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Editing this month‘s newsletter
Editing this month‘s newsletter

JeJune 2022

HI –

This is generally a nice month, warm and pleasant. That’s why the ogres find it boring. It is at least the start of the hurricane season, which of course they like, so it’s not a total loss. They mostly snooze through it. If you see one in that state, let him be; it’s best to let sleeping ogres lie. The lady ogres use this respite to primp for their unbeauty contests. They are proud of their ugliness. The smile of an ogress can curdle milk. Once there was an actress who was assigned to play the role of an ogress. She was not of that ilk herself, but she was a good actress. A really good actress. Her smile could curdle water. They don’t make them like that in Mundania.

MaryLee and I celebrated her birthday – she was xxxx years old – watching Sing 2. Sequels may or may not match their originals in quality or interest. This one does. The group is trying to make the big time, but critics won’t take them seriously, so it’s a struggle. They make a supreme effort and put together a show that wins applause. Again, the pictures are cartoons, but the singing is real, and can be moving.

Our Sunken Garden has gone largely to ferns, but the papaya tree continues to fruit, and the pink hibiscus continues to flower. In a separate cage in the back yard we have Christmas Cactus and about a dozen Caladiums. You know, the lovely leaves that grow directly from the ground, as pretty as flowers. I know, by rights the plural should be Caladia, and I even named a character that in one of my books, but the dictionaries haven’t caught up with me yet. I bought them about four years ago as a gift for my late wife Carol, and in due course planted them outside, protected by chicken wire. They had about 45 plants a season, but the number has diminished with time. Now we have one flower. It’s no more colorful than the leaves, but maybe it will enable the plants to propagate. Stay tuned, in future years. I tease my paralyzed correspondent, Jenny, that she conceals her excitement about news like this marvelously well. The same goes for you column readers. Your yawning doesn’t fool me.

Have you ever been going about your routine business when something out of left field amazes you? Normally left field messes me up. The way I put it, I have no personal belief in the supernatural; I regard it as fantasy. I exploit it to earn my living by writing popular fantasy novels, you know, like the Xanth series, but my belief in magic is zero. That annoys the supernatural, so it gets back at me via Left Field, leaving me messed up but unable to prove that the supernatural did it. But this time it was positive. I was reading the local newspaper, the survivor of three we once subscribed to, but the other two stopped delivering to this backward neck of the woods. If I want to keep up with national and international news I may have to get a Smartphone. Then maybe I'll have opportunity to watch The Naked News, if it still exists. Knowing Left Field, it may shut down just before I get to watch. Anyway, I was reading, with the radio playing in the background – you, know, the twentieth century device like television, only without pictures – when a lovely song came on. I think it is titled “Perhaps Love.” I remember it from decades ago, and never really noticed it, but this time it smote me with its loveliness. Almost like discovering a violet in the sewer, isolated beauty amid the deadly dullness of drear Mundania. I mentioned it to MaryLee, and she looked it up on her smartphone, and agreed about its appeal. I shall want to hear it again.

Last time I mentioned having a toothache despite having no remaining teeth. That discomfort bothered me several weeks, then gradually faded. Maybe I bit down too hard on something and bruised the bone beneath? Or simply Left Field toying with me again. Apart from that, I suspect that my lack of real teeth contributes to improved health. I took good care of my teeth most of my life, but they still decayed. My dentist discovered that some infection was in the bone beneath the tooth, so it couldn’t have been anything I had neglected. I remember how, back in the day, my wisdom teeth came in complete with cavities. So the dentures have eliminated a curse of my former life. Not that they are perfect; sharp bits love to get in under them, so that I can’t chew until I take them out and rinse them off. But overall, I am satisfied.

