Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the month “October, 2013”

Pagan America – Hellaween!

A couple of times a year, I feel compelled to ooze love about my newly adopted motherland (parentland?). I realize that many of the blog posts that I, and my esteemed colleagues at Left Coast Voices, are critical of one thing or another. But there are certain times that everything fits, and you feel the real America. I love the freedom, the liberty and Halloween. 

I know this ancient, spiritual festival is now commercial, sugar and additive prone. I know these are the hazy remnants and perhaps denigration of the customs and culture of a religion systematically destroyed by monotheism. But I love how, for a few hours, everyone throws on a costume, get all excited and friendly, and for a few hours share the sandpit together without squabbling over toys or Obamacare. Oh, and I enjoy the kids celebrating Halloween too!

Perhaps it’s something unique to The People’s Republic of Berkeley, (I have never lived anyway else in the US), but when whole neighborhoods get into the swing together, something very special happens, if only for an evening.

My first novel, A Gardener’s Tale, illustrated the struggle between the Pagan religions and Christianity in rural England. It follows two years in the lives of the villagers and a mysterious stranger who comes into their community. One of the elements felt by the villagers is the breakdown of their community, how they are becoming increasingly estranged from their neighbors.

Through reigniting the Pagan religion that once united them, the protagonist offers an opportunity to reclaim their community. We need this today more than ever. How many of us really know our neighbors and those living across the road? My neighborhood began a community initiative to get to know each other after a woman was attacked by a man who tried to steal her purse. As she screamed for help, there was a spontaneous outpouring of people from their houses. Out of nowhere, that street became a community. But it lasted only a year or so and we returned to our own little connected/unconnected worlds.

We need Halloweens to bind us together rather than crimes. With so much violence and conflict in the world that sees to revolve around religion, perhaps we also need the gentler, older religions. The earth certainly does.

So here’s to candy and spontaneous celebration. Happy Samhain, everyone.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

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Not Ready for Hillary, and Other Basic Laws of Nature – Tom Rossi

It’s been a while since I copycatted one of Roger’s ideas. So here we go with a collection of mini-rants on things that seem obvious to me…

I’m not ready for Hillary. I know her people went through a lot of trouble to come up with that cute little piece of wit, but Hillary Clinton is a hawk and she’s also an unquestioning believer in the brand of economics that lead to disaster and is basically a system of justification for chasmic separation between the “haves” and have-nots.” Being a hawk, she is pro-war. That means that she has supported war as a “solution” where it was not even close to appropriate.

Ready for Hillary bumper stickers

I’m going to come into disagreement with a lot of liberals on this one, and maybe even some of my co-writers, here, but I just don’t get it. Hillary is your standard issue politician, unremarkable in any way whatsoever. People can’t tell me why they support Hillary, only that they do. People have told me that they are “fans” of Hillary. Yuck. Before the 2008 election, other people told me they were “fans” of Sarah Palin. That statement kept me awake at night for weeks.

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And why? Why, why, why, can you not buy a can of soup anymore that doesn’t have celery in it? I hate celery! I know some people like it, but it takes over the taste of a soup like putting a bunch of garlic in there would. Leave it out, people! It’s basically a cheap filler that makes it seem like there’s something other than broth in the soup. I’d rather have broth.

Another thing: It seems that, lately, the amount of time that television shows of all types spend at commercial has finally equaled the airtime of the show, itself. I’m at the point where I keep a list of things I see in commercials just so I can avoid those products.commimage I’m sick of hearing how my life will be a big dance party if I buy a friggin’ Toyota or how cool and macho I’ll be if I buy a Pontiac or what a unique individual I would be if I bought an Infinity. Is anybody really still stupid enough to think that their car defines or changes who they are? Really???? Save some money, go on a vacation to someplace cool. The end.

