There is
one art,
no more,
no less:
to do
all things
with art—

Piet Hein

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The Essential Ingredient of Story

Oft-published and award-winning author Christina Lay writes about the crux of the matter: the basics and absolutely essential ingredient in turning words, ideas, and images into a story.


by Christina Lay


An invented prose narrative shorter than a novel usually dealing with a few characters and aiming at unity of effect and often concentrating on the creation of mood rather than plot. – Merriam-Webster

A plot or storyline. Or an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment. – Oxford Dictionary

A narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale. A lie or fabrication. –

Story is the full sequence of events in a work of fiction as we imagine them to have taken place, in the order in which they would have occurred in life (as opposed to plot). -The Balance

A description of how something happened –

What makes a story a story? I’m sure we all have a fairly good idea of what ingredients are needed to…

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Ask Yourself

“Whenever you find yourself in a difficult situation, ask yourself, how would Fred Astaire handle this?”
— Mary, in Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen

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Holiday Indulgence

“Remember, Sparky—no matter what they tell you—you can never have too much sugar.”

— John Travolta as the Archangel Michael in Nora Ephron’s film MICHAEL

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Before and After

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

“After enlightenment, carry water, chop wood.”

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Praha, Česká republika #01

Where do these doorways lead? Invent your own answer.


プラハ, チェコ共和国
Praha, Česká republika





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Better Than Fireworks

This past Friday, the last day of June, I was watching a report on the White House request for voter information. A map of the USA showed which states were refusing to comply, and Oregon wasn’t one of them. Why not?

I called Secretary of State Dennis Richardson to voice my opinion and objections. A recording informed me that the Elections Division was receiving “a great many calls” concerned about the White House request, and that Secretary Richardson would soon be issuing a statement on this matter.

I was glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one calling our Secretary of State, but I still wanted him to know how I felt, so I sent off an email. Here is my letter:

“I am writing to say that I think the White House request for voter information is unconscionable, and I strongly object to having my voting record turned over to an administration I do not and cannot trust. To begin with, there is nothing to substantiate that there is any widespread “voter fraud” in this country, and I object to our taxes being used to investigate a problem that doesn’t exist. Additionally, I fear that the Trump administration will use voter records and information to manipulate future elections and/or distort records to make voting harder or impossible for those with a record of voting for Democratic candidates.

I am a United States citizen and an Oregon resident. While serving with the U.S. Army in World War II, my father gave his life to preserve and protect this country and the rights of all American citizens. I am asking you, Secretary Richardson, to protect my voter information and records, and the voting records of all Oregon citizens. Please do not comply with this request for voter information from the White House.”

Ten minutes later, I received a copy of Secretary Richardson’s letter to Kris W. Kobach, Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The letter detailed the ways in which Oregon’s vote by mail system and automatic voter registration had implemented “tools and processes to establish and maintain…clean voter rolls.” It encouraged sister states to look to Oregon’s model: It provides greater access, is easier, more convenient, more secure and less costly to administer than traditional polling place elections, and automatic voter registration has enabled Oregon “… to validate citizenship data.”

The letter pointed out that Oregon has little evidence of voter or registration fraud, and that most cases involved “…a spouse signing the other’s ballot or a parent obtaining permission from a college-aged child and then signing the student’s ballot.” Oregon has procedures in place that prevent those ballots from being counted.

Mr. Trump claimed that there were “millions” of fraudulent voters in the last election. According to Secretary Richardson, here are the actual numbers in my state: “There have been 15 individuals indicted or convicted of voter fraud since 2000.” Let me repeat that: 15 cases in 17 years, in a state with 2,571,722 registered voters.

The letter informed Mr. Kobach that Oregon policy prohibits the disclosure of certain information, such as social security numbers and drivers’ license numbers, and “Oregon law provides that any person may receive a statewide list of electors upon payment of $500.” In brief, the answer from Oregon was: you can have only what is lawfully a matter of public record and, like everyone else, you must pay the state’s cost for providing those records.

This response made me proud of my state and every other state that has refused to comply, proud of every citizen who made phone calls, sent emails, and generally made noise objecting to this White House request. Better than fireworks on this independence day: red, white, and blue citizen noise. Happy Independence Day to you all.

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昼下がりの散歩から #105

I love this beautiful new photograph from Flaneur. It gives me a sense of peace, calm. Step by step we make our way, noticing the clover and pebbles along the path.


恵比寿, 東京
Ebisu, Tokyo

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Whoa…Before You Sign That Petition

Petitions are delivered to my email inbox every day. The organizations that send them my way know I’m a Democrat, a liberal, and in my own moderate way, an activist. I usually agree with and care about the issue(s) these organizations want me to sign onto. Not always, but often, I do sign the petition.

Yesterday, I had an unusual experience. My take on the petition I was being asked to sign differed from the one expected of me. Credo Action and Democrats.Com Unity want me to rail at NBC for their recent hires, and I think those hires are, at least potentially, a good move on NBC’s part. Here is the Petition to NBC executives: “Stop hiring extreme right TV personalities and pushing out progressive and Black and Brown voices.”

Joy Reid

The part of this petition I agree with is that MSNBC , under the leadership of Andrew Lack, has sidelined people of color—Joy Reid and Al Sharpton were moved to weekend spots. Lack also pushed out Melissa Harris Perry and Alex Wagner. These are personalities I enjoy, with viewpoints I appreciate hearing. They are people I want to see more, not less.

But included in the list of “extreme right TV personalities” are Nicole Wallace, George Will, Greta Van Susteren, and Megyn Kelly. These are all smart people. I’ve mostly disagreed with George Will over the years; he’s often seemed insufferable. And there are times when he’s really pissed me off. But every time he’s sounded off about Donald Trump, George and I have found common ground.

Rachel Maddow

I first got to know Nicole Wallace because Rachel Maddow often had her on TRMS—Rachel excels at exchanging views with people who may have a different, or opposite, perspective. Watching her back and forth with Rachel, I found I liked Nicole Wallace. I was sorry when The View let her go, and I was always glad to see her at the table with Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Lawrence O’Donnell during the 2016 campaign. I’m not that familiar with Greta Van Susteren, but Rachel gave her a big welcome to MSNBC, and the Maddow stamp of approval is good enough for me.

I keep hearing that we have to learn how to hear the other side; we have to learn to talk to each other. I’m in favor of hearing the viewpoints of intelligent people—left, right, and center. And if there’s conservative and Republican talent on MSNBC, they will undoubtedly pull in conservative viewers, and those conservative viewers might start tuning in to people like Maddow, Matthews, and O’Donnell. This is a good thing, people. We liberals and conservatives might start finding issues we agree on, ways of meeting in the middle, ways of moving forward once more to an America of shared values, instead of this morass we’re in with DJT.

I think bringing conservatives into the fold at MSNBC is a good thing. What do you think?

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“Fired” by Kim Stafford

You’re fired up now—now
that the alpha boss is Boss
of the world. You’re on fire
to testify for fact, ready to stand
before the bulldozer plowing
sacred ground, thrilled to call
every congressional father,
mother, daughter, son
to witness for the plucky
and the good. No more
apprentice seeking to be
hired. You already have
a job: join to guide the man
to a proper understanding
of who we are in this nation
now on Earth.

He can’t fire you,
but he can fire you up.

Reprinted by permission of the author from The Flavor of Unity: Post-Election Poems, by Kim Stafford (Portland, Oregon: Little Infinities, 2017).

“Inside Silk” © 1983 by Cristina White

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