Robert Carl Jones: RIDGES AND DOTS

Tom Sullivan here, just letting you know that if this appears under my byline, it’s because the tech gremlins in Bob Jones access to SU are acting up and I’m posting this for him. The following is 100% from our illustrious encyclopedic compatriot Robert Carl Jones! …

This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but it is thought to be interesting.

*******

Reportedly, the three largest black-market industries are drugs, weapons and human trafficking. The fourth largest black-market industry is thought to be the trade in ivory. Among other reasons for this is the financial growth of China, which enables citizens to purchase this popular commodity. Of course, where money is involved, crime swiftly follows. Unfortunately, profits of the illegal ivory trade are believed to be increasingly used to finance terrorism. Between 1979 and 1989, at least 700,000 elephants were reportedly killed for the ivory in their tusks. In many cases, a young elephant would be shot to draw its grieving mother, with her huge tusks, within rifle range. A 1989 ban on ivory trafficking resulted in its substantial reduction, but demand for ivory has increased since. In 2008, an estimate of the retail value of ivory was reportedly $6,500 per kilogram.

Attempts were made to obtain fingerprints from ivory taken from elephants, rhinos and other sources to track poachers to the organizations for which they worked. This proved to be problematic. The size of standard fingerprint powder particles might be as large as 100 microns, thus reducing its likelihood of being able to pull fingerprint ridge details from unpolished ivory. The forensic solution was to reduce the particle size to some 40 microns. A check using the smaller particles on seven-day-old fingerprints resulted in a success rate of 95 percent.

What must lurk in the minds of persons’ who pay exorbitant prices for ivory that might have been obtained as a result of the illegal slaughter of animals? It must be something very important. It’s vanity.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Poaching is defined differently in different areas, but it generally refers to the violation of local and higher-originated laws related to the taking of wildlife without a license, out of season, using an illegal weapon, exceeding a bag limit and/or trespassing while hunting.

A micron is a millionth of a meter. It is represented by the twelfth letter (µ) of the Greek alphabet.

One kilogram is equal to 2.2046 pounds.

A fingerprint is an image left by a transfer of residue from a person’s fingertip to a surface touched by the person. Eccrine glands in hands and feet produce sweat, which comprises water, salts and various other trace compounds. The sweat, and other materials adhere to skin ridges and leaves a representative print when they contact a surface. A DNA analysis of the material comprising a print can also provide useful forensic evidence.

Fingerprints come in four flavors. A patent fingerprint is visible. To be seen, a latent fingerprint on a surface requires, for example, the assistance of an application of a colored powder. An exemplar fingerprint is commonly captured purposely, using a special ink, as part of a record. Some modern systems use digital means rather than ink to store images. A plastic fingerprint is an impression made by a person’s finger in a pliable substance such as wax or wet paint.

Fingerprints were used on ancient babylonian documents, and finger impressions in clay seals were used in ancient China. It is not believed, however, that they were used to identify individuals any more than were the more recently used mark, X.

The U. S Military began using fingerprints for identification in 1905, and they were accepted by U.S. courts in 1911. The first computerized fingerprint data base was developed in 1980. It was referred to as the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), and it contains nearly 700 million individual fingerprints.

 

 

 

Thomas Sullivan: GOTCHA Q&A

Every collection has its orphans – things that don’t quite fit the brand, outtakes, anomalies, or stuff distinguished by quirkiness. So I thought I’d use that as a basis for this Q&A. The wonderful correspondence you provide me has its “gotcha” moments – break-out laughter or slaps in the face – and I love them all. Here are a few that caught me off guard.

Q: [ ? ] Do you have any illegitimate children?

A: Wha – what? Tell me that’s an April fool’s question. I have two children, both legal – whatever that means. Bought them from the stork myself. Paid cash. However, I did know a rakish and irresponsible character who used to say, “whenever you see a little kid on the street, give him a dime because he might be yours.” Hmmm. Which side of the dime are you on? Is your name Luke Skywalker? If it is, we can be sure…I’m not your father.

Q: [Delanco, NJ?] Do you dye your hair?

A: No, though some of it has died all by itself, which is why I shave my head every day. (You must be looking at a very old photo).

Q: [Chicago, IL] What ringtones do you use on your Smartphone?

A: Good Lord, why are you interested in – nevermind, nevermind. I have a Dumbphone. Only about 6 people on the planet have the number, and their ringtones are customized uploads that haven’t changed in years. Samples: my inamorata is a polyphonic version of the song “Words” [

], while the ring tone for my lad (the boy child in whom I am well pleased) is me

playing sax [ 04 – Track 4 ]

Q: [Laguna Beach, CA] Are you serious about romance in men, Sully? Men are all about ego and sex is overrated. Its [sic] great recreation but it doesn’t have anything to do with love. I tell all my lovers that I think of them when I have sex with someone else, and that’s all they want to hear.

A: Gives a whole new meaning to lying in bed.

Q: [Marietta, GA] How much of another book can I copy without getting sued?

A: Zero, zip, nada, if you want to be ethical. Somehow I get the feeling you aren’t writhing in moral agony over that. Of course, anyone can sue you for just about anything. But if you don’t want to give them a winning case, don’t copy. Particularly in fiction. Your inference that some copying is okay makes me think that you may have heard something about the “fair use doctrine.” This applies mainly to facts and truths in nonfiction. I recall a classic case where someone copied several pages verbatim from a book on teenage pregnancy and won fair use in court. In my opinion, the copied author should write a sequel called SCREWED AGAIN.

Q: [Santa Fe, NM] Are you blind?

A: Some people consider me devoid of sense, if that’s what you mean; but I think you are referring to another Tom Sullivan, a blind author known for his inspirational books. We actually autographed books in the same shopping mall (two different bookstores) on the same Saturday years ago and got tired of people mistaking each of us for the other one. I began to sign his books for him, and he – it soon became apparent – was doing the same with mine.

Q: Dear Mr. Sullivan, do you consider being headbutt on a first date a fail?

A: OK, I just made that up to keep you awake. :-)

Q: [?, SD] I hope you take this the right way but I think you’re a little crazy. Why do you take so many chances? You risk your body and you hang onto painful things like the love of your life that you’ve written about.

A: A LITTLE crazy? You know that’s a compliment to a nonconformist in this fear and guilt-driven world, don’t you? However, I don’t really see myself as a risk-taker physically. That’s a myth. Emotionally, mentally, psychologically – then decidedly yes, I expose myself to rejection or failure, if you want to look on it that way. But what’s to lose by reaching for perfection or going against the grain? And if success eludes you for whatever reason, what’s to be gained by defensiveness over being exactly where you were before? The idea that if I don’t put myself out there, I can’t lose is a loser mentality. Might as well be dead. As far as I can see, the only risk is for phony appearances in the “gotcha” games of a hypocritical society. Weigh that against real victories that are stupendous and absolutely essential to fulfillment. As far as the love of my life as an example, I passed that test. Wasn’t looking for that kind of comprehensive love to come at me – thought it was impossible, as a matter of fact – and it blindsided me. It was like we were in love before we met. Does love that is passion-wide and soul-deep ever end? I did what I was supposed to do and everything I could have done. I answered the moral imperative according to my nature, my creator, and the fundamental potential within me. You can’t control everything, yet I exceeded and transcended all expectations against impossible circumstances and things beyond my control. Still do. That makes it an ongoing fulfillment. Maybe that’s where I’m different from other people. Because I don’t believe you should regret factors outside of your control. In fact, you should be grateful for what they reveal, because they are their own kind of truth. Accept them without surrendering your own truth and commitment. Do not change to protect yourself, your vanity. Do not rewrite truths of the past to fit a diminished and cowardly you. Celebrate your victory in being totally and meaningfully complete in what you are. It makes you real. And it makes your magic and your passion real, then and now. Never say never. Never give up. Life is a fearless journey and you are on the path! You aren’t sitting on the sidelines making up justifications and rationalizations. Do not allow your steps to become mired in misguided servitude or false guilt. You can be discreet in conducting your life without surrendering. Do that long enough and people will admire and respect who you are anyway, because everyone secretly wants to live at least part of their life in harmony with their core dreams. Why do I take chances? Let me ask you…why would you miss a chance?

Q: [Parma Heights, OH] What’s your worst book?

A: Seriously? Oh, they’re all terrible! It’s so much fun to write terrible books, I think I’ll write another one I don’t like just as soon as I can think up a bad idea. Hint: there are no books an author doesn’t like – only those that are not yet finished to their satisfaction.

Welcome to 2016, fans and friends! Like the Roman god Janus, for whom January is named, it’s good to look forward and backward with you at the same time. Hope your December was all silver bells and that your February is all hearts from Valentine’s Day through Leap Year (a Sadie Hawkins day for sure)…

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

or follow me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.sullivan.395

Robert Carl Jones: INFORMATION-BEARING ODORS

This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.

*******

Odors are usually taken for granted, but they can play important roles in the schemes of lives of animals (of which we humans are classified as being one). The ability to detect the scent of blood in water enables cruising sharks to locate potential meals that reportedly might be miles away. Persons fishing for sharks commonly dump chum in an area of water to attract sharks from surrounding water. Chum typically comprises amounts of chopped and/or ground fish and their blood.

A great white shark has a pair of forwardly directed nostrils lined with sensors that reportedly can detect a drop of blood in a good-sized swimming pool. Just as humans can determine the direction of the source of sound that arrives at each ear at slightly different times, the shark can determine the direction of the source of blood and other animal odors as they arrive at each nostril at different times.

Detection (sniffer) dogs have long been used to detect odors from such diverse objects as bedbugs, bumblebee nests, killer wale feces, drugs, explosives, bodies, body parts, etc.. Dogs trained to detect the latter two items are known as cadaver dogs, and they are often used to find bodies and body parts that have been buried in the ground, submerged under water or otherwise hidden. Decomposing bodies release combinations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that change as a function of time. This information can be used to estimate the sometimes crucial post-mortem interval (PMI) since a person was killed.

A recent method for for detecting specific odors employs sniffing creatures that might complement or even replace sniffer dogs. These creatures are paratinoid wasps. Their scent receptor neurons reside on their antennae, and those of dogs reside within their nasal passages. The olfactory systems of the wasps are reportedly more sensitive and accurate than those of dogs, but they both lead to food.

A wasp can be trained to indicate it has detected a certain odor by simultaneously exposing it to a sample of the odor of interest and a portion of sugar water. The wasp will later remember the odor that led it to a reward of sugar water and be drawn toward the odor. If the wasp is separated from the source of the odor by a perforated partition, it will be drawn to the perforations, indicating that it has detected the odor of interest. If an odor is not that of the one it remembers, it will simply ignore It.

By the way, being eager to begin sniffing for drugs along a line of cars at a border crossing, a sniffer dog reportedly dashed down the line without its handler. When it returned, it delivered a package of drugs to its handler. Unfortunately, the dog never divulged from which car it had obtained the package.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The word,”parasitoid,” generally refers to a parasite

One more positive feature of parisitoid wasps is that they reportedly do not sting.

Entomology fans might wish to read my previous essay titled CREEPY CRAWLIES, which was published on November 19, 2007. It should be available, free, under that date, from the WRITERS UNPLUGGED archive. It also appears in my e-book titled FORENSICS 101: A FRIENDLY PRIMER FOR WRITERS.

Thomas Sullivan: CHRISTMAS 19

Nothing makes you postpone suicide like a flurry of emails asking why you don’t write an autobiography. That’s what happened after I sketched some details about living in South America in November’s Sullygram (a mostly motivational newsletter I send to people who request it) – http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com/newsletters/11162015.html . Double down on that with a number of requests for a repeat of a Christmas memory I’ve written about before, and you begin to think your life is actually worth sharing.