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And why do I keep seeing Dick Cheney on television?!?!? The GOP must pay TV stations directly to give us fake “stories” about his fake heart. The GOP doesn’t realize that, if you look really closely, you can see the spots where he shaves down the horns, every day. But hey, keep it up. He is about as effective a spokesman as Sarah Palin was. He’s so thoroughly un-charismatic that people naturally want to think the opposite of whatever he says. Keep it up.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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When you know you are a Serious Writer

Here is a fun read to welcome in the weekend. From the folks at Writer’s Relief, an agency that helps writers prepare and submit their work, here is something so true, you cannot help but laugh.

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Here are some other telltale signs that you’re a creative writer who is determined to make it:

1. You know what NaNoWriMo means.

2. Your pockets/purse/car caddy are overflowing with scribbled napkins of dialogue.

3. You surreptitiously check out other people’s bookshelves instead of their medicine cabinets.

4. You’ve turned the woman down the street into a hit man’s wife in your head/novel, and now you’re scared to walk past her house.

5. The “t” and “r” on your keyboard are pretty much toast.

6. The people who work at the local bookstore know your name. And you’ve been reprimanded more than once for moving your own books to more prominent locations.

7. You’re frequently spotted staring off into the distance with your lips moving and your eyes slightly crossed…

8. You find a copy of your paranormal erotic romance novel at the nursing home when you visit Grandma.

9. Your work clothes consist of sweatpants and bunny slippers, and your commute is about twenty seconds from coffeepot to computer.

10. Your mail carrier gets nervous when he sees you running toward him each afternoon…in sweatpants and bunny slippers.

11.You’ve been banned from the local coffee spot for stealing pens and eavesdropping on conversations.

12. You find yourself considering copyrighting your emails and Twitter posts.

13. Your family members no longer consider your writing to be a “phase.” Best of all, Aunt Judy has finally stopped asking when you’re going to get a real job.

But when it comes down to it, Stephen King has it right:

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. —Stephen King

 Hope you have a relaxing weekend. Thank you to everyone who has made the launch month for Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 such a success. If you have read it (or any of my novels), please take a few minutes over the weekend and leave a review on Amazon.com. Reviews are an important component in Amazon’s ranking. Thank you.

Ashbar front cover

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Taboo Talk: Religion – Roger Ingalls

Normally I don’t like to write about religion because it is very difficult to explain the nuances of one’s thoughts in a blog post consisting of a few hundred words. And, not too many people will read a 10,000 word post about the subject. However, I do like to talk about religion; it’s a fascinating topic.

Actually, this post isn’t really about religion, it’s about bring people together.

I read an article earlier today which got me thinking about how other people view religion. Participation in organized religion is on the decline but most people still believe in “something”. It would be extremely interesting to hear what others think about in regards to a higher order or their interpretation of religion. According to the article, it seems people want spiritual dialog, not preaching and they don’t want to be judged. In addition, there’s a feeling that the Gods of the main religions are ancient and don’t have relevance or show their existence today.

It would be fun to bring people together in some type of open forum where thoughts and beliefs could be shared without judgment. With all the social media and connection tools this should be easy to do. I’m brain storming on the fly here but this is something I may try to initially organize through GoToMeeting. I’d have open invitations to all people: all religious backgrounds, races, sexual orientation, atheists and so on. I’d try to get religious leaders to come to get their views but also so they could hear modern views first hand. Perhaps I could talk local churches, temple, mosques and synagogues into opening their door to host the meetings.

It would be an interesting experience but would people actually come?

Religous Leaders

The Ivy League Class Conundrum

I work on the university campus scene. Whatever your thoughts about the millennials, I love working with them. Seeing a flower blossom, discovering a rare diamond in the rough…you get it. They question, debate, and they are incredibly incisive in their analysis. 

images-4Occasionally the finished product walks into the student center. They are not just a straight-A student, but articulate, active, and charismatic. There is one such student right now who caught my eye with her presence and intelligence.

