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Archive for March, 2008

How To Market a Crappy Book

Monday, March 24th, 2008

In 2006, an unannounced and poorly written work of fiction that claimed to "bare the truth" on America's evil and behind-the-scenes lies about the War on Terror and 9/11 was self-published at iUniverse. The author was someone by the name of E.A. Blayre, III and the book opened with the ominous and farcical notation "Homeland Security Warning: Possession of this novel may result in unlimited detention".

iUniverse gives you an "inside" look at the work, which isn't worth attempting to wade through - if you try, don't say I didn't warn you.

The book, America Deceived, may have quickly faded into the oblivion and obscurity that the majority of badly written, self-published opuses go had it not been for a niggling comment-spam campaign that ran - and still runs - like wildfire through the vastness of cyberspace.

Someone - or someones - involved with this "book" decided to promote it by spamming up the comments of blogs, news sites, etc. The result is a litany of spam across the Internet espousing on the "evils" of America and how it "hides the truth" - especially how it "bans books like America Deceived".

Here's the latest example, culled from an article on USATODAY.com about George Michael:

"George Michael, Spitzer and his hooker, OJ jailed, Paris Freed, Whoopi and the View, all distractions. While mainstream media creates illusions, the gov't steps on our throats by opening our mail, suspending habeas corpus, stealing private lands, banning books like "America Decieved" from Amazon, conducting warrantless wiretaps and starting wars for a foreign gov't. Impeach them all and end this madness.
Final link (until Google Books bends to pressure and drops the title):
- link -"

- from USATODAY.com

All of these rants and comment-spams include, at the very bottom, the "link" - with a warning to click on it before Google Books is forced to remove the truth-you-deserve-to-know - just as Amazon, Wikipedia, and a number of other sites have supposedly done. Yes, according to the spam-pushers here, the book is banned from the Internet's biggest information hubs because of its daring revelations. Who, exactly, has "forced" these sites to "ban" the book - or any proof that it has ever been "banned" at all - is left for any and all to postulate.

The Amazon page for the book can be found here, where you'll see a number of commenters take on the lies perpetuated by this spam attack; one too ignorant to actually work. Yes, pretty much anywhere people have come upon the comments and insinuations of "mass banning", nearly everyone has been able to smell the bullshit and out the commenter.

I've seen these comments under a number of pseudonyms, but lately it all seems to be coming from someone called "reader11722". Poking around, I found this person on Digg using the name "Thomas Pensi II"; his two comments there are, also, comment spam referring to America Deceived and Amazon's supposed "banning" of it. Every one of his comments on the USATODAY website (reader11722's page) evolve into tripe about America Deceived being banned from Amazon and oh-by-the-way here's the link. (His page is being reviewed because I reported him - his last comment was left 30 minutes before I began this post).

How sad that you have to resort to lies and spam to promote your book, and to try and trick people into buying a copy. The worst part is, he's getting people to go to the link - where they're offered to read a portion of the story to "try it out" - and honestly, no one is going to want to drop any amount of hard-earned cash on that crap. It's a stupid, unbelievable story that tries too hard to be a big, impressive "detective-type" novel.

No, people, Amazon - nor anyone else - has "banned" America Deceived. It's all a silly, little spam ploy to get you to notice some sad wouldbe-writer's crappy, self-published book and to try and trick you into buying it; that's the only deception going on here.

In all honesty, Amazon should've banned it - just for the fact that it sucks. Forgive me, but jackassess like this give us hard-working, honest writers a bad name - those of us that try to get noticed and published on our own merit and talents have no respect for morons like this who exploit people's fears and spam up the Internet to get their work noticed.

A Favorite Meme

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Being the book-lover I am, I can never pass up a chance to do this meme when I see it floating around the blogosphere...

The Rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.

First, you must understand that crowded on, in, and all around my desk are books.  Many, many books.  The same can be said for the side of my bed and my nightstand and just about every square inch of available space in our apartment.  I love books.

