Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts

01 December 2022

Formulas Aren't Just for Chemistry


O'Neil De Noux's Random Thoughts of Nov. 4 brought up author Frank Yerby, which brought back a lot of memories, reading all the books my mother hid in the back of the closet.  My mother had both "The Foxes of Harrow" and "The Devil's Laughter". (Which are probably the best) I read them both on the sly, and went on to read a lot more.  Mostly disappointing.  (In fact, "An Odour of Sanctity" easily ranks among the worst novels ever written, and that includes the complete works of L. Ron Hubbard and Ayn Rand.)  Still, back in the early 60s, they ranked among the hottest non-porn books you could read, along with Ian Fleming and Jacqueline Susann.    

Besides prurience, one of the things that I learned from reading Yerby was that they had a formula to them.  I know, shocking, right?  And here I'd been reading Nancy Drew books by the wagonload.  But Yerby's were - well, today I realize how sexist the damn things were, with a dash of S/M thrown in here there and everyfreakingwhere - but so obviously formulaic...  Almost all of them revolved around a male protagonist, who was super-alpha male without being extremely tall, handsome and muscular. Indeed, like the James Bond girls in the all of Fleming's novels, he's often damaged - in "The Devil's Laughter", his nose has been severely broken; in another novel he has a permanent limp, etc.  But every man who sees him recognizes - and tells other men! - "that is much, much man", and every woman who sees him wants him, even if she hates him for it.  (She hates him because he'll cure her of her frigidity, which is every incel's dream, revealed 60 years ago.)  

Speaking of the women, Yerby men all fall for and sleep with at least three women in the course of the novel: the Pure One, the Evil One, and the Damaged One.  
Spoiler alert: he ends up with the Pure One, who has been always waiting for him, just him.  And the Evil One always gets her comeuppance.  And the Damaged One generally dies or goes mad.  

Once I figured out the formula, I could tell you within the first three chapters what the outcome would be. But isn't that the point of all romance novels?  (BTW, if you want to read Frank Yerby novels today, you can go to the Open Library and borrow them.)

Formulas, of course, have a long historical provenance.  And the rule of three is EVERYWHERE:  The traditional plot structure of most of Shakespeare's romantic comedies contrasts three courtships:  the major, "noble" lovers whose courtship is of a high, romantic nature (Rosalind and Orlando), and then a middling one (Silvius and Phoebe, or Celia and Oliver), which alternates romanticism and reality, and the finally a plebian, comic one (Audrey and Touchstone). That's of course, from As You Like It, but you can see the same pattern in most of the others, even (at the end) The Taming of the Shrew.  (Kate & Petruchio, Bianca and Lucentio, Hortensio & his widow.)

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice contrasts Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy, Jane Bennett and Mr. Bingley, and Charlotte Lucas and Rev. Mr. Collins.

And Anthony Trollope did this all the time.  (As you know by know, I'm a huge  Trollope fan.)  A classic example is Can You Forgive Her?, where the three courtships are complicated by two suitors for each lady:  aristocratic match (Plantagenet Palliser & Lady Glencora, who's in love with the ne'er do well Burgo Fitzgerald), middle match (Alice Vavasor & John Grey & her villainous cousin George Vavasor), plebian comic match (Mrs. Greenow and her two suitors, Squire Cheeseacre and Captain Bellfield.)  
BTW:  Mrs. Greenow is the reincarnation of the Wife of Bath, and the novel is worth reading just for her.  

There's nothing wrong with formulas when they are well done.  Formulas can be satisfying, or boring, depending on who's doing it.  But it's also a delight when you find something that starts out formulaic and then corkscrews in unexpected ways to keep you constantly awake and entertained.

And now, leaving the realm of novels, romance, courtship, we are going to move on to something completely different:  1988's The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey, an official Australian-New Zealand co-production, directed by Vincent Ward.  Here's the official synopsis from the official website:

"Griffin is nine years old. He’s haunted by fragments of a dream.

He envisages a journey. A celestial city, a great cathedral, and a figure roped to a steeple, about to fall….

It is Cumbria 1348, the year of the Black Death. A medieval mining village lives in fear of the advancing plague. Griffin’s older brother Connor returns from the outside world in a state of despair, until Griffin tells of his dream and reveals their only source of survival:

Make tribute to God. Place a spire on a distant cathedral. Do so before dawn or the village will be lost.

Griffin embarks on an extraordinary journey with Connor, Searle the pragmatist, Searle’s naive brother Ulf, Martin the philosopher and Arno the one-handed ferryman. In his vision together they tunnel through the paper thin earth to a new world, a fabled land of hellish extremes, unfamiliar as the distant future of the antipodes, 1988.

But Griffin has a chilling new premonition… for one of them, the journey will end."

To paraphrase Rob Lopresti: "Ho ho, I hear you say. A medieval sci-fi story. Got it.  To which I must reply: You don't got nothin'."

And you don't - I can assure you that, the first time you see it, no matter what you think is going to happen next, or where you think this is going, you will be wrong. But each and every twist turns out to be absolutely perfect...

Exciting. Interesting. Anything but formulaic. Wonderful.  And that's what I love.  And every time I watch it, I love it all over again.  

 


Check it out.


Meanwhile, BSP:

My latest story, "The Closing of the Lodge" is in the latest AHMM:  

My story, "Cool Papa Bell", is in Josh Pachter's Paranoia Blues;


And on Amazon HERE

17 November 2022

All the Cockroaches Coming Out...


 by Eve Fisher

I haven't written about the 2022 election in South Dakota, because it basically took its dismal normal shape:  we are a ruby-red state, and people will vote for anyone with an R in front of their name.  Our new Secretary of State, Monae Johnson, is an election denier, as were many of our State House and Senate candidates.  But that's not the worst of it.  Hell, this election proved that Jason Ravnsborg wasn't the worst we could do, at least in my humble opinion.  Meet two major losers:

Bud May (R), who got 2,348 people to vote for him for a House Seat:


This is his mug shot from Nov. 13, 2022 on one count of second-degree rape. Link

"The alleged victim said May decided to force himself on the victim in a bathroom stall at a bar and says May said to her at the bar: “I am 6′8″, white, it is all consensual.” According to the police report, he fled the area, and upon being detained he claimed he had no involvement at first, then claimed: “it was simply a hug.”

Apparently  the woman was hiding behind a bar counter with dirt, blood and an abrasion on her face when law enforcement arrived. She said May raped her in multiple ways and that the blood on her was May’s, who had been in an altercation before the alleged incident. May’s mugshot clearly shows a bloody wound on his left eye, which had settled into a dark purple by the time he appeared in court Tuesday morning via video conference from the Pennington County Jail.

Fun guy.  Thankfully he lost his election.

And here's Joel Koskan, who ran for a SD State Senate seat (R):




Mr. Koskan was arrested for one count of exposing a minor to sexual grooming behaviors. It’s a class four felony. However, the DCI probable cause statement shows years of child molestation (incest, BTW) of one of his 5 children, and "surveillance". He got a plea deal, in which he agreed to "accept some responsibility for his actions, but ultimately would deny any sexual intercourse had occurred throughout the alleged abuse" and would not have to serve any time or register as a sex offender, or be separated from his other 4 children (who are still living with him). Thankfully, the judge in the case is reconsidering this plea deal. (LINK)

He still got 2,495 people to vote for him.  Thankfully, HE lost.  

