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Darrell Bain's Newsletter

May 2006

 

E-Mail Address Change--Grrr!!, Memoirs, Theory of Prejudice, Lost Ring, Anti-Aging, Immigration, and more.

This newsletter appears monthly around the first of each month. Past newsletters are archived at the web site where you are now www.darrellbain.com

Grrr!!
Here we go again, with a forced email address change. Due to a merger or buyout or whatever, of course. I don't mind one ISP buying another but for %@#@%^+++_^(&%^%#(&_&* sakes, why can't we keep our old address? Does this annoy everyone else as much as it does me? Consumers are allowed to keep their old phone number when changing mobile phone companies. Why in heck can't we get one email address and keep it? If congress wanted to do something productive for a change that would enhance their standing from somewhere below ground level, this would be a good place to start. Oh, sorry, I forgot. You need to have a lobbyist and lots of money to get anything accomplished by congress. Actually, most of the time we'd be far better off if they did nothing, but I would make an exception for email addresses. Congress, are you listening???

By the way, my new e-mail address is now dbain@hughes.net

Please change it now if you have not done so already. By the time you read this my old address will no longer be valid and the new ISP will not forward.

Anti-Aging
This little sketch could just as well be titled "The Quest For Immortality". Most likely it began percolating in my mind after my recent brush with death, but it just occurred to me that throughout the range of human endeavors, the quest for a longer life or a younger body, or an after life, or attaining immortality is always present in our affairs. You find it in literature (shucks, I've used the theme of longer life myself on several occasions); in religion, where life after death is the theme of almost every faith; in exploration of new lands where they looked for the fountain of youth; in fairy tales; in medicine, where the battle is always against death and for a healthier, longer life; in science, where for alchemists of old, molecular geneticists today and nanobiologists of the future, the search for a cure for ageing is a sought after goal; and so on. Even the youth culture today is a reflection of the theme.

Is this striving against death and aging simply a species wide fear of death? Or is it a genetic trait, an instinct for survival?

I rather think it's all an expression of the instinct for survival, which in turn is probably genetically based. Or maybe an offshoot of religion's theme of an afterlife? Personally, I don't think I'm all that scared of dying, since it comes to us all, but I can definitely say I bitterly resent the fact that I'll never see all the future wonders the species is capable of producing. This is especially true since I don't subscribe to any particular religion and have no idea whether there's an afterlife or not. I don't like getting old, either, and that's some bitter gall because I believe within a couple of more generations we will discover the basis of aging and probably be able to extend our lifespans substantially--and keep much of our youth in the process.

And besides resenting the aging process itself that makes me feel crappy a lot of the time, I keep thinking of all those books still to be written and read. I'll never live long enough to write a lot of them, and I'll certainly never live to read all the good books I want to. Rats. Life is a joke. You just don't know it until you get old. I figure if I'm lucky I might live another 20 years, with perhaps ten or fifteen of them being more or less productive. I don't like to think of what happens if I'm unlucky. Heh heh.

Interludes
There's plenty of female politicians in the world, but when's the last time you've heard of a female dictator? That appears to be a male prerogative.

All medicine is palliative. It never saves lives; the best it can do is prolong them.

"If you've never owned dachshunds, no explanation is possible.
If you have owned dachshunds, no explanation is necessary."
(with apologies to St. Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274)

My international best selling e-book, Alien Infection, is now in print. You can pre-order now or wait until May when it's due to hit the shelves. Order from bookstores or www.amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com

Biography/Memoirs
I've been asked by a number of people when my biography will be posted. Something or the other always seemed to get in the way of it, but I guess it's about time. One of my publishers suggested I make it more of a memoir. That seems like a pretty good idea to me. I wish my parents and grandparents and so on had done something like that so I'd have more memories of them and know more about how they lived in their day.

Beginning this month, anyone who's interested can follow my life from my earliest memories to the present day. It will most likely take a long time to complete, so bear with me.

Check the web site link to Memoirs each month when the newsletter comes out. The first entry will be this month. I'll try not to bore you, and perhaps some of the things I remember will be interesting, especially to the younger set. As an example, read this month's memoirs to find out how margarine used to come from the store. Younger readers will probably find it hard to believe!

Just a note: It's amazing how much you can remember when you really start thinking about it!

Theory of Prejudice
A discussion on the subject of prejudice has been going on at the newsgroup devoted to discussions of my books (darrellbain@yahoogroups.com). Anyone is welcome to join. I have contributed a few remarks but most of them came while I wasn't fully recovered and I think I didn't make myself as clear as I could have. So here goes again:

Humans are mammals (and animals), just like dogs, cats, gophers and elephants.
Almost all animals possess a territorial instinct.
Humans, being animals, are also territorial (which is pretty obvious).
Prejudice is simply an expression of the territorial instinct.
The territorial instinct is a result of genes.
Genes are not an all or nothing proposition in most cases. The way they are expressed depends upon environmental influences.
The degree of prejudice humans manifest will be a factor of what kind of environment they live or have lived under, particularly as they were growing up.
Therefore, to eliminate prejudice, the type of environment which causes the genes to be expressed in the worst way must be changed.

