Friday, September 5, 2014

In His Gladness of Lunch

I want to be a home town old man
with nothing much to attend.
I'd wear a big blue shirt over my belly
and shuffle around the buffet
nibbling this and that
but not too much of any one thing.
Maybe I'd have grandkids somewhere
or white hair.
I'd almost always be polite
or at least very quiet.
I'd also laugh because I am known
and sit in the padded booth
and the waitress would smile
and about more than the tip.
No one has a chance with a home town old man
not even when he's just sitting.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Real Bad Chemo Day

I once knew an old man
and when he reached that point
they chucked him into a nursing home
and sorted through his things
to take and sell and otherwise throw away.
Thereafter, I visited him once a week.
He was a spiritual man
a Baptist longer than I'd then been alive.
He tried telling me
he was ready for the golden ladder,
to cross the river, and the great reunion
and how he could do nothing
now that everything was gone.

He looked forward to being done.
Of course, the young pastor gave rebuttal
along the lines of how sometimes it isn't what you do
as much as it's who you are.
This was the best I could come up with.
One time I even said how he might outlive us all.
God forbid, he replied.
He was patient though, nodded sagely and encouragingly

waiting towards my inability to then understand.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Love You - Now Buy My Books

I've always had a problem with self-promotion. This may explain my current level of book sales. Maybe I should get over it, but it seems phony.

Like - there's this website called I'm a member there. There are LOTS of people using that site with whom I used to work. The gist of the site is, itself, self-promotion. You sign up, make connections, and look therein for opportunities. It's not Facebook or Myspace or… whatever. I get that. But what's interesting is I never hear from any of my connections unless they have something about themselves to say.

Admittedly, some of my connections I consider associates or people with whom one works. I dislike very few of them. Then again, we were never best buds. It's like - you don't have to be friends with everyone you work with, but you do have to get stuff done. Many of these individuals I mostly listened to and during the course of time I learned about significant differences between them and myself. Yet, ever the one to promote diversity of relationships between myself and others - I kept most of my own thoughts to myself. Those folks I understand. They're in the world of business and want to be successful and they keep doors (relationships) open and at arm's length. That's cool…

But there are others I did consider friends. The fault there may be mine. I never hear from these people unless, you got it, they're self-promoting their latest business, opportunity, or accomplishment… i.e. self-promotion. It smacks of insincerity; at a certain age one understands the carnival barkers are merely barking and what I once thought were friendships have wilted into, how to say this politely, people looking at me the way an Amway representative sees the world - as one large selling target.

I don't pretend to care about others very well. I either care about them, or I don't. There's something sickening about faux happy-face in the name of sales. True sociopaths have a knack for making others think they care. Interesting link there … something about the sociopathic nature of business. And there's nothing wrong with business. I am, at heart, a capitalist. If we it gave it a real shot, it might work.

But back to self-promotion… humans can say they care and for that instant they believe they do. But talk and deeds need to match. Some are better at this than others and I very much envy Nathanael (John 1:47).

Or apply this to 'church', as understood by most in 2014. Unlike what one sees on tha tee-vee or in tha moovies - the pastor/priest isn’t always the bad guy. More often than not, he's the one who cares while there are many using 'their' church for their own purposes. Oh, the tell-all I could write about that. But one persistent idea is that of pastor as salesman and where in the world does church growth come from? Yet, Jesus wasn't an entertainer. He didn't sell coffee, open a book store in the back of the temple, nor did a too-loud band accompany him every Sunday for the young people.

But where is church growth supposed to come from? It's certainly not doctrinally sound preaching, nor is it found in trying to do things close to what one reads in the book. Rather, if the given church isn't self-promoting, it's not going to need that addition added to the sanctuary. Here I'm getting snarky and a bit off-topic, but it is certainly something to consider. Just know motive plays a large part.
Now, go read I John 3:18.

Friday, July 4, 2014

My New-Old Typewriter

A while back a church member gave me a portable, Sperry Rand / Remington 666 (interesting number, but not that relevant today). It's a typewriter. Few of the younguns in these parts know how to operate one. I took it to class once and challenged them to load a piece of paper. These are college freshmen and sophomores. It daunted them. Only three tried. I'm sure they'll become more adventurous and proficient at trying new things as they age.

It's a simple device. Hit the letter key, the letter arm rises as does the ribbon-guide. If there's paper on the platen, a mark designating that letter is made on the paper. I used a fancier, electric version in college. It died years ago.

The case is 15 inches long, 4 and three-quarters of an inch tall and 13 inches deep. I may be wrong, but research shows it was made in Holland in the early 1970s. It arrived with no paperwork though ribbons are still available for purchase on the internet. The original documentation, including a section on how to type, is also available for download. Like what isn't? Fascinating, no?

It's a magnificent machine. It yet works and I want to use it, but I don't know what for.

It's also a reminder of, if not simpler, then less confusing times. We seem to be confused a lot, and we call it sophistication. Psychologists used to call that avoidance. I think now they call it enabling, or something like that.

I'm not even that old and still I remember non-Monsanto owned seed- corn, blackberry patches back in the woods on the edges of a field, a little thing called going to town, taking a bath, Americans who were unafraid of gluten, and people who looked for patterns and not exceptions. All these things worked well. Still do.

Another fascinating tidbit is that in the early 1800s the typewriter was 'invented' over 100 times by different individuals. I suppose this means that when conditions are right a concept happens, whether people want it or not. And heck, who wouldn't want a typewriter? Charles Thurber is generally credited with the first 'workable' typewriter patent in 1843; for clarification, that pre-Civil-War. This also means it takes some doing to get it right, not that that ever stopped someone from trying.

There's also a thing called staying power and the old canard about buggy-whips. You can still buy one of those too. The typewriter is also still around. The faculty mail room where I work yet boasts one of those big, fancy IBM electrics. I've even seen people use it. The machine, as a species, is coming up on being 200 years old. That's a while.

Technology is an interesting thing. It both advances and accumulates at the same time. Look around your house. The cutting edge doesn't immediately replace the tried and true. This explains some of the anachronisms. I suspect this is the reason why the Blu-Ray hasn't replaced the CD.

As a gift, it's pretty cool. Someday when I have my museum-quality den I'll put it on a pedestal under a glass dome, next to my pre-Reagan globe. Until then I don't know quite what to do with it. I suppose it will sit in a corner and from time to time I'll look at it with a very non-pragmatic sort of appreciation and someday, if the lights go out, it will help me be an important person - one who can type letters and thoughts on pieces of paper.

