Friday, December 19, 2008


The Blue Zone is another in the book genre of healthy living. This is my category, more or less. Two of my favorites among scores of the same type of books are The Denial of Aging by Dr. Muriel Gillick and my favorite health guy, Dr. Andrew Weil and his 8 Weeks To Optimum Health. I like these two because Dr. Gillick tells it like it is and the best philosophy goes to Weil. I especially like his idea of compressed morbidity. All of us at some late age if we take care of ourselves can hope that our end time will be short.

The Blue Zones are places on the globe where there is a discernible group who have aged to a point that they are living long and good lives. And, their life styles are measurable. In other words, they have lived a certain lifestyle which have made them vibrant and alive and living long and well. It is what we have heard: exercise, what they eat and drink, their interaction with their fellow human beings. This is a fairly simplistic view of the book.

The author has developed the book into a scientific journal with the collaboration of other scientists on the science of longevity. The Blue Zone is a literal place: Sardinia, Okinawa, Loma Linda, California and Costa Rica. I've read and now rereading.

I must confess that I recently had the opportunity to spend time with several older types, several 90 plus types that I have no doubt will make it to at least a 100. The question with them is not The Blue Zone type issues of your life style but how did you make it this far and do you want to go any further. These are philosophical questions but those that fit our society at large much more than questions of The Green Zone. Most of these have had multiple operations, maladies galore, suffering the insensitives of old age bigtime. Several had canes or walkers, about half still were driving. Most were still living independently with several in some type of home as opposed to house or apartment. Several had hearing problems and were noticeably having trouble getting around. I had a good bit of trouble engaging them in meaningful conversation about what brought them to this point in their lives. Why? I don't know.

Read The Blue Zone. It can't hurt. I read the dust jacket first and I can tell you that it did not live up to its hype in terms of formula: know why? There is none. I think personally it is philosophy. Somewhere along the way, you kind of develop a view of how you are going to live and that is as important as exercise, eating right, whatever. All of this is so intangible but insight into yourself cannot be overemphasized as you age. And, here is the rub; I don't quite see it in the older people I meet.

My models were a seminary professor, Dr. W. W. Boyce. I can still remember his insightful views toward life, not only in the classroom but sitting out on the little bench at my seminary, Erskine, in Due West, S. C. His wife had died early on and was sick before that: he nursed her and made taking care of her, his life. He never remarried and had the philosophy that he wanted to devote the rest of his life to his students. When he taught me, he was about 80. In fact, while I was in his class, the school decided to retire him. We objected vehemently and threatened a demonstration which would have been unheard of in our day. They relented.

The second model was an older woman, at least 80 or so when I knew her. I was a busboy at the college cafeteria. She constantly solicited info from me about my life, my future, any and everything. At some point, she decided that she wanted to invest a small amount of money, like $200 dollars per month in helping me. At that time, I had about four jobs and her gift meant I could quit a couple and devote more time to my studies. It was a Godsend to me and the only stipulation, which was self imposed, was that I reciprocate at some time in the future in helping others. I have and rarely do it that I don't, to myself, say this is in honor of my dear friend, Nonnie (I never learned her real first name: her last name was Kendrick). Now, with Dr. Boyce and Nonnie, how did they get that way? I don't know but I know this, their philosophy of life reflected an attitude that just didn't happen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The Last Time I Saw My Father is one of those relational movies that seem to more or less cover the same theme. Although British, decidedly American in outlook, meaning lots of “navel” gazing. We are the best at attempting to figure how how we got to be who we are.

Are we hopelessly screwed up because of Dad or Mom or whatever. I use to love to quote author Tom Harris from his book, “I’m OK, You’re OK” from the seventies. This is an aside but I’ve always wondered how the theory of Transactionsl Analysis, fell out of favor with psychological theorists or did it? Regardless, I haven’t heard it mentioned in years. Harris said something like: “It is pretty sad if I think I am what I am today at 40 because my Mom hit my Dad with my potty chair on Christmas eve, in Cincinnati.”

This movie is a little like that. I kept wanting to say to Colin Firth, get over it. Jim Broadbent did a good job of portraying the less than insightful father with an outsized ego. Firth played the “hang dog” looking son even as a teenager.

What I did like about the movie was the fact that it dealt with reality about as well as movies do. Americans would have probably tried to tie it all up in a neat bow at the end. With the way the Brits handled it, gave us more of a chance to coginate our navel. 2 parachutes


Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)

Righteous Kill
Field of Dreams

Thursday, December 4, 2008


A very unusual and pensive movie. Must have gone directly to video and I don't know why. The story is so intense that getting it on a movie of two hours is pretty tough. They got the basics: one man's passion for doing away with the slave trade in his native England. It was the driver in his life. What a wonderful thing to have a passion and never give up. And, I might add: to have a forum, a pulpit, to get the message out there and to actually change things. As an aside, I will admit that there was some wishful thinking on my pet cause of National Community Service but without much of a chance to make a difference. And, can anyone think of anything more terrible than trafficking in human souls. Well, asking a few Americans to fight our wars is not far behind.

There were lots of nuances to this movie, the protagonist's sickness for one thing, probably chron's disease. Then, there was the song, Amazing Grace, the power of the hymn was simply overwhelming.

Some things weren't totally fleshed out as well as they could be but OK. It sure struck me, although subtle in the movie: the English slave trade was greatly enhanced by the Americans. And, it surely didn't escape me that America, who practised the slave trade and helped others do it a little more than a hundred years ago has now elected a President, who, very well may be descended from slaves. God bless America, we are still trying to get it right. Good movie, 2 parachutes.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Before the Rains is one of those movies that slipped under the radar. In fact, it was so far under that I'd never heard of it. It is a British movie, I think. Are there British movies?, other than Masterpiece Theater of which I'm a huge fan.

The basic story is a tale of India marching into Independence. However, this is a back story told incidentally through circumstances by way of an entrepreneurial tea farmer who makes stupid personal and emotional decisions. The consequences of his bad judgement are amplified through enormous cultural differences.

I can't tell much about the story without giving it away. However, the teaching aspect of the movie was something I had not expected. The clash of cultures was so obviously transparent with unintended consequences that jumped out at you big time. If we ever had any doubt why Iraq and Afghanistan will not work, see this movie.

The India culture in Before the Rains, although different than Iraq and Afghanistan, display the same tribal and Klan mentality. So foreign to us. The sense that we can't understand it is the understatement of this movie and underscores it over and over: the "stoning" mentality of a culture locked into the stone age. Although this sounds like a put down, not from my view, it just is and we simply can't understand this mentality--not a judgement, just from our perspective.

A good pensive movie that makes you sigh and think. 2 parachutes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

APPALOOSA--An Ethereal Movie

Appaloosa is no Lonesome Dove but having said that, it was a good and enjoyable cowboy movie. All westerns have pretty much the same theme. There's a bad guy or guys who run rough shod over the good folks. Then, there's a good guy who, against unbelievable odds, takes on the bad guys. It is good vs evil and as a rule ends in a gunfight and some sort of finality. I LOVE WESTERNS.

Most of the time, there's a woman. In Appaloosa, which was the name of the town, all the elements were there. Both Ed Harris and Viggo Mortenson were perfect for their roles. They remind me of characters in the Ayn Rand novels, "individualism at all costs."

The movie did something that movies rarely do, explore the relationship between men. Mortensen was an articulate former West Pointer and Ed Harris was always out to improve his mind--themes usually not pursued in westerns. With this one and Lonesome Dove, my favorite, to include recent Westerns like Open Range, good dialogue appears to be as important as gun play.

The female played by Renee Zellweger hit the mark, exploring relationships with some of the best dialogue ever. Ed Harris says about Renee on praising her qualities even while recognizing her less than stellar character, "She is clean, takes a bath everyday."

There are way too many nuances in this movie to fully explore, less I give it away. Mortensen understands quickly about Zellweger's philosophy, "If you ain't with the one you love, love the one you're with." She is headed toward choosing a more powerful and rich former bad guy played by Jeremy Irons. Mortensen knows a woman like Zellweger and understands what will happen in the relationship with Harris, his sidekick. For his old friend, Harris, Hitch (Mortensen) performs a final act to secure Virgel Cole's (Ed Harris)) relative happiness.

Good movie, check it out. Two parachutes

Friday, October 17, 2008


City of Embers is an amazing movie about a city underground. This city is working only because the generator is keeping it up. But when the generator starts to shut down.....enter the problems.

The city came about because the world had gotten so evil that to preserve it for future generations, it had to be underground. The creators of the city had created an entire set of keys to allow a mystery to be solved to get the people back to the light. This was the premise for the movie. This idea was slightly confusing but not a great deal unlike many mysteries. It took two teenagers questioning the common thought to find the answers to help the people to the "light", and to find a way to exit the city without hurting any one.

When they put together the pieces, it all becomes clear; and they found a way out. This story is good, a little unbelievable, but still good. It kept your interest. The two teenagers played their parts nicely and worked together to find the answer. I got some things out of the movie, mainly, not to give up or just accept the status quo if you think something isn't right. I had to laugh at the end as a monster ate the evil mayor who was only interested in himself. We never quite figured out where the evil monster came from. I think you should go to this movie, with children under the age of 13. My little sister would like it.

