Thursday, October 28, 2010

Best Books 2010 Awards, USA Book News

I found out Tuesday that my novel, South Pacific Survivor: In Samoa, is an Award-Winning Finalist in the Multicultural Fiction category of the Best Books 2010 Awards, sponsored by USA Book News.
Didn't win 1st place, but I am happy. See? -->   :)

Also, one year ago Tuesday, a tsunami destroyed land and lives in Samoa, where Survivor Samoa and Survivor Heroes vs. Villains were filmed. Hundreds were made homeless, many killed. Season 20 had just completed filming when it hit. Survivor used the now-closed Ili’ili Resort for Ponderosa, the pre- and post-game holding area for contestants. Its owner said the show’s use of it saved lives because it wasn’t occupied when the tsunami hit. A Survivor-themed resort is being planned for that location.

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Free Speech at a Price

Door Number 1:
After National Public Radio fired Juan Williams, NPR’s Schiller said that the "feelings that [Williams] expressed on Fox News are really between him and his psychiatrist ... but it is not compatible with the role of a news analyst on NPR's air."
Let me preface what I’m about to say with the fact that I love National Public Radio. For years I’ve listened to many of its program. The General Counsel for NPR was my law professor, and even volunteered to be my reference. So, I’m pro-NPR. And I think of Fox News as a conservative talk show masquerading 364 days per year (Halloween excepted) as the news.
Notwithstanding the foregoing (sorry, my legalese slips in now and again), but NPR got it wrong. Juan Williams was not expressing a “strong personal opinion on a controversial subject” in violation of policy. He was expressing his feelings, which is the starting point for good open dialogues and analyses, key ingredients of free speech.
I support Williams freedom of speech as much as I support NPR’s right to fire him. It appears it had cumulative reasons to do so, rightly or wrongly, but NPR outfoxed themselves, this time.
Door Number 2:
The vice-president of Arkansaw’s Mudland School District, Clint McCance, wrote on his personal Facebook page that he wanted gay people to commit suicide, according to The Advocate, a newspaper focusing on gay news. McCance used the terms "queer" and "fag" repeatedly, promised to disown his own children if they are gay and stated that he enjoys "the fact that [gay people] give each other AIDS and die."
To be clear, those are horrrendous statements. They were made under the guise of Christian beliefs (yeah, WTF, not so Christian, is it?), but it wasn’t bullying because it was not directed to any individual and it was on a private FB page.
Nevertheless, I support the First Amendment rights of McCance (who probably turned more purple than Barney typing his crap), as much as I support:
  • the town’s right to can his ass
  • the right of everyone to condemn him, including those from Little Rock’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral who subsequently protested against him
  • the right of Anderson Cooper to wag his finger and wage moral outrage, on and on, on CNN
  • my right to wear a 100% cotton long-sleeved purple shirt on October 20th even though I forgot to wear green last March 17th.
Door Number 3:
I suppose I also support the right to burn flags and Korans in America, but not the correctness or wisdom of doing so.
Hell, let those who exercise these rights in these ways put their money where their mouths are. And let them pay heavily for it, because although love is free, their actions cost us all dearly by demeaning humanity.
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

I was 120 feet in the air, surrounded by dozens of police and firemen

(Originally published as story of the month at

I was supposed to leave the country, but it wasn’t looking good, being 120 feet in the air surrounded by dozens of police and firemen straining their necks to see me. It went down like this:

After living it up one night, I sat alone on my front porch pondering a life of tomorrows because my departure was imminent. An adventurous, altruistic pursuit below the equator had beckoned to me. I was was 24 years old, and felt hesitant to leave the hometown I knew so well for so much of the unknown.

