Thursday, March 31, 2011
For personal reasons, I have once again decided not to be Mike Kimera.
If the urge to write still hits me, I will do it under my own name and it will not be erotica.
I'd like to thank all of you who have read my stuff over the years and especially those people who have written to me and shared their views.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Charlene Harris has a talent for writing about the different and the damaged; Harper Connelly is both.
Harris' smooth writing style makes this book an easy read but that is not to say that the book is without substance. Harper Connelly and her brother are both people I want to know more about: ethical, loyal, brave and broken.
Harris gives Connelly a distinctive and compelling voice. This is a woman who sees the world differently and is brave enough not to look away.
Of course, there is a plot, complex enough to be intriguing and transperent enough to let you smugly anticipate the ending, but the plot is much less important than the characterization and the back story.
Connelly can attribute her strangeness to neglectful, abusive parents and a bolt of lightening. The people she meets have no excuse for the monsterous things that they do or allow other people to do.
As she does in her Sookie Stackhouse books, Harris leaves me feeling that the taken-for-granted violence and hatred in America is far more frightening and repellent than anything supernatural.
I recommend that you buy not just this book, but the three that follow it, because I think that, like me, you will want to move from one book to the next in quick sucession.
View all my reviews
Sunday, March 13, 2011
This privately funded scheme offers $300 to support addicts who volunteer to be sterilized. The link was posted by someone who saw the logical appeal of the scheme but who said that they felt like a Nazi for wanting to do this.
I couldn't get the post out of my head.
My first response was to push against the eugenics arguement in general. I wrote:
Ask yourself this, what kind of person privately funds an organization
that is focussed not on helping any particular individual or group but
on eliminating them from the genepool?
What else would people like this fund?
What would you have to be or do to be on their list to be given
the opportunity to volunteer?
18 US states passed legisaltion in support of compulsory sterilization
as part of eugenics initiatives, believing that poverty and crime
could be sterilized out of society.
(See this Yale studyand this article on the Racial Integrity Act of 1924)
I believe that it was wrong then, it is wrong now and it will always be wrong.
I believe that the educated, wealthy people who fund these initiatives deserved to be compassionately reminded to join the human race as equals rather than as architects of genetic improvement.
The argument continued and cooler heads than mine said: what about the planned parenthood, what about the fact that this is voluntary and applies only to people who already have children, what about the fact that it is such a small amount of money and makes such a big difference.
It made me think about what we really bothering me about the idea. I'd like to share my response with you.
I don't think considering this proposal in a positive way makes anyone a Nazi. I think it puts you in that difficult position where a problem that makes your heart ache seems to have a solution that makes your conscience itch.
I know $300 goes nowhere. Yet $300 establishes the principal that this is an OK thing to offer. That seems like a marketing bargain to me. It is the inverse off the old joke (which was never anything but serious) where a man offers a woman $5 million to have sex with him.When she
agrees he offers her $5 instead. She asks what kind of woman he thinks she is. He replies,we've established what kind of woman you are, now we're just haggling about the price.
The heart of the problem is that many kids are born to parents who fuck them up.
The kids offer unconditional love and in return they get abuse, neglect, hatred, indifference, cheerful incompetence, exploitation, etc. Of course, not all these parents are addicts nor are they necessarily poor or uneducated. Lots of parents fuck up their kids one way or another. Yet there is no doubt that the chances of having a shit life increase when your parents are lost to addiction or ground down by poverty or twisted by ignorance or all three.
Of course, we want to protect the children and give them a better life. Yet things just keep getting in the way. I admire the courage and humanity of the social workers who try to protect children at risk but I know many of them would tell you that "Care" has become one of
those Orwellian Newspeak words.
Children in care often abuse each other or are abused by others, there is a high incidence of drug use, under-age sex, and violence. When the kids suddenly stop have the "child" label at 18 or 16 depending on the country, the "care" label is stripped away from them and they are dumped on the streets, often with no job, no education, and no expectation that life will get any better.
There is an endless flow of children. There is never enough money.There are never enough good parents. Most of all, there is neverenough love.
It is, literally, heartbreaking.
Logically, we should recognise the overwhelming odds we struggle with and stop the problem at source. If there was not such a flood of children being born to those incapable or unwilling to offer them love and the hope of happiness then the world as a whole would be a better place, wouldn't it? The sum total of unhappiness would be reduced. Over time the balance would shift as children where born to parents who loved them and cared for them?
All of this could be achieved if we just had the courage to act at the source of the problem, if we were just willing to accept that one small restriction on the lives of people who anyway don't give a shit, could save so much suffering. Surely any moral scruples that stand between us and this course of action should rightly be described as at best muddy thinking and at worst moral cowardice?