In any case, I’m thinking once again about a possible autobio – or more likely a memoir, because the thought of trying to get a handle on my complicated life in its entirety is more than daunting. As for the holiday tale, thanks for reminding me, and here it is…

Christmas cuts like a knife sometimes.  By any name holidays make us keen to emptiness and omissions because they demand just the opposite. Sometimes that takes the form of self-pity, sometimes it is expressed in charity to others, sometimes we are too busy celebrating to notice what’s right before our eyes. When I was a young man there was a Christmas when I experienced all three.  That was the Christmas I wrapped up a box of hate and gave it to myself, then opened it to find love I could give to someone else.

There have been circumstances — bound in some way to a place or a period of time — that have taken my compassion to another level and made me a more complete writer.  Such a time and place was a bitterly cold Christmas when I was living in an old men’s hotel filled with human wrecks. It was a hotel for very old men, indeed.  I was 19.

The Lawndale was $7 a week the first year I lived there (no, it wasn’t during the Civil War, though it did burn down eventually).  Could’ve fled back to the ‘burbs of Detroit for the holidays, could’ve found a home-cooked meal.  But I was proud, stupid, a little too martyred when I was actually in that horrid coffin of a room, which was not often.  I was doing selfless things gratis for others, I thought.  And I was a bit of a maverick, not succeeding where everyone said I was supposed to succeed, nor given to letting my emotions show over the failures.  Never mind that I got a million dollars’ worth of self-pity out of it.  I knew that writing was an option that was open to me, but I had the camera pointed in the wrong direction.  It was pointed at me.  I think a lot of writers start out like that.

When I did have to return to my room at the end of the day – four walls I could almost touch all at the same time – I tried to be numb.  Do you know anything as seething with emotion as trying to be numb?  Or as blinding?  I hated the Lawndale with such a passion that I was deaf and blind to the human misery and loneliness there, and more importantly for a writer, equally walled off from a lot of incredible stories.  In this case, the walls were paper thin, and you could hear the moans and the groans of the dying and the drunk.  There were unwritten laws peculiar to males at the Lawndale.  If someone came in beat up and bleeding, you might hear every drop of blood dripping on the vinyl runner in the hall, but if you opened your door, the gasping stopped. In that mistrustful place, you didn’t flinch before a tiger.  No quarter asked, none given. Fine with me.  The people I cared for didn’t live at the Lawndale.  The place made my skin crawl.  Above all, I hated the man across the hall.

All the rooms were as tiny as mine, but unbelievably the man across from me had a roommate.  I never saw the roommate, never wanted to, but I had a picture in my mind of a pathetically submissive creature completely enslaved by the brute I did see.  The bully would come in, drunk and wheezing, and thirty seconds after his door clicked shut the vilest verbal abuse I’d ever heard would begin.  Sometimes it went beyond that, and I’d cringe to hear the blows.  But I never quite got the guts to go stop it.  Part of the code, you know.

Thus I lived, and so a new Christmas morning came, and with it the hollow feeling that I was, in fact, truly alone. I know now that this is absurd, particularly in a world teeming with emotionally isolated people. But when you are young, there is nothing emptier than the suspicion that your self-pity is justified. I had less to my name than $10 that morning when I set out in my wreck of a car, the “Grey Ghost.” My destination was the White Tower, a.k.a. the Porcelain Room, for a “scudburger” Christmas dinner.

I don’t remember if there were any other customers at the counter, but I vividly remember the old lady scraping the grill. She was celebrating, you see. Celebrating. Not sitting at the counter waiting to be served, celebrating. It took me a few minutes to come down to that and catch the irony. I had to quit staring at my reflection in the glass opposite first and realize that all the photos strung along a green ribbon on one wall were probably her children and grandchildren. She shuffled back and forth with the gait of someone with fallen arches and arthritis. And, damn, she was singing. And she had on a silly Santa hat. And there was red and green bric-a-brac and fake snow and angel hair all over the place. A wrapped present, too, though you could see there was just fluffed paper in it. Don’t remember finishing that scudburger, though it ranks right up there with memorable cuisine. No doubt I was having a little trouble swallowing at that point, because if a grandmother had to work on Christmas day and could be like that, then I had to stop just taking from her and give something back, and I didn’t have anything nearly that good. The scudburger had knocked my $10 in half, so I left a $5 tip and got the hell out of there.

It was compulsive, and by no means charitable, but I felt better cranking the Grey Ghost to life and starting up Livernois toward Vernor Highway. Hoarfrost on the inside glass of the White Tower, and out here it was arctic, and as I’m approaching the railroad tracks, I see a man in a cardboard box. His head is cut and swollen, blood frozen in his hair, and he’s barefoot. Lawndale rules do not apply in train yards, and the poor bastard, who it turns out has just crawled out of a freight car, is going to freeze very quickly, so I stop. He tells me the old story: got drunk, rolled, left to fate. What strikes me is he is naked inside the cardboard box. I mean, the rollers took everything, as if out of malice to let him die. You can’t imagine the blubbering gratitude of a Tennessee man up to visit his sister at Wayne State, who just about becomes a vice-icle when his binge turns bad. It took us a couple of hours to find his sister’s apartment, because he didn’t have a clue, except by scrutinizing every neighborhood as we inched up and down the narrow streets off Woodward. Merry Christmas.

So now I’m feeling pretty good, except that I have to go back to the old men’s burial ground and re-visit self-pity. Oh, I’d been a good lad for a few hours, and learned something, but like a movie, it was over. So the Lawndale ate me up as I climbed to the second floor and the last room in the line – 210 – which was odd, because later in college I would be in room 210, and again, teaching at Fordson High in Dearborn, 210. Anyway, now that I was back in you know where, you know who came in on my heels and started you know what. The bully was on a tear this time. Drunk, vile and violent. I stood it as long as I could, and longer than I should have by months. Then, when I thought he was going to kill his roommate with the blows, I went out into the hall to stop this creature I loathed.

