In My Virtual Travels

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I have been in awe of the creative beauty I've come across lately.  There seems to be a sort of hush over us all, something contemplative and reverent.  There also seems to be a lot of pain, the unavoidable kind that comes with transitions that you didn't ask for.  I want to share with you what I've found... what I've been so moved by that telling you about it just won't do.  You have to see for yourself. 

Milkmoon - a blog that was listed as a "Blog of Note" that has charmed me many times over.  This post, "Upon Seeing a Dear Friend" put tears in my eyes.

Neil Gaiman's Journal - Mr. Gaiman shares the passing of his feline friend, Zoe.  I've put a link to his whole Journal, rather than one post, because this is a story told over several posts.  The most recent post isn't about Zoe exactly, but the last 3 or 4 were.  I haven't had the courage to read them all.  It's too sad.  And so painfully, beautifully written (what I've had the guts to read, that is). 

It's Creative Writing - one of my hands down favorite blogs.  Molly has two blogs and I love them both.  But this poem stopped my breath.  It's been running around in my head for two days now, seeming to fit so many people and so many situations that it seems to have been written for now.

The Hermitage - another I found as a "Blog of Note" around the same time I found Milkmoon.  I am in love with the whimsy and wandering spirit of Rima.  This post indicates she is going through a hard and lonely transition.  And though I don't know her at all, I wish her all the best.  When the words come out this true, it's hard not to feel a kinship.

The Dark Tower, At Last

Thursday, January 21, 2010


   I wrote this in the wee morning hours this past Sunday.  But due to some technical difficulties and life hinderances, I am only now able to post.  I hope this finds you well.


Yes, it's true, friends.  I have come to the end of the gunslinger's long journey, the completion of Stephen King's magnum opus, and I am here to make my report.  You'll get no spoilers from me, however.  Nay, never in life, for I would not be the one to ruin or lessen the experience for those who have not yet traveled this path.  I myself had the opportunity to walk through this world innocent, never knowing what lie over the next hill.  And I would have you do the same, for that, I believe, would be the author's wish.  Let him tell it on his terms.

What I will give you instead are my impressions, though they may be vague.  Think of this as a diary entry written by one who, though compelled to record their experiences, is paranoid that the diary itself may slip into the wrong hands.

The Dark Tower, the final installment of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, is, of course, beautiful and terrible and, at times, nearly unbearable.  There came a point (two points, actually, now that I think of it) when I had to put it down.  I had to take a break for a day (and once for two) because I was so shattered and so (let's admit it) depressed that I didn't know if I could go on.  But of course, I did go on.  Like the gunslinger, I was too close.  I had to see this through to the end.  And I can tell you, bittersweet though it may be, it is well worth it.  There is joy here, and a terrifying twist of fate that made me shudder.  (I think my exact words, muttered under my breath in hushed, horrified tones, were, "No f-ing way…")  But it is brilliance all the same, a true masterpiece.  And it is perfect.

The personal touches, by the way, sai King… you said you hoped they weren't pretentious.  They weren't, though I must admit I was a mite scared of that when they first came up.  But, of course, and as always, you didn't disappoint.  And we, your "constant readers", we all say thankya.  Truly, for this epic tale is worth every last syllable.

As a quick side note, I have a friend who got snagged at the end of Wizard and Glass (Vol. IV, ya ken).  There was some oddity there she couldn't get past and so never picked up the Fifth (Wolves of the Calla).  I would urge this friend (and any of you that may have a similar problem) to go on.  The journey deepens and, in some respects, gets wilder still.  But hang in there.  There are places to see and people to meet and experiences I wouldn't have you miss for all the worlds.  (See Jake Chambers vs. a New York taxi cab.  It is worthy.)

All in all, this is an addictive and powerful series, seemingly infused with a living, breathing soul of the kind that makes really, really good fiction what it is.  There are many twists and turns and backtracks along the way.  But what may seem random at first finds its way to its purpose and becomes so crucial to the story that, by the end, you can't see how it could have been told without it.

The characters in The Dark Tower are like dear friends to me now, and I am sad to see it end.  But I suppose it's time to move on.  Get out of Stephen King's glammer for awhile.  Oh, there is still much more of King's world that I have yet to explore.  Under the Dome, for instance, which I bought as soon as it came out and which sits unopened (aside from the teensiest peek at the inside dust jacket, just to see what it might be about… it is tantalizingly blank, adding almost irresistible mystery to the novel) on my computer desk.  And I've never read Cujo or Needful Things.  (And what kind of King fan hasn't read Cujo?)  But, alas, I must put these off for a little while longer.  I believe even Master King would agree that too limited a reading diet isn't good for the writer's mind.  I have some other tales waiting for me, spun by other wordslingers.  Perhaps The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, which I bought on a whim.  Or that YA novel which intrigued me… Unwind by Neal Shusterman.  Whatever I choose, it's time to go out and try something new.