I wish I could believe that these two bastards are anomalies.  But they're not. When I was working as Circuit Administrator of the now-defunct 4th Judicial Circuit, we had a grandfather who was convicted of molesting all 4 of his grandchildren. He'd only been caught because the oldest (around 12) was now pregnant. The judge at the time (brought in because all the locals had to recuse themselves) gave him probation "because he had no prior criminal record."

And then there's South Dakota's Jabba the Hut (look up a picture of him online, I'm not providing anything that fat and ugly), Ted Klaudt, farmer, rancher, and former Republican member of the South Dakota House of Representatives (1999-2006) from Walker, South Dakota. Thankfully, in November 2007 he was convicted of four counts of raping his two foster daughters and he was sentenced on January 17, 2008, to 44 years in prison, where he still resides.  

And to add to the general mood of this piece, South Dakota has the third-highest rape rate in the U.S., with 72.6 rapes per 100,000, up from 68 in 2018. (LINK)

Meanwhile, Gov. Noem has been fighting the culture wars against LGBQT+ with all flags flying, in a steady determination to eliminate transgenders from... well, everywhere.  And yesterday the Rapid City based Family Heritage Alliance (having fits about LGBQT+ wherever they go) pitched a major one about SDSU hosting a drag show last night. But the sponsor of this event was the Gender and Sexualities Alliance student organization, and they held it at the Student Union, and not a penny of taxpayer dollars were spent. Oh, horrors!  (LINK)  (NOTE:  Said Family Heritage Alliance failed to speak out against Mr. Koskan before, during or after the election.)  

Personally, I'd rather have drag queens reading to my grandkids than Jason Koskan, Ted Klaudt, and Bud May, not to mention Matt Gaetz , Dennis Hastert, Jim Jordan, Larry Nasser, Roy Moore, Herschel Walker, Charles Herbster, Newt Gingrich, Bob Allen, Mark Foley - Seriously, the list is just so damn long of people I don't want my friends, children, or grandchildren exposed to.  And none of them are gay. 

Meanwhile, can we make it, someday, that "nice white men" can no longer get away with incest and rape?  Asking for children and women everywhere. 

From South Dakota, where Mayberry keeps looking further and further in the way-back mirror...




03 November 2022

A Blast from the Past


by Eve Fisher

For your consideration:  I recently excavated this from a file drawer. It's the opening of the first (and only memoir, if you don't count journals) I ever wrote, back in my early 20s.  I was trying to write down some of the stories from street life in L.A. while they were still fresh, and I centered them around Hollywood's infinitely less famous & undoubtedly seedier equivalent of the Chelsea Hotel:  The Blackburn.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Blackburn Chronicles, Part 1:

The Blackburn Hotel sat two blocks from Hollywood Boulevard and one up from the coffee shop and that was all the directions you needed to get there.  It was like most downtown hotels, run to seed and winos, covered in cockroaches and losing another window every day.  Maybe Hedy Lamarr had slept there:  she'd probably gotten crabs and spread more than the word.  The linoleum in the lobby was curled and buckled and the carpet on the stairs was a health hazard.  The walls sucked in any new paint and the ancient cracks in them smiled like the toothless old men on the fifth floor.

This haven of rest - and it could be a haven and even heaven on a wine-filled afternoon when it was raining outside or the Santa Ana had hit - cost $60 a month for one room, $100 for two and a bathroom and kitchen all to yourself.  The Management was strict about the rent, too, most of the renters being the sort who found 3 AM to be the best time to move out.  This caused a certain culling of clientele - not so much of poverty but of personality.  The obvious solution was to have three, four, five, a dozen people to a room, at which point the rent, if nothing else, was manageable.  Very few flunked the test of communal living.  As long as you didn't hack everyone to pieces or steal too many drugs you were in.  Those who did flunk ended up in the flophouses, the missions, or at the Free Church where they let drunks snore on the carpet in front of the altar and spent a lot of time cleaning puke off the pews.

Sex, which was always rearing its pointed head, culled the herd in a different way.  The heterosexuals were fairly used to performing in semi-public (5 people in a room did not make for a lot of privacy) if not necessarily en masse, but only among other heterosexuals.  The transvestites, transsexuals, homosexuals, and the heavy bondage crew stuck, for the most part, to the third and fourth floors.  If they were young and beautiful, they moved to the Shangri-La Hotel, where they could join Julius Caesar X in his daily berobed, bejeweled, and bedrugged frolics in the central pool.  (He had serious money. And even more serious connections.)


The Shangri-La Hotel:  still there, tarted up, very pricey.  Wikipedia

The second and third floors, right above the lobby, had the most transient and "normal" inhabitants.  All the freaks who hadn't quite descended to total addiction or risen to a part-time job shuffled through them.  There was a lot of experimental trust.  We called ourselves families, and each other brother and sister.  The doors would stay open all day and half the night, unless someone was horny or busy hiding their drugs.  The noise level was unbelievable - radios blaring, guitars jangling, people playing drums on the walls with their feet; laughter and talk and yelling and toilets backing up; friendly screaming and an occasional crash of furniture or tinkle of glass.  Both floors reeked of wine, vomit, dust, urine, sweat, incense, and - on one miraculous occasion that would live on in legend - of a half-pound of cocaine that Popsicle  Joe spilled in front of a fan.  White dust floated everywhere, settled on everything, and for two weeks at least it wasn't considered weird to be seen licking the walls.  

The lobby was no man's land, where anyone could sneak in and hide and crash at night.  Most mornings would find number of homeless sprawled out like dressed hamburger, and if Mad Dog bottles had been returnable, we'd all have been rich.  Sometimes they'd start a fight, or someone would die, or someone would light a fire.  Of the three, the management got most upset about fires.  The Blackburn was a firetrap and would have burned to the ground in an hour, tops, and the fire department would have just sniggered into the phone and kept watching TV, and the police would probably have given a reward to the arsonist.  

The police figured it was all too weird for them and stayed away, except for the yearly pre-election cleanup when they arrested everything in sight.  Even then, they went no higher than the sixth floor.  The Blackburn went higher than that, but no one knew for sure who, or more importantly what, lived on those top floors, and everyone had tacitly agreed that in this case ignorance was bliss. 

The management - a surly 400-pound ex-professional wrestler with a permanent hernia - couldn't get any insurance and couldn't sell, so any hints of fire led to large buckets of water and a few extra bruises for any poor bastard with a pack of matches.  Nonetheless, the homeless kept on lighting fires.  It gave them light and warmth, and God knows the lobby was a gloomy, damp, hard, evil place at night.  It was large enough to hold the Oscars in, and seemed bigger since there was nothing in it but huddled people and trash.  The management figured the rent didn't include cleaning of anything, so anything that fell on the floor stayed there except for dead people, and the police would cart them away.  Anything to save the hernia.

