In this great blogpost (link below), Jon Danzig summarizes, both for a British audience, but also for European people that remain doubtful of the EU, what the true benefits of the EU really are. A sound summary that highlights why it is better to be in than out.
I my past posts, I pointed out a possible roadmap of the EU. I also want to highlight one point: the ability of the EU to keep some of the member states in check and on the path of democracy. Europe has always suffered from dictatorships that blatantly ignored human rights. Such populist or extreme right carry-ons can currently be observed in Hungary and Poland. Only the EU is in a position to thwart such attempts; without the EU several states would have gone renegade a long time ago.
It is the attempt that counts. A piece of art, on the verge of the macabre. San Bernardino alle Ossa (Saint Bernhard of the Bones) is a church in Milan, not to far from the Cathedral of Milano, by itself an inconspicuous building. This church is best known for its ossuary (a skull and bones collection) in a small side chapel.
In 1200s, the local cemetery ran out of space, I am not sure why, but one guess could be that famine struck northern Italy. A room was built next to the church to hold bones to tackle that problem. After all, you cant simply throw corpses in the river or burn them, can you? The result is a haunting, octagonal room, with hundreds of skulls stacked to the ceiling. As the church suffered from some catastrophes, and needed to be rebuild a couple of times, this work of art is in actuality much younger.
What struck me during my visit was the perfect symmetry with which the bones and skulls are stacked. The creators invested a lot of time to get it right and to make it esthetically halfway acceptable (if you go for that kind of thing). What I also wondered was how they separated the flesh from the bones. Were these people first buried, and the skeletons dug-up later? A human body may take about 1-2 years to be free of flesh, depending on its location, e.g. a body in a field will decompose much faster than a buried human (see my novel Two Journeys for more grisly details).
The skulls were all small, much smaller than the ones I saw in anatomy class. I suspect that most belonged to children, as only few seemed to be adult-size. An alternative explanation would be that these people were very small – perhaps it was indeed a famine? One or two skulls had impressive deformities; elongations at the back.
Below some of the impressions from our travels. Click on any of the pictures below to enlarge.
The novel Celeterra is available as paperback and also in many e-book formats, for instance at Barnes and Noble. If you would like to read this exciting novel, simply go to the bookstore on your device, or visit your favorite bookstore, like for instance at Barnes and Noble.
What is this book about? It has many different aspects. On one side it is a crime story; there are some mystery aspects to it. It has to do with religion, and it is set both on Earth, and in heaven. It is definitely a dystopian story, about people who are power-hungry and want to misuse religion for their purposes. Most of my books deal with that motive, in some form and shape: individuals that want to profit from the misfortune of other individuals.
In the end Celeterra is simply a great adventure story to read and you won’t be able to put it down.
Altijd bent towards Vance and whispered in his ear. “Adolf Hitler!”
Vance’s mouth fell open. “What? Adolf Hitler, the German dictator, is in Heaven? Are you sure? He was a terrible war criminal, directly responsible for the murder of millions of people!”
“I met him here! Let me tell you what happened. One afternoon, Ballew and I were walking hand in hand along a small brook. The trees were golden, soft music filled the air. Extraordinary birds hopped on the path, which was covered with small diamonds. Two men came in our direction, both casually dressed; trousers, shirts, sneakers. The man on the right was Adolf Hitler, I recognized him immediately. We stopped and talked to them. Ballew seemed to have met both of them before. Hitler was rather quiet, not speaking much at first. He made a serious and subdued impression. When he did speak, it either was in German or heavily accented English. His companion was less reserved and chatted away happily with Ballew. If I remember correctly, his name was Ed Gean or something… I cannot recall exactly. Ballew mentioned later that he had been a notorious killer in his earthly life.
“Anyway, I was challenged to follow the conversation, I just stood there and stared at Hitler. He seemed to be slightly embarrassed by this. During a break in the conversation, he turned to me, stiffly, as if his back was rigid.