Sunset Lake came to mind: swimming, and catching fish, frogs, and turtles; skating, generating eerie echoes underneath the ice—thoughts of my youth. And for kids with an edge, there was skid-hopping, a/k/a bumper-jumping. We knew the best corners to dart from to grab the car’s back bumper and squat for this horizontal street-skiing. One time, my gloves got stuck in the bumper and seemed to wave bye as I tumbled away. Luckily, that car returned and I got my gloves back. Yeah, skid-hopping was childish and stupid, but hey, I was then a child and sometimes stupid. When my friends missed the bumper or fell off, I’d keep going, sometimes reaching an intersection where I’d release the bumper, stand, and slide with bravado toward a neighboring pride of skid-hoppers. Once, the rear wheel of an old Dodge ran over part of my knee, but the snow cushioned it. I was unfazed and bragged about it the way boys do, with perceived invincibility.

Some sense of that invincibility remained as I faced the risk and uncertainty of the Peace Corps. The United States Peace Corps, with uniforms ranging from jeans and T-shirts to world apparel of all sorts. No chevrons please; sarongs and safari shorts it was. A letter had confirmed that I “ship out” next month.

Nervous energy compelled me off the porch to walk. It was after 4:00 a.m., and no one was around. The houses reflected our middle-class town, a dozen miles south of Boston, where the lawns were more likely to be manicured than the owners’ hands. Leafy limbs beneath the streetlights cast artificial shade onto the sidewalk. Between branches appeared glimpses of the Braintree Highlands water tower ahead. The previous summer, I’d been a member of the crew that sandblasted and painted the tower. It was set atop a hill, and the panoramic view was awesome. A tall chain link fence cordoned the tower. Well, maybe for old time’s sake . . .

I climbed, carefully got over the barbed wire, and landed on the grass. The built-in steel ladder started thirty feet above the ground. Normally, you’d need another ladder to get to that one. Instead, I grabbed one of the diagonal crossbars that ran between the five tower legs. I shimmied up, grabbed the bottom rung of the ladder, and pulled myself up.

The bulbous tower loomed, and I saw the narrow platform far above that ran its girth. As I climbed, the temperature seemed to drop because of the breeze entraining my perspiration. Trees began to look like broccoli. At last, I reached the platform and walked all around it, seeing for miles and miles in every direction despite little light from the pre-dawn sky.

I grabbed the upper ladder section and climbed. The ladder was not encaged here, and I wasn’t wearing a safety harness. A slip would be fatal. Following the contour of the tank, the ladder became horizontal at the apex. I reached the final rungs and sat on them. My white-knuckled grasp relaxed as I caught my breath and puffs of wind caressed my face. I felt on top of the world.

To my left, the country slept. To my right, the several rivers and the Boston Harbor reflected the pink, pre-sunrise sky. It seemed fitting to see so much of my growing-up grounds all at once, for I’d see none of it over the next couple of years. It felt good to ponder my mission, helping people on the other side of the world, and my assignment, teaching at a technical institute.

Brighter sunbeams leaned over the saltwater and earthen horizon, gently tapping the sky awake. Peacefulness permeated the soft morning air as God opened his fingers on our side of the globe—let there be light! The sun broke the horizon. Beautiful.

Then a distant siren disturbed my tranquility. It didn’t sound like a police car. A fire truck; yes, there it was. However, scanning 360 degrees, I didn’t see any fire. The fire truck should pass by on Route 37 nearby, though, so I could track it. It was probably a false alarm anyway.

Oh, oh, it’s slowing—damn. Is it . . . ? Yes, it’s coming to this side road. It must be me! Could it be? Oh my God! Should I hide? If I lay flat, they probably won’t be able to see me. No, I’d better start climbing down just in case . . . In case a crowd gathered—I couldn’t stand that. I began my descent, carefully, determined not to rush. If they came because of me, I’d rather explain myself than fall and have “Why’d he do it?” whispered repeatedly at the wake.

The fire truck stopped at the fence. I heard another fire truck siren. Then the accelerating rev of a smaller engine preceded the appearance of Braintree’s finest; and a second police car arrived. I heard doors opening and closing. I dared not take my eyes from my hands as they clenched successive rungs, each timed with my footing. Yes, I did dare; I just had to see.

