For Our Children


Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.
–Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota Tribal Chief


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Perfection

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”

MuseumPlus 5.1.00 328


—Angélique Arnauld, known as La Mère Angélique
Born in Paris, 8 September, 1591 — Died in Port-Royal-des-Champs, 6 August, 1661

“Always demand a deadline. A deadline weeds out the extraneous and the ordinary. It prevents you from trying to make it perfect, so you have to make it different. Different is better.”
—Kevin Kelly, 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice

“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.”
—Isak Dinesen, writer, best known for Out of Africa

Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke
Born April 17, 1885 in Rungsted, Denmark
Died September 7, 1962 in Rungsted, Denmark

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Inspiration

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”
— Peter De Vries

“To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write.”
— Gertrude Stein

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining a book is not writing. Researching is not writing. Talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
— E. L. Doctorow

“You can always write something. You write limericks. You write a love letter. You do something to get you in the habit of writing again, to bring back the desire.”
— Erskine Caldwell

“I felt the desire to write, so I jotted down these words other writers wrote about writing. As Erkine Caldwell once said, you can always write something.”
— Cristina White

“I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.”
— Steve Martin

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And Now a Word about Meaning

No, not the meaning of life. This is about the meaning of a word. That word is: discourse. If you Google the definition of discourse—never mind, I’ve done it for you—here it is:

Discourse
noun
1) written or spoken communication or debate

verb
1) speak or write authoritatively on a topic

Webster’s New World Dictionary goes on at great length about the meaning of discourse. But the first and main definition is: 1) communication of ideas, information, etc., especially by talking; conversation (italics mine).

There’s an old saying—Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That isn’t really true. Words can hurt you. How words are used—what they mean, or what certain people say they mean—can hurt all of us.

Case in point: Representatives Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney were recently censured by the Republican National Committee because they are part of the House Committee investigating the January 6th assault on our nation’s Capitol. In proclaiming that censure, the RNC folk twisted themselves into an entirely new definition of the word discourse. According to them, the bullies and thugs storming the Capitol armed to the teeth, breaking windows, busting down doors, destroying and defacing property, assaulting, injuring, and maiming Capitol police were “…ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

The RNC’s description of the insurrection is absurd and insulting. It is an assault on our common sense.

The violent assault didn’t end on January 6th. A recent spin-off of that infamous day is people going to school board meetings and shouting down everyone who doesn’t agree with their agenda. These vocal bullies have allies who go further than shouting and screaming—they threaten violence against school principals and teachers and their families. In some instances, the threats are carried out. I heard a recent NPR report about a school principal whose house was burned down. Why? He was complying with mask mandates in his state.

This is not the America I believe in. It is not the America my father fought and died for.

In previous wars, countless generations of men and women died for our freedom—freedom of religion, speech, and the press, and the right of people to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters fought and died to protect our democracy.

The people who participated in the deadly assault on our Capitol on January 6, 2021 took part in an insurrection and attempted coup. Their aim was to overturn a free and fair election—to declare their guy the winner when he had lost by more than 7,000,000 votes.

In “The 2020 Election by the Numbers,” a blog post for The Council on Foreign Relations, James M. Lindsay gave us the actual count: Trump won 74,216,154 votes. Biden won 81,268,924 votes. You do the math.

Here’s what concerns me about the Republicans currently in charge of the GOP—if they are entirely on board with describing an insurrection and attempted violent coup as “political discourse”—what’s next? How about this: in certain states, a “free and fair” election is one in which people of color, students, and seniors are made to stand in line for hours on end because their polling places have shriveled from several, to a few, to one.

This new definition of “free and fair” elections is being played out in real time. In the last year, numerous states have passed laws that restrict voting. These laws primarily target people of color, making it harder for them to vote. Most Republican legislators claim that these laws “protect” citizens from “voter fraud.”


We are now in an era of Orwellian language—the Newspeak of Orwell’s novel 1984. The GOP’s new definition of “political discourse” is just the beginning. Many Republicans have followed their leader Donald Trump into the Newspeak of the 21st Century. During his four years in the White House, Trump told more lies than I can count (a Washington Post analysis counted 30,573). This week, Trump launched his own social media site—Truth Social. And along with Trump, some Republicans are cheering Vladimir Putin as he launches a large-scale invasion into Ukraine. Putin’s rationale for sending Russian troops and tanks into Ukraine? They are on a “peacekeeping mission.”

Is this Orwellian or what?

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Late Winter Haiku

On the garden path
A pink camellia blossom—
Spring is on the way.

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To Be A Writer

“To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again and once more, and over and over.”

John Hersey, 1958, photographed by
Carl Van Vechten

John Hersey, American writer and journalist
June 17, 1914 – March 24, 1993

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Becoming Art Deco

At the entryway of a luxury hotel in South Beach, the famous Art Deco neighborhood of Miami, a larger-than-life sculpture of a seated woman seems to appear out of thin air. First seen by hotel staff in the darkness just before dawn, it is discovered that the sculpture is embedded in stone, with no explanation of how it came to be there. Solas Bierman, a psychic investigator who specializes in art mysteries, is called in to investigate the mystery of “Becoming Art Deco”.