If you ever win on Jeopardy with any of this send me a couple of bucks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Oh Look - A Shiny Sorta-Political Writing Thing

"A Republic, if you can keep it." -- Benjamin Franklin

"Pardon the following grouch." -- Andy Decker

The founding fathers, warts and all, put together a pretty darn good system.  I know it's fashionable to trash our nation's founders and to review their work through all types of new prisms.  Yet to do so proves faulty and I would, if possible, trade our current batch of 'leaders' for what we had at that time.
Nor am I hopeful things are going to improve and the fault is ours.

'We the people' are the first three words of a little document known as the United States Constitution.  Have you seen them?  Not the people - but the words?  They stand out.  They're HUMONGOUS compared to the rest of the script.  Whoever wrote them either left his glasses at home that morning, or was making a point.
I know Gouverneur Morris (accredited with that portion of the document) and the rest of the crew were sticking a stick in the eyes of all the edict makers who would eventually get around to reading said document.   It would behoove us to reflect a moment on this device.  We the people are supposed to be in charge of the government and not the other way around.

That said:  democracy must be struggled for and I don't see it happening.  Hence the mess.
Note the 'Occupy' movement and the 'TEA Party'.  These two groups have/are receiving criticism… since day one.  This is what happens when the systems that be are confronted with those who will struggle for what they believe in.  And I say systems because, at this point, the individual personalities involved are far less important than we deem.  The 'leaders' of today are parts and can be swapped out for new ones.  The machines will carry on pretty much as usual.

All the more reason why struggling for democracy is not easy.  Yet it is necessary.
Nor am I throwing my hat in one direction or another.  Looking back and since I've been paying attention, for about twenty or so years now, I've been waiting for a third party.  I'm very certain I'm not settling for the corruption that passes for the current two-party system.  Nor am I convinced either of the new groups is 100% what I'm looking for.  It grows complex and the red-state / blue-state false dichotomy bottoms out quickly.

Consider messaging.  The Occupy Movement I have not heard much from in about two years.  Politically, that's eternity; they were little more than a slow-motion flash-mob now mostly forgotten.  I was never convinced about what they wanted.  It's difficult to agree or disagree with a group when one doesn't know what said group stands for.  That they camped out in downtown areas in big cities was most of what I could pick up about their concerns; that and something about how the wealthy don't deserve it.
The TEA Party (Taxed Enough Already) has a nice acronym in its name and continues to today.  As a tax-payer, I concur with the acronym.  Part of that success, in the face of withering pop-culture fire, is in their messaging and branding.  I do not see evidence that the TEA party is racist or bigoted.  I do see a group of people tired of paying what they consider to be more than their fair share and who would like to simply get back to enforcing the laws of the land.  Now there's an interesting concept.  Yet, the TEA Party flaw seems to be that they wish to go back in time.  Theirs is less a vision, more a reminiscence.

But note, again, the opposition to both movements.  Two groups struggling for democracy's sake have both been branded with derogatory terms.  Name-calling is the lowest form of argument.  At least debate the merits of what they're saying.  This would encourage more participation on everyone's part, but who has time to do that?
Instead, I see a purposely distracted nation.  Two examples should do the trick.

I am not today interested in horse racing.  I never have been.  Yet, only a short month ago, what was the name of the horse that might have won the Triple Crown?  Yeah, I forget too.  But I do know most people wanted that particular horse to win, no matter that very few of them had ever been to a horse track.  Why?  There's no logic to such desires.  There is, however, evidence of an electorate led by its nose to the latest pop-culture trough.
And, more recently, think about the efforts to convince the United States that soccer is interesting.  Ha ha ha ha (excuse me)!   It's 'World Cup' time and everyone should care.  Just ask the morning shows and tha whirld newz tanite!  But again, I didn't care about soccer last month and it is assured I will care for it not a whit next month.  It's just another fad backed by people hoping to make money, sandwiched between the latest vapid actress being 'interviewed' by a media-conglomerate-hired reporter working for a network that is owned by the company putting out the movie.  No strained interest there.

In the meantime, we'll keep watching and, mostly, not caring enough to do much about it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Some Thoughts on Psalm 39

Psalm 39 is not long. Go read it. I'll wait.

It's the middle of June and summer is sneaking up on us,
not like the tornadoes that scream out of the sky to tear apart towns
or the wild raspberries ripening by the afternoon.

The psalmist asked that he know his end and the measure of his days
so he might be acquainted with his frailty.
That is quite a prayer.
His request mingled with the admission that David held his tongue
and should not have,
and how he paid a price for silence.
This seems very relevant.

and now, a poem...

The ones who scare me
are the ones who act like it matters.
I am not referring to everything,
but to many things.
Like the man who looks down on the other man
for not putting in his forty hours.
Or like the man who will not recognize the better man.
Or the person with new shoes who knows
it's critical to have new shoes thrown in the closet
before the next pair of new shoes comes along.
And there are those who ask who's to say
when something wrong is done.
These ones are getting close
unless they back away.
This kind of spite bumper-cars us through life
against ourselves, against one another,
against all types of tragic systems put here long before we were born.
You wake up, I want to tell them.
Maybe an instant more is all you have.
Or it could be decades of instances.
But either way there comes a day
when all the instances are gone.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Another Immortal Cancer Poem

Another Immortal Cancer Poem

I forget the exact day
but let's say it's been about a year
and me with an expiration date
of a fairly-well written situation-comedy.
I'd like to say it's been a precious year
and I did have three months of remission
until it hit the bones.
But there was some chemo in there
and some fatigue
and all the usual crap that goes with.
So precious isn't the word.
What then?
There is no word.
It's stupid to try to think of one.
So what am I doing this year?
Waiting for the medical marijuana?
Somehow they'll take all the fun out of that too.
I just know it.
I could put on my Eeyore
and complain about everything else…
too easy.
At this point griping is like deciding to cheat on your taxes
or asking doc for more pain pills
when the bottle isn't empty yet
or taking a little break with the treatments
when nobody is looking.
It feels good when it's happening
and then there's fright when it's done.
There are other options ahead.
Consider… this poem could go on a while
or I might wrap it up right quick.
Who knows?
That's the thing.

Who knows?

A Terrible Creature and Poorly Drawn

*** Ok - here's a little flash fiction and an opportunity given over at Chuck Wendig's. He's always good for a read and a few though-provoking things. Enjoy and, as always, honest feedback is always welcome. ***

The morning brought five or six shades of blue to the hills surrounding the old quarry. But the growing day burned that away and turned it mostly to the colors of white oatmeal and clay. The word that came to Randall, as he followed the gravel road around to where he could see things, was immense. A great white square in the earth where trees and soil had been ripped away by some previous generation's earth-movers met his eyes. And, in the center of that, sat a second square; one holding water of an old green stagnation. Large rocks, some the size of cars and others fittingly looking like coffins sat tumbled around the old water. On the ground were smaller slices of stone, sharp like knives or bumpy like small fists.

