Poetry Tuesday: Be Indomitable O My Heart

In the fifteenth century there was a king close to what is now modern day Mexico City who liked to write poetry. Weird, huh? Make sure to spell his name right if you google him: Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco.

Be Indomitable, O my heart!
Love only the sunflower;
It is the flower of the Giver-Of-Life!
What can my heart do?
Have we come, have we sojourned here on earth in vain?

As the flowers wither, I shall go.
Will there be nothing of my glory ever?
Will there be nothing of my fame on earth?
At most songs, at most flowers.
What can my heart do?
Have we come, have we sojourned here on earth in vain?

(If you’re familiar with my poetry choices, you might see the pattern: I love poems with the same theme as Shelly’s Ozymandias.)

;o)

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Poetry Tuesday: On The Death Of That Most Excellent Lady

By my mom’s fave poet, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (Mexico, 1648-1695).

Let them die with you, Laura, now you are dead,
these longings that go out to you in vain,
these eyes on whom you once bestowed
a lovely light never to gleam again.

Let this unfortunate lyre that echoes still
to sounds you woke, perish calling your name,
and may these clumsy scribblings represent
black tears my pen has shed to ease its pain.

Let Death himself feel pity, and regret
that, bound by his own law, he could not spare you,
and Love lament the bitter circumstance

that if once, in his desire for pleasure,
he wished for eyes that they might feast on you,
now weeping is all those eyes could ever do.

;o)

Book Reviews: Three Mysteries and the Future of Sex

Mark Twain
Always do right—this will gratify some and astonish the rest.

Truth or Die
With this being the fifth I’ve read in the series, it feels comfortable, like an old hoodie on a sprinkly day. This one takes place in Central California, at an art/music fair in Carmel. An ex-military psychologist—who obviously knows a lot of secrets—a Navy tragedy, people looking for revenge and extortion, all figure in this mystery where the detective, as always in this series, is surrounded by women who want him even when he’s with his girlfriend.
In this case he helps out because he knows the widow, who is of course the main suspect; his girlfriend, for once, doesn’t seem to mind. This edition of the series had more characters, and therefore more suspects, than most, which didn’t help, but overall it was just as good as the others, and much better than the first in the series, which is the last one I read. The sinking of the navy ship was real, but the rest of the story isn’t, unless it was some long-buried secret, which is doubtful.
So basically if you’ve liked others in the series, you won’t complain about this one. And if it’s your first time with this author, this is a pretty good intro.
4/5

In Gallup, Greed
This is not the first book in the series, which may explain why there were so many characters; since I didn’t read the previous story, it felt like there were too many to keep track of, to the point where I had to go back to check who the heck they were, which annoyed me no end. Most times I would have given up on a book like this; this one I didn’t and it got better, though by the end I was still having trouble with some of the main characters whose names were similar.
Another tough thing to deal with was the changes in narration: I could have taken first person and one third person, but with so many alternating characters being followed—plus first person—things got confusing in a hurry.
Something else that I felt didn’t work: since I could only think of one reason the bad guys would be running such a scam at an art gallery, there wasn’t much of a mystery to it. About halfway through it’s said outright, which means there wasn’t all the much plot here.
But the worst part was that at the end, when the killer is unmasked, I couldn’t remember any clues that would have allowed me to figure out who the killer was, which violates the primary commandment of giving the audience a chance to outwit the author.
On the plus side the writing was pretty good, as well as the characterization of the main character, Cinnamon. Weird fact of the day: since reading this book I’ve smelled cinnamon everywhere. . .
2/5

The Future of Sex
This novella made my mind shout “Boom!” numerous times; thankfully it didn’t get as annoying as it sounds.
At its most basic this is a story about a young woman who wants to be the ultimate sex provider in a world where such people are cherished. Her youth and lack of training are held against her, but she’s given a chance to prove herself, allowing the author to express some particular theories, specifically about the nature of intuition when it comes to sex, and more general the ability to “Sherlock scan” an individual, read the small nuances in their manner and speech and so on.
I was loving this right away, as it brought a new perspective to such a story, one I wholeheartedly agree with. The level of intuitiveness goes right to the theory of “naturalness,” which I have discoursed on often myself. It’s like the author is reading my mind the same way the main character reads her marks. . . which also means I love Chloe; she can screw with my mind any day. Thankfully I knew this was a novella coming in, and intuited—inside joke—this would be a set-up and not the whole story itself.
Though I’ve read this author before, I was far more impressed here. As stated, some of this author’s philosophies mesh with mine so closely that I can’t be at all sure if this is what’s behind my high opinion, and therefore grade. It’s still a well-written introduction to a long story that promises to be a fun ride.
4.5/5

Aztec Midnight
This is a novella about an archaeologist hunting for an Aztec artifact, in a race to find it before bad guys do. It’s so short I actually told myself, “Let’s see if I can read this whole thing at the doctor’s office. . .”
Though it’s set in the lovely city of Cuernavaca, the setting isn’t used to full advantage; it isn’t till we get to the ancient Aztec site that things take off, though the archaeological detective work is delicious to read through.
Sadly, the only one surprised that his wife was kidnapped was him; that doesn’t say much about him, especially since he didn’t seem like the kind of acadamian who can’t survive outside of the classroom. That could be blamed on this being such a short story, though the next twist was surprising when I knew there wasn’t much left to go.
Not sure how I feel about it; the archaeology part was fun, the thriller part not as much. I particularly disliked the introduction of a crow as his personal GPS; I don’t think a fantasy element was needed here.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Murder, Martians, and Actresses

Overheard outside UCLA hospital: “She’d be good for transplants; she hasn’t rejected an organ since high school.”

