Monthly Archives: October 2014

O, Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum…

We know. It is a bit early for Christmas. We apologize.

However, the reason we are rushing the season is to mention an upcoming event Muffin Dog Press will participate in: The Christmas Tree Festival at St. Eustachius Church, Tavistock, Devon.

Muffin Dog Press Cyber-Guru Simon Tiley grew up in Tavistock, and spent years acting as acolyte, server and crucifer. But no, that won’t have anything to do with the tree.

Our theme is A Book, a Biscuit, and a Cup of Tea. Toddle along to St. Eustachius and see our efforts, and the efforts of a couple dozen others, between 28 November and St. Eustachius, park 7 December.

Here ‘s a photo of the ancient beautiful church,right in the middle of an historic markettown–well worth a look.

The World According to Shelf Barker

An excerpt from Laura Harrison McBride’s mystery novel, Car Full of Death: A quirky British Mystery Romp.

“I have been a driving instructor for almost a decade now, since shortly after
it became dangerous to be alone with those who might possibly be on a
government watch list: Muslims, Mafia operatives, people who had protested
government activities…in short, types one often finds within the crumbling
corridors of ancient university buildings. But that makes it all the more
interesting. The dual controls have come in useful more than once, although
that one Iranian man is suing me for breaking his nose.”

“She did much less well with her month of the Finnish tongue…not that many
people know what pidgin Finnish sounds like. How many Finns are there? Funny
you should ask…so I looked it up. Only a little over five million. It would be
tough to hear Finnish outside Finland. It’s similar to Estonian, though, and
related to Hungarian, which sounds very different. How do I know this? Recall,
I was a professor. I looked it up. You thought professors just KNEW all that
stuff? Hah. Mainly, we are really good at looking stuff up.”

 “By the way, just so you know, my vocabulary has grown considerably since I
met my wife. Anyone who grows up in New York City, the world’s melting pot,
learns not only their own ethnic slang, but the ethnic slang of other cultures
they are rubbing shoulder with 24/7. Tchotchkes is a Yiddish word meaning
small (annoying) useless objects, the sort of thing you find in your old
Gran’s house, since she has doubtless reached the age where moving all that
crap around and dusting it constitutes the sum total of the week’s
excitement….I realize all this sounds horribly bigoted or maybe even ageist,
but it isn’t. It is simple fact. Old folks don’t work, so they dust.”

 “I always thought they didn’t let wildly pregnant women fly because of
possible damage to the baby, or maybe she’d end up spreading her legs in the
aisle if the pressure changes opened the birth canal. That would be so
inconvenient, I always thought, because then they couldn’t get the
pay-per-drink beverage cart down the aisle. I figure his accountants told Sir
Richard not to let preggers broads on because he might go broke without that
extra four pounds fifty per head for firewater that they don’t give you on
planes anymore so you can forget you are squeezed into a germ-laden tube
hurtling through space and doing god-knows-what to your internal organs,
biological clock, and so forth. Make that six pounds fifty; the economy is
tanking, which means you can always get more shekels out of punters for booze.
Helps ease the pain, which is what my second glass of wine was doing, now that
the gulped-down first glass had hit behind my belt buckle.”


Excerpt from A Nation of Serfs

The U.S. economy speeds toward a brick wall. But instead of trying to stop or even slow the fiscal train wreck, many senior citizens want to push hard on the accelerator.

“Nothing was more evident at the recent 2005 White House Conference on Aging than the palpable greed of seniors. Perhaps they see it as getting even with their Baby Boomer kids for how we aggravated them in the 1960s and ‘70s.”(Washington Times 2005)


The death of the elderly, and the birth of the senior citizen

Adding insult to injury, that generation decided they didn’t want to be called old people; they wanted to be senior citizens. By inference, then, everyone else is a junior citizen. Few people like to spend their lives being “junior” in anything, especially if they have worked and struggled like everyone else on the planet.

It would be news to the WWII Generation, not long on making the fine distinction between honesty and appearance, but accolades cannot be demanded; they can only be deserved.

The Greatest? Only Muhammad Ali in recent history

Whenever a person claims greatness for herself, isn’t there a justified hint of suspicion that they are, in fact, not the greatest? Muhammad Ali claimed to be the greatest, though, and he really was in the single thing he claimed to be the greatest in. Perhaps that’s what confused people on that issue. But it needn’t have. He knew himself, and realized not only that he had the talent, but also the will to be great.

In the case of the Greatest Generation, they have simply appropriated a title that is too broad, in fact, to be meaningful, but makes them feel good while, by contrast and inference, making everyone else feel bad. It is bogus a priori. They did not achieve it, but were granted it by someone who was busy plowing his own field of fame and fortune and, if truth be told, might be considered to have used that generation as fodder for his own mill.

