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Read an excerpt from Kilburn Hall’s new book: MORPHED

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IN THE TRADITION OF NEXT
Science and technology are morphing at such an accelerated rate it may now be beyond our ability to reulate or control.

BWI International/Marshall Thurgood Airport
Baltimore, Maryland

He was waiting for her as she deplaned, holding up a cardboard sign with her name scribbled on it. She was on her way to meet with DARPA Special Projects Operations director and he was there to meet her.

“May I ask you a question?” he asked as they waited for her bags at the luggage turnstile.

“Do you find having the same name as the Nobel Peace Prize winning scientist, that people often confuse you with him?”

“He’s my father.” She smiled.

“Sorry.”
“My problem, working in law enforcement the last thirty-years, makes me ask too many dumb questions.” He held out his hand.

“Agent Bart Needham. On loan to the DOD from the Secret Service. Department of Defense may wield more autonomy but Secret Service pays better.  I bear the first name of a contentious and well-known quarterback for the Green Bay Packers for which I have taken my share of ribbing over the years.”

“Abbie Sparf. Daughter of cantankerous, Nobel Peace Prize winning scientist Walter L. Sparf for which I to have taken my share of ribbing over the years.”

“Abbie Sparf? I like you. I think we’re going to be fast friends.”

“You don’t know me yet.”

“Anyway … “she said. “It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind- not a man’s.”

“What’s this?”

“Abbie- meet “Libby,” a computer-generated avatar that greets travelers at Newark Liberty International Airport. She’s Newark Airport’s newest — and perhaps most chipper — customer service rep. You may have noticed that she’s a bit shallow, and she’s completely two-faced, but she’s always smiling, and she never complains.

“Hello, and welcome to Newark Liberty International Airport. You have arrived at Terminal B,” the avatar said.

“Libby’s presence seems to be catching arriving passengers off-guard. Some love her, some hate her but not everyone is enchanted by her computer-generated smile.

“It’s a little bit freaky when you walk down here. Her body doesn’t look real but her head does,” one passerby said.

“It’s freaky!” another woman said.

“I think it’s weird,” said the first.

“The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spent $180,000 on Libby and four avatars like her,” Needham told Dr. Sparf. “It may have been a bargain. Some travelers compare it to Leonardo da Vinci’s priceless “Mona Lisa.”

“I think it’s scary. The woman traveler said to her companion.  “Its eyes follow you,”.

“It’s really odd the way her eyes follow you. It’s really odd!”

“According to the Port Authority, Libby’s first day went well, but the agency will continue to keep an eye on her performance — and so will her young customers. Needham told the two women travelers who scoffed before hurrying away.
“I talk to her; I don’t know what she means. Everyone’s a critic.”

Settling into the car for the drive to DARPA headquarters in the Virginia Square neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. Agent Needham turned on the the sleek Sirius Sportster4 including replay, advanced sports features, a large, easy-to-read display and rotary tuning knob as the song 5 O’clock World by Dave Clark Five played in the background.

“You’re an oldies fan? She asked.

“Trading my time for the pay I get…living on money I ain’t made yet.” The song echoed.

“I’m sure glad you’re a scientist,” he said. “My parents were not scientists. They knew almost nothing about science and technology but they instilled in me a healthy sense of skepticism and a sense of wonder, two cohabiting modes of scientific thought.”

And there’s a longhaired girl who waits, I know
to ease my troubled mind,
In the shelter of her arms everything’s okay

“Don’t feel bad,” she said.  “Some 95-percent of Americans are scientifically illiterate. Every generation worries that educational standards are decaying. It’s not that they are decaying; it’s that with every generation we are playing catch-up with the latest technology. As adults today are teaching themselves how to surf the web and text-message, the adults of tomorrow who grew up taking these things for granted will be teaching themselves how to interact with robotics, virtual reality, and other things that are quite beyond their abilities today.”
She talks and the world goes slipping away
And I know the reason I can still go on
When every other reason is gone

“We were only one step out of poverty when I announced I wanted to be a Secret-Service agent and guard the president,” he told her. “My parents would laugh but they would give me their unqualified support. They never suggested that all things considered, it might have been better to sell insurance.”

“An ancient Chinese proverb advises, “Better be too credulous than too skeptical,” she said.  “Most scientists I believe would say the Chinese had it backwards. They would say, “better be too skeptical than too credulous.”

“I wish I could tell you that in the 1960′s we had inspirational teachers in science, mathematics or other subjects but there were none,” he sighed.

“Public education in the 1960′s consisted of rote memorization about the Periodic Table of Elements, levers, and inclined planes, green plant photosynthesis and the difference between anthracite and bituminous coal. There was no soaring sense of wonder, except perhaps when it came to the space program, no hint of evolutionary perspective, nothing about mistaken ideas of early inventors like Da Vinci, Galileo, and turning metal into gold. In math and high school lab courses, there was just memorization, an answer we were supposed to get and if we didn’t get it we failed. There was no encouragement by teachers to pursue science or technology as a hobby.”
“Radio Shack provided inspiration in the form of crystal-radio kits that kids could buy and put together. Poor families like mine couldn’t even afford the modestly priced kits. No wonder we couldn’t wait for the school year to end. Public schools in the 1960′s were the death of inspiration, wonder, and exploration. All we wanted to do was get as far away from school for the summer as we could. Whatever interest I had in science came from reading magazines like Popular Mechanics or National Geographic and later, Popular Science.”

