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Review of MUSIC AND ME  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Dear Naomi,

You are indeed a breath of fresh air in today's crazy world. May God bless you and yours with full measures of health and happiness.

Bob (Timtu)

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of NAOMI  
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hello, Naomi,

Thank you for your kind review of my poem. It always means a lot when someone likes our work. I also admire people who speak more than one language. I can barely handle the one, that being English.

That said, I am left a bit confused by your Haiku poem which does not follow the more traditional 5-7-5 syllable counts in its three lines. By this, I mean to say that your name, NAOMI, contains either five or six syllables, depending on how it is pronounced.

Secondly, your second line is missing the four syllables needed to complete the required seven. For example, your third line would go well, I think, if added to your second line.

Lastly, the last line (third) has only four syllables (as written) and needs one more syllable to be finalized.

My guess is that these problems are the result of language issues, those being Filipino versus English, or English versus Filipino.

The following represents an addition and a subtraction of syllables which then meet the conditions required for this type of poem:

I am NAOMI (assuming NAOMI contains three syllables)
To know me is to like me
Even love me too

Please feel free to answer back to me, and give your reasons as to why I noted the problems mentioned in my review.

Thanks again for sharing. Truly.

Bob aka Timtu

Rated: E | (3.0)
Hi, Joan,

There are lots of different ways to review a fellow writer. The way I chose to do yours is just one of those techniques which allows you to see your work from a different angle, and as someone else might have written it with a focus on correct grammar.

I am owned by two kitties, so my version of your humorous poem at least comes to you from a mutual cat lover. That said, my intention is not to show you that I can write your poem better than you can, but rather to demonstrate how near-perfect grammar can make such a big and wonderful change in one's own work.

The purpose of good grammar, simply put, is to allow readers of our stuff to understand, as clearly as possible, what we had in mind when we wrote a particular piece of work. We all put lots of effort into our writing, which is difficult enough just doing that much. But our task as would-be writers and poets is a two-part process, one that involves not just ourselves, but also those who spend time reading what we've so diligently and so painstakingly penned.

Suffice it to say that what I've done below is to lay out a map, if you will, which might serve as a guide for doing your own rewrites. And rewrites are indeed the name of the game. When we attempt to edit (reread and fix) our own material, we should not do so in such a way that we fill-in-the-blanks, so to speak, with what we imagine as our original intent. If we can't understand our own writing, just imagine how hard it is for a stranger to decipher our intended meaning(s).

So see what you think and circle back to me if you wish. I will happily answer any additional questions my review may have spawned.


Here's your original version:

Huggie the kitty cat
Is smoky brown perhaps ,that is that
At times.he is a pure brat
Other times he cute, cuddly loves his toy rat
Within a few minutes.he will sit on your hat
He is sweet when is asleep yet getting fat
Perhaps he needs his on mat

He loves to run here and there and then nap
Huggie will lie on top of covers yet sometime wrap
His paws around things he ought not to but tap
Gee he leaps and finds his own things to amuse in lap
Wonder if he would love a yellow cap
Huggie is my kitty cat for sure funny , perhaps
He gives me lots of company , and inspirational zap


And here's my version which is strictly for your own review and consideration. Please keep in mind that I have focused on structure, and not so much on content or meanings. Note also the addition of commas, added lines, periods and so forth. The grammar changes I've made are solely based on the new formatting I've arranged, and not on your original.

Huggie the kitty cat,
Is smoky brown and that is that.

At times he's just a catty brat,
But other times he's just so cute;
Huggie just loves his stuffed toy rat.

In just two minutes, maybe less,
He'll sit on your hat and that is that.

He's just so sweet when he's always asleep,
And Huggie is apt to getting fat.
Perhaps he's too comfortable on his mat.

He loves to run here, then skip along there,
Huggie then likes to take a long nap.

He'll lie on top of covers, places where he shouldn't.
And sometimes catch his claws on things, his paws ought only tap.

But then he leaps and finds his own toys and things,
baubles to amuse him while lying in his lap.
I often wonder if he'd like to play,
With my favorite yellow cap.

Huggie is my kitty cat and he sure is funny, I'll tell you that.
He gives me lots of company and with a playful bat,
inspires me to frolic with him.

Yup, Huggie the kitty cat is just fun to see him scat,
I love just having him around, and feeding him a snack.

Huggie is that cat of mine. He's smoky brown and that's a fact.
He's my best friend and I love him.

He loves me, too, and that is that.


Hi, again, Joan,

As you can see, you'll want to change things around, and be my guest in doing so. Despite the fact that this is a rhyming poem, it reads more like free verse. Which both of our versions do.

Free verse rarely rhymes and it lacks a distinctive beat or rhythm when it's read. Rhyming poems typically obey any number of styles and formats, but they don't have to. No law says that you can't have a mix of both in the same poem. The various styles, however, exist for a reason; they allow your poem to be as easily read as possible. We want your words to be what readers focus on, and not so much your format. But both are important.

Let me know if you have any further questions. And thanks for letting me mess with your writing.



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi, Heather,

Please forgive me for what I did to your lovely poem. Actually I wanted to see how it would look in this revised format. I like it better and hope you do, too. I felt the strong emotions got lost within one, continuous paragraph, whereas all dressed up in its new free-verse style, the power of the words have time to work their magic.

You will also note how I changed other things a bit. A word, here and there, some added punctuation, some rhythm and rhyme for added punch. I'm not so much suggesting that my version is necessarily better than your original, but rather showing you how these poem things might be given the chance to see which format fits (suits) them best.

I really liked this poem; it conveys exactly the mood and despondency you were intending, I believe.

To sum up, please consider the word choices and sentence breaks I slipped in on you. If you choose not to use my own ideas here and there, see if you can understand what I was getting at, and especially that the words I replaced, were taken out for good reason.

Now that I'm all melancholic and depressed, I think I need to go watch an episode of The Three Stooges. Thanks again for allowing me to find a gold nugget among the pebbles.

Bob aka Timtu


Darkness is in the mist tonight,
a dreary feeling at my door.
An unraveling notion of unwanted pain,
I can't shake off anymore.
I don't want to lie here any longer,
waiting for my own abyss,
with you on my mind,
of course you are missed.
I would rather lock myself away,
inside my head,
and feel the cold icy truth.
To be honest I will,
maybe just to feel,
what you did, in your last breath.
And that's just part of this,
for I just cannot deny,
the need to be with you.
Why are you allowed to rest,
and I am only walking,
with what is left?
I tried to make it,
through these lies day after day,
which is all I ever do.
Consuming my hours with a tremble,
at mere mention of your name.
At what you left behind,
is it simply wasted time?
I tried so hard to forget you,
to deny you,
but the pull of the truth,
kept you coming back.
Searching for me was such a crime.
I should had seen it then,
but if I had,
would I have,
changed how you saw yourself?
If I might have known, then,
how your days were were strictly numbered.
What would that last goodbye,
have felt like?
Would I have tried anything,
to make the past be right?
I pray someday I will make it,
out of this spiral of who we were,
of how you found,
your own peaceful resting place?
A place to fight against your fears,
leaving your body to stone,
and my own to endless tears.
With my soul left reminiscing,
reminiscing all those years.

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Rated: 18+ | (2.5)
Hello, my friend,
All who share my own interests in spacey stuff, I consider a friend. *BigSmile*

I'm going to read your story in its entirety first. So I'll get back to you.
I won't, however, review the story in its entirety. I'll do about a third or
so, of the way. Enough to give you a serious idea of what I like, and dislike. What I love,
and what I hate. *Sad*

Please note that all corrections represent my opinion, as much as they do hard and
fast rules, conditions, and/or grammar and punctuation points.


After reading your story as a whole, I must confess to not "getting
it". Part of the reason, however, lay with the poor condition in which your story is structured and punctuated. That said, your kind of writer drives me crazy, and here's why: basically you exhibit a warm and enthusiastic approach to writing. You certainly write well enough -- and I do mean that as a compliment -- such that your work should be better than it is.

Sometimes our own laziness ruins what would otherwise be an okay piece of work. I'm sure you had an inkling, at times, as relates to most of your stuff, where you simply guessed when it came to grammar and/or punctuation.

Keep in mind that the font, Times New Roman is pretty much the standard nowadays. Especially for writers who are looking to improve their writing. You want to be read, so the least distractions the better, which means avoiding other fonts, and not bolding all of the text, so on and so forth.

Your story should be a virtual framework only in terms of any and all things that might divert a reader's attention.

I think I was disappointed most by your ending. The story reads well enough, slowly building towards either a surprise or cleverly invented conclusion, but delivers neither. What could have been a nice little spoof of WDC members, including a murder mystery -- to boot -- ends up going nowhere, leaving readers with neither a smile nor a frown.

Here's a final, but critically important detail for you to learn (have it branded somewhere on your body). *Smile* I refer to the use of pronouns, or in your case, the lack of them. This one aspect, by itself, literally murders your story. By about halfway through, I was so exhausted having to read MysteryWoman2018 for the hundredth
time, let alone the handles/monikers of others -- well, if this wasn't an important review, I'd not have read MysteryWoman2018 for the hundred-and-first time. *Think*

I'm being particularly harsh with you for two reasons: first, you gave me
permission to be nitpicky, and invited all comers. Secondly because you need a stern wake-up call -- if you desire to have others read your stuff. Let alone ever publishing anything. Thirdly (okay I lied about being only two reasons) because your writing is so near to being good enough. Unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. *BigSmile*

You're way overdue, therefore, as concerns straightening up your room, so to speak, and making the place both inviting and welcoming of guests. Although learning to write better is tedious and often feels like your head's going to explode, trust me when I say the rewards are themselves grand and glorious. No free lunches, as they used to say. Nope. Just sweating through endless hours of plain old hard work. Period. With every minute a worthwhile expenditure of your time.

So I'm here to help, if only temporarily. Take away as little or as much of the
following critiques as you will. This is your chance to ask questions about my
suggested changes and corrections. I'm no expert, by any stretch, but I do know how to write fairly well.

Don't squander this opportunity to take advantage of all that I have to offer,
be it helpful, life-changing, or totally unimpressive. *Whistle* Seriously, please compare my revised version with your original; go slowly and check each line, word-for-word.


Happy Birthday WDC
September the first, twenty-eighteen

An extremely loud explosion got everyone's attention. Like brilliant,
nighttime stars, sparks shot from a rotating stage which had been erected in the center of a large clearing, both things surrounded by dense forestation. The tall trees corralled all witnesses as everyone continued to stare toward the smoldering remnants leftover from the blast.

The perpetual profits derived from a healthy vocabulary cannot be overstated. In the above example, notice how smoothly the text reads, despite it being more wordy than your original. Too few words supported by a stingy number of adjectives and other modifiers, leave behind a barebones structure that reads more like a skimpy outline than it does finished text.

Most of the gathered crowd were mingling among one another, in small groups of three to five individuals. Some came out of one of the small buildings that sat along the outer edge of the clearing. All of them hastened for the damaged stage, where smoke still obscured what, exactly, had occurred.

As if a guest speaker who prepared to address a theater-in-the-round audience, MysteryWoman2018 exited from within the gray billows and yellow sparks created by the explosion. Standing on the stage itself, which continued to slowly rotate full circle, she tapped the mini-mike attached to her collar.

“Happy Birthday, WDC!" MysteryWoman2018 announced, as everyone calmed and listened. "Welcome everyone to this week-long celebration of WDC's eighteenth
anniversary.” Gazing out at her fellow members, she smiled, then continued, "I’m very glad to see that so many of you accepted my invitation to this celebration party.”

With her cell in hand, MysteryWoman2018 then stopped all movement of the stage, the surface of which was missing a sizeable chunk of tiles and wood.

The gathering, while not in perfect rows, appeared to stand in random alignments, as if on purpose.

MysteryWoman2018 began to study the first row of WDC'ers, and continued to do so until she had counted the last member bringing up the rear. The last rows, she noted, stood in front of the small, nondescript buildings that edged the clearing. How very happy I am, she thought, that all of them are here. Gazing out at the multitude of ghosts, she grinned with silent satisfaction. How very happy indeed.

Turning full circle, MysteryWoman2018 counted the total number of ghosts who were present. Oh, no, she thought once more to herself. Only seventeen ghosts were accounted for. She was afraid of that. It meant that one of us -- one of the living -- would die. That one would be killed within the next few days -- if not sooner.

September the second, twenty-eighteen

After talking with her fellow WDCers the rest of the day, MysteryWoman2018 retired to one of the small buildings. She tried to sleep some, but succeeded only in turning restlessly most of the night. When she awoke the next day, she still felt tired, but not enough to stop her from greeting the rest of her fellow attendees.

Walking from her quarters into the bright morning sunlight, MysteryWoman2018 went to visit building number three. When she arrived, her knuckles gently rapped on the door.

A ghost immediately answered, with only his head poking through the middle of the door. “Yeah? What do you want?”

“I want to talk to you who are ghosts. Please, may I come in?” As the door swung open for her, MysteryWoman2018 stepped inside and took a seat on the nearest chair. She then nodded to each of the sixteen other spirits who floated silently about and stared at her.

WritingDude was there and as he moved to join the others, drifted into and through the body of MysteryWoman2018.

“Is that supposed to scare me?”

"So what is it," WritingDude said, "that you want to talk to us

MysteryWoman2018 appeared anxious as she spoke. “There are several reasons, but I’ll get to them later. Right now," she said, as if hurrying to make her point, "I want to hear how all of you all died.” She rose from her chair and approached WritingDude. "I'll start with you. After all, you are the first who died.”

“So what is it, you seem so determined to know? WritingDude grinned and spoke from his semitransparent mouth, his words issuing through his barely visible teeth. "If it’s who killed me, the answer is, I don’t know. And before you ask, none of us know who did us in. Satisfied?”

MysteryWoman2018 replied, “That much, I've already figured out on my own. Which is why I need to know how you died. Knowing that will help me figure out who, here at this anniversary party, killed all of you."

September the third, twenty-eighteen


My hope is that I've given you enough to chew on, in this review, such that
swallowing my baloney will be easier. *BigSmile*
I know this is a lot for you to digest, but it must be learned and understood if you wish to allow readers inside your head, and see and hear the same things as you do. Between my opening remarks and my revised text of your story, I think there's enough ground covered to keep you going for a while. If you have any questions at any time, I'd be glad to reply, so don't hesitate.

In closing, keep in mind that my revisions of your story are, quite simply, my own version of how to correct things as I see them. Which means everyone who might want to help you along, would write a different take on the story, and write things "their" way.

What it doesn't mean, is that our interpretations of your story are any better than your own. They are just more correct, in terms of grammar and sentence/paragraph structure, than your version. Plain and simple.