Who would not off $300 to help people volunteer to stem this flood of misery and break this cycle of abuse?
Its a powerful arguement isn't it?
Maybe I should stop there but I can't. I see a maggot at the core of this apple.
Perhaps I see the maggot because of my background.
My family is genetically weak. I was born with an extra finger, fucked up eyesight and a stubborn streak. Many of my family have small examples of poor genetic coding: club foot, wall-eye, emotional instabilty, a tendency towards addiction to alcohol or drugs or sex or
violence or all of them on a Saturday night.
My parents, I believe, did their best most of the time. Who could ask for more than that. When I was 12 and my sister was 7, she asked me: "If our parents weren't our parents, would we still like them?". Our childhood was not a nightmare but it wasn't idyllic. Few people's childhoods are.
We got through it. We made the best of what we had. We took love where we could find it and learned to live without it when we had to. In other words, we lived a normal life.
So what is the maggot at the centre of the apple? Life can't be made perfect, SHOULDN'T be made perfect. Perfect is for abstract math. Perfect is inhuman. Perfect is a standard that makes all of us failures.
I am glad I wasn't saved from the potential misery of an imperfect body, imperfect parents, unstable emotions and innate resistance to authority. Maybe I'd have been saved some unhappiness but it would have been at the price of missing the whole show.
So I'm a bit sensitive to a solution that brings into question my right to be born,
I accept that a woman should have the option of choosing not to have a child. I prefer adoption as a solution because it gives everyone a second chance. I understand sterilization because you can't run therisk of having any more children. That, in its way, is about choosing love.
I abhor the idea of choosing sterilization becuase it might avoid unhappiness
This is a hard idea to get across, so let me fall back on someone else's words.
I've quoted below, a poem from Philip Larkin. I think the first two verses are true. I think the third verse is a moral surrender. I always hope he meant us to see that and not to take him litterally.
Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
I think the $300 is a vote for that third verse.
I vote for putting more money into child care and less into foreign wars.
I vote for spending $300 on something that will show your love for a stranger, not deprive a stranger of their opportunity to live a life better than you expected.
I vote that Larkin was wrong and that this sterilization scheme is pernicious.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In "Made To Be Broken", the second of the Nadia Stafford series, we finally get inside the head of this hitwoman-with-principles. I found this book much more compelling that the first, which had that Series 1 Episode 1 fell to it.
This book reads alound much better than the first, the theme has more emotional impact and the backstory gets some real depth.
I hope that there will be a third in the series soon
View all my reviews
Thursday, February 03, 2011
To Boldly Cliché
© Mike Kimera 2011
“Is that the Cliché Guy?” I asked Molly.
“Yeh. I told you he was hot. Wait 'til you hear the Brit accent. He could read my grocery list aloud and make it sound sexy. When he reads from his erotica stuff I turn into a puddle."
I'd let Molly drag me along to her Creative Writing class to see her latest lust object, partly so I could get her to shut up about him and partly because the title of the lecture intrigued me: “To Boldly Cliché – going where other writers fear to tread.” I'd heard a lot of clichéd lectures in my time, but I'd never known a lecturer who advertised that they were doing it on purpose.
“So,” Molly said, almost fizzing with excitement. “Waddaya think of him?”
She was right of course, he was hot. But I wasn't going to give that to her straight away. Besides, there was something off about the guy; something that wasn't what it seemed; something that was maddeningly familiar but which I couldn't name.
“Well, he certainly looks like a cliché. I'd say he's playing tall dark handsome stranger, pretending to be an academic.”
“You think the geek-glasses are fake?”
“Well, even if they're real, the tweed jacket with patches on the elbows is way too 'central casting' to be authentic, even for a Brit.”
Molly didn't look pleased at my description, so I threw in a rider: “The jacket does fit him rather well though doesn't it?”
Molly smiled, leaned towards me conspiratorially and said, “A body like that would look good in anything. Personally, I'm imagining a thong and a tan. ”
I laughed. People turned to look, including Cliché Guy.
When his eyes found us, Molly pretended to be looking for something in her bag. I met his gaze. Behind those ugly glasses, he had beautiful eyes. He raised one eyebrow, gave a hint of a smile, as if we shared a secret and then turned back to his notes.
Not here five minutes and already I was living a cliché; our gazes meeting across a crowded room creating a small bubble of intimacy between two strangers, followed by my heart going all pit-a-pat. And all for a strange guy in glasses.