“My dad Marshall Needham was a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. He played for two years before being cut. He used to say that two-years on that Vince Lombardi team were like a lifetime on other teams. He named me after his best friend, well-known quarterback Bart Starr. We used to go to Bart Starr’s house for Sunday Dinner. No nambi pambi chicken, it was roast beef, every-time. My dad insisted I get the Bart Starr haircut like all the other boys. Secretly, I was a Packer fan but because my dad loved the Packer’s I wanted to irk him so I rooted for the Chicago Bears. That was back when Mike Ditka was a player.”
“The Bears didn’t play as good as Lombardi’s Packers but once a year the two teams faced off in the annual rivalry game. My dad worked as a railroad engineer. When my mom died, he took a job as care-taker at a large private school driving the large red tractor around mowing the lawn, or repairing this or that. I was in high-school the day that dad died. He was changing the chlorine cylinders at the pool when something went wrong. A valve opened or hadn’t been closed properly and he inhaled a cloud of chlorine gas. By the time the ambulance arrived he had stopped breathing. I worked odd jobs the remainder of high school to help out my step-mom Marilyn and my little sister Laura.

I remember my step-mom, Marilyn worked as a CPA for this guy, worked long hours, come home dead tired, fall asleep at the kitchen table and at the end of the job the guy paid her off in cash. When mom went to the butcher, the cash turned out to be “funny money.” I will never forget how mom came home and sobbed at the kitchen table. We were so poor we could barely keep food on the table and her employer was one of those “wise guys.” Not particularity dangerous- just thought he was so clever. I vowed then and there, that one day, I would work for the secret-service putting wise guys like that behind bars for all the misery they caused people.

“After high school- I was drafted. Got shipped to Vietnam. 101st Airborne. But then, most of the units were 101st Airborne. I was exposed to America’s rock-n-roll/drug war. It made young naïve boys grow up in a hurry. After my two-year hitch, I returned home and inspired by the successful TV show, The FBI with Efrem Cymbalist Junior- a good looking, suave talking agent who dressed well and put sleazy bad guys in jail, I applied to the FBI Academy. I started out a junior-G-man in the counterfeiting section.

“Most counterfeiters were not the sleazy bad guys portrayed on TV, most of them were pathetic. I almost felt sorry for them. They were just “wise guys,” thinking they were so much cleverer than anyone else yet all of them, with few exceptions were tripped up by the littlest thing. The little thing they overlooked. Like a clerk remembering their description, surveillance camera, spending the funny money in the same neighborhood they lived in, or buying their ink and supplies from the same office supply store. Counterfeiting was boring and after two years I had the opportunity to apply to the Secret Service.

“I thought counterfeiting would be more exciting in secret service. It wasn’t. It was the same old thing just on a larger scale. In 1982, Reagan and Brady were gunned down, many secret service agents of the 1960′s and 70′s were old and retired, and there were openings on the presidential detail. I served two presidents, Reagan and Bush senior before the Clinton administration came in and wanted to be surrounded by younger, fresh faces. By then, I was bored with presidential detail. It’s mostly about the show you know. Giving the American public the false sense of security that the president is invulnerable. This obviously wasn’t the case with Reagan. This is why they have agents run alongside an armor-plated presidential limo which could withstand a rocket attack. Or we’re seen on TV talking into our lapel microphones. Half the time when you would see us talking into our microphones we were getting a pro-football score update or ordering dinner from McDonald’s. But it looked cool,” he talked into his shirt collar, “Eh Charlie, Charlie?” She laughed.

“In 1982- many politicians including the president began to realize they knew little or nothing about science and technology.”

“The nations will perish for lack of knowledge. Thomas Ady, 1656,” Sparf said. “He also said that avoidable human misery is more often caused not so much by stupidity as by ignorance, particularly ignorance about us.”

“Most of them. Like self were jocks in high-school not nerds or geeks. IN high school if you’re a straight A student and you show an overt interest in school- you’re a nerd. High school culture hasn’t changed in the 40-odd years since I went to high school. The message to young people is that it is better to be popular, sexy, and cool than to be intelligently accomplished and outspoken and be thought a nerd or geek. Hollywood has made a fortune off parodying geeks and nerds in movies like Revenge of the Nerds. A high school gives recognition to athletes with letters on their jackets rather than nerdy science whizzes. The message in high school is smart kids are looking for the fast buck, they become lawyers not scientists. Popular guys get the pretty girls and become financially successful enough to buy Porsches. Science nerds become Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor, teaching science class to a bunch of kids who would rather be doing something else.

High school, the nerds wore their belts just under their rib cages. Their short sleeved shirts equipped with plastic pocket protector which were arrayed a display of multi-colored pens. A programmable calculator was holstered in a special belt holster. They all wore thick glasses with broken nose pieces that were repaired with Band-Aids. And like the Hollywood movies, they were made to seem bereft of any social skills by the jocks. A laugh came out as a snort just like Jerry Lewis in The Nutty professor. Most nerds I knew had names like Norman or Walter.

There were more boy nerds than girl nerds but they didn’t date- not even within their own construct. Bottom line- if you were a nerd- you couldn’t be cool.

“I imagine you, on the other hand were a jock. I can see you riding in the back seat of a wealthier jocks convertible wearing your maroon and white athletic jacket for which you saved for two years with your football letter and pins attached. I imagine you combed your hair back with a black Ace comb all the time in front of the ladies because you thought that made you look cool. A sort of 1960′s Fonz.

“I imagine you drank Bali High Wine out in a cornfield with fellow teammates and cheerleaders, giggling like small children as the alpha males in your group tried to decide who was going further out in the cornfield with Mary Alice. I imagine your favorite TV show was The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“See? The stereotype of a jock is no harder to figure out than that of a nerd.”

“What about you? I imagine it must have been very difficult growing up in the shadow of your famous father.”

“My father, having just won the Nobel prize, patiently explained to me about zero as a placeholder on arithmetic, about the wicked sounding names of big numbers and about how there’s no biggest number. “You can always add one, “Z” he pointed out. Suddenly, I was seized by a childish compulsion to write in sequence all the integers from 1 to 1,000. We had no pads of paper, but my father offered up the stack of gray cardboards he had been saving from when his shirts were sent to the laundry. I started the project eagerly, but was surprised at how slowly it went. When I had gotten no further than the low hundreds, my mother announced that it was time for me to take my bath and go to bed. I was disconsolate. I had to get to a thousand. My father intervened. If I would cheerfully submit to the bath, he would continue the sequence. In was overjoyed. By the time I emerged he was approaching 900 and I was able to reach 1,000 only a little past my ordinary bedtime. The magnitude of large numbers and my father’s love for me has never ceased to impress me.”