I also mentioned discovering that I have a heart condition. My pulse was fast, my blood pressure high, and there was a flutter. I never expected this, because I have rigorously maintained a healthy lifestyle. If my heart does not effectively clear all the blood passing through it, some could stagnate, develop a clot, and if that clot gets loose it could do serious damage elsewhere, such as the brain, in a stroke. Hence expensive medication to lower the pressure, slow the pulse, and thin the blood so no clot forms. This reminds me of an old “shut-up” joke: “Mommy, mommy, what’s a vampire?” “Shut up, kid, and eat your soup before it clots.” But a clot is no joke, and I don’t want one. The medicine seems to be effective; my pressure and pulse are down, and I trust any forming clots are being thinned. I may have to have a procedure called ablation to clear the system. Time will tell. I feel fine, for whatever that’s worth, and this column should be an indication of my mental state. If that makes my critics cringe into heart attacks, so be it.

I wrote Chapters 9 and 10 of Xanth #48 Three Novel Nymphs, bringing it to 75,000 words. For supposedly empty headed creatures good for Only One Thing they are turning out to be good for considerably more. Yet, it’s a subtle analogy of the state of womankind in our supposedly even handed culture. When protagonist Nydia goes to recruit the most fearsome Element, the Void, to their mission of saving Xanth and incidentally one or two galaxies from annihilation, she uses her magic wand to give his spirit the semblance of a human man, so he will have a body and brain and be able to converse with her so she can make her pitch. He is timeless, has almost infinite wealth and power, and knows it, but no friends. “I'm so lonely,” he says brokenly. She recognizes another aspect of her mission, and enfolds him, saying “Not any more.” With that realization she transforms from Nymph to Woman. Okay, maybe this gives away too much of the story, so I am trusting you not to tell. As readers of my books and columns, you are bound to be superior folk, no? Who understand concepts like Honor and Decency and Common Sense in a manner ordinary folk don’t. We don’t want the publisher to bounce it because it seems too familiar.

I messed up a Jumble word puzzle, getting everything right except one word. It was supposed to be “poise” but I had “posie” as in a little bouquet of flowers. So I looked it up in my collection of dictionaries, and they denied the word existed. But what about “A pocketful of posies” and such? It turned out that the singular is “posy.” Sigh. Did I mess up, or did reality change when I wasn’t looking? Maybe Left Field again.

And back to my one minute books, the spot reading I do while impatiently waiting for the email program to connect to the internet. I was in Desmond Morris’s Body Watching, all about the myriad aspects of the human body. We had just covered bearded men. Next is the neck. Men are supposed to be bull necked, while women have longer, more tapered necks. I wonder whether that is the origin of the term “necking”? Theoretically Adam in the Garden of Eden ate a forbidden apple — the fruit is not actually named in the Bible — and a piece of it lodged in his neck, becoming the Adam’s apple. Meanwhile some cultures try to lengthen women’s necks to make them even prettier, such as in Burma, putting brass rings around them to stretch them. This is hardly the only effort to improve women; more on that soon. The neck promotes head motions that convey social signals, such as the Throat Cut meme indicating serious mischief, the Head Nod, the Head Bow, and others. 22 are listed, concluding with the Head Loll, indicating boredom. The shoulders also give multiple signals, such as down and back to indicate calm and alertness, and up and forward for alarm, anxiety or hostility. There are the shoulder shake and shoulder shrug, which can exaggerate laughter, and symbolic impotence or ignorance. The arms of course have many gestures; when mankind stood on two legs it freed the forelimbs to become arms with their multiple uses. That eventual transformed his success as a species, in significant part because it enabled him to make and use tools and weapons. That and Fire – I am referring to my own research here, for the moment – made mankind the ruler of the world, driving all other species toward extinction. Okay back to the book. The arms may seem like dangling front legs, but they are wa-ay more than that. They can be developed into massive powerhouse limbs, as shown by Mr. Universe contests, but women don’t find that sexually attractive. Maybe because it requires so much single minded effort that a man’s main attention goes to that instead of to women. But more moderate development is okay. The armpits secrete hormones to help seduce women. Women’s armpits are less so. The hands also contrast, the man’s having about twice the gripping power of the woman’s. But the women’s hands are more precise. I remember how my wife could thread a needle more readily than I could. This book suggests that probably women were the original creative artisans. Regardless of gender, the human hand is phenomenally more versatile than any animal paw. The hands do not sweat from heat, only from from stress. Their fingers differ; no two people have the same fingerprints. The palms do not tan. The fingers can make obscene gestures, such as the Pistola, where the forefinger pokes through the circle of the thumb and forefinger of the other hand, like a penis in a vagina. Among Arabs a forefinger can tap against the bunched tips of the digits of the other hand, symbolizing that a woman has copulated with five males. And of course the Middle Finger gesture has been around from Roman times, maybe longer. And the Ring Finger, symbolizing marriage. In my day that finger was also used for Dorking, used to hang loose and strike another person on the head, an insult. And the Pinkie, the littlest and weakest. They can be wildly decorated, as with Thai dancers. Deliberately crooked little fingers may indicate support for equal rights in sexual matters. Fingernails grow about four times as fast as toenails and can get as long as several feet if not trimmed or broken off.

