A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Saturday, May 18, 2013


This is a really interesting article that tries to inject some sense into the  'gun ownership and control' controversy that is roiling around in the Congress and among various easily spooked citizens throughout the country these days. I am particularly impressed with the article's assertion that there is "an alternative to blood, force, and suffering. It's called democracy." Why? Because I am equally disturbed by the hysteria and paranoia being generated by the NRA and other spokespeople from the Right who employ  effective, but deceptive rhetoric that is intent on engendering fear in the citizenry.Yes, some of us have "lost our minds" to assertions that try to make us believe  "as real and possible" that a  revolution is pending in the streets, that government collection, confiscation, and prohibition of all firearms is on the verge of happening, and that we need to arm ourselves with automatic weapons to protect hearth and home on a daily basis against impending invasion!As for me, I'd prefer a more democratic approach to issues that avoids armed revolution by pursuing rational and civil discussion and compromise to settle issues before we need an AR-15 or Bushmaster ACR in every home in the land. The question for me now is whether our politicians are noble enough--embued with sufficient old fashioned statesmanship--to put public policy ahead of seeking partisan gain with every issue that arises.

FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2013 7:29 PM UTC

“Have we lost our minds?”

Drop your weapons and celebrate that we live in a country where peaceful change is still possible

Tucson police officers cataloging a gun buyback program outside a police station in Tucson, Ariz. (AP/Brian Skoloff)
This piece originally appeared on BillMoyers.com.
We were struck this week by one response to our broadcast last week on gun violence and the Newtown school killings. A visitor to the website wrote, “It is interesting to me that Bill Moyers, who every week describes the massive levels of corruption in our government… [and] the advocates for gun control don’t understand that we who own guns in part own them to be sure that when our government becomes so corrupt we have guns to do something about it.”
About the same time that man’s post showed up on the web, we saw the startling survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind polling organization, the one finding that nearly three in ten registered voters agree with the statement: “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties.” Three out of ten! That includes 44 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of independents and 18 percent of Democrats.
That poll also noted that a quarter of Americans think that facts about the Newtown shootings “are being hidden,” and an additional 11 percent “are unsure.” As Sahil Kapur wrote at Talking Points Memo:
“The eye-opening findings serve as a reminder that Americans’ deeply held beliefs about gun rights have a tendency to cross over into outright conspiracy theories about a nefarious government seeking to trample their constitutional rights — paranoia that pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association have at times helped stoke.”
Paranoia and just plain meanness. On May 8, Christina Wilkie reported in The Huffington Post that Connecticut Carry, a pro-gun lobbying group, had issued a press release detailing the arrest record and financial difficulties of Neil Heslin, father of one of the children murdered at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. Connecticut Carry accused him of “profiting off of the tragedy.” Their release read, in part, “Mr. Heslin has found the employment he has needed for so long lobbying against the rights of the citizens of Connecticut and the rest of the country,” and the group implied that Heslin had received payment from Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which adamantly denies anything of the sort. Similar smears have been attempted against other Newtown parents.
This hate in our country — egged on by fervid ideologues and profiteering fearmongers — is palpable, stirred by years of irresponsible invective against public officials and agencies. Gun sales are going through the roof. In a sense, so much anger and so much disillusionment are understandable in a country where the gap between rich and poor is so vast that an environment is created in which brooding resentment is easily hatched. Sure, there is corruption in government and business — crony capitalism is the offspring of it — and when the public sees plutocrats who regard politicians as the hired help, and Washington as the feeding trough, it’s natural to fear that we are becoming vassals; subjects rather than citizens.
But a violent uprising, with all the bloodshed and chaos that would follow? Armed revolt is when people are so desperate they kill and are killed. Who would wash the blood from the streets, restore order after the chaos and bury the dead? Have we lost our minds?
There is an alternative to force, blood, and suffering. It’s called democracy. Yes, there is plenty of injustice, greed and sheer wickedness. But don’t mourn the fact — organize. Stop wringing your hands and berating real and imaginary foes. Join up with others, stand up to the exploiters, throw the rascals out. If Congress and the White House are crooked and out of touch, come Election Day, you make sure they lose. And on all the other days, when you can, you work for change and demand a say.
It’s not easy, but slow, hard and demanding – it takes long and patient activism to make democracy work. But with committed people organized and united toward common goals of social justice and accountability, victories are possible. Drop your weapons and celebrate that we live in a country where peaceful change is still possible. Make democracy work.


Silas House is one of my favorite authors. In a recent blog, he writes about his newest novel ( still in process) and then says that he takes his current inspiration from Walt Whitman. As it happens, I take some of mine from both men.

Try reading the poem slowly and aloud, print it out and look at it every day.  My life in this world is speeding by so fast that I often  tend to 'take simple things for granted.' Whitman was indeed a man who could see the whole of creation in a grain of sand, and he invites us all to do the same.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013  Silas House

Whitman's "Miracles"

In my new novel, Little Fire,  I'm exploring themes of parenthood and religiosity.  I'm thinking a whole lot about what it means to be a parent, how far we will go to be a good parent, how we must sometimes step back and  understand that what might be best for our children is not always the best thing for us.  I'm also thinking a whole lot about contemporary definitions of Christianity and how saying "I'm a Christian" might mean something totally different to you than it does to me because of those changing definitions.  I'm thinking about religiosity and even Christianity in a more ecumenical and inclusive way, too.  My main character, Micah, is someone who has only recently started to explore theology despite having been a fundamentalist preacher for the past ten years.  The two things that completely opens his mind are books and music.  He is lucky to discover writers like Thomas Merton, Willa Cather, and Walt Whitman,  and musicians like Patty Griffin, Joni Mitchell, and Jim Jones.  After losing his faith, Micah begins to rediscover it within the notes of music and the words of books he encounters. Through art he is able to once again see the everyday miracles all around him.

Today I'm taking my writing inspiration from Poem 22 of Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1900 edition), commonly known as "Miracles":

WHY! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water,         5
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love—or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,  10
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds—or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down—or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best—mechanics, boatmen, farmers,  15
Or among the savans—or to the soiree—or to the opera,
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman,
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,  20
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring—yet each distinct, and in its place.
To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,  25
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass—the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.
To me the sea is a continual miracle;  30
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships, with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?