Darling companions

I don’t quite know how they do it, these beasts who give companionship in exchange for a roof over their heads and regular square meals. All I know is when I peer over the side of my chair and see them there, my heart melts.
I have assigned Willow the title of The Best Dog There Is, and although Dejah is a remarkable dog, the title stands. I have bonded in similar fashion with other dogs (hence “There Is,” not “Ever”), but this bond is something else. This is the never-wanting-it-to-end bond, the fearing a day that hopefully is 6-7-8 years away bond. Willow will be 5 years old at the end of March, but I don’t remember and can’t imagine a time when she wasn’t there to chase her blue ball or her orange disk, when she wasn’t waiting behind the door to jump and say “Welcome home! Where have you been?”
Willow, Day 1
Dejah, just now 6 months old, was a longtime dream of a companion for Willow. We may have waited a year or so too long, until a time came when Willow didn’t care so much whether she had a companion at all. After all, she had us. And why would we need another dog when we already had The Best Dog There Is and center of the universe? But she has come to accept the little crazy one.
Dejah, Day 1
And crazy she is. She goes outside with a muzzle now, to discourage her from eating pebbles and gravels and rocks and sharp stick and mulch, as she did when she was 2 months old and headed for surgery. She has eaten a half-dozen holes in the living room carpet while we weren’t looking. We were grateful to find a golden retriever breeder who sold her for an affordable price, because we’ve needed the money to cover the extra expense she has incurred. 
I don’t know how they do it. I just know that days when I can sit home and type on my computer as they stand by (well, actually, as they lay by much like in that top photo) are the better days, and my heart aches a bit on days when I leave them behind. As John Sebastian wrote, they’ll never be abandoned, love will always light our landing, and I can depend on them.
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The free men and women on this train

Sen. Rand Paul is out with a video that asks the question, “Do we no longer have a Fourth Amendment?” Well, no, nor a First or a Second or et cetera. The Ninth and Tenth are rarely even mentioned without a condescending smirk.

We lost the Fourth – in the “NSA is watching us” sense that Paul means – back in the Clinton years and probably much sooner. I remember being alarmed by talk of monitoring of personal emails somewhere around 1998.

During my early days of blogging, I started a series of posts called “The Constitution in Plain English,” intended to show how each amendment in the Bill of Rights has been compromised and ignored. I gave up after the Fourth or Fifth; it was too discouraging.

It was around that time that I began to understand fully that the purpose of a government is not to secure freedoms; it is to restrict them. A “governor” on a bus is a device that keeps the machinery from exceeding a certain speed – that’s the best illustration of the concept of “government” I have ever found.

It was also around that time that I began to understand that freedom is something we are each born with, and it exists between our ears and in our actions. It is not a privilege granted by fiat or law; it is part of our being, endowed at the moment of our creation. Outside influences may be brought to break or destroy that freedom, but only we have the power to surrender it.

There’s a poignant scene in the film Doctor Zhivago when the character Kostoyed Amourski is being tortured and scoffs at his captors, “I am the only free man on this train!” He dies, of course, but he is never beaten. That is why tyranny can triumph only for a while; it is against human nature to accept being tyrannized.

And that’s why instead of writing about the specifics of what’s being done to us, I write things like “Refuse to be Afraid. Free yourself. Dream.” So much of what is happening is out of the individual’s control – but your freedom? Your dreams? No one can take those from you without your permission.

The market has spoken

The idea behind charging $1.29 for my marvelous Myke Phoenix single adventures was to differentiate these tales from the 99-cent crowd. There are several thousand boatloads of 99-cent ebooks out there. In my humble opinion you’ll definitely get an extra 30 cents more excitement out of a Myke Phoenix yarn than from the average 99-cent investment.

Well, the market has spoken. From the results of my experiment, the going rate for a 10,000-word adventure story apparently is 99 cents, the lowest price the builders of the ebook infrastructure will allow. And that does make sense in hindsight; no matter how amazing the quality I try to inject into these tales, the quantity is still a long short story or a very short novella.