I slowed and peaked below. Unbelievable. Their police uniforms and fireproof rubber suits went to and fro among vehicles and at the gate, quickly advancing—to me, frightening blue and yellow streaks as I glimpsed down intermittently.

Halfway down. Oh, man! What am I going to say? The second fire engine pulled up—no, two more fire engines, their shrill brakes broadcasting maneuvers, surely waking the neighborhood. The gate was unlocked and opened. Several men came through but not in a rush, and most hung back. Why? Was I just another nut to them? Or did they think I was dangerous? Too late to try to run. Not that I would—I’m not a kid anymore. A fourth fire engine arrived. I couldn’t believe it. Almost there.

One cop and a couple of firemen watched me from inside the fenced-in area. Several responders were by the gate, and some were in or near their vehicles. A fireman approached below, but stayed a healthy ten yards from where I could possibly land. Another fireman joined him.

I called out to the first fireman, “How ya doing?”

“Good. How are you doing?”

“OK,” I answered meekly.

This was embarrassing. What could I tell them? That my life was at crossroads? That I’d just been thinking? That like Henry David Thoreau—who peculiarly isolated himself at Walden Pond for a pensive period—I chose to live life deliberately? Yeah, right.

At the end of the ladder, I slid down the pole to earth. Standing, I dusted off my hands as he ambled closer. Surprisingly, I wasn’t apprehended right away.

“What were you doing up there?” he asked.

“Oh, just looking out. It has a great view.”

He was watching me warily, probably to find signs of drug or alcohol use, or weapons, or even poison. Things I’d check for if I were in his rubber boots.

“Yeah?” he probed.

Sensing incredulity, I had to spill it out. “Yeah. I, ah, I worked here last summer after college. When it was painted, the water tower. I painted, tended the pot—um, you know, the sandblasting pot—and, and stuff.” I shrugged.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Kevin Daley.”

“Where do you live?” another fireman asked.

“On Wildwood, just down there.” I pointed longingly in that direction.

The other cops hadn’t moved in, but they glanced around and whispered to each other.

I just can’t get arrested! This is crazy.

“In fact,” I offered, “I live with my mom. She works for the Water Department. Sure hope she doesn’t hear about this. She’d be pretty embarrassed, I guess.” I hoped the Peace Corps recruiters at the Boston office wouldn’t hear of it either--they could retract their invitation.

One cop walked up to the second fireman and quietly got the scoop from him. I looked away, as tact was important. I recalled a recruiter’s comment on how important tact and negotiation skills would be in foreign contexts. And this context certainly felt foreign to me.

The cop stepped forward. “Have you been drinking?”

“Ah, yeah, actually, I had been, but not much, and that was about six hours ago, so I’m not under the influence or anything. I had some friends over last night, after work. See, I’m joining the Peace Corps soon. Actually, they told me yesterday that I leave next month, for Samoa.”

They stared at me.

“So, ah, I had a little party. When I went for a walk, after I cleaned up, I just remembered the great view from when I helped paint the tower last summer. You know. Just in a contemplative mood, I guess.”


“Yeah. Really.” Time for my trump card—had to try it now. “Look, my cousin can verify this, I’m sure.”

“You’re cousin? Where’s your cousin?”

“He’s a Braintree police officer.” Where, who—same difference.


“Brian [last name redacted].”

“Brian’s your cousin?

“Yeah.” I nodded.

“Well, here he is now,” another officer said with a nod toward the street.

We all looked through the chain link fence. Coming out of the fourth police car was my cousin Brian. What incredible timing—arriving exactly at that moment; it was kind of surreal. He was looking over at us, but I couldn’t read his face. He walked along the fence and passed through the gate, thumbs hooked on his leather police belt.

He glanced at me and then his eyes trailed the ground as he approached, shaking his head. “Kevin, Kevin, Kevin,” his voice trailed off, and then he eyeballed me. “What’re you doing?”

After I explained everything, red-faced, they let me go.

