Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Origins of Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND

This weekend it will be time to indie publish my 4th short story collection, titled Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND (yes, the titles will just keep getting longer.) Here is the “Origins” section (a sort of afterword.)
Building an inventory of stories and a “collection” of readers is a very slow process. I haven’t been at writing for long, and indie-publishing even less time than that, but it’s obvious that I’m not going to get rich doing this. So why do I continue?
Money isn’t everything (people tend to say this when it’s not rolling in, don’t they?), and it certainly isn’t the only reason I write. Part of this is a challenge to myself (to create a plan and make myself stick to it), part is psychotherapeutic exploration (I often wonder what would come pouring out of me if I had some variation of Turret’s Syndrome), and part is creative release (something that has been sorely missing from my life until recently.)
Regardless of the motivation, all these things did come OUT OF MY MIND, and it might be interesting for me to recollect how.
In “Bugging Out” I was exploring a couple of disturbing observations about impermanence – the way that buildings seem to instantly appear (yes, I know they were probably being built for weeks and I just wasn’t paying attention) and also how common objects that I know I just saw simply vanish (where did I put those keys?). What if these things involved some sort of extra dimensional space or creatures? Maybe some strange, blue beetles? (Coincidentally, soon after I struggled to find a photo of a beetle that I could use for the eBook’s cover, I encountered dozens of these beetles flying in my backyard – this was the first time they had ever appeared in the twenty-plus years that we have lived in this house. I’m still waiting to see if something comes of them.) 
“The Unreliability of the Mature Mind” is an ongoing concern for me as I watch my memory slip further from being reliable. I wondered – if you had an advanced brain-washing technique that involved creating false memories by building new neural connections, would it work with people whose neural pathways aren’t holding together? Could dementia be a defense against manipulation?
Mental invasion and control keeps cropping up in my work. “My Brother’s Keeper” took the medieval notion of demon possession, which some “science” now tries to explain away as probable psychological disorders – I’m not sure I buy into that. What if there is such a thing as possession, but it’s a little more commonplace – at least for a visiting alien culture?
Alien thoughts, paranoia, and infectious disease gave birth to “The Black Spot”. It’s the kind of story that makes me wonder what else I have lurking around in my mind and how it got there (just ‘cause you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t something in there, you know.)
I wrote “Flee Markets” just to play around with the unoriginal notion of a transitory shop, but it became a story about escapes. Samantha wants to escape from a humdrum summer - she’s mostly thinking in terms of escaping into fantasy literature, but encounters Phineas - a renegade shop-owner who has more to offer than she could have imagined. In the end, Phineas escapes from the authorities, and Samantha has material to help write escapes for others.
“Canabis alienus ‘alien dope’” originated from something that really happened to me (no, not the alien slug.) My family moved out of state before my junior year of high school, and two years later (after graduation) I made a trip back to what used to be home to try reconnecting with people I knew. Aside from learning that it only took two years for things to change so much that I couldn’t really “go back”, I also had an encounter with a former band mate who had taken a wrong turn, and took me on a journey through woods and corn fields to see where he had stashed his marijuana plant.
No matter what generation we are talking about, we humans never seem to learn from the past experiences of others – we are destined to make mistakes and screw up our own lives before we understand why we shouldn’t have done what we did. Live and learn is the only way that really works.
Just saying…
William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication: “Dempsey’s Debut”) can be found in many places, such as:

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Don’t Panic?

So here we are in Dallas with more Ebola cases showing up, and the radius of potential exposures widening from ground zero. We are counting on AUTHORITIES, advised by EXPERTS, to keep us safe and informed. They say “DON’T PANIC – TRUST US.”
 And yet an uneasiness has descended on us. People are nervous of strangers on planes. School attendance is down because parents are keeping their children home even though there’s NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. We worry about sitting in a restaurant, or shopping in a store. Or riding on a bus. Why is that?
Part of it may be a perception that the AUTHORITIES are more interested in economics than in stopping the spread of a 70% fatal disease. We won’t put a travel ban on people from West Africa because that would damage the economies of those countries, so instead a man came to Dallas from Liberia – ONE MAN – and now we have at least two more people with Ebola and HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE being told to self monitor. We don’t want to declare an emergency in Dallas, because then the conventions we have planned won’t come, and that will hurt the economy here. It reminds me of the Mayor in Jaws, who ignored his experts because he didn’t want to close the beaches at the start of TOURIST SEASON; the shark got another meal, so see how well that went.
We don’t trust our AUTHORITIES because their motivations are conflicted (and that distrust isn’t improved by the dodginess of the current administration.) But what about the EXPERTS? With each new day it becomes more apparent that they really aren’t EXPERT where it counts:
·         When the first nurse was diagnosed, we were told it was a failure in following protocols and training, but nurses are complaining (across the country) that there is either no or inadequate training and protective gear.
·         Did you know that the magic 21 days spent waiting to see if an exposed person has Ebola is a fallacy? 5% of people can still take as long as 42 days to show symptoms. That means that out of the initial 45 people who just finished being watched, 2-3 of them might still have it. Do all those 45 people (plus the 70 or so hospital workers) know this, or they going to assume it’s JUST THE FLU if it manifests later?
·         A symptomatic nurse flew from Dallas to Ohio and back with a low-grade fever – she was told by the CDC (the REAL EXPERTS?) that it was okay if she was below 100.4 F. Turned out they were wrong.
·         We watched one of the sick nurses being loaded onto a plane to go to Atlanta for treatment. Some of the people assisting her wore hazmat gear, while others had NO PROTECTION AT ALL.
·         A local judge (Clay Jenkins) insisted on visiting exposed people and parading around the fact that he had no protection. Why isn’t he in quarantine?
·         An EXPERT is asked if you can catch Ebola from someone who has it if they sneeze; the EXPERT claims that people with Ebola don’t sneeze (I guess that means that Ebola prevents allergies?)
Now we have a POLITICAL OPERATIVE WITH NO MEDICAL BACKGROUND running the Federal response to Ebola. Based on his background, what is the likelihood that he would advise travel bans? Or REAL quarantines?
We need some common sense here. Allow no more travel from blighted countries (if you can’t tell if someone’s infected for 42 days, what difference does taking their temperature at the airport make?). No more voluntary quarantines (we’ve seen how well that worked.)
Don’t panic? That would be a lot easier if the whole operation didn’t look like a house of cards continuing to fall. If we could TRUST these people to REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING.
Just saying…
William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication: “Dempsey’s Debut”) can be found in many places, such as:

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Certain Kind of Evil

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary… to interact with other humans. Sometimes these interactions are impossible, with no compromise position that will satisfy both sides. When this happens, we have war – sometimes literal, sometimes legal, sometimes just verbal – and the chips fall where they may.
But for the most part, we deal with each other with a win-win mentality – you have something I need, I have something you need, and we figure out how to perform an exchange that makes us both happy, or the exchange doesn’t occur.
Human beings are able to look backward and forward in time – we plan for the future, and use our past experiences to help us to determine the most likely path to get us where we want to go.
For the path to work out, for our hopes for the future to be realized, we count on a certain amount of stability in our world. Gravity will work. The sun will come out tomorrow. The earth won’t dissolve. People will keep their word.
I believe the majority of people function under enlightened self-interest. We work towards improving our own individual lot, but we understand that the best way to do that is to do cooperate with others and do them no harm. We enter into mutually beneficial contracts of all sorts - formal or otherwise - with others as we move forward pursuing our hopes for the future.
The stealing of hope is a certain kind of EVIL. It doesn’t just stay in the moment – it affects a person’s ability to continue on toward a better future. It’s hard to plan when the ground under you keeps moving. It’s hard to look ahead when you’re not sure of anything. People who flail around grabbing what they want - not caring who they hurt in the process - destroy the faith of good people in each other, and make it that much harder to hope for a better future.
There are selfish, totally self-involved people in this world, who are unable to function on any level other than what’s in it for them. Their ability to feel anything for others is non-existent. Sometimes it takes a while to spot them – you have to watch for the wake of destruction they leave behind them. In our modern day society, we refer to these people as socio-paths, or we ascribe some other mental-illness condition to them. They may be, but what they also are is EVIL.
We have been dealing with the effects of one of these recently. Sometimes it looks like the bad guys are winning, but I believe that - if not in the here and now - these people will get their comeuppance. Eventually we all get what we deserve.
Just saying…
William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication: “Dempsey’s Debut”) can be found in many places, such as:

Connect with him on Facebook at:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Systems In Place

Back in the day, I used to rent a lot of videos (the actual DVD’s) from Blockbuster. One time they claimed that I hadn't returned a DVD and they tried to charge me for it as though I’d purchased it. I knew exactly when I had dropped the DVD off, but it wasn’t showing in their inventory. I asked if it could have wound up back on the shelf, and the manager insisted that this was impossible -they had rules and SYSTEMS IN PLACE to prevent this. Until the customer at the next register tried to rent the movie I had returned.
Human beings are predictably unpredictable. No matter what rules you set up, there are going to be failures. Let’s play an adventure game:
You are exposed to a disease that’s 90% fatal. But that’s in the country where you live, where it’s an epidemic, and where the medical infrastructure isn’t up to dealing with it. You have family living in a different country, with the best medical infrastructure IN THE WORLD, and where no one who has been there with the disease has died. You have a week or so before you’re condition is obvious, and you can fly to the other country if you just lie to your country about your exposure,  and you know the other country will let you in no matter what, and once you’re in you will just be part of twelve million so undocumented people who are staying there because no one will make them leave. What would you do?
1.     Be honest, banned from flying out of a hot zone, and probably die either from the exposure you’ve already had or a new one.
2.    Lie so you can fly out of the hot zone, hoping that either your exposure was insufficient, or the medical care in the other country could save you.
Why are we surprised that someone would do this? It’s because so many EXPERTS forget something very basic: in the end, they’re not dealing with automatonic widgets – they’re dealing with HUMAN BEINGS.
So, we have SYSTEMS IN PLACE, but still we have Ebola in Dallas.
It would be really helpful if we had a test that detected ebola before someone was contagious, but it seems we have to wait 3 days after the onset of symptoms and contagion to get a useful result (that’s 24 days after exposure.) I hope someone’s working on a test that gives us an earlier warning.
But back to those pesky humans…
You can put any system in place that you want, but you have to realize that with the human element, you can’t count on all those processes to be followed. So don’t just assume that they are – build in extra safeguards.
Maybe you don’t just count on people to be honest about whether they’ve been exposed. Maybe you create 21-day isolation centers for people coming in from high risk countries. Or maybe you don’t let them come in at all.
Free will is the bane of perfection – as tempting as it is to have all that supposed (but impossible) safety, we have to make the best out of the imperfect people we are.
Remain calm and carry on (but try not to carry on so much…)
Just saying…

William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication: “Close Enough”) can be found in many places, such as:

Connect with him on Facebook at: