Saturday, July 30, 2005


Writing in the Sand
Originally uploaded by Martin Burns.
I had planned to call this entry "Writing vs. Blogging" but once again, the photo tag proved more telling. It captures everything I love about blogging. It's impermanent. It's both free and freeing. And if anyone happens to be walking down the beach and enjoys it, so much the better. You can even embellish your sandwriting with a castle or a mermaid wearing seaweed jewelry if you want to.

What's even better, no one can send you a curt rejection letter saying, "Lots to admire, but didn't quite meet our needs." Nope, you take out your stick and speak your truth on the beach and bingo, you're published beneath the wide blue sky. No angst spent wondering if it's good enough. If it will be accepted. You live, you breathe, you create. What's so complicated about that?

Well, try telling that to my agent who wants to know why I'm so behind on my current project.

"Yes," I say. "But have you seen my blogs? How about that photograph of the little girl in the yard? Those colors were incredible!"

"Blogging's fine, but you've got to be disciplined about it," my agent advises. "Real work first. Then your little hobby."

"But I've met all these wonderful people. I read their blogs, and they visit mine. You have no idea how much fun I'm having."

"Fun? When people start getting paid for having fun, or blogging, for that matter, then we'll talk."

"But can't you just look at it? You might like it. Really, just last week one of my commenters said--"

"Sorry, Patry, but I'm a busy woman. And if you have any chance of making a career of writing, you should be, too."

Okay, so now I'm off to do my real work. Right after I check in on a few of my favorite blogs. (Is there a 12 step program for this yet?)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


She Dreamt of Roses
Originally uploaded by lorrainemd.

My two favorite colors. Red and blue. Emotional opposites. The red of passionate life, and the blue of melancholic--or maybe just serene--meditation. I wonder if the color of a personality is coded somewhere in the genes. If so, my father was clearly red, my mother blue. And I their red-blue daughter.

Maureen Dowd's tribute to her mother which appeared in Sunday's New York Times was wonderful in many ways, but I particularly like her concept of "the red badge of courage."

From Dowd's piece:

Peggy Dowd died last Sunday at 6:30 a.m. I'm not sure if she was trying to keep breathing until the 8:30 a.m. Mass for shut-ins or Tim Russert's "Meet the Press."I just know that I will follow the advice she gave me in a letter while I was in college, after I didn't get asked to a Valentine's Day dance. She sent me a check for $15 and told me to always buy something red if you're blue - a lipstick, a dress.

"It will be your 'Red Badge of Courage,' " she wrote. And courage was a subject the lady knew something about.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


His Story: They met when they were only fifteen, and have been together ever since. Thirty years! He thought they were happy, planned a cruise for their twenty-first anniversary, but she had other ideas. It seemed there was this man she'd met at work...twelve years younger; he reminded her of the way she used to feel, the way she never knew she could feel. But no, I'm speculating on that last part, writing fiction. There was a man she met at work, 12 years younger. That's all I know. She's living with him now. Left her husband and children until things can be worked out, the house sold, custody assigned, assets divided.

He doesn't know where he will go, who he will be, if not her husband, if not the man with the most perfect yard in the neighborhood, if not a daily father to his children.

He does not know who to talk to, where to go.

Her story: Unknown.

My story: I walk past the house and peer fleetingly in the windows. I listen sympathetically. I go home and say my life with its messy gardens, its stable marriage, its raucous music, is not like his. But of course it is. Which is why I look, I listen--but not too closely.

Monday, July 25, 2005



The last time I wrote about a novel before I finished it, I ended up changing my mind long before the characters had a chance to unspool their story in my head. After raving about 'The History of Love', I promptly and disloyally lost interest when the narrative shifted away from my favorite character. By the time he reappeared, if indeed he did, I had left the theatre.

So where is my copy of 'The History of Love' now? It sits on my night stand in the "maybe someday I'll finish it" pile. Unfortunately, the fate of the books in that pile is predictably bleak. They sit there for a few months, inciting vague feelings of guilt. Then when a respectful period of remorse has passed, they're moved to the shelf of good intentions(a bulging shelf indeed, loaded not only with books but all my other failed resolutions.)

Finally, when the shelf begins to buckle, I donate the books to the local library, a practice that somewhat ameliorates my guilt. But I wonder if the potential readers who pick up my deserted books, the characters and stories that were not loved quite enough, don't sense the taint of rejection in their unmarked, unfingered pages? Do they wear their abandonment like some of the despondent singles who shop their hope in bars until their dejection glows in the dark?

But this is a blog, dammit, not the freakin New York Times, and I'm so excited about 'We Need to Talk about Kevin' that I, well, need to talk about it. And him. And Lionel Shriver, the author who won the Orange Prize for writing it. Right now. I can't wait until I turn the final pages. Besides, there is just so much in this novel, that it could easily be the topic of several posts:

1. There is the subject of the unlikable protagonist, the selfish character with whom the reader cannot or simply does not want to identify. I don't love Eva Khatchadourian, don't find her admirable, would not want to drink coffee with her in real life. So why am I taking her into my subconscious late at night right before I go to sleep? Because she's damn interesting, in spite of her negative attributes.

2. Then there's the fascinating issue of maternal ambiguity. What happens when a mother doesn't have the requisite feelings for her pregnancy or its result? I've never read such a rich or honest examination of this question.

3. And what about the child? What about Kevin? Is there such a thing as an utterly unlovable baby? A child who is bad from birth? And if so, how does a parent deal with that, both internally and externally?

4. How much responsibility do parents bear for monstrous acts committed by their offspring? Clearly, we blame them. I remember looking at the Columbine parents and judging them. Why didn't they know? Why didn't they do something? How did they raise such children? And beneath all that, the larger, more frightening questions loom: what if it's really not their fault? Who do we blame? How do we reassure ourselves that it couldn't be us? Couldn't be our children?

5. And finally, as in all great novels, there is the simple and complex pleasure of the words, the sentences, the connected constellations of thought. Such pleasure is immense in this novel.

So yes, I'm only 109 pages in and I'm raving. And thinking. And looking forward to taking the unlikable but fascinating Eva Khatchadourian into my bed and my mind again tonight.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Photograph by JF Poole via Flickr

Today is my father's birthday. Though he has been dead for five years, July 21st still belongs to him. The date of your birth is one of the few things that can never be taken from you. Even after you've been forced to abandon your body, your possessions, the group of particular predilections and quirks that comprise your identity, your birthday remains. On this date, at this time, you WERE.

But no, this is not going to be another post about death. This is a post about insomnia--the mind's refusal to let go of consciousness even for a few hours. The body folds itself into the position of rest and courts restoration, the lights go out,the house pulses with silence--but the mind skitters and darts like a monkey on a bicycle. While you watch the clock, desperately counting out the hours and minutes left to sleep, the monkey whizzes by, tongue protruding. "I'm not finished with you yet," he says and laughs demonically. Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick, the silence of the house becomes a roar.

I first encountered the monkey when I was still a child, waiting for my mother to come home from work, worrying excessively about school projects, or squabbles with friends. Over the years, I've gotten older, but the monkey is as young and vigorous as ever. He circles the house when I most need rest. Sometimes he is a one night stand; other times he settles in for weeks. He has been known to defy the strongest of sleeping medications.

This summer the monkey has been a nightly visitor. I turn on my right and put my pillow over my head, and he is there, his constant taunt, echoing in my ear. Think! Think! And of course, it is thinking that is both the arch-enemy of sleep and the monkey's most potent spell. Think, damn you!

I can't tell you how many times I've been tempted by magazine articles that promise an end to my affliction, and then offer the same useless pablum about eliminating caffeine and going to bed at the same time every day. Don't they understand this is a fight to the death duel between my exhausted body and a mind that refuses to obey the STOP sign?

Then the other night, after weeks of dealing with the monkey, I remembered the advice my father had given me many years ago when I was still a novice insomniac:

"Can't sleep? Lie down and forget you're alive; you'll be asleep in minutes," he said one night when he was annoyed by my night prowling. Then he slammed the door to my room. Not a suggestion, but a command. I don't think it worked that night. Maybe I was too young to understand the implications of his words. But the other night, and for several nights that followed, the command mesmerized the monkey like a hypnotist's watch. Within minutes of the remembered order, I was asleep.

Have I whipped insomnia for good? Probably not. As I said, the monkey has prevailed even over powerful narcotics. Undoubtedly, he will return with a counter spell. But at least for now, I've relearned the skill that babies and animals practice so effortlessly and often. Sleep.

Thanks, Dad. And one more thing, it's July 21st and I still remember.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


stones of light 3
Originally uploaded by annavs.

I wanted to write the Sunday Optimist Report yesterday, but I worked a lot this weekend, slept little, and when I searched my poetry books for inspiration, the poem that spoke to me in the clearest voice was this one by Jorge Luis Borges. Is it optimistic? You be the judge:


You are invulnerable. Have they not granted you
the powers that preordain your destiny,
the certainty of dust? Is not your time
as irreversible as that same river
where Heraclitus, mirrored, saw the symbol
of fleeting life? A marble slab awaits you
which you will not read--on it, already written,
the date, the city, and the epitaph.
Other men too are ony dreams of time,
not indestructible bronze or burnished gold;
the universe is, like you, a Proteus.
Dark, you will enter the darkness that awaits you,
doomed to the limits of your traveled time.
Know that in some sense you are already dead.

I know I wrote about a death in my last post, and perhaps it is the demise of a woman I didn't quite like, but whose life meant something to me and perhaps even something to the universe, which is still affecting me.

Or maybe death really is the great subject for poets. The monumental news we're sent here to proclaim over and over to our disbelieving readers. To our disbelieving selves. We die! Look, it happened to my sister, we say when we pen an elegy. Or to my lover. Even to the one I considered worthy of hate, but who turned out to be nothing but a poor human, governed by the same cruel laws that I am. It will happen to me and you. No matter how infinitely real and important our lives feel to us, they will be extinguished suddenly or with torturous leisure. We know not why or when or what follows. Even if we say we know or think we know, we don't know.

And it is precisely this dark wind at our backs that makes our days so thrilling. Anyone who thinks they have time for boredom or envy or antipathy is only half awake. It is up to the poets, the musicians, the artists to shake them up and spin them around and jolt them toward wakefulness. We are here in this amazing time. This amazing place. See it. Listen to it. Drink it up to the final drop.

Meanwhile, I have a new poem up on Sigla if anyone is interested. It's not even about death...or then again, maybe it is.

Friday, July 15, 2005


Originally uploaded by killthebird.
I had various titles in mind for this post, but have decided to let the title of the photograph stand. sunrise, small s.

As for the category it belongs in, I'll let you decide. My subject, besides sunrise, small s, is how you feel when someone you knew quite well, but didn't really like dies, and why death--as mundane and common as the bread we eat or the grass on which we walk still has the power to shock us.

C. was a former co-worker, with whom I struggled to get along, but frequently failed. Unkind words were said, grudges held, hours spent rehearsing comebacks to her next rebuke. Once or twice I scored petty victories, which I retold eagerly to friends and allies on the job.

But there were pleasant times, too. I sat outside and drank coffee with her on breaks. The inevitable plume of smoke encircling her head, she reminisced about the many boyfriends she'd had and the way heads had once turned whenever she walked into a room. We also shared a mutual love of children and animals. Though C. was not a mother herself, she had a relationship with the son of a former boyfriend that exceeded many mother-child bonds in affection and generosity. A couple of times I attended the annual themed birthday party she threw herself, laughing as she said "no one else was going to do it." She always served Mexican food, her favorite, and posed with me for pictures. Her friend who was not quite a friend.

Once she told me her favorite month was July; and she usually took the whole month off to bask in her love of beach and sun. It seemed meaningful that I would hear of her death on a bright July day.

I hadn't seen her in a couple of years, not since I left the job. Last summer when another former co-worker called and told me C. had been diagnosed with lung cancer, my "good intention" reflex was activated along with my sorrow.

I carefully chose a card--one that was neither too falsely cheerful, nor too gloomy--and stared at the blankness inside for fifteen minutes. I could not think of a word to write. I would send the card tomorrow, I said, putting it in the drawer where it still sits. Every time I drove past her street, I thought of dropping by--maybe picking up some Mexican take-out for us to share, bringing a potted plant. But I didn't.

Yes, I knew she was ill. I knew she was terminal, but I was still surprised by the phone call this afternoon. In the end, our common humanity transcended all our petty differences. Why didn't I know that before?

So now I will open my desk drawer and throw away the card I never sent. Then I will go out and buy another one to send to her brothers. On Monday, I will pay the visit I never had the time or generosity of spirit for--to the funeral home.

If I'm lucky, I will wake up tomorrow to another July morning and see the sunrise, small s; and probably sometime during the day, yet another opportunity for kindness will pass me by.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


CATEGORY: Every day survival

Mostly houses are secret places. We surround them with well tended lawns and tiny fences and color coordinated flowers, but inside life grows wild.

