SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED – Marilyn Armstrong

We are shaken, but not stirred

I read all the James Bond books before they made it into the movies. I loved the books and for me, the movies were more like parodies than anything to do with Ian Fleming’s writing. The whole martini thing about “Shaken, not stirred,” always struck me as weird.

Why would it make a difference? Not being a drinker of any kind, much less a martini drinker, I’m probably the wrong one to ask.

Nonetheless, we are personally shaken even if not fully stirred.

Garry at the Police station in Uxbridge

In the course of a month and a half, we’ve been the victim of an intended more than $7000 in credit card theft. Yesterday, I realized for the first time (I can be a little slow on the uptake) that this started at least three weeks before I realized anything was happening and continued after I was sure it was fixed.

I think it’s fixed now. I hope so because I have done absolutely everything I was supposed to do. We are lucky we didn’t lose any of our so-called money. The credit card companies are less lucky and have spanked us thoroughly on our credit ratings. Not that I can blame them. They’ve taken the entire hit leaving us shaken and fearful. Feeling incredibly vulnerable. But no poorer than we were before.

Main street in late June

I didn’t know how bad it was until I looked at my monthly credit report. Credit Karma is free. They track your credit, the amounts you’ve spent, suggest cheaper cards or loans … and they are really free. If you are not a member, I suggest you sign up. If I hadn’t looked at the report, I would not have known what was happening.

One card leaped off the screen at me, a card on which I knew I had used less than $1000 in credit and suddenly, a $5000 bill was staring at me. I called the company. Because the card had already been declared as damaged — involved in a fraud attempt — it was closed. I couldn’t actually get to any information online and had no idea about how much money had been taken. It looked like much more than I had thought.

Back to the post office to file the reports. Round two. Hopefully the final round.

The guy at the bank gave me a list — down to the penny — of all the hits. I felt sick. Until I saw that report, I had no idea something had been going on. There were no flare guns, no strange packages, nothing to alert me. It had been going on since the beginning of May, more than 3 weeks before I knew there was a problem. A week more before I realized the extent of the problem. The day before yesterday, I got it.

“This is considered identity theft, ” the bank manager said. This was confirmed by the guy at the police station because we had to go back with all this additional information. Previously, all I knew about attempted thefts. This was the real deal. The took the money and laughed all the way to the shops where they bought stuff.

Truck parts. Lots of truck parts. I didn’t know truck parts could cost so much money, but I suppose when you steal them for free, whatever you get for them on the market is “free money” for you. Not for me or the bank, but a hop, skip, plus a little jump, made some thief happy.

A quick trip to the grocery. Frozen pizza for dinner. I was in no mood for cooking.

I assume big parts of our own private military hackers are on top of this stuff. Even though nothing is reported in the press, I would imagine this doesn’t get a lot of press coverage. All it would do is warn the targets.

The brightest — and funniest — moment of the day is when Garry called me from the police station and when I looked at the phone, it said “Interview Room 3.” It was a very NCIS moment.

I have alerted the police, all three credit monitoring agencies, filed reports with everyone. Deleted embedded copies of my credit cards from anywhere I knew they existed. Each time I use a shop, I will have to replace the card numbers then and as soon as the transaction is complete, delete it.

No matter what anyone says, if they are keeping your credit card information, your data is NOT secure.

These days, I’m not sure what secure even means.

IN STARK CONTRAST – Marilyn Armstrong

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IN STARK CONTRAST TO EVERYTHING WE CLAIM TO STAND FOR, AMERICA ISN’T AMERICAN. NOT ANYMORE.


Watching our “officials” deny the undeniable — with the head of Homeland Security saying she hadn’t seen or heard anything about snatching children from their parents while on the split screen you could see it happening — America isn’t American.

Like most countries, we have plenty of dirty laundry. Slaughters of our Native Americans which was for many long years the actual policy of the U.S. government and its armed forces. Homemade concentration camps for Japanese citizens in World War II.

Then, there was slavery, the huge, bloody war we fought to (supposedly) end it. The neverending inequality and hatred that still remains and is still growing.