“‘Well, Altijd, how do you like it here?’
“At first, I didn’t know how to reply. Then I mumbled that I thought it was a great place. Hitler smiled. “‘You know, young man, I have been here for a long time. I have very much enjoyed every day of it.’
“To me, his statement sounded rather unconvincing. He had said it somewhat mechanically, as if he was reading it, from a piece of paper. Ballew took a hold of my arm. “‘Adolf is one of our most honorable guests. He has been here for quite a while, and if you have any questions about this place, just ask him, there is nothing that he has not seen or heard about. He knows every corner of Heaven and many of its more interesting inhabitants too.’
“Adolf Hitler smiled weakly beneath his moustache and took a hold of Ballew’s hand and kissed it. Ballew giggled with pleasure. “‘You are always so charming. Come, why don’t the two of you join us for our walk?’
“We continued along the path. We talked about this and that, and Adolf and Ed pointed out some of the sights. I still had difficulty taking part in the conversation, I was truly flabbergasted to stumble upon this singular, most brutal dictator in Heaven! However, my three companions chatted away happily. Even Hitler seemed to have thawed to some extent. Still, on several occasions, I saw him shooting quick glances at me.”
Altijd interrupted his narration. They were following a small track leading down into one of the valleys, towards some distant music. It was getting later in the day and the sun was setting. Sheep stood in the heather and munched away at sparse green grass. Vance noticed that he was getting hungry.
“What happened then?”
Altijd walked in front of him. Without turning around, he continued his story. “We picnicked together, underneath a tree. Blankets had been laid out for us. We had some champagne and toast with smoked fish. It was a pastoral scene, Arcadian – like a Tomas Cole painting. Ballew looked absolutely marvelous, she was always so very pretty when she was enjoying herself. She was sitting very upright and in the center. We three men rested leisurely on the grass. Hitler started to tell stories about his childhood in Austria, about small boy’s pranks and escapades. Despite myself, I had to admit that his narration was extremely funny. He was charming and a great storyteller. One story stands out in my mind; how he and his childhood friend had gone out to steal apples from a neighboring orchard. When the farmer discovered them, they had to run off as fast as they could. His friend was a bit overweight, and as they climbed over a fence, his trousers had torn. He got a proper spanking from his mother. At that part of the story, Hitler got up and was gesticulating passionately, like I had seen him do in some of those old documentaries. However, this time he was not rallying for war, but talking about his youth and imitating his friend’s mother! He was so funny!”
How to make money with your writing? Don’t try to make money with your writing!
Agreed, there are some authors that sit down to write, deliberately, their “next hit”. What differentiates you from all those other writers out there is… your stories, your thoughts, your style – put them to paper! You will need to allow the flow of words to come out, your ideas. Be your own most critical editor. Read your texts as if you are a stranger: would you buy this book? Would you actually read it, if someone gave it as a present?
When I started writing as a boy, I used to re-read my own texts weeks later, and most I tore up in frustration. I hated my own words. My style sucked. I was too young and impatient to write long sentences, writing a single page took me hours. As a result, I tried to cram too much action onto a single page, and that made for very bad writing. Other sentences were full with beautiful words, that I had read in other books. The words weren’t my own. I lacked experience. As a young boy or teenager, your life may be overflowing with experiences, but in reality, “you ain’t seen nothing yet”. As an adult, you have seen it all, and your mind is filled to the brim with memories. The only thing that you need to do is to knit these memories into a story. That doesn’t mean that good authors do not copy: but not from authors, instead from the life that they have lived and the people that they have met. I am not implying that young people shouldn’t write or that they can’t be good authors – experience helps create a great story – and so does practice.
