Thursday, August 30, 2007

The M Zone

Among other things I have been writing fiction since my youth. At a certain point in time I had determined to become a significant writer, studying all of the great fiction writers of the modern era, and striving to find my own voice. As I applied myself to the craft I eventually found myself creating works in which I could find a certain amount of satisfaction.
The fiction markets proved difficult to penetrate unfortunately. Even when winning a fiction competition or two, I found myself unable to see my works in print. Without a reader, the writer feels a sense of futility, for there has been a great deal of sacrifice made, and a deep pouring out of oneself in one's best works.

Alas, the world wide web emerged, and I what a wonderful gig it was. As soon as I could master the basic skills, I produced a website where I could begin to share my unpublished stories, poetry and some of my best articles that have appeared in print.

Today, stories I have written have been translated into French, Russian and Croatian. These and other works can be discovered on my website at

But even more thrilling was having two of my stories transformed into screenplays, Episode on South Street and this one, The M Zone. The former actually became a short film which was shared at the Great Lakes Horror/Suspense Film Festival to much fanfare, and this latter which unfolded into three screenplay variations. Though never produced, it was quite satisfying to see the story captured or re-invented in this manner.

Here is the beginning of my story. Follow the link to enjoy the rest of it.

The revelation came suddenly. Like an "Aha!"... only it was an "Oh no!"

Richard Busby slumped into his chair, leaned his head back and stared off into space, attempting to make himself deaf to what he was hearing. "This is verified?" he asked, referring to the data in a report that had fallen from his hand.

"Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir," Dr. Frey, Director of R&D, said.

Busby's brain was numb. Even though he begun to suspect it, had himself experienced the effects, he had remained in denial. "Do you realize what this means?" Busby asked.

Frey nodded, the small, thin line of mouth grimly expressionless. His dark eyes scanned the desktop and came to rest on the latest Forbes, which featured the ten most significant men of the first half of the 21st century. There, alongside Bill Gates, the world's first trillionaire, was Richard Busby, developer of the M Zone.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Heartbreaking Beauty

Began watching Good Will Hunting last night. Immense. If the essence of a great film is it’s great lines, or great scenes, Robin Williams’ lines to Matt Damon on the bench, where Williams bares his soul are so very powerful. It could be any elder speaking to any youth. Bigger than life…. a great series of lines. “Have you ever been inside the Sistine Chapel? Do you know what it smells like?” Yes, young people can learn a lot from books, but Michaelangelo is not experienced in a book. It is a vastly different thing to see it, to be there… to look up beneath that canopy of shapes, colors, forms.

My next thought: Could I write something like that? Could I write such heartbreakingly beautiful dialogue?

How did these men produce such incredible beauty? Men like Rilke, Chekhov, Chopin… for so many years, such consistently high quality. Chekhov was also a doctor and supported a family.
January 15, 2000

What follows here is the passage that I cited in my journal entry above, when Sean (Williams) confronts Will (Matt Damon) in Good Will Hunting:
“So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you'd probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You're a tough kid. And I'd ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, "once more unto the breach dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I'd ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn't know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms "visiting hours" don't apply to you. You don't know about real loss, 'cause it only occurs when you've loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you... I don't see an intelligent, confident man... I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you're a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my f--king life apart.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Currently listening to a lecture on the Conquest of the Americas. Yesterday listened to Cortez's conquest of the Aztecs. Brutality... slaughter... total commitment. Many interesting anecdotes, a collision of cultures. The Aztecs were no peaceniks. Their "god" required human sacrifices... daily. Some might say they were inspired by demons. But what if they were instead inspired by a deep understanding that sin must be atoned for by blood? Perhaps they were not driven by a lust for blood, but by an earnest desire to appease the gods.
August 28, 2007

When we read of the human sacrifices performed by Aztec priests, how do we respond? For many it is simply dismissed as barbarism. Others might even deny it, believing history has been re-written, downplaying the centality of the ritual sacrifices.

I would propose otherwise. In the Old Testament scriptures, it is written that God has "set eternity in the hearts of men," that they might strive after God. This is an insight proposed by Don Richardson, who first experienced it in his efforts to share his Christian faith with the Sawi peoples of New Guinea.

The concept is as follows. In the beginning we, as humans made in God's image, were created with the truth written in our hearts. When evil entered the world through the fall, we became distorted. As the human race spilled over the world, the various cultures retained fragments of light and truth within, but it is seen through the distorted lens of our fallenness.

Am I suggesting that these ritual human sacrifices were good? In no way. They were tragic, as are so many actions conducted in the name of religion, well intended and sincere, but distorted by our own fallenness. Yes, the Fall even runs through the church, those who claim to speak in God's name. For this reason, we must with earnestness embrace a humility in our attitudes toward others, remain perpetually merciful in our actions and words, slow to judge.

