Let me say right off the top that I am aligned with Setsuko Thurlow in her desire to remind the world of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and for ICAN’s efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons. She, being a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing on August 6th, 1945, certainly speaks from deep and sad knowledge and deserves our respect.
But where Ms. Thurlow and I split is on my feeling that she’s trying to re-write history. Her recent column in the Globe and Mail outlines Canada’s “extensive” role in the Manhattan Project, suggesting our country was “heavily involved” in developing the atom bomb that fell on Hiroshima, and then a second bomb that leveled Nagasaki 3 days later. These characterizations simply don’t hold up. Apparently she is calling on Canada’s government to issue a statement of regret for being involved at all. Sorry ma’am, no sale here.
Yes, hundreds of thousands of Japanese died from the strikes by the Allies that would eventually end World War II, and their deaths are truly sad. But Ms. Thurlow’s veiled comments seem to blame our country and the U.S. and Great Britain for raining down terror on her former country (she lives in Canada now) without provocation. Has she forgotten the incitement of these events? Ms. Thurlow, are you overlooking the fact that your former home and native land, Japan, attacked a neutral country – the United States of America – without a declaration of war and without explicit warning on the early morning of December 6th, 1941, when the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service assaulted Pearl Harbour with 353 aircraft (including fighters, level and dive bombers and torpedo bombers) in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers? Are you overlooking the fact that all of the eight U.S. Navy battleships present were damaged and four sunk, and that 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed? And are you unaware that 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded? Have you failed to remember that over the course of the next seven hours, there were further war crimes committed by Japan, with coordinated attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island as well as on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong?
Three months before Hiroshima, Germany had given up. Japan should have too. But they kept their war going. Sorry Ms. Thurlow, but it is these specific bellicose actions by Japan that led to bombs falling on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Check your history book: you’ll find that U.S., U.K. and Chinese leaders issued the Potsdam Declaration in July, 1945, which outlined the terms of surrender for Japan. This was rejected by the Japanese government. It shouldn't have been. The declaration stated that without a surrender, the Allies would attack Japan, resulting in "the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland". Meanwhile, the U.S. warned Japanese civilians of potential air raids by dropping more than 63 million leaflets across Japan. This too was ignored by the leaders of your former nation.
Finally, seeking to demonstrate that World War II should indeed end, Hiroshima, site of a major military headquarters, was bombed on August 6, 1945. That city was selected because it was devoted to military production. It was also not a city of traditional cultural significance to Japan, since the goal was not to destroy Japanese culture but to dismantle the country’s ability to make war.
After the Hiroshima bombing, U.S. President Harry Truman issued a statement on behalf of the Allies, warning Japan that if they did not now surrender, “they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware."
But still Japan ignored the warning and kept their war going. And so came Nagasaki on August 9th. And even then Japan held on. Until finally on August 15, they read the writing on the wall, realized the Allies were serious about ceasing the war, and surrendered.
So Ms. Thurlow, let me welcome your desire to prohibit nuclear weapons. But let’s not forget Japan’s direct responsibility in creating the reign of terror from the skies that killed so many of your former countrymen and women. Getting Canada to say we’re sorry for the suffering of the inhabitants of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the absence of Japan accepting full accountability for what happened is specious and will accomplish nothing. To suggest that our country “gloated” about the Manhattan Project is misleading at best, as is your claim of our “extensive” role.
Sorry, but with all respect, no sale.
OK, I'm gonna rant for a moment.
This is directed at you publishers out there.
And you’re not going to like it. But, the truth hurts.
Now, I get that Amazon has altered the profit picture for publishers, and not in a good way. And a bunch of you big boys have even thrown your lots together, merging to withstand the pressure. Good for you! (And bad for us lowly scribes, by the way, who now have fewer outlets to try to engage with our work.)
Meanwhile, Amazon has also created a whole new self-publishing industry that usually starts with being rejected by conventional publishers before you move to Kindle Direct.