As the boy said, there are other worlds than these.

Taking Your Comments

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


It appears there were some technical difficulties when people tried to post comments to my blog.  I am here to assure you that all is now well.  You can now comment on my rambling madness to your heart's content and it will actually post.  Just give me a minute (or a day or so – I've gotta' go spark-hunting some time) for me to review it.  As long as whatever you've got to say isn't too offensive (you know Blogger's rules – we all have to abide by them), I'm sure I'll post it.  And maybe even comment back.  Who knows?  Either way, the comments department (ha!) is back in business.  Welcome, one and all. 

The Audacity of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 18, 2010


In honor of the man and the dream.  Thank you, Dr. King, for daring to change the world for all of us. 

Subtle Prejudice

Friday, January 15, 2010

First, I need to note that the image to your left was taken by D. Sharon Pruitt from the Creative Commons website (  She asked that we give her credit when using her work.

And now:

I composed a book on this subject last night.  However, you'll be relieved to hear that I didn't have my flash drive with me at the time and the computer I drafted it on doesn't have internet access.  I'll just have to wing it.  Besides, I supposed it was a bit wordy...

Instead I'm going to tell you the truest thing that I know.  All people, regardless of who they are, where the come from, how they dress, what they believe, who they love or where they sleep at night are of equal worth.  All of them.  All of us.  Because that's the issue here, isn't it?  Prejudice is what happens when we say, "You aren't one of us.  You're different, which must mean you're not as good."

We seem to feel this need to draw lines and paint things with judgments of black or white.  We determine that this one is "good" and this one is "bad".  This is necessary to a certain degree.  It's how we as humans make sense of our world and strive to keep ourselves and those we love safe.  Because we learn at an early age that all people may be people, but not all people have our best interest at heart.  It's a fact of nature that will always be there.  So, yes, we must make "judgments" so to speak on our fellow humans.  To make such judgments based on what an individual does, the choices they make, whether they are open and loving or angry and hurtful, this is healthy.  This is smart.  But to determine a person's worth or place in society based on nothing more than their race, creed, color, sexual orientation, income or what side of town they grew up on, this is ludicrous.  This is prejudice.  And it is alive and well in America, no matter how far we've come.

Most prejudice is subtle.  It is perpetuated through little turns of phrases that belittle others, sayings many people take for granted.  For instance, my son picked up the local vernacular and started calling things he saw as ridiculous or not worth his time "gay".  We had a long discussion (a few of them, actually) about why this is a bigoted thing to say and what harm it does.  You wouldn't say something you considered useless or silly "black", would you?  How about "Baptist".  Or, try this on for size, "That's so Mexican."  Are you horrified?  You should be.  But I am willing to bet there are people somewhere who use this little phrase all the time.  Because it's what people do.  A group of people confuse us or annoy us or make us uncomfortable, and we deal with it by belittling them.  So, other people hear the phrase.  And they start saying it.  And all of a sudden, it's everywhere.  Gay becomes synonymous with "worthless" and "foolish".  But it's harmless, right?

I'm going to let you ponder that one for yourself.  And I'd ask that you consider how many homosexuals end up hospitalized and/or dead simply because they're gay.  The same is true for other groups, as well.  People in our oh-so-modern society are victims of prejudice every hour of every day.  This is not just a stain on our history, friends.  This is now.  This is happening.

Today, since my time is short, I'll close by asking of you one small thing.  I'd ask you to look for hidden prejudices within yourself, no matter how progressive or "liberal" you may consider yourself.  Listen to what words you use to mean useless or foolish.  Listen to the insults you throw.  And listen to others.  You'll hear it, in little "innocent" comments, the type of which breed enough hate and give enough justification to get people killed.  Just watch the news... if your eyes are open, you'll see for yourself.

Weekly Observance II

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


This past week has been one crazy thing after another.  For this reason, I'm doing another Weekly Observance because I haven't had the time to flesh out a whole subject for you.  Please forgive the randomness. 

My recent observations:

1.    New Decade: 2010 or 2011? - I have been informed that, despite the proclamations of the media (which is what I based my own claim on), this is not, in fact, the beginning of the new decade.  Because the first year of recorded history was not considered Year 0, but was rather Year 1, we won't officially begin the new decade until 2011.  Don't kill the messenger.  I just report what I hear.  If you doubt this theory, here are a few links to back it up.  Feel free to argue with me if you want (just click on the comment bubble in the top right hand corner of this blog), but even though it's a bit of a let down, I think that, technically, this is correct.

