Friday, May 30, 2008

Carpe Diem

Happy Graduation to Katrina, one of our closest friends, and a most faithful reader of MyndFood.
We love you, Katrina!

Seize the day!


There is, off to the right, a short poll, your answer to which I'm extremely interested in.

I know: I've written nothing about fast food. But your response will prove invaluable as research material for a post I'm working on.

So vote early; and vote often!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dunkin' Donut Peddling Terrorists

A Dunkin' Donuts ad featuring celebrity chef Rachel Ray was pulled today after a scarf she was wearing in the ad incited a firestorm across the blogosphere (and on The View--that TV show with the four obnoxious women hosts; they have four hosts, I think, because there is some obligation on the part of a host's family to watch the show, and their audience would be nonexistent without the hubbies and kids watching. The show is truly horrendous, as must be any show featuring Whoopi Goldberg).

Apparently Ms. Ray was subtly doing her part to support the "Axis of Evil" (as our eloquent President has so often called them), those evil terrorists (those of Arab descent who routinely wear keffiyeh's). The keffiyeh, as reported online at USA Today's Lifeline Live, while traditional Arab headwear, has come to symbolize the Palestinian jihad (recall that the keffiyeh was the late Yasser Arafat's trademark--remember? It looked like a mini gingham checked tablecloth wrapped around his head?). Her scarf, apparently, looked like a keffiyeh.

So her ad got pulled.

And apparently, she's now marked as a suspected supporter of terrorists.

I have to ask; does this smack of McCarthyism to you too? Recall McCarthy, that stringent anti-communist who drummed up a varitable witch hunt that operated under the unspoken philosophy that if they, "smell like a communist, look like a communist, sound like a communist: they must be a communist"? In fact, his almost religious fervor incited a kind of paranoia, where the mere suspicion of communist sympathies was enough to ruin you, so to ensure there was NO doubt of your allegiances, you feed some other poor soul to the wolves (because, after all, who's going to suspect you of communist leanings when you're turning in OTHER communists?).

And so here we are in 2008, a more "enlightened" age, and we find ourselves caught up in that same terrible trap. The simple truth of the matter is, I'm not particularly afraid that Ms. Ray is going to smuggle a jar full of anthrax into her TV kitchen and include it as the "secret" ingredient in her new special brownies. I'm reasonably confident that she's not taking pilot's lessons in the evenings, badgering her instructor to teach her to take-off, that the landings aren't important. I suspect that she's not set up a numbered account in the Cayman Islands where she makes periodic large deposits, which are then transferred directly out to Mr. bin Laden's numbered account at the First Bank of the Desolate Afghani Wilderness (it's the only bank that has a branch out in the middle of godforsaken-nowhere, where Osama's forced to hide out).

She's just not a credible threat.

But then, I think you know that. Which goes to prove my point: we know Ms. Ray isn't wearing a keffiyeh; we know she's not a terrorist or terrorist supporter; but we're caught up in that same hysteria that spawned that embarrassing period in American history--McCarthyism. And so we see something that resembles smoke, and we call "FIRE!".

Politically, I'm a conservative (although I find many of the Libertarian ideals philosophically appealing). I generally vote Republican (hope it's OK to say that here). But I have to say that I think we've done our society a disservice when we've hyped an issue so loudly and so long (primarily for political gain) that we start secretly suspecting innocent scarf-wearing TV cooks of terrorist allegiances.

I've written about it before: politicians tend to take non-issues (or small issues), blow them out of proportion, then offer themselves as the solution to that issue (which was, interestingly enough, created by them in the first place) in order to get elected. This, unfortunately, is the danger in that; the non-issue that was blown out of proportion in order to advance some politicians and/or political parties ambitions, takes on a life of it's own, and begins to chew folks (like the poor Ms. Ray) up.

Ah! But what am I saying? I should rest easier tonight. After all, now that we've got the evil Ms. Ray's Dunkin' Donuts ad pulled, our borders are more secure, there's less risk of airliners flying into tall buildings, and I can open my mail without fear of powdered poisons puffing out at me.

I sure am glad Sean Hannity warned us...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hurling Octopi

We avid hockey fans wait, with bated breath, for the opening moments of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings Saturday evening.

