Archives for November 2013

Animal cruelty, for the sake of dental implants, at Georgia Regents University

southernprose_cover_AANOWhile we were visiting Miami for the Readers’ Favorite book awards ceremony, my friend Claire Stanton Wells sent me a link to this article about Georgia Regents University and unnecessary, painful dental experiments being performed on dogs under the guise of scientific research.

Quite frankly, the story got my blood boiling.

It shouldn’t be very difficult to guess which side I will naturally take in this controversy — the side of the dog, of course.

Otherwise, I should be forced to give back the gold medal I just received for my book Always a Next One: true stories of dog fostering.

I simply cannot and will not tolerate the idea of dogs or cats being tortured or  allowed to suffer needlessly, especially not here in my home state.

The salient facts in the article were quite clear–dogs have been used for the purposes of experimental dental surgery, and then put to death for a piece of their jaw.

For those of us dedicated to the cause of animal rescue, this needless and barbaric practice is totally unacceptable. It flies in the face of everything rescue groups stand for.

Life is a precious gift, not to be squandered for frivolous reasons. These poor animals deserve better.

Humane advocate Nathan Winograd has demonstrated that given time, no-kill shelters will work. Man’s best friend should never put to sleep for lack of space, or the want of a good home.

Only incurably sick animals, or those suffering from severe injury that cannot be healed and rehabilitated should ever be humanely euthanized.

Aggressive spay-and-neuter or “SNAP” programs have helped reduce the number of unwanted puppies and kittens, trying to control the supply so it doesn’t exceed demand.

Local humane societies have also been aggressively running campaigns like “adopt, don’t shop” to encourage adoption from a rescue group rather than buying a dog from unscrupulous breeders — apparently the very type from whom Georgia Regents University procured these poor, doomed animals.

We’re trying to end the suffering of these animals many of us welcome into our homes.

In defense of the research, Dr. Mark Hamrick of Georgia Regents University claimed that disturbing video showing dogs with open neck wounds was not taken until after the animals had been euthanized.

In other words, filming took place after their needless suffering finally ended.

I’m sure the researchers at Georgia Regents University won’t appreciate my use of the phrase “animal cruelty” or “needless suffering” to describe their experiments.

But healthy teeth were pulled and replaced with implants. Then the dogs were killed. The researchers will be sure to point out that the unnecessary surgery was performed under anesthesia.

However, the patients are, in fact, still dead. They won’t be getting better.

Why is this sort of experimentation even necessary? Simple answer: money. Greed, and $$$. After all, we already have dental implants. Why do we need more?

Why must dogs be vivisected and then slaughtered, just so that we can have more kinds of false teeth?

These poor creatures were callously butchered, only for reasons involving greed and profit.

If you are as outraged as me about this story and feel compelled to voice your displeasure with Georgia Regents University for allowing this abominable research to be conducted on their campus, the primary switchboard phone number seems to be (706) 721-4001.

 

The 2013 Readers’ Favorite awards ceremony

Receiving the gold medals and a hug from Debra Gaynor of Readers' Favorite

Receiving the gold medals from Debra Gaynor of Readers’ Favorite

Our journey south for the Miami Book Fair and Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards ceremony was a fantastic experience.

The timing was also quite fortuitous.

Final touches on the whopping new 13,000 square foot location for Nautical Ventures were still underway, so my cousin Hank McDowell and his wife Lauren had time to give us a tour of South Beach and Miami from a local’s perspective, culminating with a pleasant dinner on the veranda at the Miami Yacht Club while reminiscing about the foolish days of our youth in Savannah.

That alone was well worth the trip.

But before I forget, here’s a note to future attendees about the book fair: Miami is a coastal city, and on a peninsula. The tropical weather can and does change rapidly, from torrential rain to bright sun and back in short order.

In retrospect, carrying a poncho or umbrella would have been prudent at the Miami Book Fair.

But as we huddled under the vendor tents, the spontaneous rain shower became a great opportunity to shop for books.

During one such interval my wife and I had the leasure of meeting Stephan Earl, author of the children’s book Kayla and Eli Discover Jazz.

We found Mr. Earl gregarious and engaging. His books are colorful, educational, and entertaining, so we got an autographed copy for my youngest grandson. If you have a preteen kid or grandchild who loves to read, you should check out his website.

Miami is also headquarters for M2Hospitality.

His client list includes U2, the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics sports teams, Jeff Gordon, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Leonardo Di Caprio, Madonna and Billy Joel, but even so my friend Mark Lavine still made time to drop by for a few soft drinks in the hotel bar so we could have our first conversation that didn’t require a phone or computer keyboard.

