Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my dear friend Mark! You guys know him as the Walking Man, the hardest working blogger in our universe. Check out his blog today and toast his greatness. See you later today with another post!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why I Didn't Become An Artist

Still working on the big project and some new ideas for this week. For now, check out my friend Steph's new entry (breast cancer blog -- there are some great new pictures as well), Charles' new writing book, and my dear Jodi's insightful writing and pictures! I'll leave you with this picture which shows that a)I was not going to be an artist and b) I grew up in Texas (note all the suns). Happy Wednesday!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stuff That Almost Killed Me

The Hurt Locker opens with an epigraph that gives us insight into the mind of the main character, William James, War is a drug. As the best war movie I've seen in a long time, The Hurt Locker avoids politics and delves into the reality of three bomb specialist who each have different issues: William James is a renegade, J.T. Samborn is concerned with doing things the right way, the safe way, and Owen Eldridge just wants to go home without dying and his few encounters with the rube military psychiatrist ("War doesn't have to be awful. It's a once in a lifetime experience. You just need to change the tapes in your head.) leaves him no more comforted than when he started. The movie offers no redemption for the William James -- if he's an addict, then this is the recidivist tale. Which makes sense. What in civilian life can offer the intensity of the job he has done for so long?

I suspect not all audiences will love this movie. War is not presented with the high adrenalin intensity of a video game like in some recent efforts in the genre. We don't really see the men in a variety of situations; we mostly see them at work, pulling apart bombs only to find more bombs, trying to disarm a suicide bomber who wants to live, pulling apart the body of a child in which a bomb has been planted. It's not, as they say, for the weak of heart. What little we do learn about them takes on a heightened significance. Perhaps my favorite scene is where Samborn finds a box of stuff under James' bed -- parts from bombs he's detonated. He calls the box, stuff that almost killed me. It includes his wedding ring. It's a glimpse into a life of such intensity that you feel shell-shocked after watching it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Nothing begins at the time you think it did." Lillian Hellman

Cocktail Hour
Drinking writing book suggestion: Check out Charles Gramlich's new book on craft: Writing With Fire! I'm going to get it and give you guys a review, but go to Razored Zen and take a look.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

(The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster)

Hey guys -- I'm working on a big project that's due very soon, so I'm going to leave you with my very favorite Richard Brautigan poem, the one that Janis Joplin hung on her wall. See you tomorrow!

"Your Catfish Friend

If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, “It's beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,”
I'd love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
at peace,
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them."
— Richard Brautigan (The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster)

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: The Hurt Locker (will review later this week -- see it if you dare to have your nerves shot!)

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Clarity Of Night

Hi everyone! Congratulations to Jim and Mark! Jim won first place in The Clarity of Night contest, Mark got honorable mention. Please check out the new Motor City Burning Press website as well. I'll be back at you later with the perfect mojito.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Sun Has Been Eaten

I have a bit of a soft spot for sports cliches, you know, those sort of things that hang in the locker rooms of losing teams to inspire them to victory -- Winners never quit and quitters never win, that sort of thing, the more corndog the better. But what people don't like talking about as much are the dark times, the tough stories that don't have a happy easy ending about the time we spend waiting for our transformations. I've always liked the Ray Carver line about how it's possible to both bend and break -- challenging our bullshit belief that if we can be flexible enough, all of life's experiences can be survived and rendered valuable. But sometimes suffering rules the day. Not everything can be overcome.

Even so, I try to welcome the dark despite being afraid of it for many years. For a long time, I couldn't sleep until the sun started to rise. I read somewhere that people fear the solar eclipse because they believe the sun is being eaten by a malevolent goddess. But I've never had much use for the sun. When it goes away, your eyes begin to adjust to the night and see how much life there is when no one is looking.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I once had a friend who had a tattoo on his neck that said, Trust No One. That's a good thing to remember." Tanya from Hung in her video series, Diary of a Pimp (Still loving this show very much!)