She had just returned from a national conference and was telling a group that gathered around her how inspired she felt. I caught her, a little while later, alone, with a frown on her face and after a few moments of cajoling she began to talk.

She had met a young man studying at Harvard and they had immediately hit it off. She discovered they were studying the same major, had exactly the same grades, and seemed in many ways to be very similar.

She began to grill him, trying to discover why an Ivy League school would take him and not her. The difference between them soon became apparent. His resume, in her words, was loaded. He had spent every summer in impressive internships, captained or initiated a variety of high school student groups or initiatives. He told her that he had stressed to balance his schoolwork and drive to have grades to reach a school like Harvard, together with all this extra-curriculum activity. She had been very impressed with him.

This young woman is the eldest daughter of a single mother. She had worked every summer since the ninth grade, contributing to the family’s limited financial resources. Her hard-working mother put in extra hours to make ends meet and did not want her high school daughter working during school-time instead of studying. But, as her mother worked long hours, the daughter needed to pick up her siblings, make them dinner, help them with their homework, and generally take care of them. 

images-3She would love to have experienced the internships that her new Harvard friend had done. She would have been proud to participate in the kind of high school activity that he had. But it was just not possible. Circumstances dictated that she took care of her family and she did this with understanding and good grace.

I salute this young woman’s drive to excel through education. I salute her mother, who sacrificed herself for a vision that her children would have an easier life than she did, using education as a vehicle to success.

I just wish Harvard and the Ivy League schools would do the same.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

T is one tough 7th Grader – Tim O’Mara

An inspired and inspiring public school teacher.

Elfwriter

Elfwriter’s Introduction:

Tim O’Mara is a hero. He is a public school teacher and a man (rare to have male role models in our schools). Like most of these dedicated, hard-working, under-rewarded, and under-recognized teachers, he cares about his students. I am very inspired by him and very grateful as a father and a citizen to all public school teachers.

But Tim is not just an  NYC public middle-school teacher. He is an author. He wrote an adult mystery series about a public schoolteacher who used to be a cop. O’Mara never was a cop, but his brother is. Raymond Donne Book 1,Sacrifice Fly(2012 Minotaur Books), was nominated by Deadly Pleasures Magazine for the2013 Best First Novel Barry Award.

O’Mara teaches math and special education in a tony area of Manhattan now, but started his career in 1987 in a disadvantaged section of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the…

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When Blogging Becomes A Way Of Life

Three years ago, when I signed with Three Clover Press to release The Accidental Activist, I made a commitment to reach 1,000 blog posts in three years. This was based upon the belief that the blog creates a live and interactive platform with ever-changing content and feeds the more static website. Left Coast Voices was born.

 “The richest people in the world build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” Robert Kiyosaki

I will get there by the end of the year, but I never expected to be as enthused today as I was when I wrote those first posts. At the time, I wanted to build a platform, to get my name out and direct people to my books. I wrote extensively about multinationals when The Accidental Activist was released – this being my favorite, and about war veterans after the release of Unwanted Heroes.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

At the time, I felt like one of a few who were consistently blogging and it wasn’t long before Lloyd Lofthouse, author and mentor to me, and I were being invited to speak about blogging.

But blogging has come a long way in these past few years and it is difficult to imagine how to get heard above the noise. There are a few who build a loyal following. I wake up every morning, make coffee and faithfully read the daily Arseblog post – which provides me with more than just the latest news of my favorite soccer team. A bloke in Ireland is pounding the keyboards every day. He has a podcast once a week and is now offering a Google Hangout where he brings other Arsenal bloggers on board. And I lap it up…every day without fail.

imagesAs I approach the 1,000th post, I am wondering where I want to take the blog. I love the contributions of Tom Rossi on Tuesdays and Roger Ingalls on Thursdays. Norm Weekes chips in every month or so with a powerful message, and it sometimes has a feeling of community.

