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Charleston, West Virginia might be the best example of what Mr. Potter was aiming to do in It’s A Wonderful Life. It seems at least one George Bailey short of a wonderful place. The Muse said it looks like an Orc village, and seemed particularly terrifying after our quick zoot down through spring snow-covered mountains. We’d abandoned our earlier notion of wending through the lower intestinal tract of Appalachian coal country in favor of better traveled roads once we’d surveyed the depth of the slush remaining after winter’s overnight surprise revisit.

Our first rule of roading insists that no earlier idea ever metastasize into an obligatory plan. We shift as the spirit or the Gods move us to shift, and these shifts happen without remorse or regret. We live only in the moment, more or less. We retain some vague memory of where we intend to end up without shackling ourselves to any particular means.

We high-tailed our threatened vestigial tails out of that sour Charleston valley before the air bourne chemicals could get us too much, heading for Kentucky’s bluegrass country. Kentucky seems civilized compared to West Virginia; perhaps gentrified. The grass is disappointingly not even the faintest hint of blue, but brown nearer the eastern border this time of year and increasingly green in the ever lowering elevations as we cruise west. Gilded horse farms dominate, each surrounded by what seems like miles of white rail fences in perfect condition. Manor houses by the score. Slip over here for more ...



The South mystifies me, and the Deep South terrifies me. I’ve successfully avoided visiting it until now. Since we relocated into the still mysterious northern reaches of the region five years ago, The Muse has been lobbying for a drive through that situation I’d shunned. I suppose this goosing passes as one of the primary responsibilities of any halfway decent muse, to encourage exploration of nether regions.

The map situates it below, though I know that’s merely convention speaking. On a globe, there can only ever be over; any other representation materially misrepresents and can impart a curiously certain Northern sense of lordly superiority, a malady I recognize in myself. I know my birthplace was an accidental artifact of birth, and that others were similarly situated then imprinted upon their birthplace as home. We can’t escape this. My ancestors trudged across The Carolinas, Virginia, and Kentucky, each identifying with places I never believed I could relate with. I am curious whether I might find vestigial familiarity in this land I’ve for so long shunned. Slip over here for more ...



I have no serious fear of BIG data because I understand where the little data that eventually accumulates into BIG data originates. I’m a part of it, so I’m certain that the data has plenty of subtle inconsistencies imbedded in it; it’s an honest divergence, originating in the natural ambiguity of language. Given the opportunity to fill out the same form fifty times, I’d very likely complete it fifty different ways. A new way every time, if only because I’d be learning.

Of course this ‘raw’ data will accrete and accumulate, eventually manifesting BIG results which will be queried (the perfect verb for this operation) to produce ‘answers’ or ‘insights’ or ... something. Slip over here for more ...



I anticipated that after forty-some years of uninterrupted twice-daily meditation, I might have the focusing prowess of a yogi. No dice. I’m as easily distracted as I ever was, though I might, perhaps, have improved my ability to jump back into the stream I seem so easily ejected out of. I sometimes engage in ways that evaporate time when I’m engrossed in constructing a poem or an enticing piece of prose. Sometimes just picking up the old guitar transports me.

I seem easily distracted. This declaration weighs in at the rough equivalent of ‘I seem remarkably human,’ and serves as no real distinction at all. The advertisers understand and exploit this universal human trait. The supermarket surrounds me with so much visual stimulus that I lose all awareness of what I take in. My brain devolving into a mush of subliminally suggested memes, I try hard to shop on the periphery, lest the deep, dark corridors between completely subsume by intentions and free will. Slip over here for more ...



I’ve taken to calling those flow-interrupting comments that bomb out a conversation thread SocialFracking. There’s both good and bad SocialFrack. The good might turn a terrible tank before it crushes the shared garage. The bad kind feels like losing your mantra; you might not notice instantly, but when you do notice, you’ll have to start all over again.

I unfriend chronic SocialFrackers (colloquially referred to as simply “frackers”) because they distract me from the business at hand. They engage like under-recognized precocious children; smart-mouthed, dumb-assed, understandably unappreciated. They seem to wear their grudge on their shoulder, proudly, as if a spangly epallette. They suck all the civility out of discourse. My life’s way too short to let them hang around for long. Slip over here for more ...



I usually introduce myself as a writer, not because I make a living writing, but because I spend most of my time either writing or thinking about writing. It might be my obsession. It kind of sucks as obsessions go, though it’s gratefully not illegal yet.

