Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

I feel as though I have been liberated.

I’ve been in with a cold pretty much since the year began.  Sorry to have gone quiet on you, but I can’t seem to write when I’m all hopped up on cold medicine.  Snuffling and under the influence, I find it impossible to remember how I started a sentence by the time I get to the end.  Either my sentences are too long or the Tylenol Severe Cold Formula has kicked in.  Whichever the case, I didn’t want to put you at risk.

But, all better now.

I’ve spent the past week nursing my shattered feelings as well my cruddy health.  The events in Tucson have left me stunned and speechless – a rare occurrence.

Of course my first reaction is, as always, thank heaven the lunatic was able to buy a gun.  Congrats to all those in congress who voted to end the ban on assault weapon sales in 2004.  Way to go.   Great idea.  Really worked out.  What’s next? Grenade launchers at Sears?

Those who are supposed to lead spend more time pandering to the lowest common denominator than governing or inspiring us to higher ideals.  It is sad that in the face of this gun related tragedy there is not enough courage among our alleged leaders to do anything about the problem.  If the guy had showed up with a knife instead of an assault weapon, how differently this might all have ended.

But even more than our refusal to address the corrupting influence of the gun lobby and all well funded special interest groups, I am more concerned with our interpretation of the first amendment than the second.  The sad events in Arizona have raised troubling questions about the tone of our national conversation.

The President has called for a more civil discourse.  There even seems to be some movement, a real effort on the part of many, to agree to disagree more agreeably.

Of course, the big quitter from Alaska is still determined not to lead — though hardly anyone’s asking her to since her formal refusal to do so at the state gubernatorial level.  I guess Grizzly-Pit-Bull-Moms do believe that their day has come, but they don’t believe in having the good manners to say “I’m sorry for rhetorically targeting you for assassination.”  It is a shame she doesn’t even possess the good taste to shut up about herself at someone else’s funeral.

I’m sure Quitter Palin will support my first amendment rights to call for someone to please blow her head off — with votes and the remote, of course, since declining television ratings would be worse for her than losing another election.  I know that she’d endorse my right to call for her desperately media hungry family to be chopped up into little pieces — by the critics, of course — and fed to the dogs of public opinion, all poetically speaking.  Isn’t that my right? And she doesn’t seem to mind what people say about her.  She’s been such a good sport so far – right, Mr. Letterman? Tina? Katie?

In fact, it’s not at all clear that the deranged young man in Tucson was inspired by the irresponsible words and oaths of those politician and pundits who are abusing their considerable power in office and the media.  It is interesting to me though, how quickly the topic came up and how much longer it has persisted than the story of the tragedy itself.

I continue to believe that we confuse the right to free speech with freedom from taking responsibility.  Shouting fire in a crowded theatre is NOT different than calling for an angry and heavily armed electorate to “reload” or saying that if ballots don’t work, bullets will.  Attaining the age of consent comes with rights AND responsibilities.  Calling for the assassination of anyone, metaphorically or otherwise, is calling for their assassination.  Calling Dr. Tiller “Tiller the Killer”, as one irresponsible television hack repeatedly did, was a key and undeniable element in the man’s recent assassination by domestic terrorists.

These don’t seem to be free speech issues to me.  Still, I’m not sure how I would want them enforced.  I suppose civil penalties seem the most likely, but that puts the burden on the victims.  Perhaps fines? But then who to enforce? I am more afraid of the return of McCarthyism than all the bombast on all the cable news channels.  I miss the old days of personal responsibility and editorial discretion that preceded the 24 hour news cycle.

I do still firmly believe that we need to reclassify prejudice and the irrational hatred of others as mental illness.  In fact, I think we could also broaden the definition to include ignorance.  I don’t think people suffering these maladies should be locked up or drugged or given shock treatment.  I’m not sure anyone but the most violently disturbed should be — the shooter in Tucson, for instance.  Ignorance and prejudice are undeniably mental conditions though and happily the cure for both is the same – education.

Meanwhile, I begin this New Year with hope.

