Friday, December 7, 2012

55: Day of Infamy

Image credit
As the sun rose on the bow, the salty waves threw themselves onto the deck and splintered into the air, refracting the golden rays into a million specks of rainbow glitter. On every side, the fleet could be seen to an unending distance.

Standing on the bridge, Admiral Nagumo checked his watch. It was time.
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FFF-55 Vol. XLVII. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ferndale Nocturne

Ferndale Nocturne, by Taurus Burns. Posted with artist's permission.
Tonight I had coffee with a couple guys, one of whom is a local artist, Taurus Burns. Considering how we're acquainted, it's a bit unusual that I know his profession at all, let alone that I've seen his work. While we were talking, I admitted I'd web stalked him and seen the work he's posted online, and mentioned a couple pieces in particular that struck me.

Both are part of a larger series of Detroit landscapes, one of which is entitled Ferndale Nocturne. The painting is of a corner house in a residential neighborhood behind a tree. The scene is dark and lit from an extreme angle, as if from a streetlamp or a setting sun behind the viewer, so some features are given extreme emphasis, the leaves on the tree for example, while some are subdued beyond normal light/dark conditions.

The painting was different in my memory when I was discussing it with him than the actual image, which I looked up again before sitting down to write this post, but the reasons it struck me so well are more or less the same either way. The way I remembered it, there weren't lights and darks as much as whites and blacks. Rather than struggling to understand the what and where of the light source, I remember having a hard time figuring out the actual scene being lit, aside from the bold colors of the tree.

I blabbed through a meek description of the painting, which of course he recognized, and probably said something pretty weak in the way of telling why it struck me, but running through the conversation in my head while driving home, the real reasons came out pretty easily. The experience of refining those thoughts was surprisingly overwhelming.

What I'd like to have said, and maybe what would have done him more good to hear, is something more along the lines of how the subject of the painting emphasizes the difference between what's hidden and what's apparent, and what separates the two. It would have been especially relevant to our conversation immediately before and after my meager compliment, too, but I'm a lousy conversationalist. Even though the contrast between the hidden and apparent isn't nearly as extreme in reality as I'd remembered, it's still true that the metaphoric light and shadows hit me hard, on both the first and most recent views of the painting. As a viewer, I see three major components to this work: the light source, what's lit, and what isn't lit, each with their own personal metaphorical meaning.

The light source is a mystery. It's difficult to tell if this is a night scene lit by a street lamp, or if the light source is natural and the setting is dawn or dusk. Also, the source of the light isn't apparent to the viewer; it's outside the scene, which may mean the artist either didn't think it was important enough to include, or he meant that each viewer should interpret it differently. (It could also mean he thought it should be obvious, but if that's the case I'm a woefully unskilled viewer of art, which I refuse, for the moment, to consider.) The only clues about the light source are the angle at which the shadows are cast, and the colors of the leaves on the tree, which may be a reflection of a bright orange or yellow light, but could also indicate the season; that is another mystery. Whatever the case, the light source creates a vivid contrast between the other two features I mentioned, and what's more, is very representative of those aspects of my life that force some parts of who I am to remain in the shadows, while at the same time throwing a bright light on the other parts. As Shakespeare's Hamlet said, "I am too much in the sun."

The second major feature of this painting, in my opinion, is the part of the scene that's lit up. In the painting, the street curbs and a large deciduous tree are fully illuminated, as are the autumn-colored leaves. Most of the house itself is obscured. Without drawing too many parallels between the actual painted objects and my own personal meaning, I can still say for sure this is definitely representative of all those things in my life that people choose to see, mainly because those are the things I throw into the forefront of their perception. The things I choose to have lit are almost exclusively distractions from the main object: my actual State of Existence. My entire life, I've thrown up perceptual road blocks to prevent people from seeing facets of who I really am: my father's alcoholism, my family's dysfunction, my depression, my marital troubles, my personal failures, my low self-esteem. All these things are terrible and embarrassing to me, despite how common they may be in others' lives, and I have chosen, almost every day of my adult existence, to hide them behind something (anything) that may look more favorable to others in the hope of obscuring my real self.

Finally, there are the objects which are hidden in the shadows cast by the light and tree. As with the lit objects, the darkened portion also speaks to me of the aspects of my self I tend to keep hidden. To lend further meaning, the darkened house is the largest object in the painting, making up the majority of the background space. It is arguably the most important single object. As a viewer, I see the house as being representative of my real self, that which is kept behind more prominent (socially acceptable) objects (perceptions). A house as a metaphor for human being is by no means a new concept, but I think in this context its use is novel and delightfully done, despite the dark meaning I've assigned it through my own personal interpretation of the work. In the painting, all but a small portion of the lower level of the house is obscured by varying layers of darkness, which, again, speaks perfectly to the metaphorical comparison of that image and its personal meaning for me.

This painting is beautiful in many ways. On the larger level, it's a well-created and accurate reproduction of the scene itself. The perspective would be difficult for anyone but a professional to capture, and the light and shadows seem to fall as naturally as if in a photograph. The colors are wonderful, from tans in the tree and branches, the reds of the house and brick chimney, the leaves, and finally the brilliant azure of the sky. Going deeper, Ferndale Nocturne is a great example of solid talent. Despite my layman's ignorance of any true art appreciation or history education, I'm proud to call this artist part of my regional talent, and I hope to see him succeed not just because I know him, but because I think he does great work. One of the things I said to him during our coffee night is that art is a form of language, and this particular painting was created using expressions I find very familiar and appealing. For this, I have to thank him, and truthfully every artist that has communicated with in me this way. My life is made richer, and my emotions more clear, when I'm exposed to such expression. I know in this I am not alone.

Friday, November 30, 2012

55: Risk Management

Photo Credit
At the bar, my hands shook uncontrollably. Despite efforts to portray my anxiety as job stress or  personal dilemma, I was a wreck. Each combination of potential consequences hit me with a renewed sense of panic.

Finally, the phone rang. She said yes. As I drained my glass, the whole world turned fresh and new.
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FFF-55 Vol. XLVI. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Times of waiting are never wholly pleasant.

Of course, despite the flowery composition, that's not a fully-formed thought, but it's a nice rendition of what's always the top layer of any exploration of what it means to wait. Waiting necessarily means not getting what you really want or are expecting right when you want or need it. Waiting means doing something else--sometimes to a maddening end--until such a time as the Wanted and Needed become available. I would be remiss in not mentioning that, usually, if a thing is truly worth waiting for, the wait itself creates a heightened sense of satisfaction once the Wanted and Needed are finally received, but...

...that last bit isn't part of the surface thoughts about waiting. Usually they just go like this: waiting sucks.

Friday, November 16, 2012

55: Revenge

Sometimes, things just work out this way… that’s what I told myself as I slipped the last round into the clip, popped it into place, and pulled back the slide. It returned with the satisfying sound of aggression. After a final look, I carefully turned his photo face down. 

Revenge would finally be mine. Tonight.
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FFF-55 Vol. XLV. Tell a story in exactly fifty-five words. Go see G-Man.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The pain settles itself into the bottom of my stomach to be dealt with later; right now, there's work do to: widgets to make, dinner to plan, homework to help with, teachers to meet, dogs to feed and let out, tables to wipe and set and serve on then clean up again. There is no time to ponder the direness of the situation, or the urgency of my cravings, or the desperation of my need for closeness and intimacy and deep, satisfying love. There is no room for the work I need to do to repair my marriage, and nobody that would notice except me anyway. At the end of it all, I am an instrument of my children's existence and a means by which they survive and enjoy their First-World problems. To my wife, I am a symbol of some outdated definition of success, and a source of fuel for her self-loathing. To myself, I am a burden. Lift me, and relieve them all.
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Yes, this is the depression talking. Yes, I know parts of it are rather pathetic and some may even be offensive. That is the nature of the pain; I offer no apologies, only some disclaimers (ONE and TWO).

Friday, October 5, 2012

55: New Deal

Photo credit
It was obviously sent to the wrong number: “Brian its savannah vlad told me to text u so I could get a bag.” I stared at the message a long time, first in confusion, then in devious thought as to how I should respond.

That was two hours ago. Savannah should be here any minute.
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FFF-55 Vol. XLIV. Tell a story in exactly fifty-five words. Go see G-Man.

Friday, September 14, 2012

55: Satisfaction

Sweaty and deliciously filthy, we finally lay still in the grass. “Oh my god,” she cooed, taking a long breath, “I haven’t been worked that hard in ages.” She smiled and closed her eyes, and I could almost see a golden orange glow lifting softly from her body like glorious steam.

Yardwork: sexiest chore EVER!
* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. XLV. Tell a story in exactly fifty-five words. Go see G-Man.



A pale evening glimmer falls in shades of pink and orange as I lie agonizing. It is beautiful; an Aurora Borealis to contrast the slow bleed of my emotions. Pain like this is only earned, never truly inflicted. It is a soul-ache caused by some deep failure to nurture oneself. It shows a sickness of the heart that can only be cured with a revelatory love, the kind that scandals are made of. There is no rock or hard place, only decisions, and all this slow demise will seem a sad and ignorant episode in just a few turns. Or so I can hope. Or maybe I can just decide?

God help me: I need light, and I need to be touched by a soft and gentle and adoring hand. Then there will be love. And peace.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

3:15 2012 Excerpt

There was no other way, the doctor said, that head just had to come off. After looking at the evidence, I couldn't disagree. My behaviour had become erratic, it was true, and some of my actions were simply inexcusable. When pressed, I admitted that yes, I'd been at my shenanigans longer than had been made public, and also that I'd promised to change before, but failed to make such changes permanent.

She shook her head as she repeated the diagnostics, and we both became sad, but I couldn't disagree with her. This really did seem the only cure for my condition. Slowly, I stepped upon the platform and knelt into the apparatus, my neck feeling oddly comfortable in the tight slot. I heard the doctor's command through the black hood, and as the blade fell, I felt a sensation that could only be the sweet redemption everyone had been talking about. The release was marvelous, and my last action was to smile in relief.

I can only hope my face still bore that smile when my wife was given my head in the ceremonial basket later that day. Maybe, just maybe, she'd forgive me now, for I'd taken the only steps that would absolutely, without any doubt, guarantee I'd never be able to hurt her again.

Finally, she could be happy.

(Edited slightly)

Friday, September 7, 2012

55: Fifty Shades of HEY!

Once that single copy was left in the ladies’ room, things started getting weird. It started slowly, as they each began dressing differently. Soon, they were walking around the office a little more deliberately; they all had some fierce twinkle in their eyes. It got serious the day my boss called me into her office.
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FFF-55 Vol. XLIV. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


In the distance
Water breaks on rocks
And fills a pool
To flow beneath pine boughs and branches
And alongside a gypsum path
To end in the ever-flowing Rouge.

I sit on a bench of stone
Hewn as if for a temple garden
Meant for the worshipers of Athena.
For all I know, this stone slab is just that ancient
And may once have been hauled from a quarry
On the backs of conquered slaves.

Beneath my feet, a path
On which have walked many great minds.
I am surrounded by architecture and forest,
An amalgam of beauty which has inspired
Wonder and beauty

And which now serves as a hearty reminder that I
Like a conquered slave
Am in the daily practice
Of carrying on my back stones cut from quarry
To be hewn into wondrous and beautiful wealth
For my Masters.

And like falling water,
I let my dreams flow away,
And take comfort in their passage
Beneath pine boughs and branches
And beside gypsum paths
On which walk the young and passionate
Who, perhaps, take some inspiration
From the sound of my own youth
As it breaks on the rocks behind them.

Friday, August 31, 2012

55: Viral

Two weeks on the island together and we’d nearly forgotten: the sun and the sand, the bikinis and the drinks have a way of wiping the mind of its troubles. After getting back home to a blizzard and picking up the kids, it was almost like it’d never happened, until our hotel video went VIRAL!
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FFF-55 Vol. XLIII. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pitiful Souls

This morning I had an encounter with a wounded animal. A fawn, to be exact, spots and big ears and all.

It all started while driving to work. I'd left early, and I was looking forward to being extra productive. The traffic was starting to slow along a road where the speed limit is already 25 mph. Each car in the small, gathered clump of traffic was swerving away from the curb in somewhat the same manner as when a biker is on the road, except these swerves were more deliberate, around a tighter circle, and faster, with less of the courtesy and care that usually comes with avoiding something moving on the side of the road.

When I came close enough, I could see it was a fawn. It was frantically trying to get up, but it was against the curb, and its hind legs weren't doing what they were supposed to. It was then I realized just how careless and callous a human would have to be to drive past this wounded, clearly terrified, baby animal, especially in such a deliberate manner.

Full disclosure: I considered doing the same thing myself. As I've said, I was running early, a rarity for me. And probably like everyone else, I didn't really know what I could do. Based on what I could see, there was nothing I could do to actually save the animal. My next thought was, if I chose to do anything at all, I'd better get it off the road. This fawn was a wild animal, and though I didn't fear that I'd get hurt, I was sure I'd get dirty. I don't dress up for work, but I wouldn't even pick up my own dogs wearing the shirt I chose this morning unless there was some emergency to handle. I'm not vain, but I dress nicely for work about as often as I'm early, and I didn't really want to ruin either.

All this went through my head in a second or less, nearly enough time to keep driving and go right past. I'm not a heartless man by any stretch, but I've done this before in comparable situations, as recently as this past weekend (though I'm sure that racoon was dead, and someone had already stopped to 'help' it). Today, it was most likely my initial thought about the other drivers who'd gone past that motivated me to actually stop my car next to where the poor creature was struggling on the road.

Just a warning, the story doesn't end well. I followed through on my good intentions and moved the fawn off and away from the road. Sure enough, my hands and forearms were filthy, not only with dirt, but the fawn's hair and sweat. Like my own canine confidantes, deer apparently shed when they're nervous.

The fawn still couldn't stand. Its futile struggles to get up only made it more of a danger to drivers should it be left there and end up back where I'd found it, where I'm sure it wouldn't be so skillfully avoided as before. I hadn't helped; though it didn't seem to be in pain, it was obviously scared, especially when I came near, touched, and carried it, so after setting it down on the ground, it fought even more to get up.

I've had first aid training, and though I was under no illusion that I knew what to do in this particular situation, I looked its body over for signs of injury. I felt its bones, an easy task with this small and lanky animal. Even though its hind legs weren't working, I felt no breaks or sharp turns in the legs or hips, or anywhere along its back. None of the joints were bent at an odd angle. I touch its head, but more because I was trying to soothe it than diagnose its injury. I thought to take its picture, but for some reason that seemed cruel.