He dismounted the bicycle and walked it towards the edge of the pool. The quarry was of the legendary type; a place where teenagers were supposed to swim and party in the summers. But, they didn't. There were no old char-pits or cans or squiggled condoms reclining in the soil. Maybe, Randall thought, it had all been forgotten. Maybe something else kept the kids away. Whatever the reason, it was a good place for some of the things Randall liked to do.

Nearing the water, he laid the bike on its side the way he might ease a friend to the ground. Another three steps brought him to the slimy edge of the pool. He always admired the lines and how box-like and definite the digging had been. What were they looking for, he wondered, granite or shale? And why had they stopped working here? He guessed it didn't matter and reached into his pocket.

In the plastic baggie he'd kept the final piece of Elise; something about an eye for an eye. He wondered if there were fish in the water and how the keepsake might fare. There was something funny about the idea of a zip-lock and he smirked and pulled the lips of the bag apart. He reached in and didn't mind holding it. It had dried out some but was still moist and like an old scratched marble, the colors had dimmed.

"Just remember," he said, "you started this."

The water received its gift with a silly and noncommittal little plop and before Randall returned to his bike he admired the openness of where he stood. Atop the bluffs the alders moved in a wind too removed to feel and the sun stared down at him in an unexpected moment of heat. Beyond his sight some bird sang a three-note warble. There was a repetition to all this that Randall failed to notice. Only, he felt like he had something to work out. He just didn't know quite know what it was. He shrugged and guessed then it was finished.

But the thing he'd thrown in the water wouldn't settle. It moved in little starts and dashes through the dark algae and tiny bubbles where the snails and other forgotten creatures of the pool lived beyond sight. By the time Randall made the blacktop it had already begun seeking its own.

The tall grasses along the sides of the road slid by and soon he was back among the houses. The ride gave him time to think. The other parts of Elise were far away and there was no fear of being caught. His legs worked the bike and he wondered about what she'd been looking for. Some sort of thrill, he supposed, remembering how, if not possessive, then pensive she'd been. And, he had given her the show of a lifetime.

Randall always went for the pretty ones. But unlike the others, there was intuitiveness about Elise and only after he'd picked her up the first time did he appreciate how she seemed to know what was going on. Right away, she'd wanted in on the next one. That's how she said it. Like she knew what Randall did with them and what she didn't think he would do to her.

By the time he leaned his bike against the garage, his shirt was soaked. The sun had stared down at him with no clouds. It wasn't supposed to be this hot today. But he shrugged at it, punched the code into the door, and let himself into the house where the air was on. He sat in front of the television and pinched a button on the remote. He watched nothing in particular for a while and then thought he could use a shower.

In the tub he found a conglomeration of red mess and hair had backed up the drain. Randall knew he'd cleaned it before he'd left; his hobby necessitated a certain level of care. Impossible, he thought. He swore at this and dug around under the sink for the snake. When he had it he reached into the drain hole with the little wire on the end and worked it around for a while but whatever plugged the pipe wouldn't give. This didn't make sense. It was only blood. The solid pieces were elsewhere.

He walked to the basement door with a pipe-wrench. The raw-wood steps thudded under his feet. Just like her, he thought. Elise had done nothing but get in the way. She said she'd wanted to help but when he did it in front of her, to that girl whose name he'd never even learned, she'd only stared.

"Stupid," he said, "and never again."

He reached for the string and clicked on the light. The old bulb swung and the shadows of the white plastic drain jerked above him. He sighed, adjusted the wrench, reached up, and gave a hard pull on the nut. There was a relief when it gave and he knew he hadn't broken anything.

With his hand he reached up and unscrewed it the rest of the way, and had only a moment to consider whether or not he'd gone insane.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Zero Charisma - Movie Review

In the strange and wonderful world we live in it's possible to buy gently used and some new movies more cheaply than it is to rent them. One has to take the time and dig through the racks and bins, but they are there and some of them rise above the typical explosions, special effects, and boob shots that tend to pass for entertainment.

Case in point: I found a gem of a movie called Zero Charisma. It is a collaborative effort by Tribeca Film and Nerdist Industries. When I say gem I don't mean a gem like you buy at a jewelry store for your wife's birthday. It's more like a gem you find at a yard sale. It's overlooked and many won't value it. But it's still a gem. The movie cost two dollars at the local video rental place. According to the box, Zero Charisma was put out in 2013. There's some sharp cussing in the movie so if you don't like that don't watch it.

Zero Charisma is about a guy named Scott, as played by Sam Eidson. Something we tend to forget is that characters in movies have names aside from the actors playing them, but that's beside the point. Scott has issues. He lives with his grandmother. She has health problems and they get on one another's nerves. His mom abandoned Scott when he was very young. He works at a bakery. He's angry, and he's a Game Master for a fantasy role-playing game of his own design. This is what made me interested in the movie. Anybody who has ever played a fantasy role-playing game will find relatable moments (both funny and unfunny).

Scott starts out in what I'll call 'normal land'. Things are ok. To most viewers, things aren't where we'd like them to be. But that's not important. To Scott, life is about where it should be. However, slowly, Scott loses control of his game (don't miss the metaphor). It starts when he loses a player and he begins efforts to recruit a new one. The new guy, stumbled upon almost accidently, is obviously way cooler and funnier than anyone else in the group. This unhinges Scott's need for control in the one area of his life where he feels like he has it (the game he's created). And don't we all have a need for control in at least one area of our lives? Critical question that. The new guy (Miles) ascends in likeability and this challenges Scott's rule and position as game-master with his group of friends. While this is going on, Scott's mom returns to challenge his place at his grandmother's house. From the start, it's mostly downhill for Scott. No spoilers. Watch the movie.

That said, don't miss what's happening from a story-telling standpoint; one thing after another pushes Scott further and further from his comfortable normal. For this particular movie, many, though not all, of the problems are Scott's fault. This is important too. Because, while the viewer may not like Scott, over time (the way the plot points are revealed) the viewer can also understand why Scott is the way he is and this helps the viewer care.

Two huge ideas for writers:

HUGE IDEA FOR WRITERS #1: Premise isn't story, nor is it plot. This is about an angry game-master who likes to have a control of his game because it's about the only place in his life where he has any control. This is about what happens when that control begins to erode.

HUGE IDEA FOR WRITERS #2: Take the main character and knock him (or her) down, down, and then down some more. Beat the crap out of that main character. This provides the primary tension of the story. Will Scott get back to normal? Will he find a new normal? Will he learn anything? And in the meantime, if told well, readers & viewers can obtain a handle on why the main character is the way he is. A little bit of empathy goes a long way and love covers a multitude of sins. What I mean is that when an audience understands a miserable and not very likeable character, they are willing to care and cut the guy some slack and, heck, may even begin rooting for the guy.

This is what is known as a character-driven story which, for me, is much more entertaining and gratifying than an explosion & boob-driven story.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Waste Management

Somebody wanted to know how come I don’t write more here about the Bible. First of all, I have to get over the flattery. Someone actually reads this blog. So, thanks for the input and hubba-hubba. That said, here’s what I’m thinking: Bibles are at Dollar General for less than ten bucks. Go buy a Bible and read it.  It says it better than I can.

Yet, ever the one to accommodate – here’s something to think about.

The amount of food people throw away is interesting. I’m not talking about corporations or grocery stores or restaurants, though they waste prodigious amounts. It’s quite fashionable to trash corporations and businesses these days and the hypocrisy involved is chagrin-worthy.  And mirrors used to be called vanities.

Ever since I was little, there’s been a household chore all about throwing away food. Every once in a while it’s time to, “clean out the fridge.” This does not usually involve Windex and a roll of paper towels. Instead, cleaning out the fridge means going through the shelves and throwing away old food. This happens when the shelves become so packed with leftovers and bits & pieces of things not eaten, that there isn’t room for more.

Only, people don’t wake up on Saturday morning and tell themselves, “Today I’m going to throw away food that’s now too old to eat and that we didn’t get around to eating.” Instead, they tell themselves and, later, may even boast to others in the family, “I cleaned out the fridge today.” That sounds much nicer and may merit a commendation. Cleaning out the fridge has to be done.

I wonder what God thinks about all the wasted food. Someday, as I stand to answer for all the wrongs I’ve done, this may come up. It’s low on the list of things I think I’ll have to answer for. Then again, there may be surprise topics in that day.

A similar example has to do with television. Numbers vary, but people who watch television watch a lot of television. Notice the word is “watch”. That sounds more active and palatable than saying, “I looked at the television for three hours last night.” Looked at, watched… what’s the difference? When was the last time you looked at a group of bearded irises, or something else very beautiful, for three hours before bed time? Again, another case of reality softened and made, perhaps, more acceptable via word choice.

Then there’s the person who doesn’t get enough exercise. So, instead of a push-mower and a snow-shovel they buy the rider and the blower. Then they pay for the gym membership.  Then they complain money is tight.

Examples abound…

Waste not, want not – a proverb from yesteryear not in the Bible.  It makes some, though not total, sense. Food, time, talents, educational opportunities, potential… all these things can languish in the land of abundance. The Bible says quite a bit about waste.  Don’t take my word for it. Look it up and read it if you have the time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In the middle of chemo


and retreat.

There's nothing wrong with this strategy.

Capital city is miles away

and only if it ever comes to that

then be done retreating.

Begrudge it

the border counties,

the approaches,



the faculties of what it takes.

Absorb this.

Give ground

as necessary.


I'm not saying give up.

But take a moment.

Realize the vast nation of who you are.

The reserves,

the untouched and untouchable places,

the industry,

the glorious shrines,

and all the landscapes

that even before the invasion

few bothered to see.

But you know them

and love them

and they are still there.

That's what you fight with

and preserve.

Some will be ruined

and really,

the entire place has already changed.

Yes, there is much to consider.

But right now, get through.

Later, reclaim.

Just don't worry about all that yet.

For now, hang on.


and retreat.

Quick Note

I find myself drawn to poetry lately.  This has to do with the type of energy it takes to write the stuff, as opposed to prose. It's difficult to explain but anyone who has ever tried understands the difference.  I'm also trying to not make this blog about cancer.  But right now, that's the frame I'm stuffed into.  So...  That said, I am working on a few things that have nothing to do with either cancer or poetry.  Stay tuned, skip it, or whatever.  If you're still reading, thanks.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pursue That Premise

Ponder that, in November of 1983, Kevin Eastman drew a bipedal turtle, wearing a mask, with nunchucks.  Within a few days, Eastman and his friend, Peter Laird, had created four such turtles, each armed with a different ninja weapon; fast forward thirty plus years and multi-million dollars of franchise later.  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are yet alive and well, and making money.  Bless the heroes in the half-shell.

Get that?  Bi-pedal turtles, martial arts, and fighting crime.
I know there was some luck involved.  There always is.  But I also know this:  PT Barnum is accredited with saying, "The American public will buy almost anything."  Ok, Barnum is accredited with saying a sucker is born every minute, but my version is a tad nicer, and no less true.
As writers, or whoever happens to be reading this, let us bow our heads and contemplate that premise may not be as important as we think.  Nor should premise be dismissed because it sounds a bit goofy.  Speaking of which, why does Pluto never get to talk, while Donald is nearly incomprehensible when he does say something (at least in the original)?  Speech impediments and limitations must have been part of the original idea.

What is a writer's premise, or, to become all high-falootin', what is a literary premise?  Ok, never mind the high-falootin (it doesn't sell that well anyway).  But according to a plain old thesaurus, a premise is:  an assumption, hypothesis, thesis, presupposition, postulation, supposition, presumption, surmise, conjecture, so on, and so forth.
A premise is a simple game of 'what-if' the writer plays.  For example, what if I filmed an almost recognizable celebrity spouse swapping places with another sorta-kinda recognizable celebrity spouse?  That would be the premise for Celebrity Wife-Swap.  Titillating, no?  Maybe not so much, but people do watch that crap. And, somebody somewhere probably enjoys making those episodes.  And this, perhaps, is the key.

As a fiction writer, if one does not enjoy one's premise, then what's the point?
I posit today that if a premise (any premise at all) has ensnared your imagination, then please, do run with it.  Go ahead and play, 'what if'.  Flesh it out and see what happens.  If it doesn't work, so what?  All that has been lost is a little time.  Make it up in your sleep.  If it does work, then guess what?  Therein lies the tale.  It may be explored and pushed and pulled and turned into something people (at last, or maybe at least, you) will enjoy.
Premise is not story.  Premise is not character.  Premise is only a situation and some of the setting.  The writing is the magic and the magic will tell the tale.  But it order for that to happen, a writer needs to follow-up on a few things.
Writers, let us now place our foreheads on the dirt and ask, 'How many ideas have I rejected because I dismissed the premise as not very good, dull, or stupid?' The answer is probably far too many.  Remember, someone will read it.  That's how the reading public is.  In the meantime, give your imagination a break.  Let us run loose for a while.  One never knows when a great idea has just arrived and to dismiss it out of hand is just a bit premature.  And no one likes to be premature.