Just to my right I saw two books I recently received (one, The Light Bearer, ordered from Amazon and another, The Monk, borrowed from my mother) so I decided to grab The Monk by Matthew Lewis, which was first published in 1796 and has been re-released as an Oxford World's Classic with an intro by Stephen King.  Here we go:

My grief was inexpressible.  As soon as its violence abated, I resolved to return to Strasbourg, to throw myself with my two Children at my Father's feet, and implore his forgiveness, though I little hoped to obtain it.  What was my consternation when informed, that no one entrusted with the secret of their retreat, was ever permitted to quit the troop of the Banditti; That I must give up all hopes of ever rejoining society, and consent instantly to accepting one of their Band for my Husband!

Magnola Memories – An Absolute Delight

Monday, March 10th, 2008

...Cross-posted from my graving blog, A Graver's Journal...

I honestly can think of no way I would prefer to have spent the evening this past Saturday, such was the marvelous time I had at the Foundation for Historical Louisiana's production of Magnolia Memories V at Baton Rouge's Magnolia Cemetery. The events were scheduled for Friday, March 7th and Saturday, March 8th; it was the 6:45pm Saturday show that we attended.

For the past few years, the Foundation - with the help of volunteers, actors, musicians, and others - has brought the stories of some of Baton Rouge's most notable history-makers to light and in the flesh. Each year, a number of the cemetery's occupants are chosen to be represented by local actors and their stories told. These "stories" are actually fascinating scripts compiled from local folklore, historical records, descendants' generation-to-generation tales, and news archives. Each actor stands, in full costume, at the grave of the local luminary they are representing and regales the audience with his or her lifetime achievements and notable deeds, which are sprinkled with history and lore about Baton Rouge itself.

The delightful performances are only part of the entertainment, for as you follow your guide - a white-robed and feather-winged angel - throughout the cemetery, your ears will pick up the melodious sounds of a variety of musical instruments. Set up between the graves and performances are a number of musicians playing doleful diddies or soulful ballads on instruments such as the violin, guitar, bagpipe, cello, and even the harp. Still others added to certain performances with some of the most beautiful vocal stylings I have heard in years.

Though we heard from many that the previous night had been brutal due to the wind, the weather for Saturday's performance was crisp and clear. We traipsed wordlessly through the sleeping graveyard under an inky, starlit sky. The graveled paths winding through the cemetery were lit by brown paper bags containing sand and votive candles, while certain graves - usually those near an actor or musician - were illuminated by bright, floodlights.

At each grave performance, we were seated on small, black folding chairs that were set up in three or four rows just in front of the headstone and actor portraying its occupant. Tall, lantern-like heaters were set up around the folding chairs to offer some warmth from the biting cold.

What I had read, and later discussed with one of the guides, was that every year the notable deceased are chosen at random. It just so happened - it was later discovered - that there were quite a number of real-life connections that bound together nearly all of those who had been chosen this year. This happens every year, in some form; yet this year was more remarkable than the ones before for the unique yet interesting ties that bound the people whose lives were being showcased.

And what of these people and their noteworthy lives? Who were they, and what did I learn about them, and from them about our great, capital city?

The evening began with an introduction by Charles Ferdinand Rabenhorst, who - in 1866 - founded the local yet renowned Rabenhorst Funeral Homes, which is still, today, four generations and over 130 years on, operated by the Rabenhorst family. The affable Prussian, Mr. Rabenhorst, who spoke so lovingly of his beloved wife, Caroline, was played (perfect accent and all!) by Robert Wilson.

From there, followed by the mournful tones of a bagpipe, we were led to two, stout, white marble markers bearing the surname "Magruder". These were the graves of education pioneer and Mississippi native, W. H. Nathanial Magruder, and his wife, Mary. Magruder was the founder of the Magruder Collegiate Institute, once located on Government Street in Baton Rouge. Throughout his life, he was also a teacher and professor who taught, among many of Louisiana's later lawyers, doctors, clergymen, and politicians, a number of the others who were being represented in the cemetery this very evening. The aged educator lived to the ripe, old age of eighty-five, before passing away in March of 1900 - not long after losing his beloved wife, of whom he spoke so fondly. Professor Magruder was played - eloquently so - by actor David Besse. It was hard not to see Mr. Besse as the long-dead professor, he played the part so very convincingly.

