Monday, 19 June 2017

HUMAN WRECKAGE

Whyte Avenue Freeze-out

After listening to our two favourite CKUA radio shows and completing Saturday’s New York Times crossword puzzle, Ann and I decided to break free, move beyond the boundaries of our property. Our destination was Whyte Avenue, the south side’s shopping and nightlife strip, and home to Blackbyrd, maybe the city’s last pure record store. We wanted the new releases from Willie Nelson and Jason Isbell, and I knew that with the leisure to browse we’d find some ancient catalogue gem from someone at a reasonable price.

The day was sunny and breezy, the solstice imminent. The bikers and hot-rodders were congregated in the Timmy’s parking lot, showing off their clean machines. The day drinkers were in the darkness of the Commercial Hotel’s blues bar. The sidewalks were tight with people and their dogs and children meandering on weekend time. Some of the pubs and eateries erect temporary street-side patios so patrons can enjoy the crush of humanity in the sunshine from behind a barrier. Pedestrians then must navigate boardwalks that extend onto the road which makes vehicle traffic flow like blood through an artery rimed with cholesterol. Everybody move over, that’s all.

Ann and I were impeded by a group of gym-rats and their skinny little molls. There was jostling, a molten shoving mass and raised voices. Somebody shouted, ‘Let’s go into the alley and fight it out!’ Ann said, ‘Somebody should call the police. Should I?’ I looked at the puffed up corner boys with their oiled haircuts, their muscle shirts, their baggy track pants and pristine leather sneakers. I said, ‘Fuckit, let ‘em cull their herd.’ I’m not afraid of youngsters but I don’t approve of the way they present these days; green ink tattoos scream infection through toxic clouds of sweat and Axe.

One of the fighters jogged ahead to get ready for the dumpster cage match. When Ann and I reached the crosswalk at the end of the block, he was bouncing on the balls of his feet, unable to make the turn into the fight site or even cross the street. ‘Do you got a lighter? A lighter? Do you got a lighter?’ A cigarette butt burned down to the filter flipped up and down between his lips. The end appeared sodden. He hadn’t been alive long enough to ask for a match but he was jitterbugging on some drug that had yet to be invented when I used to take them. ‘Do you got a lighter? A lighter? Do you got a lighter?’

Have I a lighter? Me? Us?

There’s a Toronto Blue Jays Bic in the kangaroo pocket of my sweatshirt right now but only because I could not find a Montreal Expos one earlier this spring. There’s a winter use Montreal Canadiens at home in one of my bedroom bureau drawers. I’ve got two Elvis Zippos that need flints and fuel. I’ve got a heavy metal Rolling Stones American tongue logo lighter that’s a bit too tacky to use. There’s an emergency Bob Marley Exodus tour lighter that I bought in Bridgetown, Barbados, on the shelf by the kitchen door staging area where I do all my standing, staring and thinking, and its purchase was a misremembered mistake because I actually caught the next year’s Kaya tour at the Montreal Forum. There’s an emergency 7-11 lighter in a tray of our Honda’s console. Ann’s got about six plain Bics secreted about her person because she knows she’ll likely mislay five of them. Do I have a lighter? Do Ann and I have lighters? Do we have lighters?

I said, ‘No.’

Friday, 16 June 2017

SAINTS PRESERVE US

Tragedy and Farce

Because Earth is not flat Canadians look down on Americans geographically. Since most of us are settled within a two-hour drive of the world’s longest undefended border, it’s nary impossible to look away from our neighbours to the south. The viewing has become cringingly compelling of late, yesterday’s papers for example - oh man.

There were at least two mass shootings in the United States on Wednesday. One was rather ho-hum, a San Francisco UPS worker went postal, killing three and wounding two before committing suicide. The aftermath of the second one, unfortunately, is not shaking down as the game-changer it should be. A squad of Republican congressmen, their aides and their preferred lobbyists were playing baseball on a Virginia field just beyond the confines of the District of Columbia when they were fired upon by an attacker wielding an assault rifle. The late shooter was identified as an unhinged man with an arrest record, a vitriolic social media profile, and a former volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s rival Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Perhaps because his victims were only wounded, and Republicans at that – made of tougher stuff than the school kids of Sandy Hook Elementary - there have been no outraged calls to tighten what little gun legislation is on the books. Instead, the usual ‘come together’ panacea has been trotted out with sniffy asides about ‘the left’ becoming hostile.

