Newspaper article Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

Reporting on Twitter – The Death of Journalism

Since when did covering Twitter amount to reporting?

“Ivanka Trump is facing an online backlash for tweeting what one critic called a ‘tone deaf’ photo of herself cuddling her son as outrage grows over a federal government policy to separate the children of undocumented migrants from their parents.”

“Jimmy Kimmel’s defense of disgraced comedian Roseanne Barr has made people furious on Twitter.”

“When Browns safety Damarious Randall made his Twitter promise Monday night, he was expecting 100 retweets. Instead, he got Twitter infamy.”

Reporting is in a bad way when these things pass for news. These reporters need to get out from behind their desks, drive to the local high school, interview a teacher, interview a student, talk to a local business owner, interview a city official, or go wherever news is coming from in their community.

Twitter coverage amounts to entertainment gossip of the lowest form, a dumpster fire for a lazy dilettante to scribble about. In the limited newspaper writing that I did, it would have been inconceivable for me to propose a story based on sitting in front of a computer screen, writing down insults from one person to another.

I took pride in my reporting and I am angered by those that devalue the profession. This coverage gives rise to the deepest suspicions that people have about journalism, that it is infatuated with itself and out of touch with the things that matter most to people.

Perhaps Thompson had it right. He once wrote, and I can’t repeat the quote because of the language, that journalism was not a a profession or trade, just a false doorway to the backside of life. Yes, maybe he was right. And we’re all worse for it.  You can read the full quote here (external link)

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Making Copy Move. If You Have The Time.

In my work I edit the writing of several people. I respect their efforts and acknowledge that they work under deadline pressure. In a similar vein, I find it amazing how good most daily newspaper writers are, considering they have little time to endlessly revise.

I, too, am under pressure to turn around work as quickly as possible. What’s below is what I originally received, then my edits in italics. Copy must move. First drafts are commonly slow paced, it is in revising that  writing must be tightened and speeded up. Can my writing be improved? Certainly. It’s just a matter of time.


In claiming the compensation you need and deserve, you shouldn’t have to go it alone. Many accident victims make the mistake of settling directly with insurance adjusters, not realizing that the main priority of insurers is their own company’s profits. As a result, injured individuals often end up with much less than they deserve.


You shouldn’t have to go it alone when claiming the compensation you need and deserve. Many accident victims mistakenly settle directly with insurance adjusters, not realizing that the main priority of insurers is their own company’s profits. As a result, injured individuals often receive much less than they deserve.


It is best for you to have the guidance and representation of an attorney who is not only competent but also sincere in his service for the injured. In Davis and the rest of Yolo County, Attorney John Chilbes is highly trusted by injured individuals and their families. He is knowledgeable in how insurance companies really work, and is skillfully aggressive in negotiating with them. He is also proven successful in injury cases that go to trial.


You should have the guidance and representation of an attorney who is competent and sincere in serving the injured. In Davis and the rest of Yolo County, injured individuals and their families highly trust attorney John Chilbes. He knows how insurance companies work, and is skillful and aggressive in negotiating with them. In injury cases that go to court, he is a proven, successful trial attorney.


For over 30 years, he has sincerely committed his knowledge, skills, and fearlessness to fight for Californians who have been injured. Now, these people thank him for obtaining for them their rightful compensation and enabling them to get back on track with their lives.


For over 30 years, he has faithfully committed his knowledge, skills, and fearlessness to fight for injured Californians. Today, these people thank him for obtaining the rightful compensation they needed to get back on track with their lives.


Mr. Chilbes is effective in handling injury cases like car crashes, truck wrecks, bike or motorcycle accidents, defective products, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, sexual abuse, disability denial, and more.


Mr. Chilbes effectively handles injury cases like car crashes, truck wrecks, bike or motorcycle accidents, defective products, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, sexual abuse, disability denial, and more.