It was a bad hernia, and it was a good thing that so many painkillers were floating around the building.  The management didn't care what kind - reds,  yellows, librium, darvon, pentathol, THC, grass, hash, cocaine, thorazine, methadone, smack, or just cheap wine - if you didn't have money, he'd take drugs instead.  He'd snarl and ripple a lot, but he'd take them.  There were rumors that he'd take sex, too, and considering his 400 pounds everyone was sure he would, but at 400 pounds no one would take him on, or at least, no one would admit to it.  And he didn't care who lived there or who paid the rent as long as it was paid. You could answer the door, a total stranger he'd never seen before, stark naked, a needle in one arm and a bloody hatchet in hand, and all he'd want to know was "Where's the rent?" 

And we paid up.


More later. Maybe.  Let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, some BSP:

My latest story, "The Closing of the Lodge" is in the latest AHMM:  


BTW, congrats, O'Neil, for getting the coveted cover!

My story, "Cool Papa Bell" (set in prison, BTW), is in Josh Pachter's Paranoia Blues;



And on Amazon HERE



20 October 2022

An Era Ends…


I sent this a couple of weeks ago to everyone I work for/with at the pen, and also some friends, so I thought I would update my SleuthSayers family as well:

"Dear Friends,

"This is a difficult letter to write. Due to my increasing arthritis* and the physical therapy that requires, as well as Allan’s multiple health issues, I’ve decided that I can no longer perform my volunteer activities at the penitentiary. My last date with the Lifers’ Group will be Saturday, November 5th.

"Barring a miracle of recovery, I will no longer be doing AVP. Nor can I continue with the Lifers’ Group. Both of these have been fantastic, nurturing, vital experiences for me for 12 years, and I will miss them. I will continue to be on the AVP Board and, given better health come warm weather, would be interested in helping to expand AVP into the community."

*I'm having a major flare-up in my neck which is, of course, influencing the rest of my spine. Damn it.  But let's hear it for acupuncture, cortisone shots, physical therapy, and massage!

What I didn't mention in the email is that there have been a host of significant changes to what volunteers can and can't do at the prison, and more are coming. We can no longer visit inmates at an inmate's workplace, to either drop something off, or tell him something important. No more. Not allowed. It used to be fairly normal to stop by the cell hall, especially if an inmate had been sick or returned from hospital, and visit with them. No more. Not allowed. Not even for pastors. And that's just the surface.

Basically, all volunteers are questioning what the changes in policies and rules – which are by no means complete - will mean to their ability to actually do what they're volunteering to do. Or if they'll be able to come in at all.

So, now what?

Well, I had to retire from teaching 12 years ago because of a major arthritis flare-up. It was my first, truly hideous and painful, and I was in fear that I would be incapacitated for life. Since then, I've learned the hard way that physical therapy really does work if you actually do the exercises, along with patience, hope, perseverance, and a significant amount of pain-killers. (Still waiting on that medical marijuana that's legal in this state to actually get out to the masses…) So, with this new major arthritis flare-up, I'm getting on with my physical therapy and trying out all sorts of new ways to do things from sleep position to typing these words. I'm good at grim determination once I've been convinced that whatever I'm grimly determined about has a chance of working.

I've also learned, give yourself time to mourn. When something you loved with all your heart is gone, you're going to miss it. I missed teaching, and the students. Never missed the administration - especially the bean counters - for one minute. I already know it will be the same with the pen. I'll miss the inmates very much.

I've also learned to not go looking for the next project, job, whatever. Every time I've ever done that - and I did it a lot back in 2009-2010 - it didn't work. The real deal will find you, as long as you stay open to what comes. That's how I ended up at the pen in the first place. Allan and I were doing Quaker meditation once a week, and one of the leaders asked me if I'd like to do an Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in prison one weekend. So I said "Sure," not having any idea that it would lead to 12 years of volunteering in prison.

The main thing is to always remember that what you're doing today may not be what you will be doing or be able to do tomorrow. The mind changes (hopefully), the body certainly changes, and God knows life changes. (Heads up, everyone who back in 2019 had a world-wide pandemic on their next year's probability card! Yeah, me neither.) 

Meanwhile, we could all do worse than loll like a seal for a while: 

Shamelessly stolen from Heather Cox Richardson's blogpost © 2022

And then get writing. I've got a lot of stories to tell. 

Also, BSP:


Happy to say my story, "The Closing of the Lodge" is in this issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine! Along with fellow SleuthSayers, Janice Law, O'Neil De Noux, Leigh Lundin,  and Mark Thielman, whose stories are in it, too. Can't wait to get my copy and read them all!

06 October 2022

Choosing the Right Weapon


(Short post this week, because we've got family coming for the first time in years!  Huzzah!)

Elmer Fudd whispering shhhh
Elmer Fudd © Looney Tunes

I was down at the Farmers' Market a couple of months ago, and there was a booth that the city had put up, asking people for suggestions to make downtown Sioux Falls better. I put in my two cents – we desperately need a large Central Park that everyone can use, that is quiet, not on any interstate, and has actual landscaping.  So did everyone else, including a lady who was telling every woman who stopped that "you need to empower yourself and get a gun. You will feel so safe."

Well, if you insist. I feel pretty empowered as it is.

I've never owned a gun, but I've known a lot of people who did and do. I've shot quite a variety of them myself, because in my younger days I attended dynamite parties down South, where it was quite common for people to show up with a few cases of beer, some stuff to grill, and a trunk full of firearms.

I quickly learned that I don't have the heft, the sheer mass, to use any kind of assault weapon without spraying bullets around like an old man in a barroom urinal after five beers. And some rifles have the kind of kick that leave you with a bruised shoulder (yep) and/or a cracked cheekbone (Nope – I would NEVER do the classic TV/movie/ad pose where you lean in with your face on a firearm. What, are you nuts?)

But I had good marksmanship with weapons that were more my weight. I could hit a distant target, and even a moving target, like a ping-pong ball hanging from a tree.

I also learned about shotguns – I could use one, if I aimed low and was ready to be knocked back, say, flat on my back to the ground. From that I learned that (at my weight) if you aim at someone's knees, you're bound to hit something serious as the shotgun kicks up, like their gonads, stomach, chest, or even head.

Which is why, to this day, if a woman asks me what kind of gun should she buy for self-defense, I always tell her to avoid any kind of handgun. If your hands shake (and they will, especially late at night in the dark), you're not going to hit your target, and you're just setting yourself up for worse than the whatever your assailant had planned. For home self-defense, buy a shotgun. Just racking the damn thing will scare the crap out of most people. Aim low, and you will hit something on the way up.

NOTE: One of my partners in crime, Leigh Lundin, pointed out that I really should tell people to keep a shotgun "pressed against their hipbone or thighbone to absorb shock and prevent the stock from slamming hard into the bone."  He's right.  Here's the thing, folks – if you never have fired a specific weapon you need to learn how to use it BEFORE you actually bring it home.

And I don't really believe in packing 24/7, because it gives too many people the idea that it makes them invulnerable, and they often do foolish things because of it. There are many true stories of a handgun falling out of a purse or a pocket and going off in the restroom. I know one armchair Rambo who managed to screw things up in the time of crisis and, while he survived, has never yet lived it down. Frankly, I've always found that a quick tongue or a quick run will get you out of most trouble, and I've lived in dicey neighborhoods in both LA and Atlanta. 

