Category Archives: Fiction and Other Truths

IN THIS AGE OF FAKE NEWS IS CREATING FICTION A WASTE OF TIME?

I don’t know how you’re feeling today, but 2019 is leaving me with a gigantic hangover. So many things all across the globe seem to be going wrong, starting with wannabe dictators and not even finishing with countries in flames caused by global warming. Of course, although none of these things started in 2019, they are, on a daily basis becoming increasingly urgent.burnout-3721062_640

As writers, our craft calls upon us to spin characters and plots out of thin air. But the air is so filled with doomsday scenarios that who needs to create fictional ones? It seems to me that, to be relevant, a writer’s work needs to speak to the issues that face us today. It shouldn’t be blatant. That wouldn’t be fiction; it would be a political blog (– like this one). And we want to create art, not in-your-face rhetoric. But I can think of many novels and plays that take important issues and turn them into analogies, or parables, that are good stories in themselves. With a bit of thought, the reader (or audience) realizes that the author is actually inferring something on another plane.

One of the best instances is The Crucible, the play by Arthur Miller. His subject is the witch-hunt in Salem Massachusetts in 1692. This is already a story-worthy conflict based on historical facts. But he wrote it in 1953 as an analogy for the witch-hunt against Communists in the US in the early 1950s that was led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. The beauty of it is, even if the memory of McCarthyism fades, Miller’s play still stands as a powerful story about persecution.

Today, hearing a certain person constantly shouting “witch-hunt” as detractors attempt to hold him accountable for his crimes, suggests an entirely new avenue for fiction writers to go down, where the purported victim is the perpetrator. Not to forget the gaslighting we are being subjected to!

Another opportunity for fiction writers to weave significant tales is the use of satire or the creation of a dystopia. Just think of the horrific dystopian and satirical world orders in George Orwell’s works, 1984 and An Animal Farm are. The reader experiences Orwell’s visions of how that reader probably does not want the world to become. Cautionary tales! Speaking of that, think: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Even the many superhero fiction novels/comics that, having been made into blockbuster films and are filling movie theatres worldwide, are an expression of our need for good guys who will overcome evil. No need to list examples of them here. They abound in popular culture and, besides speaking out on an elemental level to our sense of justice, they are lots of fun.

And for us? As writers, we may not be Orwells, Millers or even George Lucases (Star Wars), but we can still create stories about issues important to each of us. You never know how far a story will go…

With a new year in mind, maybe you, or I, will be inspired to tackle injustice, immorality or corruption, not just by writing a blog post, but by telling a story set locally, or on a global stage, or maybe in a galaxy far, far away and long, long ago.

“In our age, there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues….”George Orwell 

author-1320965_640 Geo. Orwell

 

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Filed under Donald Trump, Fiction and Other Truths, Politics, Writing

EXTREME FEAR AND LOATHING IN NEW JERSEY Part II

So now the deed is done. All the pundits and the media got it wrong with their projections. The US is faced with at least four years full of potentially nasty surprises. Unless DJT is impeached for fraud and racketeering, human trafficking, sexual assualt….the list goes on, and one can only surmise what crimes he will/would perpetrate once ensconced in the Oval Office.

Of course, just under half of the popular vote (noting that only 55% of the eligible population voted) actually went to this man who thrilled his supporters by pushing all the right (emphasis here on right) buttons of angry white men, the poor souls who felt neglected by the political establishment, who resented a black man as POTUS for 8 years, who really believed T’s idiotic rhetoric, insane promises and hate tirades.

My challenge to you American readers is to go check out http://www.nationalpopularvote.com to find out about what is already happening to circumvent the rigged electoral college system. For there is a way and very few people are aware of it.

There are those voters who believe T will moderate his views now that he’s been elected. He has, in fact, deleted his promise from his website to ban Muslims from entering the country. We also have to take into account that a President is not the all-powerful dictator that T would like him to be. For example: How exactly does he expect to force Mexico to pay for that famous wall? I suppose he could hold a million illegal Latinos hostage at a secret location until our southern neighbor coughs up the dough.

