<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d6736792\x26blogName\x3d1000+Black+Lines\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLUE\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttps://1000blacklines.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://1000blacklines.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d6739073413003486073', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

Can Poetry Matter - Part 2

I just had a very enjoyable conversation with a writer and a poet this afternoon which can be summarized by this quote:

"American poetry now belongs to a subculture. No longer part of the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small isolated group... As a class, poets are not without cultural status. Like priests in a town of agnostics, they still command a certain residual prestige. But as individual artists they are almost invisible."

--Dana Gioia, from the opening paragraph of the essay Can Poetry Matter?

The lively discussion encouraged me that writing poetry can matter. There are others that believe that poetry should be accessible to the mainstream without compromising the integrity of the craft. More on that later.

Alpha Male Roar

I feel angry I feel helpless
Want to change the world
I feel violent I feel alone
Don't try and change my mind

--CREED, lyrics from "One"

Reading up on Critical Theory

I'm a new student at the table of critical theory and have been reading about the questions of identity both public and private and how they develop in the cultural kitchen of academia.

This morning at breakfast, I read through papers while sipping coffee at the kitchen table. My three year old son asked, "Daddy, are you eating?"

"Yes," I said. "I'm eating letters and words from a bowl of critical theory. Each letter floating like Cheerios on milk-white pages and a spoon pulls private thoughts from a public trough spilling chunks of scientific and academic elitism beyond my accepting teeth over my cultural tongue and down my mass media throat."

My son smiled at me and asked it there were strawberries in my breakfast bowl.

Holiday Readings

Vacationing on the same grounds that General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia camped during the fall/winter of 1862 allowed me to finish reading several materials including a couple books, literary magazines and back issues of The New York Times Book Review. Book reviews and essays to come...

Happy Christmas, Peace to All

The first track to George Winston’s audio CD “December” plays from the stereo in the living room as I sit in the kitchen and write. Mother and child sleep during this late hour as tranquility and weariness mingle in an odd reflection of this past year. I can’t help but imagine Joseph’s bewildered gaze at a sleeping Mary and Christ child on that first Christmas night. “What did I do wrong to deserve this?” I can imagine him asking himself. “I return to my hometown and all who know me and my family treat me as a stranger,” Joseph might have considered.

This season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day seems complicated with commitments, obligations and expectations, which crowd out the essence of the season of peace and joy. The first Advent doesn’t seem too different than today. Instead of bustling around to pay taxes (like Joseph), we hurry about to purchase gifts and return to our hometowns for a brief family visit. “How can you stay so calm?” some might ask. It is peace that passes mankind’s comprehension.

This holiday season I hope you enjoy peace. I trust you will find the peace that allows a child to sleep in his mother’s arms during a hurricane while trees crash to the ground to the left and right; the kind of peace that provided those same fallen, divinely chosen trees as wood-fuel for a local minister’s household during the cold winter months; the kind of peace the brings joy and contentment to one’s soul without the necessity of gift wrap and ribbons. The greatest thing about peace is that it requires the individual to do nothing but rest in the security and sovereignty of Jesus Christ the King.

Traveling for the Holidays

After several weeks of intense marketing and graphic design work, I am traveling to spend the holidays with family. Never fear, where ever there is a laptop, desktop or homeless PDA... I will continue to supply posts about art, books and graphic design.

The Writing Life -- Lesson Six

It is written that religion is the opiate of the people. Based on contemporary American culture, it may be more accurate to state that television has become the religion of the people. Middleclass America seems to be consumed with the drug-like obsession with "reality" television programming and primetime soap operas. I know because I used to be part of the majority who faithfully watched "24" or "Alias" and before that "The X-Files."

Today, however, I do not own a television, as I stated in an earlier post. It wasn't an easy decision to make--after all, it seems like everybody is doing it. To not watch television means to be on the peripheral of water-cooler conversations—the odd man out and all that. But I can't do it anymore (plug my brain into the television, I mean). Like Neo, I am unplugged and see the world much differently. Lest I sound too dogmatic, I enjoy watching television to learn more about the world I live in but also to escape the world I live in. And lest I sound completely out of the loop, I do know that "Desperate Housewives" is a surprise hit television series (though I've never seen an episode) and not a just a sociological condition.