Validating the word “international” in the title for the event, I had the opportunity to meet a number of talented and interesting authors from all over America, as well as from countries around the world.

Some traveled from as far away as Australia, Singapore, and India for the ceremony — twenty-five and thirty hours of flight time one way, versus my three hour round trip from Atlanta. I definitely got the good end of that deal.

Debra Gaynor of Readers’ Favorite proved to be a lovely and gracious hostess.

eriq-la-salle1Speakers included actor and fellow author Eriq La Salle, who talked about his exciting new thriller titled Laws of Depravity, and offered advice on creating what he called a cinematic read.

And after the awards were handed out, it was great to mingle with other writers and learn about their work.

I had the opportunity for a fascinating conversation with another “Sparky” — retired narcotics investigator Sparky McLaughlin, author of Damned from Memory, the true story of his days as a member of “the Bastard Squad.”

Just mentioning this reminds me of all the books this weekend added to my reading list!

To name a few…

There’s Tell Cotten’s Western novel Confessions of a Gunfighter, and the Christian thriller by Tony Ross, Victor.

It was also a pleasure to meet both David A. Koop, author of his bestselling memoir Cancer – It’s a Good Thing I Got It! The Life Story of a Very Lucky Man, and the author of children’s book Pickwick’s Plan, Deepak Menon, who came all the way from India.

Find out more about these and other award-winning authors at the Readers’ Favorite 2013 awards page.

The worst sort of liberal

cohenWhat is the worst sort of liberal?

A person who says something really terrible, then accuses his most hated political enemy of making the offensive statement.

For example, meet liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen.

Theoretically, he gets paid big money to express his opinions about politics, not mine.

But in a recent column purportedly about Chris Christie and the Tea Party, Cohen wrote about newly-elected mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio:

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) [emphasis added] This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

Really!

What exactly constitutes a “conventional view?” For whom does Mr. Cohen claim to be speaking?

The columnist suggested that he had been misunderstood by his usually reliable liberal readers when they called for him to be fired. He even had the audacity to claim that it hurt his feelings to be called a racist.

Oh, cry me a river, Mr. Cohen.

I believe the applicable expression for him would be hoisted with one’s own petard.

He’ll get no sympathy from me. Mudslingers such as Mr. Cohen have earned every bit of the scorn now coming their way.

Of course, Cohen asserted that the view he was trying to convey was not his. He tried to attribute his words to an anonymous “tea party” person.

To defend himself, in an interview with Post writer Paul Farhi, Cohen said:

What I was doing was expressing not my own views but those of extreme right-wing Republican tea party people. I don’t have a problem with interracial marriage or same-sex marriage. In fact, I exult in them. It’s a slander to suggest otherwise. This is just below the belt. It’s a purposeful misreading of what I wrote.

What a coward!

Rather than merely slandering an individual, Cohen managed to malign an entire group of patriotic Americans. However, it was Mr. Cohen who called attention to the sexual preferences of Mr. de Blasio’s wife, not some TEA Party conservative.

And not only was I unaware of this sordid little personal detail, I didn’t care.

Still don’t.

But I do take exception to his cheap shot at the TEA Party.

Unlike the convoluted point about Chris Christie, Bill de Blasio, and the TEA party that Cohen attempted to make but mangled in his column, the message of the TEA Party has been made crystal clear: we have been Taxed Enough Already.

 

 

 

 

Communication barriers

Cool_Hand_Luke_MartinIn the movie Cool Hand Luke, actor Strother Martin famously said, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

I certainly know how that feels.

Let me give you a couple of examples, from my distant past…

Once upon a time, before I began writing books and novels, I spent almost two decades developing computer software.

During the first seven years, I wrote and then supported components for international banking applications, as an employee of Unisys Corporation.

Our Finesse banking application had been designed and developed in Atlanta with domestic U.S. financial institutions as our target market, but naturally a major bank in Australia became our first customer.

My boss shipped me, the “single guy” on our team, Down Under with the software.

I spent the next four months in Perth, helping a small development team customize the product extensively so it would comply with international banking requirements.

Lucky me.

However, I encountered the communications barrier almost immediately on the trip, during my very first pub crawl, only hours after the fourteen-hour trip from L.A. to Sydney.

We had a very serious communication problem there in the bar, even though everybody at my table spoke fluent English.

Our misunderstanding happened while a trio of secretaries were plying me with round after round of free beer, saying they wanted to keep me at their table, entertaining them with my American accent from the Deep South.

From my own perspective, I was a very lucky man.

