Friday, June 1, 2012

How to Stop the Lies: Viral Email for Dummies

Most of us have been guilty at one time or another.  No, I’m not referring to the whopper fed to the boss when the day is just too beautiful to be cooped up at work, or even about the few years’ difference between our stated age and what our birth certificate reveals.  I’m talking about the endless inaccurate stories, rumors, myths and outright lies—the BULL—spread via email.

Have you ever received an email detailing and extolling the amazing sniper skills of Mister Rogers…before it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood…during his military service in Vietnam?  I’m sure you’ve seen the one claiming President Barack Obama is a “radical Muslim” who “will not recite the Pledge of Allegiance.” Then, there’s one of my more recent favorites proving that Abraham Lincoln invented Facebook in 1845, complete with copies of original news clippings for evidence.  Or, how about an oldie but goody of great notoriety concerning the misadventures of a gerbil and Richard Gere?  All of those, of course, are undeniably false!
That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The sheer number of urban legends, myths and blatant lies told about people, places and things spread via the internet, especially in email, is mind-boggling.  Then they are perpetuated and spread by countless thousands.  They go viral.  We do love to gossip, don’t we?

All too frequently, these lies leave the cyber realm and make their way into our real-world conversations.  Often, they’re distorted even further and peppered with insistent claims that, “I know the sister of the guy who was there when it happened,” or other such corroborating, though fabricated, details.

Granted, many such tales are fun and mostly taken with a grain of salt, fairly well recognized as mere amusements.  Some, too, simply smack of such pure ignorance, they’re completely ignored by all but the most gullible, unthinking sorts.  Unfortunately, many are of less obvious fiction and of much less good-natured intent.  Rather, they’re created to discredit people or smear their good names, being quite malicious in nature.

As we get so frequently bombarded with this crap, it’s tempting not to spend the time to check the facts; we tend to take them at face value.  We forward them without thinking.  Quickly, ridiculous stories become fact in the minds of many, and it’s often next to impossible to remove that impression once made, the damage done.

Haven’t we some obligation to the truth?  If we can’t resist the urge to forward the stories, shouldn’t we at least take the time to distinguish fact from fiction?  Really, how long does it take to do a bit of an internet search for the facts?

A general search using key phrases within a story can reveal more in-depth news stories and articles about a particular topic and its basis in truth.  If that’s too time consuming, there are many dependable, reputable sites who have done the homework for us.  They specialize in fact checking and researching a great number of questionable stories, myths and urban legends making the rounds.  Here are a few:

  • (see the Urban Legends section written by David Emery)
  • Mythbusters: Discovery Channel (
  • Hoax Busters (

Friday, May 18, 2012

Racism, Hypocrisy and Facebook

In spite of all the progress we’ve supposedly made in this country toward ending racial inequity and inequality, I wonder if we are kidding ourselves.  There still exists a great deal of racial discord and ignorant behavior.  I also wonder if the so-called social media sites, rampantly popular, are actually making us less social and better able to rationalize ignorant, anti-social behavior.
Consider the incident prompting me to dwell on this:

I was scanning the comments on a friend’s Facebook wall.  It’s not something I do often, nor do I have a lot of friends on my FB page.  That’s by choice simply because I can’t see the sense in collecting “friends” like postage stamps.  However, I must participate to some extent simply because it has become unavoidable for full engagement in writing and publishing endeavors.

Nonetheless, one of my friends had posted a story on her wall about an unpleasant experience she had in a restaurant with some other patrons she perceived as bigoted. She was in the company of some young black men, evidently her children (she has grown children of mixed, black and white, heritage).  That’s really beside the point, though.  As far as I know, no comments were made, but she did feel quite uncomfortable from the disapproving stares she and the kids got from some of the other patrons.  That’s not really the point, either, but it goes to the incident I’ll now relate.

A young African American man named Lee Pigrum, in reference to my friend’s initial story, made the following comment on her wall, Freakin’ whities!!  Lmao

That annoyed me more than a little, so I replied, Lee Pigrum, your "whities" comment is just as racist and ignorant as the people you are commenting about. Think about it.

That led to the following:

Lee Pigrum: Um I'm not racist I'm mixed so it would be redundent for me to be, and it was not offensive in anyway

(Try to disregard Lee's (a college student) misspelling of 'redundant', or the fact that his usage indicates he doesn’t understand its meaning, either.)

I replied: (Russ Mars is a pen name, I'm Kevin Jones)

Kevin Jones: Not offensive? That depends on one's perspective. And being mixed does not give license to use inflaming words. How would you feel if I came in here and said, "freakin' blackies?" C'mon it goes both ways, but you have a nice day, sunshine.

Lee Pigrum: Well that does not make sense sayin "blackies" Jus say blacks! But sir this does not change my statement because Ms. Dawn (my friend) understands  my humor and where I am comin from so this is Jus really irrelevant to anything.. So have a wonderful day gorgeous

Granted, we were engaged in somewhat of a pissin’ contest at this point.

It continued:

Kevin Jones: It makes just as much sense as saying "whities" instead of "whites." It's a slur.

Lee Pigrum: Well I have never once heard or even said that slur

Kevin Jones: Now you have heard it, and as you grow older and experience more, you may learn more. Anyone who doesn't know you would take it as an attack on all whites, and this IS a public forum. Not all whites are racists.

Lee Pigrum: okayy..... i 'll keep that in mind

Kevin Jones: Really?

Lee Pigrum: No i really do not care anymore!

Kevin Jones: That's quite evident. And so the ignorance is perpetuated.

And that was the end of that.

Now my thoughts and questions about all this abound.

My first thought is that I should have kept my dog out of it because I was probably just wasting my breath on this young man, and it appears he totally missed my point—or does he, as he said, really not care?

I’m wondering if he would have cared if he were also in the restaurant with my friend at the time.  What if the other patrons, rather than just staring, had said, “Freakin’ blackies!” and then laughed?  Even if he’s never heard it put that way before, as he claimed, I imagine he’d have got it.  Would he have found the “joke” just as funny as he seemed to think his Facebook comment was?

If he truly meant no offense to whites, why use the term “whities” at all?  Why didn’t he use something more specific to the actual offense, like “bigots,” because that is, after all, evidently what those other patrons were, racial bigots, regardless of their race.

What if, while he was in the restaurant, he had turned to those bigots and called them “freakin’ whities.” Oh, but I forgot, Lee said his comment wasn’t offensive.  Oh, thank you, Mr. Pigrum, for deciding for the rest of us what is and isn’t offensive.  And tell those bigots, who already don’t want you there (this took place in Oklahoma), that it’s not offensive.  Good luck with that.

Okay, so maybe he wouldn’t say it in a restaurant full of bigots.  But, he will, and did, say it to, potentially, thousands on Facebook.  How does that work?  Is that how people view it?  Anything goes because they are protected by their little cyber wall?

If I said, “Freakin’ blackies” referring to some bigoted black people, would that be okay?  And, by putting it the way he did, didn’t he imply that all white people act that way?  Isn’t it the very definition of racial prejudice to make judgments about an entire race based only on the actions of some?  That is, of course, exactly what it means:  An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand without good justification--to pre judge, hence prejudice.

But, evidently, he thinks it’s okay for him since he mentioned he can’t be racist because he’s mixed.  Really?  How does having more than one race’s blood coursing through your veins make it okay to make prejudiced comments and display racist behavior, and be immune from being a racist?  As Forrest Gump would have said, racist is as racist does.  

I have the blood of five nationalities and two races running down my face every time I cut myself shaving.  I suppose, by his reasoning, I can make any derogatory comment I want toward anyone I please and not be held accountable.  And, hey, as long as some of my friends know I’m only joking, I can say those things in a public forum and everyone who doesn't know me will just have to accept it—it’s okay.

Then, there’s another word that comes into play here.  He thinks it’s okay, joking or not, to act the same as the people he’s damning—the bigots.  That’s called a hypocrite.

Many whites are quite guilty of prejudice of every imaginable type—racial, religious, cultural.  You name it.  Guess what.  It’s not unique to whites.

Racial prejudice, regardless of one’s race, religion, creed, what have you, and regardless from which side of the fence it's fired or at whom—is not okay—nor is not caring.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

28 Words That Don’t Exist in the English Language

I've run across this list in various forms on several sites, unattributed, but as far as I can tell, without dedicating more time to further research than I care to, its author is David Voth of Sex, Cigars & Booze Lifestyle Magazine. (When I first made this post, I linked to the magazine's site and experienced no problems there, myself.  Since then, the site of the original list has evidently been infected with malware.  I've deactivated the link and suggest visiting that site only at your own risk.) The list was created because, as he wrote, " I love to take the time to choose the ideal words when I’m writing something, but sometimes the perfect word to describe something doesn’t exist in the English language." 

I certainly laud him for that.

He goes on to say, "The following 28 words do not have direct equivalents in English. Some of them would definitely be useful if they existed in English."

I can't say I completely agree with him there, even though, overall, it's an interesting amusement, but it sure shouldn't be taken as linguistic fact.  I'll add that there are, of course, many languages and cultures that don't have words that represent, exactly, quite common concepts and situations expressed in English, especially American English.  However, I think he overreached in his attempt to make his point with these 28 words.  I can accept that as a case of stretching things a bit for some fun, and in that spirit I've noted (in bold text) comparable English words I think Mr. Voth overlooked.  I also took the liberty of adding a few grains of salt.

1. Age-otori (Japanese): To look worse after a haircut:

I can't relate; no haircut seems to help.

2. Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude:
This one involves principles, social conventions and manners more peculiar to and emphasized in Japanese culture, so of course native English-speaking cultures are much less inclined to need a word for it.  In America, though, the situation described often culminates in the use of three wordsSue the bastard!

3. Backpfeifengesicht (German): A face badly in need of a fist:
Well, especially in America, we do have a multipurpose word that covers it quite well—*asshole.

4. Bakku-shan (Japanese): A beautiful girl… as long as she’s being viewed from behind:
I've often heard this type of woman referred to as a butter face. (But her face... !)

5. Desenrascanco (Portuguese): “to disentangle” yourself out of a bad situation (To MacGyver it):
There may not be an English word, exactly, for the act itself, but a couple of words come to mind that represent how the situation is handled—practically a matter of policy for governments and corporations—lie, deny... 

6. Duende (Spanish): a climactic show of spirit in a performance or work of art, which might be fulfilled in flamenco dancing, or bull-fighting, etc.:
I'll keep my flamenco-dancing bull out of this fight.

7. Forelsket (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love:

8. Gigil (pronounced Gheegle; Filipino):  The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute:
I like this one and I'm going to start using it in reference to the behavior of an elderly aunt of mine.

9. Guanxi (Mandarin): in traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favor, but you can also use up your gianxi by asking for a favor to be repaid:

10. Ilunga (Tshiluba, Congo): A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time:
I'd have to say the English word for that kind of person is mature.

11. L’esprit de l’escalier (French): usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it:
L’esprit de l’escalier isn't a word, it's a phrase.  I like it anyway and I can't tell you the number of times I've experienced it, but I usually just mutter to myself, I shoulda said... 

12. Litost (Czech): a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery:
Regret works.

13. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan):  A look between two people that suggests an unspoken, shared desire:  Sounds like lust to me.

14. Manja (Malay): “to pamper”, it describes gooey, childlike and coquettish behavior by women designed to elicit sympathy or pampering by men. “His girlfriend is a damn manja. Hearing her speak can cause diabetes.”:
I thought female covered this one... ?

15. Meraki (pronounced may-rah-kee; Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing:
Oh?  How about passion?

16. Nunchi (Korean): the subtle art of listening and gauging another’s mood. In Western culture, nunchi could be described as the concept of emotional intelligence. Knowing what to say or do, or what not to say or do, in a given situation. A socially clumsy person can be described as ‘nunchi eoptta’, meaning “absent of nunchi”:
Perhaps graceful suffices.

17. Pena ajena (Mexican Spanish): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation:
Excellent!  Especially useful, too, with the popularity of TV shows like American Idol.

18. Pochemuchka (Russian): a person who asks a lot of questions: 
Depending on the circumstances, let's try intelligent or annoying.  Cop, Homeland Security Agent and IRS Agent also come to mind (see also, *asshole).

19. Schadenfreude (German): the pleasure derived from someone else’s pain:
Too easy—Sadism.

20. Sgiomlaireachd (Scottish Gaelic): When people interrupt you at mealtime:
(see also...*)

21. Sgriob (Gaelic): The itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whisky:
Again, I can't relate.  The only thing that overcomes my lips when sipping whisky is a smile.

22. Shlimazl (Yiddish): Somebody who has nothing but bad luck:
Okay, good one, but shlimazl is practically a household English word, especially if you were a fan of the 70s-80s show, Laverne & Shirley.   

23. Stam (Hebrew): An agreement out of amusement and frustration that something doesn’t have a satisfactory answer among those talking:
I'm still mulling this one over.  Anyone, any thoughts?

