Monday, November 30, 2015

Faces at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

Herman and I recently visited the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.  I thought I would share some interesting faces we found there.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


I’m thinking a great deal about closure today. Since the first week in November I’ve been traveling around Asia, and today marks my last week before flying home. During this trip, I’ve been careful editing my work-in-progress manuscript, focusing on only 5 pages per day, judging each word, every comma, striving for perfection. I have seven pages left.

So in light of completing two major events this week, I’m overjoyed and saddened. Both events, as with most things in life, were fun and interesting, and both moved me further along that path I travel. 

I find that, as much as I crave starting something new, I can’t help clinging to what I have now. I suppose that is human nature, that is, true for almost everyone. As a Buddhist, I understand that letting go is key, perhaps even THE key, to happiness. Yet, as simple as that sounds, putting it into practice is far from easy. 

Is it fear of the unknown? That somehow sounds too negligible. I mean, I certainly know what it’s like to live at home. It’s a place I love. It allows me to work at a much greater pace, have home-cooked meals, take pleasure in friends and family. The truth is I enjoy being at home as much as I enjoy traveling. And as for finishing a story, I’m actually thrilled, after two years of work, to be able to put this one aside and starting with another set of characters, settings, and situations. You would think I’d be chomping at the bit to be home. Yet, I’m not.

I’m guessing here, but I think it’s just basic fear, fear of change, any change, and I think that is human nature. Unless we are in a horrible situation, our nature is to resist anything different, much as we tell ourselves we need something new. The funny thing is – I’m reaching into my Buddhist roots again – change is constant. Life is continuously changing around us. To fear change is to be, at some level, forever in fear.

The only cure that I can think of for this is to live in the moment. To spend no time worrying about what has already happened, nor what will happen. No thoughts of hopes or regrets. 

I’m reminded of a Sunday school lesson that Jesus talked about walking a narrow path to heaven. He said there were thorns on the right of this path, as well as the left. I believe he was talking about time. The path is now, and the thorns on the right and left are past and future. Both Jesus and the Buddha basically said the same thing, focus on the path of NOW, and that leads to heaven. 

Sorry, I didn’t intend for this to turn into a sermon. I’m simply trying to understand myself, in an attempt to make sense of my life. Which may in itself be a foolhardy endeavor.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Writing Tip: Using of Copyrighted Material

There once was a time when you could include a few lines of a song or poem, or quote another book, and no one cared. That time is gone.

To use any quoted material from a work under copyright, you must have official permission from the rights holder. In the case of a published work, this is almost always the publisher, and it will cost money. Expect to pay $250-$500 for up to 100 words for the first 5,000 copies sold (although some may set the maximum at 2,000), after which an additional fee may be required. Fees of $1,000 and more are not out of the question.

Phrases that have been used so often ("Make My Day.") can still be used with impunity, although even then it's technically a copyright violation. 

If you're determined to use a bit of copyrighted material, it's your job to obtain the necessary permission. It takes time and money.

Be aware that when it comes to copyrighted material these days "just a little" is too much.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy Anniversary

Twenty-one years ago yesterday, Herman and I exchanged rings and pledged to stay together for life. Back then we had no idea what an exciting journey we started together, nor how our love for each other would deepen and intensify.

Happy Anniversary, my love.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Becoming A Catalyst for Change

Yesterday I came across a note on Twitter from a guy who whined about how the world was going to hell in a hand basket because everyone (including himself) was greedy, selfish, self-centered creatures who had no regard for others. 

I replied to him suggesting he should live the change he wants to see in others, that he can set the example so others will be inspired to follow. I went on to explain that those words were spoken by Mahatma Gandhi, and it seemed to work for him, as he inspired a nation to stand up for itself, and still inspires men and women a half-century later. 

His response to me was: "I know it's cynical but I think this idea of being a catalyst for change is bullshit. Change only happens after major catastrophes and massive social events. But day-to-day, people remain the same selfish, self-centered creatures they've always been. Historically, every good thing we have accomplished, socially speaking, has been the result of something horrible happening. People just don't wake up one day and go, "You know, I'm a real asshole, I think I'm going to start being a good person." Disaster, death, destruction, pain, those are the sparks that induce change in people, like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes. In nature, it is a necessity. Forest fires, brush fires, volcanic eruptions, flooding, all of these seemingly devastating events make way for new-found fertility. We are no different because we are still a part of nature, no matter how many unnatural things we surround ourselves with."

I must say I found his response doubly sad. To think that it takes great pain on a grand scale for anyone to change their attitudes and behavior is, in my view, ludicrous. I have had countless small revelations in my life where I’ve analyzed the results of my behavior and not only saw the need for change, but also made that change. I’ve seen and heard people I respected and wanted to be like them, and I began to mimic their positive behavior. People the world over do this on a daily basis.  

I sent him two responses: “If you are not willing to make the changes you deem needed in others, why should anybody else?” and then, “If you become a giving and compassionate person, then there will be at lease one less asshole in the world.” 

I can’t wait to get his next reply. lol

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Writing Tip: Sound

Prose creates sound. Accomplished writers not only tell a story or paint a picture with words, they pay attention to the sound of language, to its rhythms, breaks, alliterations, rhymes and echoes. Good writing translates into immaculate prose, beautiful to hear and beautiful to read.

Musical notes reverberate in tiny waves, always growing louder or softer. The same is true for prose. And sound can be one of the harder problems to diagnose and correct. You want it to flow. The last thing you want is a jarring sound that pulls the reader out of the dream.

The most common dilemma with sound results from poor sentence construction. The root problem is caused by awkward sentence division – misuse of commas, periods, colons, semicolons, dashes and parentheses. 

In some cases sentences are simply too short or too long.

Another problem is echoes, using a character’s name or some other word too often. Many authors use “he” and “she” too often. Also, using an unusual word that stands out too often. I have a habit of using “he” or “she” to start several sentences in a row, as in “He said this. He did that. He heard something. He turned around.” It quickly gets monotonous.

Yet another issue is Alliteration, where the repetition of the first letter of a word and the first letter of a following word is the same – for instance, the “large lock” or “walking down the wide street.”

The best way to catch sound issues is by reading the text aloud. On my Mac, I can highlight the text and have the computer read it aloud. I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve caught doing this.

Once you identify an issue, an effective way to deal with it is to cut and/or simplify. Many writers equate complexity of thought with complexity of sentence structure. I believe that is a huge mistake. To present ideas simply and clearly is next to Godliness.

Bottom line is to pay close attention to the sound of your prose.

Monday, November 16, 2015

We Are Nothing But Stardust and Thought

 I read something on the net this week that seemed to encapsulate what much of Buddhist thought points toward, and I’d like to share it.

It’s breathtaking to consider: each human being, and most animals, have two eyes, each composed of 130 million photoreceptor cells. In each one of those cells, there are 100 trillion atoms—that’s more than all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.

However, each atom in each cell in each eye formed in the core of a star, billions of years ago, and yet, here they are today, being utilized to capture the energy released from that same process. All to expand the consciousness of each person or animal.

The universe has an interesting sense of irony, in that you are the universe experiencing itself. All you are is stardust and thought.