I hope we will move toward a more civil discourse.  I hope that our leaders will do more leading and less pandering, baiting and posturing.  Most of all, I hope that as we demand our rights to free speech, or to keep and bear arms, or to petition the government for the redress of our grievances that we take up our responsibilities with equal fervor.

We can’t all just quit and get a gig on Fox.


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The road to hell is paved with good intentions and New Year’s resolutions.  Often in life, despite one’s best intentions and hard work, success or failure are determined more by fate or destiny than hope and tenacity.

A few years ago I went on a spiritual retreat.  It took place at a monastery in the hills above mission-rich Santa Barbara.  The mission has since burned down.  I think there’s a warning in there somewhere or at least excessive symbolism.

Anyways, as part of the guided experience, I was directed to write a letter to myself.  The letter was to be waiting for me at the retreat the following year.  Whether or not it was just a sales ploy to get me to re-up for another dose of zen, it struck me as an interesting and positive assignment.  I have always wished that I could speak to my younger self and tell him to be less afraid.  So, filled with the self-help élan born of the previous days of small group work, sharing, guided meditation and monk cooking, I wrote to myself in glowing terms about the year both ahead of and behind me in the meta moment.

I returned the following year.  My letter awaited me.  I tore it open — the assignment long forgotten — and read.  It was devastating.  The year had been a brutal series of defeats and disappointments on every front in my life.  The hope and optimism of my words were salt in the wounds reality had inflicted in the months since I had written them.

At the end of the retreat I was faced with the prospect of writing my future self another such letter.  My first impulse was to run screaming from the building.  Sadly, I’d ridden up with someone else, so dramatic exits were a bit impractical.

Instead, I gave it some thought and wrote myself a very different letter.  I didn’t attend another retreat.  The monastery burned down but the hosts saved my letter from the flames and mailed it to me the following year.

I ran across it recently.  It comes to mind as I consider formulating my resolutions for the coming year.  I commend it to you here as you consider the year ahead:

Dear Eric,

Remember to be thankful for who you already are and not sorrowful for who you are not yet.

There was much progress between this letter and the one which came before it, yet the last letter left you sad and disappointed over your fate..

It seems wiser to celebrate the unfolding of your life than to anticipate the happiness winking at you from the horizon.  One never knows the distance to the goals of life and it is the journey that takes all the time.

Enjoy the ride –

I love you and you are doing a great job,


All best wishes for a Happy and Prosperous New Year, unless you have other plans!


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The gumbo is simmering so I have a few minutes to check in on this most inauspicious of holidays – New Year’s.

I’m not a big fan.

Most of its alleged celebrations smack of desperation and amateur inebriation. In the end, there’s really nothing to celebrate. If we didn’t drop a crystal sphere and jump up and down, screaming when the clock strikes twelve, frankly, nothing would happen at all.

A new year begins every night – or morning, if you want to be technical – at 12:01.
The fact that the tax year ends on December 31st hardly seems to warrant the Rose Parade.

The last time I attempted to do anything on New Year’s, I went to Las Vegas for Y2K. The crowds were so oppressive and the wait for everything so long, that I left before midnight and was back on my little perch, listening to the shrieking on the Sunset Strip below me, at the big minute.

I prefer to have a few guests in on the Eve to eat the superstitious foods you’re supposed to consume for good luck, good health and good fortune. We eat gumbo and dirty rice, Hoppin’ Johns, collard greens and corn bread. We argue about which game to play. Some years we never play, we just argue. At midnight we watch Ryan Seacrest — and the increasingly inanimate Dick Clark — countdown their rerun from New York, pull the strings on our confetti poppers at the appointed moment and call it quits.

Don’t get me wrong. We have a nice time. I enjoy the company and I make the BEST gumbo in the world. But the same crowd could repeat the same ceremony sans Ryan and Dick, and have every bit as much fun on February 3rd. Maybe we should.

