The official website of Scottish Author David F Porteous
Late spring in the northern hemisphere is a time of endings. University students are graduating, high school students are completing their final exams, and there is a sense that a great and abiding illusion of permanence is being swept aside. Reality intrudes. The minute hand ticks. And so on.
A few years ago I wrote a high school graduation speech. I think mine is at least as good as those delivered recently by some of my favourite authors - Ian McEwan discussing the necessity of freedom of speech, Neil Gaiman advocating creativity and the making of things, George R R Martin explaining why he enjoys killing the people you love and that you can't stop him.
I think this is also an excellent time of year to reflect on ourselves and how things are going. New Year is entirely the most grim and dark point of the annual cycle for those of us on the north bit of planet earth. Any assessment of one's self conducted on the cusp of the dying light of December's fireworks and the bleak house of January, is surely going to conclude that you're fat and a disappointment and that you're career isn't what it could be.
In May . . . all of those things are still true - but at least it's sunnier.
This year my "Spring Summary" highlighted that I'm not doing enough to engage with people. That there's about a 65% chance of me dying alone, probably of heart disease. And that I need to get a light, breathable summer jacket that doesn't look inappropriate in formal meetings.
I've been looking for that jacket for a long time.
You'll have heard about the incident at a school in Newton Connecticut where a man shot and killed 20 children, six adults and himself - after shooting his mother at her home. I remember the Dunblane shootings - we listened to the news reports on the radio while in our Maths class - and those events seem as surreal to me now as they did at the time.
As a writer, I often have my characters do terrible things and I try to understand the world - as I'm sure many of us do - through the lens of my art; because understanding why things happen is important to make us feel safe - even if safety is an illusion - and help us prevent the same incident occuring again. Although it seems that such events, at stark angles to our normal lives, are becoming increasingly common.
I want to talk about four different things, but three of them only briefly. Access to guns, mental health, the media and some of the opinions around gun control in the United States.
Access to Guns
The United States has the most famous pro-gun policy in the world. At the heart of its constitution, right after the guaranteed right to freedom of expression, is the Second Amendment, which says:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed".
This law has been generally interpreted as meaning that an individual in the United States should be allowed to own and carry a gun. This is, of course, not what the amendment actually says. The requirement is for a well regulated militia and the purpose is for the security of a free state - while war with Britain and France (and Spain and Mexico and the Native American Nations, etc.) was still a likely prospect it was a sensible precaution to ensure that militias could be formed and would be effective.
I think it's worth pointing out that after the US won its independence from Britain, Congress disbanded the army, such was their distrust in standing armies. Instead their intention was that militias would protect the United States. The wars with the Native American Nations prompted the United States to finally create a standing army, but it's fair to say that this was not their first choice. It is in this context which the Second Amendment needs to be viewed and in this context it's clear - to me at least - that the law's intention was not to put a gun in every waistband in perpetuity.
But that is a moot point because, as I said, the interpretation of the law for at least the last fifty years has been to guarantee individual rights to weapons.
I've been to America several times now and have visited nine states for varying lengths of time. During one trip to Pennsylvania I was taken to a gun store. A warehouse-sized building just outside of Pittsburgh, the variety of guns on display was impressive. These were not simply devices for killing - their was craftsmanship and artistry involved in making some of the weapons and the wooden boxes that held them.
After looking through many of the displays, I was taken downstairs to a sound-proof room where I was given ear protectors and was talked through and shown the correct way to load, hold, aim and fire a gun. (Normally there would be protective goggles as well, but my glasses were sufficient). Then I picked my target sheet from a range of imaginative designs including aliens, muggers and animals - I chose five bulls-eye targets - and bought fifty rounds.
As it turns out I'm a pretty good shot - if I had a gun, and I could see you, and I wanted to kill you, then you'd be dead. That's how guns work. The movies show hundreds of shots being fired and almost nobody ever getting hit - that's what happens in a war zone, when the other guys are firing back and everybody's hiding behind a rock. Otherwise, it's easy to shoot something. You don't need hundreds of hours of practice to be lethal - I'm not even good at 'Call of Duty'.
The experience solidified for me a very simple belief - people shouldn't have guns. I enjoyed the shooting range, I found the gun itself to be a palpably powerful thing; an extention of my will that almost became alive when fired - it was visceral. As a result I have never been more keenly aware of how incredibly dangerous both guns and the experience of using guns are.
A gun is the simplest, easiest way for an unstable individual to actualise their insanity. I'm not clear that it's terribly useful for anything else. Certainly widespread gun ownership doesn't make the general population safer.
More guns equals more murders using guns. Fact. The Harvard Injury Control Centre's review of studies on the subject concluded:
"A broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries... We found that states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide. This relationship held for both genders and all age groups, after accounting for rates of aggravated assault, robbery, unemployment, urbanization, alcohol consumption, and resource deprivation." - The Harvard Injury Control Centre
More guns = more murders with guns.
Frequently the argument against gun control is that there are only estimates of the number of guns in the United States. Millions of guns are registered to individuals, but that isn't all of them (by the way, most mass murders have been committed with legally-owned weapons). How would those guns be recovered from a population that doesn't want to give them up?
The answer to that question comes down to political will. And the answer should be: one at a time, if necessary.
I want to talk about some broader but related themes, but I felt it was necessary to begin with this. The facts say that the more guns in a society, the more of its people will be murdered using guns. I do not ask this question rhetorically - why isn't that enough for the US to ban guns?
The blogosphere produces an abundance of material in the wake of all these incidents. Grief. Outrage. Fear. Hate. Human emotions made digital broadcast media - doing credit to neither human emotion or digital broadcast media.
But while I strongly believe that reducing the number of guns will reduce the number of deaths caused by guns, there are also undeniable mental health issues that need to be discussed. I do not know if we have more people today who have mental health problems, or if we are only now recognising the breadth of the human condition, but in either case our approach to managing mental health issues needs to be rethought.
Just as we would promote exercise and healthy eating for long-life, we should also promote positive behaviour that affects our minds and our societies.
"For fifty years we've aimed relentlessly at higher incomes. But despite being much wealthier, we're no happier than we were five decades ago. At the same time we've seen an increase in wider social issues, including a worrying rise in anxiety and depression in young people. It's time for a positive change in what we mean by progress." - Action for Happiness
Action for Happiness highlight the growing problems of society and promote individual and collective behaviours to address these. Now, I'm a solid red socialist, so I think societies with really poor people and really rich people are inherently unstable - I believe that we need to make the poor richer and the rich poorer and that everyone would be happier living in that society. But Action for Happiness wants to promote different ways of thinking about our society other than just income - and support their goals.
In addition to general, social unwellness, there's the issue of how you deal with the individual. How do you prevent a child with mental health issues growing up to become a murderer? This is a question of self-interest as much as altruism. And answering that question must involve money.
A blogger calling herself "The Anarchist Soccer Mom" wrote recently and vividly about the problems of raising a son who has not so far been treated effectively for his mental health problems. A short excerpt, then the link below, the full piece really is excellent.
"I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me. A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me." - Thinking The Unthinkable, The Anarchist Soccer Mom
Mental health is no longer something we can ignore. As we all live longer and managing dementia becomes a universal concern, as more of us are living alone and in virtual worlds rather than real communities, as the number of young children recognised as having mental health problems increases - we need to be explicit about what our strategies are for dealing with this. What are our 'five a day' for mental health? How do we, as a society, deal with children like Michael? If we don't have a plan, we probably need to build a lot more prisons.
The media get blamed for "sensationalising" mass murder. Now, I don't believe there is enough news to justify 24-hour news channels and I don't think those news channels do enough to explain real news issues in a way that is useful for society - there are exceptions, but that is the rule. However the specific charge I've seen put is that mass murders are made famous by the news and this encourages further murderers.
We've all heard of copy-cat crimes - so we know that some crimes do prompt others to change their behaviour. Whether it actually makes people commit crimes or just changes the nature of the crimes they would commit anyway is hard to say. But it seems to me that there was a conscious decision made by the murderer in Connecticut (whose name I chose not to write) to leave the house, after killing his mother, to achieve some other goal. Perhaps he simply wanted the world to acknowledge his existence at all - speculation.
It seems that we gain nothing by promoting a particular killer's brand and there is some logic to the notion that forming a league table of mass murderers, filling the airwaves with stories about mass murderers, writing gruesome stories and making films about mass murderers - all this surely must have an effect.
This view, which is only that: I present no data, is controversial. In particular the computer games industry denies that violet games make children violent. The film industry denies that their product sexualises children. Producers of content wish to be divorced from the consequences consumers of interpreting content - is that possible? Ideas have set countries on fire - history is full of examples - and while sometimes those ideas are liberty, egality and fraternity, sometimes they are about the rise of a master race. Children are, apparently, having sex younger than ever before. And those kids who used to be on a PlayStation in their bedroom are now the ones piloting drones. Is there a defined end to individual responsibility? And if not, as an advocate of free speech, how do I square that?
Opinions on Gun Control
Since 1993 the Pew Research Centre has been tracking opinions about guns - asking respondents whether it's more important to control gun ownership or protect the rights of Americans to own guns. In 2000, 66% of Americans said gun control was more important - the highest the suvery had ever recorded. However, since around 2010 those feelings have been about equal - it would seem that the US is divided on the issue.
Ezra Klein's excellent Washington Post Wonkblog post cites Pew and a number of other sources and is well worth reading. Pew's research is matched by the GALLUP poll which Klein references on whether Americans favour a) stricter gun control or b) same / less strict gun control. Most Americans now appear to favour the same / less.
I'm pretty sure that most Americans don't know what current gun control law is. And I think that because a) the massive opposition to gun control laws has meant the law has been specific rather than sweeping, state-by-state rather than national and thus obscure - and b) most people don't know what the law says on anything. Have you ever played monopoly with a group of strangers and argued about what happens when you land on Free Parking? Imagine that, but with fifty different sets of rules depending on where you're sitting in the room - that's gun control legislation in the US.
What I think has changed over the polling periods of both these surveys is what people believe gun control law is. The rhetoric of the pro-gun lobby (while the people at Fox News bang every drum, every box, every tin and trash can just because they like the noise) has made people think that every democrat candidate is poised outside of their door, ready to steal their guns at a moment's notice, then release a gang of angry black men to ravage the nation's white haired grandmothers. In fact a huge amount has been talked about gun control, but very little has been achieved.
When people are asked about whether they support specific measures, rather than more measures, the responses are different:
(I've taken that graph directly from the Wonkblog. I'm not entirely sure what the law is on copyright - though I'm fairly sure we need more of it, or possibly less - so let me know if citing the source and linking back isn't enough.)
Firstly, I'm curious about the ~7% of people who want to give guns to convicted criminals and the mentally ill. Are 7% of Americans criminals and / or mentally ill? Because that's the only way that makes sense.
But what's clear from this is where an actual policy has been seriously discussed (and implemented), the majority of people are in favour of it. I think progress on the gun control issue needs to be framed in the form - "there's really not all that much gun control" and then "here's some specific things we think need to be done".
I'm glad people are being polled on the issues, and I understand that most Americans feel owning a gun is a right. I don't believe most Americans understand that owning guns makes them less safe, rather than more. I don't believe most Americans know what current law is. And I think that there will come a spasm of knee-jerk reactions motivated by fear and divorced from reason. (Let's make sure all teachers carry guns, let's give children gun training to make them safe from bullets).
Finally I think there is some collective responsibility that everyone needs to take for this. One man always has his finger on the trigger, but every man emerges from a time in which he wasn't a killer, where perhaps he was a child with undiagnosed or untreated medical problems, and at that time perhaps a better community or a better society could have changed his path.
Newtown Youth & Family Services is a local non-profit directly assisting the families involved in the Newtown shootings. You can donate via their website using paypal.
"It's a very small room," he said. "Watch out for the light when we go in".
The room is at the top of Central Library in Edinburgh, a George Washington Brown building constructed eccentrically with Carnegie money in the late nineteenth century. It is an office that would adequately accommodate four people so long as none of them were trying to run a photographic studio.
I'm to be part of a series - authors who have done readings at the library. Those already shot include Ian Rankin and Alasdair Gray - who earlier in the day won the Saltire Society's Book of the Year Award, declined the honour, and was given it anyway. It's an exhibition years in the making and I'm sure whether I actually feature in the final line-up will depend substantially on the sales of the second book.
With the umbrella-sized battery of light tubes a few feet from my face, I adopt the pose that all previous sitters have adopted; turned slightly away, but eyes toward the camera. I'm repeatedly told to open my eyes wide, because as it turns out I've been squinting since the mid-80s.
All of this is a prelude to the event itself - my first public reading and a discussion of what it's like to have written and published your first novel. Certain fathoms below the microstudio the guests are assembling in a basement space, expecting to be entertained. I feel like I felt when I did stand-up almost a decade ago - nervous and powerful, like I'm carrying a static charge that makes all my hair stand up.
"Have a look," the other of the pair of photographers bids me and I shuffle around the equipment to peer at a Mac screen. The photo itself is very good, but is let down by the subject.
"I'd be grateful," I say, "if you could trim it so you can't see the contour of my man boob".
The first photographer nods soberly, adding, "Don't worry: we've done this
Mark Douglas-Home and I pass in the green room as he goes to have his picture taken next. He's the other name on the bill and by far the more credible - former editor of the Glasgow Herald and possessed of enough sense to write a crime novel; you know, something people actually read.
I'm presented to the event chair - Scottish veteran journalist Jackie McGlone, who is an immediately appealing mix of Muriel Spark and Mary Portas. I try to correct a few details in the biography she's been supplied with, but she already knows; she's done her research.
When Mark returns, the three of us are mic'ed-up and we all firmly express no preference as to where we sit.
"I'm sure I have a good side," I say. "I just can't tell which one it is".
We laugh, but I'm not writing that one down. Eventually we settle on me on Jackie's right, Mark on her left and descend to the basement where the audience is waiting, the lights are dimmed and the microphones go live.
A few weeks ago the http://www.eastlothiancourier.com/ asked me to write their weekly column "Why I Love East Lothian". This doesn't appear in the electronic version, but I'm able to reproduce it here. This is my original version, which was very slightly changed for the print edition.
I cannot separate East Lothian from my childhood; for me the towns and landscapes are as much memory as brick and weather.
On a stretch of summer-crowded beach past North Berwick I lost a dog for an anxious hour. On the playground of Cockenzie Primary I lost a square yard of skin from my knees (over several years). Likely I’ve forgotten as much as I remember, but some things remain vivid to all my senses.
I can still feel a child’s hands – my hands – pressed to my ears to block the guttural roar of planes soaring overhead at East Fortune. And on an occasional visit to the Museum of Flight, peering on tiptoes into the cockpit of a Vickers Supermarine Spitfire.
But usually we went to East Fortune because of my grandmother. A renowned – and self-acknowledged – raker and hoarder, she found a unique happiness in trawling through the stalls at the Sunday Market. The journey down winding country roads in my grandfather’s orange Skoda was a weekly event and nothing at the Museum of Flight was ever so majestic as my grandmother returning home from the hunt with a clutch of bargains.
When I think about East Lothian as a whole, it’s the view from a car window along that route.
Being from a large close-knit family on my mother’s side, I was never more than six feet from a cousin growing up. We were always playing in a street unsullied by speed bumps, making noise that today people would phone the council to complain about. We had impossibly long summer days entirely without rain and as much nostalgia as we could carry.
I got my first job in 1996 working for RBS at South Gyle. If the tea hadn’t come out of a machine, I would have spent that summer making tea. Instead my inconsiderable skills were employed in collecting the tea from the machine and bringing it to people. My boss, Edinburgh born and raised, referred to East Lothian as “the sticks”. Until then I don’t think it had occurred to me that living elsewhere would be a different experience. Edinburgh was on the other end of every bus route – there wasn’t even passport control between these two foreign lands divided by custom, tradition and language.
I love Edinburgh, I work there and during the Festival there’s no better place on Earth. But it isn’t home and it doesn’t have a monopoly on culture. The growth in local arts and community events – like the Fringe by the Sea happening in North Berwick all this week – has made this an even more vibrant and interesting place to live.
East Lothian is relaxed, the people have more time to be friendly, each village has its own character and around every corner I find a memory and something new. That’s why I love East Lothian.
Really nice piece in this week's East Lothian Courier about me and the book. If you didn't already know a bit about how Singular got started then it's a pretty good intro.
I'm now on Goodreads, which seems like a great way to share reviews and current reads. If you're reading or if you've read Singular and you're on Goodreads, then let me know.
Also, quick reminder that tomorrow is the very last day you can "like" Singular on Facebook for a chance to win the proof copy (signed - try and stop me). Links in the bar above.
"At about nine I sat down to write a book and got as far as numbering and naming each of the chapters, having no idea how to do anything else. The story I’d wanted to write was somewhere between the Elizabeth Shue film Adventures in Babysitting and Harry Potter. I think somebody still needs to write that story".
Read the rest of my interview here: http://tinyurl.com/5u64ch4
"I’m Scottish, six foot two inches tall and in my very, very late twenties. (This year I’ll be 31). By day I’m a social research consultant. By night I use those same skills to fight crime – with limited success. And at the weekends I’m a writer".
Read the rest of my interview with BK Walker here: http://tinyurl.com/6bh4q2c
I’ve rushed from the other side of town; still I’m the first one there in the red-walled restaurant on the Royal Mile. I’ve never been to Wedgewood’s before, but it was my choice for lunch. I settle into the corner seat at our table and experience the moment of anxiety, wondering if I’m the only one who’ll show.
The hostess gives me the lunch menu. It’s a set price of £10 for two courses, £14 for three and three choices for each course. I haven’t had time to read it before my companions arrive.
L moves to my right and declares her intention to sit next to me. She’s worn the low cut summer dress she just found on eBay and mentioned yesterday. But she’s put a t-shirt on underneath and I can’t help but feel cheated.
M sits opposite and seizes the menu.
“I’m so hungry,” L says and relates details of blood sugar and youthful fainting. She’s one of these people who drink the recommended amount of water every day and run without being late; without a pursuing pack of wolves. I already suspect her hunger will translate into only two courses of nouvelle-cuisine-sized portions.
By the time our starters arrive, the conversation has moved to paedophilia. (Nobody is recommending it).
A Channel 4 documentary the previous evening entitled ‘Breaking of a Female Paedophile Ring’ prompts L to ask the question, “How do rings form? How do these people make contact with each other?”
“Conversations about their own child abuse,” M surmises. “I think
that’s how it starts”.
She may be right. Though I imagine that it’s more of an auction, where men express mutual sexual attraction to younger women and gradually increase the age difference to include teenagers – and so on. I don’t share my thought because it seems too much like a Bangkok backstreet version of The Price Is Right.
Everyone has the black pudding. It’s delicious.
There’s a window into the galley kitchen and we watch the sensuous display of hands composing the food on plates. L points out the lobster – which it turns out is not for me.
“It looks like a taco,” I observe. The hollowed-out head of the lobster is being used to store salad. I think it’s very a neat display piece, but we wait some time before my lobster and the other mains arrive. At one point the waitress asks if we’re done with our bread; I suggest we trade her the bread for our main courses.
“Lobster is high in cholesterol,” L says as the first piece reaches my mouth. What with this and the t-shirt, it’s like she’s out to ruin my whole lunch.
M makes the mistake of asking what cholesterol actually is and I take my chance to use words I learned only a few weeks before: Low-Density Lipoprotein and High-Density Lipoprotein. I explain the difference. She conceals how impressed she is with my cleverness by changing the subject.
Despite the lipoproteins my lobster is so succulent I wish I’d ordered two and its tempting me to buy one of those frozen supermarket lobsters they have now. I’m resisting, because I need more cholesterol like I need several vertebrae removed.
M looks at me with arched eyebrows and declares her intention to have desert. It is a triumphant thing, desert – like the ambrosia of Olympus, or toast made from a loaf of Hovis that a Yorkshire boy has carried up a steep hill.
L declines, citing palpitations from having eaten so much already. M and I have the sticky toffee pudding, after a circuitous debate about cold fruit soup, but discover that the toffee sauce is a little overdone – matching M’s previous visit here.
I’d go back, though. My arteries can take it.
You can read about L's account of the lunch on her blog.
I’m in the process of giving away all my books to charity shops. You’re astonished – I can sense it.
But the technology has finally caught up with my dislike of clutter and that’s all books are. However much I enjoy the words contained in a book, when I’m done with it, the paper thing just becomes inconvenient.
Late last year I made the decision to get rid of books, CDs and DVDs altogether. This has been a slow, painful process. I can’t bring myself to part with The West Wing or the collected works of the Brothers Grimm that I got as a child (that book has my name on it, and the address I lived at three houses ago). But the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike and almost everything else will be sold, given away or thrown out.
With an iPhone, a Kindle and a laptop, I don’t need physical media any more. E-content is cheaper to market, to stock, and to supply – that should mean lower cost to consumers (me) with no reduction in revenue to content creators (also me). So it should be obvious that what I want is the same quality of product, for a lower price, immediately.
I have great hope that one day my children, or my children’s children, will be able to purchase a 1980s movie or TV series from iTunes for less than twice the price of the DVD on Amazon. I have a dream of a world where Steve Jobs isn’t constantly trying to shaft me on margin, just because I like his product design.
So – buy my book on Kindle.
The structure of the print-on-demand publishers I work with is such that in the US you can get a physical copy of my book for $7.95. That’s pretty good, but it means you can only get it from Amazon – it’s too cheap for it to be sold anywhere else. In the UK if you want a paper copy then it’s going to cost you £8.95; which isn’t as good, and I don’t mind saying it, because the price and even the shape of the book are substantially dictated by economies of scale and I believe it’s the best I can do.
By comparison, the Kindle prices for Singular are a bargain. In the US - $2.99. In the UK - £1.90. Those kinds of discounts aren’t a-typical of the market, either. If you’re a voracious reader, a Kindle could pay for itself in a year.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go burn a copy of Being And Nothingness (in which my much younger self made copious, ill-advised margin notes in red pen).
“When there are no more paper books, what will you sign at bookstores?”
Ignoring the strangeness of a reality where there will be bookstores but no books, I respond honestly: “Breasts”.
“That won’t add any value”.
We’ve known each other for five years and though we only meet once every several months, our relationship is as comfortable as looking in a mirror on a good day. She is one of the people I text from the platform when I miss a late train and my coat isn’t warm enough.
A waitress insists on our attention, and will do so several times during the evening until we start to want hers. “Would you like some drinks?”
She has the wine list, does not like white and orders a new world red. She drinks more than I do, can drink more than I can, but neither of us knows much about wine beyond colour and the price we’re prepared to pay.
“Do you want to talk about your book now?”
“That depends; did you like it? Because if you hated it the rest of the evening could be a real downer”.
“I loved it—”
I relax. She brings the book out of her bag. I’m still not used to seeing other people own copies, hold them, flick through the pages; it’s like finding pictures of myself in unexpected places.
“—I was actually annoyed: I didn’t want to like it as much as I did”.
“I thought you’d like that”.
“Where did he find the time?” she asks herself. “I was jealous of how good it was”.
That’s how I would feel, in the private vanity of my dark heart, and knowing this she is able to confide. I consider that it’s only fair. The sparkling solitaire she wears catches my eye only once. She’ll marry in six months, but we won’t talk about the wedding or the ring I haven’t seen before.
She asks insightful, structural questions about writing I wouldn’t have been able to answer a year earlier. And she asks how the book relates to my own, distant encounter with mortality – questions I also wouldn’t have been able to answer a year ago. I still watch myself from outside during these moments, wary of seeming wiser than I am.
As we talk, the book sits on the table between us; ready for the deep and meaningful inscription she has given me a month to prepare. I have taken the month and created nothing. I silently reproach myself for not having tripped over the perfect line, in the sand of a beach the tide has just left. Scavenging is a method not to be recommended; it’s unreliable and it teaches hope.
But dog owners know the joy of things thusly found. They know that when you whistle – to signal time is up – your faithless hound may appear from over a dune, half-carrying, half-dragging something wonderful; as if to tell you that you are a fool: there is no such thing as time: throw this.
“I’ve got something”.
I write. She reads. And she rises from her seat to kiss me on the cheek.
Where Am I?
dfpiii.com is the official website of David F Porteous. Use the tabs to learn more about David, his books: Singular and The Death of Jack Nylund, or read his blog.
(<<< The blog is over there).