Lupe Jacobson



Susan C. Schwab, United States trade representative as quoted in the New York Times.

Friday, October 10, 2008


The Nobel Prize. Where is mine? I cannot get this. On occasion, I read something about writing and prizes and it makes me smile. Awarding of the Nobel Prize is one. What makes a good writer of the Nobel prize calibre?

What is Nobel calibre? Damned if I know and doubt that the Swedes who award the prize know either. Is a good writer who they say it is?

To them maybe but not necessarily to the reading public. And, they are about as objective as some right wing political commentator on Fox News. For years, the awarders of the Nobel selected only Swedes. The fact that the benefactor of the Nobel prize was from Sweden and all the judges were Swedish--think that influenced them? I'm smiling. There are eighteen judges for the Nobel, all Swedes and they serve for life.

The last American to win was Toni Morrison. I like her but hardly think
she was the best writer in America when she won the prize. And wonder what part political correctness played in her selection. I don't even know those who have won or not won but can bet the house on this: none of the ones I like have won. How about Louie L'Amour before he hit the road or Ayn Rand. What about myself and the thousands and thousands of writers who keep toiling along waiting for their just rewards.

All I'm saying is that a good writer is who the reader says it is. When people asked me about what I'm reading, I can tell them based on what I like. I determine my own Nobel Prize, without the money of course.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mrs. Paltrey at the Claremont

Mrs. Paltrey at the Claremont is a more sane and slightly acceptable film than one it is compared too: Harold and Maude. Joan Plowright is a terrific English actor: superb is more like it. She shows up at the Claremont, a hotel for those getting old, put out to pasture and out of the way mostly by family. In a happenstance (this is the great thing about the movies, they can put together a good story: not so easy in real life), she has a fall just as a young Renaissance type guy happens by. They have instant rapport. He becomes her "make believe" grandson, replacing an unresponsive one; and, the adventure begins.

Great characters and good story and a chance to think about getting older and our responses to our own older loved ones. 2 parachutes

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Two Weeks is the second movie I've seen recently that deals with death and dying. Let's face it, we all die.

Two Weeks attempted to convey how four siblings dealt with the death of their Mother. Having seem the movie, I am still trying to figure out how well they did. With such a weighty subject, a Director would have to be unusally talented to do justice to it.

This movie would be ideal to have student discussions around, all the way from undergraduates to med school. Not only the subject but the characters and their depth or lack thereof, would lend itself to ample comment.

As this family struggled to come to grips with the Mom's death, the family dynamics left something to be desired. And, of course, as viewers, we get a chance to observe the dysfunctional nature of who they are. Sometimes, you just wanted to say, "grow up."

It is hard to say exactly what made this picture so unsatisfying. Unappealing characters? To be fair, I think the movie tried to do too much in two hours. Americans are so impatient and have the attention span of a tree.

Sally Field was great. She pretty much carried the movie. I liked the way they did these little vignettes with her on camera, not penetrating enough, however. I'm glad she's back at work in TV. I've felt that she got way too much negativity from the "they really love me" parody when she won an academy award. Oh well.

Even with reservations, I still recommend this movie. See it, two parachutes.


Righteous Kill is one of those movies where everybody gets killed but the director. Al Pachino and Robert DeNiro play themselves. And, to me they are always delightful. And, in this movie, being reasonably objective, they are.

A good story with a twist or two. I think that the basic premise of the movie is something all of us mull from time to time. We would like to see the bad guys really get it. Those heinous crimes where the evilness of man emerges: the college student kidnapped and killed, the drug dealers who destroy lives, on and on--they get to court and get off or slapped on the wrist. Well, in Righteous Kill, there's a final justice for these low lives. Kind of reminds me of the TV show Dexter, a righteous serial killer who has his own way of taking care of the bad guys. Instead of saying, "the person should be killed," we say, they should be Dextered.

See Righteous Kill, it, at least, will take care of your vicarious need to see the bad people get it. 2 parachutes.


Tell Me A Riddle is a movie mostly about the finality of "age" in crisis. There are so many nuances that simply cannot be conveyed in a two hour movie and consequently the viewer is left to guess lots of things. Hands down, however, if you are someone like myself wanting movies to have some redeeming purpose, this one does.

The story is about an old Russian emigrant couple at a stage of their lives where decisions have to be made about their futures with the wife soon to go on to her rewards. Selling the the family home is kind of symbolic of change. The wife doesn't want to sell and move to an assisted lining facility. The husband is gruff and comes across as a patriarchal insensitive type but not really. The children seem a little flummoxed about the whole thing. In a kind of peculiar happenstance, they end up with a granddaughter in San Francisco, every visitor's favorite city for it's beauty at least. The granddaughter is a nurse and I guess is the reason they end up with her. She has her own dilemmas which adds nothing to the story, however. The dying mother has flashbacks to her time in Russia, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) type flashbacks. Interesting movie. I liked it. Two parachutes.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Longshot was an outstanding movie about a girl who was bullied in school. Her father left her 5 years ago and her uncle is the only one who has time to take care of her. At first he is an annoying uncle who won't leave her alone, but as time goes on they start doing little things.

The Uncle was playing football with a couple of friends when he drops the ball at her feet. Jasmine (the niece) picks the foot ball up and throws an amazing pass back to her uncle. So he starts passing and training her to tryout for the boy's football team. She gets really good, so after the coach considers it, she is finally put on the team, but is never played. When the Browns (the name of their team from Milton) were losing by a ton, the coach finally decides to put her in. They win that game. Jasmine gets her team all the way to the Superbowl for the Pop Warner League. In the last minute, the team loses.

This is a movie about a girl going through stress but is able to pull herself together through a game. Jasmine and her uncle go through a journey where they learn more about themselves and each other. It teaches a great lesson that you can be what ever you want to be when you grow up. I strongly suggest that you should see it.

Lupe Jacobson, age 12, guest reviewer

Saturday, August 30, 2008


As we age, there appears to be certain things we do. And, as a disclaimer, I dislike the expression, "getting older" as it inevitably becomes a part of our mantra, i. e., we read the obituary and give special attention to people younger than us who have gone on to their rewards. There is often a "pain of the week/day." And, we are tempted to ascribe most things to age. Well, without charging into an overwhelming philosophy, let us say, simply, WE AGE. And, for most of us, quality of life issues are first and foremost the important issue. One of the problems with us is that we want to continue to do what we've always done but simply cannot and facing this is no easy prospect.

Into this mix is an interesting book, Age Well, which basically spells out what we already know: we are indeed getting older. DUH! What was useful especially was the naming of the aging process which was helpful; 60-74 is the young old. At this stage, we are attempting to stay as healthy as we can. Then it is 75-84 which is the old old; often illnesses are multiple; then the last category is the very old, 85 plus. The secret according to the book is that we work to stay healthy and as we do, our growing older years become more of a fade to darkness rather than the lights being turned off.

The book is chocked full of good stuff and cited studies. I especially liked the approach that much of how we age becomes a function of personality. It really is a "glass is half full as opposed to half empty philosophy.

Dr. Robert Palmer is the head of the Geriatric Medicine Section at Cleveland Clinic which according to the cover is ranked as one of the top hospitals in the country. I don't know about that but I can fully endorse this book: it especially fits someone who loves to see things by the "numbers"--If you do these things, your chances of remaining healthy are better. Good, good guide for growing older.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Frozen River is one of those movies I chose on the basis of a review. I don't usually do this as reviewers like Ebert and Roepert are way too clever for me but whoever this reviewer was described the lead character in such a way that I had to see the movie. And, I was not disappointed, either. She was great as were all the actors, none of which I had seen before.

A compelling story in the hard scrabble life of people in upper state NY. I saw the license tag. Weather is cold and miserable, relationships tenuous and troubled. Not a scene in the movie to make one smile; although one
of an ethical dilemma made me sigh in satisfaction.

I can't tell much more about the movie less I give it away but in an odd sort of way, a celebration of Motherhood. What I came away with was a renewed realization of the haves and have nots; the chasm is enormous as this movie so aptly displays. An underbelly of survival which should make us "haves" somewhat ashamed or at least reflective. If I were to say that anything in our country had changed over the last several years, this would be it: the disappearance of pluralism in my terms: not a strict definition, rather a belief that it is the responsibility of the Haves to make sure that the have nots are not abandoned.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Finding Nouf is one of those books that I am thinking about weeks after I've read it which speaks tons for a book as far as I'm concerned. Reading a book such as Finding Nouf is a great way to learn history and culture and this one did it for me. And, without badmouthing Saudi, well, I guess I am; but being joined at the hip with a country socially mired in the Middle Ages in light of our own culture and dependence on them for oil is disheartening to me. The author appears to be more kind to the Saudi culture than I would have been, i. e., I just read where the religious police now are confiscating people's pets as this might force men and women to acknowledge each's presence. Please! All that aside, I found this book delightful. A page turner that taught me a great deal. It sounds a little snobbish but when this book appeared on the San Francisco best sellers list, it confirmed my belief that when I read the books on the list, I an not disappointed.

I would be less than candid if I failed to admit that the scalding review on this site actually encouraged me to read the book. My experience on Amazon is that the readers are never as personal as this reviewer appears to be. I had to think, "what is this reviewers agenda?"

