LA Book Fair gets easier to handle with tickets

It’s this weekend, all of you living in Los Angeles – the Book Festival.

The first time I went to the LA Book Fair I was shocked to learn that there were that many readers in LA, never mind that many people excited enough about books to attend a book fair.  It’s a crazy-crowded event every year, but much easier to get to now that it has moved to USC and now that USC has metro transit right to it’s many gates.

To make it even easier, you can check out all the talks and panel discussions being held, and order tickets for just one-dollar each.  Meet some of your favorite authors or consider some of your favorite topics.  I’ve signed up for something about portraying American Identity (as a Canadian writing in the US this is something I should at least consider!), a panel on journalistic ethics, another on legalizing marijuana, and more.  These tickets give me a chance to find a place to sit down as a rest stop, having strolled through acres of books.


You’re Beautiful

YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL video interview with the actors

You’re Beautiful! trailer

You’re Beautiful (directed by Lolade Leigh-Thompson, 2012)

Canadian producer/director Lolade Leigh-Thompson and her amazing cast appeared before an enthusiastic audience at the Pan-African film festival in Los Angeles (Feb, 2012) and wowed everyone with their poise and pleasure in this work.

The message is simple – self-esteem for kids is sometimes hard-won.  Overcoming some disfigurement, standing up to bullying, and being loyal to friends might trump what else might be on the middle-school curriculum.  You simply can’t learn much if you feel badly about yourself, or what you did or didn’t do for a friend, until you learn to love yourself and others.  It can’t be said too often, kids:  “You’re beautiful.”

The director, Lolade Leigh-Thompson, sets a fine example for the cast and young audience, bringing out this work.

Enjoy the film, and an interview of the cast on YouTube:



Meet William-Henry Ireland, “the original slacker” says the Independent Shakespeare Company.

Last night I saw the last (for now) performance of this amazing one-person play, the one-person actor being David Melville.  He can pull anything off with comic aplomb, perfect timing… And Melville is in his element with this turn around on authenticity.  His character, Ireland, isn’t stealing other people’s work; he’s selling his own under Shakespeare’s name.  Now, he’s no great talent so he’s busted right away, and the more authentic aspect of the story is the father-son relationship, a son trying anything to please a father (if that man really is the father…)

This screams out for us to consider what is authentic, and who cares.  All language is shared, passed on, and held in common.  The Christian scriptures are texts attributed to a particular tradition related to a particular person, not necessarily composed by that individual.  So Ireland is writing in the School of Shakespeare, authentic insofar as he is trying his best to get it right.

Okay, I’m obsessed with this question (see No Words for Love and Famine) but even if you aren’t, and if there’s another opportunity to see this play, GO SEE THIS PLAY!  It really is wonderful.


Lent Continues

I’m reading Osho’s And the Flowers Showered.  Here is Osho on information, a prophet to the information age:

When we accumulate knowledge, what do we do?  Nothing changes inside; the being remains absolutely unaffected.  Just like dust, information gathers around you — just like dust gathering around a mirror.  The mirror remains the same, only it loses its mirroring quality…

Mind is a parrot.  I have heard – it happened in the days of Joseph Stalin – a man, a very prominent communist, came to the Moscow police station and reported that his parrot was missing.  Because this man was a very prominent communist, the chief at the police station inquired about the parrot, for it was significant and had to be searched for.  In his inquiries he asked, “Does the parrot talk?”  The communist, the comrade, felt a slight fear, and then he said, “Yes, he talks.  But not it down:  whatever political opinions he has, they are completely his own.”…

But how can a parrot have opinions of its own?  A parrot cannot have opinions of its own – and neither can the mind, because the mind is a mechanism.  … You become original only when you transcend mind.  When the mind is dropped, and the consciousness faces existence directly, immediately…

This is true of my writing practices, more disciplined I’m afraid than my prayer practice.  When I’m stuck I meditate, clear my mind of everything, empty myself, and then the truth of my characters comes to me.  She has brown eyes; he wouldn’t say that.  He wouldn’t say anything but instead would turn away.  It seems absolutely true, what comes to me as fiction when I shut up and empty my mind of what I think – when I let the characters simply be.  This is not me being original, but rather my characters being original.

