Be A Clam- There Are Reasons To Be Happy

Yes, it is hard to be happy when the world around us seems to be crumbling. Yes, there is racial injustice, violence and hopelessness all around us. Yes, we have two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in history. Yes, our computer and television screens show images of hopelessness around the clock.

The truth is we see more evil today than ever before. Yet, there is not more evil today than in the past. The murder rate has declined over time despite what a person might thing based on the news of mass shootings. http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/05/17/rick_nevin_murder_statistics_safest_year_ever.html

There are people alive today that were around when six million Jews were slaughtered in Europe. In my lifetime people could be denied service in restaurants based on the color of their skin. Woman were denied the right to vote until 1920.

Today we have an African American President. The next president of the United States may be a woman. Woman and minority citizens are CEO’s running major corporations.

Prior to 1973 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) found that homosexuality was a mental disorder. Until 1986 sexual orientation was still considered in the DSM. Today gay marriage is a constitutional right.

During the Cold War we were at the brink of nuclear annihilation. Today the world’s nuclear arsenals have been reduced. The United State’s does not have a draft. The current military conflicts are mostly confined to the Middle-East.

Oil was almost completely gone in the 1970’s now it is at record low prices. More food can be grown with less land today then ever before. Almost everyone has a Smartphone. Almost everyone has indoor plumbing, a flat screen television and a refrigerator.

In addition you can be entertained for almost nothing anywhere you want. You can get any of my novels for less than five bucks on Kindle or Nook. You can watch movies on Netflix on your phone.

I live in a small town but I can get Sushi, Thai, Korean, Middle Eastern, Indian or almost any other type of food without driving more than ten minutes. I could get on a plane and be in Europe tomorrow. People will provide goods and services to me in exchange for paper or plastic.

We live in a time of miracles. Advances in technology,transportation and medical fields are moving forward at an amazing pace. I am not saying we need to ignore the social injustice in the world. I am simply suggesting we need to remember how far as a nation we have progressed.

In conclusion be happy. Be as happy as a clam. Be as happy as a dog with two tails. Be as happy as a lark. Be as happy as a kid in a candy store or a bird with a french fry.

FYI: Has anyone noted that Robin Tunney in the Craft looks a lot like Kristen Stewart in those vampire movies?

Guns vs. Common Sense

Shootings in schools, nightclubs and movies seem to be a regular occurrence. The incidence of police shooting citizens and citizens shooting police are all too common. As people see no opportunities in their life the value of human life is diminished. As Bob Dylan said, “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to loose”.

The Second Amendment is not as ambiguous as we like to pretend it is. The intent of the Second Amendment is to allow citizens the right to own guns. The intent of the drafters of The Second Amendment includes the right to have guns that might be used in arming a militia. At the time the Bill of Rights was written America just fought a war against the British. This supports the argument for military style weapons. The Bill of Rights was written because the people were suspicious and distrustful of government. At the time it would not be unusual to gather up a posse and have ordinary citizens (provided they were white and male) perform what today would be police or military duties.

That being said we do not live in the 18th Century and have to take a common sense look at what the right to bear arms means in a modern society. In Dallas, when police officers were gunned down, no gun bearing citizen shot the perpetrator. The police took longer to find the killer because other people in the crowd were walking around with long guns strapped to their back. The writers of the Bill of Rights had no concept of modern assault rifles. Yet, even if they could imagination the weapons of the future they had no concept of modern society. Rather than trying to wrap our minds around the thoughts of citizens in the Colonial Era we need to use common sense to regulate guns to protect citizens today. The United States Supreme Court has found that the reasonable regulation of firearms does not violate the Second Amendment. Just as the First Amendment is not violated by barring a person from yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

Donald Trump talked about how the Orlando shooting could have been stopped by armed club goers. Even the NRA had the rare sense to point out, “No one thinks people should go into a nightclub drinking and caring firearms.” Chris Fox NRA’s Institute of Legislative Action. http://nypost.com/2016/06/19/nra-says-trumps-orlando-comments-defy-common-sense/

When we consider the distrust people have towards the police fed by recent deaths of people in police custody it is a recipe for disaster. The July 9, 2016 sniper attack is an example of what happens when citizens have easy excess to military style weapons and don’t trust the government. People have to believe in justice and have respect for the police. That respect, however, must be earned.