“Mystery, obviously, is everywhere. Is there a God? Mystery. What about life after death? Mystery. Excuse me, what material is the Sham Wow made of? Mystery. Stonehenge? Big Foot? Loch Ness? Mystery mystery mystery. McDonald’s Special Sauce? I don’t care how many bottles of Thousand Island dressing you show me, it’s Special Sauce. Mystery.

“And yet: For all that mystery, why does it feel like the world has been ripped open, all parts exposed? Why does so much seem absolutely and thoroughly demystified? These days we can leap, all of us, from a casual curiosity about anything to a sense of satisfying understanding. Instantly. Want to fold origami? There are more than 200,000 Google results on that subject available to you, now. Need to know the capital of Mauritania? A recipe for sticky buns? How to pick a bicycle lock? You could answer all these questions in less time than it will take you to finish reading this article (which, for a second time, I suggest you skip. Remember: You know how it ends, so why are you still here?).

What I’m getting at is hardly news to anyone: We’re smack dab in the middle of the Age of Immediacy. True understanding (or skill or effort) has become bothersome―an unnecessary headache that impedes our ability to get on with our lives (and most likely skip to something else). Earning the endgame seems so yesterday, especially when we can know whatever we need to know whenever we need to know it.

People often ask me how Lost is going to end. But I always ask them do you really want to know? And what if I did tell them? They might have an aha moment, but without context. Especially since the final episode is a year away. That is to say, the experience―the setup for a joke’s punch line, the buildup to a magic trick’s big flourish―is as much of a thrill as the result. There’s discovery to be made and wonder to be had on the journey that not only enrich the ending but in many ways define it.

“Think back, for example, to how we used to buy music. You would have to leave your apartment or house and actually move your ass to another location. You’d get to the store, where music would be playing on the stereo. Music you may not have heard before. Perhaps you’d ask the clerk what it was and she’d send you to a bin―those wooden container holding actual albums or CDs―and you’d look through it, seeing other album covers that might catch your eye. You’d have a chance to discover something.

“But wait, you say, iTunes gives you the chance to browse! To that I nod, concede the point, and say, “Bullshit.” Those little icons you scroll past mean almost nothing to most of us. Why? Because we didn’t get on the train, brave the weather, bump into strangers, and hear music we didn’t choose. In other words, we didn’t earn the right to casually scan those wooden bins. Lately I go to Sound Garden in Baltimore just to watch people flip through albums. It’s a lost art.

Sure, in the days before recorded music, you’d need a live performance to hear music at all. So isn’t technology actually enriching our lives? Well, of course. This is not meant to be an anti-technology diatribe―some clichéd Luddite treatise (in an issue of Wired, no less). On the contrary, I’m a massive fan of most everything electronic. I use, appreciate, and drool over far too many high tech innovations. I’m an embarrassed whore for the stuff. But tech has made us thankless. Back in the day, it would’ve been unthinkable to go to the music store, actually purchase a record, and then get home and not listen to it. But today? How many of us have downloaded albums or songs that are still sitting, months or years later, unplayed in our iTunes library? My hand just slowly went up, too.

“In my profession, this mentality is illustrated by the spoiler: that piece of information meant to be kept secret, like the end of a movie or TV show or novel. Spoilers give fans the answers they want, the resolution they crave. As an avid fan of movies and TV myself, I completely understand the desire to find out behind-the-scenes details in a nanosecond. Which, given technology, is often how long it takes―to the frustration of the storytellers. Efforts to gather this Intel and the attempts to plug leaks create an ongoing battle between filmmakers and the very fans they are dying to entertain and impress. But the real damage isn’t so much that the secret gets out. It’s that the experience is destroyed. The illusion is diminished. This may not matter to some. But then what’s the point of actually seeing that movie or episode? How does knowing the twist before you walk into the theater―or what that island is really about before you watch the finale―make for a richer viewing experience? It’s telling that the very term itself―spoiler―has become synonymous with “cool info you can get before the other guy.” What no one remembers is that it literally means “to damage irreparably; to ruin.” Spoilers make no bone about destroying the intended experience―and somehow that has become, for many, the preferred choice.

Read an excerpt from Kilburn Hall’s new thriller: KUN LUN.

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THE TOP OF THE WORLD IS NOT FOR EVERYONE.
In the tradition of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon comes a new thriller by American author Kilburn Hall.

Kun Lun.
$9.99 (5×5)  paperback. $12.99 trade (6×9) paperback, $26.99
Hardcover collectible through Barnes & Nobles and Amazon.com exclusively.
Available as “ebook” Christmas 2013

Here is an excerpt from Kilburn Hall’s new thriller:  Kun Lun.

Epilogue

“Maybe true, maybe not true.
Better, you believe!”
-~old Sherpa saying

 

Surrey, England
Tuesday, February 29, 2000 (A Leap Year in the Gregorian calendar)

A

t the close of the 20th-Century, my lifetime association with Colonel McConnell came to an end. Tim Campbell and Colonel Franklin McConnell went into that gentle night never to be heard from again. With all the media hoop-la over Y2K, the news of Colonel McConnell’s disappearance attracted no more than a small paragraph buried on the inside pages of most publications. Perhaps the Colonel wanted it to this way or perhaps he fell foul to one of the many terrorist bands that roam the provinces of the Himalayas. One can only speculate.

I do not blame Tim Campbell for planting the idea of “Khembalung, Shambhala, or Shangri-La” in the Colonel’s head or for the Colonel’s death if he indeed met with foul play. The Colonel was a grown man capable of making his own decisions. Franklin McConnell’s autobiography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, published in 2000, though scholarly and accurate in detail, the public found it a boring read. Few books of that nature sell well in the bookstores these days. They are better left to posterity on the shelves of the public libraries.

The first few months after Tim Campbell and the Colonel embarked on their “great adventure to India” as the Colonel put it, I received postcards from New Delhi, Nanga Parbat, and Nandi Devi. Even those were few and far between stopping altogether around February 29th, 2000. A Leap-Year. The only conclusion I could come to was that they had wandered off somewhere. Perhaps they didn’t want to be found or perhaps they fell into a crevasse. In the real world, they were never accounted for again.

The romantic in me likes to think that Tim Campbell beat back the snows of  Kun Lun to find the lamasery at Khembalung and his lost love Xui-Mei Najar. Campbell’s ex-wife and critics charge that he is most likely dead, killed in the attempt, or that he drank himself to death as a disgraced ex-patriot in some Far East country. The questions he asked and tried so hard to answer through his novel Kun Lun and his wanderings are the same questions many people ask when they plunk down money on adventure novels. Instead of finding answers on the  psychiatrist’s couch, Tim Campbell found them in a sweaty hotel in Kashi, making close friends on the drive across the Great Takla Makan desert, in the back streets of Lhasa, and on the treacherous face of Mt. Kun Lun.  Could it be that with his quick wit and singular way of looking at the world, that he was closer than others to what life’s so-called answers are? This certainly was the lure of his book  Kun Lun which remained on the bestseller list for nineteen months. The revelations coming alive in its pages, the vivid descriptions of Tim Campbell’s search, what he discovered in that search, and dealing with the wake of the tragedy of the 1995 Kun Lun Expedition.

Before his departure for points unknown, the Colonel donated the fabulous Cantigny Mansion to the city of Winfield, Illinois; for a museum where daily tours are conducted for the public. The Police-Chief breathed a sigh of relief that the Colonel’s tank driving days had at long-last come to an end.

“He confided to me after his wife died that, what with the children gone and fifty rooms, the place had really become too big for him,” the Police-Chief told me. “He said he found himself getting lost in the hallways.”

Becky McConnell’s tenure as head of a publishing “ synergy” was short-lived. Her board of director’s sold the company out from under her to the Barclay Brother’s of Great Britain who in turn sold to Donald Trump who razed the Chicago Journal Tower to erect a residential skyscraper called, The Trump International Hotel and Tower, also known as Trump Tower Chicago and Trump Tower, a skyscraper condo-hotel in downtown Chicago, Illinois. The building, named after billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump, was designed by architect Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Bovis Lend Lease built the 92-story structure, which reached a height of 1,389 feet (423 m) including its spire, its roof topping out at 1,170 feet (360 m). It is adjacent to the main branch of the Chicago River, with a view of the entry to Lake Michigan beyond a series of bridges over the river.

The man Rebecca Ruth McConnell left Tim Campbell for, columnist A-Jay Zales, some ten-years her senior, loved the Colonel’s money more than the Colonel’s daughter it seems, cleaning out her bank account before eventually running off with a twenty-something girl and leaving her to raise two children alone in a small hovel of a house in Lake-In-The-Hills, Illinois. If she pined over the loss of her friend and lover Tim Campbell, we will never know.

Campbell’s cute assistant Jenna Nichols went on to become news director for Fox News Channel 32, riding herd over a new generation of perky blonde journalists, Huddy, Hopkins, Kendall, Dhue, Hill, Keenan , and other’s where green-suitcase-Journalism and fictionalization of the news was not encouraged. Jenna Nichols, who never forgot Tim Campbell’s patient tutelage, hoped to bring new standards of professional conduct to an industry floundering in a sea of infotainment.

As I sit here finishing this epilogue for what was first Joseph Rock’s, James Hilton’s and then Tim Campbell’s story, there’s a crackling fire in my fireplace. I’m nursing a glass of hundred-year-old scotch, a gift I received in the mail from Colonel McConnell, though where he came across such a rare vintage in the Himalayas still puzzles me. I am reminiscing about Franklin McConnell as I remember him, a young lad full of vim-and-vigor on a great adventure, a journalist covering the horrors of the battlefield in France during World War II. 

I ponder on the possible fate of the women in Campbell’s life, his ex-wife Becky McConnell, his perky assistant Jenna Nichols, his nurse at the CIWEC clinic Marie Dubois, and of course, his fantasy woman, Professor Xui-Mei Najar.

Perhaps men just get mystical after a dram or two of Scotch but sitting here contemplating the great mystery of life, I apostate. I find that men like Nicholas Roerich, Hugh Conway, Sir. Edmund Hillary, Wilfred Thessinger, Peter Marshall and myself, are dinosaurs. The last in the era of, “a man’s man.” But, there is a Tim Campbell in all of us, slightly naïve and vulnerable with a kind and trusting heart on the journey in search of truth. His truth may not be your truth, but it is the ongoing journey that matters.

About his finding the Khembalung Monastery again.  It was Tim Campbell who told me that even if you go back, you will not find the old shore again. We can none of us step into the same river twice, it is not the same river and we are not the same man. But the river flows on and the next river we step into can be cool and refreshing as well. I would like to think that Campbell beat back the snows of Khembalung and that he was reunited with his love, Xui-Mei Najar. 

Of Kun Lun and the attempts of climbing-companies to commercialize it, Tim Campbell expressed so succinctly in our hotel room in Delhi, 

 “There are some things in life that are better left untampered with.” 

The Chinese government closed the Medog Region, Kun Lun,  and the Grand Bend Preserve (Inner Sanctuary) to all but scientific exploration, climbable only above 25,000-feet without oxygen.

Tim Campbell has plenty of time, for his horrendous journey left no permanent scar on him and for all intents and purposes, he is still a young man.  Kun Lun left Campbell without ambition, he had no desire for fame, none for fortune, certainly since Colonel McConnell fixed him up in that respect. He had no reaching to become a politician and he was too modest to set himself up to preach to others.

So, it is here that I leave you. To be content in the knowledge that Tim Campbell is satisfied to follow the path he has chosen, for it is the very journey that helps us grow. Campbell once told me that the secret of life was this:  living in the place you belong, with the people you love, doing the right work… on purpose.

I contemplate the strange ultimate dream shared by Joseph Rock, Nicholas Roerich,  James Hilton, Tim Campbell, and my old friend Colonel Franklin McConnell. That illusive dream of a Lost Horizon. I imagine they all found their Khembalung, Shambala or Shangri-La in their own ways. I am reminded of the comment Campbell made in his account, about the “Shangri-La-ing” of the world. The Chinese are capitalizing on the concept of Shangri-La with a proliferation of Shangri-La restaurants, cafe’s, Karaoke bars, hotels, resorts, and villages, springing up around the countryside. On my journey to retrieve Campbell, I flew into the newly opened Shangri-La airport in Zhongdian, China; where jumbo-jets screech to a halt on land that used to be the winter home of an endangered breed of Red Crane.

Tim Campbell might tell me if he were here that there is a danger in locating Shangri-La, somewhere beyond our lives, preferably in a scenic spot with nice vistas, because then, you no longer have to look for it within yourself.

“Everywhere is called Shangri-La these days but nowhere is Shangri-La if not within you,” he said.  The journalist’s habit of seeing quickly into the essential configuration of many aspects of life was clearly good training for the writing of his adventure.

Did Tim Campbell make up the entire story of Khembalung for fame and profit? Maybe true-Maybe not true. Better you believe.”

As I finish the last of my drink before toddling off to bed, I toast LeComte Germain, Tim Campbell, Peter Marshall, and especially my old friend Colonel Franklin McConnell. As Chögyam Trungpa, talks about in the final chapter of his work: Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, over the centuries, there have been many who have sought the ultimate good and have tried to share it with their fellow human beings in the form of a literary work, (James Hilton’s Lost Horizon), a Hollywood movie (Frank Capra’s The Razor’s Edge or Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Seven Years in Tibet), in poetry and verse, or in song, only to realize it requires immaculate discipline and unflinching conviction.
           
Those who have been fearless in their search of Shangri-La, Shambhala, Khembalung or Utopia and fearless in their proclamation belong to the lineage of master warriors, whatever their religion, philosophy, or creed. What distinguishes such leaders of humanity and guardians of human wisdom is their fearless expression of gentleness and genuineness – on behalf of all sentient beings. We should venerate their example and acknowledge the path that they have laid for us. The Hugh Conway’s, Heinrich Harrier’s and Tim Campbell’s of the world are the fathers and mothers of Shambhala, who make it possible, in the midst of this degraded age, to contemplate enlightened society. The idealized Shangri-La is gone forever but one can hope that they all found their own version of utopia wherever, whatever, whoever, that might be.

Sir Wilfred Patrick Thomas, CBE, DSO, FRAS, FRGS.
Surrey, England.
The Writing 69th

 

Local author returns to his roots : A conversation with author Kilburn Hall

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1044836_10201452709309041_1966986199_nkun lunSince the finish of his first novel, the summer of 1999 down in Flagstaff, Arizona,  Kilburn Hall has finished four more books and written a barrage of blogs on every subject ranging from the Patraeus scandal or Paulagate, the Aurora Dark Knight shooting to Obama’s re-election.  Not bad for someone who once thought he wanted to be a YMCA camp director. Hall jokes he didn’t look good in the “Bow-tie.”  (An in joke about a  “flaming gay” YMCA director he once worked for in a past life.)

One can’t help wonder sitting down with this local author whose imagination works overtime, if it gets any easier sitting down to a blank page and four months later coming up with a work of art.
“That is the quality that always astonishes me and leaves me filled with awe and great reverence for the arts,” he says. “An artist begins with a blank page, a blank canvas if you will, and months/years later he has created a work of art. Sometimes the work is humbling and awe inspiring, other times its “crap” and you have to begin again. In each case, there is a definite process and the process is always the same. Making art out off nothing at all”.

465533From his initial stint as sports writer for the Elgin Daily Courier News in 1974, to film critic, reporter, political columnist, newspaper  advertising sales for a string of NorthWest Illinois newspapers in the 80′s and 90′s to  working as a short-order cook, telemarketer, county sheriff, amusement park ride operator, there’s not much the 57-year-old author hasn’t  tried his hand at over the years. Each form of expression only lends itself to the creative voice.

“Sometimes when I read something I’ve written months or years before on my laptop it’s so awe inspiring that I can’t believe I wrote that,”  The author confides over Earl Gray and cinnamon chip scones in front of the massive stone fireplace at Caribou Coffee in Libertyville, Illinois. (Earl Grey. Hot. With Lemon) he mimicks Star Trek’s Captain Jean Lu-Picard.

“Sometimes the rejection slips are the lowest form of insult of the bunch but occasionally even they have their thrill. I like the one that read,

“You see, and don’t take this personally, you are nothing but a crumb on our plates; you are lint in our intern’s belly-buttons; you are a stranger’s hair clung to this season’s Michael Kors pea coats, extant only because of the torments of static electricity in winter months. But, in the laughable unlikelihood that you in fact intended to contact us in regards to your humorous essay, wistfully and preposterously expecting us to consider it, I’m here to inform you, and then reiterate …..”

It was addressed to a Mr. Halleck and was filled with typos, spelling errors, and syntax usage errors.

