• Books,  Music,  Writing

    What Started as a Review of an Autobiography but Became a Piece About My Life with the Music of Bruce Springsteen

    Though I love their music, I was too young to experience The Beatles firsthand. For that, I depended on older relatives to school me. I was five when Let it Be came out, so although I remember singing along to the title track and “The Long and Winding Road” with my Aunt Lois and her friends, I wasn’t old enough to appreciate either of those songs or The Fab Four’s musical genius until a few years later. Fortunately, I was a bit more lined up time-wise with Bruce Springsteen. I was ten when Born to Run released, though I remember loving the title track but not noticing much else about…

  • Miscellaneous,  Writing

    Flash Fiction Challenge

    I’m participating in this competition, the 11th Annual NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. It sounds like fun, and it’s also a good way to get me to write, write, write. Entries close at midnight Eastern Time. Check it out at http://www.nycmidnight.com/Competitions/FFC/Challenge.htm Please follow and like me:

  • Movies,  Television,  Writing

    Stranger Things and the Value of a Well-Flawed Character

    Recently, I’ve read a few of the “We Need to Talk About Hopper” articles dealing with Stranger Things‘ Jim Hopper’s “problematic” qualities. Some of those pieces, I think, are designed to be clickbait–along the lines of the “Why Are Characters Smoking in Stranger Things?” and “Those Kids Need to Wear Helmets When They Ride Their Bikes” articles–but this sort of discussion always fascinates me because a large portion of my job is talking meaningfully about stories and the characters who populate them. Here’s the simplified version of that argument: Police Chief Jim Hopper is problematic because he’s angry and unruly and he drinks and smokes too much. He has Schlitz…

  • Miscellaneous,  Music,  Writing

    Another Navy Story: Old Milwaukee, Tighty Whities, and the Music of Bruce Springsteen

    When I was in U.S. Navy A School, I knew a guy named Walter. In many ways, Walter was an average late-teen-to-early-twenties navy recruit: homesick, restless, impulsive, and far too immature to be taking on any significant responsibility. That was all of us in those days. Unfortunately, Walter was also prone to getting drunk and inexplicably winding up in his underwear. I’m sure there were a lot of steps between Walter’s descents into drunkenness and the shedding of his outerwear, but none of us knew what they were because we never went out with him. We were young and stupid, and we were known to enjoy a beer or five,…

  • Miscellaneous,  Writing

    Finding Happiness in What You Carry: A Bit About Mother’s Day

    If you ask me, most holidays are much ado about little of any real substance. Take Valentine’s Day. If you aren’t some kind of jerk, you’ve probably been halfway nice to the person you claim to love above all others. If that’s not the case, dinner and chocolate isn’t going to suddenly set it right. Despite soft-focus commercials about exotic weekend getaways and advice about the portion of one’s salary suitable for purchasing jewelry items, Valentine’s Day could just as well be called, I don’t know, Tuesday. How about Christmas? Whether we’re talking about its Christian or pagan origins, it’s hard to see how any of what happens today relates…

  • Poetry,  Writing

    Snow Day

    The whicker of wind outside my window tells me leaving the haven of my bed would be a mistake. No breakfast eaten or new day begun, no matter how delicious or auspicious, can contend with the loving press of a flannel sheet or the promised rush of anesthetic joy. Dreams pull me down, promising one more and one more and one more minute of bliss. So I stay. Please follow and like me:

  • Miscellaneous,  Writing

    George Orwell and Truth for Truth’s Sake

    Sometimes, I ask myself this question: What would George Orwell say if he were alive today? I mean, what would he say other than “Man, I’m really old, which is surprising, not in the least because of that whole tuberculosis thing.” At any rate, I’m sure he’d have some other interesting insights. As John Lennon once said, these are strange days, indeed. I’m not the only one thinking about Orwell. As you might have noticed, folks are throwing around the word “Orwellian” like they’re earning double royalties on its usage. Saying “Orwellian,” in fact, has become shorthand for most of the ideas Orwell cared about. This means, by the way, that using…

  • Writing

    The Secret Plan

    Recently, I’ve noticed a trend in fiction, including among authors I admire. It works like this: The protagonist and company have a plan that’s going to lead to the novel’s climactic scene, and they discuss the plan, but we don’t get to hear it. The reason for this device, presumably, is to surprise us when the plan is executed, but here’s what makes it especially problematic: The discussion of the plan doesn’t happen “off screen.” Instead, it’s perched right there in the middle of an otherwise packed scene, its place held by a little line that read something like “They discussed it, and everyone agreed.” And then the action of…

  • Writing

    Today, For Lack of a Better Title

    Today, I’ve been thinking about writing, whether poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or even well-crafted shopping lists. More than that, though, I’ve been thinking about reading, something I’ve always done at the expense of things that were probably more practical. My mom was a kindergarten teacher and taught me how to read before I was able to form memories, or at least that’s how it seems. I don’t remember learning how to swim, either, which makes sense considering I grew up close to the ocean. I’ve long imagined family members vying for the chance to throw me into the water for the first time. And who could blame them, really? My first…

  • Writing

    Where Were We?

    Over the past few years, my writing habits have been–well, honestly, they’ve been nearly non-existent. Sure, I write for work, but who doesn’t? Even if you aren’t a writing teacher like I am, chances are good you write something during your day. Me, I write volumes of feedback to my students on their essays, and on a good day, I type more emails than a Russian internet scammer during American voting season. About three years ago, I lived through a summer that saw more publication than I’d seen during the rest of writing my career. Three magazines accepted my short stories, and three of my poems were published within two…