And on…

Megyn Kelly used to be a talking head at FOX News, America’s most reliable and trusted source of alternative facts. She now works for NBC, one of America’s most unreliable and mistrusted sources of fake news. It’s possible that Kelly made her career-limiting move because she eventually tired of being groped by dirty old men impenetrable behind shields of power and money.

Alex Jones is the impeded frontal lobe behind InfoWars, an alarmingly popular conspiracy website and its related Internet channels, as such he wears the Grand Poobah’s tinfoil wizard hat. The Sandy Hook slaughter was a hoax. Anything else that ever happened in America was an inside job. Incredibly, the White House has provided the man with full press credentials. Even a conspiracy theorist might suspect he was being gently conned into the role of a mouth-piece patsy.

Kelly will have Jones on her new Sunday night show because she wants to ‘shine a light’ on the lunatic fringe bringing the FOX model mainstream because it should coax some ratings from the curious, those who can’t stop looking at the freaks. Jones is more of a personality than a journalist, he’s no Seymour Hersh, the dogged, independent investigative reporter who exposed the My Lai Massacre and subsequently won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting; that was real. This weekend two vapid people famous for being media personalities but who haven’t actually done anything will talk to each other and their conversation will constitute news.

And on…

Closer to home, Ottawa has been without an American ambassador since Washington’s regime change in January. There was an unsettling rumour that the preferred nominee was reality television star Sarah Palin. Fortunately, she was refudiated. The actual pick is one Kelly Knight Craft, renowned in Republican circles for her fund-raising capabilities. Craft is not a career diplomat. Her husband Joe is a coal baron, an industry that provides jobs, good jobs, many jobs, many good jobs. If the US State Department okays Craft in her new role, things could get a little awkward for Craft up here on the cocktail circuit what with Canada’s socialist carbon taxes, Canada’s adherence to the Paris Accords on climate change, and Canada’s goal to phase out the use of coal as an energy source. Palin would’ve been an insult; Craft just might be a dig.

And so on…

With the decline of empire comes distraction, frivolity and spectacle, circus maximus. The year’s biggest sports hype isn’t really a sporting event at all. Two grandiose and mouthy self-promoters will go toe-to-toe inside the turnbuckles for 200-million reasons. Retired pugilist Floyd Mayweather, undefeated and a champion in four different weight classes, will don his trunks once more to fight Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight blowhard Conor McGregor later this summer in the desert for social media bragging rights. Las Vegas is twitterpated. This is a P.T. Barnum event, a glitzy fleece and unfortunately, a sign of the times.

Canada, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, is almost a century younger than the great American experiment. Given a few more decades, we too may stagnate and then regress because there is no guarantee that existing internal worldly and progressive views will remain fashionable and, anyway, this country’s got its own rap sheet of crimes and misdemeanors. Still, while watching what unfolds down south with dreadful fascination, it’s important to take notes and at least record what not to do.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

SAINTS PRESERVE US

Russia Rocks the Free World

This morning former FBI Director (“You’re fired!”) James Comey testified before a United States Senate intelligence committee. This was probably the most compelling, must watch television since, say, November 8th, 2016. Here at the Crooked 9 Comey’s testimony was streaming on an iPhone and a desktop computer, a fraction of a second out of sync but very bad news for traditional broadcasters. But this is the modern world and the modern world is a very confused and complicated slice of space in time, which Comey’s words drove home.

The crux of the matter is the Kremlin. The Russian security services are very good at what they do. The days of the Soviet KGB infiltrating trade unions and radical students’ groups, and providing financial backing for Marxist-Leninist tabloids are long gone. Divisive and disruptive techniques to destabilize what Comey described as “the shining house on the hill” are now far more elegant, sophisticated and shadowy.

