Tina (and an accompanying bit of news)

Tina and Judy

Tina on left, with her almost-twin Judy, 1970.

This daughter of Rosy and Thonglaw arrived in April 1970. “She was [gorgeous],” Roger recalls. “The spitting image of Rosy. The rationale for selling her rather tan saving her the breeding pool never made sense to me.”

At the age of two, Tina moved to the Vancouver Game Farm in British Columbia, where she lived alone for fourteen years. In 1986, at long last, she gained a companion–a young female African elephant named Tumpe. They remained a duo until 2002 when the farm’s new owners sent Tumpe to a zoo in the United States.

Tina had developed quite severe pododermatitis (foot rot) and degenerative osteoarthritis. Her keepers did what they could to ease her distress, but it became clear that she needed a more suitable place to live. In August 2003, she arrived at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN. She died there unexpectedly in July 2004. A necropsy revealed heart problems, possibly a genetic defect. Staff at the sanctuary reported that the herd stood vigil by her grave site for two days.

For more about Tina and the other elephants at the Sanctuary, please check here.

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My tidbit of news is that the latest rounds of proposed edits have been completed and submitted to the folks I hope will become my publishers. Stay tuned!

Go, Simon & Schuster!

Also from The Authors Guild:

“On August 13, for the second time this year, President Trump’s counsel sent a letter demanding that a publisher cease publication of a book criticizing his presidency. Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Omarosa Manigault-Newman’s book Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, refused to be cowed by the unsupported allegations that the book contains “confidential information and disparaging statements.” The publisher stated that it “will not be silenced by legal threats grounded in vague allusions.” In January, Henry Holt/Macmillan similarly refused to submit to a cease and desist letter alleging that Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury defamed Trump and instead moved the publication date up. We know how that went—the publicity around Trump’s attempt to quash the book quickly propelled sales and the book went on to become the top best-selling book of the year to date.

“So it is surprising and indeed shocking that the White House has thrown out another baseless threat of litigation. Not only is it unseemly for a sitting president to threaten a lawsuit to prevent criticism, but it is a clear violation of the First Amendment. As we said when Trump’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to block Fire and Fury, “The ability to criticize the government and its leaders lies at the essence of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech; and threats of libel lawsuits are one of the de facto primary means of curtailing free speech in this country today.”

“The Authors Guild firmly stands against the use of frivolous and baseless threats of legal action to prevent publication of a book or to insist that material should be deleted. It is an intimidation tactic of wealthy bullies who think they can use money to silence authors and publishers by cornering them into lawsuits—however baseless—which the authors and publishers may lack the means to defend. To stop this unwarranted attack on speech and defend the right of authors and journalists to write freely and without fear, the Authors Guild has lobbied and litigated against the expansion of invasion of privacy and rights of publicity claims to journalism and books on topics that concern the public, and we have supported anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) laws recently introduced in a number of states to stop the practice of misusing the legal system to muzzle criticism. The Guild’s legal department also regularly counsels members on First Amendment issues and educates authors on their rights with respect to libel laws so they will not be cowed into self-censorship.

“While it is bad enough for celebrities and other wealthy individuals to use threats of defamation and related lawsuits to restrain speech, when this kind of stunt emanates from the President, who has a duty to protect the Constitution—and not just once, but twice in one year—it is truly shameful. As Authors Guild President James Gleick has said, “This president cannot stand criticism, and he continues to lash out—against the free press, against his own intelligence community, and now against the publication of a book. He is behaving like a petty despot. This is the second time he has used the power of his office in an attempt to intimidate a book publisher, and we repeat what we said the first time: This isn’t a country where we quash books that the leader finds unpleasant. That’s what tyrants do.”

“We applaud Simon & Schuster for proceeding with publication despite the threats.”

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An Important Letter from Writer Richard Russo

To my mind, writers should always support one another. I’ve seen a lot of that, but I’ve also seen some of the other–jealousy, back-stabbing, etc. With the idea of support in mind, and in light of these rapidly-changing times in the publishing field, please take a moment to read this appeal from Richard Russo.

Thanks.

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Writers supporting other writers. From left to right: Dan Foley, Melissa Crandall, John Valeri, Terry George, Stacey Longo, and Kristi Petersen Schoonover.

