Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Seneca Thanksgiving Prayer

Oh Great Spirit,
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me!
I am small and weak; I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes
Ever behold the purple sunset.

Make my hands respect the things you have made
And my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.

Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
But to fight my greatest enemy: Myself.

Make me always ready to come to you with
Clean hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
My spirit may come to you without shame.

(Photo: JB 2007)

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Worked With a Genius

Years ago Brian Darovic and I taught at the same school; today he is being lauded in the press for his latest "project," the building of his own electric car--something he did for very little money and which will save him a large amount of it.

If you go to this blog, you can read the article about Brian and the car he built himself, avoiding the 40,000 dollar price tag that goes with some electric car kits.

According to this article, "Darovic estimates his Voltessa will cost about $1 per charge or a little more than 2 cents per mile.

Electric cars are also low maintenance. Tires, brakes, shock absorbers, lights, horn, radio, seats, glass and body work remain the same as those of a gasoline-fueled engine.

But there is no more need for oil changes, antifreeze, belts, exhaust systems or tune-ups. Electric motors are essentially zero maintenance and last the life of the vehicle."

Brian Darovic is one of those unsung innovators that will help to lead America in a new direction. I'm proud to say I knew he was brilliant long ago--but that was because of his wicked sense of humor.

Way to go, Brian!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hurrah for Edison

On this day in 1877, Thomas Edison presented the phonograph to the world. There has been so much advancement in technology since that time that we might take this amazing feat for granted. Here's a reminder of what made Edison such a stellar figure in history.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I am Accused of a Crime

This morning I experienced a bizarre phenomenon--an accusation levied at me about a crime that never existed, and yet it created problems in reality.

I was sitting at a red light with my husband at my side; I was driving him to work, and we were stationary, sleepily contemplating the sky, when a driver somewhere behind us began blowing his horn. We looked back. Who was doing that? It was obvious that no one could go anywhere; the light was still red. The man behind me emerged from his car, talking to himself, and began to approach my window. I locked my door. The last think I wanted was to engage a man I assumed was drunk in conversation.

When the light changed we proceeded through the intersection and on to my husband's place of employment. I let me husband out and turned my car to find that the man in the other car had followed us, and was yelling at me through his open window.

Curious now, I unrolled my window and heard him say, "How dare you leave the scene of an accident?"

"What are you talking about?" I said.

"You hit my car! You reversed into me!" he yelled. I noted that he had a baby in a child seat in his back seat. It made me feel bad.

"I haven't put my car in reverse all morning," I said. "It would have been impossible for me to hit you. And we were all sitting still."

He ranted and raved, insisting that I had hit his car (which, by the way, didn't have a mark on it). It was a strange moment; he was so passionate I was scanning for alternate possibilities: had someone else hit him? Had he experienced one of those weird optical illusions in which the car NEXT to him moved and it felt as though he was propelled forward?

What I knew was that I hadn't hit him, and I didn't feel obliged to hang around and listen to his accusations, despite the fact that he was calling the police.

My husband remained to tell our story, if it came to that, and I had children to take to school.

I left.

Later my husband told me that the police did in fact arrive, and that the man sat with them for some time, talking. Eventually an officer came to my husband and asked him for his side of the story. They asked why I left the scene of an accident.

"Because there was no accident," he told them in disbelief.

This man, to me, was employing a sort of terrorism: seizing the power of situation to try to force us into compliance with his view of reality. We had to keep reminding ourselves that just because he was insisting it was the truth didn't make it the truth.

The cop listened to my husband, went back outside, and drove away. We assume that is the end of the story.

But here is my question: are you obligated to stay at the scene of an imaginary accident? Is there a legal obligation to remain if someone is merely SAYING there is a collision, but when in fact no collision occurred?

I've heard that sometimes people purposely rear-end someone and then try to blame them for it, but that didn't happen here. There was never an impact: only a solitary individual yelling and accusing us of a crime, while we sat still on a road.

Didn't Albert Camus write a novel about this at some point?

Art link here

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Creator of Jekyll and Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson celebrates a birthday today--he was born in 1850. I still marvel at the story of the creation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; the fact that Stevenson was awakened by his wife from a fever dream and then cross with her for waking him from "a fine bogey tale." He wrote half the story and read it to his wife and houseguests, then ran into his room to write more, still feverish and mumbling to himself.

I sometimes envy both the creative spark and the speed with which he wrote his tales, but RLS was, in fact, a man with a very short time to live, and I certainly don't envy him that, nor do I relish having a lifelong illness, as did this fine Scottish writer.

But any writer today would envy the fact that, 150 years later, his books are still on the shelves.

One of my favorite Stevenson quotes expresses his basic optimism and appreciation of life:

"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life."

