Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Afghanistan: A Problem without a Solution?

During the past six months, I have read numerous articles and watched television news stories about what is happening in the war in Afghanistan. Last night, On 60 Minutes, I saw evidence that we are fighting a war with no end in sight. CBS correspondent, Lara Logan was embedded with troops of the 101st Airborne in areas of Afghanistan immediately adjacent to Pakistan. She exhibited bravery that few people associate with correspondence these days.

Ms. Logan didn't just talk to the troops about the conditions they were confronting. She went on a mission with a captain in the 101st airborne that showed the intensity of fighting at this front line position. When the American soldiers arrived at the small native village, the chief of the village showed no inclination to talk or work with the captain. On the return mission, the unit came under heavy fire and the captain demonstrated an incredible indifference to bullets whizzing by him as he tried to extricate a truck stuck in the rocky terrain. The captain described an endless supply of soldiers coming in from Pakistan. No matter how many his men killed, more of the enemy pour across the border. He described the non-Afghani soldiers as well trained and willing to die. The captain's efforts to win over small isolated villages were meeting with little success. If the villagers cooperate with us, they are dead the next time that the Taliban enter their town.

The type of combat situation we saw on 60 minutes goes far beyond "Winning the Hearts and Minds of the People." General Pertraeus, who had much more success in Iraq, assured the president and the American people that with additional soldiers the country could be stabilized under what passes for Democratic leadership in that country. Please note I didn't say, "Win." Unless we find a way to seal off the border with Pakistan the war with the Taliban will go on forever. Is this another Vietnam, where no matter how many soldiers we pour into the country the fight continues to rage?

Recent polling has shown that the majority of Americans have now decided they are not in favor of our efforts in Afghanistan. However, there is still staunch support for our continued presence in that country as evidenced by the headline in the September 28, 2010 Christian Science Monitor.
Afghanistan war: Is the US in it to win it? America's engagement in Afghanistan remains vital. Now is the time to renew our resolve and pursue our broad-based strategy, not look for an exit."
The article written by Kurt Volcker cites General Pertraeus statement, "We are in this to win." With the corrupt government in Kabul and a continual supply of soldiers crossing the border from Pakistan, the question must be raised as to whether it is possible to actually "win." At the same time, it is obvious that if we pull out of Afghanistan, or withdraw to the major cities, the Taliban will take over most of the country and Al Qaeda will have a training ground for far more terrorists than it had in 2001 when we first invaded the country. I don't pretend to have a solution. The question is whether the administration, or anyone in this country (Republicans included), has one.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Phantom Paragrapher review of "An Unholy Embrace" by Neil Benson

The Phantom Paragrapher

Review of  "An Unholy Embrace" by Paula Zone 

Are you loving the whole mortal/vampire love storyline ? Edward and Bella in Twilight , Elena and Stefan / Damon in Vampire Diaries , Dylan and Claire in The Gates (though Claire is now turned) , Alexander/ Jagger and Raven in Vampire Kisses and Dimitri and Rose in Vampire Academy or Hugo and Elizabeth in The Point and who can forget our Sookie Stackhouse and Eric/Bill.

With Vampire Novels now on the rise for the last two years , reading an article -the world of Vampires has hit the money-making world of $7 Billion Dollars in Books, Movies, TV and Merchandise.

Today's Review is that whole mortal/vampire love affair but in today's book it contains the twist of the female being the Vampire and the mortal being the male.

Review : Unholy Embrace - Neil Benson -2010

A popular storyline lately has been the tale of the mortal/vampire love story and the majority of them have ended up writing the male as a Vampire and the female as the lovestruck mortal. One thing that I really liked in Neil Benson's book is that he decided to use gender reversed roles and make the male the lovestruck mortal and the female the Vampire. Having it this way, was a nice change for once.

The story starts when Frank and Nessa are out on a date and are attacked by Werewolves, the attack causes Nessa to extract her fangs and go all- vampirey , something that Frank hasn't really experienced before. From then on , we are transported back to the beginning -where they first met and how their relationship started and of course how they reached the point in the story.

What follows is Nessa explaining and opening her 400yr old heart to Frank and telling her story on how she became a Vampire starting in Hungary all the way to her travels via Vienna and Paris to the Present time in New York.

We read as the Werewolves attacks are just the beginning as Nessa has been on the run nearly 400 years and has been tracked by Narice - the vampire lover of the Vampire who turned Nessa and in return Nessa Killed out of vengeance.

When Frank realises the consequences and danger of being with Nessa , can he stand strong and embrace the unholiness of being with a Vampire or will he take the white feather coward option out and leave Nessa to follow a path of a normal life ?

An excellent story that shows readers in a paranormal and supernatural way that no matter what happens and how terrifying obstacles can be - love between not only mortals but mortals and supernaturals can stick tog


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

GOP - Great Obstructionist Party

The GOP, which used to stand for "Grand Old Party," has become the "Great Obstructionist Party."  I didn't make this up on my own. I'm using the words of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader. In the August 15th edition of the New York Times, the esteemed Senator said “I wish we had been able to obstruct more," in referring to the Republican party's response to legislation enacteed by the Democrats during the past 18 months.