Since I always order more than one copy of a book, one went to my adult daughter. A voracious reader, she thought it was simply grand and kept calling me trying to entice an answer of "who was the killer?" Now, this is what a book is suppose to do. I've learned history, confirmed my prejudices about how backward Saudi is, shake my head that we have invaded probably the most secular country in the Mid East and all of this insight because of a really super book. I love this book and cannot recommend it enough.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Over the last several Years, I've made it a point to asked all the Vietnamese I've met their views of being in America and if they had a chance to go back and live in Vietnam, would they? Rarely have I found one who would. And, I might add my informal research has included a good number. My barber, for instance, was thrilled when I told her I was going to my Vietvet reunion a few months back. She joked: tell all those GIs about me. What she meant was tell them how successful I am: and she is--owns three full service shops, i. e., manicures, facials , etc. Her view: in America your success is limited mainly on how much you want to work; (sounds much like our parents, not present day Americans); two kids in college, living the American dream. Maybe a little overboard by present American views but pretty inspirational to me, not to mention the lesson we might need to relearn. "If I want to go back to Vietnam, I can go back on vacation," she says. A view!

Why am I insistent on asking these questions? Here's what I think it
is: guilt! I want to think that somehow for all the suffering we caused,
some good came out of it. The presense of the successful Vietnamese in America may salve a little of our guilt, especially if they are like my barber. (Vietnamese are probably the most successful immigrant group in America).

Along that line, I've just finished this sweet and charming little book about the Vietnam war, seen from a child's viewpoint, Beyond The Rice Paddies. The author was a small child when us big old Americans were trudging through her village. I always wondered what the people felt as they were watching us. Then, especially after I had been there a few months and realized the futility of what we were doing, I hated it and felt bad about our actions upon the common people especially (wonder how the Iraqi vets will feel in a few years). In Nam, the villagers were just trying to survive and had done nothing to deserve this. Sure, there were probably some VC (Viet Cong, the insurgent group), hiding out but we didn't know.

When I heard about the book, I immediately ordered a couple of copies. All Vietnam vets should read it, guilt or no guilt.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


In keeping with a philosophy of watching weirdo movies, A Texas Funeral, is right up there. However, it made a good point or points about many things and did what movies can do if you watch them in this way: instruct and provide lessons. The movie portrayed most of the stereotypical views of the South, running the gamit from the romanicism of the culture, which is mostly myth, to being a hotbed of right wing Christians. Somewhere in the middle are most of us. For us slow talkers, the yankees of New York think we are stupid while the gays of San Francisco love us. Go figure.

What I liked in A Texas Funeral was the typical view on African Americans of the Sixties. The AA character in A Texas Funeral was a Vietnam vet who had some clever lines and did a mockery in the bathroom mirror of some of the stupidity of his white friends. The movie should be seen merrely for that scene if for no other. ***

***The below is taken from the soon to be published, Brothers, a memoir of five brothers growing up in the South from 1920 to the early sixties.

It is really hard to know for us where the racism issue was. For one thing we had little contact with blacks but we had much affinity with them. Anybody who says that “class” doesn’t exist in the American society of our upbringing or now for that matter is at best out to lunch or worse, disingenuous. For us, the informal class system was probably the land owners, the Landlords, who were usually one and the same; the merchants or maybe any of those that “lived in the better sections of town.” And, then there was us: the proud poor. After them, came maybe the white trash of the White Line and, sadly, of course, were African Americans.

The one thing we knew for sure was that the bottom of the food chain were the blacks. But, honestly, we didn’t think about it. When we do think about those times, we realize that there was something that united those of us on the bottom or close to it. Poverty. When you are poor at any level, you are poor. I will have to say this though: we never used the “n” word or talked disparaging about those that might be considered lower than us.

Our world view probably left a lot to be desired but in a sense, we were part of a survival generation, attempting to make life work for us without lots of cogitating our navel very much. I guess we knew a little about world events and things like women getting the vote, flappers, and the biggie, prohibition. Outlawing alcohol brought on the era of the bootlegger and we had family on my Mom’s side who were right at the forefront of making sure the “drink” was readily available. We never called it moonshine or anything for that matter but those who did, called it “white” whisky."

One advantage to being poor if there is such a thing is that the survival mode plays itself out as the big world events escape you because you either have been denied participation or simply didn’t know they were going on. Take the crash of 29, didn’t do anything to us as we were as poor as you could be anyway. For those above us, it meant people were having strokes, jumping off buildings, and other sorts of acts of desperate people. It was the beginning of the Depression—no run on banks for us.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Recently I went to a book signing of a young author (Finding Nouf: Zoë Ferraris, ISBN: 0618873880) and when she was talking about her book, someone asked her, "Did you ever consider writing a memoir as opposed to fiction?" Her comments were very revealing: something like, "I tried but discovered it was too hard, mainly because of my issue with the facts. I wasn't sure what I remembered, if it was correct, how others saw it, so I gave up and decided to make my book fiction." Extremely honest!

A Friend of mine, whom I'm encouraging to write her own terrific memoir (A friend has already given her a great title, Do you think God will ever set you free and let you fly?) sent me these comments: I just read an article by Abigail Thomas entitled "Everyone Has A Story To Tell" - are you familiar with her? She said to write a memoir, just cultivate the habit of listening to yourself.

Also, that writing is the way she grounds herself, what keeps her sane (maybe that's how you feel??) She says sometimes all you have to do is open a jar - the smell of Noxzema takes her back to 1957. I understand smells, fragrances, bringing back memories. I bought myself a gardenia plant last week - the smell reminds me of growing up - we had a gardenia bush in our yard - magnolias are the same for me. Funny, what one remembers.

Back to the author's comments: A memoir is not a place to get revenge or to appear angelic or to cast oneself as victim. A memoir should not be self-serving, even accidentally. We're all full of contradiction and conflict - we have evolved out of many different selves. A memoir is one way to explore how you became the person you are. It's a story about how you got here from there.

I've thought a lot about this - guess there are things that I know my grandchildren need to know, but maybe many things they don't need to know - and, I don't know how one can write and not express feelings - old wounds, loves, hurts, the happy times (it's all in there together) - and, how do you leave certain things out?? I admire you and others who write - it's a complicated venture.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Talk about a book, just finished one called, While They Slept. I read the whole thing in one sitting. It is gruesome in some ways: in the mid eighties I think, this teenager killed his Dad and Mom and little sister, only leaving an older sister still alive. He beat them to death with a baseball bat. Sounds great, eh? Well, what the book is about is not only that event but everything that led up to it; the sorry, sorry parents, the abuse, the incest sorts of stuff; and, kids attempting to survive in that environment.

But, it is also about the writer who did this story. What were her motivations? What was she out for? Her interpretation. And, a remarkable thing is that the oldest, Jody, a daughter, has reinvented herself, educated, now has a high position in D. C., I think; but, she cooperated in the writing of the book. Absolutely a page turner and intriguing.

What amazed me is how many people these kids involved along the way to get help; teachers, social workers, etc.; all dropped the ball, some of them so blatant that it is simply astonishing. What I came away with is the idea that society is so at fault, especially our American culture and the way we handle our view of not getting involved. Here these kids have bruises, etc. and it is as though they are invisible. Amazing.

Two movies I've seen recently echo the same sorts of themes, yet not the violence: poor parenting in particular. Savages is about a sister and brother who are somewhat dysfunctional, to use that overused word, but appropriate here: they are surviving mostly well but with all sorts of issues--the older son, a college professor, the sister, a would be playwright. Laura Linney and Phllip Seymour Hoffman, probably close to the top if not the top in their skills, are the brother and sister team. Great job! The tragic figure was the father as this brother and sister have to get involved to get him in a nursing home. The father has not aged well; probably an a'hole when young and worse now. Along the way, the brother and sister have trials and tribulation and in a sense, cope as best they could. And, they find some connection with each other. Although some might say, the film was oppressing and depressing. Not for me. Many lessons to learn, very pensive.

The other film is Diminised Capacity. Matthew Broderick, Virginia Madsen are former sweethearts. Story is about this family trying to figure it out, cute story. Matthew Broderick is coming out of the fog from a concussion which means he has trouble thinking. Virginia Madsen, the former girlfriend of Broderick who left their town for the big city, is seeking her own place in the world. And, at the center and somewhat of a subplot is a rare baseball card, very valuable. However, the true scene stealer is Alan Alda, who is missing a few steps. He is struggling to keep it together while knowing that he is slowly losing it. Good movie to see and discuss. We should not be afraid of these topics and as Philip Seymour Hoffman points out in Salvages, "Denial is our worst enemy." Three parachutes for these movies.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shuttering the Doors

The venerable Cody's book store in Berkzertly has closed. It is a household name in the Bay area and I read the obituary with a certain amount of sadness. However, sometimes things seem obvious in business but are hidden--nothing reveals this more than the demise of Cody's. In almost 25 years in this business, what I see is that bookstores, to include independents, have been hostile to small publishers. In tooting our horns, we bring many good books to light that would never make it without us. Bookstores cater to the big publishers and those they think have a reasonable expectation of selling. They display them prominently, usually getting paid by the publisher to do so, ethically questionable, in my view. So, what do small publishers do? We go to Amazon that welcomes us, teaches us how to promote our books and more than anything levels the playing field. Once our loyalty is there, we promote Amazon in all sorts of ways to the demise of stores like Cody who wouldn't have us.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Recently, I was talking to a fellow professional and was encouraging him to write his memoirs. He said something like, "You (and he named several) have written your stories. There are already too many books and why would I want to add another one to the collection." I know the thinking, you walk into a book store and think, "who is writing all these books?" But, still, what thinking! In his case, since he is a clergyman, it is almost like saying, all the sermons have been preached and all the revelations revealed. Please!

I have another friend who is a wonderful writer, and I have encouraged her over and over. Her correspondence, mostly these days with emails, are treatises and good. But, she continues to resist. Her life, is a wonderful memoir: orphaned in a sense as a small child as her Dad, in a drunken rage, killed her mother. Being raised by an Aunt, who was close to Cruella de ville but good in a way too. Much of her life of pain and pleasure and today one of the most positive people I know. Even in the midst of the ultimate tragedy, a beloved son with enormous promise took his own life, she has soldiered on--an inspiration and a sincere one. She has a story.

It is so sad that more don't write memoirs. I think that the media and the book business in general often discourage would be writers. They have it all wrong with their idea of what makes a good story. Simply, everybody doesn't have to write block busters, not many of those anyway. A Memoirist merely wants to tell her story in the hopes that it might encourage or inspire someone else. How about this? Leaving behind something for your grandchildren is enough of a reason.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Once at the grocery store, I witnessed an older women take the last item of something, almost right out of the hands of another shopper. Her comment was something like: I'm old and I deserve to have this.

I've thought about her comments often as relates to age. I surely don't believe that because one is older, they have a right to say and do what they want. But, I will have to admit that occasionally it is kind of refreshing for an older type to just "tell it like it is." In an interview with the often called, Literary Lion, Gore Vidal, the New York Times Magazine printed his candid, humorous, uncensored comments.

I'm not a fan but will have to say this interview was hilarious. He bashed John McCain and discounted his POW experience. When asked about being related to Al Gore, he said that his Grandfather, Senator Thomas Gore, invented the state of Oklahoma, obviously a reference to Al Gore inventing the Internet. When asked to comment on his colleague, Bill Buckley, who died this year, he said, "hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those who he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred." This is my favorite comment: "at the age of 82, you will be publishing your new collection of essays this week, which seems likely to confirm your reputation as one of America's last public intellectuals. Why do you think that critics have traditionally praised your essays more than your fiction, which includes, Burr, Myra Breckinride and 20 other novels." That's because they don't know how to read. I can't name three first rate literary critics in the United States of America (as Barach Obama says). I'm told there are a few hidden away at universities, but hey don't print them in the New York Times.

And, seems appropriate his views on gay marriages. "You live in California, where last month the State Supreme Court overturned the ban on same-sex marriage. As someone who lived with a male companion for 50 plus years, do you see this as a victory for equality?" People would ask, how could you live with someone for so long without any problems of any kind? I said, There was no sex.

"Are you a supporter of gay marriage?" I know nothing about it. I don't follow that.

"Why doesn't it interest you?" The same reason heterosexual marriage doesn't seem to interest me.


Sunday, June 15, 2008


And nobody understands more than me. I have been a subscriber for at least 30 plus years. How long has it been published? Dang, if I know... But, let's face it, writing magazines like WD sell hope which isn't a bad thing but readers would do well to accept the inspiration with somewhat of a jaundice eye. My view.

And, let's face it, there's no profession quite like the writing one. It is impossible to say the least. For most of us, we ought to be out selling cars or something; no, we have about as much chance at getting one of the "big boys" whoever they are, to publish us as winning the lottery. I don't know the odds but the lottery might be a better possibility.

I get the Digest and sit right down and read it. As a bonafide ADD, (attention deficit disorder) if I don't, it will languish among the other projects. My reading is to see if there are tidbits, something I might pick up. This time it was an article on marketing, right at the end by MJ Rose, a best selling author. Every writer who appears in Writers Digest is a best seller. I hear you!!!!!!!!!!! Regardless, interesting article and a couple of tidbits, one was her last paragraph which made me smile: "if you are still reading, you'll understand why a lot of people say I'm a never ending source of depressing information." And, part of her never ending source of depressing information is an earlier statement: "marketing a book is difficult in the era of what I call, 'choice fatigue.' There are approximately 500 books published every day in the U. S. and the competition among publishers for attention from the bookstore buyers, the reviewers and the readers is more than intense. It borders on the impossible."

I will give it to the Digest--At least they let someone say the realistic. Read her article, very insightful. I am a voracious reader and simply know what I like which is a broad section of nonfiction. What also her comments reinforced for me is that there are some aspects of publishing that are inherently unethical, I think. For one, the idea that the publisher pays bookstores for strategic placement of books appears simply to be not right. And, it is why I buy most of my books from Amazon. At least there is the perception that the playing field is level.

All the above to say, "Don't get discouraged." You have to write for yourself and that is no small thing. A friend of mine said he would not write his memoirs because there were already too many books. How absurd! It is like saying everything has been said, seen, experienced. Please! Give me a break. What I discovered with my last book which happened to be a memoir was that after returns, I had books to give away--it has gotten my story out which was by far the important thing to me.

So, suck it up and if need be, give Writers Digest the one finger salute or simply say, F... 'em!!!!!!!!!!! Next case.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The 5th Draft

I do not put that note of spontaneity that my critics like into anything but the fifth draft. John Kenneth Galbraith

Friday, June 13, 2008


I just read two books that the NY Times Style section profiled: my favorite subject--sex. It is titled, Yes, Dear Tonight Again. It has to do with two books, both having to do with jump starting marriages that are almost sexless. The books make the claim that they are getting it on every day, one for 365 days and the other for a hundred straight. Now, everybody who believes this, "raise your hand."

But, very interesting--the books are titled 365 Nights and Just Do It. I think there's merit in the books but let's face it, these sorts of books just don't happen--in this case, just so happens that one author was a marketing type and her best friend an editor.

Here's my point of what drives writers crazy: I read a similar book by a therapist, at least 3-5 years ago. And, the sex was a prescription for married couples, often troubled ones. But, nobody ever read the therapist book, other than me and one other; yet, here these two books get great press. And, the poor therapist, unless she is saintly, is saying, (am surmising this) "I already thought of all of this, was there first and why didn't my book get coverages?" Well, it is the writing life.

I do think that the authors of these two books are onto something and it should be self evident, at least to me; sexual intimacy in marriage is incredibly important, especially in a marriage of longevity. There is something about writing about sex as essentially an experiment which makes me question a little--probably my NC upbringing. There is something about sex which is sacred, and I guess that the intimacy of it tends to make me think it is private and not shared. But, that is just me. Nobody has been clamoring for my opinion anyway and I don't even know any editors.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


WONDERFUL MEMOIR. This is a wonderful book that illustrates in a sense what a chance that Amazon gives to writers. It may not be as polished as some and maybe could stand a little editing but it does what a memoir should do: tells a story. What needs to happen in the publishing world is the encouragement of those like this author to get his story out there. I wish I was not ADD, had some business sense, and was not so far along in my own life, I would make a point to find those like Ollen Hunt and help them get his writing out. The flip side of the coin is that he didn't need my help but there are those who do. Let's encourage them, at least. The following is pretty much the review I put on Amazon and on the Airborne Press website.

I knew about the Buffalo Soldiers from military days at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. What I most liked about Buffalo Soldiers was how very personal it is. I read it at one sitting and then thumbed back through my favorite parts. And, in a sense, it is only partly about Buffalo Soldiers who have contributed greatly to our history--often have not gotten their due--also about the rich life of the military.

I love memoirs and especially when they are so personally written. What the author has done is tackle issues that African American soldiers have faced and put a new face on them. And, better than any book I've seen in a long time, he shows us why the military has been so good at integration and how far they are ahead of the civilian community, even to this day, on racial issues and equality. Very simply, the author points out that the military sees people as people and are colorless. What a beautiful way to look at it.

Ollen Hunt has lots of wisdom if this book is any indication. And, he was in the military during such interesting times and witnessed history, i. e., the Nurnberg trials of the Nazis.

In reading the book, it affirmed what a rich life the military provides. This memoir does what a memoir is suppose to do: provide a perspective that makes the reader glad that he's in a world with an author like Hunt. I'm going to order several copies to pass along to friends. A delightful book that deserves a wide readership and thanks to Amazon for giving authors like Ollen a level playing field.

Friday, June 6, 2008


As I am constantly a student of writing, I have something to share. To say writing is my hobby is an understatement: six blogs and two websites. Recently, I read this interesting letter to the editor. Apparently, it had to do with an article in the NY Times Magazine about self publishing, POD (print on demand) and a very decided view. It is so "right on." Here is a portion with apologies to the letter writer as I am using this without his permission but I have a suspicion he wouldn't mind. He used a couple of words I'm unfamiliar with: sclerotic and superannuated

...publishing is still a closed community with a sclerotic farm system that develops talent in a very restricted way involving students, their professors, agents and editors. But must good writers come from the academic writing pool? Obviously not; the great didn't--Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Bellow, to name a few. The potential pool of remarkable authors consists of people who are not part of a superannuated system, are not celebrities and do not write for fame. They write because they are passionate about the written word. They are the voices lost in the muddled middle who spend five years writing a novel and seek the same opportunity for survival as traditionally published authors. They may sell 200 books, or 200,000, or only one, but now they can, at least, be read. DP

Sunday, May 4, 2008


An author recently wrote about the difficulty of getting permission to reprint quotes, etc. Mainly she was having trouble getting up with authors--they would not respond to her queries. This always ticks me off, assholes, you would think they took some page out of Truman Capote's love of self. Anyway, in thinking about it, I mainly sent this reply and thought that maybe some might want to see my approach. And, my answer is right out of my personality, ENTP.