Perhaps it’s not quite fair to describe the 45th president of the USA, a billionaire, as a bumpkin. Still, the new White House regime seems to be a cadre of inexperienced, immaculately groomed regressive zealots, some of whom might be half-wits. Perhaps it made perfect sense to open a Batshit-crazy Backdoor Red Phone to a hostile foreign power using their technology because it had somehow hacked the outcome of what was believed to be a free and democratic election. Deposed national security advisor Michael Flynn was the head of the wedge or perhaps the supplicating hand (tough to tell with liars); the retired military general is now registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent because he actively promotes the interests of Turkey, a fast failing quasi-democracy.

All we really know is that the most admirable and powerful country in the world is awash in harsh partisan confusion and that the Russians cleverly fracked those fissures. Comey chose to pledge his allegiance to America’s constitution and not to a star of reality television. But Comey may become an actual reality television or live stream star himself. When thanked by one senator for appearing before the committee as a private citizen, he quipped, “I’m between opportunities.”

The core of Comey’s testimony was sheer common sense. Ultimately, there are no Democrats or Republicans, just Americans. Something happened and he believes his country is at risk. These are not the good old days of midnight spy exchanges at Checkpoint Charlie. There’s no need to speculate on Russian interference in the last US election. Comey said, “There’s no fuzz on this.” In other words, the evidence is hard, solid in the eyes of US intelligence services. Alarmingly, Comey raised the possibility of American inside help and that prospect goes far beyond the realm of troubled whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Meanwhile, the president just wants all of this fake stuff to go away.

The Senate intelligence committee this morning did teeter toward the oxymoronic. Republican senator John McCain, a Vietnam War hero branded “a loser” by the current commander-in-chief and who thought Sarah Palin had the right stuff to be vice-president, doddered into the Kremlin’s e-mail funhouse without a stamp or an envelope.

As Director of the FBI, Comey was compelled to investigate the stupidity of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s reliance on an unsecure and private e-mail server. Under scrutiny, the senator from New York erased or lost some 30,000 pieces of correspondence, security levels and national importance unknown. But this was crusty stuff, dating back to President Obama’s first term. No charges were laid because, alas, you can’t jail someone for simply being an idiot.

The 2016 presidential campaign was something different altogether. The Democratic Party’s computer systems were invaded and confidential information wasn’t leaked so much as poured onto the Internet. Very possibly, maybe, this flood turned the tide of the election. The key here is whether the Russians did or did not do anything to effect the outcome last November, and if they did or didn’t, people are unsure if they did or didn’t. Win-win. Comey said, “This is a big deal.”

This morning McCain was caught up in a web of counter-espionage, hook, line and sinker. The creaky senior from Arizona wondered why the ancient Clinton e-mail investigation had been closed because obviously it related to the election leaks investigation, those innocuous internal Democratic e-mails, and wasn’t this some sort of double standard, what with the FBI looking into the White House’s connections with the Russians when it’s really all about Hillary? Sure. The Kremlin won this round; well played, comrades. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

EDMONTON EXISTENTIAL

The Somewhat Greener Grass of Home

A couple of years ago the City of Edmonton launched a public service campaign encouraging its property owners not to bag their grass clippings and put them out with the trash. The persuasive argument stated that sheared clipping were 70-per-cent water anyway and that they would quickly dry up on lawns and act as mulch. This free mulch would keep tonnes of waste from making like more sardines in landfill. I bought in, the premise seemed rational.

Urban Albertans mow their lawns about 12 times a year by my count. The frequency diminishes as spring and summer dwindle into late September. I’ve always enjoyed the chore because I can get a lot of thinking done, multi-task as it were, but was pleased to learn it was now acceptable to skip a step. I was also mildly taken aback by the fact that something I’d been raised and taught to do was now wrong, but wasn’t always wrong because nobody knew better back then and had never considered the consequences of trying to dispose of hundreds of thousands of giant plastic bags of grass clippings year after year. The flame of enlightenment was tiny, it wasn’t “You mean Earth isn’t flat and the sun doesn’t revolve around it!?” Still, it gave me pause while mowing a diagonal pattern in the backyard. What else do I believe that is hopelessly misguided?

The City’s slogan was WE GO BAGLESS, sort of lame cheeky, saucy, ‘going commando,’ a smiley faced official spin on a slackening of standards. One morning, I left the house and encountered an election-style ‘bagless’ lawn sign on the property. I was a tad disturbed because I’d no idea who’d put it there. Also, was this promoting an initiative or just shaming my neighbours? Or both? Ironically, the sign was silk screened onto corrugated plastic. Plastic is indestructible, it won’t fade away into organic molecules like grass clippings. Any action whether progressive or regressive will always be accompanied by a retinue of unforeseen issues and consequences.