It bleated weakly, softly, not necessarily because it was weak or wounded, but because it was young. Deer bleat, like sheep, did you know that? I'd heard it was true, but sometimes, though you may not question them, things like that don't make much sense until you experience them. I've actually heard a doe bleating loudly in a northern Michigan forest a dozen or more Novembers ago, probably having been shot by a bad hunter (good hunters try to minimize or eliminate their prey's suffering, and aim to kill instantly with their first shot). That sound was one of frantic terror; the doe knew she was going to die, and probably knew she was being tracked. It was haunting. This morning, the sound the fawn made was one of a simpler feeling: confusion. It clearly had no idea what was going on.

Looking between the fawn and the road and imagining the worst, I made my next goal to move it to the other side of a wooden fence surrounding the adjacent property. Assuming the animal could eventually stand and walk away, I thought it unlikely it would try to jump the fence to go back across the road. I picked it up--it weighed less than my dog, not more than 50 or so pounds--and tried to lower it onto the ground while standing on the road side of the fence, but I'd only lowered it a couple feet when it jerked its body and fell. Looking back now, if the fawn's injuries had been some kind of broken bones, I would have only made this worse. It's scary how easily the best of intentions to solve or soothe a situation can make it worse, or even push it over the line beyond recovery. Fortunately, that wasn't the case today. As I climbed the fence to straighten out its back legs, which had become crossed, again in the hope that it would somehow recover if left alone, another car had stopped, and a woman exited. She came over and climbed the fence, too.

I was glad for this woman's presence. Though neither of us really knew what to do, nor were either of us comfortable with the idea of leaving the wounded fawn alone. I was already invested, whatever the outcome, but she still had the choice. It is because of her that I started to seriously consider that I couldn't handle this, that I'd have to call some civic authority. The woman told me she'd recently watched her horse suffer in the same way, struggling to get to its feet, but unable to because its hind legs wouldn't work. This memory was obviously painful to her. The woman left, and I decided then I had to make some kind of phone call.

I moved my car off the main road and onto a dirt street along the other side of the property. I called home and had my daughter look up the phone number, then got in contact with the police. They'd already had calls, but I knew the address of the property, and so provided it. I tried to see if someone was home, but less than a minute after ringing the bell, a police motorcycle had arrived. I showed him where the fawn lay, still struggling, still confused. I should have known what was coming. In truth, I would have been surprised if the cop had said anything but, "I'm going to have to shoot it." But that's what he said.

I accepted this, not knowing any other alternative. I crouched to touch the fawn one last time, in some effort to express regret. It was still afraid of me; my touch did not soothe it. I made whatever spiritual expression I could, but there was no recognition, no inter-species barriers were broken between us. I turned to walk away as a police car pulled up, and I knew the first cop was unholstering his weapon. I heard the shot and looked back just in time to see the upper half of the fawn's body that could still stand fall.

I was neither shaken nor numbed, and this confused me. I felt, and still feel, sadness, but this was tempered by the short reach toward a better solution where none existed. Most assuredly, I was as dirty as I feared I'd be, but not enough that I needed to go home to change, and it no longer concerned me anyway. Back in my car, I continued driving to work, but I did not continue my radio program, and I could not continue to eat my mobile breakfast. Something had changed, but I couldn't tell what. My only thought was that I, and the woman who'd stopped to help, would really be the only two people in the world who would mourn this, if that's the right word for how you feel about a wild animal you can't help save. We'd encountered it, I'd carried it, and just like that, in one policeman's shot, it was over.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

55: Irreconcilable Differences

At some point, it becomes more about doing than waiting. Unmet needs have a way of sinking into the cracks between people, and freezing in the cold, and breaking the two even farther apart. Eventually, this becomes inevitable.

That’s what she said to me, anyway (or something like it), before she walked out the door.
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FFF-55 vol. XLII. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man.

Friday, August 10, 2012

55: Rakoff Collage

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FFF55 Vol. XLI. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man. A bit of nonsense constructed from thirteen titles associated with or by the late David Rakoff.

Farewell, David Rakoff

David Rakoff has died. He was 47. He had cancer.

This story, "What You Lookin' At?" (Act 3), was my introduction to David Rakoff. In it, David talks about a trip he takes to go climb a mountain. It's not really the content of the story, but the way he tells it so timidly, with such vulnerability, that instantly drew me into this man. Because most of the monologue is spent describing events other than those involving the actual mountain, this story is a self-exploration that anyone who's ever felt inadequate can identify with. It's beautifully written, and told quietly and intimately, as if he and the listener are the only two in the room. Eventually, he talks about being on the summit, having made it in spite of his own self image. He says, "the only one casting strange glances of disapproval my way is me," and marvels at the thought of himself as a man who climbs mountains. I identified with these sentiments so heartily I almost had to stop the car the first time I heard it, and still need a bit of privacy whenever I listen now.

When This American Life (TAL) put on a stage show ("What I Learned From Television") in Chicago in 2007, I happened to be in town. I saw David Sedaris and became enamored with Dan Savage. I admit this is when I truly fell for Sarah Vowell, despite my pre-existing fandom and all her stories I'd heard before. David Rakoff was in the lineup and had performed at other shows on the tour, but wasn't there that night, which was disappointing.

When TAL did their first broadcast event in 2009, "Return to the Scene of the Crime", my wife and I were there. For TAL's second and more recent broadcast event, just a couple months ago, I procrastinated and missed it, and not having kept up with David Rakoff, didn't know he was sick, and didn't realize this might be my last chance to see him perform. When I listened to the radio version, "Invisible Made Visible", David tells a story about losing the use of an arm due to his cancer treatment, and once again brought tears to my eyes with his expression of self-doubt, being threatened by self-defeat, and then ultimately standing to dance on the stage despite his dangling limb. The part of me that identified with David most, that embarrassed child afraid to show himself to the world, was glad to have been at home the night of the show, sure that I'd have burst into a moment of inconsolability while sitting in a theater full of people.

Years ago, I took a chance and emailed David to express my thanks for...well, everything of his I'd ever been exposed to. Although he'd never been portrayed in any capacity as anything but a quiet, humble man, I never expected a response. I'm not one for fan letters, and I'm always sure anything I ever have to say to anyone I admire will be taken with a grain of salt and responded to with a polite but impatient smile. David not only replied, but expressed great surprise and appreciation that I'd written him. For the life of me, I cannot find the email (God knows I didn't delete it), and this upsets me greatly, but it makes me infinitely happy that I could fill at least one small moment of this man's life, which he shared with me so readily and selflessly, with happiness.

Thank you so, so much, David Rakoff. Rest in peace, you will be greatly missed.

Update: Here is Ira Glass's tweet/TAL blog post on David's passing:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Next Level

I want to be smarter.

I want to be able to not only do basic stock homework problems in multivariable calculus, but visualize the surfaces, the areas and volumes, the vectors and vector fields, and how they interact all at once. I want to understand and retain literature well enough to appreciate and behold the emotional and artistic history it represents. I want to be able to write and speak just the right word for exactly the feeling or thought or action or object I am thinking of. I want to be able to learn about the Mars lander, Curiosity, and truly wonder at its scientific and human potential. I want to be able to read Hugo and Flaubert in French, Chaucer in Middle English, Kafka in German, and ancient texts in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic. I want to understand brush strokes and color and perspective, and be able to make scenes and memory and thought come to life on canvas. I want to understand writings about the mathematical properties of classical music. I want to rise above the timid and limited and windowed understanding of every bit of knowledge I've ever been exposed to, and knit it all together in new and truly enlightened ways, and see the world the way the Masters view it, from their mountaintop. I want to really experience this world and this universe and this life.

This is what I wish. Were I to one day find my magic goldfish, I would not ask for money, power, property, influence, or lovers. These are all things anyone can have with enough hard work. I wouldn't ask for perfect, eternal health, or super powers, or special abilities. These are things nobody will ever have, and I believe there are good reasons that are placed beyond our comprehension on purpose. No--I would ask for understanding: time for and exposure to those endeavors that make humanity wonderful, the capacity to understand and retain the knowledge, and the mental dexterity to assimilate and apply it to something greater than myself. Were I to be bold on that day, I would also ask for some small measure of creativity, with which I would hope to make the world more livable for those around me. I would want to share this great gift in such a way as to bring hope and health to the diseased and disenfranchised.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Haiku: Talent

Oh, things I could do
(If only you would let me)
To give you pleasure!

Join the fun!

Friday, July 20, 2012

55: Brothers

I watched his body fall, and he, helpless, flailed uselessly into the canyon. For the first several meters, his eyes begged mine for a reason, but we both understood why this was happening. I could still smell the burning fat and flesh, feel the deep shame of rejection...

From behind, someone called to me: “Cain?”
* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. XL. Tell a story in exactly fifty-five words. Go see G-Man.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Love Letter

The love letter fell from her fingers onto an open newspaper. She bent forward in her chair and heaved a deep, broken sob, her entire world shrinking into this one, singular moment. Ink wet with tears, the signature on the letter ran together with the author’s printed name on the newsprint beneath, among the obituaries.
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FFF-55 Vol. XXXIX? Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man. Inspired by, and loosely dedicated to, Kevin, whomever he may be. "Now there's no love as true as the love that dies untold." --Robbie Robertson/Rick Danko/The Band, It Makes No Difference. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0 Review (Audiophilia III)

As previously written, I recently bought myself a new media player: the Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0, model YP-G70. Overall, I'm pretty happy with this device. Before buying it, I saw it had hundreds of user ratings above 4.5 out of 5, so I read the 1's and 2's to see what the naysayers were complaining about. Most of those are in regard to a bug that quickly causes the device to either shut down or freak out, which hasn't happened on mine and seems to have been quickly corrected by users after a return and replacement at the retailer.

Here are the things *I* have to complain about:

1. Don't spare the juice! For the life of me I don't know what Samsung believes is a decent amount of battery power. True, I do have my screen timeout set at max (10 minutes), but I want to see what it's doing even if I don't touch anything for a little while. If I played music all day at work or in the car, I'd have almost no battery left. This being my first such device, I will assume this is just a case of me having unreasonable expectations. However, it would be nice if Samsung let me choose to have the screen never time out when the device was being charged.

2. Where are the accessories? I can't really be angry about this: weeks before buying anything, I'd looked for some case, holder, car adaptor, flippy wallet thing, or any version of the dozens of other cool accessories available for the several Samsung phones that are out there, and found next to nothing. I was surprised to see, in the store when I bought the 5.0, a snap on case (made, coincidentally, by a company headquartered almost in my own zip code), but that turned out to be a fluke. Not even this local company makes anything else for the 5.0. The closest we as consumers get is to find a comparably-sized (Samsung) device and see if it'll work. I haven't had the time yet to go on this quest, and I'll be very stingy with my money when it comes time to buy anything. With the exception of grossly overpriced screen protectors, even the aftermarket choices are almost nonexistent, unless I want to pay $20+ for something made overseas that I haven't had a chance to test fit or feel. Seriously, Samsung, at least offer us a wrist strap or something. What I'd really like to see are accessories similar to those for the Galaxy Note smartphone, which is just a tad bigger than the 5.0.

3. Proprietary micro-USB connector. This outright pisses me off. If I'd known about this before I bought the 5.0, it might have been a deal breaker, or at least made me more careful how I handled the cable supplied with the device. While other micro-USB cables fit just fine, they don't do anything--can't charge or transfer data. It's almost like somebody suggested a proprietary connector in a board meeting, but somebody else (correctly) pointed out that stuff like that doesn't fly with consumers, so they all put their heads together and decided to make it look like a common micro-USB connector, but not work like one. Bastards.

4. Home screen won't rotate. This is sort of trivial, but missed details greatly agitate me. Considering the image I found to put at the top of this post, I'm sure this must be a case of me doing something wrong.

Aside from these things, which can all be worked around in one way or another, I've found everything I read about the 5.0 to be true. All in all, I really dig it. I have yet to become very comfortable with the Android OS, so I'm sure there are lots of cool things and probably a few uncool ones, too, yet to discover. The Google Play app market is easy to use and has plenty of (honestly, too many) choices in both free and paid-for apps, not only big products like popular games but tools to do weird, specialized tasks, as well as alternatives to standard apps in case you don't like the looks of what you already get. So long as the quality is (stays) good, and nothing bad happens like [deleted so as not to jynx myself], I look forward to dozens of months of enjoyment with my fancy new music media player. 

Now if I could only beat the AI in the free chess game I downloaded, life would be great.

A Reminder

Just a reminder: I'm not writing this for you or anyone else. It's for me. I know I drone on and on about the most boring things ever. Even when I speak, I can see people's eyes cloud up after about 30 seconds. I know I speak slowly and over-deliberately. I use parenthetical phrases. I interject and interrupt myself. I get lost in subtopics knowing full well my listener has no need of the context but imagining that for some reason they may want it. I back up and correct myself.

I understand how you could get bored listening, or, in this case, reading. Just move along. This blog is my little laboratory  notebook in which I keep track of my thoughts and wonderings. Occasionally I've written a thing or two that others seemed interested in. Twice, I've actually posted something because I'd wished it was out there when I needed some advice. Here is a third instance of that last phenomenon, with a mess of preceding thoughts in two parts. I've taken the liberty to separate out the boring parts from the stuff I mean to actually be helpful.

Also see my original Disclaimer. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Audiophilia, Part II

My love affair with music has manifested itself materially through the evolution of my media players. As aforementioned, my earliest 'device' was a boombox hanging by wire from the heater vent of my '78 Buick Century. It was awesome not only because it played cassette tapes and the radio, but because I could take it in and out of the car. (I'll be the first to admit my standards were low back then.) Ever since, I've had lots of things that play music that I've been inordinately attached to because I must--must--be able to play certain songs at certain moments, or be ready to listen to this artist or that album whenever a particular mood strikes.

As far as real music players go, I've owned three so far:

1. Motorola m500 
This little thing thrilled me. It was compact, cute, and tough. It was easy to use and smart: this MP3 player was probably the very first reason I ever had to appreciate USB, and at the time 5 megabytes was more than enough to hold every ripped, downloaded, and generated song/sound file I had. I used it for more than two years, even well after all my friends started buying iPods for large multiples of what I paid. I mourned its loss when it finally quit like a tired mule, and I'll always consider it one of the best purchases I've ever made.

2. Zune 8, (Microsoft, third generation)
After the demise of my m500, I was at a loss. I had no desire to buy an iPod, mostly because I had no desire to let iTunes hijack my computer or my music collection. Plus, what I was seeing is that my friends who bought the cool new iPods were mostly being abandoned by Apple as the cooler, newer iPods were released. I didn't want in on that, so I turned to my next best untrusted option: The Evil Empire, Microsoft.

I know I should have considered alternatives, but I was a bit taken with the sleek look of the Zune, and considering my budget, I knew I couldn't afford to make a bad choice for a good reason. Everything about the Zune was sexy. After I finally spent months saving like a teenager, I bought one: red--sexy, I told you!