The irony is that even many who easily accept the ideas of Don Richardson when he speaks of these matters as they pertain to backward foreign cultures have a very difficult time recognizing the "truth" that is in the hearts of those who live in our own modern American culture. We are often harsh at best and sometimes even brutal in our dealings with those who reject the values important to us or the ideals we identify with.

To cite but one example, Sigmund Freud is castigated as an enemy by some Church leaders who see his ideas as undermining Christian faith. But if truth were told, even though Freud denied the Bible and the Gospel, he had a commitment to integrity that led him to write a singular last book called "Beyond the Pleasure Principle." In this book he acknowledges the discovery of a self-destructive tendency in humans that initially baffles him. Why do we not, like Pavlov's dogs, seek pleasure? How can there be such an intense self-hate residing in so many people that it drives them to self destruction in one form or another?

The answer is the same as that discovered by Aztec priests. Sin must be atoned for. Essentially, the ultimate truth is this... blood must be shed to pay for our betrayal of God and truth and our selves, of who we were meant to be. The Aztec priests were trying to appease this God who was "out there" because they had a keen sense of His disapproval, that they were under judgement. Grievously, they did not know that the Ultimate Sacrifice of blood had been spilt on their behalf already. Their slaughter of innocents was futile, misguided.

Likewise, when people destroy themselves in our own world today, it is futile, misguided. It does not do any good whatsoever, though there is something in our hearts that demands that a price be paid, that blood be shed. In truth, the sacrifice has been accomplished. If we would but look up, and see. The God/Creator has blended justice with mercy in the most remarkable and astounding manner possible: through the sacrifice of His Son... at Calvary.

Monday, August 27, 2007

San Pietro and San Vitorre

Had to go to all battalions at midnight with firing orders. Moonlight so I didn't mind too much. Slept through breakfast. Were shelled twice here today. My nerves aren't able to take it anymore as well as they used to. Some shells came close enough.

151 moved tonight; I moved with them to the other side of San Pietro, a rubbled mess, a battlefield, to be sure. Back here at 10:00, just got nicely to sleep when the guard called, "Wag, get to Message Center," so there was another Firing Order to all battalions. It must have been after 2:00 when I got back.
Friday, January 7, 1944

San Pietro and San Vitorre were two towns literally blown off the face of the earth. There were many trees around that were totally devoid of all branches, and were just sticks left from all the shell fire. The city itself was piles of concrete rubble. I didn't see life of any kind left any time I drove through.About this time the II Corps took Mts. Porchio and Chiaia, two objectives necessary for our Division to have before our ultimate objective of Cassino.

Excerpt from Bud Wagner's And There Shall Be Wars. Anyone who has a relative who served in WWII should own this book.
To purchase And There Shall Be Wars, visit:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Miscellaneous Notes

Reading: Molly Ivers Can't Say That, Can She?
The book is interesting and sad simultaneously. Sad because she is so merciless in her scathing commentary that one wonders how she is with everyone she knows. This is not to say that some objects of her vicious sarcasm aren't worth it. But where is the line drawn? It's all swords and poison... too often heat without light.

Movie: Finished watching Chinatown with Micah. Film noir revisited. Interesting how the impact of Chinatown pervades the whole film, but is only in the last scene. Everything moves toward this inevitable tragic end.

Jonathan Winters will be calling me this week to do the interview. Good good. Patience & persistence may yet have a payoff.
Apr 23, 2003

In 2003 I became aware that Jonathan Winters was, in addition to being a comedian/actor, an artist as well. When I learned that some of his paintings were being converted to screen print images by screenprint artist Joe Petro, I pitched the idea of doing an article for Screen Printing magazine. As it turned out, the interview was great, but the original story was thin on value for screen printers.

As result I decided to re-shape the article to feature Joe Petro, who does work for many other people of note. Consequently it was my privilege to also interview artist/authors Ralph Steadman and Kurt Vonnegut. The interviews with Steadman and Vonnegut were both stimulating, but the Vonnegut meeting (by phone) was especially so since I had been a voracious reader of his books while young.

This past spring when Mr. Vonnegut passed from this earth I assembled the following tribute.

For the record, I have on file here an absolutely fantastic interview with Jonathan Winters which needs to find a home someday. (By "a home" I mean in print somewhere.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

History's Most Significant Event

Someone once said that the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus was the most significant event of the past one thousand years. When you think of all that occurred as a result, the utter transformation of the American continents, the cross-pollination of three races (red, white and black) and their cultures, it is hard to imagine or name a more significant discovery or event.

This summer a replica of the Nina, one of Columbus's ships, was harbored here in Duluth, MN. Unlike a century ago when such a visitation would create fascination, these days it brings the baggage of protest. The protesters were leafleting, educating the public with regard to the dark side of the Conquistador experience.

To some extent they are correct. History does have its dark sides. For this reason I wrote the following letter to the editor, which was published this past month in the Duluth News Tribune.

