Last Minute Xmas Gift Offer From The Tin Hats Blog (We’re Not Talking Books)

I’m afraid this product is already sold out – but you can pre-order here. Happy Christmas!

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In this time of Trumpist bullhorns spreading absurd and harmful claims, I began thinking about the lowly dog whistle. After all, a bullhorn is like an AR-15, everyone can hear and understand. Why waste time with indirect words, when one can rip somebody’s heart out? But then it occurred to me that after Trump leaves office, maybe the dog whistle will make a comeback. Trump supporters might be forced to be more subtle in their disinformation and hatred without a president to goad and shield them. If that were to happen, one might be able to make good money off the sale of upgraded dog whistles.

Here is how it could work:

I’m glad to announce the Universal Dog Whistle for sale on the Tin Hats Blog. That’s right, we’re selling the ultimate dog whistle for conveying all of your homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, antidemocratic, racist, ageist, climate change denial, and…

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It’s a Damn Shame

When I heard the news the baby and I went to bed. I don’t know how … but we both fell right to sleep. Perhaps it was the shock.

Before John Lennon formed The Beatles, entertainers were brand names to be marketed and sold. The words they spoke were fed to them based on careful calculations. A really good example of what I’m talking about is the Netflix movie “Mank.” It’s about the early days of Hollywood when the public was fed stories about their favorite stars and those stars were expected to play the roles assigned to them. For example, the story that Mary Pickford was a forty year old virgin was a joke in Hollywood but apparently believed by her adoring public. Screenwriters were generally established writers slumming it for a few easy bucks. If asked to write a script for a political ad that deliberately mislead voters, they were expected to comply or risk being ruined both financially and professionally. However, when a writer knowingly deceives his readers, he generally calls it fiction.

Anyway, like the Mank character, John Lennon, whether you liked him or not, showed us that honestly over time is the only thing that gives art meaning. It’s just a damn shame he’s not here to lead us all into old age.

Tragedy Wears Many Hats

If you’ve ever read Duke Miller’s stories (which I repost here often), often they are grim recollections of his twenty years of refugee work, filled with regrets and sorrows but beautifully written. This is particularly true of his first book “Living and Dying with Dogs” and its companion piece “Handbook for the Hopeless,” a guide to getting and keeping a job (and your head) in a war zone. After our publisher closed up shop and we formed John’s Motorcycle Storage and Rare Book Disposal Publishing, Duke combined the two books into “Living and Dying with Dogs, Turbo Edition.”

It has been said of Duke that being pissed off is his way of dealing with life, however, his newest book, Tragedy Wears Many Hats, reflects a man who is in love with love, living in a world that conspires against its survival.  Oh, there are a few pieces of “prose poetry” as he calls them, which bemoan the human condition, either comically or tragically but … well … I’ll post a few passages and you tell me if I’m right.

From Map of the Lungs:

My happiness blinked as I rolled to touch your warm skin, you were an ocean where the mountains rose beneath and the skeleton fish darted through slim channels, in never times, hours unkept, and I journeyed there, sighting upon your star-shaped pores, drinking at your eyes, never to live like that again, and I saw your map of lungs, there, at the bottom of the sea

From Dressing:

We are all so helpless in this life, even the strongest and the richest and the wisest … the burden of scars forcing us to crawl while others run

Yet, there is the dressing of love, let us gently press it down

From Emaciated Horses

You need only tilt your head and let the wonder become your eyes and there it will be, everything great and small, the warm sad beauty that gives us life, that covers us with this terrible love we cannot name or forget

From Your Eyes:

I think of you and how easy it is to die, so very easy, and it is a lonely thing, but what a joy to have been part of your eyes

Sometimes I am filled up with so much feeling I can hardly stand it, it is like I’m trying to squeeze the last drop of life out of my brain and let it stream out of my eyes and onto a page of paper, like this one

Duke Miller

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks getting accustomed to a new computer (after seven years) and helping friends of mine either publish or get the word out about their books. First, I have to agree with all my blogging buddies who find WordPress’ new block editor a pain in the butt. I’ve lost hours of time trying the figure it out. Ugh.

On to more pleasant topics, back in September (golly it seems so long ago doesn’t it?) my friend Mary published her fourth book! Wow. Considering that Mary holds down a job, is married and has children still around the house and is still able to not only write novels but also help other authors promote their work is truly mind-blowing for me.

Mary’s novels generally involve young women who’ve had to overcome either eating disorders, obsessions with a life that could’ve been, or the old and familiar bugaboo to us all … choosing and then sticking with the wrong partner. Her newest I Doesn’t Have to Be That Way addresses the reasons behind toxic relationships both in the workplace and in our personal life.  It is an honest portrayal that I’m sure was difficult to write but bravo to Mary for sticking it out.

Here was my five star review:

It Doesn’t have to be that Way is about Molly and Fred, two people with little in common except that both are stuck in a rut. Molly fell into her office job directly out of college and, although the work environment has gotten toxic, needs a kick in the pants to move on. The same could be said for her personal life. In flashbacks, we find out that her pattern has always been to rush into, and then find excuses to remain in, unhealthy relationships with men. Fred, who’s in his seventies, still mourns the fate of his brother who may or may not have killed someone in a PTSD-fueled rage. His failed marriage has left him only comfortable with virtual relationships (via his shortwave radio) or with women young enough to have been the daughter he never had (Molly.) As both begin to change direction they realize their futures might be tragically intertwined. 