But you know what: none of this creates any excuse for rudeness. And that's a sad characteristic that's taken over the publishing business.
You entitled clods have decided you’re kingmakers. And the rest of us can go #%$@&^! ourselves. What am I referring to? The practice of not having the decency to even reply to an email. The custom of ignoring quality work because the author's name isn't Grisham or Rowling or Patterson or King. The standard of using a form note to reject work that serious people have devoted years and years to creating. The haughty, holier than thou: "It will take us a year to get back to you. Don't contact us!" attitude.
Oh yeah, I've heard your excuses. "We're so busy and with reduced staff." Sob, sob. "There's just no time." "Profits are awful tight." Well boo hoo. Welcome to the 21st century. Let me tell you something: if you don’t have time to at least show consideration to your most important asset – the authors who write the books you sell – then sorry pal, you shouldn't even be in business. You ought to move along and leave the industry to those who know how to do it. Cause you sure as hell don’t!
Have I got a dog in this fight? Damn right I do. Couple of 'em. And I've been awarded rejection notes for what I consider to be quality work that has received significant accolades elsewhere. But I'm a big boy: I can handle that. (And I'm always mindful that Jack Canfield, who has written the Foreword for my most recent book “Pushing The Boundaries”, received over 100 rejections from publishers before "Chicken Soup For The Soul" went on to become one of the most successful publishing series in history; James Patterson endured 31 book promulgators turning down his first in the long-running, mega-popular, Alex Cross series that's made him one of the most successful authors in the world; John Grisham received a drawer full of "Sorry, but…" notes before "A Time To Kill" finally got picked up, selling 1.5 million copies and becoming a movie; James Joyce, Joseph Heller, Samuel Beckett, Dr. Seuss, Elmore Leonard, Isaac Asimov, John le Carre, Sylvia Plath, Gertrude Stein, Rudyard Kipling, J.K. Rowling… hell, even Anne Frank… all received rejections from short-minded publishers who missed the boat.)
But I'm not ranting because I can’t deal with rejection. I'm ranting because you entitled snobs have decided you don't need to treat me and my fellow authors with dignity. And that's just wrong. And mark my words, it's gonna come back and bite you in the ass one day. Just you wait and see.
You see, what you're missing is that being a kingmaker carries with it responsibility. It never means playing the game with no intention of winning and basically just screwing over everyone else. Even Wikipedia knows what a self-adoring group of weasels you are: "A kingmaker is a person or group that has great influence on a royal or political succession, without themselves being a viable candidate (italics mine)."
Now, if you happen to be reading this and you're not an incipient author, you likely don't know how demanding it is to approach these self-described "book movers". Here's how it works. Each publisher has different rules that they use to allow you the privilege of communicating with them. And woe betide the lowly scribe who doesn’t follow each dictum to the nth degree. You’re warned: "Don't follow our rules and we won’t even read what you've submitted." What does this mean? Very simply, after devoting hours upon hours of trying to locate a publisher who might just actually accept a submission from you, then you have to read and interpret exactly what it is they want. Fair enough. Having gone through this process way too many times, my estimate is that it takes on average a full day to subscribe to each publisher's submission "guidelines". After which, when you push "Submit", you receive a form note saying "We'll be back to you within a year. Don’t contact us." Yeah. Right. OK. Well then, thanks awfully for your understanding and support. And #$@%! you too!
I'm about to launch my newest book "Pushing The Boundaries! How To Make Life Awesomer". I had hoped to attract a major publisher because with the 32 profiles of people I've interviewed who hail from Nigeria, the U.K., China, U.S., Iran, Australia, Belgium, Canada, etc., I wanted to see the book marketed internationally. But no takers. So, I'll self-publish: too much work invested here to let it sit on the shelf. Sour grapes? Sure, you can brand me with that label if you want. But when I think about the numerous accolades of people who are really bullish about this book… and when I recognize that the celebrated Jack Canfield does not write a Foreword for just any writer as he's done for my book… and when I consider my own opinion based on the significant market research I carried out about the book's competiveness in the big market, I just don't buy that.