Ah, now that's the crux of the matter, isn't it? Assuming the above chain of reasoning is correct, what kind of environments causes our territorial genes to be expressed in the form of prejudice toward others of different skin color, religion, culture, etc.?

Simply put, we're not really sure. In previous posts I suggested education might dampen the expression of prejudice, or making sure everyone had sufficient food, shelter, jobs, etc., but I fear it's not quite that simple.

We don't really know.

All right, social scientists. Here's you a subject for your doctoral thesis. Get your research going and discover what types of environments are responsible for varying degrees of prejudice. No guesses, let's see some proof.

As a sidebar, look in my book report for the month and read about Edgar Pangborn's books.

Those interested in this and other subjects brought up by the group are welcome to join the discussion group at darrellbain@yahoogroups.com and contribute their own observations and ideas.

Immigration, Illegal and Otherwise
Immigrants, mostly the illegal kind, are in the headlines these days. Everyone thinks they have a solution, including myself (somewhat). In my newest book, I used the venue of my writing to show how to cure the problem, although truth be told, I didn't start the book with that in mind, and it's a fictional cure, not a real one. I just had an idea for what I thought would make a good story and my mind took over and steered it in that direction (and in the book, illegal immigaration isn't all that's cured--the whole face of America gets an uplift!). Probably my subconscious at work, what with all the news about immigration, illegal and otherwise, in the news.

Here's how the new novel, (in collaboration with Gerald Mills), titled The Focus Factor, goes. In it, a research scientist's family is killed in an accident with a pickup truck carrying illegal immigrants. In his grief and rage, he thinks he can use his current research into autism to solve the problem of illegal immigration by experimenting on himself. He does find a prospective solution, but it encompasses far more territory than he ever imagined it would--and now he has to decide whether or not to continue with a program that will change the face of America.

Twilight Times is the publisher. The Focus Factor will appear first as an e-book at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com It will come out in print later on. I'll announce either through my web site news or in this newsletter when it's available in each venue. [Note: I just sent the final edit to my publisher. It should be available as an e-book by the first week in May. The editors are inviting feedback on the cover artwork. Visit the web site,  write to them and let them know which cover is your favorite.]

As I said, I have an opinion on what to do about illegal immigration (aside from the book), but the problem is such a huge complex of factors that I'm by no means certain I'm right. I don't think President Bush has it right either when he says immigrants, both legal and illegal, perform work that American citizens won't. They won't do the menial jobs at the present salary, true, but I think you'd see a heck of a lot of our citizens out picking beans or harvesting lettuce or digging ditches if the pay was good enough. With secure borders and allowing only those willing to go through the legal channels to work in the country, we'd get the best immigrants, legalized, and yet there wouldn't be so many as to drive down wages.

I also don't think we owe illegal immigrants a dern thing. As a matter of compassion I do think we're obliged to grant emergency care to anyone who is sick, but they damn sure should have to show a social security card and if not, should be deported as soon as they're able to leave the hospital. If they have children who have been born in the country and are citizens, they can either take them with them or leave them for the social agencies to take care of. If the children of illegal immigrants haven't been born in America and aren't citizens, we certainly don't owe them free schooling (or anything else) when we can hardly afford it for our own kids. In fact, we owe them nothing. Call me cruel and insensitive if you like, but it is insane to have ten or fifteen million illegal immigrants in the country. The situation has been brought about by our craven congress who will not act on the problem for fear of losing Hispanic votes. They are cowardly fools who care nothing for the future of the country. All they worry about is getting re-elected.

Having sounded off about illegal immigration, now I feel obliged to say something about legal immigration. It is a boon to the country. Immigrants provide an infusion of new blood, fresh ideas and hard working prospective citizens. Our country is much better off for them. It's just the illegals I dislike.

Also, let's get real. As much as I dislike the thought of 15 million illegal immigrants roaming around the country and driving down wages (according to most authorities, and I agree), there's no way we could possibly deport them all, nor can we lock them all up. The solution is absolute border control and a hugely expanded immigration budget so prospective citizens and/or guest workers can be documented and pay their taxes and not have to live in the underground. And guess what? I believe that might instill some respect for the law into all of us, immigrants and citizens alike. When laws are ignored and not enforced, or enforced haphazardly and inefficiently, disrespect for the law is instilled in all of us. Remember, The Focus Factor at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com the first week in May 2006.

Lost Ring
While I was in ICU receiving blood and I.V. fluids, I noticed that my hands and fingers were swelling from retained fluid, and that my wedding ring was digging into my finger. I asked the nurse to take it off. He barely managed it, and at that it took a lot of soap and hard twisting, and I sacrificed a bit of skin. I was so worried about losing my ring that I had him put it in a small biohazard bag and pin it to my gown. The next time Betty came to visit (at the first hospital, she could only come twice a day and for a limited time, a real bummer), I gave it to her. She put it deep inside her purse, plunging her hand down into it all the way to her elbow to make sure it didn't accidentally fall out. (Betty's purse is somewhat akin to a small suitcase. The other day she was complaining about how it hurt her shoulder to carry it. I very intelligently kept my mouth shut).

