There’s an old phrase that comes from the 1800s – “keep your powder dry.” It harks back to a time when firearms were fired with black gunpowder, and wet gunpowder wouldn’t fire. The idea was that you wouldn’t be able to use your gun when you really needed it if you let the powder get wet.
Since the election of Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States, I’ve been very busy with work and family, and I’ve been largely focused on what amounts to self-care for my mental and physical health. After all, I’m no good to my family, friends, or coworkers if I’m always fried, mentally and/or physically. And I haven’t been writing much.
The only thing worse than the willfully ignorant is the legion of apologists enabling them.
Since the election – before, really – we’ve heard a lot of talk about how all those urban liberal elites need to stop being so arrogant and start listening to very real concerns of real Americans in rural flyover values America.
We have more recently begun to see some informed pushback against this silliness self-serving rhetorical engineering masquerading as good-faith socio-political analysis. Now we’ve hit the daily double, though.
I posted my two big resolutions for 2017 already: aim high and shoot straight and insist that support be mutual. But what will I do about all the standard resolutions? You know, the ones everybody makes and breaks every year?
Here are 15 top New Years resolutions. And what I plan to do about them.
Lose Weight and Get Fit
Well, I’m already doing that. In terms of strength I’m in the best shape of my life already. So this is more like I resolve to keep doing what I’ve been doing, only moreso.
[Caveat: I’ll apologize in advance if this one sounds a little bitchy. That isn’t my intent, but I know people don’t always hear what I think I’m saying.]
Ever since we started this blog in 2007, and really for a good number of years before that via different media, I have done all I could to support the efforts of artists I found worthy, especially the seemingly numberless independent artists out there who are being all kinds of brilliant without much help from mainstream media or the industry institutions that dominate the areas in which they work. Music, visual arts, photography, literature, you name it – if you’re like me you run across a lot of fantastic creative work, and if you’re like me you want everyone else to appreciate it as much as you do. Continue reading →
President-elect Donald Trump’s treasury nomination oversaw the aggressive foreclosure of homes belonging to vulnerable populations — particularly the elderly — when he was chairman of OneWest Bank, Propublica reported.
Now, it doesn’t take much for me to go off on a tangent, so this easily did the trick. How very typical of Trump, while not even remotely draining the swamp, to add a predator like this to his mix of obscenely wealthy hooligans. There is no part of looking out for the working class in this, not even a part of looking out for the moderately well-to-do middle and upper-middle classes. This isn’t even just predation on the poor. This is just predation on anyone with a bank account that’s not part of The Club, and caveat emptor to them, too. Continue reading →
When I was a little boy, my grandparents read me the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). They had a particularly Southern Baptist working class interpretation of what it meant. If you had a gift, the Lord intended you to use it to make the world a better place. If you didn’t, it was a sin and the gift might be taken from you.
“You’re smart,” they said to me. “God means you to use your brain to help others.”
Whether because my ego liked the idea of being smart or because I was innately concerned about other people’s well being, the lesson never left me.
When I got older and started my career, I developed a reputation among those I worked with as a guy who was honest.Continue reading →
Reality has facts, however poorly we see them sometimes. Reaching out to understand someone else’s experience requires common ground, and for me, that common ground must be based upon a shared understanding of objective facts.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about how I was living in a bubble that distorted my perspective on America. The point was that, while I’m living in a bubble, I’m hardly the only one, and I gave an example of a grandfather from Vigo County, Indiana, who felt that his America was populated by “real people,” as opposed to the presumably fake or inauthentic people in New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago. But after reading several excellent comments on that article that provided suggestions how to reach people – listen, talk with instead of at, stop dismissing, denigrating, and demonizing – I realized that there is a limit to my ability, even to my willingness, to reach out and have a meaningful discussion.
Facts. They exist. And they’re a non-negotiable entry point for any bubble-piercing attempts I’m going to be involved in.
There is beauty in the darkness. This is all I have ever known.
