Zeus: The Autobiography - Intro & Chapter 1


My novel Zeus: The Autobiography combines mythology and parody of celebrity autobiography. What if a major deity decided to dictate the details of his life, especially the more sensational elements, to a modern-day scribe?

The story starts with the beginning of existence, the formation of the earth and its mating with the sky in a celestial love scene. Then the creation of the Titans and monsters, then of the Olympian gods including Zeus. How they battled for power, established rule, created mortals, family issues, and breeding with immortal spouses and other immortals and mortals on the side. Then various heroes come into play, the Trojan War, Greek history, Roman history, and the emergence of Christianity. I could not bring myself to overtly bring Zeus into modern times, with him, say, being startled by microwave ovens, video billboards, or the internet. But sly commentary on modern topics is woven throughout the work.

I'm posting the first chapter of this 19-chapter novel to get your feedback. Following chapters get chattier and funnier and dirtier and more provocative. READ THE INTRO & CHAPTER ONE and let me know: Do you like it? Do you want to read more?

If you know me, message me. Otherwise please leave a comment on this site and share this post out with others. I want to spark conversations.

Feelings and Fury, not Facts: Trump's Election

Three layers to Trump's winning Electoral College (not popular vote) campaign:

  1. Racism
  2. Sexism
  3. "Flip the table"/"Change for change's sake"

None of these layers are exclusive. The people who were motivated by #3 either do not hear, or say they do not care, about factors #1 and #2.

1.) Racism

Trump's campaign began on racism, and was sustained by it throughout. Trump decided to dip his toe into using politics to sell the Trump brand by pandering to racists by claiming Obama needed to show him, personally, papers to prove Obama was born in the United States. This had never been such a concern for the previous 43 white Presidents but hitching himself to the birther movement meant an easy way to get attention at a high level.

That was before Trump declared his candidacy. The candidacy that began with accusing Mexicans of being murderers and rapists and the absurd boast he would build a wall along the Mexico border and make Mexico pay for it. We have had little to no net migration from Mexico for years, and have had years when more U.S. citizens left to live in Mexico.

The few times Trump was near people of color was for a photo op, not to relate to them. Spending time in a black church that specifically told him to not talk about politics, and had to shush him when he did. Standing next to the President of Mexico and utterly wimping out on bringing up his core campaign issue, building a wall along Mexico, while in Mexico and speaking to its President.

Such moments weren't about not being a racist, but providing visual assurance that it would not be racist to vote for Trump because he had some people of color around him that one time. Trump is a racist in both word and deed, dating back to the 1970s, and his campaign was saturated and dripping with thick venomous hatred. Dog whistle phrases like repeating use of Nixon's "law and order", promising to investigate Black Lives Matter as a criminal enterprise, black people live in an inescapable "hell", millions of Mexicans would be deported within a week no matter that their family members and our economy needed them. On and on. Unmistakable hatred hissed at several races and groups. But his supporters say they are not racist despite the thousands gurgling and howling their approval at each morsel of race baiting thrown out to them. Despite Trump's courting (or coyly not not shunning) the KKK endorsement.

These Trump supporters, brandishing the Confederate battle flag which was created to signify the fight to keep black people as slaves, are not racist at all.

These Trump supporters, brandishing the Confederate battle flag which was created to signify the fight to keep black people as slaves, are not racist at all.

Now we have Latinos rightly terrified the new President will send them away, tearing them from their families for no good reason. Muslims rightly terrified they will be banned from the country, as Trump has promised. But Trump supporters say he is not racist or bigoted.

2.) Sexism

Trump treats women as objects, not people. Trump/Pence think women should not have control over their own bodies. When he had a competent woman, Hillary Clinton, pressing him on any issue he could not keep his shit together for more than a few minutes. The series of women accusing him of sexual assault is long. From Sam Harris:

We have now witnessed Donald Trump bragging about his sexual predations in terms that not even Satan himself could spin to his advantage. He has admitted to repeatedly groping women, kissing them on the mouth without their consent, and invading the dressing rooms of teenage pageant contestants to see them naked. Every day, more women come forward confirming the truth of these confessions. Trump has even said that he would have sex with his own daughter, were she the offspring of another man. He talks about his libido as only a malignant narcissist can: as though it were a wonder of nature, a riddle no mortal can solve, and a blessing to humanity.