Reading has always been a very active part of my life. I discovered to my dismay that the more television I watched the less books, magazines and newspapers I read. I realized that viewing requires passive involvement while reading engages the mind. Reading requires the brain to process language through logic, grammar and rhetoric. Annie Dillard in her book The Writing Life asks, "Why would anyone read a book instead of watching big people move on a screen?"

Because a book can be literature. It is a subtle thing... The people who read are the people who like literature... They like, or require, what books alone have. If they want to see films that evening, they will find films. If they do not like to read, they will not... I cannot imagine a sorrier pursuit than struggling for years to write a book that attempts to appeal to people who do not read in the first place.
--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

The Canadian band Cowboy Junkies used to have a slogan on concert t-shirts and stickers that read "Music is the Drug." I continue to enjoy those four words if not only to identify with a favorite musical group but also their intelligently written lyrics. Maybe words have become my drug, but I cannot return to the plugged in world of television.

Lonely Street of Dreams

Part of the "crossroad" dilemma in my previous post refers the struggle I have with academic elitism. Why can't a poet of merit be respected for his/her talent without having to check academic credentials?

I was checking out a prestigious MFA program not to long ago, which several people recommended. They told me that university would be a good school to get a MFA in writing because of the after school possibilities. They are correct. Several of the local schools have grads teaching the writing courses. So, should I ascend to the echelons of academic viability and attempt to make a difference as one of them (the literati)? Or should I remain in the hinterlands and challenge a system, which excludes and detests non-academic work? Maybe it's the Irish in me that sips my ale and tests the wind before running into a fight.

For the past year or so I have been contributing to an independent free monthly multicultural "open mic" newsmagazine that offers a unique platform for writers. No, it doesn't pay for articles submitted. No, it is not recognized for it's literary or journalistic integrity. And no, not all the views expressed by the management and staff of that periodical are necessarily held by me.

Like a coffee shop open mic event, there are poor, fair and good writers represented within its pages. (I'll let readers decide which of the three categories I fall under.) A couple contributors have left to be represented in other "credible" publications and to be honest, I envy them a bit. But I also know how the game works. Those contributors knew an editor or assistant editor or someone in the mailroom and that got them in the door. So, here I am again…

'cos I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams.

Here I go again on my own
goin' down the only road I've ever known.
Like a hobo I was born to walk alone.
An' I've made up my mind, I ain't wasting no more time
but here I go again, here I go again,
here I go again, here I go.
--Whitesnake, lyrics from the song "Here I Go Again"

Another Scene from a Novel I'm not Writing

Seven years ago, James Dundee finished a series of paintings expressing the theme of secrets and the power of not speaking everything one might know. Two factors drew him to the theme of secrets. One, he had something he wanted desperately to say but couldn’t express it. He told what he wanted visually which provided distance in the communication of his secrets. Secondly, he had read in a magazine that the key word in the publishing industry that year was “secret” (followed closely by the words “sex” and “God”). If there is one thing the art world needed, thought James. It was an artist with a marketing strategy and a theme he felt was relevant. It launched his career and ended a friendship.

James had the skills and the time to execute his first assault on the local art scene. His plan was simple in it’s formula: present a body of figure paintings investigating the various aspects of secrecy and feature at the gallery opening the model in the costume of one selected painting. He wanted the patrons to see the model the way he saw things in his studio; the lighting, the skin tone, the drapery background, the antique davenport and maple lamp stand. So, he recreated an installation, complete with the same props from his studio and placed the model there for the audience to observe.

It started out as an experiment to lure the audience into the gallery and specifically to loosen their pocket books. People love souvenirs, he wagered. Why else do people buy a KISS concert t-shirts at a KISS concert? Or why do people but the latest Stephen King offering and wait in line to get their book signed? James hoped people would see the live model and want to purchase the painting she resembled.

James started small by hosting his own show at his own studio. The model was a friend of his who was part of an impromptu theater group from the university. She was used to an audience watching her and thus a perfect for this experiment.

