Mind Fields: I’m Confused

Mind Fields

Listen.  A month ago I saw one of my bank statements and I saw that Adobe had been paid $119 in February.  They’ve been getting the same $119 for five years. Uh?  For what?  Apparently I had signed on to an app for a one-time signing of a PDF contract. That was how Adobe got me.  I’ve been paying 119 a year for that one-time signing.  I should have seen it. I didn’t.

Software did it to me.  Adobe.  Photoshop and its minions, Lightroom and Lightroom Classic.  Adobe has such a tight grip on the photo image market, it’s like an octopus with twenty four tentacles. I’ve been on fair terms with the awesome app for a long time.  I’ve been using Photoshop CS5, which is about fifteen years old. 

I figured that as long as I’ve paid Adobe through the years, I may as well install all the photo apps to which I am entitled.  The latest Photoshop.  The latest Lightroom, the latest Lightroom Classic. 

Here’s where the confusion starts.  There’s a guy on Youtube who looks like a Hindu version of Peter Lorre.  His face is motionless, frozen into an amused smirk. He’s so good with Photoshop he just riffs with heavy duty stuff like “eliminating the background”.  And he does it with a few clicks and brushes.  Isn’t that fundamental with a thousand images you’ve taken?  Wouldn’t it be great to have a tool that automatically erases the background?

That’s what’s happening now in Photoshop.  It can do that!  The Revolution has come!  Not for me, not yet: I’m following Frozenface’s instructions and it’s not happening.  That’s one aspect of Photoshop.  There are hundreds of ways of doing the same thing.  I follow FlatFace’s steps and I’m not erasing any background.  I’m erasing the foreground.  I WILL figure it out.

So I’m running two versions of Photoshop, I also have Lighroom, Lightroom Classic and Canon’s Digital Photo Pro.  And all the Windows photo apps, all the Microsoft photo appos, all these image apps jumping in my face and saying “Use me!  Use ME!” All these programs are supposed to run harmoniously together and shepherd my precious images towards their apotheosis.

I’m not comfortable with this stuff.  I’m especially confused by the shift in terminology and the way “Save As” has become “Exports As” and now there are Collections instead of Folders.  Folders had to give up their guts and ride the Adobe Train.

I’m lost and confused.  I don’t know where my photos are any more.  I don’t know how much duplication has happened and how much drive space these previews and previews of previews and preview previews for comparison photos, before and after, showing how many iterations of the same image exist.. Over and over again.  Where they are.  They’re on my computer.  I can click and make an image appear.  In fifteen different programs. Everyone loves photography.  The internet is all about photography.  And video, don’t forget video.

I think it must be okay.  The people at Adobe are experts.  They must have deep insight into the process of editing and transforming images or they wouldn’t be able to anticipate what photographers and graphic artists will need in the future.  Even with the latest mega Terabyte solid state drives, space will always be a major consideration.

Hell yes I need a tool that can erase a background from an impromptu portrait snapshot.  Hell yes.  I just have to figure out the procedure.  Right now I’m erasing the faces that I’m hoping to preserve. Maybe I need a better Youtube teacher than Mister SmirkFace.

It’s okay to be confused.  Don’t let it alarm you. Ever since Walt Disney took control of this culture’s imagination things haven’t looked right.  You never know when a set of whiskers will appear on the side of a woman’s face.  Or dogs are fitted out as astronauts and interstellar explorers.  Dogs, pigs, mice.  Disney was a major zoophile.  Things haven’t looked right for the last sixty years. 

Where do archetypes end and stereotypes begin? Ask Walt Disney.  Ask his ghost, I don’t care.  He has a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

I’m still confused.  I expect to be less confused as I get familiar with this new software.  OR…I’ll toss this shit and go back to Canon DP Pro, because it’s just easier.

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind.

In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award.

Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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Mind Fields – The Windows Deluge

Mind Fields

May 11, 2021

I have eighty two websites open on my computer. Right now.  It’s a lot of info, and I barely know where to go next.  All of it is Image.  The text is merely relish on the photos and digital constructions.  Every day that I sit at my computer or use my phone I am assailed by an overwhelming deluge of images.  Who can discriminate within a field of overlapping network pages? There are so many things to look at!

Let me go from left to right at the top of my computer’s browser.  I’ll read them off to you:

Lisa Witt’s Piano Lessons/Fredmiranda photography forum/dpReview camera review/.goodreads, literary opinion/Photoshop lessons/Ebay Tamron portrait lens for sale/two more Ebay pages/Youtube, archeology video/Smashwords, my book sales site/I have two pages of Inbox in the email pages that I use/ four windows open on Artsy, a wonderful auction site for artists/the Wiki page of photographer Diane Arbus.  If you don’t know who she was, check her out, immediately!/National Geographic, always urging me to subscribe…I’ll stop there.  You get the idea.  You probably have your own plethora of open websites in front of you.  What are your plans for today?  It’s Sunday. My plans involve a lot of sitting in front of my computer looking at these open websites. At intervals I will swing my chair a hundred eighty degrees and practice piano scales.  I usually check my email first but I haven’t done that today.  I’m more curious about the reviews of a Canon camera that I want to buy.  I sold my old camera using Facebook.

If I click on the little arrow at the top of my browser bar, I see yet another forty or fifty open pages.  It’s insane!  Everything is so interesting!  Much of it isn’t worth the pixel density it’s projected upon.  It may be interesting but it’s still Junk.  That’s not my problem.  I know how to avoid junk. I don’t use my phone for internet.  I’m not a phone person.  I’m a Desktop person.  I like the size and resolution of my computer monitors.  One of the monitors sits behind my digital piano where I can read music from its display. 

It has occurred to me that much of what I do from day to day is incredibly cool and none of it existed ten years ago.  That’s how fast the pace of change happens beneath our feet.  It’s like living in a constant earthquake.  The mental agility required to navigate the current epoch is intense.  Do we have mental health issues?  I wonder why.  Every human being must now be a juggler, a dancer and respond to life as if riding a surf board.  And you wonder why you’re so crazy.

You’ve heard the Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”  It’s a riff on the historical knowledge that “interesting times” are times of trouble and turbulence.  I  view our own times as interesting beyond credulity.  These are INCREDIBLE times and it’s a privilege, albeit a demanding privilege, to be alive in this cauldron of possibilities.  China just landed its own Mars Rover on the red planet. Holy shit!  What’s next?  Where is the dividing line between science fiction and science fact? It keeps moving.  I guess that’s my point in this rambling essay: living requires several kinds of agility.  If you don’t move with skill you’ll be lost in the undertow of this great wave of information that keeps rushing onto the shores of our consciousness like a digital tsunami.  It will take agility to survive.  It has always been this way.  It’s likely to be this way for the indefinite future. 