Back to the story. When I arrived home, my hand was still too swollen to wear the ring, but I was scared it might get dislodged from Betty's purse, so I asked her for it so I could put it up until I could wear it again. We were standing in front of the kitchen cabinet by the pantry where her purse lives when it's not making her walk lopsided. She found my ring, still in its little Biohazard baggie with the bright label. She took it out--and from that point on, neither of us remembers what either of us did next. All we know is that when I went to get my ring from where I thought it would be, it wasn't there. When I had to take it off because of working on machinery while farming, or because of injury or for any other reason, I always placed it in a little jewelry box in my top drawer of the dresser. It wasn't there, nor have we been able to find it despite turning the house upside down about a dozen times. I'm just sick over it, because I think it must have gotten thrown out with some trash. After trying to be so damned sure I wouldn't lose it, I did it anyway. Sometimes it doesn't pay to play it safe. If either Betty or I had treated it more casually, it probably wouldn't have gotten lost.

Book Report
Naturally, I've done a lot of reading the past month since I'm still not up to a full day of writing--and my doctor tells me I should never go back to the schedule I was keeping beforehand. Too much, he said, and he's probably right. I produced a lot of books and stories last year, more than I'll ever do again in a single year, I'm sure.

Now on to the books. As usual, I read a dozen or so books I didn't particularly care for and started probably that many more that I didn't finish. I won't mention titles, as usual. My opinion of those books may not be yours and I don't want anyone to miss a book they might have enjoyed simply on my recommendation. Besides, my book report isn't an exercise in literary criticism. I'm simply telling about some books I enjoyed and which I think you might. Now on with the good ones:

First I'd like to recommend Edgar Pangborn. You'll have to get them used, but copies are still around. The two books of his I re-read last month (for the umpteenth time) and the two I most highly recommend are Davy and West Of The Sun. I think most of us have heard the expression "poetry in prose". Pangborn is one of the few writers I think the expression can be applied to. His writing is beautiful. There's no other word to adequately describe it. He wasn't a productive writer, which perhaps explains why he was so good. Maybe he took the time to get it absolutely right. Davy is an autobiography written by an irrepressibly comic character of the future, after war has reduced civilization to something resembling the middle ages. Davy has been compared to Tom Jones, (written way back in 1749 but still a good read today), but Davy is by far the better book. West Of The Sun is the story of an interstellar expedition which is stranded on a planet which has two intelligent species. Pangborn is absolutely great in the way he describes the interaction of humans with other species who differ from us in size and appearance and culture. Even if you're not a science fiction fan, you'll get a wonderful reading experience from these two books. I promise.

I read a couple of military autobiographies (or re-read them, I should say). The first is To Hell And Back by Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of WWII. The other is Brave Men by David Hackworth, the most decorated soldier of Korea and Vietnam. Both these books are must reading if you really want to get an idea of what combat is about. And they both are compelling reading, with good characterization by the authors.

Greg Bear's Vitals is a good read. I re-read The Stand by Stephen King, his best book I think (while I'm reading it), but then when I re-read It, I think that one is his best. Curious. Both are great books, though. But by golly, they are heavy!

As a sidebar here, many readers believe Stephen King had an original idea with The Stand about a contagious virus wiping out 99.9% of mankind, but it had been done before by George Stewart. The title is EARTH ABIDES, a book so good that it's still in print 60 years later! Stewart always wrote in terms of man and the environment. He had the same killing virus as King, but from there the themes differ. King's The Stand was written in terms of good vs evil, while with Earth Abides Stewart did a truly admirable and remarkable job of depicting how man and the environment both would change over the extraordinarily long lifetime of the protagonist. You can usually find Earth Abides in the classics section of large bookstores, and if not, there are many used copies around, and of course you can find it at Amazon.com

I just ran across a new author I like, Randy Wayne White. The book I read, Dead Of Night is a fictional novel of how easy it would be to disrupt life in America, especially Hawaii and the southern areas like Florida, simply by importing some of the more repugnant and repulsive disease-causing organisms from the tropics. Examples are the fish which are sensitive to uric acid, which is produced by urine. When they sense it, the fish make a bee line for the urethra and crawl up the channel, causing incredible pain. Another is the guinea worm, the "fiery serpent" of Biblical infamy. It grows in the body under the skin into a thin worm three or four feet long. Yuk! There's others, some of which I studied in my parasitology classes in the army and again in college. Can you imagine the havoc and financial loss such critters getting loose in Florida, for instance, could cause? Brrr.

A good example of one imported creature which has taken hold is the Pythons roaming southern Florida now. If methods to eradicate, or keep their numbers under control aren't developed, I predict one will eventually kill a child. Already they're preying on pet dogs and cats.

And I believe this newsletter has gone on long enough. Let's break it off, shall we, and take it up again next month.

Thanks for reading.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
May 2006

 

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