24. Taarradhin (Arabic): implies a happy solution for everyone, or “I win. You win.” It’s a way of reconciling without anyone losing face. Arabic has no word for “compromise,” in the sense of reaching an arrangement via struggle and disagreement:
Oh, come, now!  Short phrases evidently being acceptable, we hear, win-win, all the time.

25. Tatemae and Honne (Japanese): What you pretend to believe and what you actually believe, respectively:

26. Tingo (Pascuense language of Easter Island): to borrow objects one by one from a neighbor’s house until there is nothing left:
Herschel, my next-door neighbor.

27. Waldeinsamkeit (German): The feeling of being alone in the woods:
Peaceful works for me.

28. Yoko meshi (Japanese): literally ‘a meal eaten sideways,’ referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language:
I'll defer to my fiancée for this one.  She's an English speaker working in Thailand.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Desperation and 6 Guns

Having mentioned Crock-Pots in my last post, and being desperate for anything to post lest I blank for the month of April, I remembered a movie I watched not long ago called 6 Guns (2010).  I think at the time I decided to watch it I was in one of those moods for a good ol’ fashioned Western movie, while also forgetting just how precious time is and that mine is worth something.  Hence, I settled on this turkey.

I should have given up on this low-budget Western set in the 1800s when, just over two minutes into it, the main female character, Selina Stevens, portrayed by Sage Mears, read the line (yes, read, as she did most of her lines), "I can't lift the Crock-Pot all by myself."  It’s hard to imagine that Geoff Meed, the writer, using the word loosely, is so ignorant as to have no clue that the trade name "Crock-Pot" and the electrical appliance it refers to didn't exist until the early 1970s.  Then again, his forte is martial arts and stunts, so maybe he has taken one too many blows to the head.  If he didn’t know, then surely someone else in the cast or crew, maybe the honeywagon driver, should have.  That’s where the script belonged—in the honeywagon.

Then, about four-and-a-half minutes in, actor Brian Wimmer as the character Will Stevens, said, “I gotta replace all the shuttlers and windows due to the winds that are coming in.”  No, that’s not a typo, that’s exactly what he said—shuttlers.  Hey, maybe he just flubbed the line and the low budget couldn’t stand the strain of reshooting the scene.  On the other hand, maybe Geoff Meed really should give up the stunts and fighting.  Permanent brain damage is no laughing matter.

Perhaps The Asylum, known for producing “mockbusters,” used these lines as a joke, but they weren’t nearly as funny as this joke of a movie.  It’s ample evidence that movies really can get worse than the glut of crap coming out of Hollywood these days.

It is difficult to fathom, but yes, I kept watching to the end, mostly out of fascination at how terrible it was—just as one might not be able to resist looking at a horrendous car accident or train wreck.  But life is too short to have spent time watching or to further comment on all else wrong with this train wreck.

If you find yourself staring into the abyss of having absolutely nothing better to do for about 90 minutes, and if you love to moan and groan, and if you have an extremely masochistic bent to your personality, I highly recommend you see it.

There, that’s out of the way.  I’ll see you in May.

Friday, March 16, 2012

World Famous Secret Recipe

Yes, I know St. Patrick’s Day isn’t until tomorrow, but I’m going to be too busy quality-testing traditional St. Pat’s Day libations to be cooking.  So, I made my world famous corned beef & cabbage today.  That’s right, world famous!  Hey, the world of my mind counts.  What does this have to do with writing?  Everything.  Writers need to eat.  Enough said.

I think it’s important you know the official name of this dish so when you are asked what brought on your foodgasm, you’ll have the appropriate answer:  Russ’s World Famous St. Patrick’s Day Irish/Polish Corned Beef & Cabbage.  No, I’m not Polish, I’m pure Irish.  Never mind that my pure Irish blood got mixed up with Scottish, Welsh, English, French and Cherokee blood.  And, as is said, everyone’s Irish on St. Pat’s Day.  But, you’ll see in a moment why the Irish/Polish.

Oh, now you’re getting excited.  That’s right, I’m actually going to give you the secret recipe.  So much for the secret.

I make it in a pressure cooker, which is an Aries Crock-Pot because we’re too impatient for that device.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking in Crock-Pots, but sometimes I just can’t wait.  Pressure cookers rock!  And I don’t just mean the heavy little pressure cap on top when it’s under pressure. 

You just can’t beat pressure cookers, not only for fast cooking, but also for how tender it makes meat and how well it combines and holds in flavor.  If you’re too chicken to use a pressure cooker, thinking it’s going to blow up, fine.  You can make it in a Crock-Pot or a traditional stew pot.  But we really need to talk about your fears because there are many things much more dangerous than a pressure cooker, things you use every day without a second thought, like your car, or your butane lighter (one actually blew up in my face once), or your cell phone (especially when used in combination with your car), or homemade bombs.  Yeah, think about it.  Nonetheless, I’m going to tell you how to make it in a pressure cooker, and if you want to use something else, figure it out.

All measurements are approximate, and if you’re one of those nuts that thinks cooking is an exact science, you’re in the wrong place.  It’s art, like writing, and the rules were made to be broken, or at least bent…like the cook.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need (for an 8-quart cooker):

3 to 3 ½ lbs. corned beef brisket, point cut, whole. (Sounds like an oxymoron, huh?)  Be sure to get one packaged with the little packet of spices.
2 lb. head of cabbage, quartered.

½ gal. apple cider, 100% pure. (No, NOT apple juice. I said, “cider,” and, no, not hard cider, but now that you mention it, hmm…maybe next year.  Oh, I must thank my friend Rhonda for cluing me in on the apple cider.  Genius!)

1 lb. smoked kielbasa, sliced about a quarter of an inch thick. (See?  That’s the Polish part. Of course you leave the skin on!  I swear, some people’s kids.)

1 large yellow onion, cut into bite-sized pieces. (Okay, use white or purple, I don’t care.)

1 to 1½ cups sliced carrots…okay, 2 cups then, about 5 to 7 carrots. (No, damn it, don’t peel them! That’s just wrong.  Wash them well and cut them into bite-sized pieces, about a half an inch to an inch thick.)

About 1 ½ to 2 lbs. red potatoes. (I like red potatoes and think they’re perfect for this.  Use your standard, run-of-the-mill potato if you’d prefer.  Again, peeling is forbidden!  Washing, though, is highly recommended.  You may want to cut these into slightly larger than bite size, maybe 2-inch cubes, because they have a tendency to diminish in size and even vanish if they’re cut too small.)