Monday, May 12, 2014

It's Not The Water

I thought I would do something today to feel a little alive
like maybe eat some popcorn or have a slushy;
roll the window down and turn the music up.
But those are little tricks
and they don’t work all the time.
I suppose they’re decent reminders though,
better than nothing.
The ironic thing, well, one of the ironic things
is that the medicine that’s supposedly killing the cancer,
or that I hope is killing the cancer,
is killing everything
and I am fully aware of this.
It’s like losing my hair;
not that I mind being bald
because it’s summer and I look like that dude on Breaking Bad.
But it’s too obvious to not notice…
that sort of thing.
It’s like how something once pleasant
like smelling a nice cup of coffee
makes me want to lose my breakfast
before I’ve even had breakfast
and that’s how the day’s going to go
and I know it before I even get out of bed.
I’m supposed to choke down these four pills in the morning
and then four identical pills in the evening, with food,
and of course the pills don’t have a taste…
you swallow them
with water
and that shouldn’t be so bad.
But the water tastes terrible.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cancer Update #8 - It's Back

I finally know what I want to be when I grow up:  cancer free.  A few weeks ago I was told the cancer has moved to my bones and so that's that... hence a lack of April updates.  I can say these treatments are much more difficult than the first round from last year.  More later... but consider this little post a small attempt at me getting back in the saddle.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Unexpected Review

Here’s me being reviewed in the second issue of The CommonOddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow (click the ‘Download pdf’ tab).

Having more experience with smoke being blown up certain places than with having my work independently reviewed, I tell myself honesty is best.  And I mean it, in a puckered and clenched sort of manner.  Any publicity is good publicity?  Do we really want people to be honest?  Big question that.  It’s a backhanded compliment to be told, “Well, at least he’s honest.”
I also have wide-ranging experiences of people saying they’re going to do something and then they don’t.  Students, contractors, HR interviewers at fortune 500 firms, and the guy in the mirror are all guilty of this.
This time I was pleasantly surprised on both aforementioned cynical-me topoi (used in a more general / material sense for you Aristotle nerds out there).

About a month ago I received an email from Jill Domschot informing me she would be reviewing Under a Cloven Moon:  The Santanta Run.  Having visited and commented a time or two on her blog, this offered an unexpected addition to my day.  The content of her blog always strikes me as honest, sharp, and erudite – setting certain expectations about just how honest and sharp of a review did I want.  And, one of the little voices in my head kept telling me to believe it when I could see it.
So, voila, about a month later, here’s the review.  Jill, if you’re out there, thank you so much.  Luck indeed.  And no, I didn’t send her a basket of cookies to do this (not that I’m above doing that).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Holy Frenchisms!

I can finally relate with a certain cliché about the French (not the cheese-eating surrender monkey cliché).  Rather, consider how the French are supposed to be rude towards Americans because the two cultures just don't 'get' one another.  Like at the Tower of Babel, when the speech was confused, it wasn't just the speech.  It was the way of thinking and maybe the French have a reason or two to be rude.

With the extra poundage, the funny looking money, and a complete rejection of the notion that they should learn a few native words before visiting, Americans just don’t fit in downtown Paris.  Le Big Mac?  EuroDisney?  No wonder the French are protective of their language.  Some things just don’t translate.  Without pondering the depths of cultural imperialism, I can relate to French concerns in these matters.

For example, a few years ago one of the networks had a movie about “The Flood”.  I guess it was based on the Biblical account.  About the same time I remember there was another show about Cleopatra.  Guess what movie was more historically accurate?  Here's a clue:  in TV-land, Sodom doesn’t have Sodomites and Noah wasn’t the only one with an ark.

One would think the producers could have hired some native speakers to guide them through their producing.  But like the rude visitors they were, they didn’t bother.  They had the money, the script, the ugly shorts, the obtrusive camera, and didn't know enough of the native tongue to truly communicate.  My sense was they didn’t understand half of what they were trying to say.  And now Noah -- the movie!  Bum-bum-bum!  The trailer alone looks like Bible fan-fiction.  The original doesn't include red-hot swords on anvils and what looks like a Viking attack on the ark.  I wonder what they'll do with Genesis 6:5?

All kinds of politicians, entertainers, and newsmen say all kinds of things that native speakers can tell came straight from the “Conversational Christianity in 20 Easy Lessons” traveler’s handbook.  And that’s ok, I guess.  I suppose it’s nice to have visitors and people interested, so long as they don’t kid themselves about where they're from.  But many of them represent the worst kind of tourists - those with something to sell.  They don't want to stay to really learn what it's like to live here.

They say things that just don’t make sense to the native speakers.  And not only do they say it with a straight face, but they smile and expect their audience to agree.  Mr. McConaughey apparently not realizing God watches the movies as well as the Oscars, Revelations the mini-series, “regional” correspondents from the New York Times, and high-profile soon to be presidential candidates are all wide-eyed and in our faces, nodding and speaking far too loudly to be taken seriously.  I’m not convinced they’re here with anyone's best interests in mind, other than their own.

Through the prism of metrics, they've spotted a new land; a new marketing segment they want to visit.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Editing is important, last...

My brain works faster than my fingers.  Sometimes this is goodness.

It’s been forever since I’ve written something longer than a few lines by hand.  Despite four years of penmanship in Catholic grade school, my handwriting is generously described as abstract.  Someday I may scan each letter and make a font; give the NSA a run for its (our?) money.  Learning to type in high school and later gaining speed as a typesetter for the hometown newspaper has been a boon in a number of ways; gains in productivity and the readability of my work are but two of these blessings.  Even so, my brain still works faster than my fingers.
Who hasn’t been typing along with a full sail of beautiful brain-prose when they noticed the auto-correct green line of stupidity streaming behind them like the goo from a drunken snail’s meanderings?  Or better yet, consider the red line under a word misspelled so grossly that even the computer couldn’t fix it.  For many years I felt compelled to stop, drop, and edit.  This takes time, depending on the error.  And then… what happens then?

Remember, my brain-finger combo is the proverbial tortoise and the hare when it comes to writing.
After the grammar or spelling or punctuation madness has been improved to the computer’s satisfaction, and upon returning to the end of prosaic line, oft times the ideas are no longer there.  The blossoming flower has wilted under the ungenerous dry heat of ever-demanding syntax.  The brilliant phrase to come has vanished, as though it were nothing more than a mirage in the first place.  And, by golly, right now would be a great time for some YouTube or email checking.  And the next thing I know is that it’s time to let the dogs out and start thinking about supper; i.e. writing done for the day.