I am, as you, I'm sure, know, a die hard hockey fan. And I particularly love the Red Wings. We Greens are dignified folk, well-rounded and cultured. And what self-respecting, refined and enlightened individual wouldn't find themselves drawn to a sporting team whose long-standing tradition it is to hurl octopi out onto their playing surface?

It is, to be sure, an exhilarating feeling to watch the flubbery creature go sailing over the head of the goaltender, and plop out in the center of the ice, gliding along for a moment before coming to a stop out amongst the players, tentacles splayed out every which-a-way, and almost immediately frozen to the ice. If you've never seen it, you should watch it.

But mere weeks ago, the NHL commissioner, who apparently have very little substantive work to do, imposed a ban on octopi twirling, instituting a $10,000 for any individual caught slinging the slippery cephalopods. Why? That's the question that we enraged Red Wing fans have been asking. Why, Commissioner Bettman?

This week, he answered:

"Actually, there's a very good reason for it. We haven't fined or given a delay of game penalty for the throwing of the octopus because we understand and respect the tradition. Having said that, when you swing the octopus around - and I don't know the exact term for it -- but octopus 'gunk' gets on the ice and occasionally has gotten on the players -- the goaltenders -- as it goes by. Occasionally, when it freezes on the ice, it creates a potentially hazardous situation for the players. It's not about interfering with a tradition; it's about making sure nobody gets it in their eyes, like a nearby goaltender, or that nobody blows out a knee getting caught on some frozen gunk."

Ah! It's because the octopus "gunk" gets on the players, and might injure them.

This, may I remind you, is the game in which players routinely lose teeth; in which blood doesn't seep from the body; it doesn't drip from the body; it SPRAYS and SPURTS from the body. The game of broken bones and damaged eyes. What damage, pray tell, is a bit of octopus "gunk" going to do to these guys' blood stained uniforms? And how many injuries are going to be caused by a flying octopi tentacles to men who've been struck countless times by hockey sticks and flying pucks?

I have my doubts. Nevertheless, I'll abide by the rule, I suppose. Because the last thing I need is a 10K fine for launching a slimy, "gunky" octopi out onto some ice.

This guy Bettman the "Over-Legislator should be a California Sate Senator; he'd fit right in.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Preach It!

It just goes to show, my friends, that money CAN buy almost anything.

Including your very own church.

NBA star Dwayne Wade (D-Wade to his friends and fans) gave his mom, Jolinda Wade, a heavenly gift this Mother's Day. He bought her a church.

Sunday, D-Wade stood alongside his mother as she and co-Pastor LaDell Jones cut the ribbon to open the new Temple of Praise church in Chicago's South Side. In her first sermon as a co-pastor, Ms. Wade issued a bold challenge to her flock: "Who is big and bad enough to step past the devil and accept the Lord now?" she shouted. "Don't let the door close! Don't let the door close!" she cried, as she stomped across the platform.

You're tempted to bristle when first reading about Ms. Wade's new "spiritual" endeavor. In fact, when I first read the email (sent to me by a surprisingly faithful MyndFood diner--Dad), I thought it was sacrilege. Churches aren't meant to be bought as gifts! It commercializes something that should be divine and spiritual. It just doesn't seem right.

Then I began to read the story, and found out that Ms. Wade spent a number of years--most of her life, in fact, as an alcohol and drug addicted criminal (she even served some prison time). Then, seven years ago, after much urging by her children, she determined that she was going to turn her life around. And somewhere along the way, she pledged herself to spreading the gospel, testifying to God's grace in her life.

This isn't her first ministry; while serving time in a state prison, she began a prison ministry, ministering and teaching other convicts in the penitentiary. She's now out of prison, clean, and dedicated to ministering to other hurting individuals.

And so I, who think of myself as a fairly religious individual, have to say I'm grudgingly respectful. Because MOST pro-basketball stars are likely buying their Mom's Hummer's with 22" polished chrome wheels for Mother's Day. Or maybe they're buying them a vacation home in the Hamptons. Or an all expenses paid vacation to St. Bart's. I'd wager that there aren't any other star's funding their mother's ministry. And I'm certain there aren't a whole slough of star-Mom's out there who'd like nothing more than funding for their Christian ministry.

The simple fact that she's devoted herself to doing something worthwhile, and that he's committed his finances to help establish the work, speaks volumes about their character.


