The word abides

My affection for the word “dude” has increased with age. I had thought that my love of the word was simply related to my western migration, but I’ve been kicking around the West Coast for about a decade now, and the word “dude” continues to abide, increasingly infiltrating my vocabulary.

When I pause to think about it, the range of the word “dude” is truly staggering, particularly given that it tends to be such a chill, low-key word. One curious form that “dude” takes is as sort of a pause, a preparation for what’s next. As in “Dude, you’re gonna want to tune in to what’s coming next, cause it’s kind of a Big Deal.” And one might respond, in turn, with an affirmative “dude,” a sort of call and response that signals “I’m with you, dude, please proceed.” Read more

Writing around the labyrinth

About a week ago, I jumped into one of my book projects, first thing in the morning. I had stopped working on my “serious writings,” as the first thing, for a variety of reasons, among them the fact that I tend to check the news, sort my emails, respond to online comments, etc. The labyrinth, though, is endless.

Starting out with the world wide web had sort of become a habit, without me really thinking about it, until a week ago, when I started in on one of my book projects, before any kind of activity on the world wide weblings. It went well….And Jon looked at all he had done, and behold it was very good….

I had forgotten how good it feels to start in on a serious writing project, right away in the morning, when the mind is most fresh, when the brain is less fragmented. It was something I knew but had not practiced. Having not practiced, it sort of slipped the mind. Not to put too fine a point on it, or to wax too philosophically, but life is, in large part, an effort in remembering and doing what we already know.

Being white, being black

I’ve recently been writing about my experiences in Africa and India during my seven month stint abroad in 2013-14. My writing over the last few weeks has focused on my experience of realizing that I was white. It’s not that I didn’t know my own skin color, in the technical sense, but it didn’t matter to me, and because it didn’t matter, my whiteness was irrelevant and hence unrealized.

While volunteering in Tanzania, I quickly learned to become aware of the color of my skin, or more to the point, I learned that I couldn’t escape the color of my skin. My skin color was economic, my whiteness meant something: I either had money or else I had access to money. My whiteness defined the nature of my experiences with other people and shaped my whole being. Read more

Game of Thrones

Having recently concluded the last episode in the most recent season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, my enthusiasm seems to know no bounds. I’m ready to declare it the best damn thing I’ve ever watched, of all time. Then again, I’m fresh off the adrenaline rush, so I’ll hold off in making such sweeping declarations. Read more

life being what it is

My blog has a new name! Yesterday I sat down with a coffee from the Coffee Cat, a great little coffee shop in the Santa Cruz Mountains. With some white noise by way of a few high school students chatting in a steady, ceaseless stream about their high school drama, I worked on updating my site, and you can read all about it here, on my new About page.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Murakami is a Japanese author and one of the world’s most celebrated novelists. In fact, I’ve just started his magnum opus, 19Q4, and so far I’m hooked. His nonfiction work on running, however, left me wanting more. It’s a shame, too, because I had high expectations.

I love running. After several years off, I ran a half-marathon, and I’m keen to do more in the future. If that weren’t enough, I have a fiction project myself, in the back of my mind, about a runner, which was one reason I wanted to read Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningRead more

Humpday Homily #5 – Repentance

I’m finally watching Game of Thrones. Better late than never. It’s an epic series, as most will tell you, seemingly on pace to hit the level of a true “classic,” like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or who knows, maybe it will gain the moment and cult following that will give it the kind of scope that the Star Wars franchise has. We’ll see.

Game of Thrones also represents the latest in the explosion of a relatively new film genre: TV episodes that form a series. HBO pioneered the genre with The Sopranos, using the medium of television to tell a story, something that feels almost readable, something that goes deep and wide, just like a good novel. And the time commitment required to watching a season of Game of Thrones or The Sopranos is about the same as reading a novel. Read more

When your writing really makes a big splash

Here’s a bit of evocative writing for you, from a recent article I was reading:

“At a candidate forum in Flint, where the water is still not drinkable according to many residents, El-Sayed seemed to make a big splash.”