In an image provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, immigrants taken into custody at the border sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection / AP)

But what we are doing today, tearing kids away from their families and locking them in cages — especially after having fought our way through World War 2 to end such monstrous behavior — this is as evil as anything else we’ve ever done and I am ashamed to be American.

Someone else asked it this morning in a post: “So when do we start loading parents and kids on trains to those final camps?”

Because that’s what’s left. If we accept this as “Just Trump being Trump and it’s all a media lie,” then we are as bad as they are, as evil as they come.

The authorities released this image of illegal migrants inside a large cage – reporters said they saw unaccompanied children in similar conditions.

If you have a line in the sand, some kind of conscience that screams “this is the line I cannot cross,” now would be a good time to look down at your feet and stop.

I don’t know how to live in this country anymore. I’m not sure I even want to — and I was born here as was my mother and father.

OSTENTATION – Marilyn Armstrong

WHO’S OSTENTATIOUS?

FOWCYou must be talking about someone else. We live in an old house, drive an old (yet somehow, not fully paid for) car. We wear ratty clothing (it’s really because of the dogs — nice clothing would just get covered by hair, so what’s the point?). We live in a town where you couldn’t buy a luxury item for love or money. No one sells luxury items unless you count the lumber yard or Walmart as luxury purveyors.

You know what’s really weird? I have never had any interest in impressing the world with my goods. I occasionally envy someone’s location. They live in a particularly beautiful place or near an ocean … but of all my sins, envy isn’t one of them. I come from a family where comparing things you bought is not about how much you spent, but how much you saved. As in: “I got this $400 suit for $25 on the super clearance rack!”

That’s bragging. Telling people you paid the full price for any item? Why would that impress anyone?

It’s probably why we aren’t rich. To become wealthy, you have to care about money and we’ve simply never cared enough. These days, though, I wish we’d cared a little more.

LITERALLY AS OPPOSED TO FIGURATIVELY – Marilyn Armstrong

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Literally. Not figuratively. Because figuratively means “related to or analogous to” but it doesn’t mean “factually the same.”

This is one of those frequently used terms that’s often misunderstood. Literally has nothing to do with literature. I’m sure the “lit” part comes from some Greek or Latin root word but is not a literal interpretation of the expression “literally.” Figuratively speaking.

Speaking literally means that what you are saying is true. It’s not an analogy or something that’s similar to something else. If you say “That is literally what happened” you are saying this is not an exaggeration or some other kind of relationship to the whatever it was.

It’s what happened. Really. No kidding. It’s the news. Maybe it’s the news roundup. It is true.

Remember true? Literally is true, just like I said it.

2019: EARTH ABIDES ACHIEVES PLATINUM – REBLOG PLUS MY REVIEW

I don’t know how many copies I have owned of this book. Or how many times I’ve read it. I know it has been often. I first read it when I was a teenager and I’ve been rereading it regularly ever since. I used to give away copies to people who hadn’t read it yet and eventually, kept extra copies, just in case. Which meant that I had to read it again. So I bought another copy.

A couple of years ago, I bought the audiobook which has a great introduction by Connie Willis. Since I can’t give that one away, I still have a few paperbacks waiting for whoever becomes the next person I meet who hasn’t read it. Yet. Or who need to read it again 😀

After this reblog, you’ll find my review of the book. It’s probably my fifth review since I started this blog. Periodically, I really need to reread this book. I’m addicted.

Also, please add to today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt:

Antediluvian

The story isn’t exactly antediluvian — but then again, perhaps it is. In its own way.


Ish's Hammer(1)According to Google, both the 70th and hundredth anniversaries are honored with platinum gifts.  Since Earth Abides is closing in on the 70th anniversary of publication, George R. Stewart’s epic work is approaching platinum.

The novel was published on October 7, 1949.  It immediately caught the attention of reviewers for its well-written, epic tale of humans living in a world they no longer dominate.  One later reviewer went so far as to call it “a second work of Genesis.”  With its title from Ecclesiastes and the old testament rhythm of its language, it is almost biblical in its feeling. Never dull, however.