This town, my town, perched on both majestic banks of the meandering North Saskatchewan River is gorgeous, a very fine place to live, renowned for its setting and extensive greenspaces. In 2015 Edmonton ceased the use of herbicides in the city’s parks and on its boulevards. One of the rationales was that some of the city’s citizens were allergic to chemicals. My take on that was, “Too bad, cope with it,” because I’ve learned over the years that if you peel away the layers of most do-good complainers and self-described activists, you will often hit a deep vein, a mother lode, of narrow self-interest. The second City rationale was the mounting and unintended scourge of herbicides on the world’s bee population. Bees are a vital element in the planet’s complex ecosystem; everything’s connected. I bought that argument, albeit with reservations.

The result has been unbecoming for a provincial capital. Edmonton now appears neglected in a post-apocalyptic kind of way. Dandelions and noxious weeds have partied like it’s 1899. I’m convinced too that a fair number of citizens take their cue from the City. If municipal properties look shabby, then who cares about smaller tracts of private property? Unsurprisingly, addressing one problem has created another problem that needs addressing. So it goes.

The proposed solution is either insanely clever or bat-shit crazy. I haven’t made up my mind because I can’t get past Julie Andrews warbling, “Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo,” the lusty words of the lonely goatherd. The City’s latest weed control pilot project involves 200 goats, herders mounted on horseback, guard dogs to ward off curious coyotes and temporary fencing because goats apparently tend to wander rather than stand and graze like sheep.

Our over-reliance on fossil fuels and petroleum products has led to a near disastrous state of planetary affairs in something less than a blink of an eye in cosmological time. The internal combustion engine alone is responsible for dehumanizing urban design. We plan and build and maintain our cities to accommodate cars, not people. But I can confidently state that the streets of my town are no longer unsanitary quagmires of mud and horse shit.

Goats are like horses and us too, what goes in must come out in some form or another. My hunch is that a grand public park dotted with goat droppings will be more attractive than one overgrown and populated with weeds. Everything will be fine until an Alberta scientist isolates some previously unknown type of goat scat virus and designates it a threat to public health. If that scenario shakes down, then what? Grass. I’ve just written nearly 800 words about grass, so simple and yet so complicated – just like everything.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

SAINTS PRESERVE US

Hello, Big Brother

I’ve had a fender bender with the future, a low speed crash course.

A few days ago I went to see Alien: Covenant because I will always go to a Ridley Scott science fiction film because I know I will be in for a visual treat, a feast of battered technology and dripping ruins. ‘Covenant’ is a sequel to Prometheus, but the two films are not prequels to Scott’s original Alien so much as a more complex reboot of a franchise which essentially began life as a haunted house in space. In our age of burgeoning artificial intelligence (AI), there are looming existential questions and possible outcomes to speculate upon.

Michael Fassbender is electric in dual roles, one as David, the surviving ‘synthetic’ from the Prometheus mission, and as Walter, his more dutiful, upgraded version aboard the Covenant. “Hello, brother.” At its core, Alien: Covenant is a remake of The Forbidden Planet spiked with a queasily gratuitous homage to the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. As the script addresses humanity’s need to know its creator and our species’ search for a new world of milk and honey, the plot only thickens with a shocking Judas Kiss.

1843 is a culturally themed sister publication of The Economist which first went to press that year. The latest issue carried a feature story detailing the difficulties scientists and programmers face as they attempt to instill and install morals and ethics into AI entities. The example cited read like the set up for a joke, a robot walks into a restaurant – an absurd, though explanatory premise. The logical machine would go straight into the kitchen because that’s where the food is stored. However, social norms dictate that restaurant customers sit at a table, perhaps order a drink, choose their meals from a menu and then wait for a server to bring their food to their table. Baby steps before robot warriors that will not rape and pillage engage in firefights with brainwashed child soldiers high on crudely synthesized opioids.