And the chest. Men had to be better athletes with heavy chests with bigger lungs, while women developed enlarged sweat glands adapted to produce milk. But they are also sexual displays. Other primate females have flat chests when not lactating, but humans stay swollen from maturity on. Why? Because while a full rump is sufficient advertising for other primates, humans tend to stand face to face. So her chest imitates her butt, signaling the male whichever way she faces. Gotcha coming and going. Unfortunately that over-bulging breast can interfere with nursing, as the baby can’t breathe. So small breasted women can be more efficient feeders. I didn’t see it in the book, but I know why this display exists. When humans managed to stand on two feet, the woman with a child had to carry it until it got fast enough on its feet to keep up with her, and she couldn’t forage effectively or escape danger as well. She needed the help of a man, so nature used continuous sex appeal to keep him interested. Other creatures often breed and separate, the male losing interest the moment she’s not breedable. Full breasts are a turnoff, because a nursing female is not breedable. That won’t do here. So she conceals her status, hiding when she is actually breedable, and being capable of going through the motions anytime. That keeps him close. It’s the female conspiracy, and it works; the offspring of such women survive, while the offspring of non-continuous breasted women did not. If men become aware of the trap, they don’t care; they are the result of the line that likes breasts regardless of their functions. And of course clothed women use the bra to maintain the appearance of freshly nubile creatures, uncomfortable as those harnesses can be. Appearance is everything. Now you know. And it seems that some women have three or more breasts, but these are not advertised.

The book continues with The Back, which can be muscular for men and sexy for women. Because we are still adapting to the upright posture, it is subject to strain, and backaches are common. The curvature is different for the genders, with men more upright, women more bent to display their buttocks. I have noted this when shopping in the grocery store, where there can be remarkable displays I pretend not to notice, being with my wife. Backs can also be decorated, as with tattoos. The book shows one illustrating a fox hunt, with mounted horses jumping over a fence, dogs racing, and the fox disappearing into the butt crack. That smells like an excellent hiding place. And the Belly. Because it is next to the genitals, the prudery contingent has tended to censor it too, though it has more to do with digestion than reproduction. However, the naval has been seen as an analogy to a lower hole, at least on women. On slender models it can be a vertical slit. And of course there is belly dancing, with rampant symbolism. And the hips. In the past women used clothing to exaggerate the breadth of their hips, sometimes to the point that sex appeal was lost. There are pictures – well, never mind; there can indeed be too much of a good thing. And the buttocks; they are another story in themselves. Men admire women’s fattened butts, of course, but women also go for male butts I remember decades ago when they surveyed women about what part of the male body appealed to them most; and the answer was Buns. One picture shows a woman passing a nude man in shallow water, glancing back significantly at his bare buttocks. It seems that our early ancestors were much bigger buttocked than we are today. Those stone figurines were it appears not exaggerations but replicas of beautiful women of their day. It has been suggested that the stylized heart shape of love was based on the outline of buttocks. In some tribal societies the bow as a greeting ceremony is done facing away, a rump presentation. And of course they can be decorated; one picture shows faces painted on them, maybe making expressions as the person walks. And there is the lover’s embrace with his hands cupping her buttocks. Presumably there are occasions when her hands cup his buttocks.