Does Brokaw think the Founding Fathers are chopped liver?

Does Brokaw really believe they are the single greatest generation in history? If he does, he didn’t even deserve to be a talking head, being ignorant of the American generation that wrote a new political book for mankind, the Founding Fathers. Being ignorant of the artist/scientists of Venice during the Renaissance who opened up the universe for us, often at the cost of their lives. In fact, there is no single greatest generation in history, American or other.

But, just in case you are not yet convinced that the so-called Greatest Generation was actually rather ordinary when it wasn’t being foolhardy or reckless, here re some cogent questions to ask regarding the true greatness of the Greatest Generation, raised at one time or another in many blogs, but perhaps notably on the TwelveAngryMen blog:

· Whatever your opinion of the reasons for the Vietnam War, its management was execrable. Why, since Boomers were young adults or children at the time is the Boomer generation blamed for it? The decision makers, who are properly to blame, were the World War II generation.

· Who was in charge during the 1970s when stagflation was destroying  jobs and lives, and during the next decade? Not the Boomers.

· Who presided over the sudden deification of the old over the young during the 1960s and 1970s, leading to the giant expenditures for and shortfalls in “entitlement programs” such as Social Security?

· Whose programs gutted inner cities, leaving rat playgrounds where nice little neighborhoods had once been, or creating Soviet-style high rises as replacements for human-scale houses and apartment blocks? (TwelveAngryMen blog 2005)

It is difficult to credit how a generation that truly was the greatest at anything could be so completely responsible for the despicable juggernauts above.

Clearly, they can’t claim greatness based on these blunders. But what about the war itself, the war that helped Brokaw create the undeserved cache? Were they the greatest then?

The “Greatest” were more like World War II duds than Scuds

A brothersjudd review of Brokaw’s book indicates that the answer is resoundingly no.  Among other things, the review asks:

· How difficult a task was it to win WWII?  With Japan failing miserably in its desperate gamble at Pearl Harbor and the German offensive grinding to a halt in Russia, was there any way that we could have failed to win the war or wasn’t this merely a mopping up operation, however costly?

· Did this generation’s responsibilities cease on V-J Day?  Besides the question of the Soviet Union, where was this generation during the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, etc?  Were they responsible for these failures or merely unsupportive of our soldiers during them?

· Do the difficulties of the Depression and service in WWII really justify the massive transfer of payments that this generation has secured to themselves from future generations?  Social Security, Medicare, etc. are justly called entitlements; why is this generation the one in our history that felt entitled to so much in exchange for their service to the nation?

· Do they bear no responsibility for the enormous deficits that were rung up throughout their lifetimes, in order to pay for the thorough Social Safety Net they demanded?  Deficits, mind you, which our generation will be the one to pay off over the next twenty or thirty years.”(CSPAN booknotes 2009)

The brothersjudd website does misappropriate some responsibility, however. Those who would debunk the Greatest Generation myth ask:

· If there really was a horrible darkness falling on Europe and this generation fought it out of a sense of duty, why did they stay out of the fight for a full two years, until the Japanese attacked us?, and,

· Why did they declare war only on Japan at that point, waiting until Hitler declared war on us to return the favor?”(CSPAN booknotes 2009)

WWII Generation members also claim that their horrific experiences during World War II entitle them to the appellation the Greatest Generation. Really? They saw a fraction of the battle time experienced by Vietnamese troops; WWII troops saw an average of 40 days of battle spread over four years, while US troops in Vietnam saw 240 days EVERY year. (McCaffrey 1993)

The Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network website noted that, “One out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty. 58,169 were killed and 304,000 wounded out of 2.59 million who served. Although the percent who died is similar to other wars, amputations or crippling wounds were 300 percent higher than in World War II. 75,000 Vietnam veterans are severely disabled.” (VHFCN 2009)

Brokaw doesn’t even have greater amounts or greater depth of service on which to base his unreasoned and unreasonable accolades.

WWII vets dodged the draft in much greater percentages than Vietnam vets

Nor will bravery or patriotism put the WWII vets over the top as compared to Vietnam vets. In a speech in Washington DC in 1986, Gen. William C. Westmoreland noted that 2/3 of those who served in Vietnam were volunteers, whereas 2/3 of those who served in WWII were drafted. Adding to the debunking of the WWII patriotism myth, McCaffrey noted that during Vietnam, many volunteered for the draft, so that even some of the nominal draftees were in fact volunteers. (Westmoreland 1986)

The brothersjudd author is guilty with those two questions, however, of doing precisely what he accuses the WWII generation of doing to the Baby Boom. The WWII generation was not responsible for staying out of WWII: that was THEIR fathers’ decision.  They are guilty of much, but not of that.

The brothersjudd website author also notes that the Baby Boom might be the most coddled generation ever to walk the earth, but also asks, who raised them?  It is highly likely, however, that the Baby Boom is not nearly as spoiled as the World War II generation would paint them…anymore than Baby Boomer soldiers were as cowardly as they were painted by the World War II generation; just the opposite considering they served more days under worse conditions than any WWII vet did.

Besides that, the Baby Boom is taking care of its parents, both via the transfer payments that are Social Security and Medicare, and by doing without the “grandpa” assistance their own parents enjoyed while raising their kids―because the Baby Boom’s kids’ grandpas are off in Sun City, enjoying their locked-in transfer payments, i.e., Social Security, and fully vested pensions. Meanwhile, the Boomers worry about how they will ever retire, what with the enormous demands on their resources, including:

· The sums going out for transfer payments such as Social Security and Medicare

· Supplemental help so their WWII Generation parents need never miss a vacation

· Costs, both direct and indirect, for the care of parents unable to care for themselves

· Education for their own children, and

· Recouping the 40 percent of what little they had managed to save for retirement that was wiped out by the Bush recession.

Add to all that the fact that the WWII Generation was the very last one to get defined benefit retirement plans, and it’s a miracle Boomers haven’t once again manned the ramparts and demanded change, as they so effectively did during the Vietnam War.

As for Brokaw’s chosen few: Are they the Greatest Generation?  Hardly. The term Greediest comes immediately to mind.


The Spirit Behind the News

The Spirit Behind the News, by Ben Kamin
The Spirit Behind the News, by Ben Kamin

On Finding God in Family, Presidents, Baseball, Cell Phones and Chevy Impalas

Read this book by America’s rabbi. Rabbi Ben Kamin explains how we got to where we are, and helps you understand the events of summer, fall and winter of 2008. Thus covering the events leading up to and the election of Barak Obama. With gentle humor and world-class wisdom, Rabbi Kamin explains it all for you.
A masterful work of spiritual self-help and a guide to recovery of all we hold dear in these tumultuous times.
Out now on Kindle and in print.


Catfimrations by Laura Harrison McBride & Rachel Burch
Catfimrations by Laura Harrison McBride & Rachel Burch

Catfirmations, a book of druid based affirmations, with many beautiful colour photos of magical Dartmoor, in Devon, England.

No self-respecting cat would teach you everything it knows…but our Dartmoor cats offer abundant Catfirmations to help you in your daily life. And there are some gorgeous pictures of cats and magical Dartmoor as well.

With Catfirmations,  you can access the wisdom of cats when you need it. In this charming little book, by author Laura Harrison McBride and landscape photographer Rachel Burch (who tracked these kitties across the wilds of Dartmoor*), Dartmoor cats offer affirmations to help with virtually all of your life’s major challenges, from health to safety. As a bonus, you get vibrant photos of magical Dartmoor scenes, and a collection of cat photos that would make almost any cat person’s heart sing.

Salve your soul, save your sanity and buy this book of on-target affirmations for help in most of life’s little difficulties.

*OK. She didn’t find the cats in the places shown.
She added them. Like magic.

Out now on Kindle and in print

Ireland Explained

Ireland Explained
Ireland Explained, by
Laura Harrison McBride

Ireland Explained, by Laura Harrison McBride. A travelogue about modern Ireland. An update to H.V. Morton’s In Search of Ireland and a re-write/update of In Search of Modern Ireland by Bryce Webster.

Visiting Ireland, touring Ireland…

Love it or hate it, for millennia, Ireland has developed strong passions in Irish expatriates and others.  Many have tried to explain it; some have gotten it half right, but few have addressed all of Ireland’s facets.  In her well-praised 1985 book, In Search of Modern Ireland, author Bryce Webster expanded on a 1930’s attempt to explain the magical nation.  Her modern book retraced the steps of famous travel writer H.V. Morton, and also offered some insight into what was then, in 1986, a nascent Celtic Tiger.  At the time, Library Journal noted that the book offered “a balanced view of Ireland’s people and  contemporary life that is refreshing and informative.   Booklist called it, “instructive and quite entertaining.”

In this updated version of her acclaimed addition to the travel genre, Webster gives travelers and students of cultures alike insights into the conundrum that is Ireland, all of it, but mainly The Republic of Ireland, known via its Internet domains as .ie.

Out now on Kindle and in print.

Car Full of Death

Car Full of Death, is the latest in the Shelf & Chloe Barker, murder mystery series.

Car Full of Death, by Laura Harrison McBride
Car Full of Death, by Laura Harrison McBride

Lurch through East Anglia, UK, with the most lovable D.I. (Driving Instructor) in history ever to become a P.I. (Private Investigator), and plunk his bum on a stool in Brooklyn, NY, eating Junior’s Cheesecake—real New York cheesecake….

