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1000 Black Lines

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

Drink Coffee. Work. Read. Write. Sleep. Repeat.

Ride bus to the Transit Center. Catch another bus to the office.

Waiting for the bus

Ride bus to a noon meeting and then back to the office. Ride another bus home for supper. Drive back to the office after the children are put to bed.

This makes a very long day and an even longer week (not to mention month).

Waiting for sleep

You might think I don't have time to read and write and submit work for publication. Not so, poetry and prose have been published recently in local publications. More on that in another post.

One Minute Manager
Not my first choice in reading material, but since I need to manage my work and personal life better, I thought I'd read this book and see what wisdom I might gain. One Minute Manager is a bestselling business book that delivers simplistic anecdotal narrative with fluffy didacticism. The book provides more Sophism than archetypal business models. Here is a good subtitle for One Minute Manager: "how to be a manager without really trying." The success of the One Minute Manager may explain why American businesses fail.

The only take-away point that is of any practical use is the practice of writing your project's mission in 200 words or less (i.e. one sheet of paper).

Of the business management books I've read, this is the just another cottage industry publication that aspiring managers and CEOs read to feel better about their failures. The best business books are never found in the business section of the library. I've found that the best books on how to organize and succeed in business are found in the military history and philosophy sections. I recommend Machiavelli's The Prince, Sun Tzu's Art of War, The Christian Bible, Jeffrey J. Fox's How To Become CEO (which I already reviewed here) and Robert E. Howard's Conan novels ("To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!"). Okay, so the Conan addition is a joke. My point is that one does not enter into the trade of buying and selling goods and services with the goal of failure. One enters the trade of buying and selling goods and services to succeed first for his or her person, second for his or her family and finally for his or her community.

Deep Writing
Found this book at the library. Deep Writing has some very practical thoughts for writers desiring to go deep and produce well crafted novels, plays, poetry collections, memoirs, etc.

The annoying thing about this book is the author includes a few fictional composite characters and "helps" them through his seven principles to deep writing. These fictional writers reveal their fears and troubles as they explore deep writing. I found most of the fictional therapy boring and uninteresting (sort of like listening to a psychologist role play with his X-Men action figures).

Other than that, Deep Writing offered concrete applications as well further understanding of the creative process that allowed me to re-examine why and how I write.

Half Wild
As a member of The Academy of American Poets I received 2005 winner of the annual Walt Whitman Award book as part of my membership. In brief, Half Wild offers a lyrical experience exploring the spiritual and sensual aspects of the natural world.

Like many writers from the Upper Midwest, Mary Rose O'Reilley expresses a deep connection between the land and its people through poems like "Clearing the Land for the Lotus Pool:"

"He tosses the rocks
in a pile.
They roll together,
exchanging the names
of men and women,
stories and wounds,
a few notes of music
stones know."

In "When I Imagine My Soul," she writes:

"When I imagine my soul
I think of a bear,
shambling across tundra.
I think she's escaped from a circus,
the scars of a ring in her nose:
fat, loping, patient untiring bear."

Though I enjoyed reading Half Wild, in part because it resonates of my Upper Midwest birthplace, I thought is was rather typical of what The Academy regularly chooses. Maybe I expect too much, but I'd like to see a winning book that really challenges the American poetry landscape. Something like... Invisible Bride.

Invisible Bride
I attended Tony Tost's reading back in May and was blown away by his work (his reading was less than spectacular). Invisible Bride is one of those few books that I reread just to make sure I didn't miss something or revisit for inspiration; in this case, both.

Invisible Bride is a winning selection for the 2003 Walt Whitman Award. The judge's citation reads, "A strange and penetrating book." I think that best describes a book written in prose poem essays (if that's what they are) with the abandon of a postmodern poet. The poems question and explore and rethink and question again the unknown in a very disarmingly accessible sometimes bazaar manner.

In an untitled poem (Seriously, the poem has no title. It resides on the page as verse only.), Tost writes:

"Aging is the great escape... ‘God created airports because he needed to tell stories,’ Agnes tells me as we set up our tent...”

In “Twelve Self Portraits” he writes:

“The snow is dark and nothing is sad and I was, once upon a time, a child. I knew what weather meant, was hardened the way only a child, after all, is.

“The first ten years are full of rain. I watched the shadow flee away.

“The snow is something else, tonight, as I stand, grown, naked (I’m in the living room, the lights are off): invisible and filling up.”

The last line of Invisible Bride’s prose line collection mystifies me and I want to turn to the next page or at least turn to the first page and start over again:

“Get my swan costume ready, I’ll be in Texas when the sun is out.”

Invisible Bride is the kind of brilliant poetry book I expect from The Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Award selections.

