Looking for financial advice, life coaching or a new mantra? Good luck finding it elsewhere. Drinks Before Dinner is the one-stop shopper’s site for small talk. If you're a fiction reader, please visit my author website at www.bwknister.com

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


The question would seem obvious--until you think about "intellectual property." If ideas, concepts, visions, proposals, etc. are property, what isn't?

Maybe nothing. Even so, it's worth making a distinction between what you see in the photo, and what bubbles up in your head as you sit on your patio with a rob roy before dinner.

For me, the anti-matter to stuff is what's between the covers of books. Yes, books are stuff, but everything that happens in the mind while reading is not stuff.

So, if you resist the idea of being controlled by things, don't neglect to read.
And what better to read than one of my suspense novels, say,The Anything Goes Girl.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Silly Me

Question: What kind of novelist writes a blog, but doesn't provide a link to his author website?
Answer:    An author who is perhaps overly reliant on Xanax.  The author webite in question is:
Please visit to learn about my suspense series featuring Brenda Contay, a young journalist, and my soon-to-be re-released novel of magical realism, Just Bill.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


Greg Levin, a novelist living in Texas has decided to wash his hands and probably his entire body of conventional wisdom related to genre "identity." His books aren't really this, that or the other, so he has chosen to call them "Other, not another."

I like this idea, and think it applies to my novels. I call them "suspense," but that's not really accurate. When the protagonist and the antagonist meet just once at the beginning, how can I call GODSEND (my latest) a work of suspense?

 I thought for a while of calling my stuff  Noir Lite or Untrue Crime. But no one's ever heard of such categories, so I think I'll start thinking of my stories as "Other." Anyone who's put off by this isn't likely to enjoy what I write anyway, so Other it is.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Here's the link to a jokey piece that appeared yesterday (Friday, Aug. 27, 2016


Thursday, August 19, 2010


--Uh oh, you printed something off the Internet. Never a good sign.
--Just a little confessional. An interlude to share during drinks.
--Who’s the confessor?
--Our good friend Congressman Bob Inglis, Republican from South Carolina. But only for a few more weeks.
--Whoa, South Carolina. That requires wine, I’ll be right back.

--OK, what’s the latest from Bubba Bob Inglis?
--He’s had it, he’s kaput, out of a job. He lost the primary to a Tea Party type.
--What happened?
--He told his constituents to turn off Glenn Beck, and he failed to use the S word about Obama.
--The S word would be Socialist?
--Correct. When pushed to describe Obama as a socialist, Inglis waffled. All he’d say was that Obama, quote, “wants a very large government that I don’t think will work and that spends too much and it’s inefficient and it compromises freedom and it’s not the way we want to go.” It says his audiences paid no attention because they were just listening for the S word. When he didn’t use it, they looked disappointed.
--Wasn’t Inglis one of the super-Christians who tried to impeach Clinton?
--The same. One of the meanest of the mean. But now he feels contrite. Looking back as he cleans out his desk, he’s sorry.
--Really? He got religion?
--Yes, and he got it from Clinton, no less. Inglis says he heard Clinton say at some prayer breakfast that “the most violated commandment in Washington is ‘Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.’”
--Which is why he wouldn’t call Obama a socialist.
--I don’t believe it.
--I do. He’s not going back to Congress. That means he’s free to be honest.
--I’m sorry, honey, I thought you knew this. Politicians from South Carolina are all vetted before running. The process is rigorous and wide-ranging. If the person wishing to run for office reveals a capacity for higher-order cognitive functions, he’s “de-selected.” That’s the term when you get dropped by the party. For obvious reasons, the vetting is done by people from out-of-state.
--OK, that makes sense. Because it says here Inglis knew an ill wind was blowing his way back in ’09. That means cognition was operating. It says he saw the ill wind at a GOP retreat. He made a presentation to the group, explaining how a poll had asked Americans to rate themselves in terms of conservatism. The scale was one to ten, one being Mao, ten being somewhere to the right of Louis Quatorz. The average was 5.6. Those polled thought House Republicans were about 6.5, and Democrats 4.3. This is good news, Inglis said. It means Republican House members are closer to the general public’s position than Democrats are. He told his audience it meant Republicans could keep to the right, “without driving off the road.” His audience greeted this with “stony faces.”
--I guess they resented the implication that it was possible to drive your pickup too far to the right. He says the crowd made him think of the crowd getting ready to stone the sacrificial victim in Shirley Jackson’s story, “The Lottery.” The speaker who followed Inglis at the retreat said—let me find it—“On Bob’s ideological spectrum, I’m a 10.” For this the crowd went wild.
--And now Inglis feels bad about hounding Clinton.
--Yeah. I suppose it’s more of that bad-for-reelection brain activity and moral reflection. You know, the thing about bearing false witness. Inglis now regrets all the lies his Lottery crowd told about Whitewater. You remember Whitewater. And about all the innuendo regarding Vince Foster’s death. You remember Vince, I’m sure.
--Since his place at the public trough is now being filled with teabags, what do you think Inglis will do?
--Good question. My guess is, with all that cognition, there’s a think-tank in his future.

