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Posts from the ‘My blog’ Category

“Lock Her Up!” or “Burn the Witch”: Persecution Language at the RNC

Haven’t blogged in a while. But I figured I’d try a series of opinions, like short editorials on the politics of the day. I don’t think my opinion is very important in the scheme of things, but it is my opinion and one can either keep that to oneself or share it.

What is on my mind, as it is with many regular citizens with an interest in politics, is Donald Trump. I just have to give my two cents. The first is not really all Trump, actually, but Republicans in general and their mob chorus chant during the Republican National Convention of “Lock her up!”

The Republican faithful were chanting “Lock Her Up!” in effigy, or at least, I think. I don’t rule anything out now, not with the promise of walls, targeting of specific ethnic groups and nationalities, calls for law and order without any regard as to why the violence occurs, promises to “Make American Great Again” which only sounds like a nationalistic and nostalgic wish for an all-white and antiseptic America.

This persecution language recalls the finger drawn across the throat by Clint Eastwood during his infamous turn at the previous Republican convention and his bizarre monologue to an empty chair, occupied by the metonymic President Obama. It was a gestured threat of one powerful white man to a black man who not only puts Eastwood to shame in terms of power, but who is yet subject to the suppressive privilege of a white actor.

And now Hillary, en masse this time, threatened with the ecstatic mob adrenalin rush with the “Lock Her Up!” chant. This time it’s not white privilege trying to keep a black man in his place, but the patriarchal ideology (which subsumes a lot of women in its sweep) attacking a woman who for the last thirty years has been working her ass off as a respectable and effective politician, global, and social leader. The woman is a threat to the man.

Hillary has achieved more than Donald Trump ever will politically, and she’s not bad at making money, either. But for her to make a lot of money is condemnable, not commendable.

Though the threatening refrain originated, I believe from Gov. Chris Christi, Trump is the one who has created the atmosphere of hate and persecution speech in this campaign. His propaganda relies on attacking his opponents as opposed to offering any substantial solutions to solving problems, or even using any inspiring and uplifting discourse.   Trump uplifts by putting others and everyone else down. One could argue that his tactic is quite brilliant, as it has so far worked for him, but if that is true, its success means that a great deal of the general population is stupid. Propaganda depends on the general public thinking very little. The less we think the easier we are to manipulate, like whipping big crowds into witch-hunt frenzy.

Ask a Hillary hater or Trump supporter, exactly why should she be locked up, and you will probably get, “Because she is such a liar.” Well, she has lied, and she has made mistakes, and she was not forthright over the email scandal at all.

But show me a politician who does not lie, and well, the one who probably most comes closest to that ideal currently is the one in the White House. And as long as Hillary hitches her campaign to Obama the more I’m on board. Obama has been the epitome of statesmanship and integrity and has led with dignity—certainly not without mistakes and disasters along the way, but again, under which president has that not occurred?

The Trump-led “Republican” party has reduced its fight against its main opponent to name calling, fear mongering, and, really, persecution. It’s like being thrown back into the days of the Salem witch-hunt. Might as well just say, “Burn the witch.” Throw her in the Potomac and see if she floats. If she does, she’s a witch, so burn her. If she drowns, she wasn’t a witch but we got rid of her.

Hillary, though, I have the feeling, will swim. Trump? Picture a floating device full of hot air, soon to pop, sending him zooming into irrelevance for a long long time.

God Talks to Scott Walker: Now That’s a Conversation I’d Like to Overhear

According to the exceedingly long Journal Sentinel article (Friday, April 24, 2015) about Scott Walker’s faith and its influence on all aspects of his life, “God speaks to him [Walker] directly or through a daily devotion.”

Evidently, there’s little difference between the two communication forms. God does work in mysterious ways, after all. Among other things, Walker has mentioned that Jesus helped choose his wife and God taught him the lesson of humility on the morning of the day he took that chummy phone call from the David Koch imitator. God’s got good timing.

So it got me to thinking, I wondered what one of those conversations with God would sound like. Before trying to imagine one, I have to say that I for one have renewed confidence in the governor. I mean, not only does he have both houses of the Wisconsin Assembly to help him out, he’s got God. A direct line. And evidently, the real God, the only God there really is, the one God that reserves spiritual salvation only for those who sign up with the real religion. That’s some political capital.

So imagine, a quiet place, like a kitchen nook, flooded with morning sunlight, warm and cheery, the governor having breakfast and having his daily conversation with the Big Guy and a cup of Folgers, steaming.

And God said to Scott . . .