The first show attracted maybe forty patrons -- a modest beginning. On their second collaboration, they both received kind recognition from the only legitimate local weekly arts and entertainment magazine. Within a year she and other members of her theater group were presenting shows at least three or four times a year and drawing crowds of over two hundred on opening night. The shows became more of a cabaret than an art show with his paintings as the backdrop to the performance. Patrons would come to watch the show, which would climax with an art auction. It worked -- and it worked well.

Models were seeking him to the point he had to hold auditions. And it wasn't just models he had to audition. James had musicians requesting to provide a soundtrack to his shows and, of course, sell their music cassettes based on the event’s soundtrack. That’s when his best friend's fiancée, Amy Keller, requested to be part of the show. It wasn’t uncommon for James to feature fellow artisans and friends as models and performers. But his best friend was a jealous lover.

NFL Vikings Cheerleader

Allow me to confess upfront that I do not own a television. I did at one time, but know I rely on radio and the Internet for my news consumption. It was never a moral issue to abandon television viewing, but rather a distraction from my life that needed to be removed in order to pursue other goals in my life. Suffice it to say, I rarely watch NFL football (which was one of my favorite television viewing habits). To my surprise, dismay, chagrin (and lot that nonsense) I came across this silly image on the Fox Sports website. This photo has got to be one of those pictures that the subject later regrets with an "I-can't-believe-I-wore-that-in-public" comment.

It's not a very flattering representation of a football club (Vikings) and rather a painful reminder of the degradation of women in American culture. I guess I'm rather old-fashioned to think football is about football (I grew up in Wisconsin where the Green Bay Packers played (and continue to play) football without the assistance of cheerleaders). So, could someone please tell me if the NFL's television ratings that bad that Viking's cheerleaders have to perform in their underwear?

To Bloggers Who are about to Write a Novel

The New York Times ran a story yesterday entitled "A New Forum (Blogging) Inspires the Old (Books)" By Joshua Kurlantzick. This particularly interests me as I developed a narrative nonfiction manuscript as well as a novel I'm not writing. The story was about Marrit Ingman, an experienced blogger and her quest for a book deal.

Ms. Ingman had… been writing it for two years and had attracted a following of mothers.

"I turned to readers of my blog," she said. "I asked them to comment on whether a book like mine would be relevant to them. Readers wrote back expressing why they wanted to read about the experience of maternal anger. I stuck their comments into my proposal as pulled quotes."

Her readers were convincing. She and her agent, Jim Hornfischer, sold her memoir, "Inconsolable," to Seal Press in August, she said. "The blog showed publishers she was committed to the subject matter and already had an audience," Mr. Hornfischer said.

Several months ago I was encouraged to launch this blog by a friend of mine and experienced blogger in his own right. He had visited me one Thursday night this past summer and was able to hear me read some of my new poems at an open mic. I pointed him to a magazine where I contribute some of my writings and he further encouraged me to launching a blog. So, I investigated the blogoshpere.

[A] Baghdad blogger known as Salam Pax… wrote an online war diary from Iraq. Last year Grove Press published a collection of his work, "Salam Pax: The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary Iraqi."

Okay, I thought. I'm not from Iraq. I don't have a very exotic backdrop.

In June a former Senate aide, Jessica Cutler, whose blog documenting her sexual exploits with politicos dominated Capitol gossip in the spring, sold a Washington-focused novel to Hyperion for an advance well into six figures, said Kelly Notaras of Hyperion. .

Hm, I thought. I really don't have a sensational blog like that. Of course, that blog begs the question: Is the content fact, or is it fiction like the novel she sold?

In October Ana Marie Cox, editor of wonkette.com, a racy, often wry Washington-based blog, sold her first novel, "Dog Days," a comic tale with a political context, to Riverhead Books. She said she received a $275,000 advance.

I'm so glad The New York Times hired Joshua Kurlantzick to write a story about bloggers who get published. His article encouraged me to continue developing that narrative nonfiction manuscript as well as a novel I'm not writing.

But this The New York Times brings up another idea: If bloggers can capitalize on their blogoshpere to increase book sales, then I should they use a publisher? Why don't they self-publish and reap the cash rewards?

"I am forever walking..."

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
--Kahlil Gibran, first stanza of "Sand and Foam"

Technorati, thanks for watching!

According to their website: "Technorati is the authority on what's going on in the world of weblogs." 1000 Black Lines was listed for an essay I wrote about poetry.

It's nice to be recognized as a weblog that is "important in the blogosphere." Thanks Technorati!

Graphic Design Defined

Here is one of the best definitions of graphic design.

Is sustainable graphic design possible?

Jonathan Baldwin relates on his website that one of his students is researching the idea of sustainable graphic design. In his comment (to my comment) he stated: "I've had a few interesting conversations with students from around the country who think this is an important area that needs covering in university curricula."

He mentions that graphic design education seems to "focus on the idea that big corporate clients" equals good or successful business. On the other hand, graphic designers providing creative services for "small ethically minded clients" is not good business.

I recently had a conversation with a local artist who is interested in graphic design. We were discussing the fact that the market is changing. Specifically, the old standard shotgun approach to reaching an audience isn't working and a new, targeted approach is necessary.

The American music scene is a good example of this. The mainstream corporate sound is falling more and more on deaf ears. Mainstream icons like Sting and Madonna make a fraction from the sale of one CD and they have the best contracts in the music business. Most of the money goes to the record companies. The people most upset about free downloadable music are the record label executives. It's their wallets being pilfered.

The key is niche marketing. Ani DiFranco is a great example of an artist investing in her talent and success rewarding her hard efforts. Established with good old-fashioned hard work, Righteous Babe Records (Ani's record label) avoided investments by corporate record labels. Ani has a niche and loyal audience and she capitalized on it. She knows her audience well -- unlike the Dixie Chicks.

The idea that to be a good, successful artist or graphic designer you must embrace the behemoth corporate clients is slowly becoming obsolete. A niche client with niche needs equals responsible graphic design. To ignore small businesses is irresponsible. They may not have the inflated budgets of their corporate counterparts but that offers the graphic designer a challenge. "How can provide professional solutions for under $1000?" Any designer worth his/her salt should be able to provide professional creative services with budget-mandated restraints.

Is sustainable graphic design possible? Only time will tell. If it is possible, then it could only survive through niche market possibilities.

Seth Godin Asks Why

Seth Godin's post Why ask why? offers a great synopsis of how to cut through the layers of corporate bureaucracies:

The single most efficient (and lowest cost) technique for improving your operations is answering the why questions!

Several years ago a close friend was visiting a grocery store less than five minutes from her home. Her son (at the time a toddler) lost a toy in the store and she didn't realize it until she had returned home from her shopping trip. Immediately, she called the store and reported the incident. The reply she got was inane. Yes they saw it, but no they don't know where it went. She has never returned to the grocery store and now prefers a grocery store more than 30 minutes away to the one on the corner. A simple solution to retain a loyal customer would have been: "Yes, we placed the toy in the manager's office."

It's so simple, and it's easy to miss. Interestingly, bureaucracy is not just limited to large corporations and grocery stores. Small offices are afflicted with the same avoidance of answering "why." Companies with less than 100 employees tend to use middle management to buffer between executive staff and frontline staff.

For example, one of the various tasks I am responsible for is print buying. I just received a request to print 45,000 envelopes. In the past, it would take almost a week to prepare the art work, get at least six print vendor quotes and circulate art samples around the office until everyone in management had seen the project. Inevitably, not everyone in management was aware of the urgency of the project and art samples would remain on someone's desk for days (if no longer).

To increase efficiency, I recommended that the organization select one or two preferred print vendors (thus, eliminating time wasted in calling six people when one will suffice). Another suggestion I made was a Project Initiation Form, which includes: project description, objective, job history and budget. Both tools helped reduce the amount of bureaucracy within this small company and saved both time and money.

Mr. Godin continues his analysis:

Most bureaucracies don't want the whys working their way up the chain. Most bureaucracies encourage their people to be the first and only line of defense. "That's our policy." "I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do about that." "Insurance regulations, sir." The goal is to get the customer (questioner) to go away.

