, but fortunately USPS has special rates for bulk mailers so we will continue to receive those amazing 2-for-1 offers from our local mortuaries.

Despite all the thousands of offers I’ve received in the mail over the years, I’ve never bought a thing. I confess I do like reading about the amazing things that Vitamin E enriched cactus pulp cream can do for the unsightly blemishes on my skin, but I’ve never sent off for any of their incredible products. You can tell they know that, too, by the increasing frantic tone of their mailings: “This product will change your life. It will make you into a more successful person. WAIT! It will also grow back your hair and make you RICH! Don’t throw this away! Rich, rich, RICH! Are you listening to what we’re saying?! No, no, no! Please, let us help you get the women of your dreams! Would we lie to you?”

Overseas, sending a letter already costs $2 or more in our currency. Some countries charge as much as $10 a letter. A Christmas card IS the gift over there. But fortunately their postal services also offer a bulk rate for junk mailers so that their citizens can receive amazing 2-for-1 offers from their local yak retailers. Let me tell you, if my office had to pay $10 per email or cell call, they would leave me alone.

Supposedly email is putting regular mail out of business here in the United States. Why find an envelope, pen, paper, and stamp when you can type a few words about your dramatic life and email them to everyone who has the misfortune of being in your address book?

Junk mailers naturally understand the savings that email provides and spam the public vigorously. Today, for instance, I received four emails about enhancing my male … ahem … equipment, five about investment opportunities in Nigeria, two about Amazing Medical Breakthroughs (acne and PMS), and a simply heartrending one about this little girl who is dying from a horrible nameless disease and only needs to receive 1,000,000 emails and then Microsoft will give her the money she needs to pay for her last wish: a date with One Direction. If I don’t respond to that one, apparently Jesus won’t love me anymore, which is odd since I didn’t even know He was into teen pop music. Live and learn, I always say, although several people have told me that’s annoying, particularly at funerals.

Of course, you might suggest that I ditch the cell phone, unplug the answering machine, cancel the Internet accounts, and buy a new pair of shoes. But what if some beautiful movie star – such as Nicole Kidman – needs me to rewrite her script? She would be heartbroken, simply devastated, when she couldn’t reach me. For Nicole, I’ll stay connected.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. From the book Floozy and Other Stories available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion, and other online retailers.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Unsent letter

Dear Internet,
Sorry. I'm out of outrage today. Check back tomorrow. Or next week. I'm dealing with real problems right now, and I just can't spare the emotional energy. Now, don't think I'm not impressed by all the drama -- really, you outdo yourself at times, particularly with hand-wringing and wild suppositions, and no one broad-jumps to conclusions like you do -- but don't you ever get tired of it? Think of all things you could get done if you didn't go around hyperventilating all the time. You could finally find that cure for ringworm that civilization so desperately needs. It's something to consider, don't you think?
Sincerely,
Me

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Laser Razor

Through no fault of my own, I finally purchased a three-blade razor. For years I had used a two-blade razor, and I had been perfectly satisfied with its performance. It cut my beard, left my face smooth, and spent the rest of its time quietly in the bathroom drawer. What more could I want or need from a razor?

But recently, after twenty years of daily use, my two-blade razor handle broke, and not a single store in town had one. Instead they had triple-blade and even four-blade razors. Shaving technology had taken a huge jump and left me behind. The modern razors use “monofiber handles” and “laser polished steel” and even “titanium structured bases.” NASA has nothing up on razor companies.

According to the box in which it came, my new triple-blade razor will “deliver a shave as smooth as a baby’s bottom.” Not being around babies that much, I didn’t even know their bottoms needed shaving. It does explain why they cry so much.

The new multi-bladed razors promise “a super smooth face that women will love to touch.” Apparently they will wander up on the street and stroke your face. That seem sort of forward. I mean, shouldn't we exchange names first?

And the cost was amazing. And by "amazing," I mean unbelievably expensive. For that cost, a beautiful woman should show up and shave you. And clean your bathroom. Maybe make you dinner before telling you that you're not communicating and she wants a mink coat.

I examined a four-bladed razor during my shopping. They had four blades stacked on top of each in a configuration that reminded me of pictures of World War I biplanes. It also weighed a ton. It might be a way to combine exercise and shaving, but it seemed dangerous to me.

In a four-blade razor, the first blade pulls the whisker up and cuts it off, then the second blade cuts the whisker at a lower point before the hair can pull back, and then the third blade cuts the whisker off at the root while the fourth blade digs deep into the bone and threatens your face if it EVER even thinks about growing whiskers again in your lifetime.

You’d think that the shaving companies would be content with this, but right now, they’re working on a five-blade razor in their laboratories. It will split the atoms of your whiskers to give you a closer shave.

On the drawing board are plans for a six-blade and even a seven-blade razor. They will be so sharp that you will have to be licensed with the FBI, CIA, NRA, and the Red Cross to own one. They will be capable of cutting a hole in the space-time continuum!