Three beautiful young women were buying my drinks, in a very exotic location — the stuff from what dreams are made, a Hollywood sort of story that seemed a little too good to be true.

And that was almost the case. Remember, I was even traveling on an expense account.

For several hours, we became pretty good friends, laughing and drinking beer while comparing the idiosyncrasies of American English versus Australian English.

Everything seemed to be going splendidly until one of the young women asked me if I liked a particular brand of Australian beer, XXXX.

The specific words she used were, “Do you like XXXX?”

Unfortunately, she didn’t mention beer. At that moment, I only knew of one product being sold in America, with the exact same phonetic name.

That product happened to be a French brand of condom, also named Fourex.

There must have been an awkward look of confusion on my face. The woman asking the question attempted to clarify what she meant.

She said “You know….” and then sang what turned out to be the jingle from a XXXX beer commercial: “I feel a XXXX coming on!”

That was not helpful. In fact, to me it still sounded like she was talking about condoms.

I turned to the nearest guy at the table and muttered under my breath, “Damn, this girl is forward! Are all the women in Australia this assertive?”

Unfortunately, the women overheard me, or maybe one of them read my lips.

At any rate, I soon found myself having to explain to these three young women the only product that I knew about with that brand name was a French condom.

Two of the three howled with laughter. They thought our little misunderstanding was hilarious.

However, the woman who had asked me the question looked mortified. She turned almost as red as the beets that cooks kept offering to put on my hamburgers.

Only a few months later, I learned almost exactly how she felt.

My second major failure to communicate effectively during that same time frame occurred on a brief return trip back home to America, when I stopped in a salon to get a haircut.

While I had been out of the country, the emerging fad in haircuts at the time among young American men approximately my age was to have a regular haircut, but leaving uncut a single long strand of hair, looking something like a rat tail.

Of course, I remained blissfully oblivious of this new trend.

When my haircut was nearly finished, the stylist asked, “Would you like a little tail?”

I wasn’t sure that I’d heard her correctly. I quickly glanced around the shop and then realized I was her only customer. My mind tried to reject what seemed to be the obvious conclusion.

She can’t be propositioning me, right here in the shop, in broad daylight, can she?

I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered, or offended. Nor was I entirely sure how best to respond. “No” seemed the safest answer.

But incredulous at what I believed was happening, I said, “I beg your pardon?”

She looked mildly frustrated, but repeated her question verbatim: “Would you like a little tail?”

The whole situation seemed a little surreal — the same sort of story that pornography-minded adolescents mailed off Penthouse magazine as a joke.

Honestly, this wasn’t the sort of thing that ever happened to me. Still doubtful it really was happening, I said, “Could you repeat your question, one more time?”

Fortunately, that last time  she slightly rephrased her question: “Do you want me to leave a little ponytail when I cut the hair in back?”

“Ahhhhh!” I said, relieved that she hadn’t been able to read my mind. “No thanks.”

If there is a moral to these stories, perhaps it is this: Choose your words carefully.

Or, clarity is the key to effective communication.

And remember — when in doubt, stall for time.

A disgusting new low for Mike Luckovich

luckovichThere are several reasons I refuse to subscribe to my local newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

That I would be helping pay the salary of the cowardly Mike Luckovich ranks at the very top of the list.

Luckovich relentlessly bashes conservatives, especially those associated with the Tea Party. There is no balance to his world view. On those rare occasions he goes after the liberal Democrats on an issue, the kid gloves are invariably worn.

Today’s cartoon may be his most obnoxious and offensive ever, which is really saying something. It pictures an elephant, obviously representing Republicans, on CNN’s Crossfire program.

His debate opponent across the table? None other than the icon of Christianity himself, Jesus of Nazareth, to represent the Democrat perspective.

The topic of debate displayed was: “Should corporate subsidies for the rich be cut instead of food stamps for the poor?”

In fairness, the cartoon does inspire a fair question to ask — what would Jesus do?

Would Jesus advocate giving away “free” cell phones to able-bodied people perfectly capable of work, but too lazy? Would Jesus have given Solyndra half a billion taxpayer dollars to squander, with zero accountability and nothing to show for it?

Would Jesus support politicians who seem hell-bent on bankrupting an entire nation, spending more than three dollars for every two dollars of revenue?

Did Jesus say it was okay to lie in order to achieve your goals? For politicians to steal from their political opponents in order to buy votes from their constituents?

Was Jesus a Socialist, like Karl Marx? Would Jesus borrow money in order to give it away?

Did Jesus advocate total anarchy, mob rule, and the eventual destruction of the worldwide economy and modern society?

Not in my Bible.