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award.

Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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Why do I do it?

Reciting from Delilah for the Birds

Living in a rural area in the Colorado mountains provides a unique set of obstacles to be dealt with, including a forty-five mile commute, one way, on winding mountain roads which can be treacherous in winter weather conditions and clogged with tourist traffic in the summer that can turn a forty-five minute drive into and hour and a half. It can be nerve wrecking and even hair raising at times. And the wear and tear on my vehicles – proper maintenence and tires, etc… – due to all the mileage I put on them gets downright expensive!

I hate that commute and for several years now I’ve been asking myself why I do this live in this remote place. Three years ago, I hit black ice and rolled my car over on its side, totaling the car and raising my insurance, even though I had broken no traffic laws or violated the rules of the road. I hadn’t been driving too fast or being reckless. It was simply the road conditions that caused me to wreck. The cop almost landed on his derierre when he approached to issue me the ticket because the road was a sheer sheet of ice.

But it’s not just the commute. There are other unique difficulties that come with living off-grid, like hauling water and keeping generators and solar systems functioning, and chopping wood for winter fuel. Only in such remote locations does one have an internet outage during the writing conference that your hosting, causing you to have to stay at a hotel and miss one full day of events, as it happened during this year’s WordCrafter virtual writing conference. It can be tough when you don’t have the simple ammenities that many people take for granted.

Yesterday, as I was driving home from work, I saw something that reminded me of why I live where I live, in spite of the need to do that often treacherous and all too frustrating commute. As I turned off the highway and headed up the dirt road that I live off of, I came around a corner and saw a patch of brown, almost hidden in the meadow grasses below a heavily forested hill. At first I thought it might be a cow or perhaps a horse, as the folks who live just over the hill keep livestock, but it didn’t stand tall enough above the grasses to be of the equine or bovine persuasions. I slowed down to get a better look, and the sound of my car must have drawn the as yet unidentified animal’s attention, causing it to look up and allowing me a good look, as well.

I hit my brakes and then threw my car into reverse, backing to a spot off the road, where I had a fairly decent view of a large brown bear which was now watching me to see what I was up to. The bear watched me for a couple of minutes, as I dug in my computer case for my Kindle, the only device with a camera that I had available. Then, he must have decided I didn’t pose much of a threat and went back to whatever he had been doing in the grass before I came along. The grass still hid him partially, but I was able to snap several photos of him before he lost interest and decided to head back over the hill. I had a much better view as he ambled away, so I slid out of my car and walked to the back of the car to snap a few more shots. He looked back to see what I was doing, but didn’t seem to concerned, as he turned and continued on his way.

That’s why I do it. That is why I make the commute, and why I make lists and keep things stocked up, so I don’t end up making extra trips, and do all of the other things that are kind of a pain, but are necessary to accomodate my chosen lifestyle. That’s why I work so hard to grow a following and make money from my writing and publishing skills, so I won’t have to make that commute anymore.

Because living where I live, I get to see things like that big brown bear and many other kinds of wildlife that city dwellers miss out on. The bear I saw yesterday was only one of many wildlife sightings that living here has offered me. Many are just glimpses, such as the two foxes playing in a drainage pipe at the side of the road, or the bobcat running through the trees, but on a few occasions, I’ve even been afforded the opportunity to capture them in photos and created the wonderful images I’m sharing here today.

The flora and fauna surrounding my Colorado mountain home are what makes it all worth it. Beside road side wildlife, my mountain home offers opportunities to view and often, photograph many species of birds and plant life. Beautiful wild flowers and and magnificent bird photos inhabit my photo library, where the images of a small fraction of all the magnificent species to which I have been witness to, have been captured. Many encounters that I wasn’t able to capture through the lens have instead inspired poetry or found their way into stories that I’ve written, or other writings.

All of this serves to remind me of the reasons why I do what I do, and live where I live, strengthening my resolve to keep doing what I’m doing. My motto has always been “Endeavor to Perservere”, or keep on keeping on, and that’s just what I’m going to do, but now I remember why I’m doing it.

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Mind Fields: Scammed Like An Idiot By Hackers

Mind Fields

Scammed Like An Idiot By Internet Hackers Vol 3a

“This is completely crazy!” I shouted at my smartphone. I was on the verge of a panic attack. The man at the other end, in his classic Mumbai accent, replied, “No no sir, it is not crazy. Your computer is badly infected. Do you see all these people who are using your private information?” 

He pronounced Private with a “W”. Priwot.

My mouse pointer moved while my hands rested in my lap. The Command Window opened and showed an ominous list of white notations scrolling down the black background. Mumbai Man had control of my computer. I could see repeated iterations of the word “Trojan”

“See there,” he said.  “See, see?  See how many!” I had been fighting him for at least an hour and he was losing his composure.  I was stubbornly refusing to capitulate. Is this what’s called Ransomware? So it seems. I couldn’t get rid of the guy. I couldn’t regain control of my computer until I paid five hundred dollars. Needless to say, I was upset.  And I brought it upon myself by doing a stupid thing.

I had already been softened up. A week ago a demanding white pop-up window informed me that my computer had contracted a virus. In order to fix it I must call Microsoft at an 800 phone number. Riiight! And there are elephants on the moon. The pop up wouldn’t go away. No restart, no Task Manager, nothing. I shut down my computer by pulling the plug. When I rebooted I got on a treadmill of Windows fix-it bubbles that went nowhere. 

After a couple hours of futzing with various remedies, including a  non-functioning backup program, I realized that I had to reformat my computer. That was three days of work. Such work included ransacking all of my closets and bins looking for software. Labor intensive!

Everything was fine after the reformat, my computer worked for a week. Then that same white pop up window appeared and I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t want to reformat again! Like an idiot I called the phone number. Thus an ordeal began that went on for hours. Mumbai Man insisted that he represented Microsoft. He gave me an I.D. number. He gave me a phone number for…uh..Microsoft. I got another phone and punched that number. At the first ring a man with a Mumbai accent answered. “Microsoft Customer Service” he cheerfully announced.

The voice of Mumbai Man #1 created a bizarre feedback loop because as he spoke to me on MY phone, his voice sounded one desk removed on the phone that I had used to call…er…Microsoft..  I went through the motions, juggling two cell phones. I was assured by Mumbai Man #2 that Mumbai Man #1 was a legitimate Microsoft employee. His name was…uh… Sam Taylor. I wasn’t buying it but I was losing my grip on reality.  These guys were slick! They had an answer for everything. They talked and talked and their reasoning was insane. Slowly they dragged me into the upside-down world of internet thieves. They could demonstrate to me how badly messed up was my computer. They told me that even if I bought a new computer the same thing would happen because hackers lurked in my network. They told me that every computer I ever bought from this day forward would be infected if I didn’t pay five hundred dollars.

“Sir, why are you having a broblem with this?” asked..uh.. Sam Taylor, as if this were a perfectly reasonable situation.

“A broblem?” I shrieked. “A broblem? Five hundred dollars and my computer held hostage is a broblem!.  I can buy a new computer for five hundred dollars!”

 “Oh, but sir, the new computer will also have the same broblem if you do not take care of this right away.”

Listen, I love the accent of Indians, be they from Mumbai, Kalikot or Kerala. I love the way they sound like they have three marbles just inside their lower lip. I have adored Indian culture my entire life. However these fellows conformed to a stereotype, this was happening in the real world and in the real world most Americans expect their tech support to speak with that lilting accent. Weirdly, it added a gloss of credibility to what was blatantly incredible.

“I’m sixty two years old,” I told the thief. “Does your mother know what you do for a living? That you rob old people on Social Security?”

“Oh, sir, you are a senior citizen? Let me talk to my supervisor and see what I can do about getting a discount.”

Hmmm hmmm count to five. “Oh yes sir, my supervisor tells me that we can make the rebairs for three hundred forty nine dollars and ninety five cents.”

I gave in. I let them install their shit on my computer. Their spyware, malware, ransomware buggy shit on my computer. I gave them my credit card number. I still don’t believe I did that. Sam Taylor had turned me over to Steve Smith who worked in Billing, and Steve Smith had then given control of my computer to Richie Logan. I watched my screen as program after program was installed, operated, then uninstalled. It was spooky! I was afraid to pull the plug on the modem and shut them out. By this time I didn’t know what to believe and I had the futile hope that these guys were actually fixing my computer.

My lovely spouse had a terrible virus experience once and contacted a reputable repair company who charged her a hundred dollars to remotely fix her computer. I phoned them while my computer chattered away, rolling files across the monitor screen.

“Unplug your modem right now!” This was the order from Jeffrey Everard in Austin, Texas. He works for OneSupport. They handle situations such as the mess I found myself in. I trust them. I think.

Jeffrey worked for an hour on my computer and charged me a hundred bucks.

Barclay Bank shut down my credit card and promised to mail me a new one with a new account number.  Mumbai Men had yet to run the charge and they were not going to get my money. I called all my credit card vendors. I called the bank.

This was a horrible experience. Be careful. These crooks are skillful and incredibly persistent. They are glib, slick and ruthless. They are from India, Ukraine, Thailand, Poland, Belorus and the USA. They find your knowledge level with regard to computers and they know how to convince you that they’re not lying. They twisted my head so badly that I couldn’t locate reality after spending a couple of hours in their company.  Did a little alarm go off at Microsoft Headquarters notifying them that my computer was infected? I posed this vision sarcastically and they said, “Yes that’s exactly what happened!”

I am now afraid to do any browsing on my computer. I’m afraid that any program I purchase to fight malware might be the vehicle bringing malware to my computer.

I made a mistake, a dumb mistake and it could have cost me much more. It will be a while before I can relax and use my computer normally. If ever.

My hands are still shaking.

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Mind Fields: My Bank Account Has Termites

Mind Fields

My bank account has termites. Look at this statement! I’m paying $2.99 a month for National Geographic Online. I pay $4.99 for Bookbug, $3.99 for InfoTune. I’m still using the free version of Spotify. I can’t keep up! I did an audit of my books last night and my monthly internet charges are out of control. The total crept up on me like an infestation. One day it wasn’t there and the next day it was in my life like bugs in the basement. I can’t wonder: How did this happen? because I know how it happened. In the course of acquiring a normal amount of services and entertainment I accrued a creeping army of little debits. Look at this one: Chordbuddy.com. It’s a site that helps me practice piano. It gives me access to every musical chord ever devised. Many thousands of chords! It’s $5.99 a month and I use it every day. What chord is that? OK let’s look it up on Chordbuddy.com. Aha! Cminor 13. What a bizarre chord. 

This tool is a miracle! Beethoven didn’t have the internet. He figured out his own shit without help from the digital universe. NOW… we have the digital universe and I’m teaching myself how to play and write with the aid of these tools. 

I’m so grateful. I take nothing for granted. The world is always fluid and plastic. It melts and flows. Y’gotta be like a surfer..  Ride the waves as they come, big ones and small ones. My bank account gets nibbled at by a horde of seafloor crustaceans in digital form. Here’s my charge for keeping my Viewbug photo website up and running. It’s 10.99. I have to keep my amazing photos visible to the world because that pays part of my rent. Then… there’s $2.99 a month to Google for enough online storage to hold all these images and videos. Holy shit. I started writing this, kind of larking it but now it’s turned serious. I better audit my account again, for real this time.  I need to know this essay has not been an exaggeration. 

There are these fleas too. You get one behind your ear and for the next week even though the flea is long dead you still itch there, still scratch it now and then.

I keep a Sticky Note on my desktop. It has all my credit cards and internet debits listed by the company and last four digits. If I’m going to get hacked I’ll get hacked. One time I had my computer held hostage by a bunch of guys named Rah-jer. It cost me five hundred dollars and a lot of work to recover the contents of that computer. It wasn’t the machine that was hostage, it was the contents. Of course I had back ups. I always have backups and backups to the backups. Still, it was worth 500 dollars to ransom my computer.

I’m going to put the cover on my digital piano now and go to sleep. In the morning I may discover that I’ve signed up for a live Zoom conference with therapists at the South Pole. I don’t know what’s going to happen next:. The pace of change is positively sweaty! Close your eyes and turn around three times. Zipp! The world has changed. If you don’t change with it… well… you haven’t changed with it. That’s okay. If you want to be stuck in the past, pitch your tent with spikes made from old AOL discs.