And how pliant will the Congressional GOP turn out to be? Now that they are safely returned to the Senate and the House, maybe they just might recover some semblance of morality and courage. Oh dear, is that wishful thinking on my part? And I am not yet up to contemplating the field day T could have loading the Supreme court with his justices. My mind gets brain freeze from the mere thought.

I am reminded of the interview with the ghostwriter of T’s autobiography ( The Art of the Deal, 1987), Tony Schwartz, that appeared in the New Yorker (July, 25. 2016), in which Schwartz said that Trump’s attention span was no longer than ten minutes. That his brain is tuned into the short format of television sound bites, which is about all he can digest. How is this President-elect ever to deal with complicated policy issues that cannot be  reduced to  a TV sit-com format? Schwartz  stated that he deeply regrets having been involved in writing this book.

And now T is setting up his transition team. It seems no one has informed him that anti-nepotism laws and conflict of interest regulations exist. For he has chosen his three adult children and a son-in-law to be on this team. Oh, by the way, the same 4 rather close relatives will also be managing his companies while he is managing the country. Do you think there is something the man does not understand about the concept of a blind trust?

When exactly is the Justice Department going to catch up with this criminal who thinks that the laws don’t apply to him and his? Will this character make a laughing-stock of the US, similar to Berlusconi in Italy? One thing is for sure, the DOJ better get its skates on before T takes away their wheels.

Note: I have not posted any pictures of T — nor even spelled out his name — because his facial expressions are too ugly for a thinking person to bear. Say, if you like that I am in denial following Hillary Clinton only won the popular vote; however, I consider it self-preservation — something T is very adept at.

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Filed under Fiction and Other Truths, US Election 2016

“Through the awful grace of God.” #Elections2016

Thanks to Barb Taub for her blog post. I had never heard RFK’s speech before. It certainly made me wonder how history would have been changed had this Kennedy and Martin Luther King not fallen as victims of assassins’ bullets.

I haven’t blogged about my opinions on this upcoming election, yet, but anyone who knows me on Facebook or for real is  well aware of them. They boil down to this: The election of Donald J Trump would be a catastrophe for the world as we know it. Period.

 

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. —Aeschylus (525-426 BCE) Thi…

Source: “Through the awful grace of God.” #Elections2016

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Sybille Bedford: Resilience and Grace

Thanks to Amy Wheldon on the Bloom blog for introducing me to Sybille Bedford. I’m just disappearing off in search of a book by this fine writer who was so modern in every way and was blessed with an eye for the universal.

Bloom

by Amy Weldon

1.
In our modern global world, more of us know people who move among many cultures: citizens of one country by birth, they might work in another and go to school in a third. Some are artists, some are businesspeople, some are refugees. Although they may still think of themselves as being “from” somewhere, their real allegiance is to the whole wide world. They’re concerned with border-transcending issues of human rights and the environment, because they know firsthand what oil spills in the Gulf might do to the migratory patterns of sea turtles in Tioman. 14-hour plane flights are familiar. “People are surprisingly similar, underneath it all” is not an abstraction. They’ve learned to find portable sources of meaning: curiosity, deep delight in place, and connections with loved ones across geography and time. You’ll never hear them say, “I don’t care much about politics;” they know that…

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Filed under Europe, Fiction and Other Truths, German History, World Wars

2015 – A New Blank Page

Another year of my life – and yours has just slipped away. A year in which I did much, but not nearly enough of what was on my maybe-unrealistic annual to-do list. But being of the self-flagellating persuasion, I just re-read my motivational post written exactly a year ago. No, the year did not fail me, nor I the year. But the overflow from last year’s projects and intentions will be more than sufficient to fill 2015. In this new year the emphasis will be a different one.
It will most definitely be on the writing. In fact, I’ve just been invited to join a secret society of writers, the sole purpose of which is motivational. Nothing like encouragement from other like-minded people to get you onto your backside in front of that computer (but, no, NOT on social media!!) to work at those stories brewing inside your being, to get them flowing from brain to arms to fingers tapping on keyboard. Thank you, new friends, for including me in this venture!
To other friends who find making plans and setting goals either futile or too daunting, I wish you a year that changes your mind. And maybe, in reality, those goals and plans do exist. You just aren’t opening your eyes.

dchubbardwrites

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Happy New Year to everyone out there in the blogosphere!