And the genitals. When folk started walking on two legs, their genital regions became fully exposed, on show whenever two people faced one another. Pubic hair is a visual signal of sexual maturity; people became breedable when that hair grew. A dead giveaway on status and wonder, because a man’s rising interest was clearly visible to the woman. It shifted from smell to sight because a man’s nose was no longer at the same height as a woman’s rump. So naturally they soon covered it up with loincloths or whatever. The testicles are exposed, being more efficient when cooler; in five seconds it is said that 15,000 sperm are generated. One orgasm ejaculates between 200 and 400 million sperm. The thickness of the human penis seems intended by nature to provide pleasure for the woman so that she likes sex too. Other animals can have bones in the penis so it can be pencil thin and do the job; a man’s member has to go through the complicated process of erection. And of course the purists labor to interfere, with things like male and female circumcision to surgically eliminate the pleasure of the act. They made up false reasons involving things like cancer, which have been disproven. Yes, I regard circumcision as barbaric, and am glad I escaped it, being lucky enough to have been born in England where there is not a medical profit to be made from the surgery.

The legs account for half the human body height, and apart from enabling us to get around, have become sexual objects too. Men look at women’s legs, and women take care to expose as much of them to view as is feasible, up to as close to their juncture as society will allow. So naturally short skirts are considered immoral in some circles. But I remember a survey long ago that showed that the most accurate parallel to the stock exchange was the height of skirts: the higher they were, the higher the market went. That almost makes me suspect there could be a connection between money and sex. “What the very short skirts have symbolized, more than any sexual factor, is a sense of freedom. Females in short skirts can stride and leap and step out in the world.” I'm all for giving women that freedom, especially when I am watching. There are three basic positions of the legs: apart, together, crossed. Apart suggests confidence and invitation, especially when sitting. The proper young lady keeps her legs together. Crossed is a whole 'nother story. The “wrong” kind of crossing can expose everything, as with the ankle over thigh cross. The book lists nine ways to cross. In general, the tighter the cross, the more defensive the person. Then there’s the gait. You know, the walk. The book lists 36 variations. I think of the comment “Wait till you see the way she walks.” Again, I notice in the grocery store. Men just walk to get where they are going, but women send signals with every step. It’s in their bones and flesh; they can’t move without broadcasting. And at last the feet. They are used for walking, of course, and folk who walk a lot, like several miles a day, tend to live longer. And wouldn’t you know it, women are literally hobbled by society. Picture a woman walking miles in high heels. In the orient they had foot binding; in the west it’s heels. Western women have ten times the foot ailments as men. If I were looking for a woman to live with – I'm not, having found one – I’d orient on her feet, preferring a healthy one without the crucifixion of heels. She’d be fitter and lower maintenance. The shoe has been employed as a symbol of the female genitals. That’s why “The old woman who lived in a shoe” –that is, her life centered on her genitals – had so many children she didn’t know what to do. It’s why shoes are tied to the back of cars bearing newlyweds. Foot kissing could be because the sweat of the foot resembles that of the genital region, a special turn-on. In conclusion, God was thought to operate through the right foot, the Devil through the left foot. So watch where your step.

This is only part of what’s in Body Watching. I regard it as one of the more significant books I have encountered, as shown by the inordinate length of this discussion, and I recommend it to others. I learned things I never thought of before.

In the news is the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at a school in Texas. Of course I feel that this is yet one more reason for better gun control: to keep these weapons out of the hands of the nuts bent on the slaughter of innocents. I understand that the gunman had been bullied; I appreciate his frustration there. But when he got a gun, why didn’t he use it on the bullies, who maybe deserved to be shot? Why go after children who had surely done him no harm? So there has to be more to this story. But at present there seems to be no more practical answer than to take steps to keep the guns the hell out of the hands of such ilk. Yes, there is the Second Amendment; there still needs to be some guarantee that you won’t be randomly shot by a stranger with a gun and an itch to break a record. I also wonder about police who it seems remained outside for an hour, knowing that children were being murdered inside. If that was the order of their superiors, why? Why not fire a sleeping gas shell inside? Much needs to be explained.