The desperation-inspiring part of New Year’s is that our taxes aren’t the only thing called to account at 12:01. The year’s eve, like birthdays, is a time for reflection. It is a moment to pause and compare myself to my expectations or just to where I was last year. That, for me at least, is one perilous chasm. Peering over the edge of one year into the unknown, from the ridge of disappointment that stretches back as far as I remember, can give New Year’s a fearsome edge if I’m not careful of my footing.

As with all views, where you’re standing makes all the difference.

I’m in particularly a good spot for this year’s soul searching minute. I’m looking to the New Year from atop a heap of years that have been anything but new. I’ve had pretty much the same year for the past five and I’m really ready for a NEW, New Year.

I think that’s hope. I can’t think of a better viewpoint from which to take in the broad expanse of the future that stretches before me. Maybe it’s just desperation in fancy dress, but I feel like, come what may, up is the only direction available to my fortunes. So, I guess that’s my New Year’s message as we bid farewell to 2010: Cheer up, next year has GOT to be better than this.

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Thanksgiving challenges my better self.

It’s been a tough year.  My life has not been what I’d hoped for a lot longer than just since the banks robbed us to pay off their gambling debts.

When times are hard it’s hard to find things that I’m thankful for in my life.  I’ve kind of given up on dating.  I haven’t sold a book in a long time.   I’m faced with the prospect of looking for work in ten percent plus unemployment as a partially blind, fifty one year old man whose skills include clever, some philosophy and acting.  I’ve written a series of books that I can’t get agents excited about and the publishers for whom I’ve written successes and best sellers in the past are MIA and likely looking for work themselves.  My prayers have not been answered this year or in any in recent memory.

My mood would not best be characterized as thankful.  I get the sense that I’m not alone these days.  I manage to stay in good spirits for the most part.  If you came by the house and searched, you’d be hard pressed to find the tough year I had.

And then Thanksgiving comes along and calls the question.

My first reaction is to place the back of my hand dramatically on my forehead and demand of the ceiling – cause that’s where god is, don’t you know – “What do I have to be thankful for?”

God doesn’t answer those kinds of prayer from me either.  Let me know if you get different results.  I’ve got a few questions I’m dying to get answers for.

Meanwhile, I’m faced with this holiday that puts my screwed up life right in my face.  Inevitably, as I lamented my pitiful state, I started to think of the pilgrims and those hats with the buckles on them and their dinner with the native people they probably ended up screwing over until the casino opened to even the score.

Those first at the table a couple hundred years ago were celebrating because they hadn’t starved to death or died from exposure.  Woo-hoo! That’s really what they were celebrating.  They were still alive.

When was the last time I celebrated that?

I think that maybe I start my thank you list too far along to get any real traction.  I tend to be thankful when I get what I want, but “Woo-hoo, I’m still alive and anything’s possible” is not where my mind goes when I think about gratitude.

I’m not only alive, I’m in great health and great shape.  I’m still a little too well fed, in fact, but I’ve managed to move down two sizes since this past Memorial Day weekend, thank you very much.  I’m kind of looking forward to eating what I want.  I’m taking the big day off the diet – something else to be thankful for.   And I’m crazy about the friends I’m having Turkey with, so there’s that.

Times are tough but I’ve managed, even just barely, to keep body and soul together, so far.  Not everyone can say that.  I didn’t do it the way I’d have picked, but it still happened.  Maybe my prayers were kinda sorta answered.

But most of all I’m alive.  That’s the big gift from which all others flow.  There was less around to distract those at the first Thanksgiving from that big blessing and maybe with less around, I can see it better, too.

It’s been a bad year in paradise.  We’re a little bruised following our greed orgy but we still have the two ingredients that make everything else possible:  Hope and Life.

That’s something even an ingrate like me can be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Thank you for reading my blog.  It means a lot to me.  I’m truly thankful for you.


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I think I have a solution for this rather ridiculous debate we’re having over taxes.

To me it seems obvious that if you’re in debt, you need to raise money.  Sadly, the way the government does that is through taxation.  On the plus side, most of us in this country enjoy a standard of living that exceeds the wildest fantasies of Louis XIV.  And I’m not talking about the rich people.

Just electricity or running water or sewage provide us a better life than kings and queens have lived throughout most of history not to mention better than the majority of the present day population the in most of the rest of the world.  In fact, we used to have the best of everything.  The best schools, the best roads, the best healthcare, the best transportation, we were number one.

Apparently the best of everything was a problem for some people.  So, thirty years ago we started toying with the idea of not paying our bills and living on a kind of collective platinum card.  We fell out of first place in a lot of categories, like education. But who needs smart people in a service economy, right? Our heritage days lasted about ten years, by then the economy was thrashed.  It took the previous President Bush and us another ten years to get back in the black and pay the national charge card back down.  We even had a surplus.

So, being Americans, we not only stopped paying our bills again we took that platinum card with the zero balance out and we did some serious damage – mostly to other countries, but we were definitely on a spree.

Now, the bill’s due again.  But here’s the interesting wrinkle.  There are apparently a lot of people who still don’t want to pay their bill.

Here’s my solution.

I got the idea recently from a man who refused to pay a tax for fire service to be provided to his rural area home.  He thought it wasn’t fair so, since it was optional, he refused to pay.  Then, his house caught on fire.  It burned down.  But, think of all the money he saved not by not paying that fire service tax! I’m sure he was very happy with his decision.

I think it’s an idea that we can make work on a larger scale.

Since so many people seem unconcerned that we aren’t number one at much of anything anymore, we should offer second class status to all those people who don’t want to pay taxes and are content with second or third or fifteenth best.  I’m a firm believer in the “you get what you pay for” philosophy so why not give people what they’re willing to pay for?  No one makes anybody buy first class tickets, even though we know the seats are more comfortable and the service is better.

So, let’s do the same with taxes.

For those who want to opt out of closing the party trough by keeping those surplus era tax cuts that have run up the family platinum card, we should offer discount citizenship.

Those of us who want healthcare and social security and education can pay our taxes.  And those who don’t are on their own.  Think of how we could clear out those overcrowded classrooms if we could eliminate the children of those people who think taxes are so unfair.  Clogged roads and highways? No problem.  Don’t pay your taxes and simply walk or drive off road.  Think of what a breeze it would be to get to work.  Long security lines at the airport? Not to worry, second class Americans won’t be at the airport at all.

Terrorist threats? Good luck with that.  Security is for the First Class Citizen.  Those who choose to live in Second Class America can break out those second amendment remedies I’ve heard so much about.

We would only have to insure the bank accounts of those people who want an FDIC enough to pay their taxes.  The police would only have to attend to crimes against those willing to pay for protection.  Think of how fast the ambulance could get to your house with the roads cleared and second class American’s on their own to get to their witch doctors through the woods.  Or the Fire Department, or the mail or even commercial services unable to use the tax payer’s First Class roads to deliver their goods to those unwilling to pay.

There would be so much more flu vaccine to go around if we only had to insure there was enough for the First Class Tax Payers.  Medical and technological advances would just be for First Class.  Those in Second Class who wanted the internet or computers or medical advances from government funded research would have to pay for the research first.

If you want goods or services as a second class American you would either pay as you go or wait until the rest of us are served.

That horrible debt? Well, those people who don’t want to pay for it collectively should just be assigned their share to settle up with the Chinese as best they can.

And civil rights, I wonder how much we should charge for those?

The advantages seem clear.  Those who choose to live in Second Class America will be free to keep their taxes and their standard of living low.  And for those who want a First Class America, we can pay for the privilege of living in a country that offers us the best of everything.



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The very word veteran has come to mean experienced and deserving of respect when applied to any profession.  The veteran actor, waiter, chef, seamstress are those to whom we turn, on whom we can depend, in whom we trust in any profession.  That implied meaning of respect was earned for the approbation “veteran” by those for whom the term was coined more than five hundred years ago: soldiers.

I remain in awe of those who would choose to put themselves in harm’s way on my behalf.  We are all leading the lives that we lead because there are those in our history – recent and distant – who are willing to die for the rest of us and what we all say we believe.  The American Century, as this past one is called by us at least, is one in which we reluctantly stepped onto the world stage and took on the mantle of leadership held by other older countries for many centuries before.

We are a superpower today not because of the bombast of the loud mouths who run for office and make wars, but for the small, individual sacrifices of too many people to thank.

So today, on the day that the peace accords were signed in the “War to End all Wars,” we choose instead to celebrate not hollow victories or bloody battles but the people whose work every day makes everything else possible.

Today, I would also like to pay special tribute to those who choose to stand up for a country that did not stand up for them.  I salute the black men who fought and died in a segregated army in World War II.  I take my hat off the Japanese Americans who fought for this country while their families were in internment camps back home.  I  pay tribute to the brave women who fought for the right to fight for mine and today leave behind traditional “second class” roles for the honor of facing death to protect us all.  And today I especially honor those men and women who must deny who they are and who they love to defend a country that asks them to lie as part of their duty.

Don’t ask Don’t Tell compromises the honor of all concerned by asking good men and women to lie to protect the feelings of bigots.  What it does not do is prevent these honorable gay soldiers from stepping up to serve their country with bravery and distinction.

We are a country founded on high ideals.  In many ways we aren’t there yet.  But we get closer all the time.  Sometimes it’s legislation that moves us along.  Sometimes landmark court rulings bring us closer to liberty and justice for all.  Sometimes we have had had to fight for those rights on real, not just ideological, battlefields.  But sometimes it is the small personal acts of bravery like taking a seat at the front of the bus or serving in honor and in silence that advance the lives of us all.

It’s easier to see and reward acts of bravery and sacrifice on the battlefield and it’s worth doing.  But that’s not what Veteran’s Day is about.  Today is set aside to celebrate all those men and women willing to make the choice, despite the risk, despite the prejudice, despite the hardship to those they care about most, to advance the causes great and small that make us a better people.

In our quest to be the best that we seek to be, we would be hard pressed to find a better example than our veterans.

Thank you for your service, not just the ones we can see and hang a medal on, but for serving as models of our best selves and leading us toward those ideals that we say we hold to be self evident.


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Something is really wrong with fashion design.

I went out to get something to wear on my birthday a while back and I found that I was an XL.  I’m pushing five foot seven and at my roundest, I had a 33 inch waist.  I could stand to lose a few pounds, I have in fact, but extra large? Who are designers making clothes for?

It seems to me that the hallmark of good design of any kind is, working with what you’ve got and making the best of it.  I wouldn’t be much of an architect if I could only design buildings that looked great on level, perfectly square lots.  In fact I’d be kind of a hack.

Yet in fashion, we hail as genius, folks whose clothes only look good on people who could wear garbage bags with duct tape accessories and look amazing.

With blessed few exceptions, fashion designers are no longer making clothes that make people look good.  Most designers seem to be working with Jenny Craig and the cosmetic surgery industry to make us feel bad about ourselves, not good about their clothes.  I saw a commercial recently featuring Vera Wang – she’s a noted fashion designer for those who don’t care.  In the ad she says that what she values is good design above all things.  Her words voice over a series of shots of perfect looking people rocking what can only be described as thrift store costume wear.

Nothing wrong with thrift store costume wear, I’ve got plenty, just ask the folks at my 10th high school reunion.  But in the Vera ad there was no “design” involved and again the models would have looked great in anything, especially with hair, makeup and lighting.

Maybe I’m late to the topic, but it seems to me “supermodel” syndrome has overtaken fashion.  Rather than buying clothes that make us look good, we feel we much change ourselves to look good in the clothes that were designed by these hacks.  I know there’s the delusion that we will look like the guy painted on the wall in Times Square or the lady on the cover of Vogue, but often times, even they don’t look like that.  Their bodies are more the product of retouch than real life.

