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 tag “friends”

Elves, Dwarves and Political Activists

“You can’t be serious!” she exclaimed, wrinkling her nose as though I had just made a pass at her, or uttered a politically incorrect sentiment. “You write about elves and dwarves running from one end of the world to another killing each other and making long speeches? I thought you were a serious writer.”

In honesty, she had not seen me for a few years, and even then, knew me in the context of my more political work environment. To her credit, she recovered and apologized, and I was able to refrain from pouring my drink into her lap. It was, after all, a good scotch.

images-2-1Friend or not, intentional or not, it still hurt. I thought I had passed this stage, smoothly presenting myself as ‘an author who writes in two genres’. I have practiced my opening line and it is now delivered with confidence.

I am involved in social justice causes. Even in my short eight years living in the US, I have built a fair resume of involvement. I have taken students almost every year to New Orleans, not only to help rebuild a community, physically and emotionally, but to bear witness so that the millennials will not make the mistakes my generation did. I have been involved in various campaigns here and abroad.  I know my local food bank well. Hey, you never had a black President before I came to the US! 

But yes, I love to lose myself in Middle Earth, Alaegasia, Westeros and, dare I add it to the list: Odessiya. It’s a nice break from the intensive campus environment to deal with stubborn dwarves and idealistic elves. While closeted in an urban concrete jungle, I can escape on a horse and gallop through ancient forests, over great ice plains, and to quaff an ale or puff a pipe (without the health risks) with good friends, all from a computer screen or ebook reader.

hobbits-in-pub The San Francisco Bay Area is intensely populated by a variety of the human species often identified by salt-and-pepper haired, wrinkled, colorful attire, and provocative bumper stickers. These aging ideologues have rich resumes of demonstrating against wars, civil rights. Watergate, and more recently, more wars, gay rights, and gun control.

While there are many who have fallen by the wayside, succumbing to burnout, those who have maintained their energy to keep demonstrating and fighting for what is right, all seem to have a secret place they go to recharge, relax, and to return energized to help create a better world to live in. It might be literature, meditation, family, friends, food, nature … it doesn’t matter. As a friend once said: Fixing the world is a marathon, not a sprint.

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Yeah, I write about elves and dwarves doing brave acts and striving for justice and honor. Sure I write about battles and loves, about friendships and magic, about the power of nature and good fighting evil.

It energizes me and often provides clarity and vision. And if I do occasionally wonder what Seanchai or Shayth might do about gun control or why some people are denied the rights and opportunities their neighbors have, well that’s because fantasy is not quite as far-fetched and detached from reality as my shocked friend might think.

God created the world in six days and on the seventh s/he rested…and may well have deservedly read Lord of the Rings.

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Here’s to whatever it takes for each of us to continue the journey we’ve chosen!

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. In celebration of the upcoming launch of Ashbar, the third in the Wycaan Master series, Tourmaline Books are offering for August only,  the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth – for 99 cents (kindle only).

The World is Your Facebook – Roger Ingalls

This afternoon I received an interesting email from a friend that contained a PowerPoint presentation showing facts about the world. It proportionally represented the entire population on Earth as if we were only a village containing one hundred people. It made the numbers more comprehensible.

Facebook World

Let’s do something similar and bring the facts even closer to home by making the world our Facebook page. I’d like you to imagine that the only people in existence are also your Facebook friends. The average user has 130 friends. You may have more, or less, but let’s represent the entire human race relative to the average Facebook user. We have demographically shrunk the world proportionally.

Your world, your Facebook:

1)      You have friended all 130 people on Earth.

2)      You are friends with 67 women and 63 men.

3)      Seventy-four (74) of your friends are Asian, 27 are European, 18 are from the Americas (north, central and south), and 10 are from Africa.

4)      You have 43 Christian, 29 Muslim, 18 Hindu, 9 Buddhist and 1 Jewish friend.

5)      While worshipping their God, 60 of your friends live in fear of assault or death.

6)      Fourteen (14) of your friends are gay.

7)      You have 8 very rich friends that control 60% of the world’s wealth.

8)      Poverty hurts 104 of your friends.

9)      Sixty-five (65) of your friends are hungry or malnourished.

10)   Ninety-one (91) of your friends cannot read or write.

11)   One of your friends is giving birth.

12)   One of your friends is about to die.

13)   Only one of your friends has a college degree.

14)   Only one of your friends has a computer.

15)   If you have clothes on your back, sleep with a roof over your head and have food in the fridge, you live better than 98 of your friends.

Proportionally shrinking the entire population down to the size of the average Facebook user’s friendship-reach, did make it easier for me to rationalize the true state of the world. It was a good mental exercise.