Our angel guide then led us further into the cemetery, and we soon found ourselves almost on Florida Boulevard itself as we were seated before the grave of the independent and strong-willed writer and banker, Miss Vallie Mentz Seitz. After making sure the gentlemen of the group addressed their hostess properly, and that the ladies were well-situated, Miss Seitz went on to share her grievances about the decline of common courtesy, in the form of genuine Southern hospitality, that she had witnessed growing older in her time. Miss Seitz would be in for quite a shock today! As well as sharing her achievements of being the first female to hold a clerical and banking job (which were male-only positions until she took them over) and of being a published author (of a book as well as a screenplay), she admitted to being held as "eccentric" in her older years - mainly for her propensity to use her umbrella to whop the hood of vehicles for not stopping, as they should, to let a lady pass. Surrounded by friends and the kindness of the elderly patrons she spent her free time helping, the affable Miss Seitz never married and spends eternity buried alongside her mother, whom she cared for the last twenty years of the older woman's life. Played by Nancy Litton, our time with Vallie could only have been more perfect had we all been sipping a cup of tea in a parlor, as befitting a meeting with a true, Southern lady.

Vallie left us with a tidbit of gossip that involved her cousin, Josie's, hot-tempered husband and a young doctor whom he supposedly shot dead - for reasons somehow related to cousin Josie! Little did we know, this was a hint about the gentlemen we were about to meet next.

Almost directly across the cemetery from Vallie Seitz, sits the impressive family plot of the Hart family, which holds the remains of J.M. Hart - a well-known and respected man in the local community at the time - and his family. It wasn't, however, one of the Harts we were here to meet. Standing on the plot, and next to his grave, was an affable and handsome young man who introduced himself as Dr. Aldrich. Dr. Henry Robert "Harry" Aldrich had married into the affluent Hart family by wooing their daughter, Gertrude. Gertrude and Harry had a growing family, a nice home, and the practice was thriving - it was a wonderful life, until it was cut short by murder.

As the good doctor told us of his life and all that he had lost, a voice rang out from behind us - and up walked a man that was introduced to us as Judge George Kent Favrot, the man accused of ending Dr. Aldrich's life so many years ago. The men engaged a courteous-enough discourse, though there was obviously a thinly veiled distaste one for the other. We then heard the story, told between the two of them, of how Judge Favrot was told - at a drunken party - that Dr. Aldrich said something loathsome and degrading about Mrs. Favrot. What exactly was said that inflamed the Judge so has been lost to time, and whether the Doctor even said it is up for debate. Regardless, on November 7, 1906, George Favrot was waiting for the 39 year-old doctor as he left work and stepped out of the Raymond Building on 3rd Street in downtown Baton Rouge. Three shots rang out and Dr. Harry Aldrich lay dead on the street.

At least, Doctor Aldrich scoffed, you paid for your crimes! This, however, was not the case. Poor Dr. Aldrich could not keep to his feet as Judge Favrot told the time-old - and unfortunate - tale of common Louisiana politics; no jury would convict the well-known and well-liked former lawyer and present judge, and he went on to live a long, esteemed life that eventually landed him a seat in Congress. He was buried with honors in Roselawn Cemetery after a long and productive life; not on this Earthly plane, it seems, did Judge Favrot ever pay the price for ending the doctor's life and shattering his promise and dreams. The parts of the ill-fated doctor and wickedly shrewd judge were played to perfection by actors Drew Cothern, as Dr. Alrich, and Johnny Worsham as Judge George Favrot.

From there we traveled back across the cemetery, this time coming to the grave of another distinguished woman, Ellen Bryan Moore. Ellen was the most recently deceased of our entertainers this evening, having only left this life as far back as the year 2000. Surrounded by family and buried alongside her dear husband, Haywood, the indomitable Ellen told us about being the first female in the South to join the Woman's Army Corps. The rest of her life was spent in service to her local government - she worked, as she said, "in government, not politics" - though she admitted all of it would have been for naught without the love and support of her loved ones. One can only imagine the struggles - and scorn - Ellen must have faced being part of the Army during the war and running for positions in governmental roles throughout her life; the times that Ellen was born into were not exactly conducive to that of an active, independent, and publicly strong-willed woman. Yet, despite, Ellen did her own thing and continued on - never letting the naysayers hold her down or dim her bright ambitions. Ellen Moore was played charmingly and utterly believingly by actress Neena Kelfstrom.

With women's rights still on our mind, we made our way to the last stop of the evening - the grave of the esteemed and brilliant Dr. Thaddeus Walker. Dr. Walker was the son of former slaves, freed after the Civil War, who instilled in him the importance of a solid education. He took their words to heart, and the young, gifted man was entering college at the age of eleven! If you can imagine the struggles of independent ladies like Vallie and Ellen in earlier times, one can only begin to grasp at what Thaddeus Walker - a black man - went through as he worked his way up through a medical career until opening his own practice in Lakeland, Louisiana (which was later moved to Baton Rouge). The New Orleans-native suffered criticism and was shunned not only from the white community but also, and maybe more so, from his fellow blacks. Some felt, he told us, that a colored man could not hope to be so educated; their own self-esteem had taken such a beating that even they did not believe themselves worthy of an education or capable of holding such a job. Still others, he confessed, felt that living in rich, white society and holding such a prestigious position made him no better than the uppity whites he lived around; Dr. Walker, they felt, was "stepping out of his place". Despite these grumblings, the good doctor went on to build a successful practice with a large and dedicated circle of patients that included people of all colors.

It was during Dr. Walker's speech that a voice from the crowd interrupted - and a handsome black man from the seated guests stood and asked to interrupt Dr. Walker's speech in order to give his thanks. He introduced himself as Dr. Mokissa Murrill, and noted that because of Dr. Walker's triumph over race relations during such difficult times, it was possible that black people such as Dr. Murrill himself - who started a children's clinic in Baton Rouge in the early 1980's - were able to practice openly and garner respect. He had a valid point. There is no doubt that a man of Dr. Walker's obvious intelligence and skill changed the ideas that whites at the time had about their darker-skinned brethren, and that - perhaps even - he became an inspiration to his fellow blacks, reminding them that they could aspire to do anything they set their minds to - rather than thinking themselves doomed to fail or their that skin color was a deterrent. The parts of Dr. Walker - played by Ed Barnes - and Dr. Murrill - played by Eric Street - were not only entertainment, but a gentle reminder of how some of our fellow beings - including the lessons shown us by Vallie Seitz and Ellen Moore - had to struggle to do things that we, today, take for granted. Dr. Thaddeus Walker, living in the turbulent times after the Civil War, was not just a doctor but a pioneer in equality. It could not ever have been easy to walk the path he tread, but in so doing he set a mighty example for everyone that came into contact with him, as well as those of us who learn about his life many years after his death.

The two doctors finished their piece to the deep, soulful songstress who appeared, cloaked, and sang a hymn about Jesus. It was soul-stirring, and I had to tell her - before leaving - that she had the voice of an angel! Indeed, she brought tears to my eyes, so deep into my soul did her voice penetrate.

And then, almost too soon, it was over. We were led quietly out of the cemetery while the groups that had started behind us were finishing up or just coming in. I walked away from the event that night with a whole, new appreciation for that beautiful cemetery and the unique, lively, creative, and brilliant souls interred within. I also garnered a new esteem for this great city of Baton Rouge in which we live, and this amazing state - steeped in so much interesting and intriguing culture and history. There simply is no other place like it on Earth, and to all the souls that have lived (and do live) here and contributed their part to the great gumbo that is Louisiana history, I can only say thank you.

My kudos to the Foundation for putting on a stellar event. I plan to return every year from here on out; I just simply couldn't miss it knowing now how special and enjoyable the entire thing is. A lot of time and effort obviously went into the production, but more than that was the obvious heart that was such a part of it all. The people doing this genuinely cared about their work and the people whose lives they were bringing "back to life"; it made the entire event all the more magical. Thank you for a wonderful evening, and a "history lesson" I'll not soon forget!

In Lieu of Flowers…

Friday, March 7th, 2008

On March 6, 2008 at approximately 8:45am MST, Gaylene lost her courageous battle against Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma; a rare form of thyroid cancer that spread, unchecked, into her liver.

Surrounded by her loved ones, Gaylene was aware of what was happening to her and before she slipped into a hepatic encephalopathy coma, she was able to tell them all that she loved them.

This feisty, vibrant, and strong woman will be laid to rest on Saturday, March 8th. In lieu of flowers, her family asks that donations be made, in her name, to either The American Cancer Society or The Lance Armstrong Foundation.

I, too, ask that you contribute - even if it is just a couple of dollars - to one or the other. In the past year, I have seen three people now lose their lives to cancer. First, Jenny - entirely too young to see her life ended. Then, a co-worker that we all called "Robi"; a brilliant and charming man the world is much the less for losing. Now, my dear friend's mother - life snipped short in her prime, golden years.

I once vehemently decried to a close friend of mine, "I hate cancer!" He, an active member of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation ever since his wife had become a breast cancer survivor, said something that has stuck with me through the years. "Yes,", he answered, "but what are you doing about it?"

We can despise and rally against the awful disease the claims so many lives - young and old - or we can do something about it. A few dollars spared to the on-going research for a cure is the very least we can do in this battle that every one of us has a stake in. Cancer is something that affects everyone's life - whether you have had it, know someone who has, or watched a loved one suffer through it - all of us have come into contact with his deadly and terrible disease in one form or another.

Cancer is something we all fear and despise, yet shall we stand idly by while it claims the lives of children and adults at alarming rates? Or shall we do something - no matter how small - to take a stand against this deadly killer? Please, make a donation - do it for Jenny. Do it for Robi. Do it for Gaylene. Do it for all of the millions of lives lost, young and old, and the millions more whose lives were shattered by this disease. Just, please, do it.

And So I Weep…

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Today, at 8:45am MST, the mother of my dear and cherished friend, Rose, lost her battle with cancer. You can read about the entire ordeal - from beginning to sad end - on her SL blog.

I have been asking, from friends, family, and co-workers, for prayers for Rose and her family - and especially, of course, for her dear mother. As I told Rose, she obviously led a life well-lived and well-loved, to have had such a caring, loving daughter to be there with her throughout this entire ordeal. Not once did this woman walk alone in her final hours - Rose was by her side through it all.

I ask for your continued thoughts, prayers, and healing light for Rose and her family during this difficult time.

Fat Daddy’s – Good Food, Good Times, Good People

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

I have recently been honored to have been chosen as the Iberville Parish Keeper for the Find A Grave website. The position entails me gathering information on all of the cemeteries in Iberville Parish (their locations, GPS coordinates, etc.) and providing this info to the admins so they can update the proper cemetery pages at the site. Also, there are some duplicate cemetery entries, and we are to cull these together and let them know which to delete and which to merge.

I am truly excited to be the keeper for my native parish, and so, on Saturday, Baret and I struck out on our first Iberville Parish Graving Trip. Graving can work up quite an appetite, so - around lunchtime - Baret took me to a little restaurant just off Plaquemine's main drag that he had heard about (and once inspected).

The charming, small but comfy eatery is called Fat Daddy's (or Fat Daddy's Po-Boy & Bar-B-Q Shack, to be more precise). Located alongside is a small bar, owned by the same people, called 'Lil Daddys. Fat Daddys offers some delicious fare - from yummy po-boys to Southern-style bbq. I can attest that the food is delicious - yet the best part about dining at Fat Daddy's is the down-home, friendly atmosphere and charming, amiable staff.