And I don't really feel like the karma or the cleanup from shooting someone, perhaps to death. I'm sticking to a baseball bat in the bedroom. Actually, I'm sticking to calling the police when I hear gunshots in the neighborhood (and I have), and otherwise trusting that the porch lights keep the critters away.  

So far, 100% success rate. 

Elmer Fudd with shotgun
Elmer Fudd with shotgun © Looney Tunes, Warner Bros.

22 September 2022

The Novel-Writing Machine


Many years ago, the Industrial Revolution marked the first great change from natural time to clock time. Before that, if there was a clock in the village or town, it was on the church tower, and marked only the hours, because there was no need to mark the minutes. Nobody paid attention to that. In a 90% agricultural world, the rhythms of life were based on the land, which meant constant work in the spring and fall, lighter work (except for the haying) in summer, and a winter spent mostly just trying to stay warm. People got up when it was light, went to bed when it was dark, and that was that.  And, besides Sundays off, there were more holidays throughout the year than today, thanks to the rhythms (and rule) of the Church.

Then came the Industrial Revolution, began in Europe, the usual factory hours were 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. (It was considered a luxury when the factory workers were given half-days for Saturdays, and the 40 hour workweek was only put into law in 1940.) Humans became servants of the clock and of the machines. And now it's considered normal to get up, eat, work, and sleep by the clock, by the job, by the cell phone, not by nature. 

And now by AI and algorithms?

I read an adaptation of the The Great Fiction of AI by Josh Dzieza in last week's "The Week" (The Last Word:  The novel-writing machine) and found it pretty damned disturbing from start to finish.  Read the entire article here:  (LINK) To begin with:

"On a Tuesday in mid-March, Jennifer Lepp was precisely 80.41 percent finished writing Bring Your Beach Owl, the latest installment in her series about a detective witch in central Florida, and she was behind schedule. The color-coded, 11-column spreadsheet she keeps open on a second monitor as she writes told her just how far behind: she had three days to write 9,278 words if she was to get the book edited, formatted, promoted, uploaded to Amazon’s Kindle platform, and in the hands of eager readers who expected a new novel every nine weeks."

Every nine weeks?  What world are people living in?  

"However, being an Amazon-based author is stressful in ways that will look familiar to anyone who makes a living on a digital platform. In order to survive in a marketplace where infinite other options are a click away, authors need to find their fans and keep them loyal. So they follow readers to the microgenres into which Amazon’s algorithms classify their tastes, niches like “mermaid young adult fantasy” or “time-travel romance,” and keep them engaged by writing in series, each installment teasing the next, which already has a title and set release date, all while producing a steady stream of newsletters, tweets, and videos. As Mark McGurl writes in Everything and Less, his recent book on how Amazon is shaping fiction, the Kindle platform transformed the author-reader relationship into one of service provider and customer, and the customer is always right. Above all else, authors must write fast."

Sudowrite is an artificial intelligence tool designed to break through writer's block - for fiction writers.

"Designed by developers turned sci-fi authors Amit Gupta and James Yu, it’s one of many AI writing programs built on OpenAI’s language model GPT-3 that have launched since it was opened to developers last year. But where most of these tools are meant to write company emails and marketing copy, Sudowrite is designed for fiction writers. Authors paste what they’ve written into a soothing sunset-colored interface, select some words, and have the AI rewrite them in an ominous tone, or with more inner conflict, or propose a plot twist, or generate descriptions in every sense plus metaphor."

"AI may just be another tool, but authors haven’t previously felt the need to remind themselves that they — and not their thesaurus — are responsible for their writing or have fraught debates over whether to disclose their use of spellcheck. Something about the experience of using AI feels different. It’s apparent in the way writers talk about it, which is often in the language of collaboration and partnership. Maybe it’s the fact that GPT-3 takes instruction and responds in language that makes it hard not to imagine it as an entity communicating thoughts. Or maybe it’s because, unlike a dictionary, its responses are unpredictable. Whatever the reason, AI writing has entered an uncanny valley between ordinary tool and autonomous storytelling machine. This ambiguity is part of what makes the current moment both exciting and unsettling."

Jasper.ai is another tool, more for non-fiction, but we'll see:

"They’re using it to generate Google-optimized blog posts about products they’re selling or books that will serve as billboards on Amazon or Twitter threads and LinkedIn posts to establish themselves as authorities in their field. That is, they’re using it not because they have something to say but because they need to say something in order to “maintain relevance” — a phrase that I heard from AI-using novelists as well — on platforms already so flooded with writing that algorithms are required to sort it. It raises the prospect of a dizzying spiral of content generated by AI to win the favor of AI, all of it derived from existing content rather than rooted in fact or experience, which wouldn’t be so different from the internet we have now."  (my emphasis)

"[Meanwhile, Lepp says] she’s a little embarrassed to say she’s become reliant on it [Sudowrite]. Not that she couldn’t write without it, but she thinks her writing wouldn’t be as rich, and she would certainly be more burnt out. 'There’s something different about working with the AI and editing those words, and then coming up with my own and then editing it, that’s much easier. It’s less emotionally taxing. It’s less tiresome; it’s less fatiguing. I need to pay attention much less closely. I don’t get as deeply into the writing as I did before, and yet, I found a balance where I still feel very connected to the story, and I still feel it’s wholly mine.'"

"With the help of the program, she recently ramped up production yet again. She is now writing two series simultaneously, toggling between the witch detective and a new mystery-solving heroine, a 50-year-old divorced owner of an animal rescue who comes into possession of a magical platter that allows her to communicate with cats. It was an expansion she felt she had to make just to stay in place. With an increasing share of her profits going back to Amazon in the form of advertising, she needed to stand out amid increasing competition. Instead of six books a year, her revised spreadsheet forecasts 10."  (my emphasis)

"She thinks more fully automating fiction right now would produce novels that are too generic, channeled into the grooves of the most popular plots. But, based on the improvement she’s seen over the year she’s been using Sudowrite, she doesn’t doubt that it will get there eventually. It wouldn’t even have to go far. Readers, especially readers of genre fiction, like the familiar, she said, the same basic form with a slightly different twist or setting. It’s precisely the sort of thing AI should be able to handle. “I think that’s the real danger, that you can do that and then nothing’s original anymore. Everything’s just a copy of something else,” she said. “The problem is, that’s what readers like.”

photo © Wikipedia

Is this really our future? And what if I don't want it?

08 September 2022

The Pig War


I wrote my master's thesis on one of the many adventures of Charles Elliot (1801-1875), British Royal Navy officer, diplomat, colonial administrator and, to put it bluntly, semi-secret agent.  His major adventure was the First Opium War, and there is not enough time or space to relate even half a smidgen of that.  Let's just say he instigated it, fed and watered it, seized Hong Kong (giving the British an excellent island War Room and great revenues for the next 150 years), watched (and participated) as his cousin George and the British Navy fought it, and signed the first peace treaty.  

Then he was recalled home and sent off to his next adventure, as the British charge d'affaires and consul general to the Republic of Texas from 1842-1846, which became the subject of my thesis, "The Man in the White Hat:  Charles Elliot in the Republic of Texas."  

I could also have called it "A Parcel of Rogues", because the Republic of Texas had an almost unbelievable cast of characters, beginning (of course) with Sam Houston.

In 1842, Texas had been a republic for 6 years. Samuel Houston, was in his second term as President of Texas. Houston was known for having spent years living among the Cherokees (hence his nickname "The Raven"). In 1827, he became Governor of Tennessee, but had to resign in scandal when he divorced his wife in 1829. (Even Andrew Jackson tossed him to the wolves on this one.) Houston left and went to Arkansas, to live with the Cherokee again, and eventually went to Texas territory. And the rest is kind of  history. And some legend. Probably a lot of legend. Some of it told by his own fair lips.  

One legend was told on, by or about the French charge d'affairs, the Comte de Saligny, who came to hand his credentials to the President of Texas.  He found President Houston sitting crosslegged on the floor, wrapped in a blanket, Indian style, while de Saligny was in full diplomatic gear, and probably sweating heavily. De Saligny began boasting and pointing out his medals, and when Houston had had enough, he leaped to his feet, throwing off the blanket, and stood, stark naked, pointing to his scars and screaming, "These are my medals! These are my credentials!" 

But then Houston hated de Saligny. Everyone did. Including de Saligny's own boss, French Foreign Minister Guizot.  

De Saligny lived a wildly fraudulent life.  To begin with, his real name was Jean Pierre Isidore Alphonse Dubois, and he was of bourgeois origins. He had to leave France due to involvement in a fraudulent corporation in Paris and a tendency to counterfeit money. Somehow his family managed to wangle him the job in the Republic of Texas, despite its importance. (Both Britain and France wanted to keep Texas independent, for a variety of reasons, which is why they both sent diplomats to do whatever they could.)  

Well, Dubois got to Texas, and gave himself the title of Comte de Saligny. Most of the newspaper articles and letters call him de Saligny, and some Comte, but then Texas was the kind of place where everyone went to get away from their past and start over. Look at Houston. 

Meanwhile, Dubois didn't have much use for Austin, Texas, especially after Paris: It was still in construction, with unpaved streets, wooden shanties, and not much promise of civilization on the march, especially after Paris. And one of those wooden shanties was Dubois' residence, the "hotel" of Mr. Bullock. 

Now Dubois had started over, but with the caveat that he continued to pass counterfeit money.  Including to pay his rent.  His landlord was not pleased.  This laid the basis for the infamous Pig War, which while short, lives in legend.  

Mr. Bullock had pigs. And in Texas (indeed in most of the world back then) pigs ran mostly wild, living off what they could find, because feeding pigs anything but scraps doesn't pay (this goes back all the way to the Middle Ages, and Thomas Tusser's 1573 Five Hundred Good Points of Husbandry). Mr. Bullock's pigs ran wild around the streets of Austin, not to mention the yard around Mr. Bullock's boarding house. And they ate corn that Dubois had bought (probably with more counterfeit money) for his horses. Claiming that the honor of France had been insulted when the Government of Texas, i.e., Sam Houston, refused to either back him or repay him for the corn, he refused to pay Bullock's bill. 

Dubois ordered his servant Pluyette to kill Bullock's pigs, which he did, although there's disagreement as to how many hogs died. Bullock assaulted Pluyette in the street, throwing rocks at him and threatening him with an ax, and there were skirmishes in the press. At one point Bullock was arraigned, but Dubois wouldn't let Pluyette testify, citing "The Laws of Nations".  To which Texas basically replied, "Yeah, right. Pull the other one." 

Later that night, Dubois and Bullock got into it at the door of the inn, and Bullock actually grabbed Dubois and shook him by the collar and then the arm! Dubois walked away, congratulating himself loudly & publicly on his composure, which he totally lost when he found out that the Texas Secretary of the Treasury, John Chalmers, approved what Bullock had done, and said that if Dubois had laid a hand on him, Chalmers, he'd have pulled out his gun and killed him.  

Well, shortly thereafter, Dubois decided that the greater part of valor was to flee the whole sordid mess, and he did. In the middle of the night.  To New Orleans.  Specifically, a brothel in New Orleans, which became his home away from home for a quite a while. 

NOTE: I remember sitting in my graduate student's carrel, reading my way through the French diplomatic letters of that time. All my fellow students were bored to death by their research, while I was practically howling with laughter as Guizot - from 8,332 kilometers away - wrote letter after letter cursing, hounding, pleading, ordering, and cursing some more in his desperate attempts to get Dubois to go back to Texas and get some actual foutu work done!  

Meanwhile, up in New Orleans, Dubois apparently wasn't content with les demoiselles du New Orleans, but had moved on to adultery. He was challenged by a woman's husband, but refused to duel, at which point he was hounded out of town for cowardice. All of this was why the French had no role at all in any of the stuff that happened with the Republic of Texas, leaving the field free for my guy Elliot.

BTW, years later, the French, under a misunderstanding that Dubois had actually served in and knew America and Mexico well, sent him as French ambassador to Mexico in 1860, where once again he fiddled with the money. He was recalled to France in 1863, in disgrace, and never served again as a diplomat. But he did marry a young, ultraconservative, wealthy Mexican woman and took her back to France. He bought a chateau and estate in Normandy, where he spent the rest of his life.  


But no one liked him there, either. Rumors of cruelty to wife and servants led to an interesting result.  After his death in 1888, he was buried but later the cemetery was moved from the town square to the area behind the church. Everyone's casket was moved except his. Dubois was left in his place, in the square, and every time there's a festival - to this day - the locals dance on his grave. Now THAT'S a grudge.  (Kenneth Hafertepe's A History of the French Legation in Texas.)  

As for my man Elliot?  He was beloved by both Anson Jones and Sam Houston, even though they hated each other.  Anson Jones named one of his sons Charles Elliot Jones.  Sam Houston eulogized him on the Senate floor after Texas was incorporated into the United States:

"England was represented by a gentleman whose intelligence would compare with that of any representative from any country... He was a man who sympathized with Texas, and he proposed nothing but what was for the interest of Texas... The character of that gentleman was preeminently praiseworthy and patriotic, and it would be seen that Texas appreciates him when she writes her annals. And as a statesman and diplomatist, he was entitled to all the respect and gratitude of Texas."  (Writings of Sam Houston)

Elliot went on to become Governor first of the Bermudas, then of Trinidad, as well as an Admiral.  He died at 74, and no one danced on his grave.

25 August 2022

The Mills of the Law Grind Slowly, Too


A couple of weeks ago there were commutation and parole hearings here at the penitentiary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I am not giving names or case incidents. What I will say is that, as always, the amount of news that some of these received in the local media was intense. And the hype and fear that followed - well, it was way over the top.

Sioux Falls Prison

A whole lot of people were and are convinced that if an inmate goes up for a commutation hearing - and receives it - they get released back into the community that day. WRONG.

Commutation is not a pardon, nor compassionate release. It actually has nothing to do with actually getting OUT. It's a process. Before there's even a hearing, there are interviews, a complete review of the case files, more interviews. If everything goes well, a recommendation is made to the Parole Board to hear it. They don't have to.

If the Parole Board agrees to hear the case, then there is a hearing with the inmate that is open to the public (friends and family on both sides, media, supporters, politicians, etc.). The hearings can be brutal. I've sat through a couple of them along the line. Lot of unfettered emotion. DAs and SAs and sheriffs relitigating the case, despite being told that they're not there to relitigate the case.