Describing a candidate’s success in Flint as “a big splash” is an evocative form of writing that adds a wry, comical twist. Personally I can’t get enough of this sort of thing, but a writer does have to be careful because not everyone loves puns and plays on words. Take it too far and you risk groans and eye-rolls, and to more serious minds your writing might sound cheesy and contrived.

If I have to err, though, I prefer to err on the side of evocation and humor. Writing drained of evocation and humor is generally only suited for academic papers and training manuals. In short, I’d rather my writing make a splash than to cause hardly a ripple.

P.S. Abdul El-Sayed is a fascinating progressive candidate worth following. He’s a Muslim running for governor in the swing state of Michigan.

Source: ‘The new Obama’: will Abdul El-Sayed be America’s first Muslim governor? | US news | The Guardian

Back to blogging

I’d been blogging like a fiend for about six weeks, then suddenly nothing, until this post. I didn’t realized how much my blogging depended on my smartphone until my smartphone began to die, a few weeks back. At first I thought it was the battery, because the power would drain fast and take a long time to charge. So, new battery. When that didn’t work I ended up getting a new phone, well, new for me. I picked up a refurbished version of the phone I have been using for a few years, the ole Samsung Note 3.

The Samsung Note 3 was the phone that everyone started calling a “phablet” a few years back. (Is it a phone? Is it a tablet? It’s both!) Big phones are the norm now, but a few years back the Note 3 looked and felt like way too much, so people would send them back, and because there were so many models sent back, I picked up a refurbished model of the Note 3, for cheap.

Now that I’ve been reconnected to the virtual world, I can blog again, but without the smartphone, it just doesn’t happen. Blogging just becomes another writing exercise where I stare at the blank page and blink and find myself thinking of a half-dozen things that I’d rather be doing.

For me, regular blogging seems dependent on the smartphone, beginning with saving ideas for posts. I use the phablet to jot down ideas when I’m out and about, then when I sit down at a respectable keyboard, I only have to polish them up for the blog. I usually have as many as a dozen thoughts in the que that I can use for blogging, so that when I actually get to a proper keyboard to peck them out, it usually goes pretty fast.

Generating the ideas is a big part of it, but equally as important is that these days I use my phone as a hotspot for most of my Internetting. So, no phone, no internet. No internet, no blogging. Using my data as a hotspot has worked well in this part of Alaska where Internet isn’t so easy to come by. Most other forms of connectivity or wireless phones are pretty sketchy, but Verizon is remarkably reliable, the best for Internetting in this area. So, I do my part to keep feeding the corporate beast, but it keeps me blogging.

Mike’s Hippie Friends Come To Visit | YouTube

As a writer and a leftist, I have always found All In The Family to be an intriguing sitcom. The show crammed together very different generational perspectives under one roof, together in one family. From a storytelling perspective, the show didn’t seek to make a point so much as to lay out the different perspectives, as in this episode where Mike’s hippie friends come to visit and Archie won’t let them sleep together in his house because they aren’t married.

I’m not saying that All In The Family didn’t have a particular angle or perspective, but rather that each side could identify with one or the other of the characters, while simultaneously laughing at the ones they didn’t agree with. Many artists (myself included) tend to feel compelled to take a side and make the point clear, but there’s something intriguing when a writer is able to bring together very different perspectives and put them in tension with each other.

No Photos, Please

I’m a David Sedaris fan, and I’m looking forward to purchasing his newest book Theft by Finding. I will do so this Saturday, this Saturday and no sooner. No sooner but no later.

I have to wait until this Saturday, because I want to listen to the audiobook (Sedaris himself is also a lover of audiobooks), because the pleasure of a David Sedaris book is increased exponentially when you listen to the author read it. Unfortunately I am all out of Audible.com credits, which is important because one book usually costs one credit. I’m an Audible.com Gold Member, but my allotted credits have all run out — I burned through the 12 yearly allotted credits last spring, plus the extra three I purchased after the first 12 ran out — and I don’t want to buy the book at full price, not when I can wait until Saturday, because this Saturday is the big day, the day when my Gold Member membership renews, and I get loaded, loaded up with another 12 credits (which I hope last me at least 9 months, if I exercise great self-control).