Yucatán Is Murder
There’s an intriguing murder mystery inside this book, but it’s gonna take a huge amount of editing to carve it out.
As implied in the title, this takes place in southeastern Mexico, from Merida to the coast. A freelance scientist is helping his significant other with a sociological/medical project among the native Maya. The first murder takes place and the scientist finds the body because he likes birds, in this case vultures. The police don’t care, so he takes it upon himself to solve the crime, as he’s done in previous novels, I’m sure. As expected from this kind of story, he gets himself into trouble with the killers and not only becomes a target, but gets others killed too.
I am a very fast reader, but this took forever: far too long and plodding, with overly stretched philosophical rambles and discussions as well as tons of description and scientific explanations. The most clever moment was using Mayan glyphs for a hidden message, and there’s a lot to learn from the various scientific disciplines he knows, but it’s overdone and told in a style too matter-of-fact to enjoy.
3/5

Eyeshot
A couple is tricked into the desert to be fodder for a sniper who’s done this before, a lot. Along with another group of three they have to survive the bad guy and his assistants.
It’s hard to believe such a story, which takes place in one day and half a night, could take up so many pages. This was far more interesting and enjoyable than I would have expected, in a way reminding me of a running battle between a destroyer and a sub. There’s also plenty of psychological fun, particularly between the sniper and the protagonist but among others as well. I think it’s silly of them to push this as “The Most Gripping Suspense Thriller You Will Ever Read!” and will ultimately work against them, but it is a damned good story despite those impossible expectations.
4/5

Joi Lansing—A Body to Die For
There are plenty of actresses famous for their looks who, despite having decent careers, are quickly forgotten. This is the partial biography of one of them, as told by her last lover and self-proclaimed love of her life.
As someone who’s read a lot on TV shows of the 60s and 70s, I can name plenty of actresses who had moderate success while trying to be the next Marilyn, but Joi Lansing was never one of those names. Looking her up on the internet, one can see why this book is given that subtitle. Though wary because this was written by someone who wants to make her look good, it seems she was one of those genuinely nice people in Hollywood who, while making some friends and contacts, was swallowed up by the movie-making machine that could turn saints into assholes. If this book is to be believed, she was not one of them, keeping her upbeat demeanor and vivacity to the end. And it’s that very end that is the center of this book, making it a tough read at times. By the last chapter I was glad it was over, both her suffering and the reading.
Even though it’s a biography, this can also serve as a cautionary tale of the kind of shit rich powerful men pull on gorgeous young ladies trying to get by in the business of making movies. One can only hope the situation has gotten better, though from some of the stuff described here it’s hard to believe it can get worse.
4/5

Aoleon, The Martian Girl
An action-packed science-fiction short likely made for pre-teens, it involves a young Martian girl who is the reason for those crop circles seen on farms all the time. When she’s not very careful about being discreet she runs into a farmboy, and together they get chased by a three-legged dog and a sleepy farmer that necessitates them escaping together in her flying saucer.
There’s a wry humor here that sneaks up on you; if you’re not paying attention you might miss it. Her telepathic abilities allow them to communicate easily, so of course he has to be careful what he thinks, leading to more comedy.
The second part of the story involves various military aircraft trying to shoot them down. While the action is well written and would have fit right in with an adult genre, this is ridiculous in a book meant for kids. From all the broken glass as they sonic-boom all over the country, to the panicky fishermen that jump into the frigid water to escape a crash, to a whole Ferris wheel rolling down the street in Paris. . . can you imagine how many people must have been killed in what is portrayed as a fun romp without any consequences?
I will say the artwork is well done. It doesn’t have a real ending, just a hook for the next part, allowing this to be a quick and easy read.
3/5

;o)

Travel Thursday: More Training in Mexico City, part 1

Sitting on a bench across the way from an attractive lady who was watching me just as intently when she wasn’t distracted by potential buyers was not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon in what many people considered the world’s largest city. Today the sky looked only moderately black, perhaps because there were less vehicles out on the streets. Insurgentes seemed equally crowded, but the ride on the Metro convinced me most people where elsewhere than in cars.

They’d told me to take things seriously, for training was supposed to simulate real-life situations, but I found it hard to do so after a huge Italian meal at a restaurant on the other side of Sullivan Park. Still, I had to give those tasked with finding and following me a few hints. It wouldn’t be any fun just staying away from them; I had to let them see me and then get away, otherwise I was due for a boring day.

