Friday, September 12, 2014

Lost In Austen

from Jacqueline

As you know – if you read Naked Authors with any regularity – I travel to England about four or five times each year, to visit my mother and of course, to work.  My days there are never vacation days – there is always so much to do.  I haven’t had a real vacation for years – I don’t have time!  I was grouching about this last year to my friend Corinne, who suggested that we should try to go on some “short break” adventures during my trips across the pond. And we know that once you’re on that side of the Atlantic, well, the flights are really cheap.  Having made that decision, we immediately booked three days in Marrakech last December (the flights from London Gatwick to Marrakech were cheaper than flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles).  We had a blast!  So on this last trip, we decided to stay in England, and we went to Bath. Now, we’re both very familiar with the city, but this time we were staying in an apartment at Number 4, Sydney Place, the former home of Jane Austen. Yes, that Jane Austen – who’s had more TV and movie deals from her novels than any other author, living or dead, I would imagine.  Seriously, I have always been a Jane Austen fan, so was very excited about the whole trip.

We set off from Paddington Station, home of the loveliest bear in the world – you know him …



… and went straight to our apartment upon arrival in Bath. Oh my, it was lovely. Everything was perfect – though thankfully, it wasn’t furnished in the manner of Georgian England, but was more “urban living meets country chic.” Here are a few photos our temporary home.  Yes, we could have seated a good twenty people around that table.








We wanted to pack as much into our two days as possible.  We’d both been to the Roman Baths before, so no need to do that (the tour is highly recommended, if only to marvel at Roman engineering).  But we did a bit of splashing around – Bath was a spa town even before the Romans discovered the health-giving effects of the famous hot springs – they named it Aquae Sulis, but the City (Bath is not technically a town as it has a cathedral – which in Britain gives it City status) became very popular among the Georgians, who came in droves to take the waters, and in turn they left the city with a legacy of stunning architecture.  I could barely keep my nose out of real estate agent windows.  Back to the dipping – we decided to partake of the waters with a visit to Thermae Bath Spa, a never ending series of baths – fed by the famous ancient springs – on several levels.  To get in you had to pay a pretty penny, which made me wish my bank account was fed by some sort of hot spring.  Having donned our bathing suits, we skimped on the “towel/bathrobe/slippers package, and just went for rental of the three quid a time towel – later, with dripping wet towels and slipping all over the place, we thought we should have ponied up the extra for the robe and slippers. The evening was beautiful – summer, warm, light – and there we were, bobbing around in the rooftop pool, with steam edging up and turning my hair curly.  





The arrival of two rugby teams also turned my hair curly, which was when we thought we should probably try the steam rooms and showers.  We tried every pool in the place, and came out very wrinkly – well, more wrinkly than before we went in – and decided it was about time we had a bite to eat.  I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant, but believe me, after lolling around in those baths, you work up an appetite.  I don’t think the Romans invaded – they waddled.

Next day we were on a mission to score tickets for a play called Bad Jews at the Ustinov Theater, part of the Theater Royal.  I know, the title is a bit iffy, but don’t get offended – it’s what the play was called, and the writer is Jewish, so I trust he knows best - and it was a good play, with superb performances.  Mind you, we didn’t think we would get to see it – tickets were all sold out. But Corinne is a terrier.  She decided we would take it in turns to call once every hour, just to see if there were any tickets going begging. It didn’t look good, but we have had theater karma in the past, so we kept our fingers crossed – and went on to the Costume Museum, which had a special exhibit of WW1 clothing.  It was excellent, mainly because the clothing was presented in context, with letters, newspaper clippings and posters displayed alongside, so that by the time I was half way around, I was in tears thinking about people who went to war in uniforms such as these.   Here are some of the exhibits.


 And this one was on loan from the TV costumiers - recognize them from the second series of Downton Abbey?


Then we ended up in the dressing-up room. I don’t know if they call it that, but there’s a room where you can try on clothing from the Georgian era – it’s all specially tailored to withstand people coming through for multiple tryings-on, and it was excellent fun.  Here we are – being very silly!





On to No 1, The Royal Crescent, restored to its former glory.  This is the Royal Crescent – and it’s gorgeous. 



 Mr. B’s Emporium is one of my favorite bookstores, so we just had to go there next. I bought a couple of books and we whiled away some time just lingering – bliss. 