The Equedia Letter keeps coming. My balky system refused to print out a couple of issues, so I couldn’t bring them here to the column. The one for 5/8/22 says essentially that investing is a gamble, and to be wary of advisers. That the folk who rate stocks don’t earn their living off the accuracy of their calls, but from bringing in “the flow” investment banking clients. There’s an inherent conflict of interest. They recommend mostly “buy” investments that on average underperform the market. And they have not predicted a single recession on record. So be wary. The one for May 15, 2022, says that China put its second biggest city, Shanghai in total lockdown, so for a month 25 million people have been locked up with limited food, medicine, and other supplies. We may face similar measures, in the name of halting covid. The Biden administration wants MIT to develop its own digital currency, called Project Hamilton, a vital step to secure America’s financial dominance. They mention CBDC, central bank digital currency. This would give the government better control of currency. CBDCs are not crypto currencies, but a different tool controlled by the central bank. “And if, God forbid, it becomes the only legal tender, it would mark the end of any financial freedom there is left.” Now I'm largely ignorant of this sort of thing, but this makes me nervous.

A fan remarked on a comment of mine about insurance companies not necessarily paying claims. Sometimes a person has to sue to make his insurance company pay a legitimate claim. She says that the words “State Insurance Commissioner” work like magic to bring reform. If a claim should have been paid, and wasn’t, the fine is $1,000 per claim, per day, until it is properly paid. I am no expert here, but I mention this for the possible benefit of readers who may feel they have been unfairly treated. The service is free.

I continue to struggle to keep up with my magazine subscriptions, slowly losing ground. I read FREE INQUIRY for April/May 2022. Op-Ed columnist Gregory S Paul’s piece is titled “Why I Don’t Like Ike.” He says that the acme of the model reasonable Republican is popular two-term president Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower. “I beg to differ. American conservatism has been wild and wacky going way back, always being much more radical – and religious – than conservatism in the other developed democracies. Fearing antagonizing the GOP hard line base he needed to get elected, Eisenhower did not directly confront the virulent Joe McCarthy, and held his nose and picked Richard Nixon as his running mate. Nixon was “a borderline paranoid casual racist” who later had to resign the presidency in disgrace. The article concludes “The notion that American conservatives need to return to their 'reasonable' basics of small government is sociopolitical madness. Even their core ideas are as radical as they are unworkable. To meet modern developed international conservative norms, the American Right has to abandon its promotion of religion and common consort of creationism, gun possession, low taxes, opposition to universal health care and reproductive rights, and antiscientific denial of climate change.” Wow! I belong to no political party, and never did, but in general the Republicans have stood for whatever I'm against, and against what I'm for, and this shows why. Another article by Christina Anne Knight is titled “Why There Is No Afterlife: A Systems Perspective.” This says the survival instinct is strong in our species and maybe the afterlife is an attempt to reconcile that with death. Westerners generally do not believe that trilobites or velociraptors are hanging out with 72 virgin members of their species or singing hosannas in some paradise. So why should we be the exception? If there is some form of conscious mind that survives death, why should only humans have it? Meanwhile the attempt to determine the physical location of the mind founders because of its emergent character. Without the unimaginably complex brain to generate it, and the body to maintain that brain, it seems unlikely that it can exist. So without life, there can’t be mind, and without a mind, no afterlife. I am strenuously oversimplifying the reasoning here, but I encourage you to read the article and understand it for yourself. This almost literally mind stretching material.