I can't make you publishers love my book. But this isn't about that. It's about manners. It’s about breeding. It’s about propriety. You see, I was brought up the right way: you know, observing the Golden Rule (treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself), having empathy for other people, caring. That kind of thing. And this means taking the time out of your oh-so-busy day to respond to an email. To offer a bit of encouragement here, or bit of advice there. Yeah, I get how busy you are. But suck it up: you're in business, and that's part of the job.
The way I see it anyway.
Peter Benchley sure did a number on sharks.
Fact is, the author of "Jaws" has been largely responsible for making fear of being attacked by a shark the second greatest terror known to mankind. (Interestingly, the first is the more sanguine angst about standing before a live audience to speak.) And yet, Benchley's widow, environmentalist Wendy Benchley, told me when I interviewed her, "Peter regretted writing 'Jaws'. He created a monster that simply doesn't exist."
As an author, I didn’t know much about sharks when I began looking into the true story of Nicole Moore, a nurse from Canada, who was visiting Cancun, Mexico where she was brutally, savagely attacked twice by a bull shark. She very nearly died. She had to have her entire left arm amputated to save her life. She continues to experience physical challenges to this day, nine years later.
In researching the story, I interviewed three of the world's foremost shark specialists to determine how this awful event could have occurred. Their knowledge helped me understand that sharks don’t like eating people. Fish, birds, other sea creatures, etc. go down well, but not humans. From these authorities, here's what else I learned: you are more likely to be struck by a bolt of lightning than you are to be attached by a shark. Seriously. You are more likely to win the lottery than be attacked by a shark. In fact, you are more likely to die from taking a selfie than die from a shark attack.
The specialists took me to school on sharks and with their help, I became somewhat of an expert myself on the more than 440 known species of sharks across all the seas on earth. I was also able to use the equivalent of forensic narrative to re-create just why Nicole was so brutally attacked on that awful, very rare day in January.
Today, it's fascinating to look at our sustainability within climate change, and see how so much of our ocean life – including sharks – are at risk. National Geographic reports that 100 million sharks are brutally, illegally slaughtered every year for shark fin soup. As my friend Dr. Peter Sale, a marine ecologist who has seen firsthand the degradation of coral reefs during the course of his working life, tells me sharks are the police of the seas: they keep order down there. Without them, it would be chaos.
Now you know why Peter Benchley regretted creating his tale about sharks: the horrible attacks he wrote about simply don't stand up to scrutiny.
I’m a guy who writes creative nonfiction, and I was asked the other day what that term means.
Nonfiction itself occupies such a wide avenue in book writing. From journalist Malcolm Gladwell to historian Doris Kerns Goodwin to Bob Woodward's commentaries on Washington, this is a genre with breadth.
But in recent years, a new term emerged for a type of story telling that sees the author add a certain voice to the writing style: creative nonfiction. This form incorporates writing styles that are usually more associated with fiction and that readers find engaging and enjoyable.
For instance, self-discovery is an element of creative nonfiction that I use in my most recent book "Pushing The Boundaries: How To Make Life Awesomer". I explain to the reader up front that I'm searching for ways to enhance my life, just as they are, outlining my personal connection to the subject matter. I then go on to invite them to join me in meeting interesting individuals who have overcome their fears about taking risks, and have gone on to gain greater fulfillment in their lives. Essentially, I am inviting the readers to come with me on a voyage of discovery. That's one aspect of creative nonfiction.
I think readers respond to stories featuring real world characters who are emotionally invested in the story’s outcome. Publishers call this a story arc. At the same time, the information has to be based on authentic facts since nothing undermines nonfiction books more than inaccuracies or exaggerations.
Another device I have used regularly in my writing is humor – where it fits. This may be as simple as a wry comment about someone or something, or a self-inflicted put down of myself, but for the fun of it. If the going gets heavy, nothing like a little smile to take you down from the high road.