Having persuaded one of the Theater Royal’s ticket agents to break the rules and take our cellphone numbers, we were on tenterhooks as the day wore on. We checked again while having coffee at this little coffee shop – which happens to be quite famous.  The owner and chief coffee-maker is an international award winning barista, and let me tell you, these guys are intense when it come to coffee.  Frankly, I thought my coffee was a bit cool, but then I read that they never brew over a certain temperature to retain integrity of flavor. I like my hot drinks hot, so I ended up quaffing it so quickly that any integrity of flavor was quite lost on me.


That's Corinne outside, checking her cellphone - again.

We hobbled back along Great Pulteney Street to Corinne, Jackie and Jane’s house, and were just about to put our feet up with a nice cup of tea, when Corinne’s 'phone rang.  Two tickets to the play had been relinquished due to an unforeseen circumstance – but we had to get there pronto to snag them.  A quick slurp of tea and another rush along Great Pulteney Street and then to the theater – yay, tickets to the play!!!   With an hour to kill, it was a no brainer – straight into the wine bar opposite.

The following day we had only the morning before catching our train back to London, where I would be staying for a few days “business.”  So, more Jane was on the cards – we scurried to the Jane Austen Center.  There were two highlights. One was the fact that they had gluten free scones, so I was able to have a real English tea.  


Second, they brewed their tea from the leaf, and not with crummy tea bags, so it was delicious.  And thirdly, well, there’s always Mr. Darcy ….


 Where to next?  You might well ask.  I already have a few visits planned to visit my mother in 2015  – I like to see her as often as I can, so I mentioned to Corinne that I would be back in December, February and April.  “Oh, the south of France is lovely in April,” she said.  And wouldn’t you know it – the EasyJet “flight sale” email landed in my mailbox that same day.  We agreed on dates and I booked our London to Nice flights before they sold out (soooo cheap!) - we’re only going for three days, but what the heck – it’ll be another adventure.  And you’re only young once .

Have a lovely weekend!  I'll be in Toronto, Canada, this weekend - at the lovely little bookstore, The Novel Spot on Saturday afternoon, then on Sunday morning, at the The Globe and Mail/Ben McNally Books Authors' Brunch.  Home on Monday.  It's like running a hurdles race.  And she's off ....

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Moving Story

James O. Born

Today we will be flooded with stories that happened 13 years ago.  This is also a tale of tragedy and hope, but not related to the importance and remembrance of today.

Humans tell stories. Whether it is about the fish we caught that was so big it took two full grown men to pull ashore or the script we write for an episode of Law and Order. Some of us are natural storytellers and others struggle with the concept of structure, character and conflict. Some stories are funny, some stories are serious and some stories are simply moving. The key for any good writer is to identify that moving story. We often strain to find the right idea. But if we just open our eyes, look around the world as it is right now, maybe do a little adaption, we can find stories they can make the most hardened among us cry.

Here's an example of a story identified by CBS-TV and presented by Scott Pelley about a Connecticut trooper and his connection to the Sandy Hook elementary tragedy.

(When I say that this is moving, I should add it is sad. I would recommend it to anyone, but it can cause a serious emotional reaction.)
video

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxOc7oEg-q0


This story moved me on a number of levels: The loss, grief, the effort to move on with your life, honor and friendship. It is an encapsulation of everything a police officer can experience in one event. It's also an opportunity for a writer to ask the right questions and find the best responses.

Trooper Eddie Vann showed himself to be a superior police officer and should be an example to everyone in the profession. The producers and writers of that segment showed him in that light.

We, as writers, should strive to tell a moving story. Whether it's in news scripts, novels or TV shows. It is incumbent that you hold yourself to a high standard. You must ask the hard questions. Does this story have power? Does the character cause readers to care about them? Do the events really threaten the characters? This combination makes for a good, powerful story? 

Seeing a story like this on TV makes me proud to be a police officer, as well as a writer.

The quote today is out of the usual writing realm:


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My Top Ten Books List...Actually a Dozen

From the messy desk of Paul Levine...

Over on Facebook, all the literary types are compiling their Top Ten book lists.

When you get tagged, you have to spend hours compiling your list (then sweating while you re-think it) or be frowned on by your friends. 

Let's start by admitting the silliness of the task.  I probably don't remember the best book I ever read.  On the other hand, some people are asking for the "most influential" books or the ones that "stayed with you."  By definition, I suppose, that means you remember the damn thing.