Thought I was going to have to fist his door a couple of good ones, but as it happens it was slightly ajar. He was berating his roommate with terms I cannot begin to write here, and I could hear the smack of flesh on flesh, and as I took two steps toward the wedge of light, I saw it all. The mirror. The face in the mirror. The whole room behind him in the mirror. The marks from the fists were clear on the cheek above the stubble. And I saw the last blow land. But the testosterone boiling in me suddenly went as flat as water. Because he didn’t have a roommate.

He was beating himself. Berating himself. Calling himself everything but a child of God. Nothing I had felt or thought about him all those months could approach the depths of his own self-hate. How could I have been so wrong? An epiphany moment for me? Yeah. You could say. Damn my soul if I ever underestimate any human that badly again, though, I’m sorry to admit, I’ve been over the line too many times since. My self-loathing neighbor slammed the door when he became aware of me, but he opened another to my future as a writer.

I’m not a soft touch. I believe in human excellence and transcendence, if only we can get outside of whatever boxes imprison our thinking. Low expectations cripple people, and are really a vote of no-confidence. It doesn’t matter what that man at the Lawndale lacked. What mattered was what he had, which was a mirror filled with more self-honesty than most of us can stand. He knew who he was. What he was. And at that moment I knew what he could be. I can’t tell you what truths you’ve discovered about yourself or about the human condition, but I know that they will come out in your life one way or another. You may have to look outside the box to find those truths first, of course. Writers need to engage in that search with openness and vigilance. Good writers never stop searching, or evolving. If people have happened to you today, stories have happened. The world presents us with limitless possibilities. Find the ones you can reach, according to who you are. Until you do that, you have not fulfilled your own potential as an observer, as an artist, or as a human being.

May I thank those who have taken the trouble to email me?  What you have to say informs me, shapes me, and makes my life richer.  I’m also most grateful for your interest in my novels.  If you’d like a stocking-stuffer or low-cost holiday gift to top off your giving this year, may I suggest the e-book edition of my historical novel CASE WHITE: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O79GQTE

Wishing you the warmest of holidays and the happiest of New Year’s….

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

or follow me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.sullivan.395

Robert Carl Jones – UNSTEADY EMPLOYMENT

Tom Sullivan here, just letting you know that if this appears under my byline, it’s because the tech gremlins in Bob Jones access to SU are acting up and I’m posting this for him. The following is 100% from our illustrious encyclopedic compatriot Robert Carl Jones! …

This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.

Robert was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 28, 1944. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Knox College in 1966 and used elective courses to study Russian. He also joined the campus group of CollegeYoung Republicans, the president of which considered him to be one of the more conservative and patriotic of the students. Plans for his future varied and included becoming a doctor or a dentist. He enrolled in dental school but reportedly said that he “didn’t like spit all that much.” Robert eventually earned an MBA in accounting and information systems. Upon graduating, he took a job with an accounting firm, but quit to become an internal affairs investigator specializing in forensic accounting for a municipal agency. Four years later, he took a job with a federal agency. It had a number of offices that specialized in various tasks, and Robert was periodically relocated as his skills increased. For some 25 years, he rose through the ranks of its counterintelligence agents in the extremely secretive NationalSecurity Division. His assignments gained him access to an increasing amount of covert information.

Realizing that other agencies would pay well for the information, Robert chose a second federal agency and offered to supply it with the information while still working for the initial federal agency. His offer was accepted, and Robert was provided with a second source of income. Robert received $600,000 and three diamonds, and it was implied that he would receive another $800,000.

Not wanting the initial agency to discover his double-dealing, drop sites were established where he would place information and collect his rewards. During the following 15 years, Robert continued to supply information obtained from the initial federal agency and supplied to the second federal agency. His rewards over a 22-year period totaled some 1.4 million dollars in cash and diamonds.

Robert appeared to be anything but a spy. He had a wife and six children to whom he was devoted, with whom he lived in an unpretentious neighborhood in Virginia and with whom he attended mass every Sunday. He and his wife were both members of the church’s Opus Dei society.

Eventually, his double dealing was discovered and confirmed by the initial agency. Robert was surprised to find a number of members of that agency awaiting him with guns drawn as he was leaving a drop site after having concealed a plastic garbage bag full of secret documents there. The plastic bag was recovered. Another nearby drop site was kept under surveillance in case members of the second federal agency tried to recover its contents when it appeared that Robert would not be picking it up. Its contents comprised $50,000. The contents of both drop sites provided evidence that Robert had stolen confidential information. Additional forensic evidence comprised, for example, a portion of a black plastic garbage bag that contained two of Robert’s fingerprints. It was estimated that Robert had delivered some 6,000 pages of confidential information to the second federal agency.

As some readers might have known or guessed, Robert’s full name, is Robert Philip Hanssen, the municipal agency is the Chicago Police Department, the initial federal agency from which Hanssen had stolen confidential information is the FBI and the second federal agency comprised and comprises the Soviet and Russian intelligence services, respectively. Hanssen was arrested and charged with selling U.S. secret information to the latter between 1979 and 2001 for more than 1.4 million U.S. dollars in cash and diamonds . Hanssen was arrested just six weeks prior to the date on which he had planned to give up the spying business. He pleaded guilty to 13 counts of espionage and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Analysts reportedly believed that Hanssen had compromised every human and electronic penetration of Russia for a period of 15 years. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Commission for the Review of FBI Security Programs described Hanssen’s activities as possibly being the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

One means of his establishing good faith with the second federal agency was naming three KGB officers who had been recruited to spy for the U.S. Consequently, they had been recalled to Moscow. Two were executed, and the third was jailed.

The name of the country we commonly refer to as Russia is officially known as the Russian Federation, and it is a federal, semi-presidential republic. It is also the world’s largest country, and it covers more than an eighth of the world’s inhabited land area. Having a human population of almost 144 million, it ranks as being the ninth most populated country.