It took me a couple weeks to get the hang of. It was nowhere near as easy as the m500, and I bought it at the height of the DRM movement, so not only did it not like the only two songs I'd ever bought online, it questioned my authority to load and play songs I'd ripped years ago from CDs I'd owned even longer. It also wanted me to become part of some social network I'd eventually have to pay for monthly access to. The final straws were that it wouldn't let me use part of its 8MB capacity for mass storage and the proprietary software it wanted to use to transfer music files.

Frankly, it pissed me off, but by this time I'd spent my money and was going to make the best of it. After all, rated strictly as a music player, it worked well, and the sexiness of it wasn't lost in the menus and the touchpad control. So long as all I had to do was charge it, I didn't have to mess around with the software much, and that was enough. Sadly, very shortly after the warranty ended, the screen backlight went out. I could still use it if I held it directly in bright sunlight, but really that was it. My already bruised sense of value purchased was shot to hell.

2.5 Cell Phones
Storing and playing music on basic cell phones is easy and... basic. The only one of these worth mentioning is the LG Cosmos Touch. Though marketed to teens, it's a cool little phone and was ideal for use both as a phone and (basic) music player. But I lost it, and had to go back to my Env3, which doesn't even have a standard-sized headphone jack. Boo.

3. Galaxy Player 5.0 (Samsung YP-G70)
This is my most recent acquisition and my real cherry-popping entry into the world of digital devices. In the years since I bought my old m500, the Western world has exploded with Android and iPhone, 3G/4G networks, and data packages that amount to the payments I'll end up making on my teenage son's braces. The term "MP3 player" has almost become obsolete, and considering everything current media players can do, it's absurd to refer to modern, even low-end, devices with the term.

I decided I needed a new music player months before I actually put down the payola. When I started the shopping process, I looked online of course, and got in my head that I could spend a third what I'd paid for previous devices and get more than twice the music player. When I actually walked into a store to try and play with the myriad of products available, I got even more confused. But I also fell in love.

First let me say I was shocked at the price range: I went shopping for a simple touch-screen MP3 player, some of which are out there for as little as $30 or $40. I was expecting something not much more complicated than my three year old GPS. Then I learned about touch screens and started messing around with the fancier devices. Considering these things are just smart phones that don't make calls, the higher price makes sense, and considering Android devices are direct competition for iPhones and high-end tablets (which are even beginning to include souped-up e-readers like the Kindle Fire), the drive to maximize functionality also makes sense.

When I started messing around with the Galaxy Players in the store, I was fairly amazed. (I realize that makes me a bona fide tech noob, but after a certain accumulation of ignorance, it becomes quaint, and therefore excusable...or so I tell myself.) So I decided to get one, eventually, not only because I'd gone way too long without being able to carry my music around with me (basic cell phone music playing in the interim notwithstanding), but because it was a perfect excuse to enjoy all the cool stuff my friends were doing with their phones without paying through the nose for data.

To insure myself against another Zune debacle, I didn't use my own money, so it took me a while to get to walking into a store to buy anything. I spent this time reading reviews and going into more stores to touch and play. During this time, I learned the Galaxy Player 4.2 was coming out, and considered it instead, especially given its size. In the end, however, when I had my VISA gift cards in-hand, and spotted a package deal that included a case and charger, I took the shot and made the buy.

A note on the purchase: I had many options when buying. Unlike Apple's devices, Samsung's prices aren't fixed at every store and website. I chose to buy locally rather than online, and I chose to buy from a store that actually put their products out for customers to try out. Some of the players I looked at online were front runners, even more than the Samsung, but there was no way I was paying money for something until I could touch it and mess around with the menus.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Audiophilia, Part I

I am a music lover. I might even qualify as an audiophile if I understood the classical importance of the hardware necessary to optimize sound. It's a fact that I was born between the analog and digital ages, so my appreciation of music is an amalgam of my very early years sitting around while my mom listened to her favorite albums, my own childhood discovery and exploration of music, and the modern explosion of both availability and portability of musical formats.

As a result, I've been experimenting with ways to have my favorite music with me ever since I got my first cassette recorder. Like most folks my age, I made my first mix tapes by holding the recorder near radio speakers, trying to time the beginning and end of the song just right while keeping everything steady enough not to get those brushing sounds in the recording. Later I owned a dual cassette deck and that was a comparative wet dream. My first car was thirteen years older than me when I bought it, and didn't even have an FM receiver (or an eight-track tape player--I missed that era completely), so I rigged a harness for my boombox with a wire hanger and bought lots of D batteries. I was one of the first people I knew to own a cassette adaptor--both the wired kind that plugs into a headphone jack and the wireless kind that broadcasts a tiny FM signal to which you can tune your car radio--and one of the first things I did after buying my current vehicle was research and purchase an auxiliary input cable.

With the invention of digital music, my world became nearly complete. Remarkably, I never got into Napster or other file sharing methods, but I surely was ripping not only my own CDs to my computer, but those from every friend who would let me borrow them. The fact that libraries loan out music and other audio CDs for free is a testament to human kindness. And then of all magical things, my computer would let me create playlists of all those songs and burn them to a new CD. It's the ultimate mix-tape: all the songs, no ambient noise to ruin the song, and no signal degradation due to making copies of copies ad infinitum. (Seriously, if all the young'ns who grew up with this CD-burning mix-tape method knew the arduous steps such a task used to require, it would make all those when-I-was-your-age stories of "going uphill both ways barefoot in the snow" sound like a cakewalk.) I'm still very fond of this practice; I'll honestly never lose my attachment to physical media, regardless of how advanced we get in the digital age. (Plus, even if you could download liner notes, who would? And would the file include the smell of a freshly open jewel case, or the feel of carefully unfolding the paper for the very first time? I think not...)

Because of my constant desire to keep my favorite tunes nearby, I have watched with childish glee as music services such as Pandora and Spotify have become more mainstream and user friendly. I'm still using the free versions of both of these, with almost no desire (or need*) to upgrade to paid versions, and I have yet to try other, less popular (though certainly mainstream) services like iHeartRadio and Grooveshark. What I love about these services is that they are available almost anywhere (especially with Wi-Fi hotspots and smartphone apps) and that the artists get paid when we music consumers use them, which, after all, was the big deal when Lars took down Napster.

(Discussion on how the music-entertainment business treats/pays artists, especially since the explosion of digital distribution, will not ensue here; perhaps another time, since there's surely plenty to shout about.)

Friday, July 6, 2012


I remember hearing the song for the first time. I was in the car, as usual, and I felt helpless in my inability to not only stop and savour every note and lyric, but to write the tiny bit of information I'd held in my brain from the DJ's remark before playing the track, knowing I was sure to have forgotten too much for the memory to be useful by the time I had a chance to write anything.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Haiku: Confidence

Confidence is so
Elusive when you always
Fall short of your goals.

Join the fun!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Haiku: Postcard

I missed the deadline,
You can fail me for the week.
Nevertheless, here:

Pretty postcards show
What fun things I've been doing
Because you ar'n't here.

The last thing she sent:
A postcard from Hawaii.
Then she disappeared.

"With all of my heart:"
The last words she wrote before
She left forever.

Join the fun!

Friday, June 15, 2012


My first cast hit the water with a lame plunk, hardly worthy of the effort I’d made. Dad just said, “Try again.” Eventually I caught something tiny, but judging by his excitement it may as well have been a whale.

I still see his smile when I fish now, with or without my own kids.
* * * * *
FFF-55, Vol. XXXVIII? Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man. Dedicated to my dad on what would be his 39th Father's Day. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Haiku: Freestyle

A trifecta:

Going where I please
Is the finest way to hike.
To hell with the map!

Coloring outside the lines
Lets out the passion.

Freestyling full speed,
Throwing all the rules aside.

Join the fun!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Haiku: Drift

Sunlight falls, driving
The sparkling colours from the
Dewey leaves and grass.

Me and my lover
Standing on the dock above
The drifting duckweed.

We hold each other
As the world turns around us
Knowing well our ends.

"Just a chapter,"
I say to her wistful eyes,
"In your life story."

Join the fun!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

XJ Vision

I hereby propose a new English phrase:

XJ vision (eks-jey vizh-uhn) n. The propensity for owners of Jeep Cherokee (AMC/Chrysler designation "XJ") vehicles to see other Jeep Cherokees at a greater frequency than owners of other vehicle types, especially at great distances, areas of high car density such as parking lots and traffic jams, and while absentmindedly watching cross- or opposing traffic at a red light. Not to be confused with the Jeep wave.

* Other Chrysler Jeep designations (this list is by no means comprehensive and could contain errors):
  ZJ Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ (93-98) or
  WJ Jeep Grand Cherokee (99+)
  CJ Wrangler
  KJ Liberty

All in favor say aye.

Haiku: Fire

Seeming sanity
Fools my peers, but floats above
A bed of embers.

Those deep-seated thoughts
That drive my burning fury
are purifying.

"Can't do it again,"
She said as she struck the match
And set me aflame.

Join the fun!

Friday, May 11, 2012


I was late, as usual. I wasn’t paying attention as I pulled into the lot and nearly hit a woman, clearly just as late and stressed as me. However agitated she was, I only made it worse, and she sure let me have it.

That was eighteen years ago. She’s still gorgeous when she’s angry.
* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. [XXXVII?]. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. G-Man is still recovering; let's all wish him well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Haiku: Landscape

Red and yellow leaves
Signal a return to school:
Landscape of children.

Snow falls and covers
Everything. Landscape of white,
Perfect for snowmen.

New buds break open
To decorate the landscape.
Spring awakens us.

Wind sweeps through treetops
And brings a pleasant green warmth
Across the landscape.

Join the fun!

Monday, May 7, 2012

I ♥ Firefly

Links to full episodes on YouTube. No telling how long these links will last (as you'll see, one has already been taken down).
*Disclaimer: Do not watch these (or listen to them while working, like I do) until you own a legitimage bought-and-paid-for DVD box set. Make sure Fox knows we still love this series by supporting it with your dollar bills (or pounds, yen, rupees, euros, et cetera)!

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: The Train Job
Episode 3: Bushwhacked
Episode 4: Shindig
Episode 5: Safe
Episode 6: Our Mrs. Reynolds
Episode 7: Jaynestown
Episode 8: Out of Gas
Episode 9: Ariel
Episode 10: War Stories
Episode 11: Trash
Episode 12: The Message (in three parts)
Episode 13: Heart of Gold
Episode 14: Objects in Space

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ode to G-Man

When I finally got around to it again, I was so proud of myself. But when I went to post my work, I realized I’d missed a whole lot of important news. Apparently, the G-Man is out for repairs!

Get well soon, Galen. We miss you! Here’s to hoping for many more kick ass weekends!
* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. [omg who cares]. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man.

The last couple weeks, Galen (AKA G-Man), the host of the weekly Friday Flash Fiction 55 blogapalooza, fell ill and has been hospitalized. I don't know this man, but I know his mind, his face, his sense of humor, his passions--I've all but shaken his hand through his writing, and I'm glad of it. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way--dozens of others participate far more often than I do in the weekly fictionfest. I'm sending a little extra good feeling up toward the middle knuckle area of my left handed map.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Haiku: Spring

Orion slips down,
Now below the horizon,
While Leo rises.

Trees stretch t'ward sunlight.
Branches sprout bud and flower,
Shed their winter grey.

The softening wind
Reassures our numbed senses
That winter is over.
* * * * *

Join the fun!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Haiku: Conversation

Our eyes meet. Silent
Words pass between us. We need
No conversation.
* * * * *
Join the fun!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2000 Jeep XJ Power Window Fix

Boredom warning! This post has nothing to do with my usual topics of choice. Unless you came to this page by some internet search for "Cherokee power windows don't work" or "Jeep XJ driver door module" or something similar, time to hit that 'Next Blog' button up there at the top of your browser. What's that you say? Yep, no prob... see ya.

Still here? Okay.

I recently worked on my 2000 Jeep Cherokee XJ to correct an issue that intermittently prevented the passenger power window controls from working. I had such a hard time finding any useful information on this issue (except that lots of people have it), I decided to share my solution for others who might have the same problem.

Disclaimer: I'm not an engineer of the mechanical or electrical nature. I'm not necessarily handy with electronics, and I'm ignorant of most of the proper terms and meanings of things like "wire harness." My greatest strength is that I'm resourceful, detail oriented, and (sometimes) patient. If you follow my advice and your car catches fire, starts jolting you when you touch metal parts, or spontaneously becomes a beacon for extraterrestrials, it's not my fault.

The problem:
The passenger power window switches wouldn't work most of the time. Sometimes they would, but I could never figure out what made the difference.

The actual problem is a fault in the lockout button that keeps it in 'lock out' mode and cuts power to the passenger controls.

Here's one solution from YouTube's mrkvickasteve, the same guy who helped me save >$400 on my ignition lock cylinder. I was very near to trying his method until I thought to look through the service manual I downloaded somewhere (can't remember where). I created a .zip file of the PDFs and uploaded it to my Google Docs. The link is here: It doesn't have everything (part numbers are of notable absence), but it's an excellent place to start with any problem.

The solution:
Group 8S of the service manual covers power window systems. It shows the wire connectors that attach to the Driver Door Module (DMM). Here's the one-glance answer:

When the lockout is off (meaning the passenger controls should work), power flows from pin 8 in connector 1 to pin 9 in connector   2.

To bypass the lockout button, you have to keep the power flowing. I used a length of 16-gauge wire about 7 inches long taken from an old lamp power cord.

Keep in mind this image corresponds to the back of the DMM (part number 56004994AC--or 56009461AC, which I was told was a "production part number"), not the positions on the back of the plugs, where the wires come together, which is where I made my connections.

To bridge these connections, you'll need to know the wire colors:
C1 pin 8: biggest yellow wire
C1 pin 9: big tan wire.

The wiring on the plugs is held tight by light blue clips which can be removed by prying up three sides. I stripped about 3/8" from both ends of my wire, twisted the copper, and twisted it into the square receptaple alongside the yellow and tan wire connectors. You may have more skills and better tools than me, so by all means get as creative as you need to. Putting the light blue clips back on was an exercise in patience, especially if you're working in failing daylight like I was.

Should you be having any other issues with the power windows, the rest of the wire colors can be found in the service manual in Group 8W-60.

So here are the steps:
1. Remove the driver door panel: first pop off the plastic trim surrounding the lock/door handle (do not remove that screw!), then remove three large screws in the armrest and one small screw at the top right. Pry up the bottom left corner of the panel with a wide, flat tool and pull gently to release all the retainer clips. It may take some coaxing around the door handle. Once the whole panel will swing along the top edge, gently lift it straight up and off.

2. Disconnect the wire connectors from C1 and C2 at the back of the DMM. You need not remove the DMM. If you know what you're doing, maybe you can do something similar to what Mudderoy did to make your repair. The service manual tells you to disconnect the negative battery terminal first. I didn't.