So, if you have a minute, please answer the following three questions in the comments below:

1. What do you like about Left Coast Voices?

2. What would you like to see more of?

3. Are a variety of topics a good or frustrating thing?

If you are interested in joining the team and having a weekly post on the blog, please shoot me an email at alshalev at yahoo dot com.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Thank you for being part of this exciting journey.

This post was inspired by the great bloggers at Savvy Writers. Their post includes an excellent visual analysis of who is blogging and why. They also deserve the credit for the Robert Kiyosaki quote (as does Robert, of course for saying it!). Any author would be well-advised to follow their blog for really good social media articles.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Rape is a Crime. So is Silence.

Disclaimer: I am writing about a topic I know nothing about. I am a man. I have never forced myself upon a woman, never been forced, and it is a topic that I feel no one is talking about. I live in the progressive San Francisco Bay Area and I am experiencing a wave of shock at the three incidents I have heard about recently.

This is America…California…San Francisco…and it feels like I am living in a primitive or totalitarian society.

All three incidents (as much as I was told) involved women who reached a point where during the attack they went still, played dead, from fear that they could not stand more physical abuse and pain, or maybe for fear of their lives. They tried to mentally detach, to distance themselves from what was being done to them.

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As far as I understand, this desperate survival act, compromised their ability to have the criminals who did this to them brought to justice. The fact that the physical evidence could have been from just having ‘rough (consensual) sex’ means that they are not believed that they were raped, and are often treated as sluts, liars, or unstable.

The fact that the women I spoke with were apprehensive about reporting the crime to the police is a terrible reflection of our police force. Why are they having to report this to a man, in a uniform, who symbolizes ‘power-over’? Do we not have enough women in the police force that it is standard procedure for a woman police officer to interview the (female) victim?

So this is a man’s world. Maybe, but here is California we are blessed with some amazing women in leadership. Where the fuck is Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and the other strong women leaders I look up to and admire? In my work, and the activism part of my life, I meet such incredibly strong, empowered women. Why the silence? Where are the men in power who have the responsibility to protect all citizens?

When I first came to California, a gay friend was explaining the fight to crush DOMA here. He said something like: It has to start here. California is a start-up nation, not only in hi-tech, but in social policy. If it can be done anywhere, California must lead the way to change.

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That a person must walk around for the rest of his/her life with this crime eating away inside, constantly in a  state of hyper-vigilance, being a painful reminder every time someone close tries to be intimate with them, is a life sentence.

Bringing the rapist to justice will never erase what they did to the victim, but it might go some way to closure. At least there is not that haunting feeling that the assailant is still walking free.

If we are to suggest that America has any claim to moral and social leadership, if we are to preach freedom to the world, then we must eradicate this criminal act and the damaging silence that surrounds it.  

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, Ashbar – Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Gordon Gekko Lives – Tom Rossi

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I’ve been wondering lately (okay, for many, many years) how people can still hold onto conservative ideas about the economy. Social issues are one thing – there is a legitimate debate about abortion, for example, but for some people, economics seems to be even more of a religious issue than that. People just hold onto their beliefs, despite a wealth (pun intended) of evidence to the contrary.

To track down some of the reasoning of the followers of the tired, old religion of conventional, “free-market” economics, I interviewed démodé economist Charles “Chipmunk” Griedesgud at the Gordon Gecko Center for Economic Satire in Slashington D.C.

Presented here are some highlights of the interview. The entirety of the interview will be published in book form by the same publishers that put out Bill O’Reilly’s weekly treasures. It will be called, Killing… something or other.

Me: Thank you for allowing me to interview you, Mr. Griedesgud.

Griedesgud: Please, call me “Chip”.

Me: Fifth generation at Yale?

Chip: Exactly.

Later…

Me: Ha ha! I’m sure your cat didn’t see THAT coming! Oh… Ahem. The main thing I’ve been wondering about, Chip, is how people can still believe that giving corporations big tax breaks leads to more jobs. The corporations don’t seem to create jobs anymore; they just build factories overseas or buy robots to do the work. Don’t people know these things?