Thusly, effective immediately that’s the price of a single Myke Phoenix story, except of course for Our Best Hope: The Origin of Myke Phoenix, which is available for free when you subscribe to the occasional Myke newsletter Astor City Beacon. As for the 99-cents price point, think of it as $1.29 worth of entertainment for 23 percent off!

So here is The Song of the Serial Kisser, the story of an odd maniac who can’t stop sneaking up on women and planting an unwanted warm wet one on their lips – and what happens when a vigilante crowd decides to teach him a lesson. Now a mere 99 cents at the Amazon Kindle Store and Kobo (for Nook, iPad, etc.).

And here is Firespiders, the saga of the fire-spitting giant spiders that interrupt the calm of Astor City as only fire-spitting giant spiders can do. An astonishingly low 99 cents at Amazon and Kobo.

In this corner is Invasion of the Body Borrowers, the eerie tale of zombification and visitors from beyond the stars that has fans of 1950s science fiction screaming for more. Comic books aren’t 10 cents anymore like they were back then, but you can find this thriller at Amazon and Kobo for less than a buck.

And of course there’s the latest installment, Night of the Superstorm. It was supposed to be a three-hour river cruise, but it turned into a tense night in an abandoned mansion haunted not by ghosts but by – well, you’ll see. Again, just 99 cents at Amazon or Kobo.

Coming up March 3 is Duck Man Walking. One of Myke Phoenix’s most impossible foes, the half-man-half-duck Quincy Quackenbos, is released from prison. Rumor has it that after years of trying he cracked the code and has developed the formula that can kill Myke Phoenix. Are the rumors true? You’ll find out March 3 for the impossible price of 99 cents.

The folks who have discovered Myke Phoenix tell me they’re having as much fun reading the stories as I have writing them. Want to join that crowd? You look like someone who enjoys smiling and being entertained. Just click on any of the links above to get started.

My favorite 10 Beatles songs (today)

People are irresistibly attracted to lists, from to-do lists to the list of 50 ways to leave your lover. Music lists seem to be most irresistible of all, from the Hot 100 to America’s Top 40.

So it was inevitable, given the musical-historical significance of this week, that more than one person would come up with Beatles lists. Elysa Gardner of USA Today wrote her personal list of the 12 best Beatles songs. There have been several rankings of the 13 Beatles albums listed in order, with Revolver, Sgt. Pepper or Abbey Road generally taking the top spot depending on the list.

So I felt the impulse to join the fray, although I will limit my list to the more familiar Top 10 – I suspect Ms. Gardner was unable to make the final two cuts.

There was an indefinable thrill upon first hearing a Beatles song – first the thrill of discovery: “A new Beatles song!” and then the thrill of listening to what new aural delights the band had injected into the composition this time: “Holy cow, listen to what they’ve done this time!” They were the leading innovators in a very innovative period of modern pop/rock music.

The first time I ever got that thrill was when I first heard “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” on WABC Radio from New York. The last time, amazingly enough, was in the 1990s as I played my new vinyl reissue of Beatles for Sale, having skipped the American version Beatles VI so many years earlier, and I heard the first syncopated beats of “What You’re Doing”: OMG, I thought, a Beatles song I never heard before.

So there is no real scientific or musical-knowledge basis to this list of my favorite Beatles songs (which, after the very top  of the list, probably would vary from day to day) – this is just the general order in which I recall that burst of energy most vividly.

1. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
2. A Day in the Life
3. Eleanor Rigby
4. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End
5. Yellow Submarine
6. Penny Lane
7. Good Morning Good Morning
8. I Feel Fine
9. She Loves You
10. I Should Have Known Better

To make that list, I needed to overlook “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” “Yesterday,” the song “Sgt. Pepper” itself, “In My Life,” and half of the songs that Ms. Gardner put in her top 12. Tomorrow I may remember the first time I heard “Hey Jude” – holy cow, this thing never ends! – and put that one in the top-10 list. Or the memory of my heart melting for “In My Life” or the joyous bounce of “With a Little Help From My Friends” starting without a pause from the new album’s first song – the Beatles gave us so many sweet surprises.

And for most of us in that generation, it started here the night of Feb. 9, 1964: