Thursday, November 24
Social relativity comes into play. "That is, only the relative wealth of a person is important, the absolute level does not really matter, as soon as everyone is above the level of having their immediate survival needs fulfilled," writes Tor Nørretranders for edge.org. "There is now strong and consistent evidence (from fields such as microeconomics, experimental economics, psychology, sociolology and primatology) that it doesn't really matter how much you earn, as long as you earn more than your wife's sister's husband."
So consider the graph. US citizens should be quite pleased with their relative wealth in comparisons with other countries. The US share of global personal wealth is 42 percent, up a percentage point from the previous year, according to the Allianz Global Wealth Report 2016, and the per-capita share is hefty, too.
The media often described US voters as yearning for change from the 2016 presidential election. "Trump's victory is widely attributed to the public's thirst for something new, which he represented and Hillary Clinton didn't. It would be more accurate to say the outcome stemmed from too much change - which has discombobulated conservatives, as well as liberals," notes Steve Chapman for Reason. He goes on to explain that is why the Trump campaign with the slogan "Make America Great Again" resonated with so many voters.
What rankles, though all voters may not realize, is the distribution of the US share of 42 percent wealth - which totalled $67 trillion in 2013. CNN covered the Congressonal Budget Office report on wealth and inequality: "The top 10% of families - those who had at least $942,000 - held 76% of total wealth. The average amount of wealth in this group was $4 million. Everyone else in the top 50% of the country accounted for 23% of total wealth, with an average of $316,000 per family. That leaves just 1% of the total pie for the entire bottom half of the population."
The nation selected billionaire Donald Trump to solve the conundrum. And remember, relativity can take multiple paths - the country's share can decline with either increased or decreased inequality or the country's share of wealth rises with either increased or decreased inequality.
And I must conclude by confiding that writing mystery novels about daily life in a small village in Afghanistan that lacks most of the modern conveniences we take for granted in the United States has made me feel very wealthy and thankful. Thank you to all my readers.
Tuesday, November 1
Sunshine Noir, a collection of 17 short stories, examines a range of settings - and anger and evil lurk in each, whether they are lush or barren - the Sonoran Desert, a farm somewhere in Syria taken over by extremists, a village of shanties with corrugated roofs in Thailand, back alley secrets in Istanbul, a resort town in Cote d'Ivoire, a village in Botswana, a classroom in the French West Indies, an old port city in East Africa, tough streets in the Dominican Republic and more.
The collection is edited by Annamaria Alfieri and Michael Stanley. There is filth, dust, slavery, insects, rotting food and putrid smells as well as control, failure and twisted logic and motivations.
These stories embrace all the characteristics of film noir as described by the late Roger Ebert in 1995 - though the critic does not limit noir by specifying geographic settings or temperatures.
So hot places are as suitable as cold ones, and just as dark. The stories are bleak and dark in every sense of the French word noir, and they offer no hopes of happy endings. The locations - filthy tents, shabby rooms, narrow streets - are mean, closed and dark, too.
Characters are jaded, the men ambitious or clueless, and the women just as tough, and all come from sordid and unhappy backgrounds that have left them broken and bitter. The dialogue is terse, whether cryptic or pointed. They are quick to lash out and blame others, but inside, most realize they have no one else to blame but thmselves as tthey lie, cheat, punish and kill without compunction. No one can be trusted and , and everyone senses death - their own or another's - is waiting just around the bend.
Ebert mentions cigarette smoking, and yes, there is some of that, but alchohol and drug abuse along with other bad habits work just as well, too.
Strangers do not connect, and when they do, the relationships are flawed and misunderstood based on past misadventures. And noir might be dark and ugly, but it's so satisfying to write.
Authors include Leye Adenle, Annamaria Alfieri, Colin Cotterill, Susan Froetschel, Jason Goodwin, Paul Hardisty, Greg Herren, Tamar Myers, Barbara Nadel, Richie Narvaez, Kwei Quartey, Jeffrey Siger, Michael Stanley, Nick Sweet, Timothy Willaims, Robert Wilson and Ovidia Yu.