Last night we were invited to a party with old friends, good food, freely flowing inebriants and a fireworks display, solely for the purpose of celebrating the advent of the New Year. No doubt a great many of you did the same. And a great many of you (I won’t include myself since I was the designated driver) woke up at midday a bit worse for wear. Never mind. Who’s counting anyway?

Backtracking to 12:30 a.m, when the hubbub of cracking explosives, kissing and hugging, and the slurping of bubbly had subsided to a virtual quietude amongst the guests, I asked the fatal question:

Has everybody made their New Year’s resolutions?

And what exactly was on their lists?

The response was a deafening cacophony of denial. No one had bothered to make – or even think about – what they…

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Filed under Beginnings, Endings, Fiction and Other Truths, Seasonal Reflections

100 Years Later – And Still No Wiser?

The past few months have been full of reminders of the events in the summer of 1914 that drove Europe to the most destructive war ever seen by man to that date. Echoing the title of Christopher Clark’s monumental work on the beginnings of the Great War, the empires involved – Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France and Britain – sleep-walked into a conflagration that would change the continent physically, socially and politically forever. Seventeen million dead human individuals (9 m soldiers, 8 m civilians) from eight countries, that was the horrendous price paid for the hubris of emperors and politicians.

And yet that First global war has been eclipsed by the Second (with a total death toll approximated between 60 and 85 million!) in such a way as to have allowed the First to retreat into the dark black hole of memory we reserve for much of our history. This  centenary is the perfect opportunity to raise our collective – and personal – awareness of mankind’s inhumanity to its own species. Television is awash with programs to do just this and I can only recommend watching them.

And what is the point of digging up what is for some a period of history better forgotten? Besides remembering those who sacrificed their lives – on all sides and fronts – I still believe – if we really work at it – we are capable of learning from our past mistakes. Without the First World War and its ignominious Versailles Treaty (see photo below), there would have been no Second World War. Do any of us really want to experience a Third World War – with today’s nuclear potential?

Which brings me, the American ex-pat and German-by-choice, back to one of my favorite themes: The European Union…

The European Union may have many weaknesses and, Lord knows, we love to complain about its regulatory derailments and bureaucratic bloat, but it  is the child of a post-war France and a post-war Germany who were determined to end death and destruction on European ground. As a political body reacting to conflicts within as well as beyond its borders, Europe has a reputation for slow reactions. Think the Yugoslavian disintegration into war in the 90s, the recent Euro crisis and now the ever deepening Ukrainian crisis with its threat to the balance of power between the east and west. In these instances, however, I’d like to believe the slowness is deliberate. Rather than sliding –  sleep-walking – into escalating conflicts, today’s leaders must calculate their justifiable national interests and the consequences of pursuing them.

Personally, I am prepared to suffer a lot of somewhat inane and seemingly sclerotic bureauocracy from an as-yet-imperfect European political system if it prevents blood-letting on world war scales.

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Filed under Fiction and Other Truths, German History, Politics, Remembering, World Wars

The Warsaw Pact Takes on New Meaning

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When we were visiting Warsaw a week ago, I had no idea we were just missing Barak Obama’s arrival. After five days there, spent delving more deeply into the history of Poland in general and Warsaw in particular, I appreciate the President’s confirmation of the resolve of the US and NATO to defend, if necessary, Poland and the other former Soviet satellite states which are, indeed, now members of NATO. For the Ukraine crisis has certainly given the countries at our eastern outposts a mighty case of the jitters. And for good reason: Promises are one thing, carrying through can be quite another.

Warsaw is a city resurrected – by its own strength and resolve – from the ashes of World War II. Although under Soviet dictatorship, the citizens immediately started to rebuild their city, not a modern incarnation of it, but as it had been, as they had loved it before 1939.