Don't blame the Nina:
History is full of horrors

In December 1980 when I was at the Zocalo in Mexico City, archaeologists had unearthed a room the length and width of a football field filled with human skulls to a depth of twenty feet. The protesters of the Nina here in Duluth may wish to (correctly) note that Christopher Columbus did not herald all good things for natives of the Americas, but this single archaeological dig is evidence that not all atrocities in this hemisphere originated with whites from across the seas ("Protesters say Nina ignores dark side of history," July 17).

Christopher Columbus' original aim was to find a route to India. His intentions were earnest, not malicious. And no, he was not a genocidal maniac. Nor were most of the explorers who followed in his wake. For example, I have never blamed Columbus for the Trail of Tears. Descendants of English speaking whites carried out that disaster.

The dark side of human behavior neither begins nor ends with Western Civilization. Robert Burns noted, “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” Horrors have been committed by every race throughout the course of history. This past century we have seen horrors in Rwanda, Uganda, Cambodia, Algeria, Bosnia, Albania, as well as the German Holocaust and Stalin’s terrors. A-bombs obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And going further back we see the Spanish Inquisition, Genghis Khan, the American slave trade, Vikings, Huns and more.

Since perpetrating evil is the province of all races, perhaps the solution can be found by all races working together to find solutions that are relevant to all races… today. Better jobs, housing, freedom to live without fear of violence, hope for tomorrow… these are things toward which we can all work together, rather than quibbling over the meaning of a replica of a 500 year old boat.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tribute to Don Quixote

“I have read this book both in English and Spanish, and I can honestly say that it loses very little of its power, wit or message in translation. For all those who have considered reading this book, here are a few good reasons: this book is a very nuanced look at escapism and identity, a wonderful parody of knight stories, along with being a rousing (and very funny) adventure centering around the titular hero, a man who reads one too many books about knighthood and chivalry and decides to become a knight-errant himself. After recruiting a sidekick and choosing a lady to woo per narrative convention, he sets out to conquer the forces of evil, which include, among other things, giant windmills and rogue "knights". Cervantes' insight and ability to parody were both ahead of his time, and in a time where escapism and voyeurism are well and thriving, it is not difficult to imagine someone watching too many TV shows and believing they're a wild west outlaw or what-have-you. A very fascinating experience, and it works well in any language. Highly recommended.”
Adam Dukovich, visitor & reviewer

Having just finished Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quixote, I felt a need to send a note into cyberspace noting that this book, which many if not most literary historians call “the first novel”, lives up to its billing as one of the most significant works of Western literature.

Many of the great writers of the Western literary tradition pay tribute to the influence of
Cervantes including Sir Walter Scott, Dickens, Flaubert, Melville, Dostoyevsky, Faulkner, Joyce and Borges.

I myself have been strongly influenced by the musical Man of La Mancha which I experienced when I was in college. To this day, a portion of my own life mission takes its inspiration from this first exposure to Don Quixote.

Ed’s Mission: To do what no one else can do; to be what no one else can be. To fulfill my purpose in being. To reach the unreachable star.

Bowery Bums

What motivates people to drink themselves into unconsciousness and then call it "fun"? And what about the next day's responsibilities?
October 26, 1999

I was walking through the library late yesterday when a book cover caught my eye. The black and white cover art featured a close-up of a face, the image of tragedy filling its space with text reversed out that you just wanted to read. The book, titled The Bowery, is primarily a collection of photographs, images of life in this somewhat pathetic corner of the world.

"You must learn the art. The art of staying alive. The art of staying alive and staying drunk..."

In 1964 my family moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Bridgewater, NJ. I remember well the trips into New York for various purposes at different stages of my young life... to see the Yankees or Mets, or the World's Fair countless times. (The Fair was a two year event in 1964-65.) But sometimes just to see The City.

I was twelve, the oldest of four boys, and I remember driving slowly through the Bowery, seemingly at a crawl. Scattered about on the sidewalk were bodies of ragged men, like litter, passed out, some lying with bottles still in their hands, some lying in their urine, or leaning against the wall of a building, dazed.

I remember Dad making a comment which now escapes me, but which carried the effect of saying, "Wherever you go in life or whatever you do, you do not want to end up here like these men." I have never forgotten that moment.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Years ago I heard someone say, "The two strongest influences on our lives are the people we meet and the books we read." In one sense, these are one and the same thing, for is it not true that when we read a book, we are meeting with another's mind, their thoughts, attitudes, opinions, feelings, beliefs?

This is the wonder of books. Though St. Augustine has been dead fifteen centuries, through his writings he speaks to us today, revealing his mind and soul. Through memoirs, letters, essays and speeches, we can become acquainted with all kinds of people from all periods of history, including philosophers, musicians, pioneers and even presidents.

We have no choice over some influences. We don't choose our parents; nor do we choose the nation of our birth.

Nevertheless, we do have the power to choose other influences, particularly the books we read, the friends we associate with, the places we choose to visit. The influences we choose reveal as much about who we are as they help mold what we shall become.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How Soon Till High Noon?

Heard Chris Hedges on Minnesota Public Radio last night... speaking with much venom for the Christian Right. Some of his outrage may have a measure of legitimacy, but what does he advocate as a solution? He cites Karl Popper's The Open Society & Its Enemies, stating that we (meaning The Left, or the intellectual Elite) may have a right, even an obligation, to silence "the intolerant" for the sake of the greater good of society. Hedges argues that the Right must be silenced by action.
What concerns me here is that we live in a Machiavellian era where Virtue is neither a supreme value or a relevant one. Bare knuckled power is the bottom line. Crush the opposition by any means possible before he crushes you. It's the new Cold War, only a war of ideas, with no apparent attempt at understanding. The objective is to win.
The Right takes the same stance. Both sides appear to be arming for battle... waiting for High Noon. Who will draw first?
August 21, 2007

Verbal vitriol has long been a part of the American political scene. (Read John Adams, by McCulloch.) Much of it is rhetoric. It concerns me, however, when I hear the shrillness in Hedges' delivery. He is a man with an aim: move his audience to action. And what action is it he wants them to take? He spells it out. Not only does he quote the Karl Popper passage in his speech, he uses it in the introduction to his new book.

"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or the revival of the slave trade, as criminal."-- Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (reprinted as the introduction to Chapter One in the book by Chris Hedges called, "American Fascist: The Christian Right and the War on America.)

And so we are marching toward a faceoff. Each side professing that Tolerance and Free Speech, long time American virtues, may be no longer important. Each side professing to its followers that the other side cannot be trusted, and at some point we'll need to make a grab for power because if we don't, they will. Are we heading toward a gunfight at the O.K. Corral?

Machiavelli, in The Prince, essentially states that it is better to win by lying, cheating and stealing than it is to lose. The end justifies the means in Machiavellian morality. This is a world view at odds with the Bible and Christian ethics. And for this reason, it cannot be embraced as an action plan by the true Christian, whether politically conservative or liberal.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ultimate Reality

Good sermon yesterday about being real, not religious, and about the challenge of communicating the gospel in a secular world. Interesting thoughts about how modern man, by starting with man, can't reach God through reasoning. (Ultimately, Postmodernism is not even confident about the reliability of reason.) Pastor Brad said it's about the music... hearing the eternal chorus and and finding our part in the whole.
August 20, 2007

After the service yesterday I thought about the challenge that is before the church today. Christians do not live in a vacuum. They live within a context, with 2000 years of history behind and an uncertain future ahead. Of the past, it is easy to see that much horror has been committed in the name of Christ. Add to this the manifold ways in which earnest believers have, in ignorance, demonstrated the most dreadfully insensitive attitudes. Non-christians are not always being insincere or foolish to have reservations about the validity of faith in Christ.

By way of contrast there is the ongoing music of Ultimate Reality. In the background, or within the ground of our being, there is the chorus of angels, the music of the heavens flowing like a river beneath and through the whole of existence, a perpetual tribute the to greatness of God's love, compassion and generosity.

The problem comes when Christians try to reason unbelievers into the light. Dante, in The Inferno, notes that Reason is the highest mountain in hell, but will not bring us to the light. Kierkegaard notes that Reason can point us toward God, but ultimately faith requires a leap. At some point we must let go of reason to embrace the Other.

Existentialists argue from the point of view of man within the box. Living in darkness he is unable to see beyond the walls of his circumstances, barricaded on six sides by his situation. His only light is self-created. Alienated and alone, he struggles to give his life meaning, rejecting any light that might be offered from outside his box.

Postmodern man wonders if communication with other persons is even possible because words have no fixed meaning, and we are all so "stuck" in our alienated, catastrophic situations.

Then there is Ultimate Reality, the ever living song, of hope and joy and meaning. It is out there, beyond the walls of our box, seeking to penetrate our fixed, finite worlds. Yes, there is a Life outside our selves that wishes to fill us with Himself, the light of the world.

Man's predicament: How open this box to allow the light to penetrate? The Answer: Listen. Listen to the music....

Our Selves

The distance between what I was and what I am is but a moment, an instant. Funny how my features change, my hair thins, I accumulate scars and markings, wrinkles appear... all this yet I remain still I. And so, with our inner selves, we change yet remain the same, with a singular inner fingerprint, our unique "mark" that defines us. This is who we are.
October 4, 1999

It is fascinating to follow the careers of various authors or movie directors and look for their personal fingerprints. Borges, Graham Greene, Hesse, Hemingway... each leaves his mark on the stories he writes.

This morning I woke thinking about the films of Stanley Kubrick... specifically what he did that was so distinctive. That "something" was his love of the overlong look. That is, allowing the lens to linger, and linger still longer on a setting, a scene, an image. As early as Paths of Glory (Kirk Douglas, 1956) you could see it, from the scene with Douglas as Colonel Dax walking the length the corridor of trenches to the endpoint scene with the captured German woman singing to the soldiers with poignant tear-jerking grief.

2001: A Space Oddysey produced a whole catalog of unforgettable images from the opening monolith to the ultralightshow summing up. Scenes like "Open the pod door, Hal" are forever etched in Hollywood history and 1960's cultural archives.

Kubrick's style of lovingly lingering almost too long on a scene or image did not run in sync with the culture which seems to have become increasingly frenetic, pulsating with slam-bam jammin' and frantic overwrought camera work. Compare Barry Lyndon (1975) to Syriana, Crash or Bourne Ultimatum. The last of these practically requires a Dramamine to keep from getting motion sickness in the theater. (Note: I think each of these are fine movies, so the point here is only to contrast the style.) Too many modern movies are simply fast paced because that is "in" but Kubrick, to the end, gave his lens license to tarry unhurried, lavishing each scene till it mesmerized.

So it is that, like the great directors and the great authors, our own deeds are like fingerprints that reveal our Selves.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

And There Shall Be Wars

At age 79 my father-in-law Bud Wagner called me on the phone and said, "I'd like you to help me buy a computer." That night we went out and did just that. He taught himself how to use it and proceeded to finish a project that he'd carried in his heart for most of a lifetime.

At age 80, Wagner completed his first book, based on his diaries from World War Two. Wagner was the second Minnesotan drafted into the war. Cook, machine gunner and company agent, Wagner had the privilege of being on the first convoy to make its way across the Atlantic for the European theater. And the good fortune of having survived the duration of the war without becoming a casualty in North Africa and Italy, which included beachheads at Anzio and Salerno.

The book, And There Shall Be Wars, is a truly powerful account of this man's experience and worthy of being included in the annals of military history.

Wagner had several motivations for writing the book. "I wanted to put my diary in a concise journal form for the family," Wagner said. "I've kept a diary out of habit since I was a young kid. During the war nobody else did it and I wanted to have it as part of my life experience." Diary writing was rare not only because few soldiers did it, but also because the army had rules against it. When citing the value of diaries Wagner fondly quotes the Chinese proverb, "The faintest ink is stronger than the strongest memory."

A primary theme for this blog is journal writing. That is, I have been sifting thought my personal journals and bringing to light excerpts that might lead to some thought provoking discussion, or insights of value. Bud Wagner's book is similar in design. He kept a journal during the war, but his book is more. Having spent decades researching that siginifcant period of history, his journal notes include commentary amplifying the entries, with additional historical facts collated to make this book especially valuable.

For more information on this book, and to see what others are saying, visit

To purchase And There Shall Be Wars, visit:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Comedians

Reading The Comedians by Graham Greene. Another tragic story set against dark circumstances. My guess is that in the midst of this darkness the faint light of the human soul will become visible... The darkness becomes a background and the actions of characters brushstrokes. Setting for the Comedians: Haiti during reign of "Papa Doc" Duvalier.

By "Comedians" Greene means role players, play actors. None of them are what they appear to be. Is it a game? No, it is a tragic predicament. Tragic because all sense would suggest that if there were any way to do it, they should leave. The spirit of death hangs over the country like low cloud cover.
December 9, 1997

Graham Greene is one of the great authors of the 20th century with profound insights into human nature and great skills as a writer. I recommend his books to any literate, serious minded reader, without reservation.

A list of other recommended (personal favorite) writers can be found on my website at this page:

Friday, August 17, 2007

Passionate Purposefulness

Excellent meeting of M5 last night. Shared my theory of Passionate Purposefulness... and was shown that it needed further development. The third dimension is self --> others. A potentially profound life model is developing. Excellent insights by group.

Also had opportunity to share about influence, and the impact my grandmother had on my life. Read 3 of her poems, including 'Life', which they all wanted a copy of after.
December 2, 1997

Here is the poem Life which I shared that evening ten years ago, followed by a link to the dedication page I created in my grandmother's memory.

If you, in your way of life
Have ever been a stranger
To the dread scarred face,
And frightening ways of danger,
Then the safety you possess
Is hard to realize.
Until some danger threatens you
You blindly close your eyes.

If failure never came to you
Success can have no savor.
Your love must know some hate
Or it can have no flavor!
If sorrow never choked our throats
Or teardrops dimmed our eye
The dizzying heights of happiness
Are lost and gone awry!

He who reads diligently
And after truth has sought
And has truly never doubted
Has as truly never thought!
So use your doubts and sorrows
Like a springboard from the sky,
The lower down they take you
The higher up you fly!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Vivid Dreams

Another day, another dream.
Another diamond, another scheme,
Another effort to break the theme;
Another day, another dream.