Following the flick I left the Cineplex theatre and crossed the parking lot to The Rec Room, another Cineplex property. The space is massive, an industrial chic gallery of bars, food counters, hi-def screens and new fangled games. I’ve never been able to make the conceptual leap of acceptance from card games, board games and, hell, even pinball to video games. All require degrees of skill and strategy but video games have always struck me as frittering away the benefits of new technological resources. A waste of time for everyone involved; my generation gap, I suspect.

I have since learned that gaming technology has enhanced training simulations and that those who pilot C.I.A. drones probably spent too much time in their mothers’ basements. Very recently The Economist ran a story explaining how video game codes are being altered for use as learning tools for AI units. For instance, a driverless car will recognize the Platonic ideal of a STOP sign, a graphic in a learner’s manual. A ‘drive’ through Grand Theft Auto will teach it to recognize STOP signs “covered with mud” and presumably, shot full of holes. Who could have predicted that whilst sparking up a doobie and playing Pong for the first time? The hi-tech rapture of ‘The Singularity,’ the synchromesh of humanity and AI, David and Walter, may be upon us sooner than visionaries have hoped.

The future was a lot to think about, so I ordered another pint and went outside for a contemplative cigarette. When I reentered The Rec Room the bouncer said, “May I scan your I.D., sir.” I replied with my best Roger Moore arched eyebrow. He repeated his question. I said, “I’m sitting right over there.” He said, “I know that, sir” and repeated his question which wasn’t really a question at all. I asked, “Why?” He repeated his question. Our tones of voice were changing. I was attempting to have a conversation with an automaton.

Was a kid in a black t-shirt with yellow SECURITY printed on it and a Bluetooth sticking out of his head going to be my hill to die on? How much personal information had I already freely volunteered to various levels of government, Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and God knows who else? I saw my beer waiting at the bar. I reluctantly handed him my driver’s license. I said, “Let me see your screen.” He spun it toward me. There I was out in the parking lot looking shifty. “That’s your I.D. photo beside it.” I said I was familiar with my I.D. photo. “Why all this?” He provided the inarguable and Orwellian explanation: “For the safety of our patrons, sir.” Bad guys in the world and on the grid. I pointed at myselves, “What happens to this information?” He said, “Cineplex cannot access it. It’s stored on a private and secure server and then erased after 30 (maybe he said 90) days.” I said, “There’s no such thing.” He looked past my shoulder at the line of kids I was holding up.

So I walked back into the future with its virtual gaming rooms, its electronics, its utter sterility, annoyed with myself because I’d acquiesced to Big Brother who turned out to be a little prick in a cheap uniform wielding a modicum of power. “So this night might be how it will all shake down,” I thought. “The Jehovahs are starting to look pretty good.” I told the bartender to pour me another.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

HUMAN WRECKAGE

Our Gaming System

There are a number of running jokes in our house. The commonest one occurs after Ann or I encounter an uncommon word in a news story or crossword puzzle. Its number of letters and their corresponding Scrabble values are quickly ticked off on fingertips. How we both ache to play all seven tiles from a rack on a triple.

Our Scrabble games are a welcome ritual. The average two-player game should take about half an hour. Ours don’t. I usually set the Deluxe Edition rotating board up on the dining room table. The window blinds have to be adjusted so that we can watch the activities on our street from a sitting position. We take turns selecting the music for each match, three or four discs. Ann leans toward roots and Americana. I tend to spin themes: British pub rock, solo Beatles, three degrees of Ron Wood, New York City punk, reggae, Ireland; stuff we’ll both enjoy but haven’t played for a while.

We’ve adapted Scrabble’s rules to suit us. We abide by the Official Scrabble Dictionary, Merriam-Webster and Oxford’s English and Canadian editions. Anything goes. Neither of us has ever bothered to memorize the game’s acceptable two-letter words. ‘Can I check something?’ pauses play. If the word is good and we don’t know what it means we look it up together. There is no bluffing between Ann and me. We do not lie to each other.

Our games run long because beyond concentrating on the board and the tiles on our racks and those which may still be in the burgundy felt bag, there are notations on the wall calendar in the kitchen: appointments, events and obligations to be discussed. Our conversations wheel: ‘We should pull out the fridge and the stove and clean behind and underneath them.’ ‘That black infill three doors down looks like a Borg cube from Star Trek.’ Smokers both, Ann and I take frequent cigarette breaks because there’s always more to talk about with each other. Our two investigative tabbies often check the flow of play, especially the drooler.