Jean, this is a crazy sort of thing getting permission. You can spend lots of time on it. I chose to thank everybody in the world, if you'll look at Phil's poetry book: Rhymer IN The Sunset and, I think it was where I said, "I might have missed getting permission and if I did, I would acknowledge in future additions."

Granted, my approach is somewhat laissez faire with the idea that I didn't have anything (meaning money) anyway and so why sue me. Or, I would not callously do things, surely not intentionally steal someone's material. I personally think authors are too sensitive. You would think that they had discovered a cure for cancer and wanted to keep it to themselves. Still, I would do the best I could in acknowledging other's works. With a book like yours, I don't see where there would be difficulties. If there were, you simply say, "sorry" I won't do it again. In Flanders Field, I think it is in the public domain.

And, as I have looked at writings, I think there's a pretty broad spectrum of approaches. For instance, a very famous author wrote a book, (many of these famous authors don't write the books, they just lend their names to them); in one particular book with him as author with somebody else who probably wrote the book--they absolutely took at least a half dozen quotes from my book, Gen William C. Lee, the Father of the Airborne, word for word. Some of them quite lengthy. Nobody ever asked my permission and basically, I could care less. Needless to say, most don't have my attitude. Sorry I can't be more helpful.


Last night I saw Kite Runner, had read the book. Fascinating movie. The book was better but good story and a decent movie making job. And, made me realize too that where we need to be putting our emphasis is Afghanistan, not Iraq--in Afganistan, we have a chance to save a culture.

The story is pretty compelling and woven in it are the intricacies of growing up in Afghanistan, choices that adults make that effect our lives. And, it did give us some cultural glimpses which was very good. My wife says it was slow; my daughter countered with too much middle. There were a few things missing; the mother, how they got to America, the ease of going back to Afghanistan and getting out again. A heroic driver who is amazing in helping the protagonist accomplish his mission in Afganistan.

Then there is the history stuff: if you've seen Charlie Wilson's War or read the book, I think you would be more conscious of the Soviet invasion and how it all played out. There was one scene when the father and son were escaping to Pakistan when a Soviet seeks to have his way with an Afghan woman carrying a small child. The father of our protaganist refuses to allow him to shame her and is willing to pay with his own life. See this movie, read the book.
2 parachutes

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I will never forget the day that my brother Raz went off to war. It was one of those blustery days when you just imagine it the same way when Jesus died. My brother’s leaving was everbit as bad. We had known it was coming for months. When Pearl Harbor happened, we all knew instinctively, even if nobody voiced it, that this was going to change our world forever.We surely didn’t think of this change in global terms, just within our family.

My brother was bigger than life. To me, he was born an adult. The rest of us were all trying to figure it out, but he was already there. He immediately tried to join up since he had been in the National Guard. Every week, he would go to town for drills. They didn’t even have guns, but I heard him telling Dad once that he felt like he was doing something.

Raz was only 16 in 1943. Mom insisted he finish school which had only 11 grades. The morning he was leaving, his two best friends, Marvin Slaughter and Jake Raynor came to the house. They all seemed to be excited, but I remember the family was very sad to see Raz go. I was trying to keep from crying and Charles was boohooing and Sis was sobbing like her life was over. Mom was being strong. Dad, as usual, was silent. We all knew this was supposed to happen. The world was being threatened; and, if it could be saved, our brother could do it.

We watched them drive down the dusty road, turning right and then disappearing up the road toward town. Sis stood at the mailbox by herself still weeping as if her heart was broken. It made us cry even more. She kept saying, “Hurry up and write, hurry up and write.” It would be months before we heard anything.

Later on, we discovered he was at Camp Perry, Virginia. He wrote this letter:
Dear Sis: This is going to be short as we just got some paper and
pen from the Red Cross to write on. The trip to Camp Perry was
on the train and we were crammed in like sardines. I lost track of
Jake and Marvin, don’t know what has become of them. I was in
the middle seat with two rather fat guys. One of them was from
Roanoke Rapids. He said it is in North Carolina but I’ve never
heard of it. He could talk, nonstop all the way. His Daddy owned a
hardware store and he was a clerk he said. And, now he’s headin off to
kill Japs. I hope I’m doing the right thing. I’m thinking about all of
you and the crops. Tell Corb that he has got to step up and make
sure that Charles and Hop pull their load. I don’t worry much
about Charles, he’ll toe the line but you know how your younger
brother is. He’s more apt to hide than work. But, he’s little and so
I guess we can’t be too hard on him. I know that my going is hard
on Pa, but he’ll move right on. I will miss the cookin something terrible.
Tell Aunt Gertie to send me some biscuits. I’m just kidding. I
don’t think I’m going to care much for this life till maybe I get to
me a ship. Take care of yourself and you better not get married till
I get back home. Your brother

Here's another one: Sis, sorry you haven’t heard from me for awhile but I haven't had a moment to myself for the last several weeks. I just got my ship assignment. We’re getting ready to start training on it. I can’t tell you the name of it as my Chief said the Japs might get a hold of it. (Raz was on the USS Gage, one of 117 attack ship, sometimes called Victory ships). Tell everybody hello and I’m missing you all.

And another, Sis, we are out to sea now. I don’t know when you will get this but a day never goes by that I don’t think of all of you. Life is pretty hard on board ship and yet you kind of get use to it. Do what you’re told and just put one foot in front of the other is what I do. I’ve heard tell that some of us might be taken off and put with the Marines. We picked up a bunch of them and when they get off the ship some of us might be Marines. I would volunteer but there’s a rule, don’t ever volunteer. Our work is pretty routine though. I got all your letters and can hardly believe how hot it has been and all the rain. How much did the tobacco bring? Was Ma able to get the new wringer washing machine that she wanted? Tell me who has been coming to the house for the Sunday dinners. I’m really missing them. I bet you’d think I was skinny as a rail if you saw me. This is not the best chow in the world. Are you still thinking about being a teacher? I hope you don’t get married till I get back home. Write and tell me the answers to all my questions.

My brother Raz had a very interesting and challenging military experience in World War II. The brothers loved to hear about his "war stories" and adventures. Afterall we were back home pondering what our eldest brother was up too. Here are a few of brother Raz's memories:

Every time I go to a reunion, although there’s only four of us left from my old unit, some of them discuss the old time battles which I tell them I’ve never heard of just to rattle them: When I tell them I don't remember, they just smile. All vets can tell some tall tales. I use to tell our folks I don't see why anyone else needed to go to war—with our record we won it. Here’s one for you.My outfit was in Guadalcanal getting ready for the invasion of Okinawa. We had already run the Japs away from that part of the world. As 17 and 18 year olds will do, they had their mind on woman. It didn't matter how they looked. One night as we were enjoying the nice cool weather, 138 degree temp, a band of locals came by checking on the troops who had invaded their territory. Apparently they were not afraid of us because they had several women with them. At least I guess they were women, as they didn’t have any tops on; and, suddenly, I was transported back to sneaking looks at bare breasted women in National Geographic.The women were not going to make the cover of Playboy whatever that might be— a bone in their noses and a thin piece of cloth around the middle. The warriors had some sort of head dressing, also a bone in the nose and the body covered with a loincloth. Most of us kept looking at the women, trying to figure how anyone could get excited about such females. The captain was able to communicate with them assuring them we didn't intend any harm. After the cruelty of the Japanese, I am sure we were a blessing.

I was standing guard at the edge of the perimeter with an old boy from Texas while the Captain was talking with our visitors. In typical Texas bragging fashion, this guy knew all the answers to getting hold of some of the women. When he approached me, I told him to “forget it, not me.” Even though the testosterone was rampant, I was not that stupid. Besides those warriors were carrying spears, and I was sure they knew how to use them. He kept tal king and continued to run his mouth. The Texan claimed that the women left in the camp of the warriors were pretty, eligible, and would welcome us with open arms. To hear him tell it, we could casually walk over and have us one glorious night. After all, we hadn't seen a woman in two years.

Being a young fool and against my better judgment, I decided to go with him. As we slid through the thick jungle, he continued to build up our case. Soon we came to the huts and began to peep in them. Just as we rounded a corner of the hut, a spear came by my head, followed by a warrior yelling at the top of his voice. It was like a horror movie. I lit out as hard as I could run, several of those warriors were on my tail. I dodged and ducked until I could spot our Camp. By this time, I had lost the warriors. Secretly, I was hoping they had either captured the Texan or stuck a spear in his rear. No such luck. He got away free, the warriors only spotted me. Without saying anything, later he confessed he saw them before I did and hid. The captain found out about it and restricted me to Camp for the rest of the time we were in Guadalcanal. The Texan claimed to be innocent and told the captain the only reason he was there was to go get me. I decided then and there never to trust a Texan!