I understand there has always been the abuse of power by police officers and others in positions of authority. Most police officers are hard working individuals who put their lives on the line for the betterment of society. Most police officers are overworked and underpaid for a thankless job. Yet, like all groups there are individuals within the ranks of police officers who are bullies. There are individuals who are racist. The advent of cell phone cameras and body cameras have brought to light the abuse of power that was swept under the rug before.

In Illinois the eavesdropping law was found unconstitutional because it was used by police to avoid being recorded. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-20/news/chi-supreme-court-eavesdropping-law-20140320_1_illinois-supreme-court-illinois-eavesdropping-act-cook-county-jail. It has since been rewritten.

In addition it is frightening how many incidents, where a person dies in police custody, and police cameras are not working. It is is unlikely to be a coincidence when government controlled cameras fail to function at the moment a person is killed. In addition to those killed through police action there are those killed through inaction. How many people are dying in county jails from suicide and heroin withdraw without medical assistance?

Readily available guns and devaluing human life results in the unnecessary loss of life. One question is what steps can be taken to address this situation? Another question is if our government is willing to stand up for it’s citizens to take the steps necessary to protect us?

It is obvious we need to regulate the sale of assault rifles. It should be as hard to get a gun as a driver’s license. Automatic weapons should  be banned as well as many semi-automatic weapons. We should make efforts to keep people who are terrorists, dangerous, mentally ill and/or violent from purchasing guns.

People need to know that human life has value. A person who works 40 hours per week but can’t feed his children feels hopeless. He feels that his life has no value. This also diminishes the value he puts on the lives of others.  In the past factory owners had to treat employees as human beings because those people lived in their community. Now the factory is in China and the factory owner is a multi-national corporation.

Why are so most terrorists from the poorest countries in the world? Why don’t find a lot of wealthy people blowing themselves up? It is the absence of a hope for the future that makes them ripe to be picked by radical groups.

If citizens are denied justice they are more likely to act out violently. If a police officer violates the law he should be prosecuted just as an ordinary citizen would be. We need to be more transparent when it comes to these matters. Police records should be review-able and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests complied with. Video images of people harmed or killed in police custody should be made available to the public.

If I learned one thing from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure it is that we must be “Excellent to each other”. If we were to follow that one rule the world would be a better place.

The Price of Freedom

The murder of fifty people in the happiest place on earth is a reminder of the cost of freedom. The response to such tragedy is to stand firm in our beliefs. This is not the time to pass more laws to give the government the power to further seize our liberty. This is the time to stand up for freedom and take a stand against racism, homophobia and hatred.

There are people who are filled with hate. Those people wont be changed by my words or those of anyone else. Yet, these are desperate acts of a radical few people holding on to an uncivilized time that has passed them by. These terrorists must act out violently because no one will hear their words otherwise. No one cares about a minority of evil people so they must murder people who are cared for. This is a last ditch effort to make an irrelevant group feel important. They must strike down something of value because they themselves have none.

After such a tragedy there will be radical talk to extend and expand The Patriot Act. There will be talk about giving the police further power and to erode the freedoms guaranteed by Fourth Amendment to the United State’s Constitution. It is our constitution and our freedom that makes Americans the target to evil doers.

Freedom has always required sacrifice. The price of freedom has often been death. Fifty people in Florida should never have had to pay that price. They were innocents not soldiers. Yet, America is at war. It is a war we must fight not by bullets or police power but by speaking out against the force of darkness. It is a war we fight when we stand up for individuals picked on because of their religion, sexual preference or the color of their skin. It is a war we fight when we uphold the United State’s Constitution. It is a war we will win.

Our politicians may use this tragedy to embrace hatred. Yet, one gunman lacking a soul is not the face of America. America is in the faces of those speaking up against hatred. America is reflected in the people giving blood and giving of their time. American exceptionalism is about embracing freedom.

 

Bees, Global Warming, and the Apocalypse

I recently took a class on Bees and Beekeeping at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign*. I took two things away from the class. One, beekeeping is not easy. The other is that the world may be in real trouble.

The decline in the honeybee population has a real impact on the overall environment we live in. We need bees for honey but more importantly pollination. One of the lessons we learned in the class is that even minor changes in the environment have a large impact on bees.