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Jeff’s Movie Reviews – Mortal Kombat (2021)

Finish him!

by Jeff Bowles

Movies based on popular video games aren’t typically known for their excellence. Among gamers and industry vets, they aren’t even known to please longtime fans in any serious way. Just check out some of the more financially successful ventures into this difficult field, films like Warcraft, Detective Pikachu (which actually wasn’t all that bad), the Tomb Raider series, Prince of Persia, Monster Hunter, all six entries in the Resident Evil franchise, Sonic the Hedgehog….

The problem usually lies in a misunderstanding of what makes video games tick, the basic fact they’re more fun to play than watch. Also a certain greedy approach to cash cows that otherwise net billions annually. Interactive, choice-driven, challenging, often containing stories that work precisely because players feel totally immersed.

Games can and do look and smell like movies, but they aren’t the same thing. An enterprising filmmaker would be loath to adapt a video game beat-for-beat. What would be the point? The most common approach is to try and split the difference, to take a few popular franchise characters, perhaps mix them in with some new no-name placeholders, invent a plot that is similar but not identical to the original, and then race the whole thing through production, packaging, and release.

The new Mortal Kombat film is no different. It thinks it understands what longtime fans want, but in reality it’s just a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas and mishandled IP. Honestly, I don’t know if you’ve ever played a MK game in your life, but the series isn’t about story, not really. It’s about gore and hyperviolence, the kind of bloody entertainment that rewards complex finisher moves so brutal they have but one appropriate name: fatalities.

See the source image

This latest stab at the franchise wants to include all the blood and death, not sugar coat things like the famously inadequate Mortal Kombat movies made in the mid-90s. Lots of people grew up with those films, and Warner Bros. is convinced an updated, adult-friendly retread will hit the spot. For the most part, it does not. The story is messy, the action is simultaneously choppy and too slow (not sure how they managed that one), and let’s not mince words, so many different characters get thrown at you, it’s entirely possible you’ll need a PH.D. in Kombat-ology to keep up.

I’m old enough to remember a time many moms and dads would refuse to let their kids play Mortal Kombat. Video games have only gotten increasingly more realistic since then. A gaming series that pushes the violence and willfully misspells the word ‘Kombat‘ is never going to yield an Academy Award winner. Kome on, all you Klassic Mortal Kombat Kompetitors! Why no Kostly retread of Street Fighter, or Kan we finally Konsider the genre Kompromised?

Skip this movie if you can. Go play the newest Mortal Kombat video game, lucky number eleven, which at least understands what fans show up to see. Blood, blood, and even more blood, gameplay that is tight and fierce, competitive tournaments that let you test yourself against other players, and a story that is serviceable at best.

Because the vast majority of MK players don’t care about story. That just goes without saying. Remove all the things that make the games immersive fun, and you’re left with a whole heap of meh.

Kill the Koncept, Warner Bros.. Kan’t tell you how Kreatively Konstipated this Kategory has beKome.

Jeff’s Movie Reviews gives the new Mortal Kombat movie a Five out of Ten.


Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!

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Want to be sure not to miss any of “Jeff’s Movie Reviews” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it useful or entertaining, please share.


Mind Fields: Fish In Or Out Of Water

Mind Fields

We’re just like the fish; we don’t know what water is. But the element in which we swim, the element that is impossible for us to recognize, is stress. 

You may think you know you’re stressed. This isn’t the kind of stress I’m talking about. We have become denizens of a culture that is actually a Torture Machine. It drives us insane by presenting demands so complex as to be impossible to  achieve. Every day, it issues orders to our nervous systems. Turn on your left blinker. Pay your insurance premium. Pick up your kids’ school uniforms. Don’t forget the doctor’s appointment. Where’d you put the McFarland file? Where are the paper clips? Why is this milk sour? Screw it; not worth my time, flush it down the sink. Are the dogs’ vaccinations up to date?

Do I have the receipts for my tax audit?

Why am I always left with the feeling that I’ve forgotten to do a homework assignment? Who is this screaming at me, right next to my ear so that it hurts?

The Antifa people are scurvy hippies. Our government is letting people steal on a massive scale. My bank account only exists long enough for the auto-payments to hit, and it’s gone and I’ve got nothing left to spend.

I think I’m going crazy. I don’t have any sexual desire at all. The last time I felt truly alive was… when? Have I ever felt truly alive? I truly don’t think so.

There’s nothing to look forward to. My old age will merely be a time when insurance machines squeeze the remaining dollars from my estate, leaving my kids with nothing. Zero. The globe is warming up. It’s true. The waters are creeping on shore, slowly. The future is a tsunami.

OUR SOCIETY IS A TORTURE MACHINE, so complex that it takes a genius to maneuver its daily routine. It tortures by its relentless pressure. We don’t need Stalin or Hitler. We have modern life in Amerika. See that guy with the cardboard sign sitting at the parking lot exit? “Will work for food.” He isn’t a pathetic loser. He’s you or me or someone we know who just cracked under the pressure and opted to sit in the TIME OUT box in front of everyone. He couldn’t take the complexity any more.  Now he’s doing better. He has a shoe box where his money piles up. He’s doing better than I am! Could I take sitting in the TIME OUT box in front of everyone? I don’t think so. I’m not tough enough.

Life has always been complex, but not like this… Hunting, gathering, fighting off raiders, that was easy stuff compared to this. The modern Torture Machine can’t be dodged. Your assignment is late! Punishment will be swift and merciless! Your interest will rise, your credit will be cut.

The injustice of it! I’m choking on injustice. I can’t breathe! Give me a cigarette. Where are all these voices coming from? Let me turn off the radio.

The off switch doesn’t work. The voices are coming from my pocket.  It’s my Z-Phone. It doesn’t have an OFF switch. The argument continues, shouting everywhere, lies compound in blatant and shameless huckstering. Everything is a trick. Even the tricks we know to be tricks conceal more subtle tricks. Those Antif types are going to burn down Manhattan in a giant riot. Quick, we’d better launch a pre-emptive pogrom, mow them down before they find out where we’ve stashed the money.