I limited my list to fiction.  And just like a television script that is supposed to run 53 minutes, I trimmed and trimmed and came up with an even dozen.

There are well-know authors on my best books list.  Updike, Steinbeck, Wolfe (Tom, not Thomas).

And one virtual unknown, if that's possible when you've had an Oprah selection and New York Times bestseller.  (Yes, it is possible).

I speak of Tawni O'Dell, whose heartrending, searing coming-of-age novel in rural poverty, "Back Roads," cut me to the bone. 

Two choices on my list are intensely personal.  They're the books that directly led to me writing "To Speak for the Dead."

Without their influence, I never would have become a writer.  No, I'd still be billing legal clients at enormous rates and eating rare tenderloin and fresh stone crabs for lunch at the Banker's Club.  Har!

So, thank you John D. MacDonald and Carl Hiaasen. 

Here's one geographical coincidence on my list.  Four authors -- MacDonald, O'Dell, John Updike, and Martin Cruz Smith -- were all born and raised in Pennsylvania.  A fifth PA author, James A. Michener, was a "finalist."

My dozen favorites are listed here on my personal blog.   

Paul Levine



Monday, September 08, 2014

FanGirl/FanBoy Crushes

Patty here

Is there anyone out there who has never had a FanGirl or FanBoy crush? It’s okay to admit it; you’re among friends. The Urban Dictionary defines FanGirl as:

A rabid breed of human female who is obesessed with either a fictional character or an actor. Similar to the breed of fanboy. Fangirls congregate at anime conventions and livejournal. Have been known to glomp, grope, and tackle when encountering said obesessions.

Hugh Jackman: 'ello.
Fangirl: SQUEEEEEE! *immediately attaches to Jackman's leg*
Jackman: Security! 

I can’t imagine attaching myself to Hugh Jackman’s leg. My FanGirl crushes have been limited to flipping through tabloids at the grocery store checkout counter whenever I see the object of my affection on the cover. But I'll admit that back in his Legends of the Fall days, I thought Brad Pitt was hot.



Then the impossibly adorable Ryan Gosling came along in Lars and the Real Girl. My admiration skyrocketed after I saw him with Michelle Williams at a Q&A following a screening of Blue Valentine. He arrived at the theatre late, wearing blue jeans, a red lumberjack flannel shirt and tousled hair, looking as if he’d just rolled out of bed. He apologized to the audience for inconveniencing us. Very respectful. A hot guy who’s not full of himself? The vibe in the room shifted. FanGirl crushes blossomed everywhere.



Then I saw Thor and had to admit Chris Hemsworth fell into the serious eye candy category. He earned extra points because he had a twinkle in his eye and seemed like a stand-up guy.



But I kept thinking about Hugh Jackman's leg and suspected that my FanGirl cred needed some polish. I searched the source of all inspiration—the Internet—and found a blog post by Beth Thorne, describing her FanGirl crush on Sam Heughan [pronounced HEW-an], one of the actors in the STARZ Outlander series. As suspected, I wasn't putting nearly enough effort into this FanGirl thing.

"There’s a moment in fandom when you realize you’ve effectively lost your mind. For some people, it’s when your Google search bar truncates “Hen…” to “Henry Cavill’s girlfriend” “Henry Cavill’s ugly girlfriend” “Henry Cavill is dating a troll” when you were just searching for cornish hen Thanksgiving recipes. For others, it’s when you wake up drooling on your cell phone because you feel asleep reading fanfic. For some, it’s breaking down a Vanity Fair behind the scenes video for evidence of unrequited cast affection. For me, I’ve known for years that I loved Outlander, and specifically Jamie Fraser. And I’ve known for a few months that I wanted to know more about Sam Heughan. But Sam’s first official public appearance just sealed the fangirl deal."

Okay, so Sam Heughan is adorable, but what makes so many people lust after him? Granted, he's playing a role that has a built-in audience of millions of fans of the Outlander novels written by Diana Gabaldon. But that can't account for all the admiration being heaped on Heughan. What is it that attracts people to movie stars, sports figures and fictional characters? It’s not just physical beauty. There are many good-looking people in the world. In interviews, Heughan comes across as sweet and just a bit proper, maybe even shy. That persona might be an act cultivated by his publicist, but I don't think so. I think he has that certain something that sets him apart from the crowd.


Defining "that certain something" is an important exercise for writers. We all love our characters—even the bad ones—and translating FanGirl/FanBoy feelings onto the page adds complexity and authenticity to our writing. The why of our attraction to certain personality types—bad boys/girls (dangerous), adventurers (fun loving) or artists (emotionally complex and sensitive)—elevates our characters from caricatures to flesh and blood people. In the end, it isn't how they look that makes us love them; it's what they say and do, on the page or in the flesh, that provides a window to the soul and our enduring admiration.

Here's an informal survey: Sophia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Sean Connery, Tom Brady or Mr. Darcy. Who do you think has "that certain something," that je ne sais quoi? I'm making a list because Hugh Jackman's leg has already been taken. And all you authors out there—did you pattern your characters after people you know and love?

Note to our email subscribers, just email back with your FanCrush and I'll include it in the comments section.

HAPPY MONDAY!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Positive Thoughts No Matter What Profession

James O. Born

Like a lot of law enforcement officers, I'm not always crazy about some of the classes I'm required to take.  As political correctness and different interest groups take root within politics, the policies and training needs of any law enforcement agency must adapt.  When I was recently told I’d have to attend two full days of training more than 65 miles from my house, I cringed.  How are we expected to complete our overwhelming number of assignments if they're sending us off to training which has nothing to do with our jobs?  At least that's how I viewed it when I got the call.  To make matters worse, no one could really tell me what the class was about.  It appeared to be some sort of motivational and inspirational class which, if you're staring down the barrel of retirement in just a few months, is not something that necessarily interests you.  But I found out a long time ago it's much easier to shut up and do certain things than to fight them.  In other words every cop must, "Pick his or her battles."

As the name of the class was Blue Courage.  I liked the title, but again, was reticent about spending almost half my week not attending to the cases I’m currently working on.  As the class began, I realized I liked the two instructors.  That immediately lowered my anxiety and I sat back to listen.  But it wasn't that easy.  We were expected to participate as well.

There was a lot of motivation about mindset and to consider the reasons each of us entered the field of law enforcement in the first place.  Aside from the lists of casualties, which are staggering when added up over the years, most of the information could apply to other professions, including writing.

There was a lot of information and stats thrown out and I tried to copy down a few of them.  The first one that caught my attention was that we, as humans, have roughly 70,000 thoughts and a day.  That's staggering to consider.  No wonder we are tired all of the time.  And two of the issues they brought up was whether we focused most of our thoughts on the past, present or future (and of course, the more we focus on the present, the more effective we can be in any profession) and how to use certain exercises to clear your mind for just a short period of time.  The idea is to break the pattern of constant noise in our head.  In this case, they suggested sitting in a quiet room and slowly breathing in for four seconds, holding that breath for four seconds, taking four more seconds to expel that breath and then waiting four more seconds until you start again.  Those 16 seconds can be crucial in breaking a pattern of cerebral anarchy that can confuse and distract us on a daily basis.

Another comment they used was the eighteen, forty, sixty rule.  Basically it says that at eighteen we’re concerned about what other people think of us.  At forty we really don't care and that at sixty, we realize no one has ever been thinking about us.  I like that.

The instructors of the course went on to talk about having faith in yourself and forget about comparing yourself or your career to others.  They may have been addressing a roomful of police officers, but they could easily have been addressing a room full of authors.  The complaints are often the same, just like the excuses.  The process is unfair, it's all politics, someone else got lucky, they are interchangeable between the two professions. 

Instructors also want us to avoid negativity both in ourselves and hanging out with others.  They talked about how easy it is to walk away from someone who is a constant stain of negativity.  And one of the most important stats to take away from that is that, as a general rule, people are 30% more productive when they are positive.  For a police officer that is a tremendous amount of work and for an author it can be even more effective.  It's not that hard to dwell on all the positive aspects of our life.  If you're working on a novel, you're already ahead of the game.  It doesn't matter if you're published or not, at least you have a goal and you’re working towards it.

In publishing, the seemingly endless flood of negative responses are the norm.  But you can't let it rule your entire life.  They showed a video which I've seen on TV which made the perfect point in the perfect way.

video


One of the other concepts in the class is that approximately 360 words a minute go through our brains each hour.  Once again, we need to break that pattern and using the 16 second breathing exercise is a way to do that.  I know, as writers, the idea of having 360 words a minute rush through our heads seems like a positive, but sometimes it's better to just have silence. 