This type of self-inflicted paralysis is symptomatic of a flaw in the writer’s process.  Remember the writing process?  Think about macaroni and cheese.  Placing the cheese in the boiling water ruins the recipe.  First things need to be first.  Recipes are processes and processes help produce consistent results.  I’m a big fan of the writing process.  I have one and so should you.
Part of the writing process is to consider creation, revision, and editing as three separate entities.  Write, rest, revise (loop rest-revision ad infinitum if you wish), and then and only then go back for the edits.  The ugly parts will remain.  It’s not like they’re going to fix themselves.  Let the red and green lines of the word processing program adorn your prose, for a while.  The world needs more color.  In the meantime, the ideas need to blossom.

What I tell my students when it comes to the concentration-breaking issue of stopping mid-sentence to go back and fix that comma splice is that English Teacher Stuff (spelling, subject-verb agreement, punctuation, so on and gag me with a wood spoon) is important.  But it’s important last.
Remember, before editing can occur, there has to be something to edit.
Keep typing.  Type until the white edges of your distal phalanxes scratch the letters from the keyboard and the spaces between are gummy with red finger juice.  Finish that paragraph or that page or that chapter or, heck, even the entire first draft of that thousand-page novel.  Typos endure.  There will be time to go back and pick them off at your leisure.  Stalk them at the end of the writing process like the highly qualified word-sniper you are.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Give it a Go (sucky titles be darned)

Holy Guacamole!  Here it is, the final day of the month and me with only three February entries to this here blog.  Hey bloggy, watch me pull a post out of my hat!

This week I’ve been doing some experimental cooking.  Monday was a Tai-noodle thing with peanuts and chicken and about a half-dozen spices I’ve not worked with – totally new recipe under the gun of people leaving at a certain time and there I am in the kitchen trying to make things work on time and under budget (priced coconut milk lately?).  Tuesday was curry chicken with potatoes.  Again, something I’ve never cooked before.  Thursday I tried a new pasta-salad with Chimichurri instead of the usual Italian dressing stuff.  Familial reviews for all three were positive.  But that’s not today’s point.
As I was slaving away in the kitchen during this thrice-fold event, the thought kept occurring about how much time & effort & preparation & different ingredients all this took.  Time slowed.  I was clumsy & stumbly & uncertain & huffy at times (likin’ me some ampersands this morning).  Had to refer to the recipes between steps and it just didn’t flow the way I like to have my cooking flow.

Can we say ‘learning curve’?
Case in point – I bet the average home-cook in downtown Bangladesh can make chicken potato curry in his sleep in about a third of the time it took me.  But, let said Bangladeshi have a go at Mom Decker’s spaghetti – that’s homemade sauce bucko so get that sick rag-goo bottled poison out of yer head!  I’m thinking I’ve got the upper hand on that one.  Not bragging.  It’s down to an art that takes less than an hour.
If at first you don’t succeed – quit.  Something like that?  Been there, done that, wish I hadn’t (quit, that is).  I like music – can’t read a note, but I like music.  Tried learning how to read music once or twicet, but that’s like hard to learn for my right-brained self.  Never followed up on the efforts.  So here I am, bereft and vacant and without what I’ll call a technical understanding of something I greatly enjoy and appreciate.
I also posit that we are too used to seeing the final, finished, and polished result done at the hands of highly paid professionals.  Consider the McDonald’s customer-facing menu, replete with deceptive photos of what the food ‘looks like’, organized by this or that or the other thing.  Oft overlooked, it is the product of hundreds of man-hours of people in putty-colored meeting rooms, design offices, and printing shops.  We don’t see the ugliness that goes in to designing even the mendacity of advertising, let alone the well-done and more beautiful displays.
Yeah, there’s a fear of failure.  There’s a fear that what I’m attempting is going to suck and suck bad.  Anyone who has ever written anything for public consumption knows this feeling well.  And guess what, it has sucked, it does suck, and it shall suck again.  Can I get a big true-that!?  But you don’t get good at something by doing it one time.  And guess what, sucking bad didn’t end my world.  It never ended yours – unless you’re talking about a poisoned blow-dart down your throat like that aborigine in that one Bugs Bunny episode.  Different kind of sucking altogether.
So – learn the lessons and wear the scars proudly into the future.  It simply means you tried and in a world of people who attempt less than what they are comfortable with, that means a lot.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Strength and Honour

I imagine the noble grandfathers
sitting above, imbibing and in low tones
intimating about all that we have never seen
nor been.

It's about the stretch and pull of sinew,
long days' labour and receipt of burdens
we have never carried and now cheaply
we arrived.

In expensive lives we nonchalantly hold
at bay the assaults once withstood and won
and were given the hard valedictory praises
by default.

In thanks, they would have us forsake
our luck and stop to lift a greater cause
so they may know we are of and are one
of them.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Synchronized Thinking

Synchronized swimming is when two or three, or seven hundred people jump in the water and do the same things:  make flower designs with their legs, stand on their heads at the bottom of the pool, imitate mermaid ballerinas, and generally splash around.  It’s like a flash-mob in the water -- kind of cool to watch, especially with the right camera work.  Though, the nose-clips and spitting tends to distract from the artistry.  Alas that it’s not a Winter Olympic Sport.

I, being a land-based mammal, never could do any of that.  I can swim, but don’t expect me to save anyone when the ship goes down.  I’m heading for the closest piece of flotsam and there shall I cling until rescued.  Boats are good – never had a problem with boats.  But when immersed in water, and my feet can’t touch the muddy bottom?  What’s left of my bowels tries to crawl its way to dry land, dragging the rest of me along for the panic-induced ride.
But that’s ok because there’s another sport, quite similar, and I do it with the best of them.

An example:  something happens in the world and that something is deemed newsworthy by the powers in charge of selecting newsworthy events for us to consider.  The closing segment of tha whilrd newz tanite goes something like this:  “And finally, a mother in the township of East-Ganglia expressed outrage today when not allowed to transport her trans-finless guppies to the local pet babysitting service.”  [image of outraged woman holding plastic sack of finless guppies].
Other examples include controversies about movies, music, and other priced venues of entertainment, usually a few weeks before said entertainment is slated to premier.  A bit like Jimmy Fallon appearing in dozens of commerials before Jay Leno's chair had the chance to cool.
The above segment lasts, perhaps, a half-minute.  Count to thirty.  That’s how much information the viewers at home have.  Hardly a blip on the radar, something to possibly notice in between bites of dinner.  It has nothing to do with the viewer at home.  But the next day, the story goes ‘viral’.  This is a suspect term.  Going viral is often not as virus-like as one might think.  But anyway, the viewer at home hears the story again the next morning over his crispy cereal.  This account includes no new information.