Morphed“Obviously, some of the agents and publishing houses do not hire writers to mail out their rejection slips”. Hall laughs.
“Bean-counter’s run everything these days. The commodities view of the world. In trying to subject the world to their will, commodities people don’t see the intricate relationship, the Yin and Yang so-to-speak of the fragile coexistence between the creative, spiritual view and their own commodities viewpoint. One group cannot run the world without the skills of the other. There’s a delicate balance there”.

217932069438307717_E3Ilsu8E_cWhatever the form, Hall has made an art of turning life’s bits and pieces into literary forms that flow and move the reader into other worlds. He illustrates his skill in his second book, The Killing of a Robin, which is due to come out  Christmas 2013.

“Robin O’Hara was very harsh and very firm. She pushed my limits and I didn’t like it for a long time. But now that she’s gone, I push myself because I know that my limits are more than I thought they were”.

Using protagonist Robin O’Hara, Hall offers a running commentary on the unwashed, unseen working class poor in the form of commodities person O’Hara, a wealthy socialite brutally gunned down on her front porch. Into the story, steps handsome working class detective Nicky Toscani whom she once stalked on the Internet. The book explores the selfishness of American women, the Cinderella complex, racial and police tensions in a big city and more importantly today’s media that practice the creed, “Guilt by implication, trial by media”.

Despite his love of travel and living in exotic locales, KIlburn Hall returned faithfully every year to visit his elderly mother in Chicago who  passed away in 2008.

001“I grew up around here. My roots are here. It’s easy to return home because this is the world of my childhood, not the reality of my adult world. I grew up in a private school. Sixty wooded acres with artesian wells, ponds stocked with fish, wild pheasants and turkeys and immense oak trees towering overhead. I was home in a world that I have not felt at home at anywhere since. According to the authorl, childhood at The Chicago Junior School in East Dundee, IL. was a world of a child filled with historic buildings by architect John S. Van Bergen and  immense old libraries containing Robert Frost, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells and the Hardy Boys and visiting TV personalities like  Alan Young, Lee Phillip, and Forrest Tucker.

The real world of Kilburn Hall has not been without pain.  Abandoned in a boarding school at age eight, he put himself through college. After graduating from a bankrupt private college in 1982, Hall waited tables taught school and sold advertising for local newspapers to support his young bride. Less than a year later, the marriage was over and he was back out on the streets with no home. He became a drifter the next 15 years, traveling, working and living all over the country

“I was just a kid when I got married and very naive. I had no clue how much hard work it took to support a wife. I didn’t get a lot of support from  her family. My wife was a commodities person who never shared my sacred view of the world. She never believed in my talents or abilities and though as a young newlywed couple we were living life, La Vida Loca, that life was never enough for her. She is still chasing the brass ring today never having caught it.” Sad that so many people never listen to the color of their dreams but instead listen to the naysayers. You know the naysayers. They could be characters in a Lemony Snicket novel. “No one will ever buy that, listen to that, watch that.”

What felt like a dead-end 20 years ago, now seems like an admirable tale of bravery- one man’s pursuit of a lifelong dream in spite of battling enormous odds.

Excalibur“Since I was a young boy I have always dreamed of being an author and joining the ranks of author’s who inspired me like James Hilton, Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Quinn and my generation never had the giants like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner. It was only when a dark  oice by the name of Stephen King came along in the 1980’s who showed my generation how much fun and profit could be made giving up your day job to pursue the craft of fiction writing, did we turn out the likes of John Grisham, Anne Rice, Tom Clancy, Tom Robbins and Michael Crichton. With the consolidation of today’s major publishing houses, and the stiff competition amongst magazines for competing authors, and the proliferation of “ebooks,” Kilburn Hall has found publication and being an “indie author” to be an even more difficult prospect.

“Since I was a young boy I have always dreamed of being an author and joining the ranks of author’s who inspired me like James Hilton, Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Quinn. My generation never had the giants like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner. It was only when a dark voice by the name of Stephen King came along in the 1980’s who showed my generation how much fun and profit could be made giving up your day job to pursue the craft of fiction writing, did we turn out the likes of John Grisham, Anne Rice, Tom Clancy, Tom Robbins and Michael Crichton.

“It’s hard to make a big splash these days. Beginning writers should consider themselves a success just creating small ripples in the vast ocean of publishing.”

crooked.jpgThe author is currently finishing his fifth book;  Bimini Road (In the tradition of The Day Of The Dolphin) and he has begun Publication2work on Excalibur, and a paranormal work, Crooked Island, (In the tradition of Duma Key). 

“For a comfortable read I highly recommend the fireplace at Barnes Nobles in Flagstaff, Arizona.”  He says with a gleam in his eye. Like author J.K. Rowling, he feels more at home writing in cozy bookstores around the country on his Apple laptop.

Despite the fact that since 9-11 it’s not getting any easier to get published, Hall’s extensive travel and experiences with every element of society, from wealthy Californian yuppies to hard-core homeless tramps in Denver, have lent themselves to his expression.

Publication1“My father-in-law taught me what a real hero was.  Here was a quiet, unassuming man who did his duty in WW II. Anyone who knows about that war knows that you didn’t return home from the European Theater unless you killed allot of Nazi’s. Yet, he never discussed the war. He taught me that a real hero wasn’t off having adventures in far away countries, a real hero went to work day after day to the same mundane, dull routine and kept a roof over his head, raised a family, attended church regularly on Sunday’s, planted a little garden out back and was respectful of his neighbors. A solid citizen.   Since September 11th, Americans are re-thinking their vision of hero’s and clearly want a more clear-cut image of ‘good’ guy and ‘bad’ guy.”n him a wealth of insight to draw on in molding the hero’s of his stories.

“I try to be more respectful now, I try to slow down and really get behind what it is most Americans are feeling about issues.”As he gets older, and after the attack on America, Hall is more cautious in the way, he writes after Sept 11th, than before.

“Listen to the color of your dreams.”NPJBD

To the legions of beginning new writers hoping to create ripples of their own, Hall has only this advice: “Many amateurs give up just when they’re about to turn the corner and that’s what keeps them from success.”