Global warming clearly has an impact on bees. One such negative consequence is that Africanized bees are expanding their territory further North. Africanized bees bees are not only more aggressive but have a greater likelihood to swarm. They are also more likely to leave their hives and not return.

Another problem that may be exacerbated by the change in climate are increased problems with pests, in particular Varroa Mites and Hive Beetles. Varroa Mites were not discovered until 1987 but are a devastating problem that can eventually kill entire hives. It seems as though almost every hive suffers from them. The Hive Beetle came from Africa and they are also an enormous problem.

Pesticides also are having a negative impact on bees. Even if pesticides don’t kill the bees directly they weaken their immune system such that it makes bees more vulnerable to the effects of global warming and pests. Attempts to limit the use of some types of pesticides do not appear entirely effective.

The reason I am writing about bees is not for beekeepers who already know about these problems. I am discussing these issues as an allegory. The impact of global warming and environmental damage through pesticides and other chemicals can be seen in all forms of life.That certainly includes humans.

The food we eat, the liquids we drink, and the chemicals we ingest purposefully or through pollution are slowly destroying our world. It is more likely society will die out as a result of a thousand cuts rather than a sword through the heart. An atomic bomb or a giant meteor are less likely to end the world than continuing the slow path to destruction we are already on.

Genetic engineering may be looked at as a solution to solving the problems we created. We can make bees more pest resistant or better able to tolerated climate changes. We can do the same with plants and food products. The question is, should we?

We have mapped the genome of the honey bee as well as that of a human being. Genetic mapping becomes cheaper and easier each year. The result of this work has been a huge benefit to science. The practical and positive impact of these accomplishments is so great it is hard to quantify.

Yet, the potential for negative consequences related to genetic engendering has greatly increased. Genetically modified corn and potatoes have been around for a while. So far with little adverse effect. Genetically modified salmon have also been approved to join their starchy friends on our dinner table. A salmon that grows twice as fast as its natural brother does cause me greater concern than a pest resistant spud.

The more we damage our ecosystem the more radical the steps we will need to try and repair it. Pests, throughout history, have adapted to the escalating war of poisons. What will happen when we take even more radical steps to protect the environment we are destroying?

The solution maybe taking a step back rather than a jump forward. Cutting down on green house gases and organic farming may be a backward step in the right direction. Even though these old fashion ideas may be harder than developing new poisons and relying on genetic engineering. Energy from sources other than coal and oil might also be a step in the right direction.

I have been considering these concepts for the book Bunny Blood Feud. What will the future look like if we have a race between mother nature and technology to maintain a livable ecosystem. In the past technology has been our savior. What will be the role of technology in the future?

As the population expands we have been able to keep pace by growing more food faster. We have used pesticides and fertilizers to make it so fewer people can grow food on less land. We have been able to locate oil where it would have been impossible to do so a few years back. What if we reach the end of the road. What if out of desperation we take things too far? These are the concepts I want to explore in Bunny Blood Feud.

* I would like to thank the 2016 Bees & Beekeeping Short Course held at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign for teaching me about bees. If I made an errors in my explanation of bee related issues it is likely my fault not theirs.

The Next American Revolution

As the election draws near it is clear that Americans are seeking change. Trump and Sanders may not win the nomination for their prospective parties but their popularity is an indication that the American people are not happy with the status quo. I should stress that The Commander and Chief no matter who that person is can’t solve the major underlying problems with this nation. Yet, he or she can help lead us in the right direction. This is a critical time in American history.

It is a mistake to look to the past for solutions to our current  problems. Yet, we can’t ignore history either. I find some of the rhetoric from the candidates reminiscent of the mistakes this nation has made in the past.

Some people believe that this countries unprecedented post WWII growth can be repeated and the way to do so is to live by the social values of the 1950’s. That is simply nonsense. We live in a bigger world today and the world’s resources are being shared by more and more industrialized countries.

Henry Ford sold his cars cheaply enough so that his employees could afford to buy them. In the past the rich recognized that they had to live among factory workers and thus needed to provide a living wage. Multinational corporations are not set up to care about individuals within this nation.

Today products are made in China. The factory owners don’t ever see their employee’s and wouldn’t recognize them if they did. The rich can live in gated communities and never be confronted with the poor. Factory owners no longer live in the same city where their products are made.

Many issues the politicians discuss in debates and on the campaign trail are designed to appeal to the listeners passion and prejudice rather than their needs and expectations. People shouldn’t vote against their financial interests because a candidate claims to share their religion or side with them as to some social issue.

