On Writing and Parenting


Is Bill O’Reilly Chickenshit? Take My Unscientific Poll.

Bill O’Reilly is trying to terrify people about about Ebola and ISIS.  This follows his shrieking paranoia over girl scouts, atheists, Christmas and Beyoncé.  Nothing is too inane to gin up terror among the ill informed.  Issues like Ebola and terrorism are both real problems in the world, yet the numbers don’t lie: Americans dead from Ebola: 1, Americans per day from gun violence: 86. Also, for perspective more than 30 thousand people a year are killed in car accidents.

As part of his fear-mongering extravaganza, Bill asks inane, leading questions of viewers and directs them to “unscientific polls” that he then uses to support his own stupid, flawed and flaccid arguments.  I intend to write an essay about Bill’s penchant for cowardice for Salon, but I need data that only very unscientific polls can provide.  Take My Poll Below, and feel free to refresh the page and take the poll as many times as you like, because like Bill, I’m running a meaningless survey to support my preconceived opinion:


A Letter To Abby’s English Teacher

My 14-year-old, high school freshman, Abby, asked me to write a letter to her English teacher for extra credit.  I was supposed to describe Abby to help the teacher gain some insight into teaching her.  Abby was pleased with the result, so I thought I’d share it.  She gave me permission to do so.

To Whom It May Concern:

Abby is equal parts intellectual and accessible. She’s outgoing, even dramatic, but at the same time reserved. I predict she will spend a lifetime confusing her friends and love interests but will remain at the top of everyone’s lists for being interesting and fun.

A recent picture of the Abby in question.

A recent picture of the Abby in question.

More than any “hobby,” I would define Abby by her love of reading and books. When she was in second and third grades, we had to monitor her book intake to ensure she did other activities. When she was in sixth grade, she read to the neglect of all else. When we tried to stop her, she smuggled books with the seriousness and rage of a Mafioso moving liquor during prohibition. People throw around the word “insatiable,” but Abby’s desire for the written word was (and remains) unquenchable. I am jealous of this trait in her.

Abby loves her family, but she never quite knows how to relate to those closest to her. She is neither “tomboy” nor “princess.” She is not a jock or a dweeb. She seeks an easy stereotype even as it eludes her. More than any other young person I know, I haven’t the foggiest idea of what kind of adult Abby will become. I believe that her voracious pursuit of knowledge coupled with a profound desire to do good will ultimately lead her to something meaningful.

Unlike many other parents, I care less about how Abby will make a living than how she will form relationships with others. Abby has read enough books to understand the superficiality of our species. She can walk among us, but struggles to form lasting friendships outside family.

Abby is expressive to the edge of manic and can flaunt her dramatic self. She likes being in front of people, to act and sing. Sometimes she’s reluctant to embrace her inner Shakespearian, but she should always opt to do so when inspired. The more she feels free from the conventions and petty judgments of adolescence, the more entertaining she becomes.

Abby has expressed various interests in Anime, music and video games, but her pop culture interests are fleeting. By contrast, she has shown an innate and growing curiosity about social justice. She’s outraged over things she cannot change (yet) and can’t bear the idea of suffering. The world needs more people like Abby.

English class is a fantastic place for Abby to explore her growing capacity for critical thinking. Sadly for the instructor, you can cajole and threaten Abby until your voice fails, but Abby will only embrace the lesson when she’s damn good and ready.

Love her with a passion. Teach her at your peril.

Audio and Reflection on Jesse Lee Peterson appearance

I went back on the Jesse Lee Peterson show last week to discuss my latest piece in Salon. My first appearance several months ago was just awful, but this time, it went great.  I did more than hold my own.  Between my first and second appearance, I learned that you can’t engage Peterson in an “honest” discussion.  Rather you must fight, argue, scream and claw to make your points.  It’s the sad reality of rightwing talk radio. For those who do not know Peterson, here are two of his top hits:

1. Peterson has seriously questioned whether women should vote.

2. Although an African American himself, he’s proposed that blacks return to the plantation to “learn to work” (I confronted him on this statement).

Peterson is an odious fellow, and I feel conflicted about going on his show.  I feel like I might be contributing to the dumbing down or coarsening of society.  I don’t think we should treat misogyny and racism as legitimate positions in a pluralistic society.  I plan to write a longer essay on my experience, but listen to the latest and decide for yourself if I made the right call.

The Pitfalls of Political Writing

I’ve had another piece run in Salon. This one is titled: I was poor, but GOP die-hard. Check it out.

The work of publishing so many political pieces made me reflect on the experience. I write a 12-step guide for the uninitiated:

The dozen steps of publishing a Salon article:
1. Two to three weeks: agonize and rewrite.
2. Send to editor, sit on hands for 72 hours praying to gods you don’t believe in.
3. Send a kindly reminder note when you can’t take it anymore.
4. Salon asks for naked pictures of you to go with the piece.
5. Salon piece hits, usually while you are sleeping.
6. First 6 hours: Friends and regular salon readers say nice things and share it. Warm kindness and reason ensue.
7. Get 200 new twitter followers.
8. Hour 7: World Net Daily and other conservative / lunatic sites see the piece and re-post it.
9. lengthy diatribes show up on Salon comment board claiming that you are lying about every single word.
10. someone calls you an asshole on twitter.
11. You get 3 or 4 e-mails that are as long as the original article, some very nice and some beyond insane.
12. The whole thing fades away, and you are left on the roadside naked and bruised, while everyone else has moved on with their lives.

Despite the sometimes painful parts, I’m loving the hell out of it.  Follow my work on Salon.

Salon Runs Another Article, Check It Out

Salon ran a piece I wrote on Cliven Bundy on April 17, which was coincidentally my birthday. This marks the fourth piece I’ve written for Salon AND the fourth piece that generated thousands of likes and shares.  I feel good about the solid response I’ve gotten from writing for Salon.  I can’t understand why, but my first four pieces really hit a nerve.

This latest piece shows the continued fascination people have about one goofy douchebag in a Stetson.  I’m tired of his antics. Read the whole piece below, but the long and short is that this person doesn’t recognize the authority of the United States.  I can’t understand how or why so many right wingers can continue to defend, essentially, a traitor.  Here’s the piece:

Fox News’ demented poster boy: Why angry rancher Cliven Bundy is no patriot: The right’s new fixation: An angry old white man who thinks freedom means not having to follow the law

The latest right-wing media poster-victim, Cliven Bundy, is just the latest in a long line of desert dwellers who thinks he or she should not have to follow the law and has a god-given right to unlimited use of public resources, in this case, rangeland.  I know the mentality well, because I grew up in rural Nevada and clung desperately to such beliefs until only a few years ago … Read the piece on Salon.


The Essays Keep Coming

The hits keep coming following several articles I wrote for Salon.com.  The most recent generated so much controvsesy, I stopped blogging to keep up on twitter, writing follow up articles and some radio interviews.

Most recently, I had my first interview with lunatic right-wing radio. Examining my performance, I think I need more practice on how to handle unapologetic stupidity.  I am a human being in progress. Role/Reboot was kind enough to publish a follow-up essay I wrote about it.

We’ll be updating the web site in the next few months to reflect the essays and media that have been doing lately.  Keep an eye peeled on Salon for a salacious article about sex that is my next piece.


The Book of Mormon the Musical: A Review

I bought the soundtrack for The Book of Mormon on Broadway and listened to it at least twenty times before I was able to see the show.  Despite my intimate knowledge of the songs, I was not prepared for the totality and spectacle of it.  I knew The Book of Mormon would be funny, but I didn’t realize how subversive and intelligent it would be.

For those who don’t know, at 19 years old (or so), young Mormon men are sent as missionaries across the globe for a two year mission to create more Mormons.  The musical follows two particular missionaries as they are dispatched to Uganda.  “Elder” Price is the good looking, slim white boy while “Elder” Cunningham is an odd, not-up-to-par Mormon.  Yes, in real life the Mormon Church labels adolescents as “elders.”  The culture of Mormonism is as much a star of the show as the lead actors.

The musical’s opening number is set in clean, homogenous Salt Lake City but quickly moves to a violent and dangerous territory of Uganda.  Once there, the two lead characters meet with other missionaries who are all working to convert the locals.

It’s a simplified plot, leaving plenty of room to explore poverty, homosexuality, and faith. At the center of the missionaries struggle is a debilitating kind of naïveté. Continue reading

The “Mom” Problem in Creative Nonfiction

Bleed, the literary blog at Jaded Ibis Press, picked up my craft piece about creative nonfiction.  I am very pleased with this one.  Go check it out:

The “Mom” Problem in Creative Nonfiction

“If we knew you were going to be a writer, we’d have been better parents.” Parents say this to a young woman in a comic strip punch line.

In creative nonfiction, just like in life, the best advice is don’t hold back. Sit at the keyboard and let it all go, the hate, rage, self doubt and frustration. Sometimes lust works too. Pound it all into the keyboard from the flaming ends of your fingertips, and tie it all together with some self reflection. Then for god’s sake spend some time revising the damn thing — Read the Entire piece

Warning: Introspective, writerly, year-end shit

Here at the end of 2013, I have to examine what has been a pretty prolific writing year for me, topped off with an article I wrote for Salon.  That piece has gone viral and continues to dominate my time.  I didn’t see it coming, but it’s a great finish to the year.

The lesson I put in play this year is that writing should not be some self-congratulatory, yank fest (aside from this blog post).  Rather, writing should be about giving the reader something.  Sure you can’t even start the process if you don’t have some need or reason to do it, but you also can’t just write for yourself—and hope to publish. Continue reading

A Christmas Cluster

It seems like Christmas is a great time to examine family culture. Just about every December 25, I get inspired to talk about it.  This piece ran on the Good Men Project go check it out there.

A Christmas Cluster

Before my divorce, I had a long line of Christmas musts: Right tree, plenty of gifts, fireplace stockings and nothing could be missed. But Christmas would never be the same for me after my first wife left in 2003, and I’m so much better off for it.

I had custody of my kids after the divorce, but we shared Christmas, on a year-on, year-off basis. I spent several sad years in a dark house, unshaven and feeling sorry for myself, drinking eggnog or cheep beer. Depression was my Christmas staple when I didn’t have the kids.

Then I remarried, and my second wife, Joy, put a hard stop to the despair-filled rooms.  We spent our first Christmas together without kids at a Reno casino, playing blackjack and eating a ten-dollar prime rib dinner. It was the best Christmas I can ever remember as an adult, and it was the first moment for me in a long process of rethinking the holiday … Read the whole thing here …


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