Giving away signed copies of “Plato’s Cave”

I received a great review of my novel “Plato’s Cave” from Kirkus reviews. Check it out at: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/russell-proctor/platos-cave/

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In celebration of this, I am giving away three autographed copies of the book to the first three readers of my blog to request one. You can email me from my website at http://www.russellproctor.com/. Just go there, click to the contact page and send me a message as to why you would like a free copy.

While you’re there, check out the site. There is information about my books, links to this blog and my other blog where I post stories and poems, and other news about my writing and editing services.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS OFFER IS RESTRICTED TO THE FIRST THREE REPLIES I RECEIVE. ONCE THREE SUCCESSFUL REPLIES HAVE BEEN RECIEVED, THE OFFER WILL BE WITHDRAWN.

Should you miss out, please feel free to go to Amazon and buy a copy. http://www.amazon.com/Platos-Cave-Russell-Proctor/dp/147930879X

 or a copy of my other novel “Days of Iron”. http://www.amazon.com/Days-Iron-Russell-Proctor/dp/1460934636

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The Other Kids – You Know, the Good Ones

A few posts of mine recently have been about kids going wrong. “It’s not what kids do” is one of those, where I point out how some kids these days just don’t seem to get it. They are also, apparently, being treated leniently by the courts. (See my post “Crime and Punishment”).

So today I thought I’d blog about the other kids.You know, the good ones, just to show I have no hard feelings and that I do acknowledge there are good young people out there doing extraordinary things. I may be a grumpy old man, but I do try to see both sides of the coin.

So, here are some amazing people under 18:

1) Malala Yousafzai.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/20/taliban-victim-malala-yousafzai-school 

Malala Yousafzai

This is the Pakistani girl shot on the head by the Taliban for daring to suggest that girls should be educated. Apparently she has been advocating for equality since she was 11 and has already won  won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. She was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the youngest nominee in history. What happened to her was horrific, but she has achieved an enormous amount in her short time so far.

2) Daisy Morris. Daisy, an English girl, discovered a dinosaur when she was 5 years old. How cool is that?

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-21850080

What kid would not want to discover a new species of dinosaur? I’d like to discover one even now. The creature is now named after her. Vectidraco daisymorrisae. It means “Daisy Morris’s Isle of Wight Dragon”. It even has a cool name. She stumbled over some blackened fossilised bones on the beach when walking with her family. She’s always been interested in dinosaurs, apparently. Well, all that dedication has paid off.

3) Zack Kopplin.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/03/02/young-atheist-and-science-advocate-zack-kopplin-interviewed-by-bill-moyers/

 

Ok, he’s 19 now. But he started when he was 14 as an advocate for education law reform in the USA. He is against the teaching of creationism in Louisiana science classes. Apparently, some teachers wanted to kick evidenced-based science out of the classroom altogether. No more evolution, just what the Bible tells us is so. Zack has been successful in thwarting these attempts. He is also an advocate for “good science”. And, of course, for the teaching of science in general. Oh, and he’s actually studying history.

These three “kids” have done some extraordinary things. I seem to have been biased towards the science/education side of things, but those are my interests.

It’s encouraging to see young people achieving amazing things. Sometimes, like Malala Yousafzai, they almost lose their lives doing it. But it doesn’t stop them.

So, if my previous posts about teenagers have been a bit negative, I hope these three wonderful people make up for it. There are a lot more out there. Let’s encourage them.

It’s not what kids do.

Another party advertised on Facebook got out of control here in Brisbane on the weekend.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/two-police-officers-hospitalised-with-head-injuries-after-acacia-ridge-party-goers-beat-them-with-bricks-in-cowardly-attack/story-e6freoof-1226599348872

Two police officers were injured and a City Council bus damaged as idiots decided they didn’t like the police closing their party down. Poor little darlings. Apparently there had been complaints from the neighbours about noise from the party and reports of fighting in the streets. So the police decided to attend and told them to shut it down. Most of the partygoers – some as young as 11 – left peacefully. Some stayed and proceeded to break other people’s property and ended up injuring two police officers.

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Following this, the host of the party, 17 year old Jordan Fuller, made one of the great stupid comments of the day: “It’s what kids do.”

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No, Jordan, it isn’t what decent, civilised kids do. It’s what stupid thugs who can’t get their own way do.

So your party was closed down? That is no excuse to hurt other people. Is your party more important, more precious, than the health of two police officers? Is it worth more than the bus? I don’t think so.

