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Publisher's Note: The personal views of the publisher, expressed here, do not necessarily mirror those of other contributors to this magazine. This is always strictly my own personal rant.
Destination: Ancient Rome! I recently released a somewhat eccentric time travel story at Fictionwise. More on that below.
Stuck On Stupid General Honoré, one of the few people who seemed to take charge and make sense, in Hurrican Katrine-trashed New Orleans when Bush's hype machine fell apart, added one of those male-bonding type military expressions into the lingo a few weeks ago. Taking command of the chaos, he promised National Guard help and said "We're not stuck on stupid here." The next day, that expression had found its way onto the irrelevant parasite Limbaugh's website with the absurd headline 'If you're still a Democrat, you're stuck on stupid.' If, like political science expert Chalmers Johnson (The Sorrows of Empire) you study how the democracies of Athens and Rome fell, it becomes increasingly clear that history is not dead. The same forces that brought previous democracies to their knees are hard at work, and if we aren't able to straighten her out, she goes over a cliff. Despite the Goebbels-like brainwashing inflicted on a hapless population on Bush's behalf by money-motivated motormouths like Limbaugh or the Fox Propaganda Network crew, we shouldn't look for any hailing Caesars or heiling Hitlers. More likely, the giant corporations that are dismantling American democracy have come in on shoes soft as fog (to paraphrase Sandburg's Nocturne in a Brickyard). By the time we really notice that our vote no longer matters, as happened in 2000 and probably in 2004, it will be too late. It's laughable, though, to see Frist and Delay and the rest of the indicted GOP henchmen squealing like stuck pigs and accusing law enforcers of abusing the system (Ronnie whatsis in Texas has indicted 15 politicians in his career, 13 of them Democrats and three Republicans, but Delay calls him a partisan fanatic and a whole raft of other foul-breath language) when in fact it is the GOP above all that has destroyed the system. Just as Joe McCarthy was destroyed by his own evil, so the current rightwing radicals are poisoning themselves in their own bile. Think eight years of Clinton witch hunting, by people like the debilitated super-alcoholic billionaire who financed the Paula Jones charadesheer, unreasoning hatred being his idea of a moral platform, which apparently looks normal to the nuts on the far right (who see themselves as 'conservative'). On a more sober note, think of the millions of U.S. jobs outsourced while all this is going on. Think about this, whatever your political delusion: When I was a Yoot, back in the 1960s, you could walk into any American home and find almost nothing that had not been manufactured in the U.S.A. Walk into the same home today, and you'll find almost nothing that hasn't been made in China or someplace else outside the U.S.A. And Karl Rove thinks that's good for America. Which tells me, at least, that we are indeed stuck on stupid.
Stuck On Stupid (2) This column is my personal rant, pertaining as it does to the future (which is here as we speak) and today I had more evidence that the human race is headed along predictable paths. My 18 year old son, a new and inexperienced driver, started working a great job at a high-tech firm recently. He's a real Doogie Howser and we're very proud of him. He called up his mom today to ask if he could take her to lunch. We were both incredibly pleased and proud at his thoughtfulness and lovingness. At 12:30, as he was supposed to arrive at home, he called and said he'd been in an accident. He was upset, pretty much in tears, and from "I'm okay" it was clear he wasn't. I won't keep you in suspensehe walkeda way with a slight headache, but we're out thousands of dollars. What happened was that three goons in a giant red truck with monster wheels came up behind him at 70 or 80 m.p.h. on a 25 m.p.h. freeway exchange ramp and behaved so threateningly that he hit the guard rail on his left, then jackknifed across the lane and ended up off the right road shoulder with a crumpled left front suspension, wheel turned in, fender smashed, etc. He banged his head inside the car. As he sat in the now inoperable car, dazed, he saw them laughing at him as they roared away to cause death and mayhem elsewhere. So, being good parents in a close and loving family, we rushed to help him. My wife took him to the hospital, where they said he probably would have a stiff neck and a headache, but probably no other complications. I spent several hours getting towed, wrestling with insurance matters, etc. As a final bit of insanity, we were told by an insurance rep not to involve the police because it would send our insurance rates even higher than they now will be. She said no matter how it happened, our son was technically at fault for losing control. He said he was afraid if he didn't get out of their way they would ram him and kill him. If he'd slid another few feet to the right, he would have rolled the car a half dozen times down a 60 foot embankment and might have been seriously injured or killed. On the good side, as I was waiting for the tow truck, at least three Good Samaritans stopped to offer helptwo white guys and a black guy. There is some hope for our world, though evil will be with us always. And then there are the 3,000 rubberneckers who slowed to ogle the scene while licking their lips hungrily. Even more than the three laughing goons, when you are looking in the rubberneckers' eyes, that's the moment when you really see the reptile in us.
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The Sibyl's Urn, or: Destination: Ancient Rome! by John T. Cullen (2005 Clocktower Books). Told in the second person, this novel makes you the hero or heroine as Professor Darwin and his exotically beautiful assistant Amalthea take you on a journey back to ancient Rome. At stake is a lost scroll belonging to a sibyl, or prophetess similar to the ones at Delphi in Greece. The scroll holds secrets the ancient Romans would dearly like to know, and your traveling companions have their own dark reasons for wanting to make this journey. Along the way, you get to sample the sounds, sights, and smells of a world that is as alien to ours as it is intriguing. Some of the early research material here wound up in my book A Walk in Ancient Rome (iBooks/Simon & Schuster, 2005).