Cocktail Hour
Drinking suggestion: Peach nectar, champagne, Miles Davis

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Solar Eclipse

Happy Solar Eclipse to all! I hope you're having a good day and avoiding all negative side effects that are supposed to accompany such an event. Back tomorrow with more!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Deck Of Cards

I'm convinced the reason I didn't die in December is that I had two thoughts upon surrendering to God's will in the matter -- at least I got a book accepted (even if I didn't see the final product) and I'm really bummed about missing the final episodes of Celebrity Rehab. Such depth! But seven months out, I can say that recovery is both easier and more difficult than I thought it would be. The episode doesn't really haunt me in the predictable ways; I don't have nightmares about it, and I haven't turned into a hypochondriac, instead choosing to plod along as I always have. One difference -- I don't point knives at myself in jest to scare friends and family. Despite my penchant for a mild form of self-destructive behavior, self-mutilation has never been my thing. I suppose when you're clinging to this as painting you as the picture of health, you disprove your own case with more efficacy than a poison pen enemy.

When I was young, I remember attending a few church lock-ins. For those who are not familiar, it's where a bunch of kids spend the night inside a church for spiritual strengthening. What I remember about these nights is that inevitably someone snuck in alcohol or tarot cards or some couple made out in the pulpit. The more sophisticated went for the immediate pleasures of the flesh, while the more timid of us stuck to trying to read the future. But of course, the future is more wondrous and awful than any of us can see in a deck of cards, no matter what images are on them. What I remember is that the death card wasn't supposed to be bad even though it looked terrifying. But, of course, change always is.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"You can educate yourself right out of a relationship with God." Tammy Faye Bakker

Cocktail Hour
Drinking suggestion: Lemonade, vodka, cherries, ice. What more do you need for summer?

Benedictions and Malediction
Happy Monday! In memoriam for Tammy Faye Bakker, who died two years ago today.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kinky For Governor

Hi readers! Here's me and Kinky Friedman, future governor of Texas, I hope! You may know his band: Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys (great songs: The Ballad of Charles Whitman, I'm Just An Asshole From El Paso), his books (some hilarious mystery novels and books on Texas -- my personal favorite, A Guide To Texas Etiquette), or from his stray animal rescue farm Utopia. He also has a great line of cigars with names like The Willie (after the great Willie Nelson), Texas Jewboy, and The Governor. I'm a Detroiter now, but I'll always support Kinky for governor of my great home state. His slogan, Kinky for Governor: How Hard Can It Be? has to be one of the greatest ever. Still working on loading the now truly evil mojito video. More tomorrow!

Friday, July 17, 2009


Someone I know had two pet rats, Texas and Stinky. Texas lives to this day, but Stinky is dead. But before Stinky died, he lived in a cage with a tumor on his spine which paralyzed his back legs and he dragged himself around for months before passing to the next world. Stinky's owner didn't have the heart to put him out of his misery, but vowed that Texas would not have another companion. "It's too hard to watch them suffer," he said.

Somehow this seems to apply to me, but I'm at a loss to explain it. Maybe it's the damage, maybe it's the sad story, maybe I'm depressed for Stinky, Texas, and the owner. I never saw it, but I can imagine the cage all too well.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"A happy childhood is the very worst preparation for life." Kinky Friedman

Cocktail Hour
Thanks for the comments on the marriage post. I love Charles' advice about saying three nice things a day to your significant other. You can't really go wrong with that!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy July birthdays to my dear lovely friends, Jodi and Laura! They are both beautiful, talented, and loads of fun -- what more could a girl want?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

First You Cry

Hey everyone, here is Grouchie riding the subway by himself. He's becoming very independent these days. But in the more serious news, I've mentioned my dear friend Steph who recently got married. She's started her own blog about her recent breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Steph is smart, funny, and beautiful and has titled it the Booby Blog. You can follow her at

Please lend your love and support!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Love And Marriage

Hi everyone! Thanks for the great comments on my marriage post. Working on a longer piece about this issue. I've been reading a lot of provocative writing on this subject lately and agree with Jodi that in a highly sexualized culture, it's hard to make compromises at times. Also, I think that getting married later can be a very good idea, but also brings with it particular challenges that we as a society haven't entirely managed to handle well at times. I also tend to think that most relationships go through three phases -- the honeymoon, the inevitable disappointment, and then mature love. Sadly, it's my contention that most relationships don't ever get to the mature love phase, the comfortable happy phase where we don't expect to agree on everything, don't think the person is the answer to all sadness and love the person all the more for what he or she actually is. We spend a lot of time putting people on the proverbial pedestal and then not ever getting over the bitterness when that person doesn't measure up to the ideal. I also know a lot of people who married a second choice out of pressure or fear. Also a recipe for disaster. But I'll put more thoughts into this as the week progresses. Hope you guys are surviving July!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Le Creuset