Magazine article Photography Uncategorized Writing tips

My Camp Cady Wildlife Area Article Will Be Out Soon

My Camp Cady Wildlife article for Outdoor California (external link) will be out soon. Here’s a sidebar they didn’t use and photographs that weren’t selected. The Camp Cady Wildlife Area, operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, is about twenty-five road miles from Barstow in the Mojave Desert of California.

This is Hunter Thompson territory, when he wrote that classic introduction to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. “We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.”

You Can’t Get There From Here

This road should go through. That’s what I thought, after a treacherous length of sand almost swallowed my truck. The map I diligently printed out before my trip showed the Mojave Trail Road as the main road to Camp Cady. Problem was, the map didn’t correspond to the ground I was looking at. Almost stuck a minute before, I reversed course once I needed four-wheel drive.

Having retreated to firm ground besides a weathered collection of mailboxes, I looked over the territory. Where was the headquarters building? A Fish and Wildlife boundary sign on an old barbed wire fence told me that I was in the neighborhood. But 1,800 acres is a big area and I couldn’t see anything resembling the 1920’s ranch compound I read about.

I warily eyed the road. Beyond the mailboxes the floor of the road collapsed into billowy white sand. Perhaps that was sjust a rough patch? What if I tried again, this time keeping up my speed and momentum? A distant house had its driveway marked with a no trespassing sign. You don’t walk past those in the desert. I was on my own for directions. Keeping my truck in four-wheel drive I headed once more down the road.

With my wheels churning up sand like a giant egg beater, I was making good progress for a few hundred yards until the post. The large, solidly planted steel post in the center of the road. I cut my speed as there was absolutely no way around it. It was clearly put there to keep anyone from proceeding further. With no turnaround area at all, I once again threw the truck into reverse and sped out as fast as I could to the safety of the mailboxes. I made it. I later accessed Camp Cady by way of Palma Vista and Fort Cady Roads, the only recommended route.

Lessons learned. Don’t go beyond the ability of your vehicle, even if you have four-wheel drive. Call ahead to any desert destination to confirm your route and the road. Additionally, be prepared for problems. I carry a shovel, a tow rope, recovery boards, and a sturdy air compressor. Deflating your tires lets you gain more adhesion on sand. But you’ll need to air up once back on firm ground.

Again, the way to Camp Cady is accessed by way of Palma Vista Road and then Fort Cady Road. (See the map.) It can be managed by most vehicles, especially SUVs and all-wheel drive vehicles. Make sure of your directions. Follow GPS waypoints if you will, but realize that you must take the right roads in connecting those GPS dots. Stop before proceeding blindly and call the headquarters’ building if you can’t figure how to get there. The caretaker may be out on the property, so be prepared to wait for a response.

Signs leading to the bad road.

The real road to the Camp Cady WA. You have to negotiate unmarked intersections. And, yes, there are streets with no names.

Arrested development in the desert. Barn from the 1920s, now a subject for architecture students.

Lovely, eh? A shot from my drone. The WA is actually a very important desert riparian habitat. You just can’t see it close up in this photo.

Okay, this photo was used in the article. But I had previously used it at this site (internal link), long before I knew they would select it. This is the Mojave Trail road, by the way, the one you do NOT want to take.

A preliminary map. Never finished. Distances are in miles between diamonds. Barstow is about twenty miles down I-15, to the West.

fiction Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

Is Writer’s Block Limited to Fiction? And What Can be Done About it?

“Writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years.”

Is writer’s block solely limited to fiction? As a non-fiction writer I’ve never had the problem. With non-fiction there is always material to research. If you are writing about Beowulf, for example, there is always something to look up, no matter how scanty. If you don’t feel like writing you can read for a while.

With fiction, however, you are developing characters and situations from scratch, from whole cloth. I can understand why that would bog somebody down, and it is perhaps the reason I am not drawn to fiction. I’ve done a few short poems and that’s been it. I cannot imagine the effort needed to bring forth an army of people and problems to populate a work. Perhaps that’s the real reason for writer’s block: writing from scratch is hard.