Hanssen’s father was a police officer and was reportedly emotionally abusive to his son while the latter was a child, telling him that he would never make anything of his life.

MBA represents a Masters of Business Administration.

 

Thomas Sullivan: INARTICULATE WISDOM

In my early teen years I think I probably thought of eloquence as a synonym for intelligence, and I thought intelligence and wisdom were the same thing. Articulate people were smart and therefore wise. Inarticulate people were not smart and therefore not wise. I like to think that by the end of my teen years I had started to work the arrogance out of this premise and to recognize that eloquence had little to do with perception or insight. Sometimes it was a tough sell – to myself. I was reasonably articulate. My pride did not want to cede parity to anyone less articulate.

Unless you’ve discovered inarticulate wisdom, you may not fully appreciate the point here. I’m not making this distinction just to be charitable (which would also make it condescending). I rather dislike do-gooders who think they can make everyone equal just by holding hands at the equator and singing “Koom-byah!” And I’m not trying to be oh-so objective by inserting token open-mindedness. I’m simply saying that wisdom doesn’t necessarily include the ability to verbalize itself well. Of course, it’s harder to appreciate wisdom that isn’t expressed with flair or profundity. Moreover, the wise person who lacks verbal skills may lack confidence in their own perceptions.

I remember a student I had who was put in my class by default because the women teachers were afraid of him. He was big, a couple grades behind, and English was his worst subject. He had been passed along just to be gotten rid of, but he was anything but threatening. He automatically took a seat in the back of the room and I let him stay there while I did my usual week-long orientation designed to remove fear of failure in that class. The orientation was meant to shake up students expectations (I graded with ice cream flavors), but it also gave me a chance to study them. By the end of that week I knew just by the way this particular student was listening and observing life around him that he had a great deal of common sense. Isolated by age and lack of success, he was one of those – a person unaware of his own capabilities and inarticulate wisdom.

When I made up the seating chart at the end of that first week, I left him where he was in the back of the room. But it wasn’t so that he could be shut off from the classroom as he was used to being in years past. It was so that I could call on him, and everyone in the class would turn around to look, perhaps anticipating a spectacle. The questions I asked, however, and the interrogations I put him through, were designed to play on his strengths in ways that left the impression that he was solving problems. More than that, by paraphrasing his simple utterances, I led him into confidence and a kind of productivity that the class grew to respect week by week. Win-win.

No, he never became a gold-star English student, but his heart was gold. On the first day of the following school year I was standing in the hall and he came up to me with some pages in his hand. No longer my student, he had nevertheless brought me a list of 200 words he had written down that he had been unable to find in the dictionary. I was a little surprised that he already had such an assignment, but then I saw why the words weren’t in the dictionary, and I began to choke up. They were from a novel I had written (THE PHASES OF HARRY MOON) that was filled with coined usages, rogue verbs and hyperbole. He had somehow acquired my most difficult literary novel and tried to read it over the summer. Yeah, it still chokes me up. You never know what you’re going to unlock when you search inside a sealed person.

So it’s easy to overlook the wisdom around you, if you are the articulate person; easy to inflate your own confidence with a bombast of words. And even if you conquer that aspect of yourself, it takes real-world experiences to get past the barriers of verbal intimidation you are prone to erect. You can’t just fake empathy. Ain’t gonna help to imitate your audience if you feel condescending toward them. Takes true recognition of what they may know. Respect – learn it, feel it, live it. And when you do, the curtain may drop a little, revealing wisdom unencumbered by profound language skills.

Writers – especially fictioneers – need to get on top of this. They must recognize their relative skill with language without assuming they know more than their readers. Because if they really were communicating exclusive wisdom, it would be an uphill battle. Unfamiliar truths would come across as arduous and alien to the reader, who would then become mistrustful and distant from the writer. You can’t rain endless abstractions on people and expect total understanding or lasting interest. When we are inspired by words from others, struck by a truth or awed by a description, it’s because those things are already inside us in some form. We recognize the verbal capture of something we’ve acquired perhaps non-verbally or only vaguely from the palpable world. All communication is a negotiation between affirmation and rejection. If the wisdom wasn’t already in ourselves, we wouldn’t recognize it.

So, in that sense, the writer is a facilitator. The writing task is to verbalize what others will recognize from either their conscious or subconscious mind. More than that – and absolutely legitimate to the author’s task – is the writer’s magic of connecting the dots to larger meanings. If readers trust the writer to do that, they will welcome that exploration and be grateful for the journey that ensues.

I believe this is increasingly important because, verbal or not, many studies show that IQ’s have dropped considerably across Western nations in recent decades. Despite what’s known as the Flynn effect, the overall drop since Victorian times has been cited as between 14.1 and 24 points. The reasons are controversial, but whether or not human intelligence has peaked, the writer’s task remains the same. Find the language to reach the targeted audience. Do not confuse wisdom with intelligence. And respect the reader for their wisdom, articulated or not.

FORENSICS 194: MONSTERS DO EXIST

Tom Sullivan here, just letting you know that if this appears under my byline, it’s because the tech gremlins in Bob Jones access to SU are acting up and I’m posting this for him. The following is 100% from our illustrious encyclopedic compatriot Robert C. Jones! …

This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.

******

In keeping with the October tradition of writing about a subject befitting the month of Halloween, the following piece is about a monster. This monster was not fictitious. He was all too real.

Wars are activities that expose, generate and often encourage monsters. World War II certainly had its share. The subject monster places highly on any monstrousness chart. Judged by quantity or quality, this monster deserves a top position.

He was introduced to the world in 1911 in Gunzburg, Germany and was named Josef Mengele. He studied physical anthropology and medicine and received a doctorate degree in 1935. His dissertation concentrated on the differences in the lower jaws of persons in different racial groups. In 1937, he joined the Nazi Party. He also began to study twins, heredity and eugenics.