The Senator could easily argue that I'm taking his words out of context. I would not disagree.  However, I would point out that when President Bush, witth the urging of Secretary of Treasury Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke, asked for emergency legislation to prevent a meltdown of the nation's financial system the GOP as a party said "no."  They allowed enough Senators and Representatives to vote yes to allow for the bailout package, but the party's heart was obstructed.

The GOP will go to the voters this fall and tell them the party tried to stop "bad legislation" from being enacted. However, the GOP cannot tell the voters of any positve actions that the party implemented or helped to enact. In times of crisis, leadership does not consist of "Just saying no."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sarah Palin: Future President and Chief Science Officer

Former half-term Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, continues to speak, and each time she does so gives more evidence of the vacuous nature of her thinking. She recently opined on how the nation should approach nuclear disarmament. I found this remarkable for a woman who before her nomination to vice-president didn't know the difference between Pluto and plutonium. President Obama respectfully declined her advice and continued to work on plans based on input from senior scientific and political advisers.

Now she has clarified the issue of global warming once and for all. She is "Agin it. You betcha." At a recent Republican convention, she stated:

"We should create a competitive climate for investment in renewables and alternatives, none of this snake oil science stuff that is based on this global warming, Gore-gate stuff that came down where there was revelation that the scientists, some of these scientists were playing political games."
I can understand people having questions about the causes of global warming. However, her reference to snake oil is a bit odd. Does she think snake oil is a cause for global warming or prevents it? Is it possible the de facto head of the Tea Party has a little too much Kool aid in her tea? If you want to risk brain damage, try reading the second sentence a couple of times.

Tonight, on 60 minutes, they highlighted the finding of a link between apes and Homo sapiens. A scientist found the skull of a nine-year-old child that is 1.9 million years old. Undoubtedly, Ms. Palin will remind us this is more snake oil. She point out the Bible and has everything we need to know about evolution. A long time ago when I was in graduate school, the pastor of the St. Thomas Aquinas Center at Purdue University told an audience that "the Bible tells us how to get to heaven, not how the heavens were made." I wonder how Chief Science Officer Sarah Palin would have reacted to hearing that statement from a Catholic priest.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unholy Embrace vampire novel by Neil Benson - The vampire as beauty and the beast.

In my vampire novel, Nessa, the vampire, is a beautiful, elegant woman. But as her mortal lover, Frank, finds out early in the novel, she is capable of acts of physical violence he finds difficult to comprehend. Furthermore, when he sees her fangs dripping with blood, the lovely woman he loves is transformed into the hideous, undead creature of myth.

There was nothing startling or revelatory about this kind of change. The duality of good and evil is clearly stated in the Old Testament in the passage that follows.

"I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things. "(Isaiah 45:5-8)

The novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is about a London lawyer named Gabriel John Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll, and the vile Mr Edward Hyde. The work is famous for its vivid portrayal of a split personality, split in the sense that within the same person there is both an apparently good and an evil personality each being quite distinct from the other. The novella's impact is such that it has become a part of the language, with the phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" coming to mean a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to the next.

In my novel, Nessa strives deny her vampirism as much as possible. She wants to be the "good human," not the "evil" vampire. However, there are times when circumstances force her to become the lethal vampire in her own self-defense, or to save Frank. Even acting in self defense, her ferocity and physical power enable her to act in a way most people would find abhorrent. There are instances in the novel when her actions go far beyond self-defense, and the crueler, aspect of her nature is revealed.

We all struggle with our own impulses of good and evil. In order to retain our essential humanity it is necessary we keep our evil impulses at bay. Recent history has shown that under certain circumstances "good people" can act in ways that contravene the ethical and moral standards under which we live.

Nessa, despite her desire to be human, is the vampire, the beast. So beauty and the beast reside side-by-side.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

We Are the Vampires by Neil Benson

Vampires are us, not other. When we look into the mirror, they are the twisted reflections of evil within us. This is not to say that all, or even most, people are essentially evil. Rather, the vampire is a metaphor for some of our evil wishes. As much as the myth of the vampire is about sex, it is also about greed. The vampire hungers for the blood of the living and takes it by force, not caring whether the victim lives or dies. Of course, there is the exception. That is when the vampire for personal reasons decides to turn the victim into one of the "undead." Evil breeding evil.

Various legends and myths make Lilith, Adam's first wife, the mother of all vampires or all succubi. According to the myth, Lilith refused to subjugate herself to Adam and demanded to be his equal. She might have been the first feminist. For her defiance, she paid an awful price. The Angels killed her children, and she in turn swore vengeance on the descendent of Adam. There are 4000-year-old stone carvings of Lilith. The presence of the carving does not necessarily make her real. However, for people to have taken the trouble to make carvings of her meant she was of more than minor significance. There are legends of vampires in many other cultures separated from the civilizations that arose in Mesopotamia and its neighboring areas.