The fish don’t recognize the sea. The people don’t recognize the element that dominates our lives. I will coin a term for it: Phobagonovia. Phobe-ago-NOVE-ee-yah. It causes us to curl up inside our homes with the giant TV playing football games and scripted “reality” shows where people are abused by their in-laws. Phobagonovia. We are afraid of new experiences. The Torture Machine has implanted this condition in our nervous systems. We are afraid of relating to one another openly, of crying in front of strangers, of expressing feelings easily, of hugging or kissing spontaneously, lest we be inappropriate, our strait jacket is “Appropriate”, we haven’t a clue how to dance in a circle while deeply in love with members of a clan, to sing ancient songs, to sit around a fire feeling wonderful under the stars. That doesn’t mean we want to go backwards. We want to invent new communities. We are dying of Phobagonovia. Our neck ties are cutting off our breath. Our high heels are warping our skeletons. The future is over.  Donald Trump will be reborn as a talking pig that can only sputter nonsense. The people of his remote village will laugh at him holding their sides with mirth. They will postpone the time to eat him. He’s so strange that people come from villages far away to throw him pieces of rubbish. His time will come, at last.

When the chief takes the first bite, he will spit it out.

“We laughed too long,” he will say. “This fat talking pig tastes like shit.”

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Feral Tenderness

Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosh.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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Words to Live By – For Dora

For Dora

It’s been tough around the house this month. My mother-in-law passed away after a long battle with liver disease. She’d been having severe problems for months, but as my wife said a few nights ago, we always thought we had more time with her.

I haven’t felt like writing. Even typing up a blog post like this is draining. Writing is a bit of a safe haven for me. Easily tumbling down the rabbit hole, so to speak, laying aside my heartaches and disappointments, entering worlds of my own design, inhabiting people who don’t really exist.

Dora was a writer herself, and a voracious reader, too. I stayed with my wife and her family a lot in the days I was first starting to tinker with short stories. Because Dora was enthusiastic and willing, I often asked her to read my fist drafts. Her comments were always complimentary, because it wasn’t in her nature to poke holes in something her kids had poured their hearts and souls into.

Her kid, that’s what I was. The family has two daughters, and both were married within a year of each other. Dora never differentiated between the four of us, or at least, she tried her best not to. If everyone was gathering in the same place, it was about the kids and whether or not we’d eaten, her kids and how we were getting along in life, the importance of the kids’ enjoyment of holidays, birthdays, work promotions, collegiate successes.

I have no bad memories of her. Truly, anything contentious between us didn’t live long enough to become an issue. She was always patient and friendly with me. I loved reading her yearly Christmas poems, which she sent to the entire extended family. Never missed a year or an opportunity to fret over one or two words. I liked that about her, a certain willingness to own what she’d created. She never tried to publish anything professionally, but the rest of the family agrees she should have.

Marriage, as it turns out, can be one hell of a rollercoaster ride. My wife and I will be celebrating our twelfth anniversary in September. Most of our friends have been married a far shorter time, which means we can dispense wisdom without pretense. Our marriage has been anything but perfect. Thwarted expectations, mental health issues, a lost house, lost job, grad school, which was pretty tough for me, because I do tend to have a sensitive mindset, things can set me off easily.

I have guilt over whether Dora knew how much I appreciated her, because I doubt I ever communicated it properly. I know my wife and father-in-law are suffering, but the truth is they’re both stronger than I am. There’s been so much in the last year to cause us all grief and misery. No shame shaking your fist at the bumpy ride behind and ahead of us. There’s nowhere else for me to be, nothing else I’d rather be doing. Dora was a presence in this house, this family. She was a pillar, holding things up in that matronly way that looks easy but can’t possibly be effortless. Life will be different now. Better or worse, I don’t know, but different for sure.

I can help my wife by making calls, figuring out logistics, being a shoulder to cry on. I’m not perfect, but then neither was Dora. Sometimes I expect her still to be here, watching movies or making dinner, reading, chatting, clipping digital coupons. One of the last things she did for me was to read the first novel I self-published. She loved it, told my wife I was talented and that I was never to give up.

She would’ve said that regardless of whether she enjoyed reading it or not, but I believed her wholeheartedly anyway. That’s what she meant to me. I was proud to be one of her kids. I’m still proud.

I’ll see you next month in Words to Live By. In the meantime, give someone important a hug. If they’re not a hugger, hug them even harder. Tell them you have my permission.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Mind Fields – Why I Started Smoking Again

Mind Fields

After seventeen years of tobacco-free life, I started smoking again.

(Long pause)

Goddammit!

I hate it when I do something SO stupid there’s no excuse for it, SO asinine that the only way to absolve myself is to take a spanking by bending over and backing up into a wall really really fast. 

In 2001 after huge exertion, I quit a three pack-a-day habit.  I am not a cold turkey type of person.  I’m more like a warmed over chicken type of person.  I have to do things in steps.

To quit smoking I used nicotine gum and the patch.  In two months I was down to half a pack a day.  I know, you’re not supposed to smoke and wear the patch.  Tough.  I did.  Then I made a big jump.  I went to a mere two cigarettes a day.  I managed my craving by hiding cigarettes in plastic bags on the side of the road.  I smoked them on my way to and from work.  On Monday morning I bought a pack and spilled sixteen cigarettes into the trash. As I drove the rural twisting road to work I smoked my first cigarette.  Then I paused at my secret stash place, took a baggie from my pocket and deposited the remaining three cigarettes under a bush.  On the way back from work I stopped again and smoked the second cigarette..  On the day following, I stopped at the bag in the morning, took out a cigarette, then stopped again in the evening.  Every other day I would buy a new pack and start the cycle again.  One day a motorist spotted me as I was putting my baggie under the bush.  He drove past, pretending not to see me.  I drove a bit further in the opposite direction and stopped.  I could see the man through the trees.  Sure enough, he was looking around for whatever I had put in the baggie.  I don’t know what he was expecting.  Was he hoping for an ounce of weed or a wad of hundreds wrapped with a rubber band?  He found my bag, and I saw his shoulders slump in disappointment.  The man was obviously a low character.

He lit the cigarette, tentatively at first, to test it.  Maybe there was something “special” about it.  Alas, there was not.  He finished the smoke, (the nerve of the guy!) crushed it underfoot and returned to his car.

 I understood at that moment that I had reached the height of the ridiculous.  It was time to end the farce.  No more cigarettes.  I was done.

It was lovely, being free of tobacco for twenty years.

What drove me back to smoking?  What could be so frustrating, so enraging to cause me to undo that effort, the dedication that I had given to ending my addiction?

I taught a class of rich tenth graders about the marvels of digital photography. 