Last night, I was walking my dogs. We took our usual route, looping past rows of secret houses, contained gardens and uncontainable lives. Jade and Starski explored with their noses; I inhaled the night and thought about my unfinished novel, my usual preoccupations.

Outside one such house, a familiar, but largely unknown neighbor, climbed out of his jeep. I have long admired his orderly yard, his blond children, the scent of family barbecues and the laughter that sometimes wafted through the air when I passed. While my dogs sniffed his petunias, I offered my usual perfunctory greeting, adding a meaningless "How are you tonight?"

The only trouble was that he really wanted to answer the question. How am I? he repeated, walking toward me, one hand raking his thick hair. Not good. Not good at all. The house would be on the market soon, and he didn't know where he was going.

By then, my dogs were tugging at their leashes. An extended stop, a genuine conversation was not in the program. "I'm sorry to hear that," I said.

Last week was my twenty first anniversary, and my wife surprised me with a divorce.

Again, I murmured my regrets. I would miss them in the neighborhood, I said, though my words must have seemed as empty as his future looked at that moment. I had never really known them.

He took a step backward, reestablishing the distance between us. If you know anyone who's looking to buy a house...

"Not off hand, but I'll think about it."

From the window, a girl of about ten peered out at us, but when she caught me looking, the shade snapped shut.

I continued my walk, but I was no longer thinking about the number of words I'd written in my novel. I was thinking of the secret life, the private longings and unknown sorrows that exist behind the walls of every house I passed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Photograph: Arrebato by ccdd via Flickr

I was so excited when I found out Jeannette from Musings of a Middle-Aged Woman fame had tagged me for another meme. It's almost like being picked for the softball team in the fifth grade--something that didn't happen all that much for a kid with my athletic (in)abilities. But here I am playing on another meme team, with a third waiting in the wings. (See comments under THE SUNDAY OPTIMIST.)

Question number 1: What are the three stupidest things you've ever done in your life?

This is the most interesting question of the bunch. I believe stupid things are repeated over and over until we get it right. (I still haven't.) Thus, I started with the first three I could remember, and wrote my answer in the form of a poem: I WAS FIVE.

Question number 2: At the current moment, who has the most influence on your life?

Whoever I allow to influence me. On some days, my skin is so permeable that a rude cashier in the grocery store can ruin an otherwise perfect day. Other days, I feel so good I'm (almost) invincible.

Question number 3: If you were given a time machine that functioned, and you were allowed to only pick up to five people to dine with, who would you pick?

Might as well make the discussion interesting. How's this? Jesus, Napoleon, Aristotle, Buddha, and John J. Heney (my grandfather).

Question number 4: If you had three wishes that were not supernatural, what would they be?

The least interesting question because we pretty much all want the same things.

Peace, love and understanding for myself.
Peace, love and understanding for those I love.
Peace love and understanding for what the Buddhists call "all sentient beings."

Question number 5: Someone is visiting your hometown/place where you live at the moment. Name two things you regret your city not having, and two things people should avoid.

I'd rather tell you two things we DO have, and since this is my blog, that's what I'm gonna do:

The ocean.
Beautiful sunsets.

And two things you definitely shouldn't miss:

Swimming at midnight.
Shell collecting.

Question number 6: Name one event that has changed your life.

I learned to read.

Question number 7: Is not a question. It's a command. Tag five other people.

Anyone want to play?

Sunday, July 10, 2005



Last week, as you may or may not recall, I went searching for good news in 10 prominent newspapers. It turned out to be a pretty dispiriting exercise. Either there's not a hell of a lot of good things going on in this world (which I absolutely refuse to believe) or the newspaper-reading public isn't all that interested in it. What that says about human nature--well, we won't go into that, this being the optimist's report and all.

While I'm hoping that last week was just a bum week for news and the news isn't always that grim, this Sunday I decided to turn to a more reliable source of good news: poetry.

This, from Mary Oliver's Rules for the Dance is enough to make anyone searching for hope on a Sunday morning smile:

"No poet ever wrote a poem to dishonor life, to compromise high ideals, to scorn religious views, to demean hope or gratitude, to argue against tenderness, to place rancor before love. Not one. Not ever.

On the contrary, poets have, in freedom and in prison, in health and in misery, with listeners and without listeners, spent their lives examining and glorifying life, meditation, thoughtfulness, devoutness, and human love. They have done this wildly, serenely, rhetorically, lyrically, without hope of answer or reward. They done this grudgingly, willingly, patiently, and in the steams of impatience.

They have done it for all and any of the gods of life, and the record of their so doing belongs to each one of us.

Including you."

Friday, July 08, 2005


1. I love PostSecret (see sidebar for link) so much I used to look forward to Sundays just so I could see the new secrets. Lately, however, they seem to be getting a little redundant. Or maybe the secrets of the human heart are just more limited than I thought. In any case, these were my favorites of the week:

In the best first line for a novel category:


In the existential angst category:


And this week's all round favorite. Just the photograph of that little house is enough to make me weep for my lost childhood:


2. M.J. Rose, one of the most innovative marketing minds on the literary scene, premiered this vidlit on her blog, Buzz, Balls & Hype this week. For every blog that features the vidlit before July 19th, M.J.'s supporters will donate I five bones to the Reading is Fundamental program. Another brilliant marketing scheme? Absolutely. But it also helps a great program.

The video only asks a minute and a half of your time. After you've seen it, I'd be curious to know your reaction. Would it
a) Make you more likely to buy the book
b) Less likely
c) Not influence your buying choices one way or another

In my house,out of three occupants, it was a draw. However, one thing it definitely accomplished: it got us all talking about The Halo Effect.

3. In our secret hearts, most of us pity the writers of former generations, sentenced to toil away on archaic typewriters or even worse--in longhand. But arguably, the world's greatest masterpieces were written in these primitive ways. The proprietor of Tingle Alley poses the question: How much time to we lose to the distractions of the internet by writing on a computer. And is it worth it? The answer is thoughtful, and well worth your time, even if it is, ahem, another distraction from writing.

4. And finally, Natalie D'Arbeloff (see sidebar) posts a very poignant and personal photograph of her frail and suffering aunt in a post called "For the Unseen and the Unsung." She asks us to "take a moment, and go via imagination to the side of all the little people and stroke their foreheads, hold their hands." It is a worthwhile trip.

5. I know that #4 opened with the words "And finally...", but just found "Slow=Know," a wonderful piece of advice to artists on Danny Gregory's blog, Everyday Matters. (Scroll down to 7/7.) The advice is intended for visual artists, but I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be inspired by reading it.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Just read a terrific article in The New Scientist called "11 Steps to a Better Brain". Since I'm always in the market for a brain upgrade, I was totally excited. In fact, I was so excited about the possibilities of brain expansion that I'm not only going to pass the link along, I'm going to sum up what I learned. In that way, I can test myself to see exactly how desperately I need this information. Besides, reviewing what you learned might be one of the 11 steps. Then again it might not be. Crap, I'm already starting to forget.

Okay, so here's my clearly defective brain's version of the 11 steps.

1. Pharmaceutical enhancement. I'm not all that interested in the subject at this point, so I skimmed, but I think they're talking about Ritalin and stuff like that. Wasn't that just linked with increased cancer risk? Nah, definitely not interested.

2. Eat Beans on toast for breakfast. Apparently the combination of fiber and protein really clarifies thinking. While the idea of smearing beans on their morning english muffin would probably gross most people out, it sounds pretty good to me. But then again, I'm a vegetarian, and beans are practically my favorite food.

3.There's also some food called Marmite, which I never heard of, but it has a lot of brain building B vitamins, and hmmm, I think you can spread that on toast, too. Marmite. Kind of sounds like marmalade. Which brings me to...

4. Word association games are good. So are crossword puzzles, memorizing poems, and similar mental gymnastics, but you knew that, didn't you?

5. Knitting. Ever wonder why you see so many old ladies knitting those ugly afghans no one wants. They're keeping their brains in shape for God's sake. So be nice. Buy an afghan at the next church fair.

6. The best lunch is a salad and an omelette. The eggs have hmmm...choline, I think it was, and the salad's got anti-oxidants. Top them off with some yogurt for dessert and you'll be going strong all afternoon.

7. Exercise, especially the rhythmic kind that teaches your body patterns is good for the brain as well as the body.

8. You heard that stuff about listening to Mozart. Well, far as we know, that's still true.

9. Eat the right fats. Nay to the transfatty acid fake stuff found in cake, french fries, and everything your parents gave you as a reward for being good. Yes to fish and flax oil.

10. I think there was something about chewing gum, but how on earth that helps the brain, I have no idea.

11. Going without sleep for days on end doesn't help at all. Very bad news for insomniacs like me who will now have another reason to stay awake and worry.