Hi everyone! Mark is right as usual -- computer update is needed. Tandy just isn't cutting it anymore. Ha! I'm always on the edge of technology, early adapting like crazy. My reader question for today -- I read an article on how marriage is obsolete based on the experiences of a woman in her forties with a young child who is getting a divorce. The article suggests there is an epidemic of sexless, joyless relationships. My theory is a lot of this unhappiness is based on what I call the "Le Creuset" fantasy. Basically, you spend more time accumulating crap for your perfect life than tending to it and wake up with a lot of expensive stuff and no happiness. What do you guys think? I'll write a longer post tomorrow addressing comments and ideas. Hope you're surviving July, a cruel month if there ever was one.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Technical Difficulites

Hi everyone! Having difficulty loading the Mojito video, but I'll be back with more insights into the summer malaise, etc. Check out the Motor City Burning Press website for a clip of Hung. Great episode tonight!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Days Of Grace

Damage repeats itself, the line between victim and victimizer a thin one. Watching the new documentary about Iron Mike, Tyson, I found myself dizzied by the complexities. Tyson talks to the camera for most of the film while scenes from his former glories and disasters play in the background like the fights he himself watched as a young fighter under the tutelage of his mentor/trainer Cus D'Amato. Cus D'Amato took Tyson under his car as a very young juvenile delinquent (38 arrests before he was 13) and taught him the spiritual path of the warrior along with how to sense fear in the other fighter's eyes and bring him down. Like most profound relationships, Tyson can't entirely articulate why Cus D'Amato's death so unravelled him to the point that he still can't talk about it twenty years after the fact without crying. Perhaps his most simple comment proves the most effective and poignant: "I didn't have my friend no more. I felt naked to the world."

Perhaps the most surprising part of the movie is the impression of searing honesty it presents about the most personal of subjects: fear, sex, money, identity. No sugarcoating here -- Tyson takes credit and blame in equal measure, only denying the rape charge for which he served three years in prison. If Cusmato's death undid him, prison finished the job. He came out a changed man, more fearful and violent than ever, prone to black-outs common to trauma victims. To watch him yell at a reporter, "I'll fuck you till you love me, you faggot," provokes fear even now. By he time he loses to a much lesser opponent, he seems broken in a way that is cringe-worthy to watch. "I'm doing it to pay the bills," this once great boxer says after the match. To compare this to his former self breaks the heart. Despite his rage, distrust, troubles with women ("I never knew it took so much out of you to conquer a woman"), I found myself envying him. He speaks of some of his tattoos, but the one I noticed he never mentioned. It reads "Days Of Grace." For a short time before the inevitable black lights of life took him down, he was the youngest heavyweight champion of the world. To do exactly what you are put on earth to do, however briefly, is a feeling most of us have int he most fleeting of moments, usually only recognized in hindsight. But for Tyson, "a kid who never left the street corner," he knew his moment.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth." Mike Tyson

Cocktail Hour
New mojito video this weekend!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Lonely Doll

Hey Mark, Thanks for reminding me about Nurse Jackie -- blog topic for tomorrow!

Writers are good at usually very specific things -- characters or plot or dialogue or setting. It's hard to keep all the proverbial balls in the air. For a long time, I favored character development above all else. I wasn't so hot at dialogue, terrible at setting, and plot was a disaster. I didn't know how to make things happen. It should come as no surprise that my first story in undergraduate workshop was about a woman having a nervous breakdown. Her breakdown consisted of getting upset when people honked their horns at her and picking out dresses that looked like tents. Seriously. It was horrid. I had a few good lines. Much like one might find something of minimal value while going through the trash.

I got better at language, the only tool a writer has. I got better at endings, always a problem. Life is so shapeless -- hard to see where a situation begins or ends. Every once in a long while, we experience those moments of clarity where we know what's happening. But most of the time we only see in retrospect, i.e., We know in part, we prophecy in part . . . Consider the relentless MJ coverage. Most of it seeks to understand whether he was an abused boy, a misunderstood genius, a pedophile with a lot of money, a legend. The facts remain the same, but the shaping is important. What to put in, what to leave out. Where we find value or fault. Writers have it tough sometimes, but we also have it pretty good. As Winston Churchill said, "I know history will be kind to me, for I will write it."