Friday, July 16, 2010


As in spyware, malware, mal a la teteware.
The recent sweep that netted a posse of Soviet-era spies seems to have come up one short. That would be the viral mole who's holed up in my computer. When he is found and traded for a good hitter to fill a slot at the end of the Detroit Tigers batting order, Drinks Before Dinner will be back in business.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Barbara has the week off. If she didn't, she might caution against writing on something about which I know so little. But since that admonishment applies to almost everything in Drinks Before Dinner, onward and upward

Glenn Beck:
“When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up.’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining.”

“The only [Katrina victims] we’re seeing on television are the scumbags.”

Michele Bachmann:
“I don’t know where we’re going to get all this money because we’re running out of rich people in this country.”

Rush Limbaugh:
“We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. Income Tax.”

Ann Coulter:
“I don’t really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating [Dr. George] Tiller in the 203rd trimester…. I am personally opposed to shooting abortionists, but I don’t want to impose my moral values on others.”

“There are a lot of bad Republicans. There are no good Democrats.”

Rand Paul:
(on BP) “Sometimes, accidents just happen.”

No to health care reform. No to financial reform. No to environmental legislation. No to temporarily suspending further drilling in the Gulf. No to extending unemployment benefits.

The quotes above from high-profile voices in the Republican Party, along with that party’s unwavering “no” votes in Congress during the last eighteen months cannot be faulted for inconsistency or uncertainty. The party and those voicing its point of view present a unified summary judgment on what makes human beings tick.

Whether it’s the professorial postures struck by Newt Gingrich, the philosophical cheerleading of Ayn Rand’s supporters, or the junkyard-dog approach to conducting the nation’s business perfected by a Mitch McConnell or Richard Shelby, Republicans see human nature in clear terms.

According to the right, human beings thrive when allowed to pursue their self-interest. Logically (goes the argument), entities created by human beings represent extensions of themselves. That is, corporations and profit-driven institutions equal manifestations of human will. Efforts—especially government efforts-- to regulate or control these acts of human will are at best the product of ignorance, at worst a perverse attempt to thwart the innate drive for self-expression and perfection. The quintessential act of this self-expression, and the most human of all focused activity is the business of making money.

Generally, this view takes its cue from Adam Smith's "invisible hand," matched with a nineteenth-century reading of Darwin. Proponents of Social Darwinism assert that natural selection applies not just to individuals, but to races, societies and nations. Remove all impediments to human will, and “successful” people will thrive, while others go to the wall, which is where nature intends for them to go. In concert with “the white man’s burden,” Social Darwinism served Colonialism well.

Such a view applies an early reading of Darwin to the human organism. It sees our species in terms of club-wielding Flintstones in competition for food and females, but this reading has since been rejected by rational people. Even without later refinements made to evolutionary theory, technology alone has rendered it obsolete: it ignores the functional equality of a small woman’s index finger compared to that of a sumo wrestler when pushing a button in, say, a nuclear missile silo.

In the Sixties, British biologist William Hamilton founded studies in animal behavior that later became widely known through E.O. Wilson’s book Sociobiology. In 1964, Hamilton put forth a hypothesis that came to be known as Hamilton’s rule. In the simplest terms, the rule says that we practice altruism (the devil itself to Ayn Rand’s disciples, and to most right wingers) to those whose survival is needed as insurance that our own genes will survive.

In short, you look after kinfolk who carry your genetic code, and you do it for reasons of self-interest. Are you your brother’s keeper? Should you lay down your life for your brother? In genetic terms, the answer is yes, but only for two brothers, or for four cousins, because they will carry forward your genes.

This “rule” has opened the door for further study that seeks to explain acts of generosity and kindness (and ultimately the origins of morality) in terms of evolution.

If all this means anything to you, you can see why any success in locating an evolutionary basis for things like social justice and generosity would cause most conservatives to go ballistic. Provide a verifiable, science-based justification for “doing good” in liberal terms, and the “up yours, Jack, I’ve got mine” philosophy has the rug pulled out from under it.

The champion of this effort is Robert Trivers, an eccentric genius whose early career included advanced study (and self-taught mastery) of multiple disciplines, dangerous breakdowns resulting from bi-polar disorder, radical politics, and much else. Out of this hodgepodge, Trivers finally focused on the knotty question of why it is that animals often come to the aid of others to whom they are not related, sometimes even to members of other species. He refers to it as “the evolution of reciprocal altruism.”

It’s one thing to save your brother from drowning, and thereby, “rescue” copies of your own genes for the future, but why jump in to save a stranger?

Trivers’ studies include not just math (he taught himself calculus at fourteen), biology and psychology, but also history and anthropology. From a growing body of data, what he has come to believe is that, in the primordial past, human evolution rewarded those who practiced kindness in tribal society by establishing a debt of gratitude. If I save you and yours, you are more likely, should the need arise, to save me and mine.
No doubt an Ayn Rander or a latter-day Newt Gingrich or a trickle-down economist like Arthur Laffer will dream up some way to finesse or dismiss this new perspective. Being generous and looking out for others besides those in one’s tiny corner of the gene pool is not compatible with their world view. But if Trivers’ ideas ever capture the popular imagination, “enlightened selfishness” is going to sound more like its true self: a hollow falsehood not even applicable in terms of self-interest.
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