I don’t know about women’s fashion mags, but GQ, Esquire, Details and their ilk not only need to ramp up their dreadful editorial (Andrew Goldman’s work is a welcome exception), but they might want to rethink their definition of fashion.  Their pages are peopled by young men who will graduate from high school any day now — if that tape worm doesn’t get them first — wearing suits they will not be able to afford until their parents die and leave them everything.  They look great.  They also look great in jeans and sweatshirts, their old Boy Scout Uniforms and their Sponge Bob PJs.  They are however the only ones who would look great in high water suit pants and three button jackets.

This month’s Details magazine features fisherman’s coats with rope toggle buttons (remember those from grade school?) and shoes that look like they came out of a bin at the Goodwill as their fashion forward for the season.  While it may be fashionable to have beat up shoes and to still look good in a kindergarten coat, it does not offer much in the way of design.

I despair for the fashion industry.  We are either doomed to look like Maoist China with everyone in the same jeans and chambray shirt or to be victims of the sort of thinking that had Mayan parents hang beads before their babies faces to make them cross-eyed because it was fashionable.

I haven’t seen that Project Runway show that’s so popular with my people.  Perhaps there is a new generation of designers coming who are talented enough to design clothes that make actual people look good, not just mannequins.  If not, there is a fortune to be made by the person who has the strength of character to withstand the Emperor’s New Clothes design school that has taken over fashion, the vision to remember what true purpose of fashion design and the skill to make us look good again.

Or maybe we just need to invent cosmetic health insurance.



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Back in the before times, there was a movie called Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

For many, it was just this creepy movie about some alien race taking over by replacing us, one by one, with duplicate, alien versions.  Many also saw it as allegorical for the prevailing cold war mentality of the time.  We were faced with the daily threat of the ideological opposition of a strange and mysterious force – Communism and the countries that espoused it’s evil philosophy of equality and social and financial equity.  Scary, right?

The movies of the day reflected our fear.  They were filled not only with sinister aliens, but dastardly villains with mildly German accents and murky Anti-American agendas.  In each, outside forces sought to despoil the American dream.  Everything from The Day the Earth Stood Still to North by Northwest, make a case for the theory.

So, what’s up with all the zombies?

Movies, TV shows, even poor Jane Austen are being overrun by hoards of the living dead.  I don’t really get zombies.  I like Bond Villains.  Brilliant, driven, lots to say.  But zombies? Mindless eating machines motivated only by the basest and most obvious desires.  Dullsville.

I was hiding out from the annual Halloween invasion of my neighborhood last weekend.  Something like a half million people in masks show up each year to take over the small town in the middle of Los Angeles where I live.  I’ve never minded standing in front of a crowd but I’ve never been a big fan of being part of one.  It may just be that I’m short and can’t see where I am when I’m surrounded by a crowd, but it freaks me out.  Also, I’ve done enough acting that costume and makeup sounds like work to me.  So, on Halloween I stock up on can goods and hide out in my apartment till the crowd subsides or someone at least offers me scale and a good script.

In honor of my annual siege, I Tivoed a lot of scary movies.  Some were recent and so they had zombies in them.  I didn’t really enjoy them much.  I did a fair amount of “speed watching” which involves just leaving the playback in fast-forward mode until I see something that looks like it might advance any plot there might be.  I watch that at normal speed, backing up, if necessary to pick up any salient details, and then back to “speed watch.”

I was pretty bored.  Since the film makers hadn’t bothered to give me anything to think about, I started thinking about my question:  What’s with the zombies? Why do so many current films and books and TV shows include zombies, the dullest and least nuanced of villains?

Then it hit me.

We have a new common enemy.  It’s not Osama.  We don’t even seem interested in catching him anymore.  And there’s the vague threat of terrorism that’s given rise to an increase of Muslim hatred, but anti-semite prejudice isn’t really anything new.  Our new enemy is us.  We hate each other.  The evil empire of the east has been replaced by open contempt and disrespect for one another.  This past political campaign was the most uncivil I’ve ever seen.  It was even worse than the one before.

