Monday, June 26, 2017

Have you ever wanted to go "off planet?" Here's what it might be like, with an Alien friend- showing you his technology. Excerpt from E.T. Marshall's CONFESSIONS OF AN ALIEN, based on science fact, invites you to consider the probability of "contact" and evolving technology

Confessions of an Alien: Vol 1 of Mythology for The Third Millenium by E.T. Marshall was inspired by Campbell's call for a new mythology.

“And so we have…this critical problem as human beings of seeing to it that the mythology—the constellation of sign signals, affect images, energy-releasing and -directing signs—that we are communicating to our young will deliver directive messages qualified to relate them richly and vitally to the environment that is to be theirs for life, and not to some period of man already past, some piously desiderated future, or—what is worst of all—some querulous, freakish sect or momentary fad. And I call this problem critical because, when it is badly resolved, the result for the miseducated individual is what is known, in mythological terms, as a Waste Land situation. The world does not talk to him; he does not talk to the world. When that is the case, there is a cut-off, the individual is thrown back on himself, and he is in prime shape for that psychotic break-away that will turn him into either an essential schizophrenic in a padded cell, or a paranoid screaming slogans at large, in a bughouse without walls.” 

― Joseph Campbell, A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living

Have you ever wanted to go "off planet?" Here is what your experience might be like with an Alien living on Earth, who's a friend--showing you his technology. Excerpt: E.T. Marshall's CONFESSIONS OF AN ALIEN: A Mythology for the Third Milennium Book 1. Red Coaster Press.

Some years ago, Harold Pebbles introduced me to one of his Philadelphia classmates. Rita Goldblatt and I found that we had a mutual interest in dream interpretation. Rita introduced me to the Nova Dreamer. It looks like a sleeping mask that covers your eyes. Batteries operate small sensors that detect rapid eye movements, REM, that indicate a dream state. The machine can be programmed to have its sound and lights activate when a REM state is detected. The sleeper is gently awakened, to be lucidly aware of his dream state. This machine helped me remember my dreams, which, after I had fully awakened, I wrote down on a legal tablet kept on my nightstand. The machine later facilitated my ability to create my own dreams and to be an active participant. Rita took a great interest in my dreams and their meaning over the years.
I related this to Vlad, who listened keenly. “Then you know,” he said, “when you are in a dream state, it is often difficult to know that you are dreaming and not actually experiencing the real world. That is what I want you to do, before you go to sleep, simply say aloud that you would like me to come visit you in your lucid dream and show you the alien world I live in. At any time, you can ask me to awaken you, bring you back, and that you want to vividly remember your entire dream after you awaken. What do you have to lose, Donald— a good night’s sleep?” I decided to give up my efforts to get Vlad off his alien theme and go with the flow. “It seems harmless enough. Are you going to hypnotize me or give me some suggestions on what to dream about?”
“No, none of that.”
“Well, Dr. Comsky, I am comfortable right here in this lounge chair. What if I just leaned back, put my feet up and dozed off right here?”
“That would be fine, just say the things I've asked you to and off you go,” Vlad said reassuringly.
I thought this might be something good, or at least new. There was not a thought in my head that Vladimir would do anything to injure me, nothing to even upset me. I believed that he would have some sort of suggestive power to influence my dream state. I was definitely up for something new. I felt a little sporty, as if I were a trout being pulled in on a very light line. Whatever was on the other side of the line, I decided to allow myself to be reeled in. I leaned back in the chair, kicked off my shoes, loosened my belt buckle two notches and unbuttoned my top shirt button.” I murmured, “I want Vlad to visit me in my lucid dreaming state. I want him to bring me back at my request. I want to remember this lucid dream vividly when I awaken.” I added as a joke, “I want him to show me his planet.”
With that I closed my eyes, let out a sigh and repeated my last words silently, and could not help thinking of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz saying, “I want to go home” and clicking the heels of her red magical shoes. CLICK
When I opened my eyes Vlad was still seated in the chair next to me. “What happened?” I murmured. “I don't remember a thing.” “Oh ye of little faith.” He smiled as he said this; I looked around the room. The walls were disappearing. It was dark out and the sky was full of stars.
I felt a chill and started to shake a little. Then, as if someone had once more pushed a button on a remote control and changed channels, the stars in the sky were different, and there was no ground below us. We were still in our chairs and the chairs were still on the floor, but that's all there was. I was wondering how we could breathe, but I remembered this is a dream and I am letting Vlad control it. Mercifully, the wine and cheese were still between us. I popped a large black olive in my mouth. So far, the dream was damned good. Looking at the black sky around me and the pinpoints of the stars that were both above and below, I felt like I was in a planetarium.