Chip: If we cut taxes on corporations, they will build factories and make jobs… in China and Mexico.

Me: How does that help us?

Chip: But then, you see, the Chinese and Mexican workers will become more affluent.

Me: Uh huh.

Chip: Meanwhile, American workers will accept lower and lower paying jobs…

Me: Waiting for the good part.

Chip: …which will eventually allow them to make the commodities that are demanded by the newly affluent foreign workers.

Me: Yeah. Great.

Chip: So, it still trickles down; it just might go through a couple of extra steps.

Me: Wow. I can’t understand how I never thought of that.

Chip: I sense a little sarcasm in your voice.

Me: Me? Nooooooo.

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Chip: Would you, instead, have no job creation at all? I mean, if we balanced things more toward the mythical “middle class,” then there wouldn’t be the concentration of wealth at the top that it takes to start the projects and businesses that do just that.

Me: But isn’t that exactly what happened between the 1950’s and the 1970’s, America’s greatest period of economic growth and shared prosperity? The progressive tax structure taxed the super-wealthy and their corporations heavily, and they all kept right on growing anyway, along with the well-being of their workers and the workers’ families.

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Chip: That approximately three-decade period was essentially an illusion of economic bliss. In reality, the so-called “middle class” was stealing from the providers – the wealthiest Americans, who could have built a much LARGER economy, and created even more jobs. They did this through forming alliances known as “unions” and through other underhanded methods.

Me: Those bastards!

Later…

Me: So, what could we expect if we were to follow your prescription, which seems to be the way we’re headed, anyway?

Chip: Well, economic growth and prosperity, of course! Our economy could be growing like the Chinese! And why not?

Me: Do you mean the Chinese economy, or the Chinese population?

Chip: Take your pick.

Me: But won’t this scenario mean that those countries make the same “mistakes”, as you call them, that we made? And won’t they be hurting their economies?

Chip: Yes! That’s exactly what we want! There are two ways to look at winning a competition – you can perform better than the others, or they can perform worse than you!

Later…

Me: So, you say we could head into a period of fantastic economic growth and prosperity. But the “middle class” can’t share in that prosperity, lest they sabotage the whole process.

Chip: That’s exactly right. You asked me about the benefits before: the average income would rise beyond anything we’ve seen.

Me: But wouldn’t that just be a result of the outliers? Wouldn’t the income median and mode be dismally low?

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Chip: Well, thanks to years of effort, nobody knows what those even mean. We’ve trained people very effectively to think that averages are everything. We’ve kept telling them about the average income in America being so high and we even invented a term called “GDP per Person” that throws them way off. Complaining about your income just makes people feel ashamed now.

Me: Wow. Just… wow.

Later…

Me: Well, thank you, Mr. Griedesgud, for the interview. I suppose you’ll be going back to work for the rest of the day?

Chip: Work? What work? This story hasn’t changed since 1890! I’m going to dinner with some lobbyists at the “Oval Room”. I love a restaurant with a punny name!

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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The Journey Just Gets Better

An amazing week. Thank you to everyone who helped with the launch and bought Ashbar – Wycaan Master Bk. 3 and all of my novels. It means so much to me.
Have a great weekend.

Elfwriter

It has been quite a week with the release of Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3. I am feeling slightly stunned by the closure of the first trilogy. Like At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The First Decree, Ashbar is a self contained story as well as the third in a series.

Ashbar front cover

There is a lot of closure, though not enough to stop the next trilogy from beginning, and I feel a certain sense of forlorn, perhaps as a parent feels when their children leave the nest.  I know the remedy to this – plunge into writing the next book. As the wise saying goes: “One trilogy closes, another opens.

Thank you to everyone who bought Ashbar over the weekend and enabled it to pick up a credible ranking. Please let me know what you thought of it, once read, and leave a review on Amazon…

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