Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Stretching the Tree

John L. Milligan
My maternal grandfather died of lung cancer when I was eight years old. He was sixty-five.

I remember him as a mountain. A strong, ready-smiling man who loved to wrestle with us on the living room floor and then read, side-by-side, on the couch. By the time I knew him, his blond hair had turned yellow-white. He seemed infinitely old, but he and my grandmother nonetheless traveled every year to visit our family where we lived in the Amazon, in Peru. He was a kind, generous man.

Although I didn't know it at the time, he was also an intellectuala man who overcame a vicious stutter and early diagnosis as mentally handicapped to earn a doctorate in agriculture and nutrition, eventually working as an executive in the poultry division at Purina foods. Before "retiring" to the house-flipping he was doing when he died, he volunteered his considerable knowledge to work in development around the world. This last perhaps most notably in Peru, where my barely-post-teen American mother met my Canadian father and whirlwind-romanced their way toward the culmination that is myself (he said, joking).

Thursday, August 2, 2018

me 'n Ernie

It has been fifty six days since I typed the last word of my latest novel and closed the file. 

The novel is called "Marlene the Divine." 
The last word is "balderdash." 

The dictionary defines balderdash as "a nonsensical jumble of words," and as I stare at that pile of papers on my desk I get the sinking feeling that it might have been a little too appropriate a conclusion. Have I written the worst possible book? Is this a monstrous waste of paper? Have I violated the sanctity of some happy little north-Canadian tree for something people are just going to hate or, worse, ignore?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

unseen magic...

One of the most under-appreciated aspects of good film-making is sound design. This nifty video offers a peek behind the curtain.

The Secret World of Foley from Short of the Week on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Wendell Berry vs. Social Media

The angry echo chamber of social media has been making me wanna drop everything and just scream inconsolably, forever. So the Wendell Berry poem I encountered on this morning's trip to the Great White Throne was an especially timely consolationa tears-in-my-eyes reminder of the One Path available for healing.

To wit:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Why You Shouldn't Be Upset About the Recent Separation of Families at the United States / Mexico Border:


By which I mean to say you shouldn't be specifically upset. 

As a couple of my friends who work in this context (a lawyer and a counselor) will tell you, abuse of immigrants has been going on for quite some time. Sure, it's gotten particularly ugly as of late, at the specific behest of this administration. But governments have always taken ugly shortcuts to achieve their goals. Our government, in particular, has a long history of doing things that ultimately make the lives of children much, much worse: interfering militarily, propping up dictators, and most of all doing whatever it can to crush weaker economies and stay on topnot to mention taking this country by genocide and then building national wealth with slavery and warfare.

For the most part, we're content to look the other way.

As long as the value of our middle-class real estate trophy keeps rising, we'll keep fabricating stories in which we're the Good ones, basking in wealth that's primarily a product of our own glorious virtue. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

People Watching in Crazy-Town

When I go people watching, I tell myself stories.

Like the one about the little man with his ice cream cone sitting on the bench near the front door of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I tell myself he's remembering the sugared ice he ate as a small boy on a muggy, dusty daya continent and a lifetime away.


Forty feet from the little man, a woman sits motionless for the full hour it takes me to walk around inside the museum. When I come back out I take another picture and compare it with the first, confirming that she hasn't moved or changed position. Nor has the little man on the bench, although his ice cream is long gone and the pigeons have become less interested.

This man and woman are married to each other, I decide, their distance speaking perhaps not of alienation, but of a comfort and security that does not demand proximity.


Who are they? What worlds have they seen? Who are they waiting for outside the museum, and why do they not enter, themselves? Smithsonian museums are free, but perhaps they do not know that and their decision to wait was born of a wise frugality. Or perhaps there is something in their belief system that prevents them from staring at the preserved carcasses of animals.

Maybe they're just tired.

Another couple, vastly different, takes in the sights. The young man wears a "Hobo Jack" t-shirt. It's a London-based clothing company, so perhaps these tourists are British. Or maybe they just popped into the shops of England on their way from some even more progressive country, like Denmark.



Perhaps these Danes are here to gawk at the madness before it all comes apart. They've read about the war of 1812 and wonder if the Canadians might be on their way, even now, to once again burn the White House to the ground.


Do they see me, watching them? Do they wonder who I am? Do they assume I'm an American, and partially responsible for the coming conflagration?

We pass each other, sparks of energy both seen and unseen. Flitting through each other's consciousness and then gone, again, forever. Entire human worlds colliding, just glancing off each other and back into the vacuum of our own spaces.

Do they see each other?

Does anyone?

Are all the stories we tell about each other nothing more than fabrications?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Here's Why You Shouldn't Kill Yourself...

Perhaps you're thinking that's an obnoxious, pushy title up there. I mean, how dare I tell you what (not) to do with yourself, right? After all, I don't know you. I don't know what it feels like to be in your depression—to feel the pain that only you can feel.

If that's what you're thinking... you're right.

You're on your island, I'm on mine, and the communication lines between us are spotty at best. 

I also didn't know Anthony Bourdain, who died this morning of an apparent suicide. I mean, I watched an episode of one of his TV shows once, and I once wrote him a letter (for my own weird, irrelevant reasons), but I didn't know him. Still, when I heard of Bourdain's death I knew him a little better than I had before because I, too, have been depressed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Day of the Pheasant

Just up the road from my house is a hunting club where several times a year they buy a few hundred birds and throw them off towers or from cages. Then all the men and women (but mostly men) with guns try to shoot them dead. Some of the birds escape, and a few months back they had a particularly large contingent of either extra-wily birds or extra-terrible hunters (or both), which resulted in a abundance of pheasants bobbing around in the tall grasses on the sides of the local roads.

Pheasant season passed and it became illegal to kill them, but my wife expressed a desire to cook and eat a pheasant. A little research revealed that the pheasants were unlikely to survive the next winter in this area, so I decided a little poaching was in order. You know, spirit of the law and all that.

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