God:            I’m calling you today to go forth, Scott, and skewer some Democrats, roast their little hides, for their own good Scott. I created this world for us, for people like us, Scott, well, I’m not quite ‘people,’ but you know what I mean. The right people. That’s right, Scott, the right kind of people. A lot of these people these days just aren’t right, they’re not what I intended. So Scott, I’m calling on you to do something about these people who aren’t like you and . . . oh, ha ha there I go again, I mean, aren’t like you, the right people. Scott, I want you to take care of those people who are not the right type. You know who I’m talking about. And I don’t mean ‘take care’ in the sense of actually taking care of them, I mean take care of them. Get em out of the way. Keep em on the sidelines.

Scott: I’m feeling you, Lord. I will take it to the bank . . . I mean to the Assembly right away. I’ll see that my disciples continue with the design.

God: Now don’t go getting ahead of yourself, yet, Scott. You’re only just governor still, you’re not, well you know, you’re not President, yet.

(A pause.)

Scott:            Are you saying what I think you’re saying?

God:            I think I am.

Scott:            Wow. I humbly thank you.

God:            Always play the humble card.

Scott:            Keep getting my picture taken while I’m praying?

God:            Yeah, things like that.

Scott:            So, what should I do exactly?

God:             Well, for starters, cut funding to Planned Parenthood. That’s just a nest of angry women. Those women get to thinking they have too much power. Can’t have that. Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with the Grand Plan. Blasphemous, really. And also, while you’re at it, make sure to cut down on your investments into education. Just keep cutting away at the little weasels that all want knowledge! Cannot have that. That of course is what got ya’ll into trouble in the first place, now didn’t it.

Scott:            Damn right.

God:            And never forget that the word “public” means “communist,” which means totalitarian, which means, dictator, which means Stalin.

Scott:            So I did good on the unions?

God:            It was great. Best move you’ve made. It made your name. Scott Walker. Union Buster. The devil’s in the unions. You can use that in your campaign.

Scott:            What about guns?

God:            Make sure people can get their hands on as many of them as possible, and make sure they can get them as soon as possible.

Scott:            Get rid of waiting periods all together?

God:            Hell yes.

Scott:            What about the Gays?

God:            Never let em out of your sight. Don’t ever trust a Gay.

Scott:            So no gay marriage?

God:            Is there global warming?

Scott:            Ha! Ha! Of course not!

God:            Well, there you go.

Scott:            It sounds pretty simple. I think I can do this. Any good devotional wisdom today that I can take with me when I go get my picture taken while praying somewhere and that I can carry to the right people, the chosen ones who still understand that if you take God out of America you’ve got Communism?

God:            I’d say this: Go forth and liberate the right people. (Wink.) And I was never really here. Understand? (A nod)

(Poof.)

Scott:            Totally psyched now. I got God. I got Jesus. I got Koch. I can do this. Just watch me. Let us pray.

 

 

Studio Lounge Reading with Local Milwaukee Writers

Very excited to be part of the foursome (Doug Rose, Robert Vaughan, Ken Walker, and myself, Tom Biel) reading group who will read at the Studio Lounge in Bay View in Milwaukee, on Wednesday, September 24th.  The FB invite is linked below. Hope you can join us.  It will be fun.  We’ll be quick, but entertaining.  Following the reading, Studio Lounge hosts a musical open mic.  Great cocktails too.  Yes, it’s a Wednesday night and we have to work the next day–but hey, we won’t keep you out late, and if by chance you don’t work, I promise a nice, relaxing evening with some good words.  Hope we will see you there.

https://www.facebook.com/events/361399500685829/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum Dismantling Science

outside dinosuar museum #2

Leo about to get eaten by real live dinosaur. Leo, and the truth, are at risk at the Glendive Dinosaur Museum.

“I can talk up a very romantic image of God. But to make the Bible the official science textbook of the whole earth? I heard another man who had stopped in off the highway exclaim out loud, ‘What kind of bullshit is this?’  I looked at him and we shook our heads in disbelief.”   From final chapter, Badlands.

It looks like Leo is in big trouble!  We shot this photo outside the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum, the model for the museum in the final scene of Badlands.

Unfortunately, we did not have time to stop in and go through the museum.  I have before, and it’s a trip, and I wished my family could have gone through it.  Next time.

I mean, it is worth the trip to be able see just what kind of disinformation creationists are promoting.  While they claim the truth about creation, they seek to discredit science. From their own website, “The Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum presents the Truth of God’s Word using the latest in dinosuar and fossil exhibits, paleontological, geological, archaeological, and scientific discoveries.”  They are not short on bombast.

I would recommend visiting the museum for the fun of the experience.  I don’t mean to mock the museum.  It’s very entertaining and quite dynamically displayed, but I think the main reason to visit the museum would be to pass the word about the disservice creationist “scientists” are offering.  To claim the Bible as the only true word of God and thereby the Official Truth of all things, so to speak, is really irresponsible promotion of closed mindedness, self-righteousness, and intolerance for other religions and most notably, for science.