NEA Funding Cut is DEFEATED

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The face of satisfaction

I was away when this became news, but received this email from Mary E. Rasenberger, Executive Director of the The Authors Guild:

Thanks to the outcry of our members, artists, and supporters of the arts around the country, the Grothman Amendment to slash NEA and NEH funding was soundly defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 297 to 114. Representative Grothman (R-WI) introduced the amendment Tuesday night, saying “I thought I would take just one little bit of this spending and kind of come down a little more on Donald Trump’s side.” He voiced support for Trump’s plan to completely defund the organizations, arguing that it isn’t the federal government’s responsibility to provide arts funding; rather, the arts should be supported by private organizations or local government. During the floor debate, Representatives on both sides of the aisle spoke out in support of the NEA. Representative Calvert (R-CA), who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, argued for the importance of NEA funding, describing an art therapy program for military veterans that has helped them recover from PTSD.

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2019 Interior Appropriations Bill, and in it approved $155 million for the NEA, an increase of $2.2 million over the current funding level. While artists can breathe a (temporary) sigh of relief, the fact that this amendment was brought to the House floor after the organizations’ funding had been approved is a sign that we must all remain vigilant to ensure that these important cultural institutions, and the arts in general, continue to be supported by our government.

 

I Quit Facebook

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Photo by Ivan Lojko

So, yeah, that. It may not seem radical to most of you, but it was a big decision for me.

I came to Facebook late compared to most of my friends. I just wasn’t certain I wanted to spend time with it. At first, I didn’t. I’d check in once a day, smile at a few posts, maybe laugh, screw up on how I was working with it because I was flying by those proverbial pant-seats, and then sign off and get on with my day.

But then, oh, then.

My time on FB increased. I enjoyed being able to connect with so many friends in such an easy way. Writing can be a lonely business, and we writers sometimes don’t have a wide social circle, so this interaction I was experiencing filled a gap in my life, so to speak. Not that it did; not really. Emails and texts and written words on a screen are all well and good, but they’re no substitute for actual face-to-face time, hearing a person’s words, seeing their facial expressions.

Over time, a funny thing happened. I began to derive less and less pleasure from my time on FB. I grew frustrated because their algorithms wouldn’t let me automatically see posts from certain friends that they decided in their Ultimate Wisdom weren’t worth my time. I hated the political rants (particularly after this last election), the hatred, the finger-pointing, and I was astonished by some of the poison being spewed by people I thought I knew. I also hated being forced to look at pictures I’d never have sought out in a million years merely because they came up on my feed and I couldn’t avoid them. (Sure, keep me from seeing posts from an old, dear friend, but go ahead and show me images of abused children and animals. Yeah, I love that.)

I’d get off FB feeling worse than when I got on. I felt depressed. I liked myself less. And I finally decided, ENOUGH.

So this past weekend, I went through my friends list and contacted many of them (those I know personally or hear from regularly) and told them I was leaving. I provided my email address and let them know that I hoped they would stay in touch, accepting that it’s now out of my hands. can do my part to keep our relationship alive, but if there’s no response then there’s no response, and I’m surprisingly okay with that. You can’t make someone hang with you. (Or can you? Hmmm….isn’t that what FB and its ilk are all about?)

Yesterday I wrote a short farewell post and I pulled the plug. And felt such relief and release. No pressure. No compulsion. I feel lighter, happier, and more energetic. I should have done this years ago.

I’m not saying everyone should leave FB. That’s between you and you. All I recount here is my own experience. But I feel that I’ve taken back a portion of my life, minutes (hours) stolen by aimless drifting. I’ll write more, read more, talk more with those I love, walk the dog more.

It’s like that scene at the end of the movie “Chocolat” where Anouk talks about her imaginary kangaroo friend Pontoufle, how his bad leg miraculously healed and he hopped off in search of new adventures. “I didn’t miss him.”

Harlan Ellison, 1934 – 2018

HarlanWe had some fierce thunderstorms today and now I know why. It was Harlan, making his presence known to the cosmos, kicking ass in Heaven.

He’s been my favorite writer since I first encountered him via his collection I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream. I was a teenager, angst-ridden and isolated, a nerdy island in a sea of the cool when I happened upon the book. I picked it up because I thought it was written by Theodore Sturgeon. (It was an understandable mistake, as Sturgeon’s name was emblazoned on the cover in HUGE LETTERS–he’d written the introduction–while Harlan’s was not.)

From that moment, I was hooked. His books were difficult to find at the time. Ferreting them out was laborious, but a labor of … I don’t want to say ‘love,’ as that sounds too fannish, but it’s certainly been a lifelong labor of appreciation.

It was my good fortune to meet Harlan several times. He made me laugh. He made me cry. He could be rude, abrupt, caustic, and in the next moment display kindness and empathy. He was eminently human.

And, God damn it, I’ll miss him.