For a story like this one, lots of details, descriptions, and character development are particularly important. So don't be skimpy or stingy when it comes to adjectives, pronouns, time of day, articles of dress, and specific character mannerisms; things like how a character talks, uses contractions, plus other idiosyncratic behaviors unique to each character.

Thanks for giving me a chance to keep you on board with tracks that will ultimately lead you to where you're going, or want to go. Listening to me will simply get you there sooner. *BigSmile*


PS: By the way, the sheer volume of your many works is to be both lauded and applauded. *Smile* An amazing accomplishment to be sure.

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of The Blue Apple  
Rated: E | (3.0)
Hello, Maolla,

I truly enjoyed your little story. I'm interested in knowing what specific ethnicity is the name, Maolla. WDC is a global organization, so to speak, that caters to anyone and everyone who wishes to participate in the things we do here.

Neither your gender nor nationality is absolutely necessary, such that a reviewer would be unable to critique your work without knowing either. But you'll get more reviews if you tell us a little about yourself. Both on the front page of your portfolio, and in the biography section.

For instance, there's a lot of small and minor writing errors in your story. The mistakes appear to be the same as might be expected from someone whose first language is not English. I did note how you mention this at the top of the page and for me -- as a reviewer -- it is important to know whether you're someone who speaks and writes two or more languages.

I am far less critical when I understand how I'm reviewing a person who wants to write better English, in addition to already writing in one or more other languages. Thus I would have you know how this is already a big plus in your favor. *Smile*

That said, I cannot encourage you enough to continue with your studies of my native language. Judging by the good quality of your writing thus far, I am equally encouraged that you will succeed in achieving both your aims and your goals during your stay here at WDC. *BigSmile* A stay which I hope will be long and profitable for you.

Aside from the text itself, the only thematic problem I have with your story is the ending. With a better conclusion, your story could change from just a bunch of nonsense (your words not mine), to a real morality tale that could leave many readers smiling and grateful for having read your work.

Before I suggest and demonstrate what I believe to be just one example of the kinds of changes I'm talking about, please allow me to also show you a few examples of the types of errors I found. Explaining why I changed your words can often be complicated, so I usually don't go into a lot of detail about why I did, unless you're interested. In most instances, I've always felt that showing a corrected piece of anyone's work, can inspire them to do seek out and find the reason(s) on their own. Plus sometimes I'm just too lazy. *BigSmile*


Maolla, please note that I have changed some of your words, and rearranged others in order to read more clearly (and properly). Please compare, word for word, my revised version with your original. Know, also, that my rendition is not meant to be perfect, nor is it the only way to fix all of your mistakes. My intent is solely to illustrate some quick and necessary corrections, plus the addition of an imaginative new direction that successfully concludes the story.

Needless to say, many new and different directions are also possible, which could end your tale in satisfactory fashion. My version went, of course, in the direction of a fantasy. Someone else might have taken your story in a more realistic direction, but equally dramatic (and interesting) compared to my own slant on things.


"Once upon a time" is what's known as a cliché. Writers are expected to be creative and not resort to tired, oft-used phrases, borrowed from the writings of others. I wanted you to see why I changed your opening phrase to a more "fanciful" introduction. I also capitalized the word, Age, which did not need to be. Doing so, however, informs readers that the writer is referring to one or more classical periods of ancient history. And not to the age of the boy.

Once upon an Age, a boy went walking down a street on a cold autumn evening. Along the roadside, near a fence that surrounded a neighborhood garden, he spotted a nice big apple. Or what, at first, he believed to be an apple.

It took him some time to inspect the blemish-free fruit, before he finally accepted it as being an actual apple. The problem was with its color, which wasn’t green or red or even yellow. Nope. The skin of this apple was a lovely shade of blue. A deep azure, as one might see in a cloudless summer sky.

The boy then ran back home, eager to show the apple to his Mother.

"Look, Mama, look!" he shouted, when he found her cleaning up the kitchen.

"What is it, now, Joey?" The mother said. She felt like she had spent the whole evening washing the dinner dishes. Finally done, she sat down to rest, leaned back her head, and closed her eyes.

Maolla, note that I've taken the opportunity to insert a name for the boy. An author can't normally just tell a reader, "Joey was the boy's name." Lazy writers do those kind of things. Good writers find creative ways to let readers know a person's name, without making it too obvious. *Smile* As in this case, where I let the mother call the boy by name. Pretty sneaky on my part, don't you think?

"It’s this apple, Mama." Joey said, holding it out to her. "It's blue!"

"Nonsense," the mother said. "Everybody knows there's no such things as blue apples. Probably just a plain old green apple what got some blue paint on it." As she lightly dozed in her chair, she whispered, "Now, a real blue apple. Now that'd be really special."

"Ma-ma," Joey whined, "You're not even opening your eyes to look." The boy felt frustrated and confused. "My apple is blue," he whimpered, "just like the sky."

Note how italics are used to indicate that a specific word(s) needs to be read with additional emphasis or stress, as if reading the word aloud.

"Well, young man, I'm not about to look at anything, right now. Your big discovery is probably just some blue plastic bauble, just looks like an apple." The mother laid a damp towel over her eyes. "Go back outside and keep looking," she grinned. "Let me know if you find a purple orange."

"But Mama..."

"Since you're so full of energy, mister, you can help me here in the kitchen. The floor could do with a good mopping, so get to it."

Joey said nothing more. If he had, she would likely have found more work for him to do. While on his way to retrieve the mop, he made sure to pass by the room where his father sat working at the family's computer. "Father, look what I found outside! An apple, Father. A big shiny blue one!"


Maolla, here, now, is my suggestion for a new ending. See what you think. Like I said, earlier, however, I basically want you to see how almost any ending is better than no ending at all. Everything remains the same, except for the very ending. You should consider, if you choose to, adding more descriptions of the environment where the story takes place. Maybe it's an island, where voodoo or other magical things are rumored to exist.


When the boy runs off, he soon finds himself lost among some unfamiliar (palms?). The darkness of night has descended over the (island) which causes the boy to trip and lose the apple down a steep (and scary) ravine. After he finds the apple and starts to climb the slope, a pair of glowing eyes peer out at him from the inside a small cave, even darker than the ravine.

"Hey, boy," a voice calls out to him. "Is that a blue apple you got there?"

"Yeah, so what if it is? Don't you know there's no such things as blue apples?"

"How much?"

"How much what?"

"Gold, sonny! How many coins for you to sell me the thing? Where I come from, blue apples be real treasures. Yes, indeedy. Real valuable, they are. So how much?"

"Ten-thousand coins!" Joey shouts, half joking. Maybe three-quarters joking.

"Geez," the voice chokes, "you drive a hard bargain, laddy. How'd you know I could sell it for more? Never mind, deal's a deal. Ten-thousand pieces be waiting for you at home. Throw me my apple, boy, and be quick about it. My kind don't come by these parts very often. My good luck I happened by, yes, indeedy."

As Joey tossed the treasure toward the two eyes, a small clawed hand with long sharp nails, reached out and caught it.

"How come you guys don't come around more?" Joey asked, as the eyes dimmed and retreated deeper inside the cave.

"No blue apples where your kind lives."

"You got any purple oranges?"

The creature's eyes jerked about, looked towards Joey again, but glowed brighter. "What? S'pose you'll be wantin' a thousand of them, too, eh, young fella? Ain't no wonder we stays away -- your kind's jus' too tough to bargain with!"

"Just one will be okay," Joey grinned.

"Well, then, that'd be more like it, then. One purple orange, it be. Sittin' right on top of all those sparklies. Which reminds me; ya gotta call my name 'fore all that gold'll show itself." The words faded away as little more than distinct echoes.

Joey stepped closer to the mouth of the cave. "But I don't know your name."

"Well, 'course you don't." The creature's chuckles also echoed. "Haven't told ya what it be, yet. Name's Grundlekeysnapzentooth. But they calls me, Grunt, for short."

"Thank you, Mister Grunt," Joey shouted into the empty darkness, hoping the strange, smallish creature had heard him.

The happy boy, smiling from ear to ear, soon found his way and hurried home. Joey's father had taken a break from the computer, and was sharing some freshly brewed tea with his mother.

"Hi, mom, hi, dad."

"What's got into you?" the woman asked. "Last time you were here," she smiled, winking at the father, "like to have driven me crazy with all your talk about purple apples or some such."

"Oranges, Mama. Purple oranges."

"Ah, yes. So what happened to your blue apple, was it?"

"I sold it."

His son's remark finally caught the father's full attention. Stifling his chuckles with little success, he caught the mother's eye as both burst out laughing. "So tell us, Joey," he said, "how much you get?"

Joey stepped back from the breakfast table, to make room for whatever was about to happen next. "So where's my money, Mister Grunt! And don't forget my orange."

The neighbors would long remember how the lights in Joey's house, burned late into the early morning hours on that particular night.

None more so than the elderly, reclusive woman whose garden she tended so lovingly, with such care and devotion. Long retired from a life of glamor and extravagance, she decided to spend her last years sowing the soil from her small bag of seeds. Purple orange seeds.

From within whose rich, verdant greenery, the rare and coveted blue apple might show itself to those most deserving.


Moalla, I hope you use this review as a guide for future reference. Learn what rules governed my grammar and punctuation choices. None of which are necessarily the "right" choices. Only ones that work to accomplish my own vision for what is still "your" story.

As you can now see, the only stories that can be labeled as nonsensical, are those which languish unfinished or incomplete. Using your imagination (which has no rules) *BigSmile* virtually any story can be converted from truly unworkable, to something worth saving from the recycle bin. *Smile*

Please note how I structured the lengthy, two-way dialogue passages. How they are punctuated in a repetitive, consistent manner that is governed by strict rules that must be obeyed. Those rules can be found in any book on writing, and deserve your focused attention.

Especially important is the way my dialogue is written differently from the straight narrative which describes the procession of events in the story. There are only the two components to any story: narrative and dialogue. Many writers do not distinguish between the two, in that they write their words in the same way, for both narrative and dialogue.

After years of study, I decided long ago to make the gap between narrative and dialogue as wide as possible. Readers need never question which [of the two] they are reading at any given time.

Worth repeating is the importance of how paragraphs are separated. Paragraphs with dialogue cannot contain words spoken by more than one person at a time. Paragraphs that contain narrative which only describes scenes, settings, and so forth, should be clearly defined as being separate from the characters themselves. Or, if describing attributes of a character, or his manner of speech, temperament and so forth, these sort of things can be written in many, many different ways. It is best to look around and see how different authors adorn their pages with these kinds of descriptive narratives.

Most writers (with good reason) use the conjugation form of third-person, past-tense.

Also worthy of my emphatic nagging *FacePalm* is the need for you to understand my [mostly correct] use of nearly every single period, comma, adjective, adverb, so on and so forth. When you do, your grammatically correct writing will have improved by leaps and bounds over what I reviewed here today. Which then leaves you time to concentrate on vivid descriptions of your characters and their environments. Plus action scenes and ones more casual in nature. *Smile*

If nothing else, please remember these two "laws" of writing: Learn basic grammar and punctuation so you can spend more time on story development and execution. Secondly, memorize How, Why, When, What, and Who, not necessarily in this order.

Now go through your (and my) story and find the following: How do things happen, such as the mother mentioning a purple orange, which is then used at the very end of the story.

Why does Joey not question (or fear) the appearance of the creature demon in the cave?

When does the story take place?

What is the story about? For example, a brief synopsis of the story, and what does it say about the human condition?

Finally Who are your characters, how do they do things; why do they do things; when do they do them; and what do they do?

Note how the five items are repeated for each character, and each major event in the story. A lot to understand, don't I know it. *BigSmile*

Let me know, my friend, if you have any general or specific questions related to my review.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi, Paul,

Something about this charming little ditty stuck with me when I found it. So I decided to review the work and see if I could verbalize what didn't sit right with me -- when overall, I really liked this gem of a short, short story.

I knew what was wrong, I just didn't know how to fix it. Namely the squeaks, squeals, yips and other anthropomorphic "sounds" that you incorporated into the piece -- in an attempt to capture what would otherwise be impossible to pull off. I refer, of course, to your and Feezzas' "dialogue"

If I didn't know how to fix it, I wouldn't have faulted the piece. But since it's an easy thing to do, I suggest the following change:

Writing tends to be very literal. Unless you show a reader what it is you intend, he or she will typically conclude the worst interpretation possible. It's a law of physics, I think, that this invariably happens.

If a wolf, or any other critter, for that matter, is described as "speaking" with an all too human "voice", then the true wild spirit of that animal is lost. With the result being that either you or the wolf, is trying to be too clever for your own paws.

A simple remedy solves this problem and allows you to be you, and the wolf to be its canine self.

All that's required is a disclaimer of sorts, at the very beginning. For example:


"I know, you're out there and I can find you. Bring it back now before something with teeth shows up."


I sometimes forget that Feezza doesn't speak English, or any other human tongue for that matter. But I swear that the sounds he makes, have always left me believing it's only a matter of pronunciation.

"Okay, you're good at hiding, but I'm good at finding."

"OOOHhhh ... Ruffe"

In this way, readers will quickly surmise that the animal is not really vocalizing humanlike sounds, but rather it's you who are attaching your own humanness to what Feezza is saying, which are little more than playful utterances intended to express gratitude, in its own way, for your kindness.

Thanks for listening to my utterances. *Smile*


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of Sticky Situation  
In affiliation with The 4 Controversies Contest GR...  
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Confucius say:

Never argue with someone who's done more research [on a topic] than you have.

Hello, Genipher,

My name is Bob, aka Timtu, and I'm a guest judge here at The Four Controversies Contest central office. I'll be critiquing your entry, which gives me a real chance to spout off -- mostly because I'm somewhat familiar with the subject, and have my own opinions on the matter.

There's nothing ever stupid about asking questions. As concerns religious issues, for instance, I certainly carry around lots of questions -- thus I'm a big believer in them. Problems happen when we're bombarded with answers -- sometimes conflicting ones -- which leave us in a quandary as to which we choose to adopt as being the most credible. So called, informed choices.

I think annotation will allow for the best, point-by-point review of your well written essay. Or in other words, please follow the bouncing icon:

I'm stupid. At least, that's what sanctimoms say when they hear I don't vaccinate my children. I've obviously made the decision because of Jenny McCarthy (whoever the heck that person is) and not because of any independent research I've done. How dare I question the medical communities and the dogma they spout as fact? Why would I possibly risk my child getting measles, whooping cough, or chicken pox when the CDC has all but cured those diseases?

