Wednesday, January 30, 2013


…How are you?

…I learned a lot of miscellaneous things in the last week.  Perhaps you already know this, or maybe you don’t, so here it is:

…Each year Americans adopt 2,600 children from China, 1,700 from Ethiopia, 1,000 from Russia, and 700 from South Korea.

…There have been 60 million abortions in the US in the last 12 years.

…"A lot of people think of Detroit as the armpit of America, but there are a lot of nice areas in Detroit where there's money to be made." -Nate Heaps of American Fork, Utah, who bought 290 Detroit properties for $190,000, some tax-delinquent homes selling for as little at $500 at auctions.

…The stock market is up more than 120% since the bull market began in March of 2009, yet in the five years ended in 2012, individual investors have yanked an estimated $557 billion out of US stock mutual funds while funneling $1 trillion into bonds.

…The federal debt is now $16.1 trillion, up from $11.9 trillion in 2009, and expected to rise to $17.9 trillion by 2015.

…Last year, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers made $59.8 million on and off the court.  LeBron James made $57.6 million.

…The price of a 30-second Super Bowl ad is $3.8 million, up from $2.15 million ten years ago.
Volkswagen is set to launch a $10 million commercial this weekend.

…Nearly half of all college graduates from the class of 2012 are overqualified for their jobs.
In 1970, 1% of all taxi drivers in the US had bachelor degrees.
in 2010, 15% had degrees.

…Top income tax rates:
1. 50% --United Kingdom
2. 48% --Canada
3. 45% --Germany
4. 45% --France
5. 35% --USA

…Have you ever secretly read your significant other's email?
Men --84% said No
Women --81% said No

…34% of people have hidden purchases from their spouse/partner

…Do you believe in Love at First Sight?
-Currently married --58% said Yes
-In a relationship --66% said Yes
-No relationship --48% said Yes

…18 -Percentage our risk of dying of heart disease goes up for each out of TV.
…15 -Percentage of women who send themselves Valentine's flowers.

…On Valentine's Day:
44% feel warm and fuzzy about the day.
39% feel no difference.  it's just like any other day.
17% silently protest and don't buy into the hype.

…2.5 --Pound a pair of C-cup breasts weigh.

…8 --Percentage of all men's plastic surgery procedures that are breast reductions.

…The amount of people living to be 100 in America is up 66% in the last 30 years.

…The US Postal Service delivers 46 billion fewer pieces of mail than it did 10 years ago.

…56% of all people remember a quarter (or less) of their dreams

…77% of all Americans have gone online to diagnose an potential illness they might have

…In the "Big East" colleges spend $102,000 per athlete and only $17,000 per student

…8 of the ten tallest buildings in the world are in China.  Only one in the US

…Florida has the highest foreclosure rate in America with 1 out of every 300 home currently in foreclosure

…Over 136 million prescriptions for Vicodin are written each year in America.
47% of all American adults own a gun.

...Developed countries, ranked by life expectancy (for men):
Top 5
1. Switzerland 79.33 years
2. Australia 79.27 years
3. Japan 79.20 years
4. Sweden 78.92 years
5. Italy 78.52
Bottom 5
13. Germany 77.11 years
14. Denmark 76.13 years
15. Portugal 75.87 years
16. Finland 75.86 years
17. USA 75.64
(for women, add five years to each)

…Gun manufacturing in the US has more than doubled in the last decade

…Actor Christian Slater starred in the horror film, "Playback" which made a whopping $264 at the box office.

…The top five New Year Resolutions for 2013 were:
21% -Weight loss
14% -Improve finances
14% -Exercise
10% -Get a new job
7% -Eat healthier

…Congress has a record number of women holding office:
20 in the Senate
78 in the House

Monday, January 28, 2013


…Did you have a splendid weekend?  I hope so.

…The other day I finished Anne Lamott's new book, "Help Thanks Wow."
Here are some of the bits from it that I liked best:

…“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”-- Rumi

…“And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on earth.” –Raymond Carver

…Below are all from Anne Lamott’s book, “Help Thanks Wow.”

-Imagination is part of the way we understand the world.

Three things I cannot change are the past, the truth, and you.

We learn through pain that some of the things we thought were castles turn out to be prisons.

If we are lucky, gratitude becomes a habit.

In the face of everything, we slowly come through.

I don’t believe it, but I know it is true.

Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior.

When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and in the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled.

A good marriage is one in which each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal.

God’s idea of a good time is to see us picking up litter.

“Wow” means we are not dulled to wonder.

When we are stunned to the place beyond words, we’re finally starting to get somewhere.

Everywhere you look, couples are falling in love.

Gorgeous, amazing things come into our lives when we are paying attention.  We just have to be open for business.

We get to keep starting over.

There really is only today.

