Wisdom, and the Lack Thereof

March 24th, 2015

February was a hectic month. Multiple deadlines. Multiple projects. Trying to help my family hold onto their collective and individual sanity, at least to the degree that this is still a relevant goal.

Which, naturally, made it the ideal time for me to take on another project: low-income, not all that high importance if I’m to be honest, and nothing I was under any obligation of doing. For no good reason except that it caught my eye, and, well, I wanted to. Did you expect anything else?

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Mortality as an RPG

January 8th, 2015

1978. I’m a 16-year-old college freshman, living in the dorms. Struggling (and often failing) to muster the self-discipline to attend class and do my homework assignments.

And then I hear about this cool role-playing game. Dungeons and Dragons, it’s called. D&D. Really popular, especially among college students, especially among geeks. And I start playing with a group on my dorm floor.

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The story doesn’t go entirely the way you might expect. I mean, yeah, I didn’t do terribly well in my classes that semester. But D&D is only partly to blame. Really, I was looking for excuses: something else to do with my time when I should have been studying or sleeping instead. If it hadn’t been D&D, it would have been something else. In fact, most of the time, it was something else: books, or long philosophical conversations with newly minted friends, or (on one or two particularly stupid occasions) sitting up all night watching other people play Risk without using cards. Let me repeat that: watching other people play Risk without using cards (which just about triples the length of a game that’s already fairly tedious if you’re not one of those playing). If that doesn’t show how far I went in my quest to avoid schoolwork, I don’t know what does.

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Christmas 2014

December 25th, 2014

Author’s note: I’ve now officially given up on my occasional “columns” that I was sending out monthly, or at least quarterly, for several years. Sorry to those of you who were following these. In any event, the plan is for me to take up the slack with more frequent posting at this blog. So here we go.

Waking up at 5:00 a.m. Christmas morning with a pounding headache, after only 4 hours of sleep, is not the most promising beginning to things. Excedrin and a mug of homemade hot chocolate have taken the edge off, though at some point today I should probably try and take a nap.

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Fake Persimmons

December 1st, 2014

Since my childhood, persimmons have been one of my favorite fruits. Soft, wet, sweet — almost slimy — and mildly spicy, with a brilliant orange coloring, they are — as I recall reading from a food writer, though the particular source is now forgotten — pretty much a dessert unto themselves. I still fall into reveries on occasion over the particularly large and delicious specimens from the fruit markets in Italy.

This, of course, is the classic persimmon (most commonly known nowadays through the Hachiya cultivar): roughly peach-shaped, flat with a dried calyx on one end and doming to a point at the other end, which is unbelievably astringent (puckery) when firm and only becomes really edible when it is so soft that you would swear it was spoiled and rotten, if it were any other fruit. (Note: If persimmons can become overripe, I’m not aware of it.)

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Writing a Novel

October 31st, 2014

A member of my writing group recently put out a request for those of us who have written novels to talk about our composition process and experiences. As preparation for that upcoming discussion — recognizing that I’m still discovering what worked and didn’t work in my one successful and other not-yet-successful novel-writing efforts — here are some top-level thoughts.

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Gifts of the Earth

October 1st, 2014

(originally written a couple of days ago)

For breakfast this morning I had some leftover bread pudding, with a bit of homemade plum syrup and whipped cream over it. Heavenly. Plus a small pear from our favorite orchard.

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Two Hours a Day

September 22nd, 2014

Spring and early summer were unusually busy for me, workwise. And then the middle of summer was largely taken up with a family vacation, helping my mother move, getting our house ready for my mother-in-law to move in, etc.

All that is mostly settled now, however. And the question now is, how much time can I realistically put into my creative writing? And will that be enough for me to get anywhere?

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The General and the Particular

September 10th, 2014

There are, speaking broadly (the irony of which will shortly be evident), two different ways of looking at and systematizing the world. The first — favored by theoreticians ranging from Newton to Marx to Freud to Joseph Campbell — involves the attempted deciphering of fundamental underlying codes that explain a broad range of phenomena. The second, in contrast, while it may accept the existence of underlying patterns, focuses on differences: particular instances, local circumstances, and the like.

I admit it. I’m drawn to the general theories. But as I’ve gotten older, I find myself increasingly skeptical about them.

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The Pusher (New Years 2004 Reprint)

April 23rd, 2014

Note: This is a reprint of a column I sent out, oh, 10 years ago now, purely for my own amusement…

The kids come, one and two at a time. Up the path, a furtive knock at the door. Down the stairs into the cellar, where the stuff is kept. Faces staring at the floor, with every appearance of shame. Then the fateful whispered words, from the addict to the dealer: “Can I have a book?”

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It comes as news to precisely no one reading these columns that I am a book addict: bookworm, son of a bookworm, brother of bookworms, parent and spouse of same. There is little about bookwormish behavior that I don’t know, nothing experts can tell me about the symptoms that I haven’t observed at close hand. It’s all familiar to me. And of all of it, there’s nothing I know better than the urge to share the addiction with others.

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Paying Attention to the Words

April 17th, 2014

Last Sunday, I attended a performance of Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God by the Minnesota Mormon Chorale and Orchestra. It was surprisingly good — pretty much professional quality.

Of course, me being a writer and editor, I can’t simply leave it there. And in fact there was one small detail of the performance that stuck in my mind, and eventually led me to this keyboard — in musing upon language and scripture, and how familiarity and easy readings can dull our perception.

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