Around this time of year, weather permitting, we like to move the competition outdoors to the picnic table on the rear patio. The games are a little shorter because since Ann and I are outside we can puff on cigarettes over the ever-evolving board, no breaks. There’s no music either except birdsong and squirrel claws on wood fences. Leaves and branches rustle in the breezes. There’s an ambient hum from the nearby freeway that shadows the winding, green river. Somebody’s always pushing a lawnmower on our street while others walk, talk and laugh. Helicopters and jets fly overhead. And there are always sirens in the city.

Scrabble is a game of skill and strategy tempered by the luck of the draw. I frequently tell Ann that I’m one letter away from greatness. I am chum to her Scrabble shark though my game is gradually improving. If I rack up 300 points, the result is no longer a happy shock. The outcome, and Scrabble itself, is a secondary function to a thoughtful, shared activity; we rarely sit passively in front of the television.

Ann and I recently vacationed on Maui with my sister and her husband. God bless them, they’d thought to pack a Scrabble game. We played on their lanai. We were sipping homemade Margaritas, fresh limes, lots of ice and good tequila. High above the palm fronds I could see Orion’s belt through the dark. I was in wonderful company with my family, my friends. I had a pretty good rack of tiles and was eying up a triple. I thought, ‘Life doesn’t get much better than this.’ Ann took my spot.

Further reading: Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis – Whoo-boy, we’re not that far gone yet.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

SAINTS PRESERVE US

Can We Talk Shrilly?

Most of us have strong opinions about complex ideas or issues we don’t fully comprehend. Our world is a very complicated place to navigate and so we tend to rely upon guides: mentors, pundits, artists, writers, the clergy, politicians, and the opinions opined in our circle of somewhat stable relatives and friends. And being human we examine the fruits of others’ knowledge, naturally selecting flavours and textures which align with our own ripened notions of the way things are or should be. Intellectually, most of us are ignorant cherry pickers.

The thoughtful person whose beliefs no matter how deeply ingrained and entrenched should always consider the merits of a well-reasoned counter-argument. But these are hysterical and humourless times fraught with righteous complaint, possibly perpetuated by the proliferation of social media, or at least amplified by its presence. We are deaf and dumb to civil discourse, just plain manners, and healthy discussion. It came as no surprise then that the insular world of Canadian scribblers went nuclear over the issue of cultural appropriation last week.

The editor (since axed) of The Writers’ Union of Canada’s (TWUC)* Write magazine cheekily suggested in a published essay that there be a Cultural Appropriation Prize, a reward for writers who write about characters beyond their own identifiable social group (race, religion, gender… conjure anything and pick one). Joseph Boyden might qualify. From the explosion of outrage, you’d think the poor fellow had suggested using uncleared minefields for dog runs or school yards. Next, the editor-in-chief (since resigned) of The Walrus, Canada’s premier cultural journal, joined the conversation on the side of common sense, decrying the mobilization of the thoughtpolice. Cultural appropriation is a matches-and-gasoline topic, but is there a more logical forum to examine the issue than in the pages of Write?

The fallout was beyond absurd: writers censuring one another and pleading for censorship. These are activities we usually associate with threatened narrow and cheerless minds, Fahrenheit 451. Literary feuds are only fun when they’re one on one and witty. There are only two types of writing in any genre or format: good and bad. A politically correct or culturally sensitive point of view does not and cannot bestow merit on an earnest, tortuous screed. Good writing will evoke Aristotle’s tenet of great theatre, the suspension of the reader’s disbelief. Good writers will never draw marginalia around their talents because the world is a strange, beautiful and horrible place, and, goddamn, there’s nothing like people for material.

All that is apparent from this kafuffle in a kettle (Hello, Pot) is that some of our more prosaic guides have lost their way. And you gather from the torrent of Tweets that no one is prepared to pause and speak nor agree to politely disagree on a civil way forward. You can only summon Stephen Leacock’s Lord Ronald who ‘flung himself from the room, flung himself on his horse and rode madly off in all directions.’

*I have had two novels published in Canada. I am not a member of TWUC or any other writers’ association. You can probably guess why.