Friday, January 25, 2013


…The other day I finally finished a collection of essays by famed writer Gene Weingarten called “The Fiddler in the Subway.” 
The title essay is about Joshua Bell, legendary violinist, who plopped down at the Metro Bus station and played for about an hour while over a thousand people passed by without stopping.
The night prior, Bell had played to a sold out show, with each ticket costing in excess of $100.

The following are random excerpts from the book that struck me as meaningful.
I hope they will you, too:

-“The meaning of life is that it ends.” Kafka

-“We wake up in the morning.  That is a miracle.” Father Steven

-“What worries you masters you.” John Locke

-“All babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is an iambic meter.  Then, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us.” Billy Collins

-(Of famed violinist Joshua Bell) “His playing does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live.” Interview Magazine

(The words below are all Gene Weingarten’s:

-Did I mention that when I am trouble most I consult the dead?

-The most important words in your story are the ones you don’t write.  They’re the ones you imply.

-I hate writing.  I love having written.

-Big truths usually contain somewhere within them the specter of death.  Death informs virtually all of literature.  We lust and love so we can feel more alive.  We build families so we can be immortal.  We crave fame, and do good works, so both will outlive us.

-A real writer is someone for whom writing is a terrible ordeal.  That is because he knows, deep down, with an awful clarity, that there are limitless ways to fill a page with words, and that he will never, ever do it perfectly.  On some level, that knowledge haunts him all the time.  He will always be juggling words in his head, trying to get them closer to a tantalizing, unreachable ideal.
It’s a torment you can’t escape.  It will reach even into the comfort of a drunken sleep, and it will shake you awake, and send you, heart pumping, to an empty piece of paper.
If you have that, you can be a good writer.  Congratulations, I guess.

-Writing, particularly fiction writing, is an act of quiet terror.  You are alone all at once with your genius and your ineptitude, and your errors are as public as possible.  To be a good writer requires extreme self-discipline and extreme self-confidence, and many of the people drawn to writing have neither.

Mostly, you become a writer not because you want to get rich or famous, but because you have to write, because there is something inside that must come out.  When a baby is born, she is born.

-If you are a bad writer, writing poorly must be no big deal.
But if you are a good writer, writing poorly must be hell.  You must die a little with every word.

-If only people knew what was in our dumpsters.

-Humor often requires a bloodless hostility: laughs usually come at the expense of something or someone.

-Affection is hard to express in writing without seeming like a sap.  A good way to do it is through indirection; write of facts, not feelings.  But choose the right facts.

-An actor who is frightened or angry or embarrassed is often encouraged not to stifle that emotion but to capture it and transform it into something useful.  Emotion is too valuable an asset to throw away.  This holds true for writing as well.

-In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


…How was your holiday weekend?  Was it eventful?
I laughed a lot and played games and watched some good television.
Did you see the inaugural?  It was a little silly how long the coverage went.  Did we really need to watch a limo going 3 miles per hour trundle down the street for an hour and a half?  I don’t think so.

…Tomorrow is Tuesday, a new, shortened week.  I’m excited. 
Are you?
…‎"We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accident, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be 'interesting' to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes some difference whether the naked woman is... about to commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest or is about to be, the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the human condition by the fireman in priest's clothing just visible in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phatasmagoria which is our actual experience." - Joan Didion, "The White Album"

"Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man." Nabokov

"If I read a book and it makes my body so cold that no fire can ever warm me body, I know it's poetry." Emily Dickinson

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are... Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in my pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return." Mary Jean Iron

"When we accept tough jobs as a challenge to our ability and wade into them with joy and enthusiasm, miracles can happen." Arland Gilbert

"I am an artist. I am here to live out loud." Emile Zola

"If you have made mistakes...there is always another chance for may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down." Mary Pickford

“The world is a wonderfully weird place, consensual reality is significantly flawed, no institution can be trusted, certainty is a mirage, security a delusion, and the tyranny of the dull mind forever threatens -- but our lives are not as limited as we think they are, all things are possible, laughter is holier than piety, freedom is sweeter than fame, and in the end it's love and love alone that really matters.”
― Tom Robbins

"All words are fingers pointing toward the moon." Rumi

"Prayer means that, in some unique way, we believe we're invited into a relationship with someone how hears us when we speak in silence." Anne Lamott

"Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up." Anne Lamott

"Even mushrooms respond to light." Anne Lamott

"What is remembered is what becomes reality." Patricia Hampl

Saturday, January 19, 2013


…I hope you are having the best weekend ever.
…The lake here has an even thicker sheath of ice.  Scattered rocks lie on the crust, unable to punch through after having been thrown by curious kids.
It’s a pretty sight.
…I have a new poem, “Things I Don’t Know About The Things I Know” up at Abramelin:
…This is one of the first stories I wrote when I began writing seriously three years ago:


One of my brothers went to Viet Nam, the other to prison.
My brother mailed sample rations across the country, or at least that’s what we were told.  We had them for dinner one night, each of us kids taking a portion.  It was pasty and dry, like mayonnaise-coated cardboard.  I did my best not to gag.  “See, how’d you like to live on this?” Mother asked.
            Because I’d seen it on the news, I knew soldiers died but I did not believe my brother could be killed.  When I pictured him over there I saw him lying on the ground, a sand bag for a pillow, helmet tipped for shade, smoking a cigarette and ordering privates and sergeants around.  When I saw an actual photograph of him, he was holding a gigantic bullet in both hands, the same way you’d hold a King salmon.  Behind him was a pyramid of identical shells, tall as a person.  In ink at the bottom of the photo it said: D.M.Z. Nam, 1970.
            When he returned he was sullen and odd.  My father told me not to ask any questions.  “It’s not easy being a man,” he said, and in bed that night and most nights that have followed, I wondered about such a statement.
            We met my other brother at the bus station upon his release from prison.  While we were waiting, I got the word terminal stuck in my head because of the greyhound logo on the outside of the building. 
I’d known him when I was a baby, but now I was nine, so it took my sister’s cackling to point him out.
            His hands were huge, thick and leathery.  He tousled my hair and squeezed the back of my neck too hard.  When I said, “Ouch,” he slapped me on the head and called me, “Pussy” and my dad chuckled.

            We were pouring cement for the foundation of a new garage.  Ours had burned down.  Arson, the inspectors said. 
            My brothers and I were father’s helpers.  My brothers actually knew what they were doing.  Me, I sat in the dirt, drawing shapes with a broken tree limb.  When my father asked for a tool or for a board to be held while he sawed, I assisted.
            For just an instant, I found myself alone with him.  My stomach juices sluiced, reminding me—as if I needed proof--that I wasn’t brave.  Still Dad and I were by ourselves, so I spat the words out the way you would if you’d just bitten into something spoiled or still alive.
            He stopped what he was doing and gawked.  The sun was out, a boiling hoop.  Grime rimmed my father’s eye sockets.  “Stop your fucking dreaming,” he told me.
            That was thirty years ago.  My brothers live in other places now.  Sometimes I call.  My father lives with a new wife.  Mine tells me to forget.  She says there’s still time to be a writer if I want.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


…Yesterday I finished “The Yellow Birds” by Kevin Powers, a wonderful talent.  His writing is reminiscent of Tim O’Brien, albeit a bit more literary.

He shows us the unvarnished reality of war and the havoc it wrecks.

Here are some excerpts:

"While we slept, the war rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground."

"We only pay attention to rare things, and death was not rare."

"I remember being told that the truth does not depend on being believed."

"A few city lights and the fires on the hillsides burned like a tattered quilt of fallen stars."

"Now I know: All pain is the same.  Only the details are different."

"Her grief was dignified and hidden, as is most grief, which is partly why there is always so much of it to go around."

"It reminded me of talking, how what is said is never quite what was thought, and what is heard is never quite what was said."

--Kevin Powers "The Yellow Birds"

The book is terrific.  I finished it in a day and a half.

…Here are some other things you might like:

"Anyone who has survived childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days." Flannery O'Connor

"You're crying; you say you've burned yourself.

But can you think of anyone who's

not hazy with smoke?"


"I've tried

to keep them close

as skin, rebuilt each one

in poem.  These are the darkest prayers

I own."

--Amelia Cook

"The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones." Chinese proverb

Monday, January 14, 2013


…I’m still getting used to posting via Mozilla Firefox.  It doesn’t allow much flexibility with formatting the text, but it’s the only way I can put up photos on the blog, so I’ll have to deal with it.

…I have a new story, “At the Far End of the Ocean” up at Blue Hour Magazine:

…The other day I wrote a story about a man who wants to sell a wedding ring at a pawn shop run by a widowed woman and her daughter.  The woman is mesmerized by the ring, but the daughter notices the man’s knuckles are pealed back and bloody, and that he has a blood stain on his boot.

I think it’s a pretty good story.  Anyway, I shipped it off to the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference contest.  I took first place last year.  I think this piece is better than the other, but we’ll see.  The Conference is in July.

I’m thinking of taking the basic premise of the story and expanding it into a novel.

…Yesterday the lake froze over completely except for a narrow sliver on the far east end, and there a flock of nearly one hundred geese plopped down in the chilly water, not really going anywhere or doing anything.  It was a pretty sight.

...Here are some things I like to start the week off:

"You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips." Oliver Goldsmith

"When dealing with the insane, the best method is to appear sane." Herman Hesse

"Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." Henry Ford

"What was hard to bear is sweet to remember." Portuguese proverb

"Writing is frustration — it’s daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It’s just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time." P. Roth

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.” Oscar Wilde

"May I kiss you then, on this miserable paper?  I might as well open the window and kiss the night air?" Kafka

"I need a crowd of people, but I can't face them day to day." Neil Young

“Writing is about getting people interested in what you’re interested in.” Tim Schulte

"Why don't you write books that people want to read?" A question from Edgar Allan Poe's wife to Edgar