"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Our Dear Friend, Oscar Castro Neves, Has Died, One of the Precursors of the Bossa Nova

Arranger, composer and guitarist accompanied Tom Jobim in legendary presentation at Carneggie Hall, in 1962

Artist is considered one of the musicians responsible for international success of the Bossa Nova

O músico Oscar Castro Neves Leonardo Aversa / Agência O Globo

The composer, arranger and guitarist Oscar Castro Neves died on Friday at the age of 73 after months of cancer treatment, he passed the final stage of the disease at his home in Los Angeles, according to his younger brother, Peter Paul. With the other three brothers, Iko, Leo and Mario, he formed the group Brothers Castro Neves, one of the forerunners in the Bossa Nova in the 1950s.

I met the Oscar when he was 16 years old. At that age, he already played very well.  He was always a great musician, he made a successful career in the United States and Japan. His  role in the dissemination of the bossa nova out there was fundamental says Roberto Menescal. But the whole world knows his talent. I think  its important to say that he was the most affectionate guy I ever met in life.

Was another balance, not the sea urchin and neither the boat  which led Oscar Castro Neves to make his first major contribution to bossa nova even before the genre be established as such. At age 16, during a bus trip, which led Oscar Castro Neves to make  his first major contribution to the bossa nova even before the genre be established as such. 

At 16 years old, during a bus ride, the then cavaquinista guitarist had also began to create his first song. Upon arriving home, went straight to take the guitar melody that he had. Harmony ready, he called the architect friend Luvercy Fiorini to create the letter. "Cora your sorrow" was ready. When he got home, he went straight to the guitar take the melody that had taken. Harmony ready, he called the friend architect Luvercy Fiorini to create "Cora thy sorrow" was ready.
It was 1956 and the young composer would have to wait three years until Alaíde Costa was hooked, during a session at a friend's house. The singer, who had just released his first LP, "I like you" (1959), there began to assemble the repertoire of his second album.

Caught by surprise, Castro Neves knocked on the door of the house of Carlos Lyra, asked his mother's friend to show him the notes, the musician did not dominate the score,  he commissioned arrangements to friend Nelson Trombone and after 15 days of recording, was called to the studio to check the result.

"When I heard all those strings, it was very emotional to listen to my music orchestrated!" Reported the musician in an interview.

Around the same time, Castro Neves wrote another song with Ronaldo Bôscoli, "Do not do that," which was recorded by the group Boys of the Moon, which was integrated João Gilberto .

Born in Rio de Janeiro on May 15, 1940, Oscar Castro Neves had musical initiation at home, soon forming a quartet with his brothers Iko (bass), Leo (drums) and the oldest Mario (piano). Known as The Brothers Castro Neves, the set drew the attention in the southern zone of Rio, in the mid-1950s. And when Mario, encouraged by younger, took courage and called Tom Jobim, he was surprised to hear that the famous musician and conductor knew them and that there would be a few minutes in the garage where they rehearsed.

At that time, in 1956, Jobim was 30 and the influence of his personality and music was crucial to the Oscar's formation for the next 16 to 20 or so years. As well as João Gilberto, bossa nova maximum reference and whose famous beat Castro Neves defined as a process of "settling"
of the various weaving of rhythmic Afro Brazilian. After that meeting with Jobim Oscar gradually became one of the most influential musicians and arrangers of bossa nova, with a fundamental role in the dissemination of the genre in the United States. Alongside Roberto Menescal, Carlos Lyra and others he took care of the musical accompaniment for Tom Jobim and other participants of the legendary performance at Carnegie Hall in 1962.

One of the leaders of the Brazilian invasion, his work caught the attention of jazz greats. Oscar started touring and sharing the stage with big names like Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, the trio of Lalo Schifrin, Stan Getz Quartet, and musicians such as Bud Schank, Ray Brown and Shelley Man On returning to Brazil in 1963 he worked primarily as an arranger, and even returned to the United States in 1967, as the fifth element of the Quarteto em Cy. With the return of the group to Brazil, Oscar decided to stay, making Los Angeles his home. Alongside Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66, he released more than 15 albums between 1971 and 1981, when he left the group.

Heading his quartet or working in the studio, Oscar has amassed a huge and impressive list of partnerships and musical contributions, which includes work with Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Stevie Wonder, Airto Moreira, Toots Thielemans, Herbie Hancock, Ella Fitzgerald, among many others. Works themselves as "Color and light - Jazz Sketches online Sondheim" stood out among the best releases of jazz according to publications such as the "Billboard" and the "Time Magazine".

The musician actively participated with Joe Henderson Tribute to Tom Jobim, which resulted in the album "Double Rainbow" (1994), which received a Grammy nomination, an award he would win soon after with his participation in the album "Soul of the Tango: The music of Astor Piazzolla ", recorded in collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma

Reposted from: Infoglobo Comunicação e Participações SA

My Cuba Libre: Bringing Fidel Castro to Justice Author, George Fowler III, Interviewed on Radio Marti

Spanish Speaking Fans Check it Out!  George Fowler III Interviewed on Radio Marti about his new book.  The Interview is in Spanish and his participation starts at the 25.25 minute mark.

Cuba Libre, By George J. Fowler III
My Cuba Libre Bringing Fidel Castro to Justice
by George J. Fowler III
purchase on Amazon.com

Audio Entrevistas con Julián Martinez en Cuba y George Fowler desde New Orleans. Tomas Cardoso y la periodista Cary roque entrevistan al activista Julián Martinez Báez desde San Jose de las Lajas sobre el cólera. En la segunda parte Tomas Cardoso y Omar Lopez Montenegro hablan con el abogado cubanoamericano, George Fowler sobre su libro, Cuba Libre. George explica que el libro es sobre el impacto familiar a llegar Fide Castro al poder. También George como abogado ha presentado varias demandas contra el gobierno de Fidel Castro 

Guest Post: Former Lit Agent Nancy Nigrosh Helps Writers Crack the Code to Success

This fall, former talent and literary agent Nancy Nigrosh will be offering her very popular course, Cracking the Code: How to Become a Professional Screenwriter in Hollywood, in which she aims to help aspiring screenwriters unlock the secrets to success. Nancy has represented Academy Award caliber talents like Kathryn Bigelow, Stuart Beattie, and Barry Morrow, to name a few.  Read below for some quick tips Nancy was kind enough to share with the Writers’ Program about her upcoming course!  

Writers’ Program: Could you tell our readers briefly about yourself and your background in entertainment?
Nancy Nigrosh: My background is unusual for an agent since I went to film school (NYU and UCLA) where I studied screenwriting, film history, global cinema and learned all aspects of film production.  I worked as a film editor and was also a freelance script analyst. Since I was a motion picture lit agent, my background made sense. Talent agents usually come from the casting world or they started out as actors while below-the-line agents usually come from the production side.

Wp’: Do you think people have a misperception regarding the role of talent agents?

NN: Not only is a misperception common, it’s virtually a universal stereotype. If you ask anyone what an agent does, they will most likely answer that they set up meetings, make calls, and make deals. That addresses only a tiny fraction of what an agent actually does.

Wp’: Your course is primarily about helping writers find their “writer identity.” How is this different from finding one’s “voice”?

NN:  The writer’s “voice” is what’s on the page. There are some great classes at the Writers’ Program to help address how a writer can discover his or her voice and get it on the page. “Writer identity” is the writer’s human persona — what’s not on the page. This is the aspect of a writing career that isn’t just a critical factor to agents but also to buyers.

Wp’: Your course also builds on top of this basic principle by guiding writers to develop a “genre identity.” Why is that so important to unsigned/unproduced writers?

NN: Genre identity is important to every writer — an established one or someone new, since genre is the writer’s “address” from a buyer’s point of view. You need to know the address before you can send a check, right?

Wp’: In your course, you talk a lot about writers learning about coded behavior (hence the course title). Not only how to tailor their own behavior to best suit their goals but also interpret the behavior of industry professionals. How relevant is this to someone just looking to sell a script?

NN: Try selling a script solely based on “what’s on the page” and let me know how that goes for you. If your sale (or two) doesn’t result in a writing career, you won’t be selling any more scripts. Think of it as an athlete who scored some points but lost focus on how the game is played — meaning the player’s behavior undid his ability to score. Actually, I can give you many, many examples of a “script sale” (a term that can be infinitely variable) that didn’t result in the writer having a writing career. Since I started teaching at Extension, many successful writers who have active careers told me they wish they had taken a class like this years ago because they would have better understood the entertainment business and would have handled some of their professional situations differently.

For a full bio on Nancy Nigrosh, please visit her website here.

Nancy is teaching Cracking the Code: How to Become a Professional Screenwriter in Hollywood this spring, starting October 5.  Enroll online or by calling (310) 825-9971.

Jeff Bonnett is the Program Assistant for Screenwriting (Onsite & Online).  Contact him at jbonnett@uclaextension.edu or (310) 206-1542.

New YA Book By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld in Bookstores and Amazon September 24th!

 Theo Rollins is starting eighth grade six inches taller, and his new height is making everyone expect more from him. Coach Mandrake wants to transform him from invisible science geek into star basketball player, even though Theo has little experience with the game. When Theo tries to hone his skills by playing pick-up ball in the park, kids are eager to include him at first; then they quickly see that he has no control of his gangly body. A girl named Rain even dubs him "Sasquatch." To make matters worse, all his time spent on training is starting to hurt his science club's chances of winning the "Aca-lympics," the school's trivia competition. Just when Theo thinks he can't handle any more pressure, he's accused of stealing. Can he find the real thief before he is kicked off the basketball and science club teams, or will his attempt at sleuthing be yet another air ball?

Are you looking for something in our Mystery, Thriller & Suspense books department? If so, you might be interested in these items.

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense books

Dennis Palumbo's City Wars Five Day FREE Promotion on Amazon Begins September 21 - 25!


purchase on Amazon.com


Cassandra and Jake survived in the urban wasteland that was Chicago. Waiting in constant readiness for the day when war would break out again … with New York, Washington, perhaps Dallas.

Then the attack came without warning. A limited atomic bombardment that threatened worse devastation.

With the Government of Chicago crippled by panic, betrayal and murder, Jake and Cassandra were forced into action alone.

But if it was too late to save their city, it was not too late to save their love.

Thrive, cities—bring your freight, bring your shows, ample and sufficient rivers,
Expand, being than which none else is perhaps more spiritual,
Keep your places, objects than which none else is more lasting.
Walt Whitman

“We are each of us cities,” the Scholar sang.
George Weston spent the last minute of his life waiting in line at a hot-pretzel stand in the middle of a crowded Chicago intersection. He’d just given his order—two pretzels, hold the mustard—when a cry from somewhere behind him made him look back.
The crowd of people dispersed almost immediately, some shouting and shoving their way off the curb, others merely shrinking back against gray-walled buildings, huddling together and making no sound and looking up at the sky.
George Weston took his lunch and turned away from the vendor’s stand. He squinted in the midday light. Where had his wife gone? She’d been only a few feet away.
He was aware suddenly of the scream of a woman, and, from somewhere a few blocks away, that of a shrill siren.
George Weston finally looked up, just in time to see the dazzling whiteness as it descended.
How absurd, he thought (for he was a man of some irony). How absurd I will look, a smoldering husk with a ruined hot pretzel in each hand.
He’d no more time to reflect on this particular image. The white heat enveloped him now, first searing off his skin, then vaporizing the majority of his internal organs.
He was dead before the thing that had once been George Weston hit the pavement.
A few minutes later, a Chronicler scurried up the walkway, dragging a thick tarpaulin. Wordlessly, he covered the smoking remains; then, taking out his notebook, he filed the death for Census.
The crowd, over its initial fear, ventured closer to the body. Some averted their eyes; most didn’t. A few went so far as to say a prayer. Only one among them seemed near the point of hysterics, a pale gangling woman later identified as Mrs. George Weston.
The Chronicler looked up from his notebook and motioned for the citizens to move on. Then, bundling his cloak of office about him, he disappeared among the shadows and shapes of the dead buildings.
A few blocks away, the siren’s whine grew faint.

Jake Bowman was in a lousy mood. Even tonight, fully tilted on crazydust, with some bills in his pocket and food in his stomach, Bowman found an excuse to look dissatisfied.
“Music’s too loud,” he said, finishing his drink with a long swallow.
His friend Meyerson stroked his beard and grinned, showing the NuPlaz caps he’d blown most of his Service pension on.
“Music’s too goddam loud,” Bowman said again, slamming his open palm on the counter top. The bartender regarded him coolly, shrugged.
Meyerson swung his good leg off the bar stool.
“Why don’t we get a table, Cap? Away from the band.”
He gave Bowman’s sleeve a tug, then hobbled across the crowded room. Bowman took his glass and followed.
His eyes glared through heavy lids. The bar was dim, and his brain seemed dimmer still for the drugs and the anger. He was having trouble keeping the room in focus. Keeping his life in focus.
He took a seat next to Meyerson and leaned back in the chair.
Bowman looked at his friend’s clay-ruddy skin, the points of his eyes, the gray streaks in his beard. Meyerson was a dozen years older than he, and a real warrior, if only half the stories were true. They’d met in a bar much like this one a couple years before, with Meyerson doing most of the talking. The cobalt had gotten him once, outside of Detroit, and that accounted for the withered leg. Bowman didn’t know what accounted for the rest of him.
“Been down the Center again,” Meyerson was saying. His head was drawn in between his shoulders, and he was trying hard to look conspiratorial. “Doc says maybe next month, Jake. I’ve been savin’ every damn nickel I can, but they practically gotta smuggle the ’Plaz outta them labs, ya know? But Doc says maybe next month. What do ya say to that, eh, Cap?”
“Sounds fine, Phil. Sounds fine.”
“Fine, he says. Jesus Christ!” Meyerson swiveled his head, laughing. “I’m talkin’ about gettin’ hold of a new leg, and he says it sounds fine!”
Bowman was wondering how many customers the bar would hold. The place seemed filled with Urbans, most of them young, many female. He found everything intriguing.
Shouldn’t have blown all that dust.
Meyerson rapped on the table.
“Hey, Cap, I asked ya a question.”
“I said I got a question. How long ya been on this streak?”
“Goin’ for a record, Phil. Four straight nights so far, all piss and vinegar.”
“Christ, you mean you been blowin’ four nights runnin’?”
“I got a bet goin’ with One-Up Hansen. Bastard says I can’t blow a week’s worth.” He grinned. “I say I can.”
“An’ I say you’re gone for sure, Cap.” Meyerson got up from the table, leaned across on thick forearms. Bowman could read the scars. “You listen to me, Cap. You just listen to Meyerson.”
Bowman waved his glass absently, then stared, as though just remembering that it was still empty. He lifted his head, searched through the noisy throng for a waiter.
Meyerson sat down again.
“Look at you, for Christ’s sake, Cap. You’re still a young guy. I’m tellin’ ya, I seen guys—”
Bowman’s head was turned away.
“Shit!” Meyerson kicked back from the table and got back to his feet again. Without another word, he began walking awkwardly toward the exit.
Bowman saw Meyerson’s lumbering form disappear among the dancers clustered on the raised middle floor. He tried to watch them for a while, make the jerky movements of their limbs meaningful against the harsh din from the bandstand. He thought he could hear snatches of conversation from the floor, and the nervous laughter of contacts made; and then there was the music, and all the sounds seemed to come together, to bounce off the floor and the walls and strafe him as he sank his chin into the cushion of his crossed arms on the tabletop.
Strafe him.
He saw the bodies of the young dancers become the bodies of young soldiers, saw their limbs twitch in the rhythm of their own deaths, saw them flying—
He looked up.
The band was taking a break. He watched them place their instruments carefully on wire racks. The dancers were leaving the floor, heading for tables, for the long dark counter against the far wall.
Bowman tried to remember if he’d been in this place before. The last few nights …
Four. Four nights. Three more to knock off and he’d collect. Three more with the dust burning inside him and giving him tilts, and then One-Up would be counting fivers into his open palm.
Bowman looked at his hands, clenched them into fists. He thought he could hear his veins contracting as blood flowed.
He was tilting. Full tilt.
The pain would come later, and then remembrance.
The warring …
He’d never know what brought him to it, or why it turned out that he was so good at it. There was the War, and everybody went into the War. But for him it had been different. A discovery.
His talents had not gone unnoticed. While still a relatively young man, Jake Bowman had risen to the highly respected position of Assistant Tactics Coordinator in the Chicago Service. Those had been the glory days, when the fighting was more close-in, when the boundaries had yet to arrive at their present rigidity.
Moving men and machinery for the purpose of achieving a specific goal was what Jake Bowman had lived for, was what had made him whole.
But to keep that wholeness would take more than memories. Which was all Bowman had left.
He glanced at the empty glass on the table before him. Alcohol on top of the crazydust. Stupid bastard!
He ordered another drink.
He didn’t see the whore until she’d sidled up next to him. Bowman’s glance was reflective. The whore was standard bar fare. Beaded designs on her tits. Embedded turquoise. She was totally bald.
“The only crime is inhibition,” the whore said with a smile. “I’ll have a gin and tonic.”
Bowman signaled for the waiter.
The whore sipped at her drink.
“Are you nice?” she said.
“I’m told,” Bowman said. He finished his drink and pushed back his chair.
“Where are you going?” the whore said.
“With you.” He took her by the arm.
The room upstairs was small and warm, womblike, with muted colors and muted sounds filtering through the walls.
The whore sat back on her ankles on the carpeted floor and drew him down to her. Bowman fumbled with the clasp of her robe, cursing under his breath.
The whore reached up behind her and flicked a switch. The room filled with an aromatic mist. Bowman felt the sting of hundreds of crystalline prickles on his bare chest and arms. Soon he would feel the sting everywhere, and with it the desire, and the will.
He tried to douse it with anger.
“Aphrodisia Clouds are for lunks,” he said between tightened lips.
“Lunks need love, too,” the whore replied, remembering a poster she’d seen once.
Bowman didn’t want to hear about lunks then. Or about love. With the whore beneath him, the stinging mists all about him, Bowman wanted only one thing.
He wanted to get laid.
The crystals turned to drops of silvery liquid and ran in rivulets from his body. He wiped the wetness from his eyes and got up on his elbows.
The whore rolled over beside him, making small sounds. Her hand smoothed the sweat-matted hair on his chest, then drifted to his waist and began tracing circles just below his navel.
Bowman felt as though he’d swallowed his own bitterness. He made his mouth work.
“How much?” he asked, reaching for his trousers.
“You were wrong.” The whore took her hand away. “You’re not nice. Fifty will do.”
“It’ll have to.” He tossed her the bills. “I need the rest to get stoned or drunk, and to find someone to help me decide which.”
“Maybe I’m for sale.”
“Maybe that’s the trouble.”
She sat up, her small breasts jiggling. She noticed the insignia on his belt buckle as he dressed.
“Hey, I know your thing now,” she said. “Why don’t you just find yourself a nice war somewhere and climb down off the dust?”
Bowman thought about hitting her.
Then, thinking again, he walked out of the room.
The Chronicler pulled back his hood and rubbed his eyes. His ledger lay open beside him.
The day had not been uneventful.
The Chronicler undid the bindings of his cloak and began preparing for bed. Like every Urban, he could not be in a room for very long, even one with which he was familiar, without making a judgment as to its size and comfort. Urbans craved space, and he was no exception, though he tried to keep his feelings about such matters in check.
It would not do for a Chronicler to crave very much of anything.
Still, the prospect of advancement pleased him. He sat at his regulation desk, the desire for sleep having passed inexplicably with the donning of his nightrobes, and evaluated his chances. There were many Chroniclers. And so much depended upon mere luck.
He opened the ledger on his desk. The filing had been important, yes; but how much more impressive had it been the only one.
He looked down at the name written in the farthest right-hand column.
George Weston.
That was the problem. His had been the first death, but unfortunately not the only. The Chronicler sighed, and had he a larynx he might have chuckled at the irony of his own misfortune. Three deaths, three Chroniclers, three separate reports. Just what Census needed. More paperwork.
Of course, these deaths were different. Very different.
He glanced down again at the name in his ledger.
George Weston
No matter how he’d lived his life, Citizen George Weston had achieved his true notoriety in death. He and the other two Urbans. If nothing else, the Chronicler reflected, history would remember them as the cause of Government’s first emergency session since the War.
With practiced ease, the Chronicler bound the ledger in Census-green ’Plaz and affixed the seal of his office.
Then again, he thought as he made his way toward the bedroom, who could say with any certainty exactly what history would choose to remember?
Cassandra Ingram’s lover had been lithe and inventive, and in retrospect ideally cast in the role. He lay now in a tangle of sheets, hair straggling and black on his shoulders. She had remained in the harbor of his arms, ignoring the insistent buzz of the table clock, until duty forced her to rise.
As she padded across the carpet to the bathroom, Cassandra had the fleeting impresson of having walked out of the second-to-last chapter of a bad novel: how to say what had to follow, from what well of sorrow and pain to dredge the necessary tears.
She leaned over the sink and splashed cold water and rubbed at her cheeks.
She looked up. The daily inspection, a ritual that usually brightened her, failed this morning. Cassandra Ingram was one of the few women who truly enjoyed looking at herself; not out of vanity, but rather some unconscious recognition of the rightness of her features—an evaluation that some constants remained just that.
Cassandra was almost tall, with hair dark and thick and often untidy, and deep dark eyes. Of her body she was justly proud: well-formed breasts, high and full; a slender, rounded stomach; near-boyish hips. The night before, her man had called her a fine animal.
She had let the remark pass, as befit her training.
Cassandra heard his moans coming from the next room.
They’d known each other less than eleven hours, she and this man, eight of which they’d spent in bed. But still it would tear at her, the mutual parting, the casual thank-you’s and goodbye’s. The breaking off of things was something she handled badly, and probably always would.
She shrugged and waited.
The man had gone, and she was dressed in the light blue tunic of her Order. She sat sullenly over her second cup of coffee, the early sun hazy through the lattice of her kitchen window.
It was a nice apartment, easily one of the best in the city. She’d had to use her influence to get it, of course, though few Urbans could have afforded the rent anyway. It had more space than she really needed, but she’d managed to fill the rooms well with things that reflected what she was.
She felt herself frowning.
What she was. Not who she was. For one such as she, they meant the same thing. In most people’s eyes, at any rate. Perhaps in her own as well.
She held the emotion, the irritation, for just a moment. Then her being released it, and it was gone from her thoughts.
She got up from the table and went back into her bedroom. She pulled soft white boots over her bare feet and calves.
Cassandra had been on her current assignment for over a year now, and still it bothered her. As far as she was concerned, Government was made up of crusty old men and women whose decisions had next to nothing to do with her life, and yet hers was the task of guarding one of its highest-ranking members. The job was both unexciting and confining. It also involved adherence to a routine, another sore point with her.
But there was little she could do. Assignments in general were hard to come by, especially in such peaceful times as these. Often she was reminded how grateful she should be that she was working at all.
After securing her apartment, she took the pneumatic down to the garage and signaled for her car. In a matter of minutes, she was entering the Loop.
Traffic was always bad this time of morning, but still she found herself unusually edgy. It was as though the city were charged throughout with a kind of nervous excitement, to which she was acutely attuned.
Chicago was noisy. Diffused sunlight made ambient the gray shadows in which busy Urbans walked and ran and worked. Buildings stood squat and brick-faced, many of them unfinished, piles of raw material often crowding pedestrians off the curb. Very few vehicles were new, of course, and every couple of blocks a stalled car brought the already-slow procession to a halt.
Cassandra braked at yet another blocked intersection. She hadn’t tinted the visors of her Government vehicle; and though it was unmarked, a few passing citizens could still spy her through the glass. Often they’d point. It was something else she’d have to grow used to.
Cassandra Ingram was a member of a unique sub-organization of the Chicago Service, the Order of the Guardians. She wore, as she was required to do in public, the light blue tunic that identified her as such. That marked her as one of an elite group of men and women trained under strict and near-legendary procedures for special duty in service to Chicago. That warned of the terrible instrument of her body.
That named her as the killing thing that was a Guardian …
A few blocks up ahead, a group of Urbans finally succeeded in pushing a stalled private sedan into the long-neglected brush of a vacant corner lot. Traffic lurched into motion once more. By which point, Cassandra had already pressed the stud on her dash that veiled the design and significance of her uniform from view. She drove the remaining two and a quarter miles to Government Access unmolested by the stares of Urbans.

There were few Scholars left in Chicago. Most of them had been old even at the beginning, and singing of the glories of History had proved too taxing during the War. And since that time, there seemed less need to remind citizens of the reasons for their pride, the source of their passion for Urban unity. These things they had, and seemingly would for a long time, and now the reasons didn’t appear so important.
Reasons were only important to Scholars, and of these there were few enough.
Clemmie Della Sala looked up from her modest lunch to watch her son eat. William was only thirteen, but already he’d grown man-sized and eager. His movements were filled with impatience, even to the performance of such mundane tasks as eating. Clemmie almost cried out at the relish with which he attacked his soup.
“Didn’t they feed you in school this morning?” Clemmie asked, putting aside the lyre she’d strummed absently during lunch for her son’s amusement. “It’s only barley soup, and too runny anyway.”
“I like it,” the boy replied, spoon poised in mid-journey. His hair was long, and yellow rather than blond. As had been his father’s. “Besides, you know they always ram a lot of food down our throats at school.”
“So you tell me. God knows what’s in it, though.” Clemmie shook her head. When she’d put William into the academy, she figured at least he’d eat well. It had taken most of her savings, and what little remaining influence she had as a Scholar, to get him enrolled.
William’s eyes flashed knowingly. “Mrs. Filburn was at it again during break, Mom. You woulda loved it.”
“Not another flag-waver?”
The boy nodded gleefully as he sat upright in his chair, wielding his spoon as a wagging finger of authority. Clemmie had seen Mrs. Filburn in action; her son’s impersonation was accurate.
“ ‘You listen to me, boys and girls,’ ” he said, trying to keep his voice high and thin between giggles. “ ‘The little children in Washington and New York are starving. Every day, day in and day out, more little children just starve away to nothing and die. So don’t you dare leave one single thing on your plate!’ ”
Clemmie joined in as her son broke into hearty laughter. She reached across with thin arms and hugged his shoulders. Her love for William was a constant that never lacked for new discovery, and in moments such as these she felt totally happy.
Later, as she cleared the table, she could hear him talking to himself as he sat before the wallscreen, selecting entertainment tapes. She already regretted having to leave him tonight, but she’d promised Phil Meyerson she’d meet him after she’d sung for Citizen Clairmont and his guests.
Clemmie Della Sala was in her early forties—slim, ivory-skinned and dark-eyed, and with a kind of ebullient grace in her manner. She’d been one of the last schooled in the singing and recitation of History, and one of the few women. The prejudice for male voices had outlasted almost all others; had her father not been a Scholar before her, Clemmie doubted now that she’d ever have been one herself.
On more than one occasion since then, however, she’d seriously considered leaving the art. She no longer felt the need to sing, and she was beginning to doubt her ability to express the History in terms modern Urbans could understand and appreciate. And soon there would be the universities Government promised, and teachers to separate truth from myth, and present the result to more sophisticated ears. The songs would end. Scholars would not be called by that name any longer. They would become merely singers, old and distracting singers with long, uncertain memories.
Clemmie finished in the kitchen and settled once again in her chair. She stroked the fragile lyre carefully, as always thrilled with the crystal tones of its strings. What more fitting instrument to accompany a singer of History in the telling of the glories and agonies of the city-states?
As always, too, the joy returned then. The simple joy of melody and lyric, and the forming of the two into song and remembrance.
Clemmie waited until her son had sped out the door to return to school before lifting her voice to its performance level, her head bending often to the curved arms of the lyre, her eyes closed.
The Scholar sang of the cities, and sang for herself.
The people had been coming back to the cities for decades. As early as the 1980’s, sociologists were calling the rush to the suburbs a failure. The urban problems from which so many had run—crime, race, metropolitan decay—had merely followed the runners into suburbia.
And in their wake, urban redevelopment opened up both employment and residential opportunities in areas where none had existed before.
Federal funds were drawn off from suburban districts and channeled back into the cities.
Housing and education, suddenly economically prohibitive in the suburbs, had become standard commodities in the new cities.
Crime dropped in most urban areas, to begin rising with the same immediacy in the suburbs.
The rush to the suburbs had left behind a vacuum which was filled—slowly at first, and then with sudden swiftness—with Federal and state monies; there followed widespread financial redevelopment, increased social services, and marked technical and social innovations.
The major cities became models of reorganization. Laws were revised, restructured. All commerce was zoned to a specific sector; so was Environmental Control; so was Pornography.
For the first time in a centennial of this country’s history, the cities began to work.
And the people came back.
Soon, what the politicians had begun calling the New Alternative became instead the new goal.
Suddenly it was important to be called a citizen, to have urban pride; to become, in fact, an Urban.
And it was only natural that Urbans would wish to protect their cities, their collective homes, what had come to be their great fortresses against ignorance and want.
And so, one by one, each city drafted plans to create a civic force, a militia, an army.
And each city’s government became stronger, more independent, autonomous.
Until finally, the great metropolis of Chicago extended its boundaries, seceded, and became an independent city-state near the turn of the second decade of the twenty-first century.
What recourse the now-fragmented Federal government might have had was undermined by the subsequent rapid secession of other major cities—Dallas, Seattle, New York, Boston—cities eager to guide their own destinies, rule their own territories, answer to no foreign body.
The warring started much later.
Scholars would never come to agree as to the exact date the warring began; or the exact reason. The pact formed earlier between Los Angeles and San Francisco was understandable, though no cause could be given for their unified attack upon Dallas.
Most of the city-states fell in the Great War.
The devastation was complete, and unprecedented. Whole areas of terrain were altered, destroyed. Natural and man-made boundaries crumbled. Mountains fell, valleys filled with dead earth, flooded rivers swept away the forests. The continent lay stripped of life.
No monuments stood.
Later, when Scholars were charged with the task, they would sing of such a war and its fury.
They would call it the Leveling.
After forever, it ended.
Only a few cities remained. Chicago, New York, Washington—perhaps Dallas and Seattle.
Communication among the surviving city-states was sparse. Each was only vaguely aware of the condition of the others. Each could only guess the others’ populations, states of repair, military capabilities. The only knowledge they shared was fear.
The reign of the city-states had ended.
The first reign.
For the rebuilding had already begun …
Chicago lay squat and shrouded.
Much of the cityscape remained buried in rubble. Most streets were impassable. Buildings were bent giants, hulking shadows of burned brick and sagging beams.
The air was leaden, and filtered the sun, and its haze cast the city in an amber halo.
The skyline was jagged, alien.
But then—
Organization came.
Government. Militia. Commerce.
The urban machinery lurched haltingly back into operation.
Men and women were treated for their wounds, mustered into service. Children were rescued, cared for, educated.
The dead were buried.
The scientists and doctors and engineers and politicians were gathered. Plans were made. Decisions were reached.
There would not be another Leveling.
Chicago must make ready, must build against the threat of the future. The threat from the other city-states half a continent away, who even now might be stockpiling arms for another war.
Government spoke to the people on undamaged holoscreens throughout the city.
Chicago must make ready!
The Urbans responded.
And in the years following the War, Chicago’s prime activity became the escalation of its arms and the development of new weapons and defense systems.
And urban pride grew stronger again, and with it standing armies, where those trained in the tactics of large-scale warfare waited along with the masses—waited as their fellow Urbans waited, in their city, in their homes, in their offices and multilevel dwellings and great concrete halls.
Rumors flourished continually, though Government did what it could to quell them. Rumors about the intent and military potential of other cities. Rumors of secret alliances, horrifying new weapons, traitors from within.
The Urbans couldn’t be sure. So they had to be ready.
Chicago was ready.
Isolated, gorged with weaponry and animosity, primed for confrontation.
All that was necessary was a catalyst. The first strike. The first extension of the might of one city into the domain of another.
The death of George Weston was that catalyst.

Cassandra Ingram stood before the ID module and awaited verification. When she’d been cleared, she was mildly surprised to learn that she was to report to Tactics.
“What’s the big excitement?” she asked the sentry.
He smiled and shook his head.
“You know Gilcrest. Everything’s an emergency. Somebody probably spotted a kite flying over the Lake.”
Cassandra smiled back, as warmly as a Guardian may to a sentry. Then she stepped into the pneumatic and descended to Main Level.
Government existed in an underground labyrinth, six-tenths of a mile beneath the surface streets of Chicago. Very few citizens ever saw the interior of Government, or its subsidiary branches of Commerce, Tactics, Census, Environment and Police. It was enough for the people to know that the city was governed, that the machinery would continue to provide for their comfort and well-being.
The pneumatic opened slim double doors onto the luminescent corridor of Main Level. Cassandra got out and went the short distance through lighted bulkheads to Tactics.
The chamber was a large octagon, high-walled and flushed with the cold luminescence of the labyrinth. A great oaken desk—and one of the few natural wood pieces Cassandra had ever seen—stood in the middle of the room. A dozen chairs circled the desk, the chair furthest from where she stood at the entrance to the chamber occupied now by an old man in a vivid purple cloak. He was alone.

Copyright © 2012 by Dennis Palumbo. All rights reserved.

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