Another condition I read about is an inability or lack of desire to write. This I truly do not understand. You should want to write as much as a bird wants to sing, you should effortlessly fall down into a thousand subjects, as eager to compose as any piano player wants to get to the keyboard. Or, is that desire only after years of practice? I understand not rushing to play at the beginning, after trying to learn the violin for a time. Perhaps, just perhaps, if I got past practice lessons and toward mastery, I would have felt different. I haven’t mastered writing, but the boring lessons are over.

No, with nonfiction I’ve always had something to write about, the world presents itself as a giant tableau of possibilities. Traffic signals, the way cork is harvested for bulletin boards, the design of a backpack, all of life is something to write about. It’s just finding someone to pay you for your interest that is the difficulty. Unless, of course, you are writing for yourself in which case you are truly free. (Along with your poverty.)

With a really large subject I have been stymied. The whole of a giant project is enough to be overwhelming, if something is so complex that it becomes overbearing. A project too large or overarching. Fifty thousand words on World War II. For that, I would recommend outlining, an odious chore that indeed works, breaking down the large into the small. Once completed, your outline provides a step-by-step approach to your subject, allowing you to take gentle walks toward discovery, instead of an uphill thousand mile march.

What then, should be done about writer’s block in fiction? Is it possible to do period research or something similar to at least start writing? If your writing is placed in a specific city, can you do fact-finding about that town? Can you investigate characters similar to the ones you are working on? I don’t know. But if you have battled writer’s block, I’d love to hear about your experience with it.

books rocks and lapidary Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

I Got A Rock

January 2, 2023 Update:

I dropped this course. Uncooperative professor, poorly edited textbook, inherently flawed way of teaching. Really, there is no way to do labs except in person. But the page below describes the main problem — a terrible textbook and a professor and a publishing house that doesn’t care about their students. Click on the title, “The Essential Errata.” (internal link).

The Essential Errata

Original article:

My course materials came today. I’m taking an online class offered by BYU. That’s Brigham Young University for those of you outside the States. It’s Geology 101 and it is being conducted by a well thought of professor. 25 lessons in all at a university level. I’m warned the class is rigorous but I have a year to complete it. It should advance my knowledge of all things rocky and help in the writing of my new book.

Pictured below is the $160 textbook (!) and a bag of rocks and minerals with only numbers on them. No master list. I assume at some point their identities will be revealed. Or, more likely, I will have to figure them out myself.

Getting this rock and mineral collection reminded me of the classic Peanuts television movie, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” All he got was a rock.

books Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Book Contract Signed — Now, to The Writing

I’ve just signed a contract with ——–CONTRACT CANCELLED——-  The working title is “A Beginner’s Guide to Rockhounding and Prospecting in the Southwest.”

Just what makes up the  Southwestern United States is difficult to say. There are no agreed boundaries for the region. For my book, the Southwestern United States comprises southern Utah, Southern Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, the Mojave Desert in Nevada, and the Mojave and Colorado Deserts in California. If one wants a larger area, the greater Southwest may extend to all of Nevada and Utah, this collective often known as The Desert States.

This contract came about after submitting two proposals. The first proposal contained a sample chapter written in an essay style. The working title was “Stories Behind The Stones,” a look at the people of the rock, gem, and mineral trade in the American West. My editor at ——– liked my writing but told me immediately that their marketing people wouldn’t be able to sell it. There wouldn’t be any reason to bring it to Adventure’s acquisition committee.

The editor and I then talked about what might sell. After many e-mails, we hit on the idea of a beginner’s guide to rockhounding in the Southwest. I then wrote an entirely new proposal. My new sample chapter was written in guidebook style, a complete departure from the essay style I had used before. No more “I’s”, “You’s” or “We’s”. No personal story telling. A rather detached way of writing. Instead of writing, “You should remember this,” guidebook style might read, “The prospector should remember this.” Or simply, “Remember this.”

I also developed a very long table of contents, almost an outline. This was excellent practice for me as it crystallized my thoughts about the book; it gave all my floating ideas a place to land on paper. It now serves as a blueprint for the book.