Before / After

Before / After

After a visit to the Warsaw Rising Museum, which presented blow-by-blow the city’s last-ditch struggle to survive, I came away realizing that it wasn’t just the Germans and the Russians who raped Poland. In September 1939 when the country was invaded first from the west by the Germans and then from the east by the Russians, Poland’s allies – Great Britain and France – did not lift a finger. They were powerless; they could only let the invaders have their way.

With its low plains, Poland had always been an easy target for armies to march across. Napoleon certainly took advantage of that. And its geopolitical location between three greedy empires (Austro-Hungary, Russia and Germany) made it a tempting target. Thus in 1795 Poland became the tragic victim of its geography and topography. It was divided into pieces, like a cake, between Austria, Germany and Russia. Only at the end of the First World War did it reappear on the map as a sovereign nation.

In 1939 the German National Socialist regime was determined, once and for all, to quash Polish identity. One element of that was leveling Warsaw. In their perception, that would destroy their national identity. By 1945, 90% of Warsaw had been bombed and burned out. But they underestimated the will of the people to stay Polish, as evidenced by their final uprising in the summer of 1944. They went down but they went down fighting.

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Aerial view of a city devastated

 

During the war, the Polish government was in exile in London; Polish troops fought side-by-side with the British, French, Americans, Canadians and others. What remained of their airforce flew with the RAF. They fought bravely and believed when the war was won that they would get their country back.

At Yalta, a seaside town in then (and now once again!) Russian Crimea, in February 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin set the framework for the post-war political landscape of Europe. Poland was already occupied by Russia. The western allies, again, did not have enough strength to counter Stalin’s drive to secure his sphere of influence. Poland was left to Stalin. The rest is, obviously, history. My conclusion: Poland was f***ked, repeatedly, not only by her enemies but also by those she thought her friends.

Let’s hope and pray that the USA, within the scope of the NATO alliance, does in fact, this time, defend Poland and the other former Iron Curtain countries from Vladimir Putin’s latest version of Russian egomania and paranoia, should this become necessary. The rest of western Europe must move on from its tentative measures and show more backbone. For with one eye on 20th century history, it is easy to understand the nervous twitch from which Poland and her eastern neighbors are lately suffering.

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Filed under Cities, Fiction and Other Truths, German History, Great Britain, Holocaust, Politics, Remembering

ALL YA NEED IS LOVE…

 

…which is not only the title of a song written and immortalized by the Beatles. It is also the conclusion reached by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a photographer and documentary filmmaker, in his latest project, the results of which can be seen at the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt am Main until September 21.

Arthus-Bertrand and his team visited 84 countries and interviewed 6000 people, posing the same 45 questions to each. Among them:

  • What is your greatest joy?
  • What is your greatest fear?
  • What did you dream of as a child?
  • Are you happy?
  • What would you kill for?
  • For what would you sacrifice your life?

After analysis of the replies, Arthus-Bertrand’s realization was simple and not a little naïve sounding: That love, and love alone, is the solution to every problem; that individuals across the globe are connected by their innate need of human relationships. Family and children were unanimously perceived as something greater than oneself, as the stuff that gives meaning to life.

Arthus-Bertrand was astounded by the variety of reactions he got from his questions. Many people confessed things they had never admitted to anyone before, things they could only admit to strangers. One old woman declared she wouldn’t change anything in her life. Except she would have married a different man. A crippled man in a wheel chair was happier since his paralysis than before. A black man said he had couldn’t remember a day without discrimination.

I suppose what amazes me about this project is that Arthus-Bertrand spent a lot of time and money to confirm what most of us knew even before John, Paul, George and Ringo made their pure and simple pronouncement:

All ya need is love, love is all ya need.

I would have told you that, too – for free!

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Filed under Fiction and Other Truths, Rock Music

Holocaust Memorial Day

…was yesterday. Just in case it passed you by; just in case your awareness of what happened is a bit sketchy, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum can fill in the gaps in your education. Please follow this link:

As a permanent resident of Germany this subject is never far away from consciousness.

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Filed under Fiction and Other Truths, German History, Holocaust, human rights