Laugharne Poems
I met Thomas Rain Crowe for the first time a few months ago at special event. I had purchased a copy of Laugharne Poems in the spring and read through it before presenting it to Mr. Crowe for a signature. He was a bit surprised to see it due to the fact that a foreign published book is rare in American bookstores.

In Laugharne Poems, Mr. Crowe explores the land and people of Dylan Thomas. Two pilgrimages to Laugharne and the Dylan Thomas Boat House in the 1990s provide the foundation that the poet builds upon.

“Go down Gosport Street with only the rooks/ awake at this hour and a couple gulls in/ The Grist. . . “ he writes in “Dylan’s Walk.”

“down steps through flowers and small trees
and ‘round railing deck and door
down wooden steps to the table in the morning sun
and write.”

In the elegiac “Barques” he writes: “Always, I want to go back.”

“Gone were the big fish and the whales.
The triple mast and the double hull.
Nothing now
But smaller ships that search a shallow sea.

Times got as rough as the reputation in Laugharne.”

Thomas Rain Crowe’s eye for detail allows you to taste, touch, hear and smell the Welsh landscape, people and music that inspired Dylan Thomas.

Reporting the Universe
This is one of those serendipitous discoveries during a recent library visit.


I'm one of those people that patronize the library for other

than DVD/VHS rentals.

But I’m getting a bit drowsy

and will have to report on this read

at another time when

the coffee goddess allows me

to wake



Overheard on the bus route

Here's some overheard conversations from Friday afternoon.
Man talking to another man: "What is real? What is truth? What is this? You know what I'm talking about?"

Waiting at the bus stop.
Man 1: "I've been runnin' all day... getting a beer here... a beer there... s___ I'm tired."
Man 2: "I hear that."
Man 1: "Alcohol will make you go places you don't want to go... killed my brother... I get shakes, you know... s___, my heart stopped in Virginia... ah, hell."

This is not a pretty picture

When I saw this I thought, "This is just not my week." My machine does not love me anymore and refuses to address the hard drive. I'm about to through the computer out the front door. I have a back up machine, but it is in dispute with the internet connection. Blogging will be scant until machines obey or die a digital death.

Write Stuff: pardon my French

This week's Write Stuff column is brought to you by the French Embassy (just kidding). Here you go, and pardon my French: C’est magnifique mais ce ne fait pas l’affaire.

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Author readings at Malaprop's

Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe
August 12, 7 PM
free to the public

Marisha Pessl reads from, Special Topics in Calamity Physics

photo credit: Laura Rose
The New York Times book review by Janet Maslin; July 31, 2006 states: "Marisha Pessl's 'Special Topics in Calamity Physics' is the most flashily erudite first novel since Jonathan Safran Foer's 'Everything Is Illuminated.' With its pirouettes and cartwheels, its tireless annotations and digressions, it has a similar whiz-kid eagerness to wow the reader."

Robert Birnbaum writes: "The story in brief: Raised in academia its heroine, Blue van Meer, is clever, deadpan, and a cineaste and possessed of a vast lexicon of literary, political, philosophical, and scientific knowledge. In her final year of high school at the elite (and unusual) St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina, Blue falls in with a charismatic group of friends and their captivating teacher, Hannah Schneider. One of Hannah's friends drowns and then the shocking death of Hannah herself leads to a confluence of mysteries which Blue is left to make sense of with only her gimlet-eyed instincts and cultural references to lean on. The novel is structured around a syllabus for a Great Works of Literature class and contains ironic visual aids drawn by Pessl."

Ashvegas writes: "Marisha... is... hawt. As in, she's a babe." I imagine Malaprop's cafe area will be at capacity crowd levels tomorrow night. So, come early and get your coffee fix.

Next week (Friday, August 18 7:00 PM), N.C. Poet Laureate, Kathryn Stripling Byer will be reading her new collection of poems, Coming to Rest. I doubt the crowd will be as large because it is only poetry.

Poet Fred Chappell writes: "There is about [Byer's] lines something of the art of the woodcut, a starkness made the more powerful by modesty of presentation, a certain wintriness of aspect that cloaks a smoldering sensibility. This is a mode, we might think, that she does not choose but is chosen by."

From Coming to Rest, "Chicago Bound":
. . . Just a little while
longer, we’ll be on the ground
where we’ll hop a train south to the campus,
a place I like better than this flimsy
carpet of clouds on which I cannot walk
to you. I need green fields
to do that, some tough city blocks,
Kimbark, Ellis, East Hyde Park.
Give me boulevard, avenue,

chemin, rue, strasse, calle,
avenida, el camino, whatever
you want to call it, Baby, if it’s down
there on earth where you are,
it’s Sweet Home. I’ll take it.

Overheard on ATS

I posted overheard bus conversations and comments back in June. Here's some more from the other day:
After mentioning something about the police, a man says into his cellphone: "You can't just sell something that isn't yours."

Man and woman talking across the aisle inside the bus.
Man: "Where you going this early in the morning?"
Woman: "Social Services."
Man: "What for?"
Woman: "None of your damn business. Where you going?"
Man turns toward the window and looks at his cellphone.

Man at a bus stop mopping his face with a handkerchief after racing up a hill to wait for the bus: "Hot has hell out here ... but a lot nicer than Columbus ... no drive-by shooting ... Asheville's a nice place ... "
Coffeehouse Junkie: "Columbus, Ohio?"
Man lighting a cigarette: "Yeah ... had to leave Columbus 'cause all the f__ing Mexicans taking all the jobs ... heard 'bout Asheville ... sure is damn hot but a whole lot nicer than Columbus."
Coffeehouse Junkie refrained from saying: Welcome to Asheville amigo.

What sort of artist am I?

You Should Be a Painter

You have the vision, patience, and skill to bring your unique visions to canvas.
And you're even tempered enough not to cut your ear off in the process!

Since you asked

Screen shot of the improved and updated mxmulder.blogspot.com

Since last Saturday's D'licious party I have received a lot of requests for an online design/art director portfolio. Check out the new digs here.

Write Stuff: A Greek Tragedy

This week Write Stuff's regular contributors are to write about "premonition." The assignment was handed out a week or two ago.

For the last week I've been engaged in a lecture series on "Introduction to Greek Philosophy" from Boston University (via The Teaching Company). I was able to rent the 4 DVD set from the local library. That has lead me to examine texts on Alexander the Great as well as explore The Theogony.

With the writing prompt being premonition, my mind turned to the tragic Greek tale of Cassandra. I started out to write a formal sonnet with a twist. The twist being that I did not want to use a rhyming pattern nor did I want to use iambic pentameter; rather, I wanted to write iambic dimeter verse.

When I completed the initial drafts I realized it lacked the urgency and tragedy that I want to communicate. So I departed from the initial hybrid sonnet I attempted and completed the poem as four strophes of four lines each -- total of sixteen lines. Let me know what you think of Cassandra’s Gift.

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D'licious Magazine release party a success

large crowd at release party

great food

great beverages

great entertainment

The signs are everywhere

D'licious Magazine release party!
Tonight from 7:00pm– until
Haywood Park Hotel Ballroom, 1 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, NC 28801
$35 at the door
Food from over a dozen establishments, beverages from Asheville's finest breweries and wineries and live music are included in the ticket price.

Hot off the press!

They arrived yesterday--thousands of them.

Last night I received copies of the debut issue of D'licious Magazine. There's something special--magical--about holding months of hard work, long hours and gallons of coffee in the final form of the printed product. Join me Saturday night for the d’licious magazine release party!

Here's the details:

Saturday, August 5, 2006 from 7:00pm– until
Contact: D'licious Magazine at info@dliciousmag.com

D'licious Magazine will debut its premier issue. Come experience a taste of Asheville’s cuisine, entertainment, breweries and wineries at the Haywood Park Ballroom (1 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, NC 28801) underneath the Haywood Park Hotel in the heart of downtown Asheville.

Food and beverages provided by: Belly of Buddha Catering, the Flying Frog Cafe, the Frog Bar and Deli, Biltmore Estate Stable Café, Thai Basil, Hannah Flannigans, Skully’s Signature Dine & Drink, Digable Pizza, Greenlife Grocery, Sweet Monkey Bakery & Catering, Clingman Ave. Coffee and Catering, Zuma Too: Chef Oso’s Culinary Passport, Haywood Road Market, Sclafani Distributors, the Biltmore Estate Winery, Hanover Park Winery, the French Broad Brewing Company, Highlands Brewery and the Pisgah Brewery.

Additional sponsors: The Westville Pub, Kabloom, 96.5 WOXL, and the Art of Microbrewing by Stephen Patrick Boland and Kevin Marino.

Entertainment by: David Stevenson, Cabo Verde, Free Planet Radio and Jen and the Juice.

Purchase tickets today: The Haywood Park Hotel, The French Broad Brewery, Greenlife, Hannah Flannigans, Clingman Ave. Coffee and Catering, Skully’s Signature Dine & Drink, The Haywood Road Market, Orbit DVD and Diggin Art.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door.

Career Advice?

You Should Get a MFA (Masters of Fine Arts)

You're a blooming artistic talent, even if you aren't quite convinced.
You'd make an incredible artist, photographer, or film maker.

Retreat reading reviews and meditations continued

I forgot to post these reviews of retreat reading material. So here's the other two books I completed while away from Asheville.

[ 3 ]

The Venetian Vespers
While miles from home I finished reading Anthony Hecht's The Venetian Vespers. I enjoy Hecht's poetry because of the depth of vocabulary used. For American readers who only read one language, as myself (well, actually I read two languages), he challenges my education and forces me to learn words outside my comfort zone of understanding. For example, the poem "The Deodand" (the title alone needed a definition -- "a thing forfeited or to be given to God...") includes lines like "In the swank, high-toned sixteenth arrondissement?" and "Those pillars of the old haute-bourgeoisie,". The poem concludes with five lines in French (which is not the second language I read). The poem is a recreation of a scene inspired by a Renoir painting and is written, as many of his poems, in formal lines.

"The Short End" is not a short poem and contains at least 400 lines divided into five parts. My analysis of the poem would be inadequate but its formality and narrative quality is something I plan to study.

The Venetian Vespers" is twice as long as "The Short End" and for obvious reasons is the centerpiece of the book. It begins "What's merciful is not knowing where you are,/What time it is, even your name or age,/But merely a clean coolness at the temple--/That, says the spirit softly, is enough/For the mind to adventure on its half-hidden path"

Somehow that opening line resonates with me. The poem explores Venice ("I have chose Venice for its lights,") but also Lawrence, Massachusetts. To call this poem a narrative does not properly describe it. To say that it is a poem about an expatriate in Venice would be to miss its rich texture. In a way, it would be like claiming America is about New York. There's more to America than New York just like there's more depth to this poem than a character "Who was never even at one time a wise child.” The last part of the poem reads: "I find myself frequently at the window,/Its glass a cooling comfort to my temple./And I lift up mine eyes, not to the hills/...but to the clouds."

The book includes two poems by Joseph Brodsky "versions by Anthony Hecht." I am not sure if this means they are translations, but I very much enjoyed reading "Cape Cod Lullaby" -- a poem in 12 parts; each part includes five stanzas.

Without a doubt The Venetian Vespers will be referenced much in my ongoing education in the dark art of poesy.

[ 4 ]

What Men Live By
My brother-in-law introduced me to an antiquarian bookstore which contains more than 100,000 volumes of books in literature, history, philosophy, Greco-Roman studies, foreign languages plus rare books, mediaeval manuscript leaves and engravings. Like most stores of this character, the poetry books were located in the darkest corner of the labyrinth of bookshelves. Since I had little fundage I only selected the previously mentioned book.

As I wandered toward the cashier I came upon a collection of Russian language books. There I discovered a small and affordable hardcover of Leo Tolstoy's What Men Live By. What struck me immediately was that this small hardcover book was a product of the old linotype technology. The words were not merely printed upon pages but quite literally stamped (or embossed) upon each page of the book. The binding is sewn with thread and for its age holds together nicely. For a graphic designer who is developing book projects, the entire book design was judged and found good -- and I purchased it.

Now that I had judged it by its quality packaging, I read the two long short stories (a novella is 20,000 to 40,000 words and these short stories were less than 20,000 words) contained in the book. What Men Live By is a story about a cobbler named Simon who opens his house to Michael an angel (though Simon does not know he is an angel until the end of the story). Michael is to learn three lessons: what is in man, what is not given to man and what people live by. The spoiler is the epigraph, which is 1 John 3:14-18; 4:7-20. Tolstoy's didactic narrative is a bit heavy at times. However, in some regards I found it quite refreshing in comparison with what passes as short story literature currently published in today's lit journals. Actually, I have a hard time imagining Tolstoy ever being published in the current climate of American literature. I guess that's why the contrast was refreshing.

The second story, Where Love Is, There God Is Also, is about a shoemaker named Martin who comes to embrace Scripture and how he meets "The Lord Himself" through a number of people that enter his simple, quiet life. Again, the story is homiletic -- almost predictable. Tolstoy pulls the reader through the story with no subtly but excerpts Scripture passages as a pacing device. At first I thought the story too simple too straightforward, but that is exactly what a short story is supposed to do. Even in 10,000 words, the author really only has time to developed the main character.

Another point of interest -- the protagonist is not a jaded, diminished hero or anti-hero, which is, predominates in today's literature. Both Simon and Martin are quiet heroes. At first doubtful or skeptical, they embrace love and commitment. In a crass comparison, it is the way comic books were written 75 years ago. Hero faces dilemma or bad guy (or both). Hero solves dilemma or defeats bad guy (or both). Good and evil were portrayed as distinctly opposite. Though Tolstoy's writing maybe a bit moralistic, I found it nice to read well-written short stories of high literary quality.

[ 5 ]

The book I did not finish while way from Asheville is Killing the Buddha. I'm only a few chapters into it. So far the book is engaging on many levels. It is written for "people both hostile and drawn to talk of God."

Basically, it is an anthology irreverently organized as a "heretics bible" which features creative non-fiction from writers exploring religion and spirituality as well as fictionalized books of the bible and essays.

I will provide a review of it when I'm done.