You think I’m kidding about that, but a group of scientists have actually modified a laser to give shaves. It delivers a close shave (to the six-thousandth of an inch) and only costs a little over a million dollars. But with mass production, the price will surely drop to a couple of hundred thousand. I can’t wait. A word of caution: You definitely don’t want to cough while you’re using it or you’ll make an ash of yourself.

This leads us – well, me – to consider those laboring scientists. They went to college for at least eight years to get that Ph.D. in engineering or physics or thermodynamics. They probably figured they would be investigating the secrets of the universe, but instead they’re working in a secret shaving laboratory. They must be wondering what that college degree is really worth.

A friend of mine says we’re spoiled these days. He’s old enough to recall shaving with a long-handled straight razor. He said it delivered a close, clean shave, but you lost a lot of time making out your will each morning and then receiving the necessary blood transfusions afterwards. He says his face looks like a road map, and that’s why he has a beard.

Anyway, I now have a triple-blade razor. When you women see me and have the overwhelming desire to rub your hands on my face, please wash your hands first. Particularly during flu season.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. From the book Floozy and Other Stories available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mormons AKA LDS

(Sometimes I'm just in a mood to offend everyone...)

Mormons are a cult. That's what all the major Protestant denominations say. Same goes for the Catholics. No one likes the Mormons. Not in our neighborhood, people said when the Mormons wanted to build a temple in Oklahoma City a few years back. The Mormons did, and so far riots haven't happened. They still could, though. Stay alert.

Mormons are a cult. Say the word with me. "Cult." Conjures up images of dark rituals and bloody knives, mass suicides, and vicious murders. (Although to be fair, "Congress" does that to me, too.) You just know that Tabernacle choir is up to something as they give those sinister Christmas concerts.

Mormons are a cult. But they're a peculiar cult. They support having a strong families fanatically. They preach the Ten Commandments. They care for their members and keep them off of welfare. They practice a conservative approach to finances and tell their members to keep a year's supply of food and water for emergencies. In case of a zombie attack, find your Mormons. They got food.

Mormons are a cult. My fellow Baptists say so. You'd think the Mormons would preach against all the other faiths considering what the other faiths say about them. And the Mormons -- like all other faiths -- believe they have a lock on heaven, but they're very vocal in supporting the rights of people to worship in any faith. The Mormons have been attacked so much that they have a live and let live attitude toward other religions. Except during that pesky Mormon Militia era. And sometimes they use bribery and blackmail to make you vote for things that would make Satan blush ... no, wait, that's Congress again.

Mormons are a cult. A rich cult, some say. The church is very conservative in its spending. It invests its tithes in various corporations and then takes those earnings and invests them back in their programs. It also helps that they don't pay salaries to their leaders. That's right. It doesn't pay its preachers or those missionaries who you see on bikes or going door to door. That's one of the reasons I don't turn on my water sprinkler when I see them. Anymore.

Mormons are a cult. Knowledgeable people say so because the Mormons accept other books as being inspired by God, not just the Bible. The main one is the Book of Mormon, which is the account of Jesus ministering to the people of the Americas, supposedly interpreted by Joseph Smith from plates of gold. That always interests people, except the plates were lost so don't go digging up Utah. Unless you just like to dig. Whatever makes you happy.

Mormons are a cult. Actually they prefer to be called Latter-Day Saints now. The whole title of their church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It's easier just to say LDS. They would actually like to be called Christians, but let's not get crazy.

Mormons are a cult. They used to have multiple wives, but they did away with that in 1890. Oh, there are still some who practice it and call themselves Mormons just as there are people who bury their neighbors in the backyard and call themselves Methodists.

Mormons are a cult. But they're a large cult. They have 6.2 million members in America and 14.7 million worldwide. According to the National Council of Churches, they are the second fastest growing church in the U.S. Naturally you're going to find some jerks in a church that size. Maybe even some evil people. Don't send me your stories about Mormons attacking you, although I will accept stories about alien abductions unless they involve probing. Don't want to hear about probing, okay?

Mormons are a cult. They pay taxes, raise families (not always large despite the stereotype), help their neighbors, pray a lot, work a lot, laugh a lot, and generally behave like decent people should.

Mormons are a cult, aren't they?

Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Shopping channels

People wonder why I watch shopping channels sometimes. Easy answer: They are filled with enthusiastic and upbeat people ALL THE TIME.

Think about it. Your Facebook and Twitter feeds probably have many bad things on it -- death, political fighting, diet suggestions that make a death march look like fun, recipes with enough fat to lubricate a diesel engine, etc. But none of that show up on a shopping channel.

In fact, if those people mention a problem -- like not enough storage space for your shopping bags or your hair is so unruly that it's actually causing riots in the streets -- they only do so to tell you the solution.

A solution they will offer you.

Sometimes with Easy Payments and Easy Credit Terms.