3. Remove the light blue clips from the wire connectors.

4. Connect C1 pin 8 (large yellow wire) and C2 pin 9 (large tan wire) with your wire. Ideally, you would remove each wire from the connector, somehow join your new wire to the contact end, and reinsert it into the connector. I had not the skill, tool, nor time to do it that way.

5. Reassemble. Replace light blue clips, reinstall wire connectors, and put the door panel back on. I haven't been able to get the door handle trim back on completely yet; if you have tips, please share!

6. Test it. I haven't done this part yet, but it involves volunteering to drive when I go out to lunch with my work buddies and waiting for them to complain about their windows.

7. If all else fails, either (a) spend the $174 on a new dealer OEM part, (b) risk a cheaper aftermarket or second-hand OEM part, or (c) keep putting up with complaints from your work buddies and family.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Haiku: Annoyance

Lying in the grass
Gazing up at starlight. Then--
Oh no, mosquitos!
* * * * *
You know, that blog?
Join the fun!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Haiku: Happiness

Sunlight, morning dew,
Warbler sings the day's first song,
Spring flowers break ground.
* * * * *
(Late addition:)

word for HAPPINESS.

A new venture for me: Sensational Haiku Wednesdays!
Join the fun!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Peer Pressure

“Life’s a bitch,” he told me as he lit up, “then you die.” He took a drag and I looked at him through the smoke. He was my hero: older, cooler, confident. He offered me the cigarette. “You try.”

I inhaled and almost lost my lunch. He laughed. “You’re thirteen now,” he said, “man up.”
* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. XXXIII. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Velma: first nerd girl of my generation
She stood out because she was so plain. Every day I’d passed her in the math hall and we’d exchange a friendly nod or look, but never words. Neither of us would have known what to say anyway. Then I saw her on the lawn at Pine Knob wearing cutoffs and a tank top. Wow.
* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. XXXII. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man.
My tribute to nerd girls, for which we nerd boys will forever be grateful, and a nod to one of my fav's, HNG. Also a good excuse to share one of my recent guilty pleasures (explicit).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Truck Love

My wife introduced us in ‘07. She was tough and sexy, with a classic body. I had to have her.

We've been through a lot since, not all of it pleasant. But I'm still in love, and I’m gonna show it. It won’t take much to find passion again. I think we both deserve it.
* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. XXXI. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Well, so now it seems I'm the only one who hasn't had my say.

It's not because I haven't been paying attention. When all this (recent) business started, I delayed reaction, and asked others to delay reaction, because I wasn't sure what the right course of action was, or if any action was necessary at all. I was temporarily content to maintain my silence.

In the meantime, I was (justly) accused of not speaking up for the greater good, not making a strong position well known. This wasn't really surprising to me. Don't think I didn't feel a little wimpy because of my inaction. However, I know myself, and I know that when I respond immediately to a tender situation, especially in writing, I usually get myself in trouble because I haven't allowed myself to absorb all the facts and emotions, and my response is usually misunderstood because I couldn't grasp the context enough to present it well to my audience(s). This situation was certainly no exception, and so rather than risk being taken out of context, and thereby accused of something much more egregious than not speaking up, I chose instead to endure the accusation. The actions of others that followed were not entirely unexpected.

One problem here is that I am not understood well enough to be trusted to do what's right. You see, it isn't that my intentions aren't good, or that my priorities aren't in order. I do know what's right, and for the first time since this all began, I finally understand why. There's a reason I'm here; there are important things for me to do. It's no surprise to anyone that I'm ill-equipped for these roles, but what might be is that I desire more than anything to fulfill them well. I've been called to do something important, and even though I've proven over and over that I'm incapable of it, that job is still in my lap. I'm still expected to do it, and if the one I'll answer to when I ultimately succeed or fail can have this much patience with me, maybe I can find it in myself to become capable after all. I deserve another shot at it, and even if I've squandered the patience and trust of those around me, I am going to take that shot. To put a humorous spin on it all, Steve Martin put it best in "The Jerk" when he said "I have a special purpose!" Well hey folks, so do I.

To be fair to my doubters, this isn't the first time I've tried to change. It's true that much of what I've said has been said before. To be fair to myself, it is the first time I've tried changing my approach to change, if that makes any sense. My entire adult life, I've made some very bad decisions, and I have 20+ years of legitimate reasons why, but none of them qualify as excuses any more. Changing how I operate hasn't been easy, and it hasn't taken hold because I've been doing it for the wrong reasons. Now I think I have the key. This doesn't mean I won't have trouble, and it doesn't mean I don't foresee problems in fulfilling this purpose, and it sure doesn't mean I won't occasionally fail. I have a lot of details to work out, and I'm going to need a lot of help, but for once I think I've found the team that will pull me through.

So listen here. I am paying attention. I want my position to be known. It just seems I needed more time to speak it than others. Let me state it now then, for the record: Any and all who wish me well, if they are to support my success, should honor their place as has been agreed and forewritten. They should respect the sanctity of my heart, my home, and my family. We all have some role to play in this and I, for one, am ready to move on and start figuring out how to play mine. Finally, regardless of how others may feel, I will not speak or write words intended to harm or hurt anyone. There have been more than enough of both from all sides and it's time for something greater than a tenuous ceasefire. We need to learn to coexist peacefully, even if we intend to steer clear of each other, before any of us can begin to heal, let alone prosper. I will pray for this outcome, and I invite you all to do the same.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Job Opening

Mother Nature wishes to fill a position recently vacated in the Department of Seasonal Services, Winter Office, for the southeast Michigan region. Job duties include facilitating snowfall, maintaining sledding conditions, and ensuring ice thickness suitable for fishing between the months of November and February. Ideal candidate will be proficient with precipitation and judicious with extremes.
* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. XXX. Tell a story in exactly 55 words. Go see G-Man.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I am a light, and I am pure, because I was created that way. I am brighter than any earthly thing any mortal being has ever seen.

I shine behind lenses fitted crudely about an awkward housing. There never used to be lenses, but their creation was a necessary part of Becoming. They are crafted from shards of others' lenses which have broken, handed to me by broken people so that I may construct my own, and as mine break along their various faults, so shall I hand out shards to those whose lives I am shaping. The housing is not awkward by definition; it has become so shaped by the many hands that have warped it throughout my years. It does not define me--it is merely a vessel--but it becomes the perception of who I am, both because that is part of its purpose, and because others who see me have only their own lenses through which to view me.

My light falls onto that background which is nearest at hand, into which I've carried myself, sometimes by folly. As my lenses shift, and the backgrounds change, those images which are created will become what others will come to define me by. And, though limited, my choice of lenses through which to shine, and screens on which to project, will become what others call my character.

(work in progress)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ET Go Home

Months ago, I overheard this statement:
    "There are times in the life when the soul says, 'ET, go home, I don't like it here, it's a terrible squalor nasty place, and I wanna go back to Heaven...I wanna go back to the Garden of Eden, and merge back into the Whole, and  God's eternal grace.' But I can only have that I if I die, but I wanna live, so I choose not to do that. At that point we begin to look for something in this world of reality to take the place of connecting with GOD."
I was eavesdropping, I know, but it struck me, as if my own soul sought out these particular words as an opportunity to poke me and say, "See?! See what's been going on? Now maybe you'll understand what we've been going through!" Immediately, I wrote it down (hence the grammatically incorrect format; it was also a spoken statement, and so was made without the normal care a writer would take).