You can read Solas Bierman’s findings in my story “Becoming Art Deco,” newly published in Occult Detective Magazine #8, available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.

art by george c cotronis

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An Old Movie, An On-Going Enigma

Last night, I watched Places in the Heart, a movie that is now 37 years old. If you haven’t seen it, spoiler alert: I cannot share my impressions without revealing key scenes at the end of the film.

Set in a small town in Texas in the 1930s, Places in the Heart is essentially about a young mother who must find a way to support her family when her husband is accidentally killed by a Black boy wielding a gun while hopelessly drunk.

To help make ends meet, Edna Spalding (Sally Field) takes on Mr. Will (John Malkovich), a blind boarder who only wants to be left alone. But he is won over by Edna’s two small children, and a new kind of family unit is formed, one that eventually includes a Black man named Moze (pronounced Moses).

When Moze (Danny Glover) comes around looking for work, he is offered a plate of food and told to move on. Instead of eating and leaving, he chops wood for the woodpile. He then points out that Mrs. Spalding has nearly thirty acres lying fallow —planted with cotton, that land would bring in a good income. Edna knows nothing about cotton, but she is desperate to feed her family and hold on to their home. She decides to risk what little she has on making Moze’s idea into a reality.

Moze has been planting and picking cotton since he was a boy. He mentors Edna, nudging her to insist on the top-grade seed she has paid for. Together they put in long days with a mule cutting furrows in the dirt and planting the seed. He coaches her on how to negotiate a price for the cotton once it is picked.

Picking the cotton has its own price: back-breaking work and bleeding hands.

Hard as it is, the business of cotton turns out to be a successful endeavor for Edna. She dreams of buying more land, planting more cotton. When she says she might even be able to afford a tractor, Moze dares to dream with her. “I’ve always wanted a tractor,” he says. At that point — along with these two characters — I could, for a flickering moment, imagine a fine future for these people.

But the white men who run everything in this town have no use for a Black man helping a white woman. One night when Moze and Mr. Will are alone in the house, the Ku Klux Klan shows up. They corral Moze and begin beating him. He is saved from being beaten to death by Mr. Will, who grabs a gun and knows where to point it – being blind doesn’t prevent him from recognizing the voices of the men in white sheets or where they’re standing.

One of the men tells Moze they’re not done with him; they’ll be back to cripple or kill him. Moze knows he has to leave. The potential for a good life in this place has been taken from him; the knowledge he might have contributed to Edna Spalding’s future prosperity must go with him.

As Moze is saying goodbye to Edna, he hands her small gifts — a rag doll he has made for her little girl, his rabbit’s foot for her boy, a handkerchief that belonged to his mother for Edna. It was at that point I began to cry.

It was not only this scene that made me cry. I was crying because the same scene has been played out countless times over the centuries, and it is still being played out today. It is the misery of white supremacy keeping people of color, indigenous people, and women of every race from realizing their full potential. It is white male supremacy constantly suppressing the best in so many of us, and depriving our society of the contributions non-white, non-male people could make — an immeasurable wealth of knowledge, talent, skill and creativity lost to us because a certain segment of America refuses to allow a level playing field for everyone.

These bullies have been with us for a long time. They were emboldened by Donald Trump’s four years in the White House. They stormed the Capitol on January 6th, and now they are threatening election officials and poll volunteers. They’re screaming at school board meetings and menacing teachers, trying to ban books – even burn them. They want to get rid of anyone who doesn’t tow the white supremacy line. Fascism is characterized by “forcible suppression of opposition.” That is exactly what we are witnessing in America today.

The notion that the white man is and deserves to be the dominant race and gender has always been, and continues be, an enigma — beyond my ken.

The definition of an enigma is “…a person or phenomena that is perplexing, baffling, inexplicable.” Our current batch of bullies is an enigma, whether dressed in suit and tie or tee shirts and red maga hats. I believe their outlook and view of the world is one that was taught – because none of us is born seeing skin color as a defining characteristic of who to love or like. But how these bigots can continue to hold onto their prejudice and desperate sense of superiority is beyond me.

The other enigma: what to do about bullies, fascists, Neo-Nazis, and run-of-the-mill racists? I don’t know. I do know — in spite of the ever-present extreme right — things are better than they were, and I am grateful for the individuals and organizations that have worked and continue to work tirelessly to change conditions for those who are suppressed, under-valued, and ill-treated.

For those of us who believe in a nation of equal opportunity and equal justice for all, it is imperative to join with and support the people and organizations working to deliver the promise of equality. I know there are more of us than there are of those spewing hate and raising flags of intolerance. We have intelligence, consciousness, and love on our side. It is a place in the heart filled with light, and I place my faith in that light to guide us to a better tomorrow.

A backlit view of a country road at dawn in Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Whatever You Call It

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

— Jane Howard, American Journalist

Jane Howard, 1935-1996

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Aqua Blue Shoes


A big, bearded biker dressed all in black except for his aqua blue shoes. What’s right with this picture?

Dear Good People who follow zen crunch — I’m pleased to announce that Pigeon Review has published my micro fiction piece “Aqua Blue Shoes.” You can read it at https://www.pigeonreview.com/post/aqua-blue-shoes

Pigeon Review is a beautiful literary and art journal where you can find fine art and engaging stories. I encourage you to check it out: https://www.pigeonreview.com

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