US Review of Books Gives Badlands a Recommended Rating

“Some writers have mastered the art of spinning fantastic tales, trotting out lies of mystery, romance, and high adventure that while barely believable still manage to entertain us. Others choose to cut closer to the bone of truth, making us turn to the author’s blurb at the back of the book to see whether or not what we are reading is fiction or fact. Biel falls into this latter camp with his debut collection of linked stories . . .”  Read more

Upon being placed on the “short list” for the Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize last spring, US Review of Books automatically writes a kind of pre-review of the book.  Thereafter, the book is sent to a reviewer and the official review is published, which you can read by clicking on that link.

Badlands received a “Recommended” status, which according to US Review, goes to about 10% of books reviewed by them, whether self, independent, or major publisher.  

Please feel free to share this link any way you can.  Also, go to Badlands FB page and give it a Like!

Governor Walker Calls for Repeal of Common Core

The way some politicians and demagogues portray the Common Core State Standards you’d think they were molded and born right out of the sinister ultra-control Big Brother of Orwell’s 1984  and then somehow transmogrified into present day reality. The way these people see Common Core, and Governor Walker appears to be one of them, it is some kind of mind control coming down from Big Government robbing not only states of their rights but of individual freedoms and liberties.

Let me list a few of the nefarious and diabolical common core standards for language arts.  I think you will see immediately the threat they cause to the overall well being of our children and their readily influenced minds (get the hemlock ready, guys!):

  • Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings.
  • Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Mind control alert!!!  Analysis!  Valid Reasoning! Literature outside the United States!  The liberals are coming!  The liberals are coming!

Got some news here:  THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS ARE NOTHING NEW.

I’ve been teaching for nearly 30 years, and every year I’ve taught I have always worked toward common core standards, whether they were given down by the feds, the state, the county, the superintendent, the principal, the department chair, or by my very own colleagues.

Teaching is like any other trade.  Do you know of any trade that at its best doesn’t work toward basic standards and measures?  Of course they do, and those standards and measures constantly evolve.  Likewise, Common Core Standards have been in place since teaching began.

It is complete idiocy, or arrogance, to not understand this.  The Common Core Standards are merely the latest edition of the previous common core standards.

If there is a problem with common core, it does come from being somewhat overdone—I mean, the common core standard’s document is not overly complicated, but it is meticulous and at times redundant.

But that’s okay.  Every generation needs some blue print.  If Common Core State Standards provide a platform for teaching and learning goals now, then let them be a ladder to the stars, and in the meantime, forget about all this political muckraking and power grabs and rhetorical disingenuity.  Please.

Let the Common Core standards be, and we will survive just fine.  The less we pay attention to them, the better off we are.  To make a big political ruckus out of them is the real big brother, the big brother that wants to get into the plans of the whole operation, manipulate them as they will, and then declare state’s rights and personal liberty.  Rights and liberty my ass.

In closing, I went randomly to the Reading and Language Arts Common Core and chose an Anchor Standard from the entire catalogue of standards:

Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

 When the Walker libertarian tea party Madd Hatters get together, will they do the absolute redundant, and just write the common core standards themselves again, only, not as effectively?  I mean, look at that standard.  Would you rewrite it in any way?  Is there anything in it you wouldn’t want your child to do at school?  Would anyone really oppose participating in a wide range of conversations with diverse opinions?  Heaven forbid, it sounds frighteningly democratic.

The Common Core State Standards are by no means the problem. The problem is power brokers who want a piece of the educational pie because if you control the consumerism of knowledge you’ve got more power.  You have leverage.

By the way.  When it comes to the Common Core State Standards and teachers, at the bottom line I think most teachers just teach. Their common core is within them already.  The written versions of those codes are what we get in law form. So leave em alone already, and just let us teach. That’s all we really want to do.

 

Book Recommedation: Larry Watson’s Let Him Go

images.mobilism.orgLet Him Go, Larry Watson’s latest novel, packs a punch.  I highly recommend reading this novel, or any of Larry Watson’s novels, including Montana 1948 and American Boy, but this one is a great, tense, entertaining read. It is, as they say, a slow burn.  But burn it does.

For you Milwaukee folks, Larry is one of our own.  He is a professor of creative writing at Marquette University.  I was drawn to him as an author primarily due to Montana 1948 which is set in north eastern Montana, and since I’m a native Montanan, the connection is simple.

Here’s an interesting coincidence:  My book Badlands and Larry Watson’s Let Him Go, both published in the same year, are set in the same town in eastern Montana, though the town is fictionalized differently.  In reality, the actual geographic setting of both novels is Glendive, Montana.