Mary’s very happy pooch agrees with me!

I interviewed Mary after the publication of her first novel when we were both still with Booktrope. It’s hard to believe that was back in 2014.  Over the years I’ve come to adore this lady. She is classy, generous and just a really great chum.

Tomorrow: a new book from Duke Miller who, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know quite well.

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever

Unlike New England or even Jolly Old England, here in California we generally have two seasons: Green and Brown. Right now we’re between the two. Cold, dry days but not enough rain for our season of green to commence.

Last night my husband said to me “this was the worst Thanksgiving ever.” Considering that he generally has to be dragged to holiday celebrations and makes faces when I invite guests over to share “his” turkey, it provoked a sharp response from me. “You bloody hypocrite!” But in truth I’ve always known he doth protest too much. If he doesn’t get at least five requests for his famed Mac and Cheese recipe at holiday events, his year is ruined. Last year my best friend’s children fought over the leftovers and he spent the whole next day typing meticulous instructions (three pages long) to email to them all. He was a happy man.

Joel’s pumpkin pie – he makes three of them at Thanksgiving.

This year, although he wasn’t “forced” to share his pumpkin pie, he realized maybe it’s not so much fun to eat it all by himself. A good lesson as that’s what the holiday is supposed to represent. Not the massive gathering of family during which deep seated resentments are bound to leave at least one family member hurt. Or hosting large gatherings that leave you cleaning the house for days afterward. But just simply sharing.

Speaking of families, the “children” of my Red Squill (seen above at its most glorious) continue to sprout at her withered base.

The eldest is above and below the youngest.

I know it’s greedy but I’m hoping she will have many more children who will somehow survive the coming winter and rise again in late August 2021.

Five Points Of My Life: Point Number One

My computer died and while I am setting up a new one, another haunting piece from Duke.

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The boat dropped me off on a Sobat River sandbar.  The Ethiopian border was fifteen miles away and if you looked on the map, you’d find my location to be on the southern edge of the Greater Upper Nile region.  There were 600,000 displaced Sudanese on the march.  The Mengistu government had fallen and all of the safe-haven camps on the border were now closed. The Sudanese had to go home and so they left by the hundreds of thousands, crying and complaining; grieving over the lost protection of Mengistu, who happened to be one of the world’s worst dictators at the time. He’d eventually be found guilty of genocide and the death of 2,000,000 people, but due to the winds of Africa, he would avoid arrest and float down to a luxurious life in Zimbabwe.   

Poetry and music were of no help to the Sudanese fleeing Ethiopia. Thoughts…

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A Kind of Madness

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I’ve settled upon a few things about writing and reading and they are like imprints I can feel … breath and heartbeat on my walk, smooth stones in my lungs … and they take in everything that I can see and think, everything that is real

Voice is the key to writing, on the wire, in the wind as the Indian nations listen to pole and track … falling upon the ground in disbelief, dying suddenly, asleep, a great sadness, as if all the blood in the world has vanished upon some threshold unknown to me

Style is more important than content, just ask the sun in the sky, a unique style gives one the confidence to refashion birth and death with cotton candy and endless spoons

Honesty over truth, since no one knows the truth, particularly people who were there, hurt in those lost moments, so far away, dense…

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The cub is coming

I received a 2021 calendar in the mail today. It’s nice to know that someone is hopeful.

2020 lies exhausted and sends forth her fierce and determined cub. It’s an image I’ll keep in mind as we go forth into strange territory.

The strange Red Quill which bloomed so spectacularly as my mother lay dying and a million acres burnt to dust here in California, is now spent but at its roots, seems ready once again to surprise me.

I noticed a bit of green at the base of the dried stalk on Halloween day.

A few days later it was splitting. And what’s that on the other side?

Another bit a green amidst the dying leaves. You just never know.

I voted weeks ago and so tomorrow I’m making bread … from scratch. Rosemary, garlic bread. And I’ll eat it hot with plenty of butter. And I’ll try to keep in mind that fierce little cub. She’s coming.

Feeling My Body

The way I’m feeling …

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This is from something I wrote a long time ago and I had forgotten about it as I have with most of what I have written. When I read it, I was surprised. Why did I write that? I can’t recall.

We are more than just what we do and say, more than our DNA and the way we grow. We are also the way we remember. Our memories, regardless of how accurate, are like paint and brush upon skin. We become what we remember.

This is a cutting of what I recalled, and like I say, I have forgotten it, but now try to remember it once again. Life is confusing, but everything will be peaceful at the end. No more doubts and worries, no more heart attacks at night, or moans in the soft garden, only a great longing for something we cannot name.

I have updated it…

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Spent #WordlessWednesday

I took this picture early this morning just before dawn broke. I believe this plant is called a “smoke bush.”

The morning air was a nippy 57 degrees with bright blue skies and finally, finally some hope the temperatures were cooling. And they did but only slightly. Tomorrow should be a repeat of today.

Meanwhile the red quill is spent. It’s five and a half inch stalk now lies on the ground, it’s tip propped up by other plants also dying.