I sat up from my reclining position and asked, “Why did you bring me here?” “I thought you might like to see another planet,” he said, pointing his thumb behind him, as a hitchhiker would. I turned to look, and the chairs and floor, or what was left of it, swiveled around so that we were gazing down on the top of an enormous blue-and-white sphere. The view reminded me of Earth as seen from the space station. Slowly the view changed so that I was looking straight at the planet and no longer down on it. Like my experience on the roller coaster, this made me feel as if any moment I would fall out of my seat and down to my death on the planet’s surface. I could see large landmasses and oceans, but knew that this planet was considerably larger than Earth and had entirely different-shaped continents.
I finally said, “It’s awesome.” “Yes, I thought you'd like it. Its name is Paucri. Can you see it clearly? And do the stars look like pinpoints? And does my voice sound natural?” “Yes, of course, why?” I asked. “You know this is a simulation. It is not real. But does it seem real to you?” “Indeed it does.” Except for the disappearing walls, it seemed totally real. I sat there for a while trying to take it all in: Paucri, the stars, my alien friend and the non-reality of this reality. I thought of a chimpanzee looking at a television set. I thought of an alien looking at a chimpanzee. I thought of an alien looking at me. I don't know if it was the height, the new experience, or the chimpanzee, but I felt strange and uncomfortable.
Vlad, sensing my discomfort, asked, “Would you like to go someplace else? Somewhere more familiar to you?” Gratefully I assented, then added, anxious not to give the impression that I didn’t trust him, “What do you have in mind, Vlad?” “Where would you like to be right now if you could pick anywhere on Earth, at any time, and while we are at it, you can pick the weather, too.”
I thought for a few moments of the pleasant times of my life. The movie City of Angels, with its vivid sunset scenes, flashed into my mind. More than once at sunset time I would find myself at a beach— Malibu, Santa Monica, Huntington, Redondo— but it was Venice Beach that called to me now. A place of warm memories of ice cream cones, hot dogs, cotton candy, roller skating and watching the sun go down with the woman I loved.
“How about Venice Beach today an hour before sunset and 80 degrees?” He nodded and somewhere, a button was pushed on a remote control.
CLICK we were sitting on beach chairs facing the Pacific Ocean.
There were many clouds in the sky but no sign of rain, and it had all the makings of a beautiful sunset. I watched the bright reds, reflected on the clouds above the glow, softly and slowly transform into a deep purple. A dozen squawking seagulls were flying overhead; sandpipers were darting in and out of the surf line.
I took my shoes and socks off and rubbed my feet in the warm sand. I thought how easily my mind could be fooled. One minute in space and the next at Venice Beach. As I looked around, it sounded and felt so real. I could hear the waves breaking gently on the beach, the tender wind moving through the palm trees behind me. Vlad refilled my wine glass.
“But Vlad, where are the people?” I asked. “Venice Beach at this time of day is full of people.” CLICK As if a thunderclap blasted behind my head, my body uncontrollably jumped back into the beach chair. In an instant, the sound of hundreds of people surrounded me, as if someone had turned on the speakers of a stereo system. All the people were moving as if they had always been there. I looked around from my beach chair at the sidewalk behind me and saw dozens walking, a few roller skaters gliding between them, and of course, cyclists.
There were children playing in the sand on the beach, people eating pizza and hot dogs, and lovers sitting on blankets looking dreamily in each other's eyes, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders.
Then I noticed the smells of those hot dogs, and somewhere down the beach, someone was barbecuing pork ribs and hamburgers, and everywhere there was the smell of suntan lotion. I inhaled deeply, trying to see if this was real or not. I put my hand in the warm sand, rubbed the fine grains between my fingers, and sniffed it.
The simulation was outstanding, and the thought shook me. What if we went back to Van Nuys, and it’s actually a simulation? I believed I wouldn’t know the difference now that I could feel the sand on my fingers. But Vlad did promise to take me back at my request, and I did believe him. After all, he was the man who cured Ann. I trusted him then, I had faith in him, so why should that change now? I questioned my own judgment and reality. I admitted to myself that I was afraid.

The adventures Vlad takes Donald on in Confessions are simulations created by alien technology.  How Elon Musk's Neuro-link works is similar. Here's an article that gives an idea of how this might work.

Elon Musk's Neura Link is a step toward the simulation technology in Vlad's world in Confessions of an Alien

Here is a link from SETI about a space entrpreneur, who think aliens are already here, Confessions of an Alien, ET Marshall's book anticipates contact.

"Confessions of an Alien is a compelling narrative that invites us to consider the possibility of extra-terrestrials living on Earth, while at the same time putting forward a mythology for the next 1000 years. Fascinating, entertaining and thought-provoking, this is a good fast read that is definitely worth your time. I can't wait to see what E.T. Marshall has in store for us next in this series." --Curt Kinkead, author of Eureka: The Door to the Stars

Confessions of an Alien is a book about an alien who confides his true identity to a human, a work friend he trusts with his secret, as well as the experience of his technology. The book anticipates an experience that will awaken humankind, says E.T. Marshall, probably in the third millennium, if not before. Even now we are developing technology akin to that on Vlad's planet, new interfaces such as Elon Musk's Neuralink and simulations as familiar as cochlear implants for hearing. The book may be science fiction but it's based on science fact.

Who is Vlad, DARPA's miraculous star surgeon, wonders Donald, a grant writer working with a government-funded program that enables veterans to get new "smart" limbs. And who is that strangely dressed janitor so vigorously pushing a broom, he wonders late one night alone in a LA medical facility.

So begins a mythical relationship between an alien and a gifted "lucid dreamer," in Confessions of an Alien (Red Coaster Press, 1/2017), the first volume of E. T. Marshall's Mythology for the Third Millennium. The meeting is about human and alien perception of reality. And, as the friendship deepens, the alien's simulations profoundly change Donald's experience of life. Few other novels explore  consciousness with this depth,  except perhaps Carlos Castenada's classic novel, The Teachings of Don Juan.