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Once there was a little doll. Her name was Edith. She lived in a nice house and had everything she needed except somebody to play with. She was very lonely!" Dare Wright, The Lonely Doll

Cocktail Hour
Detroiters' Alert: Reading by Meg Cabbott at Barnes and Noble -- see Walking Man for details!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday! Still working on e-mails and other stuff. Thanks for being so patient!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

For My Next Trick

"What's your tool?" the motivational speaker in HBO's new show, Hung, asks a group of disenfranchised Detroiters searching for ways to make money. One older man says he offers advice, maybe he could charge for it. Another woman who has lost her Poet in the Schools job says she wants to make bread with poems in it -- lyric loaves. Our protagonist, a washed out baseball player and teacher at the high school he attended, thinks about it and realizes the only thing he has that is exceptional is his big, umm, appendage. I have a friend who calls motivational tapes/seminars/etc. sunshine enemas. I have to laugh because his characterization is correct. He and my sister listen to The Secret audio cds for laughs. The voice and accompanying massage spa music is perfect grounding for such bon mots as "Avert your eyes when you see an obese person. Do not look at that you do not wish to become." Jeez, and I thought it was all those twinkies I was stuffing in my mouth. My mistake.

At any rate, Hung's pilot is funny. The poet finds lyric loaves not to be the money-making endeavor she'd hoped so she agrees to pimp out our protagonist whose first attempt at selling himself is an ad in the Detroit Examiner (a stand-in for the Metro Times)that offers women endless enjoyment with "Big Donnie." He could use a wordsmith and she could use the money. There's an ex-wife, twin children, and a new husband who makes a lot of money, a fire. It seems like the kind of show about lowered expectations and sadness that I enjoy. I've always liked the line we're all in the gutter/ looking at the stars (Oscar Wilde/Chrissy Hynde -- take your pick of source), but I often find myself in the gutter, looking closely at the gutter. There's a lot to be said at being where you are, not where you wish to be. After all, the stars are reflected everywhere, even in the most unlikely places.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I can make love disappear/ For my next trick I'll need a volunteer." Warren Zevon

Cocktail Hour
Drinking television show suggestion: Hung

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Enjoy Detroit

Hi everyone! Back from the holiday weekend and exhausted. Hope you guys survived it without any creepy fireworks snafus! I'll be posting later today and answering e-mail, but until then . . . Enjoy Detroit.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Grouchie's Adoption Day

This picture is from a Fourth of July weekend seven years ago when I first found Baby Grouchie at the Ye Olde Toy Store. Since then, we've been having many adventures and lots of fun. He's been on Pink Is the New Blog and had several celebrity moments. Since being threatened with Promises Rehab, he's started to behave a little better. I hope you guys are having a happy Fourth of July weekend!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Never Burn Unattended

We tell stories in order to live. Joan Didion wrote that and it's true -- we need narrative to make sense of our lives. And now another politico is in the news for his indiscretions -- the governor of South Carolina. The Clash asked the classic question for this scenario -- Should I stay or should I go?/ If I stay there will be trouble/ If I go, it will be double. No doubt, Sanford's troubles seem to go on and on. Not only does he have an Argentinian mistress (his soulmate -- pause for gagging sound), but he admits to "crossing the line" with other women. What does this mean? As each day passes, more information surfaces. To which I find myself wondering, Why not tell all at first?

Because, I suppose, it's not easy to admit to an extramarital affair. What story do you tell yourself about the circumstances? How do you believe that despite all the ones who have went before you (Spitzer, Edwards, Clinton, etc.), that you will somehow manage not to get caught? Sanford admits he's not in love with his wife. But that he plans to fall in love with her again. I think this is as likely as me translating Virgil this afternoon. The little Latin I know is Acta est fabula, plaudite! - The play is over, applaud! This seems to pertain.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire." Patti Smith

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Any good summer movie suggestions?

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday! Happy Canada Day!

Holy Ghost

Hey guys! Hope you're having a good week. Here's some shots from my hometown, Mineral Wells, Texas. I'll be back with another blog today -- working on a summer writing plan so I don't know what you'll get -- maybe something on the South Carolina governor and his "crossing the line" with a variety of women and what his pastor calls a "descent into darkness." His e-mails alone are so very hokey and just for the record, no one should use the word "soulmate." Ever.