I had been hired by a private school to teach one semester.  The money was good.  I taught three classes per week.  The head of the board of directors had read an article about my volunteer work with a low-income high school. I had done four years of mentoring.  Working with disadvantaged kids had given me deep satisfaction. They were respectful, hungry and grateful. At the holidays each student made a card for me using a personal photo project. Some of them were lovely. Some of them betrayed an appalling lack of literacy. The students’ basic reading and writing skills hardly existed. I got a photo card from a senior. It had a razor-sharp black and white shot of a street scene. The little girl jumping rope was in mid-air. The old guys loafing in chairs were laughing as clouds of beer-spit hovered before their lips, each globule perfectly stopped like a cluster of stars in space. Some were small white and foamy, some were clear and spherical, some were shaped like flying liquid bullets. This was a real talent in the making. The boy’s scrawled message read like this: “Thang yu m Rosh fore teeshng mu to shit photo”

Then came the offer to teach at “Country Day Academy”. I was thrilled to have a chance to be paid nearly five thousand dollars to teach a semester in a school where every student would have a laptop and a digital camera.

The school was a beautiful facility. It was set in the midst of parklands. There were benches under oak trees, little waterfalls, gentle rolling hills. I saw kids skateboarding along broad walkways, wearing torn jeans and hoodies. Most of the students seemed attached to a cell phone or an Ipod.

I had done my mentoring in a public school built like a prison. It was all fences, high walls and right angles. There was no greenery, no plant life. Trash blew along its paved quadrangles, empty Cheetos bags yawed in the wind. Every year there were a handful of murders among the student body. Memorial posters hung in the corridors:

“Jerry Rodrigues, 2003-2018. We’ll miss you.” 

The posters were enlarged class photos of self-conscious teenagers with bad skin and confused expressions. 

“Nguyen Van Pham, 2004-2019. So Much Promise.”

I felt no fear. Wherever I walked students greeted me.

“Hey Mr. Rosch, how ya doin?”

“Mistah Rosch, ‘wots happenin? Everything’s cool, it’s all good, you know?”

I carried four thousand dollars worth of gear in my photo bag. I never had any trouble at Naked Gun High School.

Now I was in a different environment, an affluent California suburb. I was confident I could ignite a love of photography in some of these kids at “Country Day Academy”.

On the first day of the semester, I arrived at my classroom half an hour early and set up my tools. I had a laptop and my camera gear. The school provided a digital projector so I could show images and procedures on my computer to the entire class. I would have loved a digital projector back at Flying Bullets High School.

Every student was to have a Mac laptop for my class at “Country Day Academy”. The latest and best photo editing software would be installed on each computer. 

There were four rows of long tables with chairs in the classroom. They formed a square that was open at the ends. In the room’s center I had a small table to hold the computer and projector while I spoke. I could stand outside the square and walk around the classroom to reach each student. I could see all twenty four of my students and they could see me.           

I had been told that I could use basic forms of verbal discipline.  There would be no shouting, no cursing and of course no corporal punishment.  To back up my discipline I had the option of sending a student to the principal’s office.  This was a feeble deterrent.  The principal, Mrs. Forster, was as frightening as a stick of cotton candy.  She used “therapy talk”.  “What are your feelings, Trish?.  Why are you acting out?  What can we do to resolve your issues?”

At one o’clock the bell rang to begin fourth-period class. Within five minutes, fifteen of my students had drifted in and taken a seat. They were talking among themselves. They gave me a cursory glance. The boys continued pushing one another and laughing.  Several were immersed in portable video games.  The girls were listening to their Ipods, talking about boys and squealing at supersonic pitch.

By ten after one, another four students had arrived. They took their seats casually and looked around the room.  They were either smirking or looking completely stricken and miserable. 

I still had five missing students. I started the class.

“Hi, I’m Mister Rosch, and this is a class in digital photography. Would each of you answer when I call your name?  I need a while to remember names, but I’ll know you guys soon enough.”

They looked at me as though a giraffe had suddenly materialized in the room, something completely out of place, exotic and impossible to ignore.

A girl wearing a soft white hoodie sat at the end of the rear table.  Her eyes were unfocused.  I knew she was listening to music.  It was so loud I could hear it.  I was amazed that her head didn’t turn to mush.

“Young lady, please take the hood down and turn off the Ipod.”

She didn’t hear me.  I met the eyes of the girl next to her and cocked my head to the right.  The girl poked her neighbor.  The hoodie girl emerged from her trance.  Her neighbor spoke with enough volume to be heard over the music.

“Off the hoodie!  No Ipod,” she yelled, poking her thumb in my direction to fix the blame where it belonged.  The girl’s face emerged from the shadow of the sweat-shirt’s hood.  She was lightly freckled, her hair short and black.  One of her cheeks was distorted by a huge wad of gum being masticated with large chomps of her teeth.  Her mouth opened and closed like that of a lamprey.

“Your name is?” I asked.  .

She removed the chunk of gum and put it into a tissue.  “Stephanie,” she answered.  She placed the gum and tissue in her backpack.

“Stephanie…Stephanie what?”

“Oh..uh.. Stephanie Blarney,” she said, and there was a titter of quiet laughter from the class.

I looked at my roll list and found one Stephanie, last name Hubbard.

I asked the girl in the next seat.  “Is she Stephanie Hubbard?”

“Guess so,” the adjacent girl answered.  She looked to her left.  “Is that your name, Blarney?”

“Yeah,” Stephanie Hubbard grunted.  The white ear buttons of her Ipod dangled from her dainty hand like the eye stalks of an insect she had just squashed.

I was about to resume roll call when a thin young gentleman appeared.  His skin was conspicuously pimpled, his hair looked like a broom that had served as a target for shotgun practice.  His eyelids were at half mast.  Marijuana vapor rose from his clothing like mist from a rain forest.

As he took a seat I said, “Sir, you’re twenty minutes late.”

He looked up at me and said, “Huh?”

“Twenty minutes,” I said.

“Twenty minutes what?”

“You’re twenty minutes late,” I repeated.  I wasn’t going to get angry.  What would be the point?

“Oh well that’s cool,” he responded. 

“Just take a seat, please.”

The boy looked around for a place of comfort, for a friend, an acquaintance, a safe spot.  He stumbled to and fro until he found a seat that had no neighbor.  His spot was padded with two empties on one side, and an empty on the other. 

Some of the students were laughing at the boy.  Little snorts gusted from their noses.

I continued the roll.  Megan Ballantine.  Anthony Candoli.  Keith Eberhardt.