Just because other people (the neighbours – remember them, Jordan?) didn’t like what you were doing is no reason to throw bricks at someone. It really isn’t.

You are not the centre of the universe, and we do not revolve around you.

The party was advertised on Facebook, another brilliant planning idea in the mind – if I may use that term – of Jordan Fuller. There have been a number of parties that have spiralled out of control here in Brisbane lately after being advertised on Facebook. I’m not blaming Facebook here, just the mentality of people who don’t have enough friends they have to call on anyone who is a friend of a friend of a friend.

People who advertise their parties on Facebook must be wanting trouble. They cannot be ignorant to the recommendations of those in authority who say don’t do it. They must have seen reports (or even perhaps attended) parties of a similar nature and decided to “go for it”.

Hopefully, as indicated in the news article, people will be charged over this and Jordan gets the bill. He has an 18th birthday party in a year’s time. God help us.

We’re Just F***ing Monkeys in Shoes

I first heard this phrase listening to Tim Minchin’s wonderfully irreverent song “Confessions”. I presume he came up with it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bEGLbCNRqw

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The song, “Confessions”, is Mr Minchin’s tribute to human mammary glands, at the end of which he states, if I may be allowed to quote:

“From the first little suck of colostrum/To the grope of the nurse in the old people’s hostel/We’re just fucking monkeys in shoes.”

He was, of course, referring to our (albeit laudable) fascination with boobs. But his phrase holds true for other aspects of human existence as well. We are just animals. Always have been, always will be.

Some Animal Instincts we have are as follows:

Animal Instinct 1) The Herd Instinct. We love crowds. Most of us prefer to follow, not lead. Whether it be in fashion, opinion, religious belief, politics, whatever…we would rather follow so that we don’t have to think for ourselves. Leaders are also usually only leaders for a short time. Someone else thinks they can do a better job. Think of two bucks vying for the position for alpha male in the herd.

Animal Instinct 2) The Mating Instinct. This is of incredible importance to us. People are giving birth to other people at an enormous rate. I know parents who didn’t even want children, but they had them due to Animal Instinct 1 above – there was peer and/or family pressure to produce them. I’m not talking about the desire for a partner here. While some scientists would disagree, Love is largely a human affectation, or at least a mammalian one. I mean the desire to reproduce. It is a necessary one, but humans seem to exceed natural population trends. We have children even when we can’t afford to, or can’t actually feed them.

Animal Instinct 3) The Eating Instinct . This is a bit like the Mating Instinct. Here we have people eating large quatities, more than they actually need. Animals tend to be opportunistic eaters – they don’t know where the next meal is coming from, or when, so they take the opportunity to fill up whenever they can. Some people do this too. And often we can’t blame them – there are many people in the world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Animal Instinct 4). The Survival Instinct. This one has its basis in the other Instincts. We survive by eating, staying in herds and mating. But behind these is the basic need to stay alive long enough to pass on our genes.

I’m not criticising the fact that we are animals. Animals are great. If it wasn’t for animals, we wouldn’t be here. But just because we humans are self-aware does not mean we should forget our ancestry. We do so at our peril. It is good that we are animals.

Angry animal ... a monkey in India.

A lot of human behaviour is explainable by remembering our animal instincts. Tim Minchin’s metaphor is right: we may wear shoes (sometimes most dysfunctional ones – high heels for instance) but we are still monkeys.* We can achieve whatever we put our minds to; we can do good and we can do tremendous evil. The future of the world is in the hands of a bunch of monkeys. We would do well to remember that next time some remarkably stupid piece of reality blindsides us.

*Yes, I know we were never monkeys in an evolutionary sense. Monkeys and people evolved from a common ancestor. But the metaphor still works. No correspondence on this point will be entered into.

Douglas Adams, Where Are You?

Dear Douglas,

On this birthday that you never got to see, your 61st if I am correct, let me please assure you that wherever you might be right now, even if that is absolutely nowhere, that you are sorely missed.

We miss your forthright statements, your clever wit, your irreverent humour, your insight, your candour, and your unfinished quest to bring enlightenment to our lives.

A religious person would believe you are in heaven or some equivalent nebulous zone, but since you were an atheist we know you wouldn’t want to be there.

As a writer, I have laughed out loud over your wonderful summaries of the human condition. I only wish I could be as good as you were, and change so many lives and opinions.

Thank you Douglas. For everything.

Russell Proctor

Improving the Penis

Now I have your attention…

A couple of days ago, 60 Minutes here in Australia ran a report on the case for and against circumcision of male babies.