Writing doesn’t pay much of anything, and it’s tedious, lonely work. There is a trade aspect to it, but that seems convoluted enough to prevent most people from entering it. Some writers have agents who take care of the business end of the business. I have an editor or two who welcome anything I submit. Slip over here for more ...



She was rapt all through his description of his work. Then she asked the poison question. “Does it scale? If you can do this with an organization of a hundred, how would you do it in one with thirty thousand?”

He spent the next two days working out how that might happen, or, more properly, utterly failing to work out how that might happen. Finally, in some frustration, he figured out something. The answer, the definitive answer to her question just had to be no. He answered her question, so why did he feel as though he’d failed? Slip over here for more ...



Most observers figure this will be the last storm of the season. Well, the last big storm, but nobody really knows. Arctic air still roams freely south of the Mason-Dixon Line and tropical moisture hasn’t had its hall pass revoked yet. Get those two delinquents together and it’s anybody’s guess.

The Last Storm brings a touch of nostalgia with it. I’m always on alert when the Weather Service issues a Storm Watch. I become, well, watchful, I guess, anticipating the morning’s shoveling duties, making sure the long underwear’s laid out, double checking the old boots and the supply of ice melt. I triple check the larder lest I find myself without milk, beer, or fresh salad greens, the three primary food groups of this transition season. Slip over here for more ...



Winter hasn’t quite let go yet. Last year, it never really came. This year, it’s the house guest that can’t take a hint. A week ago, the back door was blocked by ice and snow. Today, the yard’s covered in crocus. Monday will be yet another snow day here.

I was worried that the capricious weather might freeze out the earliest flowers, but they seemed to have thermostats telling them to close up tight, and I can see no damage as they open up wide again. They were extra eager to bloom this March. The moment that last deep snowfall melted off, up they came and more than welcome they were, too. Slip over here for more ...



I felt the hollowness when they asked what skills I might bring to the collaboration. Skills, I thought? I’m supposed to have skills? I checked my pockets, but my hand came back out holding only a few coins; small change. “I have quite a bit of experience,” I explained, “but none of it seems to have resulted in anything I’d really consider to be skills.” I felt thirteen again.

I might be a member of that group with a perpetual member numbering one, but changing every day. I learned that I was supposed to be something when I grew up, but I’ve either never grown up or failed to become in spite of considerable personal and professional growth. The evolution seems incomplete. Slip over here for more ...



The possibility of disappointment, even failure, increases whenever I pursue impossibles. I shouldn’t have to remind myself to check for impossibility before starting a project, but I seem to almost always forget. I might be so blinded by the glimmer streaming off my bright, shiny objective that I flat-out forget to confirm the likelihood that there might possibly be a there over there where I swear I’m going. When there’s no there there, I’m not really gonna get anywhere, no matter how caring my intentions.

One of the great pitfalls involves the whole-hearted pursuit of change. This often occurs in groups, when someone whips folks into enough of a frenzy that they temporarily lose their minds, convinced that they might reasonably, for instance, change their culture. Whatever the anticipated need or the imagined benefits derived from this kind of effort, success seems slim, though this one might (I said might) be destined to become the precedent-setting first instance of successful culture changing registered in history so-far; but probably not. Slip over here for more ...



The boundary between fact and fantasy only seems wider than it used to be. Commerce has long been exempted from any legal obligation to tell the truth about anything; us emptors have always been well-advised to caveat plenty, because the promotional material probably promises much more than the product could possibly deliver. They play liar’s poker, and each of us gets to sit in the rube’s chair at the table.

This is nothing personal. Bluster quite naturally expands over time. Stretching any truth encourages its ever greater elasticity. Advertisements intend to persuade, not inform, though much promotional material appears informational. If it was paid for by someone expecting to recoup their outlay, I should expect that it might well say anything to separate me from my money. Slip over here for more ...



“We are poisoned by our fairy tales.”
Don Henley
The End Of The Innocence

I listen to the language around me. I listen deeply. I hear insistent preference for The Fairy Tale Form, a descriptive style that might well acknowledge difficulties but also demand resolution, too, almost as if living happily ever after must be the primary purpose of any stumble. We intend this, I suppose, to encourage us. We don’t so much see as optim-eyes, subtly projecting hopes over the top of our fears. This passes as the primary coping strategy of the modern age. Slip over here for more ...


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