This scenario works both ways. If the customer's needs are not being met (because frontline staff can't answer "why"), then the executive staff members don't know what the customer really desires (because they don't empower their frontline staff to answer the "whys"). This leads to assumptions on both the management and service staff and the customer running for the door. Seth concludes his thoughts with this:

You should embrace these people, not send them away.

Coffee Underground

Dug out this old sketch of a young woman reading at a cafe featured on The Neanderthal.

Can Poetry Matter?

I have read poetry as long as I have been able to read. Before that, my mother, a woman of no advanced education, read or recited it to me from memory.
--from the preface of Dana Gioia's Can Poetry Matter

Like Mr. Gioia (Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts), I have been surrounded by the presence of the spoken and written word since youth. As a child, I remember my mother's father reciting passages from Hiawatha and The Raven. Mother would read stories to her children nightly and each Sunday I would hear Father, a minister, deliver his weekly sermon. I am not alone in this unique influence. In an interview published in American Poet, award-winning poet, Li-Young Lee, related that his father "was a minister, so he would read from the King James Bible on Sunday mornings."

I loved that, too. It never occurred to me that there was any difference between the poetry he was reciting and the poetry in the King James Bible. It all seemed like poetry to me.
--from an interview with Li-Young Lee, American Poet, April 2004

Tonight my small family was enroute to an event in which I was invited to read my poems. From the backseat, my son (who will be three-years old in a couple weeks) asked "Why poetry Daddy?"

"That's a very good question," I answered.

Amused by his surprisingly articulate pronunciation, I decided to challenge him by stating that it's important to promote literacy. After a couple attempts at pronouncing "literacy" he simply said "You going to read poetry, Daddy?" Yes, I'm going to read poetry, because I believe it matters.

Author Narcissism -- Part Two

Again I found myself checking amazon.com to see if anyone from the UK was selling a used copy of my book, Late Night Writing. I noticed Amazon.com displayed "5 new & used" under the "More Buying Choices" banner. My publisher informed me that indie bookstores will sometimes sell their books through Amazon.com or other online outlets. That explains that four out of the five books are considered "New" and three out of the five listings are under $6.00. Think Christmas gifts my friends!

Here's an excerpt from Late Night Writing:

The Saturday before Christmas

Fast food on the Saturday before Christmas
with Mother and sister.

A lot of travelers today—you can see it in
their eyes, you can hear the

drone of an automobile in their voice:


Is that all? Yep, the traveler says abruptly
as if he had punched the brakes at an

unexpectedly quick traffic light.
More out-of-state plates pull up to the joint.

More weary travelers tumble out of their four-doors
and into the crowded restaurant.

A haggard man behind Mother smashes his
cigarette into a dirty tin tray, stands up,

pats his coat pockets then grabs his food tray and
puts on his cap in one movement.

He vanishes into the crowd of people requesting food.
It’s about time to go, says Mother as if dad were here.

Slipping into her coat Mother says, your brother is going to
take us to the airport so we can go home.

My sister laughs as if it were a joke.
Where is home? With dad or with brother?

We say our good-byes at the airport
after their luggage is checked.

Mother cries a bit.
Sister looks at her shoes.

I look at the time on my cell phone.
It’s Saturday afternoon—

the Saturday before Christmas.
--Late Night Writing [pp 19 and 20]

The Writing Life -- Lesson Five

Two seemingly unrelated posts (Is Graphic Design Art? and Did Anyone See That Shooting Star?), reminded me not to miss out on the good life. Annie Dillard describes it this way in her book The Writing Life:

There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading--that is a good life. A day that closely resembles every other day of the past ten to twenty years does not suggest itself as a good one.

But how does an individual have a good day? Is it thinking happy thoughts? Or taking baby steps to a good life? Annie suggests its spiritual in nature and I tend to agree with her. Experiencing a good day (which makes a good life) is being secure and content in your purpose for living. The funny thing about that idea is that it requires an individual to do absolutely nothing! You just rest in the security of your purpose. Whether stargazing or designing a direct marketing brochure, good days are blessings—gifts.