Walking home, I glanced over my shoulder at those flashing red and blue lights. When I turned forward again, I smiled. It was a healthy smile, I realized. I was ready to leave Braintree behind and face my future, which I believed to be bright. I was ready to see the other side of the world.

Monday, September 20, 2010

“To have the Quran burned at a mosque is equivalent to having a cross burned at a black church,” said . . .

Article about incident in MI etc.
Crossing the line - when you bring "free speech" to someone else's back yard.
Is it a comparable hate crime?
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Qur'an Burning

Fans of my writing instructor Robert Everz might protest burning his novel, Burning Garbo, but religious books are in a "higher" category. Isn't it sacrilege for a pastor to burn a Koran?

It seems like using Jesus's hand to slap both cheeks of others, perhaps literally adding insult to injury; and the Koran builds on Judeo-Christian tradition.

When does freedom of expression and religion become more evil than good?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Random Shtuff

Hey, I'm adding a third catagory to collect some material from some funny bastards I know out there. I'll be hunting you down if you don't volunteer or make a suggestion. Mwah ha haaaaaaa!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

To Mosque or Not to Mosque in NYC

Someone call 911 before this gets out of hand. First, if you left the planet briefly like me and aren't up on this controversey, click the link for a quick background. Are loyal Americans sticking up for the victims at Ground Zero in Manhatten?  Or are they becoming haters by hating the haters? Allowing vs. not allowing - what are da merits and what are the demerits of each?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thanks, guys! However . . .

[responding to your comments on FB]

Availability of my novel on Barnes and Noble doesn't necessarily mean sales. However, writing is its own reward, thank God.

And for whatever glimmer there may be, there is often shadow. The sometimes compulsive nature of creative writing can lead to sacrificing time better spent on family/friends/helping someone, or on earning a living to spend on incessant bills. Maybe the creative mind comes at a cost, like forgetfulness (did I already mention this?) or a touch of dyslexia (a/k/a lysdexia), or depression (sad but true), or poor speling.

The need to say/write something that gives meaning to life, for yourself and others--is that living or is it avoiding the life that's all around? An existential dilemma, I suppose--why think too much? I have to come down on the side of it enhancing life, real life. That's why we enjoy stories, whether books or movies, because they express values, communicate ideas and feelings, become part of our culture.

BTW, South Pacific Survivor: In Samoa is also available at Borders--but in Australia, not the U.S.! ( Go figure. On second thought, don't go figure--go for a walk with your favorite pet or person. I gotta get back to work. Hi ho, hi ho . . .

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Boggers--bogged down with writing ideas

I never get writers block. I might come up with crap, but it keeps coming until I can sort it out and flush the flushworthy. I usually end up with a few good nuggets that make me happy even if others see a smear on the page where I see sparkle. Don't we write for ourselves, after all?

However, I do get writers "bog" - bogged down with too many ideas and not enough time to develope them. Slips of paper, pieces of envelopes, voice recording, mnummonic devices until safe to write a note--all methodology of the bogger. Just go with it; you can always cut it later and store it in a safe place--a digital or physical scrap chest to be unearthed another time.
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Friday, July 23, 2010

South Pacific Survivor: In Samoa

I invite comments or questions on the POLITICS or HISTORY in the novel. Were the Tripartite treaty and succession documents legal? Should the archipelago be reunited? Should there be reparations whereas the American Samoan islands were arguably taken from "Samoa" by using more force than was used to take Hawaii from its queen and people? Or just chock it up to history and move on?

Comments or questions on the WRITING, such as the structure, characters, setting, etc? Anything you liked, didn't like or understand? Curios about more?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Changed Beliefs

What younger beliefs do you no longer follow?
What was radical to you now, but not then?
Or what was radical to you then, but not now?

Sure, I'm more conservative than my fully idealistic days, but my fingernails bleed hanging on to a renegade streak of non-conformance. GOTTA preserve the creative vitality of life.

So whatcha think 'bout all dat???