Luckily, Kilburn Hall has persisted to give the literary world Kun Lun,  The Killing of a Robin, Nothing Personal – Just Business Darling, and coming soon Ark, Bimini Road, Crooked Island,  Morphed, Excalibur, and more……

~Jeff Globe (WordPress)

 

 

THE DEATH OF THE BOOK

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The Death of the Book
REPRINTED BLOG BY AWARD WINNING AUTHOR
URSULA LEGUIN

People love to talk about the death of whatever — the book, or history, or Nature, or God, or authentic Cajun cuisine. Eschatologically-minded people do, anyhow.

After I wrote that, I felt pleased with myself, but uneasy. I went and looked up eschatological. I knew it didn’t mean what scatological means, even though they sound exactly alike except eschatological has one more syllable, but I thought it had to do only with death. I didn’t realise it concerns not one thing but The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. If it included scatology too, it would be practically the whole ball of wax.

Anyhow, the eschatologists’ judgment is that the book is going to die and go to heaven or hell, leaving us to the mercy of Hollywood and our computer screens.

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There certainly is something sick about the book industry, but it seems closely related to the sickness affecting every industry that, under pressure from a corporate owner, dumps product standards and long-range planning in favor of ‘predictable’ sales and short-term profits.

As for books themselves, the changes in book technology are cataclysmic. Yet it seems to me that rather than dying, “the book” is growing — taking on a second form and shape, the ebook.

This is a vast, unplanned change that’s as confusing, uncomfortable, and destructive as most unplanned changes. Certainly it’s putting huge strain on all the familiar channels of book publication and acquisition, from the publishers, distributors, book stores, and libraries, to the reader who’s afraid that the latest best seller, or perhaps all literature, will suddenly pass him by if he doesn’t rush out and buy an electronic device to read it on.

But that’s it, isn’t it? — that’s what books are about — reading?

Is reading obsolete, is the reader dead?

Dear reader: How are you doing? I am fairly obsolete, but by no means, at the moment, dead.

Dear reader: Are you reading at this moment? I am, because I’m writing this, and it’s very hard to write without reading, as you know if you ever tried it in the dark.

Dear reader: What are you reading on? I’m writing and reading on my computer, as I imagine you are. (At least, I hope you’re reading what I’m writing, and aren’t writing “What Tosh!” in the margin. Though I’ve always wanted to write “What Tosh!” in a margin ever since I read it years ago in the margin of a library book. It was such a good description of the book.)

Reading is undeniably one of the things people do on the computer. And also, on the various electronic devices that are capable of and may be looked upon as “for” telephoning, taking photographs, playing music and games, etc, people may spend a good while texting sweetiepie, or looking up recipes for authentic Cajun gumbo, or checking out the stock report — all of which involve reading. People use computers to play games or wander through picture galleries or watch movies, and to do computations and make spreadsheets and pie charts, and a few lucky ones get to draw pictures or compose music, and so on, but mostly, am I wrong? isn’t an awful lot of what people do with computers either word-processing (writing) or processing words (reading)?

How much of anything can you do in the e-world without reading? The use of any computer above the toddler-entertainment level is dependent on at least some literacy in the user. Operations can be learned mechanically, but still, the main element of a keyboard is letters, and icons take you only so far. Texting may have replaced all other forms of verbality for some people, but texting is just a primitive form of writing: you can’t do it unless you no u frm i, lol.

It looks to me as if people are in fact reading and writing more than they ever did. People who used to work and talk together now work each alone in a cubicle, writing and reading all day long on screen. Communication that used to be oral, face to face or on the telephone, is now written, emailed, and read.

None of that has much to do with book-reading, true; yet it’s hard for me to see how the death of the book is to result from the overwhelming prevalence of a technology that makes reading a more invaluable skill than it ever was.

Ah, say the eschatologists, but it’s competition from the wondrous, endless everything-else-you-can-do-on-your-iPad — competition is murdering the book!

Could be. Or it might just make readers more discriminating. A recent article in the NY Times (“Finding Your Book Interrupted … By the Tablet You Read It On” by Julie Bosman and Matt Richtel, March 4, 2012) quoted a woman in Los Angeles: “With so many distractions, my taste in books has really leveled up…. Recently, I gravitate to books that make me forget I have a world of entertainment at my fingertips. If the book’s not good enough to do that, I guess my time is better spent.” Her sentence ends oddly, but I think it means that she prefers reading an entertaining book to activating the world of entertainment with her fingertips. Why does she not consider books part of this world of entertainment? Maybe because the book, even when activated by her fingertips, entertains her without the moving, flickering, twitching, jumping, glittering, shouting, thumping, bellowing, screaming, blood-spattering, ear-splitting, etc, that we’ve been led to identify as entertainment. In any case, her point is clear: if a book’s not as entertaining — on some level, not necessarily the same level — as the jumping, thumping, bleeding, etc, then why read it? Either activate the etc, or find a better book. As she puts it, level up.

Spiral

When we hear about the death of the book, it might be a good idea to ask what “the book” is. Are we talking about people ceasing to read books, or about what they read the books on — paper or a screen?

Reading on a screen is certainly different from reading a page. I don’t think we yet understand what the differences are. They may be considerable, but I doubt that they’re so great as to justify giving the two kinds of reading different names, or saying that an ebook isn’t a book at all.

If “the book” means only the book as physical object, its death, to some devotees of the Internet, may be a matter for rejoicing — hurray! we’re rid of another nasty heavy bodily Thing with a copyright on it! — But mostly it’s the occasion of lament and mourning. People to whom the pysicality of the book printed on paper is important, sometimes more important than the contents — those who value them for their binding, paper, and typography, buy fine editions, make collections — and the many who simply take pleasure in holding and handling the book they’re reading, are naturally distressed by the idea that the book on paper will be totally replaced by the immaterial text in a machine.

