#BookReview of WRITEDOWN by Margaret Elphinstone et al #Lockdown #Galloway #Scotland #RBRT

I’m only a few pages into my copy and already recommending it to friends and family. And, I haven’t even read any of Mary Smith’s words yet… I love the whole idea and hope that others will pick up the gauntlet in their communities.

Barb Taub

In my last post here, I talked about the ‘forgotten’ flu pandemic of 1918. The coronavirus seems an overwhelming force across the globe, and I wonder what its legacy will be. After reading the incredible new group lockdown diary, Writedown, one thing I’m sure of is that this pandemic will live in our collective memory. 

One of the contributors to Writedown is also one of my favorite writers, Mary Smith. (If you haven’t had a chance to read her incredible Afghan adventure serial diary, give yourself a treat and start with this one, take a look at some of her funny and heart-tugging books here, her blog series My Dad is a Goldfish about caring for her father with dementia, or most recently her ongoing cancer journey.

I invited Mary to describe the Writedown project, and here’s what she shared.


Author Mary Smith, one…

View original post 1,359 more words

Quotations on Intellectualism

Thank you, Charles. In the midst of the insanity around us, the reason is whispering its message.

charles french words reading and writing

 

 

Isaac_Asimov

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

                                                  Isaac Asimov

 

George_Orwell_press_photo

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.”

                                                   George Orwell

 

Philip_Plait_2007

“I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.”

                                                      Phil Plait

 

“For democracy to…

View original post 29 more words

Echos From Shadows of The Past…

“The Law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don’t understand it, or are prevented by naked misery from obeying it.” – Bertolt Brecht

“A man who sees another man on the street corner with only a stump for an arm will be so shocked the first time he’ll give him six-pence. But the second time it’ll only be a threepenny bit. And if he sees him a third time, he’ll have him cold-bloodedly handed over to the police.” – Bertolt Brecht

In 1933 the Nazis seized power, and like many German dissidents, the writer Bertolt Brecht had to leave. After several moves, he ended up in Denmark where he and his family accepted the offer of a house in a remote village. It was there that he penned an essay which quickly began appearing in different European cities. The journal responsible was Unsere Zeit (Our Times). It was even smuggled into Germany and distributed under a plain cover. The title “Statutes of Reich Association of German Writers.”

The actual title of this work was “Funf Schwierigkeiten beim schreiben der Wahrheit,” which translates to “Five Difficulties in Writing the Truth.

Brecht went on to say that if one chooses to oppose lies and ignorance, and to write the truth, there are five difficulties that you must overcome.

The real title of the essay was “Fünf Schwierigkeiten beim schreiben der Wahrheit,” or “Five Difficulties in Writing the Truth.” Brecht wrote:

“These days, if you want to struggle against lies and ignorance, and to write the truth, you must overcome at least five difficulties. You must have the courage to write the truth when everywhere truth is repressed. You must have the wit to recognize the truth, though everywhere it is concealed. You must have the skill to make the truth into a weapon. You must have the judgment to choose those in whose hands the truth will be effective. And you must have the cunning to spread the truth among such people.”

While the obstacles he faced were epic under fascism, they are also present in the lives of writers who have suffered exile, had to flee their homes and also for those who live in countries that claim to be democracies when they are not. Today we live in a world where fascism is rearing its ugly head. In some countries more than others, it is quickly become the rule of law in some parts of the world.

I believe that it is time to dust of Brecht and to committ to exactly what type of writer each of us will strive to be. Remembering his circumstances and reading his words, I shall endeavor to follow his ideals.

The Courage to Tell the Truth

It seems obvious that, as a writer, you should write the truth, in the sense that you ought not to suppress or conceal anything or deliberately write things that are untrue. You ought not to bow down before the powerful or betray the weak. It is, of course, very hard not to bow down before the powerful, and it is highly advantageous to betray the weak. To displease the possessors means to become one of the dispossessed. To pass up paid work or to decline fame when it is offered may mean being unpaid or unknown forever. This takes courage.

Any truth worth writing is one that those in power do not want you to tell, and the enemies of truth will try to exact a price. They will leak your personal information to the press or to your enemies. They will dox you. They will try to make it embarrassing or frightening or dangerous to tell the truth. A man who corrupts whole countries gets less prison time than a woman who votes by mistake. This is what power means.

In times of oppression, there is usually much talk about elevated matters. To write that you are “in the resistance” feels dramatic and important. You can get the feeling that you are a truth teller, because truth ought to feel dramatic and important. What is this feeling of drama? Surely, it must be the truth. In such times, it takes courage to write of low and boring matters such as food and shelter, access to healthcare, the rights of refugees.

When every channel is blaring the message that strong feelings trump knowledge, and that a man without compassion is more deserving of attention than one who cares for others, it takes courage to ask: Who profits? When all the talk is of who is a real American, it takes courage to ask: Who is unreal?

It also takes courage to tell the truth about yourself, about your own defeat. You lost. They are drinking your tears. Many of the oppressed lose the capacity to see their own mistakes. It seems to them that the persecution they suffer is itself the greatest injustice. The persecutors are wicked simply because they persecute; the persecuted suffer because of their goodness. But this goodness has been beaten, defeated, suppressed. It was therefore a weak goodness, a bad, unreliable goodness. For we cannot accept that goodness must be weak as rain must be wet. Weakness is not goodness. Goodness is not a weakness. It takes courage to say that the good were defeated not because they were good, but because they were weak.

Naturally, in the struggle with lies we must write the truth, and this truth must not be a lofty and ambiguous abstraction. When we say of someone, “She spoke the truth,” we imply that some people said something that was not the truth—a lie or a generality—but she said something practical, factual, undeniable.

It takes little courage to mutter a complaint about the triumph of barbarism in a place where complaining is still permitted, even prized. Many writers pretend that the guns are aimed at them when, in reality, they are merely the targets of influencers, trackers, and ads. They shout their generalized demands to a world of friends and followers. They insist on a generalized justice for which they have never done anything. They ask for generalized freedom: Alexa, make the government change.

These writers think that truth is only what sounds good. If the truth turns out to be difficult or dry, they don’t recognize it as such. Because what they crave isn’t the truth but a feeling and a status: the feeling of truth, the status of being a truth teller. The trouble with them is: they do not know the truth.

Upcoming Post: The Wit to recognize the Truth

Bisous,

Léa

LET AMERICA BE AMERICA AGAIN

Please, open your heart and feel each word.

“When I was five years old, my mom always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wrote down “happy.”They told me I didn’t understand the assignment and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – Langston Hughes

LET AMERICA BE AMERICA AGAIN

Langston Hughes – 1902 – 1967

Let america be america again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed-

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek-

And finding only the same old stupid plan

Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,

Tangled in that ancient endless chain

Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!

Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!

Of work the men! Of take the pay!

Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.

I am the worker sold to the machine.

I am the Negro, servant to you all.

I am the people, humble, hungry, mean-

Hungry yet today despite the dream.

Beaten yet today-O, Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead,

The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream

In the Old World while still a serf of kings,

Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,

That even yet its mighty daring sings

In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned

That’s made America the land it has become.

O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas

In search of what I meant to be my home-

For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,

And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,

And torn from Black Africa\s strand I came

To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?

Surely not me? The millions on relief today?

The millions shot down when we strike?

The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we’ve dreamed

And all the songs we’ve sung

And all the hopes we’ve held

And all the flags we’ve hung,

The millions who have nothing for our pay-

Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again-

The land that never has been yet-

And yet must be-the land where every man is free

The land that’s mine- the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s ME-

Who made America,

Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,

Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,

Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose-

The steel of freedom does not stain.

From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,

We must take back our land again,

America!

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me

And yet I swear this oath-

America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We the people must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain-

All, all the stretch of these great green states-

And make America again!

*******

Bisous,

Léa

A little Lamb…

” We gain nothing by being with such as ourselves. We encourage one another in mediocrity. I am always longing to be with men more excellent than myself.”               –  Charles Lamb

“The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and have to have it found out by accident.” –  Charles Lamb 

“I love to lose myself in other men’s minds.”  – Charles Lamb

The Old Familiar Faces

I have had playmates, I have had companions,

In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days,

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have been laughing, I have been carousing,

Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies,

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I loved a love once, fairest among women;

Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her –

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man;

Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly;

Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.

Ghost-like, I paced round the haunts of my childhood

Earth seemed a desert I was bound to traverse,

Seeking to find the old familiar faces.

Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother,

Why wert not thou born in my father’s dwelling?

So might we talk of the old familiar faces –

How some have died, and some they have left me,

And some are taken from me; all are departed;

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

Charles Lamb 1775 – 1834

Bisous,

Léa

What’s The Ultimate Conundrum?

A book writer’s reality check from Jack. Merci beaucoup mon ami.

Have We Had Help?

NSRW_Dodo

No not the Dodo – read on!

When it comes to that book we as writers have spent many months working on, sooner or later we are all presented with the same conundrum. Will it sell, bearing in mind that this business is extremely fickle?

Daily I see countless writers both new and old, endlessly talking/blogging about spending not only a considerable amount of time and effort, but also their hard earned money, on a book they wrote some time back that simply isn’t selling, in the vain hope that what they’re doing will increase it’s chances in today’s saturated market. In short we’re talking about idiots!

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it until the day I die. If your book doesn’t work, no amount of spending money on changing its cover or having it properly edited, together with purchasing a number of copies of the…

View original post 724 more words

Quotations By Isaac Asimov

Most timely, Charles. We all need to read and heed these quotes. The budget needs to put Education as a top priority. Alas, under the current regime, that won’t happen. One’s head must be buried deeply in the sand to not see the price the nation is paying for ignorance. Thank you for shining some light out into the darkness.

charles french words reading and writing

Isaac.Asimov01

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

“The easiest way to solve a problem is to deny it exists.”

View original post

The Repossession of America

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”  – Albert Einstein

“Humour is a rubber sword – it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.”  – Mary Hirsch

 

While I do realize that the following is a bit out-dated and perhaps Britain has issues of its own at the present… Yet I couldn’t resist pulling this letter out of the files, dusting it off and sharing it. My chapeau is off to John Cleese for the medicine (laughter) he dispenses when we need it most, like now! 

Today, 14 July is Fête Nationale du 14 juillet (France). Outside of France, this is frequently referred to as Bastile Day. It is not Bastile day but it does mark the turning point of the French Revolution in 1789. The champagne and the wine will flow, music, and so much more. I’ve no doubt that each and every village will create a way to celebrate safely in this time of Covid-19. 

 

Britain is Repossessing the U.S.A.

A message from John Cleese  (British comedian)

To:  The  citizens of the United States of America:

 

In view of your failure to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign  Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown (now Boris Johnson), will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced  with immediate effect:

You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English  Dictionary.

  1. Then look up aluminum, and check the pronunciation guide.  You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.
  2. The letter ‘U’  will be reinstated in words such as ‘favour’ and ‘neighbour.’  Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix -ize will be replaced by the suffix  -ise.

Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels  (look up ‘vocabulary’).

  1. Using the same 27 words interspersed with filler noises such as  ‘like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

There is no such thing as US English.  We will let Microsoft know on your behalf.  The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter ‘u’ and the elimination of -ize.  You will relearn your original national anthem, God Save the Queen.

  1. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
  2. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists.  The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not adult enough to be independent.

Guns should only be handled by adults.  If you’re not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you’re not grown up enough to handle a gun.

  1. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler.  A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
  2. All American cars are hereby banned.  They are crap and this is for your own good.  When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

Holden Monaros are also approved.

  1. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect.  At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humor.
  2. The Former USA  will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) – roughly $6/US gallon.  Get used to it.
  3. You will learn to make real chips.  Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps.  Real chips are thick-cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
  4. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all.  Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer.  They are also part of the British Commonwealth – see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.
  5. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys.  Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.
  6. You will cease playing American football.  There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer.  Those of you brave enough will, in time,  be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).  Don’t try Rugby –  the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you like they regularly thrash us.
  7. Further, you will stop playing baseball.  It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of  America.  Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable.  You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
  8. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.
  9. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s  Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due  (backdated to  1776).
  10. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, never mugs, with high-quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.

God save the Queen.

John  Cleese

Thank you John Cleese for offering the only remedy currently available for what ails millions of people (Laughter is still the best medicine.)

Bisous,

Léa

Courage for today and beyond…

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because, without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue.”  – Maya Angelou

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose site of the shore.”  – William Faulkner

“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin, more even that death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid… Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”                    – Bertrand Russell

 

Still I Rise

 

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

 

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

 

Just like moons and like suns

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

 

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

 

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

 

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

 

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

 

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past, that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear it in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

 

Maya Angelou – Still I Rise

 

With all that is going on in the world, we each must fight battles as our conscience dictates. Thought and rigorous prioritization will help us to know where to direct our thoughts and most of all, our actions. We can tell someone we love them, but our actions usually get their first and are usually much more credible. Ask yourself where your courage is most needed and dispatch it immediately.

Bisous,

Léa

To Live “according to nature”… Nietzsche

 

“Sensuality often hastens the ‘Growth of Love’ so much that the roots are weak and easily torn up.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche

“He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak.”  – Michel de Montaigne

“Let us give nature a chance; she knows her business better than we do.”                      – Michel de Montaigne

Do you want to live “according to nature”? O you noble Stoics, what a verbal swindle! Imagine a being like nature – extravagant without limit, indifferent without limit, without purpose and consideration, without pity and justice, simultaneously fruitful, desolate, and unknown – imagine this indifference itself as a power – how could you live in accordance with this indifference? Living – isn’t that precisely a well to be something different from what this nature is? Isn’t living appraising, preferring, being unjust, being limited, wanting to be different? And if your imperative “live according to nature” basically means what amounts to “live according to life” – why can you not just do that? Why make a principle out of what you yourselves are and must be? The truth of the matter is quite different: while you pretend to be in raptures as you read the canon of your law out of nature, you want something which is the reverse of this, you weird actors and self-deceivers! Your pride wants to prescribe to and incorporate into nature, this very nature, you morality, your ideal. You demand that nature be “in accordance with the stoa,” and you’d like to make all existence merely living in accordance with your own image of it – as a huge and eternal glorification and universalizing of stoicism! With all your love of truth, you have forced yourselves for such a long time and with such persistence and hypnotic rigidity to look at nature falsely, that is, stoically, until you’re no longer capable of seeing nature as anything else – and some abysmal arrogance finally inspires you with the lunatic hope that, because you know how to tyrannize over yourselves – Stoicism is self-tyranny – nature also allows herself to be tyrannized. Is the Stoic then not a part of nature?… But this is an ancient eternal story: what happened then with the Stoics is still happening today, as soon as a philosophy begins to believe in itself. It always creates a world in its own image. It cannot do anything different. Philosophy is the tyrannical drive itself, the spiritual will to power, to a “creation of the world” to the causa prima |first cause|

Friedrich Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil

 

“It is better to change an opinion than to persist in a wrong one.” – Socrates.

 “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle                                             

“To find yourself think for yourself.” – Socrates

 

Time is precious and each of us is allotted a relatively small portion. Self-examination is crucial and a necessary investment in ourselves, routine maintenance so to speak. If we can’t be firm in our convictions, do we have any? Or do we simply parrot those of another? If we don’t change our minds, from time-to-time, examine our beliefs, are we sure we are capable of doing so. The world does not stand still and we need to be mindful that even the road less traveled bends, rises, and falls.

Bisous, Léa