Preach on, Pastor Jolinda!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Not Fun

I'm not a "gamer" (they're a breed or ethnicity now; they've got their own classification). I never have been. Mother and Dad bought Nan and me a Nintendo when we were kids--the original one. The one that only had two or three games available--Mario Bros and Tetris, I think. And those games had the resolution of your typical New York Times crossword puzzle.

I hated them. So did Nan, as I recall. Mother, on the other hand, played the Tetris game occasionally I believe (not while she was chewing gum though; she's not a multitasker. In fact, the doctor says she can't chew gum anymore 'cuz sometimes she focuses so hard on chewing that she forgets to breathe). OK; that was a joke.

At any rate, I'm far from an expert. I don't know that I've spent more than 2 hours in front of a video game in the last ten years. I know nothing of the various gaming systems, the games that are available, and/or how to play them.

But I was reading online tonight, and was reminded why we don't have ANY video gaming systems in our home. I came across this story on Yahoo! news, about a new game that Microsoft has released called "Gears of War 2". The story was titled "Too Violent for Some?". It caught my attention (as so many random things do), but at first blush I discounted it because one thing I've learned is that the job of the reporter is much the same as the job of the blogger: to take something virtually inconsequential, and using words and emotion, make it into something that has a life of it's own. That's what we do (mostly), we journalists and bloggers. We take a non-issue, and turn it into an issue. And the bigger an issue it becomes, the better we're doing our jobs.

So, a title like "Too Violent for Some?" didn't really get my juices flowing.

Until I read the story.

The game, "Gears of War 2" is the long-awaited sequel to Microsoft's "Gears of War" which was released in 2006. As best I can tell, "Gears 2" has a storyline having to do with giant locust overtaking the Earth (or, perhaps it's some breed of humans that are called "Locust"; who knows). The game, according to the article, is a notch above it's predecessor in that it "adds in more realistic visuals, a deeper plot and battles that concentrate more on mobility and dynamic combat". I don't know what any of that means, but it sounds like good stuff.

The next paragraph, though, almost stopped my heart. It said:

Graphics and plot aren't just what raised eyebrows at the press event, though: instead, attendees caught a glimpse of one of the game's many melee kill moves. Whereas Gears 1 included an up-close attack that used a chainsaw blade on the lead character's main weapon to dismember a foe, Gears 2 adds a reverse attack that actually slices an enemy in half -- from the groin upwards. Elsewhere in the demo, presenter Cliff Bleszinski, the celebrated lead designer behind the Gears and Unreal series, showed off a new ability that let him use the corpse of a fallen enemy as a "meat shield", soaking up bullets while he returned fire around its head.

Chainsaws that slice enemies in half? Using corpses as "meat shields"?

The game, the story reassures readers, will, because of the violence, be rated as "Mature", which bars it's sale to kids under 16.


What's wrong here? I can't think of a single healthy reason that ANY individual, of ANY age, would need to see any sort of graphical representation of a body dismembered by a chainsaw, or a corpse being used to block bullets. And further, what kind of positive plot or story line might underlie a game which touts "meat shields" and attack moves that halve your enemy? What must be in a person's mind--rather, how seared must a persons mind be for them to realize any measure of enjoyment from this sort of game?

If my kids see ANY sort of dismembered body, real OR digital representation, I want them to have a difficult time sleeping that night. I want it to affect them. Because it's not normal, it's not wholesome, it's not good. Those things SHOULDN'T be seen. Not even on a video game.

Don't get me wrong: I'm no prude. I challenge you, though: name me one positive outcome that might come from playing this game. You can't, can you? The only one you can think of ("It's fun") sounds a little creepy when you realize that you're saying that watching people be halved or bodies being used as human shields is FUN. It shouldn't be. It should scare you to death; cause you to close your eyes, and turn the TV off with the remote. It should cause you to lie awake at night, unable to sleep. It should make you sick to your stomach.

It shouldn't be fun.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Sad Travesty

Lori Drew was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles for her part in the tragic 2006 suicide of 13 year-old Megan Meier in O'Fallon, Missouri.

Ms. Drew is alleged to have created a false MySpace account, in the name of Josh Evans, a 16 year-old who, over a number of weeks forged a virtual relationship with Meier using the popular social networking site. Josh then, suddenly, dumped Megan one fateful October day, posting messages on the MySpace site disparaging Megan's friendship and even stating in one that "the world would be a better place" without Megan.