Guadalcanal is in the Solomon Islands, northeast of Australia, and doesn't get much of a footnote in history. However in World War II it was essential to controlling shipping lanes between the US and Australia. Japan was eager to build an airstrip, and the US was eager to stop them.

Our brother Raz was right in the thick of it and faced some of the most difficult fighting in the Pacific. Corb found this brief account: “The main battle for this God forsaken place is about over but we still have pockets of Japanese all over the Island. Some of them are trapped according to our Captain but still are lethal to the natives and us Marines assigned the impossible task of mopping up these bastards. The cruel Japs can still command bombing attacks with awesome firepower. While asleep as a small patrol or in Camp, we constantly hear, "Jap bomber!" Then comes the whistling of the in-coming bombs. Japanese troops on the island who were harassing us were not many in number. However, they used their mortars to keep us on our toes and to enact a few casualties at a time. This was constantly nerve wracking."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


My advice to anyone in this crazy business is: "As a writer, if I were you, I wouldn't be planning on retiring on book sales."

Supposedly, only 40% of Americans read a book last year. What is really weird is that book publishing is estimated (this from article in NY Times) will bring in $15 mil this year. 408 million books will be bought this year. And, according to the article, a survey conducted by some outfit called Ipsos found that 27% of Americans had not read a book in the previous year. However 27 percent read 15 books or more (I would estimate that I read, for instance, about 35 a year, not to include portions of books that I peruse); so, I guess there's hope.

Get this, 8 percent read 51 books or more a year. And, I guess that according to the article, a sizable minority does not read but it is balanced out by those who read alot. I would say I buy at least 50-75 books a year and so the idea that only 40% read books is a little statistically false. However, they are not reading my book. So...

Monday, March 10, 2008


The Wire is over. This is like a death. I've been watching it for five seasons and last night was the last episode. And, this morning, I am a little in mourning as some of my all time favorite characters are out of here. What has made it such a good show is that it is an arena that most of us don't have a clue about; inner city blacks, life, corruption, politics at the street level, etc. And, the show is peopled mostly by African Americans. I learned lots and was able to asked a couple of people who know, "Is this really the way it is out there?" Answer. Yes.

Each of the five seasons focused on various institutions: schools, politics, labor, the press: wow. I don't want to tell more than you care to know and make it a penguin story: (this little girl received a book from her grandmother about penguins and her mother kept hassling her to write her grandma a "thank you" note, Dear Grandma, thank you for my book on Penguins but it told me more about penguins than I care to know." ) Someone like me can often turn something into a penguin story quickly.

The Author of The Wire, David Simon and his writing partner, a retired Baltimore Policeman seem to really "get it." Simon didn't have the ending all wrapped up but pretty much left the culture in place: the drug dealing, the corrupt or self serving politicos--there was an implied ending, much like Lonesome Dove, if you are a fan: kind of flash backs, picture portraits: some making it, others not, the anti-heroes.

One of my heroes in the beginning ended up like all politicians, disappointing. Carcetti, the Mayor, where politics is all that matters (like we have never heard that before)is not interested in a better Baltimore, only one that looks better. Carcetti and Gavin Newsome of San Francisco remind me of each other. Instead of out getting "pot holes" fixed, they are trying to get to the Governor's Mansion.

The protagonist if there is one, McNulty, finally, along with Lester, his somewhat mentor opts for justice over truth. Some of it happened. Most of the characters are appealing and all of them stick in your memory. If your ears are virgin or prone to sensibilities involving language, The Wire is rife with the F, MF, and the N words--be warned.

The Wire, however, should become an American institution in terms of knowledge itself. And, I think that the best way to watch it, although I didn't but a friend suggested this: rent a whole season and watch. OD on The Wire.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Every month when I get Writers Digest, I always love to kind of critique it. The April issue is chocked full of goodies, in a sense, even if I do just smile at much of it. I've been a subscriber for 20 plus years for sure. All of these writing magazines and books are pretty much the same. Holding out hope for us "would be" writers, with only a small chance to make it, whatever that means to us. To me, it has always been a hobby and now with the internet, I only have five blogs and a couple of websites.Somewhere along the way, it became important to me to write for MYSELF. I became a publisher, etc. to further that idea.

One article this time was a little on the humorous side: what if you are over fifty. How about sixty or seventy. The concept is that you can just about forget it. The young writers are the ones making hay, getting he big bucks, etc. true in a sense as the publishing business is so f..... up anyway but I guess what I always want to do is encourage writing. If it is in you, regardless of the age, WRITE. In today's world, there is a place to publish and that is no small thing.

I always do get fascinated when I read where some twenty year old has written some best seller, whatever that is; how can anybody at twenty know anything. But, they have imaginations and for me, it is more power to them. Still, the fact that us older types can't get an agent, some publisher who is interested, doesn't mean we don't have it: the secret is writing it truly for ourselves and the rest follows. My view, anyway. Plus, have a day job because that is where you get those experiences to write about. Good luck!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

WHY IRAQ HAPPENED--The Myers Briggs Type Indicator

My first exposure to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator was in 1977, way back in the dark ages while I was in the military. Otto Kroeger, who is probably the foremost guru, of the theory came to do a workshop at Fort McPherson, Georgia. I was a young Major and truly didn't know my posterior from anything. And, reluctantly showed up at the seminar. As it turned out, it was a turning point for me in my life's outlook to say the least. In the military , I was always on the outside of the mainstream. I (ENTP)would be in a group and it was magic "group think" but I was not there--never seemed to see it like everybody else. However, I had become a good actor, realizing quickly that the military is built around cooperate and graduate. I was a good combat soldier but get me in the confines of peacetime and it was a struggle. By this time in my career, I had already been fired twice and miraculously escaped being pitched out of the military.

So, here was a theory that was mostly built around the idea that all of us are born with different personalities, plain and simple, not much we can do about it. This was revolutionary: simplistically, it seemed that to get to know our personality and others and to be able to get it to operate in an organization like the military would be super.

According to the Myers Briggs, you actually can be one of sixteen personalities and all of them have various characteristics, attributes and once we know what they are, we are better at knowing ourselves, understanding our personality and most important, making good decisions based on what our preference might bet. For me, I could see the possibilities. I read everything I could get my hands on and at the time was teaching a college course and immediately incorporated it into the course. This was life changing.

The Myers Briggs was based on the creditable theory of Carl Jung, the Swiss born Psychiatrist and somewhat rival of Freud. It was designed after years of research by two sisters, Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs. The Myers Briggs could measure the conscious (as opposed to the unconscious)aspect of the personality. I thought, this is it and I'm out to sell it as this really is amazing. People can grasp this.

And, for at least thirty years I have been selling it, actually wrote a book, The Personality Factor, read by only two others beside myself. And, what I've discovered is that the Myers Briggs is a hard sell and for all these years, I have been amazed at why this is so. As an example, the Myers Briggs personality typing is applied to our present President which illustrates the Myers Briggs and its utility and may be the reason that it is such a hard sell: personality is just what it is and if there is a lack of understanding, then what use is it. Insight isn't worth a hill of beans unless something is done with it.

This could be an answer. And, as somewhat of a disclaimer, I don't know how I got the below, I think it showed up in an email but I always want to give credit. And, I found something helpful here: for the life of me, I have been unable to explain why we would be so stupid about Iraq after the debacle of Vietnam. This could be the basic reason: the President, then Secretary of the Defense, the neocons, the top generals have all but ignored the objective data about the stupidity of invading a country that has done us no basic harm, has no ties to the terrorists of 9-11, and most of all, have a tribal culture that the rational mind should avoid. However, given the Commander in Chief's personality type, then this war was assured.

**During the 2000 presidential campaign, I applied the principles of personality assessment, based on the theories of psychiatrist Carl Jung, to candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore. Forgive me if it sounds like gloating, but here's what my research revealed about the personality type of the future 43rd president of the United States:

"They are decisive and little bothered by second thoughts and self-doubt. Since [they] do not reflect very much on their errors or analyze their mistakes to any great extent, it is difficult for them to learn from their errors, and so they can become caught in a loop, repeating their mistakes." **author Emily Yoffe offered this insight.


They are decisive and little bothered by second thoughts and self-doubt (Once having made up his mind, would not back up). Since [they] do not reflect very much on their errors or analyze (maybe not so smart, trusting too much on advisors: Rumsfelt, Neocons)their mistakes(never admit that they could be wrong. Present Commander not alone in this--when have we ever heard a politician admit to making a mistake) To any great extent, it is difficult for them to learn from their errors(persists in charging on when all objective data is that this is a fast train to nowhere), and so they can become caught in a loop,(living in parellel universes, where the evidence is overwhelming that something is not working, keep telling the lie) repeating their mistakes. (This is where someone like Condi Rice or Colin Powell have a moment in time to possibly change the course of history and choose to go along. "

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I figured I should knock this out since the Academy Awards are upon us. I saw the movie several weeks ago and it fits in the same category as No Country For Old Men; good movie, very well done and holds your attention but doesn't do it for me. I like to come out of a movie with some measure of both feeling OK, good would be better; and thinking that there is a lesson to learn. I fully understand that most go for entertainment, not me. I go as movies mirror life and I'm always asking myself, what is there to learn from this movie? Answer: not much. Daniel Day Lewis is good no doubt about it. As an early oil baron, one kind of sees how it was so cut throat in the beginning and remains the same today and yet so very human. DDL's son was merely an object to be used--how can anyone not grant mineral rights to this kind, family man who promises that once we get the oil, all prosper. NOT!