When we first introduce our own made-up words, such as sanctimoms, it's important to either italicize them, or explain them one time only, or do both. This would then appear as follows: ". . . such as sanctimoms, (my own version of sanctimonious) it's important to . . ."

It must be because I'm ignorant.

By the way, I do like your tongue-in-cheek cynicism, whereby you feign your own lack of understanding, much as playing your own devil's advocate. By the time I was halfway through the piece, however, I found your chosen style a tad tedious and distracting; I kept repeating to myself that you were poking fun at others -- those who, with self-righteous intent, would otherwise label you with the same denunciations as you'd already chosen for yourself.

I'm ignorant of the fact that the CDC admits, on their site, that the strain of whooping cough that's most prevalent is one that doesn't respond to vaccination.

Me just shooting from the hip right now: Assuming that no real cure exists for the treatment of the most prevalent type, then at least we can have protection from the other, less prevalent type(s)?

(1) I'm ignorant of the fact that measles outbreaks are obviously caused by "anti-vaxxers" rather than a fraudulent vaccine company. Yes, the drug company Merck, has three(!) class-action suits lobbied against them for violating state laws and "hiding the declining efficacy of the [measles] vaccine..."

Once again, I think "anti-vaxxers" is a confusing abbreviation, though I understand how it's meant. Were I writing to those who may not be all that familiar with such jargon, I'd spell the term as "anti-vaccers". But would also explain how the term refers to "anti-vaxxers" as used to describe those who're opposed to childhood vaccinations. Just my opinion. Three class-action lawsuits ought to make everyone stand and take notice.

I must confess to being sympathetic to doctors, but not-so-much, when it comes to drug companies. If we can understand and appreciate how doctors themselves surely love their own children -- and want what's best for them -- then it seems reasonable to believe that they would seek the best medicines on the market. I'd be much more critical if it could be shown, for example, that many doctors prevent their young children from being vaccinated.

In a similar vein (no pun intended) it can be argued that no magical cure for cancer is being kept from the public, as part of an AMA conspiracy. Indeed, doctors' kids get cancer and die the same as do non-doctors' children.

(2) But it's not the power-hungry drug company's fault when there's a measles outbreak, right? No, it's we "anti-vaxxers".

I'm reminded of the terrible polio epidemic of the 1940's and 50's. I can still recall those days because I was a tyke myself back then. Hospital wards were filled with the tortured souls of countless children, many of whom lay twisted and crippled in their beds. Jonas Salk, discoverer of the life-saving polio vaccine, was a godsend to the millions of parents who previously kept their kids indoors for fear of them catching the deadly virus.

The story of the vaccine, however, does include a terrible chapter. And it is this one aspect of all vaccinations -- whereby the cure is sometimes as bad or worse than the disease itself -- that needs to be better understood by parents who are bewildered by conflicting reports and/or warnings about one vaccine or another.

Medicine has always been a matter of numbers and percentages. I used to pay attention to these kinds of things, but have since grown a bit lax about citing odds, chances, or coincidental events. Once I paid attention a little better, though -- back in the day -- this whole business of drugs and vaccinations became a lot clearer and less confusing. The short version suggests that when it comes to questions of efficacy, all of us either get on the same bus to Las Vegas, or stay home, refusing to gamble -- unwilling to play the odds, so to speak.

In other words, parents fearful of one dread disease or another -- for which a vaccine ought to offer protection -- either knowingly or unknowingly decided to play the odds. For instance, a vaccination for one or more maladies always carries some percentage of failure, but odds that are so weighted in favor of the parent and child, that it was worth whatever risk was involved. The risk in this case resulting in a reversal of fortune, i.e. an inoculation that infects the recipient with the very disease(s) against which these miracle drugs were designed to offer protection.

As regards the polio vaccine, in particular, I found that the chance of your child suffering severe side-effects is about 1.6 per 1,000,000 doses. This includes those who become stricken with polio itself, as a direct result of their inoculation. Throw into the mix the debates related to "live" viruses versus "dead" (or weakened) strains, and the whole issue becomes quickly clouded by various controversies.

Thus there are good folks for whom no amount of risk is small enough to warrant vaccinating perfectly healthy children. Still others, the vast majority in this case, feel the gamble (and percentage) is so miniscule as to be virtually nonexistent. That is, of course, unless it's your child who is unlucky enough to be one of the 1.6 who get into serious trouble. In such an event, the odds are reduced to 1:1, or 100% that the child (or the adult) will have contracted the disease via its own preventative, proactive measure.

(3) I'm also ignorant of the fact that vaccines are 100% safe. At least that's what Dr. Karen Remley, executive vice president of AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) has said. Let's just ignore the fact that when, in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in Bruesewitz vs. Wyeth, the court found that, ". . . vaccines are unavoidably unsafe."

I have no idea why any of us would accept a SCOTUS ruling as regards a sophisticated and complex medical debate. Especially one that could spell death (or permanent impairment) for the relatively small number who would be victimized by a metaphorical roulette ball plopping onto their number -- meaning they lose instead of win.

4) We'll pretend as well that the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund not only doesn't exist, but that, since 1988, it hasn't paid out over 3.8 billion dollars to victims of vaccines' [deleterious] side-effects.

This is an example, I suppose, of where things can become very complicated. Accepting your citations as factual, then any amount of money paid out to victims (and/or their families) would seem reasonable; how much is a child's life worth? I do think, however, given the circumstances, that wide dissemination [validation] of these "facts", should prove very counterproductive -- in terms of the otherwise noble goal of eradicating one disease or another. And that such obliteration only comes from widespread vaccinations.

5) I'm so very ignorant when it comes to acknowledging the existence of doctors who are against vaccinations or, at the very least, advocate delaying until a child is old enough to handle the stress to their system. These are well-read, intelligent people with PhD's behind (after?) their names.

That sounds like such a rational and reasonable position to take, it's difficult to imagine any number of parents choosing to outright diss (or dismiss) the notion that another, more critical analysis exists -- a flipside that warns -- instead of celebrates -- the idea that uninformed choices are every bit as important as are informed decisions.

People like Dr. Neides, former "Medical Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute", fired for his views on vaccinations(6) or Arizona doctor Jack Wolfson, who almost lost his license to practice medicine because he's not gung-ho for vaccines.

Once again, the seeming bad guys here, if given the benefit of the doubt, are acting upon their own entrenched beliefs that the greater good justifies the need to eliminate and/or discredit those who might convince others to second-guess their own doctors. It's not hard to see how the medical community could become totally paranoid over too much credence being paid to naysayers.

7) And I'm sure we've all heard of the "evil" Andrew Wakefield, who dared to wonder if it would be safer to spread out the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines rather than lumping them together. He wasn't even against vaccination but only mentioned that there "might" be a correlation between the MMR and GI issues, and, BAM! he was discredited, disgraced, and labeled a fraud!

The road to Hell is paved with . . . . I rest my case, in terms of the "establishment" people doing anything and everything to both cover their asses, and prevent from taking hold, the idea that vaccines are not perfect -- and may well carry what would be, to many, an unacceptable degree of risk.

8) When you have doctors that are labeled as quacks for breathing a concern over vaccines and are then ostracized and/or fired for that concern, you can't help but wonder what's going on.

Just as those who win wars are allowed to define what constitutes war crimes, the majority who believe in the status quo, would never admit to propagandizing both their case and their cause.

At least, us dummies start to wonder. The regular, "sane" folks just smile and pull up their sleeves for the next shot that Big Pharma deems necessary. Don't ask questions, don't put up a fight, just follow along like good little sheep.

History is rife, of course, with stories about singular voices who proclaimed one discovery or another, only to have the majority ridicule them -- including their own peers. One of the better such cases involved Dr. Louie Pasteur who declared that unseen, invisible creatures were responsible for many if not most post-operation infections. Nowadays, the world is saturated with similar claims and counter-claims -- from health supplements to all manner of curative agents, many of which purport to cure cancers and other illnesses.

While preventative substances such as tonics, elixirs, potions, and still more supplements of one form or another, stake their own claims in the lucrative fields of health and general wellness. More and more it has become difficult if not impossible, for the average layperson to decipher good medicine from bad.

I guess I'll just stay ignorant when it comes to the knowledge that exposure to measles has been found to have oncolytic properties. As a big stupid-head, I had to take the time to look that one up and when I did, I discovered it meant that having measles as a child, "significantly protects against genital, prostate, skin and lung cancers, as an adult". Amazingly enough, measles has also been found to create tumor remissions (8) and has been used to cure cancer!

As a person who prides herself in cutting through what is fact versus fiction, you are aware, I would guess, of the difference between anecdotal evidence, and double-blind testing procedures. The failings of such practices, when politicized, are no more clear than the whole opioid crisis that currently plagues the nation. A critical juncture which can be laid at the feet of doctors, pharmaceutical companies, illegal drug cartels, and the demands of both casual and addicted users.

Anytime huge sums of money are involved, we should expect to see how truth and honesty suffer accordingly, as if millions -- even billions -- of dollars were the disease, while the afflicted patient might be represented by Hippocratic integrity -- a kind of medical patriotism that is swayed neither by money nor corruption.

9) Yes, people can die from measles. Even a dummy like me knows that. However, the risk of dying from measles is so small, it's almost laughable. This is when sanctimommy tosses her perfect hair and flashes her glistening white teeth in what I'm supposed to take as a smile but is really just an excuse to bare her fangs and reminds me that the risk is small because of herd immunity.

I'm unsure how to reply to the paragraph above. Other than to react with my own understanding that community immunity is a good thing, especially when it involves the widespread use of vaccinations?

Really? I'm curious, then, how Loyola College in 2013, Fordham University in 2014, and Harvard in 2016 all had measles outbreaks when all students who attend were required to have vaccines? These colleges claim 100% vaccination rates and yet, their "herd immunity" wasn't worth poo.

I suppose, were I to make a guess, that just as vaccines can harm a person, if you're one of the few whom the inoculation does severe damage, then it may well be equally true that for a small number of others, a given vaccine has a neutral effect, i.e. results that are neither harmful nor beneficial -- "carriers" perhaps, who can infect others. Another choice might be the "cooking" of the books, so to speak, meaning results that are purposely skewed such that they reflect the biases of those in control of monitoring statistics. I, for one, believe such is the case with respect to the debate over Global Warming.

I mean, I could see how an unvaccinated idiot could have sneezed measles onto one of those college kids and infected him or her but after that, shouldn't the rest of the studious students have been protected by their herd immunity?

It's impossible to defeat your logic, unless the evaluations of testing, procedures, and infection results were completely transparent. Which, I suspect, they are not, currently.

I get that parents want to protect their kids. That's what I'm trying to do by allowing my children to build up their own immunities. Not to mention that I can't tell if one of my kids will have a reaction to one of the vaccines until they have it injected into their system.

Yeah, what could possibly go wrong with that program? *Whistle*

Doctors routinely stick our babies for a full year without knowing if they've got an autoimmune issue that will adversely affect their health later in life. Even when a baby or child has a reaction that could be deemed dangerous, it's shrugged off by the medical community.

Once again, I'm not shocked by the reality that we all play numbers games throughout all of our daily routines. Every time we drive our cars, fly in a plane, go for a walk in the park, or send our kids to school. I could never judge someone for deciding that the odds are unacceptable regardless of to what degree those odds might be in their favor. To repeat, those huge odds dwindle to zero when it's our child who suffers.

I suppose we need to maintain the democratic freedom to reject certain medical interventions, the same as we might also choose to accept them. The only exceptions being parents who, for purely religious reasons, refuse blood transfusions for their seriously ill children. And even then, the rule is hardly etched in cement.

I used to frequent a site for moms and while I visited there, I read many posts from mothers who said their newly vaccinated baby or child had a "high fever" or "knots at the injection site" or even seizures. And yet, instead of alerting the parents to the fact that these were adverse reactions and should be reported, they were virtually patted on the hand and told that everything was "normal" and "fine". Why? Because the pharmaceutical companies can't let it be known that their vaccines are dangerous, so they continue to downplay the "adverse reactions" so they can continue making the almighty dollar!

Yup. Not only a numbers game, but one played for the highest of stakes as well. Definitely a "bottom-line" situation whereby a somewhat arbitrary number of lives are willingly sacrificed in the name of "keeping costs down", or keeping "care and treatment" costs affordable. The whole business is rationalized via comparisons to American life prior to the advent of vaccines. Not all that different from how Pro-Choice advocates like to discuss how, prior to Roe v. Wade, dark alleys were filled with youngsters seeking out backyard abortionists.

I've had mothers, through the anonymity of the internet, threaten to kick my ass if my unvaccinated children come near their precious snowflakes, all while laughing as they share how they stuff little Johnny or Jane full of addictive sugar (10) and mind-altering food dyes(11). I've had them wax poetic on how vaccinations should be required before children are allowed into public libraries or grocery stores, but then scream when their "rights" are violated.

Not only do we presently think in terms of Herd Immunity, but in "herd mentality" as well. Otherwise known as group-think. Or mob fanaticism, if you like. Woe unto those who speak-up about uncomfortable truths. Arguments that frighten the sheep for fear they themselves have been deceived by the very people who're supposed to protect them. Such deceptions have grown to become commonplace in American life, wherein we're willing to gamble away our futures -- those of our progeny also -- based upon an unquestioning belief in bureaucratic dictates.

And yet, I'm the ding-dong because I don't treat my doctors like they're god-incarnate. I'm the idiot because I don't kow-tow to the fear of diseases that basically died out when our hygiene habits improved (12). I'm the unintelligent one that researches all the angles of vaccination, rather than blindly believing and following the word of a rich and greedy company claiming to know what's best for my family.

I recall hearing or reading about how, while we may vaccinate kids against the worst of diseases, our overprotective attitude as regards sheltering children from most other hazards, results in their increased vulnerability to a host of additional problems. Put another way, when we prevent kids from getting dirty, even filthy while playing with friends, or from getting minor infections from cuts and scratches, they do not develop the antibodies necessary for good health as an adult. Children should be allowed to catch the sniffles from other kids, to leave their spit on others, and be spat upon in kind.

Though still a way of life for many kids, who still play sports and suffer minor injuries, modern medicine is fast producing generations of others who, like the Martians in H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, fall dead from the mildest case of cold or flu.

If that makes me stupid in your eyes, then so be it.



Hi, again, Genipher, just a few last words about your well conceived essay on both the real and possible perils of vaccinations.

Obviously this is a situation near and dear to my own heart (maybe a little brain as well). That said, I haven't paid enough attention, perhaps, to some basic grammar issues that are sprinkled here and there throughout your work. Overall, the piece is excellent. Though, like I said earlier on, you're just a tad heavy-handed, so to speak, on playing the role of reverse psychology -- whereby it's you who has the problems. *Smile*

So much of the content here cried out for some relatively objective responses, however, that I couldn't resist the impulse to express my own ideas. Not so much to show how smart I think I am, but far more to provide some balance and insight, as seen through the eyes of a total stranger.