Our quote today is: Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him unto himself.  – James Allen

Monday, September 01, 2014

Florida Animals: The Good, the Bad, and the Nutty

From the messy desk of Paul Levine...

Sorry for my absence.  I’ve been working 24/7 -- okay, maybe 12/7 --  finishing the first draft of the newest Jake Lassiter novel.  Now, I’m taking a breather.

Maybe you’ve been following the news about Florida's animals.  No, I’m not talking about James O. Born’s fraternity parties at F.S.U.  Trivia: Florida State was an all women’s college until shortly after World War II. Now it is proudly co-educational and even prouder of  its professional football team.

Ah!  Here’ a rare photo of Jim Born at one of those parties I mentioned.


But back to the other animals.  There’s Good News and Bad News.

Good News: Manatees Are Having Sex

The beleaguered Florida manatee (the “sea cow”) is making a comeback.  Despite all the idiots in power boats who run over the big, slow creatures in Florida waterways, the manatees have grown in numbers from a few hundred a half century ago to nearly 5,000 today.  The Associated Press reports that the species' designation may be changed from “endangered” to “threatened.”  That’s an improvement.



True confession.  I love manatees.  Not enough to date one, but I once had a manatee save Jake Lassiter’s life. How?   By allowing Jake to hitch a ride in an Everglades canal when he was being hunted down by bad guys in “Mortal Sin.”  

Bad News: Pancho is Dead

Pancho the crocodile is dead.

The blame rests with two Coral Gables partiers who did not win MacArthur genius grants.  This happened about a block from my old home in Gables by the Sea.  At two a.m., the couple jumped off a dock into a canal that is a protected crocodile sanctuary.  Guess what happened during their late-night swim.  A croc the locals call Pancho (they’re all tagged) bit them.  The two partiers sobered up fast and are fine now.

A couple days later, wildlife officials trapped Pancho in a net, intending to move him to the wilds. But he fought and fought...and died in the net.  Here’s Fabiola Santiago’s sad column in The Miami Herald.  And here’s the last photo of Pancho.

I can’t say I have the same warm feelings for crocodiles I do for manatees.  The crocs eat neighborhood dogs and cats that wander too close to the canal.  But then, the crocodiles were there first.  And I hate to see magnificent creatures killed through homo sapiens' stupidity.  It's just a damn shame.

Finally, it’s land crab migration season in South Florida.  These came out of the same mangroves that flank that Gables by the Sea canal where Pancho roamed.  Try not to run over them.  They can puncture your tires.


Paul Levine

Friday, August 29, 2014

On The Abuse of Women

from Jacqueline

Many years ago, when I was a young woman “professional” working in London, I went along to a discussion led by Australian author Dale Spender on a panel with two other female writers whose names now escape me.  Never heard of Dale Spender?  She is the author of the then best-selling “Man Made Language” – a groundbreaking book in its day, about the way in which language was created by men, and contributes to the disenfranchisement of women, mainly because it has not evolved to encompass women’s experiences and responses to the events of their lives.  The presentation was very interesting, bringing up aspects of language I had never considered. Then one of the women dropped a bomb, so to speak.  Here’s what she said:

“Most people will never appreciate how much men hate women.”

I almost fell off my seat. I mean, I’d had my problems – gropers on the Tube going to work; men who assumed I would be interested in them, then became nasty when it was clear I wasn’t, and I’d suffered put-downs from men.  But I also knew I was quite capable of coming back with my own stinging repartee, and I could look after myself.  Yet this was something different, and my shock came as a result of my own experience – I had a father who showed utter respect for his wife and daughter without compromising his self-worth, and a brother who was raised to be respectful to women in the manner of his father.   I’m still not sure how I feel about that statement, and perhaps it was spoken to start a conversation – certainly the conversation deserved a long hearing. 

Anyone paying attention to world affairs and current events could not fail to grasp how women are used in certain parts of the world. In Darfur, women leaving places of refuge to scavenge for food to feed their children were captured by “rebels,” then raped and left for dead.  ISIS in Iraq – deranged nutcases who wouldn’t know a Koran from a Krispy Kreme – have attacked communities via acts of terror against women first – again, rape, torture and murder.  Here in the USA, there have been horrific cases of abduction, rape and imprisonment – from Elizabeth Smart, to Jaycee Lee Dugard, to the three women kidnapped, raped and imprisoned by Ariel Castro in Cleveland, Ohio.  There have been cases of similar kidnap and violence in Austria, in France, and Germany – and I read that police had been dispatched to Fletcher Christian's Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific to investigate a deep culture of abuse against girls and women.  And it goes on.

