Losing Our Way: on technology and being creative in the modern world

The Apple 1.0

The Apple 1.0

I have an open letter posted to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, over at TW this month. I take Cook and Apple to task for not being creative with their digital book applications (the iBook Store and iBook reading system). I honestly don’t see any truly innovative digital reading applications out there offered by any company. It’s sad. But the truth is there’s not much innovation anywhere in the commercial part of the virtual world anymore. Think about it. What was the biggest application everyone wanted this summer? Yup. Pokemon Go.

Creativity in the ebook world did in fact occur on the hardware side of things beginning about a decade ago as the Kindle and iPad were being developed and ramped up. But the actual user interface has been a serious [Read more…]

Roberto Bolaño’s 2666: my year of reading slowly


Spanish edition paperback cover (2009)

I finally finished Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666 last month (912 pages in English; 1,136 in Spanish). It represents a year of reading for me (with some other stuff thrown in, but nothing I stayed with or finished). The beauty of books, as opposed to TV and movies, is that you can take your time and just tackle two or three pages a night for fifteen to twenty minutes at a shot. TV and movies make us think we have to eat whole stories quickly. If you can disavow that habit, and feel comfortable with the slow pace of reading, you will probably extend your life by at least eight years, maybe ten. Besides, 2666 is considered one of the most [Read more…]

A few thoughts on “Colin Kaepernick and Non-violent Civil Disobedience”

Colin Kaepernick SittingI wrote a draft originally of an essay here at this blog on Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner before football games. The full piece has now been published over at Medium.com in The Coffeelicious, one of the premiere original Medium e-zines out there. You can read the whole piece here.

It starts out as follows: “San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is following his conscience by not standing for the national anthem before football games. I get exactly what’s going on here and I am glad that our national “conversation” on race is being pushed harder than people want by someone with at least a bit of influence.”

I have been disturbed ever since the violence we saw in Ferguson, Missouri about how people who want to see more social and environmental justice [Read more…]

Why I Wrote a Novel by a Girl: When a Dude Figures Out the Power of Emotion in Literature

Cover Music for New PeopleI just finished revising the second draft of my next novel, which means I now have Draft #3 to print out. I’m doing that as I write this post. The whole process started back in October of 2013. Draft #1 clocked in at about 160,000 words (630 pages). Revisions for Draft #2 in December of last year shrank the book to 140,000 words. I was surprised at how many unnecessary sentences I’d written and how many extended metaphors showed up that a reader didn’t really need.

Draft #3 was an extraordinary process. My goal was essentially to lop 60,000 words off the beast. I’d gotten a fair amount of input from a few First Readers. In particular, several poet colleagues were concerned about the number of sub-plots I was offering readers. They wanted focus and brevity. Poets!

I took a few weeks to think through their advice. I also got an interesting letter from a prospective agent saying, in essence, “I can’t take a look at a coming-of-age novel that is 140,000 words long.” Agents!

I began work on Draft #3 at the beginning of February. I finished that process last week (February 22). Music for New People is now a 90,000 word novel — 330 pages long. It may be possible to cut more, but [Read more…]

Sounds Like a Job for Supergirl: Empowered Girls and Women in the 21st Century

Supergirl 1

Melissa Benoist as the new Supergirl (aka Kara Danvers)

I kept getting goosebumps every time the promo pieces for the new Supergirl show came on TV in the first three weeks of October. The week before the show debuted I told my wife that I simply had to watch it. She gave me a funny look, but didn’t argue. When we finally sat down that first night, I was surprised at how excited I was. And when the moment came for Kara to say, “To hell with trying to hide who I really am,” and she went running through the dark streets of National City, leaping into the air (in fits and starts) until she was soaring through the sky on her way to save a sure-to-crash jet, I burst into tears. Seriously. No shit!

I am a 57-year-old father of three young men. My boys were all stud baseball players from the age of six all the way through high school. One of them is now a minor leaguer in the Phillies organization. I have been a lover of most male-oriented sports all my life. I revere macho writers like Hemingway, Kerouac, Henry Miller, and Charles Bukowski. And I’ve been in love with sexy [Read more…]

That Warm Gooey Feeling: The New View of Climate Change

Source: NASA Apollo 8

Source: NASA Earthrise from the moon – Apollo 8

Over at Mashable they just posted an interesting article on social media’s perception of the climate change issue. According to the article, “Internet has revelation that climate change action won’t kill the economy after all,” during the last year or so there has been a tremendously positive shift that “reflects the increasing realization in the business and policy-making communities that the transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and other emerging technologies constitutes an economic opportunity rather than an economic obstacle.”

Even though they present wonderful graphs and data to prove their case, Mashable rightly points out the biases of the researchers. They also note that studies about social media are often fraught with [Read more…]

Fighting Violence and Terror with Art, Joy and Youth

We’ve all been wondering how to counteract the lunacy and mayhem that seems to have seriously marked 2015 throughout the world. Right? It’s not just terrorists, out-of-control cops, and criminals. There’s a lot of hatred a certain category of people have been spewing on TV, social media, and, probably, in your neighborhood and workplace.

You may have your own answer, but to me the most powerful weapon global society has against all this fear and negativity is the freedom and joy of young people and the art they are making. Watch this video trailer below:

The full video can be accessed by clicking here: Community of Dancers Boston Edition. This is my youngest son Conor’s project. He is a 20-year-old film student (and hip-hop dancer) at Emerson College [Read more…]

Summer 2015: Books I’ve Read and Books I’ve Been Working On

Clarice Lispector

Clarice Lispector

I want to share some thoughts on what I read this summer, just so you know what writers do with all that spare time they have. At the end of this essay I also report on some of the stuff I have been working on.

This was my first summer being an empty nest writer. For the record, half of what writers do is read each other’s work. That’s probably why the job seems so great every once in a while.

My goodness, there is so much brilliant literature coming out these days — particularly by women. Beginning in July, I stumbled into all sorts of work by Renata Adler, Joy Williams, Cesar Aira, Shirley Jackson, Elena Ferrante, Mat Johnson, Lucia Berlin, Roxane Gay, and  Clarice Lispector (she who barks at God, see photo above). All of these folks are pushing language and literature forward. We worry, [Read more…]

All the Light We Cannot See: A Quick Review

allthelight-209x300There’s no question that Tony Doerr is one of our most lyrical and thoughtful writers. If you haven’t read any of his work, I highly recommend his two collections of stories as a good place to start:

The Shell Collector (Scribner, 2001)

Memory Wall (Scribner, 2010)

I just finished his award winning new novel All the Light We Cannot See last night. I stayed up late reading in bed to finish the final 100 pages. The novel weaves two young people’s stories together during World War II. Werner is a young German orphan genius with a penchant for radio tweaking and communications hacking. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl whose father is the lock master in a museum in Paris. Both young people must deal with the utter horror of that war of wars, and the reader must go through the grueling trials and tribulations with them. We know it is inevitable that they meet. A great deal is inevitable in any story about [Read more…]

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