growing old

Posted: June 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

I have to go into the hospital tomorrow for what they’re calling minor surgery. This hands me a laugh, as Arthur says in “Bang the Drum Slowly”. The doctor intends to take offensive weapons and show a little device under my skin to keep my heart beating.
I’m really puzzled by what else I could have done to keep my heart healthy. I was on the swim team through my junior year in college, but I couldn’t keep it up any longer–the chlorine clouded my eyes until ten o’clock or so. I wasn’t a spectacular student then (not that I’ve ever set records for sublime genius) so I had to drop aside.
Still, I’ve exercised all the time, running, lifting weights, golf, tennis, my heart doesn’t seem to have noticed. So they’ll put this little gizmo under my skin, and It’ll keep my heart beating correctly. They’ll tell me that I’ll have more energy, be more alert, all that.
Well, we’ll see.
Best day in a couple of years at golf yesterday–36, with 14 putts. Maybe I can dwell on that as I can’t play again for 4-6 weeks.Sorry to sound whiny. I guess I’m a bit more frightened than I like to admit.

Been a long Time

Posted: April 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

Hello, Friends:

I’m very sorry I’ve been away. My own writing–I.e., that which I do professionally–has occupied much of my time. It’s strange, but I truly love to write–I love to create things, live with them, develop characters. write love scenes.

Creative people are much feared, I’m afraid. I noticed some time ago that people tend to reject my humor or, at least, my attempts at humor. My good friend Mike Stevens, who was principal at Prospect High School for a time, said to me once, “I don’t know how to take you.”

Now Mike and I were good friends and I did appreciate his honesty. that was something we strived for when I was at Forest View. I remember a very honest talk with Barb Fryzel, a brilliant teacher, about appropriate responses to one another. A quarter of a century later (at least) I had another serious discussion with a woman whom I consider a lifetime best friend, Marcia Hammond. We both agreed that the friendship we had could not go anywhere beyond self-disclosing, kindly honesty.

In these latter days, it seems vital that we work for such understandings. Really. It is not a bad idea to set standards in a relationship that are potentially awkward. Pastor Brian Coffey, a good friend, was chatting to a group of married people on a Valentine’s Day get-together. He acknowledged that sex can occasionally be awkward between married people. He strongly suggested that sex can be satisfying again if people agree to it–time, place, other factors.

These factors, at least, can lead to agreement–more can of course be specified. But then a lot of ideas can go into it.

I used to date a girl who planned everything. We finally broke off, and I think a lot had to do with her lack of spontaneity. She planned everything, down to the nub. I admired her for it. We broke up, her idea, because I drove her crazy with my freewheeling approach to life. Jung covers this in his theories of personality: thinkers vs. spontaneity.

We’d have driven each other crazy.

Hope all is well. Let me know how you like this. Best, Jeff

April Showers

Posted: April 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

April has been, and remains to this day, one of my favorite months. Since Jacqi and I quit skiing (which cost us not a few friends, Like Bob and Carol Navratil, Tom and Margie Hoffman, and Ron and CB Bild, but others as well) it seems wise to reflect on friends and who they are. I write on occasion about reunions–people getting together after long absences. For example in my book Emerald, two lovers are reunited after 17 years; another two after more than 300 years.
I guess it has to do with me and with my inability to hold on to friends. I fortunately am married to a gregarious, loyal woman who loves me despite what other people think. I mentioned before that I am so right brained that I slant to that side when I walk, and many people have a hard time with that. I am a very different person in this regard: I’m always looking for new ways to do things.
At one point, when we lived in another suburb, a neighbor showed up at the front door and announced that she didn’t like me at all, and she had come to confess it. I didn’t have, and still don’t, why she felt compelled to tell me such an awful thing. Two nights later, the husband joined her and took us to a local park, where he confessed that he couldn’t stand me either. After a few moments of this self revelation, rendered under the guise of confession, they clearly felt better. As for me, it took me months to recover.
We had a meeting with these people and the elders of our church. My wife, Jacqi, demonstrated profound wisdom when she said, “Look. If I go to (she mentioned a name) and say ‘I have to confess that I really can’t stand your hairstyle’, for some reason, that doesn’t do anything but hurt her feelings. No matter how you feel, this can never work.”
I was incoherent with anger at this point and left. The other couple blamed the pastors who met with us and never acknowledged that they had any blame in the situation. We moved away from the neighborhood some time later, and felt better about it.
I guess that we who see the world differently tend to come under judgement by others who feel that it is wrong not to see the world as they, or the majority (if there is such a majority) are right, and people like me are wrong, wrong, wrong. Forgive me if I see the world differently.
Please.

Struggling

Posted: January 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

When someone looks at a successful author, I think they don’t realize how tough it is to be creative and to write meaningful stuff. That’s me. I’ve got a new book really near–but I can’t get down to writing it.
That’s not really true. When I started writing, I noticed that I would finish the book, and then realize that the first draft was far from the one I’d use. True. I had to do tons more work, cleaning up, editing, re-phrasing, looking for words, all that. And, folks, that’s the way it goes when you write.
One of the things I noticed about when I started was not just how much editing it takes to do it, but how important it is to have others review it. When I write a book, I try to have several people review it, read it in some detail, and make suggestions. I don’t take all the suggestions, but I do take most of them. They lead me into seeing how others see the book, how it speaks (or doesn’t) to them. When I’m writing, I understand what I’m seeing and communicating. My job is to let others see what I do. Others help me make sure that I’m transmitting a vision into other people’s minds.
This election is, I think, going to be a matter of who can put a picture, a vision, a plan into other people’s minds.
Get your own vision tonight. Let me know what you see.
Best, Jeff

A British show, BBC to be specific, this is a remarkably fine program. One problem with Murder Mysteries is that they tend to gross the audience out. Consider, e. g., the work of the embattled Quentin Tarantino: his portfolio is laden with violent gross outs, rather than mysteries. There are two ways authors can go: first, they can ask the reader to come along and solve the mystery along with the detective in the piece. As an example, consider the work of the exquisite Agatha Christie, who wrote something along the lines of 90 mysteries. The hero detective–perhaps Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, or Tommy and–what the heck was her name?