And the list of insults Trump directs at women for their appearance and their gender and their inherent bodily functions is also long, insults blurted out time and again out of reflex. He cannot help himself. Hillary Clinton all but telling him directly during the debates: "I am going to press down on your sexist buttons and you will flip out and make sexist remarks" and Trump did not fail to respond in just that way. But Trump supporters say none of this is a problem and he is not sexist.

3.) "Flip the table"/"Change for change's sake"

When asked, Trump supporters often strangely tune out what their candidate has said and done. When they do track his stupid, horrible, racist, sexist ideas they say he does not mean those things. He's just trying to get elected, as all politicians do. This is among the mind-blowing elements for people who track information and history. Everyone can laugh and know better when Trump during a national debate claimed "No one respects women more than I do. No one." because we all know the contrary. Even Trump's supporters must know moments like that are outright lies. Yet they don't seem to care or take that as an alarming trait.

What many Trump supporters say they voted for was a non-politician who has shown he doesn't give a shit about the system. The system isn't working for them. They need a change. He'll flip the table and maybe we'll build something "terrific" out of that mess.

They don't seem conscious of the constant whining of Trump's racist dog whistle, buy many respond to blaming non-whites for their problems along with the system. They aren't conscious of any sexism, but many had "bitch" signs about Hillary and demanded Hillary be put in jail despite her not committing any palpable crime. The subtext, or often overt text, was that she was uppity and needed to know her place.

Hillary Clinton was not my first choice for a Presidential candidate. I don't like dynasties and thought we needed someone with a new last name. She was an establishment candidate, and I could understand Republicans seeing that she did not represent needed change. But she was qualified. And a functioning adult. And lives for public service to the benefit of others. Trump is none of those things.

Three things that I kept chewing on, even before the surprising election results:

  • There were many people during the primary who deliberated between voting for Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.
  • The Tea Party and Occupy movements started as protests against Wall Street bailouts by the government, then went wildly different directions.
  • Polls showed the leading reason people were voting for either Trump or Clinton was for NOT being the other candidate.

This was a campaign not driven primarily by hope, but by resentment. It is worth looking at the populist elements that motivated Trump voters? Are there lessons to learn about where they could be brought along in a broadened economic justice movement? I think so.

But while we consider the people and how to connect with them, to make them less scared and provide something to believe in and strive for instead of a "just stir shit up" attitude, we have disastrous years before us.

Trump has the makings of a dictator. A buffoon long-mocked because of his appearance. An initial ascension to power despite lack of support from the majority of people. Xenophobia. Zealous nationalism. Contempt for other countries. Fondness for despots. Sexual predator. Lack of friends or character witnesses. Mainstream figures in his party who know he is awful but are too scared to take a stand against him and will continue to yield to him. Lack of concern about contradicting himself. Tacky sense of style. With-me-or-against-me rhetoric. Tantrums. Proven fraud and swindler before entering politics.

His present calls to "come together" sound palliative compared to the past year of bile, but of course he means come together behind him or you'll get run over.

His party, and his supporters, will likely take a long time to turn on him when the inevitable overreach happens. But before then, once in office his party will move quickly to attack and put a priority on ravaging the planet for short-term gain. They wail about Big Government in public but in practice the size of government will swell as they abuse the system and people to their personal benefit and perverse satisfactions.

Build our defenses, get ready to fight. The white backlash cannot last forever. When the pendulum swings back our way make sure we can bring more mass, more people over, to keep it that way for a long time.

Immortality via PowerPoint slides

The election year has me thinking of rampant egos, hubris, and whether the comedy of today will become tragedy tomorrow then become comedy again where it will stay as we fade into history. Do you think historians will scrutinize our PowerPoint slides and other tedious artifacts to judge what was important to us, as they do a desiccated bill of sale found on papyrus? Imagine the future graduate teaching assistants click-click-clicking through our memos proving their mettle in order to progress in academic esteem.

Please, everyone. Out of courtesy to the people of the future, let us aspire to make all our memos vibrant and worthy of posterity. Whether a book report, or an explanation to others about how to do that thing that we find so easy, make it profound and beautiful. Or at least add something funny.

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

PowerPoint slide that I have made, just for you (and future cyber-archaeologists).

"Ready for Hillary"? No.

We are 200 years overdue for a woman U.S. President. But Hillary, at best, would be a mediocre start. What does she stand for? Similar to 2008, when her supporters are questioned the response is often conceptual like "It's her turn." The argument is based on proximity (she bade her time as First Lady for eight years in the White House, was a U.S. Senator for years, took a Secretary of State position as a consolation prize for losing in 2008, her last name is Clinton so it's only fair she should inherit the position after her husband).