There are whole networks devoted to hating and saying the most vicious things possible about those who disagree with them.  People are taking guns to appearances by the President.  We’ve stopped calling the President the President, referring to him simply as Bush or Obama.  The airwaves are clogged with reality shows that allow us to look down on and celebrate the humiliation of others.

We have met enemy and it is us.

Without a common outside threat, we have come to hate each other.  Increasingly polarized, we trust and care about one another less and less.  Health care? Who wants to offer aid and comfort to the enemy? We lock our doors, get into our armored SUV tanks and protect ourselves from the evil that surrounds, threatens and looks just like us.

Sounds like the people in a zombie picture to me.

What zombie pictures offer is the chance to blow the heads off the mindless idiots without consequence.  It is a chance to enjoy unspeakable violence against people who are otherwise our neighbors and fellow citizens.  Their mindless, single minded drive for something that we find repellent and threatening justifies the most extreme reprisals.

That makes all of us, someone else’s zombie.  I wonder if we will ever be able to evolve past the need for a common enemy.  I grew up in the 60’s and though the cold war wasn’t over, it seemed to me as though there was a rise in the unifying desire for the common good.

I wonder if that’s what’s next? Can we replace the need for a common enemy to a desire for the common good as what unites us?

I hope so.  I’m really sick of all the zombies.


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For those of you who’ve been wondering – I hope – the re-release of Say Uncle progresses.

Just for the record, on the overwhelming advice of those who had an opinion the last time I wrote about this here, I did not re-type the book.

For those who don’t remember or didn’t read the previous post:

Say Uncle, my first novel is no longer in print thanks to the evil machinations of publishing.  That is, the original editor moved to a different house.  His replacement, to prove that his was longer, cut my novel in favor of the nonfiction work of someone in the, at the time, unheard of profession of blogging! There was some pretense that they wanted to avoid “conflicting” titles on the same topic, but my editor’s replacement eventually manned up and alluded to things and staff changing.

Fast forward to today.  I’m experimenting with the emerging new world of electronic publishing.  Traditional publishing seems increasingly interested in only publishing books that relate to movies, TV, reactionary right wing politics or Oprah.  These subjects employ the strange modern technique called advertising as yet untried in the publishing field.  I mean, why try promoting your product when you can add sea monsters and zombies to the well known works of authors dead so long you don’t have to pay them? Right?

Since I’m still alive – just barely – and hope one day to be paid so I can eat and stuff, I’m striking out on my own and testing the ePublishing waters by re-releasing Say Uncle as an eBook.  The advantage is that Say Uncle is out of print and I’ve already written the sequel that my replacement editor passed on when he dumped me in favor of that blogger! Sniff. Sob.

The only problem with the Say Uncle Redux was that it was written in the before times way back in the 90’s and I have no final digital file.  I was planning to re-type it and said so here to the hue and cry of those who thought the endeavor madness.

“Scan, scan, you fool.  Have you not heard of OCR?” or words to that effect met my sentimental rhapsodizing over the experience of revisiting my own words from long ago Eric.  Well I’m nothing, if not lazy, so I figured what the hell, right?

My computer genius Brett could not cause the scanner I actually own to work with my computer despite the fact that both are manufactured by the same company.  Don’t computer and software companies just make you want to get some pitchforks, torches and villagers together for a little rampage?

Brett, or Sir Brett as he shall be heretofore known, pulled a Galahad and took a copy to some undisclosed scanner.  He returned in less than a day with the whole thing on a thumbnail drive.  And poof, my troubles began.

Delighted as I am that I did not have to re-type the bloody manuscript, scanning is not quite the miracle labor saving device it might at first appear.  True, the book is scanned.  Sadly, none of the formatting scanned with it.  No paragraph returns, no quote marks, and if e looks too much like c then Sean becomes Scan, and let’s not talk about seat.  Spell check can only go so far and it becomes all about editing.  But I didn’t have to re-type!