Religious people are used to thinking of ourselves as God’s creatures; maybe we can experience our freedom more authentically as God’s characters, original, playing in this fictional space that we call creation.

Weed Country

Nathaniel Morris is a character on Discovery Channel’s new series Weed Country.  A reality television series, it premiered on Wednesday night, and Nathaniel is involved because of his research into CBD, a non-psychoactive component in cannabis that has proven effective in treating life-threatening seizures in treatment resistant epilepsy.

The research is now being taken up by Stanford University, and we’re writing a grow guide specifically for people trying to produce this medicine. You can learn more about it at his website and watch the show.  Serious science meets reality television?  Why yes, this is California after all and yeah, life really is stranger than fiction.  More on that subject (life and fiction, rather than medical marijuana) tomorrow.


Paper products

The other day I bought an ebook online, the Buddhist poet Osho’s And the Flowers Showered.  This was a mistake, it seemed — not buying the book but buying an electronic version because there were so many passages I wanted to annotate, refer back to.  I do this with my ebooks but it’s just not the same as actually making marginal notes and then doggy-earing thee page.  I want to be able to go back and touch the text.

So I asked my house guest, Paul, who is a strong practicing Buddhist himself and practices calligraphy, if he wouldn’t mind copying it out for me.

He’s made a beautiful page that I will upload here for you, and now it has returned to an electronic version.  What irony.

You are nothing but a hand extended by the whole to reach the ultimate.

You are nothing but a wave coming from the whole to touch the moon.

You are nothing but a flower opening, so that the whole is filled with fragrance through you.

And we’ve been discussing the work of the physicist David Bohm, so he added the quote at the bottom “You are a semi-autnomous abstraction from the whole.”  Paul acknowledged Bohm lacks Oshu’s poetic skill but still that both books rested on my table and now on this site is sweet.

Howard Adelman analyzes the Israel and US elections – brilliantly of course

What I first learned about Howard  Adelman was that he never slept – at least that is what was said about him in the Student Lounge when I was working on my doctorate in philosophy.   A philosophy professor at York University in Canada, he is perhaps better known as the author of several books on refugees, on genocide, on education policy (,  and he’s also as a television producer, parent, and some sort of genius with real estate. 

For me he is primarily a rescuer, rescuing my doctoral project when he stepped up to the plate to serve as my adviser.  My original adviser, still a friend and colleague, acknowledged that where I was going with film and metaphysics he couldn’t easily follow, let alone direct this research.

When Howard and first met and I already had the draft of a 300 page dissertation.  He agreed he’d look at it but couldn’t possibly get back to me with an answer until he returned in a month from a trip to Africa he was taking for the UN.  Metaphysics and movies could wait, I quickly agreed.  Yet the next morning I opened my email and there was a detailed analysis, chapter by chapter, if the work I’d done to date and where I might want to head with it, including some bibliography, and an assurance that he would help me bring together a new committee including a reknowned professor from New York.  Really, the man doesn’t sleep.

Now ten years later as we celebrated Martin Luther King Day and Obama’s inauguration here in the US, Israelis were preparing to vote the next day, and quite possibly changed the course of their history in a choice that give credence to Dr. Kings claim, “The arc of history bends slowly, but it bends toward justice.”  Howard Adelman, back in Canada, was analyzing the Israeli election, an analysis I re-posted on the American Catholic Church blog (see “Manna and Social Justice”  Now a week later he promises to turn his attention to the U.S. inauguration and the American left’s tepid response to Obama.  I’ve soon this not-yet-posted-but-promising-to-be-insightful piece. 