I dont' know if there is a book to compare the movie too but would like to have seen the other contributing characters developed a bit more. And, the resligious aspect of the movie was quite surprising; a very primitive, "snake handling" kind of religion that took the Scriptures literally and made them worse. What is scary is that there are people in the world like this. An eerie like Elmer Gantry type personality with less sophistication but more madness--a twist that I can't tell you about. Very interesting. Not a movie for entrtainment but one for pondering. I'm sorry that I couldn't go out and discuss it with someone. 2 parachutes

Thursday, February 14, 2008


My sister Margaret was the oldest. She was really drop dead gorgeous and all those visits from Lonny and various others were mainly to see Sis even if they would lie about it. Margaret seemed to get those traits from Mom which meant that she was on top of most things. She had a kindness to her that seem to escape most people. Since our house was the epitome of open, meaning people in and out all the time, Margaret befriended several whose life prospects were less than stellar. One was a youngster in our one room school. He had been crippled by polio and couldn't walk. The Dad would ride him on his back to school every morning which was at least a three mile trek. Sis decided that the father should be spelled of some of the burden of carrying the youngster. Without fanfare, she announced that it was my turn and named several others to follow. When I even came close to hesitating, she grabbed my arm and with a squeeze and a look, my opposition departed the scene. Up until that time, I don’t think that I had noticed the man carrying his son.

His name escapes me and his hesitation at anyone helping him was a natural independence. Everybody took care of his own burdens. However, my sister had this way about her. It was both matter of fact and kind. What others seem to think made no never mind to Sis, she acted. She took the boy and he grabbed around my neck and off we went. The boy was probably in the first grade and I must have been in the sixth. He was light as a feather

Later on, I remember hearing Sis talk to Mom about how thin the boy was. Mom was saying something to Dad like, “Well, Raz, you have to see what we can do to help those people because Margaret says that boy is not getting enough to eat."
"You know Bertie, Margaret would take on the world if we let her” he probably said. I don’t remember any response as Mom probably fixed the gaze on Dad. All I know is that we regularly made visits to their rambled shack on the White Line and just so happened to leave "fixins" as George called them, meaning food.

The White Line was this group of houses that were like thrown together, somebody called them tar paper shacks. To be honest, I don’t know but most of them were pretty rough and the folks who lived in them were the poorest of the poor. And, I don't have a clue why it was called, White Line. The country was recovering or trying to recover from what we know as the Great Depression. People didn’t have jobs and especially those on the White Line. Margaret was right out there on the firing line wanting to do something. For being young, she was way ahead of the curve, her view was that you couldn’t help all but if someone crossed your path, God meant for you to help. And, we figured that Sis was God's agent and who were we to question. No use arguing.

In school, there was a copy of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. The weird thing as I remember is that nobody wanted to read it as we were living it. Not so for Sis, She was a vociferous reader and got into it and insisted that she relate to us everything about the book. Poor was almost a metaphor for life especially as represented in the White Line experience. We were almost the characters in the book. As opposed to being Okies going to California, we were placed in Eastern North Carolina. Our great advantage was that we didn’t suffer the dust bowl of Steinbeck’s novel but we were as poor, just not as desperate. And, the generosity of Sis made a little dent in it all for a few. We all found it very difficult to resist her passions for helping the people of White Line and especially the “poor Rosens” as she called them.

In the Grapes of Wrath according to Sis there is one bad thing happening after another. We are listening to her thinking, what is different than here? If we could have recorded all the stories we knew they would surely add up to more than were in Grapes. The poor little Rosen boy died and it fell to us to give him a proper funeral. It was here that Sis insisted that we get Grandpa and all our Aunts involved. Not an easy thing. In those days there were plenty of tragedies. But, somehow it all came together and Dad arranged for a burial spot on a little piece of ground we had acquired by that time. I remember hearing Sis say to Mom, "tell Grandpa we can’t be having one of his long sermons. We want comfort." As I look at it now, I can hardly believe that my sister was so on top of life. After the funeral, as far as I remember, we never again heard from the Rosens.

Sis escorted me to school for the first time. I was proud to be in the first grade. Since we only had two teachers for the eight grades, they didn't have time for a lot of formality. One of the first questions they asked, "What is your name and how do you spell it?" It was understood that your parents taught you how to spell your name before you entered school. When I was asked the question, I proudly stuck out my chest and said, "Raz and it is spelled Raise." Maggie busted out laughing, “raise is not Raz." She intoned.

All of us were in different spots of the one room. Sis kept an observant eye on me She was, as I look back on it now, very protective. One of my earliest memories is of wanting to sing in the school choir. Apparently that was not to be my calling in life. I was rejected fairly unceremoniously. Maggie didn’t like it a bit and offered to help me practice. It must not have happened as I don’t remember singing in school again.

Discipline was quite different in those days. I don’t know that if it had been in modern times, I would have said I was ADD (attention deficit disorder). Today they would have given me ridlin or something but what happened to us then when we were cutting up or were a perceived discipline problem, Miss Briar would slap us up beside the head a few times. And, trust me on this, it will get your attention and you know how to be still quickly as these were no love taps. Or, a familiar ploy of our teacher was to send us out to this peach tree for a limb. We often tried to outsmart her. Forget it. Once when I selected a switch, I used my knife to notch it, carefully placing the bark over the notch. When the teacher cut down on me for fighting, the switch broke. The fire came in her eyes, she knew what I had done. To make matters worse, the rest of the boys laughed, which didn't help my situation. To say that Mrs. Briar, now there’s a name, was a woman of some girth and consequently strength would be an understatement. In this case it was a big time whipping. With that ham of a hand, she blistered my behind and slapped every boy on the side of his head for laughing--one tough woman but a terrific teacher. Once you got a whipping at school, you didn't go home and complain, if so, you got another one for misbehaving at school.

Maybe it was our almost worship of our sister or something but as protective as she was, she also held our feet to the fire in doing our work and seeing what school was all about. She was a second mother and often more exacting than our Mom. For instance, she said over and over, "one day you'll appreciate all of this." I surely found that to be true with Miss Briar. We became great friends as time passed. In all the teachers I had growing up, she taught me more than any of the others and I'll have to say that Sis was "right on" about her.

I will never forget one night that related to Sis. As I look back on it now, I can only imagine what those times were like and what my mom, in particular, went through. This is how I remember it.

"Bertie, I think Sis is pretty sick", Raz said as he met her at the door.

Without hesitating, Mom went to the back bedroom. The cover was piled high on Margaret but she was still shivering. "Get some cold water and bring it back here", she said to me. I must have just stood there as she said, "Move, boy!”

This was what she feared, scarlet fever--she was not sure but Margaret was burning up. After bathing her from head to toe, Mom pulled the rocker up and straightened the pillow that Margaret had made for it. She slid her hands along the ties that secured it to chair and probably had these thoughts: how hard it was raising children and wondered to herself if she was up to it. Looking at Margaret, she maybe wondered what her life was going to be like. Somehow, getting her kids out of this hardscrabble life had to be one of her goals but how. How do you rise above the circumstances of your life? I can imagine my Mom this way: As she sank into the chair she vowed to give more thought to the “how" once this crisis had passed.

Right now, Bertie had to concentrate on this illness. Could it be scarlet fever or even worse rheumatic fever. She checked for a rash. There was one. They would use the remedies for awhile before figuring if they had to call the doctor. There was no money for a doctor and Bertie always felt that doctors were just guessing anyway. For now, it had to be a mustard plaster.

A mustard plaster consisted of a mixture of dry mustard powder and a small amount of flour, mixed with water or egg white to form a paste. It was applied to the chest or abdomen to stimulate healing. Bertie took the mixture and spread it on a cloth and applied to Sis. For us, it seemed to be the cure all for everything. Mom probably didn't put it in those terms but she believed it promoted overall god health and who could dispute Mom.

As I remember, this seem to go on forever and we were left to fend for ourselves. At night my brother and I made a pallet and slept just outside Maggie's door. Nobody told us too, we just wanted to be close to her. The doctor came and pronounced that she had rheumatic fever. Maybe it started out as scarlet fever but became the dreaded rheumatic fever. Many had it and there were ill effects when someone recovered if they recovered. It was a sad couple of months, nothing was the same. Slowly but surely Margaret got better. She had gigantic circles under her eyes. We were only permitted to see her when we fetched something for Mom for her. Almost always she gave us a weak smile. The day that she emerged from her room was the happiest of our lives.

Mom and Dad were so happy. We were all so happy. Mom always wondered when Sis was born if all her children were going to be girls. She needn’t have worried based on the fact that so far there were two boys. Margaret was such an obedient child and there was only one incident of which I was told that clashed with that view. She was suppose to be looking after me and allowed me to play close to the fire and I fell against some hot coals. It could have been worse but she was able to grab me immediately and put a cool compress on the one burn. Today, I never see that scar that I don't think of my sister.