A Scene from a Novel I'm not Writing

A summer storm woke him from his sleep. It was dark and damp. Bed sheets had been discarded to avoid resting under sweaty blankets. He rolled off the mattress unprepared for the rain and began to close opened windows. He worked his way from the bedroom to the living room to the kitchen and there he seated himself at the old oval walnut table. The table held empty bowls, which had contained a macaroni and cheese supper, empty glasses which had contained red wine, stained napkins and a small pile of sketch papers. He listened to the rain as it pounded the roof. Instinctively, he lit the candle at the center of the table in case the power went out. From the light of the candle he pulled his papers closer and examined his drawings from the previous day. His hopes presented in graphite and black ink. From within the stacks of sketches he discovered an unopened envelope. By candlelight he read the address and then opened it. It was an invitation.

Is Graphic Design Art? -- Bonus Track

For those you don't like to follow links all over the web here's an abridged version of the comment I made on Jonathan Baldwin's blog regarding Graphic Design Is Not Art:

Graphic design is visual communications. The goal of a designer is to clearly articulate the visual message. In verbal communications the necessary tools are vowels and consonance. To mispronounce a word would be miscommunication. In graphic design, the same rules apply. The tools are a bit different (i.e. images and copy), but the principles are the same.

You may have found that while writing you'll create a line of prose that just hums with lyricism. You know the language well enough to make it sing when you want to and simply communicate when necessary. That's why I think there is an element of art to graphic design.

Another example is from my short stint in radio reporting. A professional radio announcer READS the news across the airwaves musically... as opposed to reading news. I was coached on how to READ the radio news items. Just as graphic designers can be coached on how to visually communicate, I was coached in the art of radio announcing.

Some of the radio personalities I had work along side told me my voice worked well on radio. Also, my writing coach told me recently I definitely "had the chops" to write. So, I come to believe that there is an element of talent, which makes graphic design work musically as opposed to mechanically. Maybe it comes down to this: some graphic designers design while others DESIGN.

To read the comment in it's expanded version follow this link.

Another quick thought... technology has made graphic design easy--almost underrated. Many people with Windows NT and a couple software programs are deceived into thinking that they now know how to design a simple business card. That's as silly as thinking your CPR certificate qualifies you to do open heart surgery. It's more complicated than that.

Is Graphic Design Art?

A comment left on a previous post by another graphic designer, Jonathan Baldwin, prompted me to respond to one of his postings entitled Graphic Design Is Not Art. Like I stated on Jonathan's blog, I'm still sorting through this idea. Read through it and let me know what you think.

Left Behind

I received a free copy of Kutless's release Sea of Faces because "you used to be a Christian rock deejay." This is true. I used to be the co-host/news guy/assistant show producer for a Sunday morning show called Fire of Faith on New Rock 93.3 (which used to be called 93.3 the Planet until Clear Channel acquired the station). I left the show in February 2000 for various personal reasons.

One of the biggest accomplishments on that show for me was reporting a news story of one of the biggest CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) super groups breaking up. At the time, the CCM buzz was that the super group, dc talk, was taking a "sabbatical" but an insider source said it was over. And I reported it as such. To this day, dc talk claims they have not broken up even though all the band members have started solo careers. Such is the honesty and integrity of CCM.

Overall, my experience with the CCM/Christian rock scene was negative. It seemed to me a community of well-meaning artists/musicians contributing to the consumerism of American Christianity. Is that what the world needs, more Jesus junk? American consumerism manufactures the need (not necessity) to have more (and more and more and more...). If the message of Christianity is simply that Christ is all an individual needs, then why supplant that message with Christian consumerism? It leaves you with a hollow (if not artificial) sense of Christianity. It did for me.

A handful of Christian artists offset my jaded experience. Their projects continue to inspire, challenge and encourage me, but for the most part I abandoned CCM and Christian rock. The Kutless album cemented in my mind the fact that the CCM industry continues to manufacture a corporate sound to compete with the secular music industry (they're playing catch-up). It's as if they created their own ghetto and can't find the exit.