Stewart later insisted he didn’t intend it to be a religious work.  But even he admitted that there was “a certain quality there.”  The language was one thing.  Stewart taught himself Hebrew before he wrote the book.  He wanted to translate portions of the Bible into more modern English.  He was surely influenced by the style of ancient Hebrew.

The book has had enormous influence.  Stephen King based The Stand on Earth Abides, Grammy-nominated composer Philip Aaberg wrote “Earth Abides,”  Jimi Hendrix was inspired to write “Third Rock From the Sun” from the novel (his favorite book). Other authors and scientists honor Stewart’s works.  It is published in either 20 or 27 languages, depending on who you ask.  There is some talk of producing a film version of the novel.

It was also the first winner of the “fantasy novel” award. It generated a whole genre of post-apocalyptic writing and another entire generation of disaster books — and sadly, movies. Connie Willis, who reads the introduction says it hugely influenced her work on many levels.

The best essay about the novel was written by James Sallis and published in The Boston Globe.  Like Stewart, Sallis realizes the importance of integrity and beauty in his work, and it’s reflected in his essay.  (Sallis is a distinguished novelist and poet, whose noir novella Drive was filmed by Nicolas Winding Refn.)

The novel has never been out of print –no thanks to its original publisher.  Random House decided to pull the novel in the early 1970s.  Fortunately, Stewart and small fine press publisher Alan Ligda quickly got together and brought out a beautiful copy from Ligda’s Hermes Press.

Hermes EA

The Hermes edition sold well.  Random House quickly realized they’d made a mistake and bought the rights back.

Thanks to Alan Ligda, Earth Abides has been in print for seventy years come next October.  He is a Hero of the novel.  Sadly, he died young, and won’t be able to help celebrate the book’s Platinum Anniversary.  So please take a minute (or more) to say a silent thanks to Alan Ligda while you celebrate the novel.

ligda

And read the novel again.  (You’ll have to do a number of readings to catch up with Steve Williams, the Pilgrim, who doesn’t know how many dozens of times he’s read it.)  As you read, reflect on Stewart’s role in raising our consciousness of the ecosystem.

His wildly popular ecological novels, Storm, Fire, and Earth Abides, and his less-widely read “post-modernist” ecological novel, Sheep Rock, have shaped our thinking.  Like most great creative works of thought, they have more power than all the armies in existence.  That pen (or, in Stewart’s case, pencil) is mightier than the sword. By the way – if you want to buy a signed first edition,  Morley’s Books in Carson City just happens to have one.  It comes with a custom box to protect the classic.  Only $1600 – about half the price of another on offer at ABE.

EA Morleys

via 2019: EARTH ABIDES ACHIEVES PLATINUM


EARTH STILL ABIDES – Marilyn Armstrong

When I first read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart more than 50 years ago, it wasn’t newly published, but it was new to me.

Unlike many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides has stuck with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere. Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. This is especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this one book — not to be too punny — spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping off point for an entire genre.

Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.

Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post-apocalyptic science fiction. Above all, it is a book of rebuilding, renewal, and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.

Earth Abides was the first recipient of the medal for Fantasy Novel.


You might think the technology in the story is going to be old and silly. Except, everything fails almost immediately when people are gone. It doesn’t matter what you used to have — except electricity.

It turns out, whatever super high tech stuff you have in your tech-pile of devices if you don’t have power, you have nothing. It’s just rubble.


The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and create a new civilization. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds balance.

The animals return. Old animals and new animals. Dogs and cats remain and the only absolutely lost creature turns out to be the human louse. Not too many people went to the funeral of those three species.

Most diseases of the old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religion, outdated social structures and cultural norms are discarded or merely slip away. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice. The color line becomes extinct.

There is much that needs doing in this brand new world, but there’s an infinite amount of future in which to do it.

The earth will be repopulated. Gently and peacefully. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before but lacks its former demons.

The book was re-released as a 60th-anniversary edition in 2009, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis. It’s now 2018 (going on 2019) — making it just about 70 years and the book is still not merely relevant, but hopeful. By my standards, optimistic.

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover editi...
Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover edition of Earth Abides. Cover illustration by H. Lawrence Hoffman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last time I read it was just following its re-release. Now, I’m reading it again. Even after all these years, it kept me up until dawn. I haven’t read the night away in several years and it wasn’t intentional. I couldn’t let the story go.