What made America great was our education system and the size of the Middle Class.The Middle Class is shrinking and our education system is no longer the best in the world. As more of the world’s wealth is put in the hands of fewer people the likelihood of a second American Revolution increases.

Programs like social security, food stamps and welfare are about more then a nation’s generosity. Starving people are dangerous. People will kill to feed their children. It is a mistake to vote for anyone who does not believe in a safety net. Yet, the system can’t work if a person with a full time job does no have a better standard of living than a person on welfare. These are issues candidates need to discuss.

This election we need to elect a president who:

A.  Will work to help education her citizens.

B.  Allow people to believe through hard work they can succeed and actually support legislation that will make that happen.

C.  Will bring people together.

D.  Will put the blame on the people responsible for the problem.

E.  Understands where the money is and how money works.

F.  Is not so arrogant that they can’t consider the view point of others.

G.  Are guided by the best interest’s of individuals and not corporations.

This election we need to avoid candidates who:

A.  Believe God is on their side.

B.  Wrap themselves in the flag.

C.  Believe they can succeed through force of will.

D. Can’t answer a direct question with a direct answer.

E.  Promise the impossible.

It is also important to remember that the president has very little control over most social issues other than the nomination of Supreme Court Justices. Issues such as gay rights, abortion, and gun control are issues primarily addressed by state legislatures and by the judiciary. In addition the interpretation of the United State’s Constitution has nothing to do with the President that is an issue for the courts.

I am not endorsing a specific candidate. Even if I was who would listen. I am asking that people make an effort to educate themselves about the candidates. People need to pick a candidate who puts substance above rhetoric. I hope as a nation we will make the right decision for the people of this country.

 

 

Halloween -The Top Five Things to Do to Get Your Fright On and the Top Five to Avoid

Halloween is just around the corner and it is time to get in the spirit of the holiday. The release of The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest is certainly a festive way to celebrate. It is so spooky it should get your gibbets shaking well past Thanksgiving. I have decided this Halloween to provide a list of the top five things to do to get your fright on. I have also listed the top five to avoid.

Five Good Things to Do

  1.  See a scary movie in the theater. The theaters should provide a few good chills in October of 2015 with: Goosebumps, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, The Last Witch Hunter and Bone Tomahawk. I have not seen any of these but they look scary.
  2. Rent or Netflix a scary movie: It Follows is coming to the little screen. It is a fun film that takes the teen scream movie to a very different place. This was one of the best new horror flicks to come out last year.The Babadook is also out and this was original enough to give me a few chills. You can also enjoy all the Saw movies on Netflix.
  3. Pumpkin related activities. Yes, going to the local pumpkin patch to select your potential Jack-O-Lantern is always a good time. It is fun for the little goblins as well. Pumpkin related foods from pumpkin pie to pumpkin bread and ice-cream are a tasty fall treat. Although, I must confess I prefer butternut squash to pumpkin in my pie.
  4. Story Telling is particularly fun on and around Halloween. Every so often there will be events at bonfires, libraries and book stores promoting spooky story telling. I don’t know why we as I society we have forgotten how much fun tales around a fire can be.
  5. Real Haunted houses can be great on All Hallows Eve. I am not talking about the Haunted Houses that seem to spring up in abandoned stores and malls each year. I am recommending real haunted houses. Do some research there are a lot of haunted places all over the country. Around me there is the Lincoln Theater in Decatur, Illinois that gives tours and is said to be filled with ghosts. In Chicago the Congress Plaza Hotel has a reputation for spirits. I few of the old building at the University of Illinois are said to be haunted including the English Building and Lincoln Hall. The haunted tower at Urbana High School is also said to be haunted.

Things not to do.

1. Raising the dead is always a mistake. If have learned anything from Pet Cemetery,  Flatliners, and Frankenstein it never turns out well when you try to raise the dead. Sure it sound like fun until someone has their brains eaten.

2.  Killing people and playing with their guts. Life is sacred and it is wrong to snuff it out. Also, it is illegal and bad karma. Live and let live I always say. It is also near impossible to get blood and guts our of your clothes.

3.  Using a Ouija Board alone is a mistake. It is a bad idea to invite spirits and possibly demons into your home. It is a worse idea to do so alone. You need someone else to help tether you to this world. It also helps to have someone back you up in a fight with the supernatural.