I’ll write more about my book writing experience as the months go on. My deadline to furnish a complete MS isn’t until mid- 2019 so I should have plenty of time. To further my education, I’ve enrolled in an online geology course offered by BYU. (external link) It’s a university level course spanning 24 lessons. It should advance my understanding and enhance my writing.

More details to follow!

Hacked map from Wikipedia. Book illustrations will be coherent and original.

books Thoughts on writing Writing tips

Breaking News — I’ve Been Offered a Book Contract!

Details to follow. I am reviewing the contract offered and developing a list of questions. After the royalties are negotiated, I want to ask about working details. How the MS should be formatted, photograph requirements, map and diagram preparation and other errata. More to come. An exciting time!

Literary Magazine submissions Magazine article Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

Describing The Elephant: Part 4 (Conclusion)

<—— continued from here

I moved back with my parents for a year. My Dad was a doctor and he put me in touch with the best psychologists and psychiatrists. None helped. They thought my experience closely resembled post-traumatic stress disorder. But PTSD usually occurred when a trauma was witnessed first-hand. A second-hand experience, where you simply hear about an event, was considered much rarer. And as far as PTSD induced by the paranormal, I’m sure my doctors never got training for that in med school. I eventually moved out of town, first to Grass Valley, California and then to Isleton, a backwater in the California Delta. No relief. The nightmares weren’t constant, and there were times I could go for days without them, but they always returned.

I was never able to explain how devastating the nightmares were. Then, in 2003, I came upon a motorcycle accident on Jefferson Boulevard in West Sacramento. I got out of my car and hurried to the downed rider. He was lying in the middle of the street, unresponsive. I took off my shirt to help staunch any blood flow. But he did not have any open wounds, so I wondered what to do. I held his hand. I would want someone to hold my hand if I were dying. A woman who knew CPR stopped to help. At that point blood began to flow out of the man’s ears. I knew then he was suffering a deep, internal head wound. A traumatic brain injury. As he passed away, a sudden thought occurred to me: this isn’t as bad as my nightmares. And it wasn’t. The nightmares were far more terrifying. Perhaps, real life was easier to handle. When you are awake, you have some understanding and control over the experience. When you are asleep, you are just a victim. Like that man lying on the pavement.

In 2007, I got a new psychiatrist and a new start. He began by re-prescribing all the medicines I had taken since 1990, with the hope they would have better effect, now that I was older. There were also new medicines, ones that had not existed seventeen years before. One was Zyprexa. Within three days, my nightmares stopped. Or at least for long periods of time. I can now go weeks without having a nightmare, and when I do, I never have more than one in one night. Usually prescribed for schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, Zyprexa is a miracle drug. I continue to take it, and I dare not stop. I am not cured, but somehow Zyprexa chemically masks my terrors. The nightmares are not completely gone; they remain around the edges as if to let me know I’m not completely free. And my sleep in general is still terribly wretched, the worst kind of insomnia. But this kind of freedom is good enough.

They say believing in God means taking a leap of faith. Now I don’t have to leap so far. In 2012, my parents died within two weeks of each other. I did not feel uncertain for them. I don’t believe they, or anyone else, disappears into a black meaningless void. The experience I had proved to me there is something beyond life and, I am sure, beyond death as well. I can’t plot the dimensions or purpose of the supernatural, any more than the blind men could, with their elephant. But something’s there.

I would, however, have preferred ignorance over this costly lesson.

It’s often true that not seeing things can be a blessing. My discovery that something lies beyond was based in my experience of Jim’s death, seventeen years of nightmares, and a broken brain. I learned an enormously important and transcendent truth, but one I couldn’t handle. Perhaps, if the nightmares stay at bay, I will learn to live more easily with this truth. Perhaps one day, I will be shown more of the elephant. With luck, less trauma. I press on.

February Update: In December of 2019 Zyprexa badly failed me and I have stopped taking it. Stress dreams of an incredibly powerful and sick nature have replaced the bloody nightmares. The horrible insomnia continues.