As I listened to the eleven Kutless tracks, I groaned over the same uninteresting, predictable content that I left behind several years ago. Hearing Sea of Faces reminded me of that youth camp game where you would place your forehead on an upright baseball bat and run around it ten times. Then you'd try to run to the finish line like a drunken sailor. Given enough orange drink and hot dogs that game could be interesting. But this CD was not.

Gone in 60 Seconds

This is the second consecutive day my wife has contributed a pear (Green Anjou to be specific) into my plastic bag lunch collection. ("Lunch collection" means I grab a plastic bag from a previous shopping trip and run around the kitchen stuffing edible contents into it before I leave for the office.) Some days I have a good collection. Others days become a Ramen noodle feast.

Today, however, I enjoyed another very juicy green pear (in just under 60 seconds). The Serpent in the Genesis chapter three account tempted Eve with the fruit of the forbidden tree. It must have been a pear. Truly, the sweet taste of a ripe pear would have been merit enough for St. Augustine to steal fruit from a pear tree.

And yea, it was very good!

The Writing Life -- Lesson Four

I drank coffee in titrated doses. It was a tricky business, requiring the finely tuned judgement of a skilled anesthesiologist. There was a tiny range within which coffee was effective, short of which it was useless, and beyond which, fatal.
--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Syllabic Poem Structure

Writing exercises always discipline the writer to discover new ways to create beautiful letters. I was recently inspired by a teaching on the book of Isaiah, (chapters two through five) and a very annoying Christmas carol. There carol includes religious symbolism that tells a story. For example; a partridge in a pear tree represents God (or Christ on the tree), Three French Hens = Faith, Hope & Charity, Five Golden Rings = the Pentateuch; Seven Swans = the seven gifts of the Spirit and Eleven Pipers Piping = eleven faithful apostles.

This got me thinking about developing a syllabic poem structure much like a haiku or tanka. Here's a poem sketch born from a teaching of the book of Isaiah (I'll let you figure out the structure).

the nations come to
your holy Temple of God.

Judah, oh, Judah--
Why do you rebel from God's
perfect, holy love?

Judgement awaits the
people of Israel, a
people who treasure gold and
silver above the
Temple of the Lord Most High.

Like I said, it's a poem sketch. When you can figure out the syllabic structure, send me your poem.

Unrelated Ideas Collide

Today, several seemingly unrelated ideas collided in the darkness of my brain. I had been considering this idea for sometime. It started by reading a commemoration of the birthday of C.S. Lewis over at karagraphy. Joy ruminated over the influence of her favorite writer with passages like: "the sky is the principal element in any landscape" and how he [C.S. Lewis] would write the books he always wanted to read. I thought of some of my favorite writers and how I would like to write books that I would like to read.

Next, Associated Press ran a story today by Trudy Tynan about the word "blog" being the most requested word on internet dictionary web sites. Generally, a blog (shortened from Web log) is a web site which "contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer." How interesting and exciting it is to publish your thoughts, stories and opinions so quickly and without a team of editors and literary agents.

This reminded me of a piece I recently read entitled How To Build A Blog. Since I am fairly new to blogging myself, I want to know what it is, how it works and why should I do it? And since I'm in the publishing industry, blog publishing has more than captivated my attention.

Finally, these ideas seemed to answer a question I had written several years ago and recently rediscovered in cleaning the front room. On an old Barnes & Noble flyer stuffed in a composition notebook I had written a list of book titles and the question "would writers still write if no one bought their books?" That idea has been tumbling around my cranium for years. Imagine if the book/periodical publishing industry only printed books for libraries. In other words, skip the retail outlets and deliver books and magazines directly to the public library. Would writers still write books if there was little to no revenue in it for them? Blogging answers that question in a convoluted manner. People do write for public consumption and they do it for free. What is a blog but the story of one's own life experiences, observations and opinions? Even literary journals are catching on to this and thus validating the "publishing" side of a blog. One poetry contest ad I read specifically stated that previously published poems either online or in print were not eligible. I guess I am living proof that writers will write for free. Though I do hope someday I will write books which I would like to read and I do hope someone will purchase my first book of poems.