Vivid dreams during the night included being with my father when his heart stopped (5:13 a.m.) and an elaborate story about a group of women looking for someone, but they were walking on a rainy night on a long road far from where they were trying to be. i.e.: they were lost. I tried to help them... It was a long road and just at a bend there was a house which we went up to and knocked and were invited in. The owner was on the phone -- or made a call -- after telling us the people these ladies were looking for lived up the road about three miles. The guy had a huge nature preserve in his back yard with goats and lions. He and I walked down into the preserve and climbed up on a mountain of hay. A lion came up next to me. I asked the man if they were wild and he said "yes." It was scary, yet he seemed at peace there & I felt safe with him. When we went back to the house the lion followed, but the man wouldn't let the lion into the back door.
November 18, 1997

I started my first journal in junior high school. It was different from most journals because I did not record the events of my daily life. Instead, I recorded the dreams of my night. That is, when I woke in the morning I would lay there in the limbo region between waking and sleeping and reconstruct the images that has just passed through my mind. I think the first recorded dream had Tim Conway of McHale's Navy in it. I recall nothing of the dream, but remember the next recorded dream was a week or two later. As I practiced recalling my dreams I developed the skill of being able to recall in vivid detail up to four or five dreams in a night, with sometimes several pages of detail.

At a certain point in time the importance of recalling dreams subsided for me. Nevertheless, in the course of a lifetime of journal writing, certain dreams have occasionally seemed worthy of being recorded or remembered.

A few of my more unusual or meaningful dreams have been posted on my website at

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Northern Lights

Last nite the Northern Lights were out. Supernatural splendor. First time I've seen the whole spectrum, including the lower red rim...

We stood as a family... Christina clutching me, a bit frightened, as bright curtains of light sprang toward us... drawing nearer & still nearer till it was, at last, shining directly upon us, our heads tilted back, necks aching as spokes of light rained shimmering rays of illumination over and upon us. Then it ended. The strange night lightshow dissipated as quickly as it had emerged.
October 11, 1997

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Helping the Hungry

"The best sauce in the world is hunger. That is why the poor always enjoy eating." ~ Cervantes

As I read Don Quixote I am continually amazed by how many ideas and witticisms have been put into the public vernacular by this 400 year old yarn. For example, at the beginning of Book Two in this classic, they are debating the merits of the second book being written about Don Quixote, "for you know, the sequel is never as good as the original." It cracked me up. This is a statement we have been making about movies for years. But who among you, reading this, would have believed that this is a statement people have been making for centuries?

The quote I referenced about hunger is similar. Usually we make the first half of the above statement. The latter has a grimmer aspect. In point of fact, being poor and hungry is not fun at all.

Having lived in Mexico for a year when much younger, I came to believe that all Americans would benefit by having exposure to the third world for a period of time while young. In this manner, we would more fully appreciate the wealth and opportunities we have in this country.

As for doing something about world hunger, I do not think we should be guilted into giving. But I do think it a normal part of being human to care, to in some manner want to make a difference if able.

The problem is, we are a bit jaded as well, because most of us have read stories about unscrupulous people who manipulate this good will in peoples' hearts in order to extract funds from their wallets. We live in an era of mailing lists where people who give to one organization end up getting requests from other organizations. Even when some organizations mean well at the start, there can be mismanagement resulting in squandered resources instead of the dollars being directed where they can do the most good.

For this reason, I have tried to help direct people to an organization that I trust because I knew the founders personally. They helped Susie and I when we were working at an orphanage in Mexico (1980-81), and in return I hope that my web page dedicated to their ministry has helped them in some small way over the years.

Another organization that we believe in is Farms International. It is my hope to place a page on my personal website for them some day soon... but in the meantime, you may visit their site directly here:

Despite the immensity of need in the world, some people whose whole lived are devoted to making a difference. They are the unsung heroes of our time. You can make a difference, too.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Handful of Recommended Movies

I have a real problem with lists of the 100 best movies of all time. I've actually got two problems. First, the people who make these lists usually number them, as if the films can be numerically ordered. The second problem I have is that the lists are made by human beings who have personal biases, yet they claim that the films they say are best are literally and actually the best films ever, as if all viewers have the same identical tastes in film.

For these reason I cannot produce such a list. I have learned over the years that some films I like my family or friends may not like. And I've yawned through a few films that my friends said were great.

All that being said, I have quite a few films that I really do think are great. I have numbered a top ten list on my web site ( but it is really not a valid list because on any given day I can look at that list and think of another film that should be on the list. Oh well, c'est la vie.

If you are looking for ideas as regards what to watch next, here are some films I'd recommend. None of these listed here are action films. None are mindless diversions. Each is somewhat unique and/or special in some way. It's my hope you will enjoy them as thoroughly as I have over the years.

Educating Rita, featuring stellar performances by Michael Caine and Julie Walters.
The Tenth Man, starring Anthony Hopkins and based on a great short novel by Graham Greene.
Trip to Bountiful, starring oscar winner Geraldine Page, with an absolutely fabulous "I wish I could write like that" screenplay by playwright Horton Foote.
Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Don't underestimate this film. Yes, it's hilarious but there is more here than meets the eye.
Woody Allen's Zelig is likewise both entertaining, but with a deeper aspect.
And finally, for this short list I mention About Schmidt, in which Jack Nicholson wrestles with the meaning of his life after retiring from an empty job that never lived up to the dreams of his youth.