Without dramatic formulas or cliches about human-alien behaviors, Confessions of an Alien is a pragmatic investigation of how humankind may take its place in a changed world of the Third Millennium and  as citizens of the universe. The first volume delineates the challenges humans face in their evolution, as well as technological advancement.. Donald's, curiosity,  good will, fortitude and insight, make him a fine hero in the Joseph Campbell tradition. Yet, while the perceptual experiences he undergoes are heroic, they are grounded in real science and engineering. This visionary book easily melds philosophy, science, and science fiction. It gives a convincing and welcome taste of the future.


An Interview with E. T. Marshall about Mythology for the Third Millennium

Q. Why do you call your series Mythology for the Third Millennium?
A. This mythology was inspired by Joseph Campbell, a prime motivator to write this book. He believed what humanity was looking for in this age of technology was a new mythology. I had a vision, a mythology I believed in, and was driven to write this book and share it.

Q.  How is mythology, as you say, "Somebody's truth?"
A.  In a broad sense, myths are ideas people believe in as truth and cannot be proven. Believing in myths helps people get through life and understand this existence.  Campbell explains what mythology is in a broader sense. My intention, in future books, is to make predictions for this future mythology that may or may not be proven true.

Q.  Is your novel a fiction?
A.   Its characters are fictional, but DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and neural implants are facts. With the exception of the alien, Vlad and his “Buckyball simulation”, the book, and future books are based on existing technology.

Q.  What is lucid dreaming?
A.   Everyone dreams but not everyone remembers their dreams. Lucid dreaming is for people who want to explore dream states. They consciously work to remember dreams. On awakening, many dreamers write down their dreams and, with practice can remember more and more of them. Lucid dreamers in sleep states are conscious in their dreams.  Some can manipulate dreams and cause things to happen in their dream state.

Q.   Did this book come to you in that state?
A.  Yes, much of it did and it did not come in one piece.  Over many months, insights came from my lucid dreams. I wanted to get the material into a form that I could communicate. I wanted my vision on paper and understood and wrote this mythology.

Q.  Who is Vlad and how did Donald meet him?
A.   The book is written from Don's point of view. It is about Donald's frame of mind, how he reacted to the simulation, his own experience and having his world disappear around him. Don was at the nexus between medical professors and DARPA, when Vlad met him. Vlad was a surgeon contributing his skill for a DARPA project to help veterans with damaged limbs. This first book is entirely about their meeting and alien contact.  Donald, a lucid dreamer, was amenable to working with Vlad and open to the idea of alien simulations

Q. What was Donald's first lucid dream with Vlad like? Why was he scared?
A.  He was scared because he was with Vlad, an alien. What Vlad does seems like a lucid dream but it's a simulation with alien technology and it is fully immersive. With Donald's permission, he put him in a simulation more clear and vivid than a lucid dream. Don was in awe, when the room disappeared and he was off planet. Donald also knew he was not in reality.  In another instance, he put him in a scene from the past, so Donald could see the capabilities of the simulation. But it felt awful, like being restrained in Pilgrim stocks. Vlad didn't know exactly how it would affect him. It is important that he always asks for Donald’s permission.

Q.  Why would an alien be so altruistic as to go into the barrio to help drug addicts and take an interest in relieving Parkinson's symptoms in a stranger, Don's friend Ann?
A.  Donald does not completely know the alien's motivations. However, Vlad wants to show he's capable of doing good things. He has knowledge as a medical doctor and surgeon and wants to appear altruistic.

Q. Does the operation, where Vlad uses a microchip to ease tremors of Parkinson's, exist?
A.  Yes. A long time friend with Parkinson's disease went through this operation and it made a huge difference. People can have these procedures in our world now.

Q. Why did the alien suggest this story be told?  What is the Nova Dreamer?
A. Don was already a lucid dreamer. He has the ability to induce a dream-like state and change his perception of reality. It was less difficult for him to accept the alien's simulation and to return to the waking world with few bad side effects. The Nova Dreamer described in the book helps a person to not just wake up and write down dreams, but to participate in their creation. It is a real product, although it is no longer manufactured.  A face mask covers your eyes. There's a minicomputer that senses the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and flashes lights when you are in a dream state. The Nova acts like a crutch. It lets you know when you are in a REM dreaming state.

Q.  Is it possible for one person to come into another's  lucid dream?
A.  Debatable. Whether one person's dream can affect another's dream world and assume actual contact. Lucid dreaming trains a person to enter that state on command. It's scientifically verifiable. Vlad's simulation was two people speaking to each other but it was produced by technology. For Don, lucid dreaming comes from within his mind. But the practice explains why he has the mental structure to accept the alien simulation.  Hopefully, we accept that reality in the novel.