Megan, her heart broken by this boy whom she had never set eyes on, and whose voice she'd never heard, went to her bedroom and hung herself in her closet.

Some time later it was discovered that Ms. Drew, who lived just down the street from the Meier family, had created Josh's profile, and communicated with Megan as Josh in order to "get her back" for her having mistreated Ms. Drew's daughter (one of Megan's classmates).

Missouri officials investigated the matter and, while they found Ms. Drew's actions reprehensible and morally repugnant, could not find that she'd broken any laws. The Los Angeles based federal grand jury felt otherwise. According to the indictment (handed down in Los Angeles since MySpace happens to be based in California which makes any crime committed in Missouri a crime committed while engaged in interstate commerce), Ms. Meier is charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing a computer without authorization and via interstate commerce to obtain information to inflict emotional distress. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The indictment is based, loosely, on Ms. Drew's alleged breach of the MySpace Terms of Service (which you agree to abide by when you check that little box below all the boring verbiage that nobody reads). Apparently their Terms of Service (TOS) state, in part, that the following uses are strictly prohibited:

impersonating or attempting to impersonate another Member, person or entity;

using any information obtained from the MySpace Services in order to harass, abuse, or harm another person or entity, or attempting to do the same;

using any information obtained from the MySpace Services in order to harass, abuse, or harm another person or entity, or attempting to do the same;

Ms. Drew, in creating a false profile, impersonating Josh Evans and harassing Lori using Josh's profile, breached an implicit contract with MySpace. In more normal times, and under less emotionally charged circumstances, Ms. Drew would, at best, be banned from using MySpace (in that she breached their terms of service). Instead, in this case, she's indicted for conspiracy and for using a computer (without permission, and during interstate commerce) to inflict emotional distress on another. And she faces up to twenty years in prison for it.

What does that mean--using a computer during interstate commerce to inflict emotional distress on others?

The truth of the matter is, her "crime" is only really a crime because Megan committed suicide. As I've said before, had Megan simply shrugged it off, and went on with life, Lori Drew would never have seen the inside of a courtroom; you and I wouldn't be having heated discussions about "cyberbullying"; MySpace likely wouldn't have even cared. Because the truth is, this same story has probably happened hundreds of times all over the nation, just with a slightly different ending. And those stories never get told, for no other reason than that the outcome is far less tragic (hurt feelings and a sense of betrayal instead of dead, heartbroken thirteen year-olds). Lori Drew is only on trial because of Megan's REACTION to Lori's mean spirited actions on MySpace.

Which is interesting because, as I've said before, It's just as possible that I'd gone home and done something drastic as a young boy in response to some kids who called me Picker because I picked my nose in class, and made fun of me for wearing flyless, elastic waisted camouflage pants to junior high. And, had I done something drastic, would those boys have faced indictment? Not likely. They would have been lightly chastised. But no more; because they aren't responsible for my reaction to their bullying and pestering, no matter how cruel or mean spirited. Neither is Lori Drew responsible for Megan Meier's suicide.

My PARENTS, on the other hand, would have, I hope, faced some severe scrutiny had I gone home from school and hung myself because of my cruel classmate's taunts. Because (as unpopular as this opinion might be), far more blame rests at their feet than at Ms. Drew's. What must be missing from a thirteen year-old's life that would cause her to place such extreme value in a virtual relationship (a relationship of no real substance whatsoever)?

Imagine with me, for a moment, feeling so unfulfilled in your relationships with family and friends that you reach out so strongly to some invisible, intangible boy out in cyberspace, and you place so much of your self-worth in his opinion of you that, when it degrades, you feel life is no longer worth living. Does that speak of a wholesome home life? I don't mean to blame Megan's suicide on her parents; she made choice all on her own. But I do say that if we're looking for places to cast blame, let's evaluate instead what must have been broken in Megan to cause her to act so irrationally.

Those broken pieces certainly were most assuredly not caused by Lori Drew. And to indict her for "crimes" as far fetched and as grossly unrelated as these serves no real purpose other than to assuage guilty consciences.

It's a sad travesty of justice.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

College Graudate

I was over at Fresno State's website today, and came across this interesting word: "Graudate" as in graudate admissions, or undergraudate...

This is an institution of higher learning...

How depressing.