I've allowed this statement to rattle around in my head ever since, weighing its validity from time to time, and I've never found cause to reject it. In fact, I've found it's the key to understanding many of my behaviours and some of the situations I've found myself in.

Of course, this statement is based on the assumption that a body has our soul 'installed' at some point during conception. A reiki practitioner once said to me, "Your body is not who you are; it's just a vehicle." I remember those words very clearly, and when I heard the ET statement, this experience came rushing at me like one of those movie epiphanies that ends with the camera focused only on the character's eyes, leaving me a little dumbstruck.

The ET statement is also based on the idea that there is a separation between the spiritual world and the physical world, and that we as human beings have the unique capacity to inhabit both simultaneously. This is something C.S. Lewis first introduced me to while reading The Screwtape Letters. Unfortunately, our modern existence revolves mostly (completely, in most people's cases) around pursuits of worldly gains, and not entirely because we have a choice. Screwtape writes that inhabiting both worlds comes at a cost: we lose our understanding of the spiritual world. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try, though. It's true that I could choose to focus solely on tuning my spiritual radio back to the Divine Channel, but I've grown up in a life that requires some degree of material success to provide for and maintain the other gifts I've been given from God: notably this body here that sits typing, nourishment enough to keep it healthy, the means to become and remain employed, a warm bed to sleep in at night, and the people who love me. Ironic, I dare say, but I'm sure it's all just part of the Plan. Not knowing, and having no control anyway, makes faith so much easier.

A spiritual man (one of the few I've ever really trusted) once told me he believes babies have memories of God when they're born, which totally jives with the concept of soul 'installation.' Eventually, of course, these memories fade, due both to the enormous worldly experiences we have growing up, and also to the teachings of the people surrounding us who have become 'seasoned' (wearied) and therefore willing (though unknowing) agents of Pantheon of Worldly Pursuits. Even when a human being grows up knowing God, that knowledge is always subject to the interpretation of those human beings who raise him or her, which, in my experience, always seems to be some self-interested perversion of true faith based on exclusion of those who disagree or believe differently, or don't match some description of the thing one finds oneself to already be. Zappa was right when he said we are dumb all over.

It's a terrible, messed up world we live and grow up in, but we're not completely hopeless. The ET statement reminds us that we all have the secret decoder ring to make sense of it all: our soul, and that if we listen, we will have the knowledge we need to make it through. I don't just mean survival; I'm talking about actually thriving in both the physical and spiritual worlds. We were all put here for a reason and given a unique Gift with which we were intended to make the world a better place. As I teach my children, it is up to each one of us to discover what that gift is, develop it, and then make good on our end of the bargain by using it for the betterment of the world (and people) around us.

Easier said then done, I know...but I'm trying. Even if I hadn't spent years developing this philosophy, there's almost no chance I (or anyone) would get it right on the first attempt. I've held many jobs and had many successes and failures, all of which only contributed to my understanding of the whole ordeal. We are only blind, feeling our way around a huge room to find the thing that feels just right, occasionally bumping into others who are blind, sometimes believing we've found what we were looking for, sometimes giving up and settling down wherever it was we stopped searching last. Sometimes we get up from a place we've been resting and continue the search, much to the anger or disappointment of those around us.

And all of that is okay. I don't believe we are meant to know right away what our intended role is, and I also believe if we don't get it right this time around, we're given another chance, and in between times we do get to go back to where we came from, and have a moment of rest with our creator before we're dumped back into the maelstrom.

There will be no disclaimer with this post. Even if I was formally educated in theology or philosophy or psychology, I don't think any of these professional fields includes what I think I've learned in my brief time exploring my own space in both the physical and spritual worlds. I don't claim to know what works for others, only what has been working for me, and I'm not interested in anyone's judgment of that. If I'm completely off the mark, so be it, but even if I'm driving myself off a cliff, I know I'm at least providing for a few very important people along the way, raising them up with love, having fun and enjoying each other's company, and encouraging them to develop their minds, thereby enabling them to ask those same questions of themselves that led me to my own conclusions. Even if I'm wrong, maybe they'll get something a little more right, and that will make it all worth the struggle.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

No Love For Narnia

(alternate title: I Am A Very Bad Man)

I'm ashamed to admit it, but...

I just can't find love for the Chronicles of Narnia.

I know--just stone me. As literature goes, this series is supposed to be universal, loved by young and old, generation after generation. As authors go, C.S. Lewis is supposed to be captivating, inspiring wonder and excitement in the deepest recesses of the reader's mind. As epic stories go, the Narnia series is arguably a modern Aeneid, missing only a visit to the Underworld (and possibly a tragic father/son power struggle). And I'm sorry. But I just can't get there. Believe me, I've tried.

I made it through The Magician's Nephew just fine. I started The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe only to get shut down by the kids with Lucy crying, "Mr. Tumnus! Mr. Tumnus!" I remember the very moment I read that line, feeling very goofy, completely unable to imitate what I'm sure Lewis meant to portray as a frightening and terrible moment. But the kids weren't having it. They'd given me twenty minutes of their bedtime ritual, and they were done. They politely requested I read something else.

I was genuinely aghast. Really, I knew *I* wasn't getting into it, but these little darlings were supposed to have been enchanted. Wasn't everybody when they first broke into this novel? I thought by that point they were supposed to be hanging on every word, knowing in their hearts that Mr. Tumnus, the tragic pawn of the White Witch's trap, had been caught and surely punished, but hoping with their last breath that he would somehow escape his inevitable fate. But they weren't. We opted for Brave Potatoes instead.

Eventually I finished the book out of principle, but it took me several weeks. I even started the Horse one after, but when the evil guy bargaining for the kid turned out to be everything he'd been presented as originally, with nothing either sincere or sinister beneath the surface waiting to be revealed at the last minute, I just gave up hope. I finished the chapter and re-shelved the book.

Now I'm trying again, this time working in the order in which the novels were written in an attempt to revive interest. Having Read Wardrobe, I'm now digging into Prince Caspian. I wasn't worried about missing anything in the long years between, because I made absolutely no emotional investment in the former. What I've found so far is what I remember experiencing before: a really good story told in a flat, linear, single-layered monotone. And every time Peter says, "By Jove!" I almost want to puke. The greatest value I can find overall are the colorful and wonderful passing descriptions Lewis makes of characters and landscapes, but he never stops telling the facts of the story long enough to let me, as a reader, enjoy the mental image he's just flashed before me before it's snatched away.

I don't know what my problem is. I am sure I'm missing something. I do, of course, realize that the story as a whole, in particular Wardrobe, is a Christian allegory. I also know that Lewis was a dear and respected friend of my very most favorite, J.R.R. Tolkien. And the people in my life who love books and stories and fantasy and literature love The Chronicles of Narnia. I've also read one of Lewis's earlier books, The Screwtape Letters, and I couldn't put it down. Not understanding the passion for this series is like stepping out of the theater for Snowcaps just as the key moment in the movie is about to occur. Everybody else is in awe by the time you get back, but it's simply too late for you.

Please, somebody help me. I want to find beauty and wonder in this series. I want to find what others say they love. I want these books to change me the way other classics have, but I guess I keep missing the mark. If anyone can offer some pointers, I'd really appreciate it. Don't worry though, I'm not giving up this time. I intend to finish Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And then I'll watch the movies. But after that, all bets are off.

I'm so sorry, Clive. You know, it could be worse: I absolutely hated Voltaire, and I didn't even feel bad about it.