Sierra Heritage Article Now in .pdf

I’ve made my 2014 Sierra Heritage article into a .pdf. You can view it here. (internal link) It’s about the beginnings of Highway 50, which stretches from West Sacramento, California all the way to Ocean City, Maryland. My piece is on the trans-Sierra portion.

Fair warning, it’s 29 megs and not suitable for a mobile device. The publisher used a green background for most of the pages so forgive the garish look. Sigh. But most of the photographs, many of which I took, some of which I arranged, are decent looking considering they were scanned from a magazine. If I have time I may later put up the digital files of the individual photographs.

Sierra Heritage, April, 2014

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When Is Determination Insanity?

A popular saying is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Then what would you make of Jack London who suffered 600 rejections before getting his first story accepted?

Van Gogh created over 900 paintings. He sold one. Perhaps he’s a bad example since he was mentally ill. But is that what it takes? Mental illness? Louis L’Amour received 300 rejections. While writing for eight years, Alex Haley received 200 consecutive rejections.

“Life is short and art is long and success is very far off.” So said Joseph Conrad. It seems right to persist for art. But, again, for how long?

The Red Vineyards near Arles by Vincent Van Gogh


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The Parable of the Madman

If prose is the meal, poetry is the dessert. Nietzche’s writing might not be true poetry but it is poetical. I read and I am in awe.

Parable of the Madman

THE MADMAN—-Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?—Thus they yelled and laughed.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us—for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.]

From: (external link)

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Applying to More Literary Reviews

The creative nonfiction essay I’ve been submitting to various outlets (internal link) has again been rejected. That makes six rejections so far. Today I submitted it to six more Reviews, three of them open call, two of them contests, one of them an award.

Interested? Deadlines are closing soon. All links are external.

Open Call:

American Literary Review ($3.00 reading fee)

Heartwood Literary Magazine 

Temenos ($4.00 reading fee)


Arcturus: Da Jiao Award for Creative Nonfiction ($5.00 reading fee. 1st prize, $100)


Arts&Letters Creative nonfiction prize ($20.00 to enter. $1,000 prize) All genres. ($25.00 to enter. $2,500 first prize, second place, $500, ten finalists each get $100.)

I know this is a serious amount of money to spend on contests but I haven’t ever entered one so I thought I’d try for the experience. Contest fees go into the prize pool. Excess money supports the literary magazine. A good thing.



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Blocking Out an Article

I’m writing an article on a complex subject. The Newlands and Washoe Projects. (internal link) My account doesn’t move in a straight line, like one done in a chronological order. Instead, to make the story readable, I am having to move in a dog-leg like fashion several times.

The problem is that the Newlands Project has been in court nearly every day of its 100 year existence. The Truckee River, around which the project revolves, has been called the most litigated river in United States history. And legal history is deadly dull. What to do?

When I sensed the article getting too boring to sustain reading, I dropped out to discuss the Project’s infrastructure: dams, canals, power plants and so on. Those are approachable subjects with dates and facts and figures about their construction. I reasoned I could go back to the legal muck after giving readers a break by describing tangible things.

Each structural element, however, is also mired in controversy and I’m finding it difficult to transition back to the main story line. I did a quick block diagram about how the story seems in my head and I’m contemplating another jog or two before I am done.

Two things that are definitely going to help are a timeline and pictures. I’m preparing both. This isn’t fiction, where 400 pages of a Tom Clancy novel go without illustrations. I think it vitally important that pictures support the text and that the text supports the pictures.

The article is hurting my brain. My telephone history articles and my travelogue type pieces for magazines like Rock&Gem (internal link) move in a fairly straight line, from a beginning date or location to an end date or destination. But this piece moves around and there is no bright line from start to finish.

I’ll keep at it. What I’ve discovered in the past is that after I get the bulk of my writing done that structural problems resolve themselves. If I keep pushing, keep exploring, keep writing, I find a path.

Right now I am backtracking and moving sideways and trying to find the trail. From the top of the mountain I’ll see clearly. For now I have to keep building that mountain of words until I gain the peak.

Let me know if you’ve ever been so stymied by a subject that you start diagraming it out.

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The Changing Language of Photographs and the Mystery of HDR

In the last few years I’ve noticed photographs changing. They don’t reflect what is. From magazine shoots to real estate ads, there has been a change in how our world is expressed. Things are more luminescent and vibrant. More, evocative. I think what I’m seeing is HDR. That’s taking several exposures and combining them into a single image to get a better or different looking image than with one shot alone. There’s a technical definition.

“High-dynamic-range imaging (HDRI) is a . . . technique used in imaging and photography to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than is possible with standard digital imaging or photographic techniques. The aim is to present a similar range of luminance to that experienced through the human visual system.”

So says Wikipedia. Am I alone in saying that an HDR photograph doesn’t exhibit a “similar range of luminance” to that experienced through our own eyes? Take the two photographs below. The first is what you might develop after some work on contrast and exposure in Photoshop. The second is just plain crazy. While it looks fantastic, in an over the top sort of way, it certainly doesn’t bear resemblance to what I see.

You may not have sensed this change in photography but I think its because HDR can be dialed in. It can be subtle. A photograph doesn’t have to look like a Thomas Kinkade painting, although many of them do. Check this site for some examples (external link). Although high end fashion photography can be considered a lie, what with all the processing done, as well as every copy of Playboy ever published, it’s a little disconcerting to see our everyday landscape changed.

Not every photograph has HDR, of course, perhaps just a small percentage, but enough photographers are incorporating it that I feel the earth unsteady. What is real? The photographs below are from Wikipedia, the Kinkade could have come from anywhere. At least I knew his landscapes weren’t reality.



Does this Kinkade look similar?

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Background On My Fifth Rock&Gem Article

My article on Quartzsite, Arizona is in the April issue of Rock&Gem Magazine. (external link) You can find it soon at most Barnes&Noble bookstores or you can order a copy online.

You might think I’m some sort of geologist or an advanced amateur to get published so often but I am not. I write from the standpoint of an interested, enthusiastic beginner. I learn about turquoise and garnet and mariposite as I write each article. I learn as I go and I invite the reader into what I find.

Do you have a hobby you’re interested in? If you like to write, you may want to investigate the hobby magazines that cover your field. Look what they’ve published before, develop an idea, then query the editor.

Quartzsite, Arizona is a mecca in winter for collectors of practically everything. It’s been called the World’s Largest Swap Meet. But it is particularly known to rock and gem collectors, along with people interested in fossils and jewelry. I write about the experience of spending three days there and wearing out a pair of shoes.

These young miners of High Desert Gem and Minerals (external link) sold California tourmaline, Oregon sunstone and blue chalcedony.

Exhibiting the best in organization, this vendor had all his wares arranged in alphabetical order. There were 21 items under “C” alone.

Boondocking is self-sustained camping practiced by people with recreational vehicles. These campers are at the Hi Jolly BLM camping area north of Quartzsite on I-95.

Fine artist Elizabeth Lauder (external link) created this work called Two Tree Huggers. The painting is oil on lizard skin marble.

Quartzsite is also about the stores and attractions away from the tents and temporary vendors. Look for Miners Depot when you get to town. A clearinghouse for all things related to desert prospecting.

There’s even a thousand year old tree in town. Ask any local for directions to this wonderful Ironwood tree.

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