(Click on the picture to see it blown up...)

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Twenty-Eight years ago today Mother, for the very first time, was honored, as one of the luckiest women alive.

She was doubly honored, that Mother's Day in 1980, first simply to be a mother, and second, to be MY mother (an INCREDIBLE honor, I'm sure).

And now, twenty-eight long (but joyous, I'm sure) years later, I honor her for being MY mother (no easy job, I assure you), and for doing so well at it.

I love you Mother! You've been amazing; I couldn't have asked for a better Mom!

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 9, 2008


I disdain politics (although, I fear I'd make a good politician).

Nonetheless, I gather that you, my faithful diners, are of a more civilized and refined ilk than I, and that you, unlike I, actually care who becomes President. So I posed a few thoughtful election related questions to a friend of mine who has a brilliant political mind; his intuitive understanding of the political landscape, and the issues (and non-issues) that make up any good political race, make for a political analysis that's second to none.

And I present for you, dear partakers of this (usually) sumptuous fare, excerpts of my interview with my friend: InvisiPundit.

MyndFood: What's the net effect of Hillary sticking in the race until the bitter end? Does it hurt or help Republicans?

InvisiPundit: It helps the Republicans (more dirt comes out on Obama) more than it hurts them (McCain’s getting virtually no media attention). I subscribe to the view that she is employing a scorched earth policy, figuring she wins even if she loses because she can damage him to the point that he loses to McCain, and she can run again in 2012.

MyndFood: Does Obama have a real chance of beating McCain? What of McCain "courting working-class democrats", as I read on the news? What does that mean? Is he going to be another "say what you need to say to get elected" guy?

InvisiPundit: Obama can still beat McCain – polls indicate this, and there are enough wacko liberals out there who will vote based on empty, but emotionally compelling messages of “hope”, “change” and “healing”. As one opinion piece put it, voting for Obama is a way for many whites to cleanse their conscience. However, in the end I think common sense, the desire for real experience and patriotism, plus some lingering racism (including some of Hillary’s supporters), will prevail and McCain will win. Unfortunately, he has been acting like a klutz lately, stumbling over his words in virtually every appearance – a far cry from Obama’s polished charisma, but also more authentic. McCain has made the mistake of latching on to the gas tax holiday, which makes him look like a panderer (while Obama has been smart by opposing it). In the end, though, a candidate’s true character manifests itself, and people will embrace McCain’s more than Obama’s. McCain has genetic limits on how much he could pander, even if he tried; Obama does not. The only way the Democrats can win is with a dual-ticket, which isn’t likely. Furthermore, I can’t even see the Clintons campaigning for Obama with any vigor (they’d want him to lose).

Daddy Cars

Dad took the "What Kind of Car Am I" test.
This is what the father of a Lamborghini looks like...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

4,000 Word Crash

I forgot to post pictures of Shawna's accident when I wrote about it a few days ago, so here you go.

Doesn't look like much, but the tab is up to around $5,000, with more to come (they say).

How depressing...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Am...

Katie over at "Life At The Booker Household" posted a link to a cool survey (the validity of which I was certain was suspect--that is until I took it).

I am Lamborghini; Hear me roar!

I'm a Lamborghini Murcielago!

You're not subtle, but you don't want to be. Fast, loud, and dramatic, you want people to notice you, and then get out of the way. In a world full of sheep, you're a raging bull. You're also INCREDIBLY good looking!

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Monday, May 5, 2008

An Accident

I was at a late lunch meeting today when my phone rang. I looked down; it was Shawna calling.

We have a standing agreement that if she calls and I happen to be in a meeting, I'll ignore the call. If it's something that requires immediate attention, she'll call right back.

That's my signal to excuse myself to use the restroom, and answer the phone.

I didn't answer, and she didn't call back; I made a mental note to call her back after my meeting.

An hour later or so, I was standing in the restaurant parking lot talking with one of my lunch mates, when she called again.

I answered. "Hey, can I give you a call back in a bit?"

"I got in a wreck."

I paused. "What?" I asked.

"I was in a car accident," she said, very matter-of-fact.

I laughed. "Yeah, right. Listen, I'll call you back in just a few, OK?"

"PJ: I'm serious. I was in a wreck, just a little bit ago."

I stopped. "Are you serious?!?!"