Eight years has given me time to be surprised by the book again. Surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years. How enormously his belief structure adapts to new realities. How much of the detritus of the previous world he eventually allows to disappear. How open his mind becomes.

It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.

Earth Abides was published in 1949. In some parts of the U.S. and other countries, the issues with which the book’s characters grapple are still very much alive. They shouldn’t be. We have moved on but not enough and right now, we are going backward faster than we ever moved forward.

The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world goes back to pre-technological. It has wind, water and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.

The world ends, a reborn world begins. Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth. There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart — The EARTH ABIDES Project. Please check it out!

It’s available for Kindle, Audible download, audiobook, hardcover, and paperback. There was time when it was difficult to find, but it seems to have found its way back into bookstores and libraries.  I’m glad. It remains among my top five all time favorite science fiction novels and if you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present.

I have a spare copy, just in case.

Notes on language (Hebrew) and its use:

Many people (including Connie Willis) think the name “Ish” is related to some ancient native American with a similar name or some mythical creature from some legend. However, if you read the original commentary from the Stewart home blog, you’ll realize as Stewart was writing this book, he was studying Hebrew. He wanted to retranslate the bible. Yes, he WAS an academic — the best kind.

His two primary founders were a man and a woman, called “ISH” — in Hebrew pronounced “eesh,” meaning man and “EMMA.” in Hebrew pronounced “eema.” It means mother.

Ish and Emma are the founding parents of the world to come. Their names are not an obscure reference to other books or myths. They are standard Hebrew and anyone who speaks the language — even a little bit — will get it.

GUMPTION – Marilyn Armstrong

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GETTING THE GUMPTION TO GET UP AND AT ‘EM!

I have to admit, these days, it takes a certain amount of good ole’ gumption to get myself out of bed at all. It has been a frantic month and I can count on a frantic couple of months to come. I’m feeling the stress.

Finally, after relaxing enough to enjoy retirement, I feel like I’m back on a treadmill. I suppose I should feel good about it because it will have — I believe — good results and make our world a better place. Nonetheless, it has been a rough road. I’ve worked hard at unknotting the stress mess I’d become by the time I quit work and realized I wasn’t going to do it anymore. Now, it’s back.

Gumption is a great word and one you don’t hear much anymore. I remember when it was quite common, but our language has turned into a kind of internet shorthand and all the gorgeous, rich words seem to be disappearing. “LOL” and “OMG” and the like will never give us the feeling or wealth our previous language allowed.

These days, it’s had to have the gumption to just get on with it and survive. From a relatively peaceful world — which had its problems, mind you — we have been tossed willy-nilly into a nightmare world where everything we believed before makes no sense.

As I said: It takes a fair bit of gumption to just get up in the morning and face the day.

Does anyone think it is going to get easier? Yesterday, they actually locked up Manafort. I think that was the first thing all week that made me feel almost good.

World? Throw me a few crumbs! I need hope to keep on keeping on!

RDP #16 : TARGET

RDP # 16: TARGET

Lately, I have felt like a target. Three credit cards (all from the same bank) hacked. Lots of paperwork on fraud. A general sense that whatever I thought was “safe” before was just a myth I told myself to keep from getting crazy.

I hate this feeling. Between living under a presidency run by a madman with his finger on the nuclear buttons, hackers attacking my computer, telephone, and email scammers, and, of course, router hackers?

Do I have a target painted somewhere on me that everyone can see — except me?

We should all be able to feel at least reasonably secure in our own spaces, our homes. Our businesses. Our personal lives. We should not be waiting for the next attacker to try to lure us into danger or hack our data.

Thank you, Facebook.

You really helped the hackers and probably made a fortune doing it, too. I notice you are spending millions of dollars on advertisements which are supposed to make us “feel better” about you, but you haven’t spent a penny to help protect the people you hurt. People like me who took your hit in the first place and now wonder if anything will ever return to normal.

And most of all, thank you President Dirtbag. You have left me wondering when the next holocaust is coming to destroy what remains.


We are the TARGET.


Me. Us. Our world.