Q.  Explain the Rio scale?
A. The Rio scale is from a book about SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). Scientists agreed on what this scale, like the Richter, would measure.  The Rio scale gives the scientific community a predetermined way of dealing with alien contact. It marks the degree of contact and how real it is and how people would react at certain levels of alien contact. Vlad didn't want to disrupt what was going on in the world. He knew if people knew about him, they might feel less safe and panic, as in the government's concern in the David Bowie movie “ The Man Who Fell to Earth”. So he revealed himself as an alien to one person, Donald

Q.  Explain the purpose of a "You are not dreaming card" and whether it worked for Donald.
A. The card is part of some practitioner's lucid dreaming technique. If a person wants to know if they are in a dream or in a waking state, the dreamer can pull out the card and try to read it. For some reason, people can't read in a lucid dream. The card does not work in Vlad's alien simulation. There, you can always read the card.

Q.  Isn't a simulation a different experience than imaginative thought?
A.  The alien simulation is more vivid and real. Don experienced total immersion in a simulation of Venice beach. When he asked Vlad, "Where are the people?" they suddenly appeared. Disneyland showed what could be done with a simulation. It was the real world but technology was used within it. Don could understand other languages. A simulation could have partial effects, such as altering the taste of food. Don experienced Vlad's breakfast, as the best he ever had.

Q. Does your alien's technology already exist? 
A. Partially. There are now cochlear implants for hearing that use brain implant technology. It's being developed by DARPA and Musk's Neuralink. Simulation is being developed here and now.

Q. Explain the "Bucky Ball" interface of human technology with alien?
A.  That is the essence of Vlad's technology. Bucky Ball is a reference to a small object, a structural particle, which exists in sub-nano technology with a specific function. It sits at the synapse between neural connections in the cells. The Alien's technology is very small. It functions two ways. First it reads, transmits and records all electrical signals in synapses. Second, it can put its own signal, electrical impulses, into a synapse. In current medical technology, we can read and record what's in a synapse and also input a signal to the body to make muscles contract. But our technology is very big. It exists but not on a nano level.

Q. How did this work for language simulation in Disneyland?
A.  The Bucky Balls transmit the synaptic electrical signals from Don's auditory neurons to an enormous alien computer which translates language.  The Bucky Balls then receive the translated signal from the computer in English which is transmitted back to the Bucky ball in Don's auditory synapse which Don's brain interprets as English. That was easy.

Q. Donald did not know why Vlad wanted to have a relationship with another species, his agenda. Why did he not pursue that?
A. Don's in awe of the simulation and trying to digest it. In this book, he is also just observing this amazing Alien, an unexpected opportunity. For instance, Vlad takes him to the Academy of Magical Arts to expose him to another part of his life on Earth. Don is amused to see Vlad play the magician and the stymied members unable to figure out his magical technique. Don is pursuing the question of an alien agenda, but slowly.

Q  Do you see a new type of dreaming, one brought about by mechanical means, as a potential future? 
A. As a physicist said, "If it is physically possible, it will happen." It's very possible in the next years and a simulation is being developed by DARPA and Neuralink. 

Q.  The poem Ann reads to Vlad almost makes him a divinity on earth to save mankind. It's got a messianic tone. Do you think superior or advanced life forms can help humankind ?
A.  Vlad has no ill will toward anyone. He likes to do good things, like heal the homeless man, living in an alley under cardboard boxes. That intention is part of the mythological nature of the book. Can mankind be saved by advanced forms of life?  Vlad is trying.

Q. The book is astonishing. And no one in it is obsessed with making a fortune from technology. That is advanced. What is your thought about how such technology could further advance humankind?
A. Elon Musk's Neuralink project is magic happening here and now. Whether it's an advancement for humankind depends on how it's used. This book was written two years before the Neuralink project was announced. Advance depends on whether people change in positive ways and how they use technology. It is a dangerous technology.

Q. What do you see for the next book of the series?
A. I was dumbfounded when Neuralink was announced just months after my book came out. I feel I don't need to write the next seven books to explain simulation technology. I can next focus on Vlad's  time travel technology. Using contemporary physics and alien technology it's plausible.

To purchase Confessions

For more info:

 E.T. Marshall, philosopher, scientist and lucid dreamer, was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from C.C.N.Y.  and later earned a M.S. in engineering from U.S.C. Currently, he lives in the Redwood Forest of Northern California.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A GIFT OF WONDER "The Girl Who Didn't Line-up" Excerpt, upcoming NPR affil interview on Wonder in a school, where learning was linked to nature. Lindisfarner-Steiner Books (Aug).

A GIFT OF WONDER excerpt, Chapter 4, Attention-- shows what this means in the larger sense for a first grade child.
“Reesa was lost in golden October. Shining maple trees bridged the concrete walk down the gentle hill. Brown-gold fallen leaves carpeted the hillside. Bright gold leaves floated toward this mottled carpet where, upon landing, they glittered like brilliant stars.
Alone in this golden splendor, Reesa seemed unaware that she should be with her classmates. Tall, slender, and light on her feet, she danced gleefully from falling leaf to falling leaf, catching a dazzling yellow bouquet of falling stars.” …
“I was tempted to open the door and call out to Reesa. I knew I had only seconds before I must return to the room or risk disruption. But I didn't call out. I wanted Reesa to learn to line up with the class. But I also wanted her to have this sacred moment. I made one of the one thousand judgment calls a teacher in a wonder-centered school makes each day. I just waited.”
“Teachers, visionaries, psychologists and politicians have long argued about the appropriate balance of work and play, of compliance and freedom at school. Advocates of open classrooms and home schooling might argue that Reesa should have been allowed unlimited time amid swirling leaves. In contrast, those who were successful in moving standards-based education into most public school classrooms in the early years of the new millennium might counter that the allocation of an hour or more a day for play in first grade cuts into time for reading instruction.
As a teacher in a wonder-centered classroom, my goal is to never sacrifice a moment of wonder. Yet, I know that while I work to protect each moment of awe, protecting every wondrous experience for every child in my care is ultimately impossible. I know too that the best shot at cultivating and protecting sacred moments at school is to entrust each child to teachers who are allowed to make, perhaps, one thousand judgment calls each day, who are given significant freedom in orchestrating the movement of children, dynamically balancing freedom and responsibility in each situation. Thus, the teacher demonstrates the dance itself, not just freedom, not just responsibility, but the art of living.”