I had gotten that far when the door opened and a compact black student entered the room.  He was the only black student I had seen on the campus.  He walked with a combination droop and bounce, very loose in his knees.  His hands were held with each index finger pointed out while the other fingers curled into a fist.  His limbs moved with the swaying grooves of the hip hop gangsta.  His head was thrust forward, his elbows jogged, his arms kept criss-crossing his chest. 

He went directly to a seat at the table nearest the door, scooched himself between two friends.  There was a little rally of smacked hands, coded fingertwiddles and muttered incantations of “right on right on”.

When this was done the latter student squared himself to face forward and smiled at me with perfectly false sincerity and charm.  His eyes twinkled with benevolent mockery.

“S’up man?” he asked rhetorically.  “Everything ‘aight?”

I walked to the door and twisted the lock mechanism to the left, and then back to the right.  I did it three more times, loudly, conspicuously.

It was 1:25. 

“I want everyone to know that from now on this door is closed at three minutes after one.  Class begins at one.  You’ll have three minutes grace.  That’s it. I’m cutting you slack..  Don’t even bother coming through the door after that.  Go straight to the principal’s office.”

I repressed my desire to start a “when I was your age” speech.  No good, no good, utterly useless and stupid. 

I booted up the computer. The screen at the front of the room lit up to display its desktop.  I sat in the chair next to the computer and projector.  I moused onto the icon of Photoshop, so I could open the program. 

“There were supposed to be twenty four computers here,” I said to the class at large.  “Does anyone know where those computers might be?”

A hand shot up.  It belonged to a young man with a broad forehead and the faint beginnings of a moustache.  He wore glasses and was dressed neatly in a short -sleeved shirt and belted khaki pants. 

“Your name is?” I began.

“Damian,” he said.  “I think the computers are still being checked out by Jeff in the tech lab.  He’s supposed to bring them here when he’s done.”

There’s always a kid in class who wants to help the teacher.  Sometimes he’s the smart kid, the geek.  Sometimes he’s the kid with the worst grades.  He becomes a helper out of desperation.  I had a feeling that Damian was the-geek.  He spoke with a quick enthusiastic tone.  He knew everything, had all the answers.  I saw several sets of eyes roll upward.  This was the familiar Damian known to the student body.

Damian nudged the boy next to him.  “Bock,” he said confidently, “Why don’t you go down to tech lab and get those laptops, or find out why Jeff hasn’t brought them up ?”

Bock was a chubby frazzle haired person whose shirt buttons weren’t properly aligned.

The division of labor had already been apportioned.  I had one of each, the geek and the helper with the low grade point average.

Without referring to me or looking in my direction, Bock rose from his chair and loped out the door.

“He’ll take care of it, Mr. Rosch,” said Damian with calm familiarity.  “Jeff is notoriously slow.” He pantomimed the act of inhaling marijuana.  The air hissed through his lips.  “He gets the job done but he loses track of time.”

First day problems, I thought.  At least the projector was there, and it worked.

“I’d like to finish calling the roll, so at least I can put some names to faces,” I requested.  I tried to keep my tone calm.

Then a pert little girl wearing denim overalls and a plaid Pendleton raised her hand and waved it like a semaphore.

“Okay,” I said fatalistically.  “What’s your name?”

“Um…I’m Kate…and…um…I need to go to the bathroom.”

“Kate,” I answered, looking conspicuously towards the wall clock. It said 1:30.  “This class is over in twenty minutes.  Can you possibly wait until then?”

“I …um….well…it’s you know…girl problems, a real emergency.” 

What was I going to say?  No, you can’t replace the leaky tampon in your snooch?  I didn’t entirely believe her but I couldn’t be sure.  I made the worst tactical error of the entire semester.

“Kate, just go,” I shook my thumb as if it had a mild burn.  “Please come back here immediately. Don’t dawdle in the hall.”

Kate vanished in a whiff of pleasant soapy odor.  I didn’t see her until the next class, two days later.

Immediately another girl waved her hand in the air.  I held my silence for a couple of minutes.  The girl in her seat kept waving.   I held the silence until the room acquired an uncomfortable muttering edge.  There was a hole where a response should be and no one wanted the hole to continue existing.  Words began to spout from students’ mouths, random words, like “Man,” or “Hey”, or “Jeez.  Finally the girl said, “Fuck, man, I gotta go too!”

I nodded.  Three other girls rose with her, and all of them fled the classroom as if a plague-carrying stink had arisen somewhere in the collective bio-mass.  They were fleeing this stinky death as if it would otherwise stalk them the rest of their short lives.

Vizz!  The door opened and closed.  The class was down to fifteen again.

No sooner had the three girls vanished than a handsome young lad with the look of James Dean entered the room.  The students were suddenly quiet.  This young man, keeping his back to the wall, slid the entire perimeter of the classroom until he found the seat closest to me, the seat at the very end of the table next to the windows.  He stuck out his hand and said, “Woodleigh.  Atherton Woodleigh.”  I shook his hand. 

“Most people call me Lee.  They tried calling me Woody but I cut them up a little and put a stop to that real fucking quick.”  This was delivered with clear sincerity and humility.  It wasn’t a boast.  It was a fact.

I found the name of the sociopath on the roll list and marked it with a check and the time:  1:36.

The conversational volume in the room now grew until it was a general melee.  Everyone was talking. 

I found a phone book under the teacher’s desk near the windows.  I raised it and slammed it down on the desk.

“Goddammit!” I shouted.  “Will you shut up?”

They shut up.  Now they were all watching me.

At that precise moment there was a clatter at the door and it pushed open as if by its own volition.  I saw a long double tiered metal cart forcing its way into the room.  The one called Bock slid past it and took its front end.  He pulled with his back towards the class.  Half his shirt tail hung over rumpled brown pants.  At the other end of the cart, facing me, was a tall man with a long pony tail.  He wore a black leather vest with a Hell’s Angel logo done in elaborate beadwork.

‘Here’s the Macs” Bock said triumphantly. Everyone began to rise from their chairs

“Sit down!” I commanded, and I was obeyed.  “Bock, will you hand out the computers, please?”

The Tech Man, Jeff, said, “Sorry about the lateness, man.  These lops are a little creaky from last semester.  The Essential Theater Arts class used ‘em and those guys don’t care about their gear at all, no way.  Had to reformat every one of ‘em.  Not the kids, I mean.  The computers. You know what a bitch that is?”