Yet, it must suddenly be important.  An outraged individual or small group of individuals must be tended to.  So, we turn on our radios to hear what the radio talk-people say about it.  We watch our news and read our blogs and choose, based on the ear we like to have tickled.  By end of day – we relax because an opinion on the so very important matter (typically one of two – either ‘fer it’ or ‘agin it’) has been accepted.
The thinking has been given to the public, not formed by the public.  There’s a difference.  But everyone goes around thinking they know what they think about the outrage-du-jour and the proposed legislation to solve it.

And that, my friends, is synchronized thinking.  We’ve been splashing around the water for some time now.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Who The Hell Knows

I see where the philosophy club at the college is going to host a discussion about profanity - along the lines of attempting to discover when a word crosses into the realm of the profane.  A titillating subject, no?  I've thought about that in the past and, as a writer, I've considered how much, if any, potty-mouth my characters should possess.  People do swear, both adults and children -- so where do writers self-prohibit and where do they let loose? If you find an answer to that question, let me know.

In an ironic twist of linguistics, swearing is sometimes referred to as adult language.  Not quite sure when the last time some people walked around a middle-school was, but perhaps they should revisit just to make sure they understand the concept of adult language.

I recently watched The Boondocks Saints.  Yes, it's an older movie - testimony to the fact I don't get out much. Both the plot and the premise of this film were interesting.  The characters weren't as realized as they could have been, but with all the bloodshed who had time to notice?  However, the greatest flaw   was the pervasive use of the f-bomb.  Half way through the movie I was tired of hearing it, yet like the houseguest that never leaves, it stayed until the very end.  I mean, I get it.  The good guys were from a rough neighborhood and worked in a meat processing plant and the bad guys were bad guys.  But still.  At some point I suspect the writer just ran out of dialog and substituted that one word so his characters would have something to say until the movie had finished.

Compare this to another cinematic giant, Kill Bill, Vol. 1.  There's the same type of language in KBv1, but it's far less obtuse; it doesn't crop up in every scene and this helps the dialog sound, somehow, more mature (at least as mature as a kung-fu sword-fighting movie can be) than TBS.  Like I said, ironic.

It's also fascinating when people who know I'm a pastor slip and say something they feel is profane.  This is often followed by an apology.  Now let me get this straight.  First, a human being who claims to believe in a God who knows everything they do, every thought they have, and the motives behind it all, figures they should apologize to me (of all people) because they used a swear word.  Look, if you can say it in front of God, just who do you think I am?  The pastor is not the language police - at least, he shouldn't be and if he feels that he is, that's his problem and not yours.  God gives us free will; who am I to try to take it?

Then there's that bit in scripture about taking the Lord's Name in vain.  That's one of the top ten (somewhere in Exodus 20 if memory serves).  It's one of the Thou Shalt Nots.  A lot of believers take that to mean, 'no cussin'; not a terrible boundary to have in one's life, though we may not quite appreciate the intended meaning.

Consider King David who wrote many of the psalms - beautiful poetry if ever there was, of which I hear only a fair echo because my Hebrew is a bit rusty.  King David was eloquent and he understood the power of words.  Yet, there are a couple of passages where he opens the great dictionary of his brain and, for example, throws out a pisseth (homework:  get yourself a KJV concordance and look it up).  Point being, David knew his audience and when he spoke with soldiers he wasn't above talking as, sometimes, soldiers do.

Then there's the Apostle Paul who said, and here I paraphrase, that he considered everything he'd given up to answer his call as dung.  This is an example of the translators being polite for the studio audience.  Paul's original word-choice is a bit more abrasive and much less softened for the genteel ear (Philippians 3:8).

There are other examples, but please note, two of the big names were not averse to throwing around what could be called profanity.  And since it's in the Bible, hmmm… maybe a list of Bible-profanity is in order.  Then again, the world could probably survive without such.

Following along then, vanity (adjective or noun, take your pick) is something either meaningless or selfish, a literal reflection and gazing upon of our own surface, nothing more, nothing less.  Narcissus, lest we forget, fell in love with his own reflection and wasted his life -- poignant lesson on vanity if ever there was.  So that, taking the Lord's name in vain would mean using His name for personal gain (ala televangelists / politicians / and some abusive spouses), as a meaningless word (one of those verbal fillers that turns into the spoken Tourette-syndrome-habit), or only in the most selfish, albeit possibly sincere, of contexts (God what can you do for me because them other people don't matter so much).

But very little of this answers the question of when does a word enter into the vernacular as a profanity.  Legally, it has to do when a word crosses the boundary into the offensive or hateful (your state statutes may vary).  And, if that's the case, a better discussion for the philosophy club might be to consider what words aren't offensive, and why.  Such legal definitions are, like many legal definitions, ambiguous at best and enforced only upon the discretion of the special interest group currently bellyaching the loudest.

My own opinion when a word becomes a 'bad' word?  Please refer to the title of this post and good luck finding a job with that philosophy degree.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Not A Sound From The Pavement

Sometimes my memory reminds me of a ghost ship.

{Writing advice for this post appears in the last paragraph if you wish to skip the rambling}
Consider the Lyubov Orlova for example; a Russian cruise ship that’s been adrift for nearly a year, with nary a soul aboard (making pirate noises).  It comes and goes.  People see it, then it vanishes in the mists (more pirate noises).  That’s what ghost ships do, but this one’s even better.  Supposedly the Lyubov Orlova carries cannibal rats!  They’re cannibals for two reasons.  First, rats are like rabbits on Viagra when it comes to proliferation rates, and secondly, after a year there’s nothing else to eat on the ship except other rats.
I’m seeing a movie trailer in my brain about a tsunami of bloodthirsty rats hitting a small but moderately populated (think body counts) island in the north Atlantic.  Because it’s a European island the people don’t have guns and they have to fight the rats with cricket bats and bidet pipes.  The hero, played probably by Anthony Hopkins (supporting actress either Julia Louis-Dreyfus or Nicole Kidman) has to find and destroy the King Rat who’s really an evil spirit from Baba Yaga’s hut (Russian folklore and Dungeons & Dragons reference – look it up).
But getting back to my memory…  Yesterday, while driving errands, I had this great idea for a blog post.  It was super awesome and relevant and fascinating and enlightening; just about the best thing since the invention of the rat-trap.  This was the one that would have put me over the top:  fame, fortune, drag racing with Justin Bieber…
It just appeared from nowhere, like great ideas and ghost ships sometimes do.  Magnificent and haunting gloriousness aside, I stored said idea in my memory hole and continued with the errands.  Somewhere, the idea fell out.  A stop at the bank, the grocery store, the gas station, and all was lost.  I couldn’t remember a dalgone thing about it.  Still can’t.  And so, you’re reading this and not something that would cause cascading ululations of life-changing epiphany.
Point being:  writers need to write stuff down so they can remember it later.  Keep a notebook or send yourself an email with all those great ideas.  Of course, don’t do that while driving.  But I really wish I had taken the time to make myself a quick note for future reference.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cancer Update #7 - All's Well, For Now

Here’s the dealio… doc tells me my blood-work and body scans show no current signs of cancer.  Keyword:  current.  I go back in April for a rinse and repeat of the tests.

Now – this is good news – great news in fact.  But keep in mind, we’re talking five-freakin’-year bellcurves!  I mean, I’ll take my three months and be totally, completely, and ever irreversibly thankful.  But there’s April and the expectation that the other shoe could drop.  Then again, one of the great lessons here is that one never knows when the first shoe will drop.

In the meantime, the news continues to sink in.  The day the doc told me this good news, I felt like I was standing in the middle of a smoldering crater with a sense of now what?  There is a savor, I think, of PTSD (maybe, kinda-sorta?).  Having never been in combat I use the term in a highly unprofessional and completely non-clinical manner.  Apologies to those who have that real deal.  Then again, I’ve been in a number of tight spots and so my stress-memory isn’t as flabby as my midsection.  Bottom line here: sorting things will take a while.

Anyways – unless something happens, no more cancer updates for a while.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Waiting for the Orange Blossoms

I find something very human about the fact that a boat load of 52 Global Warming scientists on a discovery mission to help prove receding levels of Arctic sea ice were trapped by Arctic Sea ice and had to be rescued by Chinese helicopters.

For starters, where does one obtain a Global Warming science degree?  When I Google, 'BS Global Warming," I find many links, none of which lead to accredited universities.

Secondly, China is the world's largest polluter-nation and it was their helicopters, made in 100% non-OSHA, non-EPA approved assembly plants that had to get in there and airlift said scientists back to some warmer part of the planet.  Standing on principal, I expect the true believers stayed on board with the crew.

Those youngsters living for the ironic (the purposely bored ones with black, plastic-frame glasses, ugly clothes, hair shriven by dull left-handed scissors, the latest electronic gadgets, and a wall of awards for a lifetime of showing up) should be ecstatic.  I can see them now, giving one another knowing nods and raised eyebrows, sipping their organic fair-trade coco in their micro-fiber onesies, hoping mom doesn't come in and tell them to turn that gosh-darn music down in front of their friends.  I mean, they just got over the fact that they weren't the first generation to discover alcohol and sex; and now this?!

That right there is the price of admission to the human club in all of its sometimes wildly disappointing and often ridiculous glory.  Things like this tend to become lost in the twerk-induced marginalia of our modern lives.

Tonight, in this neck of the woods, the temperature is supposed to bottom out somewhere around seventeen below zero, and that's when the wind doesn't blow.  I spent two hours today shoveling snow and will do more tomorrow.  But I'm not saying Global Warming isn't real.  I don't know and in the big scheme of things I don't care.  All I'm hoping for tonight is that the power doesn't go out and what I do know is that orange trees still won't blossom in central Illinois.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 - No Predictions Here

I was going to blog a list of predictions for the coming year.  But then thought it might be better to write about some less certain, but very sure, reality.

Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:  who can know it?

On New Year's Eve I had opportunity to play one of those games where you take a card, read the word on the card, and then try to draw it.  Then, if your team guesses the word, they roll the die and move their little marker along the board.  This is all sand-glassed.  Time is of the essence.  I think the game was called Win, Lose, or Draw.
One of the cards I pulled had the word Hercules on it.  How does one draw Hercules in two minutes?  Never-mind that I draw about as well as a person who just had his hand crushed in a vice.  Yet I persevered, drawing a box with a baby in it and then a snake.  Then, I x-ed out the snake.  Then I drew a stick figure with bulging arms.  We got the point when one of my teammates got the clues.  There were seven people on each team.  This was the first time in my life when knowing that infant Hercules killed a serpent in the cradle proved useful.  He actually killed two, but that time thing.
Let's go with the anecdote.  Two out of every seven people know one obscure fact about Hercules and  that information will be useful once in a lifetime.  Ahh… the bane of the liberal arts.
Part of the problem with the oft-intoned, 'follow your heart' is that often the heart leads one astray.  I mean, it's not like I ever got a decent job because I knew the differences between Ionic and Doric columns or that I can talk a bit about how one of the cornerstones of Western Literature (that would be the Illiad) is little more than a barroom brawl over a woman.  Nine years of war could have been avoided had Agamemnon decided to follow something other than his love for a two-timing, albeit supremely beautiful, Helen.  Though, I fear, our appreciation for hollow wooden-horses would be much less.  See how fascinating that all is?  That and three bucks will get me a cup of burnt coffee at Starbucks.
Point being, I currently work with a whole parcel of adjunct instructors at a community college.  These are very-well educated people.  Yet the adjuncts make perhaps a third of what the full-time professors make.  They do the same work and, in many cases, have the same letters after their names, but they make dimes on the dollar to what the full-timers make.  This situation is typical of colleges throughout the country and I am not griping about the full-timers.  This divide is not the Professors' fault.
You see, colleges are businesses.  Decades ago, collegiate management bean-counted to the realization that it's more profitable to pay part-timers without benefits than it is to pay full-timers with benefits.  When I say benefits I'm talking about little things like retirement, healthcare, and paid time off.  Thus, most colleges are staffed majoritatively (I just made that word up) by part-time instructors.  Never mind what the coaches make.
My guess is, many of my coworkers followed their hearts in college.  I think that's what I did.  Then again, my memory is a bit fuzzy on a few things from that timeframe.
To whit, upon reading the above, many will say, "Get a different job."  Begrudgingly, they are correct.  If one doesn't like their current place of employment, then seek elsewhere.  It is what it is, and let us realize that following one's heart comes with certain costs.
There's talk about raising the minimum wage to whatever they want to raise it to.  I have conflicting thoughts on this.  But I would be less than honest if I didn't confess that the thought of a burger-flipper, who may or may not have graduated high school, making more money than a person with a PhD trying instill a love for learning any specific topic, royally pisses me off.  When the drive-through attendant is making twenty-dollars an hour and when the happy meal costs ten, get back with me.  And in the meantime, what value education, when the college graduate needs two jobs to eat?
Or, consider the fact that a man playing a game (football) for one year can make exponentially more than a man who boils pre-fabricated French fries in vats of oil, eight hours a day, for a decade.  Interesting consideration, is it not?  Again, following one's heart comes with certain costs.
That sound of bone crunching into a stone wall is me banging my forehead against reality.  Complaining doesn't reframe reality, or much of anything else.  It's not always the best artists who win the game.