"It's her turn" responses are often based on projection. A woman should be President. Women we know (or are) have been unfairly treated for centuries, and women should have their due. It doesn't so much matter which woman, so much as a woman becomes President. Of course candidates typically are screens on which we can project whatever we want onto, but the blankness around Clinton seems more pronounced.

Ad in my Facebook feed. No, lazybones, I won't link to the "instant poll" for you.

And the "it's her turn" rationale is often based on name recognition or that the entire nation owes both parties in the Clinton marriage a go at being U.S. President. That's a dynasty, and our nation was largely founded to get away from that stuff. Can we at least all agree to take a break from Bush and Clinton dynasties? We have another 300 million people to draw from. Sure, we're a plutocracy and republic, but at least plutocrats alternate the family names of those in charge. It's a courtesy they grant to us in the craven throng below.

Bolstering the theory that support for her is based on the concept, not reality, there's polling (yeah, yeah, I know) that shows that Clinton is more popular in times when she is not running for office compared to in the public spotlight as an active candidate. This may be why the Clinton's supporters in Democratic National Committee are trying to reduce the number of presidential candidate debates. Note Clinton's numbers in 2008 and Spring 2015 as her new campaign was starting:

Has Clinton taken stances on important issues that were ahead of the crowd? The only one I can think of is trying to move the nation to single-payer healthcare way back as First Lady in 1993. Good on her for that. She tends to be years, even decades behind the right place to be. Alert people knew marriage equality was the just stance, yet the Clintons supported the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ensuring decades of misery and shame for thousands of families. Many of us were howling that the case for the Iraq invasion was based on bullshit, yet Clinton voted for that due to expediency and posturing. I don't trust her to do the thing that's right, I do expect her to take public moral stances based on Dick Morris-style cynical "triangulation", though.

There is no doubt that she has been subjected to decades of frothing attacks by the verifiable "vast right-wing conspiracy". David Brock's Blinded by the Right laid this out in great detail, as he was one of the lead right-wing conspirators. And the expensive, vapid circuses continue. Trying to make Benghazi a thing, private email servers a thing, on and on.

I see that women in politics have a more difficult balancing act when it comes to a public persona. Too assertive and behaviors that would label a man "daring" or "ballsy" get a woman labeled a "bitch". Too soft and behaviors described as "empathetic" in a man get a woman labeled "emotional". Women have to worry about triggering responses to however people feel about their own mothers. Men in politics don't seem to have to deal with people's father issues so overtly.

But Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, even Olympia Snowe (yeah, she's a Republican - there are sane, moderate ones out there - by the way take your party back you guys!) would make for more appealing candidates. How about Cecile Richards?

Heck, if Hillary Clinton ditched her married name and ran under her birth name as Hillary Rodham that would make me feel a little better. Actually, wouldn't that be marvelous?

Kim Davis, honey, these men are not your friends

(L to R) Opportunist Mike Huckabee, opportunist Kim Davis, opportunist Matthew Staver

(L to R) Opportunist Mike Huckabee, opportunist Kim Davis, opportunist Matthew Staver

The sight of Mike Huckabee and Liberty Counsel dunderhead lawyer Matthew Staver dry-hump Kim Davis' fame is really gross. History never looks kindly on bigots who restrict civil rights from fellow citizens. In ten years, in five years, within a few months, when people who now wring their hands over marriage equality realize same-gender couples are the MOST BORING THING IN THE WORLD, Kim Davis will be likely mocked by many of the people who cheer her now. Think of Alabama Gov. George Wallace in 1963, blocking the entry of an auditorium so black students could not desegregate the University of Alabama. Heck, he even had officers of the law assisting him. Back then? Several people cheered him. Now? Most everybody sees him as an asshole.

Davis may cash in. Staver and Huckabee clearly see dollar signs before their eyes now. (Side note: Staver is a HORRIBLE attorney. He has lousy points to make, but manages to make them even lousier where I fight the instinct to reach into the television and improve his dumb talking points for him.) But all the money in the world will not remove that Kim Davis is a hypocritical ignoramus (Dan Savage has terrific analysis about that). She will likely not find happiness, because she does not understand how the world works and clearly cherishes a sense of persecution over wisdom. Her money will be temporary. Stupid is forever (mostly).