I’m working with an expert on formatting books for ePublication.   Next week I should have Say Uncle in a form that I can edit before I convert it to the form it needs to be in order to translate successfully to the eFormat.  Whew.

So, new book soon.  I’ll let you know.


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I recently saw a news report about hearing damage being cause by excessive iPod use.  One of the people interviewed said something like, without the musical stimulation of their digital music box, life was flat and boring.

Quickly,  I rushed to judgment.

“There is more sensory input available from walking down a country lane on a calm day than in all the music created since the beginning of time combined,” I thought.  “Stupid teenagers,” I added for good measure before contemplating how great Brian Williams looks.  Sigh.

Then I watched an evening of television or looked around on the internet for items of interest — socially redeeming and otherwise – played a computer game, read a book or generally did anything I could to escape from the reality of my life.  Now I’m not the center of the world, but my life is pretty swell.

Still, I would rather spend an afternoon playing FreeCell or updating my Netflix Queue than actually being present where I am.  Try to sit quietly doing nothing for an hour, I dare you.  No eating or drinking, just sitting.  It’s crushing somehow.

What is that? It’s like a vacuum.  It’s as though I live on a grand stage on which I perform the most petty and menial of tasks.   Life is like playing Chopsticks at Carnegie Hall.

Now, I’ve no patience with people who whine about being bored.  Yet I’m not certain that filling my hours with The Sims isn’t just an active form of boredom.  The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we shall all be as happy as kings, Robert Louis Stevenson tells us.  I’ve always been given to understand he spent most of his childhood bedridden.  True or not, the idea that someone confined to bed might be able to see how full-up life is seems to beg the point.

We the bored have no one to blame but ourselves.

When I say I’m bored, what I usually mean is that I am too lazy to do anything to amuse myself or, god forbid, anyone else.  I choose instead to sit and lament that no one in life is bashing in my door with a heartfelt urge to entertain me.  With the exception of those trapped in some non-life-threatening prison, I can’t help but think that, for the rest of us, boredom is merely a lack of effort or imagination.

One of the worst fates I can conceive is to be paralyzed, unable to move or speak, but fully conscious.  Every man must choose for himself (or perhaps have the Senate decide for him on a holiday weekend), but please feel free to pull the plug on me in such circumstances.

Why is my own company so fearsome?

I will spend more time with me than with anyone else.  As a single person who works at home, I spend most of my time on my own.  I spend so much time by myself, it has become challenging for me to visit family or friends.  When I am staying at someone else’s home, there is always someone else there.  Yet, ask me to drive the car without music playing and I will give you the launch codes without resistance or argument.

We are quick to think our civilization evolved or even advanced.  The idea of third world or emerging cultures originates from our presumption of superiority.  But we are helpless in the face of the truth of our lives.  We have created a construct for existence and filled it up with enough fish plates, salad forks and iCrap to consume every moment of existence with our self-imposed ceremonies of triviality.   We bristle at the thought of being deprived of our portable phones, yet cower at the idea of speaking to the strangers of whom we thoughtlessly inflict our conversations and blinding text screens.

Every day I’m offered newer and faster ways to fill each precious passing hour of my dance, all to brief, across a stage made of stardust into oceans and skies and forests and clouds and everything between them.

I live in the most culturally diverse city on earth.  Over a hundred languages are spoken here.  There are millions of people in this city that sprawls over thousands of square miles of amazing real estate.  The roads are jammed with people on their way to the countless occupations that fill our days and nights.  We clog the freeways to get arrive and escape.  We literally manufacture fantasy here to distract the world from the death row wait that life can so easily seem.  Yet I am surrounded by people who can find nothing to do.

In the midst of it all, I check Facebook to see if anything has happened since I last logged on.  I judge my life by the number of pictures I’ve taken of myself doing things instead of enjoying my life doing the things pictured.

Am I living my life if there’s not a TV special about it yet?

Am I bored or am I just unwilling to make the effort?

The problem may not be that I have too few options, but too many.  Boredom, it seems, is a privilege afforded to those few in life who suffer the burden of choice.


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