August 24th, A GIFT OF WONDER will be the subject of an author interview with Kim Allsup on WCAI Radio show,
"The Point w/Mindy Todd." WCAI is an NPR affiliate.

This book publishes in August but is available now throught the publisher.…

 I absolutely love this book. It is one of the most personal, humorous and completely moving books about childhood and a school that really worked--using the wonder and amazement kids experience as impetus. Imagine learning linked to natural curiosity? 
Read this book, if you remember being a kid, teach kids or are a parent. 
Susan W


Kim Allsup's career as a teacher in Waldorf Schools was inspired by her memories of magical adventures exploring a saltwater estuary, climbing an apple tree and losing herself in books. In her memoir, A GIFT OF WONDER ( LindesfarneBooks,SteinerBooks, August) Allsup shows why wonder and other forms of intrinsic motivation, rather than rewards, such as praise or grades, are the ideal motivators for children's learning.

In Allsup's school a teacher stayed with the same class for many years, ideally through eighth grade, giving children continuity and deepening a teacher's understanding of them. The curriculum was based on the developmental stages of childhood and one of the joys of this memoir is to see how children change at different ages.

In this school teachers made up lessons to fit their class and learned to change them based on unexpected events or the responses of the students. In the first chapter, Allsup tells about a milkweed incident in a first grade classroom. "A milkweed pod on a window ledge, in the heat of the sun, burst. Parasols spread out in the room. All saw it and wonder spread. I was quiet. They knew I had stepped back. Students stood on chairs reaching toward them. Allowing children to follow certain impulses, even in the middle of a lesson, shows them that the teacher respects them. This helps them respect themselves, an essential in building executive function."

Allsup believes teachers and parents must do an intuitive dance, seeing when to drop plans to allow unexpected moments, such as one in a fifth grade math class. "They made drawings of a city and did estimations and mathematical calculations. The students insisted there would be video arcades and I insisted they calculate how many such arcades kids in this city could afford. They also brought up the idea that homeless people would live in this city. I objected, as it was designed to be ideal place where everyone had a home. Then a girl spoke up, saying that she had once been homeless. The class was stunned by this revelation. Suddenly homelessness seemed very real. When they put a homeless shelter into their design, I asked where the funds would come from. A boy said they could use the profits from the arcades. Since this was a math project, I had not planned to teach about compassion, but flexibility in the lesson allowed the students to help shape the lesson and bring meaning to it."

On the value of flexibility in lessons: "I could not have imagined in advance these opportunities to make the lesson richer. In this school, being tuned into such opportunities was expected and supported. Many school systems today expect teachers to be more tuned into test preparation than the authentic engagement of students in the moment. Some schools even require teachers to deliver scripted lessons. The irony is that when a teacher is allowed to  shape the lesson in the moment, she and her class can make the experience richer. Allsup explains, "If you are a sailor you know that heading straight upwind to your destination won’t work. Similarly, a narrow focus in teaching can be counterproductive. The zigzag path keeps the wind in the sails and gets you there. Teacher sanctioned zig zags can be mysterious, fascinating and fun. Time lost from the original plan is made up by a higher level of focus."

A Gift of Wonder is a personal memoir that is humorous and practical. Yet there is deep wisdom about education and the impetus for learning throughout life. Wonder and amazement are a uniquely human reaction to the world, which fosters curiosity, creativity and a reverence for nature. Who would not want to know more?

A Gift of Wonder by Kim Allsup
Date: August 2017
ISBN#ebook) 978-1-584-20-955-3

Thursday, June 15, 2017

July 9 in NYC, Dystopia + Utopia, Readings! Paradise Gardens & Tales of the Mer Family Onyx

Spoken word with imagest and music, wacky and serious fun,

Author of THE ANARCHIST'S GIRLFRIEND reads from corporate business dystopia,
PARADISE GARDENS set in 2250 and 3011. Actress Sara Minisquero will read from TALES OF THE MER FAMILY ONYX

The definitive edition of thiis book has evolved for more than a decade. It began with a child's intense fascination with mermaids; beautiful creatures, between earth and sea. Many countries have Mer stories. After these, my son wanted his own. Entering a child's fantasy--under his direction-- and making it a shared world is a kind of tradition. Supposedly, Alice's request for stories led to Carroll's Wonderland, E.Nesbit dedicated her Five children and It to her son. Like those stories, Mer Family has also been appreciated by adults. Imagine being married to The King of the Seas? There's the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, through a mermaid's eyes, and the serious work containing mankind's mess. I consider it a compliment that a Coney Island gaff artist sold a Fiji Mermaid of my character Pinky Onyx, of the race of mini-mermaids. So this is a book really for children of all ages. And do come to Cornelia St. Cafe 7/9 and hear a reading of the Parade story. Should be fun.