4.  Say “Bloody Mary” or “Candy Man” into a mirror three times. Yes, there are movies named after Bloody Mary and the Candy Man. If you watch them you will get the idea of why this is not such a good idea. Let’s just say what you unleash is damn hard to put back in.

5.  Agree to a dare. Yes, it’s Halloween and your best friend has double dog dared  you to go up to the old Jenkins home knock on the door and run. Maybe you are promised a candy bar if you only spend the night at the abandoned house on Elm Street. To paraphrase the Nike Commercials, Just Don’t Do it.

So take my advice and you will have a lot of fun this Halloween. Don’t forget to get your copy of the Wiccan Witch of the Midwest on Amazon, B&N and the Camel Press web page. You can have a lot of fun and still be safe and respectful of the creatures that go bump in the night.

 

 

 

 

Is college worth the investment?

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater takes place on a large Midwestern University. I feel this gives me the credentials to give an opinion on the value of an education. That and the fact that I have an undergraduate degree from The University of Wisconsin and a law degree from the University of Illinois. When I am not writing books my other job is as a lawyer. I see on a weekly if not daily basis the struggles of individuals and families trying to pay for higher education costs.

Presidential candidates are also starting to notice the financial struggle of students and families. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have discussed how public universities are charging more for tuition than students can afford to pay. They are starting to notice that student loans debt is getting out of hand.

Yet, this blog is not about politics but more about practicality. It is seems there is good evidence to support the idea that a four year degree is worth obtaining. This brings to mind two questions. The first question is what degree is worth obtaining? The other question is where a college student should go to school in order to obtain the highest return on his investment? I will admit that some of the argument I intend to present is not backed up by empirical evidence and is just my opinion. I could probably look up real evidence to support my conclusions but why bother. After all it is my blog I should be able to say what I want.

I am an author which I assume you know and is why you are looking at my blog. My undergraduate degree is in psychology. I love the arts but it is not necessary to have a degree in fine arts to write, paint or act. It is my humble opinion that a degree in psychology or the fine arts is not a good investment. I hate to say this, since I readily admit when it comes to these areas of studies I am far from proficient, but it makes sense to spend your educational dollar on STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education. Obviously, this is not everyone’s forte, including mine, but this type of education will probably provide the best bang for the buck.

The next question is where to go to school. I spent my undergraduate years in Madison, Wisconsin even though I lived in Illinois. Out of state tuition at the time was reasonable. It may not be anymore depending on your ability to pay. I question if it makes sense to go to an out of state college.

I also question the value of a degree from a more prestigious university versus a junior college or a state school. I would argue that a degree from a private school does not translate into more money. There are certainly exceptions but there are always exceptions.

Yes, I understand this blog does not discuss the intangible aspects of an education. Harvard may provide a perfect opportunity to meet the son of a C.E.O. who will give you a job upon graduation. Amherst, might provide just the right climate for spiritual fulfillment. If you have the money and are not looking for the best return on investment by all means search for the college that meets your individual tastes.I am trying to talk about college in terms of a business proposition not in terms of self actualization.

Sadly, I believe universities are also starting to think of college in terms of a business as well. In my home town the home of the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign the Chancellor of the U of I Ms. Wise is stepping down among controversy. It appears the University is seeking to pay her an additional $400,000 bonus on her way out.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-university-of-illinois-phyllis-wise-bonus-20150810-story.html#page=1

This, is one of many examples of universities being more akin to wall-street companies than a place to educate our children. The average law school professor earns $128,000 per year not including substantial benefits while the average lawyer makes $76,999. Universities are a business and students are their clients. F.Y.I. If anyone is hiring I would gladly quit my job (as a lawyer) to be a law professor. I would also take far less than $128,000 per year, with benefits, to do the job.

http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Professor_of_Law/Salary

http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Attorney_%2f_Lawyer/Salary

University’s are seeing record numbers of international students. In part that is because universities make money on international students who pay out of state tuition.

http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2013/11/11/us-sees-record-number-of-international-college-students

The University of Illinois has more Chinese students than any other public university and the result is a great deal of money.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-university-of-illinois-chinese-students-d1-20140801-story.html#page=1

Universities are no longer set up to help students mature from adolescence to adulthood while cradled in love and school spirit. They are money making machines and our children are their products. It is time we start thinking of colleges in that manner and start looking for bang for the buck when it comes to education.