I believe one way to look at the vampire is to see the creature as humanity disowning its own evil intent. We invent the creature and give it lust and other qualities we deny exist in ourselves. After millenniums passed, the vampire arrived in literature. First in John Polypore's The Vampyre, then in Carmilla" by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and finally in Dracula by Bram Stoker. It is worth noting that Lord Ruthven in Vampire and Carmilla both appear as "normal" human beings. However, Dracula is described as thin, with a long white mustache, pointed ears and sharp teeth. He is dressed all in black and has hair on his palms. Jonathan Harker notes his "extraordinary" pallor.

I believe Dracula was depicted to make him an evil looking creature, not one of us. A hundred years pass, and vampires are once again indistinguishable from us. In many novels, they are creatures of great beauty and allure. In recent novels, they have been tamed, and were it not for their thirst for blood and immortality, could probably join the Chamber of Commerce. But in 2007, continuing into 2008 and 2009, a worldwide financial catastrophe brings forth a different vampire. These vampires do not take in blood, nor are they immortal and have inhuman strength. Rather, these vampires sucked the financial blood of the nation that a second Great Depression was only narrowly averted. These vampires are bankers, brokers, heads of investment firms, mortgage agents, and a host of others who fed on society's greed for bigger, better houses.

Vampires will always be among us. For they are "us" in our worst aspects. Whether in the form of the myth or the reality of people so greedy they would destroy an economy, they are us.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson Bound for Hell

Just when you think you've heard the ultimate insensitive comment from Rush Limbaugh, he shows you that you have underestimated his ability to be less than a human being. On a recent radio show, his Rushness said,

" Speaking on his radio show Wednesday, Limbaugh said the earthquake has played into Obama’s hands, allowing the president to look “compassionate” and “humanitarian” while at the same time bolstering his standing in both the “light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country.” He added: “We've already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”

Conservative columnists on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Show said the following.

“They are deeply insensitive,” said conservative commentator Pat Buchanan on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Sitting next to Buchanan on set, host Joe Scarborough called Limbaugh’s comments “deplorable.” “The insensitivity is stunning,” said the former Republican congressman.

How can Rush Limbaugh consider himself a Christian when he says so many vile things, and holds his fellow men and women in such contempt. It would be interesting to see him attempting to enter heaven and St. Peter holding an inch thick file of the venomous things he has said during his life. Get into heaven? No way. Bound for a much warmer climate.

While Limbaugh received a modicum of support, nobody of note has stepped up to defend Robertson’s claim that Haiti got hit by an earthquake because it is “cursed.”

Speaking about the disaster during his program “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson said that when Haiti was still a French colony its leaders “swore a pact to the devil” to get out from “under the heel of the French.”

“They said, ‘we will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal,’”

No doubt Pat Robertson considers himself a person close to God. Once Robertson shuffles off this mortal coil he is likely to find himself heartily embraced by Satan rather than uplifted into glory and heaven. The man is just plain mean. What he says disqualifies him not only as a Christian, but also as a human being.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The NBC Scandal: The True Story

I was astonished to learn there was a scandal at NBC. But if the New York Times says there was a scandal, then there must have been a scandal. In today's New York Times, Alessandra Stanley, wrote the following.

"Possibly the most incisive joke about NBC's late-night meltdown came from Conan O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” sidekick Andy Richter. “It’s been the most fun I’ve ever had in a show-biz scandal,” Mr. Richter said sardonically to Mr. O'Brien on their set on Tuesday.

The NBC scandal isn’t fun exactly, but it is has produced the kind of must-see-in-real-time television that late-night comedy shows rarely offer anymore."

While it would be foolish to challenge anything said in the New York Times, perhaps the above bears some further investigation According to Webster's online dictionary, the top three definitions for the word scandal are listed below.

1 a : discredit brought upon religion by unseemly conduct in a religious person b : conduct that causes or encourages a lapse of faith or of religious obedience in another
2 : loss of or damage to reputation caused by actual or apparent violation of morality or propriety :
3 a : a circumstance or action that offends propriety or established moral conceptions or disgraces those associated with it b : a person whose conduct offends propriety or morality

As I read the above definitions, nothing that has happened with Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien meets any of these criteria. Why should I be an old curmudgeon and ruin the party? After all, the public's appetite for information about scandal seems bottomless. The David Letterman scandal in the fall, was a small prelude to the Tiger Woods scandal. Though Tigers pummeling is far from an end, the day will come when he crawls back onto the golf course to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Or is that outrageously bad boy behavior? Never mind, it's probably the same. It's probably best that I not get involved with such controversies. I have to help my publisher get my vampire novel ready for publication. Vampires. That's a safe subject. You've never heard of a vampire scandals, have you?

Sphere: Related Content

Bookmark and Share