"Oh my goodness! I'm SO sorry! Are you guys OK? Did you get hurt? Is Bubs OK? Did you already have Lex from school? Whose fault--"

"PJ! Stop! We're fine. We're both fine; nobody is hurt. The car is damaged, but it's reparable. We're waiting on the highway patrol to get here."

I was amazed; she was so calm and collected. That doesn't come natural to Shawna when it comes to car accidents (I've had my share; I know).

"Did a guy back into you in a parking lot or something? You're so calm. Was it just a little scrape or something?" I asked her.

"No," she replied. "I was stopped at a stop sign; I started to go across, and suddenly this truck came out of nowhere from my left and drove right up on my hood. It scared Gentry. But we're fine."


But I'm angry. Not at Shawna; it appears as though it was the other guys' fault. It looks like he might have blown the stop sign (he was going pretty fast based on the damage). I'm angry at the other driver. He didn't speak English, but he made it pretty clear to Shawna right after the accident that he was STRONGLY opposed to her calling the highway patrol.

He came over to her car and started waving his arms and yelling in Spanish. Shawna said she wasn't sure what he was saying; what she heard was "lock your doors and pray for someone to stop".

Someone did. A group of three or four bronc-busting cowboy lookin' types in a lifted pickup stopped and played bodyguard. A good thing too, because a few minutes later a whole passel of the other guy's family showed up and, en masse, started to berate Shawna and her merry band of cowboys, telling her that her car, "isn't even messed up," and that the cops weren't necessary because they, "would drive their car like that!"

As it turns out, they had good reason to push her into driving away and forgetting the whole incident. The driver was an unlicensed illegal, driving what appears to have been one of the family members' un-insured truck.

The highway patrolman told Shawna that he is supposed to cite, and possibly even arrest, unlicensed drivers, and impound their vehicle. But since he's illegal, and they have no way of determining his true identity, he'd probably just be let go (they did impound the vehicle; it's not worth the $300 or so the impound lot will want to release it).

I'm flummoxed: what's the downside to living here illegally? You can't even be held responsible for illegal acts if you're illegal, because we don't have any way of knowing who you are! So you walk!

I'm not going to launch into the tirade because, truth be told, I'm not one of those ultra-principled extremists that rest on unbending (and often, unwieldy, principle), and utterly abhor pragmatism. I'm just upset that it's going to cost me MORE now, because I have insurance, and I have a license, and a Social Security number, and registration.

I did all those things that you're supposed to do, and I've NEVER complained about them (OK; I have complained about the cost of registration and insurance). But I've been willing to pay those dues because they were in trade for a whole slough of rights and freedoms; rights and freedoms that I ASSUMED were extended only to those who were contributing members of society.

It appears now, though, as if you're BETTER OFF not doing those things. You're not punished, and you have virtually ALL the same benefits that come along with citizenship.

It just cheapens the liberty that we share. It shouldn't come free; we should each pay a price for that freedom. To avoid the price, but still take full advantage of the benefits of that freedom is simple thievery. And to ALLOW that thievery is...just...wrong.

That said, I'm considering hiding my license and Social Security card and drivers' license under my bed, and speaking some other language any time around others; it sure does pay!


Today we saw a boy--he was about seven--roller-skating down our street in his underwear.

ONLY his underwear.

And those high, white roller skates that they use in figure skating.

What kind of neighborhood do I live in?

(Ignore this post if you happen to be one of the 134 folks who've called about renting my house since I put the sign up on Friday; it's a GREAT neighborhood).

Sunday, May 4, 2008


I bought a book.

It's a book about writing. On how to write good fiction.

Well, it's not really ABOUT writing, it's a book of exercises designed to help me become a better fiction writer.

Writing, like anything else, comes naturally to some, but very few are exceptional at it without any work. It requires practice and refinement in virtually all it's practicioners.

And so this book I bought is chock full of exercises. Which I think I enjoy. I've spent a few hours this evening trying a few of them out. They're hard (but then, they're supposed to be, aren't they? No pain, no gain). They'll get easier, I'm sure, as I get better.

At any rate, I've posted the product of one of my exercises here. I'll post others over time I suspect. Read them, though. With a critical eye. And comment, please. Even anonymously (even you, obnoxious anonymous guy who reads this blog religiously, despite your avowed disdain for each and every word that flows from my pen--or, in this case, from my keyboard).