If students walk out of college with enormous debt than they might have been better off working at a low paying job and putting that money in a savings account. It is time we start looking at the cost of higher education and ask if it is worth it. The answer is just dollars and cents or perhaps dollars and common sense.

 

 

 

 

 

What makes a great book?

I have just finished reading a book that was awful. I normally don’t finish reading books that are bad. I will ordinarily decided a book is good or bad within the first fifty pages and give up if I don’t like it. Yet, this book was so bad I had to believe the end would reward my persistence. I was disappointed. Yet, I have no doubt there are those who loved it.

What makes a great book? The answer is it depends on the reader. I can read a book in a contemplative mood and find it profound. I can read the same book in a jovial mood and find it hokey. I have found books to be funny at one time and ridiculous at another. The mood of the reader is certainly one factor in determining if a book is enjoyable.

The moment and time in the reader’s life when he or she read the book is also important. The obvious conclusion is that when you get older you enjoy more profound literature. For me the opposite is true. I read Crime and Punishment when I was younger. The dense writing helped me enter the mind of the main character. I wouldn’t re-read the book again. I am less interested in the form of writing than I once was. I like books that are easy to read and concise. Why take five pages to say something that can be said in one? Flowery language can be distracting. The use of metaphors can help me visualize a more abstract concept. When everything is a metaphor it can take me out of the world of the book. Perhaps one aspect of getting older is understanding life is short. I don’t want to read a densely written tome. Who has the time?

If you look at the early works of Pablo Picasso they looked far more realistic and adult than his later works. He learned, through practice, that you could portray a message with a few strokes of a brush. A message as important as what you can say with a whole canvas filled with pigment. I remember reading a book called A Clergyman’s Daughter by George Orwell. I can’t tell you what it is about but I remember it was boring and hard to read. George Orwell went on to write Animal Farm and 1984. Both books were short and easy to read and their message was very clear. Both books are considered classics and to me are far preferable to A Clergyman’s Daughter.

The mood, age, and preference of the reader certainly have a huge impact on whether a book is considered great. Yet, an author has no ability to control the taste of the reader. An author should make every effort to write in a manner that is clear and easy to read but it is a mistake to write for the reader. An author must have a story to tell and must accept the fact they can’t make everyone happy.

Literary taste certainly changes over time just as art and fashion. Shakespeare during his life was one of many playwrights who created decent entertainment. Now he is considered among the greatest writers of all time.

I don’t believe a writer can set out to create a number one best seller or a literary classic. Only readers can make a book a number one best seller. Only time can make a book a literary classic.

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater comes out in a few days. I hope my readers find it entertaining and fun. If not you have my permission not to finish reading it. Although, the ending is kind of cool so I would finish it if I were you. I would also suggest eating a cookie prior to starting to read the book. It helps put you in a good mood at the start.

 

 

Snacks & The Movie Experience

Movies can cost a hundred million dollars to make. More impressively, most of them still make a profit. It is no wonder studios and movie theater owners will do their best to pack people in. The negative impact is that studios do not want to take a lot of risks with that kind of money. As a result they tend to lean towards as close to a “sure thing” as they can find. We are thus inundated with sequels and remakes. Creativity takes a back seat to the mighty dollar.

Yet, theaters and studios have started to realize that people will only pay so much for a movie and they can only improve the product so much. Thus, they have tried to make going to the movies more of an experience and charge more for that opportunity. We now have a choice of:  3-D. IMAX, D-Box,and the Luxury Studio. If we have all of that in Champaign, Illinois I can only assume in New York and L.A. they give you a foot rub and a manicure.

I am not a big fan of 3-D, IMAX or D-Box (I have tried them all). I do kind of dig the Luxury Studio seating. It seems to me there is not a lot more they can come up with. Perhaps they will return to Smell-O-Vision or 4D. The former was an attempt to allow the viewers to smell all the action by pumping scent into the theater. The latter might involve spraying the audience with water at the right moment or running a fan when it gets windy in the film. It was kind of like the midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show where the audience would pelt you with rice and toast. I tend to find such things take you out of the movie rather than draw you into it. Who knows maybe they will surprise me with a fantastic new idea I have not thought of.