*Oh, all right, if you absolutely must, go ahead and peel the carrots and potatoes.  I realize some people just have a thing about that.  But I’m of the opinion you’re sacrificing some wonderful flavor, and it’s just fact that you’re losing much of the foods' natural nutrition when you toss the skin.  But, I swear, if you skin the kielbasa we’re done right now.  Please click off my site.

If you’d like to add some sliced celery, it’s okay with me.

BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE:  Open the beef package, set the spice packet aside and thoroughly rinse the brisket under cold water.  It’s called corned beef for a reason having nothing to do with corn.  That puppy is SALTY!  You’ve been warned.  And there’s no need to pat it dry unless that gives you a little thrill.  It’s going to get wet again, anyway.
Put the brisket, the contents of the spice packet and, if you'd like, a few dashes of black pepper into the pressure cooker, preferably atop the thin rack that came with your cooker.  But, if you don’t have a rack, don’t use it.  Make sense?

Pour in enough of the apple cider to just cover the top of the brisket.  Don’t drink the remainder, you may need it.  Also, please note, if you haven’t already, that I’ve said nothing about water except for washing meat and vegetables.  That’s right, you don’t need any.

I’ll assume you’ve already read the general and safety instructions for your pressure cooker and that you’ve got a modicum of common sense.  For the sake of your own welfare, please don’t prove me wrong.

Keep in mind, all measurements being approximate, you may want or need to vary some ingredient amounts depending on your tastes and to ensure that the cooker’s contents don’t exceed the level recommended by the manufacturer during cooking.

Seal up your cooker, place it on the stove and turn to ‘high’.  Once the heavy little pressure cap atop your cooker begins to rock like Mick Jagger, slowly but steadily reduce the heat to ‘medium-low’.  The cap should not stop rocking, but it should rock gently, more like Donny Osmond.  If it’s still acting more like Mick than Donny, reduce the heat a little more.  From the time the cap begins to rock like Mick, let it cook about 50 minutes for a 3 ½ lb. brisket (45 mins. for 3 lbs.).
Remove from heat.  Use the quick-cool method by placing your cooker under cold running water.  Once the pressure releases, open your cooker and put in the kielbasa and all veggies EXCEPT the cabbage.

Return the cooker to the stove and bring it back up to rockin’ like Mick, then down to Donny.  Just as before, time it from rockin’ like Mick for about 7 minutes, then remove from heat and reduce pressure as before.

Use a meat fork to remove the brisket to a platter.  Put the cabbage quarters into the cooker and add more apple cider so all veggies are covered.  If you like a lot of broth like I do, you can add enough cider to nearly fill the cooker since you won’t be cooking under pressure from here on out.  Without sealing the cooker (lid off), bring it to a medium simmer and stir occasionally.  Cook until the cabbage is as tender as you’d like.  I like it after it’s cooked about 15 or 20 minutes, not too mushy.

Tonight, I sliced the brisket and put it back into the pot to simmer with everything else a bit longer.  I like to eat it all from a bowl like very chunky soup.  But, again, this isn’t rocket science, it’s eating.  I’d like to recommend you have some fresh, thick-crusted bread with it. Do what you want and enjoy.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Summer of Love

I’ve seen something quite strange in the last few days.  I’m afraid to look directly at it and, if memory serves, I’m well advised not to.  It’s fulgent and striking—piercing—and gives off a most delicious warmth.  Could it be—yes, I think it is—it’s the sun!

I know many of you live places in which mention of the imminent spring makes you scoff, but I tell you it’s not mere legend.  It’s running at us, and on its heels is summer.  Oh, I long for summer.  Perhaps I can evoke the delights of it for all of us in still chilly climes with a remembrance of a summer long ago—45 years ago, to be exact. 

Hush, kids!  I know that seems like ancient history or perhaps nothing but myth, but I tell you it really happened.  Listen and learn of… 

The Summer of Love, 1967, in San Francisco, California.  Nearly 100,000 people massed in and around a neighborhood known as Haight-Ashbury, an impetus for a startling shift in social and political culture.  Call it a social experiment marking the culmination of a counterculture movement that gained momentum all through the 60s.

Jefferson Airplane's Paul Kantner once remarked, "If you can remember anything about the 60s, then you weren't really there."  For those of you who were there, I’ll try to fill in those huge lapses in memory. 

It was a decade explosive with social unrest, upheaval, dissent and rebellion as we fought to free ourselves—to challenge and transform the status quo.  Not to lay a bummer on you, man, but for all the talk of peace, love and understanding, it was one of the most violent, chaotic periods in America’s history.  Nevertheless, as tumultuous as the times were, so were they joyous and free.  Amidst all the turmoil, free love flowed and the non-violent message of “flower power” flourished.

Things were, as we used to say, “Heavy, man!”  Mass street protests and “sit-ins” against countless political and social conventions were commonplace.  Generations of young and old stood divided.  Bloody riots flared in major American cities, and halfway around the world in Vietnam our government waged a war that snuffed the bright flame of nearly sixty thousand of America’s youth, left hundreds of thousands forever scarred, and ravished the psyche of the entire nation.
Chemically-induced “mind expansion” ran rampant.  Low-tech became high, and so did we.   As we began to travel into outer space, so we traversed the inner space of our minds.
Rock ‘n’ Roll ruled and served as soundtrack to our lives and the counterculture’s movement.  The music echoed the radical changes afoot and became our anthem.  Two years after the Summer of Love, another summer saw a musical celebration previously unprecedented in history.  More than the convergence of half-a-million people on Max Yasgur’s New York farm, Woodstock was the weaving of a generation’s youthful energy, angst, fears, hopes, ideals and music into the tapestry of a vision of justice, peace and love for our world—an endless summer of love.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Critique My Blog Blogfest

I am participating in the "Critique My Blog Blogfest" sponsored by A Writer's Journey.

Everyone's a critic and that's a good thing, especially today.  You, my readers, are important to me and I want to make my blog site one you'll look forward to spending more time in, so please critique away; I value your thoughts and comments.  Please make your critique based on any or all of the following: 

a.      Appearance: Does it appeal to you? Is it too busy, or too plain?
b.      Layout: Is it difficult to navigate? Is it cluttered, or sparse?
c.      Frequency: Does the blogger post too often? Not often enough?
d.      Content: Are the posts interesting? Unique? Are they focused, or all over the place?
e.      Quality: Are the individual posts too long, too short, too sloppy, or too generic?
f.       Other:  Feel free to freestyle; comment on anything else that occurs to you.

Friday, January 20, 2012

We've won for now!