Second, we can start the piece by knowing who did it. In this case, one can be along the lines of, ┬ásay, Peter Falk’s Columbo. The detective solves the mystery with a series of clues that in most cases would seem to be mercurial at best and elusive at worst. People occasionally would ask the author how he/she managed to solve the murder, to find the murderer is ridiculous based the evidence presented to the reader as it is revealed to the detective. Usually the detective is in a Holmes/Watson relationship, The assistant is, typically, a forelock tugging inferior who doesn’t see anything. For fun, see Bret Harte’s Holmes and Watson short story: I walked into the parlor. “It is raining out, I perceive,” said Holmes. “How did you know that?” I asked. “Your clothes are all wet.” I leaned back amazed, rendered aghast at his penetration.

Detective stories are fun, generally, despite the hideous crimes they portray. For a refreshing change, see the remarkably sensuous Criminal Conversation by Ed McBain (writing under a pseudonym as Evan Hunter)-

Really, terrific book. Get on it.

See you soon, Jeff

Thinking About Noah

Posted: October 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

Lately I’ve found my thoughts turning to the story of the flood–I mean, The Flood–and the worldwide destruction that came with it. This started some time ago. The incomparable Madelyn l’Engle wrote a stirring young adult novel entitled Many Waters, which took two American teenagers, a set of twins, back to the story, where they met and lived with Noah and his family and helped prepare for the coming flood. They met and fell in love with a beautiful, but simple–i.e., one absolutely without guile–and both loved her. It was clear that she couldn’t survive the flood, and her salvation was beautiful to behold in the exquisite writing of Ms. L’Engle.

Some months ago, Russell Crowe, who can apparently play any role in the world, starred as the patriarch in a free-wheeling re-telling of the story. Though somewhat–make that very–gruesome, the story has the bias toward a condemnation of what we as a species have done to our planet. The viewer gets the idea that Earth would be so much better if we all kind of drowned or as seems more and more likely, burned up in a vast world wide conflagration. Also impressive in this film was young Emma Watson, who demonstrates her acting chops as an character not named in scripture, yet is a young mother who, with Shem (one of Noah’s offspring) produce the first new children from the flood.

I reviewed this film some time ago, and I gave it a lot of stars. Several friends told me that the film really didn’t count because it wasn’t literally true to the Bible account.

Now, no one is more committed to the truth of the Bible than I. However, this film is told for a very different reason than Biblical truth. It is a story, not truth. Stories always have a different purpose than the purpose of the Bible.

Picasso said it like this: Art is not truth. On the contrary, art is the lie that reveals the truth. In other words, we see light in the True LIght. Valparaiso University’s motto is, in English, “In your light we see light.” The truth of literature, of theatre, of movies, and even of some television, is to reveal truth to us: to shed light on our lives.

The Bible’s truth, indeed, is expressed in John’s name for Jesus: The Word, which is the light of Man. The true light, which gives light to all men, is found in the pages of Scripture. As C. S. Lewis said, look into the face of Aslan–the Christlike lion in the seven books of The Chronicles of Narnia–and see the truth. The true light is the basis for all we believe.

There is another rendering of the story of the Ark: Disney did a Donald Duck cartoon of Noah in the exquisite Fantasia re-do of the Noah story. This version interprets Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, and is a perfect setting for the re-telling the story of Noah. All will be restored, it says. The animals march from the Ark in triumph, the story of survival, and the blending of Art with truth–telling the familiar story in another wonderful way–a cartoon, yet with a great dignity, and astoundingly, the truth of mankind, using a cartoon duck.

I wrote a critique of the disappointing Finding Noah documentary last week. The most important part of the film was not the struggle–it was the fellowship of the men who sought, and will again, seek the Ark.

A lot of thinking about the Ark of the survival of our species, and others.

Walk in love, Beloved.

Finding Noah

Posted: October 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

The new Noah film struck hard last night. It held my attention, but only because I thought something was about to happen. It never did. Here’s the movie: Go to Turkey. Look at Mt. Ararat. Talk about how intimidating it is. Go up the mountain. Set up camp. Drill holes. Not find anything. Repeat. Repeat.

I’m telling you, this was a major disappointment. I don’t mean disappointing in that they thought they’d find the boat, which they didn’t, but because they charged me 24 bucks + another 10 samolians for a convenience charge to watch a bunch of guys freeze on the side of a mountain.

Fathom Entertainment has done some good stuff (to say the least) but this wasn’t one of them. At one point they drilled down and found some tar. They analyzed it under the microscope. They found that it was tar, with some fabric mixed in.

The end. They never did anything more with it.

No, actually, the film went on, and on. And on. Drill holes. Don’t find anything. Look rueful. Repeat.

The highlight of the film, frankly, was a discussion session with several of the guys who went on the expotition (to quote Winnie the Pooh–a much better story). They talked about personal faith, disappointment, camaraderie, etc. Etc. Etc. No answers, no help.

Look, If you want to make a movie about looking for a long lost artifact, find it!! If you don’t find it, put the movie off until you do. Don’t brag about your personal faith and how much it meant to you and how well the tools worked and how hard the conditions were and fellowship and all that and then clout your audience. 1.5 Stars