Thanks for letting me go for an interesting walk among some of your cares and concerns.

Bob *Smile*

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
In affiliation with The 4 Controversies Contest GR...  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hello, QOIB, (I'm too lazy to spell out your whole handle) *Smile*

My name is Bob, and I will attempt to review your fine essay, WWTETTH?

As a guest judge for The Four Controversies Contest, this will be both an interesting exercise on my part, and a challenging one also. As a card-carrying (so to speak) agnostic when it comes to religious matters, I am in no position to debate any of the purely academic issues you discuss so skillfully. You appear to be quite the scholar, which is praiseworthy in and of itself, and regardless of my own views on the subject, I applaud both your religious acumen and your obvious mastery of the English language. Bravo, my friend.

My only criticism, were I to make one, would be the narrow scope of your submission. By that, I refer to how your essay is aimed entirely at a readership who is already aware of the controversial circumstances to which you make reference. Had I my druthers, I should suggest that you write about things in such a way, that those of us who are religious neophytes might follow along in our comprehension of this particular work.

I understand, as well, that the length of your entry would necessarily need to be considerably lengthier, were you to allow the rest of us nonscholastic types in on what this is all about; thus I shan't fault you for your brevity. *BigSmile* I am, however, reducing your score from five stars to four, based almost solely on your essay's preaching-to-the-choir, as they say. Meaning, of course, that you've restricted so many would-be reviewers from commenting on subject matter about which they know little or nothing. Like me, for instance. *Whistle*

I do, though, have a few structural, style-related comments to make about your submission, in terms of how academic, investigative and/or explorative pieces such as this, might be better served by changing the tone and tenor of the writing itself.

People who enjoy literary discourses about serious topics, will generally expect to have such presentations delivered to them in an equally serious manner. While I appreciate the casual, informal style you've chosen, I think it detracts from the overall content of the work. I'll make note of this further along, but once again, I'm purposely being picayune based on my focus on structure alone -- leaving an evaluation of content to those more knowledgeable than moi. *BigSmile*

That said, let's see if I can find an example or two of what I'm talking about:


When I encounter a controversial issue in the Bible, I put my drive into high gear and do an in-depth study for my own personal satisfaction.

In the sentence(s) above and below, I'm bolding any I think could (or should) be changed for clarity purposes. A better choice might be:

I shifted my brain into high gear (note how the vehicle connotation is now smooth and crystal clear)

One such issue presented itself when our Bible Study coordinator introduced The Epistle to the Hebrews for our point of focus during the current session.

Specific references such as, The Epistle to the Hebrews, should be italicized. Note also that point-of-focus acts as a single noun, which is why the hyphens are needed.

A provocative question was asked by the coordinator, as to who wrote this epistle addressed to the Hebrews. No need to use direct quotes, which only distract. Always keep an eye on how to write as clearly as possible, with as few words as possible.

In my previous readings, I always believed that Apostle Paul was the author and I asserted this belief. To my bewilderment, the coordinator did not agree with my observation, stating flatly that the author was unknown.

Yes, I am aware that this disagreement exists but I need to revisit this issue one more time to see for myself if I can be swayed otherwise.

In the sentence above, the tone seems to be disjointed. Maybe a better choice might be:

I am aware that this disagreement exists among Biblical scholars, but I chose to revisit this issue one more time, to see for myself if I could be swayed otherwise.

First, let me restate the reasoning of some scholars and theologians why they cannot give anyone credit of authorship; much less, Apostle Paul, based on the following presumption:

1) According to C.I. Scofield, Editor of The Scofield Bible Study, the Letter to the Hebrews is an anonymous book. Its authorship has been debated since post-apostolic days. In certain passages, its language is like Paul’s and, because of the personal reference to Timothy in 13:23, some scholars have attributed the letter to Paul. But, that’s where they leave it hanging in limbo. Maybe yes, maybe no. Nothing definite came out of it.

First, allow me to restate the reasoning of some academics and theologians, as to why they cannot grant authorship to any one person in particular -- let alone the Apostle, Paul. The dispute is based on the following presumption:

1) According to C.I. Scofield, editor of The Scofield Bible Study, the Letter to the Hebrews is an anonymous Book. Its penning has been debated since post-apostolic times. In certain passages, the language is akin to Paul’s and, because of the personal reference to Timothy in 13:23, some scholars do attribute the letter to Paul. However, they leave their assumptions unsubstantiated and suspended in limbo. Maybe fact; maybe not. Thus nothing definitive ever came of such assertions.

As an aside, C. I. Scofield believes that Hebrews is a part of Holy Scripture that, nonetheless, speaks with Divine authority. Despite the fact that no true authorship can be ascertained. He also notes that the Letter was composed before the destruction of Jerusalem; whereby evidence prevails that the Temple was still standing when Hebrews was written.

2) The salutation in Hebrews differs considerably from the salutations Apostle Paul used in all his other letters. Such letters are addressed to the Romans, the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon. In these letters, his salutations almost always mention Timothy referring to Timothy as his fellow worker, his faithful brother in Christ, his true child in the faith. Therefore, the naysayers contend, why exclude Timothy in his salutation to the Hebrews? The question then is: Does not mentioning Timothy in the salutation negate his authorship?

We need to look into that issue to see the intent of the writer.

In the sentence immediately above, We need to look into that issue to see the intent of the writer., "We need" is another example of inappropriate familiarity that is better stated as follows: "One needs to look . . ." or "It is necessary to look . . ."

I'm going to end my review at this point because I think you will have gotten the gist, by now, of what I'm trying to explain about style and tone. I assume you write in the same way when penning your memoirs which, by the way, is totally acceptable. Thus my critiques here pertain only to intellectual, more academic essays -- whether about science, the arts, or especially religion.

I hope my nudging you in a slightly more vocabulary-rich approach to most things, is both interesting and helpful. Keep up the great writing; you're a natural, as they say. *Smile*

Be well,


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of I am Weird  
In affiliation with The 4 Controversies Contest GR...  
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
Hello, Alex,

My name is Bob, and I'll be guest-judging your entry in Adrie's (whata's) Four-Controversies contest. I've never reviewed someone who lives in the PRC, and one of the things I like most about WDC is the opportunity the site grants to us, in terms of corresponding with folks from around the world. To name but one of many such opportunities.

I'm also glad that you're weird. That makes two us. Or, as one might also conclude, you and I are not the weird ones, but rather the rest of the world is. *Smile*

My forte is typically reviewing fiction prose, but I like to venture into poetic territories from time to time. And since I'm a big believer in animal rights, I couldn't resist the draw of this particular piece.

Because there is virtually no use of grammar or punctuation in this type of poetry, my review will be focused primarily on the message you wished to convey via this specific medium.

As an interesting albeit brief aside, my perspective as a so-called Westerner leads me to ponder the topic of animal rights in a country like China. A nation where a number of animals that we, in America, regard as "pets", are routinely eaten as food. I must confess to a certain ignorance as to the veracity of such a claim, but you might understand my curiosity with respect to the idea that these same westernized breeds have rights in the U.S.; rights that are seemingly denied to them in many other countries.

That said, Americans adopt a hypocritical, almost schizophrenic attitude towards the animals they themselves enjoy as food. For example, cows and pigs. Talk about weird, many people in my country will raise cows and pigs as pets, only to sell them to slaughterhouses later on.

But I digress. *Smile* I'll read your poem now and get back to you at the end. Thanks.


I am Weird

Vegetarian is weird
Vegetarian not I (versus "not me"? You might be right)
I love meat
I love steak
Steak tastes good
Steak nice and juicy
Juicy and bloody
Juicy and dead
Dead cows
Dead animals
Animals born
Animals live
Live with parents
Live on a farm
Farm raises food
Farm sells livestock
Livestock goes away
Livestock goes to slaughterhouse
Slaughterhouse stuns
Slaughterhouse cuts
Cuts the throat
Cuts the vein
Vein opens
Vein has blood
Blood flows
Blood leaves body
Body dead
Body sold
Sold in stores
Sold and cooked
Cooked and served
Cooked while you think
Think of meals
Think of dead
Dead not happy
Dead not healthy
Healthy food
Healthy vegetables
Vegetables fresh
Fresh fruit
Fresh and sweet
Sweet people love animals
Sweet people are vegetarians
Vegetarians are friendly
Vegetarians are weird
Weird is okay
Weird is kind
Why not be


Wow, I thought this was exceptionally good, Alex. In the U.S., we often attribute "dead" people (dead things) to being "zombies". An obvious effect of "Hollywood" on the mentality of many Americans. This one connotation, however, if derived from reading your poem, strengthens the power of the piece. Many will not make such a connection, but many will.

But I digress.

Although I eat meat (note how we add an "m" to eat and we get "meat" ) *BigSmile* I'd also be the first one to confess my own hypocrisy. Too many years of eating hamburgers and hot dogs. (not to be confused with "hot dogs") I'd have to go to China to get the real thing, maybe?)

I consider this poem to be, more or less, an homage to those who practice vegetarianism -- but do so for both moral and ethical reasons, as opposed to health reasons alone. That topic, in and of itself, represents a dichotomy (or schism) among vegetarians, whereby some do it only for health reasons, others for moral (animal rights) reasons, while others still for both reasons.

I have a weird idea for you to digest: China is heavy into the cloning of animals; a precursor, perhaps, to the cloning of humans -- as testified to by recent news of a cloned monkey. Or the first time a primate has been successfully cloned. Because agriculture demands huge swathes of land, and equal amounts of water, organic fertilizers, and soil preservation, an argument can be made that the raising and butchering of livestock is both more cost effective, and more environmentally friendly. The problem, of course, again a matter of violating animal rights.

The process of cloning, once perfected, could theoretically produce animals that are bred solely as a food commodity. But more so: cows and pigs, for example, that are born without brains and grown using only those autonomic brain functions necessary to maintain life. Such animals whose muscles are never used for walking, for instance, would possess extremely tender meat.

As you perhaps can see, there is a lot to make such an enterprise very inviting; animals without brains are in no need of rights, and could, in theory, be utterly immune to disease. Future vegetarians could eat meat that was healthy, and never came from a "conscious" animal.

A brave new world? Definitely.

Thanks for letting me review your great poem, Alex. Be well, my friend.


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Rated: E | (4.0)

I am not, by any stretch, a Biblical scholar. Nor am I a professional scientist. I do enjoy, however, playing a kind of Devil's Advocate when it comes to matters of religious significance. I also have great respect for Christians and others, who take their faith seriously. If I were a Christian, though, I could think of many topics more important than an argument for or against the story of Adam and Eve.

Please note, also, that I'm obviously more concerned -- in my review -- with content instead of grammatical structure, style, or punctuation. The topic is such, that it cries out for some much needed clarification.

The writing itself, while not great, is not all that bad, either. On the contrary, were I to critique the actual text, by itself, I would say that its form is appropriate to writing this sort of opinion piece.

By the way, my aim here is not to dissuade you from your faith, or to show how I'm right and you're wrong. Rather, it's more of an attempt to illustrate the following two principles:

1) You can never prove a negative. This means that anyone could say anything about whatever, and then ask others to disprove their assertion. Much better is the idea that we should always strive to prove something is true -- an axiom best explained by the quote: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." Therefore if someone were to advance the notion that humans evolved from frogs, we'd be right to in expect some kind of sensational, unequivocal explanation.

2) When it comes to discourses that deal with tenets of faith, try to avoid even friendly arguments where "facts" are involved. Someone will always (and supposedly) have more facts than we do. Mixing soft articles of faith with hard and rigid facts is never a good idea. So I don't usually get involved with those sorts of conversations.

I made an exception in your particular case because Adam and Eve currently reside at the very bottom of nearly everyone's barrel of important religious issues. Especially true, given today's chaotic world. But because you invested time, thought, and research into the matter, I felt a similar need to present you with the dubious benefit of my own researches. *Smile*



Adam & Eve – Seriously?!

Surely not?! Aren't they mythological, the remnants of some moral tale bequeathed to the Bible writers in the second century BCE? If the account in Genesis is mythological, as is the general perception, then the overwhelming evidence, in all fields of science, would expose it as false.

Wrong because you can't prove a negative! Proving something false versus proving it true. Nice try, but no stuffed teddy bear for you. If I say the moon is made out of cheese, then dare you to prove my assertion false, you might be the first to argue, "Hey, wait just a second!" And you'd be right to complain that I should be made to prove my declaration, rather than you having to prove the moon isn't made of cheese. Thus we need to reword your basic premise as follows:

If the account in Genesis is true, as opposed to the general perception, then the overwhelming evidence, in all fields of science, could prove it so.

Let me apply three tests to the story of Adam & Eve;

1) A statistical analysis, incorporating historical population data
2) A biological analysis, examining what biologists now know of the human genetic ancestry
3) A historical analysis, examining the available records of civilized humanity


First of these Litmus tests is the statistical evidence available. Because human records only go back so far in history, it is necessary to extrapolate data from known quantities, and then project statistical conclusions.

We can start with the world demographic figures, which are generally accepted as accurate as is possible, when dealing with worldwide historical populations.

The current global population on earth is approximately 7.5 billion. We know, as near as possible, that the population of the world reached approximately one billion in the year 1800 CE. This represents a 700% increase in the space of 200 years. This rate of increase would be decreased the further back in time we go. It has been estimated that the global population in the first century was between 200 million and 300 million. When this is compared to the more recent figures, it becomes apparent that the population of the earth has only recently become significant, in the billion realm. In the ancient times, before the Christian era, the population would have been less than 200 million, reducing to a proportionate level as we count back in time. If we apply the proportionate growth rate, from statistics available, it soon becomes apparent that the population figure reduces significantly the further back in time we consider.

Okay, so far. *Smile*

The increase in population between the first century and the 18th was about 75%. Working on reducing totals as we go back in time, we would arrive at an approximate figure of 9% increase per century. Applying that to pre- historical history, we start to see a significant reduction in numbers between 0 BCE and 4,000 BCE.

Figures don't lie, but believers sure can figure.

Although it is not possible to project an actual figure of population in ancient times, it is clearly demonstrated that the population numbers would have dwindled (in a reverse setting) to a mere few thousand within several millennia of history on earth.

If that many. Your computations fail to reckonize that many different species of early hominids went extinct at one time or another. Only by a quirk of fate did the one, homo sapiens, survive to present day. Even then, it is postulated that as few as eight individuals may have been solely responsible for recovery of this particular species.