Beauty doesn’t work the same for me as it does for most people. I first started realizing this in Mr. Booth’s (excuse me, Dr. Booth’s) English V class at Ledford High School in 1978 and 1979. I remember two moments distinctly. First, we read “The Eve of St. Agnes,” by Keats. I recall being overwhelmed by a) its darkness, and b) its beauty. This was not a traditional sunny pastoral. It’s a poem of the night, one of mystery and compelling seductive splendor.
Later we read Tennyson’s equally marvelous “The Lady of Shalott.” Again, I was struck by the way in which beauty was interwoven with dark, even sinister themes.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of my reactions to these masterworks, but something was afoot, and when I started writing poetry on my own (as long as we’re on the subject of darkness and doom) it began with a piece called “Octoberfaust,” which I tried to infuse with as much mystery and passionate nocturne as I could muster.
Of course, looking back, my melancholy aesthetic didn’t begin in high school. Continue reading →
When I was in third grade, the elementary school principal came into our class to speak with the students. I don’t now remember what the primary reason was for his visit; what I remember is only a fragment of his lecture.
He stood at the chalkboard and wrote in large letters:
M A N
Stepping to the side so everyone in the class could see the letters, he said, “Without man,” he stepped back to the board and wrote “wo” before completing his sentence, “you cannot have woman.”
On the board was the word:
Almost 50 years later, I can still see this man saying these words, spewing ignorance and sexism across a new generation of children. Continue reading →
In the early afternoon of Election Day 2016, I traded messages with a good friend, heart swelling with hope.
“To think … maybe, just maybe, the kiddos we love who are little right now …they’ll never know a world where a person of color or a woman couldn’t be president.”
Within hours, I watched the country turn a deeper red, crimson spreading from coast to coast, revealing the true colors of the United States.
Despite winning two million fewer votes from the American people than his opponent, Donald Trump secured more than the required 270 Electoral College votes to secure the presidency, effective January 2017.
Six years ago today – this is Ronan MacScottie hoping to make friends with a squirrel in Benedict Fountain Park.
I was a few months into being single again, and was hoping to find some happiness after years in the darkness. The upper side of the park was frequented by homeless people, who I suppose were hoping for anything at all – food, shelter. Life on the lower rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Ronan never met that squirrel. I don’t know what became of the homeless people. And I didn’t know it then, but the darkness was about to get even blacker, and it would stay that way for another four years or so. But it was different this time – it was the darkness just before light breaks.
On Thursday I move in with my girlfriend, whom I love immensely. Who knows how things go, but maybe my perseverance has been rewarded. Continue reading →
Our lives are full of noise. Endless beeps, twitters, and rings. Traffic, jets, refrigerators, air conditioners. Ubiquitous cell phones, microwaves, TVs, and tablets. Each pinging, humming, and demanding attention. Gratuitous noise, the TV or radio turned on and then ignored, or worse, talked over loudly, has long been a pet peeve. Car keys left in the ignition, leaf blowers (^%*^%$#$ leaf blowers), car alarms (see leaf blowers), and every cell phone/ATM/POS card reader with keyboards that indicate, by sound, every letter entered.
There are two motivations for writing – one pure and one not so much.
“There’s only one thing more important… and that is, after you’ve done what you set out to do, to feel that it’s been worth doing.” – James Hilton
Goodbye Mr. Chips and Other Stories by James Hilton (image courtesy Goodreads)
This is about being a writer.
The motives for someone wanting to do more than write, to become that person that others refer to as a writer, may be so individual as to be specific to very single person who aspires to that moniker. But I doubt it.
My suspicion is that there are two motives that drive writers, one fairly – shall we say pure? One, not so much. The first, purer, motive is that writers are blessed (or cursed, I can never decide) with the desire to preserve that which they have known or known about or would have liked to know. That act of preservation is part of the title of this essay: one might call it writing to remember. When done really, really, really well, it gives us lines like this:
O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.
Then there’s that other motive, the – less than pure one, shall we say. That’s the desire for recognition: fame, money, respect in one form or another, either because of critical success or financial reward (I have met famous writers who were humble and I have met famous writers who were smug enough to deserve a boot up their asses). It may be of interest only to me that the humble famous ones were far less rich than the smug famous ones. Maybe Ms. Lauper pegged it when she intoned, “…money changes everything….” Continue reading →
An icon of the American theatre, Edward Albee, died this week. Scholars & Rogues honors him and notes the small ways that the influence of great artists can affect our lives for years to come.