But wait, wait, I've already got 11 and I still remember more. What about eating lots of berries and getting a job or trying to keep the one you have? And I'm sure there was something about nuns with positive attitudes in there and something called neurofeedback which sounded a lot like meditation to me.
Damn, maybe the article was actually called 17 Steps to a Better Brain.

Or maybe I shouldn't be so quick to rule out pharmaceutical enhancement.

So go to the New Scientist, then come back and tell me how well I did--or at least remind me of what exactly marmite is and where I can get some quick.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


"Everyone else can leave, but not you."

This week's New Yorker introduces a strong new voice in fiction. Ashes, a story by Cristina Henriquez enters the consciousness of the reader harshly. In the middle of her shift at the Casa de la Carne, the narrator, Mireya, is informed that her mother has died suddenly. She finishes the shift before calling her brother to get the details. At this point, I feel like I am on foreign soil, both geographically and emotionally. I'm not sure who is more heartless, Mireya's employer or the stoic daughter with whom I'm being asked to empathize. But the prose is sharp and concise and I'm still reading. Lucky for me.

This story rewarded me for my time in the way that only the best fiction does. It started with a blank and unknown heart, and then illuminated it so brightly that I felt like I had walked the streets of Panama City with Mireya, worked a few mind numbing shifts at the Casa de la Carne, and then gone home where a shiftless and unfaithful boyfriend named Armando waits for her to provide him with supper. It soon becomes obvious that the only meaningful connection Mireya has is with her mother.

"Everyone else can leave, but not you," her mother told her once, and now it seems that she has renegged on her own bargain. By the end of the story, even Mireya's taciturn response to her mother's death is seen for what it is: a reflection of the grief that ultimately derails her life. In rapid succession, she loses her job, and pummels Armando in the street when she sees him with another woman.

In our final image of Mireya, she is alone with her mother's ashes, but she is "looking out on what she can see." As bleak as the scene appears, there is something particularly hopeful in it that outward vision. Hopeful is also the way I would describe the future of this new writer, whose first collection of short stories will be released in September. I, for one, will be watching for it.

Monday, July 04, 2005


1. Light a sparkler. Or better yet, be a sparkler.

2. Barbecue something, maybe even a tofu hot dog.

3. Be a good citizen. Smile, let someone go in front of you in traffic, turn down the music when the neighbors are sleeping.

4. Kiss someone who loved their country enough to become a Veteran.

5. Kiss someone who loved their country enough to protest an injustice.

6. Sit in the backyard with friends and family and enjoy the day. Don't have any friends or family? Look for the house with the most cars around it, and join the party. Chances are no one will notice.

7. Celebrate water. Go to the beach. Run through a sprinkler. Conserve.

8. Do one thing to make your country a better place.

9. Improve the national literacy rate. Find a nice spot and read something.

10. Relax

11. Celebrate freedom, but don't be naive about it or ever take it for granted. The folks who brought you the 4th of July weren't and didn't.

All photographs by Ted Lukac

Sunday, July 03, 2005



CATEGORY: Good vs. Evil

I had an old friend named Marie LaPorte, who died just shy of her ninetieth bithday a few years ago. Marie was one of the pure souls I've met in my life, a relentlessly positive person, who never encountered a situation that couldn't be improved by a little humor. At the restaurant where Marie used to have breakfast every morning, they used to save a page from an old newspaper for her. Then while all her friends buried their heads in their morning papers, she read hers. Due to a printer's error, the page was blank. "It's the only paper that's not filled with bad news," Marie said, as she returned it to the proprietor for safekeeping every day.

I spent the morning trolling through about ten newspapers on-line in search of five pieces of good news to share; and I'm beginning to think Marie was right. If the battle between Good and Evil is being waged in newspaper headlines, then Good's in big trouble. All I could come up with was three pieces to share.

1. The Live 8 concert, was reported world wide. Though a few cynics tried to knock it for various reasons, most praised it for raising both money and awareness about poverty in Africa, and providing some great entertainment in the process.


2. The city of Portland, Oregon has had successfully and dramatically reduced carbon emissions while booming economically proving once and for all that good environmental policies and a strong economy are not mutually exclusive.

3. The Toronto Globe and Mail has a great multi-media piece called AIDS in Africa: A Turning Point. (I couldn't figure out how to link it directly, but if you go to the website, you should be able to find it.) It doesn't whitewash the tragedy of AIDs in the sub-Sahara; in fact it asks you to take an up close and personal look at its face, but it's full of hope. And hope, wherever you find it, is the best kind of news there is.