The following is an excerpt from an email I received from fellow activists Tiffiny Cheng and the rest of the fine folks at Fight for the Future regarding the fight to stop SOPA and PIPA:

Hi everyone!

A big hurrah to you!!!!! We’ve won for now -- SOPA and PIPA were dropped by Congress today -- the votes we’ve been scrambling to mobilize against have been cancelled.

The largest online protest in history has fundamentally changed the game.  You were heard.

On January 18th, 13 million of us took the time to tell Congress to protect free speech rights on the internet. Hundreds of millions, maybe a billion, people all around the world saw what we did on Wednesday.  See the amazing numbers here and tell everyone what you did.

This was unprecedented. Your activism may have changed the way people fight for the public interest and basic rights forever.

The MPAA (the lobby for big movie studios which created these terrible bills) was shocked and seemingly humbled.  “‘This was a whole new different game all of a sudden,’ MPAA Chairman and former Senator Chris Dodd told the New York Times. ‘[PIPA and SOPA were] considered by many to be a slam dunk.’”

“'This is altogether a new effect,' Mr. Dodd said, comparing the online movement to the Arab Spring. He could not remember seeing 'an effort that was moving with this degree of support change this dramatically' in the last four decades, he added."

Tiffiniy, Holmes, Joshua, Phil, CJ, Donny, Douglas, Nicholas, Dean, David S. and Moore, Fight for the Future!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Just a Note to My Faithful Followers

As I pointed out in April, I'm remodeling my blog site.  I never claimed to be a fast worker.  For the most part since then, it's been little things, but, as you may have noticed, as of 2012, I repainted and moved some furniture arounda much different look and feel.  I hope no one ran off in terror thinking they'd stumbled into unfriendly territory.  Rest assured, it's still my place and I welcome you all and appreciate your visits.  I hope you like the changes.  They will continue as I bide my time and carefully consider just what it is I'm doing here.  If you have any comments, suggestions or ideas, I'd love to hear them, so feel free.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year, New Look & Resolutions

I have never understood New Year’s resolutions. Just what compels us to think everything will change in the time it takes a ticking second hand to sweep from 11:59:59 to 12:00:00, turning December 31 to January 1? I guess it’s hope that as we throw out the past year’s calendar, too we can be rid of defects and failures and do a better job of it all. What an odd notion in the dead of winter when it’s spring that brings birth in nature. Still, how many of us commit to new ways and plans for the coming year, only to watch them die like seeds sown in January snow-covered sod before the month’s end? It’s almost as if we guarantee our hope’s failures by labeling them New Year’s resolutions, especially when they are so often born of bacchanalian celebrations on New Year’s Eve. Our champagne conspiracies lose their effervescence overnight.

It’s not even a week into 2012 and I am already hearing people’s tales of failed resolutionsrelapses into smoking, binges off diets, exercise regimens forsaken, and the list goes on. Then there are those still trying to decide just what their resolutions should be, as if there is a government mandate requiring a resolution-registration-fee submission before the month is out.

Since it’s usually so clear in our minds just what needs to be fixed on the first, I’d say the need for change was realized and considered at length long before. It’s not as if clarity suddenly strikes us in the midst of a bash at the stroke of midnight. Must we reserve action toward salvation until the last day of the year? And, truly, can’t we choose to begin again anytime? There’s no time like now, upon realizing the need, to improve ourselves and change our ways, regardless of the date.

However, with tongue in cheek, I say it must be coincidental that I, too, am choosing this week to try to better honor adherence to something I’ve wrestled with since my teens, though then it was merely a vague sense of something undefined and unfulfilled. And, yes, this all still relates to Cookie, my muse.

I must first acknowledge and laud her for rousting me from bed in the middle of the night before deep sleep set in, to tap out thoughts she filled me with before they were irretrievably entwined with a dream lost upon awakening. This has been happening with increasing frequency since she made her presence known. Not to make light of her inspirations (or question her sense of timing), but that is, after all, her job, and mine is to respond; that is the pact of our partnership. To do less would lay waste to the gifts she bestows. It seems the more responsive I am, the more she’s willing to share.

Not that Cookie, this time, disclosed the hitherto unknown to me. Rather, she reminded me of something from long ago, yet it’s literally right in front of my face every day; she’s now made profoundly clear its importance. A framed text hangs on the wall I face while at my writing desk. I was first shown this years ago and I liked what it conveyed so much, I finally printed it, framed it and hung it last year. Its author is Rebecca St. George, whose tutelage helped me immensely (and still does) when I studied under her in a writing class years ago, the very same Rebecca I mentioned in my post, “A Thousand Words:  The Birth of 'Charlotte'.”

Rebecca is no stranger to the muses’ ways; hers appeared in her life decades ago, and all I have seen of her writing tells me she’s quite worthy of him and heeds his guidance well. I have no doubt he inspired her to write the words that were perhaps discussed at a muse meeting and agreed on as a code of conduct, if you will, for writers. And from there, out they went to deliver it to all their charges, their distribution methods myriad, mystical and magical. But that’s all silly speculation on my part, but not so the knowledge, deep within me, that resolving to follow its guiding brilliance is fulfilling Cookie’s intent that I have a creative, productive 2012. By moving me to share it, she obviously wishes that, as I do, for all of you.

Copyright, Rebecca St. George

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Cookie

Christmas Eve just hours away, I wrestled with the pros and cons of getting a few hours sleep, forgone since yesterday, before conversing via Skype with my fiancée, Paige, in Southeast Asia, or, instead, spending much needed sleep time writing and juggling home chores and holiday preparations. 

I felt the heavy press of time, exhaustion and anxiety.  There was a fair bit of guilt and depression, I think mostly from how little I had to spend for gifts.  Like so many people these days, I’ve really been feeling the financial crunch.  Oh, hell, why mince words?  I’m broke, and I absolutely detest not being able to shower gifts, or even trickle them.  That’s affected my attitude toward people in general, poorly, especially those closest to me.   

A twelve-hour time difference and long workdays force Paige and me to lunge at opportune moments, less frequent than we’d like, for togetherness at odd and sometimes inconvenient hours. Weighing what’s sensible against longing, especially over the next 24 hours of this holiday best shared with those you love, we’d be lucky to get an hour to call our own, this our first Christmas together—apart

All too often recently, my guilt and depression cloud the little time Paige and I do get to talk.  And, more and more, the other woman in my life, in undeniable ways, demands equal time, she being Cookie, my muse.  Of course, you, dear reader, discovered at nearly the same time as I that Cookie’s true identity is Calliope, the ages-old muse, but I’ll probably forevermore call her Cookie.

Paige is mature enough not to grow jealous…much…of my muse’s potent urgings.  After all, she also suffers the writing virus.  Still, I struggle to create ways to keep them both happy without forsaking either.  It’s always seemed that the women I know manage that, with grace, much better than I can even bumble through.   Besides, never demanding or nagging, I suspect Paige sees the futility and foolishness of engaging the immortal likes of an eternities-older Phoenician female. 

Just what, you may now be asking yourself, other than the timing of my dilemma and a piddling income, does this have to do with Christmas?  Everything.  Magic.  You see, Christmas was always magic to me.  Though I don’t connect the holiday to my own religious beliefs or practices (rather, a chosen lack thereof), its wonder worked its way into my life, like most of us, during childhood.  It excited me, lifted my spirit, and led me to hope and to share.  Yet, as I walked, year by year, away from childhood, the magic and wonder dimmed to the accompaniment of depression, and in flusher times, I depended on my gift giving to fill in for magic.

Since you are reading this, I’m convinced the fix was in before the wrestling match I entered moments before I opted to write.  I had to write, and what to write flew from my fingers much more than from my overly analytical, indecisive mind that usually battles me when I sit down to write.  Cookie made those plans for me and completely facilitated their fulfillment, well beyond my most ambitious hopes.  In a moment, I knew what to write as well as how to easily, happily and peacefully handle all else.  She revealed much more to me; she shared more of her nature, more of what she holds for me and why, as well as how to best put it to use. Cookie then admonished me to share none of it except by way of demonstration—in giving of myself to others.

She did, though, let me know I could share the love she holds for a certain song, odd as it seems today when I wanted to hear traditional Christmas music, and that’s all that was in the playlist I’d set to shuffle.  How strange it was that the old swing-era song, “Goody Goody” began to play.  That definitely was not on my Christmas playlist.  “So you met someone who set you back on your heels-goody goody!  So you met someone and now you know how it feels-goody goody!” Those two opening lines repeated, over and over, conveyed her special message to me, a sharp turn from the song’s intended meaning. For at least a minute, somehow stuck there, that’s all that played. I thought, “Yes, I did, Cookie.  I’m so glad to finally know you, and thank you!”  And I swear, she giggled.  Magic.

My writing for today nears completion, as do my other missions.  I spent several wonderful hours talking and laughing with Paige.  Before we said merry, merry and goodnight to one another, she said, “I always love you, but I like you best when you’re happy, and I’ve never heard you happier.”  I know she was right about that, and she was happier than I can recall hearing her since she left the U.S.  She knows more about love than I.  She’s now sound asleep, well on her way to Christmas morning in Thailand.  I haven’t slept like I hoped, yet I’m wide awake, refreshed, energized and filled with the magic and wonder of Christmas.

So, this was Cookie’s Christmas gift to me; filling me with words, laughter, love and magic—all intangibles—to share in the best spirit of the season, in ways I haven’t felt since childhood.  I hope I have given some of that to you in return. 

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Breakfast at Epiphanies

Webster’s II New College Dictionary defines “epiphany” thusly:  
1. A revelatory manifestation of a divine being.  2. a. A sudden manifestation of the meaning or essence of something. b. A sudden intuitive realization or perception of reality.

As I ate breakfast the morning after having posted about “Cookie,” she visited me with epiphanies, precisely and powerfully, in every sense of those definitions.  Call them gifts or rewards for finally writing about her, for publicly acknowledging her existence in my world. 

A faithful follower of my blog and longtime friend who’d just read my post directed me to Zazzle, a site featuring, among many other charming products, a particular coffee mug.  When I saw it, I was stunned; hairs on my arms stood atop gooseflesh and my heart raced with the realization of the meaning of the image on that mug, in this case certainly worth much more than any thousand of my words.


Mind you, I had never seen this before.  Beyond loving the art, and the story behind Calliope Cookie, I was awestruck.  I knew it was Cookie speaking to me.  When she first told me her name was Cookie, I now see it was merely a clue. 

Buddhist wisdom teaches that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  Cookie, a wise and clever teacher, evidently feeling I was ready to receive, chose this way to finally reveal her true identity—Calliope, the Greek muse.  I feel honored and quite humbled.

With immense gratitude, I’d like to thank Ramona Szczerba, the wonderful artist who created Calliope Cookie, the conduit to my awareness.  As she put it when she graciously allowed me to use her art to tell my story, part of which is very much her story, “I'm glad that I could be of some assistance in having your (our?)  Muse, Calliope, manifest in corporeal (sort of) form.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011


In a previous post, long, long ago, I mentioned Cookie and promised to talk about her later. I just checked my watch and it’s definitely later. Though her identity was a mystery to me until fairly recently, I don’t want that situation to be the trend here, as I suspect her name will come up again in my posts.

Cookie is my muse. Neither her name nor her existence is a fabrication of my imagination, unlike Charlotte who, though vibrantly alive to me, is of course my fictional character. I mean, please, I’m a writer. Don’t you think I’d make up something better than Cookie, something more lofty and literary, for a muse? Of course I would. Cookie is a name better suited to my protagonist, Charlotte, than a muse, and I wouldn’t even saddle her with it; I like her too much. The only Cookie I can recall having run across in my life is a childhood friend’s dog, and she bit me once. The name also makes me think of Edd Byrnes’ character, Kookie, in the old TV show, 77 Sunset Strip…yeah, I know that really dates me. But, I digress. Get used to it, I’m known to do that.

So, yeah, I was highly irritated when she told me her name. More accurately, she revealed her name. She reveals things to me when and if I’m in the mood to pay attention. I may say that Cookie told me this or said that, but that’s just in a manner of speaking. I’m not hearing voices. It hasn’t gotten that bad, yet, and I’ll let you know if I really start needing meds.

Nonetheless, quite cognizant of the difference between reality and fiction, I know Cookie is real, whether you believe it or not. Despite her lack of physical…or aural…manifestation, I say to those of you believing that only the sensate is real, more will be revealed. If I were subjected to techniques twice as torturous as those employed at Guantanamo Bay and interrogated about every fact and facet of her life, I’d be unable to tell you much more. I know only what she’s told me, only what she allows me to know, and then only what I’m willing and able to accept. I’m stubborn.