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As expected, there was a lot of debate on both sides. Barrister Paul Mason declared that it was child abuse. In fact, he called it child sexual abuse. http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/extraminutes/8620217/fore-and-against-the-case-against-circumcision

As a barrister, however, he would be aware than a baby is deemed to be not legally able to make its own decisions in regard to health and that responsibility falls to its parents. So, it isn’t sexual abuse as the parents are legally able to decide if their son is to be have this particular medical procedure. End of argument.

The report also contained an interview with a male adult who had been circumcised as a baby and, now he was an adult, felt he had always been missing something that had been taken from him. In some mysterious way he felt its loss.

What? He has no memory of what it was like to have a foreskin. How can he say he feels its loss if he only had the thing for a few days or weeks after he was born and now he’s all grown up? Maybe he just needs a girlfriend.

On the other hand, Professor Brian Morris argues that every boy should be circumcised. http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/webchats/289966/chat-brian-morris-on-his-opinion-of-circumcision There are sound medical reasons for it. It’s just plain cleaner. I believe that at one time soldiers were encouraged to have circumcisions because lying around in foxholes in the mud for weeks on end was not a good way to keep Mr Rogers clean. Even if you aren’t fighting a war, it saves a lot of mucking about in the shower. And it’s better for sex, too. The man expereinces much more sensitivity in the tip. He’s happy; she’s happy. Everyone wins.

I’m circumcised. I’m happy to be that way. I have no traumatic memory of the surgery, which anti-circumcision people seem to feel is carried like one of Scientology’s engrams throughout the man’s life. No, that one passed me by, sorry. Can’t say I feel any problem at all with missing a couple of square centimetres of skin I wasn’t using anyway. I’ve had my appendix out too, and my tonsils and adenoids. Can’t say I feel violated there, either.

Parents have not just the right, but the duty to make the best decisions for their children. Paul Mason had nothing to say about the medical side of circumcision, since he isn’t a doctor. It’s the doctors who are best able to advise on this matter. Inventing excuses of sexual abuse isn’t going to help anyone reach a rational decision.

Ultimately, it’s up to the parents. And of course, we are only talking about male circumcision hre. Female circumcision is a crime and an abomination. It’s a completely different thing that has major repurcussions for the girl. But for boys, I’d reach for the knife. Just don’t slip!

The End of the World…Again? I Must Have Missed it Last Time.

All right, I can’t resist anymore. I didn’t want to jump on the whole “the world will end on December 21 this year” thing, but it looks like so much fun I’m going to add my bit so when the whole thing blows over at least I will have contributed in some way.

The world will not end on 21 Decmber 2012. At least, not by the predicted method of the expiration of the current Long Count in the Mayan calendar. It may end by some other means, such as asteroid impact or coronal mass ejection, or any number of other possibilities espoused by Dr Phil Plait in his brilliant book Death From the Skies! But the chances of that happening on that day are no more than on any other day.

Now, as far as I can figure out, if you ask someone who thinks the world will end this year why it will end, they can’t actually tell you. There are some vague mumblings about the Earth aligning with the plane of the galaxy, which it has done many times before, and of Jupiter completing one of its orbits around the sun, which it has done billions of times before. But just why exactly the finishing of one cycle of the Mayan calendar should bring about such a catastrophe, they can’t actually tell you. It just will, so there.

Now, I have a few problems with the whole Mayan calendar thing:

1) Why does the ending of one cycle bring about the end of the world? The present Long Count was not the only one. The world existed before this cycle began. Why didn’t it end at the conclusion of the last Long Count?

2) The experts disagree as to when the present Long Count started. It is generally (please note, “generally” does not mean universally) believed to have started on August 11, 3114 BCE. But there’s no guaratee of that. So saying the present Long Count ends on December 21 this year is by no means a sure thing.

3) The Mayans, credited with so much insight into the fate of the world, could not even predict their own fate. They were conquered finally by the Spanish in 1697. They didn’t see that coming.

Like religion, the belief that the world will end on December 21 this year is an insult to the intelligence. It is merely an example of gullibility among those who wish to be beguiled. Some people are not happy unless they think we are going to die. And when the world does not end this year, they will pick another date. It will be then that they agree that perhaps they got the date for the end of the Long Count wrong and will rework their calculations. It will be then that they latch onto some other sign of the end. Because if they didn’t, they would not feel superior to everyone else.

I confess I feel superior to them because I know they are wrong. But I don’t keep kicking a dead horse. When I am proven wrong, I accept it.

December 21 will prove them wrong. Only they won’t accept it.