Everyone was just genuinely friendly, and more than one person (and our own awesome waitress) stopped by our table to check on us and even chat a little bit. It felt like I was eating in my own local restaurant; one I'd known and been stopping by in all my life - yet this was my first time ever stepping into Fat Daddy's and I knew none of the staff personally. Yet it honestly felt as if I did - that I was home and among friends.

We enjoyed our lunch so much - the food, atmosphere, and friendly & helpful staff made an all-around enjoyable dining experience in true Southern fashion. No frills and fuss, just downright good, friendly people and good food cooked with love.

Next time you find yourself in the area, I absolutely insist you stop by Fat Daddy's in Plaquemine, Louisiana. It's located on the corner of LaBauve Avenue and Railroad Avenue - the address is 57950 LaBauve Avenue. You can also check out their website for more information.  You'll be awfully glad you did.

A Pleasant Surprise, And Hope for the Future

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Due, no doubt to my own advancing age, I have become rather disillusioned with the future of the world; especially with those coming behind me that will be responsible for its care once we are gone. As a rule, much more than an exception, young people and children today...disappoint me. What I see is a burgeoning generation of self-absorbed, inconsiderate little cretins. Not all of them, naturally - but a good enough number to cause concern.

I can't say I ever feel encouraged concerning the future when I take time to notice what's going on in the world of television, music, and the Internet. While there are certainly bright spots, the up and coming youth of our world have a decided lack of quality entertainment and brain food at their disposal. Education, also, is a failing institution in these United States and the results are all too painfully obvious. The celebs that young people today look up to and emulate make my stomach turn, and the accepted illiteracy with which they conduct themselves via spoken and written communication are appalling. Common courtesy and common sense have long been abandoned, and young people today spend the majority of their lives with a one ear in a cell phone, the other in an iPod, and a mind on everything but what is actually going on around them - they especially pay no heed to the people in their vicinity. "Thank you" or "excuse me" are foreign words I rarely hear spoken by anyone under the age of thirty. They are too busy and preoccupied with self and their own goings-on to notice anyone else - much less to step around someone, hold a door open, or apologize for bumping into another person.

Again, I want to reiterate that this is not all of today's youth of which I am speaking. Certainly there are number of wonderful, bright, polite, and considerate teens and young adults in today's world. It just seems their less pleasant counterparts are the ones you run into more frequently.  In light of this, it's always a great pleasure for me to come into contact with some of the hopefuls.

This very thing happened to me on Friday evening, when I stopped by a local Best Buy in search of the The Sims 2 FreeTime  game guide.  As I was chatting up the very helpful Best Buy employee, Craig, as we searched - fruitlessly, I'm afraid - for the guide in question, I noted two young men with a The Sims box in their hands.  They queried Craig on whether the old game would work on a Vista-run machine, and I jumped at the chance to help out a possible future-Sims fan.

We struck up a conversation, as I told them about The Sims 2, the newer version that would definitely work on their computers running Windows Vista and extolled on the merits of the game, and how it was infinitely superior to its predecessor.

I would guess that the young brothers were around 18 and 10 or 11.  We ended up chatting about games, computers, and - of course - The Sims 2 for near an hour (in which time, the wonderful Craig was able to find my game guide - woot!).  I learned they were from a small town very near where I had grown up, and I gave the oldest my MySpace name so that we could stay in touch and I could help them if they had any further questions/problems about the game.

I left that store in the happiest of moods.  The two young men were polite, well-spoken, funny, and genuinely just all-around good people.  Me, the ultimate cynic and people-hater, was pleased to have my faith in humanity restored for a moment.  It was also nice to see two boys interested in such a creative, family-inspired game - rather than the usual violent, gory, or sports-only mindset that a lot of young men their age are into.  It isn't to say that they don't play these types of games (hell, I do as well) - but that they were interested in expanding their game-play into the realm of simulation and creative imaginings.  I found that impressive and endearing.

I suppose, then, I would just like to extend a small thanks to Brandon and Hayden for instilling a little renewed faith in our future, and in humanity in general, in this old cynic.  Thank you, guys - I see great things in both of your futures.