I can only suggest, don’t agonize — organize! No matter how the corporations bluster and bully and bury us in advertising, the consumer always has the option of resistance. We don’t get steamrollered by a new technology unless we lie down in front of the the steamroller.

The steamroller is certainly on the move. Some kinds of printed book are already being replaced by e-books. The mass market paperback edition is threatened by the low-cost e-book edition. Good news for those who like to read on a screen, bad news for those who don’t, or like to buy from Abebooks and A-libris or to pounce on 75-cent beat-up secondhand mysteries. But if the lovers of the material book are serious about valuing good binding and paper and design as essential to their reading pleasure, they will provide a visible, steady market for well-made hard-cover and paperback editions: which the book industry, if it has the sense of a sowbug, will meet. The question is whether the book industry does have the sense of a sowbug. Some of its behavior lately leads one to doubt. But let us hope. And there’s always the “small publisher,” the corporation-free independent, many of which are as canny as can be.

Spiral

Other outcries about the death of the book have more to do with the direct competition with reading offered on the Internet. The book is being murdered by the etc at our fingertips.

Here “the book” usually refers to literature. At the moment, I thik the DIY manual, or the cookbook, the guide to this or that, are the kinds of book most often replaced by information on a screen. The Encyclopedia Britannica just died, a victim, as it were, of Google. I don’t think I’ll bury our Eleventh Edition just yet, though; the information in it, being a product of its time (a hundred years ago), can be valuably different from that furnished by the search engine, which is also a product of its time. The annual encyclopedias of films/directors/actors were killed a few years ago by information sites on the Net — very good sites, though not as much fun to get lost in as the book was. We keep our 2003 edition because being outselves ancient, we use it more efficiently than we do any site, and it’s still useful and entertaining even if dead — more than you can say of the corpse of almost anything but a book.

I’m not sure why anyone, no matter how much they like to think about the End Times, believes that the Iliad or Jane Eyre or the Bhagavad Gita is dead or about to die. They have far more competition than they used to, yes; people may see the movie and think they know what the book is; they can be displaced by the etc; but nothing can replace them. So long as people are taught to read (which may or may not happen in our underfunded schools), and particularly if they’re taught what there is to read, and how to read it intelligently (extensions of the basic skill now often omitted in our underfunded schools), some of them will prefer reading to activating the etc. They will read books (on paper or on a screen) as literature.

And they will try to ensure that the books continue to exist, because continuity is an essential aspect of literature and knowledge. Books occupy time in a different way than most art and entertainment. In longevity perhaps only sculpture in stone outdoes them.

And here the issue of electronic and print on paper has to re-enter the discussion. On the permanence of what is in books, much of the lasting transmission of human culture still relies. It’s possible that highest and most urgent value of the printed book may be its mere, solid, stolid permanence.

I’ll be talking now not about “the book” in America in 2012 so much as about how things are all over the world in the many places where electricity may be available only to the rich, or intermittent, or non-existent; and how things may be in fifty years or five centuries, if we continue to degrade and destroy our habitat at the present rate.

The ease of reproducing an ebook and sending it all over the place can certainly secure its permanence, so long as the machine to read it on can be made and turned on. I think it’s well to remember, though, that electric power is not to be counted on in quite the same way sunlight is.

Easy and infinite copiability also involves a certain risk. The text of the book on paper can’t be altered without separately and individually altering every copy in existence, and alteration leaves unmistakable traces. With e-texts that have been altered, deliberately or by corruption (pirated texts are often incredibly corrupt), if the author is dead, establishing an original, authentic, correct text may be impossible. And the more piracies, abridgments, mash-ups, etc are tolerated, the less people will understand that textual integrity matters.

People to whom texts matter, such as readers of poetry or scientific monographs, know that the integrity of the text is essential. Our non-literate ancestors knew it. The three-year-old being read to demands it. You must recite the words of the poem exactly as you learned them or it will lose its power. — Daddy! You read it wrong! It says “did not” not “didn’t!”

The physical book may last for centuries; even a cheap paperback on pulp paper takes decades to degrade into unreadability. Continuous changes of technology, upgrades, corporate takeovers, leave behind them a debris of texts unreadable on any available machine. And an e-text has to be periodically recopied to keep it from degrading. People who archive them are reluctant to say how often, because it varies a great deal; but as anyone with email files over a few years old knows, the progress into entropy can be rapid. A university librarian told me that, as things are now, they expect to recopy every electronic text the library owns, every eight to ten years, indefinitely.

If we decided to replace the content of our libraries entirely with electronic archives, at this stage of the technology, a worst-case scenario would have informational and literary texts being altered without our consent or knowledge, reproduced or destroyed without our permission, rendered unreadable by the technology that printed them, and, unless regularly recopied and redistributed, fated within a few years or decades to turn inexorably into garble or simply blink out of existence.

But that’s assuming the technology won’t improve and stabilize. In any case, why should we go into either/or mode? It’s seldom necessary and often destructive (look at Congress.)

Maybe the e-reader and the electricity to run it will become available to everyone forever. That would be grand. But as things are or are likely to be, having books available in two different forms can only be a good thing, now and in the long run.

I do believe that, despite the temptations at our fingertips, there’s an obstinate, durable minority of people who, having learned to read, will go on reading books, however and wherever they can find them, on pages or screens. And because people who read books mostly want to share them, and feel however obscurely that sharing them is important, they’ll see to it that, however and wherever, the books are there for the next generation(s).

Human generations, that is — not technological generations. At the moment, the computer generation has shortened to about the life span of the gerbil, and might yet rival the fruitfly.

The life span of a book is more like that of the horse, or the human being, sometimes the oak, even the redwood. Which is why it seems a good idea, rather than mourning their death, to rejoice that books now have two ways of staying alive, getting passed on, enduring, instead of only one.

—UKL
25 March 2012