New review of PARADISE GARDENS New Edition
Fiction Bookshelf
Midwest Book Review

Synopsis: Something that could easily have been ripped from today's newspaper headlines in this our second Golden Age of Robber Barron capitalism as evidence by President Donald Trump turning his administration over to corporate executives and millionaires, and appointing to be heads of various governmental agencies men and women hostile to them in line with Steve Bannon's aspiration to 'deconstruct' the government."Paradise Gardens" by Susan I. Weinstein is a truly Orwellian novel of speculative fiction that is set in an all too believable near future world, where the Federal government has dissolved amid ecological breakdown.

"Paradise Gardens" becomes the home of the United Business Estates (U.B.E). Capitalism has devolved into the corporate feudalism of the U.B.E., where employees are conceived as Superior or Average to fit the needs of business. It is a vision at once strange and familiar. The recognition it brings is a dark pleasure.

Critique: Part of the attraction of "Paradise Gardens" is that it is all too believable given the political climate today where corporate money clearly dominates all three branches of the federal government (even to the point of running well funded television commercials promoting the appointment of a member of the United States Supreme Court), and the top 1% of the population control 80% of the country's wealth. Deftly written, "Paradise Gardens" follows in literary tradition of dystopian novels and his very highly recommended for both community and academic library Literary Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Paradise Gardens" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.95).

The Book Guys have announced a radio serial of PARADISE GARDENS. Stay tuned. First episode in July. Below interview with Susan I. Weinstein about Dystopia and Utopias

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

New production of "Kennedy's Children," 1974 classic, underscores the 2017 challenges for Obama's "children"

Regeneration Theatre's new production of Robert Patrick's classic 1974 play, "Kennedy's Children" benefits greatly from the hindsight of 2017, the perceptive direction of Erin Soler and the curatorial insight of producer Barnaby Edwards. In his note about the new production, Edwards writes that on November 9th, 2016, "I woke up that morning knowing that a play I had been thinking about for some time needed, urgently to be seen again." He had it right. This play is incredibly relevant for 2017.

In the late 1970's when I landed in New York, I was a playwright produced elsewhere and eager to see new work. I submitted to workshops, went to readings and local shows. I saw "Kennedy's Children" in an early production and remember feeling annoyed by histrionic pathos, slow pacing and what seemed steriotyped characters. A few years junior to the characters, I had lived through some of the same experiences. To be fair to the playwright, I got hold of a script. On the page, the speeches of his 60s refugees were moving. The bar setting gave more perspective than what I had seen.
Clearly, a sharper interpretation was needed.

I never saw the later star-studded Broadway production but "Kennedy's Children"in  Regeneration's astute production has stepped up the pace and the stakes. Still in their 20's, these characters are damaged, struggling for footing after a decade of political and social upheavel, when the "center," no longer held. The loss of Kennedy's Camelot,"that once bright shining moment," is poignantly related by Nicole Greevy's Wanda, as the end of the promise that Kennedy represented. A kind of idealism, to do what he would have done right for America and the world, inspires his lost "children."

The "Mother Courage" of this cast is Rona, played by the excellent Sara Minisquero with an edge of history. As she continually moves forward to a bright shining future of justice and truth, her way is full of mirages and dead ends. The irony is not lost on Rona. Minisquero recreates the feisty idealistic hippie, who marches and demonstrates for a decade, wherever she's needed, whaever the costs. Damn the arrests, her mission is to make a difference. Minisquero deftly pivots from exaltation to deep regret. The evolution of the youth culture from a celebration of nature and love with music amid drug enhancement, somehow deteriorates from Woodstock onward to a drug culture of death and exploitation. Her sorrow and loss for what went wrong informs Patrick's words.

The Vietnam veteran, Mark-- lost, crazy and drug addled-- is painfully familiar from depictions on screens and in the reality of Vietnam Vets begging on sidewalks. I salute Timothy Regan's portrayal of a man at odds with the idealism that once fuelled his mission. His struggle is to reconcile the dismantelling of political truisms and his loyalty to his mission, the merging of friends with enemies, the death and mutiliation of war without end or purpose. Mark's despair at the impossibility of finding the person he once was, the self his mother would never recognize, is so visceral, paranoia and drugs are merely the top layer of his tortured psyche.

Patrick's other two characters, the pre-pride gay actor Sparger (Colin Chapin) and Carla, the would-be sex goddess  (Jessica Carollo) are both idealists, whose loss of family and identity spur them to invent alternative realities. The personal price of such ambitions is high. Sparger chases fantasy to lose himself and acting as release from being alone. Chapin's interpretation is funny and desperate and over the top theatrical, as he describes the profound isolation of this gay man in a dress. After a severe beating, half dead, by chance he finds a home in a theatrical cafe and for a brief glorious time, fame for his originality,

Carla, once a runaway, wanted to be immortal like Marilyn Monroe. As embodied by Jessica Carolla, she's a confident beauty reminiscent of Studio 54. Carolla reveals her vulnerability, like a strip tease, discarding surface narcissism for a belief in transcendent beauty--an essence beyond the dreams of mortal women. It is a stunning revelation of character, more so than the casual facts of trading sex for career favors. But at 26, in her brave new present, only drag queens and Raquel Welch achieve her dethroned ideal.