Time and facts are not on her side. The people who cling tightly to fear of others based on hateful things printed in purported magical books will either have reality dawn on them that their dumb ideas should be discredited along with all the other dumb ideas in The Bible they already discredit, or they'll have to gradually die off (of natural causes) and leave younger, less over-wrought humans, to take over.

Shame on Huckabee and Staver for using this dimwit to raise funds for their own gains.

Gov. George Wallace (left, in a suit next to the mouth-breather), the Ur-Nancy Davis, ceremonially blocking black students from entering Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama. "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." Asshole.

Christmas Krampus, friend/menace to children/parents

ATTENTION PARENTS: On Christmas Eve, the Krampus, evil companion of Santa, continues his rounds to stuff naughty children into his bag and take them down to Hell. Many of you saying goodnight to your kids may want to say goodbye instead. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus

I know MY kids aren't going to Hell. I presume yours are not, either. Please don't ask me how to contact the Krampus to make requests. I don't want to know about it.

Occupy Portland remains a success

Three years ago, Portland police forced the over five-week Occupy Portland camp spread across two parks to finally disperse. Some people chortled, but the effects of Occupy Portland and the Occupy Movement continue to be felt today. Our nation is better for it.

Occupy Portland rally, October 6, 2011, Pioneer Square

On October 6, 2011 the first Occupy Portland rally marched from Waterfront Park down NW Portland, down Broadway, and ended up with several thousand rallying in Pioneer Square. It was a massive demonstration. It then shifted to a group of people occupying one city park, then spreading to the park on the next block, both near City Hall and the Justice Center.

Mayor Sam Adams ignored calls to remove the protestors, and he let them remain in the parks for five weeks. Over time, transients and others needing the food, medicine, and other services at the site began to overtake the Occupy Portland site, it retained the energy of protest and was a symbol of collective action.

The Occupy Movement did not have a single agenda. This confused the media and curmudgeons who wanted to do the typical cutting-of-a-deal to make the pain go away. In this case, the breadth of the Occupy Movement and its lack of hierarchy were virtues. "Main Street, not Wall Street!" "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" People frustrated with a time of record national wealth and profits leading to horribly high poverty rates. Worker productivity doubling over the last 30 years as their earnings stagnated. Corporations attaining the same rights as human beings, yet not being accountable for crimes done to others. There was no single agenda. Masses of people were pissed off, and they wanted to come together, not feel alone in their anger, and to scare the shit out of those in power.

And they did scare the shit out of the people in power. In early 2011, it would have been impossible to imagine the media covering the effort to raise the minimum wage with anything but contempt. Yet, here we now are with cities raising the minimum wage to $15/hour and a national conversation about doing just that. (There's a case that to keep up with 1968 dollars the minimum wage should be $22/hour, but progress is welcome.)

Occupy Portland camp, November 2011

The Occupy Movement dispersed, but did not lose energy. That fast food workers are now talking about earning a livable wage, and are not completely laughed at by corporate media, is directly attributable to the Occupy Movement. People are now challenging bad education policies, dictated by the wealthy, with increasing ease and power. A lot of the people challenging the status quo gained experience in collective action, living the power of the people, from watching or participating in the Occupy Movement.

And, in Portland, people learned that there are people in power who sympathize with their important causes. Mayor Adams could have ejected Occupy Portland immediately, but he did not. A small community formed and ran for more than a month. Other city leaders were not as tolerant. As distressing as the police purge of Occupy Portland was, that it existed so long was a testimony that lives in the memory of many. And in those memories was a lesson in the importance of being brave.

In October 2011, Bank of America on SW Morrison started stationing a full-time security guard to stand in front of the doors, rain or shine, after an Occupy Portland stunt rattled the banker's cages. Bank of America still has a security guard there, three years later. They remain scared about what people will do next. And that's good. And it made Wall Street create an actual job!

Why I loathe Middle East politics


West has been meddling in Middle East politics and boundaries for 100 years in the modern era, invading over and over since The Crusades. An ongoing disaster that we need to stop.

The problem? I believe it stems from at least three books, written and edited by semi-literate human committees, each claiming magical powers and divine authorship, each ignorant of how anything works (diseases due to sin & demons instead of microorganisms, for instance), each claiming omnipotent wisdom yet making no reference to land beyond the Middle East, and each with competing claims to limited real estate.

Historian and Monty Python member Terry Jones. His documentary "The Crusades" is great.

Historian and Monty Python member Terry Jones. His documentary "The Crusades" is great.