Writing then and now
Book publishing was always a stressful business. In the past, a typical author sat down with a stack of paper, and wrote an initial manuscript (sometimes by hand). This was passes on to a publisher, who would accept or decline the book. A contract covering the royalties would be signed. A typist would turn a handwritten manuscript into a printable text. The book would be published, and with each edition, typos and errors would be removed, based on feedback from the readers. An author was a literary craftsperson, a rare species, focused on getting compelling stories to paper.
Nowadays, anybody can be an author. If you have a laptop, you can create a story within weeks (even days), and in the space of half an hour, you can switch the book live at an internet publishing house, and your novel is automatically pushed out to half a dozen types of devices. There is virtually no interaction with the publisher, royalties and taxes are dealt with by ticking a couple of checkboxes. Today’s author is a cowboy with a laptop, one amongst many, and focused on getting a story out, fast. This is also reflected by the publishing houses: Smashwords specializes in publication of eBooks. Ironically their homepage dominantly states: “Words Published: 16,867,232,325″ – obviously, it isn’t QUALITY that counts, but QUANTITY.
As an author you have one option in this publishing madness: create the books that you believe in. Don’t enter this market with the illusion to get rich – most authors die poor. That hasn’t changed.
Admittedly I’m a bit upset because winter keeps on dragging on and dragging on, and outside the weather is really horrible. Sleet drips out of the sky. It isn’t really freezing but it is also not very warm, the weather is like tepid beer. The sky is gray and heavy with rain, just waiting to poor down. It has been like this for the last six weeks. No weather to go to a pool, and no naked woman jumping into either.
It isn’t really freezing but is also not very warm, and the sky is gray and heavy with rain, just waiting to poor down. It has been like this for the last six weeks.
Spring spring beautiful spring
I am looking forward to summer time. The flowers in the garden are beginning to grow out of the ground and the rosebush has a lot of fresh green little leaves. So nature is actually ready to stop the winter blues and to move into spring.
Well, if summer isn’t here yet, then at least I can make a drawing that reminds me of summer. So take out the old crayons, sit down and made a picture of a gorgeous naked woman jumping into a cool pool in the middle of a hot summer. Is she alone? Is her boy- or girlfriend perhaps on the side of the pool? Or is she in the middle of a crowd? The picture doesn’t tell. It shows a person, confident and, most of all, enjoying the weather and having fun.
Years ago, during a visit to a Disney movie, my youngest son (10 at the time) accidentally referred to popcorn as cockporn.
I haven’t been able to order a bucket of popcorn in the cinema since, as I once copied his error. Now I am afraid to mention cockpo… popcorn in any public situation.
Worse yet, I had a marketing colleague who continuously mixed up YouTube with an infamous porn channel of a very similar name. To bypass this embarrassment, he started posting all marketing videos on Vimeo.
The weather is almost like England in summertime: cool, windy, occasional rain. The dust is gone from the air and has been replaced by the fresh smell of drizzle and wet leaves and water on the pavement. I miss the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves on the trees, causing the conviction that life is beginning over again with summer, just as it stops and halts with fall and winter. The world smelling of roses, cold beer and lawns that are fighting to keep the water. The pleasure that water brings in summertime is undisputed, in winter water is frozen and hard and unpleasant, but in summer refreshing and welcoming. Sunshine like powdered gold over the grassy hillsides, light everywhere and always, in patches and splashes or simply in one big blinding chunk. And in those long dusks of summer, we walk suburban streets, with the smell of concrete that is hot to the touch, plagued by early thirst. Maple and cut grass, waiting for something to happen. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August, and those months are full of memories and associations from childhood, and innocence. Nothing more beautiful than falling in love in the summer, when laziness overtakes us and makes us slow down and we waste away hours on terraces, drinking exotic drinks and eating summerly food until the sun sets, or even far beyond if the circumstances necessitate us to do so. Stars that litter the sky, haven’t we looked up at the firmament at all over winter? As we wander back home and stumble into beds too hot to hold us long. And when we go on vacation, we shed our home skin, think that we can be a new person, like rattlesnakes do.