Margaret was gorgeous and we are talking about a head turner. I knew this because boys were constantly telling me or hanging around. She had this black hair that shined like you cannot imagine. Although she was the apple of Dad’s eye, she never seemed to take real advantage of it. Sure, she would be a little coy from time to time and nudge us into doing her bidding but she was incredibly responsible. My sister Margaret, I now know, was an "old soul."

Margaret was independent and didn’t have any real interest in boys but they were always around. Mom was constantly having to shoo them way. They would come, claiming to see one of us, but Mom would say, “yes, I know you want to see so and so” as she gave them the skeptics gaze. There was this one kid. He lived in town. We lived out a couple of miles away, based on how you got there and your mode of transportation. This guy had his own car. It was a 47 Ford roadster as I remember. It was black with a white top and had a rumble seat. He seemed pretty impressed by all that he had. It sure didn’t impress us any and I can remember us gathering around and lightly hassling him till Mom came out followed by Margaret. We scattered but not far enough to be out of ear shot on what was happening. Apparently he asked if she could go for a ride. Noway. She wanted to go. Mom said no. End of discussion.

He was persistent and one of the few times that I can remember Sis ever getting into trouble. She went for a ride. The place was icy with discussion for a few days. Dad taking Margaret’s part, Mom saying that he was not having a daughter of hers playing the role of a hussy. Somehow baby got in there.

Who said anything about babies."

"Well, it happens."

"Sure it happens but it doesn’t mean that it happens with me."

There were a few, "don't talk back."

"Well, it’s not going to happen with me."

Mercifully, the discussion ended. We were un use to conflict especially that related to our sister.

The guy kept coming around and we knew that Margaret liked him. He was smooth but too slick for me. At this time, there were three of us and we decided that if Mom didn’t like him, then we didn’t like him and would have to fix him one way or another. Plus, Chuck had seen him in town with other girls. What we were verbalizing but didn't have a clue was protection of our sister. We had a meeting. I told Chuck and Corb we’ve got to do something.


"Well, let’s do something to his car when he comes around." We let the air out of one tire. Then Chuck offered to help him fix it for a price. He then paid Chuck to guard his car and so that ended any chance for us stopping him in that way. What to do? Chuck hit it and came up with the idea of a road hazard--we should have pattoned it. We took these log slabs as they were called and created spike like sharpened parts. When we thought he was showing, one of us went up the road just close enough to signal to put out the spikes. Sure enough after a few flats, he must have gotten the message as we didn’t see him anymore.

But, there were others to take his place. Maggie moped around for awhile I think but independent Sis was on to something else. Her interested in boys seemed to wane for awhile and that was OK with us. We were busy, things to do, a farm to run, games to be played and brothers yet to come.

Margaret and Mom eventually seem to get past the rancor and then one day, Rudolph showed up. He was older, had been in the Air Force and had all these stories to tell. He won us over immediately. Not once did he show up to "talk with us" that he didn't bring something: chocolates, the latest magazines. Before we knew it, he was in with everybody. The man would not take no for an answer.

Sis had finished school at Plainview which was a country school in the opposite direction of where we lived but about the same distance from town. I don't really know how it all came about. Margaret always had lots of friends and she joined with a couple of them to go to Plainview. I wish I knew more.

Sis took a job with the telephone office in town after she finished High School. She was a telephone operator and as I saw those pictures through the years of old time operators, my imagination says, she was one of those.

She married likeable and tenacious Rudolph. Sometimes, we wondered if Margaret really wanted to get married or if she simply just gave up. Rudolph worked at the old DeSota place in town, seems like he was the parts man. I use to go by and see him and be amazed at the beautiful cars.

Margaret was the light of my Dad’s life and letting her go to Rudolph was no small thing. They moved on the other side of town and lived close to Rudolph’s Uncle Levander if I remember correctly. What I know about Mr. Levander was that he was always dressed to the nines and had these enormous long feet. I was always amazed as was everybody else.

At some time, Margaret and Rudolph moved to Augusta, Georgia and lived in a place called Myrtle Court. I spent a couple of weeks with them one summer or maybe it was the summer. I remember making friends with some military kids and going with them to the pool. I was amazed that they could swim at such a big pool and not have to pay anything.

Two fine youngsters arrived to Rudolph and Margaret: Nicky and Ronnie. Our sister passed from this life to the next at just 37, way to young. A weakened heart from that long ago battle with rheumatic fever. Margaret, shortened on occasion to Maggie, sometimes called Sis and my Dad died just a few months apart. Yes, the good do indeed die young.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Growing up in rural North Carolina through the depression into the early 1950s was challenging to say the least. However, it was filled with love and many great childhood experiences which hold all of us in good stead, even today. When our sister was alive, she was a big part of our existence, hanging in with us. We miss her desperately.

With regularity, we all gather around a table in some diner in eastern North Carolina and share the stories of our youth.
One of our favorites involves Chuck and George and Lou, one of our cadre of mules. To George, Lou was not just a mule, Lou was a partner, a bud, his best friend. We would just guffaw at him sometimes when he talked with her. She didn't answer, at least we never heard anything but this is not saying that maybe George did. They carried on these very intelligible conversations if we paid attention amidst our laughing. One thing that always fascinated us was that Lou would watch George and follow him wherever he went, even if she were in the pen. She would walk back and forth and watch what he was doing. If he acknowleged her presense, then she seemed to go about her business with the rest of the mules.

Lou was an unusual looking mule. She was almost red, a deep, deep tan which shined. The Mule is a cross between a donkey and a horse. This was all a mystery to us boys. We thought we had an idea of the whole sex thing. Both male and female mules have all the correct "parts" but they are sterile and cannot reproduce. We couldn't quite figure it out. Our man on sex matters was Lonny Thornton and he kept saying if you cross a mule and a mule, you get nothing so what good are they but to work. He would make George so mad. In fact, Lonny clained that Lou and all the mules came "fixed." This added to the mystery. All of it was superfluence anyway. What we knew is that George loved his mules and especially Lou.

Charles had a knack for finding buried or hidden spirits and concocked this plan of introducing Lou to white lightning. While George was delivering a drag of tobacco to the barn, Charles went into action. He poured about a quart of white lightning down Lou's throat. Lou seemed to like it. Nothing immediately happened. Suddenly, Lou began to wobble, and then fell over on her side. Meanwhile, George had returned to the field and suddenly began to holler, "Help, Help, Lou is dead.

The whole crew ran toward the mule. Lou was lying still, looked dead as a doornail. None of us really knew what to do, having no experience with a drunk mule. We stood around with our hands in our pockets, hoping Dad wouldn't show up. Then, without warning, Lou stirs. Poor drunk Lou was trying to get up. We all got behind her and pushed until she was upright and on all fours, still a bit wobbley but up nevertheless. George declared it a miracle.

Sweet naïve George knew nothing of the prank. He scratched his head, claiming Lou got too hot and threatened to tell Dad we had worked Lou too hard. At least that tattle would be better than "Hey Dad, Charles got the mule drunk." The Brothers stuck together and the joke passed. We laughed for days with the idea that Lou probably had a hangover the next day.

It is hard to say how George became the brunt of so many jokes. I think he probably knew what we were doing but enjoyed the fun, somewhat. The stories are endless. Once I sneaked out to the barn and loosened all the bolts on his favorite plow. Talk about laughing, George hooked up Lou and when he said Get d’ up, the plow fell apart. I still laugh about it.

With regularity, Dad gave us a peptalk that had a point and I will have to say we got it. And, over the years understood it more and more. It went something like this: “You boys can joke with George all you want unless it is hurtful and if that happens, you will be answering to me. Furthermore, you better believe he has taken many a step off you." We understood it. He went on, "all those times George was working in the fields while we were playing or at school or whatever we did other than work. He has never experienced the opportunity that you all will have. And, think about this when you are teasing him.” It sunk in.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


This was a DVD which was truly seredipitous. In working on my netflix account, I read about it, paid it little attention but selected it. In the course of time, it showed up to be watched. The subtitle is, "An American Road experience." In eccense it is as though suddenly, these two recent college graduates get up one morning and say, "wow, let's do a documentary on what it means to be an American." Wow, a great idea. They gather up a camera which they might have already owned and develop a plan of calling various peeople, famous and infamous and start working the phones. Although we don't know the nitty gritty of how it all comes together, it does and we are with them on their trip.

It is a little on the amateauirish side which is part of its charm. And, following them through the many interviews is a process in itself, and very interesting. For one thing, they have lots of chuzpah. I can't remember all they interview but some of the more memoriable ones are George Stephanolis or at least the attempt, Willy Nelson, Studs Terkal (learned that he has never driven a car) and Hunter Thompson who was obnoxious and full of himself. And, I thought when he was being that way: "Well Hunter, guess at some point, you'll make the decision to hit the road." Since the film was made in 1997, before 9-11 which changed our world forever, this has to be put in that perspective. And, when it is, very, very interesting.

They tried to interview Ralph Reed, the supposedly guru of the right wing. He woudln't see them and now of course, who would want to see him, based on his history. My favorite interview was Willy Nelson with maybe Robert Redford being close behind. What struck me about both of these superstars is that they were willing to make themselves available, very, very human and enjoyed talking about the American Dream. I was very moved.

I liked the way they let the interviewee speak and just give their views of what actually was "the American Dream." And, having seen Robert Redford's Lions and Lambs, his views have not changed and he must have had satisfaction about that fact. Two parachutes. +