One area where the theaters are recently making progress but I feel is rife for further opportunity is snacking. No longer do you have to go to dinner and a movie. You can now have dinner in the movie. The theaters around here now serve pretzels, hotdogs and pizza. The prices may be high but not nearly as bad as the mark up of paying four dollars for a box of M&M’s or six dollars for a soda. Some theaters are also selling adult beverages.

My thought, why stop there? Snacks may be the answer to bringing in the customers. Let’s face it, the movie itself will probably be available to down load  before it has finished it’s run at the theater. The theater has to sell the “movie experience” not just the movie.

Nothing says experience like, crab puffs, shrimp puffs or cheese puffs. Hell anything with a “puff” would work. The same is true with, egg rolls, spring rolls or shrimp rolls. You could mix up the menu depending on the flick.  A movie like The Wolverine could have had sushi available during the scenes in Japan. You could serve steak in movies filmed in Texas or Chinese Food for movies filmed in Beijing. You get the idea. Snacks provide a near endless amount of variety and tastiness.

Can you imagine seeing the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory if the theater re-created the chocolate waterfall? The theater could sell cups to the viewers. Perhaps they could show major television events as well on the big screen with appropriate snacks. The Final Four, The Super Bowl and the Oscars were all made for the theater. You might even use two theaters. You could have a separate theaters for Duke fans and Wisconsin fans or Patriot fans and Sea-hawks fans.

I am not asking for the movie people to give me money for these brilliant snacking ideas. That being said I wouldn’t turn down some free passes. I was also thinking that we could add thin slices of beef jerky or fruit leather to books. Why should movies have all the fun. Then again, what if your book gets wet or if it is an ebook. Maybe snack coupons would work better? Well, give me time I am still working on these ideas.

Group Think, Fraternities and the New Book

People act differently alone than as part of a group. Sometimes this can be a good thing. If you are among a group of law abiding citizens you are less likely to engage in bad behavior. It would be socially unacceptable to steal or use drugs in a public gathering where you are being observed. It is rare to see someone light up a joint in church or steal a box of girl scout cookies in front of a busy grocery store.

Yet, group behavior can also encourage people to act badly. Lately the news has had a number of cases concerning bad behaviors on campuses. One example is the Oklahoma fraternity caught chanting racial slurs. Another is the Penn State University fraternity that was suspended for a year for posting naked photographs of woman passed out at one of their parties.

Throughout time people have acted badly in the safety of groups. The Nazi’s and the KKK relied upon this type of group think to get otherwise law abiding citizens to act in an evil manner. Mob action is a crime in the State of Illinois. As a society we understand that groups acting in concert can be dangerous. Acting as a part of a group is not an excuse for bad behavior. It is the ultimate act of cowardice to defend personal evil behavior based on the argument “everyone else was doing it”.

I am of course not comparing fraternities and sororities to evil organizations like the KKK. Fraternities provide a home away from home for their members. They raise money for charities. They help their members with school and social adjustment.

Yet, what would happen if a fraternity were to use the secrecy of the fraternal system to hide a horrible secret. What if a fraternity were sacrificing co-ed’s to Ancient Egyptian God’s. The answer to that question is provided in my new novel The Fraternity of the Soul Eater.

A part of the fraternal system involves rituals. There are initiation ceremonies, secret hand shakes and memorizing rules and historic facts. There are of course rituals involving hazing. Some of these rituals are harmless fun and others involve dangerous practices. Alcohol abuse is not uncommon. Yet, the fictional rituals in The Fraternity of the Soul Eater takes maters much too far. The rituals in the book involve human sacrifice. Murder is necessary to prove your loyalty and gain admission into the fraternity from hell.

Membership in this fraternity does have its privileges as well. It turns out that the alumni are among the richest people in the world. Is the money the members receive payment from ancient deities in exchange for human souls? Is the money simply the result of former members supporting graduates when they complete their education?

We think of our colleges and universities as safe places where we can entrust our children. What better place to hide the evil defined with in the pages of this book. What better place to reshape the world.

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=1876&ChapterID=53&SeqStart=72900000&SeqEnd=73600000

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/furor-over-university-of-oklahoma-frat-members-racist-slurs-in-viral-video/

http://www.aol.com/article/2015/03/17/penn-state-frat-suspended-over-facebook-page-with-nude-pics/21154416/