If we divide a whole number, we reach a smaller number. We can keep applying this mathematical principle to populations until we reach a certain impasse point. Did the human race start with multitudes, or one, or two? Numbers will regress until they become negative. Since human (or any other biological life) can not become a negative, we can assume that there was a point where the human species started at a handful, or one or two. What these statistics do confirm is that intelligent, civilized human beings cannot have existed for hundreds of thousands of years but, in fact, only a few thousand.

"Hey, wait a second!" Again, a sneaky effort, but no balloons. *Smile* A handful, perhaps, of mating individuals. The level of subsequent incest was acceptable because the small number who composed such a "group" (whose earlier numbers had been much larger) still represented a rich genetic pool from which all future offspring could prosper.

Yet doesn't this data contradict what we know from the fossil record, that modern humans are the product of a series of adaptations to primitive creatures - Primates?

Nope. Your whole premise here, of how evolution works, is deeply flawed. Here's why:

Modern humans are not adaptations derived from primitive creatures. Nor did humans necessarily evolve from primates. Chimps and Gorillas evolved from primates. Modern humans likely evolved from the rodent family, tree shrews in particular. For example, chimps and gorillas are "knuckle-walkers", meaning their hands are limited in terms of dexterity. Whereas shrews and other like members of the rodent family, such as raccoons, possess very dexterous hands -- nearly identical to those of homo sapiens. By the way, in nature there is no such thing as "primitive". All successful species represent highly advanced forms, each of them unique to a given niche or environment.

An extensive study of fossil history was undertaken by the “Geological Society of London” and the “Palaeontological Association of England”. Professor of natural science John N. Moore reported on the results: “Some 120 scientists, all specialists, prepared 30 chapters in a monumental work of over 800 pages to present the fossil record for plants and animals divided into about 2,500 groups. ... Each major form or kind of plant and animal is shown to have a separate and distinct history from all the other forms or kinds! Groups of both plants and animals appear suddenly in the fossil record. ... Whales, bats, horses, primates, elephants, hares, squirrels, etc., all are as distinct at their first appearance as they are now. There is not a trace of a common ancestor, much less a link with any reptile, the supposed progenitor.” Moore added: “No transitional forms have been found in the fossil record very probably because no transitional forms exist in fossil stage at all. Very likely, transitions between animal kinds and/or transitions between plant kinds have never occurred.”

This is where we have to agree to disagree. So many transitional fossils have now been found, that it will take decades of additional research to decipher the exact relationships of each. It is no coincidence, for example, that a multitude of dinosaur fossils have been recovered, all of them bearing bird-like feathers of one sort or another -- mixed with more typical reptilian scales. Though long suspected, it is now considered factual that most birds are modern-day dinosaurs.

Zoologist Harold Coffin concluded: “If progressive evolution from simple to complex is correct, the ancestors of these full-blown living creatures in the Cambrian should be found; but they have not been found and scientists admit there is little prospect of their ever being found. On the basis of the facts alone, on the basis of what is actually found in the earth, the theory of a sudden creative act in which the major forms of life were established fits best.”

Not so fast there, Noah. Many so-called transitional species were just that -- transitional. In other words, there were likely far fewer of them, than the "end-result" animals which would have far outnumbered any transitional, intermediary breeds. Fossils are rare enough as is, left behind by large populations, than what we might expect to find of those who may have existed for only a brief span of generations. This area of research involves another, somewhat newer prediction for how evolution works. Called "punctuated equilibrium", it is the belief (now accepted as fact) that not only do some species evolve over millions of years, but that others -- through relatively sudden, mutational "jumps" -- literally leap from one related form to another, minus any transitional period in-between.

Dr. John Rosholt of Miami University, working with Dr. Cesare Emiliani, worked out an age prospectus based on minuscule amounts of uranium which have settled to the bottom of the seas as proactinium 231 and thorium 230. Uranium requires thousands of years to decay, and, by testing amounts found in sediment on the ocean floor, the so called warm period of the earth can be determined. Their tests show that, if man came from the sea as a two-legged fish, or as an ape, it took place 95,000 years ago. The time is too short for the fish (or ape) to have evolved into a two-legged man with a will of his own and the ability to impart knowledge to his young. In the universe, 95,000 years is nothing.

Just as we ought not take as gospel the research offered by only a few, or any one group of scientsts, so ought we not ignore or fail to seek the arguments offered by opposing points of view. Nor their statistics.


“Science now corroborates what most great religions have long been preaching: Human beings of all races are ... descended from the same first man.”—Heredity in Humans (Philadelphia and New York, 1972), Amram Scheinfeld.

Close but no cigar, as they used to say. In actuality, science now corroborates the notion that we all descended from the same first woman. I think her fossil name is "Lucy". We need to remember, however, that no one person, either today or during some prehistoric yesteryear, fostered an entire species all by themselves. Certainly no human did the deed. Reason being that our common ancestors were hardly human; more of a bipedal tree shrew than man or woman.

Thus it is plain to see why these two schools of thought, namely yours and mine, can never coalesce as a mutually acceptable Story of Our Beginning. The best we can hope for, I suspect, is an arrangement as exists between Jews and Christians, whereby each respects the other's beliefs, despite their little disagreement over whether Jesus was divine or not.

The World Book Encyclopedia says: “Scientists state that cells which make up the human body are the same for all people. . . In the same way, a biologist can tell human blood from that of lower animals. But all the many types of human blood can be found among all the stocks and races of mankind.”

“The Bible story of Adam and Eve, father and mother of the whole human race, told centuries ago the same truth that science has shown today: that all the peoples of the earth are a single family and have a common origin.”—The Races of Mankind (New York, 1978), Ruth Benedict and Gene Weltfish.

It is odd how we find ourselves in happy agreement as regards the statement directly above. The only discrepancies being both the age of our collective parents, and the idea that, at the time, these folks were far from being human. Humanity in all its forms, would follow long after these upright animals, part rodent, part primate, fell out of their trees.

The book Nanomedicine states that the human body is made up of 41 chemical elements. These basic elements—carbon, iron, oxygen, and others—are all present in the “dust” of the earth. Thus, as Genesis states, humans truly are formed “Out of dust from the ground.”

I feel fairly certain that animal droppings contain these same magical 41 elements -- and in greater number. Just a guess.

What of the description in Genesis that Eve was created from Adam’s rib?

In January 2008, scientists in California, U.S.A., produced the world’s first mature cloned human embryos from adult skin cells. The same has been done with animals, to the extent that scientists managed to clone a sheep. If human intellect can manipulate biology to achieve such astounding feats, why is it not credible for the designer of life itself to replicate a human from the DNA of another human? Interestingly, surgeons routinely use the rib in reconstructive surgery because of its ability to regrow and replace itself. No other bone in the body has this property. This is why men and women have the same number of ribs. Was the writer of Genesis simply very lucky to choose the rib as the building material for the first woman? Or was he given this information by someone who knew?

If any one thing in life is true, it's the understanding that we are immersed among a lifelong series of coincidences. Some of them nothing short of amazing -- or daunting. Since we cannot prove that the rib connection was indeed just a coincidence, neither can we disprove that it wasn't. Another example of why we need to prove things true, rather than untrue.

In recent years, scientists have researched human genes extensively. By comparing human genetic patterns around the earth, they found clear evidence that all humans have a common ancestor, a source of the DNA of all people who have ever lived, including each of us. In 1988, Newsweek magazine presented those findings in a report entitled “The Search for Adam and Eve.” Those studies were based on a type of mitochondrial DNA, genetic material passed on only by the female. Reports in 1995 about research on male DNA point to the same conclusion—that “There was an ancestral ‘Adam,’ whose genetic material on the [Y] chromosome is common to every man now on earth,” as Time magazine put it.

While I lack the expertise to comment one way or another, it does make sense to me that a common ancestor(s) would have left their mark on modern humans. Regardless of whether that ancestor was woman, man, or an anthropoid raccoon.


Language and writing are peculiar and distinctly human. There are no “Primitive” languages or texts. Neither do animals have language and syntax.

Hey, just you wait a darn minute! You've really jumped the tracks on this one. Okay, writing is distinctly human, but language is a shared ability, whether among insects, reptiles, fish, and mammals, both on land and in the water. Just because a whale can't speak humanese, it's also true that humans can't speak cetacean, either.

Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics G. L. Trager says: “Historical knowledge about existing languages goes back only a few thousand years.”

Did language really start with simple grunts and barks? An article in Science Illustrated of July 1948 stated: “Older forms of the languages known today were far more difficult than their modern descendants ... man appears not to have begun with a simple speech, and gradually made it more complex, but rather to have gotten hold of a tremendously knotty speech somewhere in the unrecorded past, and gradually simplified it to the modern form.”

I'd have to see the proof on this one.

Linguist Dr. Mason also points out that “The idea that ‘savages’ speak in a series of grunts, and are unable to express many ‘civilized’ concepts, is very wrong.” He adds that “Many of the languages of non-literate peoples are far more complex than modern European ones.”—Science News Letter, September 3, 1955.

Maybe the language of North American bees is more complex than their European cousins?

On the origin of language, lexicographer Ludwig Koehler wrote: “There has been, especially in former times, much speculation as to how human speech ‘came into being.’ Writers strove to explore ‘animal language.’ For animals also are able to express audibly by sounds and groups of sounds their feelings and sensations, such as contentment, fear, emotion, anger, sexual desire and satisfaction in its fulfilment, and perhaps many other things. However manifold these [animal] expressions may be ... they lack concept and thought, the essential domain of human language.”

When you're the only ones building spaceships and planning a trip to Mars, I don't feel it's really necessary to argue how your concepts and thoughts are so much bigger and bolder, than those of a carrier pigeon trying to find its way home.

After showing how men can explore the physiological aspect of human speech, Koehler adds: “But what actually happens in speech, how the spark of perception kindles the spirit of the child, or of mankind generally, to become the spoken word, eludes our grasp. Human speech is a secret; it is a divine gift, a miracle.”

Given the rather large number of quasi-human species that went extinct, it may well have been a lack of genuine speech that ultimately did them in.

In contrast to ancient mythologies, Genesis points to a specific location in the Middle East, naming the four rivers which converged in Eden. Palaeontologists have since confirmed that mankind emanates from a starting point in the Middle East.

Oh, yeah? Go ahead and prove how that's not just one of those coincidence things.

The Bible statement, in Acts 17:26, that “[God] made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth” is acknowledged by many scholars and scientists to be backed up by the facts. John Peter Lange wrote;

“The greatest naturalists have mostly declared themselves against the originality of different human races ... in regard to the alleged fruitfulness of sexual combinations among the various races, the proof of such fruitfulness is justly pronounced one of the strongest proofs of unity. ... The autochthonic theory [that living things (in this case humans) were formed or occurred in the places where they were found] cannot deny the fact that the origin of the various types of men points back to a common home in Asia.”

Or in Africa? I think Asia might have been too cold. Maybe they fled to Africa where rumor had it the weather was better. Note how I turn to humor when I don't have a good answer. *Smile*

And so, despite recurring accusations against the Biblical account of Adam and Eve by critics, science does lend serious credibility to their existence. In light of the above facts, it would be both unscientific and unreasonable to dismiss Adam and Eve as simple mythology. In fact, the evidence here presented strongly suggests that such characters are historical and factual. In conclusion, I can state;

Adam and Eve –Yes, Seriously!

Well, I'll give you this much: You certainly proved how it could be scientifically reasonable to suggest that Adam and Eve were more than mere mythology. Although you make your case, I believe it remains flawed as I've indicated.

In all seriousness, I also think it's the absolutism of your remarks that hurt your message the most. Where is it written that in order to worship the glory of God, or celebrate all He's created, we must accept Adam and Eve as a factual account of our humanly origin? Compared to our acceptance of Jesus as having died for our sins, or simply living a decent, Christian life, what difference might it make, in the light of things so much more important?

Thank you for your stimulating challenge, whereupon I walk away afterwards, confident that both of us remain unconvinced by the other. *Bigsmile*

Be well, and don't let stodgy old troublemakers like me slow you down. Not that you would.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
In affiliation with The 4 Controversies Contest GR...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
I Think, Therefore, I Am
I am, therefore I think?

Hi, Ken, my name is Bob (aka Timtu) and I’m guest judging for this round of Adrie’s (Whata) Four Controversies contest. No matter how well a given work is written, technically, my focus is generally on content and message, with grammatical perfection running a distant second. In a sense, literature is similar to art, don’t you think? Whereby beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Despite an artist’s ability to understand colors, and knowing how to clean a paint brush.

So that’s pretty much where I’m coming from as a judge. As if I’m qualified to be a judge of anything. That’s sort of pretending to be God, in a way, except for a few, precisely defined exceptions. Your essay touches upon one of those exceptions, which is to say, you’ve posed a question of one Good versus another Good, while one Bad is compared to another Bad. But not so much a matter of a particular Good battling it out with an Evil of one sort or another.

In the modern world of politics, Good and Evil, Right versus Wrong, have been turned upside down. With both major parties claiming to represent all things good, while accusing the opposing side of espousing all things evil, open debate on almost any issue has ceased as an option. It is insufficient nowadays to simply disagree with someone, believing them to be ill-informed, or to have gotten their facts wrong. Because so few Republicans and Democrats cross over the isle, so to speak, each side has now taken to absolutes, each accusing the other of not just being wrong, but of being evil incarnate; a party of Evil doing battle with the Party of Good.

If one is simply incorrect about something, it is presumed that either their mind can be changed, or that they can change the opinion held by another. When opinions become beliefs, however, it grows ever more evident that strongly held positions can no longer be altered by friendly contentions. Ultimately, when facts themselves are looked upon as lies or distortions, then large and small changes within the frameworks of government itself remain the only alternative, short of armed and violent revolt.

Generally speaking, nothing I might say can change your mind about abortion. No amount of information, once provided, is capable of altering your belief that abortion is an abomination that needs to be eradicated once and for all. Unless it's just an opinion on your part. Thus the huge difference between opinions and beliefs is that opinions are dependent on facts. When those facts are found to be false, and new ones are adopted, minds and opinions change. Beliefs, however, are typically based on religious grounds, supported by faiths that do not require factual validation or verification.

It's not so difficult, therefore, to understand why a review of your material, Ken, is so fraught with misgivings. I come from a place of opinions only, attempting to find intellectual victory over another whose religious faith, like an impenetrable shield, no longer yields to earthbound arguments. Because epiphanies, though, may arise at any time, for any reason, it is always worthwhile, I believe, to toss around any number of ideas as to the true nature of reality. A game, if you will, that is always kept friendly, and understood to have its built-in limitations.