Suddenly I knew who Cliché Guy was pretending to be; he was Clarke Kent all dressed up to give a lecture. Did that mean he was Superman underneath?
Sheash, it had been hard enough to concentrate when I had Molly's thong image in my head, now I was seeing the guy ripping his shirt open to show me his big S.
I was about to share this idea with Molly when Cliché Guy started to talk.
“Good evening, everyone. I'm Toby Lambert-Bryce and I'm here to tell you about the joy of clichés”
Toby Lambert-Bryce? He had to have made that up. What kind of a parent lands their child with a name like Toby? And was I the only one with traumatised flash-backs to those drawings of the creepy guy in the beard in my mother's dog-eared copy of 'The Joy of Sex'?
Apparently I was. Everyone else was listening to Toby.
“Cliché is actually onomatopoeic. Back in the days when moveable type was set by hand, it made sense to pre-set the most commonly used phrases into metal blocks of type that could be dropped into the metal matrix rather than build them letter by letter each time. French typesetters named these pre-set blocks after the noise they made as they slotted into the matrix – cliché .
"The typesetters literally knew how many clichés a writer dropped into their text. It's a talent many editors would benefit from today.”
He waited half a beat for laughter but none came. I figured he'd lost them at onomatopoeic – which sounded like the kind of volcanic island where Fay Wray gets up close and personal with King Kong. Still, I liked the way he said cliché – with the French accent and a lot of passion.
Addams Family flash: “Ah, Tish. You spoke French”. Now I knew why Gomez reacted like that. It was definitely sexy.
I shifted in my seat to catch Toby's attention, then I gave him my best 'You're doing great and I'm so supportive' smile.
“It's tempting to dismiss clichés as the sign of lazy thinking but I believe that would be a mistake. Clichés are the thread from which we weave our understanding of the world. As the much maligned Samuel Goldwyn once said, 'What we need is new clichés'.”
Again, no laughter. Not even when he used an accent for Samuel Goldwyn's words. I looked around to see why this was a such a tough house. Then I realised that the group was mainly female and mid-thirities and up and they weren't really listening to him because they were too busy eating him with their eyes. Poor old Toby had just been dropped into SPECTRE's piranha tank and hadn't even noticed yet.
“Clichés are the genes in the metaphorical DNA of our collective subconscious. They are short pieces of code that hold a meaning we all take for granted, so much so, that we have trouble seeing the cliché itself. Clichés evolve from the discourse we hold with ourselves as a society. I believe that clichés are best understood as organisms that have a life-cycle.”
At this point two things happened, Toby started to give his talk directly to me, as I seemed to be the only one reacting to his content (or because he'd fallen madly in love with me the moment our eyes met across a crowded room – yeah, right), and I began to be distracted by what he was saying. It was a bit too dressed-up for its own good but it made sense to me.
“Clichés start life, in their larval state as it were, as insights. Ways of seeing that are at once so distinctive and so accurate that everyone goes 'ah ha, that's what I meant' or 'of course it is so'. “
Of course it is so? Who says that out loud? Toby desperately needed a translator if he was going to get his message across to Earthlings.
“It is the originality and accuracy of the cliché that results in its widespread use and takes it to the next stage of its life-cycle. The more the cliché is used, the less it is really seen. Its impact is blunted. Its meaning is not lost, but rather is taken for granted. The cliché becomes part of our collective gestalt. It sets our expectations about the truth a writer is describing. It is the establishing shot in the movie, the leitmotiv in the opera, the three basic chords in a Status Quo song. Without clichés, originality would have no place to live.”
I waited for the applause. Anyone who can build Status Quo into a creative writing lecture deserves applause. None came.
“Do you understand what he's saying?” I whispered to Molly.
“Not a word. But I love the way that he says it. Except, what was with the German accent. Is he faking the Brit thing or what.”
“Gestalt and leitmotiv are German words.”
“Well I knew they weren't English. You'd think he'd use English in a creative writing class, wouldn't ya?”
Molly always makes me smile. She puts the dumb act on of course. She thinks it makes her less threatening to men. I think it makes her so non-threatening that they wipe their fit on her as they walk out of her bedroom but I try not to say that out loud.
Toby was still talking but, like everyone else, I wasn't listening any more. I was watching him remove that horrible Tweed jacket. The shirt underneath fitted him even better than the jacket had. Broad shoulders, narrow waist, hips a teen model would kill for but best of all, when he turned around to hang up his jacket we all got a view of his tight, chino-clad butt. He even managedto make Dockers look good.