In the meantime, while cruising through some of my writing notes, I happened upon this random bit of David Sedaris hilarity. It sort of sums up the off beat sense of humor I most appreciate about his writing:

If anything should be bracketed by matching bookends, I suppose it’s an author tour. The ones I’d undertaken in the past had begun in one independent or chain store, and ended, a month or so later, in another. The landscape, though, has changed since then, and it’s telling that on my ’08 tour I started and finished at a Costco….
Shoppers passed with their enormous carts, most loaded with children who gaped through the bars at this ridiculous nobody, sitting by himself at a folding table. Making it just that much more pathetic was the sign next to me, the big one reading “No Photos, Please.”

Writing with no context, isn’t it glorious?

I’ve been posting a lot, like, on the daily, which is possibly more than I’ve posted ever in my life, even at the peak of my blogging days way back when I had my Theos Project blog. It’s becoming something of a blogging blitzkrieg, which is kind of surprising, frankly, since I’d thought I’d kind of given up on blogging.

So, why this blizzard of blog posts?

Read more

On Being All Political And Shit

Over the last year, my approach and attitude toward politics has evolved. That’s probably true for most of us. A year ago, I was engaged and optimistic about the possibility that Bernie might beat the liberal establishment and make a serious run at the White House. I was in McCarthy, Alaska a year ago, and I went to a Democratic caucus where something like fifteen people showed up, which may not sound like much to you, but McCarthy is a remote community that is literally at the end of the road, way out in bush Alaska, so fifteen people represents roughly half of the winter population. The caucus turned into a party.

But then the establishment struck back and Bernie got booted out, and since then, our political situation has only devolved in a downward spiral of outrage and cultural dysfunction. The worse it gets, the more I find myself single-pointedly posting politically. I can’t help myself.

I don’t apologize for filling my social media with political shit, but it’s odd because I’m not sure that I like it that way. I’d like to broaden my horizons a bit. For example, I’m a new author, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, trying to build a writing career and publish a novel. So from a marketing perspective I know that I should be posting stuff that’s more neutral, less politically charged, in an effort to broaden my influence among potential readers. I know this, intellectually, but it doesn’t stop me. I’m undeterred, day after day posting on politics and power and socialism and, of course, Trump. Is it possible to break out?

Read more

Putting a damper on things

I often experience a flush of satisfaction in the middle of a good book, and because I have a mild case of eye-strain, most of the books I read these days are audio books.

I enoy reading and writing at the public library in Brunswick, and I don’t get there enough, I reckon. They have study rooms, nice work areas, and a helpful and cheerful staff (cheerful, at least, by librarian standards). They even have a fire room. That’s right, they even have couches in a great room with rugs and wood working and a high ceiling all centered around a roaring, crackling fire. Outside of Maine, I’ve never seen such a thing.

It was in this room that I felt that warm satisfaction that comes from my lifelong craving for story and appreciation for information. I walked swiftly to the restroom and at the door took out my earbuds and tossed them over my shoulder. This was a mistake.

While standing before the open mouth of the toilet, the earbuds worked themselves down my shoulder, slowly and unnoticed, until they eventually slid off entirely. I have pretty good reflexes, so I caught them, but not before the earbuds passed through my stream of urine.

It took some time to clean things up, but it’s a lesson learned, and after all, I had more of my book to look forward to.

“I came to ruefully and bemusedly understand that once you’re a Catholic, you’re always a Catholic…This was the world where I found the beginnings of my song. In Catholicism, there existed the poetry, danger and darkness that reflected my imagination and my inner self. I found a land of great and harsh beauty, of fantastic stories, of unimaginable punishment and infinite reward.” ~ Bruce Springsteen