At the end of the hearing, with the inmate and public sitting there, the board votes. If the majority votes against approval, the inmate goes back to his/her cell. If they want, they can reapply next year. Some do – year after year after year. Some bag the whole idea and never apply again.

If the majority approves commutation, then the inmate still goes back to his/her cell.

Because the next step isn't release: it's determining what the sentence should be. A commutation is not a pardon. A commutation means that the Parole Board has decided that the sentence (usually life without parole) can and should be reduced to a number of years, and they get to decide how long. I've heard figures like 100, 200, 300 years bandied about. So what a commutation gives you is not an instant get out of prison free card, but a new sentence which makes it possible, sometime in the future, that you can apply for parole. And you can always get turned down for parole, too, even after a commutation.

But before that, the governor has to sign off on the commutation.

So a recommendation packet is made up, with all case files, documentation, the recommended new sentence, etc. And it gets sent to the governor's desk where... It's up to the governor.

Because the governor can sign the paperwork whenever the governor damn well wants to. As one Parole Board member said, governors have been known to sign the paperwork within days or weeks or months, or years. Or never.

And, of course, the governor can reject the Board's recommendation entirely and refuse to sign off on it. In which case, the inmate can apply again the next year, though I would advise waiting for a new governor.

But if the governor signs off, then the inmate has to continue to serve until they're finally eligible for a parole hearing - and the whole process starts up again.

So, even with a commutation, it can easily take years for an inmate to be released.

This is the way the law works. It's slow. It's messy. It's rarely swift. It's an exhausting process.

But it beats a world without it.

11 August 2022

Murder in the Chapel - 1935


First of all, many thanks to John Benting, Associate Director of Emergency MGMT/Security Audit Control, at the South Dakota State Penitentiary for his notes on this case.  Mr. Benting is working on a history of the South Dakota State Penitentiary, and I hope he gets it published soon.  All the factual material & material in quotes is from his notes, and all the rest is my own experience and fervid imagination.  

On September 17, 1935, Florence Turner (aged 32), inmate #7164, was killed on the chapel stage by her partner in crime and love, Glenn Murray (aged 33), inmate #7163. Both were doing time for burglary: Glenn got 20 years, Florence 10. They'd robbed a gas station in Rapid City and for some reason kidnapped two people. They took the two out to the country and tied them up with barbed wire. Proving that  Houdini lives when there's enough desperation, the two victims got out of that barbed wire and notified the police of the crimes. After that, it wasn't long before Glenn and Florence were captured north of Belle Fourche (which is only 55 miles away).  They arrived at the penitentiary on July 7, 1933. 

So why did he kill her, two years later? And how?

Well, the "how" is easy:  

"The day after the murder Murray was interviewed by Warden Reilley and State's Attorney Crill. Murray said that the female inmates (there weren't that many of them back then, and they lived in "the cottage") passed notes over the wall."  

My note:  The cottage was a small pipestone building added on to the east side of the main prison. It's still there, it's just been repurposed. 

"The previous Thursday Murray had another male inmate working out on a roof of one of the Hill buildings throw a note over to a female inmate who gave it to Florence. During that Sunday's church service Florence signaled Glenn that she'd received the message. Glenn said the message he had sent to her was that they were going to commit to a suicide pact and that she would show up to sick call on that Tuesday the 17th to carry out the deed."  

So, on Tuesday, Florence went to the prison hospital, which back in those days was reached through the chapel. Murray was waiting there - some say on what's now the stage - with a half pair of scissors he had stolen from the grain house, and stabbed her in the heart. Then he pulled out the blade, dropped it, and walked away.  NOTE:  Murray never, ever attempted to kill himself.  

Glenn's file for Sept. 17, 1935 states: "Stabbing Florence Turner with a dagger M.Sol. 9:15am."  Florence's file page for Sept. 18, 1935:  "Died September 17, 1935. Was stabbed in the heart by inmate Glenn Murray (sweetheart) when going to hospital for treatment. Died instantly."  

Fourteen days later, on October 1st, Glenn's file says "Released from Sol. Confinement 10:30am. Murdering his so called wife by stabbing her in heart." 

Fourteen days: Not that long for killing another inmate, is it?  

Glenn was convicted of murder and given a life sentence, but back then, life wasn't always without parole in South Dakota as it is now. He got out in October 1960, but came back on a violation in 1962. He died two years later in prison of a heart attack in December 1964.   

I'm still puzzled as to why Florence agreed to a suicide pact.  True, she and Glenn were childhood/high school sweethearts (hard to say which), who were going to get married back when she was 17.  Somehow her parents blocked it. Some time later, she married William T. Turner, 20 years her elder, and had five children with him.  After Donna, the fifth, was born, she left Turner and went back home to her parents in Brownsville, Iowa.  When Glenn got out of an Iowa prison in February, 1933, he found Florence, and convinced her to run off with him. She did, taking Donna with her.  They only had one month together, because they were arrested in March. (One month. I hope it was a good one.)

Anyway, at the time of her death, Florence was still married to William T. Turner (then 55). He was living in Waterloo, Iowa, raising the other four children. (NOTE:  Donna was adopted by an unnamed couple in Rapid City a couple of months after Florence's arrest.)  William Turner stated that he exchanged letters with his wife about every two weeks: she would write a letter to him and include a letter for the kids. He also stated that a year before the murder he'd tried to get her out on parole so she could come home and help raise the kids, but the request was denied.  

From the I Am An Evil Person Files:  What leaped to my mind was, "You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille" - and that maybe this was why Florence agreed to the suicide pact. Anything but going home to Mr. Turner. 

Then again, I'm not convinced that there was any note about a suicide pact - maybe it was a note about an escape attempt.  I don't know that anyone ever found the note. And if Florence thought that they were going to escape, and he killed her, well, that would explain a lot of what comes next:

Florence haunts the Hill chapel and the offices, hallway, etc., around the chapel.

John Benting:  "For years people have talked about a ghostly presence in the chapel area. Those who have had encounters have considered it to be a female presence, which is odd for a male dominated prison. More importantly these people who have considered this "ghost" a female presence had no knowledge of Florence's murder. I didn't uncover this story of Florence Turner until around 2015. It had been a story that had been lost in time for many decades as I have spoken to many people who have worked here as far back as the 1970's who didn't know the story of Florence's murder. There are still a handful of stories from a couple different people that come out every year on happenings in the chapel area. I have never personally had an experience here, but I know I have been hearing these stories of the female ghost going back 15 years before we rediscovered Florence's story."

I know a few stories myself. For one thing, there's a cold column of air on the stage of the chapel that isn't a draft: you can shut all the windows, close all the doors, and that column of air is still there. I've experienced that.  

Occasionally things move - not while you're watching, but when you look back up it's not where it was. I've experienced that, too.  

Other people (including a couple of staff I know) have seen a face or more behind a door, or reflected in the glass on a door.  

And, unlike the Loch Ness monster, Florence can show up on videotape:  There's a door in another room that leads out to a small catwalk. That door is ALWAYS kept locked, because that room has been repurposed. Well, there's video cameras everywhere in prison.  So there is a tape, very late one night, when all the inmates were locked down in the cells, and no one was even in the chapel area, that shows that door opening, all by itself, and then closing, all by itself.