That’s not to say it’s kept me from thinking about her a lot. Put yourself in my shoes; wouldn’t you give quite a bit of thought to the realization that there is an entity communicating with you—a presence, a soul—call her what you will? I can’t honestly say she’s just come into my life. Quite the contrary. I was astonished to discover she’s always been with me; I don’t always arrive quickly at awareness and a willingness to listen. Now knowing she’s always been there makes me feel like a huge idiot. That is about the only part of this that isn’t new. It also makes me feel a bit sorry for her. Completely ignored and neglected all these years—unquestionably female—you can imagine how well that sat with her. Still, she’s hung in there, and that’s given rise to a huge question in my mind. Why?

As she reveals more and my understanding further gels to something I can better articulate, I’ll write more about her.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Melding Reality with Fiction

I cringe to think a young, beginning writer would opt to live a banal life, focusing only on writing in hopes of creating rich stories.  That’s oxymoronic in theory or execution. There are many writers, including me, that have vast and heterogeneous experiences. Fanciful imaginings are surely necessary to creating literary entertainment and art, but one of the hallmarks of good fiction is that it’s imbued with a fair grasp of reality without resulting in something as dry as a Bond martini.
It is requisite writers read—a lot—and research, interview and dig thoroughly to bring accuracy to their stories, and that’s often the only way to learn the factual details filling our fictional worlds.  It’s a balancing act.  We strive to keep our footing and suspend disbelief as foul forces attempt to knock us from our high wire.  Invaluable it is to live and experience life broadly.  We gather kernels from all corners of life to bring life to our writing, lest we succumb to being armchair quarterbacks banging out plastic fiction.

Naturally, it's impossible for one to live all there is to the human experience, but many of us have gone out there and chosen to risk it—go for it—and do things many only read or dream about.  I'm reminded of George Plimpton. Even though non-fiction, what was great about his works like Paper Lion is that he was the everyman writing from his participatory perspective rather than that of a reporter who merely researched the contests and interviewed the players.

Me? I've struggled through hell, muck and mire armed with weapons, traversed the skies in powerful machines and taken responsibility daily for every life on board. I’ve leapt from those craft when they were flying fine, protected only by a silk canopy. My last jump at age 18 nearly killed me, and I was saved by a fluke with only seconds to spare, 900 feet from splatter. I've paid with the pain of spinal damage ever since. In dubious service to America, I was privy to some dirty little secrets and lies of this nation and others as the deadly silly games played out on the global field.

I've fought full-contact karate and sometimes had to be dragged from the dojo floor unconscious, and I celebrated when, more often than not, I dished it out to opponents. I've been in street and bar brawls with knuckles and knives.  I’ve cradled and cared for all kinds of creatures; I said ouch when they bit me and cried when they died. I’ve run, swum, climbed, biked, kayaked and rafted. I've involved myself in the lives of all kinds of characters from criminals to kings, bikers to barons, and romanced many kinds of women, fluttering and scarring my heart. I’ve crept through seedy L.A. streets at three in the morning with a pistol pushed into the waistband of my jeans—just in case. I've lived the workaday world, 9 to 5, in myriad businesses and industries, working in plush offices, high-security military installations and on garbage trucks teaming with maggots, gagging from the blood of dead animals running into my eyes and mouth.

I've raised kids (a most frightening adventure I fear I bumbled extremely), and tickled my grandkids, all of us giggling to tears. I’ve been a rock 'n' roll roadie and a psychiatric office's manager and multiple dozens of things in between. I've traveled throughout this country and others, and jumped right in when new, uncomfortable, dangerous and frightening...or even lame...adventures presented themselves, knowing full well that it could be the last thing I would do. I've chosen to experience chemically altered states of mind and soul—just for fun or just to know—fully aware of the possible risks to life, limb, sanity and freedom. I know the terrors of jails and mental wards, the peace and joy of great libraries and standing atop mountains the most agile animals avoid.

I've sacrificed security and comfort often just to know the emotions and senses felt when choosing less safe and sane paths, often rebelling at what society at large, friends and loved ones thought I should do. In between the more harrowing moments, there's been time a plenty to read, research, watch movies, wallow in music and live like a lounge lizard and laugh—and write, write, write.

There's a price to pay for everything and we have to choose what we can afford. I regret the nos I’ve proffered, in momentary lapses into sense and sanity, more than the times I’ve said yes to the unhinged unknown. Better that I die damaged and delirious before I’m sixty than safe at seventy-seven. The writing fuel garnered, as well as the simple joy of living, is well worth the risks, and when I lay me down for the last time, I’ll fall away from here, fulfilled.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Oh, my!  Is it October already?  And no posts since May!  Shame on me.  I can blame it on the new season of Sons of Anarchy or the non-stop baths I have to give my cat during this insane flea season or chronic procrastinitis or any other number of convenient rationalizations.

"Some people claim that there's a woman to blame
But I know it's my own damn fault." ~ Jimmy Buffett

Okay, I promise, there's some good stuff coming soon.  Stay tuned.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Excuses, Insanity and Love

My guilt-ridden, tortured conscience no longer able to bear the burden, it’s time for apologies to my many adoring fans, but mostly to Charlotte, Cookie (I’ll discuss her later)...and myself...for my literary lapses of late. This, then, must serve as an arena for amends, my confessional and a means by which to confront in black and white the preponderance of ludicrous excuses I make to not live up to my life’s assignment.

Distractions abounded over the past few weeks, their forms myriad. Aside from my ever-prestent multitude of manias, there have been physical illness and technical obstacles consisting of computer viruses, power outages and electrical glitches. Then, finally and mostly, as yawn or nausea inducing as it may be to anyone other than the two key players, there is the radical storm that struck the desert my love life has dwelled in for the past couple of years. As Woody Allen’s character, Alvy, expressed after making love to Annie Hall in the eponymous movie, "As Balzac said, 'There goes another novel'."

All except the last-mentioned issue being water under the clichéd bridge, I’ll just have to flog myself daily to write and keep Charlotte, Cookie, and all others mentioned, satisfied.  The object of my new love will simply have to understand, being a writer herself.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Price Paid

Charlotte is progressing well. Why?  Because I’m investing cell and soul, hence my jumbled, perverted state. Drained yet energized in adrenal overdrive, I’m crazed by myriad thoughts, synapses firing at will, maniacally, beyond my control. I’m pathetic. I’m withdrawing from this reality--even that an easily arguable mere concept, Charlotte’s realm devouring that with every word written. Beyond the isolation required while writing, the confinement creeps into every other aspect of life, the dwindling contact with the reality remaining is convoluted and colored by Charlotte’s demanding, insistent world.