--Robert Louis Stevenson

Happy Birthday, Robert! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Great Reading continues

I'm still reading Otto Penzler and Jeffery Deaver's 2009 Mystery anthology; I just finished a great story called "Rust" by N.J. Ayres and a terrific story by Tom Bissel called "My Interview with Avenger." Really top-notch stuff here that's making me fall back in love with the short story form, which I have sadly neglected for the past several years.

Love That Rotary Dial

You can read my defense of old technology in Tuesday's Inkspot post.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

What I'm Reading

This group of stories is the latest in Otto Penzler's series, edited by Jeffery Deaver. I'm enjoying the rich variety and the stylish prose; I just finished a wonderful story by one of my favorites, Alice Munro, whose mystery is so layered that it has stayed with me, days after I first read it. I've digested it slowly, thinking about the possibilities suggested by the details.

Alafair Burke and James Lee Burke have stories side by side in this volume, and I look forward to reading them both.

There are more mystery hardhitters here, from Michael Connolly to Joyce Carol Oates, from N. J. Ayres to Kristine Kathryn Rusch--and even more, twenty in all.

This book is an education in short fiction, and I'm greatly enjoying the schooling.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Writer Ron Riekki's Dream Interview

R.A. Riekki is an author with Ghost Road Press who has always dreamed of being interviewed by Rolling Stone and Spin. Therefore, he pretended that they did interview him in this stream-of-consciousness (and reportedly fever-induced) faux interview. Here he pulls real questions from other interviews and gives them his own creative answers. Riekki's book U.P. has earned top reviews for Ghost Road and is currently being made into a film.

R.A. Riekki: Let me start out by saying this is really exciting to be interviewed by Spin. I used to read you guys all the time as a kid because you gave me a free subscription. True story. Thank you so much for that, by the way. Again, really, really excited for this interview.

Spin: Dig Out Your Soul sounds like you ordered in the ingredients, and all the labels on the jars read ROCK or MORE ROCK.

R.A. Riekki: I--I do not have a clue what that means. What are you talking about?

Spin: Surely the whole process wasn't all fun.

R.A. Riekki: Are you talking about my novel? I loved writing the novel. It actually was a blast to write.

: Would the name be different if they were Magnum or Trojan condoms?

R.A. Riekki: Oh. Oh, I get it. You're being postmodern. Um, I forgot what you asked, something about condoms.

Spin: Well, you know, you could be sanitary and throw it away?

R.A. Riekki: Throw what away? The condoms?

Rolling Stone: So it's safe to say that now that you are free of your contracts you're not going to be rushing to sign a new deal?

R.A. Riekki: Wow, I didn't know I was going to be interviewed by Rolling Stone too. Um, well, contracts, yes, I just signed two contracts--one for my novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Bogey Man to come out on Ghost Road Press in spring 2010 and then another one for my novel Hunger and the Ass to come out on Ghost Road in fall of next year, so it's exciting to be having two novels coming out in 2010.

And then a producer in L.A. is supposed to call me today about finalizing some contracts for my novel U.P. to be turned into a film, so it's a crazy time for me for contracts, yes. But they're not finished. We're still in the process. And I think you said something about signing more in the future? Yeah, I mean, contracts are inevitable.

As a matter of fact, before I became a published author, I didn't realize how much time is spent on publicity and interviews and contract negotiations and all of these other things that really have nothing to do with the more creative aspects of writing, which I naively thought was all you did as a writer. But yes, contracts, how the hell did Rolling Stone hear about that, though?

Rolling Stone: A lot of artists love the album form or have some connection to it. Is it going to bother you to be more single-focused?

R.A. Riekki: Single focused? Um, I don't record songs. I used to be in bands, but, uh, I just write now. So no recording singles or anything like that. I'd love to. And this is funny, but I'm really excited about the soundtrack for the film of U.P. if it does get shot as a movie, which is kind of funny, that I'm fired up for the soundtrack of the film, but music is so central to the novel that I feel it's got to be at the heart of the movie version if that comes to fruition. I mean, we're still in the early stages of contract stuff that we were just talking about, so don't mean to count chickens before they're hatched.

Spin: Butch Vig, who produced New Wave, helmed the new one as well. What makes him exciting to work?

R.A. Riekki: I don't mean to be rude, but I understand the questions a lot better from Rolling Stone. I just don't know what you're talking about again. And what do you mean by "exciting to work"? Do you mean "exciting to work with"? Because I've never worked with Butch Vig. I'm not even sure who he is. Didn't he work with Nirvana? Or Garbage? Is he in publishing now or something?

Spin: You're having your first kid any second now. Are you ready?

R.A. Riekki: No, I'm not. I'm not having a kid. I'd like to, but I don't even have a girlfriend, so . . . Not to be rude, but can I get a question from Rolling Stone instead?