Each computer had a number taped to its bottom.  The first student to get a computer was a bulky boy with light curly hair.  He occupied the seat nearest the door.  He looked under the computer and said, “Uh uh, this computer’s bunk, number zero one three six, uh..uh..it crashes every two minutes.” 

He thrust the computer back onto the cart and reached for another.  Jeff slapped his hands away. 

“Ain’t no computer good enough for you, Rick, you do this every time I give you a lop, every fucking time.”

There followed a general rumble as students vied for computers with known reputations.  These laptops weren’t the latest, greatest Mac Powerbooks.  They had less RAM, smaller hard drives, and for two years they’d been in the hands of careless students.  Some had scratches and dings but they still made an impressive pile of laptops. 

I had been mentoring on the other side of the bay at Drawn Dagger High School.  There was one computer per fifteen students and that computer ran with Windows 95 and might crash every time it tried to digest a large photo file.  There were three printers in the photography room, ancient Hewlett Packards that printed only black and white.  By dint of my own efforts soliciting photographers I had attracted six good but obsolete digital cameras, four or five monitors and a very old copy of pirated Photoshop. The software wouldn’t install properly on half the computers.  I had gotten some refurbished Epson color printers but there wasn’t money for the ink. The teacher and I pooled our own funds and bought some ink. 

This wrangling at “Country Day Academy” over Mac Laptops was too much for me.  I felt as if someone had opened my chest and tied a square knot in my esophagus, then put it back inside me.  Now I was expected to swallow. 

I couldn’t swallow this.  I couldn’t.

Every day was like the first day.  Some were worse.  A few were better.  Mostly, they were like this: chaos, petty wrangling, disappearances to the bathroom without return, lateness accompanied by staggering indifference.  There were rolled eyes, concealed music players, giggling, fights, reading comic books, animal noises and farts.

I tried really hard but I couldn’t help feeling that I’d failed in some obvious way.  If I had been a better teacher I could have controlled these kids.  I had two students who cared.  One was mister geek, Damian.  He had it all down.  Technically he knew the subject better than I did.  He needed counsel in the creative side but at least he cared.  There was a girl named Lizzie.  She was a big country girl with long straight reddish hair.  She worked hard.  She didn’t know anything, but she wanted to know.  She worked, and she learned.  Her photography was dreadful!  Her photos looked like very poor snapshots.  How could a person who learned what she had learned, worked as she had worked, still be incapable of making good images?

Some people have it, and some don’t.

I had promised that the student who showed the most progress would win a nice digital camera.  It was a donation from other photographers.  Liz won the camera.  Damian didn’t need it.  He already had a good digital camera and would probably end up at Harvard in a couple of years.

I projected the material on the screen while the students sneaked around in the dimmed classroom, plotting ways to disrupt their own educations.  Their literacy was no better than that at Murder Incorporated High School.  There was a difference. The kids at Murder Inc were trying but lacked the opportunity.  The kids at “Country Day Academy” had the opportunity but were trying not to.

I assigned essays.  I spoke about the work of historic geniuses like Steichen and Halsman.  I showed presentations of images on the screen.  I assigned homework.  I asked the students to read up on Diane Arbus and Henri Cartier-Bresson.  The latter was a French photographer who shot witty and profound black and white photos.  He used a Leica, a small camera with which he could catch the spontaneity of Paris street scenes.  I asked the class to turn in essays on the great Frenchman.

This was the one that sent me to buy a pack of cigarettes.  This “essay” was scrawled on half of a torn piece of lined notebook paper in handwriting worthy of a four year old. My student had written the following: “Henry Carter Beast was a great photographer.  He was a genius.  He took a lot of pictures.  They were all in black and white.  They had some greys too I think.”

That was three years ago.  I haven’t been able to stop smoking.  I don’t buy tobacco.  I have a friend, a retired lawyer, who has some farm land in North Carolina.  He’s a tobacco connoisseur.  He loves to play with blends, tweaking this and that, walking through his curing sheds inhaling every fragrance.  I’m a member of his research team.  He sends me a pound bag every few weeks.  I make the cigarettes on a machine.  The tobacco is without additives or adulterants.  It’s a long way from Marlboros.  That doesn’t change the fact that I am, again, a tobacco addict.  I don’t smoke nearly as much as I did before.  A few cigs a day.  I stopped once.  I know I can stop again.

Goddammit!

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry and photography, Feral Tenderness. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

Visit Arthur’s blog, Write Out of My Head.

See Arthur’s Photography here: https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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“Mind Fields”- Suits

Mind Fields

I hate men’s suits. The only suit I would ever wear would be a Zoot Suit, a satire of a suit, with fifty pockets and a banana hanging out of every one, with four ties, one atop another, each with a picture of a naked woman or a flamboyant bird. I would wear a gigantic brimmed hat with a snakeskin band, and polished, pointed shoes with tassles. 

Suits are the uniform of businessmen. They are utilitarian, bland and full of pockets. Suits are the devolution of steel-plated armor, they are about protection and concealment. In these concealed pockets are contained handguns, business cards, appointment books, cell phones, credit cards, cash, condoms and keys.

Traditional Suit

Suits are the symbol of aggressive competition, but are actually disguises of said competition because their function is to be soothing and conformist.

There’s a lot of hogwash these days about reading ancient Samurai books or other pieces of oriental philosophy and applying them to the modern business world. Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” or Miyamoto Musashi’s “The Five Rings.”  This equation between the ancient world of the warrior and the modern businessman is a bit of a stretch, spurious indeed. Sun Tzu and Musashi were men of subtlety. Their books are subtle works about archetypal activities, War and Competition. These activities are bred into the human psyche.  I have no problem with soldiers and their uniforms, ceremonies, codes of honor and elaborate etiquette. I have a problem with cunning masquerading as subtlety. Subtlety is never destructive. Cunning is frequently destructive. The men who wear suits have mistaken destructive cunning for philosophical depth, and are hoping to imbibe some of this depth by reading ancient books by men of deep intuition, learning and skill.

The utilitarian suit with its meaningless tie and its muted colors is a sad descendant of the flowing sleeves and pantaloons of ancient warriors, the lacy cravat, the jeweled scabbard and its adornments. 

Self expression, adornment, wildness and color are innate to the human soul. We’re in deep trouble when such natural outlets are discouraged. The hippies let adornment, eccentricity and flamboyance become a way of life. This trend can never be suppressed: it emerges in contemporary young people as tattooing, body piercing, hair coloring, all time-honored ways of adorning and decorating one’s own body as an expression of individualism.