Ginevra Grasso, who's an Editor with Europe Books, wrote me recently to praise "Pushing The Boundaries": "From a literary point of view there is no need to say that is a very well done job, it is obvious that you have a good experience in writing, interviewing, collecting information and transforming it into a motivation for your public. I love your positive attitude and your ironic tone which can always steal smiles." Aha: there is it: the ironic tone that can always steal smiles. That's creative nonfiction.
Lee Gut kind, Editor and Founder of Creative Nonfiction Magazine (that’s right: this category even has its own journal now), defines the genre as “True stories well told", which I think does a pretty good job of summing up the category. He goes on to say, "In some ways, creative nonﬁction is like jazz – it’s a rich mix of ﬂavors, ideas, and techniques, some of which are newly invented and others as old as writing itself."
Creative nonﬁction has become the most popular genre in literary and publishing communities. That's nice. Because that's the category I trade in!
I normally keep my political commentary pretty close to heart. But today I'm making an exception on two things…
I'm not a voter in the U.S. A., so I have no dog in the November election fight. Obviously, then, I'm not a Republican nor a Democrat. But I have arrived at the opinion that the U.S. electors need to send Donald Trump packing. He simply is doing the country too much harm to remain in place.
Now, I'm not a black & white thinker and I've always tried to leave room for the other guy in discussions. So I will acknowledge that President Trump seems to have done some good things for the American economy (that is, before the pandemic hit). But the fact remains he has messed up too many other elements of life there to be able to boast a successful run. And now we have the reports from the New York Times and the Washington Post revealing Trump knew about Vladimir Putin paying bounties to Taliban killers to slay U.S. soldiers. Sure, the President can claim "hoax" and "fake news", but that just doesn't wash anymore in light of serious reporting and authentic journalism.
What does Putin have on Trump? I figure it dates back to the Trump business empire being virtually bankrupt in the 1990s (as his taxes will show, if they are ever revealed) and it was Russian oligarchs, mobsters and other delightful friends of Putin who kept Trump afloat. They've since gained in power. And the President is losing control. Trump has even acknowledged publicly that Joe Biden might, in fact, become President in the November election.
Facing a humiliating loss and fearing he could end up in jail for his alleged illegal actions, and not wanting his taxes to reveal his liabilities and lack of charitable donations, Trump could choose to resign, Nixon-style, demanding a full pardon and turning things over to Mike Pence. (Pretty easy to see Pence losing in November.)
Here is what I advised film producer Michael Moore recently (I'm a regular listener to his podcast):
"Mike, I recognize you have a problem in the U.S. You have two political parties whose members seem to hate the guts of the others. Even though Republicans are losing faith in Donald Trump, getting them to vote for a Democratic candidate this November will be a non-starter. That is, unless Joe Biden, or Nancy Pelosi, or Bernie Sanders, or some other worthy Dem, can reach out to Mitch McConnell et al and suggest a coalition government. As you may know, this is a form of rule in which political parties cooperate for the greater good, reducing the dominance of any one party's agenda within that "coalition".
The coalition government would involve a formal agreement between Republicans and Democrats to cooperate for a four year term, with a view to putting aside petty arguments and focusing on re-building and achieving gains for the overall country, while ridding the U.S. of the destructive force that is Donald Trump.
Yes, Republicans would have to accept that it will be a Democratic President during this time, but properly formulated, that would largely be in appearance only. (And they do have to accept the tea leaves suggesting it will be the Dems who win on Nov. 3 anyway.)
The U.S. population is fed up with politicians of each stripe who are more interested in their own skins than they are for the country as a whole.
Mike, if your sphere of influence is strong enough, please use it to encourage launching this strategy.
It's your only chance."
So, those are the two things reflecting my commentary on U.S. politics.
We'll now return you to your regular channel.
Can it be that Carl Reiner is dead? The writer, actor, director and producer? The guy who was a hero of mine? The creator of the iconic "Dick Van Dyke Show"? The straight-man to Mel Brooks' 2000 Year Old Man?
Carl was 98 when he passed away of natural causes earlier this week. His son, director Rob Reiner, announced in a tweet, "As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light." Dick Van Dyke offered, " My idol, Carl Reiner, wrote about the human comedy. He had a deeper understanding of the human condition, than I think even he was aware of. Kind, gentle, compassionate, empathetic and wise. His scripts were never just funny, they always had something to say about us." Alan Alda: "My friend Carl Reiner died last night. His talent will live on for a long time, but the loss of his kindness and decency leaves a hole in our hearts. We love you, Carl." Jason Alexander: "Carl Reiner was comedy genius. Often that genius made other funny people even funnier. But give him a stage and he could spin laughter out of any moment. I watched him do it time and again. His contributions to comedy are eternal. And a lovely man, as well." Steve Martin: "Goodbye to my greatest mentor in movies and in life. Thank you, dear Carl."
Did you know that Mel Brooks would go over to Carl's house every night and the two of them would eat dinner together, chatting, often just watching a movie or the latest fare on TV? And lest anyone think Mel stole the show with the famous "2,000 Year Old Man" routine (and let's face it, Mel was often the center of attention in whatever he was doing!), Mr. Brooks set that straight: "The real engine behind 'The 2000 Year Old Man' is Carl, not me. I'm just collecting the fares. People should know that he's the most important one in the act."
Still, Carl Reiner preferred to play straight man or work behind the scenes, directing such films as "Oh, God!" and "The Jerk", and even appearing as conman Saul Bloom in George Clooney's "Ocean's Eleven" and its two sequels.
Clooney: "Carl Reiner made every room he walked into funnier, smarter, kinder. It all seemed so effortless. What an incredible gift he gave us all. His was a life well lived and we’re all the better for it. Rest in peace my friend."
Imagine having your friends say accolades like that about you!
Talk about a life well lived. Thank you Carl Reiner: you sure made my life better!
OK, I'm the guy who asks questions. With that in mind, I'm a cynic, a skeptic, an iconoclast.
So, here’s the thing: how is it that an individual, supposedly diagnosed with COVID-19, shows absolutely no symptoms (as was recently reported in the press)? Meanwhile, the guy next to her keels over and dies from, apparently, the same damn virus!? Is that even possible? Or has the first person perhaps been mis-diagnosed as having COVD-19? Because really, how can someone have absolutely no symptoms of something as awful as this, yet still be considered a carrier? While the next person has supposedly the exact same affliction and dies from it? Doesn't pass my logic test. Or, am I just not getting it?
Now, I'm no doctor and I’m not casting medical efficacy in the trashcan. Please believe me, I have great respect for the medical profession (yet I'm more than happy to admit I know nothing about medical issues, the result, I suppose, of having been raised in a family of suck-it-up stoicism where, if we had an aspirin a year, it was a bad year!). And yes, I'll acknowledge from all the reading I've done on the pandemic that this virus is particularly pernicious. But still… in applying my cynic’s filter, I'm just wondering if we’re dealing with more than one affliction here?
Probably doesn’t really matter in the end, does it? But I just wonder if, in the rush to pandemic judgment, people with no symptoms are being labeled "carriers" where they may well have some other malady?
If you're someone with medical experience and can set me straight, please do so: I'm all ears.
Some thoughts at 3 1/2 months in...
- I feel badly for members of the Grade 12 graduating class: they don’t get to observe their significant achievement in a rite-of-passage convocation ceremony
- I feel badly that these same kids don’t get to say goodbye through a wonderful prom event
- I’m worried that many of them have seen their summer job opportunities vanish before their eyes, leaving them with potential financial shortfalls for college and university fees in the fall (that is, assuming there is a back-to-school movement in the fall at all!)
- While I’m impressed with the efforts employers are making to keep their businesses alive, I must confess I’m relieved I no longer run my marketing agency where I’d be consumed with angst over keeping my employees engaged, ensuring clients are happy, paying the rent, etc.
- I’m amazed that in the 17,000 person Ontario town where I live, we have somehow managed to avoid the horrors of the virus: just 6 people contracted the illness (4 early on after returning from travels) and all have been resolved; the last one developed over a month and a half ago
- Are we doing something unusual to avoid the plague here in Midland? There are several seniors residences and hospices here (traditional hot-beds), yet everyone I know is maintaining social distances, religiously washing their hands, not touching their faces, etc., etc.
- We have experienced no deaths and the local hospital staff are not being run off their feet dealing with Covid-19
- Congrats Midland, Ontario! We’ve managed to dodge the bullet and should take a moment to rejoice in that fact.
- I’m pleased the government finally moved the 5-person social gathering rule (5!?! where’d that weird number come from?) to 10; this meant The Midlandaires, the band I sing with, were able to stage a free concert last week.
- I remain saddened that the SPCA (the Society for the Provision of Cruelty to Animals) ignores the comfort of pets and their owners by keeping the off-leash park locked up, writing some drivel about safety of staff when the staff are never even there in the park when dog owners are: it’s nothing to do with staff. How sad, and very disappointing.
- Finally, at the end of the day, I offer gratitude that I have not come down with the disease. Nor has anyone I know.
Feeling a little "antsy" being stuck at home? Well, so were members of The Midlandaires, the local band I sing with every week at the Legion in Midland. Problem is, the Legion's been closed since early March. The boys in the band were getting restless.
Me and my band mates were all missing being together to entertain folks and we were looking for opportunities to make that happen. But there are more than 5 of us in the group, so it just seemed impossible. But then came the loosening of rules from 5-person gatherings expanding to 10 people. It suddenly made possible the 8 members of The Midlandaires being able to congregate in one place. And so, we burst out of "early virus retirement" to stage a free concert for residents of the Mundy's Harbour condominium townhouse development on William Street in Midland.
Since I live in Mundy's Harbour, I had asked my neighbors about the interest level if we were to stage a concert. They were thrilled, seeing it as a good community builder after people have been locked away in self-isolation. The "Covid Concert" was the result. We were able to set up on the common deck by Georgian Bay, and residents of the condos and their guests were on their own outside terraces listening and dancing.
"The Covid Concert" took place on Sunday, June 14th from 4-6pm featuring Doug Hill on keyboard, Nelson Cote on tenor sax, Lary Melnyk on accordion, Jürgen Pape, bass guitar, Karl Wright, rhythm guitar, Carl Corbeau on drums and me and Gord McNaughton doing vocals.
"The Midlandaires did a great job," says Mundy's Harbour resident Tony Irwin, who also acted as MC. "Everyone here has been doing the self-isolation thing so it was really nice to be able to be outdoors on a beautiful afternoon and enjoy some great musical entertainment."
Given that it was an outdoor concert, people congregated in the park next door to enjoy the music too, and that was just fine with us. A good time was had by all!
It was a lady being interviewed on CBC Radio that also helped to push us. She said, "If you have talents, please share them with your fellow man during this lonely pandemic. People need sunshine in their lives - both literally and figuratively - and if you can help put a smile on their face, that’s huge."
Whadyathink? Is there something you can do to ease the virus tension in your community?
I have a fondness for offering gratitude for the good things that affect my life. And there are tons of them! Today, I'm showing appreciation for my friend Chris Lewis, the former Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (which just happens to be the largest deployed police force in Ontario and the second-largest in Canada). With all the heated exchanges going on literally around the world about the death of George Floyd, Chris' comments on allegations of systemic racism in police forces are a call-out to maintain some reason and avoid over-reaction. He points out that apart from looking at claims of racism, we need to also be asking why there are so many black and Indigenous young men drawn to the destructive street gang lifestyle? And why are so many living in poverty or suffering through addictions? In my opinion, if those situations could be addressed and eradicated, a large part of the challenge that police - and the general public - face would be gone.
Anyway, have a look at what Chris has written: he says it way better than me:
And thanks Chris!
Hi there. I've written 6 books so far and am working on others. Feel free to comment