What can I say but … the man never sleeps. Check out Howard Adelman’s blog for yourself.  (

WAR AND PEACE – Martin Luther King Day, Obama’s second inauguration, possibly three unrelated topics

The heartbreak Tolstoy is to me…

The context of this writing is that on Martin Luther King Day 2013 and Obama’s second inauguration where he promises to support greater equality for LGBTQ couples, I’m just finishing reading WAR AND PEACE.

Okay, so I’m a year into WAR AND PEACE and almost finished the tome.  Please understand, this is not my reading habit.  I avoid long novels because, as a novelist myself, once I get into a novel good or bad they become equally fascinating to me, as I try to understand these aesthetic judgments:  What makes this novel good?  What makes this novel bad?

What I know before I start is that this novel has been deemed ‘good’ and is ‘a classic’ so the risk is slight.  Yet the book is very long, so as slight as the risk is, given its length, if the judgment of critics is wrong it will represent a huge waste of time for me whereas a bad novella represents less risk.

These were thoughts of a year ago, a thousand pages ago.  I’ve read many other novels in between, some good, some wonderful, and one big disappointment (and it was long and the critics had assured me I would love this other novel, so yes, there is always a risk).  Good or bad, that is not my thought as I’m coming to the end of WAR AND PEACE.

My thought as I come to some of the beautiful passages of heart break and stupidity that Tolstoy tells with unflinching prose, is that this is a profoundly Christian tale, way longer than any of the four gospels, embedded in a completely different historical context and in a completely different climate – instead of the desert we read of Russian winter approaching, then overtaking the army.

This is not the heartbreak.   I share Tolstoy’s faith, though mine is weaker than his, I’m quite sure.  Yet the sense that WAR AND PEACE is retelling of the Gospels in some passages at least, I find heartbreaking because it calls into question the integrity of storytelling, and of my own ability to know anything about the Gospels.  I wonder if what is beautiful to me is merely what confirms my beliefs, a belief wrapped in the intelligibility of the story, the integrity of the story.  God is beyond all that, other than that, more than that.

So is all writing an attempt to ‘ef’ the ineffable, as one lover accused me of attempting long ago, pun intended I suspect? I can’t ask him; he left years ago. And is great writing just doing that well, better than I can achieve.

I’m almost finished WAR AND PEACE and then, most likely, I start rereading it.

January 22, 2013

Self-help group starting for those still reading WAR and PEACE

How can you not appreciate Tolstoy’s War and Peace?  I do.  I’ve been appreciating it slowly for almost a year now.  It’s on my KOBO reader, as are a great many other novels.  I love my Kobo reader.  I’m loving War and Peace.  We go to bed together almost every night.  At this rate, it might become the longest love affair in my life.  More later….

More poetry in 2013

“I think that I shall never see

a poem as lovely as a tree…”

That poem has always bothered me.

It’s like comparing apples to oranges, though this sort of cross-domain thinking is the cruz of metaphor.  Surely it’s not a trade-off; we can have both, and protecting forests, planting trees, and making more poetry would be a good set of resolutions to this new year.  That’s my train of thought this morning when I read about VQR‘s new series.  We can flood our social media networks with poems instead of pet-pictures in 2013, judged by one of my favorite writing bloggers.  Here are the specifice:

As part of a poetry publishing experiment, VQR is launching an Instapoetry series, to which all poets are invited to submit poems for consideration. What is the Instapoetry series? Brief poems of 14 lines or fewer, designed to be shared and distributed across social networks such as Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest. But you do not have to be an Instagram user to participate.

Here’s how it works.

1. You submit poems for consideration. 2. Selected poems are designed by VQR to be optimally viewed and shared through apps and sites such as Instagram. 3. VQR shares and distributes the poems every week through its own social media accounts, including Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. 4. Everyone is invited to share and comment.

We are thrilled to have Robert Brewer, editor of Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market—and published poet—to be curator of the series.

Click here to view the full set of guidelines. We look forward to reviewing your submissions!