I'll endeavor to notify you when it's an exercise, and to give you the context so you know what to look for. But please do comment. I need your input if I'm ever to be the widely published writer I aspire to be!

As always, thank you for dining with me! I fear that I've starved a few of you to death over the past two weeks; I'll do what I can to fatten you up over the coming weeks!

Saturday, May 3, 2008



Dad started. His head jerked, eyes fluttered. The slamming screen door is one of the few sounds that can wake him anymore.

“Jer,” he wheezed as loudly as he could muster, “I thought I told....” He broke off into that little wheeze/cough that he does when he's out of breath and the oxygen tube can't keep up. He was going to yell about telling one of us to fix the blashing screen door (Dad doesn't cuss; he hates it. But he likes the feeling he gets from inserting an expletive into one of his tirades, so he makes up words; his recent favorite is blashing).

Dad's orange velour recliner and the end of the couch are visible from the end of the hallway; Dad raised his head. Frog stepped into view, cigarette clenched between his lips. Dad's never said as much, but Frog is the only son that he's afraid of.

With good reason.

One time, Frog got mad at Joey because Joey smarted off about some store clerk's harelip when they were buying ice. Not that Frog is an overly sensitive being; he just enjoys punishing others.

Frog apologized to the clerk, yanked Joey through the front door, hauled back and swung the 30 pound bag of ice at Joey's head. Joey fell to the sidewalk, only half-conscious. Frog kicked him over and over, yelling at him to “Get up!” Dad had to go down and beg the store manager not to call the cops; he promised to get Frog into an anger management class.

He never did.

Dad fumbled at the little wood handle on the side of the recliner, trying to pull the seat up. Frog lifted his foot and pinned Dad's fingers to the handle with the side of his brown leather cowboy boot.

Dad didn't move.

Frog bent down. “Where's the money,” he whispered, barely audible.

Dad just wheezed. His face showed no emotion, didn't even register that he saw Frog.

The money was in an old green ammo box that Dad said he brought back with him from Vietnam. It was up in the attic through that little drywall hatch in the closet ceiling. Dad didn't volunteer the information, and Frog didn't know anyone else was in the house.

“Where is it. You better tell me now, old man.” He moved to the side of the chair, and used the heel of his boot against Dad's fingers. Dad winced, but otherwise didn't move.

Frog laughed mercilessly. “You think I care, old man?” he asked. “Remember that extension cord you used to beat us with? I'd just as soon hurt you as find your money,” he growled. “But I'll give you this one chance. Where. Is. The. Money?”

Dad didn't speak; just stared up at the ceiling.

Frog laughed again. He moved back to the front of the old, grimy chair, took the cigarette out of his mouth, and bent over and stuck the hot end against Dad's neck.

Dad didn't flinch. His eyes flicked over toward me, then back to Frog.

Frog didn't say another word. When the cigarette was out, he threw it on the rug. He yanked the oxygen tube out of Dad's nose, and threw it on the floor.

It made a light hissing sound.

He climbed up onto the chair, and knelt hard on Dad's chest, his right knee directly over the barely healed scar from the last lung surgery.

Dad's face started to turn red, then blue. Frog just stared at Dad. Dad looked him in the eye as he struggled fruitlessly to catch a breath.

A tear escaped from the corner of his eye, and made it's way toward his ear.

It only took a minute or so. He never caught another breath after Frog pulled out that oxygen tube.

He sat up there on Dad's chest for a few minutes after Dad was gone, just looking down at him. Then he shook his head, climbed off and rummaged around in Dad's pockets. He came out with a half-full pack of Marlboro's. He opened the pack, nodded, closed it and stuck it into his back pocket, and pushed through the screen door.


He'd forgotten the money.

I finally got up, walked to the kitchen phone, dialed 911 and sat the phone down on the counter. The guy on the other end kept asking inane questions. They went unanswered. I turned and looked at Dad.

And cried.

This exercise is called "The Reluctant I". I'm supposed to write a first-person story, of 600 words, in which the narrator only uses a first-person pronoun (like I or me) twice. Further, you, the reader, should know, almost immediately, how the narrator fits into the story (that is, you should grasp his relationship to the characters and the plot immediately with him telling HIS story). Have I succeeded? And what of the story? Does it grab you, the reader, and pull you in? Is the writing high quality?

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