In  Badlands, Glendive is hardly disguised as a town called Riverside.  In Let Him Go Glendive is renamed Gladstone.  While in Badlands the setting is a realistic image of Glendive in the late 1960s and early ’70s, in Let Him Go Gladstone is a much more fictionalized  Glendive set in the early 1950s, but it is unmistakenly Glendive because the town is located between Wibaux and Miles City, Montana.

I wonder if Glendivians know this–not that Glendive is situated between Wibaux and Miles City–but that its city is the setting of two recent works of fiction.  I would highly recommend Larry Watson’s novel, and while you’re at it, mine too!  Thanks.

Independent Publishers Book Awards Awarded to Badlands

One more award came in last week, an IPPY.  Don’t know exactly why they call it an IPPY, but the award comes from the Independent Publishers Book Awards, which is known as “the world’s largest international and regional book awards” <http://www.independentpublisher.com/ipland/ipawards.php>. How about that.  Badlands was awarded a gold medal for best fiction in the West-Mountain Region. http://www.independentpublisher.com/article.php?page=1794.  I feel very good about the book being able to represent the West.  It is not a book written or told in a typical “Western” voice, but it is a voice that comes out of the west and it is a tribute to eastern Montana and its stark beauty, its  people, it’s dusty and sometimes booming and sometimes busting towns, and the area known as Makoshika just outside of Glendive.

Lena and I are off to NYC to attend the Next Generation Indie Book Awards reception.  Most definitely looking forward to participating in that, at the Harvard Club, which already makes me want to sip brandy and puff on a good cigar.

Badlands Lands Indie Publishing and Book Award Recognition

The book award season for 2013 books is pretty much over now and I’m happy to announce that Badlands did quite well.  Feel free to share this post! Here is a list of recognitions, beginning with the best finishes:

Next Generation Independent Book Awards:  First Place Short Story Collection–Fiction  (Awards not posted on their site yet, but link here to their webpage: http://www.indiebookawards.com/)

Eric Hoffer Book Awards:  Runner Up General Fiction:  http://www.hofferaward.com/HAbookwinners.html

Eric Hoffer Book Award: Short list for Grand Prize: http://www.hofferaward.com/HAbookshortlist.html

Eric Hoffer Book Award:  Finalist for First Horizon Award: http://www.hofferaward.com/HAFirstHorizonshortlist.html

Eric Hoffer Book Award: Finalist for the Da Vinci Eye Award for book cover and book design (Dale Beckman (http://www.dalebeckman.net/) artist): http://www.hofferaward.com/HAdaVincishortlist.html

Midwest Indpendent Publishers Book Awards: Runner Up for Short Story Collection and Young Adult: http://www.mipa.org/midwest-book-awards/24th-annual-midwest-book-awards-finalists

I would like to congratulate Doug Rose for winning the Midwest Independent Publisher’s Book Award for Literary Fiction. Doug is also a Bay View (Milwaukee) writer and Bolt is his first novel.

Thanks to everyone who has supported Badlands along the way, and keep it up if you can.  The book is available at Amazon.com and at Boswell Books in Milwaukee and hopefully at other book sellers soon.  Pass the word. Write an Amazon review. Recommend it to a friend for good summer reading!  Thanks!

Landscape Artist Dale Beckman’s Work Is Superb

I’d like to acknowledge the artist whose image makes the cover of Badlands.  The cover is a copy of an original work by Dale Beckman.  For me, the image is very important since it is Dale’s artistic vision of a place in Makoshika State Park in eastern Montana where the book’s stories are set.  The first “story” of the book, or the introduction, is in fact entitled “Makoshika.”  I love the fact that the cover of this book is a personal artistic vision of the place from which the stories draw their inspiration.

Dale and I grew up in Glendive, Montana about a block apart.  To be able to collaborate with someone I knew, who lived in the same neighborhood, who went to the same high school, to me, adds a kind of authenticity to the whole book.

Dale often used the badlands of eastern Montana as a subject for his early work.  From Glendive, Dale migrated down to New Mexico where the similar wide-open landscapes again inspired his paintings. Currently he lives in Helena, MT, and as he told me recently, he will be doing some more Maksohika settings.  She’s a heck of a model.

I highly recommend visiting Dale’s websites to see his work.  I find his work exhilarating.  His paintings vibrate, the sizzle, they dazzle, they transport. And if you think I’m just floating out some artistic sounding descriptive words, then look for yourself and I think you will agree.  Dale’s Websites are

http://www.dalebeckman.net/ and http://1-dale-beckman.artistwebsites.com/