And the clippings. The Hightower LOWDOWN for March-April 2022 headlines “How the Right Wing Captured the Supreme Court.” Today only 40% of Americans give the Supreme Court a passing grade. “The great irony of the Supreme’s use of their judicial power to advance their radical political agenda is that they are destroying the legitimacy of the court itself...” It mentions how it put George W in as president by assigning Florida to him, when actually it went for Gore. Don’t I remember! And of course now they are getting ready to overthrow the precedent of Roe v. Wade. Monstrous mischief will come of that. The cover of THE WEEK for May 6, 2022, shows Florida governor DeSantis spanking Mickey Mouse while Snow White and others look on appalled. It’s that Disney stood up for its gay workers, treating them the same as other workers, triggering Republican rage, so they are passing legislation to punish Disney. Microplastics now permeate the globe, and now are found even in our blood. THE WEEK for May 20,2022, has a note “The dirty secret of plastic recycling” says we might feel we are making a difference when we separate containers for recycling, but only a small fraction is actually repurposed, and that amount is dropping. It’s down to 6 percent. Much of it winds up in landfills or is burned. So it may be that my years of carefully sorting and washing plastic containers and taking them to ever-receding collection centers is wasted. That annoys me. 200 million years ago ichthyosaurs dominated the seas, so big they could eat giant squid. Not exactly a clipping, but I was anonymously mailed a mini booklet saying ABSOLUTELY FREE, the most wonderful and precious gift of eternal life in a glorious Heaven. All I have to do is come to God in humble prayer, and admit my guilt as a sinner and repent. Sorry, but as a lifelong agnostic I am passing up this offer. To me, religion is a fantasy, and I try to deal in reality. News item May 21, 2022, tells how female politicians are subjected to ten times the abusive messages on Twitter, including threats of rape or death, and suggesting that they kill themselves. If I ruled the world, it would be the threateners who would get put away. Article in NEW SCIENTIST 30 April 2022 by Clair Ainsworth proffers new insights about aging. I, as an octogenarian, am interested. It seems that aging is not so much wear and tear but a program that can on occasion be reversed. But there’s a snag: when cells are reprogrammed they can turn cancerous. So it seems that more research is needed. The April 23 issue has one by Amelia Tait titled “Ghostbusting.” No, not real ghosts; this is about social ghosting, where one person ends all communication with another, disappearing like a phantom. The victim may or may not know why. The conclusion is that it is better just to say “No thanks. See you around.” My recent emails are sometimes unreliable, so that ones I have sent don’t arrive, which makes it seem as if I am ghosting folk. For the record: I don’t ghost. I ignore offers to sell me gimcracks or to buy my land or to save my soul, or to promote “my book,” but that’s different. And I am trying to upgrade my system so that my mail does get through more reliably. An article by Dr. Robert Brockett, the dentist who installed the implants for my dentures, recommends continuing to use masks. “...one of the great mysteries was how to cure the common cold. We have had it all along: a well-fitting N95 mask will block viral particles, if you wear it.” Magnet-guided viruses could cure cancer. I hope they perfect that soon. An AP fact check finds that National Rifle Association speakers distort gun and crime statistics. My belief is that if you have to lie to make your case, it’s not much of a case. NEW SCIENTIST for May 7, 2022, has an article by Robin George Andrews titled “A seismic mystery” that says the deep inside Earth are two vast geological anomalies of unknown origin. The tentative conclusion is that they stem from the long-ago collision of the meteor Theia with Earth that threw up a cloud of debris that became the moon, while much of it remains buried four and a half billion years later. Rest in peace, Theia. Another article in NEW SCIENTIST for 7 May, 2022, by Franz de Waal, says that humans police the expression of sex and gender much more than other primates do. For example, we don’t like to talk about the clitoris. I suspect that the notion that women could have any sexual interest or response upsets the puritans.

Last and least, my hearing aids. I am old and my hearing has faded somewhat. I usually don’t know what I'm not hearing because it is, well, inaudible, but hearing tests show it. One problem has been that when I put on glasses, and a mask that hooks around the ears, the hearing aids can snag. I have lost several, not realizing it until I got home without knowing where I lost them. My last replacement, together with a hearing test, cost me $3000. Another problem is that they work intermittently, refusing to operate for days or weeks at a time, then pretending they never were out of service. So I am experimenting. Today, Jejune Oneth, an internet ordered set arrived, costing all of $100 per unit. I charged them up and put them on, and they work. I don’t want to seem cheap, but if I'm going to be losing them, I’d rather lose them at $100 per than $3000 per. We'll see how they work out.

I hope I haven’t bored you. Until next time —

Piers

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