The scarcity of good news has left me feeling pretty depressed so if anyone has any to share or a positive link to post, I'd love to hear from you. Meanwhile, the next time I go searching for good news, maybe I'll try my friend Laura's bathroom wall.


Saturday, July 02, 2005



CATEGORY: Hmmm...sanity vs. madness maybe?

At least once a week something comes along that completely changes my life. This week, it was Technorati. (I'd provide a link but I'm sure everyone in the known universe discovered it long before I did--or at least knows how to find it.) Technorati's fun for a lot of reasons, but one feature that particularly intrigues me lists the most commonly discussed issues on the internet.

Now we all know there's a few significant issues going on in the world right now--wars, famine, nuclear proliferation, global warming to name a few. There's even a few amazingly good things happening, though they're much less talked about, and off the top of my head, I can't come up with one.

But what are people talking about? Tom Cruise. That's right. For weeks it's been Tom and Katie, Tom's appearance on Oprah, Tom's expert psychiatric advice to Brooke Shields. Oh, and don't forget, Tom helpfully reminding Matt Lauer that he shouldn't shoot his mouth off about things he's doesn't understand.

So having railed against the overabundance of all things TOM for the past two weeks, I now find that I have all these unauthorized opinions on the subject roaming around in my head. Pardon me while I release them.


1. As I learned that in communications class, it's always best to start with the positive, so here goes: Even in a landscape of glittering white perfection, your teeth stand out. I also really loved your performance in "Born on the Fourth of July".

2. I know Middle-age is a bitch--especially for people who make their living, at least in part, on their good looks. And I understand; I really do. But standing on chairs? Making inane comments about anti-depressants? There's got to be a better way...

3. Now this Katie Holmes--she looks like a nice girl, and hey, if you're happy, great. But honestly, it's not the first time in human history that anyone's ever fallen in love. It's not even the first time you've--well, we won't get into that. All I'm saying is that all this jumping around has got to stop. We're getting tired of this relationship just watching it. How must Katie feel?

4. I also understand about the need to market a product. Namely your new movie, "War of the Worlds." And not just that, you're marketing yourself, too--the movie star TOM CRUISE, whose inner life may or may not have anything to do with anything you've said and done in public lately. But seriously, I think you should have been a little more polite to Matt Lauer.

5. Hmmm...Marketing a product. Marketing yourself...And the whole world is talking about it...Maybe Tom's a freaking genius after all.

Friday, July 01, 2005

BEST OF THE BLOGS 6/24 - 7/1


So what were the five best things written on blogs in the past week? It's an intriguing question, but straight out of the box, let me admit I haven't got a clue.. And what's more, neither does anyone else in the known world. There are so many blogs floating through the sphere at this point that trying to find the five best posts would be something akin to trying to name the five best thoughts anyone had on the planet this week.

In fact, I visit so many blogs and invite so many diverse voices inside my head in the course of a week that these may not even be the best things I read. What they do represent is five things that stayed with my scattered brain after my mouse pressed me relentlessly onward. And in this age of pervasive A.D.D. and virtual wandering, anything that sticks to the brain has got to worthwhile.

1. The always intriguing Sarah Weinman's thoughts on the BTK killer. Chilling is the word.

2. The following quote which I found on Postcards from the Imagination and promptly transcribed into my notebook:

"My self-confidence comes from the fact that I have discovered my dimensions. It does not behoove me to make myself smaller than I am." Edith Sodergran, Swedish Poet

And while you're there, do a little scrolling and read the excerpt from the Jorie Graham poem.

3. The wonderful Dave Pollard, who aspires to no less than saving the world has a great piece on "Business Advice for Young People and their Parents" which is more like life advice for everyone. You'll need to print and read since it deserves much more of your attention than a typical blog post.

4. Dan Wickett's blog. Yes the whole thing. It's new, it's good, and anything coming from Dan is a must-read for anyone who is even mildly interested in contemporary literature.

5. Train to Chennai. Hey, we all love a train ride, and this particular one written by a blogger called mangs will take you from Outrage, through Indignation and all the way to that rare destination called Justice.

Meanwhile, if anyone sees the woman pictured above, will someone please tell her to come out of her study and head for the beach that's only a mile down the road. She's looking awfully pale.