The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, New Theatre Company, The Factory Theatre, Boston, 2/23/12-3/4/12
We read The Zoo Story in one of my classes at Wake Forest – maybe freshman or sophomore year. I absolutely loved it. I think Jerry spoke to my teenage sense of who I was and what I didn’t want to be, and this dynamic was reinforced by the culture of the university. Wake was conservative and elite. I was conservative, but working class. Many of my fellow students were preparing themselves for sensible, practical, conventional lives. I wanted to be a poet. So while I don’t believe I necessarily understood that tension then the way I do now, I felt an immediacy in Peter and Jerry’s confrontation that, truth be told, still resonates for me today. Continue reading →
Yesterday, Big Think posted an interesting collection of Gallup Poll results, along with some commentary: Obama Actually Made America Great Again. Here’s the Data. To hear the rabidly irrational Obama opposition on today, of all days, I can only say that these are funny numbers to describe how Obama has ruined America in eight years.
What’s truly deplorable is that, of all the ways Bush (with a boost from Dems) ruined America Continue reading →
“There is always room and occasion enough for a true book on any subject; as there is room for more light, the brightest day and more rays will not interfere with the first.” – Henry David Thoreau
Books – I like them (image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)
As I’ve mentioned on other occasions, I am one of those people who feels a weird sort of moral, ethical or, most likely, neurotic need to finish books that I begin reading. As a reviewer, it seems to me that it is a courtesy writers deserve. As a writer, it is a courtesy I hope – but don’t always get the feeling – that reviewers give me. As a bibliophile and avid, perhaps compulsive reader, it seems to me that books and their writers deserve my attention – and possibly my affection.
The problem with a weltenschauung like this is that it compels one to wade through books one doesn’t particularly like. I am doing just that at present. Continue reading →
How do I pay tribute to a man who both enriched and destroyed my life? If I had never read his work I’d be less of a boozer than I am, but also less of a human being. Charles Bukowski would have been 96 years old today, and I have praised and cursed his very existence with every gulp of cheap beer or sip of fine rum that I have ever taken.
A number of people who are supposed to be friends have crossed a line and I don’t know if there’s a way back.
In recent months I have been called an idiot.
I’ve been called silly.
I’ve been called a child.
I’ve been called privileged.
I have also been called a sexist and a misogynist.
Not by Republicans, or trolls or anonymous blog commenters, though. No, I have been called these things by people whom I considered to be friends. Plural. As in, several people, some of whom might be reading this.
This isn’t all of it, either. In more Facebook shares and comments and stray tweets than I can readily recall I have had my intelligence, my character, my good faith, my commitment to my country and my family and my community questioned, often in pointed and patently insulting terms.
I’ve held my tongue for the most part, but the time has come to make something clear to those among you who have chosen the path of condescension: you have damaged our friendship badly, perhaps irreparably.Continue reading →
Last summer camping by the Imnaha River, I had a dream.
the Imnaha at Blue Hole
By Tamara Enz
It was August, but on the river in the bottom of a forested canyon and at elevation in the Wallowa Mountains, it was cold. I slept in the bed of the pickup, curled into my down sleeping bag, with multiple layers of clothing, and a hat. I don’t remember much about the dream except that it terrified me and I awoke as I was about to be decapitated.
Startled awake with the sound of water rushing downstream to join the Snake River, the trees crowding in above me, and the stars brilliantly clear in the gaps between the branches far above, I wondered what had occurred on this site. I lay awake a long time thinking about the dream and whatever energy I had tapped into.
As happens, the year waned. The dream, all but forgotten, left my conscious memory.
A few weeks ago, I was camping by the Imnaha. I had a dream. It was June, but in the river bottom, in an open ponderosa pine park and in the spring rain at elevation in the Wallowa Mountains, it was cold. Continue reading →