Bill O'Reilly: Do you think Hillary Clinton is soft on terrorism?

R.A. Riekki: Is that--who let Bill O'Reilly in here? Am I supposed to really answer that?

Bill O'Reilly: We'll have more with Mr. Bush in a moment, including why the Taliban is gaining strength again in Afghanistan.

R.A. Riekki: I'm definitely not George W. Bush. Thank God! Quick question: can I not be interviewed by Bill O'Reilly, please?

Bill O'Reilly: All right. I don't want to--

R.A. Riekki: I would actually not mind going back to Spin's questions.

Bill O'Reilly: I don't want to debate world politics with you.

R.A. Riekki
: Look, I'm just gonna take three more questions, OK, one more from each of you. This was just supposed to be for Julia Buckley's Mysterious Musings book blog in Illinois, and I'm very sick right now, and I'm realizing I should have prepared for this. I mean, Bill has an earpiece and staff all around him and I'm in a tanktop and sweats on my bed.

Spin: The idea of very personal beliefs seems to lead into your views about rock criticism in general. A lot of more literary writers have been dabbling in music criticism tinged with personal essay, and your work is like that, too.

R.A. Riekki: That felt like a real question. Thank you, Spin. OK, yes, I agree, U.P.'s really influenced by that Gonzo New School, Truman Capote, High Fidelity, Hunter S. Thompson mix, you know, Lester Bangs and hip-hop and old Cream issues I'd read as a kid. Yes, and Spin too and Rolling Stone, I mean, it's a musical novel--I filled it with Subhumans and Slick Rick and Lou Reed and N.W.A. and Ice T and Megadeth and Sex Pistols because those bands rule and because I wanted my love of music poured into the book, and I've gotten a lot of great responses from readers who like that Nick Cave Henry Rollins Richard Hell I Am the Greatest Says Johnny Angelo style of writing where music plays a big part of the novel's construction, its references, its rhythms. I like that question.

Rolling Stone: Did you get any nice Christmas presents from your bandmates?

R.A. Riekki: When did Rolling Stone and Spin swap seats? It's November and I don't have any bandmates. You're wasting my time. Last question.

Bill O'Reilly: You’ve got MI-6 and Russian intelligence because they’re all saying the same thing that’s why. You’re not going to apologize to Bush, you are going to continue to call him a liar.

R.A. Riekki: Bill, that's not even a question, that's--I'm not even sure what that is? Paranoia? Or just rambling, I guess? Like some crazy old guy who's pretending he's in a Tom Clancy novel. And why is Bill looking at me like he's an eagle? Why is he so mad? Can someone get Bill O'Reilly a whiskey or something with a lot of alcohol in it? Or maybe have him leave? I tell you what, let's have the last question be from Rolling Stone.

Bill O'Reilly: Je ne vais pas vous faire avouer ce n'était pas mentir. Allez-y.

R.A. Riekki: Why is Bill O'Reilly speaking French? I think he's saying in French that he wants to leave. Last question. In English. From Rolling Stone.

Bill O'Reilly: You'd love to get rid of me.

R.A. Riekki: Yes. Rolling Stone, final question. Hopefully about my novel. I-I'm trying to plug my novel.

Bill O'Reilly: Because they couldn’t, it was a Gestapo-led place where they got their heads cut off …

R.A. Riekki: Just talk over him. I think he's getting senile. Ignore him.

Spin: You had a duet with Tegan Quin on the last record. Any collaborations this time around?

R.A. Riekki: Ignore Spin, too. They're back to being idiots. Just yell the final question Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone: So you're saying that if I bring up your Satan worshipping that it would be an inaccuracy!

R.A. Riekki: You're not going to seriously end with that question, are you? I mean, seriously. I wrote a novel that has been on Ghost Road Press's top ten bestseller list for the last 36 weeks straight and that's what you're going to ask me? It was nominated by a National Book Award winner, John Casey, for the Sewanee Writers' Series, and that's what you're going to ask me.

Rolling Stone: Never mind. I think we're done.

R.A. Riekki: Do you know Terry Gross has interviewed several puppets by now? Kermit the Frog, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. The list goes on. Puppets! And she still asks them penetrating, insightful, brilliant questions.

Julia, can you please start a campaign for me where your blog readers write into NPR asking them to have Terry interview me. I've earned it after this interview.

I think a lot of people want to be interviewed by Terry Gross. But I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, Ron. :)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Winners and A Mantra

"It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis."

Such are the wise words of Margaret Bonnano; may you all have a happy November Day.

And now for the winners! That's right, there were so many entrants for the book drawing I decided to give away two. So would kaisquared and janel please e-mail me at with your snail mail addresses--I'll get THE DARK BACKWARD right out to you!

Thanks for playing, everyone!