If you like these, check out my website list for more of my favorite things.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Departure On Hold

Poetry is a means by which we capture and identify the feelings expressed in the music of our souls. ~Journal Note, Oct. 9, 1990

Blogging? Yes, it is nothing more than an excuse to share oneself.
Isn’t that what all bloggers are doing, seeking self expression? And before blogging we had songwriters and poets.

Here is a poem I composed last night while waiting in a plane to return home after being “on the road.” Some of my favorite Dylan songs are streams of images that read like abstract art, with glimpses of meaning that vary for the viewer/listener/recipient. Some people hate this kind of ambiguity, but doesn't life itself seem an ambiguous stream of experiences which we struggle to interpret and comprehend? Life is life, and not always fits our neat little schemes and forms. The best we can do is give thanks for the spectacular moments, and the glimpses of wonder that break through into the mundane spaces where much of life is lived.

How grateful I am for I have had many wonderful moments. Even here on this plane, delayed by weather and decisions beyond my control, I can give thanks, enjoying the moment of creation and appreciating the gift of life.

Departure On Hold

The florid field failing to hold
while ravens risk their fortunes
‘cross the pathos spattered landscape.

First class flavors of coconut balm
and chardonnay whirl wispy streams
of conscious rambling while parading
images sing songs of spinning wonder.

If only we knew what time could contain.
But understand this: shadows remain fluid
and all we hope for are the best days of our lives.

If you like poetry, I welcome you to check out some of my other material which has been published on a section of my personal website at

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Reading Good Writers

To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him and travel in his company. ~ Andre Gide

Have you noticed that animals usually do not have a very large vocabulary? It is probably why we sometimes find them so comforting. We share our problems and they don't jump in and offer solutions.

Unfortunately, it's not very easy to figure out what they are thinkings (except our dog Hobo who seems to continuously either think about food or "What can I bark at next?")

Our favorite writers, on the other hand, offer us words in abundance. And when we read their books and enjoy their company, our favorite authors become good, lifelong companions. We enjoy being with them as they make us think, make us laugh, and at times make us cry.

Writers especially love to read the writings of other good writers (The Classics) because they challenge us to improve in our own efforts as scribes. How did he create that effect? How in the world did he create so much tension with such simple language? Can I ever come close to painting such a vivid scene?

Whether he come away inspired or challenged, the best writers seldom disappoint us.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


One of the great writers of the 20th century (as measured by profound influence on other writers as well as sheer brilliance in his handling of the written word) was Argentine-born Jorge Luis Borges. One of the recurring themes in his work is that of labyrinths, so much so that one of his books is titled, Labyrinths, Selected Stories & Other Writings.

The labyrinth is an ancient theme in literature. In Greek mythology Theseus took upon himself the task of entering a labyrinth to slay the minotaur, a half man / half bull creature. {aside: for an orginal and entertaining retelling, look for Andre Gide's Two Legends: Oedipus and Theseus.}

Miguel Cervantes, in Don Quixote, makes reference to the labyrinth, using it as a metaphor for the mind. This hero and gallant knight errant is explained away as a madman lost in the labyrinth of his delusions, a metaphor that is with us to this day.

Our own lives can be labyrinths as well. We seek an end that we know not what, and travel down corridors with the hope that they lead to treasures and not dead ends.

For what it's worth, when the world wide web first emerged in the early nineties, it seemed to me to itself be a labyrinth. We travel from page to page, getting lost in the web, hoping to find treasures, not sure where the next link will lead.

At that time I created a deliberate labyrinth on my website, to more or less share this idea or way of seeing. If you have a few minutes, I invite you to take a tour of my labyrinth. The entrance can be found at the bottom of this page here: 

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Read On

A few good quotes on reading...

"Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures." ~ Jessamyn West

"Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier." ~ Kathleen Norris

"Truly each new book is as a ship that bears us away from the fixity of our limitations into the movement and splendor of life's infinite ocean." ~ Helen Keller

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Cynicism Kills

Gladys Knight & the Pips at White House last nite. What a privilege to rise to this level from an obscure, poor black family. America is a land of opportunities.

Yet, what of the many who must grapple with the perceived probability that even their lesser dreams may never materialize? What then? Is the rest of one's life simply a long period of waiting to die?

New goals must emerge. When goals become tangible, the heart is infused with power to pursue. We rise up for "occasions."
Sept. 29, 1997

The great enemy is cynicism, an acid that burns the fledgling seeds of new hope. If hope is permitted to thrive, cynicism can be contained.

Cynicism has been compared to a cancer which needs to be rooted out. Like a cancer, cynicism in its advanced stages will kill you.

To use yet another metaphor, "When people give up hope, cynicism is the charred remains left behind."