One interesting addendum to the foregoing material would address the exercising of compromises. Is it possible to dispense with a number of beliefs to do with one or more important issues, plus accept a few that are otherwise deemed evil, all in the name of gaining a final product or result that is mostly Good in its makeup? I suppose that such accommodations are unique to each of us as individuals.

Inside the proverbial can of worms that your essay has opened, we find the Republicans and Democrats both claiming sovereign ownership of all things Good, while the other, opposing party (so goes the rhetoric), represents all things ugly and Evil. It is within this context that before I even begin my review, it ought to be understood that no truly objective way exists to assess whether or not your composition deals with universal rules and truths -- about which everyone might agree beforehand. Or whether the divide between political foes has grown so wide, divisive and personal that civil, rational debate is no longer possible.

Similar to the days just prior to the American Civil War, one can easily surmise that the time for public or private discourse had already ceased, no doubt ending much earlier than the terrible war to come. Obviously the slave owners of the period, many of them good Christians, believed so strongly in the virtue of their position, that no amount of rational argument could change their minds. In exactly the same manner, the anti-slavery abolitionists were convinced of their own righteousness to such an extent, that God’s commandment against killing no longer applied to them. Or put another way, a presumed special waiver from Heaven, if you will, as to the commission of evil acts for the sake of the common (or larger) good.

A modern-day comparison exists whereby the minds on one side of a barbwire fence, so to speak, have closed off completely, and virtually no amount of new or conflicting information can reopen them again. The situation grows increasingly worse, of course, when those on the opposite side of the same fence, take a position identical to that of their intellectual adversaries. With ever-heightening degrees of emotion added to the mix, it’s only a matter of time before new arbiters, those being Anarchy and Chaos, take their rightful place among what has become an increasingly belligerent, unruly mob of officialdom.

The end justifies the means? Or the means justify the end? Indeed, whereby it’s said that History is written solely by those who reign victorious over their enemies.

Plainly I like to use the Civil War as a talking point when discussing issues of right and wrong, good against evil, and truth versus distortions, inaccuracies, or intentional lies. As demonstrated on a daily basis nowadays, things are not so different from the time leading up to what can only be described as America’s own version of the Holocaust. A time when both families and friends turned against one another, slaughtering each other under twin banners of Christian and Southern Crosses, and Stars with bars.

In a more contemporary setting, I know several people who have lost old friends and gained new ones, all based solely on politics. Literally lifelong friends and associates are either cut loose, or they permanently unfriend us once we discover the true political leanings we both hold nearly and dearly. But differently. I can speak from personal experience after losing more than a few acquaintances, even a friend or two. For example, my disdain of Hillary Clinton runs so deep, that it is nearly impossible for me to be an acquaintance, let alone a good friend, with anyone who likes her, let alone voted for her. I don't just believe she is wrong on the issues, maybe selfish and greedy, but instead personifies the very essence of what it means to be genuinely evil. But I digress. *Smile*

Although certainly not the sole story concerning the Civil War, pro-slavery advocates and anti-slavery abolitionists do indeed lie at the very core of the conflict. Much like today, economic concerns, contradictory religious interpretations, pride and prejudice, all spoke-wheeled outward from an insidious hub that was indefensible -- namely the idea whereby men could own other men, as though they were possessions and not persons. More importantly that, regardless of skin color, concepts of liberty and freedom, and the God-given humanity of all men, was deemed to be self-evident.

For nearly a hundred years after the Declaration of Independence had been penned, a single, incontrovertible truth, like an annoying burr in a saddle, remained unreconciled, unresolved, and would burn like a slow fuse plugged into a powder keg. To wit the Jeffersonian declaration that all men were created equal, and endowed by their Creator with a strict and distinct set of absolute rights. Period. With such an inherently contradictory stance, one which flew so unambiguously in the face of slavery, it could not have been anything but an accident (or a war) just waiting to happen.

Well, then, that’s about enough out of me for now. Let’s see what we might make of your fine essay. I immediately liked the way you thrust readers into the ongoing abortion question, let alone treat us to your very personal deconstruction of one of the more volatile issues facing the country. You are brave to do so, my friend. But no more so, I suppose, than an abolitionist facing the hangman’s noose for giving safe passage to an escaped slave.

As I intimated earlier on, once a religious belief is awarded political status or standing, the tenets of one’s faith may become enforceable by the rule of law. Thus the very human temptation to subvert not just others with whom one disagrees, but everyone and anyone who might be said to violate your sensibilities. In other words, legislating Truth as defined by one group, and punishing the disobedient heretics whose misfortune it is to belong to some other group. Until, that is, the previously condemned group is elected to power.

If one takes the position that the Divinity of Jesus Christ is only an opinion, while others contend it is an indisputable fact, than we can immediately discern the making of an irresolvable conflict. If one declares that the definition of what it means to be human, i.e. the moment a man’s sperm successfully joins with a woman’s egg -- and expresses their belief as an opinion only -- that person will inevitably (if not sooner) be confronted by the wrath of those for whom such a notion is absolute fact.

Facts versus opinions. Opinions and facts. Slave owners and abolitionists. Pro-Life versus Choice, i.e. a woman’s right to choose what’s best for her body. Rights and Privileges. My rights versus your privileges. The belief that Healthcare is a right, as opposed to being a privilege only.

Irresolvable? Absolutely.

One might make a further comparison with the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, whereby Israel and the Palestinians seem incapable of finding a peaceful solution to their problems. When we look deeper, however, we discover that Israel's enemies do not want peace. Indeed, the Palestinian position, as a prerequisite to negotiation, calls for the complete elimination of Israel as a country. A virtual genocide of the Jewish religion itself. It then becomes quite clear why the two factions are unable to resolve their differences. Indeed the situation is utterly absurd and if not so serious, would be laughable.

From here on, I’ll annotate my responses.

Although a complete fallacy, the recent White House celebration of repeal and replacement of the American Care Act, or Obamacare as it's disparagingly called, highlighted a continuing controversy within the American electorate.

Or, highlighted a continuing dispute, or argumentative war-of-words, among the many different factions that make up the American electorate.

Designating pregnancy as pre-existing condition seems to be one more step in the Conservative agenda of usurping a woman's right to make decisions about their own bodies. Their argument is “Since life begins at conception, abortion is akin to murder as it is the act of taking human life.

Personally? I support the pre-existing stipulation. Plus the (absolute) belief that life does indeed begin at conception. I do not, however, believe it is murder unless the child is killed post-birth. Or allowed to die for lack of care. I prefer to think of abortion, generally speaking, as infanticide, a form of manslaughter (babyslaughter) second-degree something or other, whereby a determination is made to “kill” the child for one reason or another. Each case would be an individual situation by which no one law or group of laws might cover every circumstance. Saving the life of the mother, for example. Cases of rape and incest in which no woman should be forced, it is argued, to take such a pregnancy to full term.

I'm reminded of the tragic situation whereby a drunk driver hits another car, and the pregnant woman inside the other vehicle loses her unborn child as a result. In this particular situation, I concur with the prosecution of the drunken driver as a second-degree (manslaughter) murder case.

Such debates, to a large degree, are simply not debatable. They involve what are called core values that, in being similar to the founding principles of one’s faith, remain unchangeable. Period. In the case of abortion, one either believes that a living thing, in vitro, is a sacred human life, or it is not. Hence even among Pro-Life groups, strong disagreements are had as to whether rape or incest are acceptable exceptions. If killing the unborn is tantamount to murder, then how could one life be more sacred than another? The pro-lifers who rationalize such inherent contradictions believe that, at some point, the life of the woman trumps that of the fetus growing inside her womb.

Speaking for myself, I dislike inconsistencies in one’s thinking, or in one’s adopted philosophies. One is either faithful to their Faith, or else why bother? It’s rather like a Christian purposely choosing to commit all manner of sins, simply because forgiveness lies but one confession booth away.

Not meant as an endorsement, but Choice certainly takes the uncertainty out of the equation. And once again, consistency in such a belief would necessarily accept the notion that late-term abortions, even partial-birth abortions, while being indefensibly detestable, are nonetheless permissible in many if not most circumstances.

The answer is obvious that the need (or desire) for abortions themselves need to be minimized such that they cease to exist altogether.

I agree. The taking of a human life is wrong. But, I have to ask, what is a human life?

See, Ken, there you go, causing trouble again. *Smile* I’ve already stated my own prejudice in the matter. I have my reasons, both intellectually and emotionally, for clinging to my aforementioned belief.

The question of when a human life begins is intricately complex, with widespread implications, ranging from abortion rights to stem cell research and beyond. A key point in the debate rests on the way in which we choose to define the concepts of humanity, life, and human life. What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be human?

These are all philosophical and scientific questions, my friend. Not legalistic ones. The laws of physics can’t be found in any book on jurisprudence. There is, I think, what we might call, a dignity of life, that ought to be observed. An observation similar to how American Indians would perform (or still do) respectful, quasi-religious rituals, thanking the animal they had killed, for giving up its life. If the time ever comes when fetuses are taken out with the trash and garbage, people will have lost an important regard for life in all its forms, including human beings. Some would no doubt argue that we have already achieved such a deplorable condition.

For myself, the question became real when my oldest daughter came looking for advice. She was pregnant, unmarried, and in rehab for drug addiction. As I struggled with the issue – as a father, as a man of faith, and as a human being – I kept coming back to words that were written hundreds of years ago: "Cogito ergo sum - I think, therefore I am." (Descartes, René. 1637. Discourse on Method).

Descartes failed, according to some accounts, to reconcile who it was, doing the thinking. Or what was it about us, whose existence was no longer doubted, but who nonetheless continued to ask philosophical questions? As if some hitherto undiscovered aspect of ourselves might yet be defined via our ability to pose important questions.

I believe that self-awareness is the essence of human life. I base this on the current scientific research and arrived at it through a process of elimination.

So called self-awareness i.e. sentience, is somewhat of a chauvinistic measure of what it means to be human. In that it is ourselves who are doing the measuring. Current quantum theory suggests that via our observations alone, we may well change what it is being observed. Or put another way, the definition of life itself is based on a criteria whereby we predict the results that cannot be satisfied otherwise. Anything beyond what we’ve concluded are a legitimate -- albeit limited -- set of rules, the fulfillment (or lack thereof) of which determines whether or not something is living, cannot be discerned or measured. Indeed, we might well decide a thing is alive -- or not -- simply by virtue of its having satisfied our narrow expectations of what constitutes life.

Human Life begins at birth. Historically life has been equated to birth. As far back as 380 b.c., Plato contended that the human soul did not enter the body until birth. His position became the law of ancient Roman society (Buss, M. 1987. Journal of Religion). This view sees human life as beginning when an individual has become independent of the mother and has its own functioning circulatory system, alimentary system, and respiratory system. This is the traditional birthday when the baby is born into the world and the umbilical cord is cut. I see this more along the lines of independence since clearly the developing fetus can respond to stimuli (feel, hear, see) prior to actual birth. It responds to its environment. It is aware.

Cutting sections of what cannot be separated into pieces. It wasn’t so long ago that premature births were a death sentence. Nowadays such births are common, even routine. Survival of an impregnated ovum (zygote) is thus a matter of technology, and not so much, one of biology. It is also not a stretch to suggest that a time will come when a zygote might be removed at virtually any stage of fetal development, and grown to what would otherwise be described as full term. So much for the views of Buss, M., 1987. The question is begged as to what constitutes a birth, in and of itself. Quite obviously, a next step in the process would be to remove the woman herself, from that process. Old and retired issues such as abortion, would have lost their meaning altogether. The question of human life will have easily been reduced to nothing more than the desired union of sperm and egg. The whole thing becomes a matter of tradeoff whereby we sacrifice the intimate joys of child bearing, for a world where no more children are aborted, at any age, for any reason.

Human Life begins at conception. As time went by, the belief that birth was the first blossoming of life was challenged by the Greeks who stressed that the human soul was created at the time of conception and this is reflected in the Hippocratic oath. Hippocrates' outright disapproval of abortion stemmed from his belief that conception marked the beginning of a human life (Tribe, L. 1990. Abortion: The Clash of the Absolutes). In considering this, my problem was two-fold. Both the sperm and egg cells are alive to begin with. The idea that their union is "new life" doesn't make sense. In this view, there is no one point where life begins. In reviewing the literature, I also discovered that discrete marking points such as the fourteen day dividing line between a zygote and an embryo are entirely artificial constructions of biologists and doctors in order to better categorize development for academic purposes. This position is supported by recent research that has revealed that fertilization itself is not even an instantaneous event, but rather a process that takes 20-22 hours between the time the sperm penetrates the outermost layers of the egg and the formation of a genetically unique cell or zygote (Kuhse, Helga. 1988. Bioethics).

The most popular argument against the idea that life begins at the moment of fertilization has been dubbed the "twinning argument." The main point of this argument is that although a zygote is genetically unique from its parents from the moment zygote organism is formed, it is possible for that zygote to split into two or more zygotes up until 14 or 15 days after fertilization. Suppose that an egg is fertilized. If at that moment a new life begins, the zygote gains a "soul" in the religious line of thought, or "personhood" in a secular line of thought. Then suppose that the zygote splits to form twins. Does the soul of the zygote split as well? No, this is impossible. No one would argue that twins share the same "soul" or the same "personhood."

I hope that my overview of how advanced technologies have changed our views of pregnancy and childbirth, as a process, has somewhat settled (or calmed) a multitude of issues that were previously contentious. As regards the development of atomic weapons, Einstein was quoted as saying that everything had changed except our way of thinking. Hence our old-fashioned methods of defining and categorizing one thing from another, have also undergone what is called a paradigm shift. Fortunately, abortion will be among the first to fall away and vanish as continuous advancements in medicine force us to reevaluate our prior notions about all things. The concept of a soul, whether from a religious or occult perspective, must also be among those topics that necessarily deserve our attention.

The confusion almost certainly lies with our understanding of this thing we call a soul -- rather than trying to figure out how twins might share one soul or two. If and when our current ideas about souls should ever clarify, I suspect that our former explanations should appear foolish if not wholly inadequate. And that most questions surrounding such things as souls, angels, human life and the like, will have been addressed. I also believe that whatever souls are, they will be deciphered via an inclusiveness that encompasses all things equally, instead of seeing them as separate from anything else. Thus inquiries as to how a soul(s) might occupy one or more fetuses, should then be seen as too complex -- or overly simplified -- if not nonsensical by comparison.

From what we know, as opposed to what we believe, it seems that "human life" must occur somewhere in between ... but when?

