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Saturday, July 4, 2015

IS IT WRONG TO SEE GOOD IN AMERICA ON JULY 4TH?






 If I were to see you on your mother's birthday, and you told me: 

"I have the greatest mother in the world", 

I wouldn't grumble, "My mother was pretty good there too, fella."

I would be happy for you.

If I met you on your country's holiday, and you said, "I have the greatest country in the world."

Being a student of world history, 

I would point out a few things that I admired about your country and join in your happiness.

I never said America was the greatest country in the world ... 

just that it could be (just like any nation could) 

if the citizens and leaders put aside their differences and worked together.

On her birthday, I wanted to point out some good things about America ...

No other country has an equivalent to the Peace Corps which helps poor nations the world over.  

There is the European Voluntary Service but it only helps European countries.  

There is United Nations Volunteers, but it will not take just anyone who wishes to contribute to the world's needs.

I have been told I should focus on being a citizen of the world and not be devisive.  

Yet, if you are American, you already are a citizen of the world ...

for America contains peoples from most of the world's nations.

That America still survives is a wonder.

The American effort to achieve independence from Britain was not expected to succeed, but it did, 

with some timely help from friends abroad. 

The new country’s grand experiment in representative self-government was not given much of a chance, either, 

but it has survived. 

The idea of a nation

 — not an empire, but a nation —

 melded from many nationalities, ethnic groups and religious faiths was inconceivable

 to most of the world, but it has been realized over the 239 years since independence was boldly declared in Philadelphia. 

The essential element in all of this was, as Abraham Lincoln said, 

the ability of the people and their leaders to “think anew and act anew” when the times demanded it.

 “The nature of injustice,” Justice Anthony Kennedy  recently wrote, “is that we may not always see it in our own times. 

The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment

 did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, 

and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”

Let us celebrate the wonder and marvel of our constitution this weekend.

Friday, July 3, 2015

HAPPY CODEPENDENCE DAY!


Not really. 

This country seems to have 364 days of that where everyone and their cousin points out all that is wrong with America.


But July 4th is different. 

That day we celebrate what is good about America.

Let there be earthquake, epidemic, famine, flood -- 

you will see an American flag waving over relief centers in whatever country in which they occur.


Sadly, people will be shooting at our doctors, nurses, and other helpers there, too, at the same time.


America is great because we are a nation of dreamers, inventors, artists, builders and doers. 

We exalt in achievement, rebound from failure and encourage one another every step of the way,

from the little league, to the majors, in every walk of life.



The Declaration of Independence, whose signing we celebrate on Saturday,

states that all people are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This pursuit sometimes seems insurmountable

if that road is governed by the rich and powerful or when government represents only narrow interests.

Unlike other countries such as India, China or Thailand,

where one’s station in life is determined by a caste system, government monolith

or an outdated monarchy,

in America you are free to carve out your own destiny.

Wealth carries huge influence,

 but unlike most countries, where one’s fate is determined by others,

in the U.S.,

if you use your mind with bravery and creativity, you are free to chart your own course.

 
Other countries possess freedom ...
 
America's greatness lies in the fact that it embodies a dream.
 
The dream is of freedom, of safety, and of opportunity.
 
The dream is built upon the rule of law,
 
the generosity of our people and the promise of advancement for those willing to work hard. 



Of course America has not achieved that dream. 

Have you noticed that nothing turns out like you thought it would? 

But the dream persists.

Still, a struggling deli owner can send his daughter to medical school,

or a Jewish immigrant’s son can become one of the world’s most successful fashion designers,

or the mixed-race son of a Kenyan socialist can become president.

You may think America is not the greatest country in the world ...

And perhaps that is so, but it can be.

If we do not give up on it and each other.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

THE SYMBOL FOR THE 21ST CENTURY


WHAT IS IT?

THE CELL PHONE?



THE SELFIE?



CAITLYN JENNER's VANITY FAIR COVER?





 THE CONFEDERATE FLAG?

 {Isn't it stretching political correctness
to silly proportions for WB no longer licensing  
toys of the General Lee with the flag on top
and 
TV Land cancelling re-runs of
Dukes Of Hazard?}


No.
None of these.



Yes, that's right.

THE LEAF BLOWER is the symbol 
for the 21st Century.


It reflects the current mind set of LET ME MAKE MY PROBLEM SOMEBODY ELSE'S.

Blowing your leaves into your neighbor's yard has the double pleasure 

of making a lot of racket and dumping your problem into somebody else's lap.

Blowing your leaves into the street just makes a mess for the sanitation people.  But who cares?  

It's not your worry anymore, right?

It "replaces" the rake, doing the job poorly 

and with an atrocious amount of noise for added dysfunctional fun.

If folks think that leaf blowers are a good idea, I weep for our modern society.

Rakes are quiet, provide a good physical work-out, and use no fossil fuel.

Leaf Blowers in the end are accomplishing nothing. 

You still need to eventually pick up the leaves and debris, which will require what? 

A rake!

Unless that is, you are simply blowing your leaves onto the street, onto your neighbor’s lawn  

in which case they will eventually end up right back where they started 

and you will need to blow them away again!

But the "Leaf Blower" mind-set has spread.  

One of the biggest examples of this, is debt. 

The United States has anywhere from $17 to $30 TRILLION in debt 

(depending on who you ask and how honest they are). 

Our government spends more every year than it collects in tax revenue, 

and puts the difference on a big credit card that they get to determine the credit limit on. 

Doing this is just like firing up a big leaf blower 

and blowing it to where our kids and grandkids will be living when they grow up and start working 

(if there are any jobs left). 

We need to stop this.

What do you think is the symbol for the 21st Century?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

HOW TO WRITE WHEN LIFE HITS HARD_IWSG










I've worked 24 out of the past 48 weekend hours. 

 I slept most of Monday trying to heal.  

Tuesday was my "Chore Day".

I only found time to write one page of my new novel ... but I wrote it.

Those long days when I ran my bookstore, 

visited my mother as she lay dying, 

and walked back and forth to the mall and to the hospital because twice someone had put sugar in my gas tank ...

I still wrote. 

In fact those ______ who destroyed my cars improved my health with all the walking, 

gave me time to reflect on the dying of my mother & to come to grips with it, 

and allowed me the opportunity to put my thoughts into coherent order to write in my journal.


I do not know what storms hammer at you this season ... I just know they are ... or they will soon.  Life is like that.


You must ask yourself: 


WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?

A SUNSHINE SOUL
OR
ONE FOR ALL SEASONS?


Can you sacrifice who you are for who you will become?  

Can you do with 30 minutes less sleep a day to write one page of your novel?

Can you transform your lunch half-hour into one of sipping Instant Breakfast 

while plotting the page you will write tonight or tomorrow morning?


It's not about how hard you were hit but how hard you can be hit 
and still go forward.



Remember:

1.) PICK YOUR BATTLEGROUND

Choose where you can do the most good.  

You cannot do everything.  Help where it makes sense.  Be flexible.  Be adaptable.  

Pace yourself: running yourself into the ground will not help you or anyone else.


2.) PEOPLE SEE THROUGH THEIR OWN EYES

You are entitled to your boundaries.  

You have the right to say NO.  

You have the right to safeguard your own health or sanity.

Non-writers think we’re not working when we’re plotting or researching or studying how to write better.

 It’s up to you to defend your writing time as strongly as others defend their own pursuits.

Yes, you can be more flexible. 

But writing should stay on your calendar for all but the most critical days.


3.) INVEST IN THE PERSON WHO YOU WILL BECOME

Skill is only achieved by hours and hours and hours of honing your craft.  

If you are not making your life or someone else's better ... then you are wasting your time.

You're already in grief from your dream.  Keep on and get some reward for all that grief.

You want your dream?  Then, go on and get the hits, the disappointments that come with the package.


4.) THE HIT LIST

 Before sleeping, make a list of three important things you intend to accomplish the next day. 

If you’re in the midst of storm and trauma, 

break bigger projects down into tiny steps you know you’ll be able to complete in a day. 

 As the storm eases, you can work with bigger chunks again.


5.) WINNIE THE POOH DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE

No one's life is all sunshine and rainbows.  

For most of us, the world is a mean, nasty place ... 

and life will knock you to your knees and keep you there and laugh as it kicks you ...

if you let it.

No one is ever going to hit you as hard as life. 

But it is not about how hard you are hit ... 

but how hard you CAN be hit and get back up and go forward, 

how much you can take and still stumble forward.

That's how you win, how you can stand tall, knowing you gave it your all.


6.) IT'S NOT THE TITLE THAT MAKES YOU

It is not the title AUTHOR or DOCTOR that makes you. It's not success that makes you.

It is your character that makes you.  Character defines success, defines fame, defines YOU.

And you sculpt your character with every resistance to obstacles you make, 

with every sleepless morning as you write, 

with all the early A.M. hours when you run dark streets ...

with doing something right each and every time you do it whether anyone is looking or not ... 

because you refuse to do shabby.


7.) IT'S YOUR DREAM

It's not someone else's.  

Do not expect help or support from someone who has their own dream.  

You must get up early, stay up late to make your dream come true ... no one else will do it for you.


8.) LIFE IS GOING TO SUCKER PUNCH YOU

Murphy was right.  Life is going to blind-side you when you least expect it.

It's all right to show pain, to even unleash a colorful metaphor or two, to suck air.

But those times are when the most growth occurs.  

You can let the tragedy destroy you or you can learn from it.

We all fall down in life.  The question is: who gets back up?

Please, choose to get back up and into the struggle, fighting smarter.

The companion to night is not darkness but light, for every night is followed by the dawn.



9.) YOUR MIND SET

It is not your circumstances or your situations that determine if you are going to be successful or not.


IT IS YOUR MIND SET.

It's the way you see your dream, your writing, how you feel it, how you nourish it.

Your mind is the battleground.  

But it is YOUR mind, sow the soil of it with truths that help not hinder you.

"I may give up one day ... 

BUT IT WILL NOT BE TODAY. 

 I'M GOING ALL IN, ALL THE WAY!  

I'M GOING TO MAKE THE REST OF MY LIFE THE BEST OF MY LIFE."


10.)  LEAN ON YOUR STRENGTHS


What are your personal strengths as a writer? 

Whatever they are, they’re your leverage for hard times.

 If dialogue is your strength, 

you may want to write dialogue for the next few chapters and come back later to fill in the rest of the details.

Or you might want to carry a journal and use spare moments 

to brainstorm character names and answer “What if?” questions to sketch in a story and its conflict.

AND DON'T FORGET TO REWARD YOURSELF EACH DAY YOU KEEP FIGHTING ...

if only an extra ten minutes of sleep the next day or a dessert you reserve for hard times.


Monday, June 29, 2015

HAVE YOU NOTICED?



Have you noticed that while you were busy putting out the fires in your life 

that the world had been busily going crazy behind your back?


As talks between Greece and its creditors broke down over the past few days, 

Greek financial meltdown has become a very scary and very real possibility.

Imagine being told by President Obama that you could only withdraw $67 from a ATM per week 

and then having the ATM run out of money before you got there!

And then retailers would no longer accept your credit card!


Financial markets on three continents sounded alarms Monday 

after Greece closed its banks in anticipation of a potential default on its debt 

and Puerto Rico announced it would be unable to pay back all of its $72 billion in debt

setting up a looming default of its own. 


Imagine getting out of bed only to discover that the world as you knew it was over.

On June 18

a sunspot that had been rotating toward Earth for a few days

 unleashed the first in a series of solar eruptions, hurling a torrent of gas and magnetic field at our planet. 

When the coronal mass ejection reached Earth’s magnetosphere five days later, 

it spawned the most intense geomagnetic storm in the current solar cycle — 

powerful enough to push the northern lights as far south as Texas.

The problem is we had no idea it was going to be that strong until it was already here.

 Consider the scenario where electricity is lost completely 

— or is even just sporadically available — 

for months

Repeat of 1859 Carrington Event would devastate modern world, experts say. 

 If something similar happened today, the world's high-tech infrastructure could grind to a halt.


Satellite communications

—also essential to many daily activities—

would be at risk from solar storms.

 Every time you purchase a gallon of gas with your credit card, that's a satellite transaction.

 But the big fear is what might happen to the electrical grid, since power surges caused by solar particles could blow out giant transformers. 

Such transformers can take a long time to replace, especially if hundreds are destroyed at once.

 Imagine large cities without power for a week, a month, or a year.



Less ice means less habitat for animals like polar bears, 

and it also means there are fewer reflective surfaces in the North to bounce sunlight back into space, 

allowing the planet to absorb more heat. 

 Retreating sea ice could disrupt a major ocean circulation pattern 

and even affect climate patterns in Europe.

 Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: 

This current acts as a kind of conveyor belt, carrying warm water from the equator to the poles, 

and then shuttling cold water back to the tropics where the cycle starts all over again. 

 If the current slows down and less warm water gets transported north, 

then less heat will be transferred in regions such as Western Europe.


And something for my new feline room-mate, Midnight:


Cat Station-Master, Tama, elevated this week as Goddess:

Tama the stationmaster, Japan's feline star of a struggling local railway, 

was mourned by company officials and fans and elevated into a goddess at a funeral on Sunday.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU



As amazing as any of his fiction novels is this autobiography by Michael Crichton.

It is brutally frank about his failings.  

Yet is done with wit and humor and self-effacing observations on his growth as a human being.

A Harvard medical-school graduate, inveterate traveler and author of, among other books,  

The Great Train Robbery  and WestWorld (the film versions of which he directed), 

Crichton seeks in immediate experience of new places and cultures

to "redefine" himself and uncover the nature of reality. 

His curiosity and self-deprecating humor animate recitals of adventures

tracking animals in Malay jungles, climbing Kilimanjaro

(after reading of his climb to that mountain's summit, you will never be tempted to do it yourself!)

musing atop a mysterious Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan, 

trekking across a landslide in Pakistan, 

scuba diving in the Caribbean and New Guinea and amid sharks in Tahiti with his sister.

You will marvel at his unconscious self-destructive pattern of traveling in unwise circumstances.

You meet his sister (whom his father once beat so badly that the timid mother nearly called the police)

his big hearted brother, his mother, and his aloof, troubled journalist father.

 The first quarter of the book

chronicles his gradual disillusionment with medical school and his decision not to practice medicine. 

You will never think of the medical profession in quite the same way after reading this section.

Which is not too surprising to a student of history: 

For most of human history, doctors have done more harm than good. 

Their treatments consisted of inducing vomiting or diarrhea and, most common of all, bleeding their patients.

Crichton's accounts of visits to remote places in Asia and Africa present a perspective on his personal life. 

Shuffled among these chapters are accounts of psychic experiences 

that include channeling, exorcism, and spoon-bending and end with a defense of "paranormal experience." 

 Crichton had an interesting life, which he writes about in a crisp and disarmingly frank manner. 

His inner "travels" offer something for almost everyone.

 Crichton explains the reasons that prompted him to write this book:

"If you are a writer, the assimilation of important experiences almost obliges you to write about them. 

Writing is how you make the experience your own, how you explore what it means to you, 

how you come to possess it, and ultimately release it."

Crichton explores our need for direct experience

His premise is that modern man has lost his innate sense of himself and existence, 

relying on opinions, concepts and information structures, second hand knowledge, 

in order to make sense of the world, which, in the end, is a false perception. 

You can geet a HARDCOVER for just a penny
at Amazon! 
Go on, take a chance.

Friday, June 26, 2015

TIPS FROM THE DEAD


Knowing that I needed my privacy to write my new novel, 

the ghost of Mark Twain, of course, 

felt compelled to bring a long string of ghostly authors to my table in Meilori's.


I noticed Oscar Wilde when he cleared his throat beside me, saying, "Dear boy, there is a U in humour."

I sighed, "If I were British there would be."

Mark chuckled, "Well, Ostrich, now that you have the boy's attention, give him both barrels of your wisdom."

"To write well about the elegant world, you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being."

Mark scoffed, "That's it?"

"No, of course not, Clemens. What matters is not whether you love the world or hate it, 

but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it."



The ghost of Louis L'amour sat down beside me, shaking his Stetsoned head at my empty page.  

"Ignore Mr. Fancy Pants there, Roland.   Show up, show up, show up, and after a while, the muse shows up too."




I started in shock and at the contrast when Kurt Vonnegut sat beside Mr. Lamour, nodding to my still empty page.    

"Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water." 

He flicked ghost cigarette ash my way.  

"Here's a secret, son -- 

give the reader at least one character to root for ... and try not to waste the time of a person who gambled cold cash on your talent."

Louis L'amour nodded, "And every sentence should reveal character or advance the action, preferably both." 


Mark and Louis both bristled as Karl Marx stopped in front of my table long enough to gruff,  

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life."


Karl noticed a tall, lnaky aristocratic man strolling our way and huffed off.  The man stopped to smile at me.  I swallowed hard.  

It was Anton Chekhov, physician by day and genius playwright by night.   He smiled at me with weary eyes.

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

And with that he strolled towards the bar to refill his champagne glass, calling out over his shoulder, 

"Do not ask me for more, young sir.  The role of an artist is to ask questions not to answer them."



Hemingway snorted as he sat in the chair opposite me.  "So speaks a man who wrote his first stories under the pseudonym, 'Man Without a Spleen.'"

Mark Twain scowled, "At the time the man was paying his own way through Medical School AND supporting his whole family."

Hemingway shrugged, "The world breaks us all."

Louis L'amour shook his head.  

"I'd always heard you were harder on a man than corn cob toilet paper, but now I know it."

Hemingway got up.  

"You want advice, Roland?  Do back exercises.  Pain is distracting.  Or write standing up as I often did. 

And remember: Prose is architecture, not interior decoration."

Then, he lumbered away nursing a grudge and his drink.

Oscar Wilde sighed, "Sad that no matter how long you nurse a grudge, it never gets better."


"Isn't that the truth?" laughed the ghost of John Steinbeck.  

"Roland, you have to lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day. It helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised." 

I never did get any writing finished that night.  But the company made up for it.