What Did Zyprexa Do to Me?

I started Zyprexa for my violent nightmares in 2007 and it helped immediately. It saved my life. And it drastically altered my personality, at least that’s how it felt to me. Drugs like Zyprexa or Prozac aren’t temporary and short acting, they build up in your blood stream and stay with you as long as you take them. They’re not like a drink or a fix, you are under the influence for perhaps years.

Although Zyprexa reduced the number of intensity and severity of my nightmares, it never ended them. They’re still with me but less bloody. And Zyprexa wasn’t my first attempt at ending them, I’ve been on psychoactive drugs since 1990.

With Zyprexa I became less contentious, less argumentative, less inclined to make a point. Actually, not inclined to make a point at all. I walked away from insults and slights I would have never tolerated before. I didn’t care anymore. I also didn’t care about many things that were important, that were worth fighting for. More difficult to explain was that I felt my brain changing. A physical-like feeling which was very disturbing. But I couldn’t live with my nightmares so I accepted my new personality.

The question, though, again, is what makes up a person’s personality? I worried tremendously when meeting new people. I didn’t want to start any new relation. Who were they meeting? I wasn’t myself, I was something else. A new person would only see me in this drug altered way. Would they accept me when I went off the medicine and got back to my real self? Or would that self return?

Zyprexa failed me last December and I went off it because it was no longer working. And I gave up alcohol on doctor’s orders in April of 2018 for health reasons. I’m still drinking coffee but stopping that has always left me tired and stupid. I should be as clear as I was before the drinking and the drugs. The real me. Right? And that’s a good thing. Right? But who was I all those last few decades? Something else. I don’t know what.

Life is now back in my face. Drinking and medications put a blanket over everything. A soft focus on the world, distance. That distance is now gone and I’ve noticed this every time I’ve stopped prescription medicines or drink. Everything is painfully close along with tremendous anxiety. That anxiety starting for me in the third grade. Well, here I am again. The real me. Right? It’s been a long road back.

“The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.” J. Krishnamurti

Or, an endless road.

NB: The above was taken from my post here (internal link)

<—– Beginning of the essay

<——Previous page

Link to the e-version where you can read the entire story. Requires Flash: (external link — enable Flash)

art Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others

A Bot’s Answer to Pretentious Artist Statements

July 15, 2022 Update: Broken link to the generator should be working now. Apologies. Webmasters! Let me know when you change your URL’s, okay?

The online Oxford Living Dictionaries defines bollocks in this way:

Plural Noun

vulgar slang

1. The testicles.

2. (treated as singular ) Nonsense; rubbish (used to express contempt or disagreement, or as an exclamation of annoyance).

Solidy in keeping with the second use, the Artybollocks generator (external link) provides artist statements as understandable as many written by the artists themselves.

Each click of the button labeled “Generate some bollocks” descends further and further into the nonsense of describing modern art and their creators. Only this time a bot is creating the drivel, and not a real human. The generated content conforms squarely with what George Orwell wrote 72 years ago in Politics and The English Language. (internal link)

“In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader.”

Try the generator yourself. The following is the result of three clicks.

Artist Statement (first iteration)

My work explores the relationship between the body and romance tourism. With influences as diverse as Derrida and Joni Mitchell, new insights are manufactured from both traditional and modern meanings.

Ever since I was a student I have been fascinated by the traditional understanding of relationships. What starts out as vision soon becomes finessed into a dialectic of temptation, leaving only a sense of what could have been and the inevitability of a new reality.

As shifting replicas become distorted through frantic and critical practice, the viewer is left with an insight into the limits of our culture.

Artist Statement (second iteration)

My work explores the relationship between Pre-raphaelite tenets and emotional memories. With influences as diverse as Nietzsche and Frida Kahlo, new tensions are created from both mundane and transcendant meanings.

Ever since I was a pre-adolescent I have been fascinated by the endless oscillation of the moment. What starts out as triumph soon becomes manipulated into a cacophony of greed, leaving only a sense of failing and the dawn of a new beginning.