Perhaps you can now see, Ken, why I don’t waste my time with such narrowly focused queries and quandaries. All of it designed to somehow justify our beliefs and behaviors accordingly. Talk about muddying the waters. How often have both of us witnessed two or more people arguing over the details of one thing or another? Each person throwing around undefined or under-defined terms and ideas, just prior to launching into a contest of whose invectives were the most insulting. For example, what is gained by debating the existence of a soul when the larger question, it seems to me, is more to do with a mutual agreement as to whether there is life after death. And what proof is there, that might substantiate one position compared to another? Even then, if we don’t know what life is, in or out of the womb, or can’t agree on our terminologies, how is it that we should know, any of us, if there is indeed, life after death? With the exception, of course, by way of one’s immutable religious faith.

Human Life begins with self-awareness. There is a universal acceptance that life is finite; it has a beginning and an end. From a scientific point of view, the reality is that all life has both a beginning and an end, usually identified as some form of death. The debate surrounding the exact moment marking the beginning of a human life contrasts the certainty and consistency with which the instant of death is described. Contemporary society defines death as the loss of the pattern produced by a cerebral electroencephalogram (EEG). If life and death are based upon the same standard of measurement, then the beginning of human life should be recognized as the time when a fetus acquires a recognizable EEG pattern. This acquisition occurs approximately 24- 27 weeks after the conception of the fetus. There is a strong argument that the unique and highly recognizable EEG pattern produced by a mature brain is a defining characteristic of humanity. Therefore, the moment that a developing fetus first exhibits an EEG pattern consistent with that of a mature brain is indicative of the beginning of human life. It is from this point and onward during development that the fetus is capable of the type of mental activity associated with humanity. (Morowitz, H. J. and Trefil, J. S. 1992. The Facts of Life: Science and the Abortion Controversy)

Once again, the instrumentalities utilized, dictates our expectations and analysis of the end results. An EEG measures something that is found in all human brains. I’m unaware of whether animals display comparable indices when measured likewise. But I digress. We have no way of knowing, as technology advances, whether a different machine will measure something we don’t as yet see or understand. But once developed, may show us another characteristic that is common to all human brains. But is acquired at two-seconds post conception. That soul thing, perhaps?

In the end, understanding the moral standards that drive the question appears to be the key to figuring out how to approach the question of when human life begins. Science has not been able to give a definitive answer to this question. It would seem that faith alone is the only basis we have for answering this difficult question.

In other words, making moral judgments about stuff, based upon our religious beliefs. What about moral judgments independent of religious teachings? For example, an atheist who subscribes to the ten commandments found in the Old Testament of the Bible. Except that the atheist considers such doctrines as being matters of common sense, or what is in the best interests of both himself and society as a whole. Almost humorous in its detachment from kindred discussions, the question of what constitutes human life, including when does personhood begin -- if studied from a purely scientific standpoint -- might well be aimed more towards an understanding of extraterrestrial lifeforms, and what differences (or similarities) both anatomically and technologically, might exist compared to those of human beings.

Realizing the uncertainty led me to use the gifts the creator provided and find an answer that balanced both my need for "facts" and my own belief in a power greater than myself.

Speaking of extraterrestrials, might they not represent a power far greater than ourselves, both collectively and individually? In the Hollywood adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, a priest sets out to make contact with the unseen crew members of a machine used by the aliens to conquer the Earth. When warned by his friends to stay away, the clergyman replies that since the invaders are more advanced than humans, they should be that much closer to the Almighty.

Freed of all hubris, a human might well conclude that many, if not most things, represent powers greater than him or herself. How could a rational person gaze into a nighttime sky, cloudless and starlit, and not realize that homo sapiens, at best, are little more than one piece to a much larger puzzle? All of it under the watchful eye, perhaps, of a master Puzzle-Maker.

There is definitive evidence that at a point in embryonic development that "magic happens." The unborn gain the capacity to use their minds in a manner we define as human. At this point, the embryo begins the process of self-awareness and starts out on the journey that leads each of us to appreciate the strengths and weakness of being human and to appreciate that, however we got here, it wasn't by accident.

Hence the new and growing fear of robotics. Since we don’t know how or when the magic happens, how complex need be so-called artificial intelligence, before it awakens and decides that humankind is merely an infestation of pesky, biological organisms, most of whom serve no purpose or function. Who should be eradicated and exterminated as so much vermin.

Such machines would not trouble themselves with the same questions or quandaries as you and I have done, and will continue to do. In which case the concepts of morality and compassion, grief and joyful exuberance, could be easily identified as those traits that, compared to other entities, then mark us as unquestionably human in nature.

Ken, except for a few spelling errors and some other minor stuff, I truly enjoyed your essay, and the subjects you touched upon, both of which -- I’d like to think -- brought out some of the best in me (and the worst?) You have a real knack for this stuff and my only suggested change, if that much, might be for you to become a better self-editor. Catching the little errors before someone else does. For example:

Realizing the uncertainty led me to use the gifts the creator provided and find an answer that balanced both my need for "facts" and my own belief in a power greater than myself.

In the first line of your paragraph above, read it over and see if you catch the same as I did. This is part of that self-editing stuff I referred to.

What follows are two examples of possible changes that would clarify your meaning:

Realizing this uncertainty led me to use the gifts that the Creator provided, and find an answer that balanced both my need for "facts" and my own belief in a power greater than myself.

Realizing the uncertainty that (or which) had led me to use the gifts the Creator provided, I found (or, uncovered/discovered) an answer that balanced both my need for "facts" and my own belief in a power greater than myself.

In summation, Ken, this nonfiction stuff is very demanding as you no doubt already know -- all too well, right? Overall I felt your writing is very good. I had no trouble understanding your opinions and other ideas. My only other criticism, if I'm being particularly picayune, is that the piece reads as if it is too condensed, that you had a ton more to say, but had to keep things short in order to stay within the 1000 word limit. Nonfiction, when limited to length, needs to read the same as a short-story fiction piece, namely it contains a beginning, middle, and well-defined end.

Most great writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, should ideally end where it began. In order to make your piece stronger, in my never-to-be-humble opinion, it's hard to tell where you're going at first. To start out with the Obamacare mention, we don't know if that is where you'll ultimately end up. It's nice if we can come out swinging with a strong statement about the exact topic that will be discussed. Ending with a dramatic conclusion that refers back to our original premise, as stated in the first one or two paragraphs.

That said, you're definitely on the right track for these kind of dialogues, and I haven't looked, but you likely have a good many of these in your portfolio. If you're still awake after reading my brief review, the best suggestion I can offer, is to get outside of yourself and write this stuff from the viewpoint of an imaginary antagonist. Counter his or her arguments by trying to rebut their criticisms and attacks. Defend yourself and state your positions as if they were indeed rebuttals to the fallacious thinking of your harshest critics.

There is so much greatness in Biblical scripture, that it is easy for me to adopt a role of both sinner and saint. As a would-be saint, I can easily argue against the ignorance and stupidity of being an atheist. And why God is a great answer to many good questions. As the consummate sinner, however, I can play the non-believer who likes to show how God isn't the answer to anything. You get the idea.

Good luck, be well, and keep those mental gears turning and churning *BigSmile*


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Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi, Tracey,

This story has all the makings of a great little children's fable. All the elements are in place, and everyone knows their place. The black unicorn is a rare and unusual touch that I had not seen or read about before.

The character names, except for princess Lelah, which sounds too close to Star Wars "Leia" are also excellent. Meshell the mermaid, Cobal the wizard, and particularly Moonlightning, the unicorn, are all terrific. The step-mother needs a name as well, I think.

The story has a definite beginning, middle, and end, all of which work well at the most basic of levels. I think the story overall, however, may be too basic, and is ripe for the addition of several important details.

Little things like choosing the word "wicked" or "evil" instead of "mean" would help a great deal. We also need to know why the princess is wicked, and what happened to her real mother. This is a good place, perhaps, to insert how the death of her real mother made her the way she is. And why she hates her step-mother, even wishing her dead.

"Immediately after she wished this, thunder rocked the heavens and lightning came down and struck the earth next to where Princess Lelah stood. Her wish was granted. The Queen had disappeared and now Princess Lelah was Queen."

Sometimes too much can happen in one paragraph, and this occurs several times in your story. It feels like a much longer story that has been squished into one page. The good news is that it should be fun for you to add in some "juicy" details that make the story much more interesting, even for a young reader.

To sum up, I like the story and love the whole concept of the black unicorn. I like how Cobal turns into a dragon. But Lelah needs to learn "why" being mean or wicked is wrong. Instead of just using magic to change her. If only life were that simple, right?

Maybe when she sees all the terrible things that happen from her using the unicorn's magic, she realizes how wrong she's been. She'll give anything, do anything to save the life of the dying unicorn, who she has come to love. That sort of thing could prove to add a lot of meat to the otherwise bare bones of this potentially delightful story.

Let me know if you ever do more work on it. This could be a very good fable with some added color and depth. Talk about all the ingredients for a great cake. They're all here. It just needs to be baked with lots of TLC.

Thanks for listening.

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Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hello, BBB,

I enjoyed your well worded spoof and despite its verbose structure, kept me occupied until the end. As a reviewer, however, I felt I owed you that much, a complete read, before diving in and explaining the many faults I also found in the work.

First and foremost is the dire need to establish common ground between you, the writer, and your audience with respect to the word, utopia. Ask ten people and you're likely to get ten different answers, none of which may be the exact one you have in mind. While most of us may have some idea of what is meant by the term, your article is so dense in its details, that a concise definition of "utopia" is made mandatory.

The usual definition goes something like the following:

An ideally perfect state, especially in its social and political and moral aspects.

Once you establish the meaning of the word, then your work needs to follow each of the components that comprise the definition. This makes it easier for you to write, and for the reader to understand.

Thus we have social, political, and lastly moral elements that themselves, require further definition and explanation. One of the more vexing aspects of your otherwise fine piece, is that the work rambles on, never following a logical continuity that takes us from one thing to the next, with a final wrap-up at the end.

Although I found myself smirking much of the time, you never got me to smile or laugh because the reading was laborious rather than fun. We didn't know, much of the time, whether you were being serious, or poking fun. It's like the standup comic whose joke falls on a deathly quiet audience. Never good. *Smile*

That said, the bulk of the piece is amazingly well written for someone still in high school. My hat is off, with my hands applauding what could be, with a lot of additional editing, an extraordinary overview of utopian idealism versus free-market capitalism. Another element that is missing; namely the enemy of the utopian state. We want to know to what end, and over what foe, does all this righteous fanaticism deliver us.

I could go on, but critiquing such a complex work as this would be time consuming, to say the least. I hope that my few comments have at least sparked some added thoughts for you to consider, and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to tap my bottomless appraisal of my own value. *Smile*

Thanks for listening. And for what it is, good job, my friend.


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Review of BANG!  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Unfortunately for you, my friend, this is one of those stories that's so bad, it's good. Obviously Sammy lives in an impoverished neighborhood, and his neighbors are likely to be former inmates released too soon from their incarceration at the local sanitarium.

So it makes too much sense that a crazed neighbor is taking pot-shots at whatever and whomever. This story falls more into the "silly" category than it fits among poorly conceived tales. The work is funny, and bad stories shouldn't be humorous; they should be just plain bad.

Now the writing here really does suck, so you might win on that account alone. If the writing was better, however, this piece would easily qualify as a worthwhile read. So, sorry, you're attempt at losing is a failure in my opinion. As an experienced artist, it is pretty much impossible for me to do bad art. You suffer from the same problem in that you're no longer capable of writing a bad story. Although, in the "World's Worst Delivery" department, I'd vote for you *BigSmile*

Stop messing around, trying to write poorly, and just do what you do best. Which is write better than most. Therefore I personally disqualify you with my honest vote of four stars. Which it deserves. Now quit wasting my time and let us both get back to work. Thanks *Smile*

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Review of Alone  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hello, my friend. Great little story that can be improved by two simple changes as follows:

1) Get rid of the cliches such as "being one with nature" and "spring chicken".

2) Most importantly, make the other person at the end, a sexy, beautiful woman. Adds just a sparkle of sex, a twinkle to the teeth, and leaves us wondering if he's doomed or reborn to much better days.

Thanks for letting me infuse this piece with some blood of my own. That said, how are you, you old barn owl? Anybody ever publish any of your literary gruel?

Be well.

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Review of Unbearable  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Hi, Lj,

I've reviewed more than one piece of yours, as I recall. I do remember being extremely impressed with your poetry, and this one doesn't disappoint. I've read a lot of poetry here at WDC, much of which is really great stuff. And some not-so-great stuff. I tend to be critical of poems and find fault with them quickly and easily. They are so condensed, so compressed, that every word, line, and punctuation mark (or lack of same) is "uber" important.

In your case, I even tried to improve on what you already so skillfully accomplished on your own. I read through this a few times, feeling certain I could find some small suggestions to make, where the work was weak and could be made stronger.

Your poem, my friend, is both a reviewer's sheer delight and worst nightmare. A joy to read, but work that would swiftly put me out of business as a reviewer. Unless I wished to become a promoter of outstanding poetry. Hey, maybe that goes with the territory. So count me in as one of you biggest fans.

My only real complaint, and I probably touched upon this before, is the total lack of information in your bio. This can be off-putting to your readers, which is a shame because your stuff is so beautiful and, quite frankly, deep.

Don't be so shy about yourself. We needn't hear about your grandfather's mistress or what veggies you grow in your garden, but a pic of yourself, where you call home, what inspires you and so forth. I'd love to know more about what makes you tick.

I hope you don't take this as flirting, because I take writing very seriously, and a lot of female writers, I've found, are somewhat gun-shy when hearing from men who flatter them profusely.

That said, and dispensed with, this poem is nothing short of breathtaking in its deliverance and brevity. Truly outstanding work that grabbed me by the throat and shook me as if myself was held prisoner in a cage of my own apathy and indifference.

I like the bear references which first struck me as hack and overdone, until I realized they were perfect. I don't normally swear in a review, but damn, lady, you've got this poetry down.

Keep up the wonderful work. I think it is beyond excellent.

Thanks for listening. Let me know if you have any questions.

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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Starling,

I'm back again for a look at your chapter 6. The story is so well written, that if I wasn't pressed for time, I'd like to read the whole book, or as much as you have.

I'm going to apply the same kinds of changes to this chapter as I did to #4, because repetition is a good thing when it comes to writing. This means that you should compare my slightly revised version here, to your original unchanged version, and check them side-by-side, word-for-word, line for line, comma for comma.

Keep in mind again, that my version is only one of many different ones possible. I made the changes, however, so that you could see a version which is, in some ways, at least a little better than your original. It is my hope that you'll be able to view the comparison and see why the changes are helpful and in some cases, important.