I’m fortunate and should be more thankful.

Does George Will have Glen Beck Envy?

George Will must think he’s losing readership share to Glen Beck. He has evidently decided that he needs to go deeper into conspiracy-theory-land to try to win his readers back. In his column in the March 7, 2011 issue of Newsweek titled, “High Speed to Insolvency: Why Liberals Love Trains”, George says, “…progressivism’s aim is the modification of other people’s behavior.” and “the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.” Wow.

Part of me wants to say, “Oh my gosh! George Will has found us out! We progressives will have to look up from our evil plans and think of a way to go deeper undercover while pretending to care about the future of the human race as a cover up!” But of course, sarcasm lands like a belly flop on the ears of a man who uses “word-of-the-day” toilet paper.

So, George (aka Pokey), let me see if I can help you out with a couple of things while keeping this on a level that you and your pal Gumby can understand. There are two types of individualism in America – real and fake. Progressives want real freedom and real individualism, while laissez-faire capitalists want fake. Real individualism is in thought, expression, love, and other highfalutin’ concepts like these. Fake individualism is whether you drive a Chevy or a Volkswagen, whether you like the Steelers or the Packers, or whether you watch Friends or Desperate Housewives on T.V. These are individual choices, it’s true, but they represent individuality only at the most superficial level.

The freedom your kind wants is the freedom to dominate: the freedom to take full advantage of the fact that your great-grandfather bought stock in Standard Oil way back when or maybe the Union Pacific Railroad, whereas my grandfather came over from Italy, just before World War I, without a dollar in his pocket.

Progressives want the next generation and those that follow to have the luxury of individualism as well – not to be chained to a desk for sixty hours a week nor to be afraid to go outside because the air could kill a person. You see, George, individualism is closely related to freedom, and real freedom can be curtailed by fake freedom. Your freedom to make selfish, childish decisions like driving a giant SUV to the video store that’s 1/8 of a mile away on a sunny but pleasantly cool day interferes with your own grandchildren’s freedom to breathe outside without coughing.

All that being said, I actually don’t like the high-speed rail plan either – but for sensible reasons – no conspiracies necessary. High-speed rail is not an urgent need in our society as it does not solve any current problems. What’s needed is a lot more and a lot better LOCAL public transportation. And, contrary to George Will’s Beckish rantings, this will mean MORE choices open to individuals, not less. George, like-minded pseudo-intellectuals, and overgrown children in general will still be free to pay 4, 5, or maybe even 10 dollars per gallon for gasoline, but those who would choose otherwise and would choose to try to provide a livable (and enjoyable) world for their grandkids will be able to do so.

Every day, individuals make choices between short-term and long-term preferences. Those of us who are blessed with common sense (most of America, I hope) make sacrifices today so that we may live longer, provide for our children, have some hope of future financial security. For example, most fathers might really like to buy a brand new Corvette but realize that, if they do so, their kids may not get to go to college or might not even have shoes to wear next month. As a society, we would do well to follow a similar program. Invest in things like public transportation now – suffer less from high gas prices, deteriorating roads, productivity-killing traffic, and the effects of pollution later. Trains get MORE efficient the more people use them. Can the same be said of cars? So maybe George is right. Progressives do want to change other people’s behavior – we want them to act like responsible adults who can see further ahead than their next purchase at the department store.

You see, George, it’s like this: Your freedom to spit on someone is in direct conflict with that person’s freedom and right not to be spat upon. I conclude from this that freedoms should be prioritized. For example, I fully support, without hesitation, your freedom to write ridiculous nonsense and to publish it as you are able. As is often said, in America, you have the right to be wrong. I believe this because I realize that my individual preference not to hear the blather of a mentally and morally deficient snob pales in comparison to my preference to live in a society that values and protects free speech. Likewise, I prefer to live in a world where my tiny nieces and nephews have a good chance at a healthy, secure future over a world where my own generation indulges consumptive gluttony.

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.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com


E-books and the Gift Season

Just in time for the 2010 holiday season, Kindle launched a framework to buy books for other people. For details, please follow the link: (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_sib?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200555070). Kindle book gifting allows customers to buy Kindle book(s) as holiday gifts for their friends/family.

We, as authors, may also gift our own title(s) to our friends and loved ones.  For more details for authors on gifting, please see our publisher FAQ – http://forums.digitaltextplatform.com/dtpforums/entry!default.jspa?categoryID=25&externalID=552&fromSearchPage=true.

Finally, my offering for a rainy weekend when all you want to do is curl up on the sofa with a good boo–downloaded digital e-book.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

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