I wonder what she was looking for…

28 July 2022

A Mixed Bag


First off, nursery rhymes and how they got that way.  Before the technological revolution and the industrial revolution, life was very, very quiet, and you had to make your own entertainment. Anything loud was very popular.  

I just found out that the "weasel" in "Pop Goes the Weasel" could well be a spinner's weasel.  Now a spinner's weasel is "a mechanical yarn-measuring device consisting of a spoked wheel with gears attached to a pointer on a marked face (which looks like a clock) and an internal mechanism which makes a "pop" sound after the desired length of yarn is measured" (usually a skein, or 80 yards). (Wikipedia)

On a sleepy rainy day, back in the 1700s, that could really the kids up, couldn't it?  Plus it gave them something to do…

And speaking of things to do, they weren't all as useful and harmless as a spinner's weasel.  Doolin 'Dalton sent me a link to the story of Whipping Tom:


"Whipping Tom and Skiping Ione", detail from the Yale Center 'Panorama'

Actually, there were three Toms:  1672 and 1681 in London and in 1712 in the village of Hackney.  Basically, each of them would attack women walking alone and beat them more or less savagely on their rear ends. We don't know much about the 1st Tom, except that he may have given the example to the 2nd Tom in London.  2nd Tom was known for yelling "Spanko!" as he beat them.  He also got into print:  

"His first Adventure, as near as we can learn, was on a Servant Maid in New-street, who being sent out to look for her Master, as she was turning a Corner, perceived a Tall black Man[n 2] standing up against the wall, as if he had been making water, but she had not passed far, but with great speed and violence seized her, and in a trice, laying her across his knee, took up her Linnen, and lay'd so hard up-on her Backside, as made her cry out most piteously for help, the which he no sooner perceiving to approach (as she declares) then he vanished."
- Whipping Tom Brought to Light and Exposed to View, 1681

Eventually a haberdasher and his apprentice (?) were arrested and tried for it.

The Hackney Tom was even more savage, attacking 70 women and using a "Great Rodd of Birch". Thomas Wallis was captured and confessed to the attacks. According to Wallis, he was "resolved to be Revenged on all the women he could come at after that manner, for the sake of one Perjur'd Female, who had been Barbarously False to him".  (Historian Andrew Martin, Citation from Ashton, John (1937), Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne, vol. 2, London: Chatto & Windus.  HERE)   

Sadly, all documents of the trial and conviction of any of the Whipping Toms have been lost over time... And no one knows who Skipping Joan is.  I tried to find it, and just couldn't.  

Actually, what surprises me most about this case is that they actually investigated and punished the Whipping Toms, because the Middle Ages was not known for its high opinion of women and their rights.  BTW, if you want something frightening, there's a self-described Christo-fascist on social media spouting that what he and his fellows all want is to return to the Middle Ages! When life was sweet! Life was great!  Obviously the jackass didn't realize (1) that they'd all be serfs back then, with all the backbreaking labor that entailed and (2) medieval dentistry & medicine:  



Of course it wasn't all plagues, leeches and purges.  Some of the stuff that sounds the weirdest actually worked:
 
FOR BURNS:  “Take a live snail and rub its slime against the burn and it will heal”
A nice, simple DIY remedy – and yes, it would help reduce blistering and ease the pain! Recent research has shown that snail slime contains antioxidants, antiseptic, anesthetic, anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral properties, as well as collagen and elastin, vital for skin repair.  Modern science now utilizes snail slime, under the heading ‘Snail Gel’, as skin preparations and for treating minor injuries, such as cuts, burns and scalds. It seems that medieval medicine got this one right.  (History Extra)

So keep a snail around - you never know when you might need one.

And now for something completely different, my favorite new streaming channel is Retro Reels, which you can get through Roku for the reasonable price of $2.99 a month.  It has just about every movie you can imagine from the 30s and 40s, and we are having a great time.  The only down side is that it has no search engine, so you have to scroll until you find a title you want to watch. And there's everything - from Charlie Chan to Cary Grant - so you're bound to get distracted from your original search.  Happy accidents abound!

The other night we watched The Public Enemy (1931) with James Cagney, and while everybody knows about this scene:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Public_Enemy#/media/File:Mae_Clarke_and_James_Cagney.jpg

imho, it's nowhere near the most shocking scene in the picture.  But we'll get to that in a minute.  

You can tell The Public Enemy was made pre-Hays Code.  You can also tell it was made in America, because all the good guys are so squeaky-clean they'd bore Billy Graham.  Even Ma... (Oh, Ma, get a new dress and quit pretending you don't know what your Tom does for a living.)  

(I've said it before, and I'll say it again, people really need to reread Victorian novels and find out how to make good people interesting. The stupidest line I ever heard was about 10 years ago on a show where the squeaky-clean hero's girlfriend said "It's easy to be good, but it's so hard to go bad." No, dimwit, it's the exact freaking opposite. The Victorians at least knew that temptation was actually tempting.)  

Speaking of pre-Hays, how about Jean Harlow?  She didn't have a lot of scenes, and she really wasn't that good at delivering her lines (I much prefer her in Red Dust - she and Gable had great chemistry, and they went on to make 6 movies together), but that white silk/satin lounge outfit made all of that irrelevant. 

(Triva: On the set one day, Cagney stared at Harlow's cleavage and asked, "How do you keep those things up?" "I ice them," Harlow said.  IMDB)

Meanwhile, there's Cagney, with charm, energy, one hell of a great grin, and a real gift for that 1930s fast dialog which he made sound like the smartest wisecracks you ever heard, which they often weren't.  The result is that (almost) no matter what he was doing, you root for him. Same as in Angels With Dirty Faces.  (Some people have that gift - watching The Public Enemy, I realized one of the inmates at the pen looks like Cagney's reincarnation, and that explains a lot about his career.)  

Anyway, that charm is what makes the last scene of the movie so shocking. Watch it and see.  All I'll say is, his eyes are open.  

Oh, and one final tidbit I found and am now passing around like cracker jacks at a ball game:  

The One Sentence Persuasion Course:

"People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, assuage their fears, justify their failures, confirm their suspicions, and throw rocks at their enemies."  - Blair Warren

It explains so much...  

14 July 2022

The Semi X-Rated Blog


Because I am sick unto death of lawmakers explaining women's bodies and how they work with apparently endless ignorance and BS, 

(From https://www.fowllanguagecomics.com/ by Brian Gordon)

I thought we should talk about the female reproductive system.

First, a quick tour:


(Thanks Wikipedia)

Note that the uterus is a self-contained organ that cannot be reached from above. In other words, you cannot swallow a camera and see if a woman is pregnant.  (Sorry, Sen. Vito Barbieri)

The ovaries are next to the fallopian tubes. After ovulation, the egg cell is captured by the Fallopian tube, after traveling down the Fallopian tube to the uterus, occasionally being fertilized on its way by an incoming sperm.  The trip from the ovary through the Fallopian tube to the uterus can take hours or days. Meanwhile, once in a while a fast-swimming sperm can reach the egg in an hour, but not all sperm is healthy and mobile, it's a long way and there are many barriers, and it can actually take days for the winner to finish the marathon to the uterus.