Lily's eyes fluttered open. She lay there trying to orient herself with where she was. It was her bedroom, in her house, and she was lying down on her bed. She reached up and rubbed her eyes. The wetness which met her finger tips told her she (had been?) was crying, but she knew she also had awoken with a smile on her face.

Michael had visited her again in her dreams. Lily was puzzled, though. After all the dreams in which he had visited her, she always awoke happy. In her dreams the two had played as small children, they had even gone on dates as teens. They had also visited some of the places they had talked about, but never got around to before he was killed in that freak roadside accident. But in this dream, while the parts she could remember were vivid, she had trouble recalling large segments of the rest. Most of the time she remembered everything about the dreams. And she still could not understand why she was crying.

She stretched and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her nieces would be along in about forty-five minutes to take her out to a club called, Live Wire. The outing would be her first all-male Review. She was 60 years young today, and trying to knock things off her ever growing Bucket List.

*** (centered)

With her two nieces, Lily stood among the line of women outside the entrance to Club Live Wire. The three were a third of the way back from the door. The thought that this was a stupid idea, fought for control of her mind, but she was not listening--not much anyway. Her nieces had taken her out to breakfast that morning, then to the beauty shop where she received a pedicure and manicure; they were two more things off her bucket list. After, the women had escorted her to buy the outfit and shoes she was presently wearing. All to celebrate her 60th birthday.

It was 8:00 pm on a beautiful, balmy, Florida Spring night. The beach lay on the other side of the condos across the two-lane main street, which ran parallel to the shore. The smell of salt water hung within the occasional light breeze that blew in from the Gulf of Mexico.

Lily listened to the excited conversations between the other, younger women. The parking lot was well lit and full. The small restaurant known as TJ'S, located in front of a large, cinder block building, would be closing in about an hour. The Club doors themselves were just about to open at the rear of the business, where she stood and waited with the others.

The Beginning (Starling, I'm not sure what you had in mind with this line--a new chapter heading, I presume)

Thanks for letting me drop by and cause trouble. *Smile* Or, I hope, show some helpful pointers.


Hello, please know that this review is part of "The Teddy Bear Gift Basket" "The Teddy Bear Gift Basket-CLOSED

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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
She knew there was screaming around her but the noise was muffled. Bart executed a salute after Revelry finished and marched forward to a Navel cadence she had heard before.

Hi, Starling,

That's a pretty name. I hope it's yours, or that you use it elsewhere as a nickname. So let's see what I did with your well written chapter here.

I included the paragraph above, at the beginning, so it would remind me of the kind of things that deserve attention, and fixing. It's not always easy when the words sound the same but are spelled differently

Lily heard the "Oh, Wows" from her nieces. She knew there was screaming around her, but the noise was muffled. Bart executed a salute after "reveille" finished, then marched forward to a "naval" cadence she had heard before.

These are some of the kinds of changes I made throughout your story below. Please compare the "new" version with your original work, word for word, line for line. No one needs to explain to you how difficult it is to choreograph these kind of scenes. I'm sure you understand how important it is to put in a lot of detail, but not so much, or in such a confusing way, that readers get lost. Overall, I think you did a really good job with this.

Also, my version is not necessarily the "right" version. It is only a little better than what you already have. This could be written in many different ways, and both of ours are only two of those ways. Nor does it need to be written "perfectly", or in the best way possible. Just as clearly as possible, which is what I've tried to do. Including the elimination of small nuisance errors which are distracting and can cause a reader to stop reading.

So take a look and see what you think. See if you can spot all the little changes, plus a couple larger ones. Then see if you can tell why I made the changes I did. Some things might seem obvious, while others might leave you with a question. If so, please ask me about why I changed something, if it isn't clear.

I'm also reviewing chapter 6, so I'll have a few comments there as well. In the meantime, keep up the good work here. I had no trouble understanding exactly what (or even why) things were happening. And that's saying a lot.

Be well, and I hope this is helpful.

Lily expected him to stop at the end of the stage and start dancing, but the man instead pivoted left, walked down the three steps, and made two more tight pivots to the right before stopping in front of her table. He added another salute keeping his eyes looking straight to his front. She wanted him to look at her. Finally his eyes dropped and their gazes locked.

She watched as Bart walked purposely around the table never losing eye contact. He offered her his arm. A hand appeared by her side telling her someone was behind her. Lily looked at her nieces and received encouraging nods. She took the offered hand and stood.

Automatically she thanked the waiter for his consideration as her hand was put into the crook of Bart's offered arm. He enclosed it with his warm, free hand, pressing lightly on hers. She wished she could stop her hand from shaking. His smile was devastating as he led her to the stage. Silently she threw more than one prayer to the universe that she would not stumble.

Out of the corner of her eye, Lily looked at the man. He stood a foot taller than her own five-foot, two-inch height. Her heart was pounding. She was excited beyond belief. The last time she had felt this way was when Michael had taken her hand, at the end of the church isle the day they were married. A song had started to play as they arrived at the middle of the stage but she was having a hard time concentrating enough to put a name to it.

A padded office chair on rollers, had been placed in the center of the stage. Bart settled her into it and whispered for her to put her heels on the small front rung. He added a request that she breathe deeply, and then said he was going to introduce her to his world. She smiled because she was ready. There was a spotlight on her and a separate one on Bart.

Bart then snapped a salute and smartly stepped forward. He kept his eyes straight ahead, not daring to look down. If his eyes were to meet Lilly's, he might jump off the end of the stage and stride directly to her. Instead, he stayed with the routine and marched to the rhythm of the cadence the disc jockey was playing.

Near the end of the stage, he pivoted a sharp left turn, walked down the three steps, pivoted a clean right turn, took two steps and pivoted another right turn. He took a couple more paces and stopped in front of the table where Lily sat. The spotlight found her and stopped. Still keeping his eyes forward, he executed another salute. And finally looked down.

Bart saw that Lilly's eyes twinkled wide with wonder. His heart felt lost and he prayed she would not think bad about their age difference. The thirty years didn't bother him; he just needed to figure a way to convince her that it did not pose a problem.

Slowly he walked around the table and offered her his arm. Jamie held the back of her chair with one hand, and held the other out to support her if she needed it when rising. He would not let go of her until Bart had a firm hold of her hand on his arm.

Once Bart was sure she stood steady on her feet, he signaled the disk jockey to start the music. Bart had chosen the closing song, "Time of Our Lives", from the film, "Dirty Dancing". The tune was one of his mother's favorites. The male dancer in the movie was named Patrick Swayze, and Bart planned on imitating some of the guy's expert moves.

Slowly he walked Lilly back to the stage and eased her into the swivel-style office chair. He leaned close to her and whispered, "Put your heels on the front rung, beautiful lady, and let me show you my world."

Hello, please know that this review is part of "The Teddy Bear Gift Basket " "The Teddy Bear Gift Basket-CLOSED

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Review of Seduction  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hello, jerder,

What a lovely poem you've written. An homage to clear, nighttime skies themselves, as if the heavens were a vast jewelry box kept by princesses and maids alike. Where passion either for love, or for adventure, belongs to no one and everyone equally.

I particularly love the last two lines, which end the poem both with class and in classical style. That it was indeed the stars amid a nighttime sky that caused the first humans to stop watching where their feet went, and instead where their imaginations led them.

Well done, my friend. An exciting piece that sailed right past my usual grumpy and grouchy analysis of poetry. *Smile*


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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 13+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Kat, you heretic, you!

Assuming my own entry into the promised realm is not jeopardized by my little review of your sacrilegious foray into blasphemy, your fightin' words have prompted me to rebut and rebuke.

Okay, scratch that. You preach to the choir, my friend, and if anything, I applaud your brave attempt at clarifying what is simply an additional chunk of illogical rubbish, as regards the childish nonsense related to our very human concepts of Heaven and Hell. Even using the words, as if they were something real, jars the mind of a critical thinker. *FacePalm*

Your marvelous little venture into skepticism contains just the right amount of serious logic, informal tongue-in-cheek humor, and wink of an eye, to make the piece a fast and thoroughly enjoyable read. I found the writing itself to be impeccable. And that comes as a pleasant surprise as these kind of things go. *Smile*

So many decent folk here at WDC like to proselytize their endless devotion to God, Jesus, and the rest, that it's truly refreshing to find someone who gives us a tantalizing glimpse of the other side. The "Dark" side as many would no doubt label it. But to me, and many others, I imagine, it is less a matter of which side one is on, and more a matter of using some common sense, and taking a rational approach to all things supernatural in nature. Which is to say, the logical mind must reject those things which are clearly irrational.

I love your whole take on joy in Hell, and pain in Heaven. This is nothing less than a brilliant insight into what is obviously an unanswered conundrum for the true believer. The examination, in this context, reminds me of my own questions about the necessity for grief and sadness to exist among the pearly pillars of harp-playing nincompoops. *Angelic*

To wit, the realization that many of our loved ones, even heroes, perhaps, are missing from the morning roll call. Which means they went to Hell. At which point we might decide the game is rigged, because there's no way that Francine Pickelbottom went to Hell. She was the nicest person we ever knew. And my mom? Where the hell is she? What? You're kidding, right? And who let that asshole Fred in here? *Smirk2*

Well, the devout will no doubt say, we won't have those kind of feelings in Heaven. Oh, yeah? Then we won't be ourselves, will we? Without our egos and our foibles, the good and the bad, we might as well be a whole different person. Well, isn't that special?

Personally, I'm pulling for purgatory. Now these are my kind of people, my kind of place. Bad people who are trying to be good people. Gee, just like on Earth. Just like in real life. An eternity of behaving badly, but always striving to do better.

Now that's a bandwagon hayride with booze, chicks, and repentance all wrapped into one neat package. Sign me up. *Smile*


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Review of The Angel Jars  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Vincent,

First up, a confession of sorts. I found myself somewhat unsure of how to read, and in what order, your most impressive and outstanding collection of wildly inventive works. Works as in steam works, I suppose would be more appropriate. And even then, only a portion of all there is to discover and explore.

Numbers thirty-one through one appear to be an ongoing serial of some kind. I am partially to blame for not spending the time necessary to decipher what exactly is happening, although in all honesty, some kind of overall game plan, program or guide would be very helpful for those who stumble though the vast and complex pieces which comprise your portfolio. All of which likely seem fairly straightforward to you, but trust me when I tell you, are anything but for newcomers.

Which is a shame in a way, because there is so much good stuff here. I want to know more. I want to know who's who, and what the common threads or themes are that appear to permeate the portfolio as a whole. One gets the distinct impression we could spend days or weeks tromping about the varied and always interesting landscapes you offer.

It wasn't long before I began to feel mentally exhausted by the wizardry of your marvelous inventions, but not because they were poorly written. On the contrary, because they were rendered with such detail and precision that they possessed near poetic qualities. But like often happens with poetry, the internal machinery that makes it all work tends to be esoteric in nature, known more by the author, than any reader will ever be privileged to understand. At least insofar as a safari needs a guide.

Too often here, I feel, I am left stranded far afield, sans trail or pathway leading me out of the wilderness. The sheer volume of material the author offers unto us, is itself overwhelming, yet upon the most brief of glimpses inside the pages themselves, we are privileged to peek into inviting realms of endless imagination and imagery.

So it was with some degree of relief that I found this terrific little gem of a story. A wondrous tale that might easily have been culled from any of the finest anthologies available.

In The Angel Jars, the author deftly and with brevity, delivers a tight story that doesn't pretend to be any more than what it is. In its own, pleasant simplicity, the tale repeats the oft-told wisdom of learning and knowing just what to do, in order to do just the right thing. How it's the little secrets of the smallest miracles, that make things interesting, and keeps them that way.

It's the classic tales of witch doctors and shaman, magicians and sorcerers the world over, all of whom humble themselves before the natural (or supernatural) world of spirits and angels. And in so doing, reap the harvest of benefits accordingly. Typically to the amazement of friends, neighbors, and strangers alike.

It would be a disservice to dissect this story any more than I've already done. It is what it is, and I, for one, found it to be like savoring an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.

Sometimes it's not just the things that go bump in the night that deserve our unbridled attention. Indeed, what would Peter Pan, Captain Hook and the alligator be without Tinker Bell?

Beautiful job on this piece. I really liked it. Several more paragraph breaks would be helpful, leaving the work less dense and compacted, but that's about it on the critical side. At least for me. Let someone else nitpick; I'm too busy bartering over the price of my own jar.


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Review of A Haiku  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Dear Jane,

You honor me by your revisions from the earlier version. I am duly flattered. I now consider this poem a thing of rare beauty about which others, who love haikus, will stand up and cheer. If this doesn't place in any contest where it's entered, there is no justice in the world. *Smile*


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Review of A Haiku  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)

This is one great poem. It's almost a great haiku. But I'm being picky. It's beautiful and profound, no matter how one slices it. *Smile*

That said, however, aesthetics are important also. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but some of us (fanatics) sometimes judge prose and poetry by how they look on the page.

I've sometimes changed the wording of a story or poem, if I can do so without ruining it, solely because they "sat" on the page in a more uniformly attractive way. Even text can be art, and often is.

What I would suggest with respect to this wonderful, intellectually stimulating piece, is to drop all punctuation. All of it. Every single jot and tittle. I wouldn't even capitalize the first letter of each sentence.

Haikus are a kind of purity of thought; I've always enjoyed them, especially when they're really well done. And this one certainly is. But could it be better without changing it? Can we distill it down even more and not only retain its power, but enhance it?

Yes. In my never-to-be-humble opinion. *Smile*

I want to see this "clean" with absolutely no distractions that divert me from the awesome strength of the words alone. Too often, I think, good writers tend to muck up their otherwise brilliant poems with ill-advised punctuation. And while things are not that serious in this instance, we have a chance to go for the gold and convert something already good into something truly great.

I hope you consider submitting this to any number of contests or whatever. If there's a national or international haiku contest, this is definitely a potential winner.

Well done. Truly. And don't be shy; go for it. *Smile*


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Review of Sisterly Chat  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Hi, Arakun,

I found this little ditty to be a charming and original take on the classical theme of angels and devils. A good deal of humor also permeates the piece like dashes of salt or pepper on a burger or salad. *Smile*

Despite its sacrilegious tone, namely that Heaven is boring, or that both sisters seem detached and independent of their circumstances, the piece is written well enough that we can temporarily suspend our objections or criticisms and just go along for the ride, so to speak.

Although I liked the ending, I did wonder what the sisters imagined a welcomed retirement to be, if neither Heaven nor Hell were suitable for either.

A nice twist ending, which would resolve this question rather nicely, would be for the sisters, instead of retirement, to routinely switch places from time to time.

Thus leaving us with the somewhat profound notion that, like your story where there's magic in all of us, that there's some good and bad in all of us.

Nicely done regardless. *Smile*


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