When I left the UK earlier this week to fly home to California, a story was breaking about the sickening failure of authorities in Rotherham, Yorkshire – in the north of England – to stop the repeated sexual abuse of some 1400 young girls by a ring of mainly Pakistani men. The children were chiefly those in care situations, though not all – and it appears society failed those children, with police dismissing complaints, and a local authority so fearful of creating racial tension that it allowed the most terrible abuse to continue.  The story is still unfolding, but it seems police refused to intervene even when faced with young girls who were being beaten and repeatedly raped.  It is beyond a nightmare, and it has been going on for years.

I’ve been wondering about this hatred – does it come from men in societies threatened by women?  Or individuals threatened by women?  And why are girls and women so often not listened to when they complain?  Or scream?  With these thoughts on my mind today, I “Googled” Dale Spender – it was well over thirty years ago that I last thought about her, so I wanted to see if she was still writing and campaigning.  It appears she is.  Here’s what she says on the home page of her website:

“I am old enough to have lived in a world without sexism and sexual harassment. Not because they weren’t everyday occurrences in my life but because THESE WORDS DIDN’T EXIST … When women had no words to name offensive and unwelcome behavior they had to try and describe why they didn’t like comments on their appearance – such as ‘sex appeal’. They didn’t accept gropes and whistles as signs of endearment. THEY HAD TO COMPLAIN. This generally put them in the wrong! They were being difficult, too thin-skinned, were up themselves, couldn’t take a joke.”
That’s food for thought.  But here’s a personal story.  When I was a child we lived in a very rural area.  Kids ran free because everyone knew everyone else and there was always someone to look out for you.  Until I was eleven, my mother worked on the local farm, which was wonderful for my brother and I.  We never strayed that far, and we knew to watch out for farm equipment and vehicles, but there were woods to explore and trees to climb, and we were always within calling distance of my mother.  There was an old railway station nearby – the trains had stopped running in 1964, but there was still a coal supply yard, and the tracks remained; the best blackberries grew alongside them.  And because the trains had been steam trains, there were black huts along the tracks about a mile apart where coal was stored.  On this day I had gone for a short walk along the tracks with my brother – I was nine and he was five – and we were picking blackberries.  Suddenly a man leaped from one of those black huts and grabbed me – I can still feel his fingers wrapped around the top of my arm.  I was more worried about my brother, so I pulled free, picked him up and ran with him all the way back to my mother – one of those times when physical strength comes from a sheer adrenalin rush.  My chest was heaving with great sobs as I told her the story – but I hadn’t finished before she took off at a sprint to find the man.  She knew exactly who he was – a man who worked in the coal yards, and she'd never liked the look of him.  Had she found him, she would have killed him.

A policeman came to the house and interviewed me, then I was sent out of the room while he spoke to my parents.  They could do nothing about what had happened – I was a fast kid, and the man hadn’t managed to drag me off, plus I wasn’t hurt, physically, and there were no witnesses.  But above all, my parents were told it was the word of a little girl against the word of a man.  That man, as it happened, had not long been released from prison on charges of sexually assaulting a girl, and was still on probation.  Some time later, the women complained about him to police and his employer, for making a nuisance of himself – “exposing” I think it was called at the time.  Nothing was done about it.  They were only women complaining, plus they had the choice, they could look the other way.

I don’t have answers to the points I’ve raised. I know this post might seem inflammatory to some, and I’m sorry about that – personally, I have for the most part always been in the company of respectful men.  But when I look around the world, when I read the news of the way in which women in so many cultures have been abused physically, emotionally, and mentally, with their spirits crushed, I wonder what women ever did to inspire such hatred.  And I fear there will be no solutions.

And to close, though I don't want it to diminish the seriousness of this post - this is one of my favorite pieces of graffiti.  It happened in Britain about twenty-five, thirty years ago, and Fiat is still getting over it.  


Oh, and guess where the following photo was taken:




Answer:  Afghanistan in the 1950's, before the Taliban took power.  The women are in a library.