As intermittent derivatives become distorted through diligent and repetitive practice, the viewer is left with an epitaph for the darkness of our era.

Artist Statement (third iteration)

My work explores the relationship between Bauhausian sensibilities and vegetarian ethics.
With influences as diverse as Kierkegaard and Joni Mitchell, new combinations are synthesised from both simple and complex layers.

Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by the traditional understanding of relationships. What starts out as contemplation soon becomes manipulated into a hegemony of futility, leaving only a sense of chaos and the possibility of a new synthesis.

As momentary phenomena become frozen through diligent and repetitive practice, the viewer is left with an insight into the edges of our culture.

Literary Magazine submissions Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

Describing The Elephant: Part 3

<—— continued from here

<——-Start of essay

The days after were, of course, mournful. Jim had left a wife and two teenage children. I can’t imagine what they felt. John and his wife found out from Rebecca about my experience and they invited me to dinner. I could tell them little. Although I knew something was wrong when the telephone rang, I wasn’t able to tell what it was about at the time. I got a look and a listen into another world, but only a for a few seconds. Perhaps that’s all anyone gets.

Some say the supernatural compares favorably to the elephant in an ancient Hindu parable. In that story, several blind men touch different parts of an elephant. One touches the tail, one a tusk, one an ear, and so on. None of them experiences the same thing and none can agree on what the elephant looks like. Just like the blind men and their elephant, I could only describe a tusk or a tail.

I had never really considered the supernatural before, except as a statistical matter. Was everyone who reported a supernatural experience wrong? Everyone who had a premonition, a marked foreboding, a communication from a dead relative, could all of them be wrong? I had never before paid this thought much mind. And now I, too, was a person with a claim, but at least I had a witness. Rebecca had seen my distress. I had panicked over that one call, that one call, out of dozens that had come into the office that day. Because she had witnessed what happened, I never look back on the occurrence and think I imagined it.

People asked if I felt anything religious. I didn’t feel the presence of God, or anything like that. But was it powerful enough to be God? Certainly—powerful enough to raise the dead or part the Red Sea. As for the negative: I don’t know if there is a hell, but I would not want to be on the wrong side of that power.  In the world I felt, anything had been possible.

I can’t believe I alone have experienced something from beyond, and I refuse to believe that power will extinguish when I die. I can only see it continuing.

However, looking at the sun demands a price. Two weeks later, my first violent nightmare occurred. I had never had nightmares before, but this was a muddled mess, with Jim’s hunting dogs barking and the sound of shotguns going off. A man with a handlebar mustache appeared. I immediately felt he was responsible for Jim’s death. I woke up with adrenaline coursing through me, panicky and afraid. I didn’t want to discuss it, but I did ask John about the strange man I saw. John couldn’t help me. He knew no one who looked like that.

Over the next several months, more nightmares found me. They grew worse and more intense. They were never the same, but they had a central theme. I was always killing someone or someone was killing me. The nightmares wallowed in blood and slaughter. They delighted in murder. As time went by, I began to have two, three, and sometimes four nightmares in a single night. I became a wreck, unable to sleep, frightened to do so. If I tried to go back to sleep too quickly, the nightmares would often begin right where they had left off.

My brain was broken.

The nightmares waxed and waned in frequency but by April of 1990 they had become extremely severe. I sought psychiatric help and got no relief. I began different medicines, none of them helping. I wanted to flee. I wanted to run from work and run from Davis. I wanted to run to Mexico, deluded by the thought that perhaps I could outrun these terrible dreams. I remember the night before I quit John Gray.

My worst nightmare came that night. In that terror I was swinging a baseball bat at the heads of little babies. I was smashing their heads in, one by one, swinging constantly, constantly killing. This grotesque experience convinced me to do something different. I needed to concentrate solely on getting better. That morning I quit my job. I left my beloved work truck, the traveling Labrador, Penny, and the best boss I ever knew.

Continues here —->

Link to the e-version where you can read the entire story. Requires Flash: (external link — enable Flash)