“The final stage of the cliché life-cycle comes when it is so over-used that it loses its authenticity, its meaning changes and it becomes either a parody of itself, a source of humour, a sort of Quixotic metaphor that once slew dragons and now tilts only at windmills or it becomes its own shadow and is used to undermine the truth it was once a token of.”
He smiled when he finished that sentence. He shouldn't have smiled. He's lost everyone in the room. He should have been feeling at least disappointed if not anxious. There was something else going on here.
I leaned forward to give him my full attention and tried to ignore Molly saying, “Are you starting to drool over him?”
I'd answer that question when I'd worked out the puzzle.
“I'm here today to ask you, as writers, to intervene in the cliché life-cycle. To do a bit of genetic engineering if you will. Don't bury clichés in the literary landfill; recycle them. Look into the heart of what made the cliché distinctive and insightful. Sharpen the blunt edges. Scrape off the cultural barnacles and find the metal underneath.”
Toby was looking at me now. That hint of a smile was back. I was sure that this was a clue to whatever was going on here.
“Sometimes all it takes is to update one small part of the cliché. Ripley in 'Alien' spawned a whole new trope of kick-ass female warriors. The part was originally written for a man. If it had been played by a man, would we have really seen, Ripley? Once the director cast Sigourney Weaver, the edges of the cliché became so sharp they cut themselves a niché in our collective imaginations.”
Ah, now things were getting clearer. I started to see what Toby was up to.
“Sometime a cliché can be used to bait-and-switch the audience towards a new truth. Start with the happy couple clichés: meeting, fighting, reconciling, marrying – but add in some serial-killer secret-identity clichés for one or both of the couple and you have yourself a 'Prittzi's Honor' or a 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith.'.”
That's when I finally understood what Toby was doing. Even without seeing him in a thong I knew for sure now that the guy had balls.
“In closing, I'd ask all of you to boldly cliché in your work. I assure you, you will be writing at the final frontier. I hope you enjoyed the show folks. Have a great evening.”
There was spatter of applause, then Toby put his jacket back on and people started to file out.
“Wait for me at the door,” I said to Molly, “I'd like a word with Toby.”
“I thought you would.”
Like I said, Molly only pretends to be dumb.
Toby waited for me. He looked relaxed and amused. He had every right to be.
“So, does the college know what you're doing?” I said,
“That I'm giving a Creative Writing Class on clichés? Sure.”
The Brit accent was gone now, but the smile was still there.
“But they don't know about your Performing Arts project?”
“No, Professor, they don't.”
“You recognised me?”
“As soon as you came in. I took your class on the need for a return to narrative at UCLA. You were the hottest prof I'd ever met.”
He took off the geek-glasses. His eyes were a startlingly deep blue.
“I don't remember you.”
“Tragic isn't it?”
I was thinking more that not noticing him might have saved me from a serious breach of professional ethics.
“And now you're doing a Masters in Performance Art?”
“Yes. This is part of my thesis work.”
“And what is your thesis?”
“I'm exploring the role of cliché in dissemblance. The creation of an unreliable narrator that everyone thinks is reliable at first because it's so clichéd they don't assess it.”
“Exactly. My contention is that people always believe the body language regardless of the words.”
For the first time he gave me a full wattage smile. My body was telling me that it wanted to speak his language. I ignored it and tried to stay on topic.
“And you have all this on film so that you can analyse the reaction of the audience to the different clichés you present them with?”
“Yes, with the college's permission of course.”
There was a pause in which a great deal was not said.
“Would it be too clichéd if I asked you to come and have coffee with me?” he said.
My heart did a back-flip and I had to struggle to prevent myself from grinning like an idiot.
“Well,” I said, “I'll agree on one condition.”
“Open your shirt and show me what you're wearing underneath.”
“Hah, I didn't think you'd spot that.” he said as he unbuttoned his blue Oxford-weave button-down to reveal a Super Man T-shirt.
“There's a Starbucks around the corner,” I said, linking my arm through his.
As we walked towards the door, Molly gave me an evil grin, waived and left
Monday, January 31, 2011
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a fun book about sex that you have to have right here and right now.
Take a look at the YouTube book trailer and see some of the authors read extracts from their stories.
I have a story in this anthology but wasn't brave enough to be on the trailer. I admire the people who did it and did it so well.
View all my reviews
Saturday, January 29, 2011
It seems likely that I am going to have to find a way to shorten my hours and reduce or eliminate air travel, at least for a while.
Hopefully I will have more time to spend writing.
In the meantime I can't give enough praise to the women who calmly and caringly handed me back my life today when I had begun to think it might soon be done with.
Now I need to find a way to make the most of their gift.