It was still early, so I walked around Sullivan Park, gawking at the paintings but hoping I wouldn’t spot anything I liked, because I didn’t have either the time or the inclination to stick around here too long. And with that I realized I was pumped for the game too; for one brief second earlier I’d thought of letting them capture me so I could be released from this silly competition and allowed to go my own way, but again, what fun would that be?

Being in a giant city gave me an advantage, and right now I was close to downtown; a slight smile permeated my face as I remembered the first time I’d tried to find this park; when I told the taximan it was “just off Insurgentes,” the driver had thrown me an irritated look while shouting, “Every part of town is just off Insurgentes! The street is thirty-five miles long!”

Sullivan Park was just like every other park in the city, or in the world, for that matter, except on Sundays. Every week the most renowned painters and sculptors of the city and beyond came to exhibit. Competition to show off the wares here was fierce; most artists had exhibited all over the world, and all it took was the right word to have them gleefully pull out the scrapbook of posters or exhibition cards. Oddly enough, more than a few of them had shown at the Playboy Mansion; I wasn’t sure what to think of that, and finally decided not to, at least not right now.

Near the Monument to the Mother something caught my eye, a young man–by far the youngest I’d ever seen here–whose specialty seemed to be alien landscapes. For such a young artist to be allowed here, he had to be good, and sci-fi stuff wasn’t exactly the main topic in these here parts. . .

Yeah, it was too good to pass up. Selecting two of the paintings, I paid the price without haggling. The young man was so overjoyed he offered to deliver them to my hotel free of charge. My only condition was that he re-sign them, larger than the first time; When he was a world-renown artist, I wanted the world to know I’d been one of the first to recognize such talent. . .

Time to walk on. I saw my old friend the miniature artist still in his usual place; some of his art was so small a magnifying glass was needed, but those rarely were on show. A few years before I’d commissioned a painting of a redhead figure skater from my past, and had given him permission to duplicate it for sale; now I saw those little things in the damnedest places all over the world! Still, I was secure in the knowledge that the original was in a special place in my apartment back in El Lay.

The park always seemed bigger on Sundays, but finally I was back where I started, with the attractive lady in her 30s who seemed to remember me from previous visits. Her paintings were also in the fantasy genre, but more of the unicorn variety. One was lying on a lily pad, surrounded by all types of strange flowers, while in another the animal was inside a sphere, trying to break out. At least there weren’t any velvet ones of a unicorn on an alien cliff looking at two moons like I’d seen in Tijuana, but on the other hand if she got together with the youngster I’d bought from earlier that might be exactly what they’d do.

Knowing she knew I’d be back, I walked on. On the sidewalk of one of the side streets I came across another young man; perhaps in the time I’d been away several of the oldsters had died. None of these paintings impressed me much, either uninteresting artistically or mundane in subject. But I admit to releasing an involuntary gasp at the last one. Even I couldn’t tell ya why, it was just a statue in a fountain, but I stared at it for a good five minutes, not able to pull my eyes away. It didn’t take the artist long to become uneasy; no one had ever had such a reaction to his works before.

I finally uttered a few magical words–“Five hundred dollars”–and sent the artist into orbit; later he told he’d been expecting a fight for one hundred. Since he was friends with the previous guy, they agreed to join the deliveries, and that was that, deal done.

Now I walking in the middle of the park, where the abstracts tended to congregate, when I came across a chess match. An older gentleman was taking full advantage of a much younger opponent; the youth saw no escape from the trap on his home turf, and was about to tip over his king when I asked if I could take over. Having been given permission, I showed him the only escape, much to the chagrin of the old man.

I was still well behind, and knew there was no possible way to win, but I figured on taking out a number of the opponent’s pieces before going down in flames. And indeed, people leaned in to get a closer look as I slowly but surely made up some of the enormous disadvantage. My favorite ploy–probably because I found myself in that situation way too often–had always been the desperate counterattack, and once my defenses were reasonable secure, I sent my rooks on kamikaze runs. The first put his king in check, and with no possibility of a block he was forced to move forward out of the way, allowing my rook to make its way along the endline to gobble the opposing rook, still in its original position. The pawns in front had also not moved, so I managed to take out two of them and a knight before finally being subdued.

The other rook was even more successful. Not giving the opponent time to rest, it maneuvered its way to the point where it was online with the king and queen. Again finding itself in check, the king moved out of the way, leaving the queen unprotected, and the rook proceeded to ravish her. . . in a chess-like way of course.

There were oohs and aabs from the crowd, and my opponent was sweating. I wanted to tell him not to worry, that it was way past the time he could possibly lose, but there was no point to that, and he wouldn’t believe it anyway; in this regard, chess was a lot like poker.

Once my two remaining pieces were gone, I led the opponent’s remaining bishop on a merry chase, inching slowly but surely toward the king, but the old man wouldn’t fall for that, so finally I gave way, standing to shake the man’s hand while giving the youth a slap on the back. To my surprise, I found myself not only tired but, incredibly, hungry; I’d heard that Italian food kept hunger at bay for a good three or four days, but maybe I’d gotten the light version. More importantly, figuring the make-believe enemy was now in place somewhere around me, I wanted to get the game underway. . .

o;)