Mengele had been seriously wounded during the Russian campaign. Upon recovering, he was thought to be unfit for frontline service, and he was assigned to perform medical work as an SS officer in a camp named Auschwitz. Once there, he had no problem finding prisoners upon whom to practice “experiments.” He has been accused of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of persons. It was no surprise that Mengele became known as the “Angel of Death.”

As the end of the war and the Russian troops each drew ever nearer, Mengele was one of many members of the military who did not wish to be present to welcome the Russians. He exchanged his officer’s uniform for that of a German infantry soldier and headed west for safer territory. He was briefly held by the U.S. military. Being unaware of his being a war criminal, however, he was released.

One of a number of persons protecting Mengele was a Brazilian named Wolfgang Gerhard. When leaving Brazil, he gave his Brazilian ID to Mengele. He also made arrangements for a burial plot under his own name.

With the help of friends, assumed names and various documents, he managed to stay in a number of countries while avoiding punishment for his war crimes. His end came in 1979 when he suffered a stroke while swimming at a Brazilian beach resort. His body was subsequently buried in the plot under the name of Wolfgang Gerhard.

In 1985, following information gained from an interrogation of a family accused of hiding a nazi war criminal, a weed-covered grave supposedly containing the body of Wolfgang Gerhard was opened and its contained bones removed. Forensic anthropologists found them to be that of a caucasian male between 60 and 74 years old, some 174 cm in height, having a skull circumference of 57 cm and an age between 60 and 74 years. Mengele was 174 cm in height, had a skull circumferenc of 57 cm and was 67 when he died. Gerhard was 188 cm in height, so he could not be the one whose bones had been unearthed Healed injuries of the bones were consistent with Mengele’s documented injuries. Photographic images of the unearthed skull having pins placed at 30 osteometric points and similar images of 27-year-old Mengele and of 60-some-year-old Mengele’s head were superimposed. Each contour and point fit perfectly.

By the early 1990s, DNA technology was capable of extracting DNA from bones. In 1992, DNA from the unearthed bones was compared to that from Mengele’s descendants, confirming that the bones were those of Josef Mengele.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The term “eugenics” (well-born) refers to a policy directed at controlling reproduction to improve selected traits of humans. It was considered in Ancient Greece and Rome and more recently in Europe and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is still a subject of debate. Many readers might be surprised and even shocked to discover when and where eugenics has been practiced.

During WWII, the word “Auschwitz” referred to a network of Nazi German concentration camps, extermination camps and 45 satellite camps operated during the period between 1940 and 1945. An estimated 1.1 million inmates died there. The camp was liberated in 1945 by the Soviet military.

The term “osteometry” refers to the study and measurement of skeletons.

As exceptionally cruel example of horror was experienced by some Auschwitz prisoners when the infamous Heinrich Himmler ordered a Nazi doctor to artificially inseminate female prisoners using various experimental methods. The doctor inseminated some 300 women, reportedly telling the victims that he had inseminated them with animal sperm so that monsters would be growing within them.

Himmler joined the Nazi Party and the SS in 1923 and 1925, respectively. He held powerful positions and, within 16 years, he had developed a battalion of 290 men into a paramilitary group comprising a million or so. The SS (Schutzstaffel) was originally formed to protect Hitler. By 1936, under the command of Himmler, it had become the basis of the entire Nazi terror machine.

One of Mengele’s activities was to observe prisoners as they debarked from arriving trains. With a leftward flick of his thumb, he indicated that a prisoner should be immediately taken to a gas chamber. Those given a rightward flick were thought to be capable of doing work and probably lived a while longer.

One interest of Mengele’s in twins was to learn how to produce multiple births to quickly expand the German race. He reportedly experimented on some 1,000 or more pairs of twins, disposing of those for whom he had no further use by injecting chloroform into their hearts. For convenience, he had his laboratory built next to a crematorium. Reportedly, none of Mengele’s experiments on twins was considered to have a scientific basis.

To calm children in the prison, Mengele had a playground created for children in the prison, had them calling him “Uncle” and sometimes gave them clean clothes and sweets. As a result some came to actually like him. The next day, however, he might send them to a crematorium.

Mengele was but one of the Nazi doctors that performed horrifying experiments. According to Nuremberg doctor trial records, 15 of 23 defendants were convicted of having committed unimaginable war crimes.

There were a number of persons that, for a long time, clung to the belief that Mengele was still alive. If he were still alive today, he would be more than 100 years old.

 

Thomas Sullivan: UNDRESSING IN MINNESOTA

The chatter of swirling leaves in my yard is counterpointed by the chatter in my mailbox as October begins to undress Minnesota. Your questions are always welcome as part of our correspondence. And please don’t feel overlooked, if I don’t use yours for a while. I bank them so that I can select a balance of topics or combine similar questions into one (especially those daunting ones). Here’s a new Q&A assortment for October:

Q: [Speedway, IN] Hey, Sully, I read about your bears. Why don’t you take up something like table tennis and stay out of the woods?

A: Not to worry. All the bears where I hike/run have signed a non-violence pledge and are vegans. And if I run into a maverick bear, I’ve got that figured out too. Bruins have notoriously bad eyesight, so as soon as one gets close enough, I’ll slap my sunglasses on Smokey and escape while he’s groping for the light switch!

Q: [Malmo?, Sweden] Do you have a special way of outlining?

A: Will address this in an upcoming column, but in short: begin with a 1-sentence summary that includes the conflict (quest, revenge…). If you can’t capture the essential tension in a sentence, you’re not ready to start. Proceed to defining characters, threads, arcs. Block out number of scenes/sections needed to carry out the action. Treat each chapter like you would the whole book, i.e. distinct beginning, middle, end – which is to say, you define where the chapter is going, elaborate the action/movement, then draw the threads together.

Q: [Beverly Hills, CA] Loved your new interview, especially the things you said near the end! Were you in Australia or was the interviewer here?