All is cause and effect. There’s a price to pay for everything. It’s choice. I choose the unbalance of commitment to the extreme, faithful that it is affordable and well worth what’s won.  Seeking safety, sanity and serenity by standing in the middle of the road is merely the ideal spot to meet one’s death.

More when...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Thousand Words: The Birth of "Charlotte"

Initially, I did not set out to write the novel, Charlotte.  Long ago, I took a university creative writing class and our teacher, Rebecca, assigned us a short-story exercise:  Each of us was to create a story from the opening line, “Even though her husband had been dead for three years, Molly Green still wore black.” My result was a thousand-word narrative titled, Good Golly, Ms. Molly.
The creative writing process is never an easy one, but for me there’s nothing quite as mentally piquant, and now I realize, too, nothing quite as self-defining. The challenge and engagement of writing certainly held as I wrote stories for that class.  One of them eventually found publication in the university literary journal. As well as what I was learning, I was satisfied with all my creations except for Good Golly, Ms. Molly. Not that I didn’t enjoy writing it, but for some reason I can’t quite explain, it was more difficult, exceptionally more, than the others and I was less than satisfied with the results.
Intriguing, the tricks our minds play on us and on our memories, if not simply thoroughly perplexing. I clearly remember reading Rebecca’s critique.  She hated it.  She’d torn it apart!
The criticism that most preyed on my mind was that it was ambiguous in its narrative point of view, perhaps more akin to a news report of a tragic occurrence than a story engaging readers in the lives of its characters. That stung.  I was a tad angry, defensive, and then, as I considered it more and more, I toddled toward humiliation because I knew it was true. To me, it meant that my story sucked, and it meant I sucked as a writer.
Rather than try to fix it with a rewrite, I made a mental note to never repeat the mistakes and then rationalized it all with the face-saving thought that it was, after all, just an exercise. I shoved it in a drawer and tried to forget it.
Years later, as I rummaged through that drawer, I ran across it. In that second, just seeing it laying there, I again felt the rubnot to the extreme I first had, but I was annoyedannoyed at the difficulty of the process, at Rebecca’s rebuff and, ultimately, at myself for the bad job I felt I’d done. Of course, I hadn’t even tried, so I was also annoyed that I didn’t know how to fix it.

I flipped through the five pages and finally re-read it and her critique. Something was wrong. The disdainful things she’d said about it, other than the perspective problem, were no longer there in her red-penciled notes. She’d merely pointed out how to make it better, and even how much she liked the story, overall. That gave me a laugh!  I was the only one who’d torn it apart.  Do you see what I mean about tricks of the mind?
But, here it still was in my hands, irreparable in my mind. Of course, some things are like that. There’s no way to see the solution until some action is taken. I suspect that’s why it’s called rewrite, not rethink. In retrospect, I’m extremely grateful it didn’t occur to me in that moment that I’d once dismissed it as just an exercise, and I could easily do it again and forever. Had I, I’d likely have shoved it back into the drawer, closed it, and that would have been thatCharlotte aborted before conception.
The next time I talked with Rebecca (we became good friends after I took her class, as we remain today), I mentioned the story to her and the nonsense I’d carried in my mind about it over the years. That conversation and several more led us both to the conclusion, or at least the sense, that there was a novel within those thousand words. Still, I resisted for years, doing nothing more than thinking about it occasionally.
Many years later, Rebecca and I finally sat down together, armed with coffee, notebooks and pens, and asked each other all the questions and tossed around all the possible answers that eventually revealed a character named Charlotte.  In Good Golly, Ms. Molly, Charlotte’s name never came up, but the outline completed that day uncovered that it was, in fact, Charlotte’s story.
The irony is that in bringing Charlotte and her story to life, Good Golly, Ms. Molly practically rewrote itself, and became chapter one of Charlotte.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


When I began this blog site, my first, my motivation and vision for it were slightly different from now. That slight difference now makes me want to wire the whole damned place with explosive charges, detonate them, walk away and build anew. (Relax, Dept. of Homeland Scrutiny, it's just figurative hyperbole.)  Instead, I have decided remodeling is the best route to take.

To those few who may actually give a rat's ass what I do here...evidently very few...I apologize not only for the mess of the process, but also for results that may inspire you to care even less about it. As the late Ricky Nelson's song Garden Party concludes, "You see, ya can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself." To those who do care a little, I think I owe this much of an explanation for my madness:

As years go by, we may not change at our core, but if we try, we grow to better expressions of our core, better expressions of our souls. My experience has been that growth comes in spurts, often between long periods of partial or complete stagnation―even reversals. At this writing, I choose to see these periods of stagnation not in a negative light, but rather as necessary, albeit painful and messy, research.

In my case, prolonged research reveals my need to accept, fully and finally, that I am a writer. It’s about the only thing I'm good at, and when in the writers’ realm, I know I’m not the misfit, homeless freak I feel like in any other role. I feel naked, ashamed, derelict and dumb to confess that I’ve given more lip service than pen to demonstration of that fact for decades. My adeptness as a writer is for you to perceive and judge, and that’s really none of my business. My public declaration is for my own soul’s sake. It’s all too easy to pretend I didn’t say it if whispered only into private darkness with no witnesses to hold me accountable.

I’m motivated by fear as I rapidly approach the end of this life’s long trip. I believe the primary obligation to life is to give. I’ve shirked my obligation all too often in hedonistic pursuits and misplaced self-interest. I believe that all in the Universe is energy. Sharing our energy fuels our own. I’m no physicist so I won’t engage in an argument about whether or not energy is endless and ever present, only changing in form. Still, every bit of energy within me screams its fear of eternal death from starvation. Having given too little, there is no restoration. And there is no giving without it coming from the true essence of our being, or as is said, from the bottom of our hearts. Hence, by failing to live as a writer, untrue to my essence, I have nothing to give and by extension, I get nothing, have nothing―am nothing.

Call me a weakling, call me a chicken, but I just no longer have the strength or guts to continue contributing to my own spiral into eternal oblivion. I know the Universe now hears the declaration I scream. I'm a writer! It’s about damn time everything I do reflects my declaration. So it is written….

I’m writing a novel called Charlotte, and I’ve been working on it or, more accurately, procrastinating on it longer than I care to confess. I’ve confessed enough sin for one day, but my procrastination certainly supports the veracity of my confessions. This, then, is one of many first acts as a born-again writer. I’ll be posting, regularly, my thoughts and experiences as I complete Charlotte. I sincerely hope to give something of value in the process.

I'd like to dedicate the commencement of this renewed effort to two wonderful people who have hung in there with me and encouraged me beyond a reasonable expectation. They define "friend." Thank you, RSG and RDC.