The three man-written magic books from competing religions claim all other religions are invalid. Worse, they claim divine sanction and dismiss the need to observe terrestrial laws. They allow deeply flawed higher primates (us) to think these often made-up rules will assure them eternal reward. "I don't have to listen to you here, on earth, in this mortal realm. My magic book says I will be given perpetual pleasure for hewing to its words rather than considering you and the needs of those you represent (and tells me that you are infidels). And, for fun, some of these stories and claims state that I could probably kill you with divine right. Treaties? Laws? Claptrap! This magic book says I can smash all your toys, smash you, then smile beatifically as I get taken up to heaven in a divine sunbeam. Goodbye, suckers!"

Since 2001, we have spent a trillion dollars on Iraq (four trillion on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) and have made the region less stable. We have spent over a trillion dollars on Homeland Security (even the conservative CATO Institute is skeptical) and yet feel less safe. Bill Maher referred to our country as "The United States of Pants Shitters".

Because of our constant intrusions, the Middle East has a large external foe to fixate on: the West. If we left them alone, they could focus on their internal struggles, and maybe craft solutions. Their countries, let them sort things out.

We had a holy obligation to protect the holy land from non-holy infidels who thought that they were holy. Oh, and we could not determine what constituted "holy" among any of us at any point.

We had a holy obligation to protect the holy land from non-holy infidels who thought that they were holy. Oh, and we could not determine what constituted "holy" among any of us at any point.

If left alone, the Middle East may even more broadly challenge the acts of fundamentalist maniacs, instead of huge numbers harboring and praising fundamentalist maniacs as the bulwark against more Western intrusions and attacks.

As it is now, we get goaded by fundamentalist maniacs time and again, and fall for it. Today, it's ISIS. When we intervene and attack the Middle East, as the U.S. is poised to do against ISIS, terrorist recruitment grows. Osama bin Ladin after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks plainly told the world that he attacked the U.S. expecting us to respond with military attacks, make the Middle East more besieged, which would make his terrorist ranks swell. That is just what happened.

In World War I, the West carved up the Middle East into the hodge-podge of country boundaries that still holds today. We imposed our will onto a region with centuries-long tribal conflicts and cultures we simply did not understand, and possibly felt no interest in understanding. We made this mess. And when we step in with force, the mess usually gets worse.

Let's not shit our pants because a group of maniacs, who want to get a rise out of us, posts videos of beheadings. A few centuries ago, public beheadings were a communal activity in the West. Then we got better. Let's not give fundamentalist maniacs what they want. Let's stop pretending we know the cure for what ails the region and leave these countries alone. Or, at least not bomb them. They may even create magnificent societies not seen in the region since we started attacking them over and over centuries ago.

On this July 4th...

I'm as skeptical about the U.S. as the next person. Maybe more. I don't think the U.S. is preeminent on all matters, but it has the capacity to get better. "American Exceptionalism" is not only annoying, it's dangerous. It's a worldwide embarrassment we don't have public healthcare, and people die because of it. I roll my eyes at much of the ticky-tackiness of July 4th celebrations, and feel empathy for people with pets and for folks with PTSD who get stressed out by fireworks and coping with days of sudden explosions.

But, I made this anyway. It's among the reasons why I sneer at people who regard royal families as something to revere and swoon over. Fuck that noise.

Made with Meme Generator. It's fun!

Trojan War-time poem: "On the Walls"

Rhina Espaillat

Rhina Espaillat

It's the gossip-y parts of the Helen of Troy myth that often get lost. Though, in re-re-reading The Iliad there are plenty of moments of character sighing ruefully "I wish I weren't so into this" and "Player's gotta play" moments. Other than the Catalog of Ships (made easier when you imagine a cheering room when an ancestor is mentioned), The Iliad remains a good read. The poem below is prosaic but still struck my fancy. My fancy fancy. Can fancies be fancy? "Fancy" kind of loses meaning by the third time you say it in a row. Give it a try.

On the Walls
By Rhina Espaillat

From the first look I knew he was no good.
That perfumed hair, those teeth, those smiling lips
all said, "Come home with me." I knew I would.

Love? Who can say? Daylight withdrew in strips
along those vaulted archways waiting where
the slaves would hear us whisper on the stair.
Not smart, not interesting — no, not the best
as anything, all talk and fingertips.
The best I left behind; they're in those ships
nosing your harbor. You can guess the rest.
The heart does what it does, and done is done.

Regret? What for? The future finds its Troys
in every Sparta, and your fate was spun
not by old crones, but pretty girls and boys.