A: It was Skyped. Grant Soosalu, whose pioneering mBraining techniques have made him a guru in the inspirational/motivational field, first interviewed me a few years ago and we became fast friends. His eclectic background meshes across the spectrum with a lot of mine, so our conversations on and off mic soar in every direction. The interview you mention has attracted much attention and wonderful comments that would make my mother blush. The international call went on for about an hour and a half after the interview was done, if that gives you a hint of the rapport and wide-ranging exchanges. Here’s a link for anyone who would like to share the fun: https://soundcloud.com/mbraining/sully-mbit-interview

Q: [?, UK] What do you fear the most?

A: Another of those questions you could answer differently five days in a row. But high on my list is wasting time! Any writer will tell you that the endless waiting when you’re starting out and struggling to get published will just eat you up, so maybe that’s a contributing factor to my mind-set. But waiting on anything that suspends your life is a kind of betrayal of self. You get caught in these paradoxes where you don’t want to compromise goals, and yet you have no control over the outcomes. That’s why I write a lot about carving out sanctuaries, partitioning one’s life, and other ways to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” without procrastinating dreams. “To thine own self be true!”

Q: [Madison, WI] You must be older than you sound, so if you don’t mind telling me your age what is it?

A: Oh, at least 112 – bwahaha! Age only matters if you’re a cheese or a glass of fine wine. There’s just one thing I see as important to keeping track of numbers. If you’re past 40, you are within shouting distance of all those cool senior discounts! Love it when someone doesn’t believe I’m old enough. Ticket seller at the Rogers Cinema the other night said “No way!” when I told her my age in order to get the 55 and over discount. Then she made me show her my driver’s license! (Bless you, all near-sighted young women…)

Q: [Tallahassee, FL] Do you have a dog?

A: No. Unless you count the 70 million strays at large in the US. I own those. They own me. It takes a village when it comes to abandoned dogs.

Q: [multiple similar questions, shotgun answer] What do you mean by romantic idealism?… How do you define romantic perfection?… Do you think [there’s] only one true love for everyone?…How can I believe in perfection when it took me three marriages to get it right?

A: Of course you can love more than once (some people fall in love every week). But I’m always fascinated by married people bragging, “We were childhood sweethearts!” – as if there is a perfection in that. And isn’t there? When it comes to the purest passion and the deepest bonding, it has to be a quality vs. quantity thing, doesn’t it? More of one is less of the other. I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone else what they need or want in love or marriage. It’s whatever you say it is. I’m just saying, for me the very best I have to give includes my undivided, exclusive, forever romantic ideal. If it’s palpably shared, so much the better, but I can separate that from the rest of my life if I have to. It really begins and ends with me. Giving it is what’s important. Not palpably sharing with an ideal simply frees that aspect of you at the same time that you are possessed – an exquisite paradox whose solving is out of your hands.

Q: [Delaware?] I’ve never published anything, and the wife wants me to give up writing and spend more time with her and our two kids. I know this is a common problem for writers, but I was wondering with all of your experience what do you think?

A: I get it that being a writer is who you are, but nothing I could say here trumps what you and your wife and kids think and feel. Not sure getting published has anything to do with it, unless it would bring income you need to survive. Doesn’t sound like anyone’s needs for communication are being met at home. Is that a disconnect or a genuine time crunch? Could be you have a classic case of marital expectations conflicting with reality. If it’s a communication disconnect for lack of relevance, depth or understanding, the argument over writing may be just a mask. From what I’ve seen, people who have insight and empathy usually add to each other’s roles, while those who are mismatched may need to map out where their compatibility begins and ends. No one-size-fits-all answer. You need to communicate about communication with the other (potential) communicators. For the record, both before AND AFTER I was published I seldom wrote at home. I created in my head while driving to work and scratched things down in bathrooms, restaurants and parked cars.

 

Look for me in costume at your door on Halloween! Hint: fave candy = Nipples of Venus.

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

or follow me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.sullivan.395

ROBERT C. JONES – FORENSICS IN THE FAMILY

Tom Sullivan here, just letting you know that if this appears under my byline, it’s because the tech gremlins in Bob Jones access to SU are acting up and I’m posting this for him. The following is 100% from our illustrious encyclopedic compatriot Robert C. Jones! …

This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.

******

Having been established as a royal burgh in 1186, Dumfries, Scotland, has since been a location where many threads of history have been spun. One such thread is related to forensics. It originated shortly after 1749, when a son named Benjamin was born to a farmer named George. Benjamin served as an apprentice to a surgeon and later studied medicine at Edinburgh University. He then practiced surgery in Edinburgh and was elected to be an attendant surgeon to the Royal Infirmary, a position he held for eighteen years.

Benjamin is generally considered to have been a scientific surgeon, indeed the first Scottish scientific surgeon as demonstrated in his influential, six-volume textbook titled A SYSTEM OF SURGERY. He was admired for his rational thought processes, especially those expressed in his treatise on GONORRHOEA VIRULENTA AND LUES VENEREA. His THEORY AND MANAGEMENT OF ULCERS was published in 1778 and is still considered to be a classic of eighteenth-century physiology.

Benjamin’s son, Joseph, grandson, Benjamin and great-grandson Joseph constituted a family dynasty of surgeons practicing in Edinburgh. All became presidents of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Joseph was known for his diagnostic abilities and for his ability to catch minute details upon which his diagnoses were based. These abilities did not go unnoticed by a young medical student whom he had chosen to serve as his assistant. In turn, the student based a fictitious detective on him in books that were eventually to become extremely popular with detective story fans. Police actually found the forensic actions of the imaginary detective to be useful in their real world of fighting crime. Of course, the teacher, Joseph, was Dr. Joseph Bell, the young medical student was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the imaginary detective was named Sherlock Holmes.

Dr. Bell had an effective method of teaching. According to an essay by Dr. Harold Emery Jones, Dr. Bell once presented his class with a tumbler that he said housed “a very potent drug. To the taste it is intensely bitter. Here it is most offensive to the sense of smell. But I want you to test it by smell and taste; and, as I don’t ask anything of my students which I wouldn’t be willing to do myself, I will taste it before passing it round.”