Today cynicism is pervasive. Among America's working class, the message is "Why work hard when there is no hope of anything coming of it?" This attitude undercuts the necessary motivation required to improve our lot. Our labors can make a difference, if we believe and have hope.

There are too many who have the attitude, "How little can I do and still get by?" People who change the world are those who roll up their sleeves and say, "Yes, I am willing to do whatever it takes. If I don't make it a better world, my children will."

Monday, August 6, 2007

Walking Toward the Light

"We can easily forgive a child when he is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." ~ Plato

What I initially find intriguing here is that it was written 2500 years ago and is still relevant today.

This month I have been reading Cervantes' Don Quixote and continue to be astonished at the wit and wisdom captured in this 16th century classic story, considered by many to be the first novel. As one reads the book it is about so much more than the strange tales of a knight errant who tilts at windmills. Like classic stories of all time, it conveys classic truths about all facets of life. It is remarkably entertaining and even hilarious at times. Yet because it is a "classic" most modern people imagine it to be dull and a waste of time to read.

I do not know if public education is to blame for this attitude toward classic literature, or whether modern culture is at fault with its emphasis on things fast paced and modern. I only know that there is a fantastic array of great literature at our fingertips offering diversions both stimulating and insightful. Most surprising is how relevant these great books are.

In reading Cervantes one quickly notices that his own knowledge of the classics is vast, citing passages from Homer and the histories of ancient Greeks. The guy spins it all out in a tapestry of images that make you think and at times make you laugh out loud.

The story is primarily about Don Quixote, a gentleman of La Mancha in central Spain who has imbibed too many tales about the great deeds of knights and chivalry. But it is far more than this. Was he a madman? A modern existential hero? Or did he have a vision that the rest of his peers have lost? He certainly had a very different, even strange, way of interpreting the world and his experiences in it.

In more than one section of the book his friends and family try to get him to see himself as he is: off his rocker. But the storytelling reveals that their own motives are less than pure. Who is it who needs to be unmasked?

Has Don Quixote created this role as heroic knight in order to avoid facing up to the emptiness of his own situation? Has he created this fictional self because he can't face his real self?

In truth, we all have things about ourselves which are difficult to face. It is to our great merit when in humility we can face up to our limitations and weaknesses. Self understanding is the first step toward self improvement. Much like renovating an apartment, the task of personal growth is managed one room at a time. It's an important project, and one that requires commitment because it takes a lifetime.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Who Shall Bell the Cat?

People who know me have often heard me say, "Everything is easy to the one who does not have to do it." This morning I was reminded of the Aesop Fable that parallels this maxim: the belling of the cat.

Belling the Cat
Long ago, the mice had a general council to consider what measures they could take to outwit their common enemy, the Cat. Some said this, and some said that; but at last a young mouse got up and said he had a proposal to make, which he thought would meet the case. "You will all agree," said he, "that our chief danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy approaches us. Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could easily escape from her. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be procured, and attached by a ribbon round the neck of the Cat. By this means we should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she was in the neighbourhood."

This proposal met with general applause, until an old mouse got up and said: "That is all very well, but who is to bell the Cat?" The mice looked at one another and nobody spoke. Then the old mouse said:

"It is easy to propose impossible remedies."

Giving advice is easy when there is no personal risk involved. The old cat no doubt let the applause run its course before he interjected. We, too often, are quick to speak and slow to listen, and as a result make all kinds of statements that in retrospect we should have stuffed.

To quote Phaedrus, another ancient thinker, "Things are not always as they seem."

Thursday, August 2, 2007


"In the long run, human relationships are the most important thing in life; the modern 'efficient' man can do nothing to change this, nor can the demigods and lunatics who know nothing about human relationships... What is the finest boor, or picture, or house, or estate, to me, compared to my wife, my parents, my friends."
~ Dietrich Bonhoffer, Letters from Prison

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


What is an organization? It is people.
What is a family? People.
What is a church? People.
What is a school? People.
If people are so much a part of our lives (communities, businesses, governments) how is it that we are given so little instruction in how to get along with them? How to treat them... How to work out conflicts.... How to negotiate... How to communicate...
June 11, 1997

In the old days civilized families actually did give attention to these matters. Character development was a deliberate part of education in private schools and finishing schools. Unfortunately today, many families abdicate this responsibility. Two working parents (or being a single parent) leaves parents frazzled and frayed at day's end. Unless it be a deliberate priority, children fall through the cracks.

Perhaps there are churches that give attention to the practical matters of relationships, but all too often churches concern themselves simply with "religious instruction."

The other day, someone said to me that he does not "feel powerful." I immediately replied that he is indeed powerful, because he is influential. When he speaks people listen. He demonstrates, through his words, that he does not live arbitrarily, and his words have been conceived as a result of thought, not just to fill the air.

As we develop our skill sets, let's not neglect the all important skill of handling people. A good starter book in thie area is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Influence is power. We really can make a difference.

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