But sometimes a supersperm makes it all the way up to the egg before the egg gets out of the Fallopian tube and fertilizes it there. So the zygote implants there, leading to an ectopic pregnancy a/k/a tubal pregnancy.  

(1) Sadly, it is not as rare as people try to tell you:  about 1 in every 100 pregnancies is a tubal pregnancy.  That's a lot.

(2) Despite the Ohio Bill mandating it, it is scientifically and medically impossible to transplant the fertilized egg from the Fallopian tube into the uterus.  

(3) Ectopic pregnancies will always kill both the mother and the fetus unless the pregnancy is aborted, either with medication or surgery.   (NHS)  

Meanwhile, "miscarriages are much more common than most people realize. Among people who know they're pregnant, it's estimated about 1 in 8 pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Many more miscarriages happen before a person is even aware they're pregnant."  (NHS)  Now most miscarriages happen because there are chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus.  As I've said before, I used to work as a low-level tech at Medical Genetics at Emory University, and the number of possible chromosomal abnormalities is mindboggling. This is important, because currently a number of states whose trigger laws against abortion have been instituted are talking about - and some actually are investigating miscarriages to see if they were actually abortions.  

If this keeps up, with the odds at 1 in 8 of having a miscarriage - approximately the same as dying of cancer - you will soon know someone (or be someone) arrested for a natural tragedy.  

"It's pretty apparent that conservatives believe that all gunowners are future heroes, but all uterus owners are potential criminals. And they legislate accordingly." - Yours Truly

A woman does not have a period until after she has ovulated.  This is why little girls who haven't yet had periods can get pregnant. Meanwhile, an amazing number of men have no idea and don't want to have any idea as to how periods work, and don't want to hear any of the literally bloody details, because it's just so icky.  (Upworthy)  Oh, and no, a woman doesn't automatically have her period every 28 days exactly.  Sometimes it surprises us.

Also, no one quite knows why, but the onset of puberty is getting earlier for both sexes. On average, puberty today begins around age 10 or 11 in girls (11–12 in boys) and ends between 15 and 17.   Some of it's probably nutrition:  My mother, for example, who was born in 1917 in the Appalachian mountains, didn't have her first period until she was 17, in 1934.  

Anyway, considering how our society sexualizes little girls (anyone remember Jon Benet Ramsey and how she was in endless Little Miss beauty contests?), ever younger puberty has dangerous repercussions on our children.  (Wikipedia)  (Psychology Today)  

Which leads us to the 10 year old Ohio girl who was raped and impregnated, refused an abortion in her home state, and had to go to another state to get one. In the process, a number of conservative politicians, including our own Governor Noem, stuck with the concept that abortion was 100% wrong. 

They may also have said, as have so many conservative men (and the occasional woman - HERE) have, that women can't get pregnant from rape.  (So many of them...)  

(1) Every slave woman in the Old South would entirely disagree. And most of the slaveowners' wives as well:

 

"But what do you say to this — to a magnate who runs a hideous black harem with its consequences, under the same roof with his lovely white wife and his beautiful and accomplished daughters? He holds his head high and poses as the model of all human virtues to these poor women whom God and the laws have given him. You see, Mrs. Stowe did not hit the sorest spot. She makes Legree a bachelor." - Mary Chesnut - A  Diary from Dixie 

(2) Every biologist and gynecologist entirely disagrees.  

So why is it that all these states with trigger laws have no exception for rape or incest? Well, one person says it's "Because men are the purveyors of rape and incest. They want to shift the focus away from the offender toward the woman." (HERE)  Maybe. It would explain why there are literally hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits stacked up in police storage around the country.  (The Atlantic)  

It's also a classic Catch-22 argument:  If women can't get pregnant from rape, then if a 10 year old - or any female - is pregnant, she obviously wasn't raped.  

So...  

Meet Matthew Hale, a 1678 master of the Catch-22:  he said witch trials were totally legit because "the existence of laws against witches is proof that witches exist".  A lot of women died to support that circular logic.  

Lord Hale was a primary source for SCOTUS Justice Alito in his Dobbs opinion abolishing Roe v. Wade.  He was also the originator of the Lord Hale Instructions, which were a required part of rape jury trials in the United States until at least 1976:

"It is true rape is a most detestable crime, and therefore ought severely and impartially to be punished with death; but it must be remembered, that it is an accusation easily to be made and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, tho' never so innocent... [W]e may be the more cautious upon trials of this nature, wherein the court and the jury may with so much ease be imposed upon without great care and vigilance; the heinousness of the offense many times transporting the judge and jury with so much indignation, that they are over hastily carried to the conviction of the accused thereof, by the confident testimony sometimes of malicious and false witnesses."  - Matthew Hale, 1678, Pleas of the Crown, p. 635.  

"From the days of Lord Hale to the present time, no case has ever gone to the jury, upon the sole testimony of the prosecutrix, unsustained by facts and circumstances corroborating it, without the Court warning them of the danger of a conviction on such testimony."  People v. Benson, 1856, California, ruling that a 13 year old's testimony was insufficient for a guilty plea because there were no other witnesses.  (LAWNET, my emphasis)   

BTW, what is it about 13 year olds and the male psyche?  Lolita is 12 in the novel and 14 in the movie, so let's split the difference and call her 13.  Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13 year old cousin.  And KY (R) Senator James Lankford said that 13 years old can consent to sex in his 2010 deposition (HERE). Oh, and Lord Hale was a generous man and upgraded the age of consent in his day from 10 (yes, you read that correctly) to 12.  Deep, deep, deep sigh...  

Meanwhile, back to the 10 year old Ohio girl.  A number of people on conservative media are saying that the story is suspicious, if not fake news, because it only has one source.  Now where have we heard that before?  Ohio AG Yost says there's no criminal investigation pending, which is surprising. To which I reply:

  1. Dr. Bernard declined to identify to the WaPo her colleague or the city where the child was located, & she was right to do so. HIPAA laws apply here, as does our last shreds of privacy rights, especially of minors. 
  2. Ohio AG Yost supposedly also said that this abortion 'clearly fit within the exceptions - “to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman,” - and could be legally performed in Ohio.'  (NYPOST)  
    • Except that, of course, Ohio has no exceptions for rape or incest. And incest is almost always perpetrated on children. 
    • Except that so far, no state with no exceptions has made an exception for anyone. 
    • Except that so far, no conservative Governor in such a state has said - in response to this case - that there should be an exception for the girl on the grounds of her health. 
    • Aunt Crabby calls bulls***.  
BREAKING NEWS:  There has been an arrest in the 10 year old Ohio girl's case.  (HERE)  So far, no apologies from any of the conservatives, including AG Yost, Governor Noem, and Tucker Carlson, who all said it was fake news, and "too good [for Democrats] to be true".  

Meanwhile, in Brazil:  Judge bans 11 year old rape victim from having an abortion because 'she would not have been "protecting the daughter," and would instead have been "subjecting her to a homicide."' (NEWSWEEK


ISABELLA: I'll tell the world
Aloud what man thou art.

ANGELO: Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoil'd name, th' austereness of my life,
My vouch against you, and my place i' the state,
Will so your accusation overweigh
That you shall stifle in your own report,
And smell of calumny.

Shakespeare,Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene 4