Here he dipped his finger in the liquid and placed it in his mouth. The tumbler was passed round. With wry and sour faces the students followed the professor’s lead. One after another tasted the liquid; varied and amusing were the grimaces made. The tumbler having gone the round, was returned to the professor.

“Gentlemen,” said he, with a laugh, “I am deeply grieved to find that not one of you has developed this power of perception, which I so often speak about; for if you had watched me closely, you would have found that, while I placed my forefinger in the medicine, it was the middle finger which found its way into my mouth.”

Reportedly, upon arriving in a train station, Arthur Conan Doyle, who by then had made few public appearances, was surprised when an attendant handling his suitcase addressed him by name. Having a reputation for having endowed his major character, Sherlock Homes, with almost supernatural capabilities of observation, Doyle sheepishly asked the attendant how in the world he knew his name. The attendant pointed to a name tag attached to his suitcase.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The first recorded reference to forensics comes from a book written in China in 1248. The book, called HSI DUAN YU (which means THE WASHING AWAY OF WRONGS) explained how to tell the difference between a person who has drowned and a person who has been strangled.

There were a few occasions when Sherlock would partake of cocaine. Reference to his use appeared in 1890 in THE SIGN OF FOUR and in 1890 in A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA. During that period, the drug was legal and could be obtained without a prescription. Oddly, it was even mistakenly used as a potential cure for opiate addictions.

Arthur Conan Doyle kept his pen busy writing more than 20 full-length books and more than 150 short stories. He also wrote many poems, plays and essays.

 

 

 

Thomas Sullivan: GLASS BUBBLES & THE PERFECT FAME

Fame is infamous. Or at least it should be. Not that I would know. I’ve had very little fame, lots of infamy. But you don’t have to drown in order to understand water.

Virtually everyone experiences the rushes and crushes that come with sudden acclaim, even if they only experience them in microcosms and short bursts, as in scoring a winning goal or getting applause for speaking up at a PTA meeting. The difference is that a microcosm is like a soap bubble. A little time passes and the bubble bursts. But what happens when the bubble doesn’t burst and instead becomes the known universe for someone 24/7/365? Answer: well…it may still result in a bubble. Because that someone is apt to find themselves trapped in a single facet – or maybe a complete fabrication – of their personality. Only this bubble is made of glass instead of soap, with little room to grow, to explore, to be understood. And for better or for worse it is sustainable until shattered by outside forces.

Fame often roars in like a freight train. But even when it builds over years, the realization can be sudden and disorienting. The world turns Technicolor and, as the anointed one, you may find yourself in a redo, a remake of your basic relationships. It’s as if the long-awaited dream carries with it some kind of amnesty for everything – redemption or just freedom. So now you have new-found prerogatives if not actual power (power usually goes to the retainers that surround and insulate someone famous). You can even reinvent yourself. Might as well, everyone else will. Not just calculating publicists, self-serving critics, enthusiastic agents et al, but FANS. Complete strangers! And people who are not strangers, who were once your friends or are relatives, may want to renegotiate the relationship. Heady stuff!

It’s called IMAGE. And it can crowd you out of your home and your head. You have people now – experts – to handle all the decisions and…and stress (bwahaha!). People to reassure you that in fact everything is well, or will be, if you stick to the script. Easy at that stage to believe in fickle fame, in your own press, and in the subtle but pervasive inference that you must be doing everything right. You are indemnified against the negative. But without the blessed sanctuary of small failures that you can recognize and learn from, you are in danger of becoming blind and lost to bigger failures down the road. The irony is that the people who surround you in all likelihood have a more honest perspective than the one they are pushing on you simply because they are anonymous. And if they want to manipulate you, you are duck soup. They know who they are, and that they have nothing to protect save maybe their influence over you, and so you may become dependent on them. You trust them. Over time, inevitable jealousies, defections or betrayals may muddy the picture to the point where you are guessing who really is on your side. In a worst-case scenario the moat around you eventually turns into a quicksand of paranoia and money.

It’s just business, you may think. A corporation of eager interests with a spectrum of motives. But behind the façade of fame, guess who has become “the giant tit”? And always there are the fans with their enduring admiration that can become as ruthless in its own way as the clear-headed parasites. No need to write about alcohol and drugs and all the avenues of escape that turn into dead ends.

‘Nough. I’ve given the whole fame thing enough of a nasty spin. Truth be told, there are people who maintain who they are through it all, cohabiting with fame as with a favored houseguest. And there are even categories of artists whose fame is as abstract as their art, whose non-performance art is far enough removed from the limelight to permit them anonymity should they choose to walk solitary lanes. Oh, you know where I’m going now, don’t you? Yes, I refer to…

Authors.

Scribblers on paper, words on a cyber-screen – it’s an abstract interface that may infer intellectual respect, but you can be a mumbling, fumbling troglodyte, 200 pounds over fighting weight, sporting bad breath and coffee cup eyes and still command intellectual respect. Of course there are pretenders – armies of pretenders now that the digital age has created true self-publishing, meaningless promotion and a glut of mediocre writing or worse. Mixed in with that is a lot of great writing that traditional publishing misses or ignores. A phenomenon of self-contained readers-writers-reviewers has even begun to take hold. These all-in-one groups contain every possible aspect and service of writing from publishing to editing, cover reveals, critiquing, promo and reviewing. And the kicker is that they are their own audience and marketplace, reaching out in their sphere of influence almost like the crafts and subscription guilds of old – unions, closed societies. So be it. Because who’s to say who should be anointed? Who is to tell anyone else what is good or worthy of their attention or how to spend their filthy lucre in the marketplace?

Fame. You don’t have to chase it. Take it or leave it if it’s offered you, but remember what it is: an endorsement, a connection, a surrogate love, but also a pressure to live an unreality. Like I said…fame should be infamous.

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

or follow me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.sullivan.395