Go with him as he attends a Mafia funeral to rival a royal wedding.

And then worry and scold like a Yiddishe mama as he risks life and limb to solve a murder best described as a dripper.

Driving instruction? Oh, yes. He does some of that, and his driving students are, well, unusual. Some won’t drive. Some won’t stop. Some kill things along the way to driving competence. Like author Jonathan Gash’s Lovejoy, the antiques-dealer-turned-sleuth, Shelf Barker is an encyclopedia of oddness, but a lot less snarky.

But he is non-politically correct–or maybe a better way to say it is omni-ethnic–about it all.

So how DOES a mild-mannered Brit go from giving driving lessons to the great British public of terrified driving students to solving a double murder? He has help. Like Janet Evanovich’s almost helpless Stephanie Plum, Shelf works under the watchful eyes of two able helpers. One’s an Italian beauty who can barely boil pasta, and the other is one of his ex-wives whom he fondly compares to a deadly snake. Not exactly Stephanie Plum’s Ranger and Joe Morelli. More interesting.

He labours under myriad delusions, Shelf does, not least of which is that as a former university professor (his slide from grace has been bumpy), he knows everything about everything. Including English. When he chides his wife about her mistakes in English, she assures him her university studies taught her proper English. “I always add ‘proper AMERICAN English’,” he replies, “and that always gets me a fine Italian phrase in return, a sneer and sometimes a familiar hand gesture.” She probably learned the gesture from her Mafia forebears.

Go figure. Poor Shelf has to grapple with US idioms, suffer through the vagaries of British jurisprudence, and keep his astonishment hidden through an Italian funeral where bodies surf along Brooklyn roads and demented mafiosi retirees give the game away. To top it off, a central African warlord who sounds like Eddie Murphy in Coming to America plays a central role.

Still, Barker knows who he is, and isn’t embarrassed to tell. “I might once have been a world-class anthropologist….I might have. But I wasn’t. Just an ordinary bloke, educated beyond where it is wise to educate a member of the proletariat, trying to make a living.”

Barker is not a dab hand at handling a gun, but he can handle concepts just fine. And he has a fan-thing going for Lorena Bobbitt and her shorn husband, John. Remember them? Twenty years ago, Lorena trimmed her husband’s private parts a bit too close. “A fiction writer couldn’t come up with a better name for an egomaniacal American who fancied himself a matinee idol and who was shorn where it hurts—bobbed, you might say—than John Wayne Bobbitt,” Shelf notes.

Shelf has fun, he really does. See for yourself. He samples the best New York Cheesecake. He spends some quality time with the local constabulary. He falls in love. Again. And again? Maybe.

Out now on Kindle and in print.

English Riding, Safe Riders

English Riding, Safe Riders, by Laura Harrison McBride
English Riding, Safe Riders, by Laura Harrison McBride

A book for new riders or parents of young riders, that wish to ride in the English style.

How to find the best possible instruction. 
How to be safe, not  sorry.  How to have fun.
What you REALLY need, and what is optional.
When to buy a horse…if ever.
What to expect in riding lessons.
How to get the best from your English
riding experience!

Out now on Kindle and in print

A Nation of Serfs

A Nation of Serfs by Bryce Webster
A Nation of Serfs by Bryce Webster

It’s bad for most of us these days. Low incomes, high expenses, a Congress that seems more like a playpen full of unruly and somewhat stupid children. It’s all George’s fault, right? He did preside over the financial debacle at the end of his unfortunate term. Some think it’s Obama’s fault, but the truth is, he inherited problems too big for one man to fight alone…and he has been, mainly, alone. It is time to put the blame where it belongs, on the single generation that, like an architect drawing plans for a huge building that must not fall, wrote the blueprint for all our problems. Who? The generation Tom Brokaw gorrmlessly glorified as the Greatest. In fact, it was the greediest, from having too many kids with no regard for them or the planet, to ensuring their golden years would glow with a light provided by their children’s and grandchildren’s rising taxes and diminishing paychecks.. Indeed, looked at rationally, it was the so-called Greatest Generation that has made us all A Nation of Serfs. In just nine chapters, A Nation of Serfs explains it all for you.

Out now in Kindle and in print at the Muffin Dog Press CreateSpace eStore.

Cow-Tipping and the Deep Blue Sea

Cow-Tipping and the Deep Blue Sea, by Laura Harrison McBride.
Cow-Tipping and the Deep Blue Sea, by Laura Harrison McBride.

Poems of Cornwall and the Atlantic Rim.

A book of poems and prose poems occasioned by Cornwall, New York City, Key West and other sea-girt places. Reflections, ruminations and revelations.

Out now on Kindle and in print