 2.    Murphy's Law - Small home renovation projects (just the bathroom… that's all we really asked for) will invariably turn into HUGE renovation projects, with or without your approval.  I have come to believe this is part of Murphy's Law.  And if you've ever wondered what Murphy's Law actually says, I've thrown in the wiki link for your quick reference.  I know.  Nothing about home renovation.  But still, I'm convinced it applies.  (And, yes, sai, still not moved into the house… say sorry.)

3.    The Cost of Real Food - Basic, wholesome food is vastly more expensive (in most cases) than nutrient deficient, overly-processed food, and this makes me very, very angry.  Not because of the cost alone, but because of the implications this carries.  If the basic fuel that a human body needs is the most expensive thing to obtain, then this means that we are expecting our poor to get sick and die at an early age.  You cannot live a long and healthy life on a bad diet, but for many people, this is all they can afford.  White bread, for instance, which carries nowhere near the nutritional value of whole wheat, is dirt cheap in comparison.  Likewise, it's often cheaper to eat fast food from Mickey D's than it is to prepare a meal with fresh meats and fresh produce.  Not that I don't like my junk food now and then, but it's supposed to be a luxury, not what you eat every day for sustenance because you can't afford real food!  There will be more on this later.  My dear friend CK commented on an old blog of mine (see The Problem With Money; and got the idea ruminating in my head.  This idea visited me again as I was preparing holiday foods, but I didn't have the time then to get it all down.  But it's coming, friends, and when it does I hope it is informative and useful.  Because I know that there are ways around this, if you are resourceful.  Being poor or not-so-well-off shouldn't mean that you don't have the right to a healthy immune system, strong muscles and the ability to use your well-fueled mind at its full capacity.

4.    It's a Conspiracy - On a lighter (though only slightly less frustrating) note, I have come to the conclusion that all good television series get canceled in one or two seasons.  I don't think this is so much Murphy's Law as some act passed by Congress in secret and under cloak of darkness.  Or perhaps it's some kind of conspiracy to make sure there are always slots open for really bad 'reality' shows and that none of the prime time slots get eaten up by anything too original or interesting.  Perhaps it would shame the rest of the shows into improving, and that in turn might put the networks over budget… I don't know.  But it makes one rather noncommittal… like a person being constantly dumped by lover after lover until they can no longer bring themselves to believe that the next one will stick around, so they don't bother to put themselves out there again.  It's a classic tale, and so sad when it happens to viewers of the ever-present boob-tube.

That's all for today, my friends, but I will be back soon, never you worry.  I 've got a blog on prejudice brewing in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and also because it is a subject which I feel is worth examining in full light.  Until then, please continue to use your inalienable right to think for yourself.

Treasures & Miscellanea

Friday, January 8, 2010

I found this treasure in my post-holiday sales scavenging.  Or rather, I should say, my beloved found it for me.  He has an eye for these things.  We had gone to a local bookstore to find calendars for the new year.  This is now my 2010 office calendar. 

It's different than what I normally have to look at while I work.  Usually it's something with beautiful nature scenes to mark the passing of time.  But this spoke to me.

I live and work in a very conservative place.   (My "foreign correspondents" are, I'm sure, laughing at this  blatant understatement.)  There's not much in the way of diversity around me, so I was very pleased to find this lovely piece of work that represents a blending of cultures and religions in the most harmonious way.  The artwork is by Michael Green and it appears to be primarily a merging of Celtic Pagan and Christian imagery, incorporating such phrases as "Blessed Be" and "I am that I am; I am that by which all else is known."  But flipping through the first few months shows that all of the major holidays are listed, including holidays from faiths that are more commonly ignored in other, more "conventional" calendars.  For February alone I can see listed Imbolc (Pagan/Wiccan), Nirvana Day (Buddhist), Maha Shivaratri (Hindu), Chinese New Year (complete with a mention of what year this will be - that of the Tiger), Losar (Tibetan New Year), Ash Wednesday (Christian), Mawlid al-Nabi (Islamic) and Purim (Jewish).  Those who know me best know what such a beautiful and useful tool like this means to me.

But, of course, what struck me first was the artwork.  It is stunning.  You'll just have to trust me on this, or please, by all means, check it out for yourself. 

Now I'd like to direct you to the following link, which is the Writer's Almanac for January 8, 2010.  Here you'll find a poem that gave me goosebumps (and more than a brief philosophical pause, as my mind wandered into the implications it presented) and a writer who is starting her new novel on this very day.

 There is much more I'd like to report on, so I should be back soon.  I've got a day to myself coming up and writing is definitely on the agenda.  Until then, be well!