Essentially, Kennedy's Children is a bar play, like O'Neil's Iceman. The timing of the monologues in this production energizes this play of loners seeking sanctuary together. Orchestrating this is the knowing bartender (Emily Battles), who punctuates the confessions, bringing the preferred alcoholic "poison" in the appropriate glass. She expresses skepticism or sympathy with a raised eyebrow, a glance at a table, the polishing of a glass.The bartender has heard the stories before. But the audience wants more. Congrats to Emily Battles and Erin Soler, who has made this play sing.

What does this play offer "Obama's children" in 2017? Unlike the youth in this play, progressive young people have had eight years of a kind of Camelot. That dream was also cut short, just as the way to the future seemed sure--climate control and universal health care, if not world peace. Technology hadn't created jobs for all, but new fields, including clean energy were opening. Unthought of, out of media sight, were those displaced by the evolving world economy. Retraining the casualties of relocated or obsolete industry wasn't on the horizon of the private or public sectors.

Oddly, our post Camelot story has parallels with the original Arthurian legends. Camelot is brought on by a sex scandal. Mordred, Arthur's illegitimate son, builds an army of the dispossessed to destroy the rule of law and rape and pillage to their heart's content. Education is overturned in the death of the monks, books burned and ignorance celebrated. The legend is said to explain the Dark Ages. 2017 is, like 1968-69, a turning point.The barbarians have again stormed the gates. Obama's "children" do seem to be up against a national strain of fascism, which is trying to legislate another Dark Ages. Our political and social center has again shifted. Will 2020  tell the new version of an old story?

In "Kennedy's Children" Rona talks about marching and demonstrating. Robert Patrick glossed it over in the play but activism had a decisive effect. When Lyndon Johnson looked out his window and saw the marchers--young and old, Democrats and Republicans, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, clergy--he said he knew it was time to get out of Vietnam. The Ronas and Marks (and everyone else) forged the first and only mass movement in American history to end an unpopular war.

No sex goddesses replaced Marilyn for women seeking an image of transcendent beauty, but when Gloria Steinem went undercover at the Playboy Club, exploitation of women was no longer the norm. Tony Kushner and many openly gay people have shown that sexual preference or ambiguity has little to do with an individual's worth and talent. And these norms of our society have to be established yet again. Hopefully, our nation will incorporate political and social idealism into the next version of our great experiment; perhaps an enlightened corporate state, an Athena among nations.

For more on Regeneration's upcoming season:

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Captivity amid luxury, perversely oppressive or liberation? THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 and A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Captivity amid luxury, perversely oppressive or liberation?  That question drives the engrossing stories of two entertaining and revealing novels.

In The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware's captivating mystery (pardon pun), aspiring travel writer Laura Blacklock gets the break of her career--a dream assignment to cover the launch of a "boutique" cruise ship. Laura knows she must focus on this opportunity but she's sleepless and hyper, after an unexplained break-in at her flat. A parting argument with her beloved boyfriend, didn't help her jangled nerves..

After the mayhem in her dingy flat, the small cruise ship is especially gorgeous. From the dizzying reflections of white walls and polished wood made by a show stopping chandelier to spacious diningrooms and cabins  that allow natural light, the ship is designed for maximal beauty. The attractive staff is impeccable, as are the chic meals, though the food is unidentifiable. There is even a luxury spa. Laura begins to enjoy her enviable position, the attentions of the high profile media guests, and takes too much of the free flowing alcohol.

But it doesn't relieve her anxiety. Whether it's  the pressure of the assignment or the break-in, she tosses in her large beautiful bed, aware the ship's just a "metal can"on the high seas. She dines with the guests, all too aware of their secret agendas, including an old boyfriend angling for a tryst. There's also the mystery of their handsome host's wife and the source of his fortune, a frail recluse. Then there's the fact of the woman she met in the next cabin, who has disappeared without a trace.

When Laura persists in finding out what happened, glamour evaporates. Key to this mystery is liberation from self-deception. The heroine's seduction by a chance of a lifetime, becomes a truth seeking ordeal of strength. A very deserving bestseller.

A vacation in unacccustomed luxury supposedly creates a sense that real life can satisfy fantasy. You can be happy, even if for a week. What happens, if you are fortunate enough to attain this luxurious existence as a daily habit? And, if the pleasantries of habit  have no end, are they still pleasure or purgatory? This is the dilemma of  the hero in Amor Towles very elegant novel, The Gentleman in Moscow. 

When the novel opens, Count Alexander Rostov is interviewed by Communists, who have deposed the Czar. Aristocrats are outlaws, mostly shot or sent to work camps. Their property is confiscated, homes are burnt down. Count Rostov receives amnesty because he's credited with writing a famous poem that inspired the revolution.  Since he admits revolution was not his intention, he is sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol Hotel, where he's lived for 20 years. If he leaves the hotel, he will be shot on sight.

His breakfasts in his spacious windowed with rooms overlooking the Bolshoi, his visits to the barber, meals in the excellent restaurant and apertifs at the bar, are his life in the hotel appropriate to his status as a gentleman. His "excellency" had a place in society; esteemed for his wit and knowledge, his character and family heritage. The hotel has been his home, a refuge after a ballet, a gala, a concert, a rendez-vous with a beauty. But this existence is gone. As a "former person," he's ejected from his rooms and possessions for a hidden storage area on a high floor with one small window. His privilege has become a purposeless prison.

How Rostov spends the rest of his life in the hotel and finds a way to be a gentleman with a code of civility and honor is fascinating. It's a story of the timeless worlds of  society within the revolving doors of the Metropol. Eventually, the Count finds new purpose. He engages in the life of the hotel, both upstairs and downstairs, He finds employment, love, unexpected family, and even gains the respect of his enemies and true friendship among his aesthetic peers. Yet time does not stand still, even in the Metropol. He absorbs huge changes in the world and engages in it from his insular perch in the hotel. Only in his sixties, must he act in the outside world for his daughter's future and his own.

His scheme, an ingenious culmination of talents and perspective, could have only been developed in his state of captivity. Interesting that the Count's loss of his  privileged life as an aristocrat for house arrest in the hotel,, meant a life more privileged than much of the Soviet Union. And, at the end, like Laura, he succeeds, because captivity enabled him to break out of self-imposed molds. Both become free to pursue their desired fates. Privilege had little to do with that.

I would suggest A Gentleman in Moscow, because it's delightful, unexpected, clever and wise. It gives a glimpse of not just the vanished world of Russian aristocracy, but the mind-set of the revolutionaries, who set about reversing starvation and illiteracy. They succeeded, but in this novel, you see the cultural cost.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Excerpt from TALES OF THE MER FAMILY ONYX, Mermaid Parade Chapter to be read @corneliastcafe 7/9

The definitive edition of thiis book has evolved for more than a decade. It began with a child's intense fascination with mermaids; beautiful creatures, between earth and sea. Many countries have Mer stories. After these, my son wanted his own. Entering a child's fantasy--under his direction-- and making it a shared world is a kind of tradition. Supposedly, Alice's request for stories led to Carroll's Wonderland, E.Nesbit dedicated her Five children and It to her son. Like those stories,Mer Family has also been appreciated by adults. Imagine being married to The King of the Seas? There's the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, through a mermaid's eyes, and the serious work containing mankind's mess. I consider it a compliment that a Coney Island gaff artist sold a Fiji Mermaid of my character Pinky Onyx, of the race of mini-mermaids. So this is a book really for children of all ages. And do come to Cornelia St. Cafe 7/9 and hear a reading of the Parade story. Should be fun.

Excerpt from Chapter 4 to be read at Cornelia St Cafe 7/9, do come if so inclined!

" Her idea began deep under water, where she saw a piece of torn
cloth fluttering under a funny set of metal chains with great
cylinders attached."

Excerpt from Chapter 4. Sapphire’s 16th birthday at the Coney
Island Mermaid Parade

Shyly, Sapphire poked her head up from the sea and looked at the sky. Now that she was of age she could break the surface, though she had to consider the ancient warning about showing herself.
Yet what harm could there be in wanting to see land-based mermaids—kin? She would wait and they would swim by. Sapphire imagined a parade, Mer folk swimming in a line with much noise and laughter. She would join the singing, as they went from one part of the island to the other.

She found a good rock not too close to the boardwalk, though close enough to see it and the waters that must bring her folk. Sapphire took out her abalone mirror and comb of shark’s teeth. Neptune said whole eternities passed in the time it took his daughters to comb their hair.
Patience was a mermaid trait. Sapphire’s long hair was blue black and turquoise. As
she brushed, it shone like sea foam touched with sky. In the mirror, she looked to the water but on the boardwalk saw a strange assembly of sea creatures.

Almost a different species, she thought, zooming in on two mermaids with orange and yellow hair cut in a flat straight line, holding a banner. The long purplish hair of another mermaid was
filled with sea creatures of an unfathomable shiny material. They could not be living things, she thought. And what is that fearsome creature? More demon than Mer, it bared fangs at several men holding black boxes at funny angles. Suns popped from the boxes and faded. Then Sapphire noticed,
floating in the demon mermaid’s forehead, a curious eyeball.

Unseeing, she thought, in an unreal eye socket, like the rest of the creature. Were there no natural sights? She spotted a young boy with green streaky skin and dull whitish hair carrying a red trident of some inert material.

Almost a different species, she thought, zooming in on two
mermaids with orange and yellow hair cut in a flat straight line


A Modern Classic For Children
by Sonia Taitz, author of  Great With Child

"The Tales of the Mer Family Onyx are nothing short of spectacular. The author has created a beautiful and convincing alternative world—a modern-day Oz or Thousand Acre Wood. The stories of this mermaid family are engaging, imaginative, and gorgeously written and wisely resolved. Each chapter presents an adventure involving the children of the Mer Family, who rule the undersea world. From the powerful and majestic Neptune to the smallest mer baby, each character comes alive and will appeal to children of all ages, whether male or female. What a joy to find a new classic like this in our fast-paced, modern world!"

I am announcing the publication